In the early hours they returned to Luca's home; tightly embraced they walked through deserted streets. Just the early workers crossed their way as the rising sun met the multicoloured façade of San Miniato upon its hill among green trees on the other side of the river. The stark white marble gleamed like it was freshly washed, and so did the red porphyry and the green serpentine.

In the stony doorframe of Lucas' house they kissed good bye with the promise to meet again that afternoon.

Tired, but happy, Luca entered the staircase, careful to avoid any noise. He found a sleeping Giano upon his bed.

Luca shook him gently. "What are you doing here? Waiting for me?" Luca's heart suddenly beat faster.

Giano wiped his eyes and rose. "There you are! I told the parents you were with Rosso to celebrate." He looked his younger brother up and down. He couldn't miss his glowing cheeks and the different look in his eyes. Wary he said, "Where've you been then?"

"Out." Luca retorted saucily. "That's your excuse as well when the parents ask you where you have been."

"Don't mess with me, Luca Montori", Giano approached him, though half-laughing. "Got rid off your virginity?"

Luca blushed furiously. "You know I don't meet girls."

Giano's eyebrow rose but he said nothing. "Go to bed then, I'll excuse you from breakfast." He silently closed the door behind him. Sighing Luca stretched out upon his still warm bed while his eyelashes started to flutter in sleepiness. What a night. His first night with a man... The diary of Masolino... and ... his body jerked upright... the Lapis lazuli! He found the stone on the table beneath the window next to his other gifts, sitting amidst the colourful paper Alessandro had wrapped it with. It looked like an exotic flower, a pure dark blue, round with sharp edges now and then, bigger than his fist. Carefully he touched it with his fingertips, felt the cool, rough surface and wondered what he would do with it. So far he hadn't any idea how to work it, but he would learn soon. Perhaps the pieces that he had to cut off he would grind to fine powder; mixed with the white of an egg, glue and oil it would give a rich blue colour to paint with.

Happy he returned back to his bed and wondered what life had in stock for him.

He found out at noon, when the workshop was closed for a lunch and when he faced a sneering Dante just as he was about to leave the house. His brother pulled out a sheet of paper from his breast pocket, unfolded it very slowly and with a sly grin upon his face.

"Who on earth could have painted this? Eh?" He held the sheet in front of Luca's nose. Luca stepped back and recognized his drawing of Alessandro. Naked upper body. Erect cock peeping out from his trouser's slit. Luca's face drained. "Were you rummaging in my room?" he shouted angrily and tried to snatch the paper, but Dante escaped with a graceful movement, like a Torero with his red cloth in front of a bull. Suddenly he stepped very close and hissed

"What's this piece of faggot shit? Have you drawn it, or not?"

"Give it back!" Again Luca fought to get the drawing; in vain.

"My brother's a little queer, isn't he? Never had a girlfriend, just because his mouth drooled for the boy's asses." His facial expression changed. "I understand now, wow. That's the reason you're after this little fag of Lucertola. Want him to lay you, yes?"

Luca's eyes filled with tears. "Please, don't tell father. It... it was just a try... of a drawing.... to see if I still can."

"Rubbish. You'd rather draw big boobs then, than such a cock." He threw the drawing into Luca's face. "Our family was always clean. No obscenities, no perverts. Don't you dare to start with it."

A last glowering look, then he vanished into the kitchen. Luca ran out of the house and stood for a while upon the low steps that led to the small pavement. After some minutes he decided it wasn't worth to getting frightened about it. He couldn't understand Dante's homophobic aversion, but he didn't want it to spoil his time with Alessandro. Dante would calm down, probably take it as a joke. He was just a hothead.

