THIRDS Thursday – 10/6/16

THIRDS Thursdays

*** Contains spoilers for Smoke & Mirrors (Book 7) ***

Prompt: After Sloane breaks up with Dex in the 7th book, Cael goes to comfort Dex, so I wanted the scene taking place between them…Does Dex get sick because he thinks his mate’s left him? Something along those lines. Preferably from Cael’s POV (but either will do).


Cael was fuming.

When the cab pulled up outside Dex’s house, Cael did his best not to slam the car door behind him. He paid the driver and thanked him before marching up Dex’s front steps. Ooh, he just wanted to plant a fist in Sloane’s stupid nose. How could the guy just walk out on Dex like that? And everyone said Ash was an asshole. Ash would never walk out on Cael. Maybe at one point he might have, but not anymore.

Ash wasn’t the kind of guy to back away from a fight, whether he was in the wrong or not. That was the difference between Ash and Sloane. When Sloane was hurt, he wanted to be alone to lick his wounds, so he went off to find somewhere he could do that. With Ash, he stayed put, and if you knew what was good for you, you would be the one to give him space, but if you didn’t, he would go on brooding whether or not you were there. These days, Ash talked more. If Cael was upset about something, Ash talked it through with him, helping Cael calmly explain what was wrong, and what Ash could to help, or how they could do things differently the next time around.

Cael was going to fish in his pocket for the spare keys he had to Dex’s place when the door was thrown open.

“Sloane?”

Cael looked up at Dex and all of Cael’s anger melted away. He’d never seen his big brother look so… fragile, so lost. Unable to find the right words to say in that moment, Cael threw his arms around Dex and hugged him tight. They stood like that for what seemed like hours, Dex’s face buried in Cael’s hair. It was only when Dex shuddered that Cael realized his big brother had been silently crying. Cael rubbed circles over Dex’s back, imagining the pain his brother must be in. Dex’s boyfriend hadn’t just walked out on him. His mate had walked out on him.  The pull between bonded mates was so much deeper. Emotions ran higher, hotter, and the pain far more intense.

When Dex was ready, he pulled away, giving Cael a wobbly smile that broke Cael’s heart. His big brother was always the one Cael leaned on. The one who made everything better. Dex was unbreakable. Cael had never seen Dex not bounce back, a big boyish smile on his face. It might take some time, but Dex always bounced back. This time, Cael wasn’t so sure, and he hated it. Hated that Sloane had left his big brother all alone and in pain.

“Hi, Chirpy.” Dex stepped to one side so Cael could come in.

Inside the living room, Cael’s heart squeezed at the nest of blankets and pillows Dex had on the couch. The coffee table was littered with snacks, from his favorite gummy bears and Cheesy Doodles, to cupcakes and chocolate. The Princess Bride was paused on the huge flat screen TV.

Dex finished locking up and joined Cael in the living room. It was the middle of summer, but Dex had the AC cranked up. He had fuzzy socks on his feet, Star Wars pajama bottoms, and a plain black T-shirt that was too big for him and obviously Sloane’s. As if reading his thoughts, Dex put a hand to his chest and rubbed the T-shirt, a sad smile on his face.

“I know, I’m a dork, but….” He sighed heavily. “It make it hurt a little less.”

Cael nodded his understanding. He waited for Dex to climb on the couch, wrapping himself up then holding one side open for Cael. Cael toed off his sneakers then climbed up, snuggling up close to Dex when his brother wrapped the blanket around them.

“This reminds me of when we were kids,” Cael said with a smile. “When there was a bad storm and you’d make a fort out of the couch cushions, blankets, and pillows, then you’d read stories. Dad would make us s’mores and hot chocolate, then take over for you, and we’d both fall asleep to him reading.”

Dex sighed. “Yeah. I miss those days.”

“Me too.” They were both quiet, and Cael could feel his brother wanted to say something, so he waited patiently.

“Did you see him?” Dex asked, his voice quiet.

Cael nodded, feeling himself getting angry again. “He’s staying on Ash’s couch.”

“Sorry.”

Cael pulled back and frowned up at his brother. “Why are you apologizing for him? He’s the one who left.” Dex flinched, and Cael kicked himself. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean….”

“It’s okay.” Dex’s eyes were red and glassy, his hair a mess, and his skin flushed. He’d clearly had a good cry long before Cael showed up. “And you’re right. I just can’t help worrying about him despite everything. Was he okay?”

Cael’s expression softened. Trust his brother to be worried about Sloane after the guy had ripped his heart out. “He looked rough,” Cael admitted. He folded his arms over his chest. “I know he’s your mate, and that you still love him no matter how pissed off you are at him, but, Dex, I really want to punch him. I can’t believe he did this to you, after everything.” Cael could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. He was so mad. “It was his idea to move in together, he agreed to mark you, he promised he would be here for you, and he’s doing what he always does. I thought he’d changed.”

“He has,” Dex assured him. “For the most part. This was just, I don’t know. It’s different. Bigger. I’m not saying I’m not pissed off, because I am, but to be honest, it’s being drowned out by all the hurt. My mind is indignant, but my body….” Dex put a hand to his heart, rubbing the spot as if it were sore. “It fucking hurts so bad, Chirpy. It just refuses to listen to my head. I tell myself we’ll work it out, that he’s not gone for good, but my body is buzzing with need, and I don’t mean sex.” He moved his hand to his marked arm. “It burns, and I’m hit with these waves of nausea. They don’t last long, but at first, I kept getting sick, and dizzy.” He let his head fall back with a sigh. “I don’t know what to do, and that’s a new thing for me. This is all new.” Dex swallowed hard, blinking past the tears in his eyes.

“He’s it for me, Cael. I can’t imagine my life without him. I didn’t even know you could love someone this much. It’s scary. It could be the mark, or it could just be my stupid heart.” He straightened and looked down at Cael. “I fucking adore him, with all his faults, just the way he is. Yeah, I wish he hadn’t walked out, and as much as I want to kick his ass….” Tears welled in his eyes again, and Cael put a hand to Dex’s shoulder. “I just want him home, Chirpy.”

Cael didn’t hesitate. He wrapped Dex in his arms, offering what comfort he could. Closing his eyes, he prayed that Sloane would come to his senses, work through his shit, and come home to Dex. Didn’t Sloane realize what he had? How madly head over heels Dex was for him? How many times could the guy break Dex’s heart? For now, all Cael could do was be here for his big brother, just like Dex had always been there for him.


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/29/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: After reading Smoke & Mirrors I would love to get Ash’s POV when he notices how Dex’s scent has changed while he’s on the dance floor. OR the fact he took him gummie bears. His thoughts had to be interesting and/or hilarious! 


“Remind me again why we couldn’t just stay in bed?”

Ash nuzzled the side of Cael’s head, his arms wrapped around Cael from behind as they rode the elevator up to Unit Alpha. There was no one in the elevator with them and Ash didn’t really give a shit what the cameras picked up. Their shift didn’t technically start for another fifteen minutes.

“Because we have jobs,” Cael replied with a chuckle.

Ash grunted. He moved a hand up over Cael’s chest, smiling when Cael covered it with his and let his head fall back against Ash’s chest, his face tilted up so he could gaze at Ash with those big silver eyes.

Damn, he was beautiful.

“I think we need to win the lottery so I can keep you in bed as long as I want.” Ash moved his other hand to Cael’s slender neck, caressing Cael’s soft skin with his thumb.

“I’ll get right on that,” Cael hummed.

Ash waggled his eyebrows. “Oh there’s something much better and harder that I’d rather you get right on.”

Cael gasped, his cheeks turning a lovely shade of pink before he laughed and turned in Ash’s arms, smacking his chest playfully. “You perv. We’re about to start our shift, and you’re trying to give me a boner.”

“Trying?” Ash squeezed one of Cael’s ass cheeks. “I must be losing my touch.”

Cael laughed and squirmed as Ash planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. The elevator doors opened, and Ash followed Cael out. He stepped into Unit Alpha only to reel back, his heart pounding fiercely in his chest.

“Fuck.”

“Ash? What’s wrong?” Cael was at his side, his hand on Ash’s bicep.

Ash’s knees buckled, and he braced himself against the wall out in the corridor. It was like a wave of heartache and anguish was rolling over him, crashing into him over and over.

“Do you feel that?” He asked, breathless.

“Feel what? Ash, you’re scaring me.” Cael cupped Ash’s face, concern and fear in his eyes. “Talk to me.”

It was suffocating. Inescapable. He doubled over, bracing his hands on his knees and breathing deeply. Tears stung at the back of his eyes and he couldn’t explain it. What the hell was wrong with him? It was crushing. Everything sharpened around him, and he rubbed at his chest. It was like his heart was… broken. His eyes widened, and he pushed away from the wall, hurrying through unit Alpha.

“Ash?” Cael trailed after him. “Ash, please say something.”

