He wasn’t the sort of man driven by impulse; not the way Stark was, all gonads and glib smiles. No, Tony got to pull off the playboy lifestyle with his armfuls of pretty women clinging to him, following him to bed because the image made for good PR, and the kid had a seemingly insatiable libido.

Obadiah Stane though, had more important issues to deal with, and when the occasion called for a date he always managed to find someone to look good for the photo ops. Nothing any more serious than what Tony had, but without the glitter that caught the attention of the paparazzi.

Someone discreet, convenient and well compensated for her time.

He preferred it that way; women were necessary, and amusing at times, but on the periphery of his life. The only ones who mattered were Stark’s handler, Pepper, and a few key secretaries and managers at SI. Obadiah treated them with courtesy and recognition, just enough to insure that they stayed loyal.

That was the way of things for him.

Consequently, Obadiah Stane was completely unprepared for his initial reaction to Xochitiotzith Perez, Director in chief of Dynamic Aeronautics. More specifically, he wasn’t prepared for the flare of raw lust that surged through him, putting him mentally off-balance for a moment. He managed to regain his composure as he strode over in her direction.

She was bent over a drawing table in one of the design bays along the hangar, sketching a plane wing, and the position pulled the skirt of her suit tightly across her muscled ass while showing off her trim legs. Given that her pose itself was unconsciously, erotically submissive, Obadiah forced himself to clear his throat to change the view and stop the erection thickly rising in his boxers.

“Ms. Perez?” he rumbled courteously.

She kept drawing, small hand swinging over the paper, ignoring him. Obadiah paused, feeling the first prickle of annoyance. He spoke again, this time more sharply. “Ms. Perez?”

“You said that already Mr. Stane. What do you want? I’m very busy right now,” came her distracted reply as she brushed a strand of her shoulder-length hair out of her eyes. She hadn’t bothered looking up, and that made his irritation flare, along with other things. Obadiah covered it with a small, bland smile and moved closer, judging that his natural height would give him a bit of a psychological advantage.

He said nothing, letting the tension build. She was aware of him standing there; Obadiah knew because she’d shifted her weight a little in reaction. Finally she slammed her hand down and looked up at him, and the glitter in her eyes held just enough anger to make him smile.

“Yes?” she demanded, the attempt at a growl sounding more like a squeak, and he got his first good look at Xochitiotzith Perez.

She was tiny, just over five feet if that much, and yet curvy and lush, clearly a woman and not a child. Her nose was small and snub, her lips plump and her complexion was a rich cream de cocoa. Obadiah was sure that if she smiled, she’d be lovely.

Right now she was frowning, and all that did was make her look sexy and sullen and completely desirable. Obadiah had the sudden urge to loom over her at the drawing table and pin her to it while he kissed the pout off her luscious mouth.

Angry at himself for the fantasy, he shoved the thought away and held out a hand. “I seem to have pissed you off without meaning to. Obadiah Stane, Stark Industries.”

Reluctantly she slipped her grip into his; it was warm and strong despite the small size of her palm. “Zo-chee-Teeo-zeeth Perez, call me Xochi because there’s no way you’re going to get it right. Stark, huh?”

“We’re interested in single operator flight systems under standard size,” Obadiah replied, holding her hand a moment longer than decorum permitted, enjoying the chance to assert some dominance now that he had her attention.

She left her hand in his, not reacting to his maneuver as she cocked her head. “Under Cessna size? Under Schleicher glider size? Give me dimensions, Stane. I can’t help Stark if I don’t have some specifics here.”

“Something under Schleicher, but with propulsion capacity,” Obadiah shot back, wolfishly amused at how all business this little package was. Her hand still lay in his, and out of curiosity, he kept holding it, wondering who would be the first to acknowledge or break the grip.

“Fuel or closed system propulsion?”

“Ideally closed system, although we’re hoping for something for more than a single use,” He replied, keeping his voice light. “Atchison said you had some prelims along a rocket pack line.”

Xochi’s mouth pursed, and one eyebrow went up. “Just a moment.”  Without moving her hand, she fished in her pocket with the other one for a cell phone and whipped it open. “Danny? Atchison’s fired. Out by today. Thanks.” She turned her attention back to Stane. “You were saying?”

In a move of concession unlike his usual self, Obadiah Stane lifted Xochi’s hand to his mouth, lightly brushing the back of it with his lips. She let him, and when he looked at her again, he wasn’t smiling. “I think we’re going to get along, Ms. Perez.”

She stared at him a moment longer, and one corner of her mouth twitched. “Pick him up and I’ll sue you for poaching, Stane.”

Obadiah laughed.

***   ***   ***

She was smart, and impatient and sharp with him, prickly and suspicious right through all his attempts to charm her, and Obadiah liked that. There weren’t many women he couldn’t soften with compliments and a genial attitude, but Xochi Perez always looked at him as if she suspected a hidden agenda, and that was refreshing.

It was interesting to be seen for what he was; Tony never did. Obadiah knew that brilliant as his protégée was, Tony took him, Stane completely at face value, and that was incredibly useful most of the time.

