THIRDS Thursday – 6/22/17

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

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


Part One

You can do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Since when?” Rafe asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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THIRDS Thursday 6/8/17 THIRDS Goodies Giveaway!

Hello, THIRDS Nerds! So I’ve been deep, deep in my writer’s cave furiously working away on getting THIRDS book 10 finished. I’m not going to lie. This deadline is kicking my butt. There is so much going on in this book. So I’ve been a bad Charlie, and fell behind on THIRDS Thursday. I am so very sorry. Hopefully we’ll get some flash fiction next week. But, I’m not about to leave you guys empty handed (in other words I’m going to try and distract you with some goodies). I’m giving away a bunch of THIRDS swag, from T-shirts, to totebags, to signed paperbacks. I also have three sets of adorable Seb and Hudson cuties to give away. Look at their little faces! *whispers* Is it working?

Giveaway is open Internationally. Ends June 29th at 00:00 Eastern U.S. time. Winners will be posted here on the blog on June 30th.

To enter: Just leave a comment below with what you’re looking forward to seeing most in the final THIRDS books!

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Exciting THIRDS News!

Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book 1) has been sublicensed to be published as a Korean graphic novel!! How exciting is that?! Can’t wait to see the guys in Korean art form. Also, Rise & Fall (THIRDS, Book 4) has been sublicensed for German translation by Bastei Lübbe, so more on that soon!

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THIRDS Thursday – 6/1/17 Gummy Bears & Grenades Excerpt

Hello, all! For today’s THIRDS Thursday I’m sharing an excerpt from Gummy Bears & Grenades, which is Dex’s bachelor party. This fun little novella has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press and is due for release in October, along with the paperback combo of Thick & Thin for those who’ve been waiting on Thick & Thin to be released in paperback. Enjoy!

EXCERPT

“Let’s go dance!” Hudson said, pulling Dex back toward the club. Everyone agreed and headed back toward the nightclub when Dex spotted something big, orange, and furry. He let out a huge gasp.

“Hudson, look!”

For some reason, Hudson looked up. With a snort, Dex took hold of his chin and moved his head down so he’d look straight ahead. Either Dex was so drunk he was seeing things, or what he was seeing was really there.

“Dude, is that…?”

Hudson’s eyes went huge. “Oh, no. Dexter, no.”

“Oh yes, Dexter, yes.” Dex clapped his hands gleefully before walking over to whoever it was dressed in a giant orange gummy bear suit handing out flyers. “Can I try on your bear?”

The bear turned to face him and shook its head.

“Please, man. It’s my bachelor party. I’m getting married soon. Please.”

Another shake. Somewhere behind Dex, Seb groaned. “Come on, Dex.”

Dex ignored Seb. “Fine. We’ll do this the hard way.” He pulled his badge out of his inner coat pocket and stuck it in the bear’s face. “Sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to commandeer your bear.”

“What?” The guy growled.

“You heard me. I’m commandeering your bear. Let’s go.”

“Lobito, what are you doing?” Seb shook his head at Hudson who was running his hand over the bear’s arm.

“It’s so soft. Touch it.”

Seb stared at him. “I’m not doing that.”

“Come on, Sebastian. Touch it.”

“You all are fucking nuts, man.” The guy turned to Hudson. “Is he serious?”

Hudson laughed. “Him? Serious? Never.” His smile fell away. “Except now. He’s deadly serious now.” Hudson poked Dex’s cheek. “This is his serious face. May I touch your nose?”

“You all need to get lost,” bear-suit guy said. “Now.”

Hudson went to touch the bear-suit guy’s nose, and got his hand smacked away. Hudson blinked up at him, his sad puppy eyes all wide and hurt. “You hit me? Why? I just wanted to touch your nose.”

Dex cringed. He shook his head at bear-suit guy. “Ooh, you shouldn’t have done that.”

Seb got all up in the guy’s face. He was growly, scary, and bigger than bear-suit guy. “Did you just hit my husband?”

The guy threw his fuzzy paws up. “I’m sorry! Your friend can take the suit. I’m sorry.” He quickly popped the head off and handed it to Dex before patting his shoulder. “There’s a zipper back there.”

Dex gave the bear head to Hudson, and unzipped the suit. The guy quickly scrambled out.

“They’re not paying me enough for this bullshit. Bunch of crazies. I don’t know why everyone wants this stupid bear.” The second he was out, he took off, leaving a trail of bright orange flyers in his wake. Hudson frowned after him. He shook his head and tsked.

“What a litterbug.”

Dex laughed as he pulled on the bear suit. “I am going to scare the shit out of Ash. Someone zip me up.”

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Seb grumbled, taking the bear head Hudson handed to him so he could help Dex zipper up. Soon as he was, he nodded to Seb.

“Bear me, bro.”

“You’re out of your damn mind,” Seb said, plopping the head over Dex’s.

“Ouch. Why do you have to be so rough?”

“Because he likes it rough,” Hudson purred, running a finger down Seb’s arm. “Don’t you, darling? I love how naughty you are.”

Seb’s face looked like he was about to spontaneously combust, making Dex laugh.


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/25/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART THREE (Read Part One here. Read Part Two here.)

“You better be a figment of my imagination, Daley, or I’m going to dropkick you right here,” Calvin hissed, clearly trying his best to be quiet. Ethan could hear Darla, Sloane, and Armel talking from somewhere near the kitchen. Most likely the dining room. Ethan readied himself in case he needed to stop his boyfriend from committing murder.

Dex blinked innocently at Calvin. “Is that any way to speak to one of your mother’s dinner guests? Where’s that famous Southern hospitality?”

“Hospitality? How about I show you to a hospital instead? Admit it, you got yourself invited,” Calvin said, poking Dex in the chest. “How did you even get here before us?”

“I have a muscle car, lights, and a siren. Also, it’s me.” Dex winked at Calvin before stepping aside. “I make magic happen.”

