* * *
Late evening, with only family members remaining, Star and Luc went upstairs. She snuggled up against him and whispered happily and without even thinking about it, ‘I still love you so much…’
Luc stopped dead outside their bedroom door. ‘No, you don’t,’ he countered. ‘I’m still working on that.’
‘What are you talking about?’ she demanded.
A faint furrow drew his ebony brows together. ‘You said still…are you saying you never stopped loving me?’
‘Didn’t I tell you I was going to love you all my life?’
‘But then you ran away,’ Luc pointed out flatly. ‘Stayed away. I had to make threats to get you back, and you didn’t exactly grab at the chance to stay married to me—not that I can blame you for that, but—’
‘Oh, Luc, I have done a number on you…’ Star said guiltily as she opened the bedroom door, thinking that the corridor wasn’t the best place to be staging such a personal dialogue. ‘I was just trying to be cautious for both our sakes, and I was scared of being hurt again.’
‘I don’t need to hear you saying you love me again until you can really mean it…’
‘I mean it now.’
‘But how can you?’ His dark eyes were very strained. ‘I messed up everything eighteen months ago. I didn’t even know what was going on in my own mind, never mind yours! I drove you away. If I had set out to make a hash of our marriage I couldn’t have done better than I have done so far.’
‘But you’re doing just great…’ Star protested.
‘I have been trying,’ Luc acknowledged—rather touchingly, she felt. ‘I took your love for granted when I had it. I liked having you loving me. You were spot-on when you said that. But even when you had gone, and I was bloody miserable, I still didn’t grasp why! I just thought I was worried about you.’
‘I’m here now, and I still love you very, very much,’ Star repeated soothingly.
‘I had this nightmare last night…and that’s how I realised…finally…that I love you,’ Luc delivered jerkily, a dark rise of colour highlighting his cheekbones.
Star was a little confused. ‘A nightmare?’
Luc shrugged, studied his feet. ‘It was stupid. I dreamt that Bruno and Juno would take you away. Juno never took to me, so there was no reason why he should—and, believe me, if your father wanted you to vanish, he’s got the power to do it. It made me feel…sick, knowing that—’
‘Oh, Luc.’ Star sighed painfully, decided never, ever to tell him that there had been the smallest risk or chance of her vanishing in case he hated her mother for ever.
‘So when you got into their car outside the church…and then I saw that the twins were gone too…that’s the moment I registered that I loved you…when I thought I had lost the lot of you—my whole family!’ he grated, lifting his arrogant dark head and studying her with such powerful emotion that her heart tipped over inside her. ‘And I hadn’t even told you how I felt.’
‘Are you sure it wasn’t just panic?’
Luc loosed a reluctant laugh at that question. Casting off his jacket, he closed his arms slowly round her. ‘I’ve been in love with you for a very long time—’
‘You can tell me anything,’ Star encouraged.
He swept her onto the bed and pulled her close. ‘First, I lost interest in Gabrielle. Then I just liked you…you fascinated me, and I suppose that’s where I should have grasped that I was feeling something I’d never felt before. But I didn’t grasp it. You have no idea how devastated I was when you left me. It was like the light went out of my life. So I just blamed you for making me feel that bad.’
‘Typical…’ she said, softly kissing the corner of his beautiful mouth, cherishing that phrase about her being a ‘light’.
‘And everything with you was always devastating.’
‘The enemy tank syndrome?’
‘Thinking the kids were some other man’s, thinking I’d lost your love, not even knowing why I wanted you to still love me and then feeling really bitter—’