He arranged for a meeting that drifted into the dinner hour, and talked her to a good restaurant. he’d nabbed the bill, waiting for her protest. She kept quiet, and the next day the restaurant refunded his credit card. When Obadiah pressed for an explanation, the owner muttered something about a third party paying and wouldn’t give a name.

Obadiah felt his hackles rise along with his libido. He ordered flowers delivered to Dynamic Aeronautics.

There was no thank you; no call.

The next time Obadiah saw Xochi Perez, she was in his office sitting in his chair and looking over a thin sheaf of schematics laid out on his desk. She didn’t glance up when he entered.

“Don’t send me flowers, Stane. We aren’t dating, we aren’t fucking, so knock the social niceties off. This is a business deal.”

“What’s the drawing?” he asked, moving around the desk to stand next to her, ignoring her orders. He could smell her perfume; something musky and spicy.

Xochi ran one small hand over the blueprint, and her voice softened to a purr. “This is a DART. Interested?”

“Talk me through it,” Obadiah ordered, leaning down on his knuckles, and he kept his eyes on her profile as she leaned on her forearms and spoke rapidly.

“Deployable Accelerated Rapid Transport. Smaller than the average luge and rider with similar controls, all streamlined for us. It’s a prototype; we haven’t built one although a lot of work’s gone into the schematics here and the suggested components and alloys. A working model could be made for just under a million and a half.”

“Interesting. How do you get it launched?”

“Depends on the propulsion system, although if you’re looking for closed, I’d suggest a drop from a larger aircraft; maybe something the size of a business class Lear,” Xochi murmured, tossing her hair out of her eyes. “Go bigger and you could launch more than one.”

“Shown this to the government fly boys yet?” Stane asked, moving fractionally closer. He enjoyed watching a little quiver run along her spine, and hoped he was the cause of it. Xochi turned to look at him, dark eyes annoyed.

“They’re not looking to invest in single man flight; not cost effective in a war zone, Stane. The fact is, Dynamic Aeronautics hasn’t got the R&D budget to knock out a prototype, just the plans, so tell me—is this what Stark wants?”

“It could be,” he murmured, well aware that it surpassed the criteria for the project he had in mind. Obadiah rose up, prepared to start the real negotiations. Xochi rolled up the plans and sat back in his chair, holding the tube like a scepter as she locked eyes with him.

“Bullshit. You want the DART and I’ll sell it to you for a good price and two stipulations, Stane. We don’t need to haggle.”

He crossed his arms. “You’re right; we don’t. Here’s what’ s going to happen. You are going to sell me the plans for a million even, and Dynamic Aeronautics will be on the team from prelim to launch, with name placement at every stage of the PR, and fifteen percent of the profits if the market takes off. And I have only one stipulation.”

Xochi rose up from the chair and moved towards him; she looked up, her expression absolutely fearless. “Tell me; I could use the laugh.”

“By the way, what the hell did you do with my flowers?” he asked, deflecting and waiting to see what she would say.

 Xochi’s mouth curved into a cynical smile. “Oh I pulled all the petals off the roses and sprinkled them in my thong drawer.”

Obadiah laughed; hers was the defiant hiss of a kitten, and the fact that this woman simply was not afraid of him made his lust flare again. “And here I was thinking you’d thrown them away.”

He leaned down, crowding into her personal space, trapping her between his chair and desk, eyes mirthlessly bright as they held hers. “You don’t like me, and I respect that. But I’m going to buy those plans, you’ll take my deal, and you’ll fuck me too, because deep down, we both know exactly what we are and what we’re getting.”

“Is that so?” Xochi breathed. “Took you long enough to figure it out. I thought you were the smart one at Stark Industries.”

In a move swift as a snake strike, Obadiah slid a big hand around the back of her head and pulled her face close to his. She was breathing hard now, but not with fear, and Xochi licked her lips.

“Christ, you’re one platinum-plated bitch,” he growled at her, and kissed her, hard.

Obadiah wasn’t prepared for how hot and soft her mouth was, how yielding and lush it truly was. The taste of Xochi made him hard, and he drew the kiss out, pulling her tiny form up against his. She was panting when he finally let her breathe.

“Nnnnnice,” she told him in a husky voice, eyes languid with desire. “But we need to get the DART deal down on paper before this goes any further, Stane, baby.”

***   ***   ***

That night they met up at the five star Omni hotel; Obadiah had a standing reservation there at the penthouse, and wordlessly he and Xochi stepped in just after sunset. He slammed the door behind him and reached for her; she leapt up, kissing him hard and deep as Obadiah carried her towards the Master bedroom, not bothering with the lights.

Lightly he tossed her on the bed and reached impatiently for his tie, unknotting it as she lay back for a moment to watch him. “In a hurry?”

“Take your damned clothes off,” Obadiah barked, flinging his tie to the chair in the corner. Xochi laughed and rolled over, reaching for the zipper at her left hip and undoing it. She slithered out of her skirt, lightly dropping it over the side of the bed, then crossed her legs provocatively, showing off her stockings and high heels for him.

Obadiah grunted, fingers blindly undoing shirt buttons as he stared. She wore a pair of thigh-high stockings, delicate little black things with elastic ribbon tops that matched the petite thong she was pulling off, and the sight was enough to make him slightly clumsy. “Fuck.”

