They parked the car at Mercato Centrale and set off on foot to complete the shopping expedition. The computer store Bruce wanted was on Via degli Alfani, Selina thought she could finish her list in the Mercato di San Lorenzo, and Cassandra frowned when he held out a stack of Euros for her. "Buy something for your room," he said.
"Room?" She took the money as if she was handling a bomb.
"Whatever you want for your room." She still looked confused as she went off with Selina. Bruce shook his head. And he thought he had trust issues.
He purchased two laptops--one the closest match to Selina's crushed model and the second a simple netbook for Cassandra--the tools to transfer Selina's old hard drive to the new computer, a television set, and made arrangements for internet and satellite service to be installed tomorrow. He took the equipment to the car, Selina and Cassandra met him there, and Cassandra packed her shopping bag. Selina wore a blue linen sundress with new sandals, along with the pearls that she hadn't taken off. "You look good in blue," he said as she set her bag with her previous outfit inside the car.
"It's too hot for black here," she answered with a smirk. Cassandra set her bag next to the television. "Don't you want to show Bruce what you bought?"
"She doesn't--" But Cassandra pulled a rolled up bundle of rope and plastic rungs out before he finished. "A rope ladder?"
Cassandra held up two fingers. "For room."
"Okay." He closed the car's back door. He often felt his childhood was stolen, but this little girl didn't even know how to be a child. "Lunch before groceries?"
"Hungry!" Cassandra hopped. Bruce pointed to the café and she skipped ahead of them.
"At first, I thought she was making up for meals she missed," Selina said in a low voice. "Now I think the reason she kicks so hard is all the food she eats goes into her legs."
"You don't think her father withheld food from her too?"
"She'd be in worse shape if he had." Cassandra waited for them at the entrance of the sidewalk café. A trio of musicians claimed one end of the roped-off section and played a lively tune on a cello, violin, and guitar. A few patrons danced in the cleared space before the tables. Selina excused herself after the waiter took their drink orders.
Cassandra watched Selina sashay to the café's interior, and Bruce watched the little girl. She hadn't reacted badly since Selina had engineered the truce, but that didn't mean that hostilities wouldn't resume. Cassandra looked at the dancers in front of the band, and then at him with a forehead furrowed. "Gotham picture. You Selina dance."
"There's a picture of that?" He hadn't realized there was a photographer inside the fundraiser.
"Yes." Cassandra looked at the dancers again. "You Selina dance now."
"Selina want dance."
He glanced at the café door. The woman in question was returning to their table with a swaying rhythm matching the bass of the cello. "And you're telling me, why?"
"Selina happy." Cassandra picked up her menu; even though he was sure she couldn't read Italian.
The waiter with their drinks was behind Selina, so he studied his menu. "Do you like pizza?"
"We decided on pizza, if you like," he said to Selina as she slid into her seat.
"Better make it a large."
Pizza toppings agreed upon, the waiter took their order, and it was time. "May I have this dance?" Selina blushed as she assented. They joined the others on the cobblestones, and the band slowed the tempo of their next song. "Thank you for another dance."
"Honestly, I wanted another dance."
"So honesty is our policy now?"
The smile dropped off her lips. "I have always been honest with you."
"Even while double crossing me?" He meant it as a joke, but Selina recoiled. He tightened his grip and pulled her against his chest. "I'm sorry," he said into her ear. "You did warn me, but I was too overconfident to listen."
Her other hand returned to his shoulder and she leaned against him as they danced. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have dragged you out of the tunnels by your cape."
That mental image made him grin, and he slid his hand to the small of her back. "I'd like to know what your plan was, if you want to talk about it. You weren't supporting Bane's distraction of a revolution when I found you."
"I was rooting for Batman to win," Selina said drolly. "I just didn't think it would happen, not with Bane's trigger-happy boys around. But you being Batman ruined everything."
"You were going to run to the ex-billionaire Bruce Wayne and do what?"
"Confess and drag you out of Gotham."
"I wouldn't have gone."
She pulled back so he saw her smirk. "It's amusing that you think you'd have had a say."
"You said you didn't have a choice about staying. Bane kept you prisoner until they cut off Gotham?"
"No, I got locked up in Blackgate waiting for trial thanks to your friend Blake."
"And you broke out."
"Bane saved me the trouble." She sagged against him. "Change the subject, why reveal yourself to me ahead of everyone else?"
Bruce brushed his lips across her cheek on the path to her ear. "I missed you."
"You can have any woman you want. Why me?"
"You're not afraid of me."
"No cryptic games, Bruce. I don't have the energy for them from you."
"My best friend, I never saw my life without her in it. I think she felt the same way, until Batman. He scared her. She fell in love with someone else, who didn't wear a mask and wasn't so angry at the world."
"That sucks. But you're right. I understand what the civilians don't."
"What didn't Rachel understand?"
She pressed against his chest again, and Bruce fought his desire to pin her there. "Who are you pretending to be? They're both your masks. The real you is somewhere in the middle of all the roles you've played. It's the same thing for me."
"Is there any hope for us?"
"Well, I'm not giving up when things are this interesting, but if we want any lunch, we need to go back to the table."
He turned and saw the waiter setting the pizza in front of Cassandra. Cassandra ate half of it and decided that she loved gelato after Selina bought her a cone as they went through the stalls of the market. He let Selina pick out the food, though he did pay for it.
"I hope this means you're not a picky eater." Selina said as she inspected a bunch of fresh spinach.
