1 Max kicked off her Louboutins the moment she entered her bedroom. She closed the door and wandered over to the dresser so she could remove her gun and jewelry. Getting the dress off would be trickier. She went into the bathroom. To be certain, Bane drastically reduced the time she would have normally spent out; Marcus was one of those men who had to be influenced, but after tonight, she wasn’t going to have a problem with him again.
Then there was the issue of Bane being completely noticeable. There was nothing about the mask that screamed elusive, but he hadn’t done anything other than scare the shit out of folks, which was what Max wanted. She didn’t expect anything to come of it; Marcus wasn’t apt to call the cops, and even if he was, Max was sure he wouldn’t. Bane was intimidating before, but the mask kicked everything up a notch. Stories of the masked man would come soon; she knew it.
She looked in the mirror. The dress, a custom-made Jean Paul Gaultier, required care in removal, so she decided to take off her stockings first. But when she looked up, Bane was in her bathroom doorway, filling it. She truly kept forgetting about his size. He didn’t have on the mask and there were red indentations in his cheeks from the straps. And then, then she couldn’t help but notice how big he was.
He was naked. Naked. As in not-a-stitch-on, birthday suit, buck-fucking-naked.
Naked naked naked naked naked.
Max’s blood pressure spiked and her eyes widened. She thought she was going to detonate within the next few seconds, and tried to suppress a cough but failed. Have mercy, the man was naked. Holy shit, he was naked. Bane was standing in the doorway of her bathroom, butt-ass naked. Naked as the day he was born.
Naked naked naked naked naked.
These thoughts were coalescing as Max stared at him, slack-jawed. Words made an attempt to form in her throat but never made it past the uvula. Her mouth went dry and she couldn’t even pretend not to look at his dick. Her vision dipped on its own; she had absolutely no control over where her eyes went. Bane didn’t say anything. She wished he would; his silence just made things that much more difficult.
Max closed her eyes and, with an effort, turned away. Game over; Bane was the victor. But she wasn’t going to let him know that. Her knees wobbled. She knew he wasn’t a little man, but this was propagating it from the mainmast. Good Lord, the man was fine in every sense of the word.
He continued to look at her. His face betrayed nothing.
Somebody had to say something, for the tension in the room was practically tangible.
Max swallowed. “I see your…uh, face…is red. Um…do you want me to loosen the straps…are they, uh, too tight? You might want to…ahem…massage your chee…I can’t do this. I can’t do this! Why in the hell are you standing naked in my bathroom? I can’t concentrate! Do you know what you’re doing? Please, Bane, for the love of all that is holy, get the hell out of my room!”
He didn’t move. Max kept her eyes closed, lest she sneak a glance in the mirror. Had she brought this on herself? The man walked into her bathroom without a scrap of clothing on. Common sense dictated that she pounce, but that would have given him the win.
Who was she kidding? He’d already won the moment he decided to stroll into her bedroom in the buff. She was a healthy, flesh-and-blood heterosexual woman with needs, and boy, right now, did she have needs…
Bane’s eyes were dark and intense; darker than what they normally were, and he kept them focused on Max. He was past the point of pretentiousness and pretending; he wanted her, he needed her, and he was going to have her. It was as simple as that. He got hard the moment he saw her in that ridiculously tight dress and nothing happened during the course of the evening to make him go soft. He figured he’d up the stakes. Two could play that game.
Max took a deep breath, keeping her eyes closed and kept trying to fill the taut silence with words. “You’ll get used to the straps. You’ll get used to the mask. As long as you can manage your pain, you’ll be fine. So am I to assume that you’ve taken your injection?” She was babbling. “’Cause, you know, you’re not wearing clot—your mas—oh my Jesus!!!”
Then he was behind her, his hands on her waist. She was soft, so soft. So…female…and that damn dress did nothing but broadcast it to the world. Max drew the eyes of every single person in that restaurant: envious women and covetous, lusty men. Bane was actually a little jealous, and that was the unfamiliar sensation he experienced while sitting at the table. He had never had that familiarity before. It was…interesting…and worth examining. He bumped her hips against his and an unfamiliar noise escaped Max’s throat. She still had not opened her eyes.
“This has got to be illegal,” she said, mostly to herself. “This is just wrong on so many levels.”
