10/31/2005 at 01:00 AM EST
When Nick Lachey
hit the red carpet at an Oct. 15 hurricane relief benefit at Las Vegas's Empire Ballroom, he brought along a personal protector—his younger brother Drew. "For the record, we're not talking about Nick and Jessica," Drew announced to reporters as a subdued and occasionally nervous-seeming Nick met the media. And yet The Marriage That Must Not Be Spoken didn't remain off-limits for long. Although Lachey, 31, attended the event without his wife, noting that Jessica "had prior commitments" in LA, he talked to People about the couple's recent getaway in advance of their third wedding anniversary on Oct. 26.
"We just came back from Italy. We decided to celebrate a little early and do the romantic Florence wine-tasting thing," he said. Not a hard place to feel romantic, si? "Hey, there's no shortage of romance," he said. "But if s a very, very good country for that. So, yeah. It was a fun trip." After wrapping up the red-carpet gauntlet, a relieved-looking Lachey spent the rest of the evening with his brother by his side, chatting a bit with pal A J. DiScala (actress Jamie-Lynn DiScala's estranged husband), nursing a few beers and generally keeping to himself—nothing, in other words, to add fuel to the breakup rumors. In fact, "everything's perfect," he said. And yes, his wedding band was on.