Frustration, when she defied him.
Fear, when he thought of a life without her.
Without even trying, his wife made him feel vulnerable, all the time, in every way. This had to end.
Staring blankly out at the Tokyo night, Vin leaned his head against his hand. He’d return to Rome, ostensibly to attend Maria’s wedding, with the post-nup in his pocket. He’d get Scarlett to sign it. And then—
He’d get his life back. Well-ordered. Controlled. With Vin completely in charge, and no risk of love or being vulnerable ever again.
“Borgia. Didn’t expect to find you here.”
Vin was jolted by a hearty clap on his shoulder. Looking back, he saw Salvatore Calabrese, still wearing the same designer suit and bright silk tie as when he’d signed the papers selling Mediterranean Airlines.
Vin already felt like he’d spent more than enough time around the self-involved, arrogant man, but he stifled his dislike and bared his teeth into a smile. “Hello, Calabrese.”
The older man slid onto a nearby stool at the glossy wooden bar and gestured to the bartender as he continued, “Glad you finally pulled yourself together to convince me you were the right man to take my airline global.”
“Me, too.” Wishing the man would leave, Vin looked idly down at the ice cubes in his glass, so precise and modern, as was everything about this bar, this hotel, this beautiful city.
Calabrese ordered a drink from the bartender, then sat back on the sleek leather bar stool. “You learned a valuable lesson. Never put your family ahead of yourself, kid. Take it from a man who knows.”
That was true enough, Vin thought. Calabrese was supposedly estranged from all three ex-wives and his four grown children, and he’d never even met his only grandchild. He definitely didn’t put his family ahead of himself.
The gray-haired man tossed some bills on the glossy wooden bar, leaving a huge tip, then glanced at Vin indulgently. “I know you’ll take Mediterranean Airlines to the top.”
“That’s the plan.” Vin wondered how to get rid of him so he could order the second scotch he wanted in peace.
“As for me, I’m going to enjoy the big payout. Take life easy for a while.” He picked up his martini and looked across the room. “Maybe I’ll get married again. One of those girls could talk me into it.”
Following his gaze, Vin saw a trio of beautiful young models—Asian, pale blonde, dark-skinned brunette—sitting cozily on a white leather sofa by the floor-to-ceiling windows, with Tokyo as their backdrop.
Smiling, Calabrese raised his martini glass in their direction. They giggled, rolling their eyes and whispering to each other.
“You want to get married again?” Vin said, astonished.
“Why not? A wife’s cheaper than a mistress. As long as she signs a pre-nup. Always make them sign. Take my advice.” He winked. “If not for your current marriage, for the next one.”
Vin watched Calabrese rise from the stool, then sashay toward the young women, his martini glass held high. Vin’s stomach churned as his gaze fell back on his briefcase.
He was nothing like Calabrese, he told himself fiercely. Nothing. Their situations were completely different.
But when Vin left Tokyo that night on his private jet, he couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning on the long flight.
When he finally arrived in Rome, the January light was gray. The holidays were over, leaving only the cold comfort of winter.
His driver was waiting to drive him from the airport. When he arrived at the villa, Vin set his jaw, wondering what he’d find.
He didn’t have to wait long.
“Vin!” Scarlett appeared at the top of the stairs. Her skin looked pale against her vibrant red hair, her eyes flashing emerald green. She was simply dressed in a pale silk blouse and simple trousers, but he was newly overwhelmed by her beauty. He waited, expecting her anger.
To his surprise, she rushed down the stairs and threw her arms around him.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” she whispered.
The feel of Scarlett’s body against his, the warmth of her, was like fresh oxygen when he hadn’t realized he’d been suffocating. Vin breathed her in, inhaling the scent of cherry blossoms and soft spring flowers.