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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THIRDS Thursday – 6/9/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I’d love to read about the first time Dex called Tony “Dad”. I mean, how did he transition from calling Maddock “Uncle Tony” to “Dad”? Was it a natural instinct?


“You’re so full of it.”

Tony arched an eyebrow at his older sister. “Why don’t you tell me what you really think, Danelle?”

Danelle chuckled as she leaned against the counter. Her expression softened and her warm brown eyes filled with concern. “You can’t pull one over on me, Anthony. I remember when you were in diapers just like Cael.”

“Thanks. That’s… informative.”

“Don’t be a smartass.”

Tony gave her an incredulous look. “I’m sorry, have we met?”

“No wonder that boy’s a little smartass,” Danelle muttered, though she was clearly trying not to smile. Tony knew his sister loved Dex something fierce. Cael too.

“I’m fine,” he promised, holding a finger up before she could reply. “Cael’s about to wake up from his nap in four… three… two… one.” The baby monitor crackled to life before the sound of gurgling followed by wailing filled the kitchen.

Danelle stared at the monitor. “That child has some lungs on him.”

Tony chuckled as he took the baby bottle from the pot of heated water on the stove, checking the temperature before heading for the stairs, his sister close behind. “And he’s supposed to be the quiet one,” Tony mused.  They walked into his bedroom to the custom made crib against the wall, opposite his bed. He handed the baby bottle to his sister so he could lower the side of the crib to get Cael out since Tony couldn’t reach over the top.

Tony had learned pretty quick that Therian babies were tiny acrobats. As soon as Cael could pull himself up, he was climbing the bars of his human crib like he was a seasoned pro. Thankfully Tony’s reflexes were nothing to be scoffed at and he’d managed to make a dive for Cael just as his son decided to practice his soaring skills.

“I will admit these two have pushed my adrenaline to new heights. More than any perp ever has.” He cradled Cael in his arms and took the bottle from his sister.

“I just worry about you,” Danelle said quietly, stroking Cael’s chubby cheek as Tony fed Cael. “You know I’ll always be here for you and these boys, but, Tony, people are pissed. They think it’s not right, you adopting a Therian child. The ink’s barely dry, and your job’s on the line. What if they fire you? How are you gonna take care of these boys?”

“We have you, don’t we?” Tony teased, giving her a wink. “You got enough in your fridge to feed Dex for at least….” Tony thought about it. “Three weeks. At least. Maybe.”

Danelle laughed. “I don’t know where that boy puts all that food. I know he’s growing, but he eats almost as much as you do, and this one,” she motioned to Cael who was making little baby noises as he drank his milk, “he’s going to grow up and his Therian metabolism will kick in. These boys are going to eat you out of house and home.”

“Look at him, Danelle.” Tony turned so his sister could get a good look at Cael, not that she hadn’t made a big fuss over him before. “Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.”

She opened her mouth to reply then closed it. With a huff, she folded her arms over her chest. “Yeah, fine. I know.” She smiled down at Cael and cooed at him, making him smile as he continued to drink. Little wrinkles formed at the corners of his big gray eyes.

“I know this is all new. Believe me, it scares the hell out of me. You think I don’t wake up in the middle of the night asking myself if I’ve gone crazy? Me? With two kids? I couldn’t even keep a cactus from drying up. I mean, who kills a cactus?” He shook his head with a sigh. Tears sprang in his eyes, and he walked over to the bed to sit down. He looked up at his sister. “I miss them, Danelle. I miss him. God, I miss him.”

Danelle took a seat on the edge of the bed beside him. She ran her hand over his head. “I know, honey. I know what they meant to you. What he meant to you.”

“Sometimes I wake up, and it’s like a I can’t breathe. When I’m at work, or out and I see some stupid thing I think John would like, that would have made him laugh, and it’s like I can’t breathe. I keep thinking, what if I screw this up? John was the one who kept me from getting too serious, too focused on the job.” He frowned at the tear his sister wiped away from his cheek, not realizing it had made its escape. Man, was the heartache ever going to dull?

“And now these babies will do that for you, Anthony.” She stood and stepped in front of him. “These boys need you. Dex needs to heal, you need to heal, and that little one in your arms needs to be loved and protected from the morons of this world. Who better to school those idiots than you, huh?” She kneeled down in front of him, her hand going to Cael’s soft fuzz sticking up. It always made Tony smile, and it made Dex giggle his little head off. “If anyone can raise these boys to be good, honest young men, it’s you.”

Tony nodded, not being able to bring himself to speak. The front door closed downstairs, and he smiled at the sound of stomping on the stair. Danelle stood with a chuckle.

“Uh oh, here comes trouble.”

Dex swept into the room with all the theatrics disposable to a six-year-old. “Aunt Danelle!” He launched himself into her arms, squeezing her tight, and making her laugh.

“Hey, kiddo.”

Once he’d gotten his hug from Danelle, Dex skipped over to Tony and gave his cheek a kiss before he planted a kiss on Cael’s head. “Can I finish feeding him?”

Tony nodded. He loved how involved Dex was with Cael. Just four months in and Dex was taking his big brother responsibilities very seriously. He helped Tony in everything when it came to caring for Cael, from feeding to changing his diaper, and even reading him stories at bedtime.

Dex sat on the bed, and Tony handed him the blanket which Dex painstakingly arranged on his lap. The kid was a neat freak, just like Gina. Tony smiled before carefully placing Cael in Dex’s arms. Dex held the bottle, his feet subtly swinging. He was always fidgeting. That he got from John.

“Can I have chicken nuggets for dinner? Pleeeease?” Dex asked, smiling widely, showing the gap where his top two front teeth used to be. It was adorable.

“Okay, but only if you promise to eat your peas.”

Dex wrinkled his nose. He narrowed his eyes at Tony. “How many peas?”

“You want an exact number?” Beside Tony, Danelle put her hand to her mouth to keep herself from laughing.

“Sounds like someone else I know,” she muttered.

Tony glared at her before turning his attention back to Dex who very grown-up-like handed Tony Cael’s empty baby bottle.

“Wait until you hear all about school today,” Dex told Cael. “But I’ll tell you later. First….” Dex arched a little blond brow at Tony. Lord, help him. The kid was too smart for his own good at six. He was going to have to keep his wits sharp the older Dex got.

“Forty-five,” Tony said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Dex pursed his lips, and Tony could see the little wheels turning. Here we go.

“Ten.”

Tony laughed. “No way. Forty.”

Danelle looked on in amusement as they negotiated over peas. These days Dex negotiated everything, from how long he could play Nintendo to what time he’d go to bed. Tony had witnessed hostage negotiations with fewer demands.

“Eighteen,” Dex countered, wriggling his fingers under Cael’s chin, making him gurgle and squeal.

Tony planted his hands on his hips, his eyes narrowed. “Thirty-five.”

“Twenty-two.”

