Hello, all! We have a special Valentine’s treat for you! The fabulous RJ Scott is hosting a number of authors on her blog to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and today we have a fun little Valentine’s Day flash fiction story featuring our devious duo Dexter J. Daley and Sloane Brodie. Check out what mischief Dex is up to on Valentine’s Day.
Prompt: Ash and Dex team up to take care of Cael while he is sick, like a couple of mother hens. :P
Ugh, he was so tired of these stupid algorithms. He’d been doing them all day. Why couldn’t Defense agents program their own stuff? He supposed he couldn’t be too mad at them. They had enough to worry about out on the streets without having to break their brains trying to talk to Themis. Sometimes he wanted to tell Themis where it could—
Cael gave such a start he almost fell out of his chair. “What?” He snapped at Dex hovering over him.
“Jesus, you don’t have to bite my head off. What’s with you? You’ve been such a grumpy McGrumpy Pants for the last two days. Are you feeling okay?” Dex leaned in and put his head to Cael’s brow, his eyes going wide. “I think you have a fever.”
Cael swatted his brother’s hand away. “I’m fine. I’ve just been busy.” He frowned and went back to his desk interface. “Did you want something?”
When there was no reply, he looked up and peered at Dex. His brother was studying him, eyes narrowed.
“You’re kinda creeping me out,” Cael muttered. Then again, it was just Dex being Dex. “I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, so….” Hint. Hint. Hint.
Dex got up and walked out of the room. Cael stared after him.
“What the heck was that about?” Seriously, he worried about that guy.
Cael lost himself in his algorithms, stopping only long enough to pull a tissue out of his desk drawer. Stupid allergies. His nose was all stuffed up.
“Cael, are you all right?”
A shadow loomed over him, and Cael lifted his gaze, finding Ash looking down at him worriedly.
“Dex said you were sick.”
Cael leaned back in his chair to glare at his brother who was very smartly hiding behind Ash.
“I’m fine,” Cael said. “Dex is overreacting. Again.”
Ash seemed to be mulling that over. “While I will agree that your brother is prone to exceptional feats of ridiculousness, it would ease my mind if you let me check your temperature.”
Cael stared at him. “Take my temperature?” He shook his head. “Ash, I’m fine.” Of course the moment the words were out of his mouth, he sneezed.
Ash removed a small device from his pocket.
“Please tell me you didn’t bring a—”
The thermometer was place to his head, and Ash’s expression was very stern when he spoke. “Hold still.”
Cael was surrounded by crazy people. Should Cael be terrified right now? It would appear his brother’s crazy was rubbing off on Ash. Cael sighed, and the gadget beeped.
“You have a fever,” Ash declared, and Dex leaned around him to thrust a finger at Cael.
“I knew it. You’re sick. Do you want to go to the medic?”
Cael scowled at him. “No. My partner is a medic, remember?”
“Right.” Dex looked up at Ash. “He needs to be home under lots of fluffy blankets with pillows and chicken soup and one of those smoky-breathy things.”
Ash rolled his eyes. “You mean a humidifier?”
“Yeah, one of those.”
Cael groaned. “I’m fine. You two need to go away. I’m busy.”
Cael jumped to his feet to yell at his brother when a wave of dizziness slammed into him, and he would have fallen over his chair if Ash hadn’t caught him. “I’m fine,” Cael grumbled.
“Sweetheart, maybe you should take the rest of the afternoon. You’re looking a little pale.”
“That’s just cause it’s so cold in here. Rosa probably turned the temperature down before she left for lunch.”
“Speaking of,” Ash said, running a hand over Cael’s head. It felt nice. “Why aren’t you eating lunch?”
“I wasn’t hungry, and I wanted to get these algorithms done.” He was going to once again say he was fine when he noticed Dex was gone.
Ash straightened and turned around. “He was just here a second ago.”
Tony strode into the room, grumbled at Ash to move aside, and put his hand to Cael’s brow. Before Cael could say yet again that he was fine, Tony spoke up.
“You’ve got a fever. Go home.”
“What?” Cael sputtered, shutting his mouth when Tony gave him that look. “Yes, sir.” Cael let out a heavy sigh as Tony left. His dad was very strict when it came to agents getting sick. He’d rather have an agent be out for however long it took and get them cover than have a bug go around infecting everyone. Covering for a couple of agents was preferable to having to cover whole teams.
Dex walked in looking smug, and Cael gasped.
“Oh my God, did you just narc on me to dad?”
“No, I narced on you to our sergeant. Very different.”
Cael would have strangled him if he had the strength.
“Listen,” Ash said, kneeling beside his chair. “Sloane owes me some overtime, so how about I take you home and we get you settled down on the couch and I’ll make you some soup.”
“I can make soup,” Dex chimed in.
Ash waved a hand dismissively. “I’ve got this, Daley. Go make a menace of yourself elsewhere.”
“But, I always make him soup. And chocolate chip cookies.”
Ash stood, and slapped a hand on Dex’s shoulder. “And now he has me to make him soup and chocolate chip cookies. Don’t you have a job to do?”
Dex folded his arms over is chest. “Taking care of my family is my job.”
Cael sank farther down his chair. It was like watching a tennis match that never ended because neither side was giving in. Cael just needed a little sleep, that’s all. He logged out of Themis, and shut down his desk interface while Dex and Ash argued over who would look after Cael better. Taking it slow, he pushed himself to his feet. No dizzy spell. Good. He turned and sighed. They were still arguing? Jeez. These two. Pot and kettle.
“How about,” Cael said loudly, halting the argument, “Ash makes the soup, and Dex makes the cookies?”
They both narrowed their gazes at him.
“Or, you can both stay here arguing, while I go home, all alone.” He pouted. “Sick.” Cough. Cough.
“You got it, sweetheart.” Ash wrapped his arm around Cael.
“Chocolate chip cookies,” Dex agreed. “I’m on it.”
Cael blinked up at Dex. “Can I have double chocolate chips?”
Dex threw his arms around Cael’s head, petting it. “You can have all the chocolate chips, Chirpy.”
“Wow. You two are total suckers.”
Dex pulled back, puzzled. “My precious baby brother is sick, Cal.”
Cael looked up at Ash, bottom lip jutting out. “I’m not feeling so good. Can we go home?”
“Of course, sweetheart.” Ash led him to the doorway when Ash and Dex were called over by a fellow agent. “Be back in one second.” Ash kissed the top of Cael’s head before he and Dex hurried off. Cael turned to thrust a finger at Calvin.
“You do anything to ruin this for me, and I will end you, Summers.”
Calvin chuckled. “Man, you are evil.”
“Cal, my boyfriend is best friends with my brother’s boyfriend. Which means Dex and Ash are in each other’s hair more than ever, which means they spend a good portion of their time arguing and driving me and Sloane nuts. I deserve soup and chocolate chip cookies when I’m sick, Cal. If I don’t get my cookies, and some hot chocolate with enough whip cream to choke a mule, I’m going to shank someone with a spork! Do you hear me, Cal? A spork!”
Calvin took a slow step back, his eyes wide. “Um, how about I bring you some of my mom’s pecan pie?”
Cael smiled wide. “Aw, that’s very sweet of you, Cal. I would love that.”
“You’re kinda scary sometimes.”
“You would be too if Dex was your brother and Ash was your boyfriend.” Cael gave Calvin’s shoulder a pat. “Don’t forget the whip cream.”
Ash jogged over, his expression worried. “You okay? Sorry, just had to answer a couple questions about our last case. Ready?”
Cael coughed. “Ready.”
Thankfully they didn’t hit a lot of traffic on the way home. Cael was feeling pretty gross. His head hurt, his nose was stuffed, he was cold, his whole body ached, and he was so tired. Once inside, Ash helped him into his comfiest pajamas, and helped him over to the couch. He brought down half a dozen warm fuzzy blankets, several pillows, and even made Cael a hot water bottle because he was shivering. By the time Ash was done, Cael was ready to hibernate in his cave of fluffy warmth. The only part not covered by the blankets were his eyes.
Ash put on one of the science fiction movie channels before turning and kissing Cael’s brow.
“I’m going to go make that soup. If you need anything, you just let me know, okay?”
