The cab arrived right on time. Bruce helped the driver load the luggage into the trunk while Jen Robinson and Selina climbed inside. Surprisingly, Selina took the center of the back seat instead of behind the driver. He wondered while he sat on her right who Selina was protecting from whom. She had given both him and Jen equal amounts of behave glares during introductions.
"Where to?" The cabbie asked with a brief glance over his shoulder.
"Head to Uptown," Selina answered. Her whole body tensed as she stared forward.
Bruce twisted into the corner of the back seat when the cab eased into traffic. A black SUV left the sidewalk parking a block down from Selina's apartment building and joined the traffic behind them. It quickly passed a red sedan between them, but it remained in the right lane. So Bane did have Selina under surveillance. And the men in that SUV will see him watching the back windshield unless he camouflaged it before they got closer. "Miss Kyle."
She turned to him. His hand cupped the back of her head and pulled her deep red lips against his. Her hands landed on the lapels of his jacket. He kissed her just as soundly as she had kissed him at Miranda's fundraiser while he kept one eye aimed out the back windshield. He eased back and saw something between arousal and anger in her wide brown eyes. "I think we need to clarify what you're paying for, Mr. Wayne. I became a thief so I didn't have to sell my body."
"The black SUV is following us." Her eyes glanced at the traffic without turning her head. The SUV moved in front of a blue Mini Cooper in their lane and kept a green economy car between them and the cab. "And at least I didn't pick your pocket."
Jen's shoulders scrunched up. "Those creeps won't ever let us go. So much for a different life."
"I can lose 'em," the cabbie said and shifted his hands on the steering wheel.
"Go to the airport and keep some distance. But not too much; they need to follow us that far."
One of Selina's hands pressed down on his chest as her thumb swiped her lipstick off his lips. "They won't let us leave Gotham and we can't lose them with airport traffic."
"It's just like dealing with the paparazzi. Give them a story they expect to see and they never look for anything else." Her neck was rigid under his fingers. He rubbed it softly as he let her go. "What are the rules of our arrangement?"
She resettled in the seat after glancing out the back windshield again. "I don't kill, I'm not a prostitute, we can leave whenever we want, and Jen's off limits."
"I will date, you know." Jen slouched further down at her end of the bench.
"You aren't starting with the most notorious playboy in Gotham City."
"I thought I recognized you," the cabbie said. "Didn't you sleep with the whole Russian ballet?"
Bruce shook his head. "I dated the prima ballerina of the Moscow Ballet. She invited the whole troupe to my yacht for a weekend cruise, and the press went nuts with the story."
Jen turned to look at both him and Selina. "Well, if flexibility's a turn-on, Selina has that in abundance."
He remembered how high her legs had kicked Bane's men last night. Selina glared at the younger blonde. "I don't sleep with clients."
"That rule made sense with Daggett and his ferret-faced errand boy. Not so much now."
Selina turned back to him. "Kindly disregard everything she says. It only sounds like English."
"Okay." He looked out the back windshield. "They're creeping closer."
The cabbie adjusted his speed.
Jen laid her head on Selina's shoulder. "Don't be mad. I'm not used to being a rule."
Selina pressed her head against Jen's. "You've always been a rule."
"We're getting close to the airport," the cabbie said.
"Go to passenger drop off." Bruce glanced at Selina's furrowed eyebrows. "You two duck while we make it look like you ran inside for the audience."
She blinked and then smirked slowly. "You have a devious streak, Mr. Wayne."
"I value my privacy. It's a shame what measures one must take to get any." Her smirk remained in place. He liked it better than the wide eyes attempting to mask her fear.
The cab rounded the curve leading to the airport and the black SUV was seven cars behind them. They pulled into one of the passenger drop off lanes. Jen curled up against Selina so her head didn't show through the windshield. The cabbie swerved into an open parking spot at the curb before the airport doors. Selina slid down the seat and against Bruce at an awkward angle giving him space to sit.
The cabbie popped the trunk and jumped out of the driver's seat. Bruce climbed out of the back seat. The black SUV pulled under the shelter the airport had over the passenger drop off lanes. His gaze slithered over all the vehicles and the airport doors before he got back into the cab.