“Thirty, and that’s my final offer.”

Dex pursed his lips. “Thirty and I get an extra cookie.”

Danelle snickered and Tony shook his head at her. “You’re not helping.”

“I’m sorry.” She turned and laughed into hers hands. Clearly she wasn’t sorry.

Tony walked over and took Cael from Dex. “Deal. Now go do your homework.”

“Woot!” Dex jumped off the bed, running victory laps around the room. Tony had just put Cael down in his crib and turned on the musical lion mobile set that Cael loved to swat at when Dex tackle hugged him. With an “oomph” Tony hugged Dex back.

“Okay, little man. I love you too.”

“Thanks, Dad!” Dex skipped off and Tony stared after him. His knees felt weak, and he held onto the crib. Danelle turned to stare wide-eyed at him.

“Did he just….”

Tony nodded. “I uh… I need to sit down.” He flopped down on the bed wondering if he’d heard what he thought he had. Of course he had. Danelle had heard it too.

“How long has it been since—”

“Sixteen months,” Tony stated. He was still sorting through the red tape of Dex and Cael’s adoptions. He was still showing up in the news as the first Human to adopt a Therian child. John and Gina’s house was still sitting there, untouched because Tony still couldn’t bring himself to sell it, and not because of the assholes who said he was taking advantage. Like he’d ever touch a penny of John and Gina’s insurance money. Everything was in Dex’s name. Not one penny touched. Tony would raise his boys on his own, with his own hard earned money. What Gina and John left behind would go toward Dex’s future, and when he was old enough, he could do whatever he wanted to do with it. Whatever happened, Tony would make sure his boys were well taken care of. His boys.

Dad.

Danelle’s arm around his shoulder gave him a start, and he shook his head. “Do you think he knows what he said?”

His sister gave his shoulders a squeeze. “You know Dex. When does he ever not know what he’s saying? He’s smart. Sometimes too smart,” she teased. “Negotiating peas.”

Tony chuckled before getting serious again. “Do you think I should talk to him?”

“Go on. I’ll look after Cael.” She gave his cheek a kiss and went to the crib. She knew him too well. He’d mull over it, worrying about Dex until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He walked downstairs to the dinner table where Dex was doing his homework. Needing to fortify himself, he poured them each a glass of milk and put some chocolate chip cookies on a plate. He brought everything over to the table and sat down. Dex looked at the cookies then up at him, his eyes wide.

“What’s wrong?”

Tony couldn’t help his smile. “Who says something is wrong?” He held up a cookie, chuckling when Dex eyed it warily.

“You always say snacks before dinner will fill you up.” Dex took the cookie, looked at it, and shrugged before biting a chunk out of it.

“I do say that. Dex, did you… um….” He cleared his throat. “You called me dad.”

Dex blinked at him, his mouth full of cookie. He gulped down some of his milk before his expression turned puzzled. “Yeah.”

“Yes,” Tony corrected.

“Yes,” Dex replied with a nod. He cocked his head. “Is that bad?” His pale blue eyes grew glassy. “Because you’re not daddy, should I not call you dad?” He looked hurt and Tony quickly reached out, pulling Dex onto his lap, rocking him and running a hand over his hair.

“No, that’s not it at all, kiddo.” He squeezed Dex tight. “I think it’s great. I love it. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay. You know that calling me dad, or thinking of me as dad won’t change how much your daddy loved you or how much you love him. You know that right?”

Dex nodded, his cheeks pink as he sniffed, tears in his eyes. “I know. You’re never going to go away, right? You’re going to be dad now, for me and Cael. We’re a family now.”

Tony kissed the top of Dex’s head, his arms wrapped tight around him as Dex hugged him back. “Yeah, we’re a family, kiddo.”

“Yes,” Dex corrected.

Tony smiled, his heart all but ready to burst.

“Yes.”


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

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THIRDS Beyond the Books Release Day!

Hello all! THIRDS Beyond the Books is here! I’m so excited to be sharing with you this fun collection of THIRDS flash fiction stories! To celebrate we’ve got a blog tour going on and a release day event over at Love Bytes!

Make sure to check out the tour stops below. Today we’re at The Novel Approach where some of the fabulous THIRDS Nerds in our Facebook group have asked me questions about the series and characters. Make sure to check it out!

We’re also at the Dreamspinner Press blog where Dex is sharing his Songs to Seduce Your Jaguar Therian Partner By. I’m sure you won’t want to miss it.

RELEASE DAY EVENT

Over at Love Bytes we have a special treat. This time you get to vote for which THIRDS Thursday prompt will get written up after the tour! Plus there’s an exclusive giveaway! So we have two giveaways packed with goodies!

** Please note that different blogs post their content at different times.

ABOUT THE BOOK

THIRDSbeyond300Genre: Gay Paranormal Romance, Shifters
Length: Novella
Published: June 8th, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Ebook ISBN-13: 9781634773072

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.

** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue.

goodreads-badge-add-plus

BUY LINK

Dreamspinner Press eBook | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

H&HWDestructive Delta Divider

SeriesOrder

Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book 1)
Blood & Thunder (THIRDS Book 2)
Rack & Ruin (THIRDS, Book 3)
Rise & Fall (THIRDS, Book 4)
Against the Grain (THIRDS, Book 5)
Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6)
Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7)

Press-Kit

Check out the THIRDS on Pinterest.

H&HWDestructive Delta Divider

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlie_Cochet_by_madison_parker

Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

Website | THIRDS HQ | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram | Newsletter | DSP |Amazon |Goodreads

2016Divider

THIRDSBTBBlogTourBanner

June 1 – MM Good Book Reviews (About THIRDS Beyond the Books & Big Cat Rescue)
June 6 – Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy (A Guide to Being Dexter J. Daley)
June 7 – Oh My Shelves (What’s So Great About Fridays? Presented by Dexter J. Daley)
June 8 – The Novel Approach (THIRDS Nerds series Q&A)
June 8 – Dreamspinner Blog (Dexter J. Daley’s Songs to Seduce Your Jaguar Therian Partner by)

****

Release Day Event: June 8th – Love Bytes Reviews (Exclusive Giveaway and vote for the next THIRDS Thursday prompt to be written)

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THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 Blog Tour!

Hello all! The THIRDS Beyond the Books blog tour kicks off today and we have plenty of goodies heading this way! During the tour you can find out more about THIRDS Thursdays, along with Big Cat Rescue–where the royalties of this book are being donated. Dex drops in to tell you what’s so great about Thursdays, and for the release day event you can vote for which THIRDS Thursday prompt will get written up after the tour. Plus there’s so much more! There’s also two giveaways packed with goodies!