“Thank you,” Cael said, genuinely thankful Ash was here. He was so good at taking care of Cael. Even if his boyfriend did sometimes drive him crazy when he was around Dex, Cael still loved Ash like crazy. He really was such a good boyfriend.
Somewhere in the middle of a so-bad-it’s-good movie, Cael fell asleep. When he woke up, he could hear Ash and Dex arguing. It was hilarious though, because they were whispering arguing. There was nothing like hearing Dex and Ash insulting each other in whispers. There was movement around the kitchen, so clearly they were cooking while arguing. Cael couldn’t help his smile. They were such dorks.
Cael must have fallen asleep again, because the next time he woke up, Sloane was sitting on the couch, socked feet propped up on the coffee table in front, reading from his tablet. He looked over at Cael and smiled.
“How are you feeling?”
Cael let out something that was a cross between a moan, a groan, and a hiccup. Ash and Dex appeared before him. Jeez, how did they do that? It’s like they learned how to teleport or something.
“Hey, Chirpy. Are you okay?” Dex put his hand to Cael’s head. “Still feverish.”
Ash shoved Dex aside and knelt in front of Cael. “Want some soup, sweetheart?”
“Ha!” Ash thrust a finger at Dex. “I told you.”
“Can I have a cookie too?” Cael asked.
Dex bounced around on his toes pointing at Ash with his index fingers. “And I told you.”
“You better not eat all my cookies,” Cael warned his brother.
“Please. Just what do you take me for?”
Ash opened his mouth to reply, and Dex cut him off.
“Shut it.” Dex turned his attention back to Cael. “I made my own batch.”
Of course he did. Oh God, if Dex didn’t stop bouncing….
“Babe,” Sloane said gently. He patted the couch next to him. “Come here.”
Dex bounded over and dropped onto the couch next to Sloane. “Yes, my love?”
Sloane smiled warmly at him. “Nothing. Just wanted to give you this.” He leaned in and kissed Dex. Dex melted against Sloane with a dreamy sigh. He pulled up his legs, and snuggled up close to Sloane, his eyes closed. Still. Not fidgeting. Sloane winked at Cael before going back to his book.
And that was why the man was made for Dexter J. Daley.
Cael had never known anyone in his life who could calm his brother with just one look, one word, or one kiss. It was astounding.
“You okay to sit up?”
Speaking of astounding….
Cael sat up, and smiled at Ash. “Thank you, Ash. I really appreciate it.” He carefully moved aside his blankets so he could sit up. Ash placed the tray over his lap, and kissed his head.
“Anything for you, sweetheart, you know that. Oh, and Cal dropped off some of his mom’s pecan pie and a tub of whip cream.” Ash shrugged.
Cael’s heart swelled, and as Ash got under the covers beside him, wrapping him up just enough to keep him warm while he ate his chicken soup. Cael couldn’t be happier.
Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.
THIRDS Thursday is on hiatus for the month of February for the release of Thick & Thin and returns March 2nd!
The fellas share their New Year’s resolutions.
Ash: I don’t make new year’s resolutions. If I want to do something, I do it. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t. That’s it.
Dex: How very Ash of you.
Ash: Whatever. This coming from the guy with no self-control.
Dex: *huffs* I totally have self-control. I don’t know what you’re talking about. *Turns to Sloane* Babe, I have self-control, right?
Sloane: *looking everywhere but at Dex*
Dex: *narrows eyes* Babe?
Sloane: *blinks at him innocently* Hm?
Ash: *snickering behind Cael*
Dex: Darling? Light of my loins. Owner of my very, very precious heart. Self-control. I have it, right?
Sloane: Um, of course your do, sweetheart.
Dex: You hesitated.
Sloane: *looks past Dex to Cael* How about you? Any resolutions?
Cael: I’m going to try and be more assertive. Outside the bedroom, anyway.
Ash: *jaw drops*
Dex: *eyes go wide* Oh my God, why? Why would you say that in my presence? *covers his eyes* I need bleach for my brain!
Cael: *rolls his eyes* I’m thirty years old, Dex. One of these days you’re going to have to accept that your baby brother isn’t a baby anymore.
Dex: Never! *throws his arms around Cael’s head and pets him* Precious, precious cookie.
Cael: I’m going to seriously hurt you if you don’t let go.
Dex: *sniffs* They grow up so quickly.
Cael: Get off.
Dex: One minute you’re changing their diaper—which was so heavy you had to wonder how something so small could poop so damn much—and the next thing you know—*gets tackled off his chair*
Sloane: *to Ash* What do you want to do after this?
Dex: *tussling with Cael on the floor* Could use a little help here.
Ash: *thinks about it* How about we grab some dinner and watch a movie? I’m kinda in the mood for Korean.
Dex: *groans after getting hit in the ribs* Babe?
Sloane: *snaps his fingers* Hudson recommended this great place over on East 31st Street. We should go there.
Ash: Sounds good.
Dex: Ouch! Dude, did you just try to knee me in ma boys? I need those!
Cael: Then stop talking about my diapers, you turd!
Dex: *snickers* Turd.
Cael: *stands over his brother and narrows his eyes* Say one more thing about me in diapers. I dare you.
Dex: *opens his mouth to reply*
Cael: Just know that when you do, I’m going to describe in exceptional detail the sex Ash and I had last night.
Dex: *pops up onto his feet* You know, I think I’m gonna sit down next to Sloane.
Cael: You do that. *Resumes his seat next to Ash*
Dex: *leans over Cael to peer at Ash* I blame you.
Ash: For what? The sex?
Dex: That. But generally, I just blame you.
Sloane: *chuckles and pats Dex’s leg*
Dex: *turns to Sloane* So what’s your new year’s resolution?
Sloane: *thinks about it* I don’t know. I guess, just really appreciate what I have, and making sure what I have knows he’s appreciated. *kisses Dex’s cheek*
Dex: *melts* Aw. You’re such a sap.
Ash: *to Dex* I blame you for that one.
Dex: *sighs dreamily as he looks at Sloane* I happily accept responsibility.
Dex: Bite me, Simba.
Ash: That’s getting old.
Dex: Aslan, then. Or we could go with Scar. Or Mufasa.
Ash: *grins wide* How about we go with my fist in your face. How’s that? I like that one best.
Sloane: Okay, that’s enough you two. Back to resolutions.
Dex: *puts his hand up * Ooh, I got one!
Sloane: Why are you raising your hand?
Ash: I find it hard to believe that you ever raised your hand in school.
Dex: Of course I raised my hand. I was an exceptional student.
*Cael and Ash exchange glances before bursting into laughter*
Cael: *wiping a tear from his eye* He’s right. He did raise his hand. He also made noises, whispered loudly to get the teacher’s attention, and flailed his arms. It drove his teachers insane, among other things.
Dex: *wrinkles his nose* Hey, I was an enthusiastic student.
Cael: And then after all the flailing and noises, when the teacher finally did call on him, he’d ask a completely random question. Like if she asked what the answer to the math problem was, he’d drive her nuts until she picked him, and then ask something like “why do dogs get surprised by their own farts”.
*Ash and Sloane burst into laughter*
Dex: What? If I didn’t ask when it occurred to me then I’d forget, and it would bug me for the rest of the day. I needed to know. You can all bite me.
Sloane: *sobering up* Okay, babe. What’s your resolution?
Dex: *mutters* To find new friends.
Sloane: Aw, don’t be mad. *pulls Dex into his arms and kisses him* You know we love you.
Ash: *opens his mouth when Cael clamps a hand over it*
Dex: *pouts* Can we get ice cream after dinner?
Sloane: Of course we can. You can have all the ice cream you want.
Cael: *eyes light up and turns to Ash* I want ice cream too!
Ash: *hugs Cael and glares at Sloane over Cael’s head* Of course, sweetheart.
Dex: *jumps off his chair at the same time as Cael* Woop! *they run out*
Ash: *shakes his head at Sloane* You couldn’t have just said yes, you had to say “all the ice cream you want.”
Sloane: Sorry. You know it’s hard for me to say no when he’s looking all pouty like that.
Ash: Which is why he does it, you sap! *throws his arms up* Now they’re going to eat their weight in ice cream, and Cael is going to be bouncing off the walls.