Behind a group of Japanese tourists, hung with video- and photo-cameras, laden with bags and tourist's guides in their hands, the figure of Alessandro appeared. As always wearing a tight fitting shirt, whose long sleeves he had rolled up above his elbows. With his light blue jeans and white trainers he looked like a young Apollo. At least to Luca. Now, his eyes were wide open to the attraction of a male human, he recognized the signs. The walk, the proud angle of his head, the casual way Sandro had hung his jacket over one shoulder, held by his forefinger. The fiery look from his blue eyes, intensified by the tan of his face. Alessandro was the Prince of the town, the Prince of the Lilies, whatever that meant and for whatever reason the people called him that. Perhaps they sensed that there was no one like him.

He smiled openly at Luca, reached out and pulled him into an entrance made of heavy stone. Pietra serena. Pushing him against the stone and kissing him was one and Luca's body flashed with heat. His penis strained against the denim of his trousers when he felt Alessandro's tongue wrapping his own, caressing, searching. The soft pressure of his lips against Luca's was almost too much for him. He moaned loudly before he pushed Alessandro away. "Don't be mad, everybody can see us."

"So what", Alessandro licked his lips, "kisses aren't forbidden, are they?" He took Luca's hand and entered the street again. The Japanese were gone, but another tourist group marched along the riverquai, interchangeable like the one before, just chattering with a heavy, rough German language.

Alessandro sighed. "Tourist's season started again... That's the curse of living in a museum. You'll never have your home to yourself. Do you know when the last time I was at the Uffizi? I can't remember. It's always blocked by those pillocks."

"Hey", Luca objected. "If it wasn't so, our hometown would be broke. They bring in a lot of money."

"Yeah." Alessandro still had Luca's hand in his. Luca felt awkward. His eyes darted around to see if anybody could see it, but apparently nobody noticed. Or if, they didn't bother.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"What about Boboli? Since you have to pay fee I haven't been there too."

"Because you're so poor", Luca teased him. The Boboli-gardens stretched out on the other side of the Arno and were attached to the Palazzo Pitti, once the palace for the grand dukes of Tuscany. They had always been open to the public since they had existed, but when lately kids vandalized sculptures and plants, the government decided to charge entrance fee and engage guards.

They followed the slow walking groups of foreign visitors, lead by their guides, using umbrellas with funny pennants or artificial sunflowers raised high in the air, watched the beer bellied men or the middle aged ones in their sandals with black socks, Bermudas and sunhats. Luca shivered. It wasn't that warm and the sky was clouded. What would they do when they had to suffer a long, hot Florentine summer?

Alessandro grinned at him. Apparently he had the same idea. Slowly they passed the Uffizi-yard, the loggia and turned left to enter Ponte Vecchio; the shortest way leading to the Boboli-gardens. The jewel shops had just started to open, the owners pulled down the heavy wooden or iron gates, and presented their treasures. Gold, gold and gold once more, a treasure- chest for each tourist. But Luca and Alessandro passed without looking, anxious to be alone finally.

They balanced upon the small pavements with the traffic roaring beside them; the Postal van, horse carriages, trucks with wine and groceries, taxies, even donkey carriages from the countryside with bags of grain. They passed maids with wicker's bags, lounging in front of the poultry shop touching dangling rabbits, until they reached the gigantic light brown facade of Palazzo Pitti, a tarred area in front of it. In summer it was almost impossible to cross it, because your feet would stick.

Alessandro paid the fee for both - unpleasant enough for Luca who could easily pay for himself, but Alessandro wouldn't hear any argument - they passed an open-air theatre, a fountain with a basin and an obelisk claming to have stood somewhere in Egypt. Alessandro told him that was the truth and the Roman emperors had brought it to Rome.

Luca rolled his eyes. "You really should join the tourist groups and demand payment, you know." he said half-laughing. "When will you stop instructing me, eh?"

"Hey, I just want your best", Alessandro answered, climbing the steep, long staircase reaching to the café house, a yellow building with a wide terrace full of tables and chairs attached.

