Chapter 1

'Mozzie, why are you here?' Neal asked of his friend who was lying on the small couch cradling a large glass of Pinot on his chest.

It was eight in the morning and Neal was buzzing around the apartment as he prepared for work. It was a Friday, late in June and he'd recently returned from his island escape to Cape Verde. He was looking forward to things getting back to normal at work; it was Peter's first day back from his banishment to the evidence lockup – also known as the cave – and he couldn't wait to get back to the way things had been before his precipitous and unplanned exit.

'Because... I'm used to having you around...' Mozzie whined.

'Moz, I've been back five weeks and you've been back almost three – it's time to get over it. We're not on the island anymore' Neal said as he continued to tie a perfect Windsor knot on his necktie of choice.

'But that island was the perfect getaway, Neal' Mozzie complained.

'Well, we're back now and you need to get over it' Neal said, an edge of impatience to his voice.

'Is this because I walked in on you and little Miss Repo the other night?' asked Mozzie, snarkily.

Neal rolled his eyes. He'd been trying to woo Sara back ever since he'd reconnected with her on the Covington case and his efforts were being hampered by the bespectacled man - or was that his jealous 'work wife'.

'Moz, whether you like it or not, Sara's in my life right now and I'm still trying to get her to forgive me for leaving the country without telling her' Neal explained.

'Does she know about your little island adventure with Maya?' Mozzie asked, obviously trying to stir the pot.

'No. Not yet' said Neal, a hint of concern in his voice. 'But I want to come clean. If our relationship is going to move ahead, I can't leave her in the dark about that.'

'Whoa, whoa. Since when does the great Neal Caffrey have to explain his actions to anyone' said Mozzie, sitting up and taking a sip of his oversized glass.

Neal rolled his eyes at his friend. He didn't quite know exactly when it happened or why; all he knew was that he was thankful to be back in New York with the people he cared about and he wanted to do everything he could not to mess it up with Peter - or with Sara.

'Don't forget, tonight's June's dinner party' Neal said as he prepared to leave.

'I suppose you're bringing Sara as your date' said a jealous sounding Mozzie, sarcasm dripping from his voice.

'You suppose right. Get a life Moz' said Neal as he turned on his heels and left.

The older man pouted before realizing he didn't have an audience; he stood and made his way to the bookcase to find a gem he could settle in and read while he finished this most excellent wine.

WCWCWC

'So, how does it feel to be back?' asked Neal as he barged into Peter's office, uninvited.

On this particular day, Peter decided to let Neal's boldness slide; he was just pleased as punch to be back at his old desk – and his old job and he couldn't stop looking around his office, touching all the surfaces with a goofy smile on his face.

'Fantastic' he said, summing up his feelings.

'Any new cases for us?' asked Neal, anxious to get started.

'Well, I see a few case files have accumulated in my in basket while I was in the cave. I'll have to take a look' said Peter as he lazily started looking through the first file on top of the pile.

'Peter, I'm begging you. Please skip over the mortgage frauds' said Neal, hoping for a nice juicy case he could sink his teeth into.

Peter scowled at his CI; Neal was always on the lookout for those 'sexy' cases and for some reason they usually fell in his lap without any effort whatsoever on his part.

'You'll take whatever case I give you to and you'll like it. Is that clear?' the senior agent exclaimed, asserting himself.

'Crystal' said Neal, sitting down and putting his feet up on Peter's desk.

'No!' Peter whined. 'That's exactly what I'm talking about, Neal; have a little respect.'

Neal smiled his usual charismatic smile and continued; his feet firmly glued to the desk 'I hear you've been invited to June's dinner party tonight.'

'Yeah, about that...' Peter sounded hesitant.

'What? You're not going to wimp out, are you?' now it was Neal's turn to whine.

'I don't know. El's dying to go but...' Peter began.

'Aw come on, Peter. I promised Sara that Elizabeth would be there' said Neal.

'Oh - I didn't realize you and Sara were back together' said Peter, not so secretly pleased.

He loved the two of them together and used every opportunity to manipulate things so they would be forced to interact with each other. Sara had been involved in the Sophie Covington case and Neal had seemed pleased to see her, although he'd obviously been ill at ease when she'd showed up announced that day. His little escapade to Cape Verde had impacted a lot of people and Sara had been upset that he'd gone without even a word of explanation.

'Well - back together is a relative term. We're taking things one day at a time but I have to admit, I'm really enjoying spending time with her' Neal answered, unable to stifle a small smile as he spoke.

'Well, I, for one, approve' answered Peter smugly.

'Yes' Neal said, annoyed. 'I know you do. Just let nature take its course, will you – please?'

Peter just smiled, a self-satisfied smile. 'Alright, well if you told Sara El was coming, I guess, we'll be there.'

'Great. And don't be late. June hates it when people are late' said Neal as he hopped to his feet and headed back to his desk.

WCWCWC

Neal placed a nice bottle of Italian red on the coffee table just as a soft knock was heard on the door; Sara was right on time. He had suggested they have a glass of wine before June's birthday dinner and he'd been planning to come clean about his short affair with Maya on Cape Verde. Not that he owed her any explanations – he just thought of it as a gesture of good will and he hoped that this disclosure would help her see that his intentions were genuine where she was concerned – that and his fear that Mozzie might use the revelation to eventually cause trouble by meddling in his affairs.

