Whilst the library held a fair more storybooks about ancient gods than the Costello Mansion library did, a thought occurred to Phillip that most danced the route of strict fact, even in their fiction gloss-coats; fiction, as a taste, only extended to the religion tomes. Of them, however, there were many. If he couldn't select a sneaky murder or sassy romance, Phillip would simply learn more about these past 'rulers'.
Much more acquainted now with a vixen who called herself Artemis, Phillip looked up from the armchair. He had begun to wonder how in-depth the conversation fell to take away nearly half an hour of Lysander's family time (with Rion's tendencies, Phillip worried they would be over the desk, fighting), when the door to the study clicked open and Rion strolled out, straightening his collar.
With a hand on the higher door-bar, Rion shared words in an undertone with Lysander; with the warmest smile, the latter gestured to where Phillip sat.
He laid down the battered book and stood. In an instant of spotting Rion, Phillip pulled up his eyebrows. He wanted to grab his brother by the shoulders and shake him, for that giddy smile owned Rion not often.
Phillip shot the absent Lysander a glance – but that door had been closed for longer than he had anticipated. “Are you all right?”
“Hmm. Yes. Quite.” Rion tried hard to keep his normal composure. A hand sunk into his pocket, coming to gentle rest surprisingly close to the central crease. Rion’s eyes soared beyond the windows and the curve of his lips increased.
They had not walked far when a wave of memories hit Phillip: the intense staring, that crackling spark he had so readily dismissed as rivalry. He had read about the passion – just not in this way. But, looking back at his brother, Phillip held no doubt Rion had the fever.
He swallowed. They had been friends at The College; maybe they had a lot about which to catch up. But why send him away? And why the stricter tone?
His brother didn’t, did he?
By now, the external sunlight highlighted Rion’s glossy hair, and he shook his head into it. Phillip studied his brother in the brighter light; Rion had noticed his shirt out of place. He turned pink, redoing the arrangement of buttons. Buttons which had been fine and neat earlier.
Phillip couldn’t deny himself, just as Rion hadn’t.
Nobody spent half an hour ‘talking’ in a study.
They walked halfway down the outer road in silence. When Phillip couldn’t take much more, he blurted out, “What happened in the study?”
Rion didn’t round on him, despite the crispness in his tone – and then Phillip really worried.
“What do you mean? We talked, as I said.”
Phillip eyed his brother as the man hailed a taxicab, stretching from the balls of his feet, through his knees and beyond the straight-line of his waist. The bare hand trembled – whether from exhilaration or fear was uncertain – and Phillip recalled the times his lying brother had tucked hands into his waistcoat; now they had no pocket to protect themselves. Now Rion had practised lying that he could smile at their Father with crossed fingers as well as legs; here, he had been stripped and laid bare, so the silk skill had departed him.
“I ask whether you threatened him,” Phillip stressed. Somehow, he knew Rion wanted the naked wind through his fingers. Filthy, off-target fingers.
Rion almost laughed. “Do not be ridiculous!”
“You are a liar. We both know that fact. Pretend you have forgotten all you wish, but I see the imprinted reflection…”
Rion’s head turned. His eyes lingered, irises echoing their storm-swept hue. His stone façade wavered. At that moment, the cab hummed into existence, before Rion ducked his head of out sight, into the driver’s window.
When the jutting chin and dark hair reappeared, they did little in hiding the face glowing like an ovular apple.
“To the Mansion,” he said.
“Indeed.” Phillip followed his brother’s in-passage. An eye watched from the top-mirror. He noticed the driver: fair and angelically young.
Phillip smoothed the grey seat-cloth. “Charming, is he not?” he announced in his deepest undertone.
“What?” whispered Rion. That trickled word bloomed with hope. Rion thought he was like him. Phillip closed his eyes with a sigh. This was never going to be easy.