Chapter 1

Chapter 1

He hated these things. Sipping ginger ale from a champagne flute and smiling foppishly at bottle blondes was not, and never had been, his idea of a good time. Sighing, he tried to keep the idiotic smile plastered on his face as another woman explained the advantages of marriage to him. They didn't get it, he thought. He was a few years past fifty and he still hadn't married. He wondered why they thought he would change his no marriage policy.

Excusing himself as politely as he possibly could while still acting like an idiot, he made sure he stumbled just a bit on his way to the balcony. Convincing people he was too drunk to stand was normally a good way to get excused by midnight. Sighing, he slipped onto the balcony and closed the glass French doors now separating him from he gaudy party. Grimacing, he saw that he was not alone on the balcony.

In addition to the starlight, there was a rather stunning blonde, definitely not of the bottle variety, staring into the heavens contemplatively. Swallowing the annoyance rising in his throat, he took a deep breath and turned to go back to the party. It was only ten thirty, no one would believe he was drunk enough to leave yet. He turned at the sound of her voice.

"Oh, I'm sorry." The woman had a lovely smile and she was directing it right at him now that he had turned in her direction again.

Remembering his manners, he smiled and took a few steps closer to her. "No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude."

"It's not my balcony," She said with a self deprecating shrug of her shoulders and a slight smile. "Really, join me, if you like."

Nodding, he joined her by the ledge and listened to her sigh. She was at least in her thirties, maybe forties, Bruce thought. She was beautiful and had certainly aged gracefully. The tiny lines by her eyes looked like they were from laughing and the dreamy look in her eyes did not belong to a woman of her years.

"Bruce Wayne." He extended his hand and watched as a genuine smile came to her face as she accepted it.

"I know. I work with Leslie. She has your picture on her desk."

He opened his mouth to say something intelligent and thought better of it. After almost thirty years of playing this role, he thought, it had never really gotten any easier. Acting the opposite of the genius he was grated on his nerves even after all this time. Instead of something intelligent and interesting, he instead smiled rakishly and leaned a little closer.

"I haven't seen you at the clinic before."

He was expecting a frown or maybe a polite excuse to leave. His body language was screaming that he was about to become inappropriate with her. To his mild surprise, though, she laughed.

Lifting her head back, she laughed a wonderfully musical and hearty laugh. Smiling, she turned to face him again and leaned her back against the railing. In the light cast from the ballroom, he could now see her dress and body. The dress was an emerald color, cut deeply but not immodestly. It hung on her figure gracefully and accentuated her curves wonderfully without making her look wanton as many of the other females in his company that night did.

"Leslie told me you'd use some kind of line. That was pretty bad, though." She glanced at her shoes for just a second as she slipped a stray piece of hair behind her ears. "Connie Marsters. Nice to meet you, Mr. Wayne."

He almost smiled genuinely despite himself. Catching the wayward expression before it could reach his face; he instead tried to look a little sheepish. "Well, I'm sure she's told you a lot of rather unsavory things about me."

"On the contrary, Mr. Wayne, she speaks very highly of you. I didn't think your reputation was entirely true, but I might have been mistaken." The smirk on her face told him she was flirting with him.

For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why an intelligent woman would flirt with Bruce Wayne. His brain started categorizing different ways the encounter would play out, and most them ended badly. Some scenarios ended with her being evil in some way. Probably a plant person sent by Ivy to marry him, he thought.

"I think my reputation is a little exaggerated. Tabloids want to sell papers, you know." He took a sip of his faux champagne while he decided the best course of action to take. "How do you work with Leslie?" He figured recon was his best option.

"I'm a doctor at Gotham General. I just moved here last year from Boston. Leslie and I started to work together not long after that. I volunteer a few nights a week at her clinic."

"What brings you here, then?" His arm swept the expanse of the balcony, indicating the ballroom and party beyond the glass doors.

Smiling, she rubbed her hands on her arms. He could see that she was cold, fine blonde hairs stood on end on her arms. "Benefit for cancer research always draws doctors. At least, that's what my boss said when she ordered me to go to this thing."

Slipping his tuxedo jacket over her shoulders, he smiled at her and leaned against the edge of the balcony, enjoying the cool breeze that blew through his cotton shirt. "You're here against your will?"

"Well, the night is starting to look up. It's not every night I get to stand with gorgeous billionaires and watch them undress for me."

Dignity and excellent manners, as beat into his head by Alfred, prevented him from spitting out the soda that was in his mouth. Instead, he swallowed calmly and set the glass down. Turning to her, he cocked his head a little, a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

"I don't think we've reached the undressing phase yet. Though feel free to start, if you wish."

She laughed again and he had to tell himself that a grown woman biting her bottom lip the way she was doing was not attractive. He didn't believe himself in the least because it was attractive. She was attractive. Her brown eyes danced and shown in the light and her lips had a sardonic, if not self deprecating, tilt to them.

"I'm not against undressing. The photographs I would undoubtedly see tomorrow morning in the Gotham Herald though make me think twice about doing it out here."

Intelligent women flirted with him when he was Batman. All of those intelligent women tended to be on the wrong side of the law, though. If not evil, they at least wanted to take over the world or remake mankind in their image. Bruce Wayne had few dealings with women that didn't giggle stupidly at jokes that weren't funny or touch his arm and lean their cleavage into him every chance they got.

The thought of the last woman he had been intimate with that had half a brain made him wince a little. Vesper's face floated in his mind and he suddenly wanted to go to his cave and brood. The years had not dulled the pain of that fiasco, he realized grudgingly. Swallowing those thoughts, he lifted his glass again, his appetite for flirtation suddenly quenched.

"It was nice talking to you Dr. Marsters."

The confusion on her face was evident. "Did I do something wrong?" She took a step forward as if to follow him, but stopped as he turned and shook his head.

"No. You're lovely. I…I need to get back to the party. There are lots of women willing to undress in there."

Turning on his heel, he winced internally at the coldness of his last comment. She hadn't deserved that kind of rudeness, not at all. Shaking himself mentally, he told himself that it was for her own good. Flirting would lead to sex and that would lead to him breaking her heart. He found he was growing tired of that cycle in his old age.

Sighing, he went through the next hour, drinking bubbly soda and pretending to get drunk. It was before midnight when one of his business associates quietly suggested he go home. In the car, he allowed himself to frown as his face pulled itself into the visage of Batman.

"Interesting night, sir?" Alfred's voice had a inflection of amusement.

"You could say that, Alfred." It was a few moments more before he spoke again. "Has Leslie mentioned a Dr. Connie Marsters to you?"

He paused to think a moment before answering. "No, Master Bruce, I cannot say that she has. Would you like me to inquire after the young woman?"

He mumbled an unintelligible response and leaned his chin against his fist. He couldn't think about a woman, he told himself. There were more important things to do. Looking up at the sky, his eye brows drew together as his frown deepened.

Alfred did not miss the signal shining against the clouds either. "Shall I drop you off at one of your miniature caves, sir?"

"That would be fine, Alfred."

No time for women, he told himself. Gotham city was his wife and she was a jealous partner. No one else could hope to compete for time with his city, he thought. Especially beautiful and flirtatious doctors.