“You make something happen all right, and it ain’t magic,” Calvin growled, stomping past Dex who just chuckled. Ethan stepped inside, and Dex patted his chest.

“Hey, big guy.” Dex grinned wide, and Ethan groaned. He put his hands together in prayer. Dex gasped in mock hurt. “I’m appalled you think I would cause trouble for my dear, sweet friend. Especially while at his mom’s house for dinner. With her new boyfriend. Did I mention Calvin’s mom has a boyfriend? Who’s here. At dinner. With all of us.”

Ethan covered his face with his hands. Oh, God. Why? Why me? He perked up. Sloane. Sloane was here. Someone sane who could help Ethan contain the crazy. He headed for the dining room when his phone buzzed. It was a text.

#Band-Aids

Ethan quickly shot off a text in reply. #Band-AidsDon’tWorkOnBulletHoles

Dex cackled as he walked past Ethan and into the dining room where Darla was hugging Calvin. She kissed Calvin’s temple. “Hi, baby. I’m so happy you and Ethan could make it.”

“Of course, Mom.”

Darla squeezed him again, before holding her arms open for Ethan. With a big smile, Ethan walked into her embrace. He wrapped his arms around her, mindful not to squeeze too hard. She was a tiny thing compared to him, even smaller than Ethan’s mom.

“Hi, honey.” She pulled back, and he leaned in to give her cheek a kiss.

“It’s good to see you, Ethan.”

Ethan turned to Armel who came to stand beside Darla. He held his hand out to Ethan who shook it. Ethan had to give Armel credit. When he’d first met Ethan, he treated Ethan just like he did everyone else, and never asked Ethan about his Selective Mutism. Ethan was sure Darla had spoken to him about it, but Ethan appreciated that Armel didn’t once look at him any different. As a bear Therian, he was huge, beefy, quiet, and looked pretty intimidating, but he had kind eyes, and when he was around Darla, he looked at her like she was the most amazing woman he’d ever known. It was sweet. Which was why Ethan really hoped Calvin would give the poor guy a chance. For Darla’s sake.

Armel turned to Calvin, his expression softening. “Hi, Cal.”

Calvin nodded. “Hi.”

This wasn’t the first dinner Calvin and Ethan were having with Darla and Armel, but things were still awkward. Ethan wished there was something he could do, but Calvin was quiet and reserved, and Armel was clearly letting Calvin set the pace.

“Well,” Darla said, clearing her throat. “Why don’t we all sit down before dinner gets cold?”

Ethan looked at Dex and wrinkled his nose. Where’s Sloane?

Dex mouthed the word bathroom and Ethan nodded.

Sloane returned just then and waved to Ethan and Calvin. “Hey, guys.” He gave Calvin an apologetic smile before tilting his head in Dex’s direction.

Calvin narrowed his eyes at Dex as he took a seat across from him at the table. Ethan sat across Sloane, and Armel pulled out the chair next to Calvin’s so Darla could sit beside her son. She thanked him, her cheeks going rosy. Armel sat next to her at the head of the table, and Calvin stiffened beside Ethan. It was the first time Armel had sat there, but then when it had just been the four of them, Armel and Darla had sat across from them. Ethan understood Calvin’s reaction. No one had sat in that chair in a very long time, and Calvin had grown up around Ethan’s family where Ethan’s dad always sat at the head of the table. Ethan looked to Dex.

You have to do something.

Calvin opened his mouth to speak when Dex jumped in.

“My Gosh, Darla, this all looks so amazing,” Dex said excitedly, his grin stretching from ear to ear. Calvin’s narrowed gaze locked on Dex.

“Thank you, sweetheart. There’s plenty more in the kitchen. I even made you a pecan pie to take home.”

Dex gasped. He held a hand to his heart. “You’re just the best.”

Armel brought Darla’s hand to his lips for a kiss. “Isn’t she?”

Darla giggled, and Ethan bit down on his bottom lip. They were adorable. Calvin elbowed Ethan, and Ethan cleared his throat.

“We should eat,” Calvin said. “Ethan and I have an early shift tomorrow.”

Ethan frowned. No, we don’t. Calvin elbowed him again, and Ethan turned to him. What? Stop elbowing me. Calvin arched an eyebrow at him. Oh! Ethan looked at Darla and nodded. Yes, we have an early shift.

“Do we?” Dex turned to Sloane. “I can’t remember. If only we had someone who… I don’t know, posted our schedules. Like, a Team Leader of some sort.” Dex put a finger to his lips. “Hm.” His eyes widened. “Oh, wait! We have a Team Leader right here. Well, I’ll be damned, it’s our Team Leader.” Dex grinned wide at Sloane. “Hey, agent Brodie. Do we have an early shift tomorrow?”

Ethan gaped at Dex. The guy had a death wish. It was the only thing that could explain what the holy hell Dex was doing.

“Um….” Sloane looked from Dex to Calvin, cringed, then turned his attention back to Dex, his expression pained. “No, we don’t have an early shift tomorrow.”

Dex beamed at Calvin, ignoring the murderous laser beam stare Calvin was pointing in his direction. “Looks like we’re good, Cal.” Dex handed Calvin one of the dishes. “Sweet potato casserole?”

“Thanks,” Calvin replied through a toothy grin, taking the dish from him.

Dex turned to a puzzled looking Armel. “Hey, coach. Mind passing the smothered pork chops? They look mouthwatering.”

Coach?

Calvin kicked at Dex under the table, and Sloane jumped with a curse.

“Honey, you okay?” Darla asked Sloane, concerned.

“Yeah, sorry. I um, bit the inside of my cheek.”

Dex chuckled, his knowing gaze on Calvin. “Don’t you just hate it when that happens?”

