THIRDS Thursday – 11/10/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I would love to see the first instance of the Waking Dead. Was it when they were younger and Cael and Maddock having to drag Dex awake to school? Or the first time Lou slept over and found his boyfriend non-functional? So curious!


Lou woke up five minutes before his alarm went off just like he did every morning, except this morning wasn’t like every morning. He couldn’t help his big smile as he stretched. He turned off his alarm then rolled over, chuckling at the adorable mess of a man that was Dexter J. Daley. It would seem the guy slept the same way he lived. Eccentrically. Last night, for the first time, Dex asked him to stay, and Lou happily accepted. This morning Lou woke up to Dex’s blond hair sticking up in all directions, blankets wrapped around Dex’s torso, arm, and leg as if he’d waged a lengthy battle with the thing. He was sound asleep, looking sweet and peaceful.

Lou leaned in and kissed Dex’s cheek. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”

There was no response.

“Dex? Honey, wake up.” Lou sat up and leaned over. Seemed his boyfriend was a deep sleeper. “Dex,” Lou purred softly. Nothing. Perhaps a little louder? “Dex, wake up.”

Okay, a very deep sleeper.

Letting Dex sleep in, Lou got up to take a shower and get dressed. Maybe by the time he got out of the shower Dex would be awake. If he was lucky, maybe Dex would wake up and join him.

A sexy morning shower was not in the cards. Lou showered, dried, and dressed. He shaved, brushed his teeth, and styled his hair. Surely Dex would be up by now, except it was still so quiet. When he got out of the bathroom, he was stunned to find Dex still asleep. He had a moment of panic.

Oh my God, what if something’s happened? It was a ridiculous thought, but no more ridiculous than any of the bizarre scenarios Dex found himself in at work at the HPF. The man seemed to be a magnet for crazy.

Lou ran over to Dex’s side of the bed and shook him. “Dex, wake up!”

A groan was followed by a grumble of unintelligible sounds.

“Dios mio.” Lou said a silent little prayer of thanks before crouching down next to Dex. “Dexter, you scared the life out of me.”

More sounds, and then something that sounded strangely like… “Did you say coffee?” A huff of breath was Dex’s response. “I’m going to take that as a yes. Okay. I’ll make coffee, you get that cute butt of yours out of bed and come downstairs.”

Grunting followed, but no movement. With a chuckle, Lou went downstairs. Usually he was already out of the house by this time. His shifts started a little after dawn, and ended well into the evening, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. If he wanted Clove Catering to really take off, he had to put in the hard work, just like he would have to do if he wanted his relationship with Dex to work. Between their schedules, it wasn’t going to be easy, but Lou was determined. Dex was a good guy. He was sweet, funny, and genuinely interested in Lou’s dreams of turning his little catering company into one of New York City’s best.

Lou got to work making breakfast. He started with the coffee, since Dex had somewhat communicated it’s what he wanted. As soon as the coffee started percolating, he heard a loud “thump” come from upstairs. It startled the hell out of him.

“Dex, are you okay?” Lou called up. He turned when he heard thumping on the stairs. “What the heck?” He stood behind the counter, frowning at the stairs when socked feet appeared. Arching an eyebrow, Lou watched Dex come down the stairs. His eyes were half open, maybe? Lou couldn’t tell until he was closer. Yep, they were open. Kind of.

As Dex approached, Lou pressed his lips together to keep himself from laughing. Dex’s T-shirt was on backwards and inside out, the tag hanging from the collar. There was a good chance his loose pajama bottoms were on backwards too. The Star Wars robe was hanging off one shoulder, and his hair was plastered down on one side of his face, the other side sticking up.

“Good morning,” Lou said cheerfully.

Dex plopped down into a chair at the counter, his hooded eyes, and dopey smile making him look like he was drunk. Lou laughed softly.

“Coffee?”

Dex lifted an arm up above his head and waved it. “Frogs eat their own skin.”

Lou blinked at him. “What?”

“Frogs,” Dex said then yawned. “Eat their own skin.”

“That’s… disgusting. Are you okay?”

Dex scratched his head. “An army.”

Lou was completely lost. “An army of what?”

“Frogs. Called an army.”