“Mmmmm,” she taunted him slightly, rolling over to flash her bare ass as she shrugged out of her suit jacket. “Hurry up, Stane.”

He gritted his teeth, all too aware of how damned much he wanted her now; to take her roughly and make her cry out. Obadiah undid his slacks and kicked them away, then rolled on a condom and  stretched out over the bed, catching Xochi’s wrists to pin them to the mattress as he loomed over her, his smile deceptively gentle.

“Aren’t you the snotty little princess? I think we’ve had enough foreplay, Ms. Perez; time to get fucked.”

“Yummy,” she growled back, and slid her legs up along his hips as Obadiah Stane lowered himself onto her.

He thrust into Xochi, being deliberately rough, his beard grinding against her shoulder has his big hips rocked. She gave a low groan, the breath seemingly driven from her even as her legs wrapped around him. Obadiah felt her tug to free her arms and he shifted her two thin wrists to one hand, bracing some of his weight with the other, although he was nearly overwhelmed by the heat and sweet, sweet squeeze of her little body.

Xochi writhed under him. “Oh damn you, move Stane, come on!

He felt himself swell within her, snug and throbbing, as she wriggled again, the spikes of her high heels spurring him on. “Shut up,” Obadiah grunted, and began to drive himself deeper into her.

They didn’t speak after that; it was all wordless and angry and slick as their bodies moved in hungry synchronization, the slap of stomach on stomach, the steady thump against the mattress loud and shameless. Xochi’s damp thighs tightened around him each time before she came, and Obadiah fought the urge to join her through her two climaxes.

Finally though, he felt the unstoppable tension along his inner thighs, the quick, hot desire erupting in heavy pulses through his cock. Obadiah nipped Xochi’s shoulder to muffle his deep roar of pleasure. He collapsed on her, satisfied to keep her under him while he savored the deep physical contentment of release.

After a while, she sighed. “Condom’s gonna leak.”

He grunted in acknowledgement and pulled away from her, fingers around the base of his prick. Lazily Obadiah pulled the sheath off, knotted it and dropped it on the nightstand. He stretched out, relaxed and quiet, pulling an equally limp Xochi and tucking her against his ribs. “Get some sleep; we’ll do room service in a while,” he rumbled.

Her only reply was a soft sigh, and they slept.

***   ***   ***

Obadiah woke first, checking his watch out of reflex, pleased to see it was just after eight. He looked over at the woman pressed up against side, and the sight of her sleeping stirred him. He took the time to study her nude body, savoring the curves and sculpted muscles of her petite form.

Xochi’s hair lay tangled on her shoulder and half over her face, obscuring her features, but the ripe roundness of her breasts pressed against him made Obadiah smile. He was tempted to cup one in his hand, but didn’t want to wake her just yet. Instead, he kept looking, letting his gaze drift to her full hips, and the soft, dark curls between them.

He stiffened, growing hard at the sight, and unable to resist, Obadiah pulled Xochi over his own body; she flinched awake, glaring at him before settling on his torso, cheek resting on the thick hair along his pecs. “What time is it?”

“Time for round two,” Obadiah told her lightly, stuffing a pillow so he could sit up against the headboard. “Jesus, do you weigh anything at all?”

“Ninety. Damn you’ve got one big spear,” she muttered, wiggling her hips against his. “Or missile I guess, since you’re with Stark.”

“My own private Jericho,” Obadiah murmured, hands sliding from Xochi’s waist to her hips. “And I’m going to share it with you.”

“Damn right you are,” she muttered softly. Xochi slipped a hand down between their bodies, caressing Obadiah’s shaft in a slow, teasing stroke, making it swell against her palm. “I’m hungry.”

“We’ll order in,” he reminded her, but she shot him a hot-eyed look.

“That’s not what I meant—” Xochi murmured before slithering down to rest between his furry thighs and lightly lick his prick.

Obadiah put one arm behind his head and sighed. “Not sure I should trust you with those teeth.”

“Oh I can be nice when I want to,” came the reply, and she bent her head over him, mouth sliding over the broad, blunt end of his shaft. Obadiah fought a rush of pleasure at the searing heat of her mouth, enjoying the sensation; it had been a long damned time since his last blowjob, and clearly Ms. Perez had hidden talents he was more than happy to receive.

“Keep that up . . .” he warned a while later, his voice thick, “and there are going . . . to be . . . consequences--”

Her encouraging hum was more than enough for him, and Obadiah closed his eyes, savoring the sounds of sucking, the perfect, slick slide of her mouth. He reached out to cup the back of Xochi’s head. Weaving his big fingers in her hair, he gave a rough groan as he came, thick and hard.

She choked a bit, but swallowed, eventually wiping her lips against his thigh, giving Obadiah a slightly cynical glance as she rose up from the bed. “Now we’re even.”

He arched a questioning eyebrow at her as she sauntered, naked, to the doorway of the bathroom. Xochi looked over her shoulder adding, “Two for two, Stane. I’m taking a bath. If you get around to that room service, I want grilled salmon, a baked potato and steamed baby carrots.”

***   ***   ***

They met up every few days at the Omni; the staff was discreet, and few people were interested in the personal life of Stark’s CFO. Nevertheless, they kept their connection quiet.