Oh, God. Sloane was peering at Calvin, Calvin was glaring at Dex, Dex was playing Jenga with his food judging by the amount he was stacking on his plate, Armel was staring wide-eyed at Dex, and Darla was cheerfully oblivious as she served Calvin.

“Dex loves his food,” Darla told Armel. “I had that same look on my face the first time he came over for dinner.”

“That’s a Therian-sized portion you got there, son.”

Dex winked at Armel. “Got me a Therian-sized appetite.”

Everyone filled up on Darla’s delicious food. She really was the best cook. Dex, Sloane, Darla, and Armel talked as they ate, while Calvin remained grumpy, and Ethan tried to get him to lighten up to no avail.

“The secret to Cal here, Armel,” Dex began, and Ethan braced himself, “is this. He’s like a Tootsie Roll Pop. You need to get past all the hard candy to get to the gooey center.”

Ethan almost choked on his food. He quickly swallowed, and guzzled down nearly an entire glass of water. Had Dex lost his ever-loving mind?

“Dex,” Calvin warned through his teeth.

“See. That’s the hard candy shell talking.” Dex took a big bite of biscuit, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “Just don’t play ZZ Top around him. He gets all weird about it.”

Calvin jumped from his chair. “Can I speak with you in private for a moment?”

“Of course. I always have time for you, buddy.” Dex patted Sloane’s shoulder, and followed Calvin out of the dining room. Ethan quickly followed, hearing Sloane tell Armel not to pay any attention to them, that they were always like that.

 Calvin marched into his old bedroom, and Dex followed, with Ethan right behind, the door closed, and Calvin rounded on Dex, but Dex was quicker.

“You’re being an asshat.”

Calvin gaped at him. “I’m being an asshat. You—”

“You need to stop being a selfish dick and think about your mom.”

“I am thinking about her.” Calvin narrowed his eyes at Dex. “How exactly does my looking out for her translate to being a dick?”

“Have you thought that maybe your mom is lonely? That maybe she wants someone to love her?”

Calvin was indignant. “Lonely? Love her? She has a whole family that loves her!”

“Come on, Cal. She’s a beautiful woman. Maybe she wants someone to hold her close, someone who’ll make her feel cherished. You’ve talked about how she’s never had any luck with guys. How they’ve all been assholes. Maybe this time, she’s found the guy for her. You’ve seen how happy she looks.” Dex took a seat on the edge of Calvin’s old bed.

“It’s not easy, you know? After what my dad put us through? Put her through?”

“I get it. I do.”

“Do you?” Calvin folded his arms over his chest. “Because from what I hear, John was the perfect dad, and the Sarge? Come on. The guy would walk through fucking fire for you and Cael. My father? He beat the shit out of me and my mom. He didn’t give a fuck about us. After he was gone, it was one asshole after another. They always started out like they were nice guys. Telling her they were different, pretending like we were all going to be this happy family, and in the end, they were just as bad as my dad. They’d get her hopes up, and then treat her like garbage.” Calvin sniffed, and wrinkled his nose. Ethan knew it was to keep his emotions at bay. He wrapped an arm around Calvin’s shoulders. “She deserves better.”

“You’re right. About everything. I’m lucky. I know that. But it’s different now. You’re not a scared little kid anymore, Cal. You’re a fucking sniper for the THIRDS. You really think some asshole is going to dare lay a finger on your mom to hurt her knowing you and your whole damn family of trained agents will be on him so fast he’ll get whiplash? It’s not just you and your mom anymore. You’ve got us, the entire Hobbs clan, Destructive Delta, and everyone who knows you. We all have your back.”  Dex walked over to Calvin, and put his hand on Calvin’s shoulder.

“I’ve been in the same room with the guy for one evening, and I can see how badly he wants this to work. Give him a chance. For your mom. I know trust doesn’t come easy for you, and our jobs doesn’t make that any easier, but you gotta try, man.”

Calvin seemed to think about it. After several heartbeats where Ethan realized he was holding his breath, Calvin let out a heavy sigh.

“You’re right. I’m being a dick. She obviously really likes Armel. I should be more supportive.”

Dex patted Calvin on the back as he led him from the room. “And if you need anything at all. You just say the word.”

“Thanks,” Calvin replied, smiling for the first time that evening. “By the way….”

“What?” Dex asked before Calvin punched him in the balls. Ethan cringed as Dex went down onto his knees cupping himself. “What the hell?” Dex wheezed.

“That’s for bringing up ZZ Top at the dinner table.”

Ethan went to help Dex up, but Dex waved a hand, his eyes shut tight. “I’m okay,” he whispered hoarsely. “The boys just ran for cover, but they’ll be back. Sweet baby Jesus.” He groaned. “I’m okay. Just, give me a minute.”

Ethan nodded. He followed Calvin into the dining room.

“Sorry about that,” Calvin said, smiling brightly. He kissed his mom’s cheek. “Thanks for dinner, mom. It’s fantastic.” He turned his attention to Armel. “Thanks for coming, Armel.”

Armel blinked in surprise then quickly recovered. His smile was huge. “My pleasure, cal.”

Sloane looked from Calvin to Ethan and back. “Where’s Dex?”

“Oh, you might want to check on him,” Calvin said, looking concerned. “He had to go to the bathroom, and then he said something about having…” Calvin motioned to his groin and whispered loudly, “a burning sensation in his nether region.”

Sloane quickly got up, and left the dining room. Ethan shook his head, and tried his best not to laugh. He almost felt sorry for Dex. Almost. Ooh! Ethan pulled out his phone, and sent off a text.

#Hydrocortisone

Ethan snickered. His phone buzzed, and he checked the text, clamping a hand over his mouth to stifle his gasp.

“You okay?” Calvin asked Ethan. Ethan nodded, and Calvin went back to talking to Darla and Armel. Dex was insane. Ethan glanced down at the text again. Well, at least no one could say family dinners were boring.