"Thirsty, hungry?" Alessandro asked but Luca shook his head. His fingers were still intertwined with Alessandro's and they had already gained some stares. Not unfriendly, but curious. He didn't want to sit here but prefered to stroll with him through the park. The statue of the Abundanza, a large female figure with a cornucopia in her arms greeted the visitors, and this park was filled indeed with an abundance of shady trees, large, rolling parkways, little artificial lakes and lots of antique- trimmed statues of gods. He almost had forgotten the incident with his brother.

"Sandro?" he asked. "I haven't thanked you for the stone. I... I don't know why you've given it to me. It's really too much, and..."

Alessandro soothed him. "It's not too much. It was just laying in the house in a glass cabinet. Nobody cared for it, so why should it gather dust there when you would have use for it", he said, breathing in the cool, moist air under the trees. Nobody was here. The tourists were busy with their sightseeing, and the few locals were spread all over the place. From afar they heard children's laughter.

"But it is too expensive to give it away so easily, for sure", Luca insisted. Alessandro stopped in the middle of the walkway and pulled Luca to his chest. He pressed his lips upon Luca's and he - who was glad that his erection had subsided - started to get another. He felt intoxicated by closeness, by warmth and taste. He loved Alessandro's smell, a scent coming from his clothes, fresh like a baby, clean and innocent. Everything that Alessandro actually was not. When they heard footsteps on the crunchy gravel they broke the kiss, parted and started to walk on. Luca didn't know what to say. Would it be always like this?

Imperceptibly the sky had clouded over and it didn't last long before the first tiny drops of rain started to fall. Neither was bothered, but then the drops became thicker and both searched for shelter. Alessandro spread out his jacket over their heads. "Come", he said and started to run down the hills, along a labyrinth of box trees until he reached the entrance to a grotto that was closed with red-white striped plastic tape. "No entrance" it read, but Alessandro stepped over and Luca followed. He knew they were in what was called the Grottos of Buontalenti, the man who had built them for the pleasure of Duke Cosimo several hundred years ago, but since they were not used, the town fathers had closed them.

Artificial stalagmites hung from the moist ceiling. A stuffy, musty smell came from the cave behind it. Nonetheless Luca followed excited, passing odd looking faces of stone, chiselled from the walls. Faces with open mouths and wild, matted hair eyes torn open in shock. "Michelangelo's slaves were placed here", he heard Alessandro whisper, "to the amusement of the noble people. The slaves were half-finished figures, peeling themselves out of the stone. Slaves to the material, so to say."

Luca was for the first time thankful for Alessandro's explanations, for he felt a little shiver. It was gloomy in here, and both were soaked from the rain. Their bodies steamed.

"There must be a lake somewhere."

Alessandro stopped and turned. Then he pushed Luca against the stone and grinned. "Nobody will find us here, don't you think?" While he said this, he unbuttoned Luca's shirt and pulled it out from his waistband, unzipping his jeans and let them slide over Luca's hips. His fingers found and massaged Luca's erection, before he fell to his knees and continued the massage with his mouth. Luca groaned, his head pushed back, his arms searching for support . Again he felt he needed to lay down because his legs wouldn't hold him upright any longer, but Alessandro's palms were clasped around his buttocks, holding him steady. A few sucks and Alessandro got the prize, careful, that Luca didn't fall down. "The more often you do this, the longer you can hold out", he mumbled then, wiping his mouth. He came to his feet.

"Was that a complaint?" Luca said panting.

"Sort of. Why not start having a lot of practice? Right now."

"Here?" Luca asked a bit shocked. He couldn't imagine lying down here on the stony, wet earth.

"At home of course. Will you?"

Luca had to admit that he would do everything Alessandro wanted him to do. He pulled up his jeans and stuffed the moist shirt into the waistband and both looked to see if the rain had subsided. It had, all that was left was a drizzle.

"Were you caught this morning?" Alessandro asked when they exited the park.

"Yes, by Giano. He was waiting for me but backed me up."