Sloane: *shrugs* Dex will be too. And it’ll last most of the night. *waggles his eyebrows*
Ash: *opens his mouth to answer then closes it. Realizes what Sloane is saying and stands* Let’s go get some ice cream. *grins wide* Happy New Year to me.
Sloane: *chuckles and walks after him*
Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.
*** CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SMOKE & MIRRORS ***
Prompt: I would like to read the scene where Dex is found in the woods in Smoke & Mirrors from Sloane’s point of view.
He had to find him.
Damn TIN for wasting so much time. Sloane should have been out here searching for Dex hours ago. Instead the bastards had knocked him out. Did Sparks really think he was going to just sit around on his ass and do nothing? His mate was out there somewhere, in trouble and in pain. Sloane could feel it down to his bones. He didn’t care if he drew attention to himself in the bright orange muscle car, he needed to have it with him. Needed to feel close to Dex, sit in his seat, grip the steering wheel. It was stupid, but driving the Challenger kept his hopes up. Like the damn thing might actually lead him to its owner.
As he drove, he told himself over and over that they would find Dex and he’d be alive. His man was made of tough stuff, tougher than a lot of people gave him credit for. Dex would survive. He’d do whatever was necessary to get back to Sloane, to Cael and Maddock. His family.
“Come on, baby, you gotta come home. I need you to come home.” Sloane’s phone rang and he tapped his earpiece after the first ring. “Who is this?”
Sloane almost slammed the breaks. For a second, he was afraid maybe he was hearing things, but he’d never mistake Dex’s sultry tones for anyone else’s. His voice was hoarse, sounding as if he were on the verge of tears, and Sloane had to blink away his own. He was so relieved, but until Dex was safe in his arms, he’d maintain focus.
“Oh thank God. Dex, where are you?”
“I… I have no idea. There’s lots of trees. I don’t see any signs. There was a road, but I don’t know what it was. Can you get Cael to find my location using the phone’s GPS?”
“Give me a sec,” Sloane murmured, sending Cael a quick emergency message asking him to trace the phone Dex was calling from. A heartbeat later he received a reply. “He’s on it. Are you okay? Talk to me. What happened?”
“It’s a really, really long story. I just… I need you.”
The whimper, the fear and need crept into Dex’s voice, and Sloane wanted nothing more than to be there with him. To hold him close and never let him go. “I’m on my way, sweetheart. Are you somewhere safe?”
“Home was safe.”
Sloane swallowed hard. Those sons of bitches. Whoever did this, whoever made Dex feel unsafe in his—their—own home was going to pay. “We’ll sort that out. Right now, let’s get you to me, okay? I’m your home.” Sloane rubbed at one eye then the other. He had to keep his shit together.
“Thank you. I really needed to hear that right now.”
Always. His earpiece beeped, and he tapped it, hearing Cael’s voice come in through the car’s speaker. Sloane hit the gas. “We have your location. I’ll be there soon. Stay on the line with me.”
No. No. No. Who knew what shape Dex was in. Sloane couldn’t lose him. He tried to keep the panic form his voice. “Stay awake, sweetheart. Please.”
“I don’t think I can. I’m kinda in bad shape here.”
There was a tremble in Dex’s voice, and as Sloane headed north, speeding through the city and breaking who knew how many traffic laws, he scrambled to think of something that would keep Dex awake until he got there. Stay with me. Please stay with me. An idea struck him, and he turned the radio on. It was tuned in to Retro Radio, same as it always was.
“Sing with me.”
“Come on. Listen.” Sloane turned up the radio, blasting the Romantics “What I Like About You.” Sloane sang and urged Dex to sing with him, his husky voice wrapping Sloane up in its warmth. Dex was trying his best to keep up with the lyrics which was no easy feat considering the fast-paced tune.
Dex loved this song. It came on while Dex cooked dinner last week. Sloane had joined in when Dex grabbed him and begged him to dance. He’d laughed and tried to pull away, but his boyfriend was an adorable goofball, so Sloane ended up getting swept up in the crazy. It had been fun, just jumping around, acting like a couple of dorks, singing along.
Sloane’s heart squeezed in his chest when he thought about that night, and every other night since he’d moved in with Dex. Sloane told Dex he was Dex’s home, but the reverse applied as well. Dex was his home. Wherever they were, if Dex was there, Sloane was okay. His sparkling blue eyes, his beautiful smile, and infectious laughter, Sloane needed him. All of him.
“Keep singing, sweetheart,” Sloane pleaded.
Dex was trying, and it broke Sloane’s heart. His voice was rough, his words barely audible, but he tried. As the song ended, the car became frightfully silent.
“Dex? Dex! Stay with me, baby, please.”
Breathing. He could hear breathing. Finally he pulled up on the street in the car’s GPS. He parked, turned off the headlights, and locked up before running up the incline where he spotted several TIN operatives. They’d started searching the thick greenery. The rest of their team arrived, and Cael ran to Sloane, his big gray eyes filled with fear.
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. He’s got to be in there somewhere. Everyone spread out. If you find him, I want to know immediately.” They joined the search, and Sloane tried to catch his mate’s scent. “Dex! Dex, where are you?”
A faint croaking sound caught his ear and he stilled. He sniffed at the air, and his stomach flipped. He ran toward the scent, his inner Felid stirring. He was close. TIN operatives caught onto something as well and they followed him as he ran through the trees, emerging to find the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. Sloane sped over and dropped to his knees, cradling Dex in his arms.
“Dex, look at me. Sweetheart, open your eyes.” Oh God, what have they done to you? Sloane couldn’t focus on the blood stains, bruising, or swelling. He had to look past the state Dex was in to the man he loved. “Dex, I’m here, sweetheart. I’m here.” Sloane gently hugged him close, one hand around Dex’s back, the other cradling Dex’s head to him, enveloping Dex in the hopes of giving him some of his warmth. Relief flooded through him.
“I stayed awake,” Dex murmured, nuzzling his face against Sloane’s shirt, inhaling his scent. Sloane blinked back his tears.
“You did good, babe. It’s okay.”
TIN operatives were ordered to span out and search, and Dex went limp in his arms. Sloane checked his pulse. He was out cold. With a shuddered breath, he rubbed his cheek against Dex’s hair, rocking him gently, murmuring comfort against his air.
“I love you, Dex. I love you so damn much.”
“Sloane, we need to take him.
Sloane snarled up at the operative, a fierce sense of possession flooding through him. He held Dex close to his chest, his fangs elongating as he dared anyone to lay a hand on his wounded mate. He’d tear them apart.
“Try it,” Sloane hissed. “Lay one finger on him and I’ll rip your throat out.”
The operative put his hands up and took a quick step back.
Sloane kissed Dex’s temple, a growl rising in his throat at the unfamiliar scent. A wolf Therian.
“Sloane?” Sparks crouched down beside him. “Dex is hurt. We need to get him medical attention.”
Sloane’s inner Felid fought against him. He didn’t want anyone touching his mate, but Sloane’s Human senses prevailed. Dex needed help. Who knew the extent of his injuries? He had to think of Dex, had to help him. Sloane’s chest tightened, and his inner Felid wailed as he nodded. Lifting Dex in his arms, he stood, and although his instincts fought to hold onto the man he loved, he allowed the large bear Therian to take Dex.
Sloane stood, his heart breaking as the operative carried Dex away. The pain coursing through him was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined falling so deep and so hard for someone. Dex was his life, and Sloane would do whatever it took to keep him.
Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.
Prompt: I think it would be cute to see Dex try and ride Sloane when he’s in Felid form and just general play. Maybe Dex buys cat toys without telling Sloane and then pulls them out to play with.
It was almost time.
Dex rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation.
“How’d you convince Maddock to give his permission for this?” Calvin asked, securing one of the hatches.
Dex surveyed the area. That was the final one. “Easy, I told him Shelley’s Market needed our help, and he agreed.”
“They’re this little family owned market that’s been around for generations. Anyway, they have this amazing little bakery at the back that makes fresh pies. My dad used to drag Tony in there all the time.” Dex smiled wistfully. “Apparently, my dad’s stomach was as bottomless as mine.”
Calvin chuckled. “So you’re helping Shelley’s Market out by buying all the leftover stock?”
