Hello all! I'm super excited to announce that Catch a Tiger by the Tail has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press in audiobook format with Mark Westfield. The estimated release date is late April/Early May! Woot!
Hello all! I'm super excited to announce that Catch a Tiger by the Tail has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press in audiobook format with Mark Westfield. The estimated release date is late April/Early May! Woot!
Hello all! I've been interviewed by the lovely Sophie about Catch a Tiger by the Tail, Smoke & Mirrors, and I drop a few hints about the future of the THIRDS. Check out the interview for more. ;)http://sophiagreviews.blogspot.ie/2016/02/interview-with-charlie-cochet.html
Hello all! I'm joining in the fun over at Joyfully Jay's, celebrating Friend & Enemies to Lovers week! Today I'm chatting about the THIRDS and the different couples who's stories fall into the Friends to Lovers, and Enemies to Lovers theme! Check out the post, along with some fun snippets, and there's a giveaway!
Find the giveaways and enter here: http://wp.me/p2vyAS-8P3
This was a terrible idea.
Why the bloody hell had he agreed to this? Hudson splashed some water on his face before plucking a paper towel to dry off with. He leaned his arms on the sink and shook his head. This was ridiculous. It wasn't as if he hadn't know the man would be here. Honestly.
“Look at you,” he scolded himself. “It’s a bleedin’ party. Nina and Cael's party. Get over yourself and get out there.” What was the worst that could happen? So what if he ran into Seb? It wasn’t as if he didn’t work with the man, and it was hardly the first gathering where they were both in attendance. Hudson straightened and smoothed out his waistcoat, making him smile. Nina had picked out his costume for the Roaring Twenties themed party, and he rather liked it. He would have gone for a nice jumper or pullover, but that was most likely why Nina had insisted on picking his wardrobe for tonight. The rich blue of his three-piece suit made his eyes stand out, and his hair was neatly parted and combed to one side, completing the vintage look. Well, it was time to rejoin the party, and stop being such a stick in the mud. Why had he even come in here?
An image of Seb looking handsome as sin in his brown three-piece suit had Hudson letting out a groan. That was why. He’d finished hanging up his coat, and when he turned around and the crowd had parted like bloody red sea, giving Hudson a perfectly clear view of Seb standing by the bar, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a disarming smile on his rugged face, and looking as if he’d stepped out of an old Hollywood movie. Hudson had been stunned stupid. Seb was a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. Not that there was anything wrong with that, and he always looked good no matter what he wore, but there were few times Hudson had seen him in a suit. It did awful things to his insides.
Hudson chucked the paper towel into the bin with a growl. How was it the man continued to get more handsome with every passing year? Not to mention all that muscle. Damn tiger Therians. Why did they have to be so... muscly. And firm. And... for crying out loud. All right. Time to stop hiding in the gents.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Hudson left the men’s room and joined the rest of the party goers. He made the rounds, saying hello to all his colleagues. The party was in full swing, and the place was filled with people dressed to the nines as they say. There were so many people now it was difficult for Hudson to see who he might run into. He ordered himself a cocktail from the bar, and headed for one of the tables when someone threaded their arm through his. He smiled, having caught a whiff of the familiar scent.
“Damn, look at you. Who’s heart you out to steal, Mr. Public Enemy Number One?”
Hudson chuckled as Nina planted a kiss on his cheek. She pulled him toward the dance floor. “Dance with me.”
“Nope. It’s my birthday, so you have to dance with me.”
“Oh all right.” In truth, he didn’t mind. He was a rather good dancer. Nothing extraordinary, but he’d gone through his clubbing phase just like any other youth, spending many a night in London's West End. He'd drunkenly stumble from club to bar to club, dancing the night away. The thought brought a heavy sadness to his heart. He'd spent many of those nights with his siblings. How he missed them. Even if they had cast him out. Yet it was Alfie he missed most of all. Nina playfully bumped her hip into his, snapping him out of his melancholy thoughts. He really needed to get himself together.
