Mack stared at the back of Harv’s immaculately tailored suit, and fought the urge to make rude faces at him. She hadn’t quite forgiven him for that disturbing scene in the car, and the impending crash course in how to be a mob mistress wasn’t improving her mood any. Surrounded on all sides by his entourage, she followed him grudgingly down the hallway towards the center of the office, where they met Roxy at the bottom of the staircase.
The petite redhead fell in beside them with practiced ease, her heels making sharp clicking sounds against the floor. “The requested files are waiting in the conference room, and your one thirty has been pushed back to four.” Harv said nothing, merely continued up the stairs to his office as Roxy added, “I’ve also compiled a short list of personnel who need immediate re-vetting, and took the liberty of including Mack as well.”
At the mention of her name, Mack sent a hard look at Roxy, who waved her off with one hand. “The remaining personnel list is on Kevin’s desk,” Roxy continued with a quick look at Kevin.
Kevin murmured a soft thank you that earned him a slight smile in return. “If that’s all,” Roxy prompted Harv, “I’d like to get an early start with Mack.”
Harv paused, one foot on the landing and the other on the top most step, and then directed his employees into the nearby conference room with a sharp nod of his head, before turning back to look at the two women. “Arrange a test run, and then bring her to the office,” he directed. “I want to see what I’m paying for.”
Mack moved to question him, not sure she was ready for this ‘test run,’ but paused as Roxy placed a restraining hand on her elbow. “Of course, Harv,” Roxy responded, speaking directly to Mack. She maintained the small smile on her lips, and the pleasantly blank expression on her face, until she saw Mack frown in understanding.
Harv narrowed his eyes at his secretary’s casual use of his name, but said nothing in the interest of educating Mack. “Take notes,” he ordered, smirking down at his lover expectantly.
A strained silence stretched between the two of them, as Harv waited with growing impatience for a return demonstration.
“If you can’t say it in private…,” Roxy quirked an eyebrow.
Harv took a great deal of pleasure at the trapped look Mack was sending him. “I’ll get you for this,” she promised him with a dark scowl.
His smirk widened, knowing that it would only irritate her further, “try not to choke on it.”
Her eyes narrowed until they were mere slits, her own smile looking far more malicious than Roxy’s. “Of course, Harv,” she drawled.
He snarled down at her in return, closing the space between them. “It’s not supposed to sound like you’re telling me to fuck off.”
Mack huffed, fully aware she couldn’t put this off any longer. She’d made promises after all, and she’d keep them if only to avoid giving him an excuse to break his own. Mack located a spot on the wall behind him, finding it easier to complete this exercise when she could avoid looking at him.
A trick he recognized and quickly corrected. “Look at me,” he demanded, earning him an angry glare.
“You’re making it too personal.” Roxy interrupted in an attempt to head off the impending confrontation. She placed one well-manicured hand on Mack’s shoulder, and gestured at her boss with the other one. “You’re acting as though your boyfriend is demanding that you adopt a submissive role.”
“It’s not optional,” Harv muttered with a sneer, fully aware that they’d both heard him.
Roxy pinched her lips in annoyance, before adopting a forced smile. “That’s very helpful,” she told her boss, “thank you.”
Harv bared his teeth at her, recognizing the censure in Roxy’s voice. She bit back a sigh, feeling distinctly like the only adult in the room. Knowing that her boss was a lost cause, she turned back to Mack. “You’re forgetting that he’s supposed to be your job.”
Mack balked slightly, not sure whether she was more offended on Harv’s behalf or her own. Roxy met her stare with a sharp one of her own and continued. “Forget every private moment you’ve ever had. You provide a service, nothing more. Speak to him as you would a customer at your bar.”
Placed in that context, Mack found the situation somewhat easier to deal with. She merely offered him the empty smile she used when dealing with truly annoying customers. “Better, but you’re paid to like him.” Roxy instructed. “Let just a hint of your real relationship shine through, like you’re sharing a secret no one else is privy to.”
This bit of advice earned her a disapproving growl from Harv, and a smile from Mack who appreciated the validation of her slightly more-than-mistress status. Turning back to her mob boss, Mack managed to adopt the approved facial expression, and for the first time, sounded like the mistress she was supposed to be, “Of course, Harv.”
His eyes roamed her face, looking for some sign of Mack’s more volatile personality traits but found none. He sniffed disdainfully, deliberately looking unimpressed just to see how she’d respond, “I’ve seen better.”
For a second the corners of her mouth twitched, as if fighting off a frown, but Mack managed to summon her self-control, fully aware that he was testing her. “My apologies; I’m sure I’ll improve with practice.”
Harv said nothing for a long minute, and then nodded grudgingly at Roxy. “It’ll do.”
“Oh, thank fucking god,” Mack muttered in relief.
“Don’t get too comfortable, princess,” he shot back with a cold smile. “These events can last hours.”
Mack paled at the suggestion that she’d have to maintain the façade for such a long period of time, but refused to comment. Sensing that his usual verbal sparring partner was preparing for a strategic retreat, Harv dismissed her, turning to enter his office.
Unwilling, and unable, to let him have the last word, Mack started to respond, but was stopped by a quiet but wry, “I wouldn’t,” from Roxy. “Trust me,” she added, “you need the practice.”
Mack frowned, but conceded the point. Baiting him would probably be a poor start to her acting lesson. The two women headed back down the stairs and towards the garage. “Since this is something of a first for me,” Mack ventured, stepping into the elevator before being followed by Roxy and her bodyguards. “What exactly are we doing today?”
“Our first stop is at the L’Oreal hair and beauty salon for a consultation,” Roxy began, following Troy and Jason towards the waiting car. “Followed by several stops at various fashion houses, while I give you a crash course in criminal etiquette and a who’s who of Mr. Dent’s social circles.”
