THIRDS Thursday – 8/17/17

Prompt: I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature, with the runners up getting the following THIRDS Thursday. We had Austen and Zach for the last three weeks. This week it’s Taylor and Angel! Happy reading!


Part One

“Angel?”

It was finally happening.

Herrera.

Angel’s head snapped up, and he realized he hadn’t heard a word of what Seb had said. He gave Seb a sheepish grin. “Sorry, Boss.”

“No problem,” Seb said, his expression turning concerned. “You okay? You’ve been kind of spaced out today.”

Angel nodded, his thumbnail between his teeth.

“Then why is your leg bouncing?”

Angel looked down at his leg as if just noticing it. Crap. He put a hand to his knee, stilling himself. “I’m fine. It’s just….”

Seb leaned in, his tone quiet. “He’s going to be fine.”

“What? No. Who?” Angel straightened. How did Seb…? There was no way Seb knew. Angel hadn’t been that obvious. Had he? Shit, what if he had? It wasn’t like he talked to Taylor around his coworkers. It was always when he was home, or on his own in one of the sleeper bays. After months of only being able to talk to his best friend on the phone, Angel was finally getting to see Taylor.

“I know you’ve been worried about him,” Seb said. “We all have. But you’re closer to him than any one of us, so I know this has been really hard on you.” Seb finished his coffee, and sat up, smiling at him. “He should be here soon. Why don’t you go upstairs and wait for him?”

“Thanks,” Angel replied, grateful to Seb who headed off.

Usually Angel sat with his team in the canteen during break, but today he’d wanted to be on his own, so he’d stayed back, and decided to take his break later. As if sensing his anxious state, Seb had appeared with a big grin and two lattes, one for Angel, and one for himself. He hadn’t talked, just kept him company, and it had somehow helped soothe Angel. It was strange that a tiger Therian of Seb’s size could comfort with his presence alone. Seb could be intimidating as hell, and sometimes he could be an asshole, but mostly he was a great guy who really cared. He was firm, but fair. Angel respected the hell out of him. It was Seb who’d sat Angel down and told him the truth of what had happened to Taylor.

Angel still couldn’t believe it. He’d heard of TIN. Who hadn’t? He’d just never come close to anyone associated with TIN. It wasn’t like their operatives introduced themselves or went around flashing badges. He knew they were out there, knew what the agency’s missions statement was, but that was the extent of it.

It had shocked the hell out of Angel when he’d been informed Taylor had been taken to a TIN facility after he’d attacked Sloane and Dex. Hearing from Seb what General Moros had done to Taylor broke Angel’s heart, and all these months later he was still furious about it. It was a good thing Moros was dead, because if not, Angel would have made the bastard pay for what he’d done. Seb had been honest, letting Angel know he couldn’t give him all the details, and Angel understood. It was obvious this whole mess was bigger than him. All that mattered was Taylor, and Angel had almost cried when he heard Taylor’s voice. It had been rough, low, filled with pain, and at the same time, relief. He’d been happy to hear Angel’s voice.

What started out as one phone call had turned into a daily occurrence. They’d given Taylor his own phone, and Angel would text him to let him know when he could talk, and they did. They talked about everything any anything. Taylor wanted to know everything about his day, from what he had for breakfast to what case he was working on. Whenever Angel’s phone rang, and his screen showed “unknown caller” Angel’s heart would skip a beat.

As the months went by, Taylor grew more and more desperate to get back to his life, and Angel grew more and more desperate to see him. Some days were especially hard, because Taylor would sound distant, or not completely present, and Angel worried about the tests they were running on him. He couldn’t understand why it was all taking so long. Even Dex admitted he was worried because of how long it was taking TIN to clear and release Taylor. Angel lost count of the months. And now, he was finally back.

Angel had wandered up to Unit Alpha without even thinking about it. He absently walked into his empty office, only to discover it wasn’t so empty.

“Hey.”

Angel stared at the man sitting at his desk.

“Ellis?”

Taylor’s soft smile reached his hazel eyes. They were glassy as he stood, and he took a step toward Angel. He stopped, looking uncertain, and almost… shy.

“Hi, Angel.”

Angel didn’t think about it. He crossed the distance between them in two strides, threw his arms around Taylor, and hugged him close. When Taylor’s arms wrapped around Angel’s waist, and he buried his face in Angel’s neck, Angel closed his eyes, a tear escaping to roll down his cheek.

“I’m so damn happy you’re here,” Angel said, his voice rough with emotion.

“I know everyone’s waiting for me in the bullpen, but I wanted to see you first. I had to see you first. God, I missed you.”

That was the exact moment Angel knew he was in trouble.


Part Two next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 8/10/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. We had part two last week, so here’s part three! Happy reading!


Part Three

“Please, just try.”

Austen was going to snap at Zach to fuck off when Zach held the mug out to him again. Oh, he meant the tea. Damn it, he was doing the pouty lip thing again. That shouldn’t work on a guy of Zach’s size. He shouldn’t be able to pull off sweet and vulnerable. With a grumble, Austen took the mug.

“Fine. If it’ll get you off my back.” He wrinkled his nose, and braced himself as he took a sip of the steaming hot liquid. It was surprisingly not revolting. Not willing to admit it, Austen didn’t speak, just sipped the tea. Zach sat there, smiling at him. Christ. Now what? Who smiled at nothing? Except maybe Dex, but Austen had stopped trying to figure the guy out years ago. What was Zach’s deal? Austen finished his tea, and put the mug on the table.

“Listen, I appreciate you doing Sloane a solid by accepting to babysit me, but I’m fine. I’ve had worse.”

Zach nodded, and stood. He walked over to the coffee table and picked up the mug. “I’ll heat up some soup for you in a bit. You should rest.” He walked off, and Austen stared after him.

What the hell just happened? Clearly, he was being too subtle. Zach returned, and took a seat on the couch.

“You need to go.”

Zach tilted his head. “Why?”

“Because I don’t need babysitting.”

“I agree,” Zach said.

Austen peered at him. “And yet you’re still here.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Oh, my fucking hell,” Austen said with a groan.

“You curse a lot.”

“Yes. Yes, I fucking curse a lot. All the fucking time. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

“Why?”

“Why do I….” Austen leaned in, eyes narrowed. “Because you’re annoying me, that’s why. I swear on my much beloved nads that if you say “why” one more time, I’m going to punch you in the face.”

“No, you’re not,” Zach replied matter of fact.

