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A year later--San Antonia
"ARE YOU SURE you've got everything? Passports, tickets, keys to the flat?"
"Everything's under control--stop fretting," Emily bade her friend cheerfully. "You've got enough to worry about. The coach is here."
Arrivals day was always hectic, she mused as she followed Laura out into the courtyard. The farmhouse at San Antonia had once been a quiet refuge for Laura's boyfriend and his crowd of artist friends. All that had changed when Nick had persuaded Laura to join him in Spain and she had opened up her cookery school. The business had been an instant success, catering for tourists eager to take lessons from an innovative chef who had earned her stars at a top London restaurant. Emily was pleased for Laura and glad she had been able to help out by organising the guests' living and sleeping facilities, but the time had come for her go back to England and take control of her life.
"I hope you'll manage," she murmured as she joined her friend on the front step and watched the party alight from the coach. "I could be away for a couple of months while the lawyers sort out the divorce."
"From bitter experience, I'd better warn you it could take a lot longer than that," Laura replied grimly. "Mine took over a year to finalise and cost me a small fortune."
"I'm not anticipating any problems,'Emily said with a shrug. "Luc will be as pleased as me to see the end of our marriage." Especially if the recent photo in one of the British tabloids was anything to go by, she thought bleakly. Seeing his dark, handsome features again had momentarily caused her heart to stop beating. She had been shocked to discover the effect hestill had on her, even after more than a year apart, but it had been the sight of his companion, the stunningly beautiful Robyn Blake, that had been the catalyst for her decision to bring a legal end to their farcical marriage.
It was time to put the past behind her, she thought resolutely. She had a baby, a burgeoning new business of her own and the freedom to live her life the way she chose. She enjoyed her independence, she reminded herself fiercely. She had fought hard to rebuild her self-respect and it was time to sever the legal ties that bound her to Jean-Luc Vaillon.
"How do you think you'll feel about seeing your husband again?" Laura asked.
"With any luck, I won't have to. I don't want anything from him, certainly not money," Emily added fiercely.
"You're entitled to demand that he make proper provision for Jean-Claude," Laura pointed out. "Luc is his father after all, and it won't hurt him to dip into the Vaillon millions."
"No!" Emily instantly refuted the suggestion. "I'm responsible for my son and I'll provide for him. Luc never wanted a child. Jean-Claude's conception was an accident and I refuse to use him as leverage for financial gain. I'll manage," she assured her friend brightly when Laura frowned in concern, "but I won't take anything from Luc."
In theory it all seemed so simple. She would make contact with Luc through a third party, and if he expressed any interest in seeing his son, the lawyers could thrash out the access arrangements along with the divorce. She wasn't expecting any complications but as she glanced over to where Jean-Claude was sleeping in his pushchair, shaded from the sun by a parasol, she was filled with a sense of foreboding. Nothing about Jean-Luc Vaillon was simple. He was a man of secrets and despite the fact that they had been married for two years, she didn't really know him at all.
"Someone's arrived in style." Laura's voice broke into her thoughts and she glanced across the courtyard at the sleek black limousine that had swung in behind the coach. "I hope they appreciate that this is a working holiday. I won't have time to run around after some spoilt millionaire's wife who can't boil an egg. The coach driver is quite happy to take you to the airport," she added as she stepped forward to greet her guests. "He's finished unloading now so you can give him your luggage before you have to disturb Jean-Claude." She gave Emily a brief kiss on the cheek. "Take care. We'll celebrate your new life as a single woman when you come back."
A quick glance at the buggy revealed that Jean-Claude was still sleeping soundly and Emily decided to leave him for a few more minutes while she loaded her cases.
"How are you, Enzo?" she greeted the coach driver, who regularly made the journey between San Antonia and the airport.
"Hola, Señora, you're looking pretty today." Conversation about Enzo's huge extended family took another five minutes and when Emily looked back at the pushchair, it was empty. Laura must have taken Jean-Claude into the farmhouse, she thought, a prickle of unease threading along her spine. Something made her turn her head towards the car parked at the further end of the courtyard.