“I knew that you were trying to seduce me,” Bane whispered in her ear as his hands moved to her breasts. “You did not wear this dress for your meeting; you wore it for me.”
Max groaned. Said dress was suddenly too tight. He felt marvelous; hot, hard and strong, just the way a man should feel. There was a list of deities she would have to remember to thank. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re a tactician, Max. Just like me. Nothing’s random or left to chance. Every move you make is calculated…even the clothes you wear.” His breathing started to quicken. The pain shot was good for about five and a half hours; he upped his dosage because he didn’t want anything interfering with what was taking place. He squeezed her breasts; they were as soft and warm and as inviting as his most basic fantasies. Her nipples hardened and he ran his open mouth along her shoulder. “You wore this for me. I am pleased.”
“No I didn’t. I told you…”
He slid an arm around her so he could pull her close. Her ass was as soft as her tits and it cushioned him in happy little unexpected ways. Bane wished he had four hands; he wanted them everywhere; up, down, in, out, all at once. There wasn’t to be any strategy here; right now, he was just a horny bastard with no thought beyond burying himself within Max’s hot little body. Max continued to protest. “I told you I always…always doll up for…meetings with Marcus…”
“That may be, but you’ve never attired yourself like you did tonight. I could tell by the look on his face. He was quite enthused at the sight of you in this obscenely tight dress. You gave yourself away when you spoke of cock-teasing him…but it wasn’t him you were referring to. I’m not upset…no, I’m not upset. I’m anything but that.” He slipped a hand inside her cleavage. “I have been in agony all evening, Max. I admit that I don’t lose control like this, but I can’t help myself…I have to have you. You win. I’m tired of playing.”
“I promise…I promise that I…that I wasn’t…that I didn’t…”
“If you feel you need to tell yourself that, I’m fine with it. But you and I both know what this really is. I’m man enough to surrender.” Far be it from him to be able to resist a woman with charms as bountiful as Max’s.
Max’s knees went weak. “Okay,” she said, smiling mischievously. “Okay.”
2 His hands were all over her, moving up and down and over and around, as if trying to cover every inch of her body. Bane had her pressed up against the counter and she tried to brace herself with one hand against the wall. His breath was hot against her neck. He didn’t care that she was fully dressed; all he could think about was how good she was going to feel. Marcus’ questions in the restaurant, while lewd, weren’t foreign to him. Bane had indeed wondered about those things, especially when he realized the line he and Max were walking. He slipped his fingers under the collar of her dress and pulled down in an effort to free her breasts.
“Let me do it…you’re going to tear my dress,” she said, removing her boobs from her bra. Bane’s hands were holding them in a matter of seconds and his breath was breezy and choppy. Max groaned; his erection was right up on her ass; were it not for her dress and her panties, he might have very well been inside of her. Then he turned her around and lifted her on the counter, knocking over bottles, jars, and baskets. Max put her hands behind her to brace herself as Bane buried his face in her cleavage; something he’d wanted to do since he woke up in her lab. He groaned and closed his eyes as she put an arm around his neck. Max smelled good and felt even better. Instinctively, he latched on to the nearest nipple and pulled her close.
Max caressed his head and kissed the top of his skull; the man was so focused on getting underneath her dress that the idea of kissing her had not crossed his mind. Or just maybe it was because kissing was something that required finesse; something Bane seemed to be lacking. Or maybe it was because his face was scarred and perhaps he thought she found him repulsive. Which was ridiculous, considering that she’d already made her feelings clear on the matter. Either way, she’d dispense with that foolishness soon enough.
Then she realized that it was very likely the first choice, because Bane was trying to get underneath her dress. However, frustrated by the contoured fit and completely deficient in grace, Bane grabbed the hem and yanked, splitting the skirt up the front.
Max gasped, stunned. Her dress was custom-made and it was her first time wearing it.
“Did you just rip my Jean Paul Gaultier??? This dress cost $2700 bucks!”
Bane ignored her, focused on getting between her thighs. Yes, he had wondered about Max’s sweet spots; he wondered about her everything, and right now, he just didn’t have time for her babble. There were more important things to consider, like the smell of her. And then, with the same lack of finesse he had already demonstrated, Bane grabbed the crotch of her panties and tore them off her body. Max stiffened.
