He didn’t want to be there, but he was. He had been trying to not check his watch every five minutes, but it had been a while since he had done so, and as a reward for his own good behavior he snuck a glance at his wrist. Scarcely a moment after he had lifted his arm, he felt a hand slide across his back, and a cloud of perfume dizzied him as a woman with a catlike smile came around to face him.
“Bruce Wayne,” she greeted, her smile widening to Cheshire levels. “I hope my little fundraiser isn’t boring you too much.”
“Ms. Hale.” He wasn’t certain how to return her greeting, and when she held out her hand in expectation, he took it stiffly and kissed it. “Far from it. I’m just a bit distracted tonight.”
She withdrew her hand with a little huff. “Charlotte, I’ve told you.”
“My apologies,” he said, without correcting himself. Her proximity to him was making him uncomfortable, and he took a step back. She was too rich to be after him for his money, and he was afraid of the alternative motivation. “It’s getting late; I should be leaving.”
Immediately her smile dropped to a scowl. “Late? But we’re just getting started.” And then the smile reappeared again, but her eyes were a fierce flash as she searched his face. “Don’t pull your old man act on me, Bruce. I know all you’re thinking about right now is fighting, right?”
Wayne’s jaw tightened, but he managed a genial smile. “Oh, really?”
“Of course.” Though he had been trying to increase the distance between them, Hale stepped forward and brushed a hand over his lapels. “I’ve heard all about you going to those underground fighting rings. I could cook something up for you, if you’d like.”
He barked a laugh and increased the minimum safe distance again. “I appreciate it, but I don’t think so. I really have to be going.”
Hale scowled, but didn’t pursue him further. She wheeled around, a tantrum brewing in her body language, but she was too smart to cause a scene at her own fundraiser; she had to take her frustration through someone else. Before he had enough time to turn, she had moved to surreptitiously trip the waitress who had been managing a plate of empty wine glasses.
A cacophony of splintering glass broke out, but he was deaf to it as he reflexes kicked in. He reached out and caught the waitress with an arm to her chest before she had a chance to land in the pile of broken glass; Hale turned and, somewhat disappointed at the recovery, cried, “Ah, look what you’ve done!” Several donors looked over, surprised, and with gentle grace she righted herself and said, “Oh, nothing to worry about. It’ll be cleaned immediately.”
Wayne turned the girl over in his arm. “Anything hurt?”
“Just my pride,” she wheezed, straightening out of his grip, and he realized that he had probably knocked the wind out of her on accident. She was watching his face carefully, and before he could say anything else she was being pulled away by another one of the waitresses and disappeared into the crowd as another two materialized to clean the broken glass.
Bruce Wayne was already thinking of something else, what he wanted to do after his obligation was over, but someone else had not forgotten him so easily. Back in the kitchen, the one he had saved had practically committed his face to memory as her friend sternly adjusted her uniform.
“You should be more careful,” Nadia scolded. “This fundraiser is a big deal.”
“It’s not the end of the world. Charlotte just got a little bored.” She paused, looking back past the doors of the kitchen. “Who was that?”
“Oh, him? That’s Bruce Wayne. Weird seeing him in real life, right?”
She nodded, absorbing this. “And who’s Bruce Wayne?”
Nadia’s hand stilled in midair, and she gave her an aghast look. “Are you serious?”
“You know I haven’t lived here that long!”
“Long enough that you should know!” But after receiving the same blank stare, Nadia scoffed. “What do you think? He’s the prince of Monaco.”
Sarcasm is lost on those who are falling in love, and she sighed. “Really?”
“Are you goddamn kidding me?” Nadia shook her head. “Well, it doesn’t matter. He certainly won’t give you a tip or anything.”
“That’s not what I want.”
“Well, what do you want?”
She weighed the question carefully, and answered, “His kid.”