“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” Lou muttered. He was more than a little worried. Was Dex okay? Should Lou call him a doctor? What if he’d fallen off the bed and hit his head? “Did you watch a documentary on frogs or something?”

Dex yawned again. He looked down at his fingers and frowned. “Yes.”

“Oh, okay. Coffee?”

“Yes.” Dex sat there staring down at the counter.

Lou turned then realized something. “Dex, say something.”

“Yes.”

“Anything that’s not “yes”.”

“Yes.” Dex yawned and sniffed the air, a pout coming onto his face. “Coffee.”

“So you can talk about frogs, say “yes” and “coffee”. Wonderful.” Lou shook his head in amusement. He made Dex a cappuccino just like he liked it, and placed it in front of his boyfriend. “It’s like you’re awake, but not. Like a zombie.” Lou snapped his fingers. “Like the Waking Dead!”

Dex pulled the mug close, grumbling and muttering a host of sounds before taking a sip, making Lou laugh.

“Hm, I wonder….” Lou leaned on the counter. “Can I pick the restaurant this weekend. Even if it’s fancy froo-froo?” Dex hated fancy froo-froo. He wouldn’t subject the poor man to it, but Lou had to know.

“Yes.”

Lou stared at him. “Um, okay. Can I drive your car?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my God!” Lou gasped. He clamped a hand over his mouth, his voice coming out a hoarse whisper when he spoke. “You said I can drive your car.”

Dex took another sip of his coffee. “Yes.”

Dex was not going to let Lou drive his precious car, and Lou had no intention of driving the orange muscle monstrosity, but his little experiment was yielding amazing results. Lou checked his watch. Ten minutes had passed since the first sip.

“If I take you to a petting zoo, would you pet a goat?”

“Yes.”

Lou was stunned speechless. What the heck had he just uncovered? Lou came around the counter and sat next to Dex. “Did I just find the chink in Dexter J. Daley’s armor?”

“Yes.”

Lou was so giddy he was bursting at the seams. He came up with a host of questions and requests, each one more outlandish than the last and Dex said yes to all of them.

“I’d like you eat a salad for lunch today.”

Dex blinked up at him. “What did you say?”

“I said I’d like you to eat a salad for lunch today.”

Dex looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “Why would I do that? Is it a burger salad?” His eyes went wide. “Oh my God, tell me you invented a new burger salad, that’s like mostly burger. No pickles. Is that what we’re talking about? Because that would amazeballs!”

Lou looked at his watch. Exactly twenty-three minutes. “Interesting.”

“What is?” Dex peered at him. “What’s with the mad scientist look you’ve got going on.”

Lou smiled sweetly. “Nothing.” He kissed Dex’s lips then hopped off his chair. “You’re amazing.”

“Um, thanks.” Dex finished his coffee, got up, and took his mug to the sink to wash. Lou came up behind him and wrapped his arms around Dex.

“So, Detective Daley, you have a little trouble waking up in the mornings?”

Dex turned in Lou’s arms, and wrapped his arms around him. He cringed. “You noticed that, huh?”

“Just a little,” Lou said, chuckling when Dex’s face went red. “Aw, you’re so cute.”

Dex let out a sigh, and shrugged. “I try.”

“You sure I can’t get you to change your mind on that salad? Eating healthy is good for you, you know.”

“Nice try, but there’s no way anyone is ever going to get me to eat any of that rabbit food. Not gonna happen.”

“Not even for me?”

Dex kissed his cheek, before heading for the stairs. “Sorry, babe. Not going to happen. Nothing personal. Many have tried, and failed. That day is never coming.”

“And if that day does come?” Lou teased.

Dex stopped on the stairs and turned to wink at Lou. “Then that’s the day Dexter J. Daley has met his match.”


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

THIRDS Thursday – 10/27/16 Halloween Special

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: The whole team goes to a haunted house and mayhem ensues!


Cael was having so much! He loved fairs! All the fun rides, tasty sugary treats, and bright lights. It was awesome! It was also overstimulating his cheetah Therian senses, and he was having trouble not running around like a little kid drunk on too much soda. He was sure he’d already eaten his weight in funnel cake fries. They were so freaking good. Sloane had given up trying to curb Dex’s sugar intake after Dex’s third fried ice cream.