“You douchebag! That was La Perla!!!” If he kept this up, her pussy was going to be as dry as Death Valley and this would be no fun at all.
“Shut up,” he said as he pulled her to the edge of the counter. He did not give a fuck about her clothes; as far as he was concerned, it was collateral damage. Or even better, it was her own fault for her successful attempt at cock-teasing him. Surely she didn’t think he would be a tender lover and gently remove her clothes. Bane didn’t have time for that shit. Erections tended to rob men like himself of common sense.
Max braced herself once more in an effort to keep from sliding off the counter. In another second, he had a hand between her thighs, brusquely moving over her snatch. His fingers were strong and blunt and the gasp that escaped her was a reminder of the fact that she hadn’t had sex since she lost her baby a couple years ago. And these were just his fingers.
“Omigod…” she said. Foreshadowing was a motherfucker. Max moaned. She had a feeling this thing was going to get down and dirty, possibly feral. Bane mumbled something indistinguishable; he still had his mouth on her breasts, but it didn’t matter because she understood the general nature of his exclamation. She turned to find some kind of oil, because although she was wet, she wasn’t wet enough…
There! Her jojoba oil, what she used on her hair…that would work just fine…
She opened the bottle with her teeth and locked her legs around his waist in an attempt to keep from falling off the counter. Max splashed some oil in her hand and immediately slipped it between her legs, forcing his hand out.
Bane looked at her, irked at being so rudely interrupted. “What are you doing?”
“We’re going to need lubricant…I don’t know if you realize it, but I haven’t done this in a while…” She moved her slick fingers over her labia and inside her vagina, easing the way, and then with a grin and a fat kiss on his forehead, Max put Bane’s hand back between her legs. “Just remember that, okay? Please continue.”
He didn’t need prodding. Her breasts were his own private heaven and he was beyond a state of frenzy. Bane pulled Max off the counter, holding her easily with one arm. Then, once again demonstrating his complete lack of subtlety, he spit on his dick and entered her in one deliberate motion. Max grunted, taking all of him at once.
“Ow,” she gasped as she put her arms back around his neck. “Bane, you asshole! That hurt.”
He said something, something along the lines of ohshityouretightyoufeelsogood, but Max couldn’t be certain of anything other than the sensation of being pleasantly filled.
“Slow down, baby,” she encouraged. “Slow down; she’s not going anywhere. Take your time; we have all night.”
Hearing her, Bane eased her back on the counter and grabbed her thighs. Again Max placed her hands behind her back to keep from banging her head against the mirror. His thrusts were solid, even, and heaven help her, deep. Max closed her eyes as her body’s natural lubricants took over and she curled her fingers around the edge of the counter.
“Yes,” she said. “Like that, like that…not so fast…hard, yes, but slower…”
Now this was more like it. Max raised her hips and bucked in time with his thrusts. They were grinding and it was good. He was so hot; hotter than she imagined he would be and the heat and the strength were wonderful. However calm and sedate Bane normally appeared was the complete opposite of the way he was now and she liked it. Max enjoyed making men lose their minds, even if it sometimes led to unbelievable emotional pain.
“So tight,” he murmured, just loud enough for Max to hear and go crazy. Her hands began to slide on the counter and she started to lose her balance. She put her arms around Bane’s thick neck and he grabbed her ass to keep her from falling off his dick. “So soft,” he moaned. The current in his voice was different; deep and commanding, like that of a military general and Max held on as he bounced her up and down. She buried her face in his neck, muffling her sounds and then the world fell away when her climax hit.
“Fuck,” she said. “Shit, oh shit, oh shit…I’m…I’m c-c-coming…!” Instinctively, she curled around him and squeezed her legs around his hips. The movement caused an internal lockdown and the pressure of her collapsing muscles made Bane follow Max into oblivion.
A few minutes later, Max was looking at her torn dress and ripped panties. “You jerk. I can’t believe you tore my dress.” Maybe if she sent it to her seamstress, she could repair the damage.
Then it absolutely no longer mattered as Bane put his hands on her waist, dug into the material and pulled, shredding the bodice. With one more powerful tug, Max’s dress lay in pieces on the floor, and her bra shortly followed. And once again validating that he had all of the finesse of an ape, Bane picked Max up and tossed her over his shoulder before she could bitch about it. Max bumped her face against his back and took a moment to appreciate the glory of his ass.