#SexytimesInYourFriendsOldBedroom


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/18/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART TWO

Ethan licked the corner of his mouth before falling back onto the bed. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he tried to catch his breath. Calvin flopped over him, sprawled across his chest, his blond hair tousled, his face flushed, and his lips swollen from being kissed. He was beautiful.

“I can’t move,” Calvin groaned, his breath steadying as he absently stroked Ethan’s stomach. “You sure we have to go?” He lolled his head back so he could look up at Ethan with a pout. “Can’t we just stay home and do that some more?”

Ethan kissed Calvin’s lips. “When we get home. I promise.” Ignoring his boyfriend’s protests, he slipped out from under Calvin, and walked to Calvin’s side of the closet. He pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans, a blue and white checkered shirt, and a blue V-neck cashmere sweater that went perfect with Calvin’s eyes. Then he grabbed a brown belt, and a pair of dressy brown boots. He walked the clothes over to his boyfriend, and held them out.

“Wear this.”

Calvin took the clothes from him with a nod. Post-sexy-times-Calvin would pretty much do whatever Ethan told him. As Calvin got dressed, Ethan went to his own closet, and picked out a simple outfit. Black jeans, his new black boots, and a dark gray sweater that Ethan loved because it was super soft and cozy.

Once Calvin was dressed and they’d brushed their teeth, they grabbed their wallets, keys, and the flowers Calvin had picked up for his mom. They locked up, and on the way to Ethan’s truck, his phone buzzed. He smiled down at it.

Hey, bud. Sloane and I are going to have a Bill Murray marathon. You guys in? I know you love the B-Man.

Ethan quickly texted back. Sorry. Dinner with Darla and her new guy tonight.

Pause.

Define “her guy”.

Crap. Did Dex not know? Ethan had assumed everyone knew considering his mom told Hudson, and Hudson and Dex were the gossip kings. If Hudson knew it, Dex knew it, and vice versa. After that, then pretty much everyone else knew. Unless it was confidential or something crazy important, but…. Ethan stilled. Son of a rum puncher! He’d just told Dex that Cal’s mom had a boyfriend! Just as the thought crossed his mind, his phone rang.  

Ethan picked up.

“Holy Shatner!”

Dex’s voice was so loud, Ethan had to hold the phone away from his ear.

Calvin spun on his heels, and stared at Ethan. “Tell me that’s not who I think it is?”

Ethan quickly unlocked the truck, and pushed Calvin toward the passenger side.

“Damn it, Ethan! You tell that nosy shit that if he utters one word of this to anyone, I’m going to take that five-pound bag of gummy bears he has stashed in his desk drawer at work and shove them down his throat until he chokes!”

Ethan hoisted Calvin up, pushed him in, and closed the door, cringing at Calvin shouting from the other side.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Ethan said quietly into the phone, locking the truck doors before Calvin could get out. Calvin unlocked it, and Ethan clicked the button on his key fob, locking it again. Oh, my God, he’s going to kill me.

“Who is he?” Dex demanded. “Do we know him? How many times precisely has Calvin lost his shit? Has he threatened to snipe the guy?”

Ethan groaned. He held his phone out so Dex could hear Calvin pounding on the truck’s window, cursing them out. He returned the phone to his ear.

“You see what you did?” Ethan hissed. “Now I have to deal with the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.”

Dex howled with laughter. Stupid Dex and his stupid nicknames. Ethan’s other line beeped. “Hold on.” He answered it, and immediately regretted it.

“The fuck did you just call me?”

Ethan’s eyes widened, and he turned, staring at Calvin glaring at him from inside the truck, his phone against his ear.

“Um….”

“Think faster,” Calvin warned.

“It was Dex!”

“Way to throw me under the bus there, buddy,” Dex grumbled.

Shit! Hadn’t he put Dex on hold?

“I know what you’re thinking,” Dex said, “and no. You did not put me on hold.”

“Dex, you dick,” Calvin growled. “What the fuck? Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog?”

“Well, yeah. Cause you’re all small and cute, but piss you off, and no one’s surviving.”

“Screw you!”

“So,” Dex said casually. “I hear your mom has a boyfriend.”

There was a click, and then the sound of Dex cackling. “Oh, my God, this is the best thing ever! You know, pissing off Ash is fun, but watching Cal lose his ever-flipping mind gives me life.”

“You’re an ass,” Ethan muttered, heading for the driver’s side. He stopped next to the door. “I’m hanging up now.”

“Wait!”

“What?” Ethan asked, sighing.

“Hashtag my boyfriend is a killer rabbit.”

Ethan hung up on Dex, and slipped his phone back into his pocket. Deep breath. He could do this. He opened the door, and jumped in.

“You can’t murder me because Sarge would be mad!”

Calvin narrowed his eyes at him, and Ethan quickly closed the door. He turned in his seat and smiled.

“And because I just gave you an awesome blowjob.”

Calvin yanked at his seatbelt, clicked it into place, the crossed his arms over his chest. “Just start the damn car, Ethan.”

Ethan quickly did as he was told, hoping Calvin would calm down on the drive over to Darla’s, which gave them just a few minutes really. Ethan fastened his seatbelt, and turned the radio on, forgetting it was set to Retro Radio since Ethan had driven Dex home from work after Dex’s car got a flat tire. Dex had been very… Dex about it. Dropping to his knees dramatically, arms raised, cursing the heavens.

ZZ Top’s Rough Boy came blasting through the truck, and Ethan’s jaw dropped. He turned his head just as Calvin’s eyes got huge. He slowly panned to look at Ethan. Before Calvin could say a word, Ethan threw a hand out and shut off the radio.

Ethan opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. He closed his mouth and got them moving. They drove in silence with Ethan throwing the occasional glance in Calvin’s direction. His eyes looked less murderous, so that was a good sign. Thankfully, Ethan found a parking spot across the street. Maybe their luck was changing.

