Artist: kanarek13 Art Post
Fandom: White Collar
Characters/Pairings: Neal/Peter, Neal/Jones/OFC, Neal/Jones, Elizabeth/Jones
Word Count: 30,188 - Part Two: 7,588
Beta Credit: Beta credit goes to the lovely elrhiarhodan, miri_thompson, and embroiderama.
Warnings: Dub Con, BDSM and dark themes
Summary: Author Peter Burke can't seem to get a handle on his latest gothic horror novel--until he meets Neal Caffrey. There's something about this charming, sophisticated club owner that strikes a chord with Peter. But is Neal all that he appears to be? Or is Peter entering a world of darkness that he may not be able to come back from?
Peter was ready to tear his hair out by the time Elizabeth arrived four hours later.
She set his dark roast and a pastry on his credenza and waited until he’d finished flinging obscenities at the computer. Peter looked up to see her watching him, a tiny smile on her face.
“Wanna share?” She perched on her usual spot on his desk, crossed her legs and nudged him with the end of her peep-toe Laboutins.
“It’s crap, El. It’s all crap.” Peter huffed and sat back in his chair. “I’ve just spent the last several hours writing utter garbage.” He waved at the computer with a grimace.
“How do you know it’s garbage?” She rested her foot on his thigh and he absentmindedly began rubbing her ankle.
“Let me read it to you.” Peter cleared his throat.
“Demetrius knew that the full moon was rising, despite the thick, roiling clouds. He wanted to howl, to be heard above the rising winds, he wanted blood and gore and the feel of hot, fresh meat in his mouth.
“He wanted to be an animal.
“A thousand moons had waxed and waned and the suffered through this torture every month.
“‘Let the beast go and we're finished.’ His lover, Marcus, stood in the doorway, briefly illuminated by a flash of lightening. Marcus, a vampire ten times more ancient that Demetrius would ever be, demanded control. Enforced it with ruthless determination.
“As much as Demetrius wanted to release his beast, he wanted Marcus more....” Peter stopped as he heard Elizabeth giggle.
“Oh, Peter!” Her voice was muffled due to the hand over her mouth. Peter saw her blue eyes crinkling with the laughter she was trying not to show him. “Yeah, that’s pretty awful.”
“You’re not supposed to agree with me!” He tweaked her middle toe and grinned as she squeaked and tried to pull her foot away.
“Well it is! I mean, ‘the feel of hot, fresh meat in his mouth.’?” She wiggled her finger at him. “Peter, you should know better.”
“Don’t wave that finger at me, Ms. Mitchell. Not unless you want me to bite it.” Peter made a half-hearted attempt to nip at the digit.
“Promises, promises.” Elizabeth tapped his nose before sliding off the desk. “Yet you never follow through.” She sat down in her chair and began sorting through the day’s mail.
“Well if I’d known earlier that you were into all that kinky stuff…” He let his voice trail off suggestively.
“Uh huh.” Her tone was dry. “Can we get back to business instead of your unnatural fascination with my sex life?”
“Well, your sex life IS unnatural –.” Peter ducked, avoiding the crumpled up envelope Elizabeth threw at him. “Okay, okay. I’ll stop.” He sighed and grew serious. “The new novel sucks, El. It’s on par with a Harlequin. ”
Peter pushed himself back from the desk to pace the room. Sometimes moving helped the creative process.
“What about it doesn’t work?” Elizabeth was finished with the mail and Peter could see she had moved on to his scheduling book.
“The characters are flat, the situations cliché, the descriptions tired.” Peter shook his head. It was pretty sad that he could identify just what was wrong, but he couldn’t figure out how to fix it without completely starting over.
“Is this one you have to write?” Elizabeth opened up Outlook on her computer and began tweaking his schedule.
Peter shook his head. He had a limited series under a pen name that sold under the paranormal romance genre that he was required to add to from time to time. “No, thank God, so I can scrap this if I need to.”
He stopped pacing and faced her. “I need something fresh. Something that hasn’t been done before.”
His mind flashed to this morning and he flushed. Part of him wanted to tell Elizabeth about his dream – maybe use it as a jumping off point for a new story – but he didn’t want her to see how much it had affected him.
“Do we need to brainstorm?” Elizabeth stood up and went to the whiteboard that Peter used to outline ideas. She cleaned it off and waited for his reply.
“Yeah, probably.” Peter took the coffee and pastry that he had neglected and sat back down. A sip told him that it wasn’t too cold to drink.
“So are we going to keep vampires?” Elizabeth tilted her head in inquiry.
Neal’s mouth on the woman’s skin, blood sliding down his throat…
Peter’s pants tightened with arousal. Fuck! He surreptitiously adjusted himself. This was going to be a long day if his dream kept interrupting. He intentionally pushed the image to the back of his brain and willed his half-hard penis to relax.