During his days, Obadiah put her out of mind as best he could; he was never a man for personal connections, which he saw as the weakness of others. He kept himself out of that trap, and moved people around on his daily chessboard, each according to what was best for the moment.

Some people were easy to keep in check. Tony, for instance. Put either Rhodes or Pepper in danger, and you had Tony by the balls. He might be able to bluff folks who didn’t know him, but the kid’s loyalty was his Achilles’ heel, and Obadiah understood that intimately.

But Obadiah couldn’t quite get a grip on Xochitiotzith Perez. By rights she shouldn’t be willing to keep sleeping with him; she’d already sold him the DART plans, and whatever legitimate contact they had was minimal.

And yet he craved her; was privately pleased to find her already there, sometimes working on designs, sometimes on her laptop. Xochi would look up and set aside whatever she was doing to come to bed.

Sometimes they were rough; wrestling across the mattress, fighting hard for dominance until he pinned her under him and took her forcefully. Sometimes she went geisha and gave him a slow sweet massage before impaling herself and riding him in languid strokes.

Obadiah couldn’t tell what to expect when he stepped into the suite, and that gamble was as addictive as the woman inside.

He didn’t love her; sometimes he didn’t even like her, at least during the moments when his brain was in charge. Yes Xochi was smart, but she knew it, and didn’t pretend she wasn’t. But she was also sexy as hell, and absolutely fearless around him.

“You’re not buying me, Stane, don’t insult the both of us,” Xochi told him, tossing back the jeweler’s velvet box to him, unopened.

“What if I called it a gift?” he asked, curious.

“What if I shoved it up your hairy ass?” came her dry retort.

“What if I want to give you a gift?”

She cocked her head and looked at him, her expression unreadable for a moment; Obadiah could see centuries of ancient Mayan blood in her then, the proud profile of a princess. “Then you’d just have to make me take it, wouldn’t you?”

And he caught her then, pinned her against the wall and put the diamond pendant around her slender throat, breathing down into her upturned face. “I want to see that bouncing between your tits every time I fuck you.”

And she kissed him then; a slow unexpectedly tender kiss that Obadiah sank into completely. He picked Xochi up and carried her to the bed, peeling her out of her clothes until all she wore was his necklace and a soft smile.

“Why is everything a contest with you?” Obadiah wondered gruffly, bending down to bite the inside of her knee. “It’s just a damned present.”

“Make me come; that’s the present I want,” Xochi whispered, hips wriggling. Obadiah pushed her thighs apart, gazing down at the lush dark curls and glistening pink folds of her pussy, feeling his pulse quicken; his cock surge at the sight. He knelt down at the edge of the bed, ignoring his knees, and nipped the inside of one of her thighs, working his way down the delicate skin to the thicket of her curls, letting his beard lightly scrape her flesh.

It was maddening to taste Xochi; the tart and sweet flavor of her slickness made him want to hurry and take her. Obadiah understood there was a sense of trust at work here though, as well as a chance to show off his own considerable erotic talents. He exhaled a hot breath over her curls and settled in for a long, cruel session of teasing.

***   ***  ***

The Stark Industries Anniversary Cocktail party was a black tie affair, by invitation only and one of the few functions that Obadiah permitted himself to enjoy. Generally it took place at one of the more lavish hotels in Los Angeles, and was top of the line in all aspects, including company.

Tony was generally well-behaved for it; even he didn’t want to risk annoying too many investors and partners. Obadiah could count on Pepper and Rhodes to keep Tony in reasonable check while he himself moved through the crowd, pleased at sight of so much prestige and wealth in one place.

Obadiah knew Xochi would be here; he hadn’t seen her in two weeks, the both of them caught up in business trips and other unavoidable circumstances. He was looking forward to crossing her path here, aware that the party would give her an opportunity to showcase herself.  She was well-aware of her beauty. Not that Xochi was vain, precisely; Obadiah sensed that his lover merely accepted her looks as a tool and a gift, and he admired her ability to understand that.

He looked over the crowd, noting various CEOs; Old Money names from the East Coast; a prominent starlet or actress here and there. Over in the corner, Tony was holding court apparently, with a few munitions cronies, and a small curvy figure with her back to him. Obadiah stiffened, recognizing the slim spine and rounded hips; he moved through the crowd before he’d realized it, feeling an urgency tinged with anger.

As he got closer, he noted several annoying things. First was that Tony was flirting heavily with the woman, flashing his carelessly seductive smile at her, intentions clear. Obadiah had seen the process far too often not to recognize it by now, and for the first time in his life, Stane’s irritation rose to the limits of his self-control. He forced himself to smile, teeth gritted hard as he approached them.

The second annoyance was that Xochi was clearly flirting back, her soft laugh and sweet smiles giving Stark far too much encouragement. She was in a mini-dress of frosted pink with a halter top that failed to halt a spectacular view of her cleavage. Nestled into it was a familiar diamond pendant, and the twinkle drew far too many masculine glances.

Obadiah felt his pulse pound and his body tense. Forcing himself to relax, he turned his gaze to Tony and tried to speak in a jovial tone. “Tony! Keeping the best for yourself I see.”

