Selina leaned back against the car seat and fought not to grimace. The baby's kicks added to the sum of her discomfort: feet swelling against the new shoes, the ache in her back that stayed more than it went, the unfamiliar pull of the veil on her head, and feeling too tired to haul her body anywhere. She had to find some energy. They still had to get through the reception.
Stephanie sat between her and Bruce in the back seat of the Rolls and turned the cat pendent. "I have Batman on the back!"
"Careful with that." Selina rubbed the baby's new target.
Bruce bent to see the onyx button. "That's a big risk, Selina."
"I don't tell," Stephanie said.
"It's a panic button," Selina said. "If bad men take you, you press the button and we'll come for you."
Stephanie grinned. "But it has to be a secret so the bad guys won't take my necklace."
The little girl looked at Bruce. "You still have to teach me how to fight."
"We'll start that next week. Gives everyone a chance to recover from the wedding."
"It was pretty after all the arguing."
"We're only half done," Bruce said. Alfred shot him a reproving glare through the rearview mirror, but Bruce was focused on Selina. "Are you okay?"
"The baby's kicking, that's all."
"That's not nice," Stephanie said to the bump.
"Here we are, Wayne Manor," Alfred said as the car rolled through the open wrought iron gate. "Sizable turn out." The part of the lawn set aside for parking was nearly full.
Stephanie stared out the front windshield and leaned against her child seat restraints. "We're gonna live in a castle?"
"It's not a castle," Bruce said. "Castles have moats."
Stephanie frowned at him, but they pulled into the garage at the rear of the mansion before she could answer. Alfred swung open Selina's door while Stephanie and Bruce unbuckled the child seat's restraints. "The photographer is set up in the East Drawing Room. You do remember where it is, don't you, Missus Wayne?"
Selina seized his offered arm a little harder than necessary. "I remember blueprints with nearly perfect recall. Getting there is another issue altogether."
Blake and Jen arrived in the SUV and parked in the next garage bay while Selina emerged from the Rolls. Jen dashed over and scooped up the veil. "You are going to wreck it before pictures are taken. What happened to your grace no matter what?"
"I'm growing a kid right now. What's your excuse since you can't chew bubble gum and pass the drunk walk?"
"That only happened once and my heel broke." Jen held the veil while Selina corralled her wedding gown so they could go through the kitchen and up the back stairs.
Stephanie's grip around Bruce's neck tightened. "They all live here?" She stared at the catering staff bustling through the kitchen.
"They're just here for the party," Bruce said as he climbed up the stairs beside Selina. "We have people who come in once a week to help Alfred with the cleaning, but no one lives here who didn't live at the penthouse."
"All my toys made it here?"
The photographer met them at the open door. "Good, good. We'll start with the pose for the papers. Got a chair for the bride." Selina sank into the gilded Dundas chair that belonged to the house while Jen and the photographer put her gown hem and veil where they wanted them. "Perfect, now the groom stands here--oh you want the flower girl in it?"
Bruce sat Stephanie on the right arm of the chair. "Our daughter, yes." He stepped behind the chair while keeping his hand on Stephanie's back.
"Okay, that's good. Smile." Selina plastered on her coy smile. The photographer looked out from behind the camera. "Come on, it's your wedding day. You have to do better than that."
"Master Wayne," Alfred said under his breath.
"Selina, what did you tell him that made him grin at the altar?" Blake asked.
Her own lips tugged up at the memory. The camera flashed. "That's better, thanks man."
Blake smirked. "Now I really want to know."
The photographer shooed him and Jen towards the chair in front of a pale blue wall. "We'll have a shot of everyone, and then do family shots." Her sister stood behind the chair on Selina's left and Blake flanked Bruce. Alfred didn't move from behind the photographer.
"Alfred," Bruce said.
"You know it isn't done, Master Wayne."
"And I don't care," Selina said. "Humor the pregnant lady and get over here for the wedding album memories."
Alfred joined them, standing behind the chair. "This is most irregular."
"Right, because this household is known for its conformity," Bruce said.
"Not for lack of trying on my part, Master Wayne."
