‘Are you finished?’ Dark eyes as glacial and dangerous as black ice rested on her. ‘My relationship with Gabrielle died a natural death several weeks before I even married you! Late last year she got married—’
‘Married?’ Star stressed in shock.
‘During their honeymoon, her husband, Marc, was seriously injured in a road accident. He was only recently released from hospital. When a mutual friend told me of their situation, and of Marc’s need for rest and recuperation, I offered them the use of the villa for a holiday.’
Shaken by what he was telling her, Star blinked rapidly. ‘But—’
‘I haven’t seen Gabrielle since she moved to Dijon last year. I was invited to her wedding but was unable to attend.’ Luc scanned Star’s drawn face with ice-cool eyes.
Star felt awful. ‘Luc, I—’
‘Gabrielle and I were companions and occasional lovers for a couple of years. It suited both of us. Neither of us wanted to be tied down and we parted just as casually,’ Luc informed her grimly. ‘I can’t understand why you should still be so obsessed with her.’
Her face was burning. She could feel the heat of her own severe embarrassment. ‘I’m really sorry,’ she whispered.
‘And I’m really angry with you,’ Luc ground out with a newly learned forthrightness which was ironically very unwelcome at that moment.
The thoughts she had thought, the suspicions she had cherished, the very feelings she had gone through over the past hours since reading that stupid note on the magazine now struck Star as rather hysterical.
‘For two weeks I’ve been planning all this behind your back…the church, the dress, the big party…’ Luc vented a bitter laugh, a really bleak look in his eyes now, which ripped her to shreds inside. ‘And all you’ve been thinking about all morning is walking out on our marriage again! Tell me, were you looking for a good excuse to leave me?’
White as death now, Star gazed up at him, her tummy flipping with fear. ‘It wasn’t like that. I got all worked up, and I was scared you might still be involved with Gabrielle, but maybe that’s because I still feel insecure…Luc, I’m sorry.’
He closed his hands over her slim shoulders in a firm grip. His dark eyes were tough enough to strip paint. ‘You are not leaving me again. I don’t care if I have to chain you to a wall some where…you are not leaving me again!’ he vented with raw emphasis.
Trembling with reaction, Star watched him stride away. She was deeply shaken by the amount of emotion he had revealed in that last speech. This time around Luc had been so quick, so ready to offer her a commitment to their marriage. But she had held back, refusing to give him her trust, making him feel as if he was on trial even though she had denied that. And she loved him so much! So why had she hurt him as she just had with accusations that were patently ridiculous in the light of his behaviour in recent weeks?
* * *
Bertille met them at the airport. Enchanted, like Star, when she saw Venus and Mars in the little page boy and bridesmaid outfits Luc had had made up for their children, the young nanny was even more impressed when she saw Star in her wedding gown, wearing a superb Sarrazin diamond tiara in her hair.
‘I really adore the dress,’ Star told Luc in the limo on the way to the church, tracing the beautiful beading sewn into the exquisite fabric. ‘How did you pick it?’
‘I didn’t pick it. I just told the designer that you would want to look like a fairytale princess and, since you’re so incredibly talented at embroidery, it had to be of outstanding quality. I only specified that it had to be pure white.’
‘You know more about my dreams than I really ever give you credit for,’ she acknowledged humbly.
‘You’d better read this…’ Producing a cutting from a French newspaper, Luc planted it into her hand. ‘That’s where my information concerning your mother came from. I suppose I should have given it to you yesterday, when I first saw it.’
Still horribly conscious of Luc’s distance with her, but feeling she deserved it, Star stared down at the blurry photo of Juno and her male companion. She only then recalled that strange crack Luc had made about the man having her hair and eyes. Bruno Vence was fifty-three years old, described as a Swiss industrialist and a lifelong bachelor. Her mother was described only as an ‘old flame’. Obviously the gossip columnist hadn’t known her name. But Bruno’s friends were supposed to be in severe shock at him racing off to get married to a woman they had never heard of and never met.