THIRDS Thursday – 1/19/17

Prompt: Seb and Hudson’s first date.


Part 3

They carried on with their meal, chatting and laughing. Hudson told Seb why he’d arrived at the restaurant in the state he was in. How he’d been leaving the locker room down in Sparta when he’d been called to the training bay. A Human rookie from one of Unit Beta’s teams thought it would be funny to sneak up on his bear Therian teammate during a training session while the agent was in Therian form.

Seb groaned. “You’re kidding me.”

Hudson shook his head. “Everyone knows bear Therians do not like to be poked, or startled. The rookie had been warned, and decided to disregard the warning. Poor bloke was tossed across the room. He’s lucky all he broke was an arm.” Hudson’s smile grew wicked. “I can tell you he won’t be pulling a stunt like that again. Not after I finished with him.”

“Oh?” Seb chuckled.

“I was certain to explain in exceptional detail all the internal damage his organs could have suffered then explained how lucky he was he’d not been faced with a Felid Therian from Unit Alpha or he might have ended up with a crushed skull, or found his intestines dangling outside his stomach.”

Seb waggled his brows. “You have a bit of a wicked streak in you, Doc. I like it.”

They finished their meal, and Seb called them a cab, accompanying Hudson to his apartment building. Hudson insisted it wasn’t necessary, but Seb wasn’t quite ready to leave him. They stood outside the apartment building entrance, the cool evening breeze ruffling Hudson’s hair. Seb brushed it away from Hudson’s eyes.

“Thanks for tonight,” Seb said. “I really had a great time.”

Hudson leaned against the doorframe facing Seb. “As did I. Would you join me for dinner again sometime this week?”

“How about Thursday night? I get off at six. We could meet at eight?”

“It’s a date,” Hudson said beaming up at him.

Suddenly, Seb wasn’t quite sure what to do. He knew what he wanted to do, but what if Hudson got the wrong idea? What if he thought Seb was just interested in getting him into bed? Not that sex with Hudson would be a bad thing. Seb was pretty sure it would be spectacular, but he wanted to do this right. It was too soon to feel this crazy about someone, yet he realized he didn’t care. He was drawn to Hudson. Drawn to his beautiful smile, his handsome face, snarky sense of humor, and gentle eyes.

“Well, I guess I should go.” He ran a hand through his hair, feeling like a giant dork. Should he kiss Hudson? Was it too late to do it now? Should he kiss him on the cheek? On the lips? Would Hudson think he was being pushy?

“Sebastian?”

The soft-spoken word snapped Seb’s attention, and he looked down, wondering when Hudson had gotten so close.

“Yeah?”

“Goodness, you’re tall.”

Seb chuckled. “Yeah, well, that kind of goes hand in hand with being a tiger Therian.”

“You’ll just have to put in more of an effort then.”

Seb studied him. “What do you mean?”

Hudson dropped his gaze to Seb’s lips before moving his eyes back to Seb’s. “You’ll have to meet me halfway, darling. I won’t reach your mouth otherwise.”

It took Seb a moment. “Oh! Sorry, I—”

Hudson stood on his toes, cupped Seb’s face, and pulled him down, bringing their lips together. Joy and sizzling heat flared through Seb, and after his brain finally got the message, he closed his eyes, wrapped his arms around Hudson, and held him tight against him, mindful not to squeeze too hard.

Hudson’s lips were soft, plump, and his mouth tasted sweet from the dessert they’d shared. His scent filled Seb’s nostrils, and Seb moaned when Hudson pressed closer to him. Their kiss was slow as they explored each other’s mouth, their tongues tasting, teeth nipping. Hudson placed his hands to Seb’s chest, his finger sliding up and slipping under Seb’s collar to stroke his skin.

Their kiss went on for what seemed like a blissful eternity. Until a bang somewhere inside startled them, and they broke their kiss.

Hudson let out a breathless laugh. “Noisy neighbor.” He hadn’t moved out of Seb’s embrace. His cheeks were flushed that beautiful pink Seb was coming to love. “Would you…. Would you care to come in for a cup of tea, or coffee?”

Seb placed a kiss to Hudson’s cheek then murmured in his ear. “I would love to.” His voice had come out huskier than he intended, but before he could worry about it, Hudson removed his keys from his pocket, opened the door, and grabbed Seb’s wrist, pulling him inside toward one of the apartments. Their lips were locked in a heated kiss the moment they were inside Hudson’s place, the door closed. Seb walked him over to the couch, not seeing the coffee table in the center, or the blanket half draped on the couch onto the floor. He bumped into the table, turned, got his feet tangled in the blanket, and lost his balance. Hudson very sweetly tried to steady him, but Seb’s weight was too much for him, and they tumbled onto the couch, Seb on his back, and Hudson sprawled on top of him. They lay very still, neither speaking or so much as breathing until Seb broke the silence.

“Would you believe me if I said that’s how we do it here in America?”

Hudson laughed softly. He looked embarrassed. “I’m so sorry. I always have a mess of blankets and pillows out here when I watch telly.” Hudson’s cheeks flushed. “I suppose I should get up.”

“Or,” Seb prompted, wrapping an arm around Hudson, then turning them so Hudson was on his back on the couch with Seb laying over him. He grinned down at Hudson. “We could make the most of it and go back to kissing.”

Hudson slipped his arms around Seb’s neck drawing him close. He nuzzled Seb’s neck, planting kisses up Seb’s jaw.

“Plus, getting up would most likely require another tussle with your blanket, so really, you’d be saving me from possible misfortune.”

Hudson smiled as he continued to trail kisses over Seb’s skin. “Well, when you put it like that, how can I allow you to take such a risk? It’s best you not go too far.”

“I mean, I barely escaped with my life.”

“Poor dear, such a harrowing experience. I think your bravery should be rewarded,” Hudson murmured, kissing Seb, his body warm beneath him. They fit perfectly together, as if Hudson were made to be in his arms. Seb smiled against Hudson’s lips. Something told him this was the start of something special. Seb could hardly wait.


Missed Part 2? Read it here. Read Part 1 here.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press 2014.

THIRDS Thursday – 1/12/17

Prompt: Seb and Hudson’s first date.


Part Two

Read Part One here. Final part next week.

Hudson poked his tongue out, licking his bottom lip. It took everything Seb had not to show Hudson what ravished would really look like on him. The man was just stunning, and he had no idea.

“You look incredible. How about we go inside, and you tell me what happened.”

Hudson nodded, his smile wide. Reluctantly, Seb pulled away. He opened the door for Hudson, and followed him inside. The restaurant was cozy with a rustic, casual décor consisting of exposed bricks walls, kitchen-style wooden tables, and mismatched chairs. It was atmospheric with live music playing as guests chatted over their scrumptious looking dinners.

Seb thanked the waitress when she handed him a menu. He ordered a beer, and Hudson ordered them a fresh lemon Soju which he insisted Seb had to help him drink.

“I’m not very good at holding my liquor I’m afraid. My friends used to tease me mercilessly in school.” Hudson shrugged and smiled. “Guess that makes me a cheap date.”

Seb couldn’t help leaning in, his voice low and husky. “Baby, there is nothing cheap about you.” He winked at Hudson and sat back, loving the way Hudson’s very fair skin flushed pink from the tips of his ears down to his neck. Apparently, Hudson blushed easily.

“Um, thank you.” Hudson cleared his throat.

Seb wasn’t sure what had gotten into him. He wasn’t normally so forward. Truth be told, he was kind of hopeless when it came to flirting. Ash was always teasing him. Guys would come up to Seb, and Seb would smile and chat, then walk away because he really had no clue he was being flirted with. He just assumed people were being friendly. Something about Hudson made him feel bold. Maybe he should pull back. Hudson was prim and proper, and rather shy. The last thing Seb wanted was to scare him off. “I gotta admit, I’ve not had much Korean food.”

“Well, what kind of dishes do you enjoy eating? There’s meat, seafood, veggie dishes. You said you didn’t have any food allergies, so it just depends on what you like.”

“Thank you for asking by the way, that was very considerate of you.”

Hudson smiled. “Well, I like to check first, and never assume. I’m allergic to mushrooms, so I’m always cautious.”

“How bad is your allergy?”

“Not enough to warrant an EpiPen or hospitalization, but I’ll break out into hives and have a rough time for several hours. I take a hay fever tablet before eating out as a precaution.”

“Hay fever tablet? Is that like an allergy pill?”

“Oh, yes. So sorry. It’s only been a year since I moved to the States. Some things are still getting lost in translation I’m afraid.”

“I’m sure you hear this all the time, but listening to you talk is such a pleasure.”

