Candy Land (Hidden Gem#3) by Lissa Kasey
Release Date: April 25, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu
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.
Pages or Words: 100,000 words
Should be read as a series
Categories: BDSM, Fantasy, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Ménage, Paranormal, Romance, Shifters, Urban Fantasy
Candy groaned when he realized he was the most innocent in the dark side of the world of the three of them.
Him innocent. Unbelievable.
Dom, whore, and pimp, he shouldn’t inch at the idea of death and blood, but he did. Fuck. Had Paris known how worthless he was going to be when it came to monsters, gore, and the supernatural shit of the world?
He glanced at Jack, sighing over his natural boy-next-door beauty. His dark blond hair was long, curling around his ears, and somewhat unruly. It looked soft, and Candy longed to run his fingers through it. He’d met more handsome men than Jack, Paris and Shane being prime specimens of men, but something about him drew Candy in deep. His eyes were a soft shade of honey brown, with specks of dark chocolate that glistened if the light hit them just right. He always held himself apart, shoulders squared, head high. Con dent, Candy thought. But every once in a while he’d get a glimpse of something lurking beneath all that bravado—a childlike innocence and fear. It was the little boy hiding his heart behind the badge that made Candy want Jack so bad. He wanted to take that fear away, show him that while the world might not be safe, he wasn’t alone anymore.
Had Ivy even gotten to taste those thick lips? Or experience Jack’s strong arms wrapped around him? Had he chased away the overconfident man and fearful child long enough to see the real Jack? Did Candy have a chance? Should he even care if his death was just around the corner? Fuck. If there was anything he hated it was uncertainty. Whatever Aki saw would happen. Candy had no doubt about that. If he was going to die today or even a year from now, shouldn’t he just live every moment like it was his last? What would Jack do if Candy threw himself at him? Kissed the breath out of him? Asked to be held? Candy growled to himself and shook his head. He didn’t know where to start, but somehow he was sure aggression wouldn’t be welcome.
Jack stayed on his heel while Candy wandered, but seemed to be inspecting the property himself, maybe looking for clues that had been missed by the police. He had this nervous habit of biting his lip when he was deep in thought. Candy had noticed it ages ago, and it drove him nuts. It was an almost boyish cuteness that made Candy want to kiss Jack just to stop him from worrying at his lip, but now he knew it wouldn’t be welcomed and it irritated him. His tight pants bit into his lling cock. It wasn’t fair to be attracted to someone so badly.
He’d looked up the term Ivy had left for him after his last client: asexuality. A lack of emotional interest in sex. There were a dozen divisions within the term, some even sex- or relationship-averse, meaning they were repulsed by sex. Did sex disgust Jack? Was that why he hugged himself whenever he entered the Gem and refused to meet anyone’s eyes? Candy had thought it was just shyness, and maybe it partially was. He just didn’t quite understand. How could someone be physically able to have sex, but not want to? If he asked Jack, would he answer?
Candy sighed to himself and headed up the stairs. Even the stairs were caked in grease and grime. Ivy had lived here for several years, walking those steps in bare feet. Candy didn’t want to see, but he had to get his mind off Jack. The nastiness of the Red Delight client rooms would hopefully wilt his erection. If he’d been home he would have found a spare moment with Ivy to alleviate some tension. Here there was nothing but sticky floors, stained walls, and the stench of years of cigarette smoke.
Jack followed him up the stairs. Neither of them spoke or touched anything. A door at the far end was still marked with the yellow paint used by the police to indicate the crime area. Jack rubbed his nose and grabbed Candy’s arm before either of them could make a step toward that door. “It still smells of death up here. We should go back down. There’s nothing to see, right? You don’t want the actual building, just the land.”
“Ivy is too free with information,” Candy said, somewhat annoyed. How was it fair for Jack to know so much about him when Candy knew almost nothing about Jack?
“He worries about you. Wants to take care of you.” “Funny. I’d say he does the same for you.”
Jack shrugged. “He’s a friend. I thought he was your friend too.”
Candy stepped into Jack’s personal bubble. “I fuck him regularly. We’re more than just friends.”
Jack didn’t step back, nor did he appear to be shocked by Candy’s words, which stole some of Candy’s anger. Ivy had obviously not been dishonest with either of them. Though Candy had never expected him to fully disclose his sex life to Jack. “Why does that matter?” Jack asked finally. “I’m friends with Shane and Aki doesn’t mind. I know they have sex often.”
Did Jack really not know? Maybe he didn’t get that Ivy wanted more than friendship. Hell, Candy would have liked to get to know Jack on a more personal level too, only his hackles were always raised by the man. He had this feeling that Jack would have to be the man of the relationship. The guy in charge, the Dominant, and Goddess knew Candy hated to give up control. Not that he didn’t like occasionally having someone hold him down and pound into him. Fuck, his head was messed up. And why did Jack smell so damn good?
Candy stood close enough that if he leaned forward just a bit he could finally capture Jack’s abused lip. When had he grown tall enough to nearly meet Jack eye to eye? And the strength of Jack’s hand on his arm… Candy knew it could hold him, maybe even be enough to restrain him. He sucked in a deep breath; his cock ached to be touched and leaked in his pants. It made him angry. He was never rational when angry. Paris had been trying for years to teach him to bury that wild emotion and had failed. Candy opened his mouth to say something scathing, only Jack spoke first.
“I never got to thank you for the book,” Jack said. “At least not in person. I’m sure Ivy told you I was grateful. But I really do like it. It’s like owning a piece of history. I’m in awe that you even found it.”
An odd mash of glee filled Candy’s gut. Jack liked the book. He knew that, of course, Ivy had told him so, but it was different hearing it from the man himself. The anger fell away. Did Jack really see him?
