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—”


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


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://

THIRDS Thursday – 9/1/16

THIRDS Thursdays

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

“Could you repeat that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How can you not be excited?”

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

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

“You’re going to send Hobbs in?”

Sloane looked puzzled. “Yeah. Why?”

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

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

“You have a point.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Say hello.”

“Fuck.” Panting breath. “You.”

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

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

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

“Brodie! Get your ass over here!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best. Workday. Ever.

THIRDS Thursday – 6/30/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I would like a prompt from the last book…. Ethan and Calvin go to Calvin’s mom’s house for some old fashion southern food and Dex wiggles himself and Sloane into an invite…… I want to see that scene.

“I’m starving. Mom’s invited us over for dinner.”

Ethan’s eyes lit up, and his stomach rumbled. “Did she…?”

“Of course she did. She made chicken-and-dumpling casserole, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, and her famous pecan pie. Like she doesn’t know you,” Calvin said with a chuckle.

A mew escaped Ethan, and his mouth watered. Calvin’s mom made the best southern food ever. Usually he ate so much he wouldn’t be able to move for hours. She knew all his favorites and always cooked up Therian-sized portions, plus leftovers because she knew neither he nor her son liked to cook. Ethan could eat Darla’s cooking every day, though it was probably a good thing he didn’t, or he’d never fit into his uniform. He grabbed Calvin’s hand and pulled him along to hurry him up, making him laugh.

“I’m driving,” Ethan declared before hurrying out of the locker room with Calvin in tow.

“Yeah, all right. Just don’t get us pulled over. Again. I have a feeling the next cop might not see jambalaya as a good enough reason not to give you a speeding ticket.”

They were headed for the elevator when Dex and Sloane showed up. Both were out of breath and flushed. Dex’s uniform shirt was half hanging out, and Sloane’s collar was a mess.

“I don’t even want to know,” Calvin muttered.

“Hey, we’re getting some dinner,” Dex said as he tucked in his shirt. “You guys wanna come?”

Ethan shook his head and pointed to Calvin before patting his belly.

“Sorry, Mom’s homemade chicken-and-dumpling casserole wins out over air itself. Seriously. There’s no keeping Ethan from my mom’s cooking.”

Dex’s eyes sparkled. “That’s right. Your mom cooks real southern food. Old-school recipes made from scratch, passed down for generations. Fried green tomatoes?”

Calvin sighed and took his phone out of his pocket. He tapped the screen before placing it to his ear. “Hey, Mom. We got enough for two more? One’s a Therian, the other eats like one. Great. Thanks. Love you too. See you soon.” Calvin hung up and grinned as the elevator pinged. He motioned to the open doors. “After you.”

Dex and Ethan all but fell over each other trying to get in the elevator. Inside, Ethan gave Dex a shove. Calvin stepped in after Sloane.

“Yeah, a word of warning. Don’t get between Ethan and my mom’s dumplings.”

Ethan narrowed his eyes at Dex. I will bust your shit up.

Dex held his hands up. “I apologize for any disrespect caused while hungry. It’s not me. It’s my stomach.”

Ethan patted Dex’s shoulder, perhaps a little harder than necessary. Dex shook his head and chuckled. Good food and good company. Today was turning out to be a pretty good day after all.

When they reached Darla’s house, it went from a good day to a great day. Ethan could smell the food from the moment he stepped out of his SUV. His stomach rumbled, demanding it be filled with tasty dumplings immediately. He ran up the front steps of Darla’s house, grinning widely when she opened the door.

“Hello, angel.” Darla pulled Ethan in for a hug, and Ethan squeezed her in return, mindful of his strength. For him, Darla Summers was like a second mother. Despite working long hours to support herself and her son, she hadn’t thought twice about helping Ethan and his family. It had been hard for Ethan’s mom, taking care of a husband in constant excruciating pain, and a small son with crippling anxiety and selective mutism. Darla had stepped in like she’d always been there. Ethan had never known anyone as strong as his mom until he met Darla Summers. She was a slip of a woman compared to his bulky near-three-hundred-pound frame, yet she could make the toughest Therian quake in their boots with one raised eyebrow. She had the same sparkling blue eyes as Calvin, and the same golden blonde hair.

