And just like that, he was holding his beautiful wife, in his arms, naked against the wall of their villa in Rome.

The flicker of warm red firelight glowed against her creamy skin, against her huge breasts with taut red nipples, her long red hair. Her red lips, swollen from the force of his kiss. Red, so red. Scarlet, like her name.

As he kissed her, Vin’s body shook with need. He struggled to hold himself back. It was the first time they’d made love as man and wife, the first time since the baby was born. He should go slow. Carry her upstairs to their elegant bedroom, to the perfectly appointed king-size bed. Take his time. Be gentle. Make it last...

She pulled away from his kiss. With her naked legs wrapped around his trouser-clad hips, she leaned forward. He felt the warmth of her breath, the faint brush of her lips against the sensitive flesh of his earlobe as she whispered three little words.

He realized what she’d just said. With an intake of breath, he looked down at her.

They were alone in the great room, beneath the lights of the enormous Christmas tree that stretched toward the forty-foot ceiling. But even brighter than the lights of the tree, brighter than the orange and red flames of the fire, was the blazing glory of Scarlett’s eyes.

“I love you,” she repeated, as if the words had been building up so long that she could no longer keep them inside. Reaching out, she cupped his jawline, the rough bristles of his five-o’clock shadow. His whole body was shaking.

I love you.

He lost his last tendril of self-control, yanking his tailored trousers so violently that a button popped to the floor. He ripped his zipper roughly apart, tearing the fabric to shove his trousers down his taut hips.

Holding her backside with both hands, he spread her wide, and with one thrust, he pushed his thick, rock-hard length inside her, filling her hard and deep.

She gasped, clinging to him. He thrust into her again, holding her roughly against the wall, stretching her to the hilt. She gripped his shoulders, head tilted back, eyes closed in fervent need.

He watched her face as he pushed inside her a third time, slowly now, his own pleasure building as he saw the ecstasy on her face. A whimper escaped his own lips. Going slow was agony, sheer masochism, when he ached to rut into her, to explode. Her fingertips gripped deeper into his tailored white shirt, into the flesh of his shoulders. Her nails cut wickedly into his skin.

I love you. The soft hush of her words still rang through his ears. Through his heart. I love you.

He forced himself to be still inside her. He was so close to exploding, hard and thick and aching with need. Drawing back, he filled her again, inch by rock-hard inch. He felt her hips move against him, sucking him deeper inside her, as her full, heavy breasts swayed forward. She held her breath, her muscles tense. She suddenly threw back her head, crying out his name—

As he heard her scream her pleasure, he could no longer hold himself back. He rammed into her, fast and rough, crushing her soft breasts against his hard chest. His growl rose to a shout as he exploded inside her in pleasure so violent that, as he poured into her, for a single second his vision went black.

When he regained consciousness, emotion rose in his heart, emotion stronger than he’d ever felt, emotion that would not be repressed or denied.

“I love you.”

The whisper was low, guttural, achingly vulnerable. For a moment, he didn’t recognize the voice. Then Scarlett, still gripping his shoulders, looked at him with the most pure joy he’d ever seen on any human face.

And Vin realized with equal parts joy and horror that the voice had been his own.



The rhythm of those words was like the beat of Scarlett’s heart, the rush of her blood.

He loved her.

She’d been terrified, waiting for him to come home. More than once, she’d changed her mind and started to get dressed. What if he rejected her? What if he laughed? What if one of the bodyguards walked in first?

But that hadn’t even been her biggest fear.

What if her blatant gamble to seduce her husband back into her bed, and more important, to confess her love to him, was a total humiliating failure?

Growing up as she had, Scarlett had needed to be invisible for most of her life. But somehow, loving Vin gave her the courage to be outrageous enough to reach for her dreams.