“Let’s go with something else…how about ghosts?” Ghosts were good. Not vampires. Not Neal. Safe.
Taking a deep breath, he focused on the whiteboard. He could do this.
Two hours later they had nothing. The trashcan was filled with paper towels covered in dry erase ink – a testament to the many ideas presented and discarded.
Peter could tell that Elizabeth was frustrated. They’d come up with some good concepts, but they just weren’t right. Weren’t perfect. He ran his hands through his hair again.
They needed a break.
“I need a break.” Elizabeth’s voice echoed his thoughts. “Or else I’m going to commit homicide.” She stretched and Peter saw her wince.
“C’mere.” He shifted from where he’d moved to the couch so she could sit next to him. Turning her a bit, he started massaging her shoulders, feeling the tension he’d created begin to dissipate. “I’m sorry. It’s just…”
She leaned back into him and he felt her warmth. “I know. You just want it to be right.”
Peter wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. “Yeah. I don’t know why that’s so important, but it is.”
Elizabeth turned her head and kissed his cheek. “Sometimes it happens. You did this with Veiled Threat if you remember. And look how that turned out.”
Peter smiled and returned the kiss on her cheek. Veiled Threat was his best book to date. He remembered the hours it took for him and Elizabeth to hammer out the details of the black widow, her victims and the FBI agent who caught her.
“You’re right. I guess this one will just take some time.” He settled more comfortably on the couch, pulling Elizabeth solidly into his embrace. Peter felt her sigh and relax against him. He nuzzled her hair, inhaling the scent of the shampoo and body lotion he’d gotten her for Christmas.
“You know, we probably should save some of those ideas. They might work out later.” Elizabeth pointed to the board. “I kind of like number three. A haunted Book of Hours that heals and kills is kind of neat.”
“Yeah, I like that one for down the road.” Peter read through the list, mentally checking off the prompts that had potential. At least his editor would be happy that he had future books in the pipeline. As long as he could get the current one done he was golden.
“Okay, I need to get up and do something that isn’t writing. Like eat real food.” He nudged Elizabeth’s hip. “Let’s go pig out.”
They headed to the kitchen. Elizabeth let Satchmo out while Peter foraged in the refrigerator, pulling out the elements for sandwiches as well as a pitcher of iced tea.
“Deviled ham?” He held up a container.
“Ew no! That stuff stinks.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose.
“Hey now, it’s good stuff.” His protest was half-hearted and he put the container back in the fridge.
Elizabeth poured them glasses of tea. “It’s one of the reasons you’re single. You’re dates all have a nose.”
“Cute.” Peter moved to the counter and grabbed plates from the cupboard. “Roast beef or turkey?”
“Turkey, please, with cheese.” Elizabeth sat down at the kitchen island and sipped her tea. “Speaking of dates, have you called Neal Caffrey yet?”
“No.” Finishing the sandwiches, he sliced them and placed Elizabeth’s in front of her. “I was too busy with Demetreus’s desire for hot meat in his mouth.”
“Maybe if it was –,” Elizabeth began.
“El!” Peter blushed as thoughts of his shower fantasy snuck back into his brain. And he’d been doing so well.
“So you HAVE been thinking of it!”
Peter took a bite of his sandwich so he wouldn’t have to answer her.
“Come on. Share.” She bit into her sandwich with a relish that made Peter shudder.
“It was nothing. Just a…dream. That’s all.” He ducked his head, hoping she wouldn’t press for more details.
“All the more reason to call him.” She slid off the kitchen stool. “Wait here.”
A moment later she was back with Peter’s cell phone and Neal’s business card. Peter groaned.
“You’re going to make me do this now, aren’t you?” he complained, putting his sandwich down.
“You know it.” Elizabeth punched in the number and handed the phone to him. All he had to do was press the ‘send’ key. “Peter, look at me.” He met her eyes. “You need this. You spend entirely too much time working and with me. And while I love you dearly, you need a life.” She motioned to the phone. “Call him. What could it hurt?”
He thought about her words. What could it hurt?
He pressed the ‘send’ key.
The phone rang long enough for Peter to have second thoughts about staying on the line.
He was just about to disconnect the call when a honeyed voice spoke.
“l’appel Du Vide, how may I help you?”
“Um, I’m calling for Neal Caffrey.” For whatever reason he hadn’t expected a receptionist and the unfamiliar voice threw him for a moment.
“Is this Peter Burke?” The voice took on a warmer tone.
“Yeah.” Peter glanced at Elizabeth and mouthed, They know my name. She grinned and clapped her hands. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he figured it was good.
“Oh good. Neal has been expecting your call. Let me put you through.” The voice disappeared, replaced a moment later by Neal’s midnight tones.
“Peter, I was hoping to hear from you.” His voice sent frissons of lust skittering down Peter’s spine. “Did you sleep well last night?” There was amusement in Neal’s words.
