Chapter One


There's nothing quite the same as riding. Nothing quite the same as that thrill. The days when I visit the stables for a decent amount of time are my happiest - not only because of the jumping and the races and the freedom, but also because of Heath. Heath's the stable-boy for my family's horses. He's employed by the stables where we pay for the horses to board - Saoirse and Dovetail, my mare and my mother's. And me and Heath fulfill all the wonderful stereotypes of stable-boys and horse-owners. I've never actually had sex with him; but there's a lot of rolling around in the hay and secret kisses made more exhilarating by the fact that his boss is just outside.

We're not a couple. Just two teenage guys who are bi and enjoy some fun.

But for now it's just me and Saoirse, practicing our jumping alone in the dawn mist, enjoying the brisk cold of a Saturday morning. Saoirse is a beautiful horse - a bay Arab mare with charcoal-tinted mane, tail and stockings and a chestnut hide. Sometimes I think she can read my mind - she understands me better than anyone else, that's for sure.

We're like one thing when we're alone.

The adrenaline pounds through my system as we approach the next jump. Saoirse's hooves pound on the earth, the beat familiar, my body moving to the rhythm she sets. My mind is clear of all other worries when we're here like this.

For that perfect moment we're flying: mare and teenage boy, perfectly coordinated. Saoirse lands easily, never stumbling, leveling out into a canter once more. Reluctantly I slow her to an easy trot and turn her head towards the stables. In ten minutes my father will be here to pick me up and drive me home. He doesn't see the point to riding. He'll be grumpy if I'm late; and if he's grumpy at eight o'clock on a Saturday morning the bad mood will last all weekend.


"You'll be back tomorrow?" Heath asks as he undoes Saoirse's girth-strap and slips off her saddle. He's obviously trying to sound nonchalant and cover up the fact he's anxious to see me. Some people are so transparent. Heath's lovely - and not bad looking, despite the fact that I'm not big on blondes - but he's easy to read.

"I should do," I murmur back as I pull off my riding trousers. I'm meant to get changed in the bathrooms; but I'm not exactly shy and it's easier just to have a quick swap in Saoirse's stall. Anyway, it's entertaining to see Heath trying to look without me noticing. "But not so early, if I do come. I was staying at a friend's house last night - Yuki lives ten minutes from here. I just walked over." The drive from home's nearly an hour, which is why I can't come here every day. I do have a driver's license - technically for a motorbike - but it's been suspended. Not by the law, but by my father. I got a speeding fine for 90 miles an hour on a 70 road. I paid it, annoyed because it had been at 3 a.m. and the road had been deserted. Dad punished me nevertheless.

"Oh. It'd be nice, y'know, if you could," Heath replies hesitantly, leaving the mare's side and coming over to me just as I'm doing up my jeans. "I like to see you."

"That's sweet of you," I reply with a beam and lean forward to kiss his cheek before pulling on a tight black t-shirt. I've picked up my riding stuff - I've already changed from the boots into my trainers - and am halfway to the door when he calls out,

"Or you could give me your mobile number? E-mail address? Anything?"

I grin, my back turned to him so he can't see. I love getting them to their knees. "Let me get to know you a little better first," I reply flippantly.

"You've said that every time I've asked! For over a year!"

"And I'll carry on saying it till I'm completely ready. Trust me. I'm worth waiting for. I'm just not ready yet for that kind of relationship. Not with you, not with anyone." Which is only a slight lie. I am ready for sexual relationships; I've just only been in one - with a girl called Aimée. I just find that to be chased is just as much fun as to be caught. The sentimental and oh-so-innocent nature of my speech is broken by my brisk, "see you soon, Heath."

He doesn't follow me out of the stall. Good. Saoirse needs to be brushed down.

I walk around to the car-park slowly, riding clothes tucked under my arm. A quick check of my watch tells me it's just after nine o'clock. Dad won't be happy to have got out of bed to pick up his oldest son from an activity he doesn't support.

It's odd. I don't feel like the oldest son. Sometimes, I don't even think I am. My 'identical' twin brother Lyon - Lyonel - is supposed to be the younger one; but it doesn't feel like it. Physically he's larger - but then, he does work out every day - and he's also far, far more mature than me. I am most definitely the baby of the family. Lyonel's the one who gets good grades and is going to take over dad's work. Poor guy.

When I get there I'm more than a little surprised to see that the only car there apart from the stable-owners and Heath's is Lyonel's. Not my father's, but my twin's car - and Lyonel, following my father as on everything, isn't keen on my riding either. I'm curious by nature - "it's lucky curiosity only kills cats and not boys, or I'd have lost my beloved baby before he turned seventeen," my mother always says with a laugh, - and isn't this a good reason to be inquisitive? Why would Lyon come pick me up?

I go quickly to the car, opening the passenger door briskly. Lyon's in the driver's seat and the engine's still running. His face, so similar to mine, is set in a stony look. I hate to have him mad at me. Anyone else can be annoyed at me if they want - it's not good, and it makes things difficult - but it actually hurts to have Lyonel annoyed. He's wearing the same sombre, dark clothes as he usually does - I've never understood why he has to dress like he's forty plus when he's not yet eighteen. It makes me feel uncomfortable for my torn jeans and slogan t-shirt.

"Close the door," is all he says.

"I love you too," I reply with a grimace, slamming my door and tossing my clothes and boots carelessly over onto the backseat. Lyonel follows their path with his eyes, disdain evident.

"Please don't throw your stuff around my car, Elijah."

God. What's wrong with him? He never calls me Elijah. Few people do. I don't really mind it, but I'm always Lijah or Lij. My parents never even call me Elijah when they tell me off (which, thankfully, doesn't happen too often. Innocent looks are a gift). People even call me and Lyonel the 'two L's'.

"Why are you here and not dad?" I ask inquisitively as we begin to drive, absently fiddling with my bead necklace from our last holiday in Australia.

"He needed a lie-in. He was up late last night. Now do up your seatbelt before you go through the windscreen." I'm not in the mood to argue with him, so obediently I buckle the seatbelt. There's silence for a while. Long enough for me to see that he looks less calm and collected than usual. His clothes, though they're exactly the kind of boring stuff he normally wears, seem to have been put on in a hurry.

Damn. He's breathing hard, too, and there's a flush in his cheeks that only I could notice. He probably had that prick Nicolai around last night. God I hate that guy. He may be one of Lyonel's only friends (I'm the social butterfly of the family), but. Well, I've known Lyon was gay for years. He came out before me; and did it much calmer - just told mum and dad over the dinner table. I was found by my mother when I was making out with a guy in my room; and since afterwards I got a girlfriend my parents grasped pretty quickly that I swung both ways. But that's not the point. Basically, I know that Lyon and Nicolai sleep together. Quite often. My room and Lyon's are linked up with a once-playroom now TV-room; and if I'm in there and Nicolai's staying the night I hear things I don't want to.

And Nicolai's just a bastard anyway. He hates me and I hate him. End of story.

"Have Nicolai around while I was away?" I ask conversationally. In return for my politeness, Lyon nearly gives me whiplash as he brakes for a red light.

"No!" he says firmly through gritted teeth, pausing for a while before he more calmly says, "no, I didn't, Lijah. Let's leave it at that."

But there's no way I'm going to. I will find out what he's being so secretive about. And anyway, he owes me one - I recently diverted our mother from going into the TV room when Nicolai and Lyon were. doing whatever they were doing in Lyonel's room.

"No, seriously, Lyon. You don't have to keep secrets from me - I'm your twin for God's sake. Go on."

And then he looks at me like he never has before.