Except on those rare nights Vin’s grandfather came to stay, no one ever comforted him when he heard a scary noise in the darkness or was frightened there was a monster under his bed. Vin had learned that the only way to survive was to be meaner than any monster. The only way to survive was to pretend not to be afraid.

But now, holding his son, Vin felt real fear. Because he knew that if this tiny baby was ever hurt, it would destroy him. It made him wonder how his own mother could have cared so much more for her momentary pleasures than her own son.

Vin took a deep breath. He’d be nothing like her. His son would always be his priority. From now on, that was his only duty. His only obligation. To keep his wife and child safe. He’d have to build an even bigger fortune, to protect them from worry or care. Vin’s heart squeezed. He had a family to protect now. And he would. With his dying breath.


He looked up to see Scarlett’s tired eyes smiling up at him. She held out her hand, and he immediately took it.

“Look at our son,” he said softly. “The most beautiful baby in the world.”

“You’re not biased,” she teased.

He shook his head solemnly. “It’s not opinion. It’s fact—” he smoothed back the soft edge of the baby blanket “—as anyone with eyes could see. He’ll be a fighter, too.”

“Just like his father.”

It didn’t sound like criticism, but praise; and hearing that from her made him catch his breath. The golden light of morning flooded the bed and the white tile floor, casting it in a haze as their eyes locked for a long moment. Then, leaning forward, he gently kissed her.

When he pulled away, her green eyes were luminous. Then they turned anxious. “But, Vin, what about your meeting? The deal with Mediterranean Airlines?”

Vin’s jaw dropped. He’d forgotten. He’d totally forgotten about the meeting that was so important it had been circled in red on the calendar of his mind. He looked at the clock on the wall. He’d been so determined to get to Rome, and here he was, in a hospital just north of the city. The time was nine fifteen. The meeting had started at nine.

“Maybe you can still make it,” Scarlett said. “Give me the baby. We can have Larson or Beppe meet you outside. You still—”

“No.” His voice was quiet, but firm.

“Are you sure?” He could see the desperate hope in her eyes that he would stay, even as she said, “I know what this deal means to you. You should go.”

He wondered what it cost her to say that. Being abandoned in an Italian hospital outside Rome, exhausted and still recovering from her physical ordeal, with an hours-old baby, couldn’t be what she wanted. But she encouraged him because she wanted him to have what he desired most.

But for the first time, something compelled Vin more than his business, or money, or even power.

He couldn’t leave his wife and their newborn son. Not now. Not after everything he’d just seen Scarlett endure. Not when his baby was still so tiny and fragile and new.

His place wasn’t in a boardroom in Rome. His place was right here, keeping watch over the ones who depended on him far more than any employees or stockholders. The ones who really mattered. His family.

And if part of him was incredulous he was making this choice, even mocking him for it, he pushed that aside. “I’m staying.” He looked back at the baby. “What shall we call him?”

She looked at him with barely concealed relief, then smiled. “A name that has meaning in your family. If not Giuseppe, what about Vincenzo?”

“After me?” Vin shuddered, then shook his head. “Our baby deserves better. He must have a name of his own.” He thought for a moment, then said haltingly, “My nonno—my mother’s father—was very kind to me. He died when I was eight, but I never forgot him. He made Christmas special.” His lips quirked at the edges. “He said it was his job, because of his name. Nicolò.”

She considered. “Nicolas?”

Vin looked at his baby son’s face and nodded. “Nico,” he said softly. “I like it.”

For long moments, they held hands without speaking, Scarlett propped against pillows in the hospital bed and Vin cradling their baby in the chair beside her. He thought he’d maybe never been happier, or so at peace.

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