The whole team had come out for opening night like they did every year. The THIRDS was hosting its annual Halloween Charity Fun Fair, and this year Destructive Delta got to play since they’d volunteered to work the fair last year. Those who weren’t scheduled to work were invited to come along and show their support.

There were all kinds of rides for both kids and adults, plenty of food, and entertainment. Everyone dressed up, though this year Ash vetoed using the hat method used last year where they’d thrown their names in. Ash had gotten Dex’s name and was forced to wear a costume picked by Dex. Dex and Sloane conspired against them, since Sloane had drawn Cael’s name. Cael ended up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and Ash as the Cowardly Lion. Ash was not impressed, especially when Dex laughed so hard Sloane thought he might need to call over the EMTs.

This year, Ash wasn’t going to dress up—he never did, given the choice—but Cael pleaded with him. Cael wanted to be Captain America, but only if Ash would be his Bucky Barnes, or rather the Winter Soldier. Cael’s first choice had been Spider-Man, but he had a feeling no amount of pouting would convince Ash to be his Mary Jane. It had taken a lot of coaxing, and promises of a little roleplay fun afterward to get him into the black wig. He begrudgingly admitted the imitation Vibranium alloy arm was cool, before calling Cael an adorable nerd. This year it was Ash’s turn to laugh his ass off. At Sloane.

“I can’t believe you let Dex dress you up like Kermit the frog,” Ash said wiping away a tear form his eye. He’d been laughing for what seemed like hours.

“He’s not Kermit the frog, you uncouth swine. He’s Gamora. But a dude,” Dex said with a sniff. He was strutting in his Peter Quill costume, complete with his Awesome Mix Tape Volume 1 inside the cassette tape player attached to his belt.

Sloane flipped Ash off. “Don’t care what you say. My ass looks amazing in these pants.”

“That it does, babe,” Dex husked, leering at his boyfriend’s butt. Cael rolled his eyes. He did not need to see his brother perving on Sloane.

Calvin and Hobbs looked awesome in their steampunk outfits. Letty was rocking as Rosie the Riveter, and Rosa was super adorable as Mary Poppins. No one dared say it. Ash had opened his mouth and she threatened to stab him with the end of her pointy umbrella. Who’d have thought Mary Poppins was a favorite of Rosa’s?

“So what are we doing next?” Dex said excitedly.

“Anything that keeps you from eating another batch of cotton candy,” Sloane grumbled, grabbing Dex’s hand when Dex stopped to look around, most likely for a cotton candy booth. “No. Let’s pretend you’re actually going to get some sleep tonight.”

Dex let out a snort. “Sleep? Please. With you wearing pants like that, I’m gonna—”

“How about that? You guys haven’t gone in there yet,” Calvin said, pointing up ahead. Thank God Cael wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to hear about Dex’s sexy times.

“Ooh, that looks like fun!” Letty grabbed Rosa’s arm and they ran ahead.

Uh oh, if Letty said it was fun, it was going to terrify Cael. He stopped in front of the massive old school looking mansion painted to look like it was abandoned and decaying.

“Haunted house!” Dex plastered himself against Sloane. “Will you keep the big scary Bogeyman away?”

Sloane blinked at him. “But Ash is right here.”

Everyone broke off into laughter, and Ash told them all where they could stick it. When the laughter ebbed, Hobbs kissed Calvin’s cheek, murmured something in his ear, and walked off. Hobbs did not do enclosed places, much less dark enclosed places filled with people waiting to jump out at him. He left Calvin too it, insisting his boyfriend have fun, and Hobbs took himself off to play games, usually coming back with a prize he’d won for Calvin. Cael had managed to find excuses in previous years, but this year he had none.

Everyone else headed for the haunted house, and Cael laughed. “Oh my God, you guys are too funny.”

“What?” Dex asked.

“The fact that you think I’m going in there.” Cael sobered up. “No, seriously. You’re out of your minds.”

“Dude, it’s a THIRDS haunted house put together by agents from our unit,” Calvin said. “How scary can it be?”

Ash seemed to think about it, his eyes narrowing. “That depends. If I go in there and find they’ve cloned dweebus over here.” He jutted his thumb at Dex. “Then I’d say pretty fucking scary.”

“You’re a riot, Keeler,” Dex drawled. “Said no one ever.”

