Hey guys! We have the brilliant Lissa Kasey popping in to show off the cover to her upcoming release Candy Land. Lissa is also sharing a fantastic excerpt and I personally can’t wait to get my fingers on the third book in the Hidden Gems series! So guys enjoy the post and that stunning cover! <3 ~Pixie~
Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr. doesn’t have time for distractions. He’s too busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playland for City M and running the Hidden Gem. But when his companion, Avery “Ivy” Laurent, grows closer to Jack, an investigator for the Institute of Scientific Study, Candy can’t hide his jealousy. Nor his own interest in Jack.
Ivy is crazy about Jack, but he’s also in love with Candy. Ideally, Ivy longs for all three of them to be together, but between Jack’s nonexistent libido and Candy’s supercharged needs, Ivy isn’t sure how to make it work.
When Jack gets called in to help the City M police department investigate a series of violently murdered companions, both Candy and Ivy brace for trouble. But nothing prepares them for Candy becoming the prime suspect.
In a future landscape of corrupt government officials, brutal BDSM crimes, and a host of dark creatures, Candy, Ivy, and Jack must work together to find the killer, save themselves—and learn how to trust each other.
“Try to focus on control,” Paris told Aki.
Aki sighed, hating these lessons more and more every time. They sat in Aki and Shane’s living room practicing how to control the change. Paris had arrived that evening, after Aki had put him off for the tenth time, with an arm full of painter’s cloths, and a stern determination. Every object in the room that could be covered was covered to protect it from blood splatter. The last thing Aki wanted to do was change.
“I think if you can control it, you won’t bleed so much when it happens, and it won’t hurt,” Paris assured him.
If Aki had known that afternoon Paris planned to corner him, he would have insisted on accompanying Shane on errands in town despite the blowing snow and cold weather unseasonable for this time in March. Of course if Just Shoes updated their stock on Tuesdays instead of Fridays he’d have gone out anyway and perhaps missed his old master. He didn’t think he’d ever obtain the ease between his two forms that Paris or even Shane could. Something was just wrong with him. Maybe because he’d been made an AP instead of just evolving like the others had.
“Candy’s coming over tonight,” Aki protested. It was the first time in months they were getting a movie night together. Candy was overworked, and Aki had begged until he finally gave in. The many video chats they had each week just weren’t cutting it anymore. He needed his best friend, and he was looking forward to the quiet time. He suspected Ivy partially guilted Candy into the break as he seemed to have Candy wrapped around his fingers.
Paris tugged at Aki’s shirt. “Off, so it doesn’t get ruined. You might as well just strip.”
“Strip,” Paris demanded in that no nonsense voice that was so ingrained in Aki’s head he couldn’t help but comply. He left on only his lacy undies. It was a nice pair, but not priceless. He tucked his shoes under a cushion beneath the tarp just in case and stood in apprehension waiting for his next order.
“We have plenty of time before Candy is done with a client.” Paris rubbed his hands together like this was going to be the easiest thing in the world. “We’ll work through the change once or twice, and get things cleaned up.”
If there was one thing Aki hated, it was pain. He’d spent years tortured in a psi concentration camp before finally escaping and finding his way North to the relative freedom he had now. He still feared that someday the ISS would show up on his doorstep to drag him off for more tests since he wasn’t exactly a normal psi. The years of torture, experimentation, and imprisonment had changed him. Left him with an ability to change. To become something not human. Was he really ever human? Shane assured him he was, but Aki didn’t know if his lover was just offering sweet lies or truly believed his insane DNA was just the normal evolution of nature.
Aki had wings—and claws. But he suspected it was the wings that Paris most wanted him to control. Releasing his wings always caused Aki pain. Usually so much so that he lost consciousness and often his memory for at least several hours afterward. And then there was his other self’s inclination toward violence. “Maybe we should wait for Shane. What if I hurt you?”