“Though,” Roxy amended in an attempt to reassure the woman sliding into the car next to her, “it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds.”
“Really,” Mack countered, clearly not convinced.
“Well,” she hesitated before offering her a rueful smile, “I’ll make it as painless as possible.”
The car pulled out of the garage and headed for downtown Gotham, and Mack was struck by a sudden curiosity. “Do you do this sort of thing a lot? You know,” she clarified, “for Harv’s women?”
Roxy looked at her, her expression revealing nothing, and then seemed to decide that truth was the better option. “No. With the rare exception,” she nodded at Mack, “Mr. Dent’s mistresses are already familiar with our social circles.”
“As his mistress, what exactly are these people going to expect from me?”
“You’re the bosses escort. Your job is to look pretty, and be available whenever he wants. That’s it,” she said with a shrug. “I have no doubt we can make you look the part,” Roxy reassured her before adding a wry, “I’m far more concerned with curbing your outspoken tendencies.”
“Whatever happens in private is between the two of you, but in public,” she cautioned, “only one of you gets to have an opinion.”
“And it isn’t me,” Mack finished for her.
“Exactly,” Roxy agreed. “Our boss,” she stressed, fully prepared to remind Mack whenever possible that Harv wasn’t just her date, but her mob boss as well, “generally finds hitting women distasteful.”
Mack raised an eyebrow, not sure she was more disturbed by the use of the word generally, or that she clearly remembered his attempt to bitch slap her earlier in the week.
“There are exceptions to the rule,” Roxy warned, aware of the altercation between Harv and Mack. “But, then most women wouldn’t have started a fight with Mr. Dent in the first place.”
Begrudgingly Mack nodded, “true.”
“The point I’m trying to make,” Roxy elaborated, “is that our organization looks down upon men who cannot control their women without violence.”
Mack’s disbelief was obvious even without the dry, “Really…” she added.
Roxy shrugged gracefully, “if you’re not formidable enough to control your woman through wits and intimidation alone, then why should we take you seriously?”
“However, I once saw him backhand one of his dates for questioning him in front of other people.” She sent Mack a pointed stare before adding a serious, “he broke her jaw.”
Mack blanched at that statement, and then just as quickly wondered why she was surprised.
“Mr. Dent rarely sees the need for one of these object lessons,” Roxy continued, making a point of alternating between shocking and reassuring information. “And as long as you remain pleasant and agreeable towards him, and avoid embarrassing him and his organization then you have nothing to worry about.”
Mack took a deep breath in an attempt to absorb and accept everything she’d just learned. “Embarrass him how?” she asked, temporarily brushing aside the quip about some poor women’s broken jaw.
“The people that you meet are all masters of the subtle insult. You need to be prepared for the worst, and you need to learn to hide what you’re feeling. They’ll be looking to shock, surprise, and anger you. Anything,” Roxy stressed, “to get a reaction.”
“Okay, so if they say something shitty, am I allowed to be nasty in return?”
“It’s not only expected,” she encouraged, “but failing to put someone in their place would only make you a bigger target.”
“So I’m supposed to be a bitch,” Mack clarified with a scowl.
“Yes, but it’s also important to keep your cool. If they manage to break through the cool, calm façade you’re supposed to maintain they’ll see it as a victory.”
“What exactly is the point of all this anyway,” Mack frowned. “What do these other people hope to gain by antagonizing me?”
“The men will be looking for future ammunition. A crack in the boss’s armor, so to speak. The women,” Roxy told her seriously, “will want your job.”
Mack blinked, completely unprepared for her answer. “My job?! How is being rude to Harv’s current mistress a good way to endear themselves to him?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Roxy countered, “He’s not supposed to care about you. He doesn’t watch TV with you. He doesn’t have breakfast with you, and,” Mack didn’t miss the warning look being sent her way, “he sure as hell doesn’t spend the night with you. So why would he care if you were offended by his associates’ women?”
“Making you crack not only tells Harv you can’t handle his society, but that she can. In mob society, breaking someone is good for the reputation,” she expounded.
“And I affect his reputation, don’t I,” Mack responded with a sigh, not needing to see the other woman’s nod to know she was right. “So if they can make me crumble under pressure it means he not only wasted his time and money, but calls into question his judgment since he basically vouched for me.”
Roxy sent her a pleased look. Mack was catching on quicker than she’d hoped. “Exactly.”
“Ms. Blackwood,” Troy called politely from the front seat, catching Roxy’s eye in the rearview mirror. “We’ve arrived.
Roxy nodded in acknowledgement before turning back towards Mack. “Ready?”
“Does it matter,” Mack countered with a small, rueful smile.
“No,” the redhead responded, hoping that a small smile of her own would soften her blunt answer.
Mack sighed, resigned to her fate, but displeased about it all the same. “Let’s get this over with.” Climbing out of the car, she squared her shoulders, and followed Roxy into the salon, her bodyguards close behind.
Five hours later, Mack was standing in the middle of yet another fashion house, wearing what she hoped would be the last in a long line of designer clothes. So far she had been poked, prodded, and discussed with such clinical detachment that she was starting to think she was just an expensive Barbie that Roxy was playing dress up with.
“Goddamn, I’m good,” Roxy muttered to the designer standing next to her.
Zac surveyed the nearly unrecognizable women in front of them, and nodded in agreement. “Impressive. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d never have believed this was the same woman you came in with.”
Mack scowled at the two of them. “Still in the room,” she muttered irritably.
Roxy smiled back at her, far too pleased with herself to let Mack’s grumpy attitude get her down. She’d avoided any large changes to Mack’s appearance, preferring to make subtle adjustments that enhanced her natural attributes. Not only was this approach easier for Mack, but it also drastically decreased the likelihood that Roxy would inadvertently piss of her boss by changing her appearance too much.
