Blog Archive - May 2018

THIRDS Thursday - Win an ARC for Love and Payne, plus an excerpt!

Hello, all! The final proof for Love and Payne is with Dreamspinner Press, and I'm excited to announce the release date! Austen and Zach's love story will be out on September 4th, 2018!! Which means it should be up for pre-order around August 6th. In the next few weeks I'll also be bringing you the fabulous cover, created by the lovely L.C. Chase.

Love and Payne is the first book in the THIRDS Universe Novels, a series of books centered around a different couple we've met in the original THIRDS series, and although we may hear about or have the THIRDS guys pop up in these books, these are stand alone books that focus on the couple, so readers won't have to have read the whole THIRDS series to pick these up, though obviously having read the series will enrich the experience since that's where we first meet these guys. The books have a slightly different feel than the THIRDS series as far as the romance is concerned.

With Dex and Sloane we were able to follow them and the rest of the crew for ten books, giving the relationships plenty of time to grow. With the THIRDS Universe Novels we have one book to get these guys their happy ever after. I didn't want the love stories to be overshadowed by the action and suspense. In the THIRDS series, the books tend to lean a little heavier toward the action. Of course there's plenty of story, action, suspense, and sexy times, but we also have plenty of the guys falling in love.

With Austen's book I went back and forth a lot. We know who Austen is, who he works for, and the possibilities for his book were endless. When I started brainstorming his book, I was thinking of all these complicated TIN story plots, and all this action, but then realized we've been waiting for Austen and Zach to get together for quite a while now. Years, in fact. I didn't want to cheat Austen and Zach, out of their love story, but at the same time, I needed to remain true to their characters, especially Austen. Finding a balance for this book was tough, but I'm happy with the results, and I can't wait to share this book with you.

GIVEAWAY

I'll be giving away 3 Love and Payne ARCs to 3 random winners.

To enter: just leave a comment below. Giveaway ends: June 28th at midnight, Eastern US time. Open internationally.

By entering this giveaway, you agree to be notified via email should you win.

ARC: The ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy so you'll find that it has no book cover or design formatting, as it's been put together at this time to give folks enough time to read it..

Very important: If you're selected to receive an ARC, please do not share it with others. Unfortunately, piracy is a big problem within the publishing community, and sadly, some folks don't realize what an impact this can have on the author, their publisher, and the work.

EXCERPT

“Hey.”

Austen turned his head to Zach, who crouched down in front of him, a big dopey smile on his face. His cheeks were pink, and he dropped his gaze to his fingers in a shy gesture.

“Can I help?”

Austen turned his attention back to Brayden, but his friend and Edan were gone. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Austen thumped his tail anxiously. The last person he wanted giving him PSTC was Zach.

“Austen?”

Austen turned to Zach and stiffened when Zach slowly reached up. His brain told him to move away, not to let Zach touch him, but his heart kept him still as Zach ever so gently laid his hand on Austen’s head. His smile was blinding as he gingerly ran his fingers through Austen’s fur, as if any sudden movement might spook Austen, which wasn’t too far off the mark. Austen sat very still as Zach petted him lovingly before scratching him behind the ear, making him close his eyes with a purr. Austen hadn’t meant to purr, but his cheetah half was too content to care what he had to say on the matter.

“You’re so beautiful.”

Austen’s eyes flew open, and he was taken aback by the awe on Zach’s face as he ran his fingers through the fur on Austen’s neck. Warmth flooded through Austen, and he surprised them both by stretching his neck out and quickly delivering a wet kitty kiss to Zach’s cheek. Wondering what the hell had gotten into him, Austen headed off to the changing room where his clothes were. Once inside, he turned to find Zach where he’d left him, looking wide-eyed. His expression quickly turned uncertain, and Austen chirped. He sat on his haunches and flicked his tail impatiently, making Zach chuckle. When Zach reached the changing room, Austen half expected Zach to get into the room with him, but he didn’t. He smiled tenderly as he started to close the door.

“I’ll be right out here when you’re ready, okay?” With that he closed the door, and Austen was touched by Zach’s consideration. He could have easily used this as an excuse to see Austen naked, but he didn’t.

Austen closed his eyes and willed his cheetah half to retreat, his bones once again popping, muscles stretching and contracting. His feral yowls of pain soon turned into Human grunts and groans. As soon as he was on two legs, he shakily dropped down onto the padded bench and with a trembling arm, reached for the robe hanging on one of the hooks. Fuck, he was freezing. It took him a few minutes to find the strength to slip into the robe and tie it at his waist.

