“We have two specials not on the menu tonight. Halibut with potato pastry and white asparagus, and duck breast in a red wine and balsamic vinaigrette sauce. And of course, the house-made ravioli stuffed with foie gras are always a favorite.”
“It all sounds delicious.” Anthony let his gaze linger on the waiter. Patricia wouldn’t care if he flirted a little. She’d probably encourage him. She was always after him to date more. Especially since…. Anthony pushed the thought away. He had better things to do than dwell on the past. Like gathering as much fodder for his fantasies as he could. “What’s your favorite?”
“The duck,” the waiter said immediately. “Everything that comes out of the kitchen is delicious, but the duck is exquisite.”
Feeling bold, Anthony gave the waiter a thorough look before smiling. “Everything certainly seems delicious.”
“I’ll let you look at the… menu. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them when I bring your drinks.”
“He’s cute,” Patricia said as soon as the waiter disappeared around the corner.
“He certainly is. That doesn’t make him gay or available, though.” He needed the reminder for himself. Fantasies were all well and good, but that was all this could be.
“If he’s straight, I’ll buy you dinner,” Patricia retorted.
“You’re buying me dinner anyway.”
Anthony chuckled, as she’d no doubt intended. “There’s a halibut special as well as the salmon on the regular menu if you want fish. There’s a duck with red wine and balsamic vinegar if you’re in the mood for that. Or he mentioned a homemade foie gras ravioli. Can you read the rest or do you need me to translate it?”
“I think I can figure it out. I’ll ask if I have any questions.”
They spent the next few minutes in companionable silence as they studied the menu. Anthony already knew he’d order the duck simply because the waiter had recommended it, but he was famished, having skipped lunch in favor of staying at the booth to talk to the line of people waiting for them. “The charcuterie platter looks tempting. Do you want to split it with me?”
“You know I’ll eat anything you put in front of me,” Patricia replied. “Order it if you want and I’ll share it with you, and find a bottle of wine for us to share too.”
“I’m trying to convince him we aren’t on a date,” Anthony teased. “You’re not helping.”
“Sharing an appetizer or a bottle of wine doesn’t mean we’re on a date. Now if we were holding hands or something….”
Anthony snatched his hand out of reach before she could grab it. He didn’t know when the waiter would be back, and he didn’t want to ruin his chances, no matter how small, because the waiter saw Patricia holding his hand.
“What do you want me to order for you?”
“Is that lamb?” Patricia pointed to one of the items on the menu.
“Yes, seven-hour lamb, they call it. Slow-cooked and served with potato mille-feuilles. It’s like a pastry, only with potato slices instead of pastry dough.”
“I’ll have that.”
The waiter reappeared a few moments later. He set Patricia’s drink in front of her with a gallant little bow. When he turned to Anthony, he skipped the bow, but his gaze lingered as Anthony lifted the glass to his lips for a first sip. It was tart and dry from the aligoté with just the slightest hint of sweetness from the cassis.
“Just the way I like it,” he said, hoping he managed to convey more than his approval of the drink.
“I live to please.” The waiter’s voice deepened as he spoke, the husky timbre rubbing over Anthony’s nerves like a caress. He might have imagined the earlier interest, but he wasn’t imagining this. He couldn’t be. The moment stretched almost to the point of discomfort before the waiter smiled and asked what they wanted for dinner. The routine of placing their order—including a bottle of Hautes-Côtes de Beaune at the waiter’s recommendation—settled Anthony.
When Anthony Mercer walked into Au cœur du terroir, he was looking for good food and a pleasant evening spent with a friend. He never expected to meet—and sleep with—Paul Delescluse, a waiter at the restaurant. After spending a magical week together in Paris, Anthony must return to his life in North Carolina, while Paul remains in France.
Despite the distance and the lack of promises between them—Paul wants sex, not a relationship—Paul and Anthony forge a solid friendship. Then Anthony’s job takes him back to Paris, this time to stay. Paul is thrilled to have him back, but Anthony has a harder choice: be another of Paul’s conquests or fight for the relationship he knows they could have, if only Paul would believe it.