“Lord,” she said. He was actually carrying her caveman-style; he had actually picked her up and threw her over his shoulder like she weighed nothing. Oh, it was about to be on…things were about to get very elementary. Her bed bounced when he chucked her on it. It creaked loudly when he got on, and she barely had time to warn him about breaking it before he crawled over her like a man obsessed.
3 Max awoke the next morning, blinking. She was exhausted and she throbbed. She stuck her hand between her legs and massaged her labia. There was definitely a hot bath in her immediate future. Bane’s preferred method of lovemaking was a brute force attack, but Max was no punk and she learned quickly how best to handle him. His back was laced with scratches and his shoulders with bites, and she gripped him hard enough to leave bruises on his arms. She gave as good as she got, and when she decided she wanted something different, Bane had been surprised indeed when she suddenly took command and covered his damaged nose and mouth with kisses. Max shoved his face in her cleavage and rode him as her boobs muffled his obvious pleasure.
It was raw, it was hot, and it was good. She didn’t mind the resultant tenderness.
“How are you feeling?” He was sitting in her chair, mask back on and partially dressed.
Max looked at him, still rubbing her vagina. “I’m sore as hell. It’s been a little while since I got some. And you aren’t the most refined of lovers, Bane.”
“I never said I was, but it appeared that you were satisfied.”
“I was.” She stretched out as the morning light gently illuminated her gorgeous chocolate complexion. Bane watched her carefully and sometimes she wondered exactly what he was thinking. The man’s poker face was amazing. “Just in case you were wondering; you’re about as subtle as a cauldron. I never figured you for Tarzan’s little brother.” But it was satisfying as all get-out. Maybe she wasn’t as refined as she thought herself to be.
“Is my lack of finesse a problem for you?” He had no time for such trivialities; sex was normally viewed as a tactic; if the ends justified that he fuck, then he fucked. This thing with Max; this was not that. When she started kissing him, he had been taken aback and truly out of his depth.
“Not really. At least you got me off, which is more than I can say for some other men I’ve been with. I was very much satisfied. Sometimes finesse is overrated; sometimes a girl just wants to get down and dirty, have her hair pulled and her ass spanked.” Bane hadn’t done that, but by Jove, he would before he left her house. She would see to it.
Max continued. “I was going to get mine, especially after that stunt you pulled, walking into my bedroom without a stitch of clothing on.” She would never forget that. Again, there was a list of gods she had to remember to give thanks to.
He shrugged. That was a ploy just as much as her dress had been. “Will you be all right? It was not my intent to hurt you.”
“I’ll be fine. A hot soak and an aspirin and the ol’ girl will be right as rain. And you owe me $3000. You actually tore off my clothes. That was a custom-made dress by Jean Paul Gaultier! And my La Perla!”
“Which you won’t be wearing again,” Bane said. It gave him a primitive sense of pleasure to tear it off her last night.
“Is that why you did it?”
Max got out of bed and went over with the intent to slap him. She actually raised her hand to pop him one when he grabbed her wrist. A second later, she realized that she probably would have broken it. The mask wasn’t made of cotton.
“I don’t advise that,” Bane said.
“You deliberately destroyed my clothes!”
“Rule of thumb: Learn to anticipate, especially when your opponent has left clues. I don’t believe I gave the impression that I was the least bit sophisticated, and you’ve basically verified that I wasn’t. That outfit was very…frustrating.”
“I hate you, but I want the money for my dress and my lingerie. That was an original JPG! And La Perla! La Perla, you douchenozzle! Do you know how much that costs?” She loved lingerie and spent a lot of money on it.
Bane stared at her blankly. He didn’t give a shit about her dress or her panties, now that they were off. “I hope you’re not holding your breath.”
She stared at him, closing her eyes. “Fine. Okay. Fine. So help me, if you even lay a fingernail on any of my other clothes, you will find out exactly how my child’s father felt when he died. I’m going to go soak and wash my hair. Is Erik here? I’m starving. Go away.”
“I have no idea. I have been in here with you almost the entire time.” Watching her sleep had become a congenial pastime. Bane wasn’t entirely sure why he liked doing it, but it didn’t matter. He watched her go into her bathroom and thought he might very well join her.
