‘I’ll do anything—’
‘Begging doesn’t excite me.’
Startled by that husky assurance, Star lifted her head and looked up at him again. Luc gave her a dark smile, brilliant eyes shimmering beneath his lush black lashes. Heat curled low in the pit of her stomach, jolting her. She quivered, drawn like a moth to a flame.
‘But then I like my women tall and blonde and rather more sophisticated,’ Luc completed with dulcet cool.
Star flinched, stomach turning over at that lethal retaliation.
In the simmering silence the door at the foot of the dim passageway was suddenly thrust noisily wide. Rory strode in, carrying several bulging supermarket carrier bags. He came to a halt with a startled frown. ‘Sorry. When you didn’t hear me knock, I tried the door. I didn’t realise you had company.’
Disconcerted by Rory’s appearance, Star breathed in deep. ‘Rory, this is Luc…Luc Sarrazin. He’s just leaving—’
‘Like hell I will,’ Luc incised, half under his breath, still as a statue now by her side.
Not believing her ears at that intervention, Star glanced at her estranged husband in astonishment.
‘Luc…?’ The bags of groceries in Rory’s hands slid down onto the stone floor as he released his grip on them. ‘You’re…you’re Star’s husband?’
Luc ignored him. His attention was on Star. ‘Does he live here?’
‘No, I don’t,’ Rory stated curtly.
Luc turned his arrogant head back to study Rory. ‘Fiches le camp…get out of here!’
‘I’m not leaving unless Star asks me to…’ The younger man stood his ground.
‘If you stay, I’ll rearrange your face,’ Luc asserted with cool, unapologetic provocation.
‘Stop it, Luc!’ Star was aghast at Luc’s unashamed aggression.
Luc angled back his proud dark head and lounged back against the doorframe like a big powerful jungle cat ready to spring. ‘Stop what?’
‘What’s got into you?’ Star demanded in hot embarrassment.
‘This little punk got my wife pregnant and you dare to ask me that?’ Luc launched back at her, his husky accent scissoring over every syllable with raw incredulity.
‘Rory is not the father of my children!’ Star slammed back at him shakily.
Rory shot a thoroughly bemused look at both of them.
Luc had stilled again. His nostrils flared. His breath escaped in an audible hiss of reaction at that news. ‘So how many experiments did it take?’ he derided in disgust.
Star was ashen pale. She said nothing. Turning away, she closed a taut hand over Rory’s arm and walked him back outside. ‘I’m sorry about this, but it’s better if you go for now. Luc and I need to talk, sort some things,’ she explained tightly.
‘Obviously you haven’t told him about the twins yet.’
‘No…but he wants a divorce,’ she heard herself advance, because she was too ashamed to tell Rory what her mother had done to Emilie.
Rory sighed. ‘Probably the best thing in the circumstances. He seems a pretty aggressive character. I couldn’t see you ever being happy with someone like that.’
Happy? She almost laughed. What was happy? Being separated in every way from Luc had been like living in a void. It hadn’t cured her. Forcing a brittle smile, Star said, ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to have a row with you about buying food for us.’
Closing the back door again, she leant against the solid wood, mustering all her strength. She had assumed that Luc had gone back into the kitchen. So as she moved back in that direction she was surprised to see that the twins’ bedroom door had been pressed more fully open.
Luc was poised several feet from the foot of the cots. Venus was curled on her side, an adorable thatch of copper curls screening her tiny face. Mars was flat on his back, silky dark hair fringing his sleep-flushed features, one anxious hand gripping the little bunny rattle which he never liked to get too far from him.
‘They’re what? Five…six months old?’ Luc queried without an ounce of emotion.
After the number of setbacks the twins had weathered, they were still quite small for their age. Star studied her children with her heart in her eyes, thanking God as she did every time she came into this room that they had both finally been able to come home to her, whole and healthy. She glanced from under her lashes at Luc. His bold dark profile was grim.