** Please note that different blogs post their content at different times.

THIRDSBTBBlogTourBanner

June 1 – MM Good Book Reviews (About THIRDS Beyond the Books & Big Cat Rescue)
June 6 – Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy (A Guide to Being Dexter J. Daley)
June 7 – Oh My Shelves (What’s So Great About Fridays? Presented by Dexter J. Daley)
June 8 – The Novel Approach (THIRDS Nerds series Q&A)
June 8 – Dreamspinner Blog (Dexter J. Daley’s Songs to Seduce Your Jaguar Therian Partner by)

****

Release Day Event: June 8th – Love Bytes Reviews (Exclusive Giveaway and vote for the next THIRDS Thursday prompt to be written)

H&HWDestructive Delta Divider

ABOUT THE BOOK

THIRDSbeyond300Genre: Gay Paranormal Romance, Shifters
Length: Novella
Published: June 8th, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Ebook ISBN-13: 9781634773072

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.

** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue.

goodreads-badge-add-plus

BUY LINK

Dreamspinner Press eBook | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

H&HWDestructive Delta Divider

SeriesOrder

Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book 1)
Blood & Thunder (THIRDS Book 2)
Rack & Ruin (THIRDS, Book 3)
Rise & Fall (THIRDS, Book 4)
Against the Grain (THIRDS, Book 5)
Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6)
Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7)

Press-Kit

Check out the THIRDS on Pinterest.

H&HWDestructive Delta Divider

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlie_Cochet_by_madison_parker

Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

Website | THIRDS HQ | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram | Newsletter | DSP |Amazon |Goodreads

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/26/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: Could we maybe see Tony and Dex’s parents? Could be before or after Dex was born. :)


“I blame John.”

Tony chuckled and looked up from his newspaper. Gina groaned as she slowly walked around the living room.

“It takes two to tango,” Tony said, motioning to Gina’s big pregnant belly. She was due any day now, and the closer she got to giving birth, the more she blamed John. Of course John never took it to heart. He was a loving husband who did his best to make sure Gina had everything she needed to be comfortable. They were as prepared as two soon-to-be parents could be.

Gina arched an eyebrow at Tony before her pale blue eyes narrowed. He gingerly lifted the newspaper in front of him to hide his face from her. If she had the slightest inkling he found her amusing she’d launch a throw pillow at his head. Wouldn’t be the first time. John said that for a pregnant woman, she had reflexes like a ninja.

“That’s not what I meant.” She groaned again, and he looked up to make sure she was okay. She rubbed her belly as she walked. “This kid thinks I’m an obstacle course. He’s like John. Always fidgeting.”

“Yeah, but you love the big dope.”

Gina let out a school-girl sigh. “I do. He’s so pretty.”

Tony laughed. “That’s why he gets away with everything. He just bats those pretty eyes and you’re a goner.”

Gina let out a very indelicate snort. “Please. Like you’re immune to that smile.”

“Smile doesn’t get me,” Tony replied with a shake of his head. “It’s that damned dimple. That and the fact he does whatever the hell he wants anyway.”

“We both love the dope, so you’re as screwed as I am. What’s today’s headline?”

“Oh no.” Tony quickly closed the paper and folded it up as Gina glared at him. He’d been given very clear instructions not to let Gina read the papers. A few months ago the government started the Therian database, requiring Therians to go to their nearest CDC clinic for classification. It was rumored they were creating a system that would have Therians marked. John had been furious, as had Tony. Gina had been livid, launching a campaign against the movement and becoming the first medical officer at the CDC Registration Office to volunteer working specifically with Therians, a position she’d demanded be introduced. No one said no to Gina Daley.

John decided that reading the newspaper was off limits for a while. The headlines upset her too much. Of course Gina was as stubborn as her husband. Telling her she couldn’t do something was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Gina Daley was a stunning young woman who stood at five foot three without heels, had dirty blonde hair and the palest blue eyes Tony had ever seen. She looked angelic in her pink flowered maternity dress. She could also put the fear of God in any mortal, including him.

“Tony, give me the paper.”

He blinked up at her innocently. “It’s under my butt.”

“I don’t care. Besides, I’ve seen your butt.”

Tony felt his face burn. “That wasn’t my fault.”

“Of course it wasn’t,” Gina agreed, “but that’s what you get when you let John convince you to take your clothes off in protest of campus Therian segregation. That wasn’t going to get you two anything other than some serious rubbernecking. It was like a feeding frenzy. You know how many fellow students I had to chase off that day? Geniuses you two.”

Tony shrugged, and did his best not to laugh at the memory. “We were a couple of stupid college kids.” Poor John. It said something that he was more terrified of losing Gina to his shenanigans than he’d been about getting kicked out of school. Gina had been annoyed with her fiancé, but she adored John, crazy antics and all. He learned pretty quick after that. “That was such a long time ago, Gina. We’ve both matured.”

“That was two years ago.”

Tony pursed his lips. “I got nothing.”

“Between your ears apparently. Like John. Give me the paper.”

Tony put a hand to his chest. “Ouch. You want me to get you some chocolate or something?”

“Anthony Maddock, so help me if you don’t give me that damned newspaper I’m going to—” She let out a groan/yell combo that scared the shit out of him. She was either about to kick his ass, or she’d just had her first contraction. They stared at each other, wide-eyed.

“Was that…?”

Gina nodded.

“Do you think it’s time?” He watched as Gina walked around, breathing in and out through her mouth. Less than a minute later another contraction hit and nothing she did made it stop.

“I blame John!”

“Yeah, it’s all John’s fault. Just breathe. I’ll get your bag.” He jumped from his chair, making a swipe for the newspaper before Gina could grab it. He shook his head at her. “Woman, you’re going into labor! Forget the damn newspaper!”

“Fine!” She breathed deeply in and out as he ran to get her overnight bag from the hall closet where he knew it was. The three of them had come up with an action plan in order to be prepared for this day. Another scream soon met his ear, and he hurried back to the living room. Where the hell was John?

As if by magic, John walked through the door. “Hey, baby. I got you your chocolate chip ice cream and potato chips.” He grinned that big school-boy grin of his.

“John, this is all your fault!” Gina shrieked.

“What?” John looked between her and Tony. “What did I do?” His eyes went wide and he gasped. “I swear, it’s just a scratch.”

Uh-oh.

Gina turned to face John as she huffed, doing her best to control her breathing. “What’s just a scratch?”

“Um….” He looked to Tony for help, but Tony had no idea what the hell his best friend was talking about. Knowing John, it could be anything. Realization hit John, and he stared at Gina. “Wait, are you… are you going into labor?” John rushed over and took hold of her hand. His eyes got all teary and a grin stretched across his face. “We’re having a baby.” His dimple appeared, and Gina was a goner. She burst into happy tears.

“We’re having a baby.”

“Okay. We need to um….” He ran to the hall, opened the closet then released a panicked cry. “It’s gone!”

“John,” Tony called out, trying to get his friend’s attention as John frantically ran around the house, opening and closing doors. He ran back into the living room.

“The bag is gone! Oh my God, I’m not prepared for this!”