“Zach.” It was nothing more than a whisper, but Zach heard him. He opened the door just wide enough to step inside the room before closing the door behind him. The space was big enough for two, with several hooks on one wall and an extrawide cushioned bench that ran from one end of the changing room to the other. On the third wall was a cabinet stocked with protein bars and several flavors of Gatorade. Zach reached for one of the Gatorade bottles first and twisted the cap open. Austen expected Zach to stand over him to help him drink, but he didn’t. He took a seat on the bench beside Austen, placing one large hand to the back of Austen’s head while he brought the bottle to Austen’s mouth, gently tilting it.

Austen slowly sipped at the drink. He closed his eyes in the hopes of tamping down the overwhelming desire to lean into Zach. His body radiated warmth, and Austen was shivering. Fuck. He just couldn’t get warm. Suddenly Zach pulled the drink away and dragged himself on the bench until he was against the wall.

“Come here,” Zach said softly, reaching for Austen, who stiffened, but he allowed Zach to pull him between his spread legs. He wrapped Austen in his tree-trunk arms, his chest pressed against Austen’s back. Zach nuzzled the side of his head, murmuring by his ear and sending a shiver through Austen that had nothing to do with the cold. “I’m just helping you get warm. The second you are, I’ll stop. I promise. No funny business.”

Austen was about to protest, but his body was already feeling the effects of Zach’s proximity, and it felt so damn good.

“Just until I get warm,” Austen grumbled, his voice still rough from postshift. “Not one second longer.”


THIRDS Thursday - 5/24/18

PromptHow does Ethan’s family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)? 


FINAL PART

Rafe headed for the kitchen, and Ethan looked at Calvin worriedly.

Calvin let out a snort. “Please. My mom’s not scared of anything. Come on.” They tiptoed over to the kitchen doorway, and peeked around the corner. Darla and Julia sat at the table drinking tea and laughing together. It made Calvin happy to see his mom like that. It seemed like all she ever did was work, and when she wasn’t working, she only ever thought about Calvin, never herself.

“Hi,” Rafe said, standing next to the table.

Darla and Julia looked up, Darla’s eyes going wide. “Hello.”

“Darla, this is my oldest son, Rafe. He works for the THIRDS.”

Darla smiled wide. “Oh, how wonderful! Has Calvin told you he wants to be a THIRDS agent?” She put a hand to her chest as she moved her attention to Julia. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s always been such a brave boy, always wanting to help people, protect them. The moment he said he wanted to be a THIRDS agent, I knew he’d found his calling.”

“Ethan wants to be a THIRDS agent too,” Rafe grumbled.

“That’s perfect,” Darla said cheerfully. “They can help each other. It’s not an easy path by any means, but then I’m certain you know better than anyone, Rafe. With you and Seb to help guide them, they’ll be in good hands.”

Rafe stared at her. “Can I ask a blunt question?”

“Of course,” Darla replied. “If we’re all going to be friends, we should be honest and open with each other.”

“You really don’t have a problem with Ethan being a Therian? With us? Because you seem a little too relaxed about all this.”

Darla let out a heavy sigh. “I’m going to be very upfront with you.” She smiled sadly at Julia. “You have such a beautiful family, Julia. You’re very lucky. I’m Calvin’s only family. It’s been the two of us for a long time. When I hear a Human say Therians are monsters, I know they’re wrong, because I lived with a real monster.” Her eyes teared up, and Calvin wanted to go to her, but Ethan held on tight to his hand. He knew they shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he couldn’t help it.

“Oh, Darla, you don’t have to,” Julia assured her, placing her hand on Darla’s for comfort.

“It’s all right. I’d like your son to understand where I’m coming from. Calvin’s father was Human, but any man who would hurt his own child the way he did doesn’t deserve the title of father. I tried to protect Calvin as best I could, but I was forced to leave Calvin in his care when I ended up in the hospital one night. When I was released, and I saw my baby bruised and bloodied, I knew I would never let that man touch him again. I did what I had to and got Calvin far from him.”

“Do you need help? Where is he now?” Rafe asked, his hands balled into fists at his sides. “If he lays another hand on you or Calvin—”

“He’s dead. He was killed by the police after he robbed a gas station and took a clerk hostage.”

Julia gasped. “Does Calvin know?”

Darla nodded. She took the tissue Julia handed her with a “thank you”. “Like I said, I’m the only family Calvin has. We don’t keep secrets.” She smiled up at Rafe. “So you see, I know humanity isn’t exclusive to Humans. Who we are, our deeds, how we love, and the way we treat others? That’s what matters.”

Rafe swallowed hard. He nodded. “If you or Calvin ever need anything, you call us. I’ll give you my card, and you call me any time, okay?”