Austen arched an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

Zach nodded, a smile spreading across his stupidly handsome face as he made himself comfortable. He stretched his long jean-clad legs out in front of him. His brown leather biker boots probably weighed more than Austen. He laced his fingers on his flat stomach, the long-sleeved T-shirt straining over his bulging biceps. Jesus, did the guy not own shirts that fit? Austen would bet if he wrapped his hands around Zach’s bicep, his fingers wouldn’t touch.

“Hey,” Zach said softly, grabbing Austen’s attention.

Austen moved his gaze up to Zach’s face, and the knowing smile. Shit. He’d totally just been busted checking Zach out. Feeling his cheeks burning up, Austen threw his blanket over his head, and keeled over. He curled up on himself, his voice muffled under the blanket.

“Get out.”

“Nope.”

Dammit. What the hell? Maybe if he just stayed under his blanket, Zach would go away. “I don’t—”

“Need a babysitter,” Zach said gently. “I know. I’m not here to babysit you, I’m here to offer support. That’s what friends do.”

Austen’s heart skipped a beat, and he cursed himself for being such a dork. “We’re not friends.” He felt a hand on his head, and gasped. As soon as the shock wore off he hissed.

“We could be.” Zach’s tone was soft, and hopeful.

For crying out loud. Cut me a break, will you? “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Austen muttered, curling up in a tighter ball. He swatted at Zach’s hand from under the blanket. Why wouldn’t Zach take the hint? They shouldn’t be friends. Being friends with Zach would mean getting closer, and Austen couldn’t do that. Not with Zach. Why did Zach even care? Austen had never been anything but a pain in the guy’s ass. Why did he keep coming back for more? Man, he was suddenly feeling tired. It was going to physically pain him to say the word, but he’d try anything at this point. “Please, go away.”

The hand moved away, and Austen stilled. The couch shifted, and he listened out for the door. Nothing. How could a bear Therian be so quiet? No creaking floorboards, heavy footsteps, nothing. Austen tugged his blanket down his face, and he found himself nose to nose with Zach.

“Holy crap!” Austen scrambled back until he was practically inside the couch cushions. “What the hell?” he growled.

Zach chuckled warmly, his amber eyes bright and filled with amusement. He was crouched in front of the couch where Austen had been curled up.

“You’re kind of jumpy.”

“No shit. That’ll happen when someone stick’s their nose in your face.” Okay, he’d had enough. He threw off his blanket, jumped off the couch, and the room spun. Flailing, he prepared to kiss the floor when he landed against something soft. He blinked up at Zach. For fuck’s sake. Again? Why did he keep ending up in this guy’s arms?

Zach’s brow furrowed as he looked down at Austen now cradled in his arms. He placed the back of his hand to Austen’s brow. “I think you have a fever.”

Somewhere in Austen’s head was a smartass remark, but suddenly he felt drained, achy, and sleepy. “I hate this,” Austen mumbled, closing his eyes.

“What’s that?” Zach asked, sitting down cross-legged. Austen opened his eyes, and Zach pulled the blanket off the couch. He covered Austen up to his chin, his strong arms around Austen as he shivered, both from his fever, and from being in Zach’s arms. He didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to feel safe, or comfortable. Too close. Too warm. Too… perfect.

“Being weak.”

“You’re not weak,” Zach said gently, but firmly. “You’re just not feeling well. We can’t be at our best all the time, no matter how strong we are. It’s okay to lean on someone. On me.”

Austen was so cold, and Zach was so warm. He turned into Zach, curling up against him, and burying his face against Zach’s chest, mumbling. “This doesn’t change anything.” He just needed a moment to recharge, that was all. Soon as the room stopped spinning, he’d tell Zach to leave, and go back to being a miserable jerk.

“I know,” Zach replied quietly.

Was that a smile he heard in Zach’s voice?

“Just this once,” Austen said, his body feeling heavy. “Then you go home.”

“After soup.”

Austen sighed. “Fine. After soup.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Don’t—” Yawn. “Tell me what to do,” Austen huffed as he tried to stay awake. Zach’s hand came to rest on his head, large fingers slipping into Austen’s hair, stroking, comforting. Austen would have swatted his hand away, but that would mean moving. He made a noise he was pretty sure conveyed his annoyance.

Just this once.


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 8/3/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. We had part one last week, so here’s part two! Happy reading!


Part Two

That was the problem with good guys like Sloane. They always wanted to help.

“Look, I understand better than anyone the dangers of losing someone you love to the job.” Sloane sat down next to Austen, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you think it didn’t scare the hell out of me every time I went out on a call with Dex? No matter how capable I knew he was, that didn’t stop me from worrying, because it wasn’t his skills I questioned, but the motives and vileness of what was out there. Even once we’re sworn in by TIN, and we’ve had all the training there is, that doesn’t mean I won’t stop worrying about him. Does that mean we shouldn’t make a life together? Shouldn’t have friends, or family?”

Austen frowned deep, his gaze averted.

“Zach doesn’t live in a bubble, and yes he works for Unit Beta. The risks he faces on the job aren’t the same as those of Unit Alpha, but there are risks nonetheless. You keep telling yourself, and everyone else that you’re trying to protect him from the dangers of your job, but the truth is, you’re protecting his heart from you.”

Austen’s head shot up, and he met Sloane’s gaze. It was frightening, and heartbreaking how much affection he saw in Sloane’s eyes. Austen was a lethal, trained TIN operative, but when he was around Sloane, it was like he was that frightened little boy who’d been tossed out into the street. His world changed when he met Sloane, and despite Sloane being a huge ass jaguar Therian, Austen felt safe with him, always had. Cheetah Therians were known to have difficulty trusting, due to their vulnerability as the smallest of the felids. It didn’t mean they weren’t strong, but they had big hearts that were easily broken. He shouldn’t have felt safe with Sloane after running into him, but he had. Austen trusted Sloane with his life, and his heart. He hated that Sloane was right.

“I know you’re scared, and I’m not telling you what you should do. I’m just saying that you need to really think about the reasons you’re pushing Zach away, and that maybe having a friend or two outside of Destructive Delta would be nice. You know we’ll always be there for you, and we want your around.” Sloane put a hand to Austen’s cheek, and smiled warmly. “We also want you to be happy, to have more than just the job. At least think about it, yeah?”

Austen nodded. Just then the doorbell buzzed. Dex got up and walked over to the security camera. He called out over his shoulder.

“It’s Zach.”

Austen sat there quietly for a moment. This was insane. He was not going to become BFFs with the guy just because Sloane got all sappy with him. What the hell was he supposed to do? Zach was already here. With a heavy sigh, Austen nodded. “Buzz him in.”

“Your tea should be ready,” Dex said, walking over to the kitchen after presumably buzzing Zach up.