Ash didn’t stop until he reached the office, but it was empty. The fog of pain was closer, the pulse deeper, rippling through every muscle. Stepping up to the doorway of the small canteen, he found the source of what he was feeling.

Dex sat at a small table at the end of the room nursing a cup of coffee. He looked like shit, his hair a tousled mess, dark circles around his reddened eyes. On top of that, Ash couldn’t smell Sloane on him. Ash grabbed Cael before he could say anything, and dragged him down the hall.

“It’s him.”

Cael’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

“Your brother, Cael.” Ash did his best to explain what he was feeling. Or at least what he had been feeling. Right now it was different. What he’d experienced before dulled, and now… now he had this overwhelming urge to… comfort.

“You want to comfort him?” Cael blinked up at him. “Dex. My brother. The man whose name tape you replaced on his uniform with one that said “Menace”. You want to comfort him?”

“I don’t want to,” Ash growled quietly. “I feel like I need to.” His inner lion was awake inside him, pacing and wailing. “Fuck, it’s annoying. My Therian half is pissed I’m not in there with him. I—” He was cut off when several Therian agents from their unit headed toward them. They were all carrying snacks, or cups of coffee. To Ash’s surprise, they all went into the canteen. Ash darted over to peek inside. The agents all took a seat at the table with Dex. One put a hand on his arm, another his shoulder. One took his hand and spoke gently. Ash couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Holy fuck.

A shadow loomed over him, before a deep gravelly voice said, “Excuse me.”

Ash turned his head up, staring wide-eyed at the huge bear Therian.

“Zach? What are you doing up here?”

Zach brows drew together, concern etched on his usually stern face. He showed Ash the packet of Cheesy Doodles in his large hand.

“I came to give this to Dex. I thought it might make him feel better.”

Ash’s jaw dropped. Without another word, Zach went into the canteen.

“Well that was weird,” Cael said before it occurred to him. “You think Zach and the others are feeling the same thing you are? Like they need to comfort Dex?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense.” Ash gritted his teeth and marched toward his office, grateful Letty was busy doing inventory checks this morning. He really didn’t need his partner asking questions about this madness. He dropped into his chair, and tried to make sense of what he was feeling, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t figure it out. Why now?

“It’s like that night at the club, but different.”

Cael wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, that wasn’t fun.”

Ash grunted. Feeling Dex’s… heat had been one of the most awkward, uncomfortable things he’d ever felt. Unlike the other Therians in the club who’d wanted to fuck Dex, Ash wanted to protect him. Like his Therian half knew his friend’s mate was vulnerable, needy, and since Dex was the last person on earth Ash wanted to fuck, his instinct had been to make sure nothing and no one came between Dex and his mate, but still, the heat had been almost unbearable, but this? This was so much worse.

Ash stood and started to pace. “This is fucking shit. I don’t wanna,” he moaned. He turned to Cael. God he sounded so whiney! “Why do I have to fucking comfort him? He’s Sloane’s boyfriend. That asshole. He should be here dealing with this shit.”

Cael walked up to him, stood on his toes, and gave his lips a quick but heated kiss. “I’ll keep an eye on Dex, you just… talk to Sloane. And don’t be mean to Dex. He’s feeling shitty as it is.”

“Fine,” Ash muttered, watching Cael go.

Work. Work would take his mind off this bullshit. He took a seat at his desk, logged into Themis, and brought up his emails. There were the usual shit ton. “Fantastic.” He could lose himself in answering stupid people’s stupid questions. Seriously, why did he have to get copied in on all of Sloane’s emails? Yeah, he was backup Team Leader when Sloane wasn’t around, but Jesus, the inane questions Sloane was asked about random shit from PR and HR, and all the fucking ‘Rs’.

His knee bounced as he read the first email, and he couldn’t stop thinking about Dex’s stupid face. He looked so… sad.

“Holy fuck, really? Sad?” Ash growled, and shook his head. “Get your shit together, Keeler.” Sloane’s drama was of his own making. Let him sort that shit out. It wasn’t his job to coddle Dex and tell him it was going to be all right, that Sloane would come around, and why the fuck was he still thinking about this? “Fuck this.” He stood and stormed out of the office to the canteen. Dex was still inside looking like a lost, homeless puppy left out in the rain. The rest of their fellow agents had gone. Ash marched over to Dex to loom over him.

Dex looked up at him, his big blue eyes wide and glassy.

“Fuuuuuck,” Ash growled. He went to the vending machine, swiped his card, jabbed his fingers against the screen’s shiny blue buttons. A packet dropped, and he swiped it up before marching over to Dex. He thrust them out at him. “Here.”

Dex blinked at him. He looked down at the packet of gummy bears then up at Ash. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t fucking know, just take the damned bears.”

“Uh, oookay.” Dex took the bag, his eyes narrowed.

“Fine.” Ash spun around and started to walk out when his inner Felid roared. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” He went back to Dex, his jaw clenched. He put a hand to Dex’s shoulder. Dex stared at it. “It’s going to be okay.”

Dex opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. His eyes were huge. “I’m a little terrified right now.”

That made two of them. Now what? Come on, man. I’ve comforted. What more do you fucking want from me? He asked his Therian half. His Therian half didn’t want to leave him on his own. Mother—

A knock got Ash’s attention, and he turned to find Hobbs standing shyly by the door. He smiled, and waved.

“Oh, thank fuck.” Ash jogged over, moved behind Hobbs, and pushed his big tiger Therian ass toward Dex. “Go do that hugging shit you do, and make him feel better.” He didn’t even bother to wait for a reaction from Hobbs, just made like the wind. There. He’d done his part. He’d comforted, and no one other than Dex was the wiser, and if he said anything, Ash would deny it. Who would believe Dex anyway? It was fine. If anyone was stupid enough to believe it, Ash would simply have to destroy them. He was so going to kick Sloane’s ass.


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/22/16 Thick & Thin Excerpt

THIRDS Thursdays

Hello, all! Here’s a snippet from Thick & Thin (Sequel to Smoke & Mirrors) which was recently contracted by Dreamspinner Press and due for release in Feb 2017. Thick & Thin is a novella which continues where Smoke & Mirrors left off. In this scene, the team has been called out to Greenpoint, which also happened to be Dex’s first real call out back when he started on Destructive Delta. My how things have changed.


“You okay?”

Dex clipped Sloane’s PSTC kit to his tactical backpack. He smiled at Sloane. “Let’s do this.”

“Hey.” Sloane pulled him close, placing a gloved hand to Dex’s cheek. “You don’t have to pretend with me, you know that?”

“I’m a little nervous,” Dex admitted. “But I’ll be okay. Be careful out there, okay?”

“You too.” Sloane gave his lips a quick, but sweet kiss before he slipped behind the privacy screen.

Okay, Daley. Get your shit together. Time to pull his head out of his ass and get to work. He lowered his visor, and grabbed his tranq rifle from the weapons cage. Securing it closed, he met Rosa’s concerned gaze through the rearview mirror and gave her a wink. His team needed him.

“We’ll be back before you know it, Rosita bonita.”

“You better. Go kick some ass.”

Sloane’s pained groans and roars resounded through the closed truck, and Dex closed his eyes for a moment, letting the sound wash over him. His muscles tensed, and he gritted his teeth at the pulse of pain that spread through him. His muscles twitched, and he breathed out slowly through his mouth. Sloane’s Therian roar did something to Dex, and his eyes snapped open. His heart raced, and his pulse picked up. The pain in his body eased, and Dex hit the button to raise the privacy screen. Sloane’s fur bristled, and he lowered his head, his ears flat against his head. Why the hell was Sloane hissing at him?

Dex crouched down so they were at eye level. “What’s going on, babe?”

Another hiss left Sloane before he gingerly approached Dex, sniffing him, as if he didn’t recognize Dex. What the hell? Dex remained perfectly still as Sloane circled him. He sniffed at Dex, before pushing his nose against Dex’s cheek. Dex put his hand on Sloane’s head, and gave him a scratch.

“You had me worried for a second there.” Dex stood, and Sloane rubbed his head against Dex as he circled him, leaving his scent. When he was done, he padded to the end of the truck. Dex opened the door, and they hopped out.

“Took you long enough,” Letty grumbled. “We doing this or what?”

“You got a date or something,” Calvin teased, scratching Hobbs behind his ear. Hobbs let out a chuff, and playfully bumped his head into Calvin’s leg. “Planning on having a little Sci-fi marathon?”

“Shut up, Cal.” Letty cursed at him in Spanish before marching off ahead of them, Ash on her heels. What the hell was that about? Dex arched an eyebrow at Calvin. Mischief filled his friend’s blue eyes and Dex gasped.

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus, you found out Dimples’ name!”

Calvin grinned broadly, and wriggled his eyebrows. “He called this morning for Letty, and Lisa put the call through to me by accident. We had a friendly chat.”