Ethan stepped inside so she could hug Calvin. She gave his head a kiss. “Hey, baby.”

“Hi, Mom.” Calvin gave her cheek a kiss before moving to one side. “You remember Sloane.”

“Sloane.” Darla smiled warmly, ignoring Sloane’s outstretched hand to pull him in for a hug. Ethan did his best not to laugh. Their Team Leader wasn’t accustomed to mom hugs. Sloane stiffened for a heartbeat before returning Darla’s hug with a smile.

“It’s been too long.” She gave him a pointed look, and Sloane cleared his throat.

“It has. I’m sorry.”

Ethan couldn’t help but snicker at Sloane’s abashed expression. Yep. Quake in their boots.

Next came Dex. Ethan braced himself. Knowing Darla, he wasn’t surprised by her expression when Calvin made the introductions.

“Mom, this is Dex.”

Darla gasped. “Oh heavens! There really is a Dex?”

Dex gave her that big cheeky boyish grin of his, and winked. “Yes, ma’am.” He opened his mouth to speak again when Darla threw her arms around him, and squeezed him so tight it made Dex laugh.

“Thank you, Dex.”

“You’re welcome.” Dex pulled back, his expression bemused. “Though I’m not sure what I did. I’m going to assume it was a good thing.”

Darla’s eyes grew glassy, and she took hold of Dex’s hand. “You saved my boys.”

It seemed to dawn on Dex then. He shrugged, looking embarrassed. “I was just doing my job.”

“No, darling. You were doing more than your job.” Darla shook her head, her intense blue eyes on Dex. “You risked your life to save them. I know all about how you pulled Cal to safety in Greenpoint, and when you dragged Ethan to safety after the explosion at the Therian Youth Center.” She looped her arm through his to escort him inside the house. “You’re a hero.”

Calvin closed the door behind them, shaking his head at his mom. “You really shouldn’t encourage him. His ego’s big enough.”

“Hush now,” Darla scolded lightly. “This boy saved your life. He deserves to have his ego fed.”

Dex nodded. “Listen to your mother. She’s obviously an incredibly perceptive lady.”

“I hope you realize there’s no getting rid of him now,” Calvin said with a sigh. “You compliment him, and then feed him? I’m pretty sure whoever came up with “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was talking about him.”

“He’s right, Darla.” Dex put a hand to his chest over his heart. “Good food pretty much guarantees an unofficial adoption in my book. You feed me, you gotta keep me.”

Darla threw her head back and laughed. She gave Sloane a wink. “He’s adorable. I can see why you fell for him.”

Calvin stared at his mom. “I never told you they were together.”

Darla waved her hand at him in dismissal. “Oh, honey. Anyone with a half a mind can see these two are crazy about each other. Now help me get the table set.”

Ethan and Calvin exchanged glances. It was like when they were kids and they’d sneak under the covers with a flashlight to read comic books. Somehow she always knew they were awake despite them not making a sound or shining the flashlight near the door. Sometimes Ethan suspected she had Therian hearing.

Calvin headed for the kitchen, and Ethan eagerly followed until Calvin stopped and turned to arch an eyebrow at him. “And where do you think you’re going?”

Ethan pointed over Calvin’s head to the kitchen where all the tasty food was. He smiled innocently. I’m just going to help you.

“You’re going to help me, is that it?”

Ethan nodded, and grinned. Yep. I’m thoughtful that way.

“Of course you are. Ain’t you cute,” Calvin drawled, his accent always thicker when he was around his mom. “You seem to forget how long I’ve known you. If I let you in there half the food will be gone before it reaches the table. Sit your butt down.”

Ethan huffed. Fine.

“You need help?” Dex asked.

Ethan let out a snort and clapped him on the back. You are hilarious, my friend. He shook his head at Dex. If he’s not letting me back there, there’s no way you’re getting back there.

“Will anyone who doesn’t suck food in like they’re a black hole help me in the kitchen. The rest of you sit at the dinner table.”

Sloane chuckled as he followed Calvin into the kitchen, while Ethan and Dex walked over to the dinner table.