More blushing from Hudson which enchanted Seb. They decided to order a few dishes and share them. They all looked amazing to Seb, and he was a fan of spicy, so the Kimchi dishes sounded great. When the food came, Seb was pleasantly surprised by how much Hudson ate. The man had a healthy appetite and he wasn’t afraid to show it. Seb was roughly a foot taller, and had about a hundred and thirty pounds on Hudson, and despite his lean frame, Hudson ate like a tiger Therian.

“Do I have something on my face?” Hudson asked around a mouthful of food. He finished chewing and swallowed before chuckling. “Wolf Therians love food. Very much. And I am no exception.”

Seb leaned in to brush aside the hair that fell over Hudson’s brow. “Has anyone told you how adorable you are?”

Hudson cleared his throat, and sat back, his gaze meeting Seb’s. “May I be honest with you?”

“I’m sorry.” Shit, he should have reined it in. “I didn’t mean to come on so strong, it’s just….” Seb felt his face grow hot. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous in my life. You’re this amazing, sophisticated guy, and I’m—”

“Wonderful,” Hudson cut in, his beautiful smile reaching his sparkling blue eyes. “You’re wonderful, Sebastian.”

Seb blinked. “I am?”

Hudson nodded. “What I was going to say was that I would very much like to do this again, very soon.”

“You would?”

“Yes.” Hudson smiled warmly. “I know it’s rather silly, considering this is our first date, but I feel as if we’ve known each other so much longer.” He took a sip of his drink as if to fortify himself. Seb could tell Hudson was trying his best not to fidget. He remained quiet while Hudson continued.

“I love arriving at work every morning and meeting you in the canteen for tea and coffee. It’s such a wonderful start to my day, seeing you and talking with you. I love how you drop by my office simply to say hello, or the way you always seem to know when I’m having a difficult day, and make me laugh.” He dropped his gaze to the table. “And while I’m being honest, I’m very much enjoying being the center of your attention. I’m afraid I could get used to it quite quickly. I’ve never met anyone like you, Sebastian.” He looked up at Seb then, his blue eyes clouding with heat. This time it was Seb who was squirming in his seat. Maybe Hudson wasn’t as timid as Seb thought.

Ignoring the butterflies in his stomach, and the pounding of his heart, Seb leaned in to brush his fingers down Hudson’s smooth jaw, his heart skipping a beat when Hudson leaned into the touch. “I’ve never met anyone like you either. And I feel the same way you do about knowing each other. Seems like I’ve known you forever. When we come back from working a rough case, when everything seems so dark and vile, I see your smile and suddenly everything makes sense again. I would love to do this again. How could I not give you my full attention? You’re incredible.”

Hudson let out a dreamy sigh, and Seb knew at that very moment that he was a goner.


Final part next week! Read Part One here.

Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 1/5/17

Prompt: Seb and Hudson’s first date.


Part One

“How do I look?”

Seb turned to his little brother, arms held out at his sides. After hours of rummaging through his closet and trying on practically every item of clothing he owned, he’d settled on an outfit that Ethan picked out. It was a mossy green sweater—the green bringing out his eyes—over a white shirt, and khaki pants. It wasn’t T-shirt and jeans, but it wasn’t a suit either. He’d been ready to lose his mind until his little brother dropped by, reached into his closet, and plucked the perfect outfit before Seb could toss his entire wardrobe out the window.

“I told you that sweater would look great with those pants,” Ethan replied quietly, a big smile on his face. “You’re really nervous, huh?”

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous over a date before.”

“Guess you really like him,” Ethan teased.

“It’s crazy. I barely know him, but….” Seb shrugged as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on his brown leather brogues. “There’s just something about him. I mean, he’s beautiful, smart, funny, and his smile just takes my breath away.”

“Wow, you got it bad.” Ethan laughed at Seb’s arched eyebrow. “What? I’ve never seen you like this. I think it’s great. He’s really nice. I like him for you.”

Seb couldn’t help his dopey grin. “Thanks.” Ethan grew quiet, and Seb straightened. To everyone else they knew, Ethan being quiet was the norm, but to Seb, when it was just the two of them and Ethan was quiet, it was worrisome. Ethan was always chatty with him. “What’s on your mind?”

“It’s not important,” Ethan muttered.

“If it’s on your mind then it is. Talk to me.” Seb turned to face his brother. “Come on, buddy. You know you can tell me anything.”

“I hope it works out for the both of you,” Ethan said, his eyes everywhere else but on Seb. “But I feel kind of bad.”

“Why?” Seb asked gently. He placed his hand on his brother’s head reassuringly like he always did when Ethan was little, letting him know that he was there for Ethan no matter what.

“I really want things to work out for you guys because you like him so much, and he makes you happy, but I also want things to work out for a more selfish reason, and I feel kind of crappy about it.” Ethan looked up at Seb then, and Seb was taken aback by the glassiness in his brother’s eyes.

“Ethan?”

“He understands me,” Ethan replied. “From the day we met him in the training bay, he didn’t question why I couldn’t talk. He didn’t look at me with pity. Instead, he smiled, talked to me like he did everyone else, and understood what I was trying to say. He doesn’t look at me like I’m broken. To him, I’m a colleague, an agent just like anyone one else on Destructive Delta. And even though he’s a doctor, he’s not trying to fix me.”

Seb’s heart squeezed in his chest. It was hard for Ethan when Seb or Rafe dated because their dates weren’t always so understanding. Some tried, but in the end things didn’t work out for some reason or another. Seb figured he hadn’t found the right person yet, because when he did, that guy would love Ethan and the rest of the Hobbs brood as much as Seb did. He didn’t begrudge anyone for walking away from him. His life was complicated, and at times emotionally draining. Between being a Defense agent for the THIRDS risking his life out in the field, his father’s condition, and his little brother’s Selective Mutism, it was too much for some people, and as much as Seb wanted to find love, he would never ever walk away from his family.

“Hey, look at me,” Seb insisted gently, smiling when Ethan looked up at him. “That’s not selfish. You’re my little brother, and I love you. Anyone who really wants to be a part of my life will want to be a part of your too, Ethan. We’re a family. That’s never going to change.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Ethan, the right guy will know how much you all mean to me, and he’ll love you as much as I do.”

Ethan’s eyes brimmed with tears. He nodded before throwing his arms around Seb, and hugging him tight. When he pulled back, he wiped the tears from his eyes. His wide grin made Seb chuckle.

“He’s going to love you, Seb, I just know he is.”

Ethan’s faith in him never ceased to astound him. “One step at a time, buddy.” Seb patted Ethan’s shoulders then headed downstairs, Ethan on his heels. He grabbed his wallet, keys, and phone along with his brown leather jacket. His hair had been recently cut so there wasn’t much he could do with it. Taking a deep breath, he followed Ethan outside, and locked up.

“Okay. Wish me luck. And thanks for coming over to check on me.”

Ethan hugged him again before heading off, and Seb promised he’d call to let him know how it went. Seb took a taxi instead of his truck so he wouldn’t have to worry about parking. The restaurant was a cute little Korean place on East 31st Street, one of Hudson’s favorites.

Seb had offered to pick Hudson up from his house, but since Hudson was getting off work later than Seb, he was going to shower and change at work then head out to the restaurant to meet him. A few minutes later, Seb walked in to the restaurant. He’d meant to call Hudson to let him know he was on his way, and completely forgot. He was about to ask the hostess when the door opened, and the most stunning man Seb had ever seen walked in. His black hair was windblown, his cheeks flushed, one side of his shirt sticking out from under his chic button down vest. His glasses were crooked on his nose, and one of his shoes were untied. The man was too adorable for words. When Hudson spotted him, he let out a squeak, and his eyes went wide. Seb smiled and opened his mouth to say hi when Hudson ran back out.

Well that was new.

Seb quickly followed, finding Hudson outside pacing furiously and mumbling to himself.

“Hudson?”

Hudson gave a start, a hand going to his chest. “Oh good lord.”

“Are you okay?” Had Hudson changed his mind?

“Yes, um, I uh….” Hudson let out a shaky laugh as he ran a hand through his hair. He smoothed down his vest then quickly tucked his shirt into his belt. “I um, I’m so sorry.”

Seb held his breath. “If you’ve changed your mind about this, I understand.”

Hudson blinked at him. “I beg your pardon?”

“You ran out when you saw me. I thought maybe you were rethinking the whole date thing.”

“No!”

The shout was unexpected, and Seb started. With a groan, Hudson covered his face with his hands. Seb chuckled. The poor guy was working himself into quite the flustered state. Seb realized then what was really happening. He stepped up to Hudson, knelt, and took hold of his laces.

“What are you doing?”

Seb looked up at him with a smile. “Tying your shoe.” He had a feeling if he didn’t the poor man might end up on the floor. The pink that crept into Hudson’s cheeks was just the sweetest thing.

“Thank you,” Hudson murmured, straightening his glasses. “I wasn’t having second thoughts. I thought perhaps I might have arrived before you and could run to the loo to tidy up my appearance. You’re very punctual.”