“You ladies coming, or you gonna stand around all day gossiping?” Letty growled at them. Ooh, she was so not happy with Calvin. This was awesome.

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THIRDS Thursday – 8/15/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: Don’t know if this has been suggested before, but I’d love to see something more about Dex’s adoption from the beginning …how Tony handled breaking the news /asking?/ a 5 year old Dex to be his adopted son / his parent’s death.


“I can’t do it.”

His voice didn’t sound like his own. But then this life wasn’t his. It was someone else’s. This happened to other people. It was the kind of earthshattering news he’d had the misfortune of delivering to others. He wasn’t supposed to be on this end of things. It was a selfish thought, but right now he just didn’t give a shit. In fact, if it were up to him, he’d disappear for God knew how long, but he couldn’t, because as bad as it was right now, it was about to get so much worse.

Tony sat in his car, in the same spot he had for the last two hours. His vision was blurry, his eyes burned, and his hands wouldn’t stop shaking. He was a fucking mess. Broken. For the last two days he’d gone through a host of emotions. His initial reaction being anger. He’d been so goddamned pissed off at John for leaving him. Every swear word he’d ever known had crossed his lips, directed at his best friend. Tony was angry at Gina too. Angry she’d left her little boy behind. She’d been his best friend. But John had been his life. Tony let out a harsh laugh. God, he was so fucking pathetic. He’d let that part of him—along with John—go a long time ago.

The moment John met Gina, Tony knew that was it, and he was happy for John, truly was. Having John and Gina in his life was a blessing, one he never took for granted. The three of them had become a family. Tony had never, ever resented Gina. There was no one more perfect for John. When Dex came along, Tony couldn’t have been happier for them. Fatherhood suited John.

Fresh tears filled Tony’s eyes and he slammed his hands on the steering wheel.

“You son of a bitch! How could you do this to me? To your son?” He let his head fall against the steering wheel and cried for what seemed like the hundredth time since he’d identified the bodies. He’d refused to believe it at first. Convinced himself it couldn’t be them. When the police had shown up that night, Tony believed they’d made a mistake. Regardless, he called his sister to come take care of Dex while he got to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on. He’d never get the image out of his head. John on that slab of steel with a blanket over him, a bullet hole in his chest, right through his heart.

Breathe. Come on, damn it.

A tap on his window scared the hell out of him, and without thinking, he swiped his gun from his holster and aimed at the window. His sister jumped, and threw her hands up, fear in her big brown eyes. Cursing under his breath, he returned the gun to his holster, then wiped at his eyes. He opened the car door, stepped outside, and closed it.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a sniff, trying his hardest not to fall apart again. “Thank you, for uh,” he cleared his throat, “watching him.”

His sister nodded, and he had to look away so he wouldn’t see the pain in her eyes.

“I can’t do this, Danelle.” His bottom lip trembled, and blinked back more tears. “I can’t go in there, and—” He shook his head. “I’m not strong enough.”

“You gotta be, honey. That little boy needs you.” She put her hand to his cheek, and he closed his eyes.

“He needs his father,” Tony replied through his teeth, his hands balled into fists at his sides.

“Anthony, you’re that boy’s daddy now.”

Tony shook his head. “No. I’m not. John’s—”

“Dead.”

Tony flinched. He wanted to yell at her for saying that, but she was right. No matter how much he wished it wasn’t true, John was gone. Dex needed him. A tear rolled down his cheek, and he choked on his words.

“He’s just a little boy. How—Oh God.” He covered his face with his hand, his whole body shaking. Criminals he could face. Lethal Therians. Whatever the streets threw at him, he could face. But tell a five-year-old the parents who loved him more than air itself were gone? How could anyone ask that of him?

Danelle wrapped him up in her arms, and he held on tight, grateful he wasn’t alone. She murmured words of comfort, and he lost track of how long he’d held on. He couldn’t put it off anymore. Dex was inside with his neighbor’s daughter. It was time.

Thinking of Dex, of how small and vulnerable he was, of how hurt and confused he would be, how much he would need Tony was what kept him on his feet. He took a deep steady breath, wiped his eyes, and reached deep down for strength he feared he might not have.  Even if he didn’t, he better damn well find it.

Tony walked into his house, and headed upstairs for the spare bedroom where he knew he’d find Dex. From the landing he could hear Dex’s giggles and childish shrieks as he played. Tony stopped in the doorway, and it took everything he had not to turn around and run. Teresa was tickling Dex, and he squirmed on the floor, hugging his Braveheart Lion to his little chest as he laughed. Tony closed his eyes for a moment, praying for strength.

Dex spotted him, and let out a squeal of delight. “Uncle Tony!” He scrambled to his feet, and Tony walked into the room, nodding at Teresa his thanks before she left the room, closing the door gently behind her. Tony sat down on the carpet, his back to the bed as Dex threw himself into Tony’s outstretched arms. He hugged Dex tight, willing himself not to lose it now. Not when Dex needed him most. Dex pulled back, his little face falling as he pet Tony’s head.

“Why are you crying?”

Always such a sharp little guy. Tony gave a sniff, and let out a shaky breath. “I’m crying,” he said, his voice shaky, “because something happened, and I wish it hadn’t, but there’s nothing I can do to change that. I want you to know that I love you, and I will always love you.”

Dex nodded. “What happened?”

Jesus. “Dex, you know how me and your daddy help people?”

Another nod. Dex’s gaze was fixed on him. Tony tried not to think about how those big blue eyes would never look at the world the same way again.

“And you know how he told you about the people we tried to help but couldn’t?”

“Daddy says sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

“That’s right. It’s not fair, and it hurts, and we wish so very much it wasn’t like that, but we do our best to help the people who loved them. The ones who’ll miss them the most.” Tony braced himself. “Dex, something bad happened at the movies. Your mommy and daddy were hurt very bad. They….”

Dex’s eyes went wide, and he stilled.

“They’re not coming back, baby. It’s just me and you now. I’m sorry.”

Dex shook his head vigorously. “That’s not true.”

“I wish it wasn’t.” Tony couldn’t keep the tears back any longer. He tried so damn hard, but he couldn’t. Not when he could see Dex’s little heart shatter.

Dex’s face crumbled, tears filled his eyes, and his face went red as he let out a high-pitched shriek. “No!”

“Dex,” Tony said gently, trying to bring him close. Apparently there were still remains of a heart left to break, because it happened all over again as Dex screamed “No” repeatedly. When Tony tried to reach for him, Dex hit him with his stuffed toy.

“You’re lying! I want my mommy!” Dex screamed, his voice getting hoarse as he continued to scream through his tears. He didn’t want to be touched, and Tony didn’t try to force him. When screaming for his mother didn’t conjure her up, Dex turned to Tony. “Fix it!”

“I wish I could,” Tony said, clawing to keep hold of the lone thread holding him from tumbling into the abyss.

Dex dropped to his knees in front of Tony, and he held Braveheart out to him as he gasped and gulped for air through his sobs.

“You can… have Braveheart. Please. Fix it. Tony… please.”

“Baby, I wish I could. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He’d never felt more like a failure in his life, and it was illogical, but the fact that Dex believed he could bring his parents back all but undid him. Dex’s eyes clouded over, anger filling the big pools of blue, and it scared Tony. Something inside him snapped, and Tony sat up. He took hold of Dex and pulled him into his embrace. Dex struggled at first, but Tony held him.

“I love you, and I promise whatever you need, I will be here. I know it hurts so very bad. I know you’re scared, and angry, but you’re not alone. I’m here, and we’re going to get through this together. Me, and you.”

Dex threw his arms around Tony, squeezing as he sobbed into Tony’s neck. “Don’t… go… away.”

“I swear I’ll do everything in my power to always be with you.” As he made his promise to Dex, he made a promise to Gina and John. He’d raise Dex as his own, love him as he deserved to be love, and help guide him, help him grow up to be the kind of man his parents would be proud of.

Dex trembled in his arms, and Tony grabbed the blanket from the bed. He wrapped the blanket around them as best he could with one hand then lay on his side and curled himself around Dex.

“We’ll be okay, baby. I won’t let anything happen to you,” he promised. Dex was asleep in his arms, and Tony started to fade. He swore to himself that no matter what happened, he would give this little boy the life he deserved, full of love and happiness. If anyone tried to hurt Dex, they’d deal with him. Tony kissed the top of Dex’s head, and thought of John. His best friend had entrusted him with the most precious gift he’d been blessed with. Tony would never forget that.

The road ahead was terrifying, filled with all kinds of obstacles he’d never faced before. Parenthood was something he hadn’t given much thought to, and now here he was, father to a grieving little boy. Tony would show Dex how to survive in a world that took his mommy and daddy away. The world was trying to tear itself apart with hate, prejudice, and violence. It was up to Tony to give Dex hope. To help him heal, and prove to him that the love he has inside him will help change the world. John was a beacon of light in the darkness, his optimism, courage, and sense of justice unrivaled by anyone Tony ever met. Dex had the same light inside of him. Tony would do everything in his power to make sure that light was never extinguished.

