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Authors: Lynne Graham

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BOOK: One Night with His Wife
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CHAPTER NINE

A
HELICOPTER
took them the last brief leg of the journey.

‘That’s the villa down there!’ Luc shouted above the noise of the rotors.

Star gazed down into a breathtakingly beautiful wooded gorge and saw a villa with a terracotta roof perched just above a stretch of golden sand. A ribbon of road ran down through steep, tortuous bends beneath the trees, but she could see no other houses. A private hideaway…just when she wanted crowds to prevent her lunging for Luc’s jugular vein!

Although Star had a quick temper, she usually cooled down again even quicker. But this time she just found herself getting even angrier with Luc. Luc, whom she had once worshipped rather like a god, whom she had unquestioningly accepted was in every way superior to her humble self. Cleverer, stronger, better than her in every way. But Luc had attacked her once too often with her supposed flaws and mistakes.

Descending from the helicopter, clutching Venus, Star studied the rambling, spacious villa. Backed by a grove of tall cypress and beech trees, the weathered tawny stone gleamed like gold in the glowing light of sunset. Even a sourpuss would have been forced to admit that it was an absolutely out-of-this-world setting. And when Luc showed her through the front door it just got better and better. Marble-tiled floors, stylish, comfortable furniture, ornate lamps and vases, beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms, and cots dressed with broderie anglaise bedding awaiting the twins.

‘How did you get this place at such short notice…a cancellation?’ she heard herself ask, although she had been assiduously ignoring him.

‘It’s been in the family for a while.’

Star’s face took on a jaundiced look. She should have known. Private, exclusive, possessed of every conceivable luxury. ‘Was that a Jacuzzi out front?’

‘Oui…’

‘Well, you needn’t think you’re getting me into that.’

She listened to him audibly exhale, and busied herself with Venus and Mars. She had readied them for bed before they’d left the jet and they were snug in their respective Babygros.

Luc hovered. ‘You’re not going to have to cook or anything—’

‘Oh, I
know
that. You wouldn’t want to be poisoned, would you?’

Ignoring that comment, Luc mentioned the maid who would be coming in twice a day, and who would also be available to stay over if they wanted to dine out.

Star put the twins in the cots and thought what truly wonderful babies they were, neither of them one bit bothered by all the different places they had had to sleep recently.

‘If you give me the chance, I’ll apologise,’ Luc drawled levelly.

‘Forget it…it would be wasted on me. I’m just sick and tired of you always criticising me—’

‘Star…I very much want this to be a special time for us,’ Luc said. ‘I accept that I spoilt things, but it’s not like you to hold spite.’

‘No, more’s the pity.’ Star surveyed him, aquamarine eyes shimmering. It annoyed her right then that he looked so absolutely gorgeous and so absolutely reasonable, as if he was trying to deal gently with a very sulky child. ‘I mean, you didn’t hang back when it came to censuring my actions, did you? So why did I? And I
did
hold back!’

‘If you’ve got something to say, say it…’

‘Have you a pen?’

His black brows pleating, he tugged a gold pen from his inside pocket. Star strolled into the main reception room and
espied a notepad by the phone. Sitting down on a sofa, she proceeded to write.

‘What are you doing?’

‘You’re clever when you argue. I want to be sure I’m not knocked off track. I want to be sure I get
everything
out!’

‘I think I’ll go for a walk on the beach, and maybe by the time—’

‘By the time you get back, I’ll have cooled off?’ Star loosed a driven laugh. ‘No chance, Luc. Right, are you ready?’

‘Is this really necessary?’

‘If you want me to stay married to you beyond the next five minutes, it is very necessary,’ Star stated tightly. ‘Point one. I do not like being treated like a child. I’m a woman and a mother. I will not be patronised.’

‘D’accord
…OK,’ Luc murmured with amusement brightening his eyes.

Star was determined to knock that indulgent look off his darkly handsome face. ‘Point two: that winter I fell in love with you, you encouraged me at every turn by not rejecting me. I think you got a kick out of my loving you.’

She had got her wish. His amusement had gone.
‘Vraiment—’

‘No, I’m doing the talking here, and then I’m going to bed alone and you are going to
think
about what I’ve said.’