“Yep, and everyone’s going to freaking love it. You’ll see. Even Austen showed up for this.” He patted Calvin’s arm before he headed for the gate to let in their Unit Alpha teammates who had all shifted into their Therian forms. Dex had put together the signup, specifying some Therian shenanigans. Thanksgiving was over, and not all agents got to spend it with their friends and family. The holidays were especiallt tough for some Therian agents, whether it was because they were out on the streets trying to keep everyone safe, or because they were reminded of the families they’d lost for simply being Therian.
The THIRDS canteen offered an amazing Thanksgiving spread all week, and invited agents to have their own gettogethers. Not everyone was as lucky as Dex, and he made sure to never forget it. So it became his tradition to lighten the mood, and involve his fellow team members in various shenanigans. Sloane had been skeptical at first, but after last year’s event went so well, he realized how right Dex was.
“You really think Sloane and Ash are going to join in?”
Dex grinned wide. “Oh, ye of little faith.” He’d booked the outdoor training area for the evening since it was less likely to be in use, and Shelley’s Market had dropped off the goods an hour ago. Calvin and the girls helped Dex set everything up before the girls went off to help their Therian teammates with their shifting out back. Now it was time. He climbed the ladder to the instructor’s platform along with Calvin.
“Best seats in the house,” Dex said, stepping up to the console, and pressing one of the buttons. “Pete, you ready?”
The speakers came to life, and Pete’s gruff voice came through loud and clear. “Ready, Dex.”
“Okay, let them in.”
A buzzer sounded, a red light flashed, and the half a dozen steel gates opened. Therian agents in their feral forms came flooding through. Dex wriggled his eyebrows at Calvin.
“Lions, and tigers, and jaguars, oh my!”
“You’re such a dork,” Calvin said through a laugh.
There were about two hundred agents in attendance, a mixture of Felid Therians, wolf Therians, and bear Therians. Dex spotted his teammates right away. He leaned forward and spoke into the microphone.
“You guys ready?”
A cacophony of roars, hisses, howls, and chirps echoed through the massive indoor field. It was almost as big as a football stadium. Around the walls, six ramps led up to six hatches. Dex pressed the button for Pete again.
“Okay, Pete. Let her rip. And make sure Al’s recording this.”
“Got it,” Pete replied. An even louder buzzer than the previous one blared, red lights flashing before the hatches opened, and hundreds of pumpkins came speeding down the platforms. It was sweet pandemonium. The moment they hit the grass, everyone was off. It was the funniest shit he’d ever seen in his life. The tiger Therian agents were so freaking adorable it hurt. Both Seb and Hobbs had each sunk their fangs into a pumpkin and were currently trotting around the ring, pumpkins displayed proudly, tails raised high. Ash’s mane swishing caught Dex’s eye, and he laughed as Ash batted a pumpkin with his paws like he was playing soccer. Cael and Hudson were too cute, pouncing and swatting a smaller pumpkin to each other as if it were a ball. Cael chirped, and Hudson released a series of bark/howls.
Dex had never seen so many pouncing Felids in all his life. Everyone was enjoying themselves, swatting, pouncing, dashing here and there. Everyone except Sloane.
Calvin looked at Dex worriedly. “Why’s Sloane sitting there looking so miserable?”
“I don’t know.” Dex climbed down the ladder, and jogged over to his grumpy jaguar Therian boyfriend who looked even grumpier than usual. “Hey, babe. Why aren’t you playing?”
Sloane looked up at him, his big amber eyes bright. He groaned before getting up and rubbing his head against Dex’s legs. Dex crouched down and gave Sloane a good scratch behind his ears and under his chin. “Come on, talk to me. What’s wrong?”
Sloane got up. He padded over to a small pumpkin and gingerly smacked it with his paw until it rolled over to Dex and hit his boot. Then Sloane sat on his haunches and looked up at Dex expectantly. Dex blinked at him.
“You want me to play with you?”
Sloane shut his eyes and opened his mouth, and Dex was suddenly stupidly happy. He dropped to his knees and threw his arms around Sloane, hugging him.
“Aw, you’re such a big softie.”
Sloane huffed, and licked the side of Dex’s face, making him laugh.
“That was gross. Thanks.” He got to his feet and readied his stance. Sloane lowered his head, his tail twitching.
Dex gasped, and pointed behind Sloane. “Holy crap!”
Sloane’s head shot up and he turned.
“Sucker!” Dex grabbed the small pumpkin and took off, laughing at Sloane’s annoyed growl. “I can’t believe you fell for that!” Dex tossed the pumpkin on the grass, and kicked it with his boot, doing his best to keep it away from Sloane who bounded up to him, jumping and pouncing, trying to swat at the wobbly orange vegetable. Sloane played dirty, trying to trip Dex up, at one point succeeding. Dex landed on his ass. He made a leap for Sloane before Sloane could sink his fangs into the pumpkin and run off with it. Unfortunately, in Dex’s desperate attempt to stop Sloane, he made the mistake of grabbing Sloane’s tail. He was lightning quick, twisting his body and smacking Dex upside the head with his paw.
“Ouch, man!” Dex laughed. He scrambled to his feet and dove for the pumpkin, curling himself around it. Sloane tried to shove his muzzle under Dex’s armpit, and Dex broke off into laughter. “That’s not fair. You know I’m ticklish.”
Sloane ignored him, poking Dex with his muzzle before he licked Dex up the side of his face with his sandpapery tongue.
“Right in the ear!” Dex wiped his ear with his sleeve, and Sloane swiftly batted the pumpkin out from under Dex. He tried to reach Sloane before Sloane plunged his fangs into the veggie, but it was too late. For Sloane, it was like biting into an apple. He picked up his pumpkin and darted off. “Come back here!”
Sloane ignored him, and Dex chased Sloane around the grassy pitch, doing his best not to run into any Felids. Austen zoomed past him, a pumpkin in his mouth, and Dex was forced to skid to a halt just as Zach loped past. Holy shit. He’d almost smacked into three hundred pounds of furry brown bear. That would not have been pleasant.
“You get him, Zach!” Dex took off after Sloane again, and spotted Calvin rolling around the grass with Hobbs. Rosa was cursing Ash out as she chased him. Something about him stealing her pumpkin and being a greedy bastard. That was when Dex noticed Ash had somehow managed to get his jaws around two small pumpkins. Letty, of course, was laughing her ass off.
Two hours later, and Dex lay on his back in the grass panting. “Oh my God, I can’t move. I’m done.” Dex flopped his hand in the general direction of the gate. “Babe, I think I need you to carry me.”
Calvin dropped down next to him with a chuckle. “How is Sloane going to carry you? It’s not like you can ride him like a pony.”
“Tried that. It was a very painful experience.”
“Oh, shit! You didn’t!” Calvin fell onto his side he was laughing so hard.
“Did you know that jaguar Therians weigh a fucking ton, and therefore when they land on you it hurts like hell? He grabbed my boot with his jaws, threw himself onto his side, and landed on me. I thought I broke a rib, but no, just hurt like I did. I would not recommend it.”
Calvin was wheezing. “Like… I would be… that stupid.”
“Thanks. Sloane, pleeease.”
“This I gotta see,” Calvin rolled onto his side, and propped himself on his elbow.
Dex closed his legs, putting his boots together, and Sloane gently slipped his fangs under Dex’s laces and pulled.
“You’ve got to be shitting me.”
Dex sat up and held onto his legs, though not before waving at Calvin over his shoulder. “See ya, bud.”
“Seriously? You have your boyfriend dragging you?”
“Hey, he’s a jaguar Therian remember? It’s good practice for him. He can drag Seb and Zach at the same time if he had to. I’m a piece of cake. It’s like sledding. Except you’re the sled. And you’re on grass.”
“That is the epitome of laziness.”
Dex shook his head. “Don’t knock it till you try it.” Sloane let out a grunt, and Dex chuckled. “You know, they should make this a sporting event.” He gasped. “Holy shit, we should totally make this a sporting event!”
Sloane let go, and stared at him.
With a flick of his tail, Sloane sauntered off.
“Hey, where are you going?”
Sloane ignored him, and Dex whined. “But the door is still so far away!” With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet, and lumbered toward the door. Letty came skipping over, and hooked Dex’s arm in hers.
“This was so much fun, Dex.” She leaned her head against his arm as they walked.