“I won’t let you down,” he murmured. I’ll be strong for the both of us. “I promise.”


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

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Therians Gone Wild over at Literary Escapism

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Hello, all! To celebrate my attending Coastal Magic in Daytona in Feb, I’m over at Literary Escapism where the THIRDS gang head to the beach for a little fun in the sun.

Check out the shenanigans here: http://www.literaryescapism.com/49017/at-the-cmcon17-beach-with-therians-gone-wild-by-charlie-cochet

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/8/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I’d like to see Ash and Cael’s trip to Bed Bath and Beyond.


“Would you mind if we stop at Bed Bath & Beyond? It’s on the way, and I need a new showerhead.”

The words Ash had been dreading to hear. He supposed he couldn’t complain. He’d managed to evade the floral scented purgatory until now. He really, really didn’t want to go, but with Cael looking at him with those big silver eyes, and that dazzling smile, how could he say no?

“Sure. No problem.”

The moment he stepped foot in the store, he was in pain. Not physical pain, but it was close. He pressed his lips together as he followed Cael to the bath department. On the way there, Cael stopped to look at candles. Ash lingered, his hands shoved in his jacket pockets as he stood, not touching anything in case the douchebaggery was catching. Except Cael. His sweet, sinfully sexy boyfriend looked adorable as he tried to decide from the thousands of different candles on the shelf before him. Unlike the asshat in the next row gushing to his girlfriend about the emu egg omelet he’d had last week. The urge to smack the stupid out of him was strong, so Ash turned around. He frowned at the price label on the shelf beneath a box displaying a candleholder. A sales clerk was walking by, and Ash called out to him.

“Hey, there’s a misprint on this.”

“Oh?” The bouncy waif of boy with floppy blond hair all but skipped over. Jesus, what was he? Seventeen? Nineteen at most? He pulled out his price gadget and scanned the tag. “Hm, looks like that’s the current retail price.”

Ash’s brows sprang near his hairline. “Are you telling me this piece of glass is almost eight hundred dollars?”

The teen blinked at him. “It’s Waterford Crystal, sir.”

Was he supposed to know what that meant? “It’s a candleholder. It holds a candle.”

“Um, yes, sir. It does.” He looked at Ash like that was supposed to clear up everything.

“Is it going to do my taxes for me?” Ash growled. “Or does it somehow have the power to light my whole apartment and therefore negate the need for electricity?”

“Uh, no.”

“So what you’re saying is this piece of glass that you stick a candle in, is eight hundred dollars.”

The kid opened his mouth, when Cael took hold of Ash’s arm, smiling at the clerk as he tugged Ash along with him, calling out over his shoulder.

“Thank you for your help.”

Cael pulled him down the aisle, and Ash shook his head. “Can you fucking believe that shit?”

“If it’s shiny, you probably shouldn’t look at the price tag.”

“It makes no sense. Why would you pay that much for a candleholder that’s going to get melted wax all over it?”

Cael looked up at him, his eyes alight with amusement. “I doubt people actually light the candles inside it. They most likely just have it on display.”

“Why buy it if you’re not going to use it. That’s stupid.”

“It’s décor, Ash. What about the expensive rug you have in the living room, and the throw pillows on the couch?”

“I didn’t have to fucking remortgage my apartment for them, plus they’re functional. We lay on the pillows, and we sit on the rug.”

“And have sex on it too,” Cael pitched in with a wicked smile that went straight to Ash’s dick. He cleared his throat. What the hell were they talking about? Right, useless expensive shit.

“Why don’t we find the shower stuff and get to your place?”

“Okay. Try not to scare anymore employees.”

“I wasn’t scaring him. I was expressing my disgust and disdain at the overpriced paperweight. No, actually, a paperweight serves a purpose.”

Cael laughed softly as he veered off to the right and the wall length display of showerheads. For fuck’s sake. Was there really a need for that many choices? With a huff, he looked around, spotting a bunch of fancy bathroom scales.

“Christ, really?”

“What?” Cael asked, sounding amused.

“Why the hell would you need a scale that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?”

“It connects to your activity tracker so you can sync your weight and body mass information, or whatever health data you’re monitoring.”

“Fuck I feel old.” It suddenly occurred to him that he was ten years older than Cael. A whole damn decade. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known, but he never really thought about it. Now, surrounded by sheets bragging thread count, two-hundred-dollar basket hampers, and hundred-dollar bath rugs, he felt like he was in a different world. Kitchenware connected to computers, a gadget told him how old his egg were, and how many—like he couldn’t just fucking count them—, and a crockpot that could be turned on via smartphone. Man, he felt so old. Cheaper options were available, but even if you were floating in cash, why the fuck would you need a designer hamper? He just didn’t understand it.

Everything he owned was functional. It served a purpose. He liked nice stuff, but there was a line. Some stuff was worth spending the money on. Hundred-dollar shower curtains did not fall into that category.

Laughter caught his attention and while Cael compared showerheads, Ash turned to the couple huddled together looking at soap dishes. They were both young. Probably about Cael’s age. They were obviously very much in love. They teased and flirted with each other, making each other laugh. Everything seemed to excite them. Or more likely, they excited each other.

“Ash? You okay?”

Ash snapped himself out of it and smiled at Cael. “Yeah. Did you find the one you wanted?”

“Yep.” Cael held up the box, and winked at him. “Therian, extra sturdy.”

“Great.” He cleared his throat, and forced the words out. “Is there, um, anything else you want to look at?”

Cael patted Ash’s bicep. “Don’t worry. I think you’ve suffered long enough.”

“It’s fine,” Ash said quickly. “I mean, if you want to look, shop, whatever, it’s fine. Really.” This is what couples did right?

Cael blinked at him. “Thanks, but I’m done. Promise.”

Ash nodded. He insisted on paying for the showerhead since he’d been the one to break it during their last sexcapade. These days, sex with Cael seemed to come in two settings, and only two settings. There was sweet and slow, or “holy fuck!”. The latter usually resulted in something breaking. In this instance, Cael’s showerhead which Ash had grabbed and snapped after Cael’s little experiment went a little too well.

On the ride to Cael’s place, Ash was lost in his thought. He hadn’t even realized it until Cael’s soft voice snapped him out of it for what seemed like the hundredth time. At the red light, he glanced over at Cael in the passenger seat, his heart skipping a beat at the concern in Cael’s big silver eyes. He was dressed casually in jeans that hugged his lean frame, a superhero T-shirt, and soft hoodie. On his feet were the orange Chucks he’d “borrowed” from Dex, and one of his many patterned socks. Today it was cupcakes. God, he was beautiful.

“Ash? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He did his best to smile, and took Cael’s hand in his before bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

“Ash,” Cael prodded gently. “Talk to me.”

The light turned green, giving Ash a good excuse not to look at Cael while he confessed his stupid insecurities. “I don’t know. Do you ever wish you had someone who understands all this domestic shit?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Picking out curtains and stuff.”

Cael chuckled. “That’s a stereotype, Ash.”

“What is?”

“That all couples pick out color swatches together, or redecorate together. You really think it matters to me whether you help me pick out hand soap or not?”

Ash pulled up to the curb, parking in a spot a few feet from Cael’s apartment. He turned to face Cael. “You know I love being with you, and I’ll go wherever you want me to, but I suck at this.”

“First of all, I love you too, and you don’t suck,” Cael assured him. He took off his seatbelt, and Ash thought he was about to get out of the car. Instead, he climbed over the center console, and straddled Ash’s lap. Ash’s breath hitched, and he shifted in his seat, swallowing hard when Cael moved Ash’s hands to his hips.

“Second of all,” Cael continued, leaning in, his voice low and husky. “You know I would never want you to do something you don’t want to. We’re a partnership, Ash. Which means we look out for each other. Compromise on what’s important. Stopping at the store tonight was a matter of convenience since it was on the way. It wasn’t a test to see how much you loved me.” Cael placed a kiss to Ash’s cheek, followed by another to his jaw, his chin, the tip of his nose, and his brow. “Tell me what else is wrong,” he murmured softly.

“I’m gonna be forty next year, and you’ll just be turning thirty.”

“And… this worries you?”

Ash shrugged. He slipped his hands under Cael’s T-shirt, loving the feel of his silky, smooth skin. How was it possible to love someone this much? “I’m grumpy, hotheaded, foulmouthed…. The list is pretty extensive.”

“So is my list. You want to know what’s on it?”

Ash nodded.

“There’s brave, handsome, loyal, smart, sexy, kind, protective….” He brushed his lips over Ash’s. “Should I go on?”

Ash let out a moan when Cael’s tongue poked out to lick Ash’s bottom lip.