Gina let out another painful cry, and John Joined her. Tony didn’t know whether to laugh or join in too. He lifted the bag in front of him.

“John. The bag’s right here.”

John snatched it away from him. “You couldn’t have said something sooner?”

“I tried,” Tony said, holding back a laugh.

“All right, let’s go.” John took Gina’s arm and breathed with her as they headed for the front door. Tony locked up, seeing as how John was occupied with other thoughts like not freaking out. John helped Gina into the back of Tony’s black and gold Firebird then climbed in after her, leaving the overnight bag on the floor. With a smile, Tony placed it in the front passenger seat. It was probably best he hold onto it.

Tony stayed calm, letting John do all the breathing and creaming as he got them to the hospital. It was adorable watching his best friend all but carry Gina inside. He hovered over her, talking to her, breathing with her, comforting her. He asked a million questions, hovered over the nurses, asked them about things he’d read in books. While John took care of his wife, Tony took care of John. If he didn’t, who else would? Tony kept John in fresh supply of coffee, and when the time came, Tony was asked to wait outside by the nurse. Only family was permitted to stay, and usually that just entailed the parents.

“No.” John shook his head at the nurse as he held on tight to Gina’s hand. “He’s family. He stays.”

Tony swallowed past the lump in his throat. “John, it’s okay.”

John looked determined. “I want you to stay.” His expression softened. “Please.”

How could Tony say no? He nodded, and tried his best not to give into the tears that threatened to break free, especially when Gina threw her free hand out to him. He quickly took hold of it, and cursed under his breath when Gina all but broke his fingers. John laughed, tears running down his face.

“Now the pain’s evenly distributed.”

Tony would have flipped him off if the room wasn’t full of hospital staff. For what seemed like hours, Gina screamed, breathed, pushed, cursed them, threatened them, burst into sporadic laughter then tears, while Tony and John did the same. Next thing Tony knew, there was a hearty cry, one that hadn’t come from Gina, her husband, or Tony.

“Kids got some lungs on him,” Tony said with a laugh.

“Gets it… from… John,” Gina huffed, breathless.

“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Daley, it’s a beautiful, healthy, baby boy.” The nurse handed a wrapped bundle to Gina, who burst into fresh tears. Tony had to pull out his own handkerchief. Man, they were bawling worse than the baby. The room quieted, and John kissed his wife. Tony’s heart swelled, and he had to turn away from the tender moment. There was so much love coming from those two as they held their little boy. Tony felt blessed to be a part of this. Gina and John weren’t just his best friends. They were his family. He loved them fiercely.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around Tony, and he felt John press his head against his back. “Thank you.”

Tony chuckled. He turned and hugged John back. “For what?”

“For being the brother I never had.”

Sweet baby Jesus, the man was going to be the death of him. “Being a daddy’s made you sappy.”

John laughed, his blue eyes sparkling. He pulled back, his grin huge. “I’m a dad!”

“Heaven help us all,” Tony teased. “That boy is going to be spoiled rotten.”

“By who? You?” John walked back over to Gina who was singing softly to her baby boy.

“I plead the fifth,” Tony said as Gina motioned for him to come over. She moved the soft blue blanket so Tony could get a look at the little wrinkled bundle. He had Gina’s big blue eyes and pouty pink lips with rosy cheeks. He was absolutely adorable. Tony loved him already. Gina smiled lovingly at her baby.

“Anthony Maddock, meet Dexter Justice Daley. Dex, meet your Uncle Tony.”

Dex stared up at him before putting a tiny fist to his mouth. He wasn’t still for a moment, wriggling and making baby noises, like he was ready to start talking already.

“Oh Lord, this one’s gonna be a handful.” Tony couldn’t stop smiling. He kissed Gina’s cheek. “Congratulations, sweetheart. He’s beautiful.”

John cooed at Dex before clearing his throat. “I may have put a little scratch on your Camaro.”

Tony put his hand up and took a step back. “I had nothing to do with it.”

“You’re lucky I’m too tired and too in love with my baby boy to strangle you.”

“I love you too.” John chuckled and kiss the top of Dex’s head. “And you, my little man. Here’s your first lesson. Never, ever put a scratch on mommy’s car. It’s precious. Not as precious as you though.” He made cooing noises, and Tony shook his head in amusement. “We need a picture.” John hurried over to Gina’s overnight bag.

“John, I look terrible.”

John rushed back, his shiny new 35mm Canon camera in hand. He kissed Gina, and ran a hand lovingly over her head. “Baby, you’re glowing. Come on. It’s Dex’s first day with his new family.”

There was that dimple again.

“Okay.” Gina held Dex, and Tony situated himself closer as John instructed the nurse how to take the picture. When he was done, he took position beside Gina. He gave Tony and wink and they both leaned in to give Gina’s cheeks a kiss, making her giggle. There was a “click”, and the nurse took a few more photos before Gina said she was tired. The nurse took little Dex, but not before they all showered some more love on him.

They left Gina to rest, and went to get some more coffee. John was quiet, which was unusual for him.

“Hey, you okay, man?”

John nodded then wiped another tear form his eye. “I’m a dad.”

“Yeah, you are,” Tony said with a smile when John’s brows furrowed. He was worried. “Hey, you’re gonna be an amazing dad.”

“It’s kind of terrifying, knowing how much he’s depending on me. He’s going to be looking to me to for everything. Whatever I say, whatever I do could impact the kind of man he’s going to become. What if… what if I mess up?”

Tony took hold of John’s shoulders. “John, Dex is going to be just fine. You know how I know that?”

“How?”

“Because he has you for a father.”

John smiled. He sniffed and wiped at his eyes. “Thanks.”

“Between you and Gina, that little boy couldn’t be more loved.”

“He’s got you too,” John reminded him.

“That he does.” Whatever Dex needed, Tony would always be there for him. “Poor Gina. Now she’s got two kids wreaking havoc.” If Dex was anything like his daddy, he was going to drive her up the wall.

“Hey!” John gave Tony a playful shove. “I resemble that remark.”

Tony laughed and the two of them walked out into a small garden outside the café. It was peaceful. They sat beside each other, sipping their coffees. Every time Tony looked over at John, he had a big dopey grin on his face. Yeah, John was going to be a great dad.

“I can’t wait,” John said softly.

“For what?”

“For all those first family moments. Just the four of us. Dex’s first Christmas, his first tooth, his first steps. First birthday. First day of school.”

“First crush. His first date.”

John pouted. “His first broken heart.”

Tony patted John’s back and smiled. “His first day at college. First love.”

“Yeah,” John let his head rest against Tony’s shoulder with a sigh. “It’s gonna be great.”


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/19/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I would love something romantic with Dex and Sloane again – the end of Catch a Tiger has given me such a craving for my favorite power couple!


“You need to think about what you just said.”