Peter’s breath caught before he stammered, “Yeah…I…uh…did.” Wait…did he know…?
“Because I didn’t want you to stay up worrying about my shirt. My drycleaner assured me she could get the stain out.”
“Oh…OH…good.” Peter mentally slapped himself. There was no way Neal would have had any idea about his dream. Peter was just reading way too much into things. “So….”
“So…” Neal’s voice was a lazy drawl. “Can I assume you’re calling to take me up on my invitation to have dinner?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Peter hissed as Elizabeth kicked his shin. He scowled at her gesture that, if he read it correctly, meant Grow some balls, Burke. “Actually, yes. I would enjoy having dinner with you, Neal.”
Elizabeth grinned at him.
He heard Neal chuckle. “That was a very forceful answer.”
“I had help,” Peter replied dryly. “My assistant Elizabeth is very – insistent.”
“Well then I’ll just have to thank her for encouraging you.” Peter heard the click of computer keys. “So when are you available. I’m at your mercy.”
Peter thought about his calendar. He did not think about Neal splayed out under him, hands locked in Peter’s grip as he thrust into him. Not at all.
“Uh…how about tomorrow evening?” Peter raised an eyebrow to Elizabeth in question. She nodded. “Yeah, tomorrow works for me.”
“Perfect. Any preference on food?”
“Nothing I can’t pronounce.” Peter took a drink of his tea.
Neal’s laugh was rich. “Then how about Peter Luger’s? I’ve been in the mood for a good, rare steak.”
“Peter Luger’s sounds great. Is seven o’clock good?” Peter tucked the phone into his shoulder as he began cleaning up lunch.
“Absolutely. I’ll pick you up.”
“You don’t need to. I can drive myself.” He placed the plates in the sink and leaned against the counter.
“No, I want to. Peter heard Neal chuckle softly. “Truthfully, it’s a purely selfish reason. I just got a new car and I haven’t had a chance to really drive it. You’d be doing me a favor by letting me indulge a bit.”
Peter had to smile. He knew the allure of a new toy, whether it was a computer or a car. “In that case, I’d be happy to have you pick me up.”
“Excellent, I assume you live near La Belle Café?”
“Close by.” Peter gave Neal his address.
“I’ll pick you up at seven then.” Peter heard Neal pause. “And Peter…just so you know. I’m really looking forward to spending time with you. See you tomorrow.”
Neal hung up before Peter could respond. Putting the phone on the counter, he blew out a breath and looked at Elizabeth.
“Well?” She was vibrating in her seat.
“As you heard, I have a date with Neal Caffrey. He’s coming to pick me up at seven tomorrow in his new car and we’re going to Peter Luger’s for dinner.”
Elizabeth pumped her fist. “Yes! It’s about time you got laid!”
“El, it’s just dinner.” Peter couldn’t help grinning and he walked over to Elizabeth and gave her a hug. “I’m not expecting anything more than a great meal with what seems like a nice guy.”
“Yes, but you never know…” She widened her eyes comically and he laughed.
“I’ll have you know, I’m not that kind of boy.” He let her go, swiped an apple from the bowl on the island and headed towards the office.
“No, but you could be.” She darted past him and smacked him on the ass as she ran laughing into the other room.
Grinning, Peter sauntered after her. Things were looking up. Now all he needed was a good story. And something told him that it was close at hand.
Peter was frantic. Neal was coming to pick him up in a half hour and he was standing in front of his closet in a towel, phone to his ear.
“Elizabeth, pick up the phone, pick up the phone,” he muttered, flipping through shirts and slacks.
“The Armani.” No ‘hello’ or ‘this is Elizabeth.’ All she said was, ‘The Armani.’
“Isn’t that too formal for Peter Luger’s?” Peter moved a few hangers to reveal the black pinstriped wool suit Elizabeth had insisted he buy last year. She had taken him to the Armani store on Fifth Avenue and had it custom fitted to his build.
“Maybe for Peter Luger’s, but not for your date with Neal.”
He could hear a microwave humming in the background and what sounded like popcorn popping.
“You need to look incredibly hot and that suit is perfect.”
He took the suit out of the closet and laid it on the bed. “Ok, Armani it is, then. Shirt?”
“The Thomas Pink striped one I got you for that book signing. Oh, and the Axbridge purple tie.” The microwave beeped. “Hang on – popcorn.” He heard the rustle of the bag ripping and the popcorn pouring into the bowl.
Peter added the shirt and tie to the suit on the bed. He had to admit Elizabeth had impeccable taste. The subtle purple stripe in the shirt and the deep purple color of the tie went very well with the black suit.
“Thanks.” He went to his dresser and grabbed a pair of black socks. “I think I’m good now.”
