Claiming His Nine-Month Consequence

By: Jennie Lucas
CHAPTER ONE

ARES KOURAKIS!

As rhythmic music and lights pulsed across the dark, hot dance club, the whispers of his name grew louder, building to a roar. The famously handsome Greek billionaire had come to Star Valley at last.

Ruby Prescott rolled her eyes at all the excited chatter and awed stares being directed toward the shadowy VIP section. A handsome billionaire? Yeah, right. In her experience, billionaires were always ugly—if not on the outside, then definitely on the inside. No man became that rich without seriously warping his soul.

But she had more important things to worry about. Bartending was Ruby’s third job today, after a morning teaching skiing to four-year-olds and an afternoon working at a clothing boutique. She couldn’t stop yawning, and she still had a whole night of work ahead. Stretching to wake herself up, she moved across the bar, pouring drinks as quickly and carefully as she could.

“Ares Kourakis,” one of the waitresses, Lexie, breathed across the bar. “Can you believe he finally came?”

“It would be stupid if he didn’t, after buying a house here.” Ruby had been on that house’s cleaning crew, too, six months earlier, right before the man had bought it for the reported sum of thirty million dollars. Nice place, if you liked your ski lodges fancy and as big as a football stadium. Pouring another beer and setting it on the bar, Ruby said sourly, “And what kind of name is Ares, anyway?”

“He’s so handsome and rich, he can have any name he wants. I’d be Mrs. Ares Kourakis in a second!” Staring toward the dark corner of the bar, Lexie fluffed up her hair. “I’m so lucky he’s sitting in my section!”

“Very lucky,” Ruby replied sardonically, “since I heard he just broke up with his girlfriend.”

“Really?” Lexie’s face was ecstatic. Unbuttoning another button on her white shirt, she picked up her tray and hurried toward the VIP corner.

Ruby continued to pour drinks behind the bar. The Atlas Club was busy tonight, the last night of the March film festival that made the town even more crowded than usual.

Billionaires weren’t unusual in Star Valley, a ski-resort paradise in the Idaho mountains and a playground for the rich and famous. The busiest time was Christmas, when wealthy people brought their families to ski, and July, when the famous McFallon and Company CEO conference caused a fleet of private jets to descend on the valley like bloated metal vultures blocking out the sun.

But Ruby knew, just as there was no such thing as free drinks, there was no such thing as Prince Charming. The richer and more ambitious a man, the darker his soul.

Another waitress hurried up breathlessly to the bar. “I need three mojitos, one no sugar, one pomegranate, one extra lime and she said if the mint isn’t muddled right, she’s sending it back.”

Ruby sighed. At least wealthy men, unlike their girlfriends and wives, generally stuck to ordering uncomplicated drinks, like scotch on the rocks. Turning away, she swiftly made the cocktails. As she placed them on the tray, Ruby saw a young blonde in a tiny red dress trying to inconspicuously scoot past the bar.

“Ivy?” Ruby said incredulously.

Her nineteen-year-old sister flinched, then turned. “Um. Hi, Ruby.”

“You can’t be in here! You’re underage! How did you get past the door?”

Her cheeks flushed red. “I, um, told Alonzo that there was an emergency with Mom, and I had to talk to you.”

Panic went through Ruby. “Is Mom—”

“She’s fine, I swear. She was sleeping when I left.” Ivy squared her shoulders. “But I heard Ares Kourakis is here.”

Oh, no. Not her little sister, too. “You can’t be serious!”

“I know you think I’m just a kid. But I have a plan.” Ivy lifted her chin. “I’m going to seduce him. All I have to do is poke a few holes in the condom, get pregnant and he’ll marry me. Then our troubles will be over.”

Ruby stared at her sister in shock. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “No.”

“It will work.”

“You’d risk getting pregnant by a man you don’t even know?” she gasped.

Ivy narrowed her eyes. “I have a chance for everything I ever wanted, and I’m going to take it. Unlike you. You keep talking about your big dreams, but you don’t do anything! You’re just a coward!”

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