“Well I deserve it, especially at this party,” Tony quipped back, his gaze never leaving the tiny woman in front of him. Obadiah risked a glance at Xochi, feeling breathless for a moment when she looked up at him, dark eyes holding his gaze.

“Mr. Stane, isn’t it? You’re a big one.”

“And still only number two,” Tony interjected playfully, “Although to be fair, the majority of the crowd here should be groveling to Obie; he’s that good.”

“How intriguing,” Xochi murmured. “I do like men who are . . . good.”

“Some of us manage to be good even though we’re bad,” Tony pointed out. Obadiah shifted, drawing himself up and with effort, kept his smile soft. The other people seemed to sense his tension, and shifted away, leaving the three of them to their own conversation.

“Bad has appeal too; everything in context,” Xochi replied, allowing a hint of innuendo in her tone. Tony smirked.

Obadiah did not.

“Tony here knows all about bad. Probably a bit too much,” Obadiah managed to make it sound like an avuncular chide.

Scowling, the head of Stark Industries looked around. “That’s where the fun is in life. I’m getting some champagne for all of us. Be right back.” With a playful point of his finger, Tony sauntered off, leaving Obadiah and Xochi standing alone.

He locked gazes with her. “Stay the hell away from Tony.”

“It’s good to see you too, Stane,” she murmured, a sardonic smirk on her face. “Love the suit.”

“Never mind my damned suit. Nobody’s taking panties off of you tonight but me, got it?”

“Too late,” Xochi sighed, “I don’t have any on. Care to see?”

Obadiah’s jaw tightened and he shifted, shooting one hawk-like glance around the crowd. “Come with me.”

“I,” Xochi moved in step with him towards the elevators, “intend to.”

They made their way to the bank of elevators and caught the last one on the end; it was empty, and Obadiah’s glare kept it that way. The doors closed and he turned to the woman next to him, scooping her up into his arms, kissing her hard as he pressed her back to the cold marble wall of the car.

She laughed, knees coming up around him. “Oh I’ve missed you, brute,” Xochi gasped between kisses.

“I ought to spank you,” came his gruff reply. “Christ, leading that spoiled brat on just to wind me up—“

“Would I do that?” came her coy question.

Obadiah pressed harder against her, baring his teeth. “You’re mine.”

The glare in her eyes sent a chill through him, and Xochi growled softly. “The fuck I am, Stane. I am not your plaything. I’m with you by choice, not a Goddamned mandate. Let’s be absolutely clear on that.”

His hands were sliding under her dress has he held her ass, and he could feel her bare warm skin under the garter straps. Obadiah groaned, rubbing his nose against hers, aware that the elevator was slowing now. “I want you.”

Xochi kissed him, mouth opening to his, lost in the forceful heat of the man in her arms. The door pinged open to the garage, and the chill of the night air blowing in from the parking back made them both pull apart reluctantly. Obadiah set her down and she smoothed her skirt, shooting him a glance full of heat and promise.

They stepped out, passing under the flickering florescent lights and he led the way towards the valet booth, neither of them talking. A young man in uniform came out, looking at Stane with respect. “Sir?”

Before Obadiah could tell him which car to bring around, an odd sound made him turn; Xochi was swaying, her small body moving in spasmodic jerks. He watched, stunned as her eyes rolled up, and before she fell to the cement floor, he caught her awkwardly with one arm.

She kept spasming, her seizure powerful enough to send one high heel flying. The valet murmured a ‘fuck!’ and turned to alert his associate in the booth behind him as Obadiah lowered Xochi and kept one big hand under her head, fingers in her dark, warm hair.

***   ***  ***

He watched her stir; waking up sluggishly, her little shoulders tightening up as consciousness returned. It brought forth tenderness and exasperation in him, and Obadiah set down the newspaper he’d been staring at for the last hour, leaning over the rails of the bed to look at her. “Welcome back.”


“We’ll get back to that soon enough,” Obadiah told her, reaching carelessly for her hand. It was cool and limp in his, but he let the heat of his own seep in and warm it; when she tried to pull it away he tightened his grip. “So . . .”

“So,” she tried to glare at him, but in the dim light of the hospital room Xochi looked weak and vulnerable. “Go away.”

“I can’t do that,” he replied heavily. “You should have told me.”

“Oh sure,” came her weak sarcasm. “Because you’ve always wanted to screw a spaz, I’m sure.”

“Shut up and listen to me. I’ve got high blood pressure. Tony’s had more STDs than an entire frat house. Nobody’s perfect, and I don’t give a damn about your epilepsy except the need to know part so I can help, got it?”

“I don’t want your help, Stane. I don’t want you to know this about me and lord it over me, because a man like you thrives on the weaknesses of other people,” she told him, her voice shaking slightly. “Don’t tell me you don’t.”

Obadiah leaned over her, looking down into her face. He waited a moment, and then rumbled, “You done?”

“Damn it—“

“—Because I’m having you discharged and we’re going back to the Omni to sleep.”

“You’re pretty damned sure of yourself,” She glared up at him, but when he bent and kissed her, she returned it.

Obadiah gave a low sigh. “Yeah, well for some fucking reason I sleep better with you.” Xochi looked at him skeptically, but he gave a careless shrug. “You don’t want to stay here; the room service is terrible.”

It was a weak joke, but she managed a small smile just the same.