“Thank you.” Darla wiped the tears from her cheeks and let out a little laugh. “I’m sorry. Please excuse me for getting all emotional.”

“Nonsense.” Julia took Darla’s hands in hers. “You and Calvin aren’t alone anymore. You have the Hobbs family now.”

Darla started crying, and Calvin couldn’t help himself, he ran to his mom, and threw his arms around her.

“Don’t cry, mom.”

“It’s okay, baby. I’m just happy.” Darla wrapped her arms around him tight, and kissed the top of his head. “Whatever happens, you come to me, Julia, or one of Ethan’s brothers.”

“I promise,” Calvin said, moving away as Ethan came up beside him. Ethan stepped up to Darla and hugged her. Julia and Rafe looked surprised.

“Thank you,” Darla said, hugging Ethan. She pulled away, and cupped his cheek. “Thank you for finding us. I need you to be brave for Calvin. Can you do that?”

Ethan puffed up his chest and nodded. He took Calvin’s hand, his smile big before turning to Julia and patting his belly. Julia laughed.

“Yes, you and Calvin can have some milk and cookies.”

Ethan pointed behind him, and Julia nodded.

“Okay, you can have them in your room, but no crumbs on the bed. Go play. I’ll bring them over.”

They ran to the bedroom, and Ethan let go of Calvin’s hand to run over to the bottom bunk where Seb was on his side reading. Ethan jumped on him, and Seb laughed, grabbing him, and tickling him. Ethan laughed as he tried to fend Seb off.

“You think you can just launch an attack and not face the consequences?” Seb said.

Calvin sat to watch them. He’d always wished he had brothers or sisters. Julia said that he and his mom weren’t alone anymore. Maybe they’d all be a family. A real family. Calvin really hoped so. Hearing Ethan laugh made Calvin smile. He liked Ethan’s laugh. Seb looked over at Calvin, and arched an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, you think you’re walking away from this scot-free?”

Calvin’s eyes widened when Seb stood up. He scrambled to get up when Seb grabbed him, hauling him up under one arm with a playful growl. Calvin shrieked before breaking off into laughter. Seb turned and hauled Ethan up under the other arm, growling, and swinging them around.

“All right, I’m heading into work. You brats behave yourself. That includes you, Seb.” Rafe walked into the room, and Seb put them down. He scratched his jaw with his middle finger, but Calvin knew he was flipping Rafe off and trying to be sneaky about it. Rafe just rolled his eyes. Maybe Rafe was a jerk, but he looked so awesome in his THIRDS uniform. Ethan and Calvin ran over to him.

“So cool!” Calvin stared up at Rafe’s name tag. One day, he’d have a uniform just like Rafe’s and it would say “Summers” on it. As Rafe headed for the door, Calvin and Ethan followed him.

“How many Therians are at the THIRDS?” Calvin asked.

“Lots,” Rafe replied.

“What kind of Therians?”

“All kinds.”

“Are there any bigger than you?”

“Some.”

“Really? There's a Therian bigger than you? What kind?” Calvin couldn't imagine a Therian bigger than Rafe. “How tall are you?”

“I'm seven foot two. Bear Therians are bigger.”

“By how much?”

“A few inches taller maybe. Depends. They're wider though. More muscles.”

How was that even possible? Calvin and Ethan gaped at each other. “Have you seen a bear Therian?” he asked Ethan. Ethan shook his head.

Julia walked into the living room, and kissed Rafe’s cheek. “Be safe, baby.”

“Always.” Rafe kissed her cheek in return, and it looked like he smiled at Darla. Maybe. It was hard to tell with Rafe. “Nice to meet you, Darla. Remember what I said. If you need anything, you just call us.”

“Thank you, Rafe. Stay safe.”

“I will.” Rafe ruffled Ethan’s hair. “Be good for Mom, Squirt.”

Ethan nodded.

They watched Rafe walk out, and Calvin didn’t understand why Julia looked so worried. Rafe was a huge Therian, and a THIRDS agent. He was also all growly and scary. Who would mess with him?

“It’s so dangerous out there right now,” Julia told Darla. “I worry about him.”

“No matter how big they get, they’ll always be our babies,” Darla said warmly.

Julia turned to smile at them. “How about those cookies I promised?”

“Yay!” As Calvin and Ethan followed their moms into the kitchen, Calvin couldn’t remember ever being happier. He knew things wouldn’t be easy, but then he was used to it. Except now, it wasn’t just him and his mom. Calvin smiled at Ethan, and took hold of his hand. He knew it was going to be hard, and that lots of people wouldn’t want them to be friends, or understand why, but one day, he’d help them understand. Together, he and Ethan would get bigger and stronger, and become THIRDS agents, and help Humans and Therians be friends. Whatever happened, he would always look out for Ethan. Always.


Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


THIRDS Thursday - 5/17/18

PromptHow does Ethan’s family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)? 


PART THREE

Calvin ran up the stairs to the roof, and out the open door which was never locked. Up ahead, Ethan ran toward the low wall at the end of the roof. “Ethan, stop!”

Ethan climbed onto the edge, and Calvin shouted as loud as he could.

“You’re scaring me, you big jerk!”

Ethan turned to look at him with a frown. He sat down on the edge, legs swinging over the side. When Calvin skidded to a halt near the ledge, he punched Ethan in the arm, making him growl.

“Screw you! I was really scared!”

Ethan looked confused. He glanced over the edge, and he realized why Calvin had been so scared. His eyes widened, and he pointed to himself then down at the street before shaking his head.

“Well how was I supposed to know?” Calvin plopped down onto the ground and wrapped his arms around his drawn-up knees. He hated that he was crying and shaking. Ethan sat down next to him and tugged at his arm. “No. I’m mad at you. I thought you were going to do something stupid.” He shut his eyes tight, grunting when Ethan dragged him forward like he didn’t weigh anything. Calvin felt Ethan slide in behind him then his arms wrapped around Calvin, hugging him close.

“We’re best friends,” Calvin said with a sniff. “That means we’re together forever. You promised.”

Ethan squeezed him, and Calvin felt a little better. He was still super mad though. Stupid Ethan. Calvin didn’t want to lose his best friend. Ever. He didn’t know why he cared about Ethan so much. They’d only just met, but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like he’d always known Ethan.

“Ethan!” Seb came bursting through the roof door, Rafe on his heels. They spotted Calvin and Ethan, and ran over, dropping to their knees beside Ethan, one to each side of him.

“Are you both okay?” Seb asked. “What happened?”

Ethan rubbed his cheek against Calvin’s hair.

“Jesus, you scared the hell out of us. Don’t take off like that again. Please.”

“Cavin’s right,” Rafe said, his voice hoarse. “I was being an asshole. If you want to be a THIRDS agent, then… we’ll find a way to make it happen.”

Ethan buried his face against Calvin’s neck, and shook his head.

“Ethan, if you want to be a THIRDS agent, you can be,” Seb promised. “Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”

Calvin pulled away enough to turn so he could take hold of Ethan’s face. “Hey, we’re both going to be THIRDS agents, you’ll see.”

Ethan put his hand to his throat.

“We’ll just have to be the best,” Calvin said brightly. “If we’re the best they’ll have to take us. We can be partners.” He looked up at Seb. “If we become the best then they’ll have to put us on a team, right?”

Seb ruffled Calvin’s hair. “Yeah, but you two need to understand that from this point on, life’s going to get even harder. Sometimes it’s going to feel like it’s just the two of you against the whole world, but never forget you have family who love you and are here to support you. Rafe and I, we’re working hard so things will be better out there. Hopefully things will be different by the time you guys get old enough to apply. Until then, just look out for each other, and remember, a good THIRDS agent doesn’t fight unless he has to.”

“Got it,” Calvin said, taking Ethan’s hand. “We’ll show’em.”

Ethan smiled, and nodded.

“Okay. Come on. Dinner’s ready.” Seb stood then helped them to their feet. “You want to be big strong THIRDS agents? That means eating all your dinner, including your vegetables.”

Ethan made a gagging sound, and Calvin groaned. Vegetables were gross.

“Especially you, short stack,” Rafe said.

“I might be short now, but when I’m all grown up I’m going to be big and buff.” He flexed his muscles and growled menacingly.

“Yeah, okay. Take it easy there, Rambo.”

“Whatever. Does that mean I have to do better at Math? I hate math.” Art class was more fun.

“Yep,” Seb replied with a chuckle. “But lucky for you, Ethan is great at math, and science. Chemistry especially.”

“Really?” Calvin asked Ethan, who smiled and nodded, giving two thumbs up. “Cool.”

Seb let out a bark of laughter. “Oh my God, I just realized it.”

“What?” Calvin asked. “What’s so funny?”

“Calvin and Hobbs.”

Rafe rolled his eyes. “You only just got that, genius?”

“Shut up. I was focused on more important things. That’s funny.”

“Yeah, I hope they think so too, because it’s going to follow them their entire lives.”

“I don’t understand,” Calvin said, looking from Seb to Rafe.

“It’s cute,” Seb told Rafe, elbowing him playfully. “Come on. It’s adorable.”

“See if they think it’s adorable when they’re thirty.”

