A Hidden Gem Novella
Shane McNaughton’s lover, Misaki “Aki” Itou, hasn’t had life threatening migraines, nosebleeds, or bouts of amnesia in months. Only when Aki comes down with some sort of flu, Shane immediately fears that maybe they haven’t cured Aki after all.
When Jack Taylor, Shane’s best friend, asks for a favor, it couldn’t be worse timing. But Aki assures Shane that he’s okay, and Shane knows if the roles were reversed, Jack would drop everything to help Shane. Shane agrees to accompany one of Jack’s lover’s, Candy, to a brothel for one of Candy’s rescue missions, while Jack’s other lover, Ivy watches over Aki.
Shane expects it to be a fast trip, in and out, save the whores and back home to care for Aki. Only it’s not that simple. There’s a dragon in the attic with a lot of secrets and even more answers.
- 1 Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Shane got Aki settled into their bedroom, pulled the blanket over him, and sat down to stare at his nauseous mate. The sickness was supposed to be over. Several months had passed without a glimpse of headache or memory loss. Only in the past few days had things changed.
Aki woke up, ate breakfast then threw up said breakfast. By the time his stomach stopped its dry heaves, he was too exhausted to do much else. Aki insisted it was just a virus, something passing that would pass. And the first day, that seemed to be true, since he’d popped out of bed just after noon and gone about his day as if nothing had happened. Except they were now on day four with Aki not being able to keep anything down. The strain on him was beginning to show.READ MORE
“Maybe we should call Dr. Vitoric?” Shane prodded Aki for the hundredth time.
“I’m fine,” Aki grumbled. He put his hands in Shane’s scruffy dark hair and pulled him down enough to kiss him on the cheek. Aki sighed softly as he scraped his bare cheek against Shane’s ever present five o’clock shadow. “Just sleepy.”
Aki wasn’t fine. His already milky white skin was pale with bags under his sky blue eyes. Shane couldn’t recall ever seeing Aki with so little energy. Aki was make up and embellishment free. He hadn’t done more than comb his waist-length, platinum blond hair back into a tight braid the past few days. He had it wrapped so tight it was impossible to see the cerulean blue low lights that curled up through his tresses like a well-placed dye job. Aki’s hair was completely natural. Normally he had his hair styled to highlight the color, rings and swirls pinned in place with bobs and gems. But not today.
Today there were no pretty dresses, hair clips, or shoes. Just Aki in bed looking pale and thin. Nothing about this was normal. Aki was already asleep his fingers curled around the blanket as though still reaching for Shane’s hair. Shane leaned over and kissed Aki’s forehead gently, not wanting to wake him. Aki looked so small this way. Sure he was just a tiny thing compared to Shane’s 6’5, but usually Aki was so filled with vibrancy and life that Shane never noticed the difference.
Shane dry washed his hands over his face and into his hair. He needed a haircut. Since his PI business was slow due to summer vacations and overly hot weather he had time to spend doing normal things like get a haircut. He’d really wanted to take Aki to the west coast again for another trip to the beach. That wasn’t going to happen any time soon either. Not with Aki unwell. He sighed.
His phone rang. He glanced at the display and exited the room to answer Jack’s call. Jackson Taylor was a friend, mostly. They had an odd friendship which their lovers often teased them about as being a secret ‘bromance.’ Jack was a detective who investigated unusual crimes that were outside of the scope of the normal police department. Shane’s private investigation sometimes crossed into that territory, but he spent most of his time finding missing people, money, or artwork. Their work life was similar, but other than having small flamboyant lovers and both having the ability to shapeshift, they didn’t have much else in common. There was a great deal of trust between them, though. Enough that they often shared case information just to pick the other’s brain. They just weren’t the sit on the couch and watch sports kind of buddies.
“What’s up?” Shane asked.
“Can you accompany Candy to a brothel? He got word of one that’s really bad about forty minutes outside the city and wants to look for himself, but I’m knee deep in a new case.”
Shane frowned into the phone, not liking the idea of leaving Aki alone. “You realize Candy can turn into a dragon, right?” Candy was one of Jack’s lovers, the most well-known Dom of City M, the manager of Hidden Gem, which was the most well respected brothel in the north, and a sizable dragon when shifted. He didn’t really need a lot of protection.
Jack huffed. “A baby dragon. Compared to Aki he’s like a teeny mosquito of a dragon.”
And that was true, but “still a dragon. Lots of teeth and fire. I am a wolf. You are a tiger. Pretty sure dragons of any size could swallow us whole.”
“But he never comes across as intimidating. People look at him, see pretty, and think flaky and weak. Don’t tell him I said that. But I’d rather he not have to shift and set fire to people if just having someone along that makes people hesitate will stop anything from happening. Marc said he’d go, but he’s only one guy. And Candy sort of grates at him like they are rivals even though Ivy has no interest in Marc that way. They need a buffer. Someone reasonable. People look at you and hesitate.”
“What about the guards from the Gem?”
“You know we’re short staffed. I’ve got feelers out in seven different cities to hire more guards. If Paris wasn’t so damn strict on his requirements it wouldn’t be an issue. That and him taking half the guard to form a militia in case someone decides City M might be ripe for the taking again.”
Shane groaned. He was part of that militia, an officer who spent his weekends training the newbies. In fact, most of Paris’ former guard staff were now military officials on rotation. For Shane it meant he got a regular paycheck, but he wasn’t required to do watch duty like the others. Apparently having a couple of dragons wasn’t enough. It was overkill, but if the army of shapeshifting monsters lead by a couple dragons didn’t make anyone pause then they deserved to die.
