But he’d thought he could hide behind formality. They weren’t boys anymore, taking an illicit thrill in using first names despite their difference in station. James would have the title, and he himself was a fully grown man who supervised a house full of servants and had money in the bank. He was no longer the young lad eager for a friend, the young man flattered that his lordship’s son would choose him to disclose the deepest secret of his heart.

Did James even remember that kiss? It hadn’t been his first. That honor belonged to some hussy at school, a maid who was all of sixteen and accounted a master of the art and offered to sell the young lads kisses for a shilling. And James had sought him out when he’d come home for winter holidays and told him all about it, and all about how he’d said all the things the other boys did, but he hadn’t felt any of them. And then he’d shyly said he thought he might feel them with a man and would Daniel be ever so good as to let him try? And Daniel had been all of fifteen and desperate for physical contact and half in love already and had said “Of course” as calm as you please. And when it was done, he’d been all the way in love, and James had practically run off, cheerfully saying at least he knew what the issue had been.

But apparently Daniel wasn’t as grown up as he thought he was. He’d fallen into the old names as easy as when he’d been a boy. And James had certainly grown up since the last time Daniel had seen him, the day he’d come to get some of his mother’s things before his lordship could get rid of them. The estrangement between father and son had been a good thing, he’d told Daniel—it had made it easy to hide his inclinations from his father, who sent him a regular allowance and paid for his schooling and all the things the heir was supposed to have even if he didn’t speak to him. That secret would have cut off all ties. But the grown-up James hadn’t had the desired effect on Daniel’s emotions. He was more of a lord, more sure of his place, more remote and haughty, although not where Daniel was concerned. He was also taller, almost even with Daniel, broader in the shoulder, and the current fashions suited his frame better than those that had been popular when he’d been in school. It was most definitely not easier to see him now, but much, much harder.

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