Ares felt so strong. So powerful. Ruby closed her eyes, pressing her cheek against his chest. She felt the soothing stroke of his hands against her back. Her shivering ceased, and her sobs quieted. The only sound was the low hum of the jet’s engine.
Then she looked up. Their eyes met. And she felt something entirely different from comfort: a hot spark of need. As his gaze fell to her lips, electricity suddenly crackled between them.
“Mr. Kourakis, we are ready for takeoff.” The voice of the pilot came over the intercom. “You might wish to be seated.”
Her cheeks aflame, Ruby wrenched away, fleeing to the chair on the farthest edge of the cabin. Clenching both the armrests, she stared hard out the window, praying Ares wouldn’t come over.
He didn’t. He went back to his own chair without a word. The jet’s engine roared as they moved down the runway. Ruby looked out the porthole window at they went past the small airport terminal. Past scattered buildings, going by faster and faster. Past the slender sliver of road. Past soft green cottonwoods and pine trees. Past her grief over her mother. Her guilt over her sister. Past the unpaid bills, the debt, the exhaustion and fear. Ruby was leaving it all behind.
The jet went faster and faster, until, with a rush of speed and bump of the wheels, they lifted past the jagged mountains and soared up into the blue Idaho sky.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE I’m here,” Ruby breathed.
As their Rolls-Royce crossed the George Washington Bridge, traveling from the small airport in New Jersey to the island of Manhattan, Ruby’s eyes were wide as she craned her head, looking south toward the New York City skyline. Ares enjoyed seeing her pleasure.
He intended to give her a great deal more of it.
In the back seat of the sedan, their bodies were close, but not touching. Every part of him felt aware of her. He remembered how she’d trembled in his arms before his jet had taken off from Star Valley. How she’d looked up at him, her beautiful dark eyes still shining with tears, her full pink lips parting with unconscious invitation.
If not for the interruption of the pilot, he might have kissed her right then and there, then carried her back to the bedroom to ravish her at thirty thousand feet. But she’d fled to a far chair to stare furiously out the window. As soon as the jet leveled off, Ruby had disappeared to the cabin’s back bedroom alone, claiming exhaustion.
But he’d known what it really was. Fear.
She was right to be afraid. His conquest of her had only just begun.
“Oh! It’s so beautiful,” Ruby said as they traveled southward through the city.
“Isn’t it?” He allowed himself a smile. Even New York City seemed to be conspiring in his seduction. The early-morning sun sparkled gold over the Hudson River, trailing pink across the clouds and shimmering against the buildings. He couldn’t have planned it better.
She turned to him, her eyes wide. “How long have you lived here?”
“I first visited this city at twelve, after my parents sent me to boarding school in Connecticut. I often visited the city on school trips. I had the same reaction you’re having now. I was dazzled by New York’s energy, by its raw ambition. I moved here permanently at twenty-two, after my father died. I inherited the company and moved the headquarters from Athens.”
“You moved your whole company?”
“I wanted a change.” At her questioning look, he said smoothly, “To announce the beginning of a new global era for Kourakis Enterprises.”
“But Athens is also a very big city—”
“I needed a change,” he said harshly.
He saw a shutter go down over her eyes.
Without a word of apology, Ares turned away. He couldn’t explain. After his disastrous affair at eighteen with the French girl, who’d disappeared the instant his father paid her off, he’d sworn off love. That had lasted until, right before his final year at Princeton, he’d fallen for a Greek girl with neither Melice’s sultry charms nor his mother’s cold glamour. The daughter of a butcher in Pláka, Diantha was young, wholesome and virginal. He respected her decision to wait until marriage before she surrendered her virginity, because he’d once wanted the same. He planned to propose as soon as he graduated from college, even if his parents disinherited him for it.