His arms full of Star, Luc frowned. Turning into? From a rat into a wonderful guy. It was a meteoric rise, he conceded. He had known that she would be really surprised by the necklace, but he was astonished that a gift had the power to inspire her with such an emotional response. But then she was very impressionable. Recalling the amount of cool calculation that had gone into that necklace, he suppressed a very slight pang of conscience.

‘Put it on for me,’ Star whispered.

Taking the necklace from her, Luc undid the catch. She turned round and bent her head for him, felt the cool weight of the jewellery and then, in shock, the hard, sensual promise of his lips pressing to the exposed nape of her neck. Her knees wobbled and every nerve-ending just seemed to sizzle, making her gasp.

‘You are so deliciously responsive, Madame Sarrazin,’ Luc teased huskily above her head as she fell back into the waiting circle of his arms, every inch of her so tormentingly aware of that lean, hard frame of his that she blushed all over.

He held her fast, the warm, sexy scent of him engulfing her, wiping out all self-discipline. Instinctively she pushed back against him, and he vented a roughened groan at that contact. ‘Luc…’ she framed with a desperate little shiver.

‘Relax…’ he urged slumbrously, effortlessly in control when she already felt weak with physical need.

He let his hands roam with sure expertise up over the straining thrust of her urgently sensitive breasts and she jerked and moaned, arching back in a fever of trembling excitement. It had only been a week but it felt like a hundred years since she had last felt his touch.

With a ragged sigh, Luc turned her back to him and stole one devouring kiss full of a hunger that more than matched her own. Then he dragged his mouth free again and held her tight against him until the fever inside her had subsided to a more bearable level. ‘Touching you wasn’t the brightest idea…’ His own breathing was fractured, his deep voice uneven. ‘Particularly not when the bell’s already gone for dinner.’

Star hadn’t even heard it sounding.

Luc set her back from him with determined but gentle hands. ‘Our chef always pushes the boat out when I’ve been abroad,’ he shared ruefully. ‘There’s probably five courses coming our way. He’ll be mortally offended if we don’t at least try to eat some of it.’

Star touched her necklace several times during the meal which followed. She noticed nothing she ate. She couldn’t take her eyes off Luc. She felt buoyant, and full of hope for the future. Luc had used his imagination on her behalf. He had made a real effort to move beyond his own conventional boundaries. Considerable care had gone into the selection of those particular gemstones. And he had done all that purely to please her. From a guy who was at least ninety per cent preoccupied with banking most of the time that was a really impressive gesture, and it touched her to the heart.

They got as far as the dessert during dinner. Then Luc pushed his plate away and held his hand out to her. Her face hot with colour but her body hot with wild anticipation, Star rose from the table to join him.

‘Are you feeling happy?’ she asked him as they crossed the big hall hand in hand for the very first time.

‘It’s not a concept I’ve explored since childhood. What does it feel like?’ Luc enquired with amusement.

‘I think you’d have to be really unhappy before you could appreciate what the reverse feels like.’

‘Are you planning to sleep on the sofa tonight?’ Brilliant dark eyes encountered and held hers.

‘No…’ Star muttered breathlessly.

‘I am experiencing happiness at this moment, ma cherie,’ Luc drawled with unconcealed mockery.

Star tensed with sudden discomfiture at the strength of her desire for him. ‘A lot of things are more important than sex, Luc—’

‘Not to most men,’ Luc slotted in softly.

‘Is that like a guy thing?’

‘Definitely. And, speaking as a male who only planned to marry after his fiftieth birthday—’

Star stopped dead and surveyed him in amazement. ‘But why?’

‘I didn’t want to risk wasting the best years of my life in a bad marriage,’ Luc admitted without hesitation. ‘It makes sense. Think about it.’

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