Title:Strangers in the Night, Chapter 1
Summary:Richard Grayson gave up all hope of ever finding true love, but all that changed when he falls head-over-heels (literally) for a gorgeous redhead with green eyes. Too bad she's his best friend's fiancé. AU. RobxStar.
Richard Grayson slid carelessly across the plush, leather seats of the back of his Rolls Royce, tugging off the strangling silkiness that was his tie before the driver even shut the car door. He tossed the ridiculously expensive strip of cloth at his feet and leaned his head back over the top of the seat, sighing.
"To Wayne Manor, Master Dick?" the driver asked, his voice still polite in its monotone.
"No," Richard said, grimacing as he ran a hand down his face in a gesture of frustrated exhaustion. "You can drop me off at a little cafe somewhere. And not to any of those coffee house monstrosities they call Starbucks, either."
"Bad day at the office?" the former asked as he moved the car into the road.
"Norman, you have no idea," Richard muttered as the driver shot him a sympathetic grin through the rear-view mirror. "I don't know why Bruce insists that I sit through these meetings. He knows I don't like business."
"I do believe, sir," Norman said carefully, "that Master Bruce wanted you to…'have a taste' of what you will be inheriting."
Richard merely sighed. Bruce Wayne was the Donald Trump of this age. He had his hand, and therefore his name, in a thousand projects from here to Metropolis, and back around the world. Even in his early forties, Bruce was still the richest, most eligible bachelor in the country. And as his adopted heir, Richard was to inherit everything. Yes, even the title of 'Most Eligible Bachelor'…though the media hadn't needed any kind of encouragement to escalate his own reputation to celebrity royalty. He still cringed at the sight of his "seductively stoic" face - words of The Gotham Gazette, not his - looking back at him from the cover of GQ magazine.
"A little corner coffee shop, sir," Norman announced as he parked expertly against the curb. "A pick-up time, Master Dick?"
"Nah," Richard said as he placed a pair of dark glasses over his eyes. "I'll just call you." He opened the car door and let himself out before Norman even had a chance to get out of the driver's seat.
"Ah, sir," the driver called out of the window as Richard hurried away from the car. "You have a meeting with Master Roy at the East Gotham Harper Hotel at six o'clock tonight."
Richard stopped in his tracks and resisted to smack his own forehead. Right, he thought. I'm meeting his fiancé today. Great. "I know, Norman," he said instead, instantly feeling a pang of guilt. He was happy for his best friend's engagement, of course, but he wished he didn't have to meet her on a day when he was dog-tired. "I'll be there."
Finding that satisfactory, Norman rolled up the window and drove away.
Richard stayed where he stood for a few minutes after Norman left, merely collecting his thoughts. It was hard to imagine Roy Harper as a married man. The Harpers and the Waynes were two of the most wealthy and most influential families in Gotham, and he and Roy have been friends since childhood. They went to school together, with Richard excelling in academics while Roy shone on the track field, thus earning him the nickname, "Speedy." However, very much unlike Richard, Roy hugged the limelight and became Gotham's most notorious playboy. Richard tried to keep out of the public eye as much as he could, but it didn't help being the heir to the million-dollar technological firm that was Wayne Enterprises or the best friend of the country's most popular male celebrity.
Richard's head shot up. Somewhere to his right a car horn was urgently blaring, and in a rush of panic he saw a redheaded girl walk dreamily across the busy intersection towards him. She was grinning softly into space, her eyes half-closed in what seemed to be empty-headed drunkenness.
"Watch out!" he yelled as a black Mercedes zipped mere inches behind her, making her hair and knee-length coat fly in the wind. And still the stupid girl walked on! He turned and saw a truck come rocketing around the corner, its driver distractedly talking on a cellphone cradled between his ear and shoulder. By the time the driver would see the girl, or vice versa, it would be too late.