“There’s no thinking necessary, Sloane. Only doing.” Dex wasn’t budging on this. He was right. How could Sloane even think otherwise? It was madness?

Sloane shook his head. “Thinking is always necessary.” He quirked a smile. “For most of us.”

Dex was not giving into that sexy smile. No, sir. “I can’t. We are not living in a crazy house!” Dex threw himself onto the couch dramatically, his face buried in a throw pillow.

“I hate to break it to you, babe, but that ship sailed a long, long, very long time ago.”

Dex thrust his middle finger out at Sloane, or at least in his general direction. Dex could hear him moving around the living room. That and Sloane’s chuckle. Bastard.

“So this is what it’s like when you don’t get your way, huh? Interesting.”

Dex’s voice was muffled by the pillow as he spoke. “Oh, I am so getting my way.”

“Nope.”

He thrust a finger in the air. “I always get my way!” It shall be so!

Sloane grabbed him by the waist, and Dex yelped as he was lifted off the couch. He refused to let go of the throw pillow. Begrudgingly he allowed Sloane to pull him onto his lap.

“Babe, it makes no sense.”

“It makes perfect sense!” Dex shook his pillow since he couldn’t shake Sloane. “Genre first, then alphabetical within genre. How does that not make sense?” Dex’s whole body was practically vibrating with the need to fix and tidy. There were boxes all over the living room. Untidy open boxes that he’d tried to straighten and organize, but he couldn’t finish because they were still working on the other boxes. They’d been unpacking what was left of Sloane’s stuff from the move, and it was time for Sloane’s movie collection to make sweet love to Dex’s movie collection and they would multiply into a beautiful family of awesomeness. Except Sloane wanted to alphabetize the whole collection, and that was just chaos!

Sloane let out a sigh. He was clearly trying his best to be patient. “Babe, your genres are not normal people genres, and I won’t be able to find the movies I’m looking for.”

“It’s easy.” Dex got up and went over the to their new shelving unit against the right wall. Seriously. His boyfriend was a Team Leader for the THIRDS. How could he not grasp Dex’s simple movie filing system? “We start with musicals, then go into the classics, followed by gangsters, then—”

“Why does the Wizard of Oz go under musicals instead of classics?”

Dex blinked at him. “Because it’s a musical.”

“But it’s also a classic.” Sloane sat back, crossing his beefy arms over his chest and making the fabric of his black T-shirt stretch over his biceps. Why was his shirt so snug? Where were his shirts that fit? Why was Dex complaining? Right! Movies chaos. Dex narrowed his eyes. Sloane was trying to distract him. No dice, Brodie. This is happening whether you like it or not.

Dex smiled sweetly. “If it had no music, it would be under classics. After gangsters, we have modern movies set in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and early 50s, followed by time periods, and eighties movies. Then we have movies based on books, comic book movies separated by studio, action, crime, suspense, drama, horror, noir, science fiction, fantasy, comedy, romance, other historical, war, 3D animated, 2D animated, documentaries, and TV shows. Boxsets go under their genre.”

Sloane studied him. “Why doesn’t noir go with classic?”

“Because we have neo-noir titles which aren’t classics.”

“Right. So L.A. Confidential would be…?”

Clever bunny. Sloane was trying to trip him up. Dex almost scoffed. Like he wouldn’t know what genre to put his own movies under. “It’s set in the early 50s.”

“But it’s also neo-noir, thriller, drama, and crime.”

He knows too much. You know what you have to do.

Sloane’s eyes danced with amusement. “And the Blu-rays? Why do they have to be together again?”

Dex gasped and threw a hand to his chest. “Are you kidding me? Because they’re Blu-rays! It’s a different format, and the boxes are smaller than DVD boxes! And they’re blue!”

Sloane nodded. “Right. What about Avatar? Would it go under science fiction, fantasy, or 3D?”

Don’t fall for it. Ignore the dimple. Ignore the dimple. “Science fiction,” Dex replied, doing his best to remain calm. His system made perfect sense. It was a logical procession of movie magic.

“Really? Because the majority of that film is animated.”

Breathe. Just breathe. “But there are live people in it.”

Sloane stared at him. “Well of course there are. I don’t think audiences would approve of using dead ones.”

Dex pitched the throw pillow at Sloane’s head. It was batted away with a laugh.

“You’re not taking this seriously,” Dex huffed. He folded his arms over his chest, his bottom lip pouting. He was being petulant, he knew it, but… it’s how he’d always organized his movies. Why did he have to change it now?

Because you’re an adult. Sort of. And that’s what happens when your boyfriend moves in. You compromise. His stuff merges with your stuff to become our stuff.  

A gentle hand landed on his head, and Dex looked up, surprised to find Sloane smiling warmly at him. Dex had been so lost in his own pouting he hadn’t seen or heard Sloane get up.

“Aw, this is really bugging you, isn’t it?” Sloane pulled Dex into his embrace. He wrapped his arms around Dex’s waist, and kissed the tip of Dex’s nose.

“I know it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Sloane replied before placing a kiss on Dex’s right cheek. “It’s one of your quirks. Like the cleaning and tidiness. I get it.” He placed another kiss to Dex’s cheek, on the left this time.

Dex wrapped his arms around Sloane, melting into his warmth. He met Sloane’s amber gaze. “I’m sorry. This is our home now. I shouldn’t be such a controlling douchnozzle.” A lot was changing, and it was everything Dex wanted. He just had to learn to give up control a little in areas he wasn’t used to giving up control in. He hadn’t lived with anyone since Lou, and Lou hadn’t cared how things were organized.

“You’re not being controlling or a douchenozzle,” Sloane assured him. “You have your needs, and I respect that. I didn’t mean to tease you. Of course you can organize the shelves however you want. If it makes you happy….” He brushed his lips over Dex’s. “It makes me happy.”

Dex searched Sloane’s eyes, his heart swelling at the love in that molten gaze. How had he ever gotten so lucky? Did Sloane really not care, or was he just saying that to make Dex happy? “Really?”

Sloane nodded. “I promise. Just because I’ve moved in doesn’t mean you have to change everything. If it’s important to me, I’ll let you know, and we’ll compromise. The bedroom went smoothly, didn’t it?”

“True, but I was hardly about to organize your clothes. How you sort your sock drawer is none of my business, though I can’t promise some fun socks won’t make their way into that black hole of monochrome cotton you’ve got going on in there.” Dex had never seen so many pairs of black and gray socks. He needed to add some color in there, or better yet, some Star Wars socks. Sloane wouldn’t say no to those.

“Whatever you want.”

Dex felt his tension melt away. He lifted a hand to Sloane chest, and smiled up at him. “You really mean that, don’t you?” Sloane understood him like no one else, and what he didn’t already know, he was quickly learning. Despite Dex’s growing list of weirdness, Sloane happily went along with it because he loved Dex. It suddenly hit Dex, and he could barely contain his grin.

“Hey! You’re here!”