Calvin and Ethan exchanged glances and shrugged. Grown-ups were weird. Downstairs, dinner was on the table, and it smelled so good! Calvin’s mom didn't get to cook much because of how tired she was when she got in from work, but when she did, it was Calvin’s favorite. Ethan’s mom made the best meatballs, and she let them have lots of cheese. After dinner they did their homework, and they were watching TV when the doorbell rang. Calvin jumped to his feet when Julia opened the door, and he saw his mom.

“Mom!” He ran to her and threw his arms around her, hugging her tight.

“Hi, baby.” She kissed the top of his head then smiled wide at Julia.

“Hi, I’m Darla Summers. Thank you so much for having Calvin over, and inviting him to dinner.”

“It's a pleasure, Darla. I’m Julia Hobbs. Calvin’s such a lovely boy.”

Ethan poked his head out from behind his mom, and Calvin took his hand, pulling him out.

“This is my mom. Mom, this is Ethan. We’re going to be best friends forever.”

Darla blinked at Ethan. “Oh. You didn’t mention Ethan was a Therian.”

Ethan squeezed Calvin’s hand, and Calvin smiled. “It’s okay, Ethan. My mom doesn’t care.”

Darla knelt in front of Calvin, and pulled him close. “Baby, you know this changes everything.”

Ethan made a worried sound, and pulled away from Calvin to hug mom, but Calvin wanted to know what his mother was talking about. Did she not want him to be friends with Ethan? She looked really worried.

“What do you mean?”

“It means, you two will have to be very careful. You’ll have to look out for each other. Take care of each other. There will be those who won’t understand. They’ll be angry and look to hurt you and Ethan. Promise me you’ll both be extra vigilante and very careful.”

Calvin nodded. “I promise.”

“Okay.” Darla looked over Calvin’s shoulder, and smiled warmly at Ethan. “Hi, Ethan. I’m Calvin’s mom, Darla. I’m so very happy to meet you. I know you and Cal will be great friends.”

Ethan’s eyes widened. He looked up at his mom, who for some weird reason had tears in her eyes, and she nodded. With a shy smile, Ethan stepped up to Darla, and waved.

“Hi, Ethan. It’s lovely to meet you. Thank you for looking out for Calvin.”

Ethan nodded.

“Ethan has selective mutism,” Julia explained quietly, running a hand over his head. She smiled at Darla. “Would you like a cup of tea, or coffee?”

“I would love some tea. Thank you.”

“Why don’t we go in the kitchen,” Julia said, “leave the boys to watch their cartoons. Maybe Calvin can come here after school, and you can pick him up when you get home.”

Calvin was so excited he was all but bouncing. “Can I, Mom? Please, please, please!”

Darla laughed, and ruffled his hair. “If it’s okay with Julia, and you promise to do all your homework.”

“I will. I’ll be super good.”

“Okay.” Darla and Julia headed for the kitchen, chatting, and both smiling.

Calvin hoped his mom and Julia became good friends. An idea struck him, and he turned to Ethan, whispering loudly.

“Our moms should be best friends!”

Ethan’s smile widened, and he nodded.

“This is going to be awesome!” Calvin grabbed Ethan’s hands, and they jumped up and down excitedly. Rafe walked into the living room, and dropped down onto the couch.

“What are you two so excited about?”

“My mom and your mom are going to be best friends.”

Rafe arched an eyebrow at him. “That so?”

“Yep. I told you my mom wouldn’t care,” Calvin said smugly. “She’s happy Ethan and I are best friends.”

“Easy when you’re faced with a tiny Therian like Ethan.”

Ethan was tiny? Maybe Rafe needed glasses.

“Let’s see how she does with a Therian who’s not so cute and cuddly.”


PART FOUR next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


THIRDS Thursday - 5/10/18

PromptHow does Ethan’s family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)? 


PART TWO

“You want to maybe not block the whole doorway,” a low growly voice said before the huge tiger Therian was pushed into the room, a second even bigger tiger Therian stepping in behind him. The first one looked a lot like Ethan, with black hair and the same green eyes. The second guy had lighter hair, and the same eyes as Julia. He was way scary looking, especially when he narrowed his eyes at Calvin.

“Who’s the pipsqueak?”

Swallowing hard, Calvin hid behind Ethan. He knew he shouldn’t be scared of Therians, but they were so big!

“Boys, please,” Julia said. “You’re scaring Ethan’s new friend.”

Ethan took Calvin’s hand, and stood with him. He smiled warmly, and patted his chest before pointing to first one guy then the other.

“Oh! They’re you’re brothers. That makes sense.”

“Wait, you understand him?” The bigger of the two said, looking surprised.

