Star reddened and looked away with extreme awkwardness. ‘No…but—well, OK, maybe it was a threat,’ she muttered in an undertone.
‘Thank you. But although you’ve finally told me that the twins are my children, you don’t appear to have the slightest grasp of how much that fact is going to impact on all our lives.’
‘But why should it change anything?’ Star demanded. ‘I’m quite happy for you to see them as much as you want—’
‘Will you please explain to me why you can’t accept that I should want my own children as much as you want them?’ Luc enquired, with what appeared to be sincere incomprehension.
Her bewilderment and fear flipped into total panic at that announcement. ‘Because you didn’t want me, didn’t want to be married, for goodness’ sake!’ Star practically shrieked back at him. ‘Why would I ever think that you would welcome being saddled with two kids from that same stupid fake marriage? I thought you’d be furious if you found out I was pregnant! I thought you’d want me to have a termination! I thought you’d be outraged with me for creating such an ongoing problem…’
‘So you made some very wild assumptions and created a really huge ongoing problem. That doesn’t make any kind of sense to me,’ Luc admitted with the strangest half-smile of evident acceptance. ‘But then not a lot of what you do makes sense to me, so it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re becoming very upset.’
Star gulped back the thickness of tears in her throat. ‘And you’re surprised?’
Luc took a slow, fluid step closer. ‘How can I be a father to two children living in a different country? I can’t agree to that. Perhaps I came on too hot and heavy, but you have ties back in England that I want you to put behind you now.’
Star blinked, her breath snarling up in her throat. Ties? What ties? What had she to put behind her? Four hours of sleep had left her brain less than agile, but Luc appeared to be firing on all four cylinders, like a Ferrari ready to roar down a race track.
‘I’m referring to Rory,’ Luc clarified without hesitation. ‘I won’t stand back and allow a casual lover to take my place with my children.’
She almost told him that she had never slept with Rory, but then angry defensiveness and pride overcame the desire to be that honest. What business was it of his? How many women had he slept with since she had last been in France? Gabrielle might be old history but that didn’t mean that Luc had become celibate. And what right did a male set on divorcing her have to dictate what she did in her own life? The right of power and influence, her intelligence warned her at that point. Luc had already said that if she tried to take the twins home he would go to court and, at the very least, prevent her from removing them from France.
Star jerked in even greater confusion as Luc suddenly reached for her fiercely clenched hands to draw her to him.
‘What are you doing?’ she gasped.
‘Once you told me that the only thing in the world you would ever want was to be my wife, and that if you couldn’t have me your life wouldn’t be a life any more…it would just be an existence, shorn of all sunlight and happiness, because inside yourself you would just want to die,’ Luc recited in his rich, dark accented drawl.
Star just froze. The words were vaguely recognisable. Her note, her goodbye note eighteen months earlier! Her lashes fluttered and then stayed deliberately down low, because at that precise moment she could not have looked Luc in the face to save her life. The cringe factor of that cruelly sharp memory of his was high, indeed sufficient to make her entire bodily surface blush.
‘And you wonder why I had the moat dragged…’ Luc murmured gently. ‘But now I’m asking you to put your money where your mouth is.’
Star blinked. ‘P-put my money where my m-mouth is?’ she stammered helplessly.
‘Yes, and live up to all those heartfelt sentiments…ah, non,’ Luc scolded softly as she suddenly attempted to wrench free of his determined hold.
‘You’re trying to send me up!’ she condemned hotly.
‘No. For the sake of our children, I’m challenging you to forget Rory and concentrate your attention back on me and our marriage,’ Luc contradicted tautly. ‘I accept that that will be a challenge for you. But I’m hoping that even if you can’t recover that original enthusiasm, some day you could be happy with me again.’