Sloane’s soft laughter made Dex weak at the knees. “Yep. I guess we’re kinda stuck with each other now.”

It was amazing how Dex didn’t have to explain. Sloane just knew what he meant. He didn’t know whether it was the bond, or how far their relationship had come, but Dex cherished it. He cupped Sloane’s face and brought him in for a kiss. Dex loved kissing Sloane. Loved when they spent what felt like hours on the couch, or even standing against the counter in the kitchen just kissing. He wanted to stay like just like this, wrapped in Sloane’s strength and love.

Dex smiled against Sloane’s lips as Sloane began to sway. He moved Dex with him as he started quietly singing Ray Orbison’s I Drove All Night. Dex loved that song. Mostly he loved that Sloane had picked a song from his Favorites playlist to sing to him.

“How about we go upstairs to the bedroom, and see if there’s anything left to unpack. From the bed,” Sloane teased, nibbling on Dex’s ear.

“Definitely better vantage point,” Dex agreed. “I love you.”

Sloane gave Dex’s lips a kiss that made his toes curls. “I love you too, sweetheart.”

As Sloane led Dex up to their bedroom, he was filled with excitement. This was the start of something new for them. Whatever came their way, they’d face it together.

 


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/12/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I have just finished Cal and Hobbs’s story, and I would love to read about Nina and Cael’s party from Hudson’s POV.

*** SPOILERS *** This flash fiction contains spoilers from Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6)


This was a terrible idea.

Why the bloody hell had he agreed to this? Hudson splashed some water on his face before plucking a paper towel to dry off with. He leaned his arms on the sink and shook his head. This was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t know the man would be here. Honestly.

“Look at you,” he scolded himself. “It’s a bleedin’ party. Nina and Cael’s party. Get over yourself and get out there.” What was the worst that could happen? So what if he ran into Seb? It wasn’t as if he didn’t work with the man, and it was hardly the first gathering where they were both in attendance. Hudson straightened and smoothed out his waistcoat, making him smile. Nina had picked out his costume for the Roaring Twenties themed party, and he rather liked it. He would have gone for a nice jumper or pullover, but that was most likely why Nina had insisted on picking his wardrobe for tonight. The rich blue of his three-piece suit made his eyes stand out, and his hair was neatly parted and combed to one side, completing the vintage look. Well, it was time to rejoin the party, and stop being such a stick in the mud. Why had he even come in here?

An image of Seb looking handsome as sin in his brown three-piece suit had Hudson letting out a groan. That was why. He’d finished hanging up his coat, and when he turned around and the crowd had parted like bloody red sea, giving Hudson a perfectly clear view of Seb standing by the bar, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a disarming smile on his rugged face, and looking as if he’d stepped out of an old Hollywood movie. Hudson had been stunned stupid. Seb was a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. Not that there was anything wrong with that, and he always looked good no matter what he wore, but there were few times Hudson had seen him in a suit. It did awful things to his insides.

Hudson chucked the paper towel into the bin with a growl. How was it the man continued to get more handsome with every passing year? Not to mention all that muscle. Damn tiger Therians. Why did they have to be so… muscly. And firm. And… for crying out loud. All right. Time to stop hiding in the gents.

Taking a deep, calming breath, Hudson left the men’s room and joined the rest of the party goers. He made the rounds, saying hello to all his colleagues. The party was in full swing, and the place was filled with people dressed to the nines as they say. There were so many people now it was difficult for Hudson to see who he might run into. He ordered himself a cocktail from the bar, and headed for one of the tables when someone threaded their arm through his. He smiled, having caught a whiff of the familiar scent.

“Damn, look at you. Who’s heart you out to steal, Mr. Public Enemy Number One?”

Hudson chuckled as Nina planted a kiss on his cheek. She pulled him toward the dance floor. “Dance with me.”

“Nina—”

“Nope. It’s my birthday, so you have to dance with me.”

“Oh all right.” In truth, he didn’t mind. He was a rather good dancer. Nothing extraordinary, but he’d gone through his clubbing phase just like any other youth, spending many a night in London’s West End. He’d drunkenly stumble from club to bar to club, dancing the night away. The thought brought a heavy sadness to his heart. He’d spent many of those nights with his siblings. How he missed them. Even if they had cast him out. Yet it was Alfie he missed most of all. Nina playfully bumped her hip into his, snapping him out of his melancholy thoughts.  He really needed to get himself together.

The rest of his team was on the dance floor. The DJ played a sweet ballad from yesteryear and Hudson couldn’t help his smile as he brought Nina in close for a slow dance. Next to them, Sloane held Dex close. They looked so sweet together. Dex laid his head against Sloane’s shoulder, one arm wrapped around Sloane’s waist, the other in Sloane’s hand over his heart. Sloane let his head rest against Dex’s, his arm wrapped tight around him. Hudson wished them nothing but happiness. Those two were perfect for each other. The perfect balance of light and dark. They’d been so close to losing Sloane after Gabe died. It was so good to see him happy again

“Thank you for coming,” Nina said, interrupting his thoughts. She gave him a knowing smile.

“I wouldn’t have missed it.” As tempted as he was to stay home and watch the latest episode of How to Get Away with Murder, he wouldn’t have missed his best friend’s birthday party. The song was beautiful, and the floor was flooded with couples. Even Ash was on the floor dancing with Cael. It still amazed Hudson to see this side of Ash Keeler. Of course he was still abrasive and at times Hudson had the urge to strangle the man, but he was certainly less angry now that he was with Cael.

The ballad soon faded and a swinging tune took its place. The crowd cheered, and Nina grabbed his hands before he could make his escape. Darn it, foiled again!

“I’m not finished with you yet, Dr. Colbourn.”

Hudson laughed. What the hell. He kicked up his heels and did his best to keep up with the music, twirling Nina around, and then lifting her off her feet. The drums had the place vibrating with energy, and he had to admit he was having a marvelous time. He joined his friends for a few more dances until he was out of breath. There was no keeping up with Nina indefinitely. Where her boundless energy came from was beyond him. Needing some air, and a nice cold drink, he finally managed to pull himself away. The vodka and lemonade went down like a dream, though he needed to cool off a bit. It seemed as if more guests had arrived, and the floor was packed. Maybe he should head upstairs to the roof garden for a few minutes before Nina came to drag him away again. Finishing his drink, he headed for the stairs. The roof garden was just what he needed. It was set up with outdoor heating, but when he walked out from under the awning, the cool breeze felt so good against his skin. The string of lights and colorful lanterns were charming, and there were plenty of agents from his unit chatting. Some of them were getting cozy.