A few hours later, Obadiah lay on his back, head and shoulders propped with pillows, feeling the warm, sweet weight of Xochi stretched out on his torso. She was asleep, or damned close to it; they hadn’t done anything more than climb into bed, but it was clear that she still needed the rest.

He didn’t mind.

For the moment Obadiah was content; he had things to think about anyway, and the quiet warmth of the penthouse was the perfect place to consider how to change the course of Stark Industries. In two days, Tony would be receiving the Apogee award, and after that, he’d be off to demonstrate the Jericho. If all went according to plan, that would be the last useful thing the kid would do, and he’d be remembered as a patriot and hero.

It wasn’t something he looked forward to, per se; but Tony was becoming a liability; hadn’t done anything productive or outstanding in nearly two years, and his antics were getting too damned costly. Better to have him go out in an incident that would make the sale of the Jericho a done deal.

Obadiah slowly stroked Xochi’s sleek, bare back, and sighed.

***   ***   ***

Things didn’t quite work out as planned. Obadiah, a veteran of plan B understood this; nevertheless, the cat and mouse days of waiting for messages both legitimate and clandestine about Tony were difficult to work through. The only saving grace were his few nights with Xochi.

She never asked what was going on though she must have suspected there was more to his preoccupation at times; Obadiah appreciated that discretion on her part, and took time to indulge them both. He took Xochi to lavish restaurants in out of the way places; brought her with him on business trips, and when she asked, he played the piano for her.

The gift of her undivided attention left him content and melancholy at times, and once in a while Obadiah regretted he hadn’t met Xochi sooner than this. She made him laugh, she made him think, and she made sure he never took her for granted, even when he loomed over her, trying his damnedest to intimidate.

Little by little he drew Xochi out, learned things about her beyond with the private investigator’s report had revealed to him. How she was the youngest of six, the only girl in a family of boys. How Xochi had been the only one to make it to college and beyond; resented by her brothers and father for her natural talent in engineering, disowned for not joining the family business.

She didn’t like talking about her family anymore than he did about his, and Obadiah understood. They were both loners by nature, sharks in the difficult seas of business, finance and industry. Still, it was odd to him how much he looked forward to seeing her at the end of the day, and how easy it was to sleep with her within arm’s reach.

On his birthday—an event he didn’t bother observing, generally—Xochi took him to a Japanese steakhouse, and they had succulent kobe beef and hot sake wine. Once the meal was over, she handed him a heavy package wrapped in red velvet paper. Curious, and amused, Obadiah took it. “Getting sentimental?”

“Yes,” she murmured back in a sultry tone, “I’m all about the hearts and flowers, especially when I’ve got your prick in my mouth. Come on; open it up so we can go back to the hotel.”

Obadiah barked a laugh and carefully undid the paper, revealing a velvet box. Inside lay a customized Rolex Submariner, elegant and breathtaking. He blinked, stunned by the gift, then looked across the table at the woman there.

Xochi tried to shrug and gave a small smile. “Don’t make me pin you against a wall and put it on you.”

“Oh it could be a hell of a lot of fun if you tried,” he told her slowly, taking the watch out of the box. The candlelight twinkled over the polished links, and Xochi reached over, and Obadiah held out his left wrist, letting her slip the old one off and the new one on him, her little fingers uncharacteristically clumsy. The gesture was intimate and when he looked at her, Xochi looked as if she wanted to say something and was afraid to.

Obadiah caught her hand and kissed each finger. She closed her eyes, lashes sparkling.

They started kissing in the elevator, and kept doing it along the short hall to the suite and into the darkness inside, becoming more urgent with each one. He knew his way in the dark, and picked her up, carrying her to the bedroom, his stride lengthening with each step. Xochi was licking his ear, whispering deliciously filthy suggestions, and his cock was throbbing hard.

He turned, falling onto the mattress, taking Xochi with him. They tumbled together, tugging impatiently at clothes. She had fewer on; it was easier to strip her, and she tossed her hair, looking wild in the dim light. Obadiah kissed her, nipping her bottom lip and she growled her squeaky little growl, pulling his shirt open and raking her nails lightly over his furry chest as she straddled him. “I love . . .” she caught herself quickly and continued, “the feel of you, Stane. How big and furry and hard you are.”

Obadiah felt himself ache for a moment, wishing she hadn’t changed her words and knowing why she had. They didn’t love each other, not in any romantic noble way. They had sex, and a modicum of physical comfort together. Nothing more.

He was too old and too cynical to think otherwise.

But at the same time, Obadiah breathed in the scent of Xochi, tasted her musky warm skin and knew better. Moving quickly, he pulled her down to him and rubbed his beard across her bare breasts; a move Obadiah knew she liked. “Come here,” he grunted, kissing as much of her as he could.

She laughed and wriggled, moving to undo his belt and get his pants off, actions complicated by his easy manhandling of her in the process. “Mmmmm, oh I want you, pleeeeeease--”

There was something about the way Xochi could say that, low and sultry that made his pulse speed up, and Obadiah impatiently kicked his way free of his slacks, cursing a little, but amused too. He’d always been one for sex like this, and the freedom to be rough was exhilarating. Xochi worried one of his nipples in her teeth and the pleasure/pain of it made Obadiah growl a little. His cock throbbed impatiently. “Damn it—”

“Don’t lie; you like it, Stane.”

