Title ~ Hidden Gem
Author ~ Lissa Kasey
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 26th September 2014
Genre ~ M/M Romance, Dystopian, Fantasy, Mild BDSM
Misaki “Aki” Itou is a psi—a person with mutated DNA granting him psychic abilities. He’s also a contracted companion—a whore. It may not be the perfect profession, but having a roof over his head, food to eat, and not being subjected to torture is a dream come true. He is the top companion at the Hidden Gem, and it makes him enough money to buy the prettiest, most sparkly shoes he can find.
Shane McNaughton is an Irishman who survived the Third World War and works as a cop. Head of Missing Persons, he’s good at finding people, but after the plague of the Third mutated his DNA, he has a hard time letting anyone see the monster inside. He’s been paying for Aki’s services for two years, both the psi and the sexual kind, but he wants more from the companion.
Shane needs Aki’s ability to see into another person’s past to track down a serial killer murdering the children of rich and powerful men, but the more they work together, the clearer it becomes that they are linked through a darker past than either of them realizes.
Warning: Contains mild BDSM elements.
This book is a gem in it’s own right, as sparkly and shiny as a pair of Aki’s shoes. I came away from this book excited and exhilarated so happy I had read a book that was a complete surprise and not at all what I was expecting, and at the same time I was gutted it had finished after being so totally captivated, I didn’t want it to end.
The story grows and expands as the pages turn, it gets bigger as the picture created becomes three dimensional with the characters evolving before your eyes. Lissa Kasey keeps upping the intrigue and mystery, it’s a thriller that will keep you guessing. People aren’t what or who they seem, and it was a big fail for me trying to second guess anything as layer upon layer is slowly revealed in the characters personalities and minds. First impressions dispelled as we delve deeper into this world where political intrigue and duplicity is rife with it’s tangled web of secrets, lies and hidden agendas. Behind it all is the government politics and their use of advanced technology and human experimentation in search of weapons of war to ensure their supremacy in this divide between north and south. Lissa Kasey brought to life the horrors and devastation caused by the third world war and the man-made plagues that ravaged the innocent, incarcerating them in camps to be mutilated and experimented on… it was heart breaking to watch… especially as we saw it through the eyes of our two main characters Misaki and Shane, themselves both victims battling with their own demons.
I was immediately pulled into this book by the opening scene where we meet Aki living on the streets with his only hope in life, that death would come sooner rather than later. Saved from that fate by Bart and Paris Aki becomes the ‘sparkling gem’ of The Gem brothel and when we meet him two years later he is a different person.
Aki is alluring and beautiful with a vulnerability that cries out to be cared for… and those around him seem to be as smitten with him as I was. The whoring and that life is a facade he numbly performs, yet willing and enthusiastically playing the part to the crowd, and Aki plays it to perfection as a well trained and sought after companion.
Initially Aki comes across as superficial and shallow, obsessed with shoes but as we move on with the story we see that the shoes have a much bigger meaning than just having lot’s of pretties lined up in his shoe closet. Inside, the sadness and loneliness engulf him, plagued by the only memories he has, those of the years spent in the containment camp for psis. They were brought to us in flashbacks, that were emotionally hard to read but incredibly well written and moving and this was an aspect of this book that I was particularly enamoured with. I really felt it was another place and time, the darkness of the past compared to the sparkle of the present. He had seen pain, experienced more and lost so much and it gives us an insight to the ‘real’ Misaki.
Aki may be coveted and desired, but it’s as an object, unable to enjoy the intimacy and human touch he longs for. He feels blessed though that he’s safe, has a home and a makeshift family at The Gem. But to be truly cherished and adored? His wants, needs and desires a priority. That is what he dreams of, all starring a somewhat dangerous detective… but is too much to hope for?
Shane McNaughton all mysterious, dark hair, Irish good looks and a big man at 6ft “5 compared to our slight Aki. As a detective he excels at finding the missing. He’s focused motivated and relies on his control not only for his job but also because of the internal battle with the animal inside. You really need to get past the first few chapters before you want to stop slapping him for being a cynical arrogant prick!… But, as with all the well developed characters in this book, it’s all superficial, a persona or a mask kept firmly in place until you get to know them. With Shane we see a man passionate about his job, not just results, but because he cares about the victims and wants closure for the families. Much the same as he is passionate about Aki, a man he has sought for two years as a whore, yet the only man to evoke any emotion in him.
There is a pivotal point in their unavowed relationship which comes outside the confines of The Gem, where neither man is playing the role of client and whore and for the first time they are intimate, well, as much as you can be without touching skin, giving these two men a reason to hope for something more.