“Well, yeah.” Calvin shrugged.

“How?”

Calvin peered at him. “I pay attention.”

The other brother laughed, the older grumbling something under his breath. Maybe Ethan didn’t say words, but he talked, so Calvin listened.

“Calvin,” Julia said softly. “That’s Sebastian. Sebastian, Calvin Summers.”

Sebastian smiled, and Calvin felt at ease right away. He looked a lot like Ethan, just older.

“Hi, Calvin. Call me Seb.” He held his hand out to Calvin who took it hesitantly.

“Hi.”

“And that’s Rafe,” Julia explained. “Ethan’s oldest brother.”

Calvin tilted his head up, his mouth dropping open. Rafe’s head almost touched the ceiling.

Rafe didn’t say anything or hold his hand out to Calvin for him to shake. Instead he frowned and looked at Julia. “Do his parents know he’s here?”

Julia cleared her throat. “Calvin’s mother is at work, but he’s going to let her know.”

Rafe shook his head, and let out a heavy sigh. “Mom—”

“It’s going to be just fine. According to Calvin, his mother says Therians are just like Humans and should be treated like equals.”

Rafe and Seb’s eyebrows shot up. Seb smiled warmly at Calvin.

“Is that so?”

Calvin nodded. “It’s true. My mom won’t care. She’ll be happy I have a best friend like Ethan.”

Rafe ran a hand through his hair. Why did he look so worried? Did he not believe Calvin? He turned to face Ethan who was looking sad again. Calvin took his hand.

“It’s true. I promise. You’ll see.”

“All right. Why don’t you boys wash up for dinner? Calvin, would you like to stay for dinner?”

Calvin’s stomach growled, and Ethan laughed.

“Yes, please.”

Julia walked over and kissed the top of Ethan’s head. “Why don’t you show your friend where the bathroom is.”

Ethan took Calvin’s hand, and led him down a short, narrow hallway. He pointed to the bathroom, and Calvin nodded.

“Where’s your dad?” Calvin asked, his heart hurting when Ethan’s eyes got watery, and he looked real sad. He pointed to a closed door then put his hands together and pressed them to his cheek. “He’s asleep?”

Ethan nodded. He made himself cough and then shook his head.

“He’s not well?”

Ethan shook his head again then sighed. He motioned to the bathroom, but Calvin told him to go first.

“I’m going to call my mom at work and tell her I’m here.”

Ethan nodded, and Calvin went to ask Julia if he could use the phone when he heard Rafe and Julia talking quietly inside the bedroom.

“Mom, you shouldn’t have let him stay. Ethan’s just going to get his heart broken again.”

“Maybe I can talk to Calvin’s mother, make her understand how much they need each other.”

“And how many times has that worked?”

“I have a feeling this time it’ll be different. You have to have faith, sweetheart.”

“Yeah, a whole lotta good that’s done us.”

“Rafe, baby, is something wrong? You’ve been so distant lately. Your father and I are worried.”

There was a pause before Rafe spoke up. “I’m fine. Just a rough day at work.” He let out another heavy sigh. “Talk to the kid’s mom. Let me know if you need anything.”

“I will. Thank you, baby.”

Calvin quickly ducked back into the hall, waiting for Rafe to leave the room. When he heard Rafe and Seb in the kitchen, Calvin walked to the bedroom. Julia sat on the bottom bunk, hugging a stuffed tiger toy. He hated that she looked sad.

“Mrs. Hobbs?”

She smiled warmly at him. “Hi, sweetheart.”

“Ethan’s washing up first. May I use your phone to call my mom?”

“Of course. It’s in the kitchen.”

“Oh.” Calvin worried his bottom lip with his teeth. That’s where Seb and Rafe were.

“Is everything okay?”

Calvin nodded, and smiled. “Yes. Thank you.” He headed for the kitchen, stopping just inside when Rafe and Seb stopped talking and turned to look at him. “Um, your mom said it was okay for me to use the phone to call my mom.”

“Sure.” Seb pointed to the counter on the other side and the black phone sitting on top on one corner. Calvin had to walk by Ethan’s brothers to get to it.

If he wanted to be best friends with Ethan, he couldn’t be scared of his brothers. Lifting his chin, he walked by when Rafe grabbed his arm. Calvin’s eyes went wide as Rafe turned him, and knelt in front of him so they were eye to eye.

“Why do you want to be friends with Ethan?”

“Jesus, Rafe, leave the kid alone,” Seb said with a groan.

Calvin narrowed his eyes at Rafe, his hands balled into fists at his sides. “Because I want to. I like him. He’s nice, and funny, and we both like comic books and cartoons.”