4 After lunch, Max returned to her room to lie down. She turned on her stereo system. “Bolero” was playing and she turned the volume down so she could relax and listen to the classic one-movement ballet. She was very tired, and in spite of two aspirin, she was still very sore. It never occurred to her to give herself one of her own injections; she didn’t like taking medicine because it took away her focus. Besides, she wanted to remember last night. She remembered the exquisite tightness; the heady sensation of being full, and the joy of not having to be quiet about it. Even after he penetrated her a second time, it was still quite an adjustment for her body to make and she provided quiet instructions on what he needed to do to please her. Bane had been all the way fine with it; in fact, he told her that he had been wondering about the answers to Marcus’ questions long before Marcus ever asked them. They were either both winners or both losers; it couldn’t be determined.
She heard her bedroom door open and sighed. By this time, she was used to it. “You just can’t stay away, can you?”
“Why would I want to?”
“You’re pussywhipped. I didn’t think it would be that easy. Guess it is like riding a bike.”
“I want answers, Max.”
“To what? You got them last night, didn’t you? Tightness, sweetness, the road to Nirvana…”
“I want to know why the father of your baby tried to kill you.” He had to know; the question popped into his head at odd times. Under what circumstances would a man shoot the mother of his child in the back? What had Max done—if she did anything at all—to instigate such brutal violence? Who exactly was this remarkable woman he was currently with? Bane was already thinking how useful she could be when he was ready to start his journey.
The bed creaked as Bane lay beside her. It was an uncharacteristic move on his part; he usually sat in the chair. What trickery was this?
“If you break my bed, I will kick your ass,” Max warned. “I’m over you destroying my shit, you fucking Neanderthal.”
Bane placed his fingers on her back, where the gunshot wound was. “Why did he shoot you?”
“Because I wouldn’t be with him. He was one of those jealous types.”
“You were carrying his child.” He started to massage the knot.
“So what? We weren’t together; we were just messing around. The only thing I was vested in was getting broke off. When I learned that I was pregnant, I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want him for anything other than sex. He wasn’t good for anything other than getting me off. He would have made a horrible father and a worthless boyfriend. I got pregnant by sheer chance; I certainly was prepared not to get knocked up, but babies are a result of fucking and the only true way to not get pregnant is to abstain from sex. I wasn’t about to do that; hell no.
“I broke things off when I started showing, and this was around the time when all that mess happened and I lost my license. I wanted my kid to have everything, and that included a stay-at-home mom. Anyway, Mike heard rumors and he came by unexpectedly one night when I had another man here. He waited for the guy to leave, we argued and he shot me in the back. I remember him saying before he tried to kill me that it was going to be him and nobody else. The bullet went through my uterus. The OB-GYN who attended me was drunk and well-connected. My daughter died shortly after being torn from my womb; I actually heard her cries.”
Max paused, getting herself together. Bane didn’t say a word. After a few minutes, she continued.
“The OB-GYN got off with a fine; his father was a judge. Mike got off on a technicality. I was enraged and I wanted vengeance for my baby. Everything that mattered to me was gone. So I went into my lab and I did not come out until I had the perfect revenge. I thought everything out, from beginning to end. I invited Mike over for dinner under the pretense that we could work everything out and his stupid ass fell for it. I put two drops of Kirrah into his drink and sprinkled three drops over his food. I watched him struggle, gasp for breath, claw at his throat. I watched his eyes bulge and the son-of-a-bitch actually had the nerve to reach for me and beg for help. I flipped him a double bird and told him why I did it. He died within two minutes. It was an ugly two minutes, but my heart was gone; buried with my daughter. I watched him struggle and flail about my dining room floor until he was dead and then I waited an extra minute just to make sure.
“I took him back to his house and buried him in his backyard, underneath the flowerbed. I knew that he wouldn’t be missed for a while because I convinced him to tell his friends that we would be taking a trip so that we could work out our issues. I had already bought two tickets to Jamaica, so after I killed him, I left the country. The OB-GYN got a package a few months later and he died minutes after opening it. I made two different versions of Kirrah, you see: one that had to be ingested; the other, inhaled.”