A few layers had been added to Mack’s hair, giving it much needed volume and texture. While the technician had used very little in the way of cosmetics, the sharp increase in the quality of the product had made a dramatic difference.
Add to that a magnificent wardrobe and several choice accessories, and Roxy was looking at a finished product that would knock her boss’s proverbial socks off.
“We’ll take it all,” Roxy nodded at Zac.
Personally, Mack thought the man looked far too pleased with himself, and from the way he scurried off, he was no doubt preparing to present her with a truly offensive bill of sale.
“Please tell me we’re done shopping,” Mack frowned, more than ready to be back in her own clothes.
“Yes,” Roxy reassured her, “we’re done shopping.”
Mack’s frown deepened. She had definitely heard a but in there somewhere.
“But Mr. Dent was very clear that we take your new look out for a test drive.”
“I’m hungry,” Mack told her flatly. “I want food.”
“I know the perfect place,” Roxy agreed. “It’s just around the corner actually.”
“You agreed to that far too quickly,” Mack pointed out. “You already planned to use dinner as a test run, didn’t you?”
Roxy’s smug look was answer enough.
“And I suppose I have to wear one of these get ups?” Mack waved an arm at the pile of clothes occupying a nearby rack.
Not bothering to wait for the obvious answer, Mack turned to face the rack and surveyed her options. She might not like her new role, but if she was going to do this, then she wasn’t going to do it by halves. The black dress she was currently wearing was very nice, but black felt to commonplace. Everyone owned a little black dress. Anything red she dismissed as trying too hard, and instead reached for a fitted dress in dark purple and the jewelry to match.
Shimmy out of one dress and into the next she clasped the jewelry in place, slid on a pair of black embellished heels, and turned towards the closest mirror. Mack blinked, several times, but the image in front of her remained unchanged.
She’d seen the hair and makeup as they were being done, and Mack had personally been involved with selecting every garment Roxy had forced upon her. Yet, there was something surreal about seeing the finished product staring back at her. Mack supposed she should be pleased to find that she really did look the part. She could have easily blended in at cocktail party hosted by Bruce Wayne or Veronica Vreeland. That should have been comforting after learning that the people in Harv’s crowd tended to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Instead it just scared the hell out of her. Mack didn’t even recognize herself.
“You’re not supposed to look like you,” Roxy interjected, able to read the expression on Mack’s face without difficulty. “It’ll be easier for you this way,” she assured her. “When you wear these clothes you’ll be putting on the act of your life. It’s best if there’s nothing in the mirror that reminds you of your other self.”
“Besides,” Roxy added with a mischievous smile, “wait until Harv gets a load of you. The look on his face when he sees this…” Mack couldn’t help but share in the grin Roxy was now sporting.
“Now the restaurant we’ll be going to,” Roxy began, stepping back from the mirror and reclaiming her previous seat at the center of the private showroom, “is one of Mr. Giovanni’s.”
Mack trailed after her, taking the seat across from her, not missing the pointed look Roxy was sending her. “I still don’t understand why I can’t call him Tater? Everyone else does.”
“Mr. Dent’s sense of the appropriate is skewed at the best of times,” Roxy commented, “and his lieutenants are afforded that courtesy only as a nod to the station they hold in our society.”
Mack pursed her lips and voiced something she’d been thinking about for most of the day. “If we’re supposed to be constructing a persona for me that will fool the entire criminal underground, then I’d think a little insubordination would be entirely in character.”
Roxy lifted one brow in question, waiting for Mack to explain. “Everyone knows that Harv visited my shitty bar for over a month before Schultz tried to kill me. Not only did he save my life, but he helped instigate a coup in return for my safety. If I’m really supposed to be his mistress, then wouldn’t I be just a touch smug about that? I mean, how many of those other women can say their bosses would have done the same for them.”
“Except we’re trying to avoid those comparisons.”
“It’s a little too late for that isn’t it,” Mack shrugged. “Those things happened. Wouldn’t it be more suspicious for me to act like every mistress in the joint? Because I’m not. From what I’ve heard so far, people already believes he likes me better than his previous women.”
“Which,” the brunette clarified, “I know gets me only slightly more than nothing. I’m just suggesting that the occasional bit of cheek might be more in character than trying to down play the events that led me here.”
Roxy was silent for a long moment, and then, “that would be a very fine line to walk Mack.”
“That’s not a no,” Mack pointed out.
“It’s not a yes, either.” Roxy warned, unwilling to endorse the idea, but not quite ready to dismiss it either.
Mack accepted the non-answer for what is was and decided to move. Okay,” Mack started, “we’ve already been over the family alliances, the people I’m likely to encounter, and the behavior expected of me. So, before we go, walk me through a typical night out with Harv from start to finish.”
“First,” Roxy acquiesced, “the boss doesn’t keep normal business hours and neither do his associates. You could be with him on a Saturday and then turn around and be needed on a Tuesday.”
“And will I get some sort of advanced notice?”
“Probably not,” Roxy shrugged apologetically. “Men in his situation don’t normally like to plan to far in advance because it increases the risk of being…” she paused, and then rephrased. “It helps to avoid unwanted attention.”
Mack nodded in understanding. He was trying to avoid being caught. “So what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to run my business if I don’t ever know when I can be there?”
“You’re going to need to hire a staff,” Roxy told her. “Whether you do the hiring or we send someone over to cover for you on a regular basis, the outcome and the cost will be the same. The only difference is whether or not you do it yourself. How dirty do you want your hands to get?”
Roxy watched as Mack flinched slightly, but knew that was how Mack saw their money. As something tainted, either by how he earned it or how she did, but the result was the same. If Roxy couldn’t convince Mack to address the problem herself, she was prepared to do it for her. It was a gamble making her choose like this, but she was betting that Mack was the sort of person would never ask someone to do something they weren’t prepared to do themselves.