“I know it’s still months away,” Sloane said, a big dopey smile on his stupidly rugged face, “but we’ve arranged it so everyone can arrive early to the estate the day of the rehearsal dinner to give everyone a tour. There’s plenty of room for shifting, playing, and pouncing. It was one of the bonus perks for picking this place. Maybe you should invite Zach for a run. I hear he’s pretty damn quick.”

Austen let out a snort. “Maybe, though he’s not as quick as I am.”

“We’ll have to see about that.” Zach walked into the living room, and smiled at Austen.

“Are you kidding me? There’s no way you’re beating me.”

Dex handed a mug to Zach, who brought it over to the couch. He took a seat beside Austen, and handed him the steaming mug of gross tasting tea.

“And why’s that?” Zach asked, putting his arm over the back of the couch as he leaned in to Austen. Needing to do distract him from the closeness, Austen listed all the traits that made a cheetah Therian the fastest Therian on the planet.

Sloane stood, and Austen stopped talking. Where the hell did he think he was going?

“Dex, and I better get going. Lou’s kinda scary when you mess with his schedule.” Sloane cringed. “Actually, when he’s in work mode, period, he’s terrifying.”

“You’re leaving?” Austen asked, dumbly. He looked over at Dex. Hell, he’d even take Dex. Wait, if Dex stayed—which he wouldn’t, but still—he’d meddle and try to play matchmaker. It was best the blue eyed menace got lost.

“Yep,” Dex replied cheerfully. His big smile making Austen want to punch him. Dex smiled at Zach. “Make sure he drinks all that tea, and at least two more. There’s soup in the fridge, make sure he eats all of it.”

Austen glared at Dex. “Screw you, Daley. I can take care of myself.”

“Really? What was the last thing you ate?”

“Pizza,” Austen said smugly.

Dex nodded. He pointed to the kitchen. “From the pizza box next to the trash bin? The one with the receipt time-stamped four days ago? That pizza?”

Oh, you fucker. “Just go,” Austen grumbled.

“That’s what I thought.” Dex turned to Zach. “Ninety percent of what comes out of his mouth is bullshit, so you’re going to have to read between the lines.”

Austen grabbed one of his throw pillows and chucked it at Dex’s head. Unfortunately, his reflexes were for shit right now so Dex managed to duck. With a cackle, the asshole headed for the door. Sloane waved as he followed his dorky fiancé.

“Rest up. Call if you need us to pick anything up on the way home.”

The door closed, and Austen put the mug of boiled leaf water on the side coffee table, before slinking down into the couch cushions, his knees raised, and his blanket pulled up to his chin. Zach was in his living room. Sitting next to him on his couch. Close. Too close.

“You need to drink your tea.”

Austen narrowed his eyes. “You need to not be so bossy. And no. It’s disgusting.”

Zach got up, walked over to the coffee table, and picked up the mug. Instead of handing it to Austen, he walked off into the kitchen. Well, that was easy. Austen heard cabinets opening and closing in the kitchen. What the hell was he doing in there? Austen leaned forward to try and see into the kitchen. Damn it. Where the hell was he? Maybe if he leaned a little more….

Zach appeared, and Austen quickly sat back. He peered at Zach as the huge-ass bear Therian walked into the living room. He held the mug out to Austen.

“I’ve put some honey in it.” Austen opened his mouth, and Zach held a hand up to stop him. “No bear jokes.”

Damn it. Austen lifted his chin defiantly. “Don’t care what you put in it. I’m not drinking it.”

Zach took a seat beside him, and turned, one knee bent on the couch so he could face Austen. He took up half the couch. Why were bear Therians so freaking big? Okay, yeah, so their feral halves were ginormous so it made sense they’d be huge in Human form. Plus, there was the fact Austen wasn’t exactly great in stature to begin with. With each of them being at the far end of the Therian size chart, it made their differences glaringly obvious. Austen dropped his gaze to Zach’s hand. The one resting on his knee.

“You got big hands,” Austen said before he could stop himself.

Zach held his hand up to inspect it. “Do I?”

Austen snorted. He put his hand up against Zach’s, the difference staggering. “Uh, yeah.”

Zach smiled softly, and moved his fingers slightly so they were in between Austen’s, not quite holding his hand, but if he bent his fingers he would be. Austen snatched his hand away, heat flaring through his face. He was such an ass. Zach wasn’t even his type. Not that Austen had a type other than “willing and able”, but even so, Zach was most certainly not his type. He was too big, too strong, too capable of overpowering Austen.  Never again. Austen shook those thoughts from his head. He wasn’t that weak, helpless kid anymore. Zach might be bigger, but Austen could take him down if he had to. He wasn’t falling for that gentle-giant bullshit. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….


Part Three next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 7/27/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. So here you go! Happy reading!


Part One

He felt like crap.

Damn it. TIN operatives weren’t supposed to get sick. He knew this was coming. The second that douchebag had sneezed on him, he knew. Did henchmen not get paid sick days? The dude should have been at home, not at work infecting everyone with his germs. Granted, he’d tried to stab Austen, and that would have been far more inconvenient than contracting the mutant bug he’d been fighting for days. He’d tried to power through it, but the second Sparks heard his voice, she benched him. When she asked him about his flu shot, he cringed. He’d totally forgot. After she stopped breathing deeply though her nose—he could practically see her nostrils flaring—she asked him what medication he was taking. Apparently “whiskey” was the wrong answer. Then she went and narced on him to Sloane!

As if it wasn’t bad enough he was feeling like sludge, he had to deal with Sloane’s fussing, and Dex’s meddling. They were driving him batshit crazy with their mothering. Drink this, rub this there, inhale this, take that, get some rest. Did they not know who he was or what he did for a living? It was the flu, not freakin’ ebola. He made to get up off the couch, and the world spun off its axis, bringing him crashing back down.

“Fuck. This. Shit,” he grumbled against his pillow. Colds and flus are what mortals got, not TIN operatives. “This is bullshit.” Damn it, he had to get better.

Dex’s bachelor party was less than a month away, and for some ridiculous reason, he’d RSVP’d when he’d gotten the invite from Cael. What the hell was he doing going to a bachelor party? Especially since he knew a certain someone else had been invited as well. Just what he needed. It’s like the universe was purposefully fucking with him. Every time he thought he had a handle on things where Zach was concerned, some asshole, or some blue-eyed menace was determined to undo all his hard work.