“I happen to have a normal, healthy appetite,” Dex called out as he pulled a chair out for himself near the end of the table. Ethan situated himself across from him. It was best he remained near the competition.

“There’s nothing normal about you,” Calvin replied.

“Cal!” Darla scolded. “Manners.”

“It’s okay,” Sloane assured her. “They’re always like this. Welcome to Destructive Delta.”

Darla came out from the kitchen with a huge red casserole dish that had Ethan whimpering. Not even his birthday excited him as much as Darla’s cooking.

“I don’t know how you do it, Sloane.” Darla carefully set the dish down on the potholder. “These boys must be a handful.”

“They’re something alright,” Sloane muttered, before giving Dex a wink.

Less talking, more food bringing. If Calvin was ignoring him, he’d have to bring out the big guns. Ethan jutted out his bottom lip at Darla.

“Oh, baby, I bet you’re hungry.” She gave the top of his head a kiss and hurried Sloane and Calvin back toward the kitchen. “Hurry up, boys. Your men need to be fed.”

It took Ethan a moment to realize Darla had said “your men”, and not “your man” in regards to Dex and Sloane. Ethan looked up and Dex wriggled his eyebrows knowingly. Did Darla suspect something? Had Calvin said something to her about them? Calvin hadn’t responded. Maybe he hadn’t caught it? Dex leaned forward, and Ethan eyed him warily.

“Nice touch with the lip thing. I say we hit her with a double whammy. Betcha we get served first.”

Ethan’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. That’s… genius! Why hadn’t he thought of that? Ethan nodded in agreement. More food came until the whole table was filled with steaming dishes. Ethan glanced over at Dex who gave him a wink. The two of them pouted, and Dex even threw a little sigh out for good measure as he gazed longingly at the dumplings.

“Oh, you must be starving!” Darla took a plate and turned to Calvin. “I’ll serve Dex, you serve Ethan.”

Calvin looked from Ethan to Dex. When his mother turned away, he narrowed his eyes at Dex. Ethan grinned widely at Calvin as his best friend served him up a huge Therian-sized plate. As if sensing Dex could eat his weight in food, Darla served Dex up a Therian-sized plate. They held out long enough for Darla to say grace before they dug in. Ethan couldn’t remember Dex ever being quiet. Sloane stared at Dex before turning his attention to Darla who looked amused.

“I swear, I do feed him,” Sloane assured her.

Calvin swallowed his forkful of food before looking worriedly at Sloane. “You sure he’s okay? The last time he was this quiet, he was unconscious.”

Sloane leaned forward to look at Dex’s face. “He’s breathing. And chewing. So yeah, he’s alive.”

“Congratulations, Mom. You’ve achieved the unachievable. It’s been ten minutes and Dexter J. Daley hasn’t spoken one word.”

Ethan stuffed another piece of cornbread in his mouth.

Dex swallowed and smiled sweetly at Darla. “That’s a beautiful bouquet of flowers, Darla.”

Darla turned to look at the flowers and Dex flipped Calvin off.

“Why thank you, Dex. I love having fresh flowers in the house. Also, I saw that.” She turned back and took a dainty bite of dumpling before giving Dex a knowing look.

Dex almost choked on his cornbread. He took a big gulp of sweet tea before gaping at her. “How did you know?”

“Please, Dex,” she let out a soft laugh before motioning to Calvin and Ethan. “I know all about raising rambunctious boys. Would you like seconds?”

“Yes, please.” Dex beamed at her as she took his plate from him. Ethan couldn’t believe how much Dex ate. When dessert came, Dex ate nearly half a pecan pie. Luckily Darla had made three. By the time they were done, neither he nor Dex could move.

Dex sat back in his chair, and lolled his head to the side to look at Sloane, his hand rubbing his fully belly. “Sloane, I think I’m pregnant.”

With a chuckle, Sloane stood. “And on that note, I’m going to help wash up.”

Calvin laughed as he helped Sloane clear up the dishes. Ethan would have helped except that would require moving. Then he noticed the one slice of pie left. It sat on its white porcelain dish looking mighty lonesome. Problem was, Dex was eyeing it too. Ethan narrowed his eyes, and Dex did the same. They both sat up. Dex laced his fingers together and placed them on the table, his gaze never leaving Ethan.