Seb laughed softly as he stood. “I’m sorry.”

“Please don’t apologize. I’m the one who should apologize, showing up like I’d been ravished or some such thing.”

Seb waggled his eyebrows. “Ravished, huh?”

“Oh, I… bollocks.” Hudson laughed, embarrassed. “Are you certain you’re not having second thoughts?”

Seb closed the distance between them. He placed his fingers under Hudson’s chin, lifting his face so he could meet those gorgeous blue eyes.

“Believe me, the last thing I’m thinking about is walking away from you.”


PART TWO next week!

Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 12/29/16

The fellas share their New Year’s resolutions.


Ash: I don’t make new year’s resolutions. If I want to do something, I do it. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t. That’s it.

Dex: How very Ash of you.

Ash: Whatever. This coming from the guy with no self-control.

Dex: *huffs* I totally have self-control. I don’t know what you’re talking about. *Turns to Sloane* Babe, I have self-control, right?

Sloane: *looking everywhere but at Dex*

Dex: *narrows eyes* Babe?

Sloane: *blinks at him innocently* Hm?

Ash: *snickering behind Cael*

Dex: Darling? Light of my loins. Owner of my very, very precious heart. Self-control. I have it, right?

Sloane: Um, of course your do, sweetheart.

Dex: You hesitated.

Sloane: *looks past Dex to Cael* How about you? Any resolutions?

Cael: I’m going to try and be more assertive. Outside the bedroom, anyway.

Ash: *jaw drops*

Dex: *eyes go wide* Oh my God, why? Why would you say that in my presence? *covers his eyes* I need bleach for my brain!

Cael: *rolls his eyes* I’m thirty years old, Dex. One of these days you’re going to have to accept that your baby brother isn’t a baby anymore.

Dex: Never! *throws his arms around Cael’s head and pets him* Precious, precious cookie.

Cael: I’m going to seriously hurt you if you don’t let go.

Dex: *sniffs* They grow up so quickly.

Cael: Get off.

Dex: One minute you’re changing their diaper—which was so heavy you had to wonder how something so small could poop so damn much—and the next thing you know—*gets tackled off his chair*

Sloane: *to Ash* What do you want to do after this?

Dex: *tussling with Cael on the floor* Could use a little help here.

Ash: *thinks about it* How about we grab some dinner and watch a movie? I’m kinda in the mood for Korean.

Dex: *groans after getting hit in the ribs* Babe?

Sloane: *snaps his fingers* Hudson recommended this great place over on East 31st Street. We should go there.

Ash: Sounds good.

Dex: Ouch! Dude, did you just try to knee me in ma boys? I need those!

Cael: Then stop talking about my diapers, you turd!

Dex: *snickers* Turd.

Cael: *stands over his brother and narrows his eyes* Say one more thing about me in diapers. I dare you.

Dex: *opens his mouth to reply*

Cael: Just know that when you do, I’m going to describe in exceptional detail the sex Ash and I had last night.

Dex: *pops up onto his feet* You know, I think I’m gonna sit down next to Sloane.

Cael: You do that. *Resumes his seat next to Ash*

Dex: *leans over Cael to peer at Ash* I blame you.

Ash: For what? The sex?

Dex: That. But generally, I just blame you.

Sloane: *chuckles and pats Dex’s leg*

Dex: *turns to Sloane* So what’s your new year’s resolution?

Sloane: *thinks about it* I don’t know. I guess, just really appreciate what I have, and making sure what I have knows he’s appreciated. *kisses Dex’s cheek*

Dex: *melts* Aw. You’re such a sap.

Ash: *to Dex* I blame you for that one.

Dex: *sighs dreamily as he looks at Sloane* I happily accept responsibility.

Ash: Dork.

Dex: Bite me, Simba.

Ash: That’s getting old.

Dex: Aslan, then. Or we could go with Scar. Or Mufasa.

Ash: *grins wide* How about we go with my fist in your face. How’s that? I like that one best.

Sloane: Okay, that’s enough you two. Back to resolutions.

Dex: *puts his hand up * Ooh, I got one!

Sloane: Why are you raising your hand?

Ash: I find it hard to believe that you ever raised your hand in school.

Dex: Of course I raised my hand. I was an exceptional student.

*Cael and Ash exchange glances before bursting into laughter*

Cael: *wiping a tear from his eye* He’s right. He did raise his hand. He also made noises, whispered loudly to get the teacher’s attention, and flailed his arms. It drove his teachers insane, among other things.

Dex: *wrinkles his nose* Hey, I was an enthusiastic student.

Cael: And then after all the flailing and noises, when the teacher finally did call on him, he’d ask a completely random question. Like if she asked what the answer to the math problem was, he’d drive her nuts until she picked him, and then ask something like “why do dogs get surprised by their own farts”.

*Ash and Sloane burst into laughter*

Dex: What? If I didn’t ask when it occurred to me then I’d forget, and it would bug me for the rest of the day. I needed to know. You can all bite me.

Sloane: *sobering up* Okay, babe. What’s your resolution?

Dex: *mutters* To find new friends.

Sloane: Aw, don’t be mad. *pulls Dex into his arms and kisses him* You know we love you.

Ash: *opens his mouth when Cael clamps a hand over it*

Dex: *pouts* Can we get ice cream after dinner?

Sloane: Of course we can. You can have all the ice cream you want.

Ash: *groans*

Cael: *eyes light up and turns to Ash* I want ice cream too!

Ash: *hugs Cael and glares at Sloane over Cael’s head* Of course, sweetheart.

Dex: *jumps off his chair at the same time as Cael* Woop! *they run out*

Ash: *shakes his head at Sloane* You couldn’t have just said yes, you had to say “all the ice cream you want.”

Sloane: Sorry. You know it’s hard for me to say no when he’s looking all pouty like that.

Ash: Which is why he does it, you sap! *throws his arms up* Now they’re going to eat their weight in ice cream, and Cael is going to be bouncing off the walls.

Sloane: *shrugs* Dex will be too. And it’ll last most of the night. *waggles his eyebrows*

Ash: *opens his mouth to answer then closes it. Realizes what Sloane is saying and stands* Let’s go get some ice cream. *grins wide* Happy New Year to me.

Sloane: *chuckles and walks after him*


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 12/22/16

A THIRDS Christmas.


Where could he be?

Sloane looked everywhere for Ash. He’d woken up to find Ash gone, but he didn’t have a “session” or Ash would have told him. The door to their room had been open, which meant they were allowed to leave. Probably because it was Christmas tomorrow, so there were no sessions until after, and most of the grownups were gone, except for the security guards and Dr. Shultzon.

Ash never went anywhere without telling Sloane, just like Sloane never went anywhere without Ash, not if he could help it. Not because the other kids scared him. No one was mean to each other. Ash had said it was because they were all in this together. It was the grownups they were all scared of.

Sloane checked the playroom, the canteen, and even the medical bay. No one had seen him either. Sloane didn’t call out for Ash in case it got him in trouble. Ash had to be here somewhere. He’d never leave Sloane alone. Ever. Last week Dr. Shultzon told Sloane it had been almost three years since Sloane and Ash met. It made Sloane really happy. Ash called him a dork, saying they’d always be together so it wasn’t a big deal. Three days after Christmas, Sloane would be thirteen, and officially a teenager, just like Ash. Ash had teased Sloane, telling him he was the oldest, already a teen while Sloane was still a little kid. Sloane had rolled his eyes. Ash was like, not even a month older.

Walking by one of the offices, Sloane heard sniffing and froze. The door was open a tiny bit. Checking each end of the hall to make sure no one was watching, he tiptoed up to the door then peeked inside. Ash was inside the empty office, sitting on the windowsill, looking out.

Sloane slipped inside, closing the door silently behind him. He walked up to Ash who didn’t even blink.

“Hey,” Sloane said quietly.

Ash grunted, but didn’t say anything. He was usually grumpy, but this time it was different. He looked… sad.

“Can I sit with you?”

Ash let out a noise, like he was annoyed, but pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them to make room for Sloane.

Sloane climbed up on the windowsill, his knees drawn up as he faced Ash. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Sloane studied Ash. His eyes were kinda red and glassy, and he sniffed before rubbing his eyes, a deep frown on his face.

“What do you want?” Ash growled, still not looking at him.

“I couldn’t find you.”

Ash glanced over at him. “And you got scared, huh?” He didn’t sound mad.

Sloane nodded, his bottom lip between his teeth. He hated being so scared all the time, but he couldn’t help it. The tests, the screaming, and crying, the nightmares…. It wasn’t so terrible because Ash was with him. Always. Not being able to find him had scared Sloane.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Ash muttered.

