Throughout the house, the decor was stark. An elegant upright white sectional sofa was positioned in front of the fire over a fluffy white rug and black wood floors. The rug looked more comfortable to sit on than the hard sofa, so Ruby sat down on it in front of the fire, still holding her plate.

Setting his own plate on the wide white hearth, he went to a small wet bar. “What will you have to drink?”

“A club soda,” Ruby said primly.

“You’re kidding.”

“Why would I be?”

He glanced back at her. “Why don’t you drink?”

Ruby shrugged. “It’s expensive and I’m too busy.”

“Too busy for fun?”

“I tried a beer once. I didn’t like it.”

“Ever try champagne?”

“No,” she admitted.

His dark eyes challenged her. “Want to?”

She paused, biting her lip as she considered. “Would I like it?”

“Try it.” Opening the wine fridge, he pulled out a champagne bottle. She saw the label and gasped. It was the kind of superluxurious, superrare brand that the Atlas Club sold only a few times a year, usually when the McFallon and Company convention was in town, or maybe when some sheikh or Russian zillionaire wanted to prove that he was the richest fool on the planet.

“You’re crazy,” she said. “That bottle is worth more than my truck.”

He snorted. “Anything is worth more than your truck.”

“What if I don’t like it?”

“You will.”

“You should just give me the cheap kind. I won’t know the difference.”

“I’m not giving you the cheap kind of anything.” He popped the cork.

Ruby stretched out on the fluffy white rug, warming her feet by the fire. Coming to sit on the rug beside her, he handed her a champagne glass, then clinked it with his own.

“To Renegade Night,” he whispered, and drank deeply.

Watching him, she hesitantly took a sip of champagne. It was cool and sweet and she felt the bubbles all the way to her toes.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes,” she said honestly.

“The bouquet goes well with the sandwich.” She wondered if he was teasing. At his grin, she decided he was.

She took a bite of her sandwich, then sighed with pleasure. “You’re right. You can cook.”

“I told you,” he said smugly.

She scarfed down most of her sandwich before she realized that he hadn’t touched his. She frowned. “Why aren’t you eating?”

He set down his glass. His eyes met hers, and all the world seemed to hold its breath.

“That’s not what I’m hungry for,” he said in a low voice.

He took the champagne glass from her hand, then her plate, moving them to the stone hearth next to his.

Leaning forward on the thick white rug, Ares pulled her against his body. She could feel the heat radiating off his naked chest and powerful arms, hotter than the fire.

Slowly, he lowered his head to hers and scorched her lips with his hard, hungry kiss. His mouth plundered hers, drawing her into a blaze she could not resist.

His hands moved slowly down her body, over the thin fabric of her knit shirt and leggings. Her skin tingled beneath his touch, and the nerves of her body electrified from her hair to her toes. Her breasts became heavy, the nipples aching and hard. Without realizing it, she reached her arms around his shoulders, clutching him closer. She gave a low gasp as she felt the warmth and strength of his naked back, his skin smooth satin over hard muscle.

Lowering her back against the thick white rug in front of the fire, he kissed slowly down her throat. She tilted back her head, her dark hair tumbling around her in waves, eyes closed as she felt his hands running roughly over her body, beneath her shirt, over her naked belly. His fingertips felt delicious against her skin, caressing her, commanding her. All her earlier promises to herself were lost and forgotten.

For long moments, he kissed her, until their lips were both bruised, their bodies straining for each other. Until even surrender was long behind her and she was kissing him back with a hunger that met his own.

Rising to his feet, Ares lifted her in his strong arms, holding her against his chest as if she weighed nothing. He carried her down his dark hall into an enormous shadowy bedroom and switched on the fire in the stark fireplace. The massive bed was illuminated in a pool of moonlight that shone in from the window like a spotlight.

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