“I’m the guest. I clearly should get the last slice.”

Ha! I don’t think so.

Ethan shook his head. There was no way Dex was getting between him and that heavenly slice of pecan perfection. Slowly, he put his hands on the table, his gaze on Dex. They both readied themselves when Calvin swiped up the plate. Dex’s gasp drowned out Ethan’s own. Calvin scooped up half the slice and stuffed it in his mouth, moaning loudly.

“So good,” he said through a mouthful of pie.

“You… how… why?” Dex whimpered. “My pie.”

Ethan scoffed. You mean my pie.

Calvin blinked at them innocently. “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you guys gonna eat this?” With a shrug, he finished the pie and walked off. Ethan watched him go before turning back to Dex, his bottom lip jutted out.

“Hey, he’s your partner.”

Ethan kicked Dex under the table.

“Ow!” Dex tried to retaliate but his legs weren’t as long as Ethan’s so he couldn’t reach. He pushed himself back, cackling at Dex’s frown. “Damn tiger Therians. Why do you have to be so tall?”

Ethan shrugged. Why do you Humans have to be so short?

A piece of pie materialized in front of him and another in front of Dex. They looked up at Darla who put her finger to her lips before heading back to the kitchen.

Definitely a great day.

THIRDS Thursdays is on hiatus for the month of July for the release of Smoke & Mirrors. We return August 4th!

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

THIRDS Thursday – 6/23/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I just thought it would make a really adorable Third’s Thursday story if on one of the many assignments the team gets sent on, Dex hides behind a dumpster and a little kitty that looks just like Sloane imprints on him. He smells like a big kitty and I think it would freak Sloane out.

Where the hell was Sloane?

Dex hauled ass through the apartment complex grounds while a wolf Therian that had strayed from his pack tried to turn Dex into kibble. Ash, Hobbs, and Cael were off taking care of the rest of the pack, and Dex had lost sight of Sloane after the stray wolf had decided to hunt Dex. His partner was out in the shadows somewhere, hunting his prey. Dex just wished he’d get to pouncing already. He managed to lose the wolf Therian after a few strategic turns through the maze of buildings. Thinking he heard a growl, Dex ducked behind a building and hid behind a huge metal dumpster. He listened carefully, but instead of hearing a growl, he heard a tiny mew.

What the…? Turning, Dex gasped, his hand going to his chest. It was a teeny tiny black kitten with bright amber eyes. When he spoke it was in an awed whisper. “Look at you! So precious.” He reminded Dex of Sloane, but pocket-sized. Dex had never seen anything so adorable. “Hey, little guy.” Dex chuckled as the tiny kitten rubbed up against him. The poor little thing could easily fit inside one of his boots and have ample room to move around. The kitten’s tiny meows were barely audible, and Dex wouldn’t have heard him if it hadn’t been so quiet.

“Aw, what are you doing out here all by yourself.” He scratched under its chin with his gloved fingers, smiling at the sweet little purr it let out. For a moment he got distracted, until a low growl snapped his attention away from the kitten. Dex carefully peered around the edge of the dumpster. There was nothing there. Shit. Where the hell was it coming from? He was about to make a move when the kitten meowed. Damn. He couldn’t leave the poor thing behind. Who knew what would happen.

“All right, buddy. You’re coming with me.” He picked the kitten up and tucked it into one of his tactical vest’s ample pockets. The kitten was so small he fit right in, his furry head poking out. The kitten looked up at Dex and meowed. “We’re going for a little run, okay? Just hang tight.”

Slowly, Dex edged out from behind the dumpster, his tranq rifle in his hand. He kept to the wall as close as possible, his tactical backpack scraping against the brick. Listening, there was the sound of Ash’s roar in the distance and Cael’s faint chirps. Had they caught all the wolf Therians? Turning the corner, he froze. A wolf Therian stood with fur bristled, his fangs bare as he growled at Dex.

“Take it easy there, buddy.” Dex held a hand up and the wolf Therian snapped his jaws. Dex aimed his rifle, ready to fire a tranq when something black barreled into the furry wolf Therian, sending the guy soaring several feet before he rolled in the grass.