"Ah. Good boy. You both get along well?"


Alessandro nodded. He didn't know what Giano was doing in the gay bars, but he thought he knew the answer. But he was sure that Luca hadn't the slightest idea about that. He wondered if Giano was still a virgin as Luca was.

The street pavement was wet and slippery; the tourists had vanished like at a secret sign, waiting for the rain to stop in several restaurants and bars on the way to Alessandro's home palazzo. A stony coat of arms hung over the entrance. A decorative lily and a lizard. The thick rustica ashlars of Pietra Serena looked very unfriendly. Rusted rings for torches and to bind horses were attached, and some small stony benches inserted into the walls, made for ancient visitors. "What were your ancestors actually?" Luca asked while Alessandro pushed him through the gate. On the other side they reached a square yard with graceful grey-white pillars connecting the walls, carrying the second floor that was built as open balcony. Window boxes were placed all over, red and white geraniums and in the middle of the yard grew a palm, thin and a bit sad. At the side wall was parked Alessandro's Ferrari next to his motorbike.

"Did you know that Leonardo was guest here during his stay at Florence?"


"Really. He painted "Mona Lisa" here. My ancestors gained their wealth in the 15th century when they were contemporaries of Lorenzo de'Medici. Lorenzo il Magnifico, if that tells you something. They were merchants of silk, we had ships at Pisa's harbour. Didn't I tell you this before? In 1406 Florence had conquered Pisa and thus the sea harbour, and then our hometown had unrestrained access to the oceans directly from the mouth of the Arno."

Luca stood and pondered. "My ancestors were contemporaries of Lorenzo too. But we were dyers, delivering the court with clothes."



"So we do have something in common, haven't we."

Alessandro led the way to a side entrance, then upstairs, directly to his large room under the flat roof. Again Luca was overwhelmed by the large size. He detected a coffered ceiling he hadn't noticed the night before. A fire was slowly crackling in the fireplace and the windows, leading to the loggia were considerately closed. "Good old Anastasia", Alessandro said. "That's our housekeeper. The only person that has some sense here."

"She lit the fire?" Luca asked.

"Yes. She does everything I'm too lazy for. What WE are too lazy for", he corrected himself.

"Aren't you sad that your father isn't alive anymore?" Luca asked a question he had had in his mind for along time.

Alessandro turned surprised. "Sad? Why should I be sad? Sure, he was my father, but..." He shook his head and vanished through a door. He came back with fluffy towels, tossed Luca one of them and started to rub his wet hair. Luca did the same, watching Alessandro. His hair, tousled as it was, curled up into lovely, brown locks, now without the reddish highlights of the sun, but lovely enough to eat. They fell over his ears onto his neck, stressing the tenderness of the skin. Luca got weak knees. How could he resist such a beauty? But, why should he? Alessandro for sure didn't want him to resist.

"My father was the emperor of the house Gondi-Lucertola. Our coat of arms you've noticed is a mixture of the loyalty to the house of the Medici - thus the lily - and the name of the other side of our family, the Lucertolas. I know, it's an odd name. Probably one of them was a gardner, fond of lizards, I don't know."

"The lily..." Luca started, hanging the towel around his neck, "isn't it a French sign?"

"It is. Florence was friends with France - King Francis I and his followers - and the king allowed them to carry the lily in the town's coat of arms. That was long after Lorenzo de'Medici though."

"And since you were loyal to the Medici-family, you could take it over, right?"

"Right." Alessandro started to undress in front of him. Unconcerned of another human's presence he stripped down to his underwear - sexy black pants, as Luca noticed - and hooked his thumbs into the waistband, pulled them down, stepped out of them and crossed the room to his wardrobe. He tossed Luca dry, clean clothes. "What you're waiting for? You'll get a cold." He changed his clothes, not looking at Luca. "I'll get us something to eat", he announced then and left the room. Luca heard him on the staircase.