Same could be said about you and maturity,” Ash countered before turning to Cael, calling out over his shoulder. “You guys get in line, I’ll be right there.” He took Cael’s arm, and gently pulled him to one side. “Sweetheart, you know you don’t have to go in there. Hobbs never does. Besides, you hate horror stuff. No one will care of you decide to skip it.”

“I know.” Cael frowned. Ash was right on all accounts. His friends wouldn’t care if he decided not to go, but he kind of hated the idea of letting his fears get the better of him. It was stupid. It was just a fake haunted house with fellow agents dressed up, and good special effects. “It’s okay.” Cael smiled brightly at Ash to ease his worry. “You’ll be there with me, right?”

“Every step of the way, sweetheart.” He winked at Cael and held out his hand. As they waited in line, Cael tried not to let his nerves get the better of him. “I don’t get it? Why do people pay money to have someone scare the shit out of them? Isn’t the world a scary enough place?”

“Yeah, but the danger in here isn’t real. You get that adrenaline rush without the real danger,” Rosa said. “Unless you have heart issues, but that’s why they have the warnings and advise people get checked out before coming in.”

“It’s not like the zombies are real,” Calvin teased.

Dex groaned. “Don’t get him started on the zombies.”

Cael moved up with the rest of the line, his eyes widening. “But zombies can totally be real. I mean, it’s just a matter of the right mutation, and bam! Zombie apocalypse. I mean, Therians are here because of a virus and mutation, so zombies can totally happen.”

Calvin shook his head. “No such thing as the undead.”

“Yeah,” Sloane agreed. “And Dex before coffee doesn’t count.”

“Fine,” Cael grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. “But when the zombies take over, don’t expect me to give you any of my toilet paper and bottled water.”

Dex laughed softly and threw an arm around Cael’s shoulder. “You’d totally give us some of your toilet paper and bottled water.”

“Okay, I would. But I wouldn’t like it,” Cael countered. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with arguing about zombies, he hadn’t realized it was their turn to go in. Ash gave his hand a squeeze, and Cael smiled up at him. Okay, he could do this.

Inside it wasn’t as scary as Cael thought it would be. At least not yet. It was dark and cold. The dark wasn’t a problem seeing as how he was a Therian, but he knew it wasn’t so much the dark that was meant to scare as what could be hiding. Every time someone popped out at him, Cael gave a start and clung to Ash. Ash held Cael tight against him, asking him every so often if he was all right. Despite the frights, Cael was okay because as he walked he felt Ash beside him, big, strong, and safe. No matter what happened, Ash would take care of him. Also, he could hear Dex cracking jokes somewhere behind him. A good number of them were usually comparing the ghouls in some way to Ash or Ash’s attitude, and of course Ash would retaliate.

They reached the end of a long corridor where several bloodied haystacks were arranged into something throne-like with barbed wire, rusted metal rods, and so much fake blood Cael was glad he wasn’t the one having to clean all this up afterward. One of his fellow Recon agents sat in a creepy chair made of antlers or something, dressed like she’d been caught in the barbwire. It was super creepy, gross, and very well done. She had a leash, and at the end of it the freakiest looking goat he’d ever seen. It was like those crazy eyed demon goats that people posted pictures of on the internet.

“Shit. That is the ugliest looking fucker I’ve ever seen.” Ash grinned up at agent Brooks. “Reminds me of your brother.”

“Bite me, Keeler,” Brooks said, glaring at Ash as she flipped him off.

Wait. Brother. Cael gasped. “Oh my God!” He grabbed Ash’s arm. “We have to turn back.”

“You want to leave?”

“No, we have to go back and warn Dex before he sees—”

Holy shit fuck! Satan has risen!”

Before Cael could assure his brother that the prince of darkness had not, in fact, risen, the hideous goat creature thing let out a low guttural sound that—given their current surroundings—could easily be mistaken for the devil’s tongue. Dex screamed, and suddenly the haunted house turned into a pinball machine with Dex as the ball.

“Dex, wait!” Cael took off after his brother through the crowd, excusing himself as he followed the trail of chaos Dex left behind. Dex bounced off Human and Therian alike screaming something about the dark lord coming to claim their souls. Some people looked genuinely alarmed, though it was likely they thought Dex was some kind of crazy person, which as his brother took a wrong turn and plowed through one of the haunted house’s fake walls, Cael was beginning to think maybe they were right.

