Balto stepped inside. “We’re here.”
It took me an extra second to step out of the elevator. I’d been mistreated to a worse degree than what Heath did to me, but I despised his deception. He’d walked in there hoping I would assume he was Balto just so he could fuck with my head. I found that cowardly. At least the other men in my life were straight about their intentions—and their identities.
Heath rose from the couch and approached us in the entryway. He wore sweatpants that hung low on his hips and a black t-shirt. His skin was blemished in certain places. It was subtle and not striking enough to notice, but now I could see all the differences between these two men. “What do you want to drink? Scotch on the rocks?”
“Always,” Balto answered.
Heath looked at me, and thankfully, he didn’t try to greet me with a physical gesture. “And the lady? Wine?”
Heath smiled in the exact same way his twin did. “You’ve got good taste.” He walked to the bar and prepared the glasses. I was given a frosty mug for my beer, a nice and unnecessary touch. “The game is pretty boring so far. No one has scored. Cassini, do you follow football?”
“No.” I answered with short words because that was all I could manage.
Balto gave me a discreet look of disapproval.
I didn’t care. I didn’t owe his brother anything. I hardly owed Balto anything.
We moved to the couch. I sat in the middle and Balto sat right beside me. His hand moved to my thigh and took up the entire area. It was a kind of affection he’d never showed before. He never held my hand or put his arm around my waist when we were in public. When we watched TV on the couch at home, he didn’t even touch me then. The only affection I received was when we were in bed together. Maybe he only touched me now to make me more comfortable around Heath.
“How’s your beer?” Heath asked. “If you don’t like it, I can get you another.”
“It’s fine.” I kept my eyes on the TV even though I wasn’t following the game. My brothers were into sports, but I never was. I’d preferred helping Mom in the kitchen while they screamed at the TV.
Heath and Balto started to talk about the game like I wasn’t even there. They bitched at the refs, called out the players for faking injuries, and then argued with each other about their own opinions.
The night felt awkward because the attention wasn’t on me.
Balto excused himself to the restroom.
That’s when things got really uncomfortable.
Heath sighed as he looked at me. “I’m sorry, alright? How many times do I have to apologize?”
“It doesn’t matter how many times you apologize. Have you ever met someone and immediately didn’t like them? It has nothing to do with remorse. Does it really matter if I like you or not? I’m not going to be around forever, so it really doesn’t make a difference.”
He held his beer between his legs and sighed to himself. “I guess I just want you to understand I would never hurt you or cross the line. I made a bad first impression, but I couldn’t help it. I see a pretty girl, and all pragmatism goes out the window. But nothing else would have happened. I genuinely went up there to check on you.”
“Not once did you introduce yourself.”
“No, but you’re a total babe, and you were wearing practically nothing. Sorry, but I’m a man. When I see a beautiful woman, I do stupid shit. I shove my foot in my mouth and act like an ass.”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“You must not get laid often.”
“To the contrary, actually.”
“Only because you pay for it.”
He chuckled. “You’re witty. But no, I don’t pay for sex—that often. In my experience, women like the attention.”
“I’m sure they would feel differently if you just barged into their house unannounced.”
“Good point. But again, I thought my brother told you I lived on the third floor. Not my problem.”
I drank my beer and turned back to the TV.
“I’m cold and heartless just like my brother. We’re a lot alike, and sometimes I’m worse. He’s got stronger morals, stronger dedication to keeping a respectable reputation. Me…I care more about doing whatever the fuck I want.”
I turned back to him, somewhat troubled by his identical features. His voice was deep like Balto’s, and his jawline was so chiseled. Anytime he spoke, all the muscles in his jaw and throat shifted in the same way. Just as handsome and just as strong, this man easily could be mistaken for his brother.
“And frankly, I couldn’t care less if you like me. I don’t care if you respect me. Your opinion of me doesn’t make me lose sleep at night. But I do want to make this right for one reason—my brother. Balto and I haven’t been close for years. We butt heads a lot, and I was pretty pissed when he threw my ass in jail. We’ve got a lot of issues to work out. But make no mistake, he’s my brother, and I would do anything for him.”