‘She didn’t mean those things she said!’
‘She’s very bitter, and right now my father’s peace of mind is of paramount importance. A sordid scandal would destroy him. Since I invited this situation, I must ensure that there are no repercussions,’ Luc drawled flatly, no emotion of any kind showing in his lean strong face. ‘The only way I can do that is to marry you as quickly as possible. Your mother can get no immoral mileage out of that development.’
‘M-marry me? You’re asking—?’
‘Not a real marriage,’ Luc emphasised drily. ‘When the need for a cover story is past, we’ll get an annulment. So don’t get excited, mon ange. Nothing has changed.’
Star clasped her trembling hands together. ‘Do I get a wedding ring?’
Luc gave a grudging nod.
‘What’s wrong with me pretending it’s a proper wedding?’
‘Your imagination doesn’t need encouragement.’
They married in a civil ceremony in Nantes, attended only by Emilie and Luc’s lawyer. It was not a secret marriage, but neither was it publicised, and, with Roland Sarrazin so ill, people might have questioned their timing, but not the quietness of the ceremony.
Her father-in-law asked to see her after the wedding he had been too weak to attend.
‘I would not dream of questioning Luc’s choice of bride,’ the older man sighed, surprising Star with that assurance while simultaneously appraising her with a morose dissatisfaction that ensured she would not get a swollen head. ‘I hope I know better than to interfere in my son’s private life.’
Before Star’s thoughts could stray on to the devastating disillusioning reality of having been abandoned on her wedding night for another woman, the cold marble beneath her bare feet became uncomfortable enough to dredge her out of her memories. But she still found herself recalling when, later, a minor car smash had put Luc into Casualty with concussion and sent her running panic-stricken to his side. Flatly refusing to be hospitalised overnight, Luc had come home with her. She had just adored fussing round him, insisting he go to bed and getting her crystals out, determined to heal his headache away.
Now she shied away from the recollection of how appallingly immature she had been just eighteen months earlier, and stood up in sudden decision. It might be the middle of the night, but it was time she came clean with Luc about their children at least. Maintaining that fiction was unfair to him.
But when Star returned to the bedroom, Luc was nowhere to be seen. Too worked up now to settle again, Star pulled on jeans and a top and went off to find him. Her troubled reflections marched on. How did she stop craving what Luc could never give? A man couldn’t be forced into loving. So why did she keep on letting her emotions get the better of her? Why had she kidded herself that she was strong enough to spend one last night with Luc? That one night had plunged her back into emotional turmoil. That one night had convinced Luc that she would quite happily settle for sex if she could have him no other way. And Luc, ever the banker, was programmed to take advantage of the best deal he could get. Instead of crying like a drippy wimp, she should have lifted one of those giant ornate lamps in the bedroom and simply brained him with it!
Star had worked up quite a temper by the time she saw the light burning under the door of the library on the ground floor and walked in.
Luc was by the window, a brandy goblet clasped in one lean hand. His hair-roughened chest and his feet were bare, a dark green shirt hanging open over his well-cut chinos. Dressed so casually, and with his jawline darkened by stubble, he looked incredibly unfamiliar to her disconcerted appraisal.
‘Go back to bed,’ Luc advised flatly.
Even though he was standing in the shadows cast by the desk lamp, Star recognised his seething tension and came to a halt several feet away, scanning the fierce angularity of his dark golden features, the warning flash in his eyes before he veiled them and the rigidity of his broad shoulders.
‘Just for once, do as I ask!’ Luc raked with sudden unconcealed fury.
Startled into taking a backward step, Star studied him in honest bewilderment. ‘What have you got to be so angry about? I certainly didn’t ask for this situation with Emilie to develop.’