Austen rolled onto his back, cocooning himself in the thick fleece blanket Sloane had brought him. He was fucking freezing, and the heating was on. He glared up at the ceiling. It had been odd at first, being in Sloane’s apartment, even after Austen filled it with his belongings. Gone were Sloane’s wall to wall shelves of books, and movies, the living room set and coffee tables. Austen’s space was sparsely furnished. An old habit. He’d spent most of his life moving around from one place to another. When he’d started working for TIN, he was earning enough to buy himself a home, but Austen had yet to find a place he felt he could call home.

This was the longest he’d ever held onto a place. Nearly two years. Fuck. He’d had Sloane’s place for almost two years, being extra vigilant, making damn sure no one even got close to figuring out he was here. The place was still under Sloane’s name, and the tenant an alias, one with an entire life, a busy guy who travelled a lot for business, so he was rarely home. Austen had also installed a ton of security.

Behind a picture frame by the door was a security panel that opened a section of the wall, revealing a high-tech display. With his handprint, or the right clearance, the wall opened, revealing several screens and security footage of the apartment building. There was a digital keypad, and typing in a sequence of numbers would open a section of the living room wall opposite the bookcase filled with all kinds of equipment and weapons. He had no idea what had possessed him to do that, but for the first time in his life, he felt a sense of calm when he got back to this apartment.

The alarm beeped, and there was a click. Austen groaned. The thought of two sexy male nurses would have put a smile on anyone’s face, except these two were determined to crush his libido, acting like a couple of big brothers, making him disgusting tasting tea, making sure he took his antibiotics, making him chicken soup, and patting his head like he was twelve. Two dopey faces smiled down at him from over the back of the couch.

“Hey there,” Sloane greeted.

“Aw,” Dex crooned. “He looks like an angry little caterpillar spinning a cocoon. Soon he’ll emerge as a deadly little Felid.”

Austen narrowed his eyes at Dex. “I want to seriously hurt you right now.”

“And I’m going to make you some of Darla’s special tea,” Dex replied, booping Austen’s nose. Austen snapped his teeth, but Dex moved his hand away.

“Flu’s making you slow,” Dex said with a chuckle as he walked off.

“Bite me, Daley,” Austen called out after him.

Sloane laughed softly. He came around the couch, and Austen slowly sat up. Man, his head was killing him.

“So,” Sloane said, fidgeting in front of Austen. “Dex and I have a bunch of appointments with Lou today for the wedding. Of course, if you need anything, you call us. We’ll be back tonight to check in on you.”

Austen peered at him. What wasn’t Sloane spitting out? “Just say it.”

“I um… well, we decided someone should be here with you, to you know, help out.”

Austen’s eyes widened, and he stared up at Sloane. “Don’t you fucking say it.”

Sloane cringed. “Zach’s on his way.”

It took Austen a moment for the fog in his brain to clear enough for Sloane’s words to make their way through. Zach. Coming here. It was either the fever making his blood boil, or he was just fucking livid. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“You’re angry,” Sloane stated.

“No shit. Yes, I’m angry. No, scratch that. I’m fucking furious. He shouldn’t be coming here. Fuck, now he knows where I live! You’ve painted a huge fucking target on his back!”

Dex arched an eyebrow at him as he entered the living room. “Weren’t you the one who said Zach’s been under surveillance for a while now? That TIN’s keeping him safe? Besides, Zach can look after himself. You seem to keep forgetting he’s a THIRDS agent. And a fucking huge-ass bear Therian.”

“Yeah, in fucking Unit Beta. Those guys play defense. It’s their job to look fucking huge and scary as shit so their opponents back down without a fight. They’re the guys you bring in for crowd control, to escort dignitaries, and play bodyguard. Do I look like fucking Whitney Houston to you? I don’t need a bodyguard.” He’d bet his spots this had been Daley’s idea. The guy was so fucking annoying!

“No, but you need a friend,” Sloane said softly.

Austen’s eyebrows shot up near his hairline. “The fuck just came out of your mouth, Brodie?”

These two were unbelievable. Why couldn’t they get it through their thick skulls? Austen didn’t want Zach anywhere near him. He was trying to protect the guy, keep him away from all the grime, and fucked up shit surrounding Austen, and not all of it related to his job. Zach deserved someone good, and sweet, and fucking perfect, not a broken Felid that spooked at the mere thought of more with someone. Happily ever after was something that happened to guys like Sloane and Dex. Not Austen. He had nothing to give. No. He wasn’t going to be a sucker. He wasn’t going to get his hopes up only be tossed aside. There was no way he would ever, ever let Osmond Zachary near his heart.


Part Two next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 7/20/17 Pick the Wedding Playlist

Hello, THIRDS Nerds! As I work on revisions for Tried & True (THIRDS, Book 10), I have a select number of songs picked for Dex and Sloane’s wedding that will be in book 10’s official playlist, but I also wanted to put together a wedding playlist. Then I thought it would even more fun if I let you guys pick the music! You get to be the wedding DJ’s!

Now the official playlist can only have so many songs (I’m thinking twenty at most), so the songs that aren’t chosen for the wedding album will go into the Tried & True Fan Playlist.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you that Dex and Sloane’s first dance as husband and husband will be to Journey’s “Faithfully”. I also have some fun surprises in store for the reception. I mean, it is Dex’s wedding after all. So what songs do you think should make it to the official wedding album? Place your song choices in the comments below!

I’ll be taking songs until midnight (Eastern US time), August 30th to give folks plenty of time to enter. The chosen songs will be posted on Thursday, August 31st.

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THIRDS Thursday – 7/13/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Final Part (Links to previous parts at end of post) 

“I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have come to you. You’re my big brother, and nothing’s going to change that. Ever.” Seb sat with his hands between his knees, wondering where the hell the years had gone? Seemed like only yesterday that Ethan was just a kid, Seb tucking him into bed before finishing his homework while Rafe cooked them dinner so their mom could focus on their dad, and making him comfortable. Back in the day, medication for their dad’s condition had been iffy at best. Not that it was stellar now, but at least now his father had some good days where the pain wasn’t as bad.

Rafe was quiet for several seconds before finally speaking up. “I know there’s going to come a time where I’ll be more of a hindrance than a help, but while I can help, I want to.”

“Hey, look at me,” Seb demanded gently.

Rafe did, and Seb cupped the back of his brother’s neck. “You are never going to be a hindrance on me, Ethan, or anyone in our family, you understand? Do you think dad is a hindrance on mom?”

Rafe shook his head, his bottom lip wobbling as a tear rolled down his cheek. “Fuck, Seb. Look how much she’s suffered with him. I know she loves him, but God, how do you think it makes him feel? She’s spent nearly their entire marriage taking care of him. Having to stab needles into him, crying herself to sleep because he’s in so much pain, and there’s nothing she can do about it. I don’t want to do that to anyone.”