This book is full of substance, something to get your teeth into, it kept me engrossed and the adrenaline pumping with the hunt for the serial killer and the underlying hint of danger to keep you on your toes. Also the emotional impact of this beautiful love story left me with more than a tear or two escaping my eyes from the incredibly moving scenes between Aki and Shane. I was completely immersed in this world Lissa Kasey created, intrigued and mystified, inquisitive and desperate to turn the page for yet more twists and turns in this compelling plot. I was entranced by Aki and lusting after Shane, I want to know more about Paris and Candy, they have stories to tell and I NEED to be there when they tell them, this world has more secrets to be uncovered, more mysteries to be solved and characters to fall in love with. It was thought provoking and so very well executed and written I was in awe, sad it was finished but happy dancing because I have found a new author that has more than impressed me with her writing and world building. I’m just keeping all fingers and toes crossed now that Lissa Kasey will delight us with more tales from this fabulous world she has created.
Excellent read and sits happily on my five star PLUS shelf!
Buy It Here
First Glimpse by Lissa Kasey
Aki swept up a bottle of McNaughton’s favorite scotch and headed toward the broad Irishman. The man’s shoulders were arched forward, back tense, hair a sexy mess, and face covered with a couple days’ growth. Obviously the cop was on a difficult case. The detective hadn’t yet asked for him, just for his usual meal—almost bloody steak with a baked potato.
“You look like you could use a drink,” Aki told him as he slid into the chair beside him. He turned an empty glass over and poured three fingers of the golden liquid.
McNaughton sighed, his dark eyes roaming over Aki’s small body, platinum blond hair pulled up and styled with sparkling pins, see-thru knit top, and super-short skirt, then over his bare legs down to the gleaming heels. The shoes were a silver mesh of crystals that slid up just past his ankles. A gift from McNaughton. The cop sucked in a deep breath and slid his hand over the covered part of Aki’s thigh. He knew better than to touch bare flesh to bare flesh. Aki was a cognitive psi, could see entire lives of horrors with a single touch, and he was sure McNaughton’s past was filled with a lot of nasty memories.
“Wish you had time for me tonight. But I’ve got a feeling you’re booked up tight.” He glanced back at the room bustling with companions and potential customers. Aki was the only psi in the room, his pale-pupiled blue eyes telling the world that he was different.
“I’m sure Bart can fit you in.” Aki’s eyes scanned the room until he found his boss, who was engaged with negotiations with another client. “Looks like you need some trouble eased tonight.” He leaned in close enough his breath ran across McNaughton’s cheek.
McNaughton turned his head, lips nearly close enough to touch. “Would love a bit of time with your shine.”
“Words like honey, McNaughton.”
The cop flashed him one of his rare, heart-stopping smiles then nodded as Bart appeared beside them. “Table seven is ready, Aki. Number one.” Bart told him.
Aki grabbed Bart’s wrist with a gloved hand. “The cop needs some time tonight. You can make that happen, right?”
“Of course.” Bart nodded to them and took Aki’s vacated seat and Aki made his way to his next client of the evening. There were only two services Aki performed. A hand job and a blow job, one and two. This client wanted number one—which meant he was cheap since rarely did anyone ask for a hand job from him. But his prices were astronomical anyway.
“Hello,” Aki smiled at the man as he slid into the chair opposite him. The client was dressed nice, button down shirt, pressed pants, but he was bald and a little heavier around the waist. A politician probably. “If you’re ready we can head upstairs.”
The man barely spoke, but he leered, eyes tracing over Aki’s form more like he was cattle than a night of entertainment. Even in his worst moments McNaughton had never done that. It wasn’t appreciation, but something darker. Aki sighed internally and hoped this would be fast. He knew a thousand ways to get a man off in minutes. Something about him just set off Aki’s creep radar.
“I hear some wait months for the pleasure of your time,” the man said with slightly accented speech.
Not usually. The only ones who waited weeks were because their schedule and Aki’s conflicted or because they’d done something to upset him or Bart. Most clients got in within a few days if not the same day of requesting Aki’s time. And regulars were always given precedence over someone not yet vetted like this client. “If I don’t please you I can see if Preston or Royce is available.”
“I was hoping for Candy originally.”
Was always good to be told he was second choice. Aki gritted his teeth. “Candy only serves a special kind of client. And he does have a wait list.” Mostly because he took clients who wanted a little more kink than any of the other male companions preferred. Aki was going to recommend this client be removed from the premises after the service was over.
“I guess you’ll have to do then. Won’t you?” He gave Aki a chilling smile.