Slowly and confused he started to undress himself, made a neat heap from his wet clothes and stepped into Alessandro's, enjoying the clean baby-scent oozing from them. They fit as if they were made for him.

Not knowing what to do he looked around and examined the room. Dark blue curtains hung from the small windows, leading to the open loggia, reaching to the floor, held aside by heavy, bronzed fixtures, depicting faces with open mouths and eyes, reminding him at the ugly faces Luca had seen in the grotto. A complete wall was covered by hand-made book shelves, protected with glass doors. Silver candelabras decorated low chests, and all sort of boxes with locks, looking as if they were made from Florentine Art too, like the heavy chest Sandro had taken Masolino's diary from. A thick carpet covered the parquet floor; the bed was hidden with a pulled down curtain too, that matched the blue colour of the window curtains.

Luca felt good in these surrounding. He stepped up to the fireside and stirred the embers, like he did always at home. These palazzi were good for a sweltering heat outside, but in winter they were cold. Amused he thought that the tourists would freeze their asses off in the cool spring rain today.

It didn't take long before Alessandro returned with a plate, laden with tramezzini, Italian sandwiches, filled with tomatoes and cheese, chicken and tuna, salami and pepperoni. He pulled a bottle of white wine out of his fridge and opened it. Luca felt suddenly very hungry. He took the glass, emptied it and eat heartily. "You were starving, eh?" said Alessandro, biting into his tramezzino as well.

"Nothing for breakfast, I slept too long."

"Like myself."

They sat around a small table, looking out of the windows. The clouds hung low, short over the top of the cathedral's cupola and Giotto's clock tower beside. The hills of Fiesole had vanished behind a gloomy curtain of drizzling rain. The pieces of wood cracked in the fireplace.. There was dead silence in the house.

"You hated your father?" Luca asked quietly.

Alessandro swallowed the rest of his bread and washed it away with wine. "I wouldn't say hate. It was more. I despised him."

"Why?" Luca was startled. Why should anybody despise his father?

Alessandro shook his head. He stood up, went over to a small chest, opened the doors wide apart and revealed a stereo. He pressed some buttons and low music sounded. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Not even with me?"

"Especially not with you." Alessandro rose. "Don't get me wrong, Luca. I'm not sharing my secrets."

"But you shared the diary with me."

"Yeah." Alessandro nodded. "But family is family."

"Has it to do with your mother? Because she is drinking?" Absinthe, as Luca remembered.

"No." Alessandro's voice was sharp. "It hasn't to do with mother." He stood for a while, then he refilled his glass and Luca's. "Come, let's not talk about old family matters. Have you decided what to do with your stone?" He lifted Luca from his chair, placed the glass in his hand and forced Luca to drink. It tasted delicious, light and fruity, and Luca drank more than was good for him.

"My uncle has a villa in the surrounding area that he rents to foreigners. Right now a family from Denmark resides there over the summer. They care for the vineyard and the olive trees. That's where the wine comes from. Our house trademark so to speak."

"Your uncle we met at the church? He wasn't very friendly to you. Do you despise him too?" Luca asked, bold from the drunken wine.

Alessandro laughed. "Clever boy. You think I'm the brat of the family, living off their richess, snottily despising every member of it, right?" He placed his glass back upon the table. "You're right, amore."

It was getting darker and Alessandro's body became nothing more than a shadow in the room as he stepped closer and took the glass from Luca. Luca was starting to lose his mind again when he felt Alessandro's lips. He felt himself being undressed once more. Giggling he thought that it must be Sandro's profession to undress other people, but he didn't stop him and was having a go at Alessandro's clothes too. Soon the fire was the only light in the room. The curtains of the bed were pulled back, revealing a made bed with a soft, handmade patchwork cover. Anastasia, Luca thought while he was pushed between the sheets, surrendering to experienced hands, that aroused him so much that after a while he didn't know anymore where he was, who he was and what was the reason he was here.

