‘I’m really sorry about this…’ Star sighed heavily.
Luc lifted a candle to enable him to see the numbers on the phone. ‘This is medieval,’ he complained with slashing incredulity. ‘Did the storm bring down the power supply?’
‘No. The lights don’t work in here. The whole place needs rewiring, but Carlton can’t afford to do repairs. However, the phone’s still working.’ That was why the original caretaker had moved out, and the only reason why Star had a rent-free roof over her head.
She watched Luc stab out a number on the phone with an imperious forefinger. He’d be calling for another car. When he walked out, she’d never see him again. Her thoughts screeched to a bone-jarring halt on that realisation. Like an addict suddenly forced to confront the threatening horrors of denial ahead of her, Star was aghast at that reality. That sense of total loss felt so terribly final she wanted to chain him to the wall, to hold onto him for just a little longer. But she didn’t need to chain him, did she? He had already offered her a time extension, a little slot, a ridiculously narrow little slot.
Why had he asked her to spend one more night with him? Was it to be his treat or her supposed punishment? My goodness, she thought headily, that one night at the chateau must’ve been something reasonably acceptable on his terms. For here was the proof she had never expected to receive. Luc was asking to repeat that night, asking the only way he knew how, asking the only way he would allow himself to ask…bargaining from a position of strength and intimidation. Stripping everything bare of emotion, foreseeing every possible future complication but, with a remarkable lack of foresight, risking those same complications. Whooshing tenderness swept over Star like a tidal wave: Luc was acting out of character.
‘Why are you looking at me like that?’ Luc shot at her with a dark, questioning frown. ‘This phone is acting up!’
‘It’s the storm…put the receiver down and try again,’ she advised quietly.
One more night, she bargained with herself. It would be pure and utterly foolish self-indulgence. She would make no excuses for herself. It wasn’t sensible, but then loving and wanting Luc Sarrazin had never been sensible. Tomorrow she would have to face up to the divorce and the fact that they were like two different planets, forever condemned to spin in separate orbits. Just not meant to be.
Luc was now telling someone at the other end of the line that he wanted a limo to pick him up as soon as possible.
Awkwardly, barely crediting the decision she had reached and instantly terrified that if she lingered on that decision, she might decide against it again, Star cleared her throat, desperate to commit herself.
‘Tomorrow morning…’ she contradicted hoarsely, her mouth feeling as dry as a bone, her tongue too clumsy to do her bidding. ‘You won’t need the limo until tomorrow morning.’
LUC was not slow on the uptake.
Tomorrow morning! Star had changed her mind. Or had she? Had she merely been playing games with him all along? His lean, powerful frame tautened. On the phone, his chauffeur was asking for directions. Without any expression at all, Luc gave the details and altered the timing of the arrangement, but his thoughts were already light-years removed from the task at hand. He replaced the receiver in a quiet, controlled movement.
Yet Star tensed like a restive small animal scenting a predator down-wind. As well she might, Luc conceded in febrile abstraction. He wanted to rip her lithe quicksilver body out of those absurd clothes and enjoy the kind of raw, urgent sex he hadn’t fantasised about since he was a teenager. But even as the hot blood coursed to his loins, innate caution held him back.
‘Tomorrow, we part again.’
‘No problem…fresh start for both of us,’ Star pointed out shakily.
It was what she needed, Star told herself urgently. The opportunity to draw a final line beneath her disastrous marriage. The chance to rescue a little of her shattered pride at his expense: he was the one asking, not she. That was a most ironic first in their relationship. All of a sudden, she had power. He had given her that power. Why shouldn’t she use it?
In answer to that defiant question, she tensed as she thought of one very good reason why not for herself. ‘Are you involved with anyone else right now?’ she asked tightly.