Dimitri’s eyes popped open and he stared into the dim reaches of the dragon temple above him. He let his eyes and ears acclimate to being awake, ignoring the remnants of the dream he’d been having about his twin brother. Alex … you should be here, too, he thought.
This had been their shared dream, finding a place like this. The desire to find evidence that the mythical creatures were real had driven the two brothers through their studies. Now Dimitri was there, waking up to the image of exquisitely carved jade dragons guarding every reach of the massive temple, and the only thing on his mind was the regret that Alex wasn’t there to share it with him.
You’re here to let that go. To let Alex go, he told himself as he clambered out of his sleeping bag and hunted for the kettle. The nearby fountain splashed and gurgled, and Dimitri marveled at the artistry of the carvings that made up their water source while he filled the kettle. The strange stones that filled the firepit they used for cooking were even more fascinating, and yet another detail he could imagine Alex enthusing over.
He set the kettle down onto the hot bed of glowing rocks and sat back. Unable to shake thoughts of his brother just yet, he gave in one more time to the memories that played out in the bright embers while he waited for the water to boil for his coffee.
* * *
“Hey, love. I’d like you to meet my brother, Dimitri.”
Dimitri put on his brightest, most welcoming smile to greet his twin brother’s girlfriend. “Thea. Alex has told me so much about you.” Probably a lot more than you’d be comfortable with, he thought. Alex’s description of her had definitely done her justice, at least.
He reached out his hands to clasp hers affectionately, acutely aware of her soft skin and the way she filled out the sheer, black blouse she wore. He let his hands linger over hers just a little longer than necessary, ignoring the voice in his head reminding him that she was taken.
She was petite and curvaceous with short, curly brown hair. Pixieish was how Alex had described her the week before, with luscious lips and a cunt that tastes like strawberries. Dimitri agreed that her lips did indeed appear luscious, and his brother was not prone to exaggeration, so he trusted the other detail was accurate, too. If he didn’t feel just a little desperate for attention after being dumped himself, he’d have been able to deal with the soft allure of a pretty girl. As it was, Thea was a little too perfect. Alex had good taste. They both did, but somehow Alex was the better judge of character.
“Wow, Dimitri, you are every bit as handsome as your brother told me,” Thea replied with a flirty twinkle in her eye that made Dimitri curse his brother in response. She’d won him over already, and now she was flirting?
Dimitri pulled his hands back and shoved them in his pockets, taking her in surreptitiously while they walked to the bar. As first impressions went, his impression of Thea was good, at least objectively. Not that he could be strictly objective after thinking about her naked. But as long as he ignored his unmistakable attraction to her, he could tell that Alex seemed happy, and his brother’s happiness meant more to him than anything.
At the bar, the three of them bantered like best friends. After a few drinks Thea decided to make it her singular purpose to find Dimitri a date.
“I don’t think my brother’s looking for a date tonight, love,” Alex told her.
“How do you know?” she asked.
Dimitri was entertained by her contrary tone. His brother had found a live one. Not exactly surprising, but it didn’t help him remain objective.
“I know because we share those details with each other.” Alex met his eyes and took a drink of his beer. He hadn’t been lying, but the truth was the two of them shared everything. There was nothing Dimitri had experienced that Alex didn’t know about. At least not yet.
Of course, Alex was being cagey on purpose. It was an unspoken rule between the two of them that the secrets they shared with each other weren’t meant for the ears of their lovers. Dimitri was still raw from a recent breakup. His brother knew all the sordid details of it, so it was unexpected that he’d have introduced Dimitri to a new flame so soon, knowing how sensitive he still was. Yet Alex had. So either Alex’s relationship with this perfect woman was incredibly serious, or something else was going on.
Dimitri took a long swallow of his beer, studying his brother through low-lidded eyes. What have you got up your sleeve, brother?
“Well, he looks lonely,” Thea said. “And this place is lousy with pretty girls. He may not be as gorgeous as you, but it can’t be that tough to find someone for him.” She winked at Dimitri, obviously pleased with her joke. It wasn’t the first time Dimitri had heard it—he’d even used it himself, once or twice. He shared an amused glance with his brother—his mirror image, aside from their clothes—while Thea glanced around the room.
That first night set the tone for their interactions. Every Friday, Dimitri would leave his tiny graduate assistant’s office on campus, walk to the next wing to his brother’s similar office, and they’d drive to meet Thea. Their destination was almost always the same comfortable little pub in the neighborhood where she lived.