He rolled, pinning her down, prying her knees apart with one of his own. Xochi laughed up in his face, hips wriggling. “I dare you,” she taunted him.

“No contest,” Obadiah informed her, looming over her supine form, supremely confident. Xochi slid her legs around him, calves hooking his hips.

“Naked, Stane. No condom. Fuck me skin to skin; I want to feel you gush inside me,” she crooned, licking her lips. “Hard and deep, just like you want to.”

Obadiah swore even as his impatient cock throbbed at her words. He pressed down on her, rubbing himself on her flat, warm stomach and scowled. “No.”

“I’m safe,” she told him with a little smirk, tongue flicking out at him. “But if you don’t trust me, then fuck me and pull out. You can do that; you’re in control, aren’t you?”

As she spoke, Xochi tightened the grip of her legs around him, grinding herself against Obadiah and shivering with pleasure. The sight and feel of her, soft and wild was overwhelming and for a moment he had to close his eyes. “You bitch.”

“And nothin’ but. Come on, come on—fuck me hard and naked, I want you so badly,” she pleaded, trying to tug her hands free of his grip. “It’s going to feel so fucking gooooood, sweetheart.”

He tensed.

She’d never called him anything but his surname, and the sound of the simple endearment hit hard, bringing up something within so strong it was almost painful. Obadiah let go of her hands and reached down, pushing her small thighs apart, nudging the blunt head of his cock along her slick cleft, a low growl in his throat.

Then he thrust, sinking into her luscious heat, making both of them gasp. Obadiah groaned, trying to stay in control, fighting hard not to give in to the exquisite pleasure. Under him, Xochi whimpered, her nipples hard against his furry chest. “Ohhhhhhhhh!”

Obadiah flexed within her, and began to stroke steadily, his big hands flat on either side of her shoulders on the mattress. “Is this what you want, Princess?”

“Yesss,” came her low, dazed answer, “God, yessss---!”

He pumped into her, tense and angry, but over it all, unbearably hungry for the feel of Xochi, the salty taste of her skin, her teasing tongue. Every thrust, every throb of his pulse echoed her name in his head, and Obadiah felt himself relentlessly driving towards that searing rise of unstoppable heat.

Under him Xochi arched and raked his back, her nails leaving furrows along his skin, her voice rising and breaking as she urged him on, a stream of honeyed profanity flowing from her. “God yes, oh harder, yess, so good, make me come, make me come hard, sweetheart, you’re so fucking good . . .”

She tensed around him, lifting her hips, her small body flexing as her climax left her breathless, nipples rock-hard, and the sound of her delighted cry sent Obadiah over the edge himself. He grunted, hips driving him forward with each thick eruption deep within Xochi. When he was finally drained, he slumped onto her small frame, pinning her for a moment as he caught his breath, stunned at the fury of his release.

Her arms tightened around him, and she tried not to make any noise, but Obadiah could feel her tears. For a moment he hesitated, wanting to pull away, turn from her, but tentatively he nuzzled the side of her face, his breath hot against her wet cheek. “Shhhhhhh.”

That reassured her, and Xochi kissed him, her gentle sigh against his lips. “Damn,” was all she could manage. Obadiah smiled a little at that and shifted, rolling off of her and to one side, aware of the wet slide of his softening cock across her thigh. He stretched out, breathing deeply, relaxed and yet conflicted, not speaking as he closed his eyes.

Next to him, Xochi sighed. She rolled away from him, and Obadiah could feel her shift on the mattress. He looked up; she was sitting, arms crossed, rubbing her shoulders, expression woebegone.

“Where are you going?” he demanded, a pang of worry in him.

She turned to look his way, expression shifting back to her usual tough look. “Oh come on; I can’t stay. I almost . . . I almost said something I shouldn’t have. That thing we’d both regret, Stane.”

He propped himself up on one elbow, torn between relief and further concern. Part of him couldn’t deny that letting Xochi walk away was the smart thing to do. Obadiah hadn’t come this far in life to let himself be distracted by personal involvements, no matter how beautifully packaged they were.

Then Xochi smiled at him, looking over her shoulder, and the curve of her mouth in that intimate smirk he’d seen so many times was like a hook through his chest. He reached for her, hand closing around her upper arm, pulling her down to him almost roughly in his fear.

He couldn’t let her go.

Didn’t want to let her go.

“Stop it. Come here. I’m a year older, and cranky old men don’t like sleeping alone.”

“Cranky, yes,” Xochi shot back, letting him tug her up against his chest. “Old; I don’t think so.”

He settled her on his torso, relaxing as he looked up into her face. “Xochi . . . I’m not a good man. You know that. You know that, and you sleep with me anyway. You are . . .” he sighed, “the only good thing in my life.”

She stared at him, her expression troubled. “Stane---”

“Shhhh,” came Obadiah’s slightly stern order. “This is as sentimental as I get, so I’m only covering this once. We’re not saying it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to it, you understand me?”

They held each other’s gaze for a long, intense moment.

Then Xochi blinked, and smiled. “Sweet talker. And you’re sleeping on the wet spot.”