Dex couldn’t help his wicked grin. “Wait until you hear about my idea for next year.”
Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press
*** Warning: Contains spoilers from Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7) ***
Prompt: Would it be possible to get a THIRDS Thursday of Dex’s second seizure from Austen’s POV?
“Turn off the lamp.”
Austen heard Dex’s sleepy mumble in his earpiece, and sprang to action. He didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to be there when it happened, but he would. For Sloane. And okay, yeah, Dex too. The guy had grown on him. But really, for Sloane because the guy was going to be so fucking scared, and Austen couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Sloane to face what was coming alone.
It took him seconds to break into the house. The street was silent, all the good citizens asleep in their beds dreaming of their 401k or whether they were getting enough fiber. He locked the door behind him before making his way through the dark house, up the stairs to the closed bedroom door.
“Dex, what’s wrong?”
Austen slipped inside the room, closing the door as Dex spoke.
“Why’s it so bright in here?”
Austen crouched, and made his way over to the nightstand, first Dex’s, and then Sloane’s, confiscating their phones. Hospitals were out of the question. Not unless they wanted Dex to end up dead like the others. Damn it, Sloane. Why did you have to go and mark him? Austen pocketed the phones as he ducked behind the armchair before Sloane turned on the bedside lamp.
“Tell me what you’re feeling. Talk to me.”
Austen counted the seconds. It was about to happen, just as Sparks said. Son of a bitch. He’d hoped she was wrong. That she was full of shit and just getting him to spy on Dex, but… fuck. This was going to be hard. First Dex’s temperature would skyrocket, then his pupils would dilate, followed by chest pains.
“Fuck,” Dex wheezed.
“Dex, talk to me. You’re scaring the shit out of me.”
“I feel weird.”
Austen closed his eyes, breathing in deeply through his nose, and letting his breath out slowly, silently through his mouth. If it had been anyone else, no problem. Austen could blink and detach himself from a situation, close the door to any emotion that might threaten him, and endanger his mission. Had it been anyone else, he would have sauntered through the door, taken a seat, and just waited for the shit to hit the fan. No, that wasn’t true. If it had been anyone else, he wouldn’t be here.
The thrashing started, and Austen winced. Dex’s inhuman cry crawled under his skin, and Sloane shouting Dex’s name brought a hitch to his breath. He hated hearing Sloane sound so afraid. Austen turned his head up, silently cursing the heavens. Hadn’t the guy been through enough? How much more would he have to suffer?
Cut him a fucking break, huh?
Dex would fight the pain like he did the first time. At least Sloane was here with him. Austen had fucked up so bad. Sloane he had no choice in. He was stuck on the guy since they’d met. A tiny part of him still loved Sloane, but that love was changing, becoming more… affectionate. He wasn’t that pining teenager anymore. Regardless, Sloane was and would always be a part of his life. What Austen hadn’t meant to do was let Dex in. Fuck that Cheesy Doodle crunching asshole. Why did he have to be such a good guy? Why did he have to be so perfect for Sloane? Austen wanted to dislike him on principle, but he couldn’t. Over the years, Dex had wormed his way into Austen’s heart like a stray dog that follows you home, looking up at you with big hopeful eyes, wagging its tail and wanting nothing more than to love you.
Dex pissed him off. Despite all the shit Austen did, breaking into their house, eating his snacks, purposefully spying on him and making sure he knew it, the guy still liked Austen. Why? Why hadn’t Dex told Sloane to leave Austen behind? Dex knew how Austen felt. What kind of boyfriend was he?
Frantic movement told him Sloane was about to lose his shit.
“It was right there.”
Yes, it was, buddy. Now it was in his pocket.
“He’ll be fine.” Austen stood, smiling sadly as he watched Dex. He couldn’t look at Sloane. Not yet.
“Austen? You need to help me. We need to call emergency services.”
Austen shook his head. “You need to let this play out.” I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me. This was one of those moments where he questioned what he was doing with TIN. With his life. Someone he cared deeply about was in pain, begging him for help, and he couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t about the now, it was about what needed to happen, about the end game, and it boiled Austen’s blood.
Sloane wasn’t ready to hear the truth of what was happening to the man he loved, that it was his blood that was causing this. All Austen could do was protect Sloane, and prolong his heartbreak, because when the truth came out, Sloane’s heart would break. Austen prayed that Sloane and Dex’s relationship would be able to withstand the fallout. More importantly, he prayed Dex would survive what was happening to him.
“Are you out of your mind?” Sloane thrust a hand in Dex’s direction. “Look at him!” Sloane ran over to Dex’s side of the bed. Dex’s phone was gone. His head shot up, and he stared at Austen.
“You took them.”
“It’s a seizure,” Austen said gently. “Sort of. He’s had one before. You need to let it play out.”
“What?” Sloane shook his head. “That’s not possible. I would have known if this had happened before.” He quickly returned to Dex’s side, Austen joining him. “Dex would have told me.”
“He didn’t tell you because he couldn’t remember.” He braced himself.
“Explain,” Sloane growled.
“The other day, when you called him from work and he told you he must have fallen asleep. He’d had a similar episode. TIN was immediately on the scene, and Sparks was called in. They took care of him.”
“Why wasn’t I told?”
Sloane gave a start at Dex’s anguished cry, and he climbed onto the bed, kneeling beside Dex and running a hand over his head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. You can get through this. I’m right here with you.”
Tears streamed down the side of Dex’s face, and Austen clenched his jaw, forcing his emotions deep down inside him. Austen made the mistake of looking at Sloane, and it took everything he had not to run. Sloane wasn’t supposed to hurt like this. He’d always been larger than life, a strong, fierce jaguar Therian with a tender heart. A guy who could have thrown Austen away like everyone else in Austen’s life had, but he didn’t. He’d done so much for Austen, and now all Austen could offer was comfort. Fuck. It was hard, seeing Sloane look so helpless.
“There has to be something I can do,” Sloane pleaded.
“All you can do is comfort him. It’ll pass.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Sloane growled, his eyes meeting Austen’s. “I can’t just—”
“It will pass, Sloane. You’ll put him in more danger if you send him to the hospital.”
Austen carefully put his palm to Dex’s brow, smiling warmly down at him. “You can do this, Dex.” He had faith in him. Dex was strong, stronger than any Human had the right to be. Austen had watched stunned at the way Dex had swept into the lives of his teammates. A whirlwind of jokes, unhealthy snacks, and cheesy 80s music. If Austen hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it. In fact, he hadn’t. When Sparks told him to keep an eye on Dex, that he was important, Austen had scoffed. He remembered his own words.
This joker? Are you fucking kidding me?
Dex had proved him wrong. He’d shown Austen what it was to be a real friend. To take a broken, wounded man and not just mend him, but inspire him to be an even greater man. Austen knew what Dex meant to Sloane. He looked up at the man who had rescued him from a life he didn’t want to even think about.
“I would never lie to you, Sloane.”
“What do I do?”
Austen hated that he could see the uncertainty in Sloane’s eyes. As much as Sloane trusted Austen, Austen worked for TIN. It hurt, but Austen didn’t blame him. “Sloane. Trust me.”
Sloane looked up, and Austen hoped the sincerity in his voice, their history together, would be enough for Sloane to take a chance on him.
“Let him know you’re here,” Austen said.
Sloane did his best to soothe Dex. He ran his hand over Dex’s head, his words soft as he spoke. “It’s okay. You’ll be okay, sweetheart. I’m here. I’m right here with you.”
Dex’s chest rose and fell with short, rapid breaths, his pupils blown, and his terrified gaze on Sloane. It looked horrific. Like he was at death’s door. Tears pooled in Sloane’s eyes, and Austen curled his hands into fists until his nails dug into his palms. Sloane brought Dex’s fingers to his lips for a kiss.
What would it feel like, to be loved like that? To be looked at as if you were the only man who existed, the only one who mattered?
“If you’re wrong,” Sloane choked out, his eyes on Dex as he addressed Austen, “I’ll never forgive you.”
Austen swallowed hard. “I know.” There was so much he wanted to say, but now was not the time. All he could do was stand here, an intruder. Austen looked around the bedroom, at Dex and Sloane’s clothes neatly folded on the armchair, Sloane’s boots by the closet, his uniform shirt hanging from the hook, freshly cleaned and ironed. It was all so domestic. So… normal.