Sloane looked out the window, gasping and plastering his hands on the glass. “It’s snowing!” It had been a long time since he’d seen the snow. None of the rooms they were ever in had any windows. Ash said it was so no one on the outside could see them. Sloane thought maybe no one knew they were here, but Ash thought they did and just didn’t care.

“The snow makes me think of Arlo.”

Sloane was sad for Ash. He’d never had any brothers or sisters, so he didn’t know how it would feel to lose one of them, but he knew how it would feel if he lost Ash. Ash had told Sloane about Arlo one night after Sloane woke him up from a nightmare. He’d been kicking and crying in his sleep, calling out for someone called Arlo. His twin.

“I’m sorry,” Sloane said softly. He wished there was something he could do to make Ash not hurt so much. Ash wouldn’t like him fussing, so Sloane just nudged his socked feet closer until they were touching Ash’s. His shoulders relaxed.

“My mom used to take us ice skating all the time. Arlo loved it.”

“You ice skate?” Sloane blinked at his friend, surprised.

“Yes, dork. I can ice skate. I can do a lot of things.” Ash went back to looking out the window and sighed.

They were quiet, both watching the snow fall. The longer they watched, the sadder Ash seemed to get. Sloane wondered what he could do. He had to do something. Ash was always taking care of him, cheering him up, making him laugh, stealing extra snacks from the canteen for them.

“Do you want to go watch Christmas movies?” Sloane asked, hopeful.

Ash shook his head, his voice quiet. “Maybe later. I’m just gonna sit here a while. Watch White Christmas. That always makes you smile.”

Sloane carefully hopped down. “Okay.” He left Ash and headed for one of the big playrooms where they were sometimes allowed to watch movies.  When he got there he didn’t go in. Instead, he turned, and went to the elevator. He took it up to the next floor. The doors opened and a security guard frowned down at him.

“Where are you going?”

“I need to talk to Dr. Shultzon.”

The man’s frown grew deeper.

“Please,” Sloane said, eyes wide. “I won’t be long. I promise.”

With a sigh, the man nodded. “Hurry up. I’m watching you.”

“Yes, sir.” He hurried down the hall until he found Dr. Shultzon’s office. He’d been here lots of times. Usually when Shultzon was trying to explain to him why he needed to be a brave boy, and how he was really important. Sloane stood in the doorway and tried not to fidget.

“Dr. Shultzon?”

Dr. Shultzon looked up from his where he sat behind his desk and smiled. “Sloane, what a pleasant surprise. You don’t normally come to visit me.”

“I’m sorry,” Sloane said, rubbing his arm. “I um, I wanted to ask if you could do something.”

Dr. Shultzon laced his fingers together. “Oh? And what’s that?”

Sloane told him what he wanted, then waited. Dr. Shultzon was quiet. “That’s a very odd request. I’m not sure—”

“But, you could if you wanted to right?”

“Perhaps, but Sloane, I don’t—”

Sloane rushed over to the desk, gripping the edge. “But I’m important, right? You’ve told me so lots of times. That I’m important, and that I help other Therians. You said I was special.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“Please. I won’t ever ask for anything ever again. I won’t misbehave. I promise.” He drew a cross over his heart with his finger. “Tomorrow’s Christmas, and this is super-duper important.” His best friend in the whole world was sad. Whatever Sloane had to do to make Ash be Ash again, he would do it.

“Sloane—”

“Please!” Tears welled up in Sloane’s eyes. “You have to!”

“Well, seeing as how you feel so strongly about this, and tomorrow is Christmas. All right. One hour. Be by the elevator on your floor, and I’ll have one of the guards escort you over.”

“Thank you!” Sloane ran from the room. One hour. Sloane took the elevator back to the floor where his and Ash’s room where. He was already wearing warm clothes, so he just had to put his shoes on. He grabbed Ash’s sneakers, and ran back to the elevator, getting off on the floor where the office was. Ash was still sitting at the window. When Sloane tiptoed in, Ash huffed.

“It’s been like, five minutes.”

Sloane put Ash’s sneakers on the floor by the door before joining him at the window.

“I know. I thought maybe you missed me,” Sloane teased, knowing how much it annoyed Ash, though it didn’t really annoy him. He just pretended it did. Sloane climbed up and sat with him, watching the snow fall.

“Why do you keep looking at the clock?” Ash peered at him, and Sloane shrugged.

“Just wondering what time it is.”

“Cause you got somewhere to be?”

An hour! Sloane jumped down. “We have somewhere to be.” He grabbed Ash’s wrist. “Come on. I want to show you something.”

Ash rolled his eyes. “Fine. You’re so annoying.”

“I know,” Sloane said with a laugh. “Come on. Put on your shoes.” He handed Ash his sneakers.

“Why?”

“Just do it!”

“Geez, okay. You’re so bossy.”

Ash put on his sneakers, and the second he’d tied his shoes, Sloane grabbed his hand and ran.

“Where are we going, and why do we have to run there?”

“Because!”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Whatever,” Sloane said, pulling Ash with him to the elevator where a guard stood waiting for them. Ash lifted his chin, and narrowed his gaze at the man.

“Where are we going?”

“Trust me,” Sloane said, getting into the elevator with the guard. They stopped in the basement, and when the doors opened, Sloane covered Ash’s eyes.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s a surprise.” Sloane was so excited, he could barely hold it in.

“You’re such a dork.”

“I know, but please, Ash. Don’t peek.”

“Fine. Whatever.”

They walked slowly out into what looked like the building’s underground parking garage. Except it didn’t look much like a parking garage anymore. Sloane moved his hands.

“Merry Christmas, Ash!”

Ash’s eyes went huge, his mouth dropping open. “Holy cow… is that…?”

“It’s an ice skating rink!” Sloane ran over to the white wall surrounding the ice rink. It wasn’t huge, but it was plenty big for them. There were Christmas lights, a radio playing Christmas music, and a small table with hot chocolate. Sloane picked up a pair of black ice skates, and hurried them over to Ash. “They’re your size.”

“How…?” Ash shook his head. He looked at Sloane, his bottom lip trembling, and tears in his eyes. Sloane’s smile fell off his face.

“Do you not like it?”

One second Sloane was standing in front of Ash, the next he was falling over from Ash tackling him. Sloane laughed, hugging his best friend tight.

“This is the best Christmas present ever,” Ash murmured. He smiled down at Sloane, hugged him one more time before scrambling to his feet. “Come on!”

“I don’t know how to skate,” Sloane said quietly.

Ash handed Sloane the other pair of skates. “I’ll teach you, silly.”

Sloane’s smile was so big his face hurt. He pulled on the skates, and Ash taught him how to lace them up properly. Then he helped Sloane over to the ice. Sloane didn’t think it was real ice, but it was close. It was cold too. He could see his breath when he laughed.

The ice was super slippery, and even though Sloane went slower than a snail, he still kept falling over. Ash laughed.

“You’re like Bambi.”

“Funny,” Sloane grumbled, trying to stand up. After two tries, he sat down on his butt. He smiled up at Ash. “I want to see you skate.”

“Okay.” Ash beamed down at him. He took off, and Sloane was amazed at how easy Ash made it look. He didn’t trip or fall even once. He was so good. He could even skate backwards, and he did turns. Most of all, he was happy, a big smile on his face as he went fast then slowed down, turned and skated backwards. Sloane had never seen Ash smile like that, and it made his heart happy knowing he’d done that.

Ash came back, stopping in front of him. He held his hands out. “Come on. Let’s try again.” He helped Sloane to his feet then turned. “Hold on to my sweater.”

Sloane did as asked, and Ash slowly started skating with Sloane holding on. He actually managed to stay on his feet.

“I’m doing it!” Sloane laughed, and held on tight as Ash went a bit faster. It was kind of like roller skating, but way more slippery. After a while, Sloane was moving his legs. He held onto Ash’s hand as they skated. This was the best Christmas ever.

“Ash?”

“Yeah?” Ash stopped to catch his breath.

“Let’s spend every Christmas together.”

Ash looked at him for a long moment before nodding. “Okay.” A big smile spread on his face, and he held his hand out to Sloane. “Deal.”

“Best friends forever.”

Ash shook his head, but he was smiling still. “Dork.”

“Ash,” Sloane whined.

“Best friends forever.” Ash threw his arm around Sloane’s shoulders. “Merry Christmas, Sloane.”

Sloane smiled wide. “Merry Christmas, Ash.”


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 12/15/16

*** CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SMOKE & MIRRORS ***

Prompt: I would like to read the scene where Dex is found in the woods in Smoke & Mirrors from Sloane’s point of view.


He had to find him.

Damn TIN for wasting so much time. Sloane should have been out here searching for Dex hours ago. Instead the bastards had knocked him out. Did Sparks really think he was going to just sit around on his ass and do nothing? His mate was out there somewhere, in trouble and in pain. Sloane could feel it down to his bones. He didn’t care if he drew attention to himself in the bright orange muscle car, he needed to have it with him. Needed to feel close to Dex, sit in his seat, grip the steering wheel. It was stupid, but driving the Challenger kept his hopes up. Like the damn thing might actually lead him to its owner.