Paris held up his hands, which instantly turned to claws. “I’ll take the chance.” His control, as always, was perfect. “Now stop making excuses and concentrate. I want you to focus on each part of the change. Do one at a time and draw them back. We’ll work on the wings last. So focus on your hands first.
Aki sighed again. He’d just gotten a manicure yesterday and loved the sparkling blue gems pasted to his nails. Changing was sure to ruin them. Not that Paris cared. He wouldn’t care if Aki was a disheveled mess by the time Shane got home. Though Shane wasn’t usually put off by that either. He sort of liked seeing Aki mussed, debauched, and dirty. Well Aki could give him the first and the last. Shane would have to help with the second one.
He shut his eyes and tried to focus on his hands. Imagined they were claws, willed the sharp obsidian ends to do their thing and tear apart the delicate flesh of his fingers and reveal his ugly talons. Nothing happened. No pain, no feeling at all, and no change. He opened his eyes and frowned at his hands. “It’s not working. I think I have to be angry. Or at least have someone I care about in danger.” He could sometimes hold back the change if it started, but he’d never started a change without being really angry.
“Yeah, no. We’re not going that extreme. Last time you thought I hurt Shane you almost eviscerated me and half my guard and called a horde of shifted A-Ms to your side as soldiers. Try again. Focus on freeing yourself. Sort of like casting off the restraints. Let the other out, but with control.” Paris’ fangs appeared, large and terrifying with his eyes glowing luminescent green. “You work so hard to keep yourself closed off from everyone. How do you release your psi power? Can you do the same thing with the change?”
Aki thought for a moment about what it felt like to open himself to his power. He was post-cognizant. Had spent most of his life trying to avoid touching other people because his ability was amplified by touch. Using that power was a lot like breathing. He kept a leash on it, which muted the world around him of the colors and history that snaked from fading memories. The strongest memories were always the most painful, and of course the ones Aki wanted to see least.
He sucked in a deep breath and started with the release of his power. He blinked away the barriers and vivid brilliance erupted around him in their stark living room. There was almost a ghost version of Aki and Shane making love on the couch, and dancing green lights hovering around the kitchen counter where they often cooked together.
Along the wall near the door was a hook of just Shane’s things. There was darkness there. Like a shadow. Bad thoughts, memories, fear maybe. Aki never touched those things. Instead he stuck to the left of the door where the shoe rack was overflowing with bejeweled heels and glistening flats. The twenty-four cubed shelf only held the most commonly used of Aki’s shoes. Or the ones Shane preferred to see on him.
“Stop dreaming of shoes and change,” Paris ordered, somehow knowing Aki’s exact thoughts.
Aki groaned as the command broke through his calm, disrupting his control. The claws slid from his fingertips with a painful slow glide of hot pokers being shoved through his flesh. “Ah,” Aki cried, blood pouring over his hands.
“Try to control it. Pull them back,” Paris instructed. “Rain says it’s just a matter of will. Intense emotion can cause me to change, but I can control it. So can you.”
Rain was a merman. He could shift back and forth from a half-fish half-man thing to a full man with a speed and ease that Aki could never imagine attaining. But Rain had also been born what he was, not made. He’d had an entire lifetime to master the change.
Aki didn’t think he’d ever be that at ease. He clutched his hands into fists as much as his claws would allow. The pain a hot white stabbing through each finger, and every bone in his hand as they reshaped themselves.
“Candy is here,” Miles the computer system informed them.
“Send him up,” Paris told the computer.
Maybe Candy could put a stop to this, Aki hoped. No wonder he blacked out when he changed. It hurt. And the only thing that had changed was his hands. He wanted to cry.
“Reverse it, Aki. You can do it,” Paris assured him.
Only he couldn’t. The fire spread like acid had been released into his bloodstream, pouring from his hands into his arm, racing toward his back where the worst of the pain was yet to come. Aki gulped and struggled to mentally stop the change, shut down his power, anything.
“Whoa, are you two fighting again?” Candy’s asked as he stepped into the room.