Obadiah grumbled. “Not for long.”

***   ***   ***

Then Tony came back. Built himself a damn armored suit and took out his captors, then blasted the hell out of there and back into civilization. Obadiah was impressed. Pissed, of course, but impressed; the kid still had a few aces up his sleeve. It was a hell of a shock to see him sliding out of the limo, pale and bruised, but alive, damn it.

And then everything went to hell at the press conference. Obadiah smiled and bullshitted after Tony’s bombshell, feeling like he’d been publicly kicked in the nuts by the ungrateful little shit. It hadn’t helped to find out the kid had tinkered up an arc no bigger than an iPod and was permanently wearing the damned thing.

None of this made Obadiah Stane a happy camper. He kept his smile up, and fed Tony a line of bullshit about laying low, about investors and the board and quietly made sure he got all the pieces of that damned armor out of the desert and back to Stark Industries. Raza hadn’t wanted to give them up, but Obadiah went out to see him in Afghanistan, and personally took care of their disagreement.

He brought back a beautiful handwoven rug for Xochi.

Given that Tony was hunkered down at his mansion doing God knew what, Obadiah decided it was time for a little reverse engineering. What Tony wrought, Obadiah could improve, and he pulled together engineers, technicians and assorted geniuses into Section 16 and had them go bigger and better on the armor.

They came through on everything but the damned power source, and that was when Obadiah knew what he had to do.

***   ***   ***

He sent her the invitation and she showed up at his office, cool and beautiful in a beige dress and matching jacket, her hair pulled back neatly in a tortoiseshell  barrette. Obadiah could see her curiosity as she stepped in, her glance moving around the room, seeing if they were alone.

“Stane,” she murmured.

Obadiah rose from his chair, and came around to her. He took Xochi in his arms and bent to kiss her, hard, glad of the taste of her plump lips. She kissed him back, and made a small face when he pulled away. “Cigars.”

“You want one?” he asked her just to see her reaction. Xochi sniffed, and tried not to smile.

 Instead, she dropped herself into one of the chairs and pinned him with her slightly worried gaze. “Maybe later. What’s so important I had to re-schedule a design conference to come see you, Stane?”

He sat on the front edge of his desk and ogled her legs as he spoke. “I’m getting tired of the Omni. I was thinking after tonight we should look into something more personal. More . . . permanent.  But I know better than to just spring something on you and get threatened.”

“Because I scare you so much,” Xochi did smile at that. “Well well, this is a big step. Got someplace in mind?”

Obadiah shrugged. “There’s a place in Malibu that might be coming up for sale soon. Great view of the ocean.”

“Sounds nice,” Xochi replied, still cautious. “I’d like to see it first.”

He nodded. “Sure. No rush; I’ve got some things to take care of before we settle matters. We can put that rug of yours in front of the fireplace.”

“I’d like that,” she told him softly, and rose up, coming to lean against him.

Obadiah kissed the top of her head. “Good. I plan to be at the Omni early tonight; I’ll have to go before ten.”

“Room service it is,” Xochi agreed, tiptoeing up to nip at his lips. “We’ll make it a good last night there.”

“Thermidor and champagne,” Obadiah agreed.

“Doggy style,” she whispered back.

He walked her to the door and watched her saunter away, feeling slightly elated.

***   ***   ***

If it wasn’t for the fact that he was probably going to have to kill Tony in a few hours, it would have been a perfect evening, Obadiah mused. The dinner had been fantastic; the view of sunset over Los Angeles and the woman curled up at his side all made for as close to happiness as he ever got.

Still, it was clear that Potts, probably at Tony’s direction, had gotten into information that was best left alone, and with this in mind, Obadiah sighed regretfully and looked at the capsule in his hand.

A single Benadryl, more than enough to put a woman of Xochi’s size out for the rest of the night. Shielding his actions, he opened it and dumped the contents into her champagne, then reached over to hand her the drink. She was smiling, damp and beautiful against the rumpled sheets and took the glass willingly.

“Thanks. I needed that,” she smirked.

“The champagne or the fuck?”


Obadiah watched her drink, noting her features; her strong, delicate frame and trusting gaze. Feeling melancholy, he took the empty glass from her, setting it aside. He kissed her lingeringly, and pulled her across his slightly sweaty fur, onto his chest.

She settled down against him, warm. “Stane? I thought you said you had to go early.”

“There’s time,” he assured her, and stroked her bare back.

When she fell asleep, Obadiah gently shifted her to the mattress and tucked the sheets around her, checking her pulse. He dressed quietly in the dark, and fished out the two page note, setting it on the pillow beside her.

For a long moment he looked down at her, then bent and let his lips graze hers before Obadiah Stane slipped out of the suite and into the night.


I know you’re pissed, but it was important to keep you out of this, and we both know why. All you need to know right now is that if this note is here in the morning and I’m not, then things went wrong.

I love you. I wish to hell I’d met you earlier, Princess, but that’s not the way things happened.

Under this is the access authorization for my private account at Los Angeles National. All yours. I’d suggest a long vacation for the next few months, and after that, you do whatever the hell you want, baby, because this world’s not good enough for someone like you.

Hate me if it’s easier, but

All my love---



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