Sloane leaped after the wolf and roared, the sound echoing through the quiet courtyard. With bone-crushing fangs bare, Sloane hissed and the wolf Therian smartly rolled onto his back, paws up in surrender as he released a whine. Dex let out a shaky breath before tapping his earpiece.

“Rosa, Sloane’s got the last one. Send Ash and Hobbs over to escort him back to the truck.”

“They’re on their way.”


Ash, Hobbs, and Cael appeared seconds later, and while Ash and Hobbs escorted their perp back to the BearCat, Cael came bounding over. He skidded to a halt and sniffed the air. With a cheerful chirp, he stretched his neck up and sniffed at the kitten in Dex’s pocket.

“I found him behind the dumpster. Isn’t he adorable?”

Cael chirped and the kitten meowed. It stuck a paw out and tapped Cael’s nose. Cael’s tail twitched before he ran circles around Dex, bouncing and chirping like crazy. Dex couldn’t keep himself from laughing.

“You two are too cute. Stop it.”

Clearly interested in seeing what all the fuss was about, Sloane warily approached, and when he reached Dex, he stretched his thick, sleek neck up to sniff the kitten. He hissed, and to Dex’s surprise, the tiny kitten hissed back. Sloane growled in response.

“Oh come on, babe. It’s just a kitten. Look at how itty bitty he is. He’s like a mini you.”

Sloane flattened his ears. He paced in front of Dex before circling him, sniffing him. He looked up at Dex and hissed.

“He may have rubbed up on me.” Was his partner really jealous of a kitten?

Sloane circled Dex, rubbing his head and body against him wherever he could reach him. Well, that answered that question. Dex tried not to laugh. He was sure his partner wouldn’t appreciate it. Rubbing up against another dude’s boyfriend was not cool, even for a tiny cat. Once Sloane was done, they headed back to the BearCat where everyone made a fuss over the kitten except for Sloane and Ash. Sloane was still jealous and Ash just didn’t give a crap. No surprise there.

Since the back of the BearCat was currently occupied by six locked up wolf Therians in Therian form, Sloane, Ash, Cael, and Hobbs remained in their Therian forms until they got back to HQ. All the while, Dex talked to the kitten, explaining to him what he was doing as he administered PSTC to Sloane. Once Sloane had recovered and dressed, he sat on the bench of the changing room, his narrowed eyes on Dex’s vest.

“Dude, seriously?”

Sloane’s frown deepened, his intense glare on the tiny ball of black fur in Dex’s arms. “I don’t trust him.”

“It’s a kitten.” Dex scratched behind the kitten’s ears, smiling as it purred and rubbed his head against Dex’s shirt.

“He knows what he’s doing.”

“And what’s that?” Dex asked, trying not to sound as amused as he felt that his huge jaguar Therian partner was glaring at the kitten like it was evil itself.

“He’s trying to steal you away from me.”

Dex pressed his lips together, the pout on Sloane’s face almost too much. His boyfriend was such an adorable dork at times. “I’m sure he’s not. Why don’t you come say hello?”

With a grumble, Sloane shuffled over, his bottom lip jutted out tragically before he reached out to pet the kitten. In true mini-Sloane style, the kitten hissed and swatted him, claws out.

“Ow! He scratched me,” Sloane growled. “The little bastard.”

“Aw, I think he was protecting me.”

“Protecting you?” Sloane crossed his arms over his chest. “I protect you. Me. I’m your boyfriend. I’m bigger. And scarier.”

“You are all those things, my love.” Dex held the kitten away from Sloane as he planted a kiss on Sloane’s stubbly jaw. If his partner were in Therian form, his fur would be bristling. Sloane peered at the kitten.

“I’m a lethal Felid, that’s a hairball with eyes.”

Dex let out a bark of laughter. “Okay, take it easy, handsome. How about we go get you some real food, and then we see if anyone in Unit Alpha wants to give this fella a home.”

Sloane wrinkled his nose, and Dex gave his jaw another kiss. “Then we can take a shower, and maybe head to one of the sleeper bays where I can show you how you’re the only Felid for me.”

Sloane didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Dex, took his mouth in a scorching kiss, stealing Dex’s breath away, before he released Dex and jutted a finger at the kitten.

