Ruby fumbled in her canvas bag for the beaded key ring Ivy had made for her as a birthday gift years earlier. The man took it with a smile. “Now, don’t you worry about a thing, Miss Prescott. We’ll keep an eye on everything.”
As the caretaker departed, Ruby realized she was shaking in the cool night at the thought of how much she was giving away. How much she’d lost already. She breathed to Ares, “Maybe this is a mistake.”
“I changed my mind—”
“No.” Ares came closer to her. Having him so close made her suddenly nervous on every level. His dark eyes glinted dangerously in the moonlight. “Get on the plane.”
“I’m scared,” she whispered, trying to hide the rapid beat of her heart.
“I know.” Reaching down, he cupped her cheek, stroking her tender bottom lip with the rough skin of his thumb. Leaning forward, he whispered, “We both know there is unfinished business between us.”
His touch burned her cheek, causing spirals of electricity to spin down her body, to her breasts, to her core. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe. From a distance, she heard night birds singing in the darkness.
Then he turned away.
Her eyes followed him as he walked up the steps to the jet. She couldn’t look away from his broad shoulders, his hard, muscular shape in those form-fitting trousers.
Ruby put her hand on her forehead. Oh, dear heaven, what had she done? Why had she ever given herself to a man like this? Why had she ever slept with him?
He was right. She did need his help, as much as she hated to admit it. But New York was not her idea. He’d bullied and blackmailed her into it.
She would go, for their baby’s sake. But she wouldn’t sleep with Ares again. She wouldn’t. Sex wasn’t part of the deal. She’d make that clear.
Squaring her shoulders, Ruby lifted her chin and followed him up the steps, proud as a queen. But as she stepped inside his private jet, she froze, her eyes wide.
This was nothing like her previous experience flying in the middle seat in economy class.
Ares’s private jet was all elegance and open space. As with his ski lodge, the decor was black-and-white. Black cabinets. White leather sofas.
A smiling, uniformed flight attendant greeted her warmly. “Welcome aboard, Miss Prescott. May I take your bag?”
“No,” Ruby said, clinging to her colorful canvas bag. Ares had told her not to pack anything, so she’d brought only her wallet, with its five dollars and twenty-two cents, her phone and charger, a box of old family photos and a bright fuchsia Star Valley sweatshirt in case she got cold on the flight. She had so few possessions now. She wasn’t going to part with any of them.
“Of course.” Still smiling, the blonde woman held out an iced drink in a crystal goblet on a silver tray. “Would you care for some sparkling water, Miss Prescott? Or something else?”
“This is lovely, thank you,” Ruby said, taking the glass off the tray. She glanced behind her at the burly dark-haired man who’d just boarded the plane.
“This is Georgios, my bodyguard,” said Ares, who had already sat down at a nearby table and opened his computer.
“Hello, miss,” the man said to Ruby with a smile that made him look much less fearsome.
“Hello.” She glanced at Ares. “Why do you need a bodyguard?”
He shrugged. “It makes life easier.”
“I’m an all-round assistant, really,” Georgios said. “Please let me know, miss, if you ever need anything. Excuse me. I need to phone my wife.” And with a slight bow, he disappeared to a separate compartment at the front of the plane.
“And I’m here to make you as comfortable as possible,” the flight attendant chirped. “Anything you need, Miss Prescott, anything at all, just tell me and I’ll make it happen!”
Ruby said with a snort, “In that case, I’ll have some lobster thermidor and fresh blueberries, please.”
The flight attendant beamed, as if it was the single happiest moment of her life. “Of course! Shall I start preparing them now?”
Ruby’s grin dropped, along with her jaw. She had no idea what lobster thermidor even tasted like. It was just the most outlandish dish that she’d ever heard of. “I was joking!”