Mack tightened her jaw ever so slightly, and Roxy knew she’d been right. “You’re the second person to tell me something like that,” Mack responded, unable to shake the bad taste the idea left in her mouth. “I managed to find a way to hire someone part-time, and even that’s not enough for them,” she scoffed. “The two of them won’t be satisfied until they’re hijacked my entire fucking life.”
“No,” Roxy agreed bluntly, “they won’t, and it’s too late to turn back now.”
“Those people,” she jerked her head in the direction the store staff have gone, red curls bobbing with the sharp motion, “have normal lives, with normal problems. They don’t have to worry about being used as leverage against their loved ones, that someone will try to murder them on the way home, or that the cops will come knocking on their door looking for a known felon.”
“All they have to do is go to work, pay the bills, and figure out what they’re making for dinner later that night. They have time to worry about those things. “We don’t,” Roxy stressed. “It’s hard enough trying to live with the consequences that come with this lifestyle without also worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to pay the rent.”
“Except you got to keep your career,” Mack countered, meeting her stare for stare.
“And you’ll get to keep yours,” Roxy interjected, “just not in the way that you’re used to. Hire some employees for the day to day work, and do the accounting, the payroll, and the inventory yourself. Hell, work the bar when you’re not with them, but you have to have the freedom to step away when you need to.”
“I…” Mack rubbed her forehead as if fighting off a headache. Christ, but she didn’t want to have to do this. She didn’t want to be a glorified manager, she wanted to hide behind her bar and pretend this wasn’t happening to her. Except no one would let her, and it was incredibly tiring. “Fine,” she said shortly, “I’ll think about it. Now,” Mack prompted, hoping to change the subject, “what else should I expect?”
Roxy accepted the conversation shift, hoping that she’d managed to convince her. “The boss will pick a time in place to introduce you to his associates, and you’ll accompany him to an event. Usually they’re underground casinos, or a club with a private or VIP lounge. The other families will have various representatives present, and after a few moments on his arm, he’ll dismiss you.
“At that point,” Roxy explained, “you’ll be expected to mingle and make small talk with the other guests. If he wants your company he’ll let you know, otherwise don’t bother him. Since he only goes to these events to discuss business, it can take anywhere from twenty minutes to several hours.
“You’ll be expected to stay as long as he does,” she stressed. “He will not leave without making arrangements for you, and you will not leave before he does, except at his direction.”
“The other guests will try and milk you for information,” Roxy warned. “Don’t make any promises, and no matter how innocuous the questions never give away anything. You’re expected to divert these questions without being openly rude; however, if someone directly insults you make sure you respond in kind.”
“I am also familiar with how you usually interact with the boss, but you cannot be so familiar in public,” Roxy reminded her. She had already mentioned this several times today, but given the history between Mack and her boss, she wanted to take every available moment to remind her. If she were lucky, maybe it would actually sink in.
“No matter what he says, no matter what he does, just smile and nod. Anything you wish to say can wait until you are in private. We’ve already discussed Mr. Dent’s views on violence and women, and as long as you’re respectful he will be. However, the other families have their own codes of honor, and some are not as stringent as ours. Do not interfere.”
“Also, some of the women like to throw their man’s weight around as if it was their own,” Roxy reminded her, “don’t be intimidated.”
“You know I’m still not clear on this. How do you throw someone else’s weight around?” Mack asked in disbelief. “They’re not the ones with the money, power, and armed criminals ready to do their bidding.”
“No, but you do have the ear of a very powerful man. If you told him that some lower level criminal had offended you, he’d make sure that something unpleasant happened to them. And,” Roxy elaborated, “unless the person in question was someone of importance he’d never even question your word.”
Roxy found the horror on Mack’s face quite comforting. At least she wouldn’t be abusing that particular perk the way some women had.
“Just remember that you have his complete protection. He’s well known for his brutality, and if someone is actually stupid enough to threaten you, be prepared to watch him shoot someone. No matter what happens, remember that you represent him. As I mentioned before, he does not like to be embarrassed.”
Mack stared at her for a long second, stunned at the volume of information she’d just been given. While it was nice to not be in the dark anymore, part of her also wished she hadn’t asked.
Don’t worry,” Roxy reassured her. “I’ll be with you for the first few times to help you get your bearings.”
“Now if, god forbid, you are ever caught with the boss by the police or Batman, you will say nothing until your lawyer arrives. No matter what they say or pretend to offer you. Say nothing.” Roxy took a small business card out of her purse and handed it to her. She’d been saving the hardest bit for last, and hoped that Mack would take it as well as she had everything else she’d been told today.
“This is our lawyer. He works only for us, and you can trust him explicitly; he’s well paid for his silence. He has been notified that he is now on retainer for you so everything you say to him from this point forward is protected under client privilege. Listen to him, and do exactly what he says.”
Roxy looked at Mack, her expression grave. “If you remember nothing else then remember this. No matter what happens, you are always the victim. The boss kidnapped you. You were his hostage, and in fear for your life. You never met him prior to the incident. You were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Still with me,” Roxy checked, continuing on when a wide eyed Mack nodded.
“Your apartment is as secure as we could make it. You should leave all aspects of your life with the boss at that apartment. Your clothes, jewelry, and credit card should all be kept there. If there is ever any question about the volume of personal items present at the apartment you are still the victim, the only thing that needs to change is the duration of your imprisonment.”
“Arkham inmates have a history of obsession with people. The Mad Hatter has Alice, Harley Quinn has the Joker, and Mr. Freeze has Nora. Even the Riddler had it out for a previous business associate. That history combined with our excellent lawyer ensures you have a solid defense.”
“Roxy, you’re kinda scaring me here,” Mack admitted, paling when faced with the very real consequences of her actions.
“A little fear is completely normal, but please know that any evidence against you can be easily lost, and we can ensure that you have a very sympathetic judge should any charges brought against you progress.”
