Denny paled, his healthy summer-kissed skin blanching to pasty white. His mouth opened then shut. His lips parted again, but no sound emerged. Long heartbeats later, he shook his head.
Christ, Matt hated being right all the time. "You look good." He did too, better than Matt had expected in spite of the private investigator's reports. The eyes were the same -- soul-deep black and fringed in a thick blanket of lashes that had so drawn Matt as a teenager. The mop of dark hair hadn't changed either, though Denny wore it shorter now, the loose waves that had once flirted with his shoulders blades gone. Those shoulders were broader now, dense muscle filling out Denny's scrawny frame, but hell, Matt had been leaner then too.
More than ever, Denny looked like Matt's brother rather than his stepbrother. Denny had insisted on growing out his hair in his teens, when they'd both fought most ferociously to distance themselves from each other. Fought about any- and everything. The presumption that, since they looked so much alike, they must be brothers had infuriated them both. Then. It didn't now. Not for Matt, anyway. And with his stepbrother hundreds of miles away, Denny apparently had less motivation for rebellious acts of fuck-you-very-much -- he'd finally cut his hair.
Not that Matt could cast stones.
At least Denny hadn't inked his bicep, though the tribal tat he'd gotten at seventeen to intrigue and annoy his snotty stepbrother had also served as constant, bizarrely comforting reminder of Denny after Matt's dumbfuckery and his mother's cruelty had driven Denny away.
Rather than gulp his stepbrother down in one greedy bite -- or worse, beg Denny to forgive him for being a bastard and a fool -- Matt swept Denny's neat little bungalow with a curious glance. "You've done well for yourself." He meant that too. The rental was so tiny it could fit inside the guest house in the Beverly Hills family compound with room to spare, but the home Denny had created was welcoming in ways the austere luxury of California never had been. Cheerful and warm. Colorful braided rugs dotted the worn floorboards of the front porch. Violently green plants in ceramic pots marched in a line down the porch rail, clearing only to leave the view unobstructed for a swing dangling from the low roof. A hardback book lay open, face down, on the seat. The Importance of Being Earnest. Matt smiled at Denny through the grief. He nodded to the book. "Oscar Wilde's still your favorite."