A voice he knew all too well sent a shiver through him. It had been inevitable. Well, there was no sense in putting it off any longer. He’d say hello and head back downstairs. A conversation wouldn’t be so terrible. Granted, they didn’t really chat at work, at least not about anything that didn’t relate to a case, but there was a first time for everything. He really needed to stop avoiding the man. Seb stood with Ethan and Calvin while Taylor chatted up one of Nina’s cousins. It was good to see Ethan here. Undoubtedly he’d needed a break from the crowded noisy ground floor. Hudson would have to ask him how his mother was. He missed spending time with Julia. They still spoke on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as when he would stop by. They’d sit and watch soaps together. Sometimes Calvin’s mother Darla would join them. Those two were such a hoot. It was clear where their sons got their mischievous streaks from. Hudson pushed away the butterflies in his stomach. It would be fine. Maybe even pleasant. Hudson had always loved talking to Seb. He loved listening too. Seb’s gravelly voice had a way of turning him into a puddle of goo.

As Hudson approached, Taylor turned and threw his arm around Seb’s shoulders.

“Listen, bro. I heard about what happened. Sorry things didn’t work out with Cael. You two looked good together. Man, I can’t believe he chose Keeler. Him and Daley have a hard-on for fucked-up guys. You took him home a couple of times before that. Tell me you at least got to bang him.”

Hudson stopped cold, his heart splintering, which was extraordinary considering it had been in pieces for some time now, precariously held together by bits of frayed tape. He thought he’d be better prepared for this moment after years of telling himself—of telling Seb—that it was time to move on, but he hadn’t prepared himself for the possibility of Seb moving on with a friend and colleague.

Ethan tugged at Seb’s sleeve, and Seb turned around, his stricken expression confirming Taylor’s words. When Hudson spoke, his voice was barely a whisper. “You and Cael?”

It made sense. Cael was sweet, smart, and handsome. He had boundless energy, and was rarely without a cheerful smile.

“It’s not what you think,” Seb said quietly, taking a step toward Hudson. “It was a few drinks. We didn’t—”

Hudson held a hand up. He couldn’t listen to this. His heart couldn’t take it. “You don’t owe me an explanation, Sebastian. You don’t owe me anything.” All he could think about was Cael in Seb’s arms, being kissed by him, touched by him. Those large, gentle hands pulling him close. Oh God, he needed to get the hell out of here.

Lobito, please.”

“Don’t,” Hudson warned sharply before quickly reigning in his emotions. Whatever you do, don’t lose your composure. He couldn’t allow Seb to see how devastated he was. Hudson had no right to be upset. Not really. It would prove he harbored some false sense of hope that one day…. Schooling his expression, he straightened and smoothed out his vest. “Please don’t call me that. Excuse me.” He started to turn, when Seb caught his arm.

“It was drinks and talking. Nothing happened.”

Hudson tried to pull his arm out of Seb’s grip to no avail. He needed to go. “Sebastian, please….” Please don’t touch me. It’ll break me. It was over. This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? He should be grateful. Seb was moving on.

“He’s in love with Ash, and I’m—”

“Stop,” Hudson pleaded. His emotions threatened to get the better of him, and the back of his eyes stung. No. He wasn’t going to do this. Why did it have to be this way? What had he done that was so terrible? You know what you did. You deserve every possible heartache. Hudson shook his head. He didn’t. It was tearing him up inside. He didn’t deserve that.

“I love you.” Seb put his hand over his heart, his grip still on Hudson’s arm. Those beautiful bright green eyes so filled with adoration pleaded with Hudson. “I told myself that I could move on, that my heart would heal, but after all this time, the wound’s only gotten deeper. I need you in my life, Lobito.”

Why are you doing this to us? To me? Hudson swallowed hard. A tear rolled down his cheek, and Seb brushed it aside with his thumb.

“Our bond is as strong now as it ever was. I can’t stand to be away from you. Please, come back to me. I know you still love me.”

This had to stop. When would it stop? He wasn’t strong enough. Every day was a struggle. The mark on his back burned, reminding him of what had once been, of how foolish he’d been for thinking he’d found a home, believing one day he and Seb would get married and start their own family. A family? A child? After what you did? You’re life is just one bloody trajedy after another. Everything you touch falls apart. Hudson met Seb’s gaze. “You’re wrong.”

“And you’re lying,” Seb replied, moving his hand to Hudson’s neck, his thumb stroking Hudson’s skin, making him shudder.

Damn you, Sebastian. Hudson pulled away. “I’ve moved on.” Seb flinched, and it hit Hudson like a punch to the gut. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but this is how it has to be.

The roof garden was empty now except for the bartender who pretended not to notice what was going on. What must his coworkers think of him? Surely that he was pathetic. Torturing himself. There was not one agent in Unit Alpha who didn’t know about him and Seb. It was the pitied looks Hudson found most difficult to swallow.

Hudson straightened to his full height and lifted his chin. He pushed his glasses up his nose, his tone harsh when he spoke. “It’s time for you to move on, Sebastian. We can never get back what we had. It’s over.”

“Sweetheart….”

“We let a child die!” Hudson snapped, his fists shaking at his sides. “We were so wrapped up in our perfect little world, we failed to protect those who counted on us. We swore an oath, and we bloody botched that up in spectacular fashion, didn’t we?”

Seb shook his head. “That’s on me.”

“Listen to yourself! The guilt is still eating away at you.” Hudson turned away from Seb, his voice quiet. “Well, it eats away at me too. Can’t you see that? What we had died that day with that poor boy. There’s no bringing either back. Please, for both our sakes, let me go.” Why won’t you let me go?

“I can’t.”

“Then I’ll have to take the initiative.” Hudson met Seb’s gaze, his resolve firm. “Unless there is no other option, considering we both work in the same unit, I’d like you to stay away from me. Good-bye, Sebastian.”

Hudson walked off, pushing everything deep down. He had to get the hell out of here. He headed for the stairs, aware of Seb on his heels. If he had to be an arsehole, so be it. Seb had to stop this. If it meant Hudson had to push, then he’d push. He couldn’t stand to see Seb in so much pain. It twisted Hudson’s inside. The pain was excruciating, and he held onto his stomach. Damn his traitorous body. His inner wolf howled and snarled. It was desperate to be reunited with Seb. Hudson gritted his teeth. Piss off. It’s over. You know it as much as I do. His wolf was having none of it, and the more Hudson yelled at him to shut up, the more his inner wolf snapped his jaws and made Hudson bleed, punishing him for keeping them apart.

“I know what you’re doing, and you have to stop right now. You can’t hide your emotions away in a little box and lock them up without losing a piece of you, without locking everything else up too. I know you. You shut your heart away until you don’t feel anything at all. I won’t let you do that to yourself.”

“You really have no say in what I do or don’t do to myself,” Hudson replied sternly. He hurried down the stairs with everyone trailing behind him. Downstairs he pushed his way through the crowd toward the front of the bar when he saw it.

Nina and Rafe sat in a booth by the door kissing.

The remainder of Hudson’s broken and battered heart shattered. It wasn’t possible. He gave a start when Seb launched himself at Rafe.

