‘To return keys?’ Star repeated in disbelief. ‘On our wedding night? You didn’t come home that night…do you think I don’t know that?’
‘I fell asleep in the car by the riverbank…I never entered her home. I dropped off the keys and realised how open to misinterpretation my call was,’ he shared with palpable discomfiture. ‘I left again immediately.’
Fell asleep in the car? Luc, within a quarter-mile of a home possessed of thirty-odd bedrooms? Luc dropping off keys that he could have had returned without going anywhere near Gabrielle? It was so unlikely a story that Star simply stared at him wide-eyed.
Dark colour overlaid his fabulous cheekbones. ‘It was a mad impulse, foolishly acted on because I didn’t trust myself within reach of you that night. I knew you would come to me…’
Star dropped her head. He wasn’t wrong about that. That had been exactly what she’d planned to do. But eavesdropping on that call had blown her intentions out of the water and left her high and dry, not to mention paralysed with shock, violent jealousy and very real distress.
‘And I wasn’t sure I had enough will-power to resist such an invitation. I was burning for you that night…possibly even a duck T-shirt wouldn’t have held me back.’
‘I’d bought a really naff black slinky nightie. It was too big for me. I dumped it.’
‘I cannot believe that you said nothing after listening in on that call I made to Gabrielle…’ Luc framed her face, forcing her to meet his fiercely enquiring gaze.
‘What right had I to say anything?’ Star demanded shakily. ‘You had stated up-front that we weren’t going to have a normal marriage…and there you were acting on it. That’s how it seemed to me. You were just going to go on with your life like I wasn’t there, and if I forced the issue, what would I get out of it?’
‘The truth?’ Luc prompted hoarsely.
‘But I couldn’t stop you sleeping with her if you wanted to…’ Star reeled off brokenly, still bewildered by the idea that an episode which had caused her so much anguish might never actually have happened in reality. ‘You could just have told me that what you did with her was none of my business. And once I’d pushed you to the stage of saying something like that, it would have been like something written in stone, and it would have been the end of my hoping to make our marriage a p-proper one!’
Luc felt gutted by the time Star had finished speaking; her pain was still so raw. He clenched his teeth, angry that he had caused her that much pain. She had been too damned scared to confront him about Gabrielle. Like a child unable to cope with unpleasant reality, she had spent the remainder of their marriage pretending to be her usual sunny, cheerful self, and he hadn’t noticed anything different. But still he could not get his mind around the level of savage insensitivity she had believed him capable of.
‘How could you credit that I would spend our wedding night with another woman? What sort of a bastard did you think I was that I would humiliate you like that?’ Luc demanded. ‘I knew how you felt about me. Even if I’d been on fire with lust for some other woman I wouldn’t have sunk that low.’
‘So instead you slept in your car on the riverbank…like a vagrant in a Ferrari,’ Star whispered unsteadily. ‘How could you ever think I would have imagined you doing something like that?’
‘But now I finally know why you left me and never once thought of coming back,’ Luc conceded in sudden harsh conclusion.
Weary of all the emotions he had put her through, Star let her head flop down on his shoulder, breathing in the achingly familiar scent of his warm skin with a mixture of anguish and tormented hunger. ‘You can sleep in here tonight…’
‘No…short of you tying me to the bed and raping me. I won’t allow you to accuse me again of just using you for sexual release.’
‘That night at the castle,’ Star reminded him helplessly. ‘Stop acting like Mr Noble, Mr High-Minded—’
‘I can’t explain that night I…I just didn’t want to leave you…I could think of nothing else but sex as an excuse. It was all that was left after you let me believe that the twins were some other man’s.’