‘Bless…her…heart?’ Luc studied his father’s elderly cousin much as he might have studied someone intellectually challenged.
‘A well-known artist had agreed to exhibit at the gallery opening night,’ Emilie explained with a sigh. ‘But last month he pulled out. I’m afraid the other artists backed out then too. By then, all the money had been spent on setting up the gallery and funding the advance publicity. It really wasn’t her fault.’
‘Only Juno could emerge from this fiasco white as driven snow,’ Luc commented icily.
Luc met Emilie’s anxious blue eyes and produced a reassuring smile. ‘However, I’m relieved that you’ve not been as upset by this business as I had feared, Emilie. And, believe me, you have nothing further to worry about. As Juno is my mother-in-law, I will naturally replace the money you’ve lost.’
Emilie frowned. ‘I really couldn’t allow you to do that, Luc.’
‘Of course you could.’ Luc did not take that claim seriously.
But, conscious of the level of Emilie’s discomfiture, Star was now studying the older woman with questioning concern.
‘This is a family matter,’ Luc pointed out with impressive conviction.
‘Is it?’ Emilie pursed her lips. ‘Families live together and support each other, Luc. But you and Star have been apart for a long time now. In those circumstances, how could I possibly allow you to repay Juno’s loan? I can’t think of her as your mother-in-law when I know that your marriage must be over.’
A silence in which a dropped pin could have been heard had spread while Emilie explained her reasoning. That the older woman was serious about what she was saying was clear.
Star stole one fleeting glance in Luc’s direction. His pronounced stillness suggested that he was as stunned by this development as she herself was. It had not occurred to Luc that Emilie, who invariably agreed with everything he said and did, might flatly refuse an offer of financial restitution! And why was Emilie refusing? Emilie believed that their broken marriage meant that she could not consider Juno’s debt as being either a family concern or Luc’s responsibility.
‘On the contrary, Emilie,’ Luc countered with brilliant dark eyes, a faint smile curving his wide, sensual mouth. ‘Our marriage is not over. Star and I were about to tell you that we’ve just embarked on a trial reconciliation.’
LIKE a woman caught up in a sudden polar blast of bone-chilling cold, Star simply froze in position.
Her stunned gaze fixed to Luc’s bold, masculine profile while he focused his entire attention on Emilie. A trial reconciliation? Star could not credit her own ears! Luc was famed for his ice-cool nerves and fast reactions in times of crisis. How could a male as clever, cautious and controlled as Luc have made such an insane announcement?
‘That is the most wonderful news I’ve ever heard!’ With a sudden smile of surprise and pleasure, Emilie scrambled up to clasp Luc’s hand and extend her other hand expectantly in Star’s direction.
‘Star…’ Luc prompted, in probably much the same commanding tone he employed with slow-moving junior employees at the Sarrazin bank.
But Star stared at Emilie’s extended hand and found she simply couldn’t move a muscle. Of course, she knew what Luc was trying to do. She understood why he had suddenly pulled that whopping fib like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat. But how did Luc think that such an enormous lie could be carried off? Pretending that they were having another go at their marriage would demand far more of a convincing show than Luc could fondly imagine.
No doubt he thought he was telling a little white lie which he could easily shrug off again with a regretful sigh at some stage in the future. But then he wasn’t aware that Emilie and Star had remained in too close contact for such a pretence to work. And Star was furious at the idea that she might be forced to stay out of touch with Emilie to support that same pretence!
Star collided unwarily with Luc’s intimidating dark gaze. Get up and play your part, that hard, warning scrutiny urged. When she failed to move, he bent down and closed his other hand over hers to literally lift her up into doing his bidding.