Bane was impressed. “You’re a cold-blooded killer.” It was a turn-on.
“I did it for my daughter. I’d do it again.”
“They never suspected you?”
“I don’t know, but I wasn’t worried. They don’t get too twisted up in the game about a dead black man. By the time they found him, I was gone. I changed my name and left everything behind except my research. My money was already offshore. I spent time in Mexico, Brazil, country-hopped Europe, and then Asia. I found my niche here. Macau is a tourist haven and a gambling hotspot, and Hong Kong is right across the delta. There is no shortage of customers who want what I have and they manage to find their way to me. I have money in several offshore accounts. I’m very wealthy. But I’m incomplete.”
“You are endlessly enchanting.”
“Whatever. Now you know my story. Do you have a problem with it?”
Bane chucked. “Of course not. We are not that different.”
He related the story of Talia and her mother and the League of Shadows. It was oddly comforting, sharing this part of himself with her. Max turned to look at him as he spoke.
“You loved that little girl. You protected her. You saved her.”
“I would do anything for her.”
“Is she still alive?”
“Yes. At some point, we will see each other again. There are plans in place.”
Max nodded. “When will you be leaving?”
“I do not know. I must do recon and research and I have to build an army of men like myself. How long am I welcome here?”
“Not too bright, are you? I have no plans to kick you out unless you take it upon yourself to destroy any more of my clothes. Besides, I’m still observing the effects of the mask. However long you feel you need to stay.”
“You are very charitable. I am grateful.” Being here with her was like a vacation. Bane had been in and around so much ugliness and darkness that his time with Max was surreal.
“I’ll never be this generous again with anyone else, I assure you. When I saw what had been done to you, I was so angry. As long as you take care of your mask, you should be able to do what you wish. I guess I have to work out a way for you to continue to get your anesthetic because you’re not going to find it in a pharmacy.”
“Why don’t you come with me?”
“Come with you where?”
“Wherever I go. You are brilliant and cunning and your expertise is useful.”
“Bane, I can’t just leave and follow you all over the world. I like it here. I’m not a mercenary.”
“You could be. You have it in you to take a man’s life while looking him in the eye.”
Max didn’t argue with that. “While I can totally get behind the idea of a revolution, I’d be better cheering you on from right here.”
“It is a suggestion, is all. Perhaps you’ll change your mind.”
Max chuckled, running her fingers over the faceplate. “Tell me the truth. You just like the idea of me by your side, maintaining your meds and breaking you off whenever your dick gets hard. What, in the middle of a rousing speech to rally your troops, you decide to sneak off for a little piece? What kind of leader would you be?”
“I was actually thinking before, then after. Preparation for battle arouses me.”
She shook her head. “Your troops will be jealous.”
“They won’t know your role.”
“Bullshit they won’t. You’ve got a bunch of dudes, a group of fanatical killers and I’m the only female, and I’m always with you? Please. You’re being naïve, or you truly don’t give a damn. They’ll know you’re hitting it. And if you pull one of those little jealousy things, they’ll definitely know there's something between us. You need your soldiers to be loyal and we women have a way of fucking that up.”
“You would be a welcome asset, Max. If you should change your mind…”
“Who knows? Maybe I’ll get bored one day and show up.”
“If I were to ask you to create a weapon for me?”
“Would I do it? What’s in it for me?”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that right now, Bane. It depends on the day. Sometimes I hate this world. I didn’t plan on becoming a mother, but once I got pregnant, all I really wanted was my baby. My life has been shit since I lost her. If you catch me on a day when I’m grieving, I may very well say yes.”
“Do you believe in necessary evil?”
Max didn’t bat an eye. “Yes.”
“Do you believe in a reckoning?”
“I killed the men who took my child from me. Of course I do.”
“The League is all about restoring balance, regardless of the cost.”
Max shrugged. She was neither here nor there with it. But she liked Bane. She ran her fingers over the faceplate once more.
“I never gave it much thought until this morning, but your mask is quite a turn-on.”
“It is. I don’t know why, but seeing you in it makes me hot. I suppose it’s because of the way you wear it, but whatever. It works.”
“Max, you may do whatever you like to me whenever you wish. As long as I find it agreeable, I will not stop you.”
“Oh baby, now that’s more like it.”