“Mine. You get your own.”

With that, he stormed off and Dex followed, a big dopey grin on his face. God, he loved that man.

THIRDS Thursday – 6/16/16

THIRDS Thursdays

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

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

I won’t let you get away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Maybe threat. Put your hand in my face again.

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

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

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

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

Too close.

“Wow, look at you. A THIRDS agent.”

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


Sloane edged closer.

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

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

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

The man smiled. “Or ever.”

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

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

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

The man jumped and took a step back.

“Shit, your partner looks pissed.”

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

“Is he… purring?”

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

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

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

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

Sloane flopped down on his belly with a huff.

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

“He’s actually done that?”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sloane licked his face.

Don’t like it, but okay.

What mattered was that Dex was his now.

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

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

Sloane could hear Cael laughing.

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

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


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

Sloane closed his eyes and opened his mouth.

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

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


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

THIRDS Thursday – 6/9/16

THIRDS Thursdays

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

“You’re so full of it.”

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

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

“Thanks. That’s… informative.”

“Don’t be a smartass.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh oh, here comes trouble.”

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

“Hey, kiddo.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tony laughed. “No way. Forty.”

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

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

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


“Thirty, and that’s my final offer.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, little man. I love you too.”

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

“Did he just….”

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

“How long has it been since—”

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


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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Tony corrected.

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Dex corrected.

Tony smiled, his heart all but ready to burst.


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

THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 Blog Tour!

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

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


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


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

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

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

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



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

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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.

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

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

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

THIRDS Thursday – 5/12/16

THIRDS Thursdays

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

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

This was a terrible idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lobito, please.”

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

“It was drinks and talking. Nothing happened.”

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

“He’s in love with Ash, and I’m—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Seb shook his head. “That’s on me.”

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

“I can’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get down!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Where else is he hit?”

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

Don’t let me go.

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

“Seb!” Sloane ordered.

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

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

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

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

“You know I will. It’ll be okay.”

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

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

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

THIRDS Thursday – 4/21/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt:Taylor’s reaction the first time he realizes Sloane has marked Dex. We saw a posturing scene briefly, but the first time he caught a whiff of the mark I wonder what his reaction was and what he thinks about it. Like did he notice the mark in the locker room showers or just as Dex passed by his office? It could be any number of chance encounters. That would be interesting he totally is a walking sexual harassment case just waiting to be reported to Sparks. Has he ever been reprimanded by Spark’s? I certainly would not want to be in her crosshairs, or rather in front of her bow. Heck, just her glare would be enough I think. She’s freaking awesome.

Man, he hated reports. Fucking bane of his existence. He’d just finished typing up the last paragraph of his incident report when Herrera popped his head into Taylor’s office.

“Dude, guess who’s back on duty?”

Taylor tapped “save” before turning his attention to his teammate. There was a sudden roar of applause and Taylor couldn’t help his sneer. “Let me guess, the prodigal son has returned.”

Herrera shook his head. “Man, let it go. You never stood a chance.”

“Fuck you, Herrera.” Taylor flipped him off and turned back to his desk’s interface. Sloane should have never even been in the picture. The guy was Team Leader, and Dex was his partner. He should have never gotten involved with Dex. Asshole didn’t even give Taylor a chance. No wonder he’d been so pissed off the first time Taylor had talked about Dex and what he wanted to do to him. Fucker had already been screwing his partner.

“You coming out or what?” Herrera asked, sounding frustrated. Like Taylor gave a fuck.

“Since when do we congratulate people for not fucking dying?” Taylor growled.

“That’s harsh, man.” Herrera shook his head and walked out.

So now he was the dick? He wasn’t the one who’d planted the bomb in Keeler’s truck. He wasn’t the dumb fuck who went out there and set off the bomb, getting caught in the explosion. Why the hell should he feel sorry for Sloane Brodie. The guy had fucking everything. Taylor looked out into the bullpen, straightening when he saw a blond head of hair and a familiar smile.

