A Ring for Vincenzo's Heir(2)

By: Jennie Lucas

But what if Blaise was right? What if she escaped him and went to the police, and they didn’t believe her? Could he and his pet psychiatrist find a way to carry through with his threat?

When he’d crassly propositioned her at the funeral that morning—literally over his mother’s grave!—she’d tried to laugh it off, telling him she was leaving New York. To her surprise, he’d courteously offered a ride to the bus station. Ignoring her intuition’s buzz of warning, she’d accepted.

She should have known he wouldn’t give up so easily. But she’d never imagined he’d go this far. Threatening her into marriage? Trying to force her to give her baby away?

She’d made a mistake thinking of Blaise as a selfish, petulant playboy who wanted her like a spoiled child demanded a toy he couldn’t have. He was actually insane.

“Well?” Blaise demanded. “What is your answer?”

“Why would you want to marry me?” Scarlett said weakly. With a deep breath, she tried to appeal to his vanity. “You’re good-looking, charming, rich. Any woman would be happy to marry you.” Any woman who didn’t know you, she added silently.

“But I want you.” He gripped her wrist tightly enough to make her flinch. “All this time, you’ve refused me. Then you get yourself knocked up by some other man and won’t tell me who.” He ground his teeth. “Once we’re wed, I’ll be the only man who can touch you. As soon as that brat is born and sent away, you’ll be mine. Forever.”

Scarlett tried to squelch her rising panic. As the limo moved down Fifth Avenue, she saw a famous cathedral at the end of the block. A desperate idea formed in her mind. Could she...?

Yes. She could and she would.

It hadn’t been her plan. She’d intended to buy a bus ticket south, use her small savings to start a new life somewhere sunny where flowers grew year-round and raise her baby alone. But as her own father often said when she was growing up, new challenges called for new plans.

Her new plan scared her, though. Because if Blaise Falkner was a frying pan, Vincenzo Borgia was the fire.

Vin Borgia. She pictured the dark eyes of her unborn baby’s father, so hot one moment, so cold the next. Pictured the ruthless edge of his jaw. The strength of his body. The force of his will.

A shiver went through her. What if he...

Don’t think about it, she told herself firmly. One impossible thing at a time. Another maxim she’d learned from her father.

As the chauffeur slowed down at a red light, she knew it was now or never. She took a deep breath, then opened her eyes with a brittle smile.

“Blaise.” Scarlett leaned forward as she tightened her hidden right hand into a fist. “You know what I’ve always wanted to do...?”

“What?” he breathed, licking his lips as he looked down at her breasts.

“This!” She gave him a hard uppercut to the jaw. His teeth snapped together as his head knocked backward, shocking him into releasing her.

Without waiting for the limo to completely stop, she yanked on her door handle and stumbled out onto the sidewalk. Kicking off her two-inch heels, she put her hand protectively over her belly and ran with all her might, feet bare against the concrete, toward the enormous cathedral.

It was a perfect day for a wedding. The first of October, and every tree in the city was decorated in yellow, orange and red. St. Swithun’s Cathedral was the most famous in New York, the place where the wealthy and powerful held their christenings, weddings and funerals. Two hundred years old, it was a towering midtown edifice of gray marble, big as a city block, with soaring spires reaching boldly into the bright blue sky.

Panting as she ran, Scarlett glanced down at the peeling gold-tone watch that had once belonged to her mother. She prayed she wasn’t too late.

A vintage white Rolls-Royce Corniche was parked at the curb, bedecked with ribbons and flowers. Next to it, a uniformed driver waited. Bodyguards with dark sunglasses, scowls and earpieces stood guard on the cathedral steps and around the perimeter.

The wedding had started, then. Scarlett had been trying not to think about it for the last four months, since she’d seen the announcement in the New York Times. But the details had been blazed in her memory, and now she was glad, because only Vin Borgia could help her.

A bodyguard blocked her with a glare. “Miss, stand back...”

Clutching her belly theatrically, Scarlett stumbled forward on the sidewalk. “Help! There’s a man chasing me! He’s trying to kidnap my baby!”

The bodyguard’s eyes widened behind his sunglasses. “What?”

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