“What’s this?” Horace said in surprise.
“You’ve been so patient, driving us around all day,” Ruby said. “I thought you might be hungry.”
Frowning, Horace glanced at his employer.
“Don’t look at me,” Ares said. “It was all her idea.”
“I ordered you a croque monsieur. It’s a toasted ham and cheese. You’ll like it.”
“It’s what Ruby liked,” Ares observed, “instead of blanquette de veau.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That was not good.”
“Or the pâté de fois de lapin.”
“Yuck! I’m not eating the squashed liver of some poor rabbit!” She brightened as she turned to their driver. “But you’ll like this. I ordered it right before we left. It should still be hot.”
“Thank you, Miss Prescott,” Horace said.
“Ruby,” the driver acknowledged, smiling.
She felt happy about that, at least, as they drove back to the Upper East Side. But there was a great deal she did not feel happy about.
She never should have told Ares the truth about why she couldn’t let him kiss her. Their conversation afterward had been stilted and awkward. She’d tried to fill the silence by talking about possible names for their coming baby. That had gone over like a ton of bricks.
It filled Ruby’s heart with despair. When Ares insisted on giving the baby his surname, she’d hoped he might be reconsidering his position on fatherhood. But now he didn’t want to talk about their baby at all. Was he really so uninterested in their child? Could he truly offer nothing but money?
As they drove north on Third Avenue, a heavy silence stretched between them. Ruby felt hemmed in by tall buildings on every side. She couldn’t see the horizon, or hear the soft sigh of the wind through the cottonwood trees. Instead, there was a crush of people, of cars, of sirens and horns.
Once the baby was born, she’d go home, she promised herself. Home. Just thinking of Star Valley made her homesick. She missed Ivy.
Finally, she could take the silence no longer.
“Ares.” She turned to him in the back seat. “Can I ask you something?”
“If you want to ask, just do it.”
“Why do you hate your parents so much?”
His jaw tightened, and he looked away. “I don’t hate them.”
“You said you were happier after they died.”
“You don’t do complicated.”
“They’re why.” His expression was hard as he looked at her. “My parents hated each other, and dragged me constantly into their war. My mother never wanted to marry my father. Her parents forced her into it, though she was in love with someone else.”
“How could they?”
He shrugged. “In society families, it’s not uncommon. Power and money make a marriage. So whenever my father was unfaithful, which was often, my mother taunted him, hinting I might not be his son. I looked just like him, so he told her she was a filthy liar. It was only at my father’s funeral that she finally admitted to me that I was his son. She’d hated him so much, she just wanted him to suffer.”
Ares’s lips twisted sardonically. “My mother hated me, too. I’d trapped her permanently into a marriage she’d never wanted, with a man she despised. A man who humiliated her for sport.”
Pain radiated from Ruby’s heart. She couldn’t imagine growing up like that. Her father had abandoned her before she was born, and her family had always been on the wrong side of broke. But at least she’d never once doubted the fierce intensity of her mother’s love for her and Ivy. “I’m so sorry…”
“A year later, she died as well, heli-skiing in Patagonia with her latest boy toy.” His voice was cold. “I felt nothing but relief. All I ever was to them was a weapon. A burden. Never a son.”
Ruby’s heart was breaking. “Oh, Ares…”
He turned on her fiercely. “Our baby’s childhood will be different. We will put our daughter’s needs above our own selfish desires. We won’t fight.”