Lorenzo is 23 years old the night he first meets his brother.
He’s sampled one glass of Piemonte wine too many, a little shy to be at an industry party by himself. His hands are in his pockets, and he can’t stop looking at the stranger by the fireplace.
Of course he knows he has a brother somewhere in Torino, but why on earth would this be him? In the self-centered imagination of a child, Gian Luigi Orsini had been cast as an older version of Lorenzo himself, big and dark-haired, surely ancient by now. The stranger is fair and delicate. Elegant. Pretty.
And looking back at him.
There’s a spark when their eyes meet. Lorenzo’s heart jumps in his chest, and his face goes hot.
(It happened. He knows it. Gigi knows it.)
The stranger holds himself very still, but something about his watchful expression changes. His gaze flickers down for an instant, just as far as Lorenzo's mouth, then darts up again to meet his eyes.
Some near misses are so close that the mind and the body can only agree to disagree. It’s like the muscle memory of hitting the brakes, the phantom sound of rubber squealing on the road, and that weightless, reckless spin. You know in your head that the crash never actually came, but another story is etched in your nerves with every recollection until could have becomes should have.
Muscle memory. His hands slide out of his pockets.
Instead of lumbering over to the fireplace, his cheeks still burning.
He could have—
Instead of waiting for a formal introduction.
He should have—
Instead of taking his brother’s business card, he takes a steadying breath. He holds the stranger’s gaze a second too long and tilts his head toward the door in a gesture better suited to a disco than a party where everyone knows his father. Then he steps outside without another glance, hopeful he’ll be followed.
The garden is fresh with late evening dew, the moon a sliver overhead. He waits until he hears soft footsteps on the portico. Neither of them says a word. It’s 1977, and the cautious set of Gigi’s shoulders and Lorenzo’s slow, inviting step backward is a language of its own.
They keep away from the windows, leaving the pools of yellow light and muffled drone of conversation behind as they disappear into a quiet alcove at the side of the house.
The space between Gigi's jacket and shirt is warm. Gigi's mouth is hot and tastes of Freisa d’Asti. Gigi’s hands, holy god, his hands press so tightly to Lorenzo's back, pulling him close. They grip his shoulders as Lorenzo folds to his knees in the cool, damp grass. They grab hold of his hair and don’t let go.
Muscle memory. The fumble of belt and buttons and the wretched, hurried excitement of stroking himself off in the darkness that night. Closing his eyes and thinking of a stranger, a stranger, a stranger.