“Stop pouting,” he said coldly.
“I’m not.” She continued to glare out the window at the passing Italian countryside. “I’m mad, which is something else entirely.”
“Stop being mad, then.” He paused. “I meant to tell you. I got you a wedding present.”
Her jaw tightened, but she still refused to look at him.
“It isn’t a gift that I could wrap,” he continued, obviously counting on her curiosity to overcome her fury. “It’s something I did for you.”
“Well?” Wiping her eyes, Scarlett turned her glare on him. “What is it?”
Dodging through the increasing traffic of the highway, he said, “Blaise Falkner.”
She frowned. “What about Blaise?”
Vin gave her a triumphant sideways glance. “I’ve ruined him.” His lips spread into a grin. “He’ll never be able to threaten you again. Or anyone.”
Scarlett stared at Vin, feeling hollow. “What do you mean, you ruined him?”
“He’s penniless, disgraced, destroyed. Abandoned by his friends. Even the Falkner mansion is getting repossessed in New York. So he’s also homeless.” Vin turned dark eyes on her. “I did it for you.”
“I never asked for that!”
His jaw was hard as he focused on the road. “I protect what is mine.”
Scarlett shivered, hearing an echo of memory.
What century do you think we’re living in?
The century a rich man can do whatever he wants. To whomever he wants.
As the red car sped down the highway, she felt her belly again tighten painfully. It had been doing that with increasing frequency. Stress would do that, she told herself. It was stress. Not the early signs of labor.
She breathed, “What did you do?”
“Falkner wasn’t as rich as people thought.” Vin changed lanes rapidly, rather than slow down with the traffic. He gave a smug, masculine smile. “His inheritance barely covered half his debt. He refused to work and was spending thousands of dollars every night for bottle service in clubs. And women. I merely made sure his lines of credit were not extended and allowed his true financial situation to become public.”
“You used your influence with the banks?”
“I’m a very good customer.”
“And dropped hints to some aggressive reporter?”
He tilted his head thoughtfully. “I believe in freedom of the press.”
“But how did you get his friends to abandon him?”
“Ah, that was the easiest part. Half of them only endured his company because he always footed the bill. He owed the other half money. Once he was broke—no more friends.”
Scarlett might have felt bad for Blaise Falkner, if she didn’t still remember the terror she’d felt when he’d threatened to take her baby away and force her into marriage.
“Revenge is wrong,” she said in a low voice.
“You’re angry?” Now Vin was the one to look shocked. His expression turned hard. “He deserved it. He deserved worse.”
Vin’s expression scared her. He didn’t look like the good-hearted man she’d come to know in Tuscany. He looked like the ruthless billionaire she’d fled in New York.
She felt tension building in her body. She put her hands on her baby bump and felt the muscles of her belly harden. Like a contraction. She took a quick breath. “You could have...just left him alone.”
“I have the right to protect my family.”
“We aren’t in danger! We’re thousands of miles away!” She took another deep breath, trying to will her body to calm down, to relax. If she could, then maybe these contractions would stop. “It was revenge, pure and simple.”
“What do you want, Scarlett?” His black eyes flashed. “Should I have bought the man a pony, tucked him in with milk and cookies, thanked him for the way he threatened my wife and child? Is that what you think?”
“I think—” Her breathing was becoming increasingly difficult. She was beginning to feel shooting pains radiating from her lower spine with increasing frequency. Then—
She sucked in her breath as she felt a sudden rush, a sticky mess. She looked down at her cream satin wedding dress in dismay. At the expensive black leather seat below it.