The rest of his team was on the dance floor. The DJ played a sweet ballad from yesteryear and Hudson couldn’t help his smile as he brought Nina in close for a slow dance. Next to them, Sloane held Dex close. They looked so sweet together. Dex laid his head against Sloane’s shoulder, one arm wrapped around Sloane’s waist, the other in Sloane’s hand over his heart. Sloane let his head rest against Dex’s, his arm wrapped tight around him. Hudson wished them nothing but happiness. Those two were perfect for each other. The perfect balance of light and dark. They’d been so close to losing Sloane after Gabe died. It was so good to see him happy again
“Thank you for coming,” Nina said, interrupting his thoughts. She gave him a knowing smile.
“I wouldn’t have missed it.” As tempted as he was to stay home and watch the latest episode of How to Get Away with Murder, he wouldn’t have missed his best friend’s birthday party. The song was beautiful, and the floor was flooded with couples. Even Ash was on the floor dancing with Cael. It still amazed Hudson to see this side of Ash Keeler. Of course he was still abrasive and at times Hudson had the urge to strangle the man, but he was certainly less angry now that he was with Cael.
The ballad soon faded and a swinging tune took its place. The crowd cheered, and Nina grabbed his hands before he could make his escape. Darn it, foiled again!
“I’m not finished with you yet, Dr. Colbourn.”
Hudson laughed. What the hell. He kicked up his heels and did his best to keep up with the music, twirling Nina around, and then lifting her off her feet. The drums had the place vibrating with energy, and he had to admit he was having a marvelous time. He joined his friends for a few more dances until he was out of breath. There was no keeping up with Nina indefinitely. Where her boundless energy came from was beyond him. Needing some air, and a nice cold drink, he finally managed to pull himself away. The vodka and lemonade went down like a dream, though he needed to cool off a bit. It seemed as if more guests had arrived, and the floor was packed. Maybe he should head upstairs to the roof garden for a few minutes before Nina came to drag him away again. Finishing his drink, he headed for the stairs. The roof garden was just what he needed. It was set up with outdoor heating, but when he walked out from under the awning, the cool breeze felt so good against his skin. The string of lights and colorful lanterns were charming, and there were plenty of agents from his unit chatting. Some of them were getting cozy.
A voice he knew all too well sent a shiver through him. It had been inevitable. Well, there was no sense in putting it off any longer. He’d say hello and head back downstairs. A conversation wouldn’t be so terrible. Granted, they didn't really chat at work, at least not about anything that didn't relate to a case, but there was a first time for everything. He really needed to stop avoiding the man. Seb stood with Ethan and Calvin while Taylor chatted up one of Nina’s cousins. It was good to see Ethan here. Undoubtedly he'd needed a break from the crowded noisy ground floor. Hudson would have to ask him how his mother was. He missed spending time with Julia. They still spoke on the phone, but it wasn't the same as when he would stop by. They'd sit and watch soaps together. Sometimes Calvin's mother Darla would join them. Those two were such a hoot. It was clear where their sons got their mischievous streaks from. Hudson pushed away the butterflies in his stomach. It would be fine. Maybe even pleasant. Hudson had always loved talking to Seb. He loved listening too. Seb's gravelly voice had a way of turning him into a puddle of goo.
As Hudson approached, Taylor turned and threw his arm around Seb’s shoulders.
“Listen, bro. I heard about what happened. Sorry things didn’t work out with Cael. You two looked good together. Man, I can’t believe he chose Keeler. Him and Daley have a hard-on for fucked-up guys. You took him home a couple of times before that. Tell me you at least got to bang him.”
Hudson stopped cold, his heart splintering, which was extraordinary considering it had been in pieces for some time now, precariously held together by bits of frayed tape. He thought he’d be better prepared for this moment after years of telling himself—of telling Seb—that it was time to move on, but he hadn’t prepared himself for the possibility of Seb moving on with a friend and colleague.
Ethan tugged at Seb’s sleeve, and Seb turned around, his stricken expression confirming Taylor’s words. When Hudson spoke, his voice was barely a whisper. “You and Cael?”
It made sense. Cael was sweet, smart, and handsome. He had boundless energy, and was rarely without a cheerful smile.