He really hoped that she would be okay with his confession and that they would be able to move on to the next phase of their relationship. He'd thought about her frequently during his island getaway and although he wasn't sure he was 'in love' with her, he'd missed her and he was glad that she'd given him a chance to make amends.

'Hey' he said as he opened the door to a spectacular looking Sara.

She had gone the full nine yards, looking stunning in a short sparkly emerald evening dress which complemented her coloring and once again Neal was taken by her clear green eyes as they scanned the apartment, behind him.

'You look amazing' he said, sincerity apparent in his tone. 'Come on in.'

Sara gave Neal a small kiss on the lips, locking eyes with him as she made her way into the apartment; she set her purse down on one of the kitchen chairs before turning back to face him.

'Thought we'd have a glass of wine before dinner' he said, rather sheepishly pointing to the couch.

'Sounds good. Oh Italian, you do know my tastes, Caffrey' she said, as she took a seat.

Neal smiled to himself as he mentally raked up one point in the Caffrey column.

'Glad you approve' he answered, sounding a lot more confident than he actually felt.

'So, my first invite to dinner with June. Anything I should know about?' asked Sara, a hint of nervousness peaking through.

Neal shrugged. 'Well, she's an amazing hostess, as you can imagine so... just enjoy the evening' he said, hoping to reassure her.

'Oh, I want to show you what I got her' she continued, excitedly as she pulled out a small box with a beautiful hand-tied bow on top.

She carefully slipped the ribbon off the box so she could easily put it back on and opened the small package exposing a beautiful antique brooch in silver, most definitely June's taste.

'Wow, you did good, Repo!' Neal said as he admired the piece of jewelry. 'She's really going to love it.'

'You think so?...' Sara said, letting her voice trail.

'Sara, you really have nothing to worry about. June is over you showing up with the police; she forgives and forgets, believe me' Neal said. 'I've tested her a number of times' he added as he cocked an eyebrow.

Sara let out a small sigh and took the glass of wine Neal offered her. She took an overly large sip and settled in on the couch as Neal served himself.

He cleared his throat. 'Sara, the last few weeks have been great' he began.

'It has been fun, hasn't it' she answered.

'Well, more than fun, as far as I'm concerned' continued Neal. 'I'm glad you've been able to get past me leaving without saying goodbye.'

'I won't pretend it didn't sting but let's face it, Neal - you are who you are' said Sara.

It was Neal's turn to feel the sting of her comment. When Mozzie and he had planned their getaway with the treasure, he had struggled with the idea of asking Sara to join them. Over the previous months, he and Sara had gotten closer and after she'd briefly moved in during the Vulture case, he'd realized just how much he enjoyed having her next to him when he woke every morning and when he went to bed at night. He had allowed himself to believe (hope) that they might have a future together. Sara was smart, beautiful, witty and, truth be told he enjoyed the way she challenged him on some of his hare-brained schemes. Her advice was often sound and she'd kept him from making a couple of costly mistakes where his relationship with Peter was concerned.

'Well, that's just it Sara, I don't want to be that... that person anymore. I want to make it up to you and I figure the best way is to tell you about ... everything... everything that happened on the island' he said, hesitant.

'What? You want to come clean about some tryst you had or something?' said Sara, joking.

'Oh! You want to come clean about some tryst you had' she repeated as she saw the look on Neal's face.

'Did Mozzie tell you?' asked Neal, convinced Mozzie had stuck his nose in his business – again.

'No' said Sara indignant 'But I'm not a fool, Neal. I'd be surprised if you hadn't had a little island adventure.'

Ouch – Neal thought. He wasn't sure how to take that last comment. Was he that predictable? Or impulsive? Or both? Sara picked up on his puzzled look.

'Neal, we're not 'pinned' she said referring to the 1950's fad 'it's not like I have a ring on my finger.'

Although she'd have to admit that she was slightly disappointed in him, she wasn't the least bit surprised. Neal was a chick magnet and always would be; she'd learned to have confidence in her own attributes enough to let him flirt and be the charming man he was and always would be. When Neal was with her, he was all in and that's what she loved about him. During their months together, she'd seen him interact with tons of women who came on to him in her presence – although polite and debonair, he always sent a clear message that the beautiful redhead by his side was the lady he was with and that he was focussed on her and her alone.

'It didn't mean any...' Neal began before Sara cut him off.

'Neal, please don't! You live in the moment, I know that about you and I know that when you're with me, you're really with me and nobody else. I don't need to know anything else... really' she said as she touched his cheek.

Neal let out a sigh of relief. He had dreaded Mozzie accidentally (on purpose) spilling the beans to Sara about Maya and he felt good about his pre-emptive strike. It was nice to not have any secrets from Sara now that the whole saga of the Raphaël was behind them. He relaxed and took a sip of wine, noticing Sara smiling naughtily out of the corner of his eye.

He slipped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her in and kissing her deeply, causing her to almost spill some wine on her very expensive dress.

'Woah' she exclaimed 'As much as I'm enjoying this, maybe we should save this for after dinner' she said, her voice sultry.

Neal didn't really want to wait until after dinner and he let out a soft moan as he readjusted his clothes and stood up.

'Alright' he said putting out his hand in a gesture of chivalry. 'Shall we?'

TBC