He glared at her, furious at the direction the conversation had taken. “I’m not in the least ashamed—”
“Oh?” Poppy turned sympathetically to Ruby. “So it’s you, then. You don’t want to marry him?”
Her hands fell to her sides uncertainly. “I hadn’t really thought…”
“Oh, Ares.” Poppy made a tsk sound. “You won’t marry her? Even though she’s having your baby? Of course you would find a lifetime commitment impossible. But you didn’t realize that, did you, my dear?” She patted Ruby’s shoulder. “I feel so bad for you. Ares, I’m surprised you’d be so needlessly cruel. Or maybe—” her lips twisted upward as she looked between them “—not so surprised. Good luck, my dear.”
And she left, dragging her spiky-haired musician behind her.
Ares looked at Ruby. A moment before, she’d been glowing. Now her shoulders seemed small. Even the big pink taffeta bows on her right shoulder seemed to slump a little. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Forget her,” he said roughly. Reaching out, he took her hand. “Dance with me.”
“I don’t dance,” she said unhappily, but he ignored her, pulling her out onto the dance floor beneath an art installation of multicolored glass stretching in all directions across the ceiling. The band was playing a slow, sad ballad.
Pulling her in his arms, he swayed with her, relishing the feel of her curvaceous body against his own. “See? You do dance.”
She didn’t respond. Didn’t meet his eyes. He had to place her hand against the lapel of his tuxedo jacket.
“Ruby,” he said quietly. “Look at me.”
When she finally obeyed, her dark eyes were sad, luminous with unshed tears.
It was like a punch through his gut. And Ares suddenly realized what he’d done.
He’d been so determined to fulfill his own selfish desires. His need to have her in his bed. To protect himself by sending her away.
He’d never cared about her. Her feelings. How his actions might affect her.
That’s why I can’t let you kiss me. Because I’m afraid you’ll break my heart.
Could he seduce her without loving her? But what would it do to her when she woke up in his arms tomorrow and he told her that he never wanted to see her again? That it was already planned?
He suddenly couldn’t do it.
As the music continued, he stopped dancing, leaving the two of them frozen on the dance floor as other couples swirled around them.
“This isn’t going to work,” he said roughly.
“What isn’t?” she choked, blinking fast. A hard lump rose in his throat.
“You living here.”
“Because of what she said?”
“Poppy was right,” he said in a low voice. “I’m being cruel.”
“You’re going to send me away?” she whispered.
Setting his jaw, he looked away.
Her voice was choked with tears. “I don’t understand. I came here. I’ve done everything you demanded of me.”
What could Ares say? It’s not you, it’s me? Tell her that he’d thought he could just have sex with her and send her away when he was done, but now he realized she was too dangerous to toy with? That he’d realized that she was a real person with feelings of her own?
“My lawyers are already drawing up legal documents for us to sign. I’m transferring my ski lodge in Star Valley to your name. I’ve created a trust fund for our daughter, along with ordering a generous amount of monthly support for you.” He paused. “Tomorrow, after the papers are signed, I’m sending you home.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she whispered. He looked at her.
“Because I intended to seduce you tonight.”
Ruby sucked in her breath, searching his gaze. Then she looked away, clenching her jaw. Lifting her shoulder, she wiped her eyes against the taffeta bow. When she looked back at him, her eyes were cold.
“Thank you for proving me right,” she said.
Ares’s jaw set as he remembered her words.
I’ve seen what happens when a rich man gets bored with his promises. In a few days or weeks you’ll change your mind and toss me back on the street.