Then his father had died suddenly, causing Ares to come back to Athens early. Going to her family’s stone house in the tightly winding streets on the eastern slope of the Acropolis, he’d surprised Diantha in the arms of the butcher’s young apprentice.
“Well, what did you expect, that I’d save my virginity forever?” she’d demanded. “I haven’t seen you for months. I need love now. I couldn’t wait forever for you to propose, no matter how rich you might be!”
It was then Ares had realized that his father had been right about love. In fact, the lessons of his parents and the rules of New York City were exactly the same.
Never leave yourself vulnerable. Never trust anyone. Lock all your feelings deep down inside, or better yet, don’t have any.
Ares glanced at Ruby beside him in the back seat of the Rolls-Royce. She was craning her head right and left as they turned off the Hudson Parkway onto West 79th Street. She gaped like a child at the tall residential buildings of the Upper West Side.
She finally pointed at a large stone building, surrounded by greenery. “What’s that?”
“The American Museum of Natural History.”
She yelped. “The place with the big dinosaur skeletons? Like in Night at the Museum?”
“I loved that movie as a teenager. And look at all those trees!” Leaning forward with an impish grin, she confided, “I didn’t think there would be trees in New York.”
Her innocent pleasure warmed him. “Just wait.”
From the moment he’d first seen her in the Atlas Club, he’d known Ruby was different. Honest, sometimes a little too honest. But kind. Innocent.
But he’d thought that about a woman before. Ares’s smile faded.
He would have to be careful.
Because Ruby somehow made him different, too. Made him lose his edge. Made him lower his defenses. Made him stupidly want to trust her.
But every time he trusted anyone, he’d been betrayed.
He would never let himself care for Ruby, he told himself fiercely. It was impossible. He would force her and their child to take his money, yes. And he planned to seduce her and enjoy her in bed. But that was it. Everything else had been burned out of him long ago.
A yellow taxi cut them off, forcing Horace, his grizzled, battle-hardened driver, to dart into another lane. Leaning forward, Ruby gasped, “How can you drive in this traffic? You are amazing!”
Even Horace couldn’t help but preen beneath Ruby’s glowing praise. Until he caught his boss’s eye in the rearview mirror, and coughed. “I’m used to it, Miss Prescott. You should see Mr. Kourakis drive. He could compete at the Grand Prix.”
“Really?” She turned to Ares, her lovely face skeptical. “Why don’t you drive yourself, then?”
“I have too much work to do.”
“Oh, right. Your superimportant work leading your superimportant company.”
He sensed sarcasm.
“My company does employ a hundred thousand people,” he said mildly.
She opened her mouth. Then she closed it with a snap.
“Oh” was all she said.
She mumbled something.
“What was that?”
“I said, I guess your company is a little important.”
“Thanks. Kourakis Enterprises just had its most profitable year.”
“I’m glad. For your employees’ sake, I mean.”
“You should be glad for our child’s. Because who do you think will inherit after I die?”
He heard her soft gasp. “But—”
“You thought New York City had no trees?” Deliberately changing the subject, he rolled down the window as they turned onto the road that twisted into Central Park. “Look at this.”
With an intake of breath, Ruby looked out as they drove down a hill, their road boxed with rough stone walls. Huge green trees peered down at them on both sides like arboreal skyscrapers, a dramatic slash against the brilliant blue sky. They traveled beneath multiple stone bridges, all of them covered with trees. Emerald leaves trailed over the medieval-looking stone walls, shimmering with dappled light.
“It’s like a forest,” she breathed.
“You can’t see it from here, but Central Park also has lakes, and a huge open lawn with twenty-six baseball fields…”