“Never joke with staff,” Ares said sharply. He nodded at the flight attendant. “Thank you, Michelle. You may go.”

“Yes, sir.”

With a smile, the flight attendant disappeared to the front of the jet.

Frowning, Ruby stared after her. “Is she for real?”

Leaning back in his white leather seat, Ares looked at her seriously. “I don’t think you realize how much your life has just changed.”

She felt pierced by his dark eyes, as if he could see her soul. As if he could see straight to the corner of her heart that she did not want him to see. The side that had spent months dreaming of him. Turning away, she took a long drink of the sparkling water, avoiding his eyes. “Why? Because you’re so rich?”

“Because you’re pregnant with my baby.” He frowned. “You will live as I live. In a life of luxury and comfort. No more low-wage jobs. No more slaving away for bosses. From now on, you’re at no one’s beck and call.” He paused. “Except mine.”

She turned to him, trying to hide the tumult of emotions inside her. “I’m pregnant with your baby, yes. And yes, I’ll admit there’s still a certain…attraction between us. But let’s get one thing straight, Ares. I don’t belong to you. I’ll let you provide for us, since you’ve left me no option. But it doesn’t mean you’re buying me in the bargain. I’m not going to sleep with you.”

She was proud of how steady her voice sounded.

His eyebrows lifted as he said mildly, “I’ve heard that before.”

Ruby’s cheeks went hot as she remembered how she’d told him at the Atlas Club that she was impossible to get—right before falling into his bed. Folding her arms, Ruby looked down at her cheap, colorful canvas sneakers against the expensively sleek gray floor of the jet. “I’ve learned the cost of being reckless.”

Ares rose to his feet. Crossing the jet’s wide cabin, he pulled her into his powerful arms.

“Your whole life, Ruby,” he said huskily, “you’ve taken care of everyone else. Your mother. Your sister. But that is over. You don’t have to fight anymore. I will take care of you now. And the baby. You’re both safe now. You can rest.”

Cradled in his powerful arms, Ruby felt sudden tears in her eyes. She’d longed to hear those words her whole life. Even her mother, who’d loved her so much, hadn’t been able to say that, as she’d needed Ruby’s help taking care of Ivy just for their family to survive.

I will take care of you now.

The desire to just let go, to let someone else be in charge, was almost irresistible.

Ares wanted to provide for her and the baby. He’d come all this way to claim her. That already made him different from her father, and Ivy’s. It already made him different from Braden.

Ares had made it clear he wished to provide for their child. In fact, he was insisting on it.

But Ruby couldn’t fool herself that he was the type of man who would ever be faithful to one woman. He’d said it himself—he didn’t do love or marriage. He didn’t even have the desire to try to be a real father. Money was all he could give.

Fine. She’d let him do that. But she wouldn’t think, not even for a second, that he could ever offer more.

Once their baby was born, or perhaps sooner, he’d grow tired of her and she’d be packed back to Star Valley. He’d said it clearly. He could offer only money.

While she—she had nothing to offer but her heart.

But as Ares’s hands slowly stroked up her arms, Ruby still couldn’t push him away.

I will take care of you now.

Since Bonnie’s death, Ruby had struggled for months in silence, with no one to turn to. She’d been pregnant alone, and paid the bills alone. Today, even her sister had turned on her. Ruby felt like she’d had her fists up so long, she could hardly remember what it felt like to put them down.

“It’s all right,” Ares murmured softly, and Ruby realized she was crying, and not the pretty kind of crying, either. She was sobbing, gulping for breath. He comforted her, kissing her forehead, her cheeks. “It’s all right. You’re safe now. I’ll take care of you and the baby. I’ll take care of everything.”

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