“Dex, I’m here. You’ll be okay. You can do this.”
Dex gasped, clawing at the sheets as his back arched again. Another cry tore from his lips, and Sloane grabbed hold of him. He held on to Dex, shutting his eyes tight as Dex screamed again. Then he went limp in Sloane’s arms.
God, he hated this part.
“Dex?” Sloane gently laid Dex back down on the bed. His eyes were closed, and his chest had stopped moving, or so it appeared. “Dex? Baby, please!” Sloane felt for a pulse. Austen knew he wouldn’t find one. “Dex!” Sloane jumped off the bed and ran to the closet where his medical bag was.
Dex gasped, and Sloane turned, rushing back to his side. He cupped Dex’s face. He looked so relieved, so damn happy.
“Oh, thank God.”
Sloane climbed onto the bed and drew Dex into his arms, running a hand down his back as Dex cried against his shoulder. Sloane joined him, tears escaping his amber eyes. Austen had never seen Sloane look more terrified. Sloane closed his eyes tight, and Austen took hold of the covers to pull them snugly around them. Then he returned the cellphones in his pocket to nightstands, and he walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Austen quickly left the house, his chest feeling tight. He told himself over and over that it would be okay. Dex would be okay. Sloane’s blood was changing him, and as fucking terrifying as the seizures were, it meant his body was fighting, fighting to stay alive. If anyone could survive this, it would be Dex. They just had to keep an eye on him, and make sure he didn’t go to any hospitals or he’d end up in the morgue.
The cool breeze felt good against his face as he walked briskly down the sidewalk. His earpiece beeped, and he tapped it, answering with a growl.
Austen blinked back his tears. “Alive. How much longer is this going to go on? It’s fucking killing them, and for all we know it actually is killing Dex.”
“Dex is stronger than he looks.”
“And if he’s not?” Austen hissed. “You assured me…. Sloane can’t lose him. You saw what happened when he lost Gabe. If he loses Dex…. Fuck. It’ll destroy him. He’ll never come back from that.” Austen was shivering, which was really something, considering it was the middle of fucking summer.
“They’ll get through this.”
“Because you say so?” Austen let out a sound of disgust. “If you’re wrong—”
“How long are you going to feel indebted to Sloane Brodie? Or is it because you still love him?”
“Fuck you,” Austen spat out. He didn’t give a shit who Sparks was. “He’s the closest thing to family I have. The only one who gives a shit about me. You knew that from the day we met.”
“Austen, don’t make me question your loyalty.”
Ice filled Austen’s veins, and when he spoke it came through in his tone. “There’s no need to question my loyalty, because you know where it fucking lies. And in case you need a reminder, it’s with him.” Austen hung up and shoved his phone into his pocket.
Sparks might have taken him in and turned him into more than some street punk, but Sloane was the one who’d saved him, and that was something Austen would never forget.
Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. Published by Dreamspinner Press.
This week for THIRDS Thursday, we have an exclusive excerpt from Chapter Four of Thick & Thin. Enjoy! **Contains spoilers from Smoke & Mirrors**
His name was almost a whisper on Dex’s lips, his chest rising and falling rapidly. Sloane opened his eyes, and was met by pools of glowing amber. They were stunning. He shouldn’t be surprised. Dex’s blue eyes were the most beautiful blue he’d ever seen, and now they glowed a fiery amber. They were brighter than Sloane’s, as if flames burned behind them. Dex’s lips were swollen from Sloane’s kisses, his fair skin flushed.
“I’m sorry for being so selfish,” Sloane admitted quietly as he stroked Dex’s skin under his T-shirt.
Dex’s brows drew together. “What are you talking about?”
“There’s so much we don’t know about what my blood has done to you, but…. I can’t help thinking about how you carry a part of me inside you. You’ll always have a piece of me. With my claws, I pierced your flesh, and my blood bonded us. Now, my DNA is fused with yours.” He pulled a hand out from under Dex’s shirt so he could take hold of Dex’s hand. Embarrassed, he shook his head and brought Dex’s fingers to his lips for a kiss. He kissed the tip of each finger in the spot where his claws extended from. “I’ve made your life more difficult, and I’ve put you in danger.”
Dex opened his mouth to reply, and Sloane placed his fingers to his lips.
“We both know it’s true. God knows what would happen if word got out. A Human with Therian traits? Our strength, speed, enhanced healing, razor sharp claws and teeth. They’d try to take you from me.”
Dex’s eyes clouded over. His canines elongated, and his amber eyes flashed. “They can try.”
Despite the ferocity in Dex’s hiss, Sloane couldn’t help his chuckle. He placed his hand to Dex’s cheek. “Look at you. My fierce little felid-in-training.”
All at once, warmth flooded Dex’s features and his expression softened. His eyes returned to their brilliant blue and he smiled at Sloane.
“The only reason I’m not freaked out about this, is because it’s you. Like you said. What’s inside me is a part of you. I know you. I know the kind of man you are, and I know how much you love me. I’m not scared.” Dex bit down on his bottom lip. He looked up at Sloane from under his lashes. “I am curious though.”
Sloane arched an eyebrow. “About what?”
“What the sex will be like.”
“Oh.” Sloane hadn’t considered that. Dex was stronger now. Maybe even as strong as Sloane. “Oh.”
A wicked smile spread across Dex’s face, amber spreading from his pupils. “I think it’s time to practice my pouncing.”
Sloane’s eyes widened. His heart skipped a beat and his pulse soared. He could smell it now. The shift in pheromones. The thick fog of sex and heat threatened to consume him. Well this is new. He wasn’t simply being confronted by his mate, but another predator. For the first time, Sloane was the prey, and his body knew it, could feel it. He gingerly slipped Dex off him, his eyes never leaving Dex’s as he stood. Sloane’s movements were slow, deliberate, as he edged closer to the stairs, his gaze locked on Dex. His partner didn’t move a muscle. He just followed Sloane with his eyes. Sloane was so hard; the softest touch would be painful.
Dex’s lips tugged at one corner. He spoke, his voice low and filled with the promise of a good, hard fuck when he caught Sloane.
“You should run.”
Sloane did. He took the steps up to the bedroom two at a time, making it just inside the door when Dex grabbed him from behind and lifted him off his feet.
“Holy fuck!” Sloane flailed briefly before he was tossed on the bed. He rolled onto his back, his pulse racing as Dex crawled over him. Damn he was fast. And strong. Dex kissed the breath out of him before taking hold of Sloane’s T-shirt and pulling it off him. They clawed at each other’s clothes until there was nothing but the feel of skin on skin. Dex trailed blazing kisses down Sloane’s body, his fangs grazing Sloane’s skin sending a shiver through him.
“Funny, because all I hear is fuck Sloane.”
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM SMOKE & MIRRORS (THIRDS, BOOK 7)!!
Prompt: This is kinda a spoiler, but I wouldn’t mind reading about Sloane asking Tony permission to marry his son.
He could do this.
Sloane lifted his fist to knock on the door and froze, panic bubbling up inside him.
Oh, God, I can’t do this.
What if Tony said no? What would he do then? Would Tony say no? Why would he say no? Let’s see, how about we start with you breaking Dex’s heart more times than you can count? Or how about your inability to protect Dex when he was kidnapped and tortured? Or when you went feral and tried to kill him? How about the fact you infected him, and succeeded in killing him?
Okay, he couldn’t think about that last part. He’d fucked up several times, and maybe he hadn’t always been the perfect boyfriend, but he loved Dex, and a number of those events had been out of his control. Maybe not the breaking Dex’s heart part, but he hadn’t meant to. He’d never meant to hurt Dex. Sloane loved him. Needed him. For fuck’s sake, he’d almost lost Dex. He had lost Dex. As long as he lived, he would never forget how Dex looked, fighting for his life. Or the feel of his lifeless body in Sloane’s arms. The memory alone brought tears to his eyes, and a lump to his throat.