Rafe studied him. “The other kids aren’t going to like you being friends with a Therian.”

Calvin shrugged. “I don’t care.”

“They might try to beat you up.”

“I can fight,” Calvin growled. “If anyone tries to hurt Ethan, I’ll fight them too.”

Rafe blinked at him, and Seb cursed under his breath.

“Fighting isn’t the answer,” Seb said. Rafe let go of Calvin and stood to face his brother.

“Did you see Ethan? You think those little bastards who gang up on him care about talking things out? No. He’s different, so they hurt him. Ethan needs to protect himself. He’s bigger than them.”

“Exactly,” Seb hissed. “He can really hurt them, and he knows it.”

“Come on, bro. Ethan doesn’t fight back because he’s too scared to, not because he knows he’ll hurt them. You all baby him too much, and it’s going to get him in real trouble. What about when he’s older? Is that the kind of guy you want him to be? Someone who’s scared of his own shadow?”

“We’re going to be THIRDS agents,” Calvin said, arms crossed over his chest. “No one’s going to pick on Ethan then, and we’re going to protect people.”

Rafe and Seb stared at him.

“Did Ethan tell you he wanted to be a THIRDS agent?” Seb asked, looking worried.

“He can’t be a THIRDS agent,” Rafe snapped at Calvin.

Angry, Calvin snapped back. “He can too! You’ll see!”

“He can’t talk! How the hell is he supposed to be a THIRDS agent when he can’t talk? You need to stop getting his hopes up.”

“He can too be a THIRDS agent!”

“Listen here, kid. No way the THIRDS is going to put a mute on one of their teams.”

A gasp caught their attention, and they all turned to the door where Ethan stood, tears streaming down his face.

“Shit,” Rafe muttered when Calvin shoved him as hard as he could.

“You’re an asshole!” Calvin left Rafe and Seb arguing in the kitchen and ran after Ethan who ran out of the apartment. “Ethan, wait!” Ethan was much faster than he was, but he knew where Ethan was going.


Part Three next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 5/3/18

Prompt: How does Ethan's family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)? 

PART ONE

“No way!” Calvin stared up at the apartment complex. “You live here?”

Ethan shrugged. He looked embarrassed, and Calvin knew why.

“Yeah, it’s a really shitty neighborhood.”

Ethan nodded, his cheeks going pink as he looked down at his sneakers.

“It kinda sucks less now though.”

Ethan tilted his head, his brows drawn together in question. This was so awesome. Calvin couldn’t help his huge smile. He pointed to the apartment complex next door.

“That’s where I live.”

Ethan’s eyes went wide, and then his face lit up. He pointed to Calvin then at the building, and Calvin nodded.

“Yep. We just moved into that roach motel.” He scrunched his nose, and Ethan nodded. He waved a hand over his nose, and Calvin laughed. “Yeah. The hallway smells like piss, but it’s worse at night.” He followed Ethan inside the building and toward the stairs. Now that he was in Ethan’s building, he felt kinda scared. “What if they don’t like me?”

Ethan stopped on the steps, and smiled at him. He shook his head. It didn’t help that Ethan still looked kind of a mess from earlier when Ruben and those jerks had pushed Ethan around. His clothes were all dirty, his jeans torn, and his lips split. What if Ethan’s family hated him because he was a Human? Just because Ethan’s mom was Human didn’t mean she’d like Calvin. The rest of the Hobbs family were tiger Therians.

Ethan grabbed Calvin’s wrist, and started running up the stairs, making Calvin laugh.

“Hey, slow down! Some of us have short legs!”

Ethan laughed, and Calvin smiled wide, his heart skipping a beat. He had a best friend. He’d always wanted one. What if Ethan’s brothers didn’t like him? What if they told Ethan he couldn’t be friends with Calvin? The thought made the back of his eyes sting. He’d just have to show them that he’d be a good friend to Ethan.

They reached the floor Ethan’s apartment was on, and Calvin was out of breath. Man, he couldn’t wait to grow up and be tall. Maybe then he could be fast enough to keep up with Ethan. If Ethan’s family didn’t kick him out, he’d call his mom to let her know where he was so she wouldn’t worry. She wouldn’t be home until nine anyway, but still. It was almost dinner time since they’d had to take the extra long way home. Stupid Ruben. His brother and friends had come to pick Ruben up at after school and Ruben had told his brother something about Ethan. They’d chased Calvin and Ethan for blocks. Man, he was tired.

Ethan opened the door, and Calvin followed him inside, putting his bag down beside Ethan’s. The apartment was a little bigger than the one he and his mom lived in, except here there were four Therians sharing the tiny space. If Ethan was this big at eleven, Calvin couldn’t even imagine how big his brothers were.