“I bought you new underwear. It’s in a bag in the top drawer of your dresser.” Elizabeth’s voice was muffled by the popcorn. “And don’t give me any flack about it. If, by some remote chance, you get laid tonight, you don’t want to be wearing old underwear.”
“Yes, mom.” Peter rummaged around in the drawer until he found the bag Elizabeth was talking about. He pulled out the underwear and almost choked when he read the label. “MANSILK?”
“Don’t judge until you try them on.” The television volume in the background increased. “Now, I’m going to enjoy my movie. I want details in the morning.”
Peter smiled. “Yes, dear.”
“Good. And Peter?” He could hear Elizabeth’s return smile through the phone. “Relax and have fun, okay? You deserve it.”
“I’ll try.” Peter hung up the phone and looked at the underwear Elizabeth bought him. They were silk trunk boxer briefs in black. He took them out of the package and rubbed the fabric through his fingers. Nice.
Dropping the towel onto the floor, he put them on, adjusted himself and took a look in the mirror.
The briefs looked great and felt better. Tight around his ass, the silk skimmed his thighs. The pouch framed his penis, enhancing the look of his length, the softness feeling like a caress against his balls.
As he walked toward the bed to finish dressing, he could feel the fabric slide across his skin. The slight movement rubbed him just so, teasing his cock into subtle arousal. Nothing overt – just enough to send tendrils of electricity throughout his body.
Elizabeth got a gold star. And an assignment to buy several more pairs.
Peter checked the clock. Shit Fifteen minutes and who knew whether Neal would be early. Dressing quickly, he dug into his cherrywood valet and grabbed the silver cufflinks at the bottom. Moments later he was tugging at his cuffs and checking the line of his shirt.
Slipping his feet into the black Ferragamos he’d pulled out of his closet earlier, he tied the laces then headed to the bathroom to comb his hair and splash on a bit of Chanel Allure Homme.
Peter’s phone chimed. Be there in 5.
Peter felt like he was a teenager again, waiting for his first boyfriend to pick him up from his parent’s house.
His heart rate picked up and he couldn’t stop grinning. For a moment, he let himself bask in the thought that he was going out with a cute boy.
Shaking his head, he brought himself back to reality. He and Neal were going to dinner and that was all. If he kept his expectations low, he wouldn’t be disappointed.
Peter slipped his arms into his jacket and put the final touch on his attire – the vintage Timex watch his father had given him for his high school graduation. Elizabeth might dress him in the haute couture that she thought he deserved, but the watch was purely him.
Taking one last look in the mirror, Peter had to admit – the look was impressive.
“Not bad, Burke,” he murmured, turning around and looking over his shoulder. Satisfied, Peter took the stairs at a quick pace. Grabbing his coat, he told Satchmo to behave and opened the door.
What he saw took his breath away.
Neal, framed in the glow of the streetlamp, had one foot on the bottom step. Under the black cashmere coat, a beautifully fitted silver grey suit graced his frame and the deep blue shirt and tie set his eyes glowing. His tousled hair was lifted by a faint breeze, a stray lock curling against his forehead.
He was beautiful.
Neal’s face broke into a huge grin as he looked up at Peter. “Hi.” His voice was soft.
Peter couldn’t help but grin back. “Hi.”
“Ready?” Neal gestured to the automobile at the curb.
A sapphire blue BMW x4 convertible with the top up was waiting for them. Peter had looked at that model when he’d gotten his first big advance, but couldn’t justify owning a vehicle in Manhattan.
“Nice car,” he commented as Neal pressed the clicker to unlock the car. Peter inclined his head when Neal opened the door for him, and had to chuckle when he saw the interior. Grey leather. He was beginning to see a pattern.
“So did you get the shirt to match your car?” he asked as Neal climbed in on the driver’s side.
“Funny.” Grinning, Neal pressed the button to start the vehicle. “And no, I didn’t get the shirt to match my car.” Peter watched Neal’s graceful hands shift the car into gear and steer them out into the early evening traffic. “I got the car to match the shirt.”
Neal glanced at him, eyebrow raised. “What do you think?”
Peter knew he was blushing when Neal laughed. “Actually, like I told you on the phone, this car is one of the few indulgences I allow myself. Kind of silly for Manhattan, I know, but I couldn’t help it.”
Neal sounded excited. It made Peter feel bad about his comment. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to tease.”
Neal put his hand on Peter’s and squeezed gently. “Don’t be sorry, Peter. You’re welcome to tease me any time.”
Peter didn’t think they were talking about the car anymore.
The warmth of Neal’s palm against Peter’s fingers sent his imagination travelling south, and for a fleeting moment he wondered what it would feel like to have that hand curled around his cock.
Peter shifted discreetly, trying to adjust for the tightness in his clothing, hoping that Neal wouldn’t notice.
