‘Luc…so his name’s Luc,’ Rory continued in a sharp, flat tone unfamiliar to Star’s ears. ‘I’ve never understood why you won’t talk about the twins’ father, but now that I’ve finally got his name, maybe you could tell me who he is.’
‘My husband…well, sort of…’ Star’s voice just petered out again.
Rory’s jaw had dropped. He pushed a dismayed hand through his fair hair, making it stand on end. ‘You’re saying you’re married? But I thought—’
Star gave an awkward shrug. ‘Yes, I know what you thought, but I couldn’t see the point in contradicting you.’
‘You saw no point?’ His suntanned face was flushed, his hazel eyes bemused. ‘There’s a big difference between being a single mother and someone’s wife, Star!’
‘Is there? It wasn’t a proper marriage and it only lasted a few weeks. The twins were an accident…my accident, my mistake,’ Star stressed tautly. ‘It wasn’t something I wanted to talk about. It’s something I just want to forget.’
‘But you can’t just forget you’ve got a husband!’ Rory’s dismay at that revelation was unconcealed. ‘My parents will hit the roof if they find out that you’re a married woman!’
It was make-your-mind-up time, Star conceded ruefully an hour later as she settled the twins into the wooden playpen with their toys. She had made a snack for their lunch from the few provisions that remained in the fridge. So where was she going with Rory?
Almost without her noticing, he had crossed the boundary of being just a good mate. But she could now pinpoint the exact date when that subtle change had begun. It had been the day he took her home to meet his family. Even though he had introduced her purely as the casual friend she had been at the time, his wealthy parents had seen her as a threat and acted accordingly. Rory had been embarrassed, and then furious at their behaviour. He was a decent guy, a really decent guy, and he had been a terrific friend.
They had met in the hospital canteen some weeks after the twins were born. The twins had been in the special care unit for a very long while. At the same time, Rory’s beloved grandmother had been seriously ill. When he had realised that Star had to walk miles just to catch a bus to the hospital, he had started synchronising his visits to his grandmother’s bedside and offering Star a lift home.
He’d been twenty-two then, and he had told her he worked in a supermarket. He hadn’t mentioned that it was his year working out to complete a degree in business management, or the even more salient fact that his father owned a vast chain of supermarkets which was a household name in the UK.
When she had angrily accused him of not telling her the truth, he had said straight off, ‘You’ve got a real prejudice against people with money.’
To be fair, she had not been very frank with Rory about her own past. She had told him that she had been a charity child, raised at a rich and reluctant French guardian’s expense. The child had been kept rigorously at arm’s length, lest she contaminate her guardian’s good name and reputation with her unconventional background and questionable parentage.
Luc Sarrazin’s father, Roland, had been that guardian.
And Star had only met Roland Sarrazin twice in her entire life. Once when she had first become his ward, at the age of nine, and the second and final time just over eighteen months earlier, when the old man had been dying. She had flown out to France to stay at the Sarrazins’ magnificent family home, the Chateau Fontaine, and dutifully pay her respects. Her conscious mind now recoiled from remembering the other events which had taken place that winter.
Instead she recalled her years of separation from her mother, Juno Roussel. Nine years of prim and proper imprisonment in a boarding school for a child who had once known what it was to run free. Nine years deprived of even written contact with her mother. She had spent the school holidays in London, as the guest of Emilie Auber, an elderly childless widow related to the Sarrazin family. Only Emilie had given Star affection during those years, but Emilie had also made the appalling mistake of encouraging Star to love Luc Sarrazin.