Luc elevated a winged brow, a perceptible air of self-satisfaction in his level dark gaze. ‘I doubt it. I have an extremely competent nanny awaiting the children at the chateau.’

Star’s jaw dropped.

‘I should have asked Bertille to meet us at the airport—then we might all have enjoyed a more relaxing trip.’

Star’s jaw would have hit the floor had it had not been securely attached to other bones. ‘I don’t believe I’m hearing this. You—’

Luc frowned. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘What’s wrong?’ Star gasped incredulously. ‘You organise a nanny, over the top of my head…then you suggest that she could’ve managed my son better than I have!’

Registering his error as the limo filtered to a halt in front of the chateau, Luc shifted a fluid hand, intended to soothe Star. ‘You misunderstood me—’

‘Did I heck!’ Star shot back at him fiercely. ‘You’re the one responsible for my son’s distress—’

‘If you don’t keep your voice down, you’re likely to wake him up again,’ Luc countered in icy warning just as the passenger door beside Star swung open with a thick, expensive clunk.

‘Who was it who insisted on travelling with two babies until this hour of the night?’ Star demanded. ‘Of course Mars has been upset. All he wants is to be home in his own snug little cot—’

‘In a building which should be condemned, “snug” is scarcely the most apt word! Your so-called home is unfit for human habitation!’

Pained condemnation filled her disconcerted gaze. ‘I didn’t notice you being half so fussy last night!’

As she spoke, Luc noticed the passenger door standing wide. He frowned like a male emerging from a dream, his lean, dark devastating features setting into unyielding lines. The chauffeur was nowhere to be seen, presumably having decided that desertion of his duties was more tactful than hovering to listen to the happily reunited couple having a thunderous row.

His brilliant eyes glimmered like a banked-up fire ready to flame. ‘I suggest we drop the subject. There’s no reason for this dispute. It is irrational—’

‘Irrational? You insulted me. You, who can’t even hold a baby for five seconds without panicking, dared to deride my maternal abilities,’ Star enumerated shakily as she tugged Venus out of her car seat. ‘You insulted me, my home, my hospitality. Yet it was your arrogant refusal to rearrange your schedule, your stupendous ignorance of childcare, your absolute conviction that everybody has to jump to do exactly what you want when you want which was at fault.’

‘If you don’t keep quiet, I will treat you like a child having a temper tantrum, because that is how you are behaving,’ Luc condemned with freezing restraint.

‘How difficult it must be to deal with someone who has no respect for you, no fear of you and no dependence on your good will. Yes, I can see it must be a real challenge when someone like me dares to fight back. What are you doing with Mars?’

Emerging from the limo in a state of frozen fury, Luc pressed a shielding hand to the baby’s back, where he was now carefully draped over Luc’s shoulder still fast asleep. ‘He’s a sensitive child. He doesn’t need to be swung about like a little sack of potatoes.’

Star’s frown of surprise that he had lifted Mars faded at that point. Her attention was finally grabbed and held by the sheer vast magnificence of the building before them. The Chateau Fontaine was illuminated by what appeared to be around a hundred lights, both outside and inside. On her last visit, Star absently recalled how Emilie had strictly warned her not to leave on any unnecessary lights as her guardian paid close attention to all matters which related to household expenditure.

‘Of course, Emilie would never have said it, wouldn’t even think such a disrespectful thing about any member of your illustrious family,’ Star found herself musing out loud.

‘What are you talking about?’ Luc demanded as they crossed the superb arched seventeenth-century bridge that led to the huge and imposing front door.

‘Your father was as rich as Croesus, but he was as tight with his wealth as any miser,’ Star reflected. ‘That’s so sad. His only real enjoyment in life seemed to be saving money.’

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