“So – tell me a bit about yourself.” Anything to diffuse the charged atmosphere in the car.
Neal took his hand off Peter’s and returned it to the steering wheel. “I run a club. As I’m sure you know.”
“Yeah.” Peter fell silent. He didn’t want to come across as unsophisticated, but at the same time he wasn’t sure how to ask more questions without embarrassing himself further. For the first time in a long while, his journalistic instincts failed him.
Neal seemed to understand and take pity on him. “It’s a specialty club for individuals and couples to expand and explore their passions.”
“Sounds like the website.”
“Ah, so you admit you’ve checked me out.” Neal’s voice was warm, with a definite hint of amusement.
“Purely research.” Peter defended himself half-heartedly. “But yes. Elizabeth made sure of it.”
“Elizabeth?” Neal’s question had an underlying current that Peter couldn’t quite identify. “And she is…?”
“My assistant.” Peter felt the need to clarify Elizabeth’s relationship to him. “And my best friend. She recognized the name of your club.”
“Really.” Neal’s tone was intentionally noncommittal.
“Yeah. Seems that she’s interested in what your club has to offer.”
“And what about you, Peter? Are you interested in what the club offers?”
Before Peter could answer, Neal slammed on the brakes, narrowly missing a rear end collision with a Mercedes that had cut in front of them. They both pitched forward, seatbelts tightening across their bodies.
“You okay?” Neal quickly changed lanes and sped by the other car.
“I’m fine.” Peter looked at him and smiled slightly. “Perils of driving in Manhattan.”
“Very true.” Neal didn’t speak, his concentration solely on the traffic. Peter mentally braced himself for Neal to repeat his question. What came out of Neal’s mouth surprised him. “So tell me what’s it’s like being a best-selling author.”
“You know I write?”
Neal’s quiet chuckle sent frissons of muted lust down Peter’s spine. “You’re not the only one who knows how to use Google, Peter.”
Of course. Peter returned the chuckle. “Right.”
“So…tell me.” The subtle coaxing in Neal’s tone was seductive and Peter found himself telling Neal about his days as a reporter for the Times and how he wound up writing gothic horror fiction as a way to come to terms with the horrific events he reported on when he was embedded with American troops overseas.
Before long they were in a lively discussion about the role of horror fiction in movies and television. Peter was startled when Neal pulled up to the restaurant – he had been enjoying himself so much that the time had flown by.
As they entered the restaurant, the hostess, Teresa, greeted Neal as if he were an old friend. They were whisked to their table in the corner by the window. Peter had to admit he was a bit impressed. He’d been here before but never had they been seated so quickly.
Neal took the opportunity to order them both dry martinis, commenting, “I hope you don’t mind. The wine’s good here, but the martinis are phenomenal.”
“No worries, I can tell I’m in capable hands.” Peter realized just how that remark might sound and hoped Neal wouldn’t spin it off into something Peter was not ready to explore.
Yet. That little voice squirreled its way into the front of his brain and set up permanent camp in his thoughts.
Neal gazed at Peter with what could be described as hunger. “You’re not making this easy, Peter. You know that, right?”
“What do you mean?” Peter knew just what Neal meant, but forcing him to say the words would level the playing field. They were playing a game, one where only Neal knew the rules.
Peter felt the heat radiating off of Neal’s body as he leaned and murmured his reply. “You open your door dressed in Armani, smelling amazing,” the air moved as Neal inhaled. “Long legs spread out in the front seat of my car, overwhelming the space just by being. You drop comments and innuendoes so easily that I can’t tell whether you are that innocent or that calculating.”
Neal’s mouth was millimeters away from Peter’s ear, warm breath tickling the hairs on his neck.
“Either way, you intrigue me.” Peter swore he felt Neal’s lips touch the smooth flesh behind his earlobe, but when he turned towards the other man, Neal was sitting back in his chair smiling at him.
The rest of the evening progressed in the same fashion. One moment Neal would be laughing at something Peter said, the next, his eyes would flash with want and promises. The subtle way he would invade Peter’s space, then pull back, drove Peter’s senses completely off kilter.
The steaks came, were eaten, and plates removed, but if someone asked Peter about the meal he wouldn’t be able to tell them about it. His attention was fully on Neal.
Neal teased him, suggesting that they split a dessert - maybe a piece of the restaurant's famed pecan pie, ‘mitt schlag’. Peter blushed again, Neal had a way of making even whipped cream sound dirty.
Peter had to decline; he was too full from the rich meat, and frankly, on edge and off balance.
“Then how about an after dinner drink?” Neal asked as they argued over the bill. “There’s a little hole in the wall just down the block that serves excellent brandies and cognacs. We could walk there.”
“Sounds good.” Anything to put some distance between the two of them. Peter needed fresh air to clear his head. Neal was overwhelming him and he was afraid that if they spent any more time in close quarters, Peter would do something stupid.