Selina and Jen had rearranged themselves on two-thirds of the seat. The blonde young woman shook as she burrowed into Selina's stomach. So that's why the jewel thief masked her fear. The older brunette hugged and craned her head up so he could sit. He gathered her long brown hair so he didn't sit on it, and then pressed down gently on the top of her head until it rested on his thigh.
Her brown eyes narrowed.
"Relax," he said. "Don't hurt your neck."
The cabbie slammed the trunk shut before he slid back into his seat and put the cab in forward motion in one well-practiced move. "Where to now?"
"Head to the Palisades and keep an eye on our friends."
"One guy jumped out of the shotgun and ran into the airport." The cabbie steered the cab into the flow of traffic around the airport. "The SUV is moving."
Jen whimpered and Selina's grip tightened around her.
"It's parking," the cabbie announced.
"He must be waiting for his buddy inside the airport." Bruce glanced down at Selina.
She smiled crookedly. "So was the Russian ballerina this much fun?"
"No, she was understanding." He remembered Natasha's broad smile as they pulled up to the restaurant intent on bumping into Rachel and Harvey Dent. "Are you concerned brother or do you want the brunette whose picture is on your desk to be jealous?" she asked.
"Maybe both," had been his response. A more honest answer than he had given Alfred. Why hadn't Alfred told him the truth then or in the eight years since? He forced his mind away from that pain to the present.
"Rare trait," Selina said.
"We had different priorities," he answered the curious gleam in her eye. "She wanted to dance for a few more years, and the American and Russian managements told me to go patronize musical theater."
Her smile blossomed into a grin. "Did they make you pay for the shows that got cancelled?"
"I volunteered. Didn't want the ballerinas punished for it."
"You're a soft touch, Wayne."
Jen squirmed. "His soft touch is getting us away from the assholes who want to kill us. That's not a bad thing."
"True, it's not a bad thing."
"We're over the Lincoln Bridge and no sign of anybody following us," the cabbie said. "Go straight to Wayne Manor?"
Bruce helped Selina and Jen sit up again. "Yes."
Selina turned to Bruce. "Your friend, will he approve of you helping us like this?"
"He wouldn't want to see Bane hurt you any more than I do."
"Thank you for helping us." Jen said before she turned to watch the cab cross over the Queen's Bridge. She had stopped shaking.
"You don't have to thank me."
They fell silent as the rain pelted down on the cab. It obscured the landscape and didn't relent as the cab pulled in front of Wayne Manor.
Jen tucked her hair under the hood of her sweatshirt, grabbed her bag from the trunk, and bounded up the steps to the portico. Bruce grabbed Selina's suitcase and followed just as quickly. The rain still soaked through his suit jacket.
"Come on, let us in." Jen pressed against a column. Bruce patted down his pockets with a rueful smile and shook his head. "No keys?" she asked.
"I never needed any before."
"And I thought Selina exaggerated the class stuff." She yelled at the cab. "You gotta open the door, 'Lina!"
Bruce stepped back into the rain and avoided the swing of Selina's large black handbag as she dashed to the door. "The help abandoned you that quick?" She crouched in front of the keyhole with a pair of lock picks.
"I'm on my own now," he answered. It was a good explanation for why Alfred had disappeared.
Selina opened the door and strode inside. Jen scurried after her and turned as she walked to look at all the shrouded furniture. "This place is like a mausoleum," she blurted.
The older woman pivoted in the Hall. "Jen!"
Jen slapped a hand over her mouth.
His eyes crinkled as he smiled at her. "I've said the same thing more than once." He caught Selina's gaze. "The East Wing is habitable."
Heels clipped across the stone and onto the marble floor behind him. "Oh good, you're finally back." Miranda Tate brushed her soaked hair off her sodden shoulders. "No one answered when I knocked." Her smile faltered when she saw Selina and Jen behind him.
Selina tugged Jen's arm. "Come on, let's go dry out." She grabbed her suitcase and pulled Jen out of the Hall to the side staircase.
Bruce turned back to Miranda. Her cheeks flushed. "I'm sorry. I should have called. You have company."