Calvin took his keys form his pocket, when the door swung open.

What the fun?

Dex grinned wide. “Hello, boys. Glad you could make it to dinner. Darla made her amazing pecan pie.”

Ethan groaned. So much for his luck changing.


Final part next week 5/25/17.

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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/11/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART ONE

“Tell me again why I’m doing this?” Calvin grumbled for the hundredth time as he held up two shirts in front of him. He’d been at this for hours. Ethan didn’t mind. It meant he got to ogle his boyfriend in various stages of undress from several angles. This was shirt number twelve. Or was it thirteen? No, twelve. Maybe. Ethan lost count.

“Because it will make your mom happy,” Ethan replied, smiling big when Calvin turned to peer at him.

Calvin let out a sound of disgust, and tossed the two shirts onto the growing pile at the foot of the bed. He headed back to his side of the closet in search of more options. A few months ago, they decided to knock down the wall that separated their bedrooms. After some heavy remodeling, they turned their two-person bachelor pad into a home they shared as a couple. It was strange how so much had changed, yet stayed the same. His relationship with Calvin hadn’t changed as much as he’d thought, and where it had changed, it was all good changes. Sometimes he still freaked out about messing up, but Calvin was always there to reassure him, just as he’d always been. Sometimes it caught him off guard, how much he loved Calvin. He’d always loved him, but now it was a different kind of love. The kind that had Ethan getting lost in his boyfriend’s profile when they were watching TV together. Or how Ethan sought Calvin’s touch, how he itched to have his hands on Calvin whenever he was near, even if it was just the two of them at home.

Ethan loved their apartment. It was big and roomy, yet had a warm cozy feel to it. They kept Ethan’s bed instead of Calvin’s since it was Therian size and had the best mattress ever. Even with Ethan’s weight on it, it didn’t sink which meant Calvin wouldn’t end up rolling down any inclines and getting crushed under Ethan when Ethan turned in his sleep. Ooh! Ethan slyly removed his phone from his pocket and shot off a quick text to Dex about Therian mattress woes and ended it with hashtag Therian problems.

“Are you and Dex still having your little Human/Therian problems hashtag battle?”

So much for being sly.

Ethan shrugged. It was fun. Though now he knew better than to open a text from Dex during a briefing. Maddock was so not impressed, though Ethan had gotten off lucky since their sarge knew exactly who was responsible for Ethan bursting into laughter in the middle of a talk on avoiding fleas. Ooh! He had another one. Hashtag fleas.

“Are you paying attention?”

Ethan nodded. Personally, he thought Calvin looked good in everything, but Calvin wasn’t having any of it. He was too worked up, and had been steadily getting worse since Darla announced she and Armel Kearney were dating.

Armel seemed like a nice guy, and whenever Ethan saw him with Darla he was always sweet and polite. It was early days, but Calvin was taking no chances. The second Darla told him about Armel, Calvin had run the bear Therian’s name through Themis and every international database Themis was connected to. Armel came back squeaky clean. Not even a parking ticket.

After that, Calvin contacted the college where Armel had coached football before he retired. Not one bad thing was said about the guy, not from staff member or student. Calvin had followed the guy’s career way back, talking to everyone he could. Everyone said the same thing. That Armel was a great guy.

“It’s just not possible.”

Ethan studied Calvin as another two shirts were judged.

“What’s not possible?” Ethan asked.

“Armel. There has to be something.”

Ethan got up off the bed, and walked over to Calvin. He took the shirts from him and placed them on the bed before turning to take Calvin’s hand. With a warm smile, Ethan sat, spreading his knees so Calvin could stand between them. His boyfriend was being all pouty and miserable and stubborn. He was adorable.

“Why does there have to be something?” Ethan drew his partner close, ignoring Calvin’s grunt, and wrapped his arms around Calvin’s waist. “Maybe, just maybe, he might be a genuinely good guy.”

Calvin snorted. “Right.”

Maybe it was time to distract his partner for a little bit. Otherwise Calvin would be here all night trying to find something to wear, and they had to be at Darla’s for dinner in less than two hours.

Ethan traced Calvin’s spine with his fingers, loving the feel of Calvin’s soft skin and the way Calvin shivered involuntarily. Smiling, Ethan slid his other hand around Calvin’s side to his abdomen. Calvin inhaled sharply, his big blue eyes darkening.

“What are you doing?”

Ethan leaned in and brushed his lips over Calvin’s, trailing his fingers up from Calvin’s spine to the back of his neck to hold him in place.

“Distracting you,” Ethan said, his voice husky and laced with promise. “Is it working?”

Calvin opened his mouth to reply, and Ethan pounced, grabbing Calvin, turning, and throwing him onto the bed. Calvin yelped before he ended up under Ethan.

“Jesus, Ethan. What are you—”

Ethan kissed Calvin, Calvin’s smaller frame pinned beneath Ethan’s much bigger, heavier body. Calvin moaned into Ethan’s mouth, and when Ethan came up for air, he smiled at Calvin’s flushed cheeks. He loved that he did that to Calvin. Made him blush, got him all flustered.

“Where something blue. It makes your eyes really pop.”

Calvin nodded, dazed. He ran his hands up Ethan’s arms. “I’m being ridiculous, aren’t I?”

“Maybe just a teeny bit,” Ethan said, chuckling when Calvin playfully smacked his arm.

“You’re not supposed to agree with me.”

Ethan laughed and kissed Calvin once more, making sure to put as much eat into it as he could. He thrust his hips against Calvin’s before moving his mouth to Calvin’s neck and nipping at his skin.

“Oh God, Ethan. I can’t show up to dinner with a boner, so you either get up off me or finish what you started.”

Ethan gave Calvin a wicked grin. Hashtag challenge accepted.


Part Two next week 5/18/17.

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

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THIRDS Thursday Special Event Giveaway – Have a character named after you!