"It's rude to be picky, but I usually juice my greens. Did the kitchen have a blender or a juicer?"
"I did not take inventory of your appliances."
He ended up buying a juicer, and discovered that he didn't already have one in the villa. They spent the rest of the afternoon shoving the furniture around, and Bruce contacted the various maintenance services and rearranged the schedules to suit both parties. Selina made a light supper of grilled chicken and salad, which Cassandra ate with more gusto than he remembered having for lettuce at her age.
"I don't know about you two, but I'm for an early bed time tonight," Bruce said after the dishwasher was loaded.
"It's been a long day," Selina said. "Come on, Cass, I'll tuck you in."
"You'll get Gotham tomorrow when the television is set up." The woman and the girl headed upstairs and Bruce made sure the house was locked up and the lights were off. He had claimed the bedroom with the largest bathroom next to the upstairs kitchen before they left, so he went straight to the shower.
Water ran over his head as he reviewed the day. Selina suspected that all he wanted was payback. And who's fault was that, Bruce? She stole the pearls and humiliated him in private; he countered by playing an arrogant ass to take them back and humiliate her in public. And so it went until she saved his life. How differently would the fight against Bane have gone if he had given Selina reason to trust him earlier? He shut off the shower and grabbed the towel.
She trusted him versus the League of Shadows, but he wanted lingering kisses, not desperate hints at what could be because of a suicide mission. He wanted her laughter and widest grin coaxing humor out of him. He wanted to dance with her every time they found music and in between the sheets when they didn't.
At least she hadn't told him he didn't stand a chance. She deserved amends for the way he treated her and evidence for how he felt about her now. He pulled on his pajama pants before switching off the bathroom light.
Moonlight filled the dark bedroom from the bare window. But he didn't need its help to see the curvy lumps under the sheet. "You're in my bed."
Selina rolled over and arched her back. "Do you want me to find another one?"
He sat on the mattress' edge and blocked the path to the door. The moonlight shimmered on her black nightie as she slid the sheet down. "No," he answered. His hands brushed against the spaghetti straps on her shoulders as they landed. Her lips met his and her arms circled his neck. One hand left the mattress to run up her back.
She purred with his stroke. Her hand ran into his still damp hair. His arm tightened around her. Her tongue surged into his mouth. Blood rushing from his head made him as dizzy as his worst concussion. He pulled back. Her large brown eyes fluttered open. "What's wrong?"
How she felt in his arms nearly derailed his train of thought. "Selina, you don't... no, I mean I don't want you to think... damn, I want you but...." He trailed off as her hand slid over his shoulder.
"Too fast?" Her fingers followed a scar across his pectoral muscle as she sat up.
"Maybe? I don't want it to be." His hands slid over the satin bunched at her hips. He touched her forehead with his. "I need you, but you don't owe me anything." He squeezed his eyes shut.
"That's not true." She cupped his jaw. "But that's not why I'm in your bed."
"Two months," her voice caught. His grip on her hips tightened. "I thought you were dead. Five months before that. I'm tired of mourning a man I barely know." His eyes flew open when her lips pressed against his.
They fell shut when her breasts flattened against his chest. Her nightie shifted under his grasp and he realized it was all she wore to his bed. His surge of lust peeled the satin over her head.
She grabbed his arm before he tossed the nightie aside. "Don't." All he managed was an incoherent noise. "Eight-year-old in the house. Need to dress after." She hung it on the headboard.
"Right," he said. The moonlight on her skin gave her a fey translucence. It was so much like the dreams he had since she first kissed him, he expected to jolt awake.
Selina pounced with a feral grin. His back landed across the mattress and her kisses descended his torso. Her fingers curled around the elastic on his pants. "Don't be shy."
Her coy tone hardened him more. "I hope now you're impressed." The silk fell off his dangling legs.
She flung his pajamas onto the headboard before straddling his torso. "Ask me that after." She bent and licked one of his more prominent scars.
He shivered at the sensation and reached for her breasts. His squeeze earned him a breathy moan. He drew her up until their faces aligned, kissed her again, and slid his hands down her body. "Do you like this?" he murmured. His fingers clutched her ass cheeks.
Her mouth latched onto his briefly before she sat up and impaled herself on him. "I've been wet for you since the alley." She ground against him.
Bruce managed to stop his eyes from rolling back when she clenched him. He stroked her hips and thighs. "I dreamed of you like this." The only thing missing was the string of pearls around her neck and he was not about to call a halt to correct a minor detail.
"Glad I made an impression." Her teeth flashed as she grinned.
He teased her clit until she moaned. "Impression doesn't cover it." Despite his subconscious preference for this position, his arms ached to hold her. He sat up, distracted her with a kiss, and rolled them over. He propped up on his forearms and cradled her.
She wrapped her legs and arms around him. "You have me right where you want me."
"Lucky me." He slid out of her and back in. Selina matched his rhythm and conversation descended into inarticulate sounds of pleasure until they both came. He reluctantly released her and donned his pajama pants again. "Will you stay?"
Her surprised expression popped out from her satin nightie. "Did I give you the impression I was leaving?"
"I meant this room. Unpack and make it ours." He settled under the sheets and on a pillow.
A smile chased away her seriousness. She laid her cheek on his chest. "Okay, but you still have to make the bed."
"If that's the price, I'm glad I paid attention to your lesson." He tucked his arm around her.