As he drove, he told himself over and over that they would find Dex and he’d be alive. His man was made of tough stuff, tougher than a lot of people gave him credit for. Dex would survive. He’d do whatever was necessary to get back to Sloane, to Cael and Maddock. His family.

“Come on, baby, you gotta come home. I need you to come home.” Sloane’s phone rang and he tapped his earpiece after the first ring. “Who is this?”

“It’s me.”

Sloane almost slammed the breaks. For a second, he was afraid maybe he was hearing things, but he’d never mistake Dex’s sultry tones for anyone else’s. His voice was hoarse, sounding as if he were on the verge of tears, and Sloane had to blink away his own. He was so relieved, but until Dex was safe in his arms, he’d maintain focus.

“Oh thank God. Dex, where are you?”

“I… I have no idea. There’s lots of trees. I don’t see any signs. There was a road, but I don’t know what it was. Can you get Cael to find my location using the phone’s GPS?”

“Give me a sec,” Sloane murmured, sending Cael a quick emergency message asking him to trace the phone Dex was calling from. A heartbeat later he received a reply. “He’s on it. Are you okay? Talk to me. What happened?”

“It’s a really, really long story. I just… I need you.”

The whimper, the fear and need crept into Dex’s voice, and Sloane wanted nothing more than to be there with him. To hold him close and never let him go. “I’m on my way, sweetheart. Are you somewhere safe?”

“Home was safe.”

Sloane swallowed hard. Those sons of bitches. Whoever did this, whoever made Dex feel unsafe in his—their—own home was going to pay. “We’ll sort that out. Right now, let’s get you to me, okay? I’m your home.” Sloane rubbed at one eye then the other. He had to keep his shit together.

“Thank you. I really needed to hear that right now.”

Always. His earpiece beeped, and he tapped it, hearing Cael’s voice come in through the car’s speaker. Sloane hit the gas. “We have your location. I’ll be there soon. Stay on the line with me.”

“I’m tired.”

No. No. No. Who knew what shape Dex was in. Sloane couldn’t lose him. He tried to keep the panic form his voice. “Stay awake, sweetheart. Please.”

“I don’t think I can. I’m kinda in bad shape here.”

There was a tremble in Dex’s voice, and as Sloane headed north, speeding through the city and breaking who knew how many traffic laws, he scrambled to think of something that would keep Dex awake until he got there. Stay with me. Please stay with me. An idea struck him, and he turned the radio on. It was tuned in to Retro Radio, same as it always was.

“Sing with me.”

“What?”

“Come on. Listen.” Sloane turned up the radio, blasting the Romantics “What I Like About You.” Sloane sang and urged Dex to sing with him, his husky voice wrapping Sloane up in its warmth. Dex was trying his best to keep up with the lyrics which was no easy feat considering the fast-paced tune.

Dex loved this song. It came on while Dex cooked dinner last week. Sloane had joined in when Dex grabbed him and begged him to dance. He’d laughed and tried to pull away, but his boyfriend was an adorable goofball, so Sloane ended up getting swept up in the crazy. It had been fun, just jumping around, acting like a couple of dorks, singing along.

Sloane’s heart squeezed in his chest when he thought about that night, and every other night since he’d moved in with Dex. Sloane told Dex he was Dex’s home, but the reverse applied as well. Dex was his home. Wherever they were, if Dex was there, Sloane was okay. His sparkling blue eyes, his beautiful smile, and infectious laughter, Sloane needed him. All of him.

“Keep singing, sweetheart,” Sloane pleaded.

Dex was trying, and it broke Sloane’s heart. His voice was rough, his words barely audible, but he tried. As the song ended, the car became frightfully silent.

“Dex? Dex! Stay with me, baby, please.”

Breathing. He could hear breathing. Finally he pulled up on the street in the car’s GPS. He parked, turned off the headlights, and locked up before running up the incline where he spotted several TIN operatives. They’d started searching the thick greenery. The rest of their team arrived, and Cael ran to Sloane, his big gray eyes filled with fear.

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. He’s got to be in there somewhere. Everyone spread out. If you find him, I want to know immediately.” They joined the search, and Sloane tried to catch his mate’s scent. “Dex! Dex, where are you?”

A faint croaking sound caught his ear and he stilled. He sniffed at the air, and his stomach flipped. He ran toward the scent, his inner Felid stirring. He was close. TIN operatives caught onto something as well and they followed him as he ran through the trees, emerging to find the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. Sloane sped over and dropped to his knees, cradling Dex in his arms.

“Dex, look at me. Sweetheart, open your eyes.” Oh God, what have they done to you? Sloane couldn’t focus on the blood stains, bruising, or swelling. He had to look past the state Dex was in to the man he loved. “Dex, I’m here, sweetheart. I’m here.” Sloane gently hugged him close, one hand around Dex’s back, the other cradling Dex’s head to him, enveloping Dex in the hopes of giving him some of his warmth. Relief flooded through him.

“I stayed awake,” Dex murmured, nuzzling his face against Sloane’s shirt, inhaling his scent. Sloane blinked back his tears.

“You did good, babe. It’s okay.”

Dex nodded.

TIN operatives were ordered to span out and search, and Dex went limp in his arms. Sloane checked his pulse. He was out cold. With a shuddered breath, he rubbed his cheek against Dex’s hair, rocking him gently, murmuring comfort against his air.

“I love you, Dex. I love you so damn much.”

“Sloane, we need to take him.

Sloane snarled up at the operative, a fierce sense of possession flooding through him. He held Dex close to his chest, his fangs elongating as he dared anyone to lay a hand on his wounded mate. He’d tear them apart.

“Try it,” Sloane hissed. “Lay one finger on him and I’ll rip your throat out.”

The operative put his hands up and took a quick step back.

Sloane kissed Dex’s temple, a growl rising in his throat at the unfamiliar scent. A wolf Therian.

“Sloane?” Sparks crouched down beside him. “Dex is hurt. We need to get him medical attention.”

Sloane’s inner Felid fought against him. He didn’t want anyone touching his mate, but Sloane’s Human senses prevailed. Dex needed help. Who knew the extent of his injuries? He had to think of Dex, had to help him. Sloane’s chest tightened, and his inner Felid wailed as he nodded. Lifting Dex in his arms, he stood, and although his instincts fought to hold onto the man he loved, he allowed the large bear Therian to take Dex.

Sloane stood, his heart breaking as the operative carried Dex away. The pain coursing through him was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined falling so deep and so hard for someone. Dex was his life, and Sloane would do whatever it took to keep him.


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 12/8/16

Prompt: I would love to see the team play paintball or a similar game and get very competitive.


“This is ridiculous,” Ash growled. “How is shooting each other up a team building exercise? None of us are on a team.”

Cael contemplated that. “Well, we work as a team every day. Sarge wants us to keep our individual skills sharp.” He finished strapping into his tactical vest. “At least he’s not making us carry our equipment.” Cael grabbed his helmet, turning to Ash before putting it on. “Whatever you do, stay away from Dex.”

Ash looked pained. “Come on, sweetheart. It’s everyone for themselves. I love you, but you don’t really expect me to pass up an opportunity to shoot the shit out of your brother, do you?”

Cael blinked at him. He shook his head when he realized Ash had misunderstood. “I didn’t mean stay away from him so you wouldn’t shoot him, I meant stay away from him so you wouldn’t get shot by him. He’s going to kick all our asses.”

Ash stared at him. “I’m sorry, are you… are you being serious?”

“You’ve never played paintball with my brother, Ash. He turns into like, Rambo. Seriously, he’s kinda competitive, and really good at it. Not even Cal’s going to make it out of this.”

“Cael, I think I can handle your dorky brother.”

Cael smiled sweetly. He patted Ash’s bicep. “If you say so.” He headed into the waiting room where everyone stood except for Dex. Ash looked around before addressing Sloane.

“Where’s your dweeb boyfriend?”

Sloane shrugged. “I don’t know. He said he had to get ready. I’m not really sure what that entails, or why he couldn’t do it in the same changing room.”

The instructor came out, and Cael told him to go ahead. Dex knew this obstacle course like the back of his hand. His dad had already explained to the team that if he attempted to find a course Dex hadn’t done, he’d have to send them out of state. The team laughed when Tony told them not to let Dex beat them too badly. If they didn’t want to believe the man who’d raised Dex, they had no one to blame but themselves. Dex was competitive at the best of times, but put a paintball gun in his hands, and there was no escape.

The instructor led them to their course, and Sloane frowned. “Where the hell is Dex?”

“Here.”

They turned and Ash burst into laughter. “Holy shit, are you wearing camouflage?”