“Hi, baby. I’m so glad you’re home. I was getting worried.”

A pretty woman around his mom’s height with dark brown hair and hazel eyes walked out of the kitchen, her eyes tearing up when she saw Ethan. She hurried over, and dropped to one knee in front of him to cup his face.

“Ethan, are you hurt anywhere else?” She checked him over, her worry turning to anger. “Is it those boys again?” She shook her head, tears in her eyes. “How much worse does it have to get before that sorry excuse for a principal does something? That’s it. I’m asking Rafe to go in and speak to him.” She stood, and Ethan grabbed her hand, his eyes wide as he shook his head adamantly. “Ethan, Rafe’s a THIRDS agent now. If that man won’t listen to me, maybe—”

Ethan shook his head, pleading.

“We’ll discuss this with your father later.” She looked at Calvin and blinked, as if seeing him for the first time. “Oh, hello. I’m so sorry. I’m Julia Hobbs.” She held her hand out to Calvin, and he shook it.

“Calvin Summers,” he replied. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Hobbs.”

Julia smiled brightly, and Calvin relaxed. She seemed really nice. “Are you a friend of Ethan’s?” she asked, looking to Ethan who nodded, his smile big.

“We’re best friends,” Calvin said cheerfully.

Her eyes grew glassy, and Calvin wondered if he said something wrong.

“Is that okay?”

Julia pressed her lips together, and nodded. “Of course, sweetheart. Hey, would you boys like some milk and chocolate chip cookies? Dinner won’t be ready for another hour. A couple of cookies wouldn’t hurt.” She winked at them, and they followed her excitedly into the kitchen. It was small, with a table and four chairs in one corner. Ethan sat on one side, and Calvin sat across from him. He thanked Julia for the glass of milk, and cookies. They were so good! They were homemade too.

Julia took a seat at the table with a cup of tea. She looked worried. “Calvin, do your parents know where you are?”

“My mom is at work. She won’t get home until nine. May I use your phone later to call her, so she won’t worry?”

“Of course you may. What about your other parent?”

Calvin worried his bottom lip with his teeth, and shrugged. “It’s just me and my mom.”

“And will your mother… be upset if she knows where you are?”

Calvin frowned. “Why would she be upset? She only gets upset if I’m not home when she gets home from work, since it’s late, or if she doesn’t know where I am. Stuff like that.”

“Does she know you and Ethan are best friends?”

Calvin shook his head. “We only became best friends today. She’s going to be really happy.”

Julia perked up. “Oh?”

Calvin nodded and took another bite of his cookie. “She’s a mom. She worries. It’s a new school.”

“And will your mom be okay that your new best friend is a Therian?”

Ethan stiffened, his brows drawn together, and his eyes watery. He pushed his chair back, and jumped down before running from the room. What the heck? Calvin jumped down, and ran after him.

“Ethan!”

Ethan ran into a room, and Calvin followed. There was a set of bunks beds on one side, and another bed on the other side of the room. Ethan threw himself on the bottom bunk, and covered his head with a pillow.

“What’s wrong?” Calvin asked as Ethan curled up on himself. He wouldn’t let go of the pillow when Calvin tried to pull it away.

Julia sat on the edge of the bed, her hand on the pillow where Ethan’s head was buried under. She looked so sad. Calvin looked up at her, not understanding.

“What did I say?”

“Calvin, honey, your mother might not want you to be friends with Ethan.”

Calvin frowned. “Why?”

“Well, because Ethan’s a Therian.”

Calvin stared at her. “Is that all?”

Ethan sat up, and smacked Calvin with the pillow.

“Ethan,” Julia scolded.

Ethan huffed, and crossed his arms over his chest. Was that really it? Wait. Was that why Ethan didn’t have any friends? Because the other kids’ parents didn’t want Ethan? The more he thought about it, the angrier he got.

“That’s stupid!” He marched angrily from one side of the room to the other. Really, he didn’t get very many marches in because the beds were so close together, but he was so stinking mad! “My mom doesn’t care. She says Therians are just like Humans and should be treated like equals.” He spun to face Ethan. “My mom is going to love Ethan. Just you watch.”

Julia smiled wide, and Ethan flew out of the bed, running into Calvin and knocking him over with a big oomph! They hit the floor, and Ethan hugged Calvin tight, making him laugh.

“You’re such a dork,” Calvin said, but he hugged Ethan tight.

“Mom?”

Ethan sat up, his smile huge.

“In here, Seb, darling.”

Calvin sat up, his eyes going huge at the tiger Therian that stepped into the doorway. Oh my Gosh.


Part two next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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