Bertille had already fed and dressed the twins, and as soon as she saw their parents appear, she smiled and slipped out. Luc stilled in the centre of the room, just staring at the two babies playing on the carpet, his bold profile taut.

Venus cried, ‘Mum-mum!’ and began to crawl towards Star.

‘They can move independently…and talk?’ Luc breathed in almost comical amazement.

‘Well, Venus knows two words…those two.’ Star was watching Mars. Her son could only crawl backwards. Brought to a halt by the barrier of the wall, he loosed a plaintive wail, big brown eyes filling with tears of frustration.

As Star went to help, Luc startled her by getting there first. Hunkering down with athletic ease, he lifted Mars and spoke to him in husky French. A total pushover for all affection and attention, Mars’s tears dried up like magic. Beaming, he snuggled into the shelter of Luc’s arm with the air of a baby who would be quite happy to spend the rest of the day there.

‘He’s so trusting…’ Luc commented in a roughened aside, torn between the child he held and Venus, who, intrigued by his presence, had switched direction from her mother to make a beeline for him instead.

Planting herself back on her bottom, Venus tugged at the tassel on one of Luc’s shoes. Then she threw her bright curly head back and looked up at him with a playful smile of challenge.

Luc extended his free hand in welcome. Venus gripped his thumb. Then she let go to make a frantic grab at the gold watch she had just noticed gleaming on his wrist. At that sudden switch of focus, Luc’s rare smile broke out, amusement lighting up his lean strong face. ‘She’s like a miniature clone of her mother.’

Her heart rocked by that intensely charismatic smile, Star’s mouth ran dry. ‘Well, Mars takes after you.’

In fact it was as if their respective genes had known better than to try to mix in their offspring, Star reflected ruefully. Mars got upset if his routine was disrupted, and when he played his ability to concentrate was already noticeable. Venus did everything at high speed and took life just as it came.

As the minutes passed, with Luc wholly engaged on interaction with the twins, Star’s tension steadily increased. She just couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Careless of his beautiful expensive suit, Luc was now seated on the carpet with Venus and Mars swarming over him as if he was a large and novel toy. Little hands were snatching at his tie, digging into his pockets, pulling at his hair and exploring his face.

Star had never dreamt that Luc might drop his dignified reserve to allow all that close bodily contact and over-familiarity. In fact she would have sworn that he would run a mile from such treatment. Nor had she appreciated that learning that the twins were his might enable Luc to relax and handle their children with much greater confidence than he had shown before.

Indeed, the most awful biting jealousy surged up through Star as she stood there. She was totally ignored by all. She had even been denied her usual enthusiastic early-morning welcome from her babies. And she was now an unwilling audience to the birth of what appeared to be a mutual admiration society for three.

‘They’re both yawning,’ Luc commented a whole twenty-five minutes later, his disappointment audible.

‘You’ve overtired them,’ Star heard herself snipe, although she was well aware that after their disturbed night the day before both children would have a much greater need for a long morning nap.

Star settled the twins back into their cots, but not before quite a few hugs and kisses had been exchanged.

‘I didn’t expect such young children to accept me so easily,’ Luc finally drawled, finding himself as ignored as Star had felt ten minutes earlier.

Star turned her head, shining copper hair framing the tight expression on her triangular face. ‘They’re very fond of Rory, and because of him they like and trust all men,’ she said dismissively.

Luc gazed steadily back at her, stunning dark eyes unreadable as an overcast night sky, but his magnificent bone structure was taut beneath his smooth golden skin.

‘So can I expect to see a lot of you in England after the end of the summer?’ Star asked brittly. ‘You know, I’m homesick already.’

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