Mozzie’s phone rang in the middle of his meditation. He ignored it. A calm mental outlook was important to his overall health, and he let nothing interfere with that.
Half an hour later, he checked his messages to see that Jabir had not only called but left a text: Someone’s asking about Neal Morrisey.
He returned the call immediately. “Tell me more.”
“Hi, Mozzie. Long time, no see.”
“Cut the crap, Jabir.” Already his peaceful outlook was fading.
“You asked me to tell you if anyone came around looking for your friend. Middle-aged American man is asking questions about him on the street. He’s flashing pictures and saying Morrisey’s name is Caffrey. He’s offering money for information. ”
Mozzie pressed his lips together. Had to be Burke.
Was it a coincidence the Suit was here right after the Monet was stolen, or had the theft prompted him to fly to Paris? Was he chasing Neal with the intent of putting him in jail again, bringing him back into the FBI fold as a CI, or only trying to locate an old friend?
Perhaps it was time to make contact with this person from Neal’s past.
“Give me his contact info.”
The next afternoon, as snow fell lightly on Paris, Neal called Harris. “Have dinner plans?”
“I do if you’re asking me to join you.”
“I’m asking. Any diet restrictions?”
“What, like not being able to eat salt?” Harris laughed. “My blood pressure is still good, thanks.”
“I meant vegetarian or some other limitation.”
“Oh. No, I’ll eat just about anything.”
“Les Bougresses then. French and European cuisine. Meet me there at eight?”
“Looking forward to it.”
The call ended. Neal put down his cellphone and smiled.
The restaurant, on the Rue de Jarente, was dark wood and stone with subtle lighting. Perfect for an assignation, though that wasn’t why Neal had chosen it. He liked the food, which was simple but well prepared, and the wine was good.
He slipped on jeans and a dark green button-down shirt. Harris had seen him in a suit. He wanted to appear less stuffy tonight.
He arrived early to choose a satisfactory table—away from the front door, bar, and kitchen—then ordered wine. It would get more crowded and noisier the later it became, but right now, it wasn’t bad. The place was popular with the locals, but tourists found their way here, too. He heard British accents at the next table and an Asian language being spoken at another.
When Harris blew through the door, Neal beckoned him over. The black leather jacket was back, but the T-shirt was red tonight. There was snow in his dark hair and dotting his shoulders.
Harris pulled out a chair and sat opposite Neal, looking around. “First time I’ve been here. Interesting lighting.”
“They serve some of the best food in Paris. Rustic, hearty, but beautifully presented.”
“And what’s available tonight?” He removed his jacket and hung it on the back of the chair.
“Looks like beef, duck, and salmon.”
He looked at the menu. “What’s foie gras? I’ve heard of it, but—”
“The enlarged fatty liver of a duck, usually produced through force feeding. They stick a tube down the duck’s throat.”
His jaw dropped. “Are you serious? Christ, it always sounds so good in books.”
“If you get it from the right place, it’s like any other meat. I don’t know their source here, though.”
“I’ll pass. A happy duck produces happy meat, and force-feeding probably doesn’t foster happiness.”
Harris ordered filet mignon, and Neal decided on the salmon. They started with a brie salad, which was delicious.
They chatted about nothing in particular. They’d both downed a couple glasses of wine, and Neal’s stomach was filling with excellent food. He was relaxed and content, a state he sought more and more often since his escape to Paris.
Perhaps buying an island was a stupid idea. He and Mozzie had briefly lived on one a few years ago, and it had been fun for a while, but in the end, he’d returned to the States, missing his old life and friends.
“Why did you call?” Harris wiped his mouth with a napkin, then drank from his glass.
“I wanted to see you again.”
“I enjoyed talking with you the other night. I’m enjoying it tonight, too.”
“You’re not gay.” He set his glass down and gave Neal a sharp look.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“When you’re gay, like me, it has fucking everything to do with it.”
“So we’re not allowed to be friends because our sexual orientation is different?”
He sat back, gazing at him speculatively. “Maybe we’re not so different.”
A dark thrill went through him, and he didn’t even know why. “I’ve only ever been with women.”
Harris leaned forward. “Until now,” he whispered.
Neal shivered and looked away. Harris’s expression was too intense. It made his skin burn. “I wasn’t interested before.”
“But now you are?” Harris touched the back of Neal’s hand, a caress that startled Neal with unexpected pleasure.
Neal met his eyes without flinching. “Now I am.” He hadn’t planned to say that, but there it was, out there in the open.
“Since meeting me.”
Harris rose half out of his seat, leaning over the table so he could get close enough to Neal others wouldn’t overhear. “You want to kiss me?”
He made a throaty sound Harris accepted as an affirmative.
“You’ll see my dick. I’ll see yours. Are you okay with that?”
He inhaled sharply. “I… I think so.”
Harris abruptly withdrew, forked the last bite of steak into his mouth, chewed and swallowed, then finished his wine. He dabbed at his mouth, then rose and tossed the napkin on his plate. “You’d better be sure before you follow me out. I’ll give you five minutes.”
He wasn’t gone more than one before Neal was throwing money on the table and leaving the restaurant.
Go to Chapter 3.