‘Surely you don’t think I require an explanation?’ Luc elevated a winged ebony brow, studying her with sardonic disdain. ‘I shall divorce you for adultery and will not pay alimony, I assure you.’

Divorce…divorce! Even in the midst of her appalled incredulity that Luc should believe her capable of giving birth to another man’s children while still legally joined to him, that single word tore into Star like a bullet slamming into her body. And like a bullet rending tender flesh it brought unimaginable pain. Divorce was for ever and final. She stared back at him, eyes shadowing, slanted cheekbones taut with tension beneath her fair skin.

A roughened laugh escaped Luc. ‘You seem shocked.’

The atmosphere sizzled, hot with high-voltage tension. She sensed his rage, battened down beneath the icy façade he maintained. And aching, yearning sadness filled her to overflowing when she saw the grim satisfaction in his hard, dark gaze. Now he had the perfect excuse to be rid of her. But then he’d had excuse enough in any case. Not wanted, not suitable. Too young, too lowly born, possessed of embarrassing relations, unfit to be the wife of the chairman of a bank.

‘You should never have married me…’ Anguish filled Star as she remembered her ridiculous optimism against all the odds. Her manipulation, her manoeuvres, her final desperate attempt to force him to give her a trial as a real wife. What did it matter if he now chose to believe that the twins belonged to some other man? It had to be what he wanted to believe. He didn’t care; he had never cared.

Luc had swung away. His strong profile was rigid. He clenched his hands into fists and then slowly uncurled them again. But he could still feel the violence like a flickering flame darting along the edge of his self-control. She was a little slut. He despised her. In the circumstances, he was being wonderfully polite and civilised. Only he didn’t feel civilised. He wanted to punish her. He wanted to punish her even more when she stood there like a feckless child, who never, ever thought of the damage she might be doing. But he didn’t dare risk acting on that urge.

For eighteen endless months he had had Star on his conscience. He had worried himself sick about her. How she was living, where she was living, even whether or not she was still living. In Luc’s opinion, anyone with her capacity for emotional intensity had to be unstable. She had too much emotion, the most terrifying amount of emotion, and it had all been focused solely on him.

Eighteen months ago, in more anger than he had ever known, he had lashed out and ripped her apart with the force of his rejection. And she had taken off like a bat out of hell, leaving all her clothes behind, not to mention a letter which Luc had considered dangerously close to thoughts of self-destruction. He had had the moat dragged at the chateau, he had had frogmen in the lake day after day…

Sarrazin Bride Driven to Suicide by Unfeeling Husband. He had imagined the headlines. Over and over again, he had dreamt of her floating like the Lady of Shalott or Ophelia surrounded by lilies. He had been haunted by her! Freed of her ludicrous expectations, he should have found peace. Instead, he had got his nice quiet life back, and his freedom, but he had lived in hell!

Star studied Luc with pitying aquamarine eyes and tilted her chin. ‘You weren’t worthy of my love. You were never worthy of my love. I can see that now.’

Luc swung back to face her as if she had plunged a dagger into his strong back. Black eyes cold as charity assailed hers.

‘You’re unreachable. You’re going to turn into a man as miserable and joyless as your father,’ Star forecast with a helpless shake of her copper head. ‘You don’t even like children, do you?’

Luc stared back at her in silent derision, but the slight darkening of colour over his spectacular cheekbones, his sudden tension and the flare of hostility burning from him told her all she needed to know. Oh, yes, some day a recognised son and heir would be born to his next wife, Star reflected painfully. And Luc would naturally repeat all the cruelties of his own lonely childhood. What else did he know? That child would be banished to a distant nursery and a strict nanny. He would be taught to behave like a miniature adult and censured for every childish reaction until he learned not to cry, not to shout, not to lose control…indeed that emotions were messy, unnecessary and unmanly. At least that poor stifled child would not be Mars, Star told herself wretchedly.

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