Valerio picked up an exquisite vase. “Me, too,” he agreed. “Look what I found digging here.”
Andrea took it. “Late IV century Greek style,” he appreciated, turning it around.
“You say it for the pictures or the workmanship?” Valerio teased, adjusting his buttocks on the flat ruin he had been sitting on since the morning.
As usual, the vase depicted several erotic scenes between men, their black silhouettes shifting positions around the brownish terracotta material.
Andrea grinned and sat beneath Valerio on a lower rock. “Both, Prof.” He studied the vase more. “I would have liked to live during Greek times,” he admitted, “where a man could have sex with another man and no one would see it as a threat to normality.”
“You would have had to marry anyway,” Valerio pointed out, “at least if you were in the lucky class of people.”
“If I were a slave, I’d have probably been better off…” Andrea turned to gaze deeply at Valerio. “Just serving my Master,” he added huskily.
The last words stopped Valerio’s heart cold. His already heightened senses twitched and the embarrassing stirring in his crotch did not help matters. Swallowing hard, he pretended indifference. “Really?”
“Yeah, I would have gladly served him.” Andrea’s gaze returned to the vase. “But I would have married, too, if my family required it.”
“Like you would have in Sicily if Carmelo hadn’t betrayed you?” Valerio inquired softly.
The assistant shrugged. “I may have. I mean, Sofia didn’t mean anything to me, but I owed it to my family.”
“And kept Carmelo as your lover?”
Andrea took a deep breath. “I know it sounds horrible—“
“Especially for Sofia,” Valerio reminded.
“My problem is that I’ve never really cared for women’s feelings. It’s not even a question of taste. I neither like nor dislike them. For me, they live on a separate universe, one I’m not interested in.” He turned and casually placed his elbows on Valerio’s knees. “Maybe you ought to tell me about them so I can be more open-minded.”
The proximity sparked a wave of uncontrollable desire that Valerio had to fight back before he could open his mouth. “I’m no expert on women,” he said thickly.
“Of course, you are, Prof. I’ve seen at least two beautiful women asking about you at the University.”
“A few days before we left. The blond one—“
“Sara.” Valerio provided the name.
“Whatever. She seemed very interested in our fieldtrip.”
“I bet she was,” the Professor mused.
“The brown-haired one—“
“Did she have brown eyes, too?”
“I…” The blondish man’s forehead creased in an obvious effort to remember. “I think so,” he said at last, though his tone held no certainty.
“Then it must be Rosa.”
Andrea grinned. “So you have two brown-haired and a blonde one?”
“Don’t stray from the topic,” Valerio scolded teasingly. “What did she want?”
“Basically the same thing as the other one, only she asked if any women would come along the expedition.”
Valerio shook his head. “I didn’t think they could get so jealous to check on my movements.”
Andrea squeezed his knees, causing a fresh wave of longing. “Men are less possessive,” he assured. “Perhaps you ought to consider our sex, rather than being the usual victim of women’s jealousy,” he teased, a large smile brightening his face.
Feeling every second closer to danger, Valerio shifted nervously, hoping Andrea would take his arm off his legs. “I don’t like men, never had.”
“What is it you don’t like? The Greeks used to think the highest art form was the male body.”
“They were Greeks.”
“So we’re Italians, their proudest heritage.”
The Professor grinned. “Not enough to change my tastes.”
“Only because you haven’t found the right person,” Andrea assured.
“What do you mean?”
“That physical attraction has no rules or boundaries. A man could fall for another man even if he’s never considered them as possible mates.”
“How would that happen?” The ground was getting shakier by the second, yet Valerio could not stop.
Andrea shrugged, his hand casually abandoned near the Professor’s crotch. “Take us, for example. Working in close proximity,” his hand circled Valerio’s knee, “sweating every day under the hot sun,” his circles deepened, “half-naked most of the time.”
“We’re colleagues,” Valerio pointed out uncomfortably.
“So what’s stopping us from taking the relationship a little further?”
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