Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shadowkings 1 The Beginning by Mychael Black

Witchcraft and homosexuality are punishable by death, but it doesn’t stop Lucca Moretti from embracing both. Lucca fears no man, but he has one weakness: his twin brother, Gabriele. When tragedy strikes, Lucca and Gabriele have few options, but they do have allies. They flee from the wreckage of their family’s home and take refuge in the home of Lorik, the unofficial leader of the vampires in the city of Rome. Lorik offers them safety, but not without a price.
Gabriele has spent years fighting an unholy desire for his twin, but even his fear is no match for the lure of Lucca’s kiss. In this new world they’ve stumbled into, however, there is much more to the people around them than meets the eye.
The vampires are at war, and Lorik’s court mage sees something in Lucca that could turn the tide in their favor. Secrets come to light which can either aid the twins in saving the new family they’ve found, or destroy them all.


Gabriele lay on the bed. Lucca closed the door quietly and went to his twin. He eased Gabriele's boots off gently. Gabriele stirred and made what sounded like a protest, but otherwise didn't respond. After setting the boots aside, Lucca untied his brother's pants and worked them down over the slender hips, then finally off. Gabriele had several bruises along both thighs, no doubt from debris. Lucca growled and grit his teeth, fingers tracing one bruise just about mid-thigh. A knock on the door snapped him from the anger and he stood.
"Water, Master Lucca?" A young boy, one of several, stood with a bucket full of water in each hand.
"Yes, please." Lucca went back to the bed and draped the blanket over Gabriele. Then he nodded.
The serving boys came in one after another, pouring buckets of heated water into the tub. They stopped when it was several inches from the top, and one handed Lucca a sliver of coarse soap and a dingy cloth. Tossing the cloth to the side, Lucca set the soap on the floor and went to get Gabriele. Gabriele groaned softly, a welcome sign of consciousness returning.
"Come on," Lucca coaxed, helping Gabriele to sit before tugging his twin's shirt off. "Let's get you clean. Then I can look at those wounds."
"I'm fine," Gabriele grumbled.
For once, Lucca smiled at Gabriele's protest. It meant his twin was on the mend. "Of course you are. Show me. Get in the tub."
Gabriele scowled but went along anyway, letting Lucca ease him down into the steaming water. "It's hot."
"Cleans better that way." Lucca knelt beside the tub and cupped some water, letting it pour over Gabriele's chest. Then he wet the soap and handed it to Gabriele. "If you don't want me to do it, then you'd better start washing."
Lucca chuckled and got up, leaving Gabriele to wash. "Are you in pain?" he asked, reclining back on the bed, propped on his arms.
"A bit, but nothing I can't handle." Gabriele glanced over at him. "What are we going to do, Lucca?"
Sighing, Lucca fell onto his back and stared blankly up at the weathered timber ceiling. "I don't know." Helplessness was not something he dealt with easily, especially now. He glared upward, the scowl deepening. They had never been overly close to their parents, though their mother showed more affection than their father had. In truth, it was Alessandra they both mourned. A knot formed in Lucca's throat. Alessandra hadn't been like their parents. She'd possessed a love for life that rivaled Lucca's, and she'd never expressed any opinion on his proclivities. Her laughter filled his mind and he squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to block it out. There would be time to mourn her, but, for now, he had his brother to protect.
"Are we going to Rome?"
Lucca mused over the idea for a few minutes, weighing what options they had left. "We could. Are you certain that's what you want?" Gabriele had always been more tied to the family than Lucca had. Lucca's sole purpose in life was his brother. It was something he couldn't deny, something he wouldn't deny. It was also something he doubted he could ever tell Gabriele.
"I'm sure," Gabriele said quietly. "You will go with me, won't you?"
"I will never leave you, Gabriele."
They grew quiet, the silence stretching between them. Lucca saw it all in Gabriele's face when he dared to look: the shock, the fear, the sorrow. Each one he felt as well, but he refused to let himself succumb to grief. He still had Gabriele, and whether the man admitted it or not, Lucca knew Gabriele looked to him for answers, always had. But Lucca didn't have any answers this time. Not for this.
He had no idea what set their family's home ablaze. All he knew, all he remembered, was coming home to chaos and not knowing where his twin was. That had been the worst, the primary reason he'd acted without real thought. To never see those eyes again would have killed Lucca far quicker than smoke or flame.
"You're quiet."
Gabriele stood before him, rivulets of water cascading down a slender body Lucca had often dreamed of holding, of touching. Perhaps it was because he stared too long, or maybe Gabriele read something in his gaze that Lucca wasn't aware he'd projected. Whatever it was, Lucca found himself looking up, and Gabriele looking down. For a moment, they just stared at each other in silence.
Then Gabriele bent and kissed him.
Shock riveted Lucca where he lay, his eyes wide as Gabriele stood back up.
"I'm sorry." Gabriele's expression turned to one of disbelief. He spun around and started to walk away. Lucca caught him, and before Gabriele had a chance to change his mind, Lucca tugged him closer again. "Lucca. Please. I don't want to fight. I'm sorry. I should never have done that."
"No," Lucca said. He stood slowly, bringing their faces closer together. "I should have."
Lucca didn't give his twin a chance to apologize again. He caught Gabriele in another kiss, pressing their closed lips together. Gabriele sighed and then those lips parted, giving Lucca his first taste of the only man he'd ever loved. Instead of pulling away like he'd expected, Gabriele's arms slid around his neck, and then his twin was returning the kiss, Gabriele's tongue toying with his in ways Lucca had only fantasized about.
It was Gabriele who broke the kiss, resting his forehead to Lucca's. "What have we done?"
When he found he really had no way of answering, Lucca closed his eyes and shook his head. "Comforting," he said finally. And if that was all it had been, then so be it. He'd gotten the kiss he'd wanted since they were thirteen. If he never got another one, he at least had this one moment in time to carry him through the rest of his life.

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