At the front door, he punched in another security code. He held the door open for her courteously, even as his eyes devoured her as she walked past him into the foyer.
Inside, the house had changed since she’d been on the cleaning crew. Back then, it had been staged to appeal to the most potential buyers with colorful walls and comfortable sofas. That was all gone. Now the elegant furnishings were Spartan and spare, and everything was black-and-white.
Stopping in the mudroom, a room that existed for the purpose of removing wet ski clothes, they pulled off their boots. She took off her ski jacket, then hesitated.
He touched the zipper of her ski overalls. “Need help?”
Ruby’s cheeks instantly flooded with heat as she quickly turned away. “No…”
“Suit yourself.” He unzipped his colorful 1980s-era snowsuit, peeling it off his body and stepping out of it without the slightest self-consciousness. Ruby’s eyes widened as she glanced at his hard-muscled bare chest, naked above his low-slung black trousers. When he caught her looking, he gave her a sensual, heavy-lidded smile that caused prickles to spin through her.
Turning quickly to the duffel bag she’d brought from the truck, she pulled out his black cashmere coat, his shirt and shoes. “Um. Here’s your stuff.”
“Thanks.” But he didn’t move to take them from the mudroom bench. He didn’t try to hide his naked chest or turn away. He didn’t even seem embarrassed. And why should he be? His muscular body was magnificent, hard-bodied and strong. In spite of her best efforts, her fascinated gaze unwillingly followed the trail of dark hair leading down his flat belly like an arrow, disappearing beneath the black waistband.
He came closer.
“Take these off.” Gently tugging on the elasticized suspenders of her ski overalls, he said softly, “You wouldn’t want to drip water and make my poor housekeeper have to re-wax the floors, would you?”
His voice was teasing, but she took it seriously. Waxing floors was a pain.
“No.” She sighed, and unzipped her ski pants and stepped out of them, leaving them neatly folded on the duffel bag. Beneath, she was wearing the typical underlayer she always kept in her locker at the mountain—a long-sleeved black shirt and black leggings, both of which fit her like a glove.
Ares slowly looked over her body. She heard the soft whistle of his breath through his teeth. She knocked him off kilter as well, she realized. Ruby didn’t know how it was possible. But she did.
“Just dinner,” she said aloud.
“Of course,” he murmured, a wicked gleam in his eye. “Come with me.”
Taking her hand, he led her down the hallway to an enormous kitchen. When he turned on the light, she saw gleaming white marble with luxurious appliances. Everything was immaculate. There wasn’t so much as a smudge on the fridge.
“Your housekeeper does a good job,” she said.
“It looks nice, doesn’t it?” He looked around, then grinned. “This is actually my first time in the kitchen.”
“What? I thought you said you knew how to cook!”
Ares gave her a boyishly guilty grin. “I, um, do know how to cook a few things. Cereal. Sandwiches.”
She gave a low laugh. “That’s what I thought.”
“It’s not my fault. I was raised with servants.”
“That’s a very sad story,” she said ironically, then gave him a cheerful grin. “On the other hand, it’s nice to finally find someone who’s as bad a cook as I am.”
His eyebrows lifted. “You can’t cook?”
“Only if it comes in a box, like macaroni and cheese. Ivy was always the cook of the family.”
“Hmm. Well, let’s see what the housekeeper has stocked in here.” Opening the fridge, he perused the contents and said triumphantly, “I’m going to blow your mind.”
Five minutes later, he served Ruby a sandwich of hand-carved chicken served on a freshly baked baguette, with crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and a variety of exquisite cheeses imported from England and Denmark.
Carrying their plates, they went into the enormous main room, with its two-story wall of windows revealing the view of the biggest ski mountain, Mt. Chaldie, beneath the moonlight. Nearby, a white-brick fireplace stretched to the ceiling. Ares flicked on a switch, and a gas fire, set in an architectural arrangement of black pebbles, came roaring to life.