Dear sweet Emilie, with her sentimental dreams of romance…
‘Luc needs someone like you, but he doesn’t know it yet,’ Emilie had said.
No, Luc definitely hadn’t known. And he hadn’t needed her either. Indeed, Luc had given Star a taste of humiliation which she would never, ever forget.
‘You’re not in love with me. You’re in love with sex. Find a boy the same age and experiment on him!’
As Star stared into space, she shivered and hugged herself. The chill inside her seemed to bite right through to her bones. It had been eighteen months, and she hadn’t yet followed Luc’s advice and experimented. First she had discovered that that single reckless night in Luc’s bed had got her pregnant. Then she had become the mother of two tiny premature babies. The twins’ tenuous hold on life had sentenced her to months of tortured fear and anxiety. But now Venus and Mars were home, safe and healthy, and slowly catching up with their peers. And Rory was still here, being caring and supportive. He loved the twins and he wanted a girlfriend, not just a mate. He wasn’t likely to wait for her to make up her mind for ever…
His kisses were pleasant. They didn’t burn. But then being burned hurt, Star reminded herself fiercely. No more dancing too close to the fire. No more dizzy adolescent fantasising. The guy she loved, the only guy she had ever loved, had spent their wedding night in the arms of his exquisitely beautiful mistress, Gabrielle Joly. As rejections went, it had been pretty final. It had told her all she should have needed to know. But Star had always been a fighter, and stubborn with it. She hadn’t been willing to let go of her dream. Hating Luc, loving Luc, and determined to hang onto him by any means available, she had got down and dirty in the trenches of fighting for her man.
Getting him into bed had felt like a major coup. She had thought she had won; she had thought he was hers; she had thought surrender meant acceptance. She hadn’t really cared how he felt about it. After all, men didn’t always know what was good for them. In fact men could be pretty thick about recognising their soulmate if she came along in an unfamiliar guise. And Luc, even possessed as he was of an IQ of reputedly sky-high proportions, had been a really slow and exceedingly stubborn learner.
Star glanced up.
Rory was watching her with a rueful smile. ‘I’ve got some things to do. I might call back later this evening.’
For a split second, Star studied him with blank eyes. Then she coloured and finally pulled free of her troubled thoughts. ‘OK…sorry, I was miles away.’
As she saw Rory out, she was conscious of a guilty sense of relief. Thinking about Luc had shaken her up and filled her with angry frustration. But regretting her mistakes was currently an unproductive waste of time. She would be far better occupied worrying about how she was to feed herself and the twins when Juno had left her literally penniless!
* * *
It was going to be a wild night, Luc Sarrazin acknowledged. On the exposed hill road, the wind buffeted his powerful car, forcing him to keep a hard grip on the steering wheel. But the gale-force wind was a mere breeze in comparison to the cold and lethal anger Luc was containing behind his habitually cool façade.
The day before, Emilie Auber’s accountant had flown to Paris to request an urgent meeting with Luc. Robin Hodgson had been the anxious bearer of bad news. Without consulting her accountant, or indeed anybody else, Emilie had loaned practically every penny she possessed to a woman called Juno Roussel.
Luc had been furious. But he had also been grimly amused that even in such trying circumstances Emilie had not admitted the embarrassing reality that Juno Roussel was in fact his mother-in law! The mother-in-law from hell, Luc conceded with a curled lip. He hadn’t been remotely surprised to learn that Juno had since disappeared without repaying the trusting Emilie any of the money she had borrowed.
‘I believe that from the outset of this unpleasant business there was a deliberate intent to defraud your father’s cousin,’ Hodgson had then gone on to contend heavily. ‘Emilie was first introduced to Juno Roussel by a young woman she had known as a child—the Roussel woman’s daughter, Star.’