Star braced slender hands on the scrubbed pine table and stiffened with instant resentment at that accusation. But she could not admit that she had maintained regular contact with Emilie without christening Emilie a liar for pretending otherwise to Luc.
‘I can’t believe that you think I could’ve been involved in this in any way,’ Star reasserted with determined spirit.
‘You’re not that innocent. How could you be? You’re Juno’s daughter. And living like this…’ Luc cast a speaking glance round the bare kitchen. ‘It must’ve been very tempting to think up a way of hitting back at me.’
‘I don’t think like that—’
‘Your mother does. She hates my family. Emilie may only be a cousin of my late father’s, but she is still a member of my family.’
‘Luc…I wouldn’t let anyone harm Emilie in any way!’ Star argued frantically.
‘So why did you introduce her to Juno?’
‘Why wouldn’t I have? Emilie had always wanted to meet her. I could never have dreamt Juno would ask her for a loan, or that Emilie would even consider giving her money!’
Star raised unsteady hands and pressed them against her taut face in a gesture of frustration. Why would Emilie have loaned money to Juno when she knew that Juno was hopeless with money? It didn’t make sense.
‘Do you want to know why Emilie gave your mother that money?’
Star nodded slowly.
‘Emilie thought that if the gallery got off the ground, you would move up to London and live with Juno. Emilie was hoping to see more of you.’
Every scrap of remaining colour drained from beneath Star’s skin. She twisted away on driven feet, her face stricken. She wanted to cover her ears from Luc’s derisive tone of condemnation. She also wanted to get her hands on her irresponsible, flighty parent and shake her until her teeth rattled in her pretty blonde head.
‘I hold you responsible for all of this,’ Luc delivered in cold completion.
Star’s slight shoulders bowed. ‘I honestly didn’t know about the loan—’
‘I don’t believe you. When you first saw me this evening, your guilty conscience betrayed you.’ Luc strolled fluidly towards the door. ‘Since I’m not getting any satisfaction here, I’ll go to the police.’
Star whirled round, aquamarine eyes aghast. ‘Luc…no…please don’t do that!’
Luc shrugged a broad shoulder. ‘“Please” doesn’t work with me any more. I want blood. I want Juno. If you can’t deliver her, I’m just wasting my time, and I don’t like people who waste my time.’
‘If I knew where she was, I’d tell you…I swear I would!’ Star gasped, hurrying across the expanse of worn slate floor that separated them.
‘No, you wouldn’t. You’d protect her. You’d hide her from me—’
‘No…If she got in touch…’ Star snatched in a shuddering breath, her eyes overbright with unshed tears. ‘I’d tell you. I swear I would. I wouldn’t like doing it, but what Juno’s done to Emilie hurts and angers me very much. My mother was in the wrong—’
‘The police can deal with her. I’ve got enough to hang her with.’
‘No…you can’t do that!’ Involuntarily, she stretched out her hand and pulled at his arm in an attempt to hold him back as he opened the door that led into the passageway.
Luc gazed down at her, eyes glittering black and cold as ice in warning. ‘Don’t touch me…’
Her throat closed over. Her fingers dropped jerkily from his sleeve. She trembled in shock, a mortified wave of hot colour sweeping up her throat. For an instant, she sank like a stone into a bottomless pit of remembered rejection. Their wedding night, which Luc had spent with his beautiful mistress. The unbelievable anguish of loving without return. In a split second she relived it all, aquamarine eyes darkening with pain and veiling.
‘I’ll crucify Juno in court and I’ll divorce you,’ Luc murmured with velvet-soft sibilance.
‘Do you want me to get down on my knees and beg?’ Star flung at him wildly.
Luc raised a withering aristocratic dark brow.