“Dex, stop!” Cael’s pleas went unheeded as Dex decided walls were for suckers, especially since his panicked brain had grabbed onto the fact they were fake.

“Cael?” Sloane called out before he caught up to Cael. He was out of breath. “Where is he? I lost him when he flailed past agent Swartz and knocked him into that vat of fake blood.

“Follow me. He just broke through the cemetery wall. I hope agent Danvers is okay. Dex tripped and fell into him, and the dude went flying.”

“I’m okay!” Danvers called out from somewhere to their right.

Sloane followed Cael through the many rooms, most of them containing a Dex-sized hole in each wall. “We need to find him before he tears this place apart looking for the damn exit.”

“If you haven’t noticed,” Cael said with a snort. “Dex isn’t looking for any exits. He’s making his own.”

“You’re right. Shit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move this fast.”

There was another scream from Dex, then an “oomph” followed by a string of curses. They rushed into the next room, and Cael groaned. He pulled agent Herrera to his feet. The guy was bleeding from his nose.

“Dude, please tell me you didn’t just jump out at Dex wearing that.” He snatched the goat mask from Herrera, holding it up. It was horrible. Covered in fake blood with red eyes and sharp fangs, the numbers 666 painted on its wrinkly forehead.

“I knew he hated goats, man, but I didn’t think he was going to fucking punch me,” Herrera whined. “Ouch, my nose.”

“Just, get that seen to,” Cael said, taking off, but not before ordering Herrera to put that stupid mask away in case Dex doubled back. They went room to room, and Cael marveled at Dex’s tenacity. His brother was not one to give up easy. Satan was in the house, which meant he was getting out of it no matter what.

Finally, Dex had gone through the last wall, and Cael jumped through the hole landing in the grass outside. Sloane joined him. Where the hell was Dex?

“Don’t… let it… eat… your soul.”

Cael followed the panting around the corner and found his brother sprawled in the grass on his back. With a chuckle, Sloane dropped down on his butt next to Dex. He took hold of Dex’s hand and brought it to his lips for a kiss.

“Aw, are you all right, babe?”

Dex pouted. “I’m sorry I left you to get your soul harvested. I panicked.”

“I think the copious amount of sugar you’ve consumed tonight might have fueled your panic. Just a tad.”

“Maybe.”

“No. Definitely.” Sloane chuckled. He bent down to kiss Dex’s lips when Cael heard Ash laughing behind him.

“This is the funniest shit I have ever seen! Oh my God, I can’t breathe.” Ash dropped down onto the grass, his phone in front of him. Cael sat next to him, and cringed at the video of Dex punching Herrera in the face.

Dex sat up with a scowl. “You dick. You recorded it?”

Ash shook his head, his grin wicked. “Nope. There’s security cameras in the haunted house. Intel was nice enough to upload your descent into dorkness onto the employee intranet. It’s been viewed a thousand times already and it just went up like five minutes ago.” Ash kissed Cael’s cheek. “Best Halloween ever.”

Dex groaned and hung his head. “I’m never going to hear the end of it.”

Cael patted his brother’s back. Knowing Dex, he’d find a way to turn it around and come out looking like he’d planned it or something. The rest of the team joined them on the grass, Hobbs with a candy apple the size of Cael’s head. His grin was wide as he patted Dex’s knee in sympathy.

Dex pouted at Hobbs. “You too? Seriously?”

Hobbs shrugged. He nodded, and held the shiny candy coated apple to Dex. Dex’s eyes sparkled, and he put a hand to his chest.

“For me?”

Hobbs nodded, and Dex took the candy apple. He wiped an imaginary tear from his eye.

“I love you, man. You’re a real friend.” He narrowed his eyes at the rest of them. “Not like these jerkfaces.” Everyone was laughing, and Dex flipped them all off before taking a big bite out of his apple.

Calvin shook his head in amusement. “I love how after the sugar induced havoc you just wreaked, you’re eating more sugar.”

“It calms me down,” Dex said through a mouthful of candy apple.”

Rosa peered at him. “That makes no sense.”

Dex swallowed before waving his apple. “It doesn’t have to. I have a candy apple and you don’t.”

