He looked at Scarlett. “How can I change your mind?”

“You can’t,” she said firmly. “The only reason to marry someone is for love. And I don’t love you.”

“You wanted a home. I can give you six.” Or more. He couldn’t quite remember which ones he’d sold or bought lately.

She looked wistful, then squared her shoulders. “A home without love isn’t a home at all.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

But he suddenly knew his answer. He’d use her romantic heart against her.

Scarlett cared about two things: love and freedom. All he had to do was give her both.

Or at least make her think he was giving them to her.

Vin had never tried to pretend to be in love before, but how hard could it be? He’d been raised by a woman who was a master at it, who’d used the pretense of emotion as a means of manipulating others.

But could he pull it off? Scarlett was no fool. Would she buy it?

He’d have to move slowly...

Vin tilted his head as if in thought, then took a deep breath and looked up almost pleadingly.

“Maybe you can show me I’m wrong. Prove to me that love isn’t an illusion for fools.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, then faded. “Please. You’ll never give your heart to anyone. You’ve made it clear that to you marriage is a business deal.”

“Maybe I’m wrong. Because you’re different from any woman I’ve met.” That was certainly true. “I want you as I’ve never wanted anyone.” Also true. “You’re carrying my child. I respect your intelligence, your warm heart. I need you. Want you.” Clawing his hand back through his dark hair, he gave her a crooked smile. “Maybe that’s how it starts.”

He held his breath, waiting for her response.

“You expect me to believe that... That you could someday love me?” She gave a harsh laugh. “Nice try. What kind of idiot do you think I am?”

“Just give me a chance,” he said quietly. “To see where this could lead.”


He thought furiously. Then he knew.

His eyes pierced hers. “I’ll marry you without a pre-nup.”

“What?” she breathed. She shook her head in disbelief. “Like you said—you’d risk half your fortune! From the moment we spoke our vows!”

Vin watched her carefully, watched the play of conflicting emotions cross her pale, lovely face. The way her white teeth nibbled furiously at her full, pink bottom lip. “Maybe it’s worth the risk.”

Yes. He was taking a risk, gambling that he’d quickly make her fall in love with him, placing her securely under his thumb and willing to sign a postnuptial agreement before the ink on their marriage license was dry. Which, he thought arrogantly, was almost no risk at all.

He’d never tried to make a woman fall in love with him before. Usually it was the opposite—getting women into bed and leaving them before any emotional attachment was formed. This would be interesting. He felt strangely excited by the challenge.

Or maybe it was just standing so close to Scarlett, beneath the golden sun, feeling the cool October breeze against his overheated skin, knowing that he would soon possess her. In this moment, he would have been almost willing to pay half his fortune just to get her in his bed.

“Will you?” he said softly, coming closer. “Will you take a chance on me, if I take one with you?”

She seemed to shudder, looking up into his eyes. Her expression was bewildered, vulnerable, as if she were fighting hope itself. “But why?” she whispered. “Why does marriage matter so much to you?”

He didn’t want to answer, but the new role he was playing, that of a secretly vulnerable man who could possibly be open to love, forced him to at least partial honesty. “I know what it’s like to grow up without a father. My son must have a better childhood. He must always know who his parents are.”

She looked confused. “How could he not know that?”

Vin changed the subject. “Family starts with a name. With a home. Our baby must feel safe and loved. He must know where he belongs.” He looked at her. “Marry me, Scarlett. Right now.”

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