Alessandro showed him, pulling him over his own body, opened the crack between his buttocks, and sliding his fingers between them, circling around the hole Luca still had had just one use for. It wasn't so difficult for him anymore to give Alessandro the same pleasure he gave to Luca himself. Once he got used to Alessandro's length he could take it into his mouth, enjoying each centimetre of it. He enjoyed the clear fluid, he enjoyed the hot shooting juice and laughed. Alessandro joined in his pearly laughter.

He didn't object when he was turned over on to his belly, and yelped when he sensed biting kisses on his butt cheeks, then a tongue that started to enter his private entrance, but his hands grasped the sheets in a never experienced ecstasy.

And then he learnt, why Alessandro had been so keen on something to stick between his legs, when he felt invaded by careful, knowing fingers, a cooling fluid being smeared and he was ready and prepared. "Push back, amore", Alessandro whispered behind him, holding his hips steady from behind, playing with Luca's erect penis to keep his arousal, and to make it easier. Luca pushed, but the stinging pain was hard. Harder than he thought to bear, but soon it was over, due to the greasiness around Alessandro's condom covered tool, and his penis - limp from the pain - started to rise again.

"You see what it means?" Alessandro still whispered, moving gently in and out. Luca's mind exploded when Alessandro found the right spot deep within him. He felt the long curve of the penis, breaching his sphincter, grazing his bowels, rubbing his prostate, while Sandro's fingers caressed Luca's balls, slapping with each movement against his thighs and he started to love it. Indistinctly he urged Alessandro to move deeper, quicker, faster and Sandro did him the favour, although he had rather prolonged the pleasure. Had it been so good for him his first time? Certainly not. All he had felt was a great pain, nothing more. But so it was, you get used to everything and by and by you start to love it.

Luca fell down onto his belly, pulling Alessandro with him. Luca's legs were shaking; he could feel it. Sweat had coloured the hair on his neck a dark blond. "Don't go away", Luca whispered. One upon the other they fell asleep together.

Darkness. A faint gleaming of fire in the distance. A scent of shared love. Luca pressed his nose between the pillows and tried to remember where he was. The sting in his arse reminded him. Alessandro was still behind him, his penis stuck between Luca's legs. Still in him, Luca thought and tried to explore his feelings. He had slept with a man. With a skilful and experienced man, though Alessandro was hardly one year older. He tried to move, causing Alessandro to stir. He loved the size of the shrivelled cock in his hole but he also felt Sandro move it out, holding the condom's rim. Sleepily he threw it under the bed. Luca rolled his eyes inwardly. How many condoms must have been lying there, for Anastasia to find them? He turned to face Alessandro who had his eyes closed, a content smile around his lips. "How many?" he asked.

Alessandro opened his eyes. "How many what?"

"Condoms? Men?"

Alessandro pulled a face and wiped his eyes. "I'm a slut, amore, but not that much of a slut to gather used condoms under my bed." He suddenly grinned and showered Luca's mouth with kisses. "You're right, I should buy a trash can. From now on the amount of those things will rise!" He started to tickle Luca who squeaked and tried to shove Alessandro off his body. "You liked it?"

"No. I loved it."

"Good. Then it's your turn. Amore."

Amore. Luca tasted the sound of that word in his mouth. It tasted like pure joy. He was lying naked in his bed and straightened out the crumbled drawing of Alessandro. Actually he hadn't been that exaggerated with Sandro's length of his private parts... he giggled to himself. He clenched his butt cheeks and felt the little sting. A pleasant pain though. Just the mere thought of all the things they did made him hard again. Lazily he stroked himself. What would Dante have said had he seen that? he suddenly thought. Dante would never feel like this. Dante would never have such good sex. Complacently Luca encircled the head of his penis and started to rub the length of it until he came. He had to practise to delay . A pearly laughter escaped his throat. Each day practice, was his last thought before he fell asleep.

Part 7