Leaving Vin to face the annoyed glower of her father.
“If you’d bothered to show my daughter the slightest attention, she wouldn’t have fallen for that nobody!”
The merger with Transatlantique was clearly off.
Vin’s mistake. He’d never bothered to look beyond Anne’s cool blonde exterior into her soul. Truthfully, her soul hadn’t interested him. But he should have had his investigators check her more thoroughly. Trust no one had been his motto since he was young. Trust no one; control everything.
Scarlett Ravenwood was different. She didn’t have the education or pedigree of Anne, her manners were lamentable and she had no dress sense. Her only dowry would be the child she carried inside her.
A baby. His baby. After his own awful childhood, he’d decided long ago that any child of his would always know his father, would have a stable home and feel safe and loved. Vin would never abandon his child. He’d die first.
Standing in the shabby room of the rectory, surrounded by chintzy overstuffed furniture, Vin looked at Scarlett, so vivid with her pale skin and red hair.
The dark sweeping lashes over her green eyes, the color of every spring and summer of his Italian childhood, seemed to tremble. When he’d first seen her in that bar nearly eight months ago, right before Valentine’s Day, coughing over her first taste of vodka, it had been like a burst of sun after a long cold night, a sunrise as bright and red as her hair, filling him with warmth—and fire.
His mind moved rapidly. She had no fortune, but perhaps that was an advantage. No father-in-law to scream in his ear. No family to become a burden. She had nothing to offer him but their baby. And her sexy body. And the best lovemaking of his life.
He shivered just remembering that night...
It was, he reflected, not the worst way to begin a marriage. He could make of her what he wanted. She could be the perfect wife, made to his order. She had no money. She was grateful to him for saving her from that imbecile Falkner. He already had complete control.
Now she just had to realize that, as well.
“You want to marry me?” Scarlett repeated, staring at him in shock. “Seriously?”
“Yes.” He waited for her to be suitably thrilled. Instead, she burst into laughter.
“Are you crazy? I’m not marrying you!”
“If the baby is mine, it is our only reasonable course of action,” he said stiffly.
As if he’d told her the best joke in the world, she shook her head merrily. “You really don’t want to lose your wedding deposit, do you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Am I expected to just put on your last bride’s wedding gown, and you’ll let the guests know there’s been a slight change in the lineup? You’ll just change the color of the bride’s hair on the cake topper from blond to red, and proceed as planned?”
“You think I’d marry you to avoid losing a little money?” he said incredulously.
“No?” She tilted her head, on a roll now, clearly enjoying herself. “Then what is it? Is marriage just on your schedule, and you need to check it off your to-do list before you pick up your dry cleaning and pay your electric bill?”
“Scarlett, I get the feeling you’re not taking this seriously.”
“I’m not!” she exploded. “Why on earth would I marry you? I barely know you!”
Vin felt irritated at her irrational response, but he reminded himself that she was pregnant, and therefore to be treated gently. “You’ve had a trying day,” he said in the most soothing voice he could muster. “We should go to my doctor.”
“Just to check you’re doing fine. And we’ll get the paternity test.”
“You can’t just take my word the baby’s yours?”
“You could obviously be lying.”
For some reason, she seemed upset by this. She glared at him. “I’m not doing some stupid paternity test, not if it causes risk to the baby—”
“The doctor just draws a little blood from your arm and mine. There’s no risk to the baby whatsoever.”
“How do you know that?”
Vin didn’t care to explain the sordid story of the one-night stand who last February had tried to claim her baby was his, even though he’d used a condom and she’d claimed to be on the pill. It had turned out the DNA test was unnecessary as she wasn’t pregnant at all. She’d just hoped he would marry her and she’d get quickly pregnant—and he’d be too stupid to do the math. That experience had left him cold.