“I love you, Ash, all of you. Just as you are.” He cupped Ash’s face, his incredible smile made Ash’s heart skip a beat. There was no doubt or hesitation in that smile, a smile that was just for Ash. Cael didn’t look at anyone the way he looked at Ash, and it took his breath away. Then Cael kissed him. It was sweet and languid, his tongue tangling with Ash’s, his lips so soft, and his mouth tasting of the sweet candy he’d had during the movie.

When he pulled back, and spoke, his voice was throaty and filled with heat. “How about we go inside, and we take the new showerhead for a test drive, see how sturdy it really is?”

Ash threw his head back, and laughed. “You’re fucking amazing, you know that?”

“So are you. If you forget, I’ll be here to remind you.” Cael gave him another quick, but scorching kiss before reaching over, grabbing the shopping bag, then opening Ash’s door to hop out. Ash didn’t waste any time. He set the car alarm and chased after Cael, catching up with him at the top of the stairs. Cael laughed in his arms, and Ash couldn’t help his dopey grin. How did he ever get so lucky? Whatever the reason, he was thankful, and if the new showerhead couldn’t keep up with them, then he’d happily accompany Cael for a new one, especially if it meant they got to test it out when they got home.


Copyright © 20116 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/1/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: There have been several prompts for the ball pit incident mentioned in Smoke & Mirrors, so here it is. Enjoy!


“Could you repeat that?”

Dex blinked at Sloane, not sure he’d heard correctly. He couldn’t possibly be that lucky. Maybe his partner was getting him back for one of the many many pranks he’d pulled since joining the THIRDS. Don’t get excited. It could be a mistake.

Sloane handed Dex his helmet. “I said, we’re heading to Brooklyn. A couple of drunk idiots decided to shift in public and wreak havoc at a kid’s birthday party.”

“Yeah, I heard that part.” Dex finished strapping himself into his vest. He could barely contain his grin. “I need you to repeat the other part. The part about where they’re wreaking havoc.” He took his helmet from Sloane. Come on. Say it.

Sloane let out a sigh. “Chuck E. Cheese.”

“Yes!” Dex let out a “whoop” and did a little dance. Best news he’d heard all day.

Ash shook his head in shame at him. “Of course you’re excited. Why am I not surprised?”

“How can you not be excited?”

“I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways I can respond to that ridiculous question, but I’m going to go with the fact that I’m not a man-child like you.”

Dex flipped Ash off, ignoring his chuckle. He followed Sloane out of the armory where the rest of their team was waiting by the BearCat. Hobbs was already in his Therian form, his eyes shut in contentment as Calvin scratched him behind the ear. Dex looked from Hobbs to Sloane and back. Did his partner realize what he was about to do? Should he say something? Sloane had to know. As the team climbed up into the back of the BearCat, Dex caught Sloane’s sleeve, speaking quietly.

“You’re going to send Hobbs in?”

Sloane looked puzzled. “Yeah. Why?”

“Dude, that place is filled with climbing, bouncing things.”

Sloane nodded. “I know. We don’t know how hostile these guys are, so I’m not sending your brother in there on his own with two leopard Therians. Also, climbing, bouncing things and your brother. Think about that for a moment.”

“You have a point.”

“I need to make sure this doesn’t get out of control. My other option is Ash.”

Ash loose after two Therians in a Chuck E. Cheese. Dex shuddered at the thought. “Point taken.”

Sloane smiled and gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Relax. Hobbs will be fine. He has plenty of self-control.”

Dex followed his partner into the truck, and as soon as everyone was secured in their seats, Tony got them moving.  They had no idea what to expect. The place had been evacuated, and Theta Destructive was on their way to clear the area and keep traffic out. When they arrived, they received a call that Theta Destructive was held up thanks to a traffic accident.

Tony cursed under his breath before addressing the team. “All right. Get in there, get it done, and get out. Beta Ambush has been dispatched, but we can’t risk these asshats getting out into the street before backup arrives, so move quickly.”

They all confirmed their understanding before hurrying out of the truck. Tony was right. With all the foot traffic, and street traffic, it would be chaos if two drunk feral Therians made a run for it. Quickly Destructive Delta got into formation behind Sloane, tranq rifles at the ready as they headed toward the entrance. Hobbs padded beside Sloane, waiting for the signal.

Sloane signaled for them to stop at the door, and they waited. Gingerly, he opened one of the glass doors and motioned for Hobbs to enter. As soon as their teammate was in, the rest of them followed Sloane inside. It was quiet. No sign of the two perps anywhere.

Hobbs’s sniffed the air. When he flattened his ears, and let out a low hiss, they all readied themselves. Dex looked around him, trying to catch movement from within the colorful tubes or bouncy play areas. Sloane gave Hobbs the signal, and their Felid teammate let out a roar that shook the rafters. The two Therians leaped out of their hiding spots and the chase began. Hobbs took off after them, and the two leopard Therians split up. Destructive Delta gave chase, following one of the leopard Therians as he ducked in, out, over, and under the play area equipment, a feat much harder to do when carrying tactical equipment.

“Split up,” Sloane ordered, taking off in one direction, while Dex went off in another, Calvin close behind. They rounded a corner and found a giant ball pit at the far end near the door they’d come in from.

“I thought they got rid of those,” Calvin said, as they slowly approached.

“Most of them did. The rest are on the way out. Man, I used to love those things.”

Calvin let out a snort. “Used to? I bet you’re just itching to jump in there.”

“You know me too well,” Dex admitted with a chuckle. From the corner of his eye he caught a flurry of movement. “Oh shit.” Dex grabbed Calvin’s arm and tugged him along with him as he ran. “Fall back!” They made a run for it just as the two Therians soared through the air into the ball pit. The air-filled container exploded, releasing a giant wave of colored plastic balls, knocking Dex and Calvin on their asses.

Dex rolled, spotted one of the Therians and fired three rounds of tranq darts, two hitting the perp in the neck. Calvin took the other one down.

Dex was about to say something when Calvin scrambled to his feet, shouting.

“Ethan, no! Someone close the damned door!”

Dex turned in time to spot Ethan leaping through the open front door after dozens of colored balls spilled out into the street, the place’s manager on the floor looking like he was about to pass out. What part of “wait outside” did the guy not understand?

Dex took off after Hobbs. There was no way he was missing this. With the perps subdued, Dex was free to take advantage of this epic situation. Outside it was pandemonium. Beta Ambush had yet to arrive, and the streets were littered with rolling colored balls. He pulled out his smartphone and started recording just as Calvin barreled out of the building and took off after Hobbs.

“Ethan, stop!” Calvin sped off, and Dex followed, leaving his team to take care of the rest. He couldn’t help himself. Calvin hauled ass after Hobbs who was swatting at the colored balls, unaware of the panicking pedestrians diving out of his way.  Dex was laughing so hard his phone shook in his hands. Up ahead to his left, some dude climbed his Hummer.

Hobbs swatted a blue ball out into the street and chased after it. Calvin turned to follow only to have Hobbs swat the ball back onto the sidewalk. He was so excited, he didn’t even notice Calvin, and swept past him at such speed that Calvin spun and flailed. Dex could hear his friend’s curses from where he was. With some impressive footwork and balancing, Calvin kept himself from falling on his ass. His face was red, and Dex could barely breathe.

Dex moved his phone’s camera back to Hobbs, and cursed when he spotted the yuppie he was headed straight for. When the yuppie saw Hobbs, he sprinted forward, revealing a tiny old lady a few feet behind. Before Dex could warn the old lady, she looked over her shoulder, secured her purse under her arm, and bolted into a run that any athlete would envy. What came next Dex wouldn’t have believed if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. The tiny old lady plowed through yuppie guy like she was a running back for the Giants. The dude soared through the air.

“Holy shit!” Dex had to prop himself against a car, he was laughing so hard. “Oh God. I can’t breathe.” Tears ran down his face, but he kept recording as Hobbs sped by, Calvin close behind. Hobbs smacked the blue plastic ball and it hit Tony’s boot, bringing Hobbs to a screeching halt. Calvin smacked into him, falling over Hobbs and onto his back on the sidewalk. Dex made his way over. He stood over Calvin, recording him. He waved down at him with his free hand.

“Say hello.”

“Fuck.” Panting breath. “You.”

Dex laughed, and wiped at his eyes. He stopped recording, and joined Sloane by the truck as Tony shouted orders at the newly arrived members of Beta Ambush while reporters flooded out of their news trucks.

Sloane dropped his head into his hand when Dex stepped up to him, grinning. “What was it you said before we came out here? Something about control?”

Sloane groaned. He lifted his head, his bottom lip jutted out. “Sarge is going to kick my ass.”

“Brodie! Get your ass over here!”

Dex patted Sloane’s arm. “Whatever you do, make eye contact, and just agree with everything he says. I’ll be here to kiss it better.”

