The boyfriend was history, Luc decided without hesitation. A relationship in which neither fidelity nor loyalty appeared to figure was very bad news for Star. And if she couldn’t work that out for herself, it was obviously his job to do it for her. What Star needed was a fresh start. For that reason, he would make his own generous financial support conditional on Rory’s exit from her life. A case of being cruel to be kind. For her own good, and that of her children, Star would have to learn to like a quieter, more conventional lifestyle, he reflected with grim satisfaction.

But she had changed. Last night he had been waiting for her to tell him she still loved him. He could not understand why her failure to do what he definitely hadn’t wanted her to do should have irritated the hell out of him. Quite deliberately, Luc dredged up purgative memories of their six-week marriage. Star calling him every hour on the hour…Star reading poetry out loud over breakfast…Star waiting for him every night when he came home, even if it was the next morning…Star, outrageously sensitive and vulnerable but as subtle as an army tank, and yet so loving, so incredibly loving and giving…

His hooded gaze chilled on that final reflection. Over the last eighteen months she had been loving and giving with how many other men?

At that moment, the limo pulled in at the tiny mews house where Emilie had lived for over forty years.

‘Is Emilie expecting us?’ Star asked awkwardly.

‘Bien sûr…I contacted her before I arrived with you last night.’ Luc watched Star lean forward with the evident intention of undoing her daughter’s seat restraint. ‘Why don’t you leave the children sleeping? My chauffeur will watch over them. I don’t expect this to be a long visit.’

Star frowned. ‘But—’

‘Indeed, I imagine that you will be relieved when this meeting is at an end.’

Star stiffened. ‘I’m very fond of Emilie. I may be upset and embarrassed about what’s happened, but I’m still looking forward to seeing her.’

Luc looked singularly unimpressed by that claim. Star tilted her chin. Emilie was already waiting at her front door, a tall, spare woman with soft white hair and a remarkably fresh complexion for a lady of seventy-two years.

‘I was delighted when Luc told me that he would be bringing you with him.’ Emilie greeted Star with a warm and affectionate hug and whispered, ‘Thank goodness you’ve finally told him about the twins.’

While Star reddened at that misapprehension on the older woman’s part, Emilie went to peer into the limo at the slumbering babies. ‘I do hope they wake up before you have to leave.’

In the pretty sitting room, Star sat down opposite Emilie.

‘I was most annoyed when I found out that my accountant had dragged you into this, Luc,’ Emilie confided, disconcerting both her visitors.

‘I wasn’t dragged, Emilie…and Hodgson was only doing his job.’

‘But he completely misread the situation. I offered Juno my money; she didn’t ask me for it and she didn’t want to accept a loan from me. I persuaded her to accept my help. Now that the gallery had failed—through no fault of hers, I might add—I will not have the poor woman hounded as if she’s a criminal!’

That spirited defence of her mother took Star entirely by surprise. Luc’s dark, devastating features betrayed no reaction whatsoever.

‘Juno’s a kind and decent woman who’s had a very difficult life and more than her fair share of bad luck.’ Emilie proclaimed in determined addition.

Tears stinging her eyes in a hot, emotional surge, Star reached across and grasped Emilie’s hand with very real gratitude. ‘My mother means well…she always means well…but nothing ever seems to go right for her,’ she agreed shakily.

‘Or for anybody else in her vicinity,’ Luc completed in a gritty undertone.

‘I know that she shouldn’t have run away like this,’ Star acknowledged tautly, ignoring that comment.

‘But Juno didn’t run away. She came to see me first.’ Emilie’s smile of recollection was wry. ‘Full of crazy ideas about how she might rescue us both from ruin…bless her heart. She does try so hard!’

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