Gage felt a pull in his stomach. “I probably shouldn’t have come here today. It was a mistake.” He turned and started walking toward the exit, truly wishing he hadn’t gone there.

“Wait,” Luis said. “Don’t leave. It’s been a long time.”

Gage stopped walking and turned around to face him again. “It’s been more than a decade.”

Luis reached for Gage’s arm and said, “Look, my husband and son are in Alaska this week visiting family. Why don’t you come home with me and we can talk?” He glanced back and forth to be sure no one was watching them.

Gage hadn’t expected an invitation from Luis. So he thought for a moment, then nodded. “I guess I can spare a few minutes.” He figured it was the least he could do. After all, he’d been the one to approach Luis without warning.

“My driver is right outside,” Luis said in that overly friendly way he’d always had when he was trying to win someone’s trust.

Gage nodded and said, “I can only stay for a minute.” Then he put the baseball cap back on and pulled it down over his eyes so no one would notice they were twins as they walked to the car, knowing that for weeks to come, he’d probably regret the decision to go back to Luis’s home.

Chapter Two

The Virgin Billionaire’s New York residence was far less impressive than Gage would have imagined. He’d pictured something larger, with a marble entry hall, a butler, and massive crystal chandeliers hanging in every room. But this was one of those older town homes on the Upper West Side, with modest-sized rooms and sleek original hardwood floors that had been painstakingly refinished. The walls were white and the furniture was traditional, with fussy, uncomfortable chairs and antique side tables that looked very expensive. He would have imagined black leather and chrome and glass, stippled with some of that mirrored deco furniture that seemed so popular everywhere. When Luis led Gage into the living room, a small dog with a shaggy mop of blond hair on its head—but bald everywhere else—jumped off the sofa and growled. The dog glared at Gage and showed his teeth, kicking his back legs and arching his back.

“Camp,” Luis said, “knock that off and be good.” Then Luis turned to Gage and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s normally so friendly with everyone.”

Gage shrugged and looked the nasty little dog in the eye. At a glance, it would have been easy to mistake it for a rat. “If I looked like him I’d be in a bad mood, too. It’s completely bald. Is it sick?”

Luis laughed. “He’s a Chinese crested. I found him in a back alley a few years ago before I met Jase and he followed me home. I’m not even sure how old he is. That was when I was living in this very building when it was apartments. Then Jase bought the building and turned it back into a one-family home.”

The dog barked at Gage, then ran to the back of the house.

Leave it to Luis to be so politically correct he’d own a rescue dog instead of an expensive, well-bred show dog like most billionaires. “I was never a huge fan of animals,” Gage said. “I’m sure you remember. I wasn’t fond of any animal on the farm, and they felt the same way about me.”

Luis smiled. “Do you mind if we go upstairs? I’d like to change my clothes. This is the most uncomfortable suit I’ve ever worn.” He sent Gage a sarcastic grin. “I’d like to be more comfortable, like you, and put on some old shabby things.”

Luis hadn’t changed. He always knew how to use a compliment to put Gage down. Gage shrugged and followed Luis to the staircase in the entry hall. He didn’t take the reference to his old clothes as an insult. They were old clothes; he couldn’t afford to buy the clothes Luis wore. Though Luis could have been kinder, Gage had learned years ago never to expect any sincere compliments from his twin brother. They’d been at each other’s throats since the day they’d been born.

As they climbed the stairs, Gage noticed a few paintings on the wall with the names of famous artists he wouldn’t dare try to pronounce aloud in front of Luis. He remembered the way Luis had always been so culturally superior to him, always making fun of the way he spoke, laughing at how little he knew when it came to books and art. Once, when they were only about thirteen years old, riding in the car with their parents, Gage had pointed to a sign that said, “Antiques” on the side of the road. But he’d pronounced it ANN-tee-kews, and Luis laughed at him for the rest of the day. Gage learned that the less he said, the better off he’d be.

When they entered Luis’s and Jase’s bedroom, Gage remained silent. The walls were the same stark white as the first floor, the floors the same hardwood, and the furniture was just as simple. But he didn’t comment. He had a feeling this minimalist simplicity, with plain white bed linens and white sheers on the windows, was just as forced and pretentious as everything Luis had ever done in his life. All these simple American furnishings were probably rare antiques that cost as much as most regular people earned in a year. Leave it to Luis to marry a billionaire and pretend in such an understated way that he was just like everyone else. And leave it to Luis to work this hard to be tasteful and elegant. If Gage had married a billionaire, the room would have been filled with gilded mirrors, French furniture, and chandeliers dripping in crystal. There would have been red satin sheets on the bed, with several leopard pillows.

Luis opened a set of double French doors in a small hallway that led to the bathroom and said, “I can’t wait to get out of these pants and into a pair of sweats. These shoes are killing my feet. You’d think a three–thousand-dollar pair of shoes would fit perfectly. But there you are.”

Evidently, Luis needed to mention the price of his shoes.

Gage remained silent, with his hands folded below his waist, and crossed to a fireplace with a white marble surround. He’d purchased his shoes at a small shop in Brooklyn for $49.99. He looked above the mantel at an oil painting of Luis, Jase, and their son. They were all wearing matching crewneck sweaters with a tasteful little emblem just below the left shoulder. He smirked and shook his head back and forth, wondering how long it took Luis to decide on whether or not to wear simple crewneck sweaters or V-neck sweaters so they’d all look as though they’d just stepped off a yacht.

A moment later, Luis walked out of the closet wearing nothing but a skimpy black thong. He crossed to where Gage was standing and put his arms around Gage’s shoulders. He hugged Gage tightly, with his cheek pressed to his twin brother’s. Then he kissed Gage on the cheek very gently and said, “It’s so good to see you again. I think about you often. You’re my brother, the only family I have left now.” Copyright 2016 - 2023