Hello, THIRDS Nerds! Welcome back to THIRDS Thursday! Next week we start a special three part flash fiction story, but this week, we have a super special giveaway to kick things off. In honor of Cael throwing Dex’s bachelor party, we have a fabulous giveaway. One lucky winner will have a character named after them in Dex’s bachelor party novella! Your character will interact with Dex, Destructive Delta, and their friends during a night of Daley shenanigans.

What do you have to do to enter? Just answer the following question in the comments below: What stuffed toy scared Cael to tears when he was little? Hint: It was given to him by Tony one Christmas.

Giveaway is open internationally, and ends Friday, May 12th at 9 PM (Eastern US time). Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Saturday, May 13th here on the blog. Winner will be contacted, and I will ask you which name you would like me to name the character after. 

Teaser

Sloane turned to the only two who could possibly keep this evening progressing without incident. As soon as Cael had sent out the invites to Dex’s bachelor party, Sloane had contacted Seb and Ash, and asked them to prepare.

“All right. What contingency plans have you two put in place should any Threat Level Fuchsia scenarios arise?”

Seb and Ash glanced at each other before turning their gazes back to Sloane. Their expressions didn’t bode well. Seb spoke up first.

“When you said prepare for tonight, I thought you meant make sure your boyfriend doesn’t get so drunk he strips down to his underwear and starts dancing on the bar, or try to keep him out of jail. I didn’t realize you meant put together an emergency tactical strategy.”

Sloane pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay.” He looked up at Ash. “What about you?”

“Relax, bro. We got this.”

Sloane narrowed his eyes and leaned into Ash, sniffing him. “Have you already started drinking?”

Seb snickered, his laugh turning into a cough when Ash arched an eyebrow at him.

“No, smartass. I can handle your dorky fiancé.”

Seb didn’t even attempt not laughing. “You are so delusional, Keeler. We’re toast.”

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/30/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part Four last week. Read it here.

FINAL PART

Ash had to admit, Dex was one tough little son of a bitch. “Do you really think he’s going to leave you, or your dad, or Sloane? Think about it.”

“But what if it’s out of his control? He’s not invincible, Ash. What if he had died at that TIN facility after his DNA changed? What if—”

“Stop,” Ash said firmly. He cupped Cael’s face, relieved when Cael visibly relaxed. “No more what-ifs, okay? Asking yourself those kinds of questions won’t do you any good. There’s only one solution to this.”

Cael blinked at him. He turned and sat back on his heels, his hands on Ash’s knees and his eyes wide. “What?”

“We ask Sparks for more training. Sloane promised me he’d bring me in if he needed me. If they were going somewhere they’d need backup. I’m not about to let him or Dex traipse around the world without backup. If they need an extraction, I’m going to be on that team. Chances are they’re going to need some pretty fierce tech support. Your brother might get trained, but we both know his tech skills are shit, especially compared to yours.”

“Do you think Sparks will let us?”

“All your brother has to do is ask. TIN’s so desperate to have your brother, they’ll give him whatever he wants, and if that means training up his assets, there’s no way they’re saying no.”

Cael worried his bottom lip with his teeth. “Dex isn’t going to like it.”

“Dex doesn’t have a choice. Don’t ask him, Cael.” Ash reached out placed his thumb to Cael’s bottom lip. “Don’t let him underestimate you. You’re talented, incredibly smart, and far more resourceful than you or your brother give you credit for. He’s always going to be your big brother, but you’re not a little kid, Cael. You don’t need to ask Dex, your dad, or anyone for permission. If this is what you want, you talk to Dex, and you tell him how this is going to go. He can either help you, or you’ll figure it out on your own.”

Cael seemed to think about it. “You really think I can do this? TIN’s like… a whole other level of tech.”

Ash smiled. “Baby, I don’t think you can do this, I know you can.”

Cael took hold of Ash’s face, and brought him in for a kiss. It started sweet, soft, and slow, Cael’s mouth slanted over Ash’s. The kiss quickly grew heated, and Ash wrapped his arms around Cael, bringing him up against him. Cael was always telling Ash how he saw him, and it was true that no one saw him or understood him the way Cael did. If only Cael could see himself the way Ash saw him. Yes, he was sweet, soft, vulnerable, and adorable, but he was also fierce, strong, and incredibly capable. Every day, little by little, Ash did his best to help Cael see that he was so much more than he gave himself credit for.

One of these days, Cael would wake up and realize he had every right to be confident in his skills, in his abilities. Underneath the timid, fidgety cheetah Therian was a confident young man who could easily become an unstoppable force.

Ash returned Cael’s searing kiss, greedily accepting everything he was offered, allowing Cael’s adoration to wash over him. Cael straddled Ash’s lap, his arms wrapped around Ash’s neck as they kissed. Ash loved everything about Cael. Loved his scent, the taste of him, the feel of his sinewy body against Ash. Like they’d been made to fit together.

Cael slipped his fingers into Ash’s hair. There was barely anything there to hold onto, but Cael managed just fine. For a small Therian, Cael could be just the right side of rough, and Ash loved it. Loved when Cael took charge. In the bedroom, Cael was plenty confident. He knew his body, and by now knew enough about Ash’s body to drive him absolutely fucking insane. Never in a million years would Ash have thought Cael would be so wild in bed, and he was never selfish. Seeing Ash ready to come apart from want was as much of a turn on to Cael as any of the toys he enjoyed so much.

With a hum, Cael pulled back. “You’re right. We can do this. I can do this.”

“And I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Cael smiled wide. He leaned in to kiss Ash when the oven beeped. Cael pulled back, his grin wicked. “But first cake.”

Ash threw his head back and laughed.

“And don’t think I’ve forgotten about my promise,” Cael said, sucking Ash’s earlobe between his teeth before flicking it with his tongue. Fuck. Okay, He could do this. He could wait, because he knew when Cael got his hands on him it was going to be mind-blowing.

