The Real You
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Releasing: 4 October 2016
The age-old war between good and evil is bringing changes and with change comes fear—especially the fear of what is to come.
Isiah Gillis and Claudius Reynar are twins in every sense of the word. No one can tell them apart, yet they’re not related. Since meeting, they’ve learned that they’ve become the subject of a legend, something neither of them wanted.
Hatred from their past lives comes knocking and tries to kill Claudius and Isiah by turning Mitch into a weapon against them. Instead, Mitch now shares his body with Remi, a powerful demon lord, who enters their lives—a demon Lord who claims them for his own.
Not everyone is happy that the legend has been fulfilled and they will do everything in their power to tear apart the strong bond the four men possess. Laramie realizes he has to separate from Mitch or risk losing one of his mates so completely it could break them all.
When old and new enemies alike step forward to destroy who they are, Isiah, Mitch, Claudius and Remi gather family and friends to fight in the war to save them all. Can things be set to right before evil intentions win?
Mitch Evans tugged his friend, Eric Meyers, to a stop. “I’m not sure this is such a good idea, mate. When things seem too good to be true, I always end up getting bit on the ass.”
“I think it’s a bloody perfect idea, Mitch. You need somewhere to live and these guys need help with the rent and everyday living expenses.” Eric grinned down at him, which wasn’t hard considering he was almost a foot taller than Mitch.
Still, Mitch needed to get some verification before he took another step. “You said they’re vampires—old vampires. Why don’t they already have money to pay the rent? What’s wrong with them?” Mitch queried. There has to be something wrong with them to be in such dire straits. Why isn’t their day warden looking after them?
Eric stared at him for a moment, probably trying to decide how much he was allowed tell him. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Claudius and Isiah. I promise, they’re really nice, and I know for a fact you’ll get on with them very well. Just give this a chance…please. I need you to do this for me.”
Mitch rolled his eyes at his best friend. “Do Claudius and Isiah even know you’re trying to fob me off on them?” What if they don’t like me? Where will I be then?
“Define know,” Eric asked a little too evasively.
Nervousness hit him like a tidal wave. “Jesus, Eric!” he snapped. They came to a halt outside the door of a small, brick unit. “You really need to stop doing shit like this. You can’t expect us all instantly to get along and play happy families. What the hell is their day warden going to say if I suddenly move into their territory?”
“Mitchell Bryan Evans,” Eric growled, and Mitch knew he was in trouble when he heard his full name. He waited patiently for Eric to continue. An interruption at this point could result in a hissy fit of major proportions. “Okay, I admit I do have an ulterior motive for you moving in here. I’m not just bringing you here for shits and giggles. Jeez, what do you take me for? I’m not that fucking stupid.”
“Then before we go any further, why don’t you tell me what the hell your motives are?” Mitch retorted hotly. He had been played for a fool one too many times to simply walk right into the next disaster. How many times do I need to be kicked to the curb before I get the clue to keep clear of situations like this?
Sighing deeply, Eric answered, “The reason I need you to move in is because Claude and Isiah don’t have a day warden anymore, and even though I hate to admit it, I’m finding it really hard to look after both them and Daven. Besides, I think you’ll love Claude and Isiah if you give yourself the chance to get to know them. They really are the sweetest guys, even if it does drive a person nuts trying to keep track of who is who. Believe me, I’ve been friends with them for over three hundred years and I still mix them up daily,” he said, then turned and used his key to open the door. “Come in. They’ll be getting up soon.”
Mitch let his gaze wander over everything the room held and he soon realized Eric was right. They really didn’t have much of anything. Still, he had to wonder why. What happened to everything they owned? How the hell have they been surviving living like this? “Shouldn’t we have at least waited for Claudius and Isiah to be awake when I enter their home for the first time? I thought you told me vamps were very territorial about people invading their space?” Mitch whispered. He frowned when Eric pulled him through the flat toward what he assumed was the kitchen.
Eric shrugged nonchalantly then opened the door leading into a small bedroom.