Dex grinned broadly, wriggling his brows before lowering the visor of his helmet. “This is war, Keeler.”

“Oh, I am so looking forward to this.”

They were each handed their paintball rifles containing a different color then escorted out onto the field. The obstacle course was the size of a football field surrounded by shrubs and trees with everything from sandbag bunkers, to car frames, old broken down cars, tire stacks, industrial barrels, and stone structures.

The lion Therian instructor motioned to the field. “When the buzzer rings, game’s over. Whoever has the least amount of paint on them at the end wins. Take your positions.”

Cael ran off, ducking behind a sandbag bunker, and Ash ran behind the car across from him. Dex was nowhere to be seen. It had begun. Cael almost felt bad for his team.

The buzzer sounded, and the game officially started. Cael wasn’t concerned with winning, just keeping himself from getting too much paint on him. He edged close to the end of the bunker and peered out. The coast was clear. Cael ran for the stack of tires ahead of him, diving behind it when he saw movement to his right. Letty fired, hitting the tires where Cael had been seconds ago. She cursed in Spanish and Cael chuckled.

“Nice try,” Cael called out. Playing with his team was nothing like playing with his friends back in high school. Unlike his teenage friends at the time, his team was trained to stalk and remain out of sight, not to mention engage in warfare. For several minutes, they all crept and crawled, dashed, and ducked. And then Dex decided he was tired of waiting for his teammates to come out of hiding.

Dex soared through the air, aimed, and fired, hitting Ash in the back of the head. Cael cringed from his spot where he saw the spectacle clearly. Before Ash was even up, Dex landed on a stack of hay and promptly rolled off right behind a wooden wall.

Ash’s startled expression made Cael giggle.

Dex popped up from behind a stack of tires several feet away and shot Ash in the ass. Ash jumped to his feet.

“What the fuck is happening right now?”

“Ash, you need to move before—”

Dex dove out from behind a car frame and shot twice, and Cael sucked in a breath as both shots hit Ash in the ass. His boyfriend’s howl echoed through the field. By the time Ash turned around, Dex was nowhere to be seen. Everyone else took advantage of Ash’s stupefied state and shot him.

“You sons of bitches!” Ash dove behind a stack of tractor tires. He shouted over the side. “I’m going to kick all your asses, starting with you, Daley!”

Dex’s reply was a swan dive over a haystack, and a shot to Ash’s helmet before he vanished behind a sandbag bunker.

“Fucker!” Ash turned to face Cael. “When did your brother become a fucking ninja?”

“I told you. He’s kinda competitive when it comes to paintball. The guys in his old department used to fight over him when it came to picking teams. Whichever team he was on always won. I tried to warn you.”

“Fuck this. I am not going to lose to that dork.” Ash let out a roar as he ran out, the rest of Destructive Delta rallying at his war cry. They’d decided to unite against the force that was Dex, and Cael could see why. Everyone was covered in dozens of blue splotches—Dex’s color.

Cael shook his head and watched the chaos. It was like a game of Whac-A-Mole the way Dex popped up, except the mole had a paintball gun and sprayed his teammates like he was Tony Montana taking out his enemies. In fact, Cael was pretty sure he heard his brother throw out a couple of Scar Face quotes.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Calvin screamed in frustration. “How is he doing that?”

Ash thrust a finger at Calvin. “Dude, you’re the fucking sniper, snipe him!”

“I’m trying, but he’s like some kind of squirrel on steroids.”

“Enjoying the show?”

Cael gave a start. “Jesus, Dex, you scared the shit out of me.”

Dex laughed. “Ash looks like he’s wearing a blue suit. I’ve run out of places to shoot him.”

Rosa’s curses were loud and vehement. Dex narrowed his eyes. “I may not be an expert of the Spanish language, but I’m pretty sure what she just said was both insulting and frightening.” Dex lifted Cael’s visor, and patted his cheek. “Oh, and I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Cael asked, cocking his head.

“For this.” He shot Cael in the vest before skipping off, calling out over his shoulder. “No favoritism, Chirpy! Love you!”

“You, turd!”

At hearing Dex, everyone charged in his direction, but Dex was already diving behind a rusty pickup. They ran around it, and Cael stood, propping himself against the bunker, chuckling at his unsuspecting teammates.

Dex stood on the roof of the car and shot each one of them on their visors the moment they turned around. They scrambled, bumped into each other, and all went down. Dex blew the end of his rifle as the buzzer sounded. He hopped down, walked over to Sloane, lifted his visor, and held his hand out.

Everyone removed their helmets and stood. Ash looked so confused, Cael found him completely endearing.

“You look like you should be in the Blue Man group,” Cael teased him.

Ash pouted. “I can’t believe I lost to your brother.”

“Aw.” As everyone headed back indoors with a grumble, Cael stood on his toes and kissed Ash. “How about we wash you off, and then when we get home, I’ll help stroke your ego.” He nipped at Ash’s chin. “Among other things.”

Ash’s lips broke off into a grin. He nodded, and followed Cael inside. As they were getting dressed in the locker room after showering, Dex was celebrating his victory.

“So how about it,” Dex said to Ash. “Drinks on me at Dekatria for beating your butt so completely.”

Ash smiled brightly, and Cael braced himself.

“Sorry, pal. I’m going home to do filthy things to your little brother.”

Dex’s jaw dropped.

“Yep, going to pound town.”

Cael groaned and covered his face with his hands. He could not believe Ash just said that.

“Oh God,” Dex gagged. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

“Yep, gonna get him naked, and—”

“I’m not listening!” Dex covered his ears, singing some eighties song at the top if his lungs as he ran from the room. Ash threw his head back and laughed. Cael shook his head at him.

“You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

Ash wriggled his eyebrows. He leaned in to nibble at Cael’s ear. “Doesn’t make it any less true.” He grabbed Cael’s hand, said “see ya” to everyone, and winked at Dex as they walked by. Dex yelped, and Ash laughed as they headed for Ash’s truck. Well, Dex won his game, Ash won the last word, but as Ash turned him, and kissed him soundly, a preview of what the evening held, it was pretty clear who the real winner here was.

Cael.


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 12/1/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I think it would be cute to see Dex try and ride Sloane when he’s in Felid form and just general play. Maybe Dex buys cat toys without telling Sloane and then pulls them out to play with.


It was almost time.

Dex rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation.

“How’d you convince Maddock to give his permission for this?” Calvin asked, securing one of the hatches.

Dex surveyed the area. That was the final one. “Easy, I told him Shelley’s Market needed our help, and he agreed.”

“Why?”

“They’re this little family owned market that’s been around for generations. Anyway, they have this amazing little bakery at the back that makes fresh pies. My dad used to drag Tony in there all the time.” Dex smiled wistfully. “Apparently, my dad’s stomach was as bottomless as mine.”

Calvin chuckled. “So you’re helping Shelley’s Market out by buying all the leftover stock?”

“Yep, and everyone’s going to freaking love it. You’ll see. Even Austen showed up for this.” He patted Calvin’s arm before he headed for the gate to let in their Unit Alpha teammates who had all shifted into their Therian forms. Dex had put together the signup, specifying some Therian shenanigans. Thanksgiving was over, and not all agents got to spend it with their friends and family. The holidays were especiallt tough for some Therian agents, whether it was because they were out on the streets trying to keep everyone safe, or because they were reminded of the families they’d lost for simply being Therian.

The THIRDS canteen offered an amazing Thanksgiving spread all week, and invited agents to have their own gettogethers. Not everyone was as lucky as Dex, and he made sure to never forget it. So it became his tradition to lighten the mood, and involve his fellow team members in various shenanigans. Sloane had been skeptical at first, but after last year’s event went so well, he realized how right Dex was.

“You really think Sloane and Ash are going to join in?”

Dex grinned wide. “Oh, ye of little faith.” He’d booked the outdoor training area for the evening since it was less likely to be in use, and Shelley’s Market had dropped off the goods an hour ago. Calvin and the girls helped Dex set everything up before the girls went off to help their Therian teammates with their shifting out back. Now it was time. He climbed the ladder to the instructor’s platform along with Calvin.

“Best seats in the house,” Dex said, stepping up to the console, and pressing one of the buttons. “Pete, you ready?”

The speakers came to life, and Pete’s gruff voice came through loud and clear. “Ready, Dex.”

“Okay, let them in.”

A buzzer sounded, a red light flashed, and the half a dozen steel gates opened. Therian agents in their feral forms came flooding through. Dex wriggled his eyebrows at Calvin.

“Lions, and tigers, and jaguars, oh my!”

“You’re such a dork,” Calvin said through a laugh.

There were about two hundred agents in attendance, a mixture of Felid Therians, wolf Therians, and bear Therians. Dex spotted his teammates right away. He leaned forward and spoke into the microphone.

