It had been a hard fight, against a worthy rival, a far larger company. But Salvatore Calabrese had been duly impressed by Vin abandoning his wife and baby on Christmas Day to spend the week through New Year’s and beyond focusing only on negotiations. Vin had spent the last two weeks holed up in this hotel with lawyers.
It was fortunate the view was so nice, because other than the ride from the airport, this was all he’d seen of Tokyo.
But the deal was done. They’d signed the papers an hour ago. Mediterranean Airlines was now part of SkyWorld Airways.
Vin had won.
So why didn’t he feel happier?
Sitting up straight on his bar stool, he tried to shake the feeling off. Scarlett was still in Rome, stubbornly defying him. She hadn’t packed a thing, according to the bodyguards, whom she also continued to evade at will. She just continued her life as before, taking care of the baby and their home, helping his family arrange the last-minute details for his sister’s upcoming wedding.
His so-called sister.
His so-called family.
Vin ground his teeth. It was physically painful for him to be around the Borgias, in spite of—actually, because of—their love for him. If they knew the truth, that he wasn’t really Giuseppe’s son, that Bianca had lied to him and used him for all of Vin’s childhood, they would stop loving him.
It would be subtle, of course. They’d probably claim they were “still a family.” But soon they’d be making excuses not to visit. Christmas cards would grow rare. Finally, there would be no contact at all, to the unexpressed relief of both sides.
Vin was done with Rome. It was the place where he’d been forced to feel emotions he didn’t want to feel.
Especially for Scarlett.
His hands tightened on his glass of scotch.
But it would all soon be over. He glanced at his black leather briefcase on the bar stool beside him.
Ten minutes after he’d left Rome, with Scarlett’s hurled accusations still ringing in his ears, he’d coldly called his lawyers and had the post-nup drawn up.
He should have done it weeks ago. But after their marriage, after the birth of their son, part of his soul had recoiled from betraying Scarlett. He’d known after he tricked her into signing a post-nup, she would hate him, too. So he’d put it off, telling himself there was plenty of time.
He’d been weak. He never should have allowed himself to delay his original plan. Of course he had to make Scarlett sign the post-nup. It was the only way Vin could make sure he could always keep them safe. He had to be in control.
Without it, Scarlett would continue to blithely ignore his demands that she keep the bodyguards close.
She didn’t know that when Blaise Falkner disappeared from New York, he’d left a threat behind: “You’ll lose even more, Borgia.”
But that was just the point. Vin shouldn’t have to explain such dangers to his wife. He didn’t want to scare her. He just wanted to keep her safe.
Why did she have to fight him?
He’d felt so stupidly happy in her arms on Christmas Eve, making love to her. Stupid being the key word.
Waking up in the cold light of Christmas morning, he’d looked down at his wife in his arms, at the sweetly trusting smile on her beautiful face as she slept. For a split second, he’d been filled with joy. Then he’d felt a suffocating panic, even worse than the day they’d wed.
Happiness led to loss. It led to pain. And the joy of love could only end two ways: abandonment or death.
He’d decided long ago that he would never love anyone. He’d never give anyone that power over him.
But had he?
I love you.
He still remembered how he’d trembled when he’d heard Scarlett say those words. When he’d heard himself say them.
I love you.
He angrily shook the memory away.
He wouldn’t think of it. Wouldn’t feel it. And Scarlett’s love for him would evaporate, along with her trust, after he tricked her into signing the post-nup. She would hate him then.
Vin’s expression hardened as he took another sip of eighteen-year-old scotch. Taking love out of the equation would make things easier all around. Safer. Because he didn’t like the things Scarlett made him feel.
Desire, when he thought of her.