Refocusing on the pair of humans and their metal show, he elbowed Ruhn and was relieved when the noise stopped.
“Leave Mrs. Rowe alone,” Saxton said. “Because you also have no idea who you’re dealing with.”
“Is that a threat?”
Saxton looked to the heavens. “You gentlemen must get a better script to work off of. I suggest Taken with Liam Neeson. At least that’s in this century. You are stale. Realllllly stale.”
“You’re not my type. I’m so sorry.”
As he turned away, he grabbed ahold of Ruhn and pulled him along.
Once they were back in the truck, Saxton stared over at the pair of guards, memorizing their features. He was very sure he and Ruhn had been photographed as if they were on the red carpet. There had to be cameras all over the place.
“We need to get Minnie out of that house until this is finished,” he muttered as Ruhn reversed them and headed onto the road beyond. “Things are going to escalate even further, I fear.”
“If she leaves, I could stay in the house. So it’s not unattended.”
“That is not a bad idea.” Saxton glanced across the seat. “That is not a bad idea at all. Let me call her granddaughter first and see if we can get buy-in on that—and then we’ll talk to Minnie. Maybe if it’s just a short-term thing, she’ll be more open to it. You’re smart.”
Ruhn’s little smile was the kind of thing he wanted to remember forever. And then the male came up with another piece of brilliance.
“Would you care to have something to eat?” Ruhn asked. “Whilst we’re out?”
As Ruhn drove them off, he waited for Saxton’s answer. It had felt a bit forward to ask for a date, but he was in fact hungry—and the idea of sharing a meal, and prolonging their time together?
“I would love that,” the solicitor said. “Is there somewhere in particular you want to go?”
“I do not know.”
“What kind of food do you enjoy?”
“I do not have a preference.”
“There’s a wonderful French bistro that I just adore. It’s a little bit of a drive, but then again, from this neighborhood? We’d have to travel to get to a 7-Eleven.”
In the back of his head, Ruhn counted how much money he had in his wallet. It was about sixty-seven dollars. But he did have his debit card and his bank account had just under a thousand dollars in it—which was his entire net worth.
His lack of financial status made him hope that his old landowner would do as he promised and help him find a job in Caldwell. The conversation over the phone the previous evening had certainly seemed promising, although there was no telling what was available for work up here. Still, aristocrats of the stature of the one he had long worked for tended to be very well connected.
He had to believe something would turn up—and provide him with both purpose and a living wage.
“Would that be okay with you?” Saxton prompted.
“I’m sorry, yes. Please. Where are we going?”
“Take a right up here and I’ll direct you.”
About fifteen minutes later, they were in a far better part of town, the little shops and quaint eating establishments lined up flank to flank as picture perfect as any city street could be. The snow had been plowed well and he imagined human pedestrians traveling down the sidewalks in the daylight, cheerful even though it was cold. And in the warmer months? It was no doubt very busy on weekends and populated by people like Saxton: urban sophisticates with nice manners and elevated tastes.
“Here it is,” the male said as he pointed ahead. “Premier. There’s a parking lot behind. Just head down the alley right here.”
Ruhn took them back into a cramped foursquare stretch of asphalt, made even smaller by the plowed piecrust edges of snow. Fortunately, there was only one other car so he was able to squeeze the truck into the far corner, and then he and Saxton were walking on the packed ice to the rear door.
He went forward and held things open, and as Saxton passed by, Ruhn traced with his eyes the male’s hair and shoulders, his tight waist, his fine slacks and pointed shoes.
Inside, the smell from the kitchen was amazing. He didn’t have any idea what the aromas were made of, but his spine loosened with every breath he took. Onions…mushrooms…soft spices.
“Ah! You are back.”
A human man in a black suit and a blue tie came down a thin hallway with both arms out. He and Saxton kissed each other’s cheeks, once on each side, and they slipped into a language Ruhn did not recognize.
Abruptly, the human switched back to English. “But of course, we have always the table for you and your guest. This way, come. Come.”
It was not very far at all before things opened up to the restaurant proper. As with the parking lot, there were few places to sit, and a couple was just standing up to leave. Probably the owners of that other vehicle in back.
“Right in front of the house,” the human said proudly.
“Merci mille fois.”
The human bowed. “The usual?”
Saxton looked at Ruhn. “Would it be okay if the chef used her discretion?”
Ruhn nodded. “Whatever is easiest.”
The human man recoiled. “It is not easy. It is our honor.”
Saxton put his hand out. “We are so looking forward to whatever Lisette prepares. It will be a masterpiece.”
“You may be so assured.”
As the man left in a bit of a huff, Ruhn squeezed himself into a chair that would have done well by Bitty’s toy tiger, Mastimon. In fact, the entire place made him feel big as an elephant and as coordinated as a falling boulder.
“I think I offended him.” He sat back—and then got with the program as Saxton put a napkin in his lap. Following suit, he murmured, “That was not my intention.”
“You will love Lisette’s food. That is all they will care about in the end.”
Wine appeared. White. Ruhn took a sip and was astounded. “What is this?”
“Chateau Haut Brion Blanc. It is from Pessac-Leognan.”
“I love this.”
“I am glad.”
As Saxton smiled, Ruhn forgot all about the wine. And he was still distracted as the male started to talk about what he had done during the day for Minnie and some of the other cases he was working on for the King. It was all so interesting, but more than that, the rise and fall of the solicitor’s voice was hypnotic.
Food was served, small, colorful portions arriving on tiny, square white plates. More wine. More of Saxton’s conversation.
It was all just so…peaceful. Even with the undercurrent of sexual need, and in spite of the restaurant’s mini-sized everything, Ruhn felt an unfamiliar ease. And the food was, in fact, absolutely amazing, each course building on the previous, the totality satiating his hunger in a way that was subtle, but powerful.
When they were finally finished, some two hours later, it was well after midnight—and he felt as though they had been at it for about five minutes. Sitting back, he put his hand on his belly.
“That was the most incredible meal I have ever had.”
“I am so happy.” Saxton motioned to the human man who had sat them down. “Marc, if you please?”
The man came right over. “Monsieur?”
“Tell him, Ruhn.”
Emboldened by the wine and a full belly, Ruhn met the human’s eyes without giving it another thought. “That was incredible. Amazing. I’ve never had a meal like that in my life and I never shall again.”
Okay, apparently, he’d said all the right things. The man went into a positive swoon of happiness—and promptly rewarded them with a plate of pear slices and chocolate something-or-other.
“I will get the bill tonight,” Saxton said as he took out his wallet and slid free a black card. “This is my treat as it was my choice. Next time, you pick and you pay.”
Ruhn flushed. Yes, he had tried to guess in his head what this might have cost—although that had all been only in theory as they had not had menus and no dollar amounts had been discussed—and he could only imagine it was incredibly expensive. And he did appreciate Saxton’s nod to the fact that he wanted to contribute.