Mack’s eyes widened, at the suggestion that not only did Harv have the power to destroy evidence, but to strong arm a judge as well. “Well,” Mack replied weakly, “that’s a relief.”
“Do you any questions about what we just went over?”
Mack shook her head no, not quite trusting herself to speak. “Then let’s pay Zac and head over to Adelino’s,” Roxy suggested. “With traffic you should have about ten minutes to collect yourself and prepare for dinner.”
Once more Mack handed over her credit card, but found herself uninterested in the total for the first time today. In light of everything she’d just learned, the money really was starting to seem less and less important. Avoiding jail had very firmly knocked ‘not spending Harvey’s money’ of the top of her to do list.
The black sedan pulled up to the curb, only a few doors down from Adelino’s, while the woman inside clutched at the door handle, willing it not to open. The ten minutes Roxy had promised her had felt a lot more like ten seconds, and any appetite Mack had vanished the minute the car stopped.
“It’s very important that you pay attention to any subtle hints I might give you,” Roxy warned. “Even in a smaller setting, people will be looking for weakness to exploit.”
“And Mack,” she added as Jason moved to open the door for her. “Breathe.”
Roxy stepped out onto the curb and Mack let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. Troy prompted her with a gentle, “Ms. Mackenzie,” before reaching out a hand to help her out of the vehicle. The fact that he kept his other hand close to his gun did not go unnoticed.
“Do I need to be concerned,” she asked him softly.
“Always,” he murmured back, “especially when we’re outside the boss’s territory.”
Roxy waited until Mack was on the sidewalk next to her, and then leaned in. “Unless you’re giving orders,” she told her quietly, “don’t talk to the hired help.”
Mack nodded, adopting the bored and indifferent face that Roxy had made her practice, as they approached the restaurant. It was one of many facial expressions Roxy had insisted she practice today.
Once inside the maître d was quick to approach, and Mack chose to believe that was because he recognized Roxy and not herself. A belief that was hard to maintain when he ignored the woman at her side, and spoke directly to her.
“The regular table, Miss?” The gentleman asked, his smile a little too friendly to be real.
“That won’t be necessary,” Mack lied with a cool smile. Personally, Mack felt it was very necessary. According to Roxy, Harv had a permanently reserved table in the back, away from prying eyes, and while Mack would have loved to use it, that idea had been vetoed on the drive over. It seemed Roxy didn’t feel hiding in the back would count as a test run.
They were lead to a table that, while against the wall, was in clear view of the rest of the restaurant. Which meant people were not only free to stare at her while she dined, but were probably already doing so.
A quick glance around the room confirmed her suspicions, and she quickly met the eyes of an older gentleman giving her a flat unfriendly stare. Mack blinked and then realized that Solvetti and an older dark haired woman, presumably his wife, were sitting several tables over in a partial concealed booth. The presumed missus leaned forward to speak to him, and a short answer later was looking at Mack as though a small bug had just stepped into view.
For a moment she considered turning away, but decided that refusing to acknowledge him would be crossing a line. Instead she merely gave the two of them a curt nod, and then dismissed them. From across the table Roxy closed her eyes, and prayed that Mack’s attitude wasn’t going to get them both into trouble.
Mack saw her expression and felt the sudden need to justify herself. “Well, it’s not like Harv likes him anyway,” she reminded her dinner companion.
“It’s not Solvetti I’m worried about,” Roxy responded. “It’s his wife.”
Mack lifted one eyebrow, hoping that she was managed to convey curiosity rather than confusion.
From the small nod Roxy gave her, she’d been successful. “Solvetti has a mistress, and his wife knows it. However, he’s not quite as progressive as Giovanni is. Solvetti does not tolerate the outspoken behavior that his counterpart does.”
“So… Tater’s wife bullies him into not taking a mistress?” Mack asked incredulously.
“No, but he allows her a certain amount of freedom to express her displeasure. Mrs. Solvetti, however, has to repress her anger with her husband until she finds an unwitting target to take it out on.”
“Ahh,” Mack replied. “So she hates all of us, then. Thinks we’re all whores. Which,” Mack’s displeased tone belied the indifferent look on her face, “I suppose most of us are.”
“Most of you, yes.” Roxy agreed with a nod. “But it seems were in luck tonight. If she was going to approach you, she would have most likely done it already.”
“Small favors,” Mack murmured, leaning back to make room for the beverage she’d ordered. “And my guards,” she clarified softly. “They’ll stand here the whole time, waiting for me to finish eating?”
“Yes, now take a moment to collect yourself and then look around the room. You can’t appear as though you’re nervous or uncomfortable, and staring at me or the table all night says exactly that.”
Mack sighed and did as she was told, while Roxy continued to whisper instructions.
Is there a reason you’re being a stubborn son of a bitch about this, or are you just doing it to annoy me? Harvey asked his other half.
Since when is pissing you off not reason enough? Harv shot back, before turning towards the car window, mentally calculating their time of arrival.
At least call Roxy, Harvey gritted his teeth. Mack is not exactly great with surprises, and the last thing we need is her to say something inappropriate.
It’s not much of a test if she has time to prepare.
Actually…, Harvey drawled
Fuck you, Harvey.
Look, I get it. You want to see how she reacts under pressure. But…
But nothing. Harv cut him off. I’m hungry, and I’m not fucking taking this broad anywhere until I know she’s ready.
Well by all means, Harvey’s voice dripped with disdain, just walk through the front door of the restaurant and summon her with a snap of your fingers. I’m sure she’ll love that. It’s not like Mack has an irritating habit of being rude when you treat her like an employee.
She is my fucking employee, Harv snarled back. And my goddamn mistress had better be able to interact with me in front of other fucking people.
No, she’s your girlfriend, Harvey corrected, and the way she regularly interacts with you would get her shot in front of other people. But don’t worry, I’m sure that when you tell her to jump she’ll remember to ask you how high, instead of telling you to fuck off.