“Perfect.” They walked to the register where Neal pulled out his wallet and handed the hostess a debit card. Nestled in one of the slots was a black credit card that Peter swore was an American Express. He didn’t even have one of those. They were by invitation only and the amount of money you had to spend to get one was almost obscene. Neal had it tucked in his wallet like it was nothing.
Signing the slip, Neal returned the card to its location. “Ready?”
“Lead the way.” The two men exited the restaurant. The air was chilly but perfect for a walk. The slight distance between them helped Peter compose himself.
The space – for lack of a better term – was down the block and around the corner. There was a small, faded sign by the door proclaiming it ‘Channing’s’ and listing the hours of operation.
When Neal opened the door for Peter, music spilled out into the street. Entering, Peter saw a stunning woman heading up a small female trio of piano, bass and drums.
He paused for a moment, listening to her voice, before he felt Neal’s hand on the small of his back. Fingers spread, there was a subtle caress in the pressure as Neal’s breath fanned past his ear.
“Brooklyn’s best kept secret.” The hairs on the back of Peter’s neck stood up at the sensuality of Neal’s voice in that simple comment. “Shall we sit?” The pressure of Neal’s hand increased, the initial caress sliding across the top of Peter’s ass to the ridge of his hip, then disappearing as Neal brushed past him, heading towards a secluded table.
Peter followed, taking in every nuance of the place and filing it away in his writer’s brain. His attention was captured by a display of vintage liquor bottles and he didn’t realize that he had stopped to stare until he heard Neal chuckle next to him.
“Interesting display, isn’t it?” Neal’s voice took on the sexy, amused tone that Peter was coming to identify with him.
Peter blushed. “Sorry, occupational hazard.”
“Actually, it’s fascinating.” Neal led them to the table in the corner. “I can see your writer’s mind cataloguing and filing the details away.”
They sat. Peter was certain that Neal intentionally moved his chair so he would be in his space. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for another onslaught of Neal’s game.
“Yeah. It’s habit. Elizabeth tells me I need to shut it off and relax, but I’ve never been able to do that.”
“Your Elizabeth sounds like a wise woman.” Neal motioned to a server. “We want the ‘95 A. de Fussigny Fine Champagne XO, please.” He turned back to Peter. “So tell me about her. You said she recognized my club?”
“Um…” Peter wasn’t sure how much he should share about Elizabeth’s interests.
“It’s okay, Peter. I don’t need to know her kinks. I’m just interested in how people learn about the club. For marketing purposes.” Neal leaned in and touched the top of Peter’s hand, caressing the knuckles with his thumb. “Plus, she’s important to you, and since I’m bound and determined to learn everything there is to know about you, she’s important to me.”
Neal’s eyes locked with Peter’s, trapping him in their seductive gaze. Peter was lost. He wanted to kiss Neal, to get down on his knees and worship his cock in front of all the other patrons, and at the same time to run, fast, and put as much distance between them as he could.
The server returning with the cognac broke Peter out of his pornographic fantasy. When Neal took his hand from Peter’s he shivered, feeling uncomfortably bereft from the lack of physical contact.
“Try it. It’s one of my favorites.”
The cognac. That was safe. Peter sipped, and the caramel and pepper essence exploded across his tongue. The liquor warmed his body, languid and curling. Reminding him of Neal’s touch.
Okay, maybe the cognac wasn’t so safe.
“You were going to tell me about Elizabeth.” Neal was attentive but not eager, however Peter could feel an almost electric intensity to his interest.
Intoxicated by the mix of the liquor and Neal, Peter couldn’t recall the exact details of their conversation. He thought there was mention of how he and Elizabeth met, of baseball and books, of his failed relationship with Daniel, but the details kept escaping him.
He did remember the music, though, the smoky sounds of the jazz trio cutting through the ambiance, the singer’s sultry voice caressing the words of one of his favorite songs.
You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne…
He swore he heard Neal’s voice, slipping into his ear, singing along with the music, but when he looked at the man, all he saw was a smile.
You go to my head
Like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two…
They finished the cognac as the band wrapped up its set, and Peter waved off Neal's offer of a second glass. His head wasn't so much buzzing – as a former war correspondent, he could certainly hold his alcohol - but he felt like he was vibrating. Like a violin string.
And once again, he was struck by the idea of being in the hands of a master player.
"I think it's time we headed home." Neal's voice was smoky, an intoxicating cloud.
They left the bar and walked back to the car. The night air did wonders for clearing out his brain and he almost wanted to ask Neal to put the top down.
The drive back to Peter's was made in comfortable silence and anticipation. Neal insisted on walking him to his door, saying that a gentleman never just dropped his date off at the curb.
As they reached the door, Peter realized he had to make a decision. Should he invite Neal in or say goodnight.
Digging for his keys, Peter knew he was stalling. He also knew that Neal knew he was stalling. This is how Julius Caesar must have felt right before crossing the Rubicon, he thought.
“Thank you. I had a great evening.” He needed just a little more time to decide.
Peter was slammed up against the door and Neal was suddenly there. In his space, pressing up against him. Chest to chest, legs interlocked, Neal’s arms trapping him. He scent permeated Peter’s senses, igniting a primal lust that made him dizzy. His cock, hard and aching against Neal’s thigh. Neal’s mouth, whispering words that were past the point of pornographic.
It was delicious and Peter wanted more.
“Please…” The word was wrenched from his lips.
“Please what, Peter?” Neal purred.
“Please…” Peter repeated with a moan. “…need…” Unable to speak coherently in his haze of want, Peter pulled Neal closer.
“Do you want me to come inside?”
“Yes…oh God, yes!” That’s what he needed. Neal in his house, naked, fucking him.
“I want to come in, Peter, but I don’t think that would be a wise decision.” Neal’s lips were a hairs-breath from Peter’s. “Because if I did, then I wouldn’t be able to stop at just this…”
Neal’s kiss was soft, almost worshipful. Nothing like the words that had come from his mouth moments earlier, or the glances and innuendoes at dinner. His hands holding Peter’s face, thumbs caressing his jaw, a hint of sweetness from the earlier cognac on his tongue.
Peter was in freefall with no parachute.
Neal’s mouth sucking on his bottom lip, teeth grazing then pulling away. “…and I really think I need to stop.”
“No.” The word came out as a whine.
"Yeah. I think I need to go." The touch of Neal’s hand was electric. "But I will see you again. You have my word."
Peter found himself standing inside his foyer with no recollection of how he got there. Neal’s words echoed in his head.
I will see you again…
He felt a shiver skitter down his spine. He knew Neal meant every word he said tonight. And he didn't know whether to be thrilled or terrified....
Peter leaned against the door as he heard Neal’s car drive off, his knees weak and his cock hard. Neal made him feel things that he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in a very long time.
Pushing himself off the door, he walked slowly into the living room and opened the liquor cabinet. This called for something stronger than his usual beer. He grabbed the open bottle of Jameson’s and a glass and headed up to his bedroom.
Placing the liquor and glass on his dresser, Peter removed his cufflinks and dropped them in the cherrywood valet. Undressing to his t-shirt and boxer briefs, he hung his clothes up before returning to pour himself a glass. Downing it quickly, he hissed at the burn of the alcohol as he looked in the dresser mirror.
What he saw conflicted him. Lips swollen, eyes dark with the remembrance of lust, hair slightly mussed – this was a different image of himself than he was used to seeing in the reflection. The little voice that was urging him to take Neal up on his unspoken offer was making pleased noises at his appearance, while the more rational part of his psyche was railing in panic.
Another shot of the whiskey blurred his vision slightly and did nothing for his composure. Unsettled, he hurried into his bathroom. Turning on the water as hot as he could stand it, Peter stripped, stepped under the cascading water and quickly began soaping himself up. He needed to wash away the smell, the touch of Neal Caffrey. It was the only way he could make a rational decision.
Skin raw from the scrubbing, Peter turned the water temperature down to medium. He washed his hair, trading the scent of Neal’s aftershave for the sandalwood shampoo he favored. Slowly he felt himself fitting back into his own skin. Rinsing out the suds, he let the water wash away the last of the confusion.
Shutting off the water, Peter stepped out of the shower stall and began drying himself off. His mind was clear now – Neal Caffrey was a seductive fucker who he was better off not getting involved with.
His anxiety soothed by his decision, Peter quickly dressed and climbed into bed. He picked up the Sunday Times that was on his nightstand and spent a good hour with the crossword puzzle while he let his brain churn over the story ideas he and Elizabeth had been working on.
Dotting the last ‘i’, he put the paper down and turned off the light. Stretching out under the comforter, Peter listened to the night sounds of the city. He needed to come up with a story idea soon.
Closing his eyes, he started with one of the writing exercises he used when he was stuck. Person, place, thing.
Joe, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a possessed Roman spear.
Peter felt himself relax.
Serena, stage of the local community theatre, ghost of a murdered actress.
His breathing evened out. The last thought that registered…
…a lovely lady, a rooftop apartment, Parcheesi…
Mozzie and June were playing Parcheesi, wine glasses half full, when Neal entered his apartment. Neither one looked up as he removed his coat and hung it up.
He headed to the fridge and took out a bottle of sparkling water. Uncapping it, he leaned against the counter, taking a drink as he watched June move her last piece into the center.
“Very nice, Madam.” Mozzie tipped a metaphorical hat to her. “However, I will best you in our next game, have no doubt.”
“I look forward to the challenge.” June leaned back and looked at him. “So, how was your evening, Neal?”