“It’s not what you think,” Seb said quietly, taking a step toward Hudson. “It was a few drinks. We didn’t—”
Hudson held a hand up. He couldn’t listen to this. His heart couldn't take it. “You don’t owe me an explanation, Sebastian. You don’t owe me anything.” All he could think about was Cael in Seb’s arms, being kissed by him, touched by him. Those large, gentle hands pulling him close. Oh God, he needed to get the hell out of here.
“Don’t,” Hudson warned sharply before quickly reigning in his emotions. Whatever you do, don’t lose your composure. He couldn’t allow Seb to see how devastated he was. Hudson had no right to be upset. Not really. It would prove he harbored some false sense of hope that one day.... Schooling his expression, he straightened and smoothed out his vest. “Please don’t call me that. Excuse me.” He started to turn, when Seb caught his arm.
“It was drinks and talking. Nothing happened.”
Hudson tried to pull his arm out of Seb’s grip to no avail. He needed to go. “Sebastian, please….” Please don’t touch me. It'll break me. It was over. This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? He should be grateful. Seb was moving on.
“He’s in love with Ash, and I’m—”
“Stop,” Hudson pleaded. His emotions threatened to get the better of him, and the back of his eyes stung. No. He wasn’t going to do this. Why did it have to be this way? What had he done that was so terrible? You know what you did. You deserve every possible heartache. Hudson shook his head. He didn't. It was tearing him up inside. He didn't deserve that.
“I love you.” Seb put his hand over his heart, his grip still on Hudson’s arm. Those beautiful bright green eyes so filled with adoration pleaded with Hudson. “I told myself that I could move on, that my heart would heal, but after all this time, the wound’s only gotten deeper. I need you in my life, Lobito.”
Why are you doing this to us? To me? Hudson swallowed hard. A tear rolled down his cheek, and Seb brushed it aside with his thumb.
“Our bond is as strong now as it ever was. I can’t stand to be away from you. Please, come back to me. I know you still love me.”
This had to stop. When would it stop? He wasn’t strong enough. Every day was a struggle. The mark on his back burned, reminding him of what had once been, of how foolish he’d been for thinking he’d found a home, believing one day he and Seb would get married and start their own family. A family? A child? After what you did? You're life is just one bloody trajedy after another. Everything you touch falls apart. Hudson met Seb’s gaze. “You’re wrong.”
“And you’re lying,” Seb replied, moving his hand to Hudson’s neck, his thumb stroking Hudson’s skin, making him shudder.
Damn you, Sebastian. Hudson pulled away. “I’ve moved on.” Seb flinched, and it hit Hudson like a punch to the gut. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but this is how it has to be.
The roof garden was empty now except for the bartender who pretended not to notice what was going on. What must his coworkers think of him? Surely that he was pathetic. Torturing himself. There was not one agent in Unit Alpha who didn’t know about him and Seb. It was the pitied looks Hudson found most difficult to swallow.
Hudson straightened to his full height and lifted his chin. He pushed his glasses up his nose, his tone harsh when he spoke. “It’s time for you to move on, Sebastian. We can never get back what we had. It’s over.”
“We let a child die!” Hudson snapped, his fists shaking at his sides. “We were so wrapped up in our perfect little world, we failed to protect those who counted on us. We swore an oath, and we bloody botched that up in spectacular fashion, didn’t we?”
Seb shook his head. “That’s on me.”
“Listen to yourself! The guilt is still eating away at you.” Hudson turned away from Seb, his voice quiet. “Well, it eats away at me too. Can’t you see that? What we had died that day with that poor boy. There’s no bringing either back. Please, for both our sakes, let me go.” Why won’t you let me go?
“Then I’ll have to take the initiative.” Hudson met Seb’s gaze, his resolve firm. “Unless there is no other option, considering we both work in the same unit, I’d like you to stay away from me. Good-bye, Sebastian.”
Hudson walked off, pushing everything deep down. He had to get the hell out of here. He headed for the stairs, aware of Seb on his heels. If he had to be an arsehole, so be it. Seb had to stop this. If it meant Hudson had to push, then he’d push. He couