“Twenty-six?” she gasped.
“And an open-air amphitheater for Shakespeare under the stars.” He flashed her a grin. “There’s a castle, too.”
She looked at him accusingly. “You’re joking.”
“There’s no way this park has its own castle.”
“Star Valley isn’t the only beautiful place in the world,” he said smugly.
On the other side of Central Park, they drove into the Upper East Side. His driver finally pulled the sedan to a stop in front of a six-story, hundred-year-old mansion. Georgios leaped out to open her door.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling as the man took her hand.
Ares ground his teeth. He trusted his bodyguard implicitly, but he didn’t like watching another man touch Ruby, even to help her out of the car. Ares couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so possessive.
Never, he thought.
“Thank you, Georgios,” Ares told him coldly. Reaching out, he folded her hand over his arm. “I’ll take it from here.”
Ruby’s neck tilted back as she looked up at the elegant limestone mansion. “This is all yours?”
“The whole thing?” Her voice sounded strangled.
“I only want the best.” He led her up the steps to where his housekeeper was waiting.
“Welcome home, sir.” Tall and thin to the point of boniness, Mrs. Ford, with her perfectly coiffed white hair, could have been any age from fifty to eighty. With impeccable references, she’d made it clear in their first interview that if she chose to work for him, she’d be the one doing him the favor. He’d liked her standoffish manner, so he’d hired her. That was eight years ago.
“Good evening, Mrs. Ford. Ruby, this is my housekeeper, Margaret Ford.”
“Lovely to meet you, Miss Prescott. Welcome,” the housekeeper said, her tone implying the opposite.
“Nice to meet you,” Ruby replied nervously.
“I trust everything is ready?”
Mrs. Ford held the door wide. “Of course, sir.”
Still holding Ruby’s arm, he led her inside. And she gave a choked gasp.
Tilting her head back, she stared at the enormous crystal chandelier soaring above them in the foyer. “And I thought your lodge in Star Valley was nice.”
“That?” His lips curved up on the edges. “That was just a place to rough it on ski weekends.”
He was only half joking. As he led her out of the foyer, she looked at the sweeping double staircase, two stories high, and gave an astonished laugh. “I’m scared. I might get lost trying to find my room. Is there a map? Can I get directions on my phone?”
“I’ll show you.”
Ruby snorted. “Thanks. I’m afraid I might disappear down some hallway and never find my way back again!”
“I’d never let that happen.” Having her arm wrapped over his, even over his shirt, made his body hum in anticipation. He knew this house would impress her. It impressed every woman. Usually tours ended in his bed, with no further seduction required. He suspected Ruby would require more effort. But he knew this enormous mansion would be a good start.
Giving her a sensual smile, he led her past the staircase and deliberately took her to the ballroom, the biggest and most magnificent room in the mansion. “This house was built by a steel tycoon at the turn of the last century.” He pointed at the chandeliers twenty feet above. “Those were handmade in Vienna in 1902. This ballroom is the only room I didn’t change. It’s considered a beaux arts masterpiece.”
Her forehead furrowed as she looked up, puzzled, at the elaborate fresco on the ceiling. “What on earth is it for?”
“A ballroom.” She looked at him blankly. “It must cost you a fortune to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter. You could stick three houses in here. And what do you even use it for?”
He stopped, momentarily nonplussed. Then he said, “Parties.”
“Do you have a lot of parties?”
“Charity galas. Business functions.”
“Oh.” Her pink lips twisted upward. “Fun.”