“Thanks,” Sloane murmured before heading off to face their sergeant.

Several hours, and lectures later, Destructive Delta was back in the armory putting away their equipment. Everyone was silent. Mostly because Calvin was so pissed he was practically radioactive. No one dared say a word.

In the locker room, Dex was getting undressed when Calvin opened his locker. Plastic colored balls poured out, rolling and bouncing across the floor. Ash was the first to laugh, and Dex couldn’t help himself. He joined in along with everyone else in the locker room. So that’s what Ash had been doing when they’d been waiting in the truck for him.

“Fuck all of you,” Calvin hissed, grabbing his toiletry bag before slamming his locker shut and marching off toward the showers.

Dex picked up one of blue plastic balls, and put it in his locker as a little memento.

Best. Workday. Ever.

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THIRDS Thursday – 8/18/16 Plus a giveaway!

DexBday

Happy Birthday, Dex!

Hello, all! Today is Dexter J. Daley’s birthday, and to celebrate I thought we should have a birthday themed flash fiction story! Plus there’s a giveaway below. Here’s to many more years of gummy bear chaos, cheesy doodle mayhem, and heartfelt shenanigans!


Prompt: Dex’s 4th or 5th Birthday? The last one with John and Gina and “Uncle Tony”? I can just imagine Dex, a Piñata, and John managing to somehow make the nonexplosive paper donkey go up in sugar fueled flames. Face planting into the cake? Something equally goof tastic and Tony trying not to pee himself watching.


Tony walked into the house, greeting some of the parents as they stood around chatting. Squealing kids ran around dressed in Ghostbuster suits, brandishing blasters shooting green Silly String. He could only imagine what John had to promise Gina in order to get her okay on that mess. Something told him John was going to be doing a whole lot of scrubbing and cleaning after the party. There was green everywhere, from the balloons and streamers, to the table filled with green cupcakes, Rice Krispies treats, a big two tier white cake that had been “slimed”, and lots of other gooey green treats.

Tony placed his birthday present on the table along with the dozens of others. He was going to look for John when Dex came barreling into him with a surprise tackle hug.

“Tony!”

“Hey, little man!” He lifted Dex up, pretending he weighed a ton. “Ooh, my back. How did you get so big? You’re just four years old aren’t you?”

Dex laughed. “I’m five, silly!”

“Five? Is that right?”

Dex nodded. “Today’s my birthday, remember?”

Tony let out a mock gasp. “Is that what all these balloons are for? It’s your birthday? Good thing I brought you a present then, huh?”

“Yay!” Dex threw his little arms around Tony’s neck and squeezed him tight. When he pulled back, his eyes were wide with excitement, and he twisted his torso so Tony could see his back. “Daddy made us proton packs just like the real Ghostbusters!”

“Wow, I thought they were real!”

Dex giggled. “No. That would be trouble.”

“You’re right. Speaking of trouble. Where’s your dad?” He put Dex on his feet, smiling when Dex pointed to the stairs. Just then Tony heard Gina’s laughter. It was joyous and infection, and Tony couldn’t help but laugh as she came down the stairs. She was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

“Oh, Lord. What’s he done now?”

“I can’t….” She wheezed, doubling over and holding onto her stomach. “You…. Upstairs.”

“Mommy, mommy, can you put on some music?” Dex asked, bouncing excitedly.

Gina wiped at her eyes, and with a sniff, she managed to get a hold of herself long enough to nod, and answer Dex. “Of course, baby. Let’s go.”

Tony braced himself. Who the hell knew what his best friend had done now. He went upstairs, turned, and headed down the hall when he saw it.

“Sweet Baby Jesus.”

Only John’s head was exposed, the rest of his body swallowed by the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume. It was so padded, and puffy, that he’d gotten stuck in the doorway. Tony came to stand in front of him, shaking his head in disbelief. John pouted miserably.

“I’m stuck.”

Tony opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out. He closed it, looked John over, his gaze landing on his best friend’s pathetic expression, and all at once Tony was bracing himself on the wall, unable to breathe from laughing so hard.

“Thanks, pal. You are no help at all.” John grunted and growled as he tried to free himself. The more he tried to free himself, the harder Tony laughed.

“Oh, God.” He was going to run out of oxygen. Man, he wished he’d brought his camera. What was he thinking? Gina had probably already taken several pictures. Tony lay on the hall carpet on his back, his hands on his cramped side as he did his best not to look up at John.

“You bastard. Help me!”

Tony pushed himself to his feet. He pressed his lips together, and came to a stop in front of John. Assessing the situation, he finally placed his hands to John’s chest and pushed.

“Wow. You’re really wedged in there.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“I was the one who ate your donut yesterday.”

John gasped, his eyes going wide. “How could you? Traitor!”

“You already had two. You know the rules.”

John let out a huff. “I can’t believe you and my wife conspired against me.”

“No, we agreed that you need to eat less junk.” Tony looked him over. How the hell had John gotten so stuck? Probably from all that struggling. “I got an idea.” He walked across the hall to the far wall, turned, and readied himself.

“What are you doing?” John started to struggle again. “No. Stop. Don’t do it.”

Tony grinned. He was so going to enjoy this.

“You, donut-stealing son-of—”

The rest of John’s words turned into an “oomph” as Tony barreled into him at full speed. John popped out of the doorway, bounced across the room, and landed facedown by the bed cursing up a storm. Tony was on the floor laughing again.

“I hate you so much right now.” John narrowed his eyes at him before he tried to get up. All that did was roll him from side to side. Tony plopped himself down in front of John.

“What was that? I thought you said you loved me.”

John muttered something unintelligible under his breath.

“What?” Tony put a hand to his ear and leaned in. “I thought maybe I heard you say, “yes, Tony, I love you. I’d be lost without you. Please help me.” Is that what you said?”

Several more curses followed. “Yes, fine. I love you, Tony, even if you are a donut thief. I’d be lost without you. Please help me, and never speak a word of this to anyone at the office.”

With a wide grin, Tony got to his feet and grabbed John’s Stay Puft arm, and hauled him to his feet. The suit was so padded and puffy, he could barely move.

“Do you need help downstairs?” As if Tony didn’t already know the answer.

“Yes,” John muttered. “This is what I get for trying to make my son’s birthday memorable.”

“Aw, and it will be. I know I won’t forget it,” Tony teased.

“You know what? Just help me downstairs, smartass. Grab my head.”

Tony arched an eyebrow at him. “What now?”

John motioned behind him to the bed and the Marshmallow Man’s head.

“Oh! Right.”

John’s lips quirked up on one side. “Perv.”

Tony flipped him off before grabbing the head, and shoving it down over John’s, receiving a muffled “ow” in response. He was pretty sure John would have flipped him off if he could move his fingers. Instead, John shuffled toward the door. Realizing what his genius friend had done, Tony cut him off.

“Please tell me you didn’t try to just walk through the door straight on.” John’s silence spoke volumes. “You know, sometimes I wonder about you.” He ignored John cursing him out some more, and turned his friend sideways before helping him through. There was still some pushing required, but at least he didn’t get stuck. “Good thing Dex inherited Gina’s brains.”

John’s voice was muffled when he spoke, but Tony heard him just fine.

“Shut up, Tony.”

It took forever to get John downstairs, and as expected when they reached the kitchen, all the parents burst into laughter. Clearly Gina had told them it was John in there, along with what happened upstairs.

John managed to raise his arm, and Tony tried not to laugh. He was obviously flipping them off. They all followed John, very slowly, as he shuffled out into the backyard where the kids were. They squealed and jumped around in excitement. They were enthralled, running around John, shooting their Silly String at him. He growled and made monster noises as he shuffled around, pretending to go after them. Dex was fearless, shooting his blaster at the marshmallow monster.

“We have to protect the city!” Dex shouted, wielding his little blaster like a pro.

Gina took pictures, and the parents joined in on the fun. It was amazing. At least until one kid shouted out.

“The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man ate your dad!”

Uh-oh. Tony put a fist to his mouth to keep himself from bursting into laughter. He’d bet his next paycheck that John was furiously shaking his head inside the suit. Of course it was so padded that that he could barely walk much less show movement.

Dex’s big blue eyes widened, and his bottom lip trembled. Gina was about to go comfort him, and assure him his dad was just fine when Dex puffed up his chest. A murderous glare the likes of which Tony had never seen crossed the five-year old’s face. It was the kind of scowl that could scare the pants of the most steadfast officer.

“Dex, wait!” John held his puffed marshmallow man hands out in front of him. “I’m fine. It’s just a—”

Dex let out a war cry before launching himself at John, hitting his blaster against the puffy suit. The parents gasped, stunned as Dex sought revenge. Knowing the thing was padded to the gills, and John was safe from the blows meant Tony could sit back and laugh his ass off. The rest of the kids joined in, knocking John over. He bounced and rolled across the garden, Dex and the kids screaming and running after him.