Their car pulled in front of Adelino’s, and Harv shoved the door open, stepping into the chilly night air.
She tells me to fuck off, and I really will choke her this time.
Instead of replying, Harvey decided that praying would be a better use of his time.
Mack played absently with the straw in her glass, listening as Roxy explained the hate-hate relationship between the wives and mistresses. It wasn’t a surprising revelation, but the history between some of the women was rather interesting. Especially when the wives became ex-wives so that mistresses could become new wives. For a group of criminals they were surprisingly obsessed with scandal- or at least the women were. Maybe they just had too much time on their hands, Mack mused.
Their conversation dwindled off as the tension in the room ratcheted up several notches, and then she heard the soft warning call from Jason
“Uh… Ms. Mackenzie,” he muttered quickly, eyes darting towards the restaurant lobby.
Mack followed his gaze and found herself staring into the eyes of her mob boss. Harv crossed the floor in long steps, stopping in front of her table just long enough to give her an imperious come hither motion with one leather-gloved hand.
For a moment Mack froze, completely surprised by his sudden appearance, and then to the shock of everyone who knew her, stood up and fell into step behind him. Internally she was scrambling for equilibrium, but she thought she’d hidden it well.
“My apologies, Harv,” she murmured, once at his side. “If I’d known you’d be joining us, I’d have asked for private accommodations.”
He heard the criticism in her words and sent her a hard look. Mack met him stare for stare, showing him nothing but the expression Roxy had deemed acceptable.
“I wasn’t aware I needed to run my movements by you,” he retorted, voice deceptively silky for such a loaded response. They passed through a partially open, sliding wooden door into a private dining room large enough for eight.
“Of course not,” she agreed, “but it’s my fault you had to expose yourself to collect me. The last thing I want to be is a hindrance.”
The hard look he sent her last time felt like a love tap compared to the way he scrutinized her this time, looking for some sign of deception. He found none, and should have been pleased.
Don’t tell me you miss- what was it you called her… Harvey mused. Oh yeah, my girlfriend. Well, he gloated, you wanted a mistress, and now you have one.
“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it,” he told her shortly, pulling his gloves from his fingers.
It took all of her willpower to keep the anger she felt from showing in her face. “Speaking of opinions,” she replied, gesturing to appearance, “mind sharing yours?”
His eyes flickered over her appearance, before dismissing her to remove his over coat. “How much did you cost me?”
Her eyes tightened ever so slightly at his dismissal, and she started to wonder if he was deliberately goading her. “I lost count,” she told him.
Does she expect me to fucking believe that?! He sneered.
Harvey decided it best to keep his opinions to himself, particularly since he was inclined to agree with his other half.
Behind her the rest of his entourage filed in, taking a seat at the far end of the table. Though Mack wasn’t sure if that was to stay out of the line of fire, or an attempt to provide some small amount of privacy. From the dark look on their boss’s face it was probably the former.
Harv took a seat at the nearby table, and she joined him, falling silent as the staff brought in her beverage from the previous table, and took orders from the rest of them.
Once the hired help had left, Mack turned back to her mob boss only to find that due to the restraints on her behavior- she had absolutely nothing to say.
“Finally speechless,” Harv drawled vindictively.
Mack was suddenly very grateful for the hours of practice Roxy had demanded from her, as she finally realized that a neutral facial expression was the only protection he’d allow her. By demanding her silence he’d already stripped her of her greatest weapon, and in return Roxy had provided her with the only thing she could. A shield.
“I thought that was what you wanted,” she told him with a pleasantly blank smile.
So did I. Harvey murmured in the recess of his mind. But then it’s hard to savor a victory when your opponent is handicapped before you even you step onto the battlefield.
“Mack,” he snarled, both irritated with her and Harvey, “shut the fuck up.”
She stared back at him, and for long moment he was positive she was going to refuse. So why was he so disappointed when she simply looked away?
The car ride back to her apartment was a stifling experience, and Mack edged closer to the door as if preparing to make a run for it as soon as she could. These little motions did not go unnoticed by the man next to her, and with each inch of distance, the angrier Harv became.
You need to calm down, Harvey warned.
Fuck her and fuck you too. Harv shot back, tone becoming more agitated by the second.
She’s only doing what you asked her to do.
When the fuck did I ask her to flinch away from me?!
Then calm down. You can hardly blame her from moving away from the ticking time bomb next to her.
The crazy bitch threw a table at me, and hit me in the face! She’s too stupid to actually be afraid of me!
Yeah, she usually is, Harvey agreed. Except… he trailed off, not entirely sure his thoughts on the matter wouldn’t just make things worse.
No, go ahead, Harv mocked, explain it to me.
What the fuck do you want me to say?! Harvey sputtered. You spent the entire last hour being a complete asshole to her, and the only thing she could do is sit there and take it. She probably doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore.
Mack couldn’t say for sure, but she was fairly certain that Harv was actually moving from angry to fucking furious just by sitting there next to her. At first she’d thought that his employees had managed to piss him off prior to arriving for dinner, but the longer she sat next to him, acting the part he’d demanded she play… the angrier he got.
This, in her opinion, was pretty fucked up, since she was the one trapped in her own personal hell, unable to respond to any number of shitty little barbs he’d directed at her. Originally it seemed as though he was simply testing her resolve, but after a while it had started to feel like he was actively trying to goad her into the kind of response he explicitly forbade. The only way she’d survived dinner at all was by mentally compiling a list of things she wanted to discuss with the prick she’d mistakenly agreed to date.
By the time the car pulled into the parking structure beneath her newly gifted apartment, she was trying to avoid breathing too loud, and he was barely restraining his desire for violence.
