And, nine years later, somehow Luc knew exactly where to find Star that evening. An hour earlier she had watched his helicopter flying in, had known that soon she would be missed, but she hadn’t been able to face the prospect of sitting down to dinner with Luc and Emilie and whoever else might be staying in the vast house.
A Ferrari pulled up on the estate road that ran to within yards of the river. Fresh from a day of high-powered wheeling and dealing at the Sarrazin bank in Paris, Luc climbed out, his appearance one of effortless elegance and supreme sophistication in a beautifully cut charcoal-grey suit.
Nothing could have prepared Star for that first emotional meeting with Luc Sarrazin that winter. Luc, with the remote air of self-containment which surrounded him like an untouchable aura. As he moved with fluid grace towards her, arrows of pale sunlight broke through the overhanging canopy of trees to illuminate his stunning dark deep-set eyes. For Star, it was like being struck by lightning.
He looked so extravagantly gorgeous that he simply took her breath away.
‘My father is very ill,’ Luc drawled tautly. ‘Confined to the sick room as he now is, his temper has suffered. Unfortunately, he tends to lash out at those least able to defend themselves. I must offer you my apologies—’
‘Your father despises me…he thinks I’m the lowest of the low!’
‘That is not true,’ Luc countered with impressive conviction.
And Star sensed how very much Luc wanted her to accept that unlikely assurance and, even more crucially, how very difficult he found it to set aside his forbidding reserve and attempt to both explain and apologise for the episode in as few words as possible.
‘My mother is not a drunk!’ Star protested in driven continuance as she moved closer in open and desperate appeal for his agreement. ‘And my stepfather may have been a gambler but he was a lovely, lovely man!’
Luc studied her with a tension he could not conceal. ‘You touch my conscience. Had I been less frank with my father when I brought you back from Mexico, you might not have been deprived of your mother for so long.’
‘No, that wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know her; of course you got the wrong idea…But that was the one and only time I ever saw her drink like that…’ Star sobbed as her turbulent emotions overcame her again.
Luc reached out and put his arms round her, very, very slowly, like a newly blind man needing to feel his way with care and caution. There was still a good foot of clear space between them. Star swiftly closed that space. He was as rigid at that physical contact as a living, breathing rock.
‘I think it’s time you had the opportunity to get to know your mother again,’ Luc murmured.
Gently peeling her from him, Luc opened up the space again, but lost his ascendancy as Star flung herself back close and gazed up at him with wondering eyes of hope. ‘You actually know where Juno is?’
‘But how can you?’
‘You’re eighteen. Strictly speaking, you’re no longer my father’s ward. If you want to see your mother, I will arrange it.’
‘You really mean it?’
‘I don’t make promises I can’t keep.’
And that was the moment when Star fell head over heels in love with Luc Sarrazin. The moment when she pictured how her infinitely less inhibited nature might magically mingle in a perfect match with his. The moment when Luc Sarrazin, temptingly packaged with the hidden vulnerability of his utterly miserable, loveless childhood, became nothing short of an overwhelming obsession for Star.
She only saw Luc being incredibly kind and considerate of her needs. She didn’t know that it was imperative Luc ensured that she forgave his father’s behaviour and stayed on at the chateau. Why? Roland Sarrazin enjoyed Emilie’s restful companionship. Had Star insisted on returning to London, Luc wasn’t convinced that he could depend on family loyalty to keep Emilie in France.
As a door closed softly shut behind her, Star was shot back to the present. She was bemused to find herself still standing in Luc’s huge bedroom where, on the night of the twins’ conception, she had crept round removing lightbulbs from the lamps to create a more intimate atmosphere. The memory made her cringe.