"No, they're consultants. I'm thinking of turning the Manor into a bed n' breakfast for income."
She raised an eyebrow at his smirk. "And what does Alfred think about that plan?"
"He doesn't know."
Concern replaced her mocking. "No one answered the door. Where is Alfred?"
He didn't want to have that conversation with her. "You're soaked. Let me get you a towel or something."
She waved off his offer. "My car is coming back for me. I won't melt. I just wanted to tell you how the meeting went. Fox worked the Board like you've never seen." Her lips curved into an impish smile. "Daggett was furious."
"I bet he was. Too bad I had to miss it."
A silver Buick pulled up in front of the still-open front door. Miranda's eyes turned serious. "I will take care of your parents' legacy, Bruce." She cupped his cheek. "Take care of yourself. Gotham needs its good people."
All the light fixtures around them turned off with a snap. He stared at Miranda. It had been so long since anyone called him a good person, and now the whole universe conspired to make her take it back. Water dripped from their clothes and splashed on the tiles.
Miranda's hand tightened on his jaw before her lips pressed against his. This kiss was light and tender--nothing like the ones he had exchanged with Selina--and over before he responded. "Suffering builds character," she said. "Go take care of your guests." She sauntered out of the Manor and into the waiting sedan.
Bruce wiped the lipstick off his lips as he shut the door.
Selina had memorized the Wayne Manor plans she had gotten a hold of, and Pennyworth had given the catering staff a tour of the pertinent areas before the Harvey Dent Day celebration. So she led Jen straight to the bedrooms in use in the East Wing third floor. Jen, of course, found the Master Bedroom behind the first door she opened. "Wonder what he has in here."
Selina grabbed Jen's collar and hood before she crossed the threshold.
"Come on, you always say investigate the clients even more than the marks."
"This guy sneaked up on me while I was on the job. The time to pilfer through his bedroom is not when he's downstairs, even if he's occupied with his stuck-up girlfriend." She ignored Jen's skeptical look and shut Wayne's bedroom door.
"He didn't act like she's his girlfriend." Jen opened the door across the hall from the Master Bedroom. "And he was flirting with you in the cab."
"The man has flirting confused with breathing." Selina followed her into a bedroom not swathed in dust cloths. A lilac duvet was tucked under matching oversized pillows on a delicate four-poster bed. Two doors branched off the bedroom on the right wall. The first one was open and showed a walk-in closet ran alongside the hall.
"If Wayne is your worst example of how to treat women, I need to introduce your boot heels to some individuals I know." Jen peeled off her hoodie sweatshirt.
"He's not my worst example. But the rumor mill says nothing good. Not to mention his press." Selina left her rolling suitcase in the middle of the bedroom and opened the second door. Inside was a bathroom decorated in tans and whites. A soaking tub was nestled under the windows, a graceful chair was slid under the vanity, and towels were stacked neatly on the open shelving in the cabinet next to the separate shower. She grabbed two and tossed one to Jen.
She caught it and wrapped it around her hips. "The same press that calls you the Cat? I don't think you're being fair."
Selina peeked out of the towel covering her head. "The Joker crashed an orgy at his penthouse."
"And he denied the orgy with the ballerinas. You know man-whores don't do that."
Selina peeled off her wet black sweater and rolled it up in the towel. Maybe Jen had a point. The shut-in wrapped in a robe and sweats had left the orgies behind--if he had ever had them--but he was still a client. She slung her suitcase onto the bed. "He doesn't need a reminder from you that he has a decade's worth of orgies to catch up on."
Jen rubbed the towel against her damp T-shirt. "Please. Besides, he's totally smitten with you."
"The only time a guy like Wayne ends up with a girl from our side of the river is in romance novels." She pulled a dry T-shirt over her head. "No, it'll be Miranda Tate next to Bruce Wayne in the engagement announcement pages."
"So that's who the soaking-wet woman is. She should've taken off her jacket for maximum effect. How do you know she's stuck-up?"
"She damn near threw me out of her fundraiser until I donated and got Gladstone to dance with me." Selina tried not to scowl, but Wayne could have warned her. Though practicing Jen's fairness, Tate shocked him too when she appeared.