“You guys ready?”

A cacophony of roars, hisses, howls, and chirps echoed through the massive indoor field. It was almost as big as a football stadium. Around the walls, six ramps led up to six hatches. Dex pressed the button for Pete again.

“Okay, Pete. Let her rip. And make sure Al’s recording this.”

“Got it,” Pete replied. An even louder buzzer than the previous one blared, red lights flashing before the hatches opened, and hundreds of pumpkins came speeding down the platforms. It was sweet pandemonium. The moment they hit the grass, everyone was off. It was the funniest shit he’d ever seen in his life. The tiger Therian agents were so freaking adorable it hurt. Both Seb and Hobbs had each sunk their fangs into a pumpkin and were currently trotting around the ring, pumpkins displayed proudly, tails raised high. Ash’s mane swishing caught Dex’s eye, and he laughed as Ash batted a pumpkin with his paws like he was playing soccer. Cael and Hudson were too cute, pouncing and swatting a smaller pumpkin to each other as if it were a ball. Cael chirped, and Hudson released a series of bark/howls.

Dex had never seen so many pouncing Felids in all his life. Everyone was enjoying themselves, swatting, pouncing, dashing here and there. Everyone except Sloane.

Calvin looked at Dex worriedly. “Why’s Sloane sitting there looking so miserable?”

“I don’t know.” Dex climbed down the ladder, and jogged over to his grumpy jaguar Therian boyfriend who looked even grumpier than usual. “Hey, babe. Why aren’t you playing?”

Sloane looked up at him, his big amber eyes bright. He groaned before getting up and rubbing his head against Dex’s legs. Dex crouched down and gave Sloane a good scratch behind his ears and under his chin. “Come on, talk to me. What’s wrong?”

Sloane got up. He padded over to a small pumpkin and gingerly smacked it with his paw until it rolled over to Dex and hit his boot. Then Sloane sat on his haunches and looked up at Dex expectantly. Dex blinked at him.

“You want me to play with you?”

Sloane shut his eyes and opened his mouth, and Dex was suddenly stupidly happy. He dropped to his knees and threw his arms around Sloane, hugging him.

“Aw, you’re such a big softie.”

Sloane huffed, and licked the side of Dex’s face, making him laugh.

“That was gross. Thanks.” He got to his feet and readied his stance. Sloane lowered his head, his tail twitching.

Dex gasped, and pointed behind Sloane. “Holy crap!”

Sloane’s head shot up and he turned.

“Sucker!” Dex grabbed the small pumpkin and took off, laughing at Sloane’s annoyed growl. “I can’t believe you fell for that!” Dex tossed the pumpkin on the grass, and kicked it with his boot, doing his best to keep it away from Sloane who bounded up to him, jumping and pouncing, trying to swat at the wobbly orange vegetable. Sloane played dirty, trying to trip Dex up, at one point succeeding. Dex landed on his ass. He made a leap for Sloane before Sloane could sink his fangs into the pumpkin and run off with it. Unfortunately, in Dex’s desperate attempt to stop Sloane, he made the mistake of grabbing Sloane’s tail. He was lightning quick, twisting his body and smacking Dex upside the head with his paw.

“Ouch, man!” Dex laughed. He scrambled to his feet and dove for the pumpkin, curling himself around it. Sloane tried to shove his muzzle under Dex’s armpit, and Dex broke off into laughter. “That’s not fair. You know I’m ticklish.”

Sloane ignored him, poking Dex with his muzzle before he licked Dex up the side of his face with his sandpapery tongue.

“Right in the ear!” Dex wiped his ear with his sleeve, and Sloane swiftly batted the pumpkin out from under Dex. He tried to reach Sloane before Sloane plunged his fangs into the veggie, but it was too late. For Sloane, it was like biting into an apple. He picked up his pumpkin and darted off. “Come back here!”

Sloane ignored him, and Dex chased Sloane around the grassy pitch, doing his best not to run into any Felids. Austen zoomed past him, a pumpkin in his mouth, and Dex was forced to skid to a halt just as Zach loped past. Holy shit. He’d almost smacked into three hundred pounds of furry brown bear. That would not have been pleasant.

“You get him, Zach!” Dex took off after Sloane again, and spotted Calvin rolling around the grass with Hobbs. Rosa was cursing Ash out as she chased him. Something about him stealing her pumpkin and being a greedy bastard. That was when Dex noticed Ash had somehow managed to get his jaws around two small pumpkins. Letty, of course, was laughing her ass off.

Two hours later, and Dex lay on his back in the grass panting. “Oh my God, I can’t move. I’m done.” Dex flopped his hand in the general direction of the gate. “Babe, I think I need you to carry me.”

Calvin dropped down next to him with a chuckle. “How is Sloane going to carry you? It’s not like you can ride him like a pony.”

“Tried that. It was a very painful experience.”

“Oh, shit! You didn’t!” Calvin fell onto his side he was laughing so hard.

“Did you know that jaguar Therians weigh a fucking ton, and therefore when they land on you it hurts like hell? He grabbed my boot with his jaws, threw himself onto his side, and landed on me. I thought I broke a rib, but no, just hurt like I did. I would not recommend it.”

Calvin was wheezing. “Like… I would be… that stupid.”

“Thanks. Sloane, pleeease.”

“This I gotta see,” Calvin rolled onto his side, and propped himself on his elbow.

Dex closed his legs, putting his boots together, and Sloane gently slipped his fangs under Dex’s laces and pulled.

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

Dex sat up and held onto his legs, though not before waving at Calvin over his shoulder. “See ya, bud.”

“Seriously? You have your boyfriend dragging you?”

“Hey, he’s a jaguar Therian remember? It’s good practice for him. He can drag Seb and Zach at the same time if he had to. I’m a piece of cake. It’s like sledding. Except you’re the sled. And you’re on grass.”

“That is the epitome of laziness.”

Dex shook his head. “Don’t knock it till you try it.” Sloane let out a grunt, and Dex chuckled. “You know, they should make this a sporting event.” He gasped. “Holy shit, we should totally make this a sporting event!”

Sloane let go, and stared at him.

“What?”

With a flick of his tail, Sloane sauntered off.

“Hey, where are you going?”

Sloane ignored him, and Dex whined. “But the door is still so far away!” With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet, and lumbered toward the door. Letty came skipping over, and hooked Dex’s arm in hers.

“This was so much fun, Dex.” She leaned her head against his arm as they walked.

Dex couldn’t help his wicked grin. “Wait until you hear about my idea for next year.”


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press

THIRDS Thursday Thanksgiving Special over at It’s About the Book!

thirds-shthanksgiving

Hello, all! Since today is Thanksgiving here in the US, this week’s THIRDS Thursday is a Thanksgiving Special, and it’s being hosted over at It’s About the Book! Join Seb and Hudson on their first Thanksgiving together. (Post goes live on It’s About the Book around 7 am Eastern US time).

Link: http://wp.me/p4MOQB-37Z

Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Reading!

THIRDS Thursday – 11/17/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I’d love to read about Ash and Cael going to brunch with Ash’s mom. Thanks so much!!


“This is ridiculous.”

Ash scowled at himself in the mirror. He’d been at this for an hour now. He turned to Cael with a frown. He lay the gray tie over his charcoal gray shirt beneath his collar.

“Tie or no tie?”

Cael smiled warmly as he crossed the bedroom to stop in front of Ash. He placed his hand over Ash’s, his voice gentle when he spoke.

“Ash, do you think your mom’s going to be happier to see you or the tie?”

Ash blinked at him. “Well, when you put it that way.” He tossed the tie onto the bed then turned to draw Cael into his arms. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Cael cocked his head, and Ash chuckled softly. How could Cael not see how much his support meant to him?

“For being here. For coming with me.” Ash brushed his fingers down Cael’s cheek. “I don’t think I could have done this without you.” He swallowed hard, still unable to believe he was going to be having brunch with his mother. There wasn’t a whole lot that Ash really gave a shit about. Very little ruffled his mane, because that would mean it mattered to him. Yeah, he bitched and griped, but that was mostly things pissing him off in general, but really get to him, enough to make him nervous? No.

A part of Ash was hesitant, telling himself it was too little too late. Why hadn’t she stood up to his father years ago, when he’d needed her most? He’d just lost his brother, and then shifted for the first time. He’d been terrified, in need of the woman who’d hugged them close at bedtime, and told them stories. Where was she when his father turned on him? The man had been an asshole, always. He’d looked for any excuse to “discipline” him and Arlo, though Ash had done his bets to keep his brother away from their father’s belt.

“Ash? Talk to me.”

Ash shook himself out of it, finding Cael’s hand on his where Ash had it over his cheek. He’d been rubbing it without realizing.