Rosa let out a snort, and Letty giggled beside her. Ash put his arm around Cael’s shoulder, and Cael leaned into him, watching his brother bantering with their friends. Cael turned his head up, smiling at Ash, a tingle going through him when Ash kissed his lips before another round of teasing Dex. Maybe haunted houses weren’t so scary after all. As long as he had Ash, his brother, and his Destructive Delta family. Oh, and no freaky devil goats.


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

THIRDS Thursday – 10/13/16

THIRDS Thursdays

*** Warning: Contains spoilers from Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7) ***

Prompt: Would it be possible to get a THIRDS Thursday of Dex’s second seizure from Austen’s POV?


“Turn off the lamp.”

Shit.

Austen heard Dex’s sleepy mumble in his earpiece, and sprang to action. He didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to be there when it happened, but he would. For Sloane. And okay, yeah, Dex too. The guy had grown on him. But really, for Sloane because the guy was going to be so fucking scared, and Austen couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Sloane to face what was coming alone.

It took him seconds to break into the house. The street was silent, all the good citizens asleep in their beds dreaming of their 401k or whether they were getting enough fiber. He locked the door behind him before making his way through the dark house, up the stairs to the closed bedroom door.

“Dex, what’s wrong?”

Austen slipped inside the room, closing the door as Dex spoke.

“Why’s it so bright in here?”

Austen crouched, and made his way over to the nightstand, first Dex’s, and then Sloane’s, confiscating their phones. Hospitals were out of the question. Not unless they wanted Dex to end up dead like the others. Damn it, Sloane. Why did you have to go and mark him? Austen pocketed the phones as he ducked behind the armchair before Sloane turned on the bedside lamp.

“Tell me what you’re feeling. Talk to me.”

Austen counted the seconds. It was about to happen, just as Sparks said. Son of a bitch. He’d hoped she was wrong. That she was full of shit and just getting him to spy on Dex, but… fuck. This was going to be hard. First Dex’s temperature would skyrocket, then his pupils would dilate, followed by chest pains.

“Fuck,” Dex wheezed.

“Dex, talk to me. You’re scaring the shit out of me.”

“I feel weird.”

Austen closed his eyes, breathing in deeply through his nose, and letting his breath out slowly, silently through his mouth. If it had been anyone else, no problem. Austen could blink and detach himself from a situation, close the door to any emotion that might threaten him, and endanger his mission. Had it been anyone else, he would have sauntered through the door, taken a seat, and just waited for the shit to hit the fan. No, that wasn’t true. If it had been anyone else, he wouldn’t be here.

The thrashing started, and Austen winced. Dex’s inhuman cry crawled under his skin, and Sloane shouting Dex’s name brought a hitch to his breath. He hated hearing Sloane sound so afraid. Austen turned his head up, silently cursing the heavens. Hadn’t the guy been through enough? How much more would he have to suffer?

Cut him a fucking break, huh?

Dex would fight the pain like he did the first time. At least Sloane was here with him. Austen had fucked up so bad. Sloane he had no choice in. He was stuck on the guy since they’d met. A tiny part of him still loved Sloane, but that love was changing, becoming more… affectionate. He wasn’t that pining teenager anymore. Regardless, Sloane was and would always be a part of his life. What Austen hadn’t meant to do was let Dex in. Fuck that Cheesy Doodle crunching asshole. Why did he have to be such a good guy? Why did he have to be so perfect for Sloane? Austen wanted to dislike him on principle, but he couldn’t. Over the years, Dex had wormed his way into Austen’s heart like a stray dog that follows you home, looking up at you with big hopeful eyes, wagging its tail and wanting nothing more than to love you.

Dex pissed him off. Despite all the shit Austen did, breaking into their house, eating his snacks, purposefully spying on him and making sure he knew it, the guy still liked Austen. Why? Why hadn’t Dex told Sloane to leave Austen behind? Dex knew how Austen felt. What kind of boyfriend was he?

Frantic movement told him Sloane was about to lose his shit.

“It was right there.”

Yes, it was, buddy. Now it was in his pocket.

“He’ll be fine.” Austen stood, smiling sadly as he watched Dex. He couldn’t look at Sloane. Not yet.

“Austen? You need to help me. We need to call emergency services.”