Luc spread his lean hands wide in an exasperated gesture and strode over to the window.

Star breathed in deep again. ‘All that winter, you fed me confusing signals, both before
and
after we were married. You could have shot me down in flames when I said I loved you. If you held back the first time out of pity, it still gave you no excuse to allow me to dog your footsteps, absolutely out of my head with adoration
after
that day.’

Luc swung round, brilliant eyes glinting. ‘I didn’t want to hurt you.’

‘Don’t you understand what I’m trying to get you to work
out for yourself?’ Star launched at him in frustration. ‘
Why
did you put up with me? You are not a tolerant, patient guy, and I invaded your space every chance I got. By rights, you should have loathed the sight of me!’

A dark line of colour now demarcated his hard cheekbones. He said nothing.

Star shook her bright head slowly. ‘I mean, just over a week ago I listened to you accuse me of forcing you into situations you didn’t want…like you’re such a wimpy personality, like you were just totally helpless in the designing paws of a little teenager. You, Luc Sarrazin, chairman of the Sarrazin bank, the guy with the cold, ruthless reputation who doesn’t let
anyone
put one over on him!’

‘I felt guilty about you…’ Luc imparted grimly. ‘Whose fault was it that as a child you ended up living with a woman who was a stranger and attending a boarding school? I assumed that my parents would have enough compassion to allow you to stay with us at Chateau Fontaine. As you have cause to know, that was a very stupid and naive assumption.’

‘What else could you have done with me?
That
wasn’t your fault.’

‘I could have tried to help you and your mother. I judged her very harshly on the strength of an hour’s meeting.’

‘Luc, you were only twenty, and we weren’t your responsibility. I was your father’s responsibility, and he didn’t want to be bothered with me.’

‘But I was so angry at the way things turned out that I took nothing further to do with you.’

‘You were a little too young to be a father figure…’ Star was troubled and frustrated by the direction the dialogue had gone in. But she now saw that Luc had been much more disturbed by events that had effectively been out of his control than she had ever appreciated.

‘At the very least I should have visited you—’

‘If I made you feel so guilty…I’m glad you stayed away,’ Star said woodenly, realising that he had given her another
slant on his past behaviour, and really
not
a slant she had had any desire to see. Guilt—a powerful reason to have been unusually tolerant that winter she had fallen in love with him.

‘What else is on your list?’

G for Gabrielle. She’d planned to ask him why he hadn’t simply told her that he had a woman in his life. With no clear evidence of Luc having an ongoing relationship with Gabrielle, Star had soon dismissed Emilie’s confidences about the other woman as being out of date. So it had been a much greater shock to discover on their wedding night that Gabrielle had still been very much a current interest in Luc’s life.

‘Star…you are sitting there seething,’ Luc noted drily.

‘I should’ve gagged you before I commenced attack.’ Star emitted a shaken laugh, her triangular face very pale as the point of what he had already told her began to sink in even more deeply and fill her with unbelievable pain. ‘I did intend to ask why you went to the extraordinary length of marrying me when you could have just cornered my mother and cleared up the misunderstanding…but you’ve answered that too. Guilt. Guilt covers everything you ever did, doesn’t it? Past, present
and
future.’

Having perceptibly relaxed as her anger visibly waned, Luc now took a hasty step closer. ‘What are you trying to say?’

Eyes shuttered, Star stood up, every movement stiff. ‘That I’ve got no plans to forever figure in your mind as that poor deprived child you thought you were rescuing from Mexico. And it’s obvious that’s all I’m ever going to be. Did you honestly think I’d want to stay around after hearing
that
?’

As she attempted to move past him, Luc shot out a powerful hand to prevent her. ‘You misunderstood me…’ he gritted.

‘No, I asked for the truth and you told me the truth,’ Star recited shakily, tiny tremors of reaction starting to ripple through her slender length. ‘If it wasn’t for the sex, you
wouldn’t have any use at all for me. It’s about the only thing I’ve got to offer, isn’t it?’

Luc closed his hand over her rigid shoulder and spun her round.
‘Mais c’est insensé!…
That’s crazy!’ he launched down at her roughly. ‘Why are you talking like this?’