Mack wasted no time in heading for the nearby elevator, and Harv, after ordering a very quiet Kevin and Brian to wait in the car, was hot on her heels. The elevator ride up was the longest of her life, and after disabling the alarm inside the apartment, she turned to face the dangerous man at her back.
Her first thought was to ask him what the fuck his problem was, but she dismissed this idea almost as soon as she’d thought it. No doubt he’d take that response as an invitation to take his anger out of her, and in her opinion she wasn’t the one who’d done anything wrong.
Instead she settled for a detached, “Tell you what. You go ahead and destroy the living room in an impressive display of temper, and when you’re finished and ready to stop treating me like shit, I’ll be in my room,” Mack turned on her heel and heading for the hallway.
Silence reigned inside Harv’s head for one long moment and then,
You promised not to hurt her, Harvey reminded him seriously.
The lack of response from his other half only worried Harvey more. Harv, you swore.
Mack refused to look back to see if he was following her. Hell, she didn’t have to. She’d pretty much guaranteed it after saying some shit like that, which in retrospect probably hadn’t been the greatest idea. Especially since she’d quite literally backed herself into a corner by setting the stage for this show down in a room with only one exit, and nowhere to maneuver.
She entered the room, not bothering to close the door, and turned to face him- unsurprised to find him in the doorway.
“You know what. Stop,” she ordered him, voice ragged from barely contained frustration of her own. “Just fucking stop, and look at me for Christ’s sake.”
Her request surprised him, and his eyes traveled the length of her of, seemingly of their own volition. “I spent all goddamn day learning how to be your perfect fucking mistress,” she accused him, gesturing wildly at him as he slowly approached. “Spent all day dressed up as something I’m fucking not!”
“And,” she finished, composure unraveling as her voice crept up an octave, “you don’t even fucking appreciate it. You asked for this, remember?!” She finished, all but shouting at him.
“Well I don’t fucking like it,” he thundered back at her. “If I wanted to sit next to some spineless twit all night I would have fucking bought one!”
The silence that followed was deafening, and Mack stared at him in disbelief, trying to swallow around the sudden lump in her throat. “Harv,” Mack said, a quiet desperation creeping into her voice. “Take this shit off me.”
His hands were on her in an instant, the zipper along her spine snapping open as Harv pulled at the fabric covering her. Mack shrugged her shoulders free before shoving the dress down, his hands wrapping around her waist before the garment made it past her hips. With a quick lift of his arms she was airborne, landing on the bed behind them with a soft, “oof.” Harv shed his jacket, striding after her even as he tossed his tie to the side.
She watched him bearing down on her, wetness pooling between her legs at the sight of him stripping down to his dress pants. Mack hurriedly shimmied out of her dress, kicking it to the side before using her toes to discard her heels. His weight caused the bed to dip and she groaned as his hands found the center of her, fingers running across the black lace separating him from the heat between her thighs.
With clumsy fingers Mack managed to undo her bra, his thumb rubbing a distracting rhythm against her still covered slit. Her breasts spilled free and it followed her dress to the floor as she rose to her knees to meet him. She wrapped her arms around him, her nails ghosting along his back, while his muscles rippled beneath her hands. A soft gasp echoed through the room as Harv lowered his head to her chest, teeth scrapping at her nipples as she buried her hands in his hair. His weight pressed down on her, threatening to pull her underneath him, but she rolled to one side letting him collapse next to her on the mattress.
Slinging a leg over his hips, Mack quickly straddled his waist, not bothering to hide the triumphant look on her face. Dark eyes met her own, and whatever protest he was about to make died on his lips as she started to slide down, unzipping his pants as she went. The rest of their clothing joined the growing pile on the carpet, and then Mack was lowering her head to lick a path down his abdomen to the hard length of him.
She swirled her tongue around the tip of his cock, teasing with little flicks of her tongue. Mack took the very tip of him into her mouth, sucking lightly and tasting him until she’d pulled a soft growl from the man underneath her. His hands fisted in her hair, and she stilled completely, refusing to let him dictate the speed of her exploration.
His growl turned threating as he issued a dark, “I’ll get you for this Mackenzie.”
She shivered in anticipation of his inevitable revenge, and held his eyes with her own before gently grazing him with her teeth. Harv bit back a moan, refusing to give her the satisfaction of seeing him lose even a little of his vaunted control. He released her hair, his own expression promising retribution in the near future.
As a reward for his reluctant submission, Mack hollowed her cheeks and sucked him into the warmth of her mouth, humming her approval. Her head bobbed up and down as she pleasured him, her teeth and tongue ghosting along his skin. Harv fisted his hands in the sheets trying to resist the temptation to wrap them in her hair even as the heat and pressure of her mouth drove him to distraction. Electricity sizzled down his spine and his heels dug into the mattress unable to stop from thrusting up into her mouth,
She froze, her hands gripping his hips even as her nails dug into his thighs. Mack wasn’t strong enough to keep him still, but the pressure she applied made her wishes clear enough. His patience snapped, pushed until all he could think about was driving his cock deep into her. The strangled, “fuck,” was all the warning she had before he surged up, pulled her mouth from him, and shoved her onto her back. A quick shift of her hips and his cock was buried to the hilt in her, pulling a hiss from him as she stretched to accommodate his width.
The look Harv sent her was downright scorching, and she knew from the glint in them that she was about to pay for her defiance. He pulled her legs up until each one was resting against his chest, and moved.
Mack cried out, white hot heat consuming her as his rough thrusts stole the breath from her lungs. His every stroke rubbed across the most sensitive inner parts of her, and now it was her turn to claw at the sheets. She trembled beneath him, feeling the burning desperation to cum as he rocked her roughly towards completion. He felt her contract around him and knew she was almost there. “Are you close, baby?’ Harv murmured, watching her face contort in need. “You wanna come on my cock, Mack?”