“You’re not doing anything to anyone. We’re your family, and we love you. Mom doesn’t do what she does because she has to. She does it because dad’s still the same guy she fell in love with years ago. They adore each other, and when mom said, “in sickness and in health” she took that to heart. Would you ever give up on dad?”

Rafe gave him a dirty look, and Seb held his hands up in front of him. “You see? So why would we give up on you?” Seb put his arm around his brother and hugged him close. “You’re absolutely right about me and Ethan coming to you, and I promise you we’ll try harder. You know how hardheaded the three of us are. Sometimes it takes a bit for things to get through out thick skulls.” He lightly knocked his fist against Rafe’s head, making him laugh.

“Yeah, I think I started that trend.”

They both laughed quietly. Seb worried his bottom lip between his teeth before doing what he said he’d do, and confiding in Rafe. “You know, there’s another reason why I’ve made peace with joining TIN.”

“What’s that?”

“If there’s a cure out there, or something that can help you, and dad, I’m going to find it, Rafe. I swear I won’t stop until I do.”

Rafe turned to meet his gaze. “You’re going to look for a cure?”

“With TIN’s resources, and the training Hudson and I are going to get, we’ll have access to information and specialists we didn’t even know existed. Sparks says TIN can fix my knee.”

Rafe stared at him. “They can do that?”

Seb nodded. “It pissed me off at first, that they wouldn’t help before I joined, but after Sparks explained it, I got it. Sort of. Hudson had to explain some of the medical jargon.”

“Wait, they have a procedure that will fix your knee, and they wouldn’t do it unless you joined them?” Rafe shook his head with a glower. “What the hell?”

“The technology isn’t legal yet.”

Rafe opened his mouth to reply then closed it. He cursed under his breath, and ran a hand through his hair. “Shit, Seb. Is it even safe?”

Seb winced. “It’s kind of experimental, but so far it has a high success rate. They’ve performed the procedure on several of their operatives, and it’s worked. They’ve been doing it for years. Do you think Sparks would have hired me as an operative if she wasn’t sure it was going to work? If I don’t take this chance, my knee’s just going to get worse. My point is, there’s gotta be something out there. Even Dex has sworn to Ethan he’s going to find something.”

Rafe cursed under his breath. “Daley’s in on this?”

Seb nodded. “Talk about stubborn. There’s no way we’re winning him on that. If Dex promised Ethan, he’s going to come through with something. There’s no way in hell he’s going to let Ethan down.”

Rafe let out a sigh, and for the first time in a long time, he looked… hopeful. When he spoke, his voice was shaky. “I’m kinda terrified to get my hopes up.”

“Whatever happens, we’re going to get through this together.” Seb brought Rafe in for a hug, both of them laughing when another pair of arms joined in.

“You two are such dorks,” Rafe said, pulling back to ruffle Ethan’s hair.

“Jerk,” Ethan muttered quietly, his grin wide.

Well, we must have gotten it from somewhere,” Seb teased.

Rafe gasped. “Are you calling mom a dork? I’m so telling.” He made to stand, and Seb saw him wince before he sat back down with a pained expression. Seb nudged Ethan, and Ethan disappeared inside.

“Remember when we used to sit out on the stoop at mom’s while Ethan and Calvin played hide and seek?”

Rafe let out a bark of laughter. “Ethan was not good at hiding.”

“Kinda hard to hide when you’re thirteen and almost six feet tall.”

“Remember when Cal hid in the tree, and then he got stuck?”

“I remember you two jerks just standing there laughing at me,” Calvin grumbled, taking a seat next to Ethan after Ethan plopped down beside Rafe. Everyone came out from inside and sat around Rafe, Nina sitting between Rafe’s knees and leaning back into him. She stretched up, and he kissed her. The smile that followed lit up his face. Man, his brother was a goner.

“Because birds weighed more than you did,” Rafe said, answering Calvin.

Ethan made a jumping motion with his hand, and they laughed.

“Oh, shit,” Rafe snickered. “I forgot about the squirrel.”

“Squirrel?” Hudson sat between Seb’s legs, and leaned back to look up at him, his pupils blown. “What squirrel?”

If there was anyone who loved chasing squirrels more than Ethan, it was Hudson, but then most wolf Therians seemed to go crazy over squirrels. Seb didn’t understand it himself, but Hudson was adorable when he chased something. He looked like a big gray bunny hopping around, tail wagging.

“A squirrel landed on Calvin’s head while he was stuck in the tree,” Seb explained. “Calvin screamed, let go of the branch, and luckily, we were right below him, and caught him.”

Ethan nodded. He patted Calvin’s head.

“Screw all of you. That squirrel was vicious.”

Rafe nodded. “As squirrels went, that one was particularly vicious, and fluffy tailed.”

They all teased Calvin, and while Rafe was busy teasing Ethan about his hiding skills, or lack thereof, Nina looked over at Seb, and put her hand to her heart, mouthing the words “thank you”.

Seb winked at her. They might be a mismatched family of misfits, and he included Destructive Delta in that, but Seb would do anything for them. Together, they’d get through whatever storm came their way.


Missed the beginning? Start with Part One here. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 7/6/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Part Three (Read Part Two here.)

“You broke him,” Calvin whispered at Seb.

Seb put his hand on Calvin’s face, and slowly pushed him away, making him laugh. Little pain the ass. Not that Calvin was wrong. He may very well have broken Rafe. Not long after his brothers and their partners arrived at his house, they’d hit the booze before they ordered dinner. Seb had been hoping Rafe would get nice and toasted, and therefore take everything Seb had just told him in stride. No such luck.

Seb had decided not to hold anything back. If he was going to bring Rafe in on this, he was going to tell him everything, from his beating the shit out of Trent, to the truth about who Wolf really was—he’d discussed with Hudson prior to Seb’s confession. It was now… five minutes, and his brother hadn’t so much as blinked. His eyes were narrowed, his elbows on the counter, and his fingers steepled in front of his lips. He could possibly be processing everything, or brainstorming the various ways in which to end Seb.

“Rafe?” Seb asked, from the other side of the counter. “You, um, gonna say anything?” Seb glanced over at Nina and subtly motioned to Rafe. She looked at him like he must be on something. Okay, clearly no one was going to jump into the fire with him.

Rafe turned in his seat, got up, and walked around the counter, jaw clenched. He stood toe to toe with Seb, and then did something unexpected. Not totally unexpected, but considering this was Rafe, unexpected.

He smacked Seb in the head.