Feeling unusually clearheaded, Richard felt himself dart across the road before he even realized he started running. He grabbed hold of the girl's hand and jerked her forward, out of the way of incoming traffic. Unfortunately, the force of his pull sent her barreling into him, sending them both stumbling across the rest of the street and crashing to the hard sidewalk where he stood not a minute before. Richard landed painfully on his back and uttered an "Oof!" when the girl fell fully across his chest.
The truck zoomed by harmlessly.
"What were you thinking?" Richard gasped, acutely aware of the pain that shot up his spine and, now that he could think clearly, the rest of his body. "You could have di--"
His words died on his lips. The girl on his chest stared at him in utter shock, her mouth hanging open and her emerald green eyes - no longer dim and dreamy - large and wide. Her long, brilliantly red hair was in disarray, and her skin was an erotically exotic shade of golden brown. They seemed to be unable to speak, or take their eyes off one another.
She must have been…no, she was the most beautiful woman Richard had ever seen. Perhaps not beer-commercial beautiful, but she had an aura that drew him to her. Her eyes, especially. He never saw such a radiant green. Wait,auraRichard thought, totally surprised with himself. What the hell?
Something in his face must have snapped her back into reality, because she jumped and cried out, "Oh, forgive me!" as scrambled off his chest, apologizing again when he groaned after she kneed him in the thigh. "Please, do forgive me!" she said, her naturally tanned face swiftly turning an alluring shade of red.
"It's fine," Richard said gruffly as he got to his feet, wondering why he wanted, so badly, to place her slight accent. He picked up his glasses, which had fallen to the ground after the redheaded girl had collided with him, and settled them swiftly onto his nose. The people who had been frozen at the sight of the near-accident faded away now that the excitement was gone. Distractedly, he thanked the heavens that no one recognized him. Maybe they were too busy staring at the gorgeous redhead in the lavender miniskirt and the matching pumps, and cursing the tan knee-length jacket that did no justice to her long legs at all. Hey, he sure was…
"No, no! You were hurt because I was foolish!" she said, interrupting his not-quite-so-clean thoughts as she clutched at his arm, her eyes wide with worry.
"I'm not really. And yes, you were," he said, instantly regretting the way his voice sounded harsher than he intended.
She drew her hands to herself, clutching them together in front of her body. "Oh no! You are angry," she pouted, her lower lip trembling. She turned behind her, saw the little coffee shop, and turned back to him with a enormous grin on her face. "Look," she said taking hold of his hand, "there is a coffee house. I will buy you a coffee, or perhaps a…a latte. Would you forgive me then?"
"I…" was all Richard could make out as she proceeded to drag him into the coffee house. He couldn't help but grin at the childish determination on her heart-shaped face, and wondered, vaguely, what he got himself into this time.
"I should save people's lives more often," Richard teased as he stirred his double espresso mocha latte.
The girl grinned at him, her expression playful. She had insisted that she buy him anything he'd like, even though he told her that he had more than enough money to pay for coffee for the both of them (and probably enough for everyone in a ten mile radius, but he didn't say that). It appeared, as impossible as it may seem, that she had no idea who Richard Grayson was, and he wanted to keep it that way. He hadn't really talked to anyone since before he could remember, and the girl that sat across from him in that little corner coffee shop was perhaps the most genuine, most interesting person he'd met in a long time. She spoke animatedly, and made him laugh. Roy sometimes accused him of being anti-social, but he found himself speaking as animated as she did, and it both scared and exhilarated him.
"Ah, the price of life has been reduced to a simple cup of double espresso," she said ruefully. "Will I ever be able to pay you back accordingly? I do hope so," she added with a delicate sigh. "I feel as if that latte you hold in your hand is not enough of a thank-you gift."
"Don't worry about it," he said, taking a sip. "It's the best latte I've ever had." And somehow, as he glanced at the red-haired beauty in front of him, he felt as if it were true.
He cleared his throat. "So," he began conversationally, "what was so mind-occupying that you'd walk across a very busy street without a care in the world? Hm?"