She whimpered before begging him with a strangled, “Harv, please.” It was a futile request, and from the desperate look in her eyes, she knew it. He stopped, just before she could finish and Mack dropped the submissive act, swearing at him with narrowed eyes.
Harv leaned over, her knees bending to accommodate the way he was contorting her. “You started it,” he snarled, one hand on either side of her head.
“You deserve it for being such an ass.”
“I’d stop while I was ahead, Princess.” He warned.
“Make me,” she shot back with a challenging look.
For a long moment she wasn’t sure he was even still breathing. “I’ll do you one better,” he said murmured with a wicked smirk.
Mack sent him a confused look as Harv flipped them over, his hands wrapping around her hips as she found herself suddenly straddling him again. She’d been taunting him this entire time, and now he was going to roll over and let her resume control?
She eyed him warily, but wasn’t about to waste the opportunity he’d just given her. Mack rolled her hips, gasping as she rode him with slow easy strokes. Her hands slid up to cup her breasts before she tugged lightly on her nipples, moaning as she took want she wanted from him.
The smug look she received in response was not reassuring and her rhythm faltered as his hands tightening around her hips. He stilled her movement with ease, nudging her own thighs farther apart with his own and ruining her leverage. Slowly he lifted her, only to pull her back down into the forceful upwards thrust of his hips. Her lips parted, a wordless cry turning into a sharp intake of air as the hard length of him slid home and sent fire singing down her nerve endings.
“Oh god,” she choked out, her hands gripping his wrists. Mack swore, trying to pull out of his grip and regain some semblance of control, but moving Harv when he didn’t want to be moved was impossible. “You can be on top all you want, Baby,” he taunted, “but you’ll never be in control.”
Her back arched as he angled her hips, setting a rough pace that had her squeezing down on his cock, even as she clawed at the hands holding her in place. His name echoed through the room as she cried out, voice shredded as she trembled above him. Each upward thrust drove her closer to the edge and with a final snap of his hips he pushed her over, her pussy clenching as she came around the hard length of him.
He hissed in triumph, eyes bright with dark satisfaction as he slowed, dick still buried inside her tight cunt. Mack took a deep shuddering breath, trying to slow her breathing before suggesting a truce in a shaky voice.
“Why should I,” he scoffed, sitting up and wrapping one well-muscled arm around her waist. “I’m not the one who needs an assist.”
Mack narrowed her eyes at him, “and how often do I actually ask you for something.”
“Rarely,” he agreed before dipping his head to the side of her neck. He bit her lightly, pulling a breathy moan from the women in his lap, his tongue teasing a path up to the shell of her ear. A raspy, “ride my cock,” sounded in her ear, and Mack answered him with a groan and a shift of her hips.
Her wanton cry sounded through the room, as she moved against him, her hands clutching at his shoulders. Harv swore, his dick throbbing as she sped up, struggling to find her own release.
She cried out his name, her hands shoving his own back down to her hips followed by a ragged and desperate, “please.” He agreed wordlessly, lending her his strength and relishing the way she forgot herself as together they worked her up and down his cock. “So close,” she whimpered, “Harv, I’m so close,”. Beneath her, Harv’s breathing turned ragged, as her warmth tightened around his dick. He whispered a dark, “cum for me,” and watched as she flew apart above him. His thrusts became erratic as he chased his own relief, her hands still clutching him. Mack threaded her hands into his hair and pulled, his eyes snapping to hers and then widening as she whispered all the naughty things she wanted him to do to her. She squeezed down on him, his rhythm faltering until he swore, flinging his head back as he finished inside her.
Darkness had long since fallen over Bludhaven, and inside his office Black Mask was surrounded by blueprints and structural details of the Aparo Expressway. Only the occasional scratch of pen against paper marred the silence around him, as he calculated the best way to bring the bridge crashing down at the entrance to Miller Harbor.
A grim smile stretched across his features as he imagined Two-Face’s fury once the rat bastard realized who it was that blocked the entrance to his precious harbor, and singlehandedly ruined his flow of cocaine into Gotham City.
Payback was a bitch. Of course, this wasn’t just payback, it was revenge. He wouldn’t just ensure the closure of the harbor, he’d make damn sure those docks were burnt to the ground the way his had been. Having decided on a course of action, and the necessary steps needed to get there, he called in his second in command.
He said nothing, merely shook one hand at Tattoo impatiently. The list of available armaments was in his hand within seconds, and he was pleased to see that they could move forward immediately without having to pay a second visit to Shaughnessy.
“I’ve clearly marked the structural weakness of the bridge; make sure they don’t fuck it up.” Black Mask glowered at the thought of his often incompetent employees.
“And the docks themselves,” Tattoo inquired, mentally calculating the amount of plastique they’d need.
Roman’s mouth curled into a cruel smile and Tattoo fought the urge to step back. That facial expression never boded well. “I think a flamethrower ought to send the right message.”
Black Mask turned and fixed his employee with a burning stare, “No one leaves that dock alive.” Tattoo gave him a sharp nod in the affirmative and his boss turned to other matters, knowing that his point had been made.
“What about the bitch and her old man?” He demanded, nodding to the large file that lined a nearby table.
“He’s been by her house and bar at least once, but she was gone both times. Presumably with Two-Face.”
Roman lit a cigarette and inhaled a lung full of smoke, considering his options. What he’d first thought was a simple case of Two-Face being a territorial fuck was starting to look like something else. Their source inside Two-Face’s organization was reporting that he’d spent the night with her. Actually turned his back on a woman he’d known for only two months, and slept next to her. There was no way in hell she was just another mistress to him.
“Wait until he makes contact with her, and then bring him in.” Black Mask stated.
Tattoo echoed a stoic, “yes sir,” before receiving a curt dismissal from his boss. Once outside the office, he made his way towards the men waiting for him. If he hurried, they could be prepared and on their way to Gotham by tomorrow night.