‘No,’ Luc murmured drily.

Her eyes veiled, Star let her breath slowly escape again. So his mistress, Gabrielle Joly, who had caused her so many sleepless nights of anguish, had finally got her marching orders. Relief quivering through her, she lifted her head again.

Luc was as poised and still as an ice statue, his dark, devastating features unreadable. As he began moving towards her, her heart thumped like a giant hammer inside her.

‘Tell me…do you sleep curled up in the hearth here, like Cinderella?’ Luc enquired lazily.

‘No…Well,’ Star qualified tensely, ‘I did sleep in here over the winter because my bedroom was too cold.’

He reached for her slowly, as if he was afraid an abrupt movement might startle her into retreat. He wasn’t far wrong, Star admitted to herself. Nervous tension already strung her every sinew taut. It had just occurred to her that there was a vast difference between sneaking into Luc’s bed when he was asleep…and inviting him to her own bed when he was wide awake and fully in control.

‘Luc…?’

‘Don’t talk…’ He lifted a silencing forefinger to trace her parted lips with silk-soft sure delicacy.

She trembled, his merest touch awakening the intense hunger she had fought every day for eighteen months. Aquamarine eyes rested on his lean, dark face with a sudden flare of defiance. ‘I won’t let you hurt me again—’

‘I never meant to hurt you,’ Luc ground out, his dark, deep-set eyes flaring to lambent gold.

But how could he have done anything else when he hadn’t loved her? He hadn’t asked her to love him either, Star reminded herself ruefully.

‘It’s all in the past,’ she swore, as much for her own benefit as his.

Luc curved strong fingers to her exotic cheekbones and tipped her ripe mouth up to his.

As his hands slid down past her slight shoulders to lift her up to him, the sheer power of anticipation made her head spin in a dizzy whirl. He found her mouth, and for the timeless space of a heartbeat she lost herself in the hot, hard hunger of his lips. The most terrifying excitement laced with undeniable greed currented through her slim body. She linked her arms round his broad shoulders and pressed herself against the muscular hardness of his powerful physique, a fevered gasp of urgency torn from her throat.

He set her down on something hard. She wasn’t rational enough to care what or where. All that motivated her was the overpowering need to stay physically linked to him. One kiss and he lit a fever inside her. She burned, heart racing, pulses pounding, as he dug his fingers into the silky tangle of her copper hair. He drove his tongue deep in an intimate invasion as incredibly exciting as it was rawly sexual in intent.

At the height of that explosive passion, Luc dragged his mouth from hers and gazed down at her with smouldering heat. ‘Diabolique…’ he muttered thickly. ‘You’re on a table…’

So what? an impatient voice screamed inside her head. As he lifted his proud dark head bare inches from hers, Star reached for him with determined hands, sinking her fingers into the springy black depths of his hair and forcing him back to her. With a ragged groan of male appreciation, Luc melded his sensual mouth roughly to hers again, his hands sliding to the base of her spine to jerk loose the ties of her wrap top.

Hauling her back up into his arms, he lifted his tousled dark head again, colour scoring the fabulous cheekbones that lent his face such power. ‘Where’s the bedroom?’

Star blinked. She was in another world, in which neither language nor reason existed.

Luc elbowed back the kitchen door. ‘Bedroom?’

‘First right…no, first left!’ Every pulse in her treacherous body was thrumming on a high, making it a challenge to think.

Luc dipped the tip of his tongue in a provocative flicker into the tender interior of her mouth, making her jerk with reaction. ‘You have the most gorgeous mouth, mon ange.’

The sun was going down, intense light flooding through the window to illuminate the small cluttered room. He settled her down on the side of her bed. Her heart was jumping to such an extent she had trouble keeping air in her body. She studied him with passionate intensity. His lean, hard-boned features were half in light, half in shadow. Taut cheekbones, eyes the colour of midnight, straight, arrogant nose, hard, masculine jawline.

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