‘I’m so very happy for you both.’ Emilie folded Star into her arms. ‘Although,’ she added hesitantly, ‘I’m not quite sure I like the sound of that word “trial”, Luc. Particularly with young children involved—’
Star jerked back into life and interrupted the older woman by pressing a harried kiss to her cheek. ‘I’m so sorry, but we really do have to rush off now, Emilie. You know what Luc’s schedule is like! I hope you’ll allow Luc to sort out this financial thing for you.’
‘Of course Emilie will,’ Luc asserted.
‘Yes, and then I shall visit you all in France this month,’ Emilie announced with an even brighter smile of anticipation, seeming not to notice that Star’s expressive face fell by a mile in shock. ‘Now I can really look forward to spending the summer at Chateau Fontaine with Star and those beautiful little children of—’
‘Gosh, got to run…love you so much, Emilie. See you soon!’ Star carolled wildly, yanking on Luc’s hand with desperate determination to drag him out of the room before the older woman could spill the beans about the twins’ parentage.
Shell-shocked by the experience of visiting Emilie when Luc was in an inventive mood, Star climbed back into the limo and just sat there like a stone effigy, her bemused dismay as to how Emilie’s expectations could possibly be met etched in her face.
‘We’ll fly back to France this evening,’ Luc drawled without skipping a beat.
A faint frown line indented Star’s smooth brow. ‘Sorry…you said…?’
‘You heard what I said,’ Luc informed her drily.
‘I’m not coming to France just because you’ve landed us in a heck of a mess with that stupid lie!’ Star exclaimed in vehement accusation.
Faint colour darkened the superb angles of Luc’s hard cheekbones. ‘Scarcely a “stupid lie”, mon ange. It was the only option left. If Emilie won’t allow me to repay that money, she’ll be homeless by the end of the month. Without the income from the investments she cashed in she can’t even pay the rent on that house, never mind hope to keep herself with the smallest degree of comfort!’
Star had paled as he spelt out those harsh facts. ‘But—’ ‘Just for once…concentrate that brain of yours,’ Luc advised grimly. ‘Your mother reduced Emilie to this level. Emilie’s very proud, and she might be talking very bravely at the moment. But at her age how do you think she will cope with such a drastic change in lifestyle? Worry and distress will affect her health and will most definitely shorten her life.’
Star lost even more colour. And by the time Luc had finished speaking she saw that there were no other options. Just as suddenly she felt as if she was in a trap. She loved Emilie; she loved Emilie very much. But it seemed awesomely cruel to Star that she should be forced into such a situation on the very day she had finally mustered the sense and courage to say goodbye to Luc and her feelings for him for ever.
‘You can spend the summer at Chateau Fontaine,’ Luc continued levelly. ‘It will be a small price to pay for Emilie’s peace of mind. I will stay in the Paris apartment and make occasional weekend visits. Emilie will soon see for herself that you are being sadly neglected. She’ll be disappointed, but I’m sure she’ll understand when you decide that you do want a divorce.’
‘Magic…not only do I get to spend three months away from my boy friend…but I also get to be the one who demands the divorce. Thanks, but no thanks!’ Her bright eyes shimmered with angry pain. ‘You’ll have to come up with something an awful lot better than that!’
Luc dealt her a cool, considering appraisal, dark eyes diamond-bright. ‘So you’ll have to do without sex for three months. You’ll live.’
Star shivered with sheer rage.
‘Let me be even more frank,’ Luc continued in a tone as smooth as cut-crystal. ‘Your life is a disaster zone. You’re only twenty and already you have two children. Where’s their father?’
Eyes aflame with defiance, Star stared back at him.
‘Do you even know who the father is?’ Luc drawled.