He thought about the kiss on the steps in front of Peter’s house and chose his words with care. “It was … good.”
“Just good?” He felt her studying him. “I would think that it was better than good.”
“I was cautious. It was difficult.” Neal knew that he didn’t need to say any more. June would understand.
“So…you didn’t…you know…bite him?” Mozzie had a frown on his face.
“No Moz, I didn’t bite him.” Neal pushed himself off of the kitchen counter. He could tell that Mozzie was still uncomfortable with his interest in Peter. “I do have some modicum of self control.”
Neal let Mozzie’s ‘Could have fooled me’ comment go. He needed the other man to do some information gathering for him, and Mozzie in a snit was not a team player.
Walking to the bedroom alcove, he took off his suit jacket, kicked off his shoes and undid his tie. Laying the clothes on the bed, Neal removed his cufflinks and placed them on the nightstand.
“But in answer to your question, June, it was an enjoyable evening. The steaks were delicious, as always, and Peter Burke is a very interesting man.” Neal wasn’t going to share anything more. Like how Peter moaned when Neal kissed him, how his ass felt under Neal’s hands, how easy it would have been to slip his teeth into Peter’s neck and savor him.
Neal tried not to think about how delicious Peter would taste – like dark, ripe cherries on his tongue.
Mentally shaking himself, Neal focused on what needed to be done in order to make his thoughts a reality.
“Moz, I need for you to look into someone for me.” Unbuttoning his shirt sleeves, he rolled the cuffs back.
“I suppose.” Mozzie poured some more of the wine into his glass. Neal was certain Moz was intentionally avoiding his eyes.
Neal moved into Mozzie’s range of vision. “Please?”
“What’s in it for me?” Neal grinned at Mozzie’s statement. He knew when his friend started wheeling and dealing that he wasn’t annoyed with Neal any more.
“You can have the Barolo I just got.” Neal pulled the bottle out of the wine rack and placed it on the table. “And I’ll get you some salmon.”
“Wild Atlantic - none of that farm raised stuff.” Mozzie was examining the bottle with what looked like an unholy glee. “And I want it minced this time.”
Mozzie nodded in agreement. “Okay, what’s the name of the person you want me to investigate?”
“Elizabeth Mitchell.” Neal sat down and poured the last of the open bottle of wine into his glass.
“Okay, but who is she?” Mozzie dug for his phone and began entering information.
“Peter’s personal assistant and his best friend.” Neal sipped his wine.
“And she would be the woman I saw at Burke’s door the other night?”
“Probably. I want everything you can find out about her. Where she lives, how long she and Peter have known each other, whether they are sleeping with each other.” The thought of Peter and Elizabeth being intimate annoyed Neal. After this evening, he considered Peter his.
And he was very possessive of what was his.
“What do you plan on doing with the information once you get it?” Mozzie was watching him, waiting for a reaction.
“She’s a major part of Peter’s life and I want to make sure she’s not going to be an obstacle.” Neal shifted in his chair, making himself more comfortable. “Plus she knows about the club, and that’s put us on Peter’s radar. I’m just trying to be cautious.”
“That’d be a first.” Mozzie’s snort was nothing short of derisive.
“Now Mozzie, be nice.” June’s voice was pleasant but firm.
“Sorry.” Mozzie’s mumbled apology was grudging but sincere.
Neal hid his smile. Mozzie could be very scathing at times, but one comment from June and he folded like a house of cards.
“Peter said she was interested in what the club has offer. Check to see if she’s ever been to any other establishments in the city.” Neal turned to June. “Once Mozzie gets the information, get a Platinum Membership invitation prepared to send to her.”
June smiled. “I’ll have it ready on my desk for your signature.”
“Perfect.” He took her hand and kissed it.
Mozzie collected the Parcheesi set and put it away. Standing up, he drained his glass and proceeded to put on the coat and red scarf that were hanging from the back of his chair. “And on that note, I will take my leave. I’ll have your information by tomorrow afternoon, Neal. Don’t forget – minced.”
That last comment was tossed over his shoulder as he left the apartment.
Neal leaned back in his chair and sighed. He looked over at June.
“So, I’m not going to ask any more questions, but from your reticence, may I assume that your evening went better than you cared to share?”
Neal flashed his patented Caffrey grin. “Ah June, you know I don’t kiss and tell.”
Her delighted laugh made him smile even brighter. Rising gracefully from her chair, she kissed him on his cheek and made her way to the door. “That I do know.”
Pausing at the entrance, she turned to him and winked. “May you have very sweet dreams, Mr. Caffrey,” she teased.
“I intend to, Ms. Ellington.”
The door closed behind her with a soft click. Neal sat quietly, his mind on Peter Burke and all the delicious possibilities.
He definitely would be having sweet dreams tonight.