Austen shook his head. “You need to let this play out.” I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me. This was one of those moments where he questioned what he was doing with TIN. With his life. Someone he cared deeply about was in pain, begging him for help, and he couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t about the now, it was about what needed to happen, about the end game, and it boiled Austen’s blood.

Sloane wasn’t ready to hear the truth of what was happening to the man he loved, that it was his blood that was causing this. All Austen could do was protect Sloane, and prolong his heartbreak, because when the truth came out, Sloane’s heart would break. Austen prayed that Sloane and Dex’s relationship would be able to withstand the fallout. More importantly, he prayed Dex would survive what was happening to him.

“Are you out of your mind?” Sloane thrust a hand in Dex’s direction. “Look at him!” Sloane ran over to Dex’s side of the bed. Dex’s phone was gone. His head shot up, and he stared at Austen.

“You took them.”

“It’s a seizure,” Austen said gently. “Sort of. He’s had one before. You need to let it play out.”

“What?” Sloane shook his head. “That’s not possible. I would have known if this had happened before.” He quickly returned to Dex’s side, Austen joining him. “Dex would have told me.”

“He didn’t tell you because he couldn’t remember.” He braced himself.

“Explain,” Sloane growled.

“The other day, when you called him from work and he told you he must have fallen asleep. He’d had a similar episode. TIN was immediately on the scene, and Sparks was called in. They took care of him.”

“Why wasn’t I told?”

Sloane gave a start at Dex’s anguished cry, and he climbed onto the bed, kneeling beside Dex and running a hand over his head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. You can get through this. I’m right here with you.”

Tears streamed down the side of Dex’s face, and Austen clenched his jaw, forcing his emotions deep down inside him. Austen made the mistake of looking at Sloane, and it took everything he had not to run. Sloane wasn’t supposed to hurt like this. He’d always been larger than life, a strong, fierce jaguar Therian with a tender heart. A guy who could have thrown Austen away like everyone else in Austen’s life had, but he didn’t. He’d done so much for Austen, and now all Austen could offer was comfort. Fuck. It was hard, seeing Sloane look so helpless.

“There has to be something I can do,” Sloane pleaded.

“All you can do is comfort him. It’ll pass.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Sloane growled, his eyes meeting Austen’s. “I can’t just—”

“It will pass, Sloane. You’ll put him in more danger if you send him to the hospital.”

“Austen….”

Austen carefully put his palm to Dex’s brow, smiling warmly down at him. “You can do this, Dex.” He had faith in him. Dex was strong, stronger than any Human had the right to be. Austen had watched stunned at the way Dex had swept into the lives of his teammates. A whirlwind of jokes, unhealthy snacks, and cheesy 80s music. If Austen hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it. In fact, he hadn’t. When Sparks told him to keep an eye on Dex, that he was important, Austen had scoffed. He remembered his own words.

This joker? Are you fucking kidding me?

Dex had proved him wrong. He’d shown Austen what it was to be a real friend. To take a broken, wounded man and not just mend him, but inspire him to be an even greater man. Austen knew what Dex meant to Sloane. He looked up at the man who had rescued him from a life he didn’t want to even think about.

“I would never lie to you, Sloane.”

“What do I do?”

Austen hated that he could see the uncertainty in Sloane’s eyes. As much as Sloane trusted Austen, Austen worked for TIN. It hurt, but Austen didn’t blame him. “Sloane. Trust me.”

Sloane looked up, and Austen hoped the sincerity in his voice, their history together, would be enough for Sloane to take a chance on him.

“Let him know you’re here,” Austen said.

Sloane did his best to soothe Dex. He ran his hand over Dex’s head, his words soft as he spoke. “It’s okay. You’ll be okay, sweetheart. I’m here. I’m right here with you.”

Dex’s chest rose and fell with short, rapid breaths, his pupils blown, and his terrified gaze on Sloane. It looked horrific. Like he was at death’s door. Tears pooled in Sloane’s eyes, and Austen curled his hands into fists until his nails dug into his palms. Sloane brought Dex’s fingers to his lips for a kiss.

What would it feel like, to be loved like that? To be looked at as if you were the only man who existed, the only one who mattered?

“If you’re wrong,” Sloane choked out, his eyes on Dex as he addressed Austen, “I’ll never forgive you.”