"The same party Bruce took the necklace back at?" Jen's eyes danced as she backed toward the hall door. "Taking this room will make it easy for him to find you."
Selina rolled her eyes. "That's Mr. Wayne to the likes of you and I until he says differently."
"D'uh, but I'll be right next door so you two keep it down." She darted down the hall.
Looks like Jen's Italian heritage was finally showing, and it was a matchmaking yenta. Selina carried the towel and sweater into the bathroom when all the lights snapped off. She stared at the row of dark scones above the mirror. "You gotta be kidding me."
She hung the sweater and towel to dry before going back out into the hall. Jen jumped with a nervous titter. "Gotham Power doesn't care what your name is."
"Guess not. I'll show you where the kitchen is. Pennyworth's office was next to it."
Jen managed not to tread on Selina's heels as they went down the back stairs. "Wouldn't it be quicker to talk to Wayne?"
"I doubt he knows what a light bill looks like."
Jen peeled off her back when they reached the cream and brown kitchen. Selina didn't blame her; it was the only room that felt cozy that she'd seen in this mansion. "I can't believe this place."
Selina left Jen in the kitchen and pushed open the adjacent door. She hadn't seen Pennyworth's office during the set-up for the Harvey Dent Day event. The rest of the mansion was as cold as a glacier, but these mocha-painted walls and dark furniture all created a warm cave in the middle of all the cold. Unfortunately, the lack of electricity made the office a literal cave. The desk was positioned close to the door to the kitchen, so she saw the paperwork resting neatly in the slots of an organizer.
"Holy shit! This pantry is bigger than our apartment!"
Trust Jen to figure out if we'll starve or not. Selina carried all the paperwork to the island in the center of the kitchen. She settled on a stool as she shuffled through the invoices. "Here it is."
Jen sat down on Selina's right on the long side of the island. "So what do we have to do to turn the power back on?" She said around a mouthful of something. A gallon carton of ice cream sat in front of her, and Jen shoveled another spoonful into her mouth.
"What? It's just gonna melt."
"Can you get a bowl and at least pretend you're housebroken?"
"Good, you found the kitchen." Bruce entered through the same door they had. He had exchanged the soaked grey suit for black slacks and a white Oxford shirt. He pulled open a cabinet drawer and took out two spoons. He passed one to Selina before digging into the ice cream with his as he sat on the opposite side of the island. Jen snickered and pushed the carton closer to the middle. Bruce swallowed his ice cream. "Did the electric company send me a love note about this?"
"Those are called second notices," Jen said.
"No." Selina scooped some ice cream for herself, a rich French vanilla. "According to this, you're set up on auto pay. So as long as the money is in the checking account--"
"Lorry," Bruce said with a sigh.
"Who's Laurie?" Jen turned to Selina. "I thought she was Miranda."
"Jarvis Lorry is my lawyer who closed my checking accounts to prevent further stealing. So when the electric company's draft got rejected, this is the result." He waved his hand at the unlit ceiling lights, and turned to Selina. "You know Miranda?"
"If you count her nearly throwing me out of her fundraiser, yes I do. But I doubt Miss Manners considers that a formal introduction."
"I called her a society hag at the same party, and she still agreed to help keep Wayne Enterprises from Daggett."
"Yeah Team Not-Daggett!" Jen plowed into the ice cream again.
Bruce half-smiled at her enthusiasm. "So how do we raise some cash?"
Selina licked the vanilla from her lips. "Depends on what you want to do. You've got a mansion full of lovely collectable antiques, but auctions take time to set up." She tapped the electric bill. "If you want the lights on today, that leaves jewelry."
"You want to take something to your fence?"
"I don't have a fence in Gotham. Because of its intrinsic value, jewelry sells or makes collateral for a loan."
He blinked at her. "If you don't mind posing as my jewelry expert, the Wayne collection is in a safety deposit box at Gotham First National."
But not his mother's pearls. Maybe she always wore them so they've always been in the mansion. Selina filed that away with what she knew about this man and smirked. "I don't even need to pose, Mr. Wayne, but I will have to change."
"We have to make it before the bank closes." He glanced at his watch.
"Please don't leave me here," Jen whimpered.