They got through that picture and then Jen switched places with Bruce for the bride's family shot. Selina smiled at the men retreating behind the camera. "I asked Bruce if he was happy to see me."
Blake grinned at them both. Bruce tilted his head as he shot her a fake wounded look. "Like you really needed to ask me that."
"You weren't breathing."
He helped her up so they could move the chair. "Because you took my breath away." They finished the photographs, she got to ditch the veil, and Alfred led everyone else back down the back stairs so they could be in the entrance hall for the Wayne family's entrance. Bruce studied her as they went through the hallway to the main stairs. "Say the word, and the party is over."
"I'm not ruining Alfred's moment, and I've gotten through worse." She took his arm as Stephanie skipped in front of them. "Stop worrying."
"That's one thing you can't change about me. Let's get this over with." He turned them around the corner and they stepped onto the balcony overlooking the ballroom. It filled the center block of the mansion. The main stairs ended in the entrance hall right outside the doors into the ballroom and the landing halfway down turned enough to look over the ballroom filled with people.
Stephanie saw them through the marble banisters, but that was enough to make her balk. "Don't want to go down there."
"No one's going to hurt you here," Bruce said as he scooped her up onto his other arm. "They just want to meet you."
"Show no fear, sweetie," Selina added.
Stephanie nodded and her shoulders moved back. They headed down the stairs and paused on the landing. The conductor on the musicians' stage turned to the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Wayne and their daughter Stephanie."
The applause rolled over them and echoed against the carved wooden ceiling above their heads. Selina plastered on her smile and saw Bruce do the same with his face. The receiving line at the bottom of the staircase blurred together with a few stand outs. Lucius Fox clasped her hand between his. "The Catwoman action figure prototype is finished, but I'll bring it to Stephanie next week."
Leslie kissed her cheek and assessed her with a gimlet eye. "Sit down as soon as you can and stay seated."
Mayor Hill, just elected, shook their hands like television cameras were present. "Delighted to be invited, congratulations to you both. Saw your interview, television does not do you justice, Mrs. Wayne."
Renee Montoya forced her arms to relax as her warm hand grabbed Selina's and she tried to slouch into her blue gown. "Thank you for inviting me and I hope you're very happy."
A series of men with their wives or without said congratulations to Selina's cleavage.
Stephanie protested when Yolanda Ross and Tara made their way to them. "I wanna play with Tara!"
"After we eat," Bruce said. "Alfred arranged for a babysitter."
Yolanda nodded. "That's thoughtful. I wondered how to keep Tara occupied at a party this long."
"A babysitter," the black-haired woman next in line said. "If we had known that we would have brought Timmy."
The brown-haired man behind her reached for Bruce's hand. "Jack Drake, this is my wife, Janet. Timothy, our son, is about your little girl's age. We just bought the old Bergen place. That makes us your closest neighbors."
"Yes, it does," Bruce agreed.
"We simply must get our children together for a play date," Janet gushed.
"That would be nice," Selina said as the Drakes headed into the ballroom.
Yolanda leaned closer to Selina. "I recognize that type. Timmy's going to be dropped on your doorstep."
The Commissioner and his daughter came through soon after the Drakes and he pressed a piece of paper into Bruce's hand. "Consider it a wedding present."
"Jim, you didn't have to get us anything." Bruce looked down at the paper. "My Aventador is in police custody?"
"What is that?" Stephanie asked.
"A Lamborghini," Bruce answered. "Where did you find it?"
"Cleaned out a chop shop and there it was untouched after the ones running it joined up with Bane's Army and got sent to Blackgate. They did go for the VINs but missed your registration of the fancy electronics. Bring your proof of ownership when you come by to pick it up."
"What's a lamb genie?" Stephanie asked.
"It's a fancy car that goes really fast," Babs answered her with a smile. "Come on, Dad, let's find our seats."
Harriet Allnut beamed at them. "It's so good to see you hosting events again, Bruce. Now we just have to get you back on duties for the Foundation."
A series of women simpered congratulations at Bruce or how precious Stephanie was and glared out their pleased-to-meet-you's at Selina before Alfred approached them. "It's time to begin the meal."