For a few seconds she thought it must be a trick of the light, a mirage brought on by the heat of the midday sun, but when she blinked she realised he was no illusion. Handsome was hardly an adequate description of him, she acknowledged numbly. This man was awesome, the power of his broad shoulders beneath his superbly tailored jacket so formidable that a trembling started deep inside her.
The air in the courtyard was still and sultry but she could not suppress a shiver as her eyes travelled up to the visitor's face and locked with his cold, grey stare. His eyes were hooded, hiding his expression, but she was struck by the hardness that emanated from him, the air of arrogance, of ruthlessness and sheer power, and she gave a cry as the world spun.
Confusion made her close her eyes, as if by doing so she could rid herself of the unwelcome vision, but when she opened them again he was still there, larger than life, taller and more imposing than anyone she had ever met and her hands flew to cover her mouth, forcing back her cry. "What are you doing here? What do you want?" she demanded tremulously, shock almost robbing her of her voice. He smiled, his mouth stretching to reveal his teeth so that she was reminded of a wolf preparing to devour its prey.
"I've already got what I came for, chérie," he taunted softly, and she stared at him in confusion. "It's up to you whether you choose to join us."
"Us?'Emily parroted, her brain moving as sluggishly as treacle. "I don't understand." She felt breathless and disorientated as he towered over her. Her heart was pounding and it took every ounce of her courage to lift her eyes to his face. If anything he was even more devastatingly good-looking than she remembered, leaner and harder than the man who regularly haunted her dreams. Looking at him caused a peculiar feeling inside, like a knife being thrust between her ribs, and she quickly tore her eyes away, blinking under the brilliant glare of the sun.
Luc's arrival at the farmhouse was so unexpected she didn't know what to do, what to say. "How did you find me?" she croaked at last, and his expression hardened.
"You wrote to your solicitor, requesting that he start divorce proceedings," he reminded her coolly. "I must commend him for the speed with which he contacted my legal firm to set the wheels in motion." 'Mr Carmichael has taken care of the Dyer family's legal matters for years," Emily faltered. "I specifically asked him to withhold my whereabouts and I don't believe he would have willingly handed you that information."
"No, but his very pretty junior secretary proved much more amenable," he murmured silkily. "The evenings spent wining and dining her proved highly profitable--in more ways than one," he added dulcetly, and the sudden gleam in his eyes sickened her.
"I really don't want to know the details of your grubby love life," she snapped, hurt coursing through her, "although from past experience I imagine love plays very little part in it. But I still don't understand why you're here," she continued stonily, refusing to acknowledge that the familiar tang of the aftershave he favoured had evoked a host of memories she wished had remained buried. "Presumably you read my letter explaining to Mr Carmichael that I would be returning to England to sort out the divorce. Why didn't you just wait for me?"
Luc inhaled sharply, his nostrils flaring as he sought to control the anger that surged through him. "I have spent almost a year longing to see my child,'he ground out savagely, his eyes as cold and hard as slate, and Emily shivered as she realised the full extent of his fury. "Did you really expect me to wait passively, hoping you would show up? Do you have any idea what it felt like to learn from a letter you'd sent your solicitor that I had fathered a son? Sacré bleu!" he ground out, his jaw rigid with tension. "You were happy to inform Monsieur Carmichael, but you didn't even have the decency to tell me my son had been born, and for that I can never forgive you."
"Why should I have done?" Emily defended herself, genuinely puzzled by his anger. "Why would I have rushed to tell you I'd given birth to our child when you were so vehemently opposed to his conception? You made it clear that you didn't want either of us, Luc, so how can you blame me for wanting to bring Jean-Claude up among people who care for him?"
"If you think I will allow my child to spend his formative years in a hippy commune you are even more delusional that I thought," he snarled furiously. "I have lost the first precious months of my son's life and I hold you and your half-baked theories about my supposed affair with my personal assistant completely to blame. Jealousy is not an attractive emotion, chérie," he said, his eyes raking over her trembling form disparagingly. "You allowed your childish craving for attention to colour your judgement but the one to suffer most is our son. You had no right to deny him a relationship with me, and from now on he will know exactly who his father is," he told her forcefully, his gaze brimful of bitterness that corroded her soul.