“Ouch! What the hell, bro?” Seb rubbed the sore spot on the side of his head.

“You fuck. All this shit you went through, and you didn’t once, not once come to me for help?”

Seb opened his mouth to reply then closed it. “Wait, what?”

“I’m your big brother! You’re supposed to come to me for help.” Rafe folded his arms over his chest, his hurt expression squeezing at Seb’s heart. “I thought we’d moved passed this shit. That you two were going to trust me more.”

“We do trust you,” Seb said sincerely, grateful when Ethan joined them.

Rafe dropped his arms at his sides, his voice quiet. “Then why didn’t you call me? Either of you.”

Seb let out a heavy sigh. “Because you got your own shit to deal with, and I didn’t want to add to that.”

Ethan nodded in agreement.

“So you two just decided for me, is that it? You think I can’t handle shit anymore?”

“That’s not it at all, and you know it.”

“Do I?” Rafe shook his head at them. “The way I see it, you two are still in your little boy’s club, and I’m not a part of it.”

Seb tried to speak up, but Rafe just put a hand up to stop him. “I need some air.” He headed for the door, stopping long enough to assure Nina he was fine, and just needed a minute to be alone. Nina walked into the kitchen, her hands on her hips.

“So? How are you going to fix this?”

“I don’t know.” Seb ran a hand through his hair, grateful for Hudson’s quiet support as he wrapped his arms around Seb’s waist.”

Hudson looked up at him, his bright blue eyes filled with compassion. “He rather has a point, darling.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re still treating him different. Only now it’s because of his condition.”

That wasn’t true, was it? “I just don’t want to burden him with my shit when he’s got bigger problems to worry about.”

“Like becoming a burden on you both, and your family?” Nina asked softly.

Seb frowned at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on, Seb. Read between the lines. You’re trying not to worry him, and all he sees is that he’s not the strongest anymore. That you both think he’s not the strongest. There’s going to come a time when he’ll need to rely on the strength of his little brothers. How do you think that makes him feel? This is Rafe we’re talking about. You might have been the nurturer, Seb,” Nina placed her hand on his arm, her eyes glassy, “but he’s always been the provider, and the protector. The rock everyone leaned on. And now he feels that slipping away.”

Ethan put his hand on Seb’s shoulder, and Seb hated to see the sadness in his little brother’s eyes. How the hell was he supposed to fix this? Could he even fix it? How could he make Rafe understand that Seb still looked up to him? That he still thought he was the strongest of them all?

“I’m going to go talk to him,” Seb said before kissing the top of Hudson’s head. Ethan motioned toward the door, and Seb shook his head. “I just need a few minutes with him.”

Ethan nodded, and Calvin came over to take his hand. The warm smiled was instant, and Seb couldn’t help his own smiled. He couldn’t think of anyone better for Ethan than Calvin.

Seb went outside to join Rafe on the stoop. It was a quiet night. Well, city quiet. Seb sat next to Rafe, both of them looking out at nothing in particular. These kinds of heart to heart talks were new to Seb. At least where Rafe was concerned. Seb and Ethan talked all the time. They chatted about anything and everything. Seb never really had any sit-down chats with Rafe. Mostly because growing up, Rafe had always been busy taking care of their family, going to school, working his ass off. Seb swallowed hard at the memory. His brother never got the chance to be a regular teenager. Not that Seb hadn’t been in a similar situation to his brother, but after everything Rafe had done for his family, he was facing the same future as their dad, and that broke Seb’s heart.

Somehow, he had to fix this. Make things right between them. Their bond had grown since that day in the hospital, but it still wasn’t solid, and that was on Seb. Ethan followed Seb’s lead, at times even without realizing it. Seb needed to make his brother understand that they were in this together, and if there was something out there that could help Rafe and their dad, Seb was going to find it.


Part Four next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday Giveaway Winners!

GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

Hello, all! A huge thank you to everyone who took part in the THIRDS Thursday giveaway! We had over 200 entries! Woot! If you didn’t win this time, don’t fret, there’s plenty more giveaways heading this way!

Chosen at random, our winners are:

  1. Seb & Hudson plushies + THIRDS character cards: Rochelle O’Rourke
  2. Seb & Hudson plushies + THIRDS character cards: Denise Kay Probus
  3. Seb & Hudson plushies + THIRDS character cards: Julie Jakeway
  4. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Stephanie Gattenby
  5. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: H.B.
  6. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Johanna Jochum
  7. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Shavera
  8. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: LisaS
  9. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Brenda (sild)
  10. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Tessa
  11. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Geraldine (fger)
  12. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: Wynette Hawks
  13. Destructive Delta Totebag + THIRDS character cards: lindsay
  14. THIRDS agent T-Shirt + THIRDS character cards: Jennifer Dixon
  15. THIRDS agent T-Shirt + THIRDS character cards: Khadijah James
  16. THIRDS agent T-Shirt + THIRDS character cards: Stephanie (peg)
  17. THIRDS agent T-Shirt + THIRDS character cards: Liz
  18. THIRDS signed paperback + THIRDS character cards: Miranda P
  19. THIRDS signed paperback + THIRDS character cards: Lydia
  20. THIRDS signed paperback + THIRDS character cards: aibopals

You’ll each be receiving an email from me to confirm where you’d like your goodies sent to, along with T-shirt size if you won a T-shirt, or which paperback you’d like signed if you won a paperback. Please allow time for packing and shipping. The character cards are currently being printed, so you should all receive your goodies by end of July. <3

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THIRDS Thursday – 6/29/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Part Two (Read Part One here.)

Seb charged Ethan, the surprise on both his brothers’ faces making Seb grin. He threw a right hook, and got nowhere near his little brother’s head. Ethan blocked it in a swift movement while simultaneously grabbing Seb’s arm, and kicking out, sending Seb hurdling over his shoulder, and onto the mat. Seb rolled, and quickly jumped to his feet. He didn’t know exactly what Ethan’s TIN associate training had entailed, but if it was anywhere close to what he’d seen Dex and Sloane do the night of the wedding when the Makhai had come to kidnap Hudson then Seb had no reason to hold back.

Seb came at Ethan with everything he had, his adrenaline pumping, and pulse racing. Every punch and kick was blocked or deflected. Ethan ducked, and dodged. He was quicker, lighter on his feet which could be a real challenge for tiger Therians. Over and over, Seb hit the mat. Rafe was too stunned to move. He stood there staring at them, and Seb didn’t blame him. But it was time for Rafe to see for himself what his little brother could do.