“The cake too. That was pretty amazing. I have the rest of it in my freezer. Been eating it a little at a time. Ivy helped me cut it into slices so I could freeze it and unthaw it as I want. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweets, but the lemon and strawberry mix is good. I’ve never had anyone give me anything. Thank you.”
Candy gave in to his need to touch and be touched. Even if it meant Jack shoved him away, he had to step forward, close that space and try. He leaned forward, not daring to kiss Jack, but enough to rest his forehead on Jack’s shoulder, arm loose around his waist. He kept their hips apart so as not to startle Jack with his erection. He almost expected Jack to step back. But he didn’t. His arms circled around Candy’s back, patting his shoulder lightly.
“The new hair color is good,” Jack told him. “Makes me think of flowers. Not that you’re flowery, but I’m sort of hoping spring comes soon. I don’t like the cold very much.” He seemed to be rambling now. Breathing a little hitched. Candy couldn’t recall Jack ever speaking to him so much. “More you than that brown I saw you with at Solstice. And I’m glad the jacket ts. When I saw it last week I told Ivy it would be perfect for you. I don’t know when your birthday is, but if it makes you feel better you can pretend it’s a present for your birthday, or maybe a late Solstice present.”
The clothes, or at least the jacket, had been from Jack? Candy wished they were in a better place. He would have shoved Jack against the wall and proved to him how great sex could be. Only he couldn’t imagine touching anything in here and not coming away with some nasty disease. “Thank you. The coat is nice. Warm.”
Jack rubbed Candy’s arms. “That’s what I thought when I saw it. That it would keep you warm, and the color is nice. Bright, like your hair always was.” He hesitated in his touch, but Candy moved closer to him, assuring him that it was okay. “It’s been a while since I saw you last. I hope you’re doing okay. I mean, I’m sure Ivy would have told me if you weren’t, but it’s good to see for myself that you’re looking good….”
Jack thought he looked good? Manny appeared on the stairs a moment later, saving Candy from doing something stupid, like stealing a kiss from Jack.
“Oscar’s finished,” Manny told him. He said nothing about the embrace that would have embarrassed Candy had anyone else seen.
Candy pulled away reluctantly. He couldn’t meet Jack’s eyes as he made his way downstairs. If he had, he’d have said something stupid, like ask if they could go back to his place afterward. Jack probably would have taken the proposal badly anyway.
Yohan didn’t look any happier. And the offer was even lower. Candy took the screen and added a small sum of money to it. This was their final offer. “Take it or leave it,” Candy told him.
“You’re ripping me off,” Yohan protested. “Just because you can.”
Candy shrugged. Jack took the screen and glanced over it. “Looks fair to me. The condition of the building is questionable. I noticed more cracks in the walls and ceiling than the building code would allow, even for an older structure. There’s substantial water damage upstairs, so the roof is bad. Probably should have been replaced years ago. And then there are the health code violations….”
“I’ll take your offer,” Yohan said, most likely to shut Jack up before he could air the long list of problems with the property. Oscar stepped in to get his signature and thumb print on several e-documents.
Candy couldn’t help but grin at Jack, who gave him a nonchalant shrug. “Everyone out to the bus,” Candy instructed the companions. “You’ll be heading to Cardinal Sins.”
“What will we be doing there?” one of them asked.
“Paris will interview each of you and find a suitable job. Most likely serving drinks, food, maybe cleaning or cooking. He’s pretty well stocked in companions right now.” And all of these whores were well past their prime. Candy would have to find out where Yohan had sold the others to. There weren’t many brothels left in City M, and he hated the idea of any whore being left to be abused by some asshole pimp.
“No more whoring?” another clarified. “Not likely.” He ushered them toward the door. Jack still stood between him and Yohan. Yohan had several bags
packed and there was a car that wasn’t part of Candy’s entourage parked near the curb. “Will you be leaving town, then?” Jack asked Yohan. “I’d like to know where to nd you in case more questions come up about this case.”
Yohan shook his head. “Not my problem anymore. That belongs to him now too.” He waved his hand at Candy and made his way out the door and down to the car.
There was another unmarked car parked across the street that Jack saluted lightly. The passenger window rolled up, and as soon as Yohan’s car eased away from the curb, the black sedan followed.
“Ino,” Jack informed Candy. “He’ll let me know if Yohan leaves town or hides out somewhere. I really do want to know where he goes, just in case.”
Candy nodded, a little shocked by Jack’s foresight. If Candy had been thinking ahead, he’d have put one of the guards on the task. It was just more proof that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He watched the former companions all board the bus and sent a text off to Paris that they would be in need of immediate healthcare as well as clothing and jobs. Oscar held out the last of the documents for him to review and sign. Moments later, with money transferred, it was time to return to the Gem and to Ivy. If only he could bring Jack with him. He knew for certain Ivy wouldn’t mind at all.
Jack stood less than two feet away. He was looking around, a confused expression on his face. “Everything okay?” Candy asked him. He reached out to touch Jack’s arm. Oscar was already headed back to the car when Jack’s eyes widened in alarm and the same instant something sliced into Candy. For a moment he stood there, startled, confused at the odd, growing, wet heat suddenly pouring down his back, and then the fiery pain that erupted from his back and through his stomach. Hot pokers seemed to melt through his body, driving mind-numbing pain to every nerve.
His breath faltered as blood filled a lung. He choked on the rising fluid and spit out a gush of red and froth. The world turned into a wild swirl of fading colors, all centering on Jack’s face. His expression was horrified, and then a moment later, Jack was no longer there and a black tiger leapt at Candy.
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Meet the author:
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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