Definitely not the kitchen. It took a moment for Mitch’s eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. Upon his first eyeful of the two naked figures on the bed, Mitch inhaled sharply. Stepping closer, he saw they were spooning. There was something about the sight which absolutely captivated him.
“They’re…they’re…” He stood there soaking up the sight of the two cuddling men.
“Yeah, it kinda freaked me out at first, and I don’t want to even know how close their relationship really is,” Eric said.
Mitch noticed his gaze never drifted from the bed or its inhabitants.
“What are you talking about?” Mitch whispered, a little perplexed that something so innocent would freak someone out.
“Weren’t you going to say they’re naked and snuggling?”
Mitch snorted. “No.”
“Then what were you going to say? They’re what?” Eric asked.
“They’re stunning,” Mitch answered. A deep blush raced across his body like a fire consuming him. He backed slowly out of the room, pulling Eric after him. He needed to get the hell away from Claudius and Isiah. His body was already giving away more than he was willing to share.
“Wait until you actually meet them. They’re even more gorgeous with their eyes open,” Eric sighed dramatically. The second he seemed to realize his faux pas, his eyes widened in embarrassment. “I meant to a girl. They’d be even more beautiful when they’re awake. Or possibly to a gay guy. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with being gay.” Eric blushed even more profusely. “I think I’ll just shut up now.”
Mitch nudged Eric’s shoulder while he was again led through the unit and into the kitchen. “I think those two would be sexy to anyone. Do I get to see what’s behind door number two?” He pointed in the direction of another closed door that he guessed led to a second bedroom.
“Nah, that’s only Daven, and he gets kinda touchy about people seeing him while he sleeps. It freaks him out, and if he found out, he would be pissed at me. Believe me, that’s something neither of us wants to witness.” Eric walked over to the kitchen bench and filled the kettle. “Come on, I’ll make you a coffee. I’ll even use the good stuff.”
“Are you trying to bribe me, or what?” Mitch chuckled and sat at the table.
Eric made the coffee, and after, Mitch realized he was pulling out bags of blood. He lined them up on the counter to warm, apparently for when their recipients began to stir for the day.
“Why don’t the twins have a day warden?” Mitch asked curiously as Eric went about cooking breakfast. He wondered if he would like taking over the duties of caring for two strangers. It would be hard, but he’d get used to it.
“I should tell you that technically, they’re not twins. Hard to believe, I know. Seeing how they look so much alike. To be honest, I’m not sure they’re even related. I heard someone say once that everyone in the world has someone who is the mirror image of themselves. It’s not often that they find each other, so I bet it freaked Claudius and Isiah out when they met for the first time. In the beginning, they did have a day warden.” Eric scowled. “Gabriel is Isiah’s cousin, but he hates both of them. In his eyes, he was forced into the job of caring for his cousin and for Claude. So, for the past couple of centuries, he’s been trying—unsuccessfully, thank God—to kill them off. He tries something every couple of months. I think Gabriel’s about due to strike again.”
For some reason, that didn’t sit well with Mitch. He wanted to know more and figured the only way he would get answers was to ask. “Can’t someone else be assigned as their day warden? Why did he even take the job if he didn’t like them? How can they look so much alike if they’re not twins? And why did you get lumbered with the job?” There has to be more to the story.
Eric handed him a mug of coffee and sat at the table with him. “It’s not that simple to become a day warden. You need to be bound to your charge for eternity. Plus, you have to have been the one who was with them at their time of change. For example, I became Daven’s day warden because we happened to be in the middle of a fistfight when he went through his change. I actually volunteered to take care of the boys when it became obvious Gabriel wasn’t. Daven is a member of the Guild and he ended up taking Claude and Isiah under his wing.”
Mitch’s eyes widened. “Are you telling me prior to the fight with Daven that you weren’t even friends? Sounds like this Gabriel sucks big time.”
“Good God, no. We absolutely hated each other, hence the fight. The bond between a day warden and their charge is instantaneous and can only be broken by death. While Daven lives, so do I. Just so you know, Gabriel Gillis wasn’t always a dick. Isiah said they used to be really close. After their turning, he went from friend to enemy.”