“I got hit in the face once, with the buckle of my dad’s belt. He used the end with the buckle because it would hurt more.” Ash wrinkled his nose at the memory. “Usually it was where our clothes would cover the marks, but I’d made the mistake of talking back. Actually, I think I was pleading with him. If I talked back, I was insubordinate and needed discipline. If I surrendered, I was pathetic.” Ash walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of it, his head in his hands. “Maybe this is a bad idea. She didn’t just throw me away, she let him hurt us. I’m sure he hit her too. We just didn’t see it. Why didn’t she do anything?”

The bed sank down beside him, and Cael’s soft voice broke through his pain.

“Maybe she was too scared. Terrified of what he’d do if she left. Where would she go? Who would she ask for help? What if they thought she was too weak to take care of herself? Maybe it was all so terrifying, and overwhelming that she didn’t know how to help herself, much less her kids.”

Ash straightened, his heart squeezing in his chest at Cael staring down at his fingers. “Cael?”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel how you feel, or that she couldn’t have done more. I’m just saying I understand how scared she must have been.”

Ash drew Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of his head and ran a hand over his back, soothing him. “I’m sorry I dragged you into my drama.”

Cael pulled back, a deep frown on his face. “You didn’t drag me into anything, Ash. I love you, and I want to be here for you no matter what. This is about you, what you feel, and what you want. It’s not about me. What I feel doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me,” Ash replied firmly. “You are the most important person in my life, Cael. Don’t ever question that.”

Cael’s smile reached his big gray eyes. He threw his arms around Ash’s neck, and kissed him. Ash wrapped his arms around him as he returned Cael’s kiss. He was warm, soft, and tasted deliciously sweet. Ash was tempted to stay right here, in bed, with Cael in his arms, kissing him, making love to him.

As if reading his thoughts, Cael smiled against his lips. “We should get going.”

Ash huffed. “Fine.”

Cael chuckled, and stood. He held his hand out to Ash, which Ash promptly took.

“You look amazing.”

Cael looked down at himself, tugging on the end of his gray vest, and shrugged, but there was no mistaking the blush in his cheeks. “It’s nothing special.”

The dark jeans looked fucking sexy on his lithe frame, and the preppy gray vest over the fitted blue and gray checked shirt accentuated his slender waist. The top button of the collar was open, and the sleeves neatly folded up to his elbows. Ash was still amazed that Cael wanted to be with him. He was just so damned… beautiful.

Ash placed a kiss to the top of Cael’s head. “You’re something special.”

“You’re such a big softie,” Cael purred, standing on his toes to give Ash’s lips a kiss.

“Only for you,” Ash teased. Fuck, he really was turning into such a sap. As long as Dex didn’t get wind of it, he’d be fine. Besides, it wasn’t like Sloane wasn’t a total sucker for Dex, and he didn’t care who knew it.

Ash laced his fingers with Cael’s, and they headed for the door. The café they’d chosen near Central Park was cozy, and when they arrived, his mother was already there. She’d gotten them a table near the back which Ash appreciated. It offered them a little more privacy. A lump formed in his throat when she smiled at him. She stood, and made to move toward him but stopped herself. As if she wasn’t sure she should, so he took the initiative, kissing her cheek.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” Her eyes were glassy as patted his arm. She smiled brightly at Cael, and gave him a hug. “Cael, it’s so good to see you again.”

Cael smiled sweetly. “It’s good to see you too, Vivian.” He took a seat across from her, and Ash sat beside Cael. The waitress came, and they put in their order for coffees and pastries. Food was the last thing Ash wanted right now. Cael and Vivian exchanged pleasantries until the waitress returned with their drinks and food. Cael thanked the young woman, and took a sip of his decaf coffee, the table falling into silence. Ash noted the way his mother absently shifted the cutlery, or touched her cup without picking it up. She was nervous. Finally, she looked up at him.

“Thank you for coming. I wasn’t sure you would.” She dropped her gaze to her lap. “I wasn’t sure why you answered my call to be honest. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you told me… to never contact you again.”

Cael pressed his thigh to Ash’s, letting him know he was there, and Ash found the courage to speak up. How was it he suddenly felt like a little boy again? How did she still feel like his mother after so many years apart? After she’d abandoned him.

“I wanted to give you a chance,” Ash admitted. “I think we both deserve a second chance. In all honesty, I was surprised you called, and even more surprised you’d left him.”

She nodded. “After seeing you… I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I missed my baby boy.” Tears filled her eyes, and Ash placed his hand over hers, doing his best to remain quiet and composed while she said what she clearly needed to. “I failed you in so many ways, you and your brother. Before and… after.” She shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. “I was so scared, and devastated. I couldn’t believe Arlo was gone, and then you… you shifted. I know that’s no excuse. I… I let him… hurt my babies.” She broke into tears, and Ash went around to sit beside her, pulling her into his embrace. She buried her face into his chest, and he kissed the top of her head as she sobbed. He had tears running down his cheeks, but he didn’t care. He focused on his breathing, and comforting his mother. he wanted to be mad at her, hate her for what she’d done, but he never did. Not really. He blamed himself. Told himself she left because he was an abomination. He’d had so much anger inside him for so long, he didn’t want to go back to that. He’d changed. Maybe not completely, but where it mattered. He had so much good in his life now.

When she pulled away, she thanked Cael for the napkins. She dried her eyes and blew her nose. She wouldn’t look at Ash. “I don’t know how you can stand to look at me. I’m a failure as a mother. If I’d done something sooner…. If I’d taken you and Arlo, and left, Arlo might be alive today, and I’d have my boys.”

Ash placed his fingers under her chin, and turned her face so he could meet her gaze. So much heartache and pain in her blue eyes. “Listen, I know what it’s like to live your life steeped in regrets and what-if scenarios. Don’t. What happened to Arlo wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t yours either. The past can’t be changed, but we can have a future. A family. I’d really like for you to be a part of my life.” He reached across the table to take Cael’s hand in his. “Of our lives.”

She looked up at him with big wide eyes. “Really? You… want me in your lives?”

Ash nodded. “Very much.”

His mother threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight. He couldn’t help but wrap his arms around her. He turned his face into her hair, and closed his eyes. Her scent hadn’t changed. Still the soft rose scented perfume she’d always worn. Back then his arms just about encircled her waist. Had he really been that small? She felt so tiny and fragile in his arms, and a fierce sense of protectiveness washed over him. She’d been hurt too, by a man who’d vowed to cherish her and love her. Richard Keeler should have protected his family, loved them. Instead he wallowed in his misery, growing bitter, angry, and taking his pain out on his family. Not anymore. Not while Ash could do something about it. He pulled away, and wiped her cheeks.

“Where are you staying? Are you safe?”

“Yes. When your father—”

“Richard,” he corrected. “He doesn’t deserve that title.”

She nodded. “When Richard went out to drink with his friends, I went online and looked up organizations that might be able to help me. I found one whose mission included helping women in similar situations. I went to their office, spoke to a lovely Therian lady who listened to every word I said. I admit, I was afraid she would ask me to leave, knowing what I had done. I told her how much I missed you, and how after seeing you, there was nothing I wanted more than the chance to have my son back. She took my hands, smiled, and said she was glad I came to them. They helped me move out, found me a lovely apartment, a job, and an incredible divorce lawyer.” She smiled wide, and Ash couldn’t help his grin.

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I was terrified, but now… I’m happy for me too.” She gave his hands a squeeze. “For the first time in years, I feel like my own person, like I have a say in my own life.” She turned to rifle through her purse, removing a piece of notepad paper and a pen. She scribbled something down before handing it to him. “You already have my cell phone number. Here’s my address. Please come visit whenever you like. You and Cael.”

Ash took the paper with a smile, and nodded. He folded it up and put it in his wallet. Standing, he sat back down across the table next to Cael, and kissed his temple before turning back to his mom. “You can bet on it. And any time you’d like to come over, just let me know. The only reason you need to call is because my work schedule changes a lot, and I’m basically always on call in case of an emergency.”

“Of course.” Her smile grew sly as she looked from him to Cael and back. “Plus I wouldn’t want to barge in on you boys, um, enjoying each other’s company.”

Ash’s eyes went wide, his face all but spontaneously combusting while Cael giggled beside him. Ash arched an eyebrow at him.

“What?” Cael asked innocently. He leaned in, whispering loudly. “I like her.”

Vivian laughed, the sound filling Ash with warmth. When was the last time his mother had laughed? Ash poked Cael on his side playfully, making him squirm and laugh. Cael started chatting enthusiastically with Vivian, telling her how she had to meet the team, including his crazy brother who was the boyfriend of Ash’s best friend Sloane, then regaled her with tales of their team’s shenanigans, usually instigated by his brother. Ash was happy. He’d lost his family and found one in Destructive Delta, and now his family had grown again to include his mom. Maybe Sloane was onto something with this whole family thing. Ash was certainly happy to find out.