“You son of a bitch!” Seb landed a punch across Rafe’s face. “For years you blamed what happened on my being in a relationship with Hudson, giving me shit for it, and you’re with Nina?”

“Get the fuck off me!” Rafe growled, pushing Seb away.

Hudson stood frozen, his wide eyes on Nina. “You and him?”

Nina quickly exited the booth and held her hands up. “Hon, please let me explain.”

“Explain?” Tears pooled in Hudson’s eyes, his emotions at war with each other. Anger and hurt battled for dominance. “How could you keep this from me? I confided in you. You knew everything. You knew that bloody arsehole tried to get me sacked, and you’re sleeping with him!” After the incident, his life had been a living hell, made worse every day by Rafe’s one-man crusade to ruin him. How many nights had Hudson spent crying on Nina’s shoulder? She’d stood at his side as Rafe tried to destroy him and what was left of his career.

Seb stared at Rafe in disbelief. “You tried to get Hudson fired?”

“He ruined your career,” Rafe spat out heatedly. “He put you and our family through hell. We got death threats!”

“What?” Hudson looked aghast. Death threats? Why hadn’t Seb told him?

“That’s right,” Rafe replied through his teeth. “Seb never told you, but we got threats. Someone jumped him and tried to stab him, and that was after someone tried to run him down. Bet he didn’t tell you that either. You ruined his fucking life!”

He had, hadn’t he? Ruined them both. Seb had been demoted, transferred from Destructive Delta, and stuck in Archives while Hudson had kept his position as Chief Medical Examiner.

“He didn’t do shit except put up with your disgraceful behavior time and time again. You’re such a fucking hypocrite,” Seb growled, shoving Rafe, and getting pushed back.

“Please, stop!” Hudson tried to get close to Seb, but getting between two tiger Therians determined to beat the hell out of each other was dangerous. The two were far bigger, stronger. Nina begged Rafe to stop, but neither Rafe nor Seb were listening. This was his fault. He’d brought Seb so much pain, and continued to do so.

A crowd gathered as Seb punched Rafe, and Rafe tackled him to the floor. They thrashed around, cursing and shouting at each other, blaming each other for pain caused. Rafe grabbed Seb and hauled him to his feet. A strangled sound caught Hudson’s ear and he turned to find Ethan standing there, frozen to the spot.

“Oh, no.” Hudson quickly joined Calvin at Ethan’s side. Ethan was on the verge of having a panic attack. Hudson called out to Seb, pleading. “Seb, it’s Ethan!”

Seb and Rafe pushed away from each other just as Hudson heard the shriek of tires. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and his inner wolf growled and whined at the impending danger. Seb hurried over, and Hudson threw himself at Seb as a familiar “pop” met his ear. Seb wrapped his arms around Hudson on instinct, and Hudson gasped, the pain shooting through his body setting his insides on fire. He willed himself not to panic at what it meant. Rafe shouted to the crowd.

“Get down!”

A spray of bullets shattered Dekatria’s glass windows and splintered the wooden beams, tearing through everything and anything. Screams and shouts echoed through the room as everyone scrambled and dropped to the floor. Hudson hoped Seb wouldn’t be too upset with him.

“Oh God, please, no. No. Lobito, what did you do?” Seb cradled Hudson in his arms, his lips pressed together as Hudson coughed. He tasted blood. His own. “Why?” Seb caressed his cheek, and Hudson leaned into the touch. How he’d longed for that touch. Seb’s arms were strong around him, his body warm. I miss you more than you could know. Would it be terribly pathetic if he thought it was all worth it just to be in Seb’s arms again?

Hudson smiled, tears in his eyes as he placed a bloodstained hand to Seb’s jaw. “We both know why.” His bottom lip trembled, and his face crumpled as the tears fell. Why did he have to love this man so damned much? It was a beautiful curse he couldn’t seem to escape. “I’m so sorry. For everything.”

Hudson was briefly aware of Nina shouting and the rest of Destructive Delta joining them. Rosa and Sloane rushed to Hudson’s side, and Sloane cursed as he inspected Hudson. He was tired, so tired. Judging by his friend’s expression, it wasn’t good. Had he been shot more than once? He couldn’t tell.

“I found an exit wound.” Sloane pushed his hand down against Hudson’s side, and Hudson almost lost consciousness. It hurt so bloody bad. Or was that his heart?

“Where else is he hit?”

Rosa put her hand on Seb’s shoulder. “Seb, you need to lay him on his stomach. One of the bullets is still in there, and he’s losing a lot of blood.”

Don’t let me go.

Seb ran his hand over Hudson’s head. “Please, don’t leave me. Not like this.”

“Seb!” Sloane ordered.

Seb gently laid Hudson on the floor on his stomach. Was he drowning in his own blood? Funny, he should know these things. He was a doctor after all. His head was fuzzy and he couldn’t think through the fog. Seb placed his rolled up jacket under Hudson’s head. It smelled like him, a mix of subtle cologne, shower gel, and his own delicious scent. Hudson would recognize it among a thousand tiger Therians. His Therian half whined, curling up on itself, seeking comfort where it could.

Seb took hold of Hudson’s hand while Rosa and Nina went to work trying to stop the bleeding. In the distance sirens wailed. Ethan joined Seb on the floor, kneeling beside him. He put his arm around his brother, and Hudson was glad Ethan was there. Seb had always been closest to his baby brother.

“You’re going to be okay,” Seb told Hudson, brushing Hudson’s hair away from his brow as Nina and Rosa worked furiously to stop the flow of blood. Hudson tried his best to control his breathing, but breathing in general was becoming difficult. His body was heavy, the darkness encroaching. He looked over at Seb and smiled. Forgive me.

“I know it’s… selfish, but… please stay with me?” Did he sound as scared as he felt? Seb held on to his hand, his expression determined.

“You know I will. It’ll be okay.”

Hudson wasn’t so sure. Whatever happened, Seb was safe. Hudson was glad it was him, and not Seb. What would Seb’s family do without him? What would happen to Ethan? No, it was better it was Hudson. He had no family. Not anymore. Seb had been his family, and Hudson had ruined that too, but at least now he understood how wrong he was. Loving Seb wasn’t a curse. It was a beautiful gift. One he was lucky to have been given. Their time together may have been brief, but at least Hudson had experienced the full extent of adoration. Images of him and Seb in bed flooded his thoughts and he smiled. He’d been loved. So very loved. As his lids grew heavy and the chaos around him faded, he hung onto the memory of Seb’s kiss, and his heartfelt declaration of love. Seb still loved him. Hadn’t stopped loving him. It meant everything to Hudson.

It was all worth it. You’re worth it. Worth everything. I love you, Seb.


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

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THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press!

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Hello all! I’m super excited to announce that THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 is now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press!

DSP: http://bit.ly/CCDSPTBTB1

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.

** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue.

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