Star focused on the top button of his aqua silk open-necked shirt. Inside herself she felt as if she was dying. ‘You really weren’t jealous of Rory,’ she gasped strickenly. ‘My fertile imagination at fault again! But let me tell you one last thing, Luc Sarrazin…you can take your over-developed conscience, your pious outlook and your cruel, unfeeling brain and take a running jump, because I want nothing more to do with you in this lifetime!’

Luc seemed stunned into paralysis by that concluding speech. Star took advantage of his loosened hold to drag herself free and race for the sanctuary of one of the bedrooms.

Crisis.
Serious crisis.
Those two words stood out in Luc’s head in letters ten feet tall, but he found that for several deeply disturbing minutes, he couldn’t think round them, over them or under them. Then, for a fleeting moment, he recalled the sense of self-satisfaction he had experienced in parrying her questions without even having to think about them. Now he was in shock at the results. He had hurt her, really hurt her.

And you were planning to make her fall in love with you again. A ragged laugh was wrenched from him. The truth was he hadn’t a clue where to start. Total meltdown failure now stared him in the face. But the only face Luc could see was Star’s…ashen, empty, defeated. As if she had given up on him finally and for ever. Luc endured another terrifying few minutes when he couldn’t string two simple thoughts together. He recognised his own instinctive fear for the first time and headed straight for the drinks cabinet, only to freeze. Only a wimpy personality needed alcohol to work out
problems…and he hadn’t done so well working them out the last time, had he?

* * *

The muslin drapes at the window fluttered softly in the light breeze coming in off the Mediterranean. From her bed, Star was watching the sun sink down below the horizon in a crimson blaze of splendour and listening to the soft rush of the surf.

There had been no tears; she felt totally hollow. It was the end, the literal end. Luc’s every response eighteen months ago had been prompted by guilt and compassion. She had done all the running; she had
always
done all the running with Luc. Now she was facing the consequences—just as much as he was, she affixed, with a guilt that made her feel even more wretched. Two innocent children were involved now.

As the bedroom door opened, she was jerked out of her reverie. Moonlight glimmered over the paleness of Luc’s shirt. Highwire tension was etched in his taut stance just one step inside the door.

‘You’re right,’ he drawled with staggering abruptness, his accent thick as molasses. ‘I was jealous of Rory…I was so jealous I felt physically sick. You were ecstatic to see him and you touched him.
Pour l’amour du ciel
…I wanted to beat him up and throw him in the moat!’

Stunned by that blunt confession coming straight at her without warning, Star mumbled. ‘Oh…’

‘But I did not recognise that I was jealous at the time…’ Luc thrust driven fingers through his tousled black hair. ‘I thought it was your over-familiarity with him that was making me angry, but when I think back, you might not have done anything I
liked
with him, but then neither did you do anything wrong.’

Star nodded very carefully, as if she was willing him to continue.

Luc moved his hands in an odd jerky motion and then
lunged back against the door, to slam it in a clear burst of frustration. He thrust his dark head back, hands coiled into fists. ‘I am very, very possessive of you. I know that’s not right, but that seems to be the way I am…’

He sounded really ashamed of that admission. Suddenly needing to see him better than moonlight allowed, Star sat up to switch on the bedside lamp. She collided with staggeringly defensive dark eyes, and her heart ached for him as if he had squeezed it.

‘I was very relieved to realise that you and Rory had never been lovers. But that wasn’t right either…’

That this was the guy who had told her to go off and experiment with boys her own age was silently acknowledged by the self-derisive twist of his wide, sensual mouth.

‘So you’ve got a dog-in-the-manger side to you,’ Star muttered tautly.

‘I haven’t thought about that…’ A flash of dismay showed distinctly in his serious gaze, and even in that tense atmosphere she almost smiled. He looked slightly panicky, as if she had moved off his authorised script and he wasn’t equipped to handle it.

‘What else have you thought about?’ she asked thickly.

‘That I interpreted certain events in the manner that suited my view of myself best,’ Luc admitted. ‘I think I married you because I knew that sooner or later I would lose control and end up in bed with you.’

‘But, Luc, when you got me, you didn’t want me. I was your wife for six weeks—’

BOOK: One Night with His Wife
4.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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