Food and the footrest hidden under their table made the event bearable again. The tension in her shoulders eased out during the meal where they were seated alone with Stephanie between them at the head table. The food was scrumptious. The wedding cake towered over them with real roses and lilies resting on the white and lavender icing. She looked down at her bone china plate still covered with portions from everything on the menu. "Bruce, what about the leftovers?"
"What the caterers don't take goes to a Wayne Foundation soup kitchen. That's been standard practice for every party I've hosted."
A young woman in a black pantsuit came up to their table. "Hi, I'm Emma. Mr. Pennyworth sent me to see if Stephanie is ready to take her friends to her room."
"We haven't had cake yet," Stephanie said.
"They're going to bring us cake," Emma said with a smile.
"Is it okay to go?" Stephanie turned to Selina and Bruce.
"Of course, go have fun," Bruce said.
Stephanie hopped down and ran to Tara's table with Emma following. Selina glanced over the crowd. "Not too many people brought their kids. Emma won't be overwhelmed."
"I guess it will take a while before people associate Bruce Wayne with a family-friendly event." She looked at him, but his bland face turned to the conductor who approached. He listened to the man's murmur before turning back to her. "Are you ready for dancing?"
Selina nodded and the conductor scurried back to the string quartet. "Jen knows to keep Alfred in here, right?"
"We went over the plan." He helped her up out of her chair.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Wayne's first dance."
Her hand tightened around his. "I didn't pick the song," she whispered. "No one asked me!"
"I picked the song." He led their waltz onto the cleared dance floor as the tune carried over the muffled conversation.
She recognized the music. This was what had been playing when Bruce cut in on her dance with Horace Gladstone. How far they had come since then. "Pavane for a Dead Princess, no wonder Jen called you morbid."
He returned her smirk. "But it was the first of our many dances I hope. And I had to explain that to Jen and play the song to her before she agreed it was a fine choice."
"It's not what I would have picked. I all but scratched your eyes out when you showed up."
"That's not how I remember you. You were honest, brutally honest about the class tensions, and intriguing."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. Wayne."
"But it's honesty, Mrs. Wayne." He widened his eyes with faux innocence. "I have to be honest with you because you will call out anything that isn't." Selina smiled and he pressed her closer. "I never told you that you were right," he continued. "I do need someone to drop me on my ass. And I'm so glad you took the responsibility."
"That's nothing compared to what you've given me: acceptance, understanding, family, love--"
He captured her lips in an unexpected but not unwelcome kiss. The crowd cooed at them. He ended the kiss and smiled. "One more dance and we can sit down again."
The conductor reached for the microphone again. "Now the bride and groom will dance with those responsible for the wedding." They twirled one last time before splitting apart. Jen stepped forward with hands outstretched and Bruce glided away with her as the music changed.
Selina held out her arms to Alfred, who stepped out of the crowd and into the dance. "Whatever will I do with the pair of you and your willful flaunting of conventions?"
"Shake your head at us and then just say we pay well to anyone snobby and nosy enough to comment."
"That's one strategy, yes." His blue eyes considered her. "But I dare say you'll put those comments away without any help from me."
She smirked, "Oh then you have to help make some. This party isn't over until you dance with Leslie."
"Mrs. Wayne," he said severely. "Can we have a limit on what improprieties happen during your wedding?"
"Where's the fun in that?"
"She's a friend of the family and I--"
"Forget how to be a proper English butler every time she comes to visit. And she only comes to see you, so give her a dance." She turned to the crowd as the song ended and grinned at Leslie. "He's all yours."
Leslie grinned as she took Alfred's hand with a slight curtsey. "You actually did it. Thomas and Martha's boy has a family of his own."
Selina made her way to the restrooms connected to the ballroom. A bonus to being this obviously pregnant, no one impeded her progress. She was amused that they were designed more like public facilities including multiple stalls. She was washing her hands when another woman barreled inside and stopped short. "Ms. Kyle, I'm mean Mrs. Wayne, oh this is the worst possible time to talk to you, but I'm stuck on what to do." Her porcelain-colored hands squeezed into fists at her sides.