“You ate my daddy!” Dex screamed, smacking John’s puffy head with his blaster.

“Dex, it’s me! I’m inside!”

In true John fashion, he was making it worse.

“Let him out!” Dex demanded. “Let him out, let him out, let him out!” He bounced on John, and Tony’s everything hurt from laughing.

Gina sidled up next to Tony. “We should probably do something to help.”

“Just give it a minute,” Tony said, doubling over when Dex jumped off John, and started rolling him across the lawn. When he got tired, he pulled on the marshmallow man’s head, and it popped off. John’s face was red and covered in sweat.

“Daddy!” Dex hugged him, and gave him kisses. “You’re not eaten.”

“No, buddy. I’m not eaten.”

“I love you,” Dex said, petting his hair.

“I love you too, champ. Now why don’t you go play, while Mommy and Tony help Daddy salvage what remains of his dignity?”

“Okay.” Dex jumped to his feet, and shouted loud enough for the whole block to hear. “Mommy! Tony! Daddy says he needs help. He lost his dignity!” Seeming not to know what that meant, Dex shrugged then ran off to play.

Tony let out a contented sigh. He smiled down at John when he reached him. “You throw the best parties.” His friend glared up at him.

“You’re lucky there are children present.”

Tony let out a hearty laugh as he and Gina helped John up. Together they escorted him back into the house. Apparently it was going to take both of them to get John out of this getup. As they headed upstairs, Gina gave Tony a wink.

“Don’t worry. There’s plenty of film left in the camera.”

Man, he loved these two.


Giveaway

We’re giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to 3 lucky winners. To enter, just leave a comment on this post on Charlie’s blog (for those viewing this post on Goodreads or through other feeds).

Giveaway ends 8/25/16 at 12:oo am Eastern US time. Winners will be announced on the blog and emailed for delivery of their prize.

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THIRDS Thursday – 8/11/16

THIRDS Thursdays

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM SMOKE & MIRRORS (THIRDS, BOOK  7)!!

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Prompt: This is kinda a spoiler, but I wouldn’t mind reading about Sloane asking Tony permission to marry his son.


He could do this.

Sloane lifted his fist to knock on the door and froze, panic bubbling up inside him.

Oh, God, I can’t do this.

What if Tony said no? What would he do then? Would Tony say no? Why would he say no? Let’s see, how about we start with you breaking Dex’s heart more times than you can count? Or how about your inability to protect Dex when he was kidnapped and tortured? Or when you went feral and tried to kill him? How about the fact you infected him, and succeeded in killing him?

Okay, he couldn’t think about that last part. He’d fucked up several times, and maybe he hadn’t always been the perfect boyfriend, but he loved Dex, and a number of those events had been out of his control. Maybe not the breaking Dex’s heart part, but he hadn’t meant to. He’d never meant to hurt Dex. Sloane loved him. Needed him. For fuck’s sake, he’d almost lost Dex. He had lost Dex. As long as he lived, he would never forget how Dex looked, fighting for his life. Or the feel of his lifeless body in Sloane’s arms. The memory alone brought tears to his eyes, and a lump to his throat.

Sloane pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, and tapped his pin into the locked screen. His pulse immediately steadied, and he smiled down into the face of the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Dex loved taking selfies with Sloane, and the rest of their team. It drove Ash crazy. Sloane chuckled at the thought. The fact Ash hated it just made Dex more determined, and sneaky. There was no escaping when Dexter J. Daley had you in his sights. Escaping was the last thing Sloane wanted to do. He’d been caught, or rather his heart had been caught, and he’d never been happier. He wouldn’t waste any more time.

“Why are you lingering on my doorstep?”

“Holy shit!” Sloane gave such a start, his phone leaped out of his hands. Lucky for him, his sergeant had amazing reflexes. Tony caught the phone, noticed the photo of Dex and Sloane squished together laughing, but didn’t say a word as he handed it back. In fact, Tony’s expression remained stoic as usual.

“Thanks.” Sloane returned his phone to his pocket, and took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly. “Um, hi.”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “That bad, huh?”

Crap. Sloane threw his hands up in front of him. “Oh, no, it’s not like that. I swear.”

“Seeing as how Dex isn’t with you, I’m going to hazard a guess and say he doesn’t know you’re here.”

Sergeant Anthony Maddock was intimidating and scary at the best of times. When he was in Father Mode, he was deadly. The man was so still and calm, ready to strike at any moment. Sloane tried to smile. Tony’s frown deepened.

“Can I come in?”

Tony stepped to one side, and motioned for Sloane to enter. Maybe Sloane should have just called? Or, maybe he should suck it up and stop being such a coward. In the living room, Sloane shoved his hands in his pockets as Tony took a seat on the couch.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

“Thanks.” Maybe he should take his hands out of his pockets. But then where should he put them? He crossed them over his chest. No, that was a defensive pose. He uncrossed them. Oh, God, he was such a dork. “Sarge—”

“You here on official business?”

“What? Oh, um, no. Sorry. Tony.” He was still getting used to that. “I’m here because, well, you know I love Dex. I hope you know. You do know?”

“I would hope so, seeing as you’re living with him.”

“Yeah, I mean, yes. I love him. A lot. He’s… everything. I can’t—and don’t—want to imagine my life without him. When I’m with him, I don’t just feel happy, but at peace. He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever known.” Was he rambling? Shit, he was rambling. Why was he telling Tony how great Dex was? It wasn’t like Tony didn’t know his own son.

“That’s really nice. I’m glad to hear it. You didn’t come all this way to tell me how amazing my son is.”

“No. I um, wow, this is hard,” Sloane said, letting out a shaky laugh. Was he this nervous because of what he was doing? Or because it was Tony? His boyfriend’s dad also being his sergeant didn’t exactly make things easier. He just didn’t want to fuck this up for him or Dex, and he certainly didn’t want to disappoint Tony again.

“Sloane?”

Sloane looked up, surprised by the man’s warm smile. “Yeah?”

“You don’t need my approval.”

“I don’t?” Sloane blinked at him. He released the deep breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

“No. But I really appreciate you asking anyway. If that’s what you were going to ask.”

Sloane rushed over to Tony and dropped down beside him on the couch. “Yes!”

Tony’s brows shot up. “Easy there, son.”

“Sorry. I’m just really excited. Tony, I want to marry your son.”

“I already said yes.”

“You did? Right! I—Wow, okay. Um, thank you.”

“Wait here.” Tony stood and walked off, leaving Sloane sitting there both relieved and a little foolish for having worked himself up. Of course Tony would be okay. He loved Dex and wanted his son to be happy, and although Sloane was still learning, he did make Dex happy.

“Here.” Tony handed Sloane a small black box.

“What’s this?” Sloane opened the box, his eyes going wide at the silver ring tucked into the black foam padding. “Oh my God. Is this…?”

Tony nodded. “It was John’s.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Sloane swallowed hard. He looked up at Tony, his heart squeezing at the sight of unshed tears in Tony’s eyes. The man quickly wiped them away. From what Sloane had come to learn of the man, there were three people in Tony’s life who could get through that armor of his, Dex, Cael, and John Daley.

“Are you sure?” Tony had been guarding this for so long. Did he really want to give up a piece of his best friend?

Tony nodded. “John would have wanted Dex to have it, and I know Dex will take good care of it. Just like I know you’ll take good care of Dex. Make him happy. He deserves it.”

“I will. Thank you.” Sloane stood and threw his arms around Tony, closing his eyes and smiling when Tony hugged him back. They remained that way for a few seconds before Tony pulled back. He gave a sniff and straightened, his armor back in place.

“I don’t do wedding planning, just so you know. I especially don’t do wedding planning when Dex is involved. I would warn Lou ahead of time so he’s prepared. I will, however, offer somewhere for you to hide and have a beer during that time.”

Sloane chuckled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.” For now, he was going to concentrate on asking Dex.

When he reached his car, he sat behind the wheel, looking down at the ring, knowing what it would mean to Dex. Sloane couldn’t help his dopey grin. A part of him couldn’t believe he was going to do this, while his heart wondered what the hell had taken so long.

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THIRDS Thursday – 6/16/16

THIRDS Thursdays

This week’s prompt is the winning prompt form the THIRDS Beyond the Books: Volume 1 Release Day event!


Prompt: I am begging no I am pleading lol for a scene with Dex and Sloane (something funny and sweet or even badass) from Sloane’s therian point of view. I don’t care if his jaguar says “mine” the whole time I just want to know what he thinks about or what his instincts are saying…preferably a scene either after Sloane stopped trying to fight his feelings or after they’ve officially been together (but not necessarily marked), and they’re either just having fun or being badass out in the field.


I won’t let you get away.

Sloane skulked in the deep shadows, his dark fur helping to conceal him. His prey lay unsuspecting, his back turned to him. Never turn your back on a Felid.

