* * *
“There,” Ruby snapped. “I told him about the baby. I hope you’re happy.”
“Happy?” Ivy stared starkly at her in their kitchen. Since the night before, when Ruby had told her she was pregnant with Ares Kourakis’s baby, her sister hadn’t stopped crying. “Why on earth would I be happy?”
“Because I called him like you wanted. You won!”
Slamming down a tin of freshly home-baked blueberry muffins, her little sister muttered angrily beneath her breath. All morning, Ivy had been furiously baking up a storm in the trailer’s tiny kitchen, taking the cookies and cupcakes to neighbors while not letting Ruby have any and constantly yelling at her to tell Ares about the baby.
Exhausted by Ivy’s harassment, Ruby had finally done it. It had given her no pleasure. Since Ares had never given her his private number, she’d been forced to call Kourakis Enterprises’s main corporate office in New York. It had been humiliating to beg one stranger after another to take a message for the top boss. Finally, she’d reached his executive secretary. By then, Ruby had been so embarrassed and furious she’d just blurted out her news.
Within ten minutes, Ares himself had called her. Ivy apparently was not pleased with how Ruby had handled that brief discussion.
“I didn’t win anything, and neither did you,” Ivy bit out. “Telling him you didn’t want a damn thing? What were you thinking?”
“I did the right thing, like you said,” she told Ivy coldly. “I told him. That’s the end of it. He won’t care.”
“But he’ll pay!”
“I don’t want his money.” Ruby’s cheeks still burned, remembering how after he’d seduced her, he’d assumed he could buy her. There was no way she’d ask him for money now and prove him right!
“You are so stupid!” Ivy covered her face with her hands. “What was the point in calling him if you were only going to brush him off?”
“To get you off my back!”
Setting her jaw, Ivy paced in front of the old fridge. “You’re an idiot!”
“Why?” Ruby demanded petulantly. “Because I’m not trying to get money from him? Because unlike some people, I have a sense of pride?”
“Pride?” Her little sister stopped, staring at her with furious blue eyes. “You’d condemn your baby into growing up like we did? With no money? How will you pay for day care?”
A nervous feeling roiled through Ruby’s belly. “I’ll figure it out.”
“How? You have no savings. You’re juggling three part-time jobs with no medical benefits. What will you do if you get sick, Ruby? What if the baby does?”
The fear in Ruby’s belly increased from butterflies to rolling boulders. “I’ll deal with it.”
Ivy looked near tears. “Your child will be mocked at school just like we were, eating free lunch, wearing cast-off clothes—”
“I liked those castoffs,” Ruby retorted. “They showed me how amazing vintage clothes can be.”
Her sister glared at her. “Did you like accepting charity, as well? Did you like seeing Mom sob at night when she thought we weren’t looking, when she couldn’t pay our bills?”
Ruby fell silent.
“Mom worked herself to the bone, and it still wasn’t enough. How do you think she liked the times she had to beg for charity and government assistance?” Ivy gave a bitter laugh. “Where will your pride be then?”
Ruby’s chin sank. A wave of nausea washed over her.
Over the last months, she’d tried her best to cope. Tried to be strong. But the last of their paltry savings had been wiped out by their mother’s medical expenses. For their mother’s funeral, friends and neighbors had brought flowers and provided food. But even that simple service had cost money, and Ruby had no idea how she’d repay that debt.
If all that hadn’t been enough, a month after their mother’s death, Ruby had realized she was pregnant.
The one time she’d allowed herself to experience reckless pleasure, she’d been punished for it in every way possible. Her mother had died in the hospital without Ruby being able to say goodbye. She was still heartbroken, and for all her bravado, she was scared to death.