The guy was hard to miss even in a room full of Therians who were bigger, taller, and bulkier. It was that damned smile. Taylor had never seen anything like it. It was the first thing he’d noticed about Dex. His mouth. And his eyes. But his mouth was fucking sexy. Full pouting lips that spread into a smile that could light up any room. It was strange. Usually the first thing Taylor noticed about a guy was his ass. And although Dex possessed a beautiful perky ass that made Taylor drool, it wasn’t the first thing he’d noticed about the guy.

From the moment Taylor had spotted Dexter J. Daley, he’d been consumed by lust. His mistake—he discovered all too late—had come when he’d approached Dex like any other potential lay. Taylor had never been interested in more than a quick fuck or one-night stand, and he never found himself attracted to Humans. He liked it rough in the bedroom, and sometimes he enjoyed a little kink, but Humans had trouble keeping up with him. Clearly Dex didn’t have any trouble keeping up with a Therian lover, considering he was still with that douchebag Sloane Brodie. The thought alone was enough to make him hiss.

It wasn’t that he disliked Destructive Delta. In fact, he respected them. They were one of Unit Alpha’s top teams for a reason. They had a track record that couldn’t be beat. Sure, they caused a hell of a lot of property damage, and had a habit of breaking the rules, but there was no one who would go to war to make things right like those guys. If Beta Ambush was going into the fucking fray, there was no one else who he’d rather have his back. Still, they pissed him off. No one got away with shit like Destructive Delta. Especially with Sparks. All she had to do was look at someone and they were ready to shit their pants, but not when it concerned Sloane Brodie. The fucking golden boy of Unit Alpha. If the dude weren’t solely into cock, Taylor would have guessed he was banging Sparks.

Taylor had bided his time. He figured Sloane would fuck things up with Dex the way he seemed to fuck up everything else. After Gabe died, Sloane had practically run his fucking team into the ground. For months Taylor wondered why the hell Sparks didn’t bench Sloane. Permanently. Then Dex showed up and everything changed.

As the crowd outside dispersed, and Sloane headed after Sparks, Taylor left the office and followed Dex into his. Before Dex could sit, Taylor knocked on the glass wall.

“Hey.” Taylor felt like an idiot. He hated the way his voice sounded unsure, and he especially hated the way Dex looked at him. Like he was waiting to defend himself against Taylor. Okay, so maybe his past actions were to blame, but it wasn’t like he was going to assault the guy. He cringed at the memory. He’d pretty much already done that. Shit. Why the fuck didn’t the guy hate him?

“Hey.” Dex sat on the edge of his desk studying Taylor.

“Welcome back.”

“Thanks, man.” Dex smiled widely. It was genuine and sweet.

Taylor found himself smiling like a moron. He’d come to know Dex’s smiles pretty well. He wondered how many people knew the guy had different smiles. There was the one he had for his friends and teammates, the one he had for his father and sergeant, the one for the rest of their teammates, the one he used when he was just trying to be polite, and the one he used when he didn’t trust someone and was trying to get a read on them. Then there was the one he had for Sloane. It made Taylor’s insides twist. Sloane didn’t deserve that smile. He didn’t deserve the little creases that formed at the corners of Dex’s bright blue eyes when he smiled. Or the dreamy look that came into his eyes. Like all he could see was Sloane and no one else.

Taylor was about to ask how Dex was feeling when his inner Felid stirred. He stepped into the room and sniffed. Something was… different.

“You okay?” Dex asked.

The scent suddenly intensified, and it filled Taylor’s nostrils. It was heady. A mixture of citrus shampoo, Dex’s scent, Sloane’s, and something else. All at once, Taylor crossed the distance between them. He grabbed Dex’s arm, tugged at the cuff, and pushed his sleeve up, ignoring Dex’s protest.

“What the fuck, Taylor? Get off!”

Taylor was stronger. He held onto Dex’s arm and gasped when he saw the bandage. He stared at Dex.

“You let him fucking mark you?”

Dex jerked his arm out of Taylor’s grip, and quickly rolled down his sleeve, his voice clipped when he spoke. “It’s none of your damned business.”

Taylor couldn’t believe it. Sloane had marked Dex. “How could you?” He shook his head. “Why?”

“Why?” Dex’s expression softened. Was it pity? Understanding? Did he somehow know that Taylor had been thinking about him on and off for months? No, that wasn’t possible. Taylor had done his best to keep his distance.