His paws made no sound as he slinked forward, his sharp gaze focused on his quarry. Sloane loved to hunt. Loved the thrill of it. He was stronger, faster, deadlier. His prey was at his mercy.

Flattening himself down against the concrete of the parking garage, he crawled out from the shadows then dashed behind a car. His tail twitched. He remained unseen, and his prey unsuspecting. Or so he believed.

Dex stood from his crouched position, his eyes still focused on the tablet in his hands. “I know what you’re doing,” Dex said, his voice loud enough for Sloane to hear. “I know you need to hunt and all, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t scare the shit out of me while doing it.”

Sloane stilled. To pounce or not to pounce? Pounce. Always pounce.

Dex returned his tablet to the padded pocket of his tactical pants. “Okay. We’re doing this.” He tapped his earpiece. “Hey, Sarge. Sloane’s in hunt me mode. Yeah. You know how he gets if he doesn’t get it out of his system. Okay. Meet you back at HQ.”

Dex rubbed his gloves together, his grin wide. “All right, babe. Perps are in the truck on their way back to HQ. It’s just you and me.” He stilled and pointed off in the distance. “Hey, is that Cory from the doctor’s office over by the elevator?”

Sloane popped his head up and hissed in the direction of the elevator. Cory the nurse? He’d wanted Dex. Sloane roared and bounded out from behind the car. He flattened his ears, his fangs bare when he saw there was no one at the elevator. He’d been tricked!

Sloane waggled his tail and perked his ears up. Dex was gone. Not gone. Sloane could smell him. Have to hide. Sloane dashed behind another car. Tricky. He’s tricky. Sloane lowered himself so he could see under the parked cars. Nothing. He listened closely. Nothing. Why couldn’t he hear Dex? He could always hear Dex. Sloane sniffed the air. Dex was getting closer.

Something hit Sloane’s butt and he darted out from behind the car with a hiss, a soft laugh meeting his ear. Looking around he didn’t see Dex. Slowly, Sloane edged to where he’d been and sniffed the object that had landed on him. A packet of gummy bears. Sloane huffed. Dex knew where he was.

Suddenly there were boot steps, coming fast. Sloane shot forward as Dex rounded the car on his tail almost grabbing him. Dex chased him around the parking lot, behind cars, between cars, with Sloane staying out of reach. When Dex stopped to catch his breath, Sloane pounced, knocking him onto his side. Dex laughed and rolled onto his back. His eyes were so bright, his smile wide. He was perfect, and he was Sloane’s.

“You got me. Maybe next time you can hunt me on some nice soft grass or carpet instead of concrete. How’s that sound?”

Sloane licked Dex’s face making him wrinkle his nose. “Ew. Just not the ear, okay?” Dex ruffled Sloane’s fur and Sloane nuzzled Dex’s temple, huffing out a happy breath, his eyes closed in contentment.

“Hey! Get off him! What are you doing?”

Sloane’s ears perked up, and his fur bristled. He stood over Dex, fangs bare as he hissed at the approaching Human.

“Woah, hey! It’s okay.” Dex held a hand up and slowly pushed Sloane off with the other.

Don’t push me. I’m protecting you. Sloane growled, his gaze moving to the man watching them. A sniff told him the man was scared. He didn’t stand a chance against Sloane. Not a threat.

“Hank?”

The big man blinked, then seeming to recognize Dex, his smile went wide. “Dexter Daley? Holy shit.” He held his hand out, and Dex quickly slapped it away before Sloane could snap at him.

Maybe threat. Put your hand in my face again.

“Sorry, dude,” Dex said with a laugh. “You don’t want to do that. Not unless you want to lose that hand. I’m good. This is my THIRDS partner, Sloane Brodie.”

Boyfriend. He’s mine. My partner. My Dex. You smell like moth balls and too much cologne. Sloane sneezed and stuck his tongue out. Gross.  

Dex stood and held his hand out to the Humam. “Man, it’s been a long time.”

“Yeah. You’d just graduated from the academy and were celebrating.” He looked Dex over with his deep brown eyes. His scent changed, and Sloane flattened his ears. He didn’t like that smell. The man took a step closer to Dex.

Too close.

“Wow, look at you. A THIRDS agent.”

“Yeah, trippy, huh?” Dex put his hands on his hips and shrugged. “So how have you been?” The man didn’t move away.

Boundaries.

Sloane edged closer.

Still too close. Maybe he doesn’t see me. I should get closer to Dex. He lifted his butt and sat on Dex’s boot. He looked up at the man. Mine. This is mine. Finish talking and go away.

Dex cringed and scratched the stubble on his jaw. “Listen, um,” he cleared his throat, his scent changing. Was he nervous? Sloane looked up at Dex. He’s embarrassed.

“I’m sorry I didn’t, um, call you back the next day.”

The man smiled. “Or ever.”

“Yeah, or ever,” Dex said with a chuckle.

Why was he still talking? Too much talking. Wait. Why was Dex sorry for not calling. Sloane sniffed the air. He sniffed the man again. Sloane’s fur bristled from his head to his tail. He drew his claws out and hissed. He knew what this man was.

My teeth and claws are sharper than yours. Want to see? Move. Away. Move away now.

The man jumped and took a step back.

“Shit, your partner looks pissed.”

“Easy there, tough guy.” Dex scratched behind Sloane’s ear and he leaned in to the scratch. So good. Mmm. To the left a bit, just a little… that’s it right there. He closed his eyes and breathed out, releasing a motor-like sound.

“Is he… purring?”

“Big cats don’t purr. Well, technically they don’t. I say they do. I mean that lawnmower sound you hear right there is purring. He just does it on exhalation, so it’s not considered a “true” purr. My little brother on the other hand, he purrs on inhalation and exhalation because he’s a cheetah Therian. And that’s your Felid Factoid of the day.”

The man laughed, catching Sloane’s attention again. He opened his eyes and stared up at him. Why was he laughing and smiling like that? Sloane rubbed his head against Dex’s leg. Sloane let out a huff when he remembered. The man wouldn’t smell him on Dex. He’s human. Dex already smelled like Sloane, but this man needed to know. Sloane circled Dex, sniffing his feet, and Dex jumped back.

“Woah, no. No. You are not pissing on me.”

Sloane mewed and Dex gave him a stern look. “Sloane, no. I am not walking around with the smell of your piss on me. We talked about this.”

Sloane flopped down on his belly with a huff.

“Sulk all you want. It’s not happening. Rubbing on me is one thing, but I draw the line at marking your territory on me.”

“He’s actually done that?”

“Yeah. He’s a little protective, and well, he’s my boyfriend, so he can get a little possessive when he’s in his Therian form.”

The man stared at him. He took a quick step back. “Oh my God, Dex. Your boyfriend is a lethal jaguar Therian who works for the THIRDS, and you’re talking about us in front of him?”

Us?

Dex smiled down at Sloane, his eyes filled with warmth and love. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but Hank and I slept together one night after celebrating my graduating from the academy. I was a dick and never called him back.” He turned his attention back to Hank. “I’m sorry. That was a jerk move.”

Hank looked from Sloane to Dex. “It’s okay. I get it. It was just a onetime thing. No big deal.” He swallowed hard and motioned to Sloane. “Is, uh, he okay?”

“He will be once he’s back to his Human form. He’s a little intense like this so, you know, don’t make any sudden movements or anything. Anyway, it was good seeing you, Hank. If you ever need anything, just give me a ring. I’m down at the Manhattan HQ.”

“Thanks, Dex.” He made to hold a hand out then seemed to think better of it. Instead he waved and slowly backed away. Sloane watched him until the man got into a car and drove off.  Dex crouched down in front of him.

“So, you okay? It was one night, a long time ago.”

Sloane licked his face.

Don’t like it, but okay.

What mattered was that Dex was his now.

“I love you,” Dex said, wrapping his arms around Sloane and squeezing. Sloane chuffed, and purred. He padded alongside Dex as they walked to the elevator. Dex pulled out his cellphone and called Cael.

“Hey, you mind picking us up? Great, see you in a few. Yeah, he—” Dex sighed, dropping his head, his eyes closed. “He just peed on me.”

Sloane could hear Cael laughing.

Hi, Cael! Sloane liked Cael. Cael was good. Sweet. A good cheetah. Good agent.

“Could you bring some extra pants? Thanks. You can stop laughing anytime.” Dex put his phone away and arched an eyebrow at Sloane.

What?

“I guess I deserved that. Thanks for not turning Hank into a scratching post.”

Sloane closed his eyes and opened his mouth.

“Yeah, I know you’re pleased with yourself. We’ll see how pleased you feel when you’re back to walking on two legs and I remind you of what you did.”

Sloane rubbed his head against Dex’s leg. Mine. All mine.

Always.


THIRDS copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published with Dreamspinner Press.

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