“Rafe,” Seb barked out the order, and his brother snapped to attention. He didn’t hesitate, immediately switching to agent mode. Rafe joined the attack, taking Ethan from the left, while Seb charged from the right. Ethan’s footwork was impressive, and he kept himself away from Seb and Rafe. As the smaller of the three of them, he’d always been quicker, but now Rafe and Seb struggled to keep up. Ethan anticipated their moves, giving him time to act rather than react. It was like he’d figured out their weaknesses, and was using it against them. Rafe’s strength was upper body, while Seb’s was lower, which was ironic considering those areas were where their bodies were failing them. Rafe his back, and Seb his knee.

Rafe and Seb charged at the same time, and in a move Seb had never seen before, Ethan ducked, spun, and grabbed Rafe. He used the momentum of his spin to hurl Rafe into Seb, and the two of them went tumbling and rolling across the mat. Seb lay on his back next to Rafe who lay on his stomach, both trying to catch their breaths.

“Well that… didn’t go… as… expected,” Rafe said, breathless.

Seb laughed. Holy crap. His heart swelled with pride, and he beamed up at Ethan who leaned over him with a goofy grin.

“I think this means I win,” Ethan said. He held out his hand to Seb, and helped him up. Together they helped Rafe up. Rafe narrowed his eyes at Ethan, and looked him over.

“What the hell was that? When did you turn into the fucking Terminator?”

Ethan rolled his eyes. “You’re so dating yourself right now.”

Seb snickered, and Rafe glared at him. He quickly put his hands up in surrender. “What? I wasn’t the one who called you old.”

Rafe folded his beefy arms over his chest, his eyes on Ethan. “Explain. And don’t tell me you’ve been training. That’s all I hear about you guys. Why’s Sloane training you so hard? What the hell are you preparing for?”

Ethan’s smile faded, and Seb couldn’t stand the worried look that came on his little brother’s face. He might as well get this over with.

“Hudson and I joined TIN.”

“Joined in what?” Rafe asked, frowning.

Seb rubbed at his temples. Seriously? “Not joined in, joined TIN. Therian Intelligence.”

Rafe’s jaw dropped, and Ethan narrowed his eyes at Seb. Neither of them spoke. They didn’t so much as blink. Great. He’d broken them.

“Come on, guys. Give me something,” Seb pleaded. The suspense was killing him.

Ethan held a finger up. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I thought I heard something crazy. Like that you and Hudson joined TIN.”

Seb rubbed the back of his neck, and cringed. “So, um, a lot of stuff kind of happened before Hudson and I got back together.” Where did he even start? It’s like he’d been sucked up into a whirlwind of crazy, and tossed around. “I’d been made the offer to become a TIN Associate, and turned them down. Then I went and fucked up royally, and the only way out was to join TIN as full operatives, but after thinking about it and everything that’s happened, that was the best call for us, the best way to keep Hudson, and you guys safe.”

“Safe form who?” Rafe asked, throwing his arms out. “What the hell is going on?” Something seemed to occur to him, and he straightened. “Wait, does Nina know about this?”

Seb shrugged. “I don’t know. Hudson was going to tell her. We agreed that there were certain people in our lives who we needed to tell, so they could be prepared for any threats that might come our way.”

Ethan shook his head, the hurt in his big green eyes squeezing at Seb’s heart. “You joined TIN?” Then that hurt turned to anger. “You joined TIN?” Ethan growled, and marched up to Seb. The punch he landed across Seb’s jaw sent Seb staggering back. Ethan hissed and shook out his hand, and Seb rubbed his jaw.

“Jesus, Ethan.” Rafe stared at Ethan before turning his attention back to Seb. “You do deserve it though.”

Seb grunted. “Thanks.” He released a heavy sigh. “I know.” He met his little brother’s gaze. “I’m sorry, Ethan, but this is the best way to keep our family safe. You know better than anyone what we’re facing out there. Moros? The Makhai? Wolf? Hudson was thrown into the middle of all that shit. What was I supposed to do? Wait around for Dex and Sloane to come to the rescue? If it hadn’t been for them, and Wolf, Hudson would be gone, and I’d be dead.”

Both brothers stared at him. Shit. He may have forgotten to mention that tiny little detail about being poisoned on his wedding day, and almost dying.

“You almost died?” Rafe sputtered. He threw his arms up, shouting at no one in particular. “What the fucking fuck is going on around here? Who the hell is Wolf? What the fuck is a Makhai?”

Seb cleared his throat. “We sort of have a lot to catch up on.”

Rafe’s eyebrows flew up near his hairline. “You think?”

“Why don’t you, Nina, Ethan, and Calvin come over for dinner tonight? I’ll tell you everything, for now, I need you to trust me.” Seb walked up to Ethan, and put his hands on his shoulders. “I need you to trust me, just like you need me to trust you and the decision you made.”

Ethan’s expression softened, and he nodded. “You’re right.”

“Wait, what decision?” Rafe asked, looking from Ethan to Seb and back.

Ethan let out a heavy sigh. “Destructive Delta became TIN Associates a few months back. We’re becoming assets for Dex and Sloane who’ll be sworn in as operatives after their wedding.”

Rafe frowned. “But TIN in Therian intelligence. Dex isn’t a Therian.”

Ethan and Seb exchanged glances.

“Um… about that,” Seb began, cringing when Rafe marched up to the two of them, and grabbed them by the ears.

“Ouch! Rafe let go,” Ethan whined.

“You two are dicks, and I should kick both your asses.”

Ethan let out a snort. “You can try.”

Seb barked out a laugh before he could stop himself. He clamped a hand over his mouth.

“When did you become such a smart ass?” Rafe shook his head. “The two of you are in so much shit. Not only are you both buying me and Nina dinner, we’re going to Seb’s for dinner tonight, and you both are going to tell me everything. And if I so much as get a whiff of either of you holding anything back, I swear to God, I’m going to tell mom the most embarrassing shit about you two.”

“Pfft, whatever,” Seb said. He was a grown as man. There was nothing that Rafe could tell his mom that could embarrass him. it was his mom.

“Right.” Rafe nodded, his lips pursed. “So you don’t care if I tell mom how when you were fifteen I walked in on you humping your teddy bear.”

Seb gasped, and Ethan doubled over with laughter.

“What the hell?” Seb gaped at Rafe, his face about to go up in flames.

“Yeah. Mom sent me to remind you about something, I opened the door to your room, saw that shit, and walked right back out.”

Ethan was crying he was laughing so hard.

“I was a hormonal teenager!”

Rafe waggled his brows. “I hope you at least offered to buy him dinner after.”

“Fuck you,” Seb growled, covering his face with his hands.

