Standing on a side of the crowded ballroom, Diana and Rachel had an unhindered view of Bruce and his date at the other end of the room, the sea of guests parting as if they knew Diana wished it. Her curiosity was getting the best of her, although Rachel seemed to treat the spectacle as nothing out of the ordinary.
"She certainly has an impressive figure." Diana cocked her head to the side and appraised the woman that Bruce held close to his hip.
"Don't let her size fool you, she definitely didn't grow that way naturally," Rachel said, and the woman suddenly threw her head back and laughed at something Bruce whispered in her ear.
Diana winced at the sound that reminded her of the screeching owl that kept her up most nights on her island home when she was a child. She'd eventually found the owl and relocated it to the other side of the island. She didn't think relocating Bruce's date would prove to be as easy a task especially since he didn't look like he'd give her up without a fight.
Rachel grinned. "Painful, isn't it?"
The cackle rose in volume when Bruce leaned in, and Diana was sure if he got any closer they'd be standing in the same spot.
"Bruce doesn't seem to mind. She must be…nice." Not that she cared. But he looked so different as he smiled and flirted, just like he'd looked that day in her office when he'd known Hayden Foxworthy would drop by. It was an act then. She didn't doubt it. So why was she doubting it now? And why did it matter to her?
"She's Gotham's current media darling and the perfect opportunity for Bruce to convince the world that he's a hopeless playboy. I never understood that side of him." Rachel turned to Diana and eyed her silently, then leaned closer and whispered, "You're jealous. Aren't you?"
"What? No." She could feel the heat rising to her cheeks. Was she jealous?
"Mhmm." Rachel took a sip of her water.
"He's a friend. And my boss."
"And a good man."
"Yes." A very good man. And dark. And brooding. And a great deal of things she never imagined would have attracted her. Kal was her type. Full of hope and light and truth. Just like her. But Kal wanted Lois and Diana wanted…no one.
Thankfully, Rachel didn't pursue the topic, her attention turned to the approach of a guest. She visibly stiffened.
"Is something wrong?"
"Just an old acquaintance. His daughter comes to the center."
"Children who need help come from all social backgrounds. Even children whose parents attend these things."
The man walked toward them as if he hadn't a care in the world. His smile and obvious delight in seeing Rachel a sharp contrast with her attitude.
"Rachel. It's been a long time." His extended hand was ignored.
"Yes. A long time."
"You look good," he said, he slipped his hands into his pockets.
"A clear conscience does wonders for the skin."
The man laughed nervously, but Rachel's gaze never left his, her expression darkening by the minute.
He cleared his throat and extended his hand to Diana. "You must be Princess Diana. I've heard so much about you."
"Pleased to meet you Mr…?"
"William Ashford. But please, call me Bill."
"Bill. It's a pleasure."
"How's Christine?" Rachel asked, her voice thick and harsh.
"Christine is fine. Wonderful." He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out pictures. "She's fifteen going on thirty, I think. Kids grow up too fast these days. That's why I'm donating to this cause. Maybe my little sum can help other parents rest easy at night."
"Or in some cases, it serves as a shelter for children from their parents."
Ashford's smile never faltered. "I guess there is that in your line of work. Thank goodness Bristol is worlds apart from what you must see everyday, Rach."
"Oh, I think there are skeletons in Bristol, too. Bill."
Ashford frowned, no doubt certain that he was being affronted, but apparently from the look on his face, not sure why. He looked about to respond when Bruce clasped his shoulder from behind.
"Bill. It's good to see you. How are Pam and Christine?"
"They're both fine. Thank you for asking, Bruce." He nodded to the buffet table. "Pam's grabbing us something to eat. I'll have her see you when she's done."
"It's been too long. How about lunch this week?"
"I'd like that. It was nice meeting you, Diana." He turned to Rachel but didn't quite meet her gaze, and with a muttered, "Rachel," he left to meet his wife at the buffet.
Rachel turned, placed her glass on a nearby table. "I don't think my presence is needed here any longer. I'd like to get back to the center."
"We did a lot of good here tonight, Rach. A lot of money, and awareness, was raised." Bruce leaned closer and kissed her cheek. "Congratulations."
"It's a start. Unfortunately, we have a long road ahead of us." Rachel looked over to where Ashford and his wife were dining and with a frown, left.
"I'm not sure." Diana watched Ashford and his wife for a moment then turned to Bruce with a grin. "It looks like you're having a good time. For a man who despises these things, that is."
"I'm counting the minutes when I can make a hasty departure."
"You may have to tear your date away." A date that was clearly enjoying the attention of several men and a few photographers.
"I don't think she'd enjoy patrolling the city."
Diana was shocked. "You're going to ditch her?"
"I'll leave her here to enjoy the rest of her evening. Alfred will make sure she arrives safely at home. Her home." Bruce's teeth gleamed when he smiled. "Besides, she's not my type."
Diana wondered if Bruce had read her mind. "Then why ask her here as a date?"
"It's less complicated that way." Bruce out his arm. "Care to dance?"
Diana looked over at his date. She had her arms wrapped around an elderly man, laughing in the same manner she had with Bruce. She turned to Bruce, placed her arm in his. "I'd love to."