If his mother hadn’t called before he was even out of bed, Gareth would have forgotten his own birthday. He usually enjoyed a good party, and even took the resulting hangover in stride, but this time around he would have preferred to ignore the date. Jack had been gone for almost a month, and apart from three phone calls from Lisa assuring him that the brat was alive, he hadn’t heard a word.
He had agreed to Jack’s undercover gig. Actually, he’d encouraged Jack to accept the assignment in the hope that helping to shut down south England’s largest trafficking ring would help Jack settle. He just hadn’t banked on the hole Jack’s absence would leave in his days. And his nights.
Gareth slowed the Triumph outside his favourite bakery. He felt in need of comfort and the exquisite pastries were just the right thing for that. He climbed off the bike, turned – and collided with a man walking close to the edge of the pavement. Strong arms circled his shoulders for a moment and a warm palm briefly touched his neck, just under the edge of the helmet…. then the man slipped into the stream of pedestrians with a mumbled apology and was swiftly gone from sight.
Gareth remained where he was, blind to the traffic, blind to the people surrounding him, his whole focus on trying to see the man who had accosted him in the melee of bodies rushing this way and that. The sudden touch had been unexpectedly familiar. Almost as if the stranger had been… Jack.
ooO xXx Ooo
Jack tossed the trilby into the first bin he passed. He shrugged out of his black jacket while he walked and turned it inside out before sliding his arms back into the sleeves and folding the black stand up collar inside. Now the jacket was gunmetal grey and complemented his dark jeans and pale grey tee. Gareth had laughed his ass off when he’d first seen Jack’s extensive collection of reversible coats and jackets, calling it proof that Jack had truly turned into a spook.
That was bullshit, of course. Reversible jackets had all sorts of uses, and Jack didn’t just wear them when he was working. Not that Gareth had believed a word of his protestations. He’d called him spook all weekend.
Gareth. The man had felt good against him in the brief moment Jack had held him. Warm and alive. And Jack was grateful that – for once – he’d given in to an impulse. He felt more grounded than he had in weeks. And Gareth was still entirely too predictable.
Jack ducked into the nearest coffee shop and ordered a large Americano to go. And just before he stepped back into the persona of the taciturn enforcer with a short fuse for bullshit, he raised his cup in a quirky salute: Happy birthday, Gareth.