Star sank down on the bed in shock while the twins crawled round her feet.
She was still staring into space when Luc emerged from the bathroom, just a towel between him and six foot three inches of immodest but gorgeous display. But for once Star had something to deflect her attention from his devastating presence, and couldn’t even raise a smile when at first glimpse of Venus and Mars Luc yanked up a dressing robe and hurriedly pulled it round him.
‘What’s wrong?’ Luc demanded the instant he saw her face.
‘Mum phoned. She’s gone off and got married to some guy she could only have known about two weeks.’ Star gazed at Luc in weary apology, her eyes anxious. ‘Well, you know it’s sure to end in tears.’
Star went on to add that Juno had sent Emilie a cheque in full repayment of the loan.
‘This new husband has money…either that or he’s parted with his life savings. Not much we can do about this in the short term. Stop being such a pessimist!’ His lean, dark features concerned, Luc tugged her up into his arms. ‘Why should it be a disaster?’
Star sighed ruefully and rested her troubled brow against his warm bare chest. The tenderness of her mother’s too often broken heart did not bear thinking of. ‘Luc, you know as well as I do that maybe one man in a thousand could stand Juno’s fits and starts…and to get married so quickly she must’ve fallen head over heels, and she’ll be devastated if this Bruno character lets her down—’
‘Bruno…and Juno?’ Luc strung the two names together and a slight shudder rippled through his powerful frame. ‘Seriously?’
‘He sounds like a big thug.’
‘Mon ange…’ Luc pushed up her chin, dark eyes bold and level. ‘Whatever happens, we will both support her. It’s just a little unfortunate that she hates the sight of me.’
‘Mostly because she too thinks you went off to Gabrielle on our wedding night,’ Star admitted reluctantly.
Luc dealt her a riveted glance.
‘And Emilie thinks that too, which is the only reason why she agreed not to tell you about Venus and Mars being born,’ Star added in a craven undertone. ‘Now I don’t have a single secret left that you don’t know about…isn’t that good?’
Luc had the appearance of a male being torn in two different directions. Between strangling her fast and strangling her slowly. Then a muscle jerked at the corner of his hard, compressed mouth and suddenly he gave vent to a grudging groan of grim appreciation.
‘You vented your grief liberally…every where with every possible person?’
She nodded apologetically. ‘Talking helped.’
‘But from now on you have to be discreet…you only allow your feelings to overflow in my direction.’
‘Of course,’ Star hastened to assure him, very grateful to have got over that last embarrassing revelation without an explosion.
‘You talk to me about personal things. Only me,’ he stressed.
‘I get the message,’ she swore. ‘I’ll try—’
‘Trying isn’t good enough. J’insiste,’ Luc laid down with awesome authority.
* * *
‘How much do you know about your real father?’ Luc enquired casually that evening as they strolled back to the car after dining at a quayside restaurant in Calvi.
Star glanced up at him in surprise. ‘Not much, but he really broke Mum’s heart. Even eighteen months ago, when I finally got the chance to ask about him, she dissolved into floods of tears. She met him when she was working as a chalet girl in Gstaad. She was only nineteen. He asked her to marry him while neglecting to admit that he was already engaged,’ she shared with a grimace. ‘Then his fiancée turned up and Juno fled back to London without ever seeing him again.’
‘What was his name?’ Luc drawled lazily.
‘I never asked…it didn’t seem important, not when talking about him was upsetting her so much. He really did mess up her life.’ Star sighed. ‘Mum was brought up by her grandparents, and when they died she inherited nearly half a million pounds—’
‘I never knew that.’ Luc lifted her up into the four-wheel drive as if she couldn’t possibly manage to clamber up on that big step all on her own. But Star was smiling, revelling in the manner in which Luc had been treating her since their first night in Corsica. As if she was spun glass, and so precious. She just loved it.