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.
MISAKI SUCKED in a deep, cold breath, wondering when he’d finally die. How long had it been since he’d last eaten? A week, maybe more? He couldn’t remember the taste of food. Even the gruel they got in the concentration camp had been better than nothing. The cold frost of winter covered the streets and made him shiver. Layers of dirty clothes stolen from the trash and other homeless didn’t help. Somehow the wind blew right through him.
He huddled in a doorway in the heart of the City M slums. There had been talk of police enforcement sweeping through, jailing those like him, throwing others out of town. He could hope for jail. It had a roof, heat, and inmates got food. If he hadn’t just escaped the containment camps of the south, he’d have thought anything would be better than this endless cold and gnawing hunger. But really he’d had it much worse.
People wandered by him. Some even paused to stare. Did he look so awful? “Spare some food?” he whispered, not too proud to beg, but knowing well enough not to meet their eyes. A shadow loomed over him, then another joined the first. He should have been afraid, but they could do nothing that hadn’t already been done. Any violence against him now would likely kill him, and he had longed for death for years.
“He’s a child,” one voice said.
“Small, but I bet he’s legal or will be soon. Good bone structure. Could be pretty with some meat on him,” another replied.
“I have people begging to work for me. What do I need of a street urchin starved near to death?”
“A hidden gem. Give me six weeks with him, and he’ll be one of your biggest earners. I did promise when I bought out my contract that I’d find you a comparable replacement.”
“How can you see this as your replacement, Paris? He’s a psi. People will run the second they glimpse those eerie eyes.”
Their banter bounced back and forth like Misaki couldn’t hear them. He squinted to try to make out the figures without blatantly staring at them. One was younger, handsome, dressed up like some sort of dandy or a prince from a storybook. The other stood tall and firm like a soldier. Misaki cringed away from the older man, too many memories of beatings, experiments, and pain.
“You had a brother who was psi, did you not? You once told me he went missing at a young age. How would you feel if the world treated him like this? Left him out here to die like a rat? I plan to put an end to this homelessness in my new job. No matter how the other senators fight me, I will use my own money if I have to. No child should end up like this.” The younger man was speaking. He knelt down, reaching his hand out. “What if I offer you food, shelter, and safety, little one? Would you come with us?”
Lissa Kasey lives in St. Paul, MN, has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and collects Asian ball joint dolls that look like her characters. She has three cats who 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.