Ash got up, watching as Cael bounded into the kitchen, rambling on about what kind of cool tech TIN probably had. Ash leaned against the counter as Cael pulled on oven mitts, so excited with everything, from the idea of learning secret ninja skills, to life in general. Ash just watched him and listened, offering the occasional reply. He was just… captivated, and so stupidly, ridiculously, hopelessly in love. He should have been scared shitless, wondering when the hell it had happened, or why it was happening so fast, and then Cael turned, met his gaze, and smiled that big beautiful smile of his. Okay, he got it. He got the whole love thing, and not the whole brotherly love thing. He got that ages ago. Sloane was his brother, and there was little Ash wouldn’t do for him, but Cael? This was something else altogether.

“This is going to be so great, Ash.”

Ash left the counter, bringing Cael into his arms for a kiss. “Yeah, it is.” They were going to be great. Every doubt Ash had about them, and where they were going vanished. He knew just what to do. There was a lot to do. People he had to talk to. And of course Cael.

But first cake.


THIRDS Thursdays goes on hiatus the month of a new release, so we’ll be back on May 4th!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/23/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part Three last week. Read it here.

PART FOUR

Downstairs in the kitchen, Ash placed Cael on his feet, letting him get dressed while he pulled out ingredients and placing them on the counter. Cake flour, sugar, large eggs at room temperature, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Unless he was on a double shift, he pretty much baked daily, so his pantry was well stocked. Baking helped relax him. He could get lost in the process, in the art of precision, the creation of something perfect. Few people knew he baked, and those who did know didn’t get it. They only saw what didn’t fit. The cakes, cookies, frosting. It didn’t fit with his nature.

Then there was the part where he rarely indulged in any pastries or sweet baked goods while he was out. People assumed he just didn’t like it, and although he didn’t necessarily have a sweet tooth, his not eating pastries or muffins or cakes had nothing to do with his sweet tooth or lack thereof, but because most often than not he was left disappointed. He could taste when too much sugar was added, or not enough. When someone substituted an ingredient, or altered a recipe. Unless a place had really great feedback, he didn’t bother.

As soon as all the ingredients were out, he readied the equipment and utensils. Once everything was ready, he turned to Cael with a smile. “Why don’t you show me how you do it, then we can see how it differs from how I make mine.”

“Okay.”

Cael got to work. He turned on the oven and set it to the right temperature before sifting the cake flour and sugar. He combined the extracts and set them aside before beating the eggs whites, cream of tartar, and salt until he’d formed peaks. When it came time to add some of the sugar, Ash pinpointed where Cael was going wrong, but he let Cael continue, watching him. He beat the mixture in the bowl, added the flour mixture, and extracts, mixed it, and poured it into the angel food cake pan then set it in to bake. He turned to Ash and frowned.

“It’s not going to come out fluffy. I don’t know what I do wrong.”

Ash pulled him into his arms and kissed the top of his head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Now, do you want to watch me do mine?”

Cael nodded.

Ash started the same as Cael, but when it came time to add the sugar, he stopped and turned to Cael. This part was going to be tough for his swift little cheetah Therian. Cael was never still for very long. “There’s a couple of very important steps. Angel food cake is supposed to be very light and fluffy. To get that lightness, you need to be gentle, and take these steps slowly. You need to add the sugar slowly.” He demonstrated, and when it was time to add the cake flour, he paused again. “I like to fold in the flour mixture by hand, but you don’t need to do that. But you’ll still need to beat on low, and then add your flour and extracts in slowly, like this. Don’t forget to fold in the sides and the bottom.” Once that was done, he spooned the mixture into his angel food cake pan.

“Another important step is to try and remove air pockets.” He took a knife and moved it through the batter before placing the pan in the oven then setting the second timer.

“I was going too fast,” Cael said with a sigh.

“Yes.” They had some time before the cakes were done, so Ash put away the ingredients and started cleaning up with Cael’s help. “So what do you want to have with your cake? Strawberries and cream, or—”

“Aren’t you terrified?”

Ash wiped his hands on one of the kitchen towels before turning to Cael, the fear and heartache in his eyes had Ash crossing the distance between them, and drawing Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of Cael’s head.

“A lot more scares me than people realize, sweetheart. You’ll have to be more specific.”

“That something will happen to Sloane and you won’t be there.”

Ash closed his eyes, his cheek resting against the top of Cael’s head. When he spoke, his voice came out rough. “Of course I am.” He had every faith in Sloane and his abilities. There was no doubt in Ash’s mind that when Sloane was done with his training, and got his stupid color tie, that he’d be a force to be reckoned with, but that didn’t mean that Sloane didn’t need his family.

Taking Cael’s hand, Ash led him into the living room and the cozy loveseat Cael loved so much. It was usually where Ash found Cael when he got home from work, usually when they were on different shifts. Cael would be curled up in fluffy blankets and a hoard of pillows. Sometimes he’d be engrossed in one of his comic book movies, or binge watching a TV show. Sometimes he’d be fast asleep, his reader on his chest. Then there were times when he was feeling anxious and just needed space. The loveseat had become his safe place. Not that Cael didn’t feel safe in their apartment, but the chair was his. Ash never intruded, joining Cael only when he was asked.

“Sit with me?”

“Sure.” Thankfully the loveseat was extra wide as were the other two couches. He sat with his back against the armrest, his legs too long to stretch out, so he brought his knee up, his other leg on the floor until Cael had climbed up and snuggled against him, then he brought his leg up. Cael let out a heart-wrenching sigh.

“I know Dex is going to be given all this kickass training,” Cael said, his eyes closed. “He’s going to be some super-secret ninja agent, God help us all, but he’s still going to be Dex, which I’m really glad, but at the same time, it’s Dex. What of Sloane’s not around to keep him grounded? What if he ignores protocol? It won’t be like at the THIRDS where Sloane or my dad yell at him and put him on equipment duty for a month. He could be killed, or left trapped behind enemy lines, and TIN will go on as if he never existed.” Cael buried his face against Ash’s chest, and Ash held him close, rubbing circles around his back.

