Can one passionate night mend a marriage?
Luc Sarrazan’s marriage to Star was hasty and brief. They separated almost immediately and Star disappeared, but Luc never filed for divorce. Eighteen months later, Luc tracks Star down fearing she’s involved in a fraud. When he discovers that Star is the mother of TWINS, he feels doubly deceived! Luc demands his price: he will have the fraud charge dropped if Star will spend just one last time in his bed. But he’s not prepared for the cost of that fleeting taste of passion – the morning after, he wants more… even to mend their marriage!
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‘THE account no longer exists…’ Star repeated that shattering announcement shakily under her breath as she walked back out of the bank.
In her hand, she still gripped the cheque she had tried unsuccessfully to cash. Beneath her shining fall of copper hair, her delicate features were stamped with shock, her aquamarine eyes bemused. She climbed back into Rory Martin’s elderly classic car.
‘Why were you so long?’ Rory asked as he drove off.
Twisting round in her seat to check that the twins were still fast asleep in their car seats, Star muttered, ‘I had to see the assistant manager—’
‘That’ll be because you’re a lady of substance now,’ Rory teased, referring to the money which Star had proudly paid into the bank only a few weeks earlier.
‘And he told me that the account no longer exists,’ Star confided abruptly.
At the traffic lights, Rory’s fair hair swivelled. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘Juno has closed the account—’
‘Your mother’s done what?’ Rory interrupted incredulously.
‘There must be something badly wrong, Rory.’
‘You’re telling me. How could your mother close your account?’ he demanded.
‘It was her account.’
At that revelation, Rory sent Star a bewildered glance. ‘Why didn’t you have a bank account in your own name?’ ‘Because until last month when I sold those canvases, I wouldn’t have had anything to put in an account of my own,’ Star stressed defensively. ‘Juno was keeping me!’
Looking unimpressed by that argument, Rory pulled away from the traffic lights again. ‘It was still your money in that account, the proceeds of the first couple of pictures you sold—’
His persistence made Star bristle with annoyance. ‘Juno and I work on a “what’s mine is yours” basis, Rory. We’re family. We stick together. If she drew out that money, she must’ve needed it.’ Then a further cause for alarm assailed her. ‘Do you realise that it’s over two weeks since I even spoke to my mother? Every time I call, all I get is that wretched answering machine!’
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s simply moved the account elsewhere and just forgotten to tell you about it,’ Rory suggested in a soothing tone. ‘Let’s stop worrying about it. This is my day off. Where do you want to go next?’
Still in a bemused state, Star slowly shook her head. ‘I can’t go shopping without money—’
‘So, I’ll give you a loan to tide you over,’ Rory slotted in with an easy shrug.
‘No, thanks,’ Star told him hurriedly, determined not to lean on him that way. ‘You’d better just take us home again. I need to phone around and try to get hold of Juno to find out what’s happening.’
‘Be sensible, Star. She’s hardly ever at home. Meanwhile, you still have to eat,’ Rory pointed out with all the practicality of a male whose considerable family fortune was built on that same fact of life.
However, Star was immovable. Half an hour later, Rory drew up in the cobbled courtyard of a dilapidated fortified house complete with a tower surrounded by rusting scaffolding. Star lived rent-free as caretaker at Highburn Castle. The owner lived abroad. A friend of Juno’s, he didn’t have the money to maintain his inheritance, or the interest to apply for the grants available to repair a building listed as being of historical significance.
Star detached the belts from the baby seats in the back of the car. Rory unlocked the sturdy rear door of the castle and transported the first twin inside. Venus sighed in her sleep but remained comatose. Mars loosed an anxious little snort and shifted position. Both Star and Rory stilled until her restive son settled again. Mars had yet to prove the perceived wisdom that a baby could sleep through anything.
‘They’re great kids.’ As they entered the big basement kitchen, Rory scrutinised the sleeping babies with the interest of a male who, as an only child, had had little contact with young children. ‘I can never get over how tiny they are. When you think how premature they were, they’re a right little pair of miracles!’
Having noticed the winking light on the answering machine which her mother had installed, Star gave him an abstracted nod. She switched on the tape and a familiar voice broke into speech.
‘Star, it’s me…I’ve got into some real hot water,’ Juno gasped breathlessly into the sudden silence greeting her message. ‘I haven’t got time to explain, but I have to go abroad in a hurry and I had to borrow your money to pay for the flights! I’m absolutely skint. If I’ve left you in a hole, I’m sorry, but maybe you could contact Luc and get him to pay his dues for you and the twins…please, darling—’
‘Who’s Luc?’ Rory demanded abruptly.
Star wasn’t looking at him. She had jerked violently at the sound of that name. Her stomach somersaulting, she turned a whiter shade of pale. With an unsteady hand, she stopped the tape to absorb what she had so far heard and forcibly repressed all thought of Luc Sarrazin…Luc, her estranged husband, and the unwitting father of the twins.
What on earth had happened to the art gallery Juno was about to open in London? Only six weeks ago, Juno had been so confident of success. For goodness’ sake, she had borrowed a small fortune to open that gallery! At the time, Star had been secretly astonished that any bank would give her mother such a large loan. Investing in Juno was a risky venture. Twice before, her mother had set up businesses which had failed.