"I always wanted to open up my own restaurant. Now I'm probably gonna get stuck making sure Hardison's doesn't go out of business."
Hardison pondered that conversation. Eliot meant the comment for Sophie but he had heard it on the com. The coms were such a part of life they sometimes forgot they couldn't have a private conversation.
There wasn't any real venom in Eliot's voice. Nothing but resignation.
It was this ammunition he brought to his discussion with Parker. "Think about it, momma. Eliot can watch over the pub. We can travel and not worry about what's happening here."
The blonde eyed him with a quizzical look. "I still don't know what we're stealing."
He resisted the urge to pinch his nose in frustration. "No stealing. Sightseeing. Like normal couples do."
Parker leaned in close and dropped her voice to a whisper. "We're not a normal couple."
A chuckle bubbled to the surface. "No kidding?" He took her in his arms and pulled her closer still. "Wouldn't that be best? Give the Bridgeport to Eliot. We can still use it. He'll let us."
"It would make him happy." Parker's smile warmed his insides.
"I think it would, yeah."
She wriggled out of his embrace and bounced around the room. "Do it. We don't need it. And being in the kitchen makes Eliot smile. Not like an I'm gonna beat someone up smile. Really smile. It's nice."
"Then it's settled. I'll get to work on it. You can plan all our stops on the trip. How's that?"
A mischievous light sparked in her eyes. "Can I plan heists? Fake ones?"
He nodded. "Fake ones. Promise?"
Her reluctance was a third presence in the room. "Promise."
Eliot directed the staff in the kitchen with his usual stern hand. "What are you working on?" He asked.
The young girl they had hired a week ago fidgeted under his gaze. "The n-new menu changes Mr. Hardison gave us."
"Excuse me? The new what?" He tried to control the snap in his voice but realized he failed when the poor girl started and almost dropped her knife.
"The menu changes from Mr. Hardison." The high-pitched squeak in her voice made Eliot feel bad for scaring her; but, dammit, Hardison had as much knowledge about running a kitchen as Eliot did about using that Instagram thing.
He sighed and held out his hand. "Let me see those?"
A shaky hand turned over the paper and the girl avoided looking straight at him.
Eliot scanned the menu with growing agitation. "What the hell is this? You can't...he can't- he's gonna bankrupt this place." The paper crinkled as he closed his fist. "I'll be right back. Prepare my menu."
Eliot charged into the office with a piece of paper in his fist. "Hardison! What the hell is this? It's taken me months to put together this new menu. I'm trying to turn this into a gastropub. Why would you go behind my back and change the menu when I'm tryin' to save your business?"
Hardison had to admit he enjoyed pushing Eliot's buttons more often than not. His latest stunt seems to have pushed the hitter too far. His nostrils flared as electric blue eyes locked on him.
"You don't know the first thing about putting together a pub menu. We had this discussion when you first bought the brewery. You may not take this seriously, but I do. Food is art, Hardison. You can't just throw together a menu. Especially a pub menu. Nine out -"
"Nine out of ten restaurants fail. I remember." Hardison tried to stifle his smile, he really did.
Eliot's eyes narrowed to danger filled slits. "What are you laughing at? You think this is funny? If you wanna lose all that money on this place be my guest. Don't come crying to me months down the road and expect me to pull it back from the brink."
If Hardison had learned anything over the past five years of working with the hitter, it was when to back off. He held his hands in front of his chest in a defensive stance. Like you could stop him if he charged. "Okay, okay. I give. I'm just messing with you."
Eliot took a step closer. "You don't mess with food." That growl left no more room for play.
"You're right. You're right. I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to running this place."
The hitter paused. Blinked. Once, twice. "What?"
Hardison walked to the worktable in the room. "I don't know how to run a pub. I can't make food and put together menus that work with the beer. But you can."
"Wait. What? What are you playing at? I don't have time for this. There's a full staff in the kitchen missing a chef because he's in here arguing with you. A new hire working on this..." He shook the paper to illustrate his point. "When she needs to be working on my menu."
Hardison held Eliot's stare. "You're right. Scrap that one. I have something new."
Eliot looked at Hardison like he'd gotten slapped. "Something new? After what I said? You don't listen to anything. I've been in here raving like a lunatic and you didn't hear a word I said. I swear, why do I even try?"
Without a word, Hardison handed Eliot paperwork.
The older man jerked it from his grasp and looked down at it. Hardison watched as realization lit the other man's face. "What is this?" He whispered.
Hardison shrugged. "Papers for the pub."
"I don't understand." All the fight left the hitter's voice.
"Parker and I are gonna travel. Sight see and hopefully not steal anything." He crossed his arms. "Someone that knows what they're doing needs to be running this place. Not me."
Eliot remained silent and regarded Hardison with mouth agape. Hardison reached behind him and got something off the surface of the table and placed it in Eliot's hand. "There's the keys. You have the paperwork. All nice and legal. Our legal anyway. It's all yours, chef."
Tear-filled blue eyes met dark ones when Eliot raised his stare from the keys fisted in his hand. He grabbed the back of Hardison's neck and pulled him into a fierce hug. "Hardison," he choked the name out.
Hardison tried to control the tremor in his own voice. "Aw, man. Don't make this mushy. Go to your kitchen and stop them from working on that awful menu that someone gave them."
Eliot stepped back, gave him a curt nod and walked to the door. He stopped with his hand on the handle and smiled. A real smile. "Thank you," he said and stepped out.
Hardison smiled and swiped at the tears on his face. "Now to check on those travel plans. I swear that woman better not have any blueprints mixed in with the travel brochures."