“And you,” Rafe said, prompting Seb to peek out at Ethan from between his fingers. Ethan was still howling with laughter. “Remember that time the cable bill arrived with that weird charge, and mom couldn’t figure it out?”

Ethan’s laughter stopped, and his eyes went wide.

Seb remembered that. Ethan was about fifteen or sixteen at the time? Seb arched an eyebrow at Rafe. “You said it was a documentary you ordered.” He looked over at Ethan who looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock.

“Nope,” Rafe said, grinning wide. “Ethan and Cal ordered porn.”

“We didn’t know we were ordering it,” Ethan groaned, covering his face with his hands, his voice muffled when he spoke. “It said “watch it now” not “buy this movie”.”

Seb nudged Ethan with his elbow. “So how often did you and Cal watch porn together?”

Ethan glared at him.

With a cackle, Seb headed for the doors, Ethan and Rafe flanking him.

“At least no one heard it, unlike you and Hudson in the rec room. I never knew you two were so religious,” Ethan teased before doing an imitation of Seb. “Oh, God, Lobito. Oh, God!” He moaned, and Seb shoved him away from him. Rafe laughed, and Seb flipped them both off.

Rafe got in between them, and threw his arms around their shoulders. “This is going to be a fun dinner. I can feel it.”

Seb shook his head, amused at his brother’s wicked smile. It was good to see Rafe happy again. His brother was right. He deserved to know everything. His life was soon going to be shrouded in secrets, but this here, his brothers, his family, this was his heart, and he would never lose sight of that. Never.


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 6/22/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Part One

You can do this.

Why was he feeling so nervous? It was his brothers. Seb had always been able to say whatever he needed to say to his brothers. Granted, before he and Rafe reconciled, there hadn’t been much talking going on, but that changed a while ago, and the fact Ethan was talking to Rafe made a huge difference in all their lives. The thought made Seb smile. Their parents had been so happy when they found out. Ethan might not be able to talk to them, but they held onto the hope that one day that would change. For now, they were thrilled to see their boys were close again, like they’d been when they were little. It had been a difficult time for all of them, but they’d been close.

The doors to the small training bay Seb had booked for the next two hours opened, and in walked his big brother looking as somber and imposing as ever, and behind him his little brother, his big dopey smile and cheerful wave squeezing Seb’s heart. He felt a fierce sense of protection wash over him, same as it always did when Ethan was around. The only one more protective of Ethan was Rafe, and Seb couldn’t imagine how hard it had been for their big brother to keep his distance.

Seb stood from the bench near the mats, and smiled at them. “Hey. Thanks for coming.”

“What’s going on?” Rafe asked, looking around the training bay. “Why did you book a room?”

Maybe it would be best if he eased into the whole I’m-now-a-spy thing. “I thought maybe we could do some training together.” He smiled wide.

Rafe and Ethan exchanged glances before they narrowed their eyes at him. So suspicious these two.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Since when?” Rafe asked.

“Since now.” Seb grinned wickedly. “What’s the matter? Afraid I might kick your ass?”

Rafe’s eyebrows shot up then he let out a laugh. “Seriously? You really think I’m going to fall for that?”

Ethan looked from Seb to Rafe and back. “He’s right.”

Damn it. Now what the hell was he supposed to do? He couldn’t just blurt it out.

“Because it’s obvious I’d be the one kicking both your asses,” Ethan said softly, big smile on his face.

Seb and Rafe both stared at him before Seb turned his attention to Rafe. He pointed at Ethan. “Did you hear what he just said?”

Rafe shook his head, the amusement in his eyes betraying his deep frown. “You are both so very delusional if you think either of you can kick my ass.” He pulled his uniform shirt from the waistband of his tach pants, and started to unbutton it. “Don’t go crying to your boyfriends when I wipe the floor with you.”

Seb threw his head back and laughed. “Please. By the time I’m done with you, you’re going to be glad your girlfriend’s a doctor.” He unbuttoned his own shirt, and pulled it off, laying it on the bench next his brother’s shirt, along with his thigh rig, and tactical belt. Ethan did the same.

“I could say the same about you,” Rafe said, beginning his stretches. “Don’t worry, Hudson will kiss it all better.”

They both turned to look at Ethan who blinked innocently at them. “I don’t need a doctor, or anyone to kiss my booboos. I have a boyfriend who will avenge me.”

Seb frowned at Rafe. “He’s right. Calvin would totally snipe our asses.”

Rafe nodded. “He’s kinda scary for a little guy.”

Once the three of them were down to just their tach pants, black undershirts, and bare feet, they stepped onto the mat. Seb had no idea how he was going to do this. Maybe he should have had a plan other than getting them down here with the pretense of a training session. What was he going to do? Tire them out, tell them, and then make a run for it, because if Rafe didn’t kick his ass, Ethan would.

“Okay, so how do you want this?” Rafe asked them.

Ethan smiled pleasantly. “Every handsome tiger Therian for himself. Last one standing gets dinner paid for by the losers.”

“For him, and his sweetheart,” Rafe added.

“Aw.” Seb held a hand to his chest. “Hudson will really appreciate that. Personally, I’m in the mood for a big ole steak. I hope you two brought your credit cards.” They each took their positions facing each other forming a triangle. Seb clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

Rafe rounded his shoulders, the muscles of his arms flexing. He was bigger than Seb, more muscular, stronger. He looked mean, and rough, especially with the permanent five o’clock shadow he sported. His tough exterior had softened some since he’d let his hair grow out a little from the military buzzcut he’d always sported. No doubt Nina’s influence. Anytime he saw the two together, she’d be running her fingers through his hair. His brother seemed like such a different person when she was around. Almost… vulnerable. At one point Seb could have sworn he’d seen Rafe blush, but it had been gone so quick Seb put it down to being a figment of his imagination.

“We doing this, or you wanna day dream some more?” Rafe asked, motioning for Seb to advance.

Seb looked from Rafe to Ethan. Did his brothers really think they were going to get one over on him? Like he hadn’t grown up with them? Whoever Seb went for first, the other would then come after him. The two would team up against him until someone inevitably started losing, and then the winning two would team up, take out the competition, and then face each other to leave one victor. Rafe thought he’d already won because it was how it had always been. He was the biggest, and strongest with the most training and experience. And the reason he won, was because he knew Seb wouldn’t go for Ethan. Ethan was counting on that as well, and it occurred to Seb that his sweet little brother had no idea Seb knew about his being a TIN associate, or his months of TIN training.

It was time to see how good his little brother was, and at the same time, give him the leverage he needed to reveal his own secret.


Part Two 6/29/17 © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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