"What's wrong, Ms. Allnut?" Selina hadn't had a chance to talk to the blonde woman at Bruce's birthday party. She knew she was a little older than Bruce and took over the Wayne Foundation operations a few years before Bruce locked himself away. She sat on the loveseat beside the outer door.
Harriet Allnut perched on the other end. "I'm used to making the hard decisions since there is never enough money to go around, along with Mr. Wayne's particulars over no outside funding. But I don't know what to do when he adds obligations and I can't get a meeting with him and then you both go on television and give the Foundation publicity I can't do anything with." She stopped her hands from seizing her brunette-streaked blonde hair.
Selina frowned. The Wayne Foundation had come up in their Gotham Tonight interview because Mike Engle kept insisting that Selina and Bruce were recreating something from Thomas and Martha's courtship. Selina stressed Bruce's altruism through his creation of the Foundation. That must have sent more attention to Harriet Allnut. "Won't the new toy line bring in more money?"
"After it goes to retail," Harriet confirmed. "But people want to donate money nationwide. Right now I'm coordinating with the Red Cross and United Way, but the Foundation is losing money Gotham needs right now. And the only time I hear from Mr. Wayne is when he wants to spend money on something. Worthwhile things, they always are, but you two won't be hosting any fundraisers until after the baby is born. Trust me, I understand that and I understand Mr. Wayne doesn't want anything to cheapen the memory of his parents. And you so don't want to deal with this on your wedding day." She took a deep breath. "Can I steal him after your honeymoon? I promise to give him right back as soon as we iron out new parameters."
Selina smiled. "I doubt that'll be much help. We're skipping a honeymoon trip because Bruce is so busy."
"And I always thought I'd be glad to see him leave this mansion." Harriet shook her head as her shoulders slumped.
"How's this for a plan? You stop stressing and enjoy the party out there. Then when you go back to work, map out everything you would do without Bruce's parameters or rules or whatever they are. As long as it doesn't cheapen Thomas and Martha Wayne's memory, it's fair game. We'll schedule a day next week and you can explain to me all the gritty details. And if we don't find a way around Bruce's parameters, I'll invite you to supper and you can ambush him then."
Harriet chuckled. "I think I will like working with you, Mrs. Wayne." She brushed off her purple gown as she stood and offered Selina a hand. She had a stronger grip than Selina expected. "Now we both should get out there before the search parties start."
No one was looking for either one of them though Yolanda Ross noticed Selina moving toward the head table again. "Sit down, will you. My feet swell just by looking at you."
Selina slid into the empty chair between Yolanda and Renee Montoya. "Seated. What are we talking about?"
"We've been having a mini-celebration over Detective Montoya's promotion." Yolanda lifted her champagne flute.
"Congratulations," Selina said to the blushing Hispanic woman. "It's long due."
"You're both making too much of it. The War left the police department with a lot of holes to fill. I climbed up thanks to that."
"I heard you had a commendation that swayed the Commissioner," Selina said.
"Oh, from who?" Yolanda asked.
"There you are," Blake said as he walked up to the table. "Alfred needs you at the cake in a few, Selina." He turned to Montoya. "You haven't danced with me, Detective Montoya.
"You're not my type, Blake."
"I know I'm not your type, but if you dance across the room with me, I can introduce you to someone who maybe is your type." He grinned until his dimples appeared.
"Dios mío, you're going to stay there and be all cute and obnoxious until I do what you want."
"I'll move onto pleading if you're ready."
"Fine," she threw her napkin onto the table as she stood. "You step on my toes and I'll break yours."
"I've been taking lessons for this event." Blake guided her onto the dance floor.
Yolanda leaned closer. "I want the gossip. Catwoman left a good word about Renee, right?"
"How did you guess?"
"Kelly and Jensen both talk about Batman and Catwoman, but Renee always clams up. Something's up there. Plus Batman's not here to do it."
"So how come you don't have a detective shield?" Selina asked.
"Too busy earning my mommy badge." Yolanda drained her glass. "Now go cut the cake, I'm ready for sugar."
