‘Now, come on, Star…the Morris is a classic British car.’
‘I have definitely missed you. Why are you skiving off work and over in France?’ she demanded cheerfully.
‘I’m supposed to be checking that my parents’ villa at Cap d’Antibes is in order for the end of the month…I was worried about you and the twins,’ he admitted abruptly.
‘Didn’t I tell you you didn’t need to worry?’ Star sighed guiltily. ‘Luc and I are—’
‘Deliriously happy,’ Luc’s heavy accented drawl slotted in to spell out.
Star whirled round with a huge but surprised smile. ‘Luc, you’re home! Come and meet Rory…properly this time! He’s got to be my best friend in the world.’
From a distance of ten feet, Luc stared bleakly at the young blond man. Rory advanced half a step and then stilled again, acknowledging his host’s presence with an uneasy nod.
Star focused on Luc. It struck her that he was remarkably pale, his slashing cheekbones taut. ‘Luc, are you—?’
‘Look, I’ll call in on the way back from the Cap on Sunday.’ Rory began.
Star grimaced. ‘Oh, heck, we won’t be here, Rory. In fact—’
‘In just under ten minutes we have to leave,’ Luc advanced without the slightest shade of regret.
‘Gosh, it’s a good thing I got my packing done so quick,’ Star muttered in surprise, and some embarrassment. ‘We’re going away for a couple of weeks, Rory.’
‘Possibly even longer,’ Luc qualified.
Star glanced at him in bewilderment. ‘But, Luc…what about the bank?’
‘With a computer, I can work anywhere,’ Luc asserted with sardonic bite.
Rory glanced uncomfortably at Star. ‘Could I just say hi to the twins before I go?’
‘Of course you can!’ Star headed for the stairs. ‘I feel so awful that you can’t stay longer.’
‘Luc is a very possessive guy,’ Rory whispered on the landing. ‘He really doesn’t like me being here—’
‘Nonsense,’ Star said loyally. ‘Luc was just surprised to see you, that’s all.’
‘You seem so happy…’
‘I am. So you shouldn’t be worrying about me.’
‘I went on the pull, like you suggested. I’m going clubbing with a brunette this week,’ Rory informed her.
Star grinned approval. ‘You could never do anything like that with me because I had the twins…’
‘And you’d never agree to a babysitter,’ Rory added with a thoughtful frown.
After a brief visit with Venus and Mars, Star walked Rory back out to his Porsche.
‘I’ll call back at the end of the month. Hell, I nearly forgot…Yesterday, Juno phoned me at work in a real panic because she had left a couple of messages and you hadn’t called her back. So I gave her your mobile phone number—’
‘Well, she hasn’t called yet. Where is she?’ Star demanded.
‘Switzerland…your mother didn’t tell me that, but I checked the number after she’d rung off,’ Rory admitted.
‘Switzerland…what the heck is she doing there?’ Star groaned. ‘Did you tell her where I was?’
‘Yeah…and she got really upset. Then she just hung up again. I’m sorry.’ Recognising Star’s anxiety, Rory reached for her hand and squeezed it in consolation. ‘Do you want that Swiss phone number?’
Star nodded ruefully.
Rory wrote it down and passed it to her. Star dug the piece of paper into the back pocket of her skirt and wandered very slowly back into the chateau.
* * *
Preoccupied as Star had been with concern for her missing mother, she really only noticed how coolly Luc was behaving towards her once the jet had taken off.
‘I haven’t even asked where we’re going,’ she muttered guiltily.
‘Oh, I haven’t been there…well, I haven’t been most places!’ she adjusted.
His lean, strong face empty of even a pretence of fleeting amusement, Luc rose to his feet. ‘Excuses-moi, mais…I have work to do,’ he drawled glacially.