‘Emilie…’ Luc reminded Star with icy bite. ‘How could you introduce Emilie to a vulture like your mother?’

Thrown into total confusion by that abrupt and confusing change of subject, Star had to struggle to recall the loan which Luc had mentioned earlier, but she could not stretch her mind to comprehend how anyone could possibly call Juno a vulture. Juno would give her last penny to anyone in need. ‘I don’t understand—’

‘Bon! Cela suffit maintenant…OK, that’s enough,’ Luc incised harshly, his darkly handsome features cold and set. ‘Lies are going to make me even angrier. In fact, lies may just prompt me to calling in the police!’

Lies? The police? The police? Star’s lashes lowered to screen her shaken eyes as she fought to concentrate her wandering thoughts. How much more did Luc expect from her? All right, so he acknowledged few human feelings and therefore could not understand what she was going through right now. But he arrived here without warning, disgustingly referred to their children as having been ‘spawned’, simply assumed that they had been fathered by a lover and then he announced that he wanted a divorce! Wasn’t that enough to be going on with?

‘I don’t tell lies,’ she stated.

‘That should make life simpler. So, you and Juno collaborated to persuade Emilie to loan your mother everything she had—’

‘No…’ Star stepped forward in aghast disconcertion at that charge.

‘Yes. Don’t you dare lie to me,’ Luc intoned in a low, vicious tone she had never heard or thought to hear from him. ‘Yesterday, Emilie’s accountant told me the whole story. Emilie cashed in her investments and gave Juno the money to open up that art gallery.’

Star froze. The pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place. Juno had borrowed from Emilie, not from a bank!

‘And now Juno’s vanished. Are you going to tell me where she is?’

‘I don’t know where she is…’ Horrified by what she was now finding out, Star spun away in an uncoordinated movement.

As she reconsidered the message which Juno had left on the answering machine, her temples tightened with tension. Now she knew why her parent had fled the country at such speed. And no wonder Juno hadn’t explained the nature of the ‘hot water’ she was in! Her mother would have known just how shocked and disgusted her daughter would be at her behaviour.

Juno had lied by omission, deliberately concealing the fact that her loan had come from Emilie. Had Star had the smallest suspicion that Emilie was considering backing the art gallery venture, she would have stepped in and stopped it happening. But how could Emilie have been so naive? Emilie was neither rich nor foolish. So why on earth had she risked her own security to loan money to a woman she hardly knew?

‘You’re not prepared to rat on Juno, are you?’ Luc condemned harshly.

‘I’m not in a position to!’ Star protested.

Luc studied her with hard, dark eyes. ‘Emilie has been left without a sou.’

‘Oh…no!’ Distress and shame filled Star to overflowing. She loved Emilie Auber very much. That her own mother should have accepted Emilie’s money and then run away sooner than deal with the fall-out when things went wrong truly appalled Star.

But she had one minor comfort. Luc would not allow Emilie to suffer. He would replace her lost funds without question or hesitation. His reputation for ruthless financial dealing would not get in the way of his soft spot for the kindly older woman. Juno would have known that too, Star reflected bitterly. Was that how her mother had justified herself when she had borrowed money which Emilie could ill afford to offer?

‘If you tell me where Juno has gone, I might begin to believe that you have nothing to do with this disgraceful business,’ Luc murmured very softly.

‘I told you…I don’t know!’ Star flung him a shimmering glance of feverish anxiety. ‘How could I have anything to do with this? How could you even think that I would have encouraged Emilie to loan money to my mother?’

‘Why not?’ Luc dealt her a grim appraisal. ‘Aside of that one visit you made with your mother in the spring, Emilie has neither seen nor heard anything from you since you left France. That doesn’t suggest any great affection on your side of the fence, does it, mon ange?’

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