“What the hell is going on?” Shane’s deep voice suddenly slammed through the pain and Aki shuddered. Shane was right behind Candy, his expression a mask of anger and worry. “Aki, stop!”
Only there was no stopping. Fire erupted down Aki’s back in a spider web of pain, and though he grappled with the idea of pulling them back, his wings flapped free in the usual flourish of gore and ripping agony. “Fuck!” Shane swore, but he was still across the room.
Aki dropped to one knee. The sudden weight of his wings was almost worse than the tearing of flesh that had freed them. How was he ever able to fly with these? Crap, he was still conscious too. Like him, not the other who liked to tear everyone apart. He sucked in large breaths hoping the pain would ease, but spots were beginning to dot out his sight. His temple gave a warning throb of the headache to come. That couldn’t be good.
“What are you doing?” Shane demanded of Paris.
“Aki?” Candy whispered. He was close now. “Can you hear me?”
Aki nodded. “Sorry, hurts,” he slurred.
“Paris shouldn’t be pushing you this hard. You’d probably learn better from Rain. It’s like pushing a baby bird off a high rise and assuming it will fly.” He glared at Paris who was arguing with Shane.
Aki dropped to his other knee. Goddess, the wings were so heavy like this. They stretched and he teetered. How did he control them? Every movement of his back made them twitch and pull, tearing at the barely healing skin around where his spine met the boney arch of his wings. He ground his teeth together trying to hold on to consciousness despite the pain. Shane was strong. He could hold Aki back if the other awoke. Paris probably could too, but Aki didn’t want to lose more hours.
Candy gripped his arm, steadying him but also plunging him into a vision of Candy gasping for breath while blood filled his lungs. Aki screamed as Candy’s horrific death played out before his eyes. He saw claws jutting from Candy’s chest, blood pouring from his lips, eyes wide with shock. He was reaching for someone. And then he was suddenly on a hospital bed with Paris standing over him, a grim look on his face. Paris raised his own razor-sharp claws, covered in blood. Aki struggled to stamp down the power, step free of it as Dr. Vitoric had taught him. Breathe, he reprimanded himself. He’d never seen so deeply in Candy’s head before. Always before there had been a barrier. Why now? And why this?
His sight cleared to little more than a foggy, red-filled haze. Aki was breathing fast, but couldn’t seem to catch a full breath. “Shh,” Candy told him. “It’s okay.” Candy’s arms wrapped around him, careful of the wings. He probably thought he was bringing Aki the familiar peace of candy-colored clouds, only instead of calm there was horror. Aki could see Paris across the room, and Shane now beside him.
“You killed Candy!” Aki accused Paris, the memory vivid in his head.
Shane took Candy’s place and yanked Aki into his strong embrace of warmth and the scent of peppermint. “Candy’s fine. He’s right here.” He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and held it to Aki’s nose. Of course he was bleeding again. Always with the nightmares came a rain of blood. “Candy is right here.”
And he was. For now. Aki’s wings vanished leaving a bloody splash of stained feathers, and toppling him forward when the weight disappeared. Shane held and rocked him as Aki cried. Blood trickled from his nose, slowing. He looked over Candy, who had changed so much since Bart’s death. The dyed dark hair, suits, and added height wasn’t exactly what Aki had seen in the vision. Candy’s hair had been colored, clothes brighter, but he didn’t look all that different. Aki was sure it wasn’t the past. What he had seen was the very near future.
He reached for Candy and when Candy was close enough, pulled him into his arms as tightly as he could. Across the room Paris stood with his arms across his chest, expression thoughtful, but worried. He should be worried. If he hurt Candy, Aki would kill him. Even if Paris was a good friend and his former master. Aki could only hope he was wrong. After all, how often did he see the future?
Lissa Kasey is more than just romance. She specializes in depth characters, detailed world building, and twisting plots to keep you clinging to your book reader. All stories have a side of romance, emotionally messed up protagonists and feature LGBTGA spectrum characters facing real world problems no matter how fictional the story.
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