“I asked him to mark me because I love him, and I’m his.”

Taylor’s chest felt tight. Man, he was such a fucking loser. Had he really thought he had a chance? He kept telling himself Dex would get fed up with Sloane’s shit and dump his ass. The guy was fucking neck deep in baggage, it was bound to send Dex running. Instead, Dex fell in love with him and asked Sloane to mark him? It made no fucking sense.

“You really think he’s going to change?” Taylor spat out, feeling humiliated at his own stupidity. Of course Dex would never leave Sloane. Dex was so fucking good. He was patient, understanding, and so damned loyal it hurt. “Sloane Brodie will never change. He’s been a miserable bastard from the day he showed up here. Everything he touches turns poisonous and dies.”

“That’s enough,” Dex said through his teeth. “My relationship with Sloane is none of your business. Thanks for the welcome, but I think you should go.” Dex turned, and Taylor caught his arm. Dex was furious, and he had every right to be. Taylor tried to find the right words. He was so shit at this.

“Look, I’m sorry for being such an asshole. I just….” Taylor swallowed hard, trying to get the words out, especially with Dex looking at him the way he was. Like he was searching for something inside Taylor. No one had ever looked at him like that. Probably because no one ever gave a shit about him long enough to try and figure him out. “I don’t deserve you. I get that. But neither does he. All he does is hurt you.”

Dex stared at him. “What the hell, man?”

“Do you really think I’m that oblivious?” Taylor let go of Dex’s arm and shook his head. “You’re a really shitty liar, and your wear your heart on your sleeve. It would take a fucking moron not to see when you’re upset.”

“Have you been watching me?” It wasn’t an accusation, more like he was curious.

Taylor shrugged. “I notice things.” He met Dex’s gaze. “I notice you.”

Dex nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving Taylor’s. “I really think you should go.”

“I agree.”

At the sound of the gruff voice, Taylor bristled. At least he would have if he were in his Therian form. Teeth clenched, he turned to find Sloane in the doorway, eyes narrowed.

“There something you want, Taylor?”

Taylor looked over his shoulder at Dex. His big blue eyes filled with concern as he looked between Taylor and Sloane. As much as Taylor would have loved to plant one in Sloane’s face, he didn’t want Dex to think any less of him than he already did.

Taylor shook his head as he swept by Sloane. He paused then leaned into Sloane, his voice low. “When you fuck this up—and you will—I’ll be the man he needs. The one you never could be.”

Fury flashed in Sloane’s eyes, and Taylor readied himself for a punch that never landed. He frowned, staring at the back of a blond head. Goddamn it, Dex.

“Babe, please.” Dex put his hand on Sloane’s arm, and Taylor witnessed the anger drain out of the huge jaguar Therian. His expression softened, his amber eyes filled with so much adoration it made Taylor feel sick to his stomach. Afraid he might lose his breakfast, he stormed back to his office. He dropped into his chair, and was so lost in his own pitiful thoughts, he was startled by the movement in front of his face. He blinked down at the coffee cup on his desk. Looking up, he found Herrera standing next to his desk, a strange expression on his face.

“Large triple shot skinny mocha with chocolate powder. Thought it might cheer you up.”

It was his favorite. “Uh, thanks.” Taylor took the hot cup in his hands, feeling his cold insides grow warmer. He took a sip and sighed. Damn that was good.

Herrera gave him a smile. Then it fell away and he shifted uncomfortably. “Listen, I’m sorry about Dex. I know you really like him.”

Taylor shrugged and took another sip of his drink.

“You’re a great guy, Taylor. I’m sure the right guy is somewhere out there.” With that he turned and walked away. It was weird, hearing those words from Herrera. Usually they just cursed at each other, messing around. Herrera was his friend, but the guy never got emotional on him. Most likely because he knew Taylor would tease the fuck out of him.

As he sipped his coffee, he thought about Dex being marked by Sloane. Those stupid fucks had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. If Taylor had felt that pull toward Dex, he could just imagine what it would be like for Dex out there. He hoped Brodie was prepared. The best thing for Taylor to do would be to stay as far away from Dex as possible. Yep, that’s what he’d do.


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