Austen swallowed hard. “I know.” There was so much he wanted to say, but now was not the time. All he could do was stand here, an intruder. Austen looked around the bedroom, at Dex and Sloane’s clothes neatly folded on the armchair, Sloane’s boots by the closet, his uniform shirt hanging from the hook, freshly cleaned and ironed. It was all so domestic. So… normal.

“Dex, I’m here. You’ll be okay. You can do this.”

Dex gasped, clawing at the sheets as his back arched again. Another cry tore from his lips, and Sloane grabbed hold of him. He held on to Dex, shutting his eyes tight as Dex screamed again. Then he went limp in Sloane’s arms.

God, he hated this part.

“Dex?” Sloane gently laid Dex back down on the bed. His eyes were closed, and his chest had stopped moving, or so it appeared. “Dex? Baby, please!” Sloane felt for a pulse. Austen knew he wouldn’t find one. “Dex!” Sloane jumped off the bed and ran to the closet where his medical bag was.

Dex gasped, and Sloane turned, rushing back to his side. He cupped Dex’s face. He looked so relieved, so damn happy.

“Oh, thank God.”

Sloane climbed onto the bed and drew Dex into his arms, running a hand down his back as Dex cried against his shoulder. Sloane joined him, tears escaping his amber eyes. Austen had never seen Sloane look more terrified. Sloane closed his eyes tight, and Austen took hold of the covers to pull them snugly around them. Then he returned the cellphones in his pocket to nightstands, and he walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Austen quickly left the house, his chest feeling tight. He told himself over and over that it would be okay. Dex would be okay. Sloane’s blood was changing him, and as fucking terrifying as the seizures were, it meant his body was fighting, fighting to stay alive. If anyone could survive this, it would be Dex. They just had to keep an eye on him, and make sure he didn’t go to any hospitals or he’d end up in the morgue.

The cool breeze felt good against his face as he walked briskly down the sidewalk. His earpiece beeped, and he tapped it, answering with a growl.

“What?”

“How’s Dex?”

Austen blinked back his tears. “Alive. How much longer is this going to go on? It’s fucking killing them, and for all we know it actually is killing Dex.”

“Dex is stronger than he looks.”

“And if he’s not?” Austen hissed. “You assured me…. Sloane can’t lose him. You saw what happened when he lost Gabe. If he loses Dex…. Fuck. It’ll destroy him. He’ll never come back from that.” Austen was shivering, which was really something, considering it was the middle of fucking summer.

“They’ll get through this.”

“Because you say so?” Austen let out a sound of disgust. “If you’re wrong—”

“How long are you going to feel indebted to Sloane Brodie? Or is it because you still love him?”

“Fuck you,” Austen spat out. He didn’t give a shit who Sparks was. “He’s the closest thing to family I have. The only one who gives a shit about me. You knew that from the day we met.”

“Austen, don’t make me question your loyalty.”

Ice filled Austen’s veins, and when he spoke it came through in his tone. “There’s no need to question my loyalty, because you know where it fucking lies. And in case you need a reminder, it’s with him.” Austen hung up and shoved his phone into his pocket.

Sparks might have taken him in and turned him into more than some street punk, but Sloane was the one who’d saved him, and that was something Austen would never forget.


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Beyond the Books: Volume 2 Release Day!

Hello all! THIRDS Beyond the Books: Volume 2 is here! I’m so excited to be sharing with you the next fun collection of THIRDS flash fiction stories! This volume includes stories that follow the THIRDS series timeline up to Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6). It also includes an unpublished flash fiction story.

ABOUT THE BOOK

THIRDSbeyond-Vol2_300

Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance, Shifters
Length: Novella
Published: Oct 12th, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Ebook ISBN-13: 9781634773089

Return to the THIRDS universe with another collection of flash fiction stories inspired by prompts submitted by fans. Reunite with favorite THIRDS characters to explore even more of their hidden adventures and personal moments, and take the opportunity to learn more about them through this series of stories recounting the humor, heartbreak, friendship, hardship, and love these characters experience behind the scenes. Complete your THIRDS experience with these tales of stolen moments.

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

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BUY LINKS

Dreamspinner Press eBook | Amazon Kindle | 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)

Check out the THIRDS on Pinterest.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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