Bruce looked around the ballroom's thinning crowd for his wife. His wife--he had never thought of Rachel that way, even when he was convinced she would be the one at the church. His wife and publicly recognized as that today even though Bane married them months ago. He glanced at the one glass of champagne he allowed himself and decided to cut himself off before he got more morbid. His gaze landed on his official wedding band; the bright copper wire beaded out of the gleaming white gold. Selina knew what really had meaning in their lives. He looked for her again. She sat with the Fredericks a few tables toward the north wall. He set down the empty glass and made his way to his wife.
Selina's polite smile was still in place, but the droop of her shoulders betrayed how tired she was. He was impressed at how long she had lasted. Time to get her out of here and make sure no one ever imposed what they wanted on her ever again. Alfred got what he wanted and would be on their side now. Mrs. Fredericks was detailing who was related to whom and waved the red roses bouquet for emphasis.
He leaned down, whispered into her ear, "Ready to leave?" and hid the question with a kiss on her cheek. She nodded as he pulled back, so he turned to the Fredericks. "We're sneaking out. Don't give us away."
"I'm surprised you haven't already done one of your infamous fades," Douglas Fredericks chuckled. "We should be heading home too."
"It is a school night," Bruce said as he helped Selina out of her chair. "Thank you for coming."
"Everything was beautiful," Patricia Fredericks gushed. "I just wished Martha and Thomas were here."
Selina squeezed his arm, but he hadn't retreated. "We all wish they were. Good-night." He turned Selina toward the ballroom's closest rear door.
"Do we have to shoo the rest of them out?" Selina's voice dropped its pleasant façade as the started up the back east wing stairs.
"Alfred can shoo them out or we'll find them in the morning. I should have gotten you out already."
"Yes, hours ago." She leaned against him. "You're lucky I'm still in a libidinous mood."
He paused as they reached the third floor. "You don't think I could change your mood?" His fingers stroked down the bare skin between her shoulders.
"Don't make me jump you in the hall."
He opened the master suite's hall door. "Our room, Mrs. Wayne." She swept past him trailing her fingers across his waistcoat. He shut the door and looked at the bedroom through her eyes. The blue walls were nearly grey in the glow from the lamps and the white molding around the windows glowed brighter. The hardwood floor matched the blond tones in the curved head and footboards of the replica bed that had been in the master bedroom since his grandfather's time. The dark brown rug underneath matched the browns in the duvet folded down to show the crisp white satin sheets. The brown hexagon clock hanging above the left nightstand ticked as he realized how masculine the space was. He waited for Selina's quip on his decorating style.
But she bypassed the round breakfast table--the only item he had fought Alfred over, he hadn't wanted a desk in here like his father had--and opened the dressing room between the bedroom and the bath. A satin padded hanger waited on the formerly empty side. He blinked at the closet rods filled with Selina's clothing.
"Help me, will you?" She moved in front of him and presented the gown's back chain that kept the bodice down over her shoulders. "What's wrong? You've seen my clothes before."
"Sorry." He kissed her neck as he untied the chain. "See them here made it real all the sudden."
"My clothes were in your closet at the penthouse." She smirked at him over her shoulder.
"The penthouse is different. You're the first and only here." He found her hidden side zipper and pulled it down slowly.
She twisted and settled her arms around his neck. "I've never held your past against you." He didn't bother to say he was too busy holding it against himself, but kissed her deep red lips. Her fingers moved around his neck and untied his lavender four-hand tie. He leaned back with a nibble on her bottom lip. "Why do you always wear so many layers?" she asked when he let it go.
He peeled off his black morning coat. "Not my fault you wear too few."
Her hands skimmed his waistcoat but didn't touch the buttons. She stepped back to her side of the dressing room and slid the white gown off her shoulders. The low-back strapless bra wrapped around her back above her slip. She glanced over her shoulder at him before placing the gown on the waiting hanger.
He stripped off the waistcoat; left it on his dresser, knelt before her, and lifted her foot. "Since you aren't my Cinderella, let me take these off." The silver coin caught his eye. "Why is there money in your show? British money?"