“But you and Daven are obviously friends now. I’m sure there must be a story behind why Gabriel did what he did,” Mitch stated curiously before adding, “What I really want to know is why do some people change while others don’t? I mean, why Daven and not you?”
“No clue what the story is behind Gabriel. Neither Claude nor Isiah like to talk about him much. And you’re right, Dav and I are friends. Now we’re closer than full-blooded brothers. We’ve been together for five hundred and twelve years. We have no secrets from each other. As to why him and not me, it’s genetics. His family must be descended from the first generation of vampires. Mine are descended from humans…as are yours. Only humans can become day wardens. Mind you, in some families only a few change, while the rest remain human. It’s one of the reasons the guild was formed in the first place. They say they are out to protect us, but I have a feeling it’s more to do with them all being nosey and wanting to know everyone else’s business. Just don’t tell Dav I said that. If you do, I’ll deny everything.”
Mitch frowned. “You still haven’t explained to me how they can look like twins if they’re not related.” Weirdly, his curiosity was getting the better of him. Crap like this always made him leap instead of looking first. His heart was going ‘pick me, pick me’, all the while his brain was telling him to shut the fuck up.
“To be honest, I don’t really know. By all rights they should be twins, except they aren’t. Their names are Claudius Reynar and Isiah Gillis. From what they’ve told us, they never even laid eyes on each other until the day of their changes. Daven thinks when they laid eyes on each other for the first time, it triggered the change, and unluckily for Gabriel, he was the one who happened to be there with Isiah and Claudius. Most people of our world think Claude and Isiah are the two men mentioned in the ancient scrolls. The legend is of two men who are mirror images of each other, but not related, and how they set about changing the way of the world.”
Mitch got the feeling Eric wasn’t telling him the whole truth, but he wasn’t going to push it. Everyone was entitled to his or her secrets. Though, if he took over the care of the two vampires who lived here, then he would be demanding some answers. At a noise from the doorway, Mitch looked up and stared at an extremely beautiful young guy standing there. Hell, are all vampires this frickin’ good-looking? The man’s green eyes were crystal clear, and Mitch got the feeling the guy was seeing inside his soul. He cautiously watched the newcomer head straight for the bagged blood lining the kitchen bench without speaking.
Eric looked up at the newcomer and said, “Hey, Dav, this is my friend Mitch Evans. He’s come over to see about renting the spare room.”
Daven once again turned his icy-green gaze in Mitch’s direction. He didn’t say a word as he poured the blood into a cup. He brought the mug to his lips and drank deeply. Walking over to the table, he then sat and smirked at Mitch. “Well, this should be interesting.”
Mitch felt like a bug under a microscope at the way Daven openly stared at him. It’s lucky Daven is so good-looking, because people don’t realize he has absolutely no tact whatsoever.
* * * *
Isiah woke to the strong scent of a human permeating the air, and he knew immediately it wasn’t Eric. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He could also detected Eric, but there was someone with him—a stranger. Whoever it was had been in the room while he and Claudius had been asleep. He hated the fact that some stranger had watched them sleep. Strangers never understood the need for closeness between him and Claude. Everyone always immediately assumed they were closely related. No one ever believed they weren’t actually full-blooded twins.
“What’s the matter, Isiah?” Claude asked.
Isiah sighed as Claude tightened his arms ever so slightly around him. Isiah felt Claude freeze when he also must have registered the foreign scent in the air. Releasing Isiah, Claude sat up, turned to him and snapped, “Who the hell is in our home?”
“I don’t know.” Isiah rolled onto his back and gazed up into Claude’s troubled eyes, feeling exactly the same way. “They were in our room. They saw us.”
“I’ll be okay, Isiah. I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again. I promise.”
Isiah shivered uncontrollably at his lover’s words. Painful memories of his cousin filled his mind. He didn’t ever want Gabriel coming back and destroying their happiness again. Why couldn’t Gabriel leave them the hell alone? They’d given him everything, then Gabe had turned his back and walked away, and still the bastard wanted them dead. Didn’t his cousin know he and Claude had nothing left to give?