Thea seemed to love hunting down girls for Dimitri, but after that first night, it became clear it was just for show. Whether it was out of respect for him or because she started feeling some sense of possessiveness toward him, he couldn’t be sure. She’d gotten into the habit of hooking her arms through both his and Alex’s and walking between them down the street. Dimitri thought she enjoyed some of the envious looks she’d get from other women, bookended by him and his brother as she was. One pretty little pixie flanked by two Adonises was probably the trifecta of attractiveness. He almost wished he could be on the outside looking in, because the truth was nowhere near as interesting as what other people probably imagined.
Buzzed from her third drink, Thea laid a hand on Dimitri’s arm. “Dimitri, it’s been a month. Alex won’t share no matter how much I beg. I think it’s time you tell me exactly what this girl did to you. You’ve gotta get back on the horse, sweetie!”
“Thea …” Alex began, but Dimitri cut him off.
“No, it’s fine. She’s right—I should talk about it.” He turned and met her eager gaze. “Well, first of all it wasn’t a girl.”
Thea’s eyes grew wide and she shot Alex a curious look before saying, “Oh, God, why didn’t you say something? I feel so dumb trying to hook you up with a girl. I’ll switch focus, I have lousy gaydar, though … clearly.”
Dimitri laughed. “No, please. I don’t need any help finding a date, and I do like girls, too. I’m just too busy focusing on my dissertation right now. I don’t need the distraction.” He took a deep breath and a long swallow of his beer, then let the rest of the story out in a rush just to get it over with. “That, and the person I’m getting over was my mentor, so my life’s about ten times as complicated as it needs to be.” At least his mentor had prudently opted to take a sabbatical while the whole debacle blew over.
Dimitri was still nursing the humiliation of the disastrous affair. It never should have started, but it had. The ending had been epic and emotional. He was just grateful he had Alex to bolster his mood in the aftermath. And now that he’d told Thea, he found he was glad someone else was there to shoulder the burden. She reached out and gently squeezed his hand, then adroitly changed the subject. And that was that, or at least he’d thought so.
Around midnight the three of them left, slightly the worse for wear after running into a group of other friends from the anthropology department where he and his brother were both finishing their masters’ degrees. Thea took up her customary spot between them and they headed haphazardly down the sidewalk toward her brownstone a few blocks away.
At her front steps, he started to bid them both farewell and carry on alone back to the loft he shared with his brother. The place was depressingly lonely lately, so he’d most likely end up at the seedy dive bar nearby and close it down before going home to pass out.
Dimitri went in to hug Thea goodnight like always. Before he could react, however, she pressed her lips against his, hot and sweet, and oh so welcome. His brain responded sluggishly at first, but other parts of him were much quicker on the uptake. His hands shifted down her back and pulled her closer before his actions registered.
“Thea, I … I think you got a little confused there,” he said when he finally regained control and let go of her. “Alex is behind you. Honest mistake, I guess.” His stomach lurched when he met Alex’s shocked gaze. His brother’s look quickly faded, replaced by amused understanding. What the hell was Alex up to? What were they both up to?
“Nope,” Thea said. “Not confused at all. Come inside with us, sweetie. Don’t go home alone. Alex said you’d just go drink yourself silly anyway.”
“Alex, what the fuck is going on?” Dimitri asked. It was incredibly uncharacteristic for his twin to hide something like this.
“I would’ve warned you, but she wanted it to be spontaneous. Are you coming in or not?”
“You’re telling me you planned this?” he asked, staring between them both, incredulous.
Thea appeared flushed and wide-eyed, but determined. “It was my idea, Dimitri. If you’re not comfortable, that’s okay. Just come inside and at least talk about it, all right?”
He followed, not quite certain what he should expect. The kiss had confused him as much as it had turned him on and incited a whole slew of questions. But there was no talking. Once through her door, she grabbed his hand and pulled him against her again. She kicked off her shoes and stood on bare tiptoes to reach him. The kiss was sweeter this time, now that he was expecting it, but he still had the strangest sense that he was trespassing somehow. He pulled away again, glancing at Alex for direction and to wordlessly confirm that he really wasn’t crossing any lines.
“It’s okay,” Thea whispered. “Alex, tell him it’s okay. Tell him I want you both. It’s as much for me as it is for you, Dimitri.” The exchange between the three of them was surreal. She kept her eyes locked on Dimitri’s while talking to his brother.
Alex never said a single word. Instead, he led them both to the bedroom and paused by the bed, Thea facing him. He gave her a lust-filled, hungry look and captured her lips fiercely in his. The couple seemed to emanate desire, and it only made Dimitri more uncertain what his role really was, particularly when Alex met his eyes over Thea’s smaller figure. Dimitri didn’t think he’d ever seen his brother look quite so lost to his libido, but then this was an aspect of their lives they’d never shared before.