The girl laughed, and he found himself picturing a clear, crystal bell ringing sweetly in his ear. "Ah," she murmured, that dreamy look stealing back into her eyes. "I was simply thinking of my--Oh no!" she started, staring at her watch as she bolted up from her chair so fast that it toppled over backwards. "Five-thirty already? Oh my, I must have lost track of time! I will be so very late! Oh, late, late, late!" she cried, picking the chair from off the floor and hastily pulling on her tan jacket. "Oh, and thank you so very much for saving my life, it was truly wonderful speaking with you, and I do hope we will meet again someday!" she said quickly, breathlessly. Then, she leaned over the table and gave him a swift kiss to the cheek, too fast for him to react. "Thank you! Goodbye, Friend!" And with that, she darted out of his life, leaving him with his mouth agape and his hand to his cheek, his face as red as tomato.
It was a good five minutes before Richard got back the presence of mind to realize that 1) he had forgotten all about his meeting with Roy, and 2) he hadn't even gotten her name.
It was all he could do to resist kicking himself all the way down to Wayne Manor. And it wasn't because of his unavoidable tardiness, either.
"Hey Norman," Richard muttered absently into his cellphone, "do you think you can make me a little less late than I already am to Roy's hotel?"
"Of course, Master Dick," Norman said. Even over the phone, Richard could sense a ghost of a grin behind the monotony. And it did nothing to improve his mood. True to his word, however, Norman arrived within the next five minutes, and by some sort of miracle managed to get Richard halfway to the other side of the city with minutes to spare. He even found a parking space.
"I really should get a raise," Norman deadpanned as he maneuvered the car against the sidewalk. Richard glanced up at the rear-view mirror and caught the sparkle of mischief in the older man's gray eyes.
"A raise, and whatever else your heart desires, Norman," Richard said with a grin as Norman opened the car door for him. "How about another vacation? Take your wife to a nice resort in Hawaii or something."
"Barbados, if it pleases you, sir."
"Dick Grayson!" Roy Harper cried out, his fiery red hair glinting in the light of the chandelier in the main lobby of the East Gotham Harper Hotel. Richard smoothed back his uncooperative black locks and folded his sunglasses into his pocket. He grinned at the sight of his best friend.
"Where have you been, man?" Roy asked, taking Richard's hand in a vigorous handshake. "You didn't even show at Uncle Oliver's autumn gala last week!"
"Something came up," Richard muttered with a slight smile.
"Something always comes up," Roy sighed good-naturedly, giving Richard a hearty clap on the back. "At least you were actually on time today."
"Of course," Richard said, swallowing the lump of guilt that caught in his throat. "So where is she, man? This 'Kory Anders'?"
Roy laughed, wrapping his arm around Richard's shoulders. "Freshening up in the bathroom. She actually got here like thirty seconds before you did, looking like she ran all the way from the other side of town." He winked. "Even then, you'll eat your heart out, man. She's one hot babe." Roy's eyes moved from Richard's face to somewhere behind him, and Roy's expression brightened up considerably. "Kory, baby!" he cried, running past Richard towards a slim figure descending the grand staircase. He grabbed his fiancé by the waist and swung her around, finally setting her down to plant a full kiss on her lips, the latter giggling immensely.
"Honey, this is Richard Grayson, my best friend in all the world!" Roy said, taking Kory's hand and leading her around to stand in front of Richard.
Richard will forever wonder why his mind chose to blank out before that very moment his best friend's fiancé came to stand in front of him. And why hers seemed to, also.
Kory's hand flew to her mouth, and her other hand rose to point directly at Richard's chest. "It…it is…"
"It's you," Richard finished incredulously, seriously considering pinching himself to see if he was dreaming. Everything seemed pretty real, even the red-haired girl in the lavender skirt he had saved earlier that day, who was, strangely enough, standing before him at that exact moment.
"You…know each other?" Roy asked, his eyes darting between them with perfectly manicured eyebrow raised in question.
Kory snapped out of her reverie, and turned to Roy excitedly. "He is the one, Roy! He is the kind man who saved me today!"
Comments and Constructive Criticism very much appreciated.
Love always, Jolyn