Sloane pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, and tapped his pin into the locked screen. His pulse immediately steadied, and he smiled down into the face of the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Dex loved taking selfies with Sloane, and the rest of their team. It drove Ash crazy. Sloane chuckled at the thought. The fact Ash hated it just made Dex more determined, and sneaky. There was no escaping when Dexter J. Daley had you in his sights. Escaping was the last thing Sloane wanted to do. He’d been caught, or rather his heart had been caught, and he’d never been happier. He wouldn’t waste any more time.
“Why are you lingering on my doorstep?”
“Holy shit!” Sloane gave such a start, his phone leaped out of his hands. Lucky for him, his sergeant had amazing reflexes. Tony caught the phone, noticed the photo of Dex and Sloane squished together laughing, but didn’t say a word as he handed it back. In fact, Tony’s expression remained stoic as usual.
“Thanks.” Sloane returned his phone to his pocket, and took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly. “Um, hi.”
Tony narrowed his eyes. “That bad, huh?”
Crap. Sloane threw his hands up in front of him. “Oh, no, it’s not like that. I swear.”
“Seeing as how Dex isn’t with you, I’m going to hazard a guess and say he doesn’t know you’re here.”
Sergeant Anthony Maddock was intimidating and scary at the best of times. When he was in Father Mode, he was deadly. The man was so still and calm, ready to strike at any moment. Sloane tried to smile. Tony’s frown deepened.
“Can I come in?”
Tony stepped to one side, and motioned for Sloane to enter. Maybe Sloane should have just called? Or, maybe he should suck it up and stop being such a coward. In the living room, Sloane shoved his hands in his pockets as Tony took a seat on the couch.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks.” Maybe he should take his hands out of his pockets. But then where should he put them? He crossed them over his chest. No, that was a defensive pose. He uncrossed them. Oh, God, he was such a dork. “Sarge—”
“You here on official business?”
“What? Oh, um, no. Sorry. Tony.” He was still getting used to that. “I’m here because, well, you know I love Dex. I hope you know. You do know?”
“I would hope so, seeing as you’re living with him.”
“Yeah, I mean, yes. I love him. A lot. He’s… everything. I can’t—and don’t—want to imagine my life without him. When I’m with him, I don’t just feel happy, but at peace. He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever known.” Was he rambling? Shit, he was rambling. Why was he telling Tony how great Dex was? It wasn’t like Tony didn’t know his own son.
“That’s really nice. I’m glad to hear it. You didn’t come all this way to tell me how amazing my son is.”
“No. I um, wow, this is hard,” Sloane said, letting out a shaky laugh. Was he this nervous because of what he was doing? Or because it was Tony? His boyfriend’s dad also being his sergeant didn’t exactly make things easier. He just didn’t want to fuck this up for him or Dex, and he certainly didn’t want to disappoint Tony again.
Sloane looked up, surprised by the man’s warm smile. “Yeah?”
“You don’t need my approval.”
“I don’t?” Sloane blinked at him. He released the deep breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
“No. But I really appreciate you asking anyway. If that’s what you were going to ask.”
Sloane rushed over to Tony and dropped down beside him on the couch. “Yes!”
Tony’s brows shot up. “Easy there, son.”
“Sorry. I’m just really excited. Tony, I want to marry your son.”
“I already said yes.”
“You did? Right! I—Wow, okay. Um, thank you.”
“Wait here.” Tony stood and walked off, leaving Sloane sitting there both relieved and a little foolish for having worked himself up. Of course Tony would be okay. He loved Dex and wanted his son to be happy, and although Sloane was still learning, he did make Dex happy.
“Here.” Tony handed Sloane a small black box.
“What’s this?” Sloane opened the box, his eyes going wide at the silver ring tucked into the black foam padding. “Oh my God. Is this…?”
Tony nodded. “It was John’s.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Sloane swallowed hard. He looked up at Tony, his heart squeezing at the sight of unshed tears in Tony’s eyes. The man quickly wiped them away. From what Sloane had come to learn of the man, there were three people in Tony’s life who could get through that armor of his, Dex, Cael, and John Daley.
“Are you sure?” Tony had been guarding this for so long. Did he really want to give up a piece of his best friend?
Tony nodded. “John would have wanted Dex to have it, and I know Dex will take good care of it. Just like I know you’ll take good care of Dex. Make him happy. He deserves it.”
“I will. Thank you.” Sloane stood and threw his arms around Tony, closing his eyes and smiling when Tony hugged him back. They remained that way for a few seconds before Tony pulled back. He gave a sniff and straightened, his armor back in place.
“I don’t do wedding planning, just so you know. I especially don’t do wedding planning when Dex is involved. I would warn Lou ahead of time so he’s prepared. I will, however, offer somewhere for you to hide and have a beer during that time.”
Sloane chuckled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.” For now, he was going to concentrate on asking Dex.
When he reached his car, he sat behind the wheel, looking down at the ring, knowing what it would mean to Dex. Sloane couldn’t help his dopey grin. A part of him couldn’t believe he was going to do this, while his heart wondered what the hell had taken so long.
Hello, all! Recently Dex and Sloane were interviewed for the release of Smoke & Mirrors. They were asked questions submitted by the THIRDS Nerds. In true THIRDS Nerd awesomeness, I ended up with more questions than I could fit in one interview, so for this week’s THIRDS Thursday our dynamic duo is back to answer some more reader questions. Here we go!
Charlie: Hey, guys! Thanks for joining us. Ready for round two?
Sloane: I wasn’t ready for round one, so probably not.
Dex: I’m always ready. Bring it on.
Sloane: Please don’t say that.
Dex: *pets Sloane’s arm* It’s okay, babe, we got this. Unless there’s more questions about kids. *turns to Charlie* No questions about kids, right? He had empanada hangover the morning after that last interview. It was not pretty.
Sloane: *pouts and shakes his head* It was not pretty. I still love them though.
Dex: I know you do.
Charlie: No questions about kids. Promise. This one is for Sloane. We know you hear a lot of 80s tuneage by way of your partner, but what is/are your music genre(s) of choice?
Sloane: *perks up* Ooh, I can do this!
Dex: *chuckles and pats Sloane’s leg* You’re adorable.
Sloane: My music genre of choice is classic rock, and yeah, I listen to a lot of the music Dex listens to, like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen, and Queen, but I love a lot of the seventies rock. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cheap Trick, Eagles, Doors, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Styx, Santana, so many more. For me it’s not so much about nostalgia, though there’s that too, but really it’s about amazing music. I have trouble getting into some of today’s music. A lot of it sounds kinda same-y to me. Ash would agree. He listens to the same bands and musicians I do.
Dex: *eyes go wide* Whatever you do, don’t ask Ash about music.
Sloane: *cringes* Yeah, you don’t want to do that. Not so much because of what he listens to, but he seems to have taken today’s pop music as a personal insult to his very existence.
Dex: Rant doesn’t begin to cover it. I have never heard so many F-bombs in my life. And not only do I work with the guy, he’s dating my brother. Cursing is like breathing to him, and nothing sets him off like today’s pop music. If you’re lucky he’ll tell you to fuck off. Catch him in a bad mood, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Charlie: Right. Well, we all know how well that warning is likely to be heeded. Speaking of Ash. Sloane, did you ever have the “boyfriend” talk with Ash and what was that like?
Dex: *blinks at Sloane innocently* Yes, Sloane. Do tell us what that was like? What kind of advice did you give Ash Keeler on dating my precious, innocent, angelic little brother?
Sloane: *clears throat* Um, it was all very PG.
Dex: *nods and steeples his fingers in front of his lips* Mhmm, I see. So, your best friend, who you grew up with, who’s practically a brother to you, didn’t ask you any questions about what it might be like doing it with a dude.
Sloane: We don’t talk about sex.
Dex: *looks at Charlie and raises hand* I would like to state for the record—and I mean this in the most adoring way possible—that Sloane Brodie, light of my life, is full of it.
Sloane: *gapes at Dex* What?
Dex: *crosses his arms over his chest* Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me that you and Ash don’t talk about sex. Ever.
Sloane: *opens his mouth to reply*
Dex: *narrows his eyes*
Sloane: *closes his mouth*
Dex: Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Sloane: Okay, look, Ash had a lot of questions, and I did my best to answer, always respectfully, considering Cael. Which by the way, is way more experienced in the sex-with-a-dude-department, and oh my God, the things he knows! *eyes go wide* We should try some of these things.