"That's from Alfred." She took the diamond stud out of her earlobe and put it in the jewelry box on her dresser. "He muttered something about Yanks always getting the rhyme wrong and told me to put it in my shoe."
"All I got before the ceremony was a brushing and told there'd be hell to pay if I wrinkled the suit." He freed her other foot.
"Whatever worked; you looked immaculate up there, not breathing." She closed the jewelry box with a snap.
He dropped the suspenders off his shoulders as he followed her back into the bedroom. His hands caressed her silky skin as he found the latch on the bra and unfastened it. She twisted and pulled him closer by the waistband of his trousers. "Selina," he moaned.
"Show me how much, Bruce, show me."
His mouth covered hers again. She tasted better than the champagne and was far more potent than any wine. Her nimble fingers loosened his buttons so her arms snaked into his shirt. Skin to skin encouraged their hands to roam lower. She unfastened his trousers while he palmed her heavy breasts.
Her slip and panties slid off as she crawled onto the mattress. He peeled off his pants and boxers before kneeling behind and sliding into her. His hands didn't stay locked on her hips as she rocked back but stroked her swollen belly, her rounded buttocks, and her inner folds. They didn't rock the bed--it was too well built for that--but Selina almost clawed through the sheets.
He sprawled onto the mattress after the last of his adrenaline fled his body with his orgasm. His wife sidled up to him and draped her arm over his chest once she finished tracing over his scars. "I had so many wicked things in mind to do to you, my husband." Her hesitancy on the term was lost to her yawn. "We should've left the party right after we cut the cake."
Bruce wrapped his arms around her. "No need to hurry. We have the rest of our lives now."
Harriet Allnut tipped the driver from the car service as she got out at her building. Joshua the doorman held the door open for her. "You look like you had a good time, Ms. Allnut."
"It was a good party." She leaned against the wall while waiting for the elevator. "I even danced with the Commissioner, the new Mayor, and a nice man young enough to be my son."
"You needed a good party. You've been working long hours lately." Joshua hovered in case she needed help into the elevator, but she wasn't drunk, just tipsy enough to feel good.
"Let me tell you something, this was the first time I've seen my boss happy in all the years I've known him." The elevator dinged and she waved to Joshua. "Time for me to make sure I'm not hung-over in the morning. Goodnight."
She pulled her key out of her clutch while she was still in the elevator. Realizing Bruce Wayne was actually happy made her think about the woman who evidently made him that way. The rumors swirling around the Wayne Enterprises building ranged from gold-digging slut to plucked angel who straightened out Bruce Wayne. Harriet wasn't ready to declare what Selina Kyle Wayne was based on two introductions, a television interview, and one conversation, but she was ready to rule out empty-headed bimbo and mercenary social climber.
Mrs. Wayne could have brushed her off with reception duties, but didn't. And she came up with a workable plan just from what she heard. Bruce married brains as good as his. The meeting next week would be interesting. Harriet looked forward to it. She snickered as she unlocked her condo's main door while thinking about the pair of them ambushing Bruce during supper at stately Wayne Manor.
She relocked the door and dropped her clutch on the hall tree next to the door. The light she left on in the kitchen spilled out into the combined living and dining room so she didn't bother turning on more lights. She turned the corner of the small foyer to get one large glass of water before going to bed because she still had to go to the office tomorrow even if it was late.
A firecracker went off in the darkest corner of the living room between her kitchen pantry and the window. The blow to her abdomen knocked her off her feet. Fire felt like it was spreading out from the blow and she couldn't catch her breath. The pain rippled up through her body.
She heard the chair scrape against the wall and turned her head to that dark corner. He stood in the light from her kitchen, but all she saw his suit and the bowler shading his face were both green. "I want you to know I have spent weeks on the various scenarios, and for me that's like you taking six months to plan and sending the plan out for market testing. This plan was the only one with a successful outcome. Unfortunately, you have to die so I can learn the answer to the greatest riddle this city has given us. It's nothing personal, so there's no reason for you to suffer."
Harriet's eyes left his shadowy face and focused on the strange-shaped gun that moved into the light.