Bastard. Aki got up from his seat and offered his gloved hand to the man who followed closely. They’d reached the stairs when the man grabbed him, yanked Aki against him and shoved his hand up Aki’s skirt, groping him and sending him into a spiral of nightmares.
A dark room. The metallic stink of blood. Screams. The sound of knives being sharpened. Metal bars clanking. Crying. Pain. The music of an ice cream truck. How odd. It was all ripped away a moment later, but Aki’s stomach was already heaving. The small plate of fruit and yogurt he’d had for dinner was not going to stay down.
Someone carried him unceremoniously to the private companion bathroom near the kitchen and set him in front of the toilet just as the mash of fruits and dairy came up. Aki heaved a couple of minutes, his brain swirling with the images that thankfully began to fade just as quickly as they’d come. With any luck he’d be able to brush his teeth, wash his face and go about his work day.
He glanced up to find Manny, the head of security standing at the door. McNaughton knelt beside Aki. Had held his hair back and even used his jacket to cover Aki’s bottom. The skirts really were too short.
“Bart is already having the guy removed. He should never have touched you like that. Sorry I didn’t get to you quicker,” Manny told Aki. “Grateful to you, Detective, for responding so quickly.”
McNaughton stroked Aki’s back, using the soft material of the sweater to run circles over his spine. “Want to talk about it?”
Aki sighed. “Same crap. Just weird. Darkness, crying, smelled blood. Heard knives.” He shook his head. “The guy could work at a butcher for all I know. The memories get so jumbled.” Often with his own horrific past. “Thought I heard a kid. And bars rattling like in a jail. And the music from an ice cream truck.”
McNaughton nodded like it made perfect sense to him and helped Aki get up and make his way to the sink where there were spare toothbrushes and endless varieties of paste. The cop leaned over and kissed Aki’s hair. “Gotta go. I’ll have Bart reschedule me sometime this week though. Love that you wore my shoes.” He was gone a moment later.
Aki cleaned up and made his way back to work. At least the night was almost over. He was sad that McNaughton hadn’t stayed. Would have liked to see that smile another time or two. At least the rest of the night flew by without incident, even if the detective didn’t return.
“Sleeping with me tonight?” Candy asked as he stripped out of their work clothes, leaving just a pair of bright pink underwear and crawled into bed. His purple hair was already brushed and eyes heavy with sleep.
“Please,” Aki whispered. He stripped off everything but his underwear too. After putting his shoes and pins away, he washed his face.
“Heard that guy touched you. What a jerk.”
“He wanted you to begin with.” Aki curled up beside his best friend.
Candy flicked off the light. “I would have brought him down a few pegs.”
Aki smiled, but he didn’t want to think of the horrible man at all. Those memories just needed to go away. He had enough of his own to battle with each day. He fell asleep hoping to wake up with less nasty memories each day.
The next afternoon Aki was up early and at Artie’s for breakfast—best 24/7 diner in the area—when McNaughton arrived. The man sat down at his table without asking and pushed a pair of slim, jeweled, yellow flat sandals into Aki’s hands. “What’s this for?” Aki asked.
He just shook his head. He threw a stack of cash on the table and motioned to the waitress. “Anything he wants is on me.” He then got up from the table and headed for the door.
“Well that was weird,” Aki said to LuAnn, the waitress.
She pointed at the Vid screen. “He had a rough night. Caught the guy who was killing kids.” The Vidscreen was turned to the news. Something about a man named the “Ice Cream Killer” had been captured. Apparently he used an ice cream truck to lure kids in, kidnapped them, raped them and killed them. Real monster.
A picture popped up of the guy. It was the client from the Gem. Maybe that’s why McNaughton was at the Gem. No matter what he hoped the detective visited him tonight. The new yellow shoes would need a new skirt to match…
About the Author
Lissa Kasey lives in St. Paul, MN, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing, and collects Asian Ball Joint Dolls who look like her characters. She has three cats that enjoy waking her up an hour before her alarm every morning and sitting on her lap to help her write. She can often be found at Anime Conventions masquerading as random characters when she's not writing about boy romance.
Rafflecopter Prize: $20 Amazon Gift Card
Tour Stops: Parker Williams, Emotion in Motion, Velvet Panic, Decadent Delights, Book Whores United, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, Amanda C. Stone, The Hat Party, Jade Crystal, Iyana Jenna, Nephylim, Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings, MM Good Book Reviews, Inked Rainbow Reads, Boy Meets Boy Reviews, Sinfully Sexy, Cate Ashwood, Andrew Q. Gordon, Fallen Angel Reviews, Multitasking Mommas