Vin glanced at his own bodyguards, who’d entered the cathedral and surrounded the other men with surgical precision, ready to strike. He gave his chief of security a slight shake of his head, telling them to keep their distance. Then he looked at the man holding Scarlett. “Get. Out. Now.”
He obeyed, abruptly releasing her. He turned and fled, his two bodyguards swiftly following him out of the cathedral.
Noise suddenly rose on all sides. Scarlett fell with a sob into Vin’s arms, against the front of his tuxedo.
And a young man leaped up from a middle pew.
“Anne, I told you! Don’t marry him! Who cares if you’re disinherited?” Looking around the nave, the stranger proclaimed fiercely and loudly, “I’ve been sleeping with the bride for the last six months!”
Total chaos broke out then. The father of the bride started yelling, the mother of the bride wept noisily and, faced with such turmoil, the bride quietly and carefully fainted into a puffy heap of white tulle.
But Vin barely noticed. His world had shrunk to two things. Scarlett’s tears as she wept in relief against his chest. And the tremble of her pregnant body, cradled beneath the protection of his arms.
OUT OF THE frying pan, into the fire.
Scarlett had escaped Blaise, but at what price?
For the last hour, she’d tried to calm the fearful beat of her heart as she sat in a faded floral chair next to a window overlooking a private garden. Vin had brought her to the private sitting room in the rectory behind the cathedral and told her to wait while he sorted things out. A kindly old lady—a housekeeper of some sort?—had pushed a hot cup of tea into her trembling hand.
But the tea had grown cold. She set the china cup into the saucer with a clatter.
Scarlett didn’t know which scared her more. The memory of Blaise’s snarling face. Or the fear of what Vin Borgia might do now to take over her future—and her baby’s.
She should run.
She should run now.
Running was the only way to ensure their freedom.
Growing up, Scarlett had lived in over twenty different places, tiny towns hidden in forests and mountains, sometimes in shacks without electricity or running water. She’d rarely been able to go to school, and when she did, she’d had to dye her red hair brown and use a different name. Things that normal kids took for granted, such as having a real home, friends, going to the same school for a whole year, were luxuries Scarlett had only dreamed of. She’d never played sports, or sung in the school choir, or gone to prom. She’d never even gone on a real date.
Until she was twenty-four. The day she’d met Vin Borgia, she’d been weak, emotional, vulnerable. And he’d caught her up like a butterfly in a net.
She looked out the window with its view of the back garden, full of roses and ivy. A secret garden, surrounded by New York skyscrapers. A strangely calm, verdant place that seemed miles from the noisy traffic and honking cabs of Fifth Avenue. Rising to her feet, she started to pace.
A frosty gray afternoon last February, she’d been picking up a medicine prescription for Mrs. Falkner when she received a text from an old Boston friend of her father’s with news that had staggered her.
Alan Berry had just died in an inconsequential knife fight in a Southie bar. The man who’d betrayed her father seventeen years before, who’d cut a deal for his own freedom and forced Harry Ravenwood to go on the run with his sick wife and young daughter, had died a meaningless death after a meaningless life. All for nothing.
Standing in the drugstore, Scarlett’s knees had gone weak. She’d felt sick.
Five minutes later, she’d found herself at a dive bar across the street, ordering her first drink. The sharp pungent taste had made her cough.
“Let me guess.” A low, amused voice had spoken from the red leather banquette in the corner. “It’s your first time.”
She’d turned. The man came out of the shadows slowly. Black eyes. Dark hair. Powerful broad shoulders. A black suit. Hard edges everywhere. Five-o’clock shadow. He was like a hero—or a handsome villain—from a movie, so masculine and powerful and handsome that he’d affected her even more than the vodka shot.