Dex: *squeals* My ears!
Sloane: *rolls his eyes* Your brother’s an adult.
Dex: My brother is a precious cookie that needs to be protected at all costs. He doesn’t have sex or think sexy thoughts.
Sloane: You’re ridiculous.
Dex: I have declared this topic adjourned!
Sloane: I don’t even know what’s happening right now. Is there another question? The talk went well. He asked, I gave advice, and apparently Cael is a cookie. Let’s move on.
Charlie: Okay, how about one for Dex. What 80’s song is your absolute ultimate favorite? The one that would be on the top of your desert island playlist?
Dex: *looks horrified* One? Why don’t you just ask me which lung is my favorite?
Sloane: *pats Dex’s head soothingly* Easy, sweetheart, breathe. It’s just a question.
Dex: That’s like asking which finger I’m least likely to miss! One song? *crosses arms over chest* I refuse to answer that question on principle.
Sloane: You’ll have to excuse him. He’s only had half a dozen cups of coffee today.
Dex: Mm, cappuccino. I could really use a cappuccino.
Sloane: We’ll get you one afterwards.
Dex: *smiles sweetly* With chocolate powder?
Sloane: With chocolate powder.
Dex: From Belgium?
Sloane: *sighs* Yes, from Belgium.
Dex: Woot! Okay. And obviously the answer would be Journey.
Charlie: Uh, the question was about which song, not which band—
Dex: Journey. The answer is Journey.
Sloane: That’s as good as it’s gonna get, so we should move on.
Charlie: Right. Dex, as perhaps the only other person Hudson knows who is marked, what kind of advice would you like to give to Hudson and Seb as they slowly ease back into their love affair (or we hope)?
Dex: *looking very stern* Get your shit together and boink each other before I lose my shit and take you all down with me. Seriously, like why? Why aren’t they together? They love each other!
Sloane: You know it’s not that simple, babe.
Dex: *throws his arms up* But it should be! He wears Seb’s T-shirts under his clothes, Sloane! The guy is going to kill me. I haven’t felt this much angst since I was fifteen and Chad Jordan wouldn’t give me the time of day.
Sloane: Wait, are you telling me there’s a guy who didn’t get sucked into the gravitational pull of your awesome?
Dex: I know, right?! It was the worst six months of my teenage life. There was a lot of milkshakes involved.
Sloane: A whole six months. Wow.
Dex: I was fifteen and had the attention span of a gnat. Six months was record breaking. Ask my dad.
Sloane: I think I will. Fifteen-year-old emo Dex. I have to hear about this.
Dex: You know what? No. No you don’t. Let’s move onto the next question.
Charlie: This is for both of you. Any second thoughts to getting a kitten?
Sloane: *looks unimpressed*
Dex: *bursts into laughter*
Sloane: That’s not funny.
Charlie: It’s a genuine question.
Charlie: No, it’s not a genuine question, or no on the kitten?
Sloane: No on the kitten. I’m the only Felid that lives in our house.
Dex: *wipes a tear from his eye* Sloane is very territorial. A kitten would screw up the very delicate balance of his Felidness.
Sloane: That’s not a word.
Dex: It is because I just used it.
Sloane: *huffs* Whatever.
Dex: Aw, look at his face. *kisses Sloane’s cheek* You know you’re the only Felid for me.
Sloane: I know that.
Dex: *smiles sweetly* And yet…
Sloane: I don’t like anyone rubbing up against him. It would drive me crazy.
Charlie: What about a dog?
Sloane: *brightens* I like dogs. I’m definitely a dog person.
Dex: Which I think is hilarious. But actually, I’m a dog person too. I love animals in general, but really, if I had a furry best friend—not including Sloane—it would be a dog. Unfortunately, we’re not at a place where we can add a furry friend to our home. Our work hours are too erratic.
Sloane: And are likely to get more unpredictable.
Dex: That too. It wouldn’t be fair on any of us. *snuggles up to Sloane* This big grump will have to do for now.
Sloane: *wraps his arms around Dex and smiles wide* And I’m okay with that.
Thank you all for joining us for this week’s THIRDS Thursdays. Don’t miss next week’s #TeaserTuesday where I’ll be posting a snippet from Seb and Hudson’s book.
Hello all! Thank you so much for joining me as we celebrate the THIRDS 2 Year Anniversary!! Woot! It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Dexter J. Daley and the Destructive Delta crew were unleashed upon the world. I often get asked if while I was writing Hell & High Water I had any idea of what the THIRDS would turn into. That would be a big nope. I submitted Rack & Ruin, book 3, to my publisher before Hell & High Water was even released. I was kinda freakin’ out. I had written three books in this new series, different to anything I’d done before, and the first book hadn’t even been released. My main thought at the time was “please don’t let this tank”. Seriously.
Two years later and I still can’t believe it. I am continuously amazed and blown away by all the love shown to these fellas and the series. After Hell & High Water, the THIRDS Nerds came onto the scene. We are now 686 members strong and still growing. There’s been THIRDS inspired fan art, fan playlists, jewelry, SIMS characters, cakes, and all kinds of awesomeness from amazing readers.
This week Smoke & Mirrors, book 7 is released. It’s been an incredible adventure, but it’s not over just yet. With Smoke & Mirrors ending the way it does, I’ve had folks asking me if this is the end of the THIRDS. Definitely not. Events were planned from the beginning to take the series in a specific direction, the question was what I’d do when we reached the end, because there would have to be an end. By mid-series I would know whether the main series would be it, or of I’d continue on to the next THIRDS adventure. It would all depend on how much I was enjoying writing the THIRDS and if readers were still enjoying reading it. By the time I wrote Against the Grain, I knew I wasn’t ready to give up writing Dex and Sloane just yet.
Right now I’m working on Seb and Hudson’s book, followed by book 9, the last Dex and Sloane book in the MAIN series. So what’s coming next? I’m super excited about what’s coming next year!! The main series may be coming to an end, but the adventure, comedy, and romance is far from done. We’re kicking things up a notch, and don’t worry, our Destructive Delta crew will still be around. Everything will be revealed in Smoke & Mirrors, the turning point in the THIRDS world, and in Dex and Sloane’s lives. There is so much planned! I can’t wait to share it all with you!
How about a little teaser?
I know change can be a scary thing, especially when you love the characters, but you’ll have to trust me. In 2017, things about to get real.The time has come to put all that training–and then some–to use. Dex and Sloane are going to be kicking some serious butt, and although the new series will belong solely to Dex and Sloane, Destructive Delta will still play an important role. They are a family after all. We may not see them as much as we do now, but they’re not going away. Every badass operative needs to have a team at their back, and no team can make it rain fire and wrath like Destructive Delta. We’re also going to be introduced to some new key players, and be seeing a lot more of Austen and Wolf. The side stories are still happening. Austen and Zach, Bradley and Lou etc. I’ll be announcing the series name at a later date so folks have time to read Smoke & Mirrors. It all starts to make more sense there. I’ll let Dex tell you how he feels about this.
Either way, I hope you’re as excited as I am. Is the THIRDS world ready for a lethally trained Dex? We’ll soon find out. It’s like an exciting new TV series in your brain, with lots of action, explosions, kicking-butt, sexy-times, drama, angst, shenanigans, and yes, the tagline remains Action. Comedy. Romance. And that One Weird Guy. Only this time the weird guy’s a little more sharply dressed. ;)
How about we give away some goodies!!
What’s up for grabs?
5 winners: THIRDS agent T-shirt.
5 winners: Destructive Delta tote bag and character cards.
4 winners: THIRDS swag pack (Destructive Delta tote bag, character cards, THIRDS postcards, stickers, bookmarks).
3 winners: THIRDS audiobook of your choice.
3 winners: $10 Amazon Gift Card.
3 winners: Mini Sloane with character cards and THIRDS Agent mug.
1 winner: THIRDS agent coffee mug with character cards.
1 winner: Star Wars Leia and Han Solo bag with compact mirror.
Haven’t read the THIRDS series? Would you like to get in on the shenanigans? Dreamspinner Press is having a THIRDS anniversary sale. Get 30% off Books 1 – 6, including paperbacks! Sale ends at 11:59pm (Eastern US time) Sunday, July 10th.