“Aki’s not feeling well,” Shane finally confessed the reason he didn’t really want to leave the house.
“What? Are his headaches back? I should tell Candy.”
“No!” The last thing Aki wanted was everyone worried about him. He’d be upset if he thought everyone had dropped every‐ thing and run over only to find him sleeping. Though Shane thought maybe that would be okay. Aki always did well when curled up between Candy and Ivy when they could get time off of their companion work at the Gem. But Aki had spent most of his life unable to touch anyone for fear their memories would pass to him since he was post-cognitive. He had a better control on that now. Lots of practice and training. Maybe it was all those years he was making up for now. Shane didn’t care. If he could, he’d hold Aki every second of the day. “We think it’s just a virus.”
“We can’t get viruses, Shane.”
“Um, hello, we both had one that almost killed us last year.” Granted that virus had been manmade, but it had still been a virus. It had actually killed dozens just in City M alone. Both Shane and Jackson had been unable to hold their form, shifting back and forth from man to animal until they would have died if not for the support and tender care of their mates.
There was a beat of silence on the line. “Is he having trouble holding his shape?”
“No. Just nauseous and throwing up. Seems to mostly be in the morning, but he gets so worn out he sleeps half the day away,” Shane said. “So far no memory loss or black outs.” Thank the Goddess.
“Did you call Dr. Vitoric?”
“I will.” Because Shane would. He’d just decided in that moment. “Later. After he wakes up.” If it were like most days Aki would sleep four or five hours and wake up refreshed and ready to run around. It was odd, but gave Shane hope that whatever he had wasn’t serious.
“And you’re feeling fine?” He inquired because genetically didn’t they all have the same mutations, weaknesses, and immunity? Only the dragons were different. And the psis like Ivy too. Aki had never gotten the virus that Shane and Jack had nearly died from. And other than his previous migraines and memory loss issues, Aki was never sick just as Shane was never sick.
“Same as always.”
Jack seemed to think over that for a few minutes. “Let me send Ivy over. He’s off today anyway.”
“What if Ivy catches whatever Aki has?”
“Ivy is the healthiest person I know. I doubt he is going to get some stomach flu from sitting with Aki for a few hours. He says it’s part of his earth powers. Never even had a cold.”
It would solve the problem of leaving Aki alone while he slept, and Shane was a bundle of energy needing to get out and do something. He’d planned to go downstairs to the mini gym and work out while Aki slept, but then worried something might happen with him away. The computer would notify him, but he hated not having someone there if something happened. He glanced at the window and the vitals his computer security system showed. Nothing looked out of ordinary with Aki according to his regular baseline readings. If he was sick, shouldn’t something be off? It was so frustrating.
“What time is Candy leaving?”
“He’s in the process right now. I can call him and tell him to drop Ivy off and pick you up,” Jack sounded hopeful.
“Candy is driving?”
Jack snorted. “Unfortunately.”
Shane sighed. Candy had been driving only two months or so. He was better than Aki, but not by much. Both of them got distracted too easily. Ivy had no interest in driving, and Shane was sure Aki had only learned because Candy had goaded him into it. City M’s internal public transportation was under construction, adding smaller trains and street cars everywhere. Soon there would be no need for vehicles at all for anyone not leaving the city or not emergency personnel. Solar and wind powered, from trains, to buildings, to their renewable green‐ houses. Everything about City M was changing. A few grumbled. Shane didn’t care. They had to be self-sustaining. Especially since the population was growing. Though he figured it meant that Aki would soon give up interest in driving altogether. The line down Main was already ninety percent complete. Which meant Aki would soon be able to just jump on the train and zip down to Just Shoes for a day of shopping.
The route from the Red Light District, otherwise known as Candy Land, was only about thirty percent complete, but it would be up and running by the end of the year. Shane suspected he’d see more of Candy and Ivy once that train was running. And Aki missed his nearly daily trips to Artie’s, which was also connected via the Red Light District line. Shane couldn’t wait. He never wanted to be in the passenger seat of a car Aki drove again.
“Set it up,” Shane said taking a long look over Aki’s prone form. Hopefully he’d be back before Aki awoke. “I’ll convince Candy to let me drive. Goddess, how have you not had a heart attack yet? I swear he slams on the brakes if he thinks a fly has crossed his path.”
“I’m never in the car with him. Ever,” Jack answered deadpan. “And thank you.”
“Yeah, yeah. He better not set me on fire or eat me. Baby dragon or not, I’m not a chew toy.”
Jack laughed. “Not for Candy at least.” He hung up. And wasn’t that the balls truth? Aki could chew on Shane any day.
sjmina on Amazon wrote:
Hidden Gem was one of my top 10 when it came out, I loved the characters and the world building and read the rest of the series as soon as it was released. I was so happy when I saw Lissa Kasey was writing a novella revisiting Aji, Shane, Candy and the rest! I loved seeing what was happening in City M after the events of the last book, finding out that they were thriving and settling into their new lives.
The novella tied up some of the "what happens now?" questions left at the end of the series and left the door open for future stories set in the Hidden Gem World. I, for one hope there will be more!
NNy Buyer on Amazon wrote:
This story tied up some of the "what happens now?" questions left at the end of the the last book in a delightful way. And left open some great possibilities for potential future stories. This was a great addition to the series and I loved seeing the characters again!
An amazing interlude: Aki is not feeling well. Candy is on a mission to check out some questionable brothels. Shane is astonished by what they find. Marc is strong and helpful. Ivy is cuddly. Jack uses his computer skills. Rain is sweet. Paris is totally in charge. It was good to see the whole gang. Can't wait until the next story. A definite winner for me!