“Cael, look at me.”

Cael reluctantly did.

“This is all new. Hell, they haven’t even been officially sworn in, and I know you’re worried. I’m worried too, but we have to believe in them. Look at everything your brother’s been through. I have never met anyone more stubborn, more resilient than your brother.” Ash put his hand to Cael’s cheek. “Sweetheart, your brother died and came back to life. If there is anyone, anyone who is going to fight to stay alive with every fiber of his being, it’s going to be your brother.”


Final part next week on 3/30/17!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/16/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part Two last week. Read it here.

PART THREE

Showers had vastly improved since Cael started joining him. The two of them seemed to be in sync more and more each day. When Cael chatted away at him, Ash happily listened. When Cael was quiet, and needed to be in his own head, Ash left him to it. When that happened, Ash found himself having to touch Cael in some way. As if he needed to feel him, to assure himself Cael was there, which was ridiculous. He could see Cael, so why should he need to touch him? To say this was all knew to him was an understatement. It struck him then that in four months, he and Cael would have been together a year. Yet it felt like they’d been together so much longer.

“That feels good.” Cael hummed, drawing his attention back to the present, and the deliciously naked Cael standing in front of him, his back to Ash.

Ash smiled as he continued to massage Cael’s scalp. Cael let his head fall back against Ash’s chest. He opened his big gray eyes and smiled.

“Hi.”

Ash hunched over and kissed Cael, upside down, making him laugh. “Hi. Rinse, before you get conditioner in your eyes.”

“You’re so adorable.”

Now there was a word no one had ever associated with Ash Keeler, and anyone who dared call him that to his face would get an earful. Except Cael. Cael was the exception to every rule.

Cael stepped under the shower and washed the conditioner out of his hair while Ash finished washing up. They got out and dried themselves. Ash hung up his towel and turned to find himself wrapped up in Cael’s arms and a huge fluffy towel.

“Thank you, Ash.”

“For what?” Ash brushed Cael’s wet hair away from his brow, his pulse picking up, and his heart beating fast. It always did when Cael looked at him like he was now. Like Ash was the most amazing thing in the world.

“For being you.”

Ash swallowed hard. It wasn’t easy being on the receiving end of such adoration. It wasn’t long ago that he didn’t think himself worthy of such a look. “You’re the only one I’ve ever known who didn’t want to change me.”

“Because no one has ever taken the time to really look at you. They don’t see what I see.” Cael cupped Ash’s face, his sparkling gray eyes filled with so much love. For him. “There’s so much… wrong with me, yet you’re always so patient. You know how to deal with me.”

Ash’s expression softened, and he brushed his fingers along Cael’s jaw. “First off, there is nothing wrong with you, sweetheart. None of us get through life without picking up scars along the way. Even your brother Mr. Perfect, isn’t so perfect. Second, you’re not someone I deal with. You’re someone I love. Someone who means the world to me, who makes me cherish every minute we’re together. When you’re having a panic attack, I want to make it better for you, and I do my best to show you you’re safe. When you’re feeling anxious, I try to show you how much you’re loved. When you’re scared, I do everything to assure you that I’m right beside you. I’ll do whatever it takes to make everything okay again. Because it’s you.”

Cael averted his gaze, but his lips were pulled up in a shy smile. “See. You always know just what to say.”

Ash gently turned Cael’s face so their eyes could meet. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Cael stood on his toes and kissed him. It was sweet, slow, and filled Ash with the kind of hope he never thought he’d feel. Ash ran his hands down Cael’s arms, his skin soft in Ash’s rough hands.

Ash pulled back, feeling breathless. He couldn’t take his eyes off Cael. “I gotta say, sweetheart, you terrify me.”

Cael tilted his head. “Me?”

“Yeah. I don’t think you know the power you have over me. You got me thinking all kinds of crazy things.”

“Like what?”

Ash shook his head. “I don’t think I’m ready to say them out loud.” Just thinking about it scared the shit out of him.

“Well, when you’re ready,” Cael said, smiling as he kissed Ash, sweet and quick. “I’ll be right here.”

Ash nodded. He breathed in deep through his nose, and released the breath slow through his mouth. He motioned toward the door. “How about we get dressed and get to baking?”

“Sounds awesome.” Cael pulled away and left Ash holding the towel. He walked off naked, and Ash turned to watch him go, the sight of Cael’s tight ass making him groan.

“Really? You want me to think about baking with you strutting around here like that?” He followed Cael out into the bedroom, and folded his arms over his chest. The little tease. Cael slipped into his boxers nice and slow, his back turned. Ash had never seen anything so sinful.

“You teach me how to make the perfect, fluffy angel food cake,” Cael purred, “and after, as a show of gratitude, I will let you pick any toy from the drawer to use on me.”

Ash stifled a gasp. “I get to choose?”

Cael looked at him from over his shoulder. “Yep.”

“Anything?”

Cael nodded. “Anything.”

Holy shit.

Ash was pretty sure he broke a world record with how quick he got dressed. When he was done, he grabbed Cael’s clothes and thrust them at him. “Come on, we got some baking to do.”

Cael waggled his eyebrows. “With great power….”

“Oh, you’re in for it now.” Ash grabbed him and lifted him off his feet, laughing at Cael’s yelp and flailing arms as Ash hoisted him over his shoulder. He smacked Cael’s ass for good measure.

“Ash!” Cael laughed as Ash carried him down the stairs.

“Challenge has been accepted. There’s no turning back now.” The perfect angel food cake was the only thing standing between him and hot, toe-curling sex. He was not about to lose.



Part four next week on 3/23/17!


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

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