“Oh, it’s not for me.” She gave him a smile. “It’s for our baby girl.”
The smile vanished from his face.
“As you wish,” he said tightly. And though he paid for the toy, he wouldn’t even look at it.
All Ruby’s joy fled. As they walked back to the car, even the sun seemed a little less bright.
How could Ares be so unfeeling? It was as if he was trying to pretend there was no baby. But wasn’t that the reason he’d brought Ruby to New York—so he could keep an eye on her throughout her pregnancy?
On the silent drive home, Ruby wanted to speak with him, but didn’t know how. He was so distant looking, staring coldly out his window, his jaw hard enough to cut glass.
Once home, he headed upstairs, calling back to her roughly, “Be ready in thirty minutes.”
Twenty-nine minutes later, she’d finished putting on her red lipstick, and looked at herself in the full-length mirror, smacking her lips in satisfaction. She’d dreaded the thought of this gala, of facing a bunch of snooty society people and, if that weren’t enough, his ex-girlfriend, too.
But she suddenly wasn’t scared. She was the one on Ares’s arm and living in his house. The mother of his child. She wasn’t scared anymore. Not even of his silence.
Everything was going to be all right. Her lips lifted. In fact, as she remembered the way he’d kissed her today, the way his eyes had caressed her as if he never wanted to let her go, she focused on that and pushed away his strangely cold reaction to their baby. She told herself that everything would be fine. In fact—she touched her lips dreamily—maybe everything, against all odds, could be better than fine.
* * *
Ares couldn’t take his eyes off Ruby. He had never seen anything like her.
Nor, it seemed, had anyone else.
The modern art museum where the charity ball was being held was just two city blocks from his house, so Ruby had insisted on walking, as the night was fine. When they’d walked in together, all eyes—both men’s and women’s—had turned to stare.
Ares could not blame them. He’d done the same when he’d seen Ruby come down the stairs, looking incredibly beautiful with her long dark hair twisted up in a high braided bun, wearing a vintage gown from the 1980s, a one-shouldered pink taffeta dress with a short bubble skirt. And big fake pearls.
An older woman, one of society’s most elegant doyennes, had looked at her in astonishment. “Who did your dress?”
“Gunne Sax,” Ruby had replied seriously, without cracking a smile.
All throughout the evening, as they’d enjoyed an elegant dinner with Ares’s friends and acquaintances at their twelve-seat table in a prime location, people had been curious about her, wanting to talk to her.
At first, Ares had been nervous for her. He knew his class of people too well, how they could smile politely as they stuck a sharp knife through your back. He’d grown up in this world. He was used to it. Their cruelty washed over him like a September drizzle. But Ruby—she was too open. She was too kind. They would devour her.
But to his surprise, she’d held her own. Her friendliness and lack of pretense quickly made her popular in a way he hadn’t expected. And now, as he returned to her with a glass of nonalcoholic punch, his body grew taut beneath his tuxedo as he remembered how he’d felt kissing her by the helicopter just a few hours ago.
He’d been thinking of skipping the gala altogether and whisking her straight to bed when that museum stuffed bear had ruined everything. Reminding him of the baby. Of his failure as a father. Of his lack of a soul.
Because he knew every moment he spent seducing Ruby today, without telling he was sending her away tomorrow, she would see as a betrayal.
Guilt was an emotion he hadn’t felt in a long time. He didn’t like it.
But if not for that stupid stuffed bear, he might be pleasurably in bed with her right now, instead of at this damned party, watching other men fawn over her.
“Who is she?” asked one of his friends, Cristiano Moretti. The Italian hotel tycoon’s eyes traced over her curiously. “She’s the star of the party.”
Ares bared his teeth in a smile, not liking the man even looking at Ruby. Though his friend had been off his game lately, he was a notorious womanizer. But if he punched Cristiano and every other man staring at her right now, Ares would be here all night.