Nick and Jessica on vacation
10/19/2005 at 12:00 PM EDT
When Nick Lachey hit the red carpet for a hurricane relief benefit over the weekend, he brought along a personal protector – his younger brother Drew, PEOPLE reports in its upcoming issue.
"For the record, we're not talking about Nick and Jessica," Drew announced to reporters at Las Vegas's Empire Ballroom 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 L.A., 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 it'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.