Now Luc is back, demanding to see his son: Emily must go to his château to play the role of mother—and wife. When they're thrown together the chemistry between them escalates. But how can Emily win back Luc's trust—for herself and their son?
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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 he still 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.
"I would never prevent you from seeing Jean-Claude, if that's what you want," she muttered as she tried to come to terms with the astounding realisation that Luc seemed to want his son after all. Perhaps it had only been the sight of her pregnant body that had filled him with revulsion, she thought bitterly. "I assumed you would want nothing to do with him but I'm prepared to be reasonable about access arrangements if you've really lost your aversion to fatherhood."
"How very generous of you." Luc's voice dripped with sarcasm and she flushed. He'd always had the knack of making her feel two feet high and once she would have backed down at the slightest hint of confrontation. Now she lifted her chin and stared at him, cursing her body's involuntary reaction to him. How could he still have such an effect on her after everything he'd put her through, the humiliation he'd heaped on her?
She'd been overwhelmed from the first moment she'd set eyes on him, she acknowledged grimly. There was something about his face, the sharp cheekbones and very slightly hooked nose, that gave him the appearance of a hawk, his eyes gleaming from beneath heavy black brows, watchful and calculating. It was hard to believe that those eyes had once softened to the colour of woodsmoke, that the cruel line of his mouth had moulded into a sensual curve as he had explored her lips with a degree of passion and tenderness that had left her weak with longing.
She bit back a gasp as a curious pain uncoiled in the pit of her stomach, self-disgust swamping her as her imagination ran riot. What was desire doing, rearing its ugly head at a time like this, when Luc was studying her with insolent appraisal as if she was something unpleasant that had crawled out from beneath a stone? Swiftly she crossed her arms over her chest to hide her body's blatant betrayal, sickness flooding through her when his gaze settled on her breasts and she saw his lip curl in sardonic amusement.
"But, then, in certain areas you were always very generous, weren't you, Emily?" he drawled. "Especially in bed."
"Go to hell," she snapped, tears of mortification stinging her eyelids. How dared he look at her like that, as if she was some cheap tart and he was considering sampling her wares? "I'm surprised you even remember. It's a long time since you chose to share my bed but, then, you didn't need to did you, Luc? You were busy elsewhere." She broke off abruptly, twin spots of colour staining her cheeks. Now was not the time to reveal the depths of the clawing jealousy she'd experienced on those long, lonely nights when she'd waited in vain for him to come home.
"As soon as I arrive in London, I'll have my lawyers contact yours to arrange suitable access to Jean-Claude," she told him briskly as she looked towards the farmhouse. No doubt Laura was struggling to give her guests a guided tour of the kitchens with Jean-Claude clamped to her hip. The sooner she held her son in her arms the happier she would be, she decided after risking another peep at Luc's inscrutable face. "If you'll excuse me, I need to go and find him,'she murmured awkwardly. She supposed she should invite Luc into the farmhouse to meet his son and her conscience prickled uncomfortably as he continued to stare down at her with those laser-beam eyes that she was sure could read her mind.
She didn't want to take him inside, she acknowledged as a faint edge of apprehension gripped her once more. San Antonia was her territory, and for some reason she would prefer Luc's first meeting with his son to take place on the neutral ground of her solicitor's office. Time was getting on, she realised with a glance at her watch. The coach driver was looking impatient and if she wasn't careful she would miss her flight.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love chantelle shaw's writing but when she flops, she deserves it. This book was quite unbelievable. The hero runs a multi-million corporation but he cannot communicate with his wife. The whole basis of their marriage is sex because he obviously cannot verbalize anything without be condescending and a total jerk. He marries the heroine, screws the living daylight out of her and then treats her like a child. She verbalizes that his PA and ex sister in law is causing her grief - he ignores her. She becomes pregnant and he virtually ignores her and the sex stops completely. He spends more time with the sister in law. He lies to her about his delay in coming back in time and she sees him go into his SIL home, spends the night and misses her sonogram without calling. She finally gets a backbone and leaves. Our hero, the genius who owns a multi million dollar corporation cannot find her for 18 months. I do not think he looked that much. He finally finds out where she is after getting divorce papers from her, and he is mad. He uses his power to force her and baby to his castle in France and dictates for the rest of the book. No car, no freedom, SIL is living in castle, everytime she speaks- he forces her to submit to his expert "love"making. He calls her a liar, he puts her down for her clothing, he forgets to tell her that he was married before, he forbids her to work and he does it out of love! I have never disliked a character in a romance like this idiot. The ending is rushed, and he finds out SIL lied, and eats crow by "what else" making her eyes pop out by giving her more orgasms and she forgives him because he tells her that he loves her. If that is love, I rather become a nun.