“Please, Vin, you have to help me,” she choked out, her voice echoing against the cool gray stone. “My boss is trying to steal our baby!”
For a moment, Vin stared at her in shock, unable to comprehend her words.
There was a collective gasp as two thousand people turned to stare at him, waiting for his reaction.
Vin’s body flashed hot, then cold as he felt all control—over the wedding, over his privacy, over his life—ripped from his grasp. Nearby, he saw the glower of Anne’s red-faced father, saw her mother’s shocked eyes. Fortunately he had no family of his own to disappoint.
He turned to his bride, expecting to see tears or at least agonized hurt, expecting to have to explain that he hadn’t cheated on her, of course not, that this had all happened months before they’d met. But Anne’s beautiful face was carefully blank.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I need a moment.”
“Take all the time you want.”
Vin went slowly down the aisle toward Scarlett. The people watching from the pews seemed to fall away, their faces smearing into mere smudges of color.
His heart was pounding as he stopped in front of the woman he’d almost convinced himself didn’t exist. Looking at her belly, he said in a low voice, “You’re pregnant?”
She met his eyes. “Yes.”
“The baby’s mine?”
Her chin lifted. “You think I would lie?”
Vin remembered her soft gasp of pain when he’d first taken her, holding her virgin body so hot and hard and tight against his own in the darkness of his bedroom. Remembered how he’d kissed her tears away until her pain melted away to something very different...
“You couldn’t have told me before now?” he bit out.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t...” Then she glanced behind her, and her expression changed to fear.
Three men were striding up the aisle, the leader’s face a mask of cold fury.
“There you are, you little...” He roughly grabbed Scarlett’s wrist. “This is a private matter,” he snarled at Vin, barely looking at him. “Return to your ceremony.”
Vin almost did. It would have been easy to let them go. He felt the pressure of his waiting bride, of the pending merger, of her family, of the cathedral and the archbishop and the many guests, some of whom had flown around the world to be here. He could have told himself that Scarlett was lying and turned his back on her. He could have walked back to calmly speak the vows that would bind his life to Anne.
But something stopped him.
Maybe it was the man’s iron-like grip on Scarlett’s slender wrist. Or the way he and his two goons were dragging her back down the aisle, in spite of her helpless struggles. Maybe it was the panicked, stricken expression on her lovely face as all those wealthy, powerful guests silently watched, doing nothing to intervene.
Or maybe it was the ghost of his own memory, long repressed, of how it had once felt to be powerless and unloved, dragged from his only home against his will.
Whatever it was, Vin found himself doing something he hadn’t done in a long, long time.
“Stop right there,” he ordered.
The other man’s face snapped toward him. “Stay out of this.”
Vin stalked toward him. “The lady doesn’t want to leave with you.”
“She’s distraught. Not to mention crazy.” The man, sleek and overfed as a Persian cat, yanked on her wrist. “I’m taking her to my psychiatrist. She’s going to be locked away for a long, long time.”
“No!” Scarlett whimpered. She looked up at Vin, her eyes shining with tears. “I’m not crazy. He used to be my boss. He’s trying to force me to marry him and give our baby away.”
Give our baby away.
The four words cut through Vin’s heart like a knife. His whole body became still.
And he knew there was no way he was going to let this man take her.
His voice was ice-cold. “Let her go.”
“You think you can make me?”
“Do you know my name?” Vin said quietly.
The man looked at him contemptuously. “I have no...” His voice trailed off, then he sucked in his breath. “Borgia.” He exhaled the two syllables through his teeth. Vin saw the fear in the man’s eyes. It was a reaction he’d grown accustomed to. “I...I didn’t realize...”