‘Thank you, Juno,’ Luc murmured hurriedly.
Her mother gave him a big hug and almost squashed Venus in the process. Hovering in the background, Bertille offered her assistance.
Cradling Mars in one arm, Bruno smiled and extended his other hand to Luc. ‘I’m sure you appreciate my daughter.’
‘Even more since you brought her home,’ Luc completed levelly.
Minutes later, Luc closed an arm back round Star. ‘You look totally ravishing and gorgeous in that dress, mon ange.’
Her heartbeat quickened as she collided with his eyes and she just smiled and smiled.
While drinks were being served, Luc introduced her to loads of people. Star saw Emilie in the crush, but didn’t get the opportunity to do more than exchange a brief hug and the promise of conversation at some later stage. A wonderful buffet meal awaited them, delightfully informal and unfussy, just as Star preferred things. Luc stayed by her side all the time. In fact he was like superglue, and her mother had to be quite pushy to manage to share a private word with her.
‘I just want to say that I’m sorry that I browbeat Bruno into spiriting you and the twins away from Luc at the church,’ Juno confided then worriedly. ‘When I saw how distraught Luc was when we brought you back, I was really very ashamed. I never thought he had it in him to really love you as he so obviously does.’
Well, he loves the kids certainly, Star conceded inwardly, too used to her mother’s love of exaggeration to credit that viewpoint. As Emilie waved at her, Star passed on from her mother to settle down on a seat beside the older woman.
‘I’m overjoyed to see Luc and you together like this,’ Emilie told her warmly.
‘By the way, that wedding night thingy I thought happened with Gabrielle…’ Star whispered urgently. ‘I misjudged Luc. It never happened.’
‘I’m relieved to hear that, because I always did find it rather difficult to believe,’ the older woman admitted gently. ‘At the same time, I was very much to blame for what happened between you and Luc that winter.’
Star gave Emilie an amazed look. ‘What on earth are you saying?’
Emilie sighed. ‘I tried to be a matchmaker and I encouraged you to love Luc. But you were far too young, and Luc was too upset by Roland’s illness to concentrate on his own feelings. I should have waited at least another year. I’m a terrible old plotter and planner, Star.’
‘No, you’re not,’ Star told her.
‘The main reason I gave Juno all that money was…oh, this is dreadful to have to confess,’ the older woman whispered guiltily. ‘Star, I knew there was a fair chance that the art gallery would fail, and I was praying that if it did it would bring you and Luc and the children together. You have no idea how wretched he was after you left him.’
Star’s ears pricked up. Shaken though she was at what Emilie had revealed, her reference to Luc being wretched superceded all other things. ‘Wretched?’
‘And not being able to tell him where you were seemed so cruel, but I had given you my promise and you had been badly hurt. However, Luc was dreadfully unhappy as well.’
‘Was he? He was worried, of course. I was very childish, not getting back in touch—’
‘Star…’ Luc intervened from several feet away. ‘We get to open the dancing with a waltz.’
‘Dancing too?’ Star gasped, jumping up and then freezing. ‘How do you waltz?’
‘You can pick it up.’
‘In front of three hundred people?’ she yelped. ‘Can you jive?’
‘Fancy picking that up in front of three hundred people?’
‘You do have a way of making a point, ma femme.’ Luc framed her face and kissed her softly, tenderly on her surprised lips. ‘I want everybody to go home so that I can be alone with you.’
‘Party pooper,’ she teased, a shiver of such powerful physical awareness gripping her she blushed. ‘OK…I’ll try to waltz, but we go slow.’
They drifted round the magnificent ballroom, so enveloped in each other that Star never even noticed what her feet were doing. And when they finally came off the floor, a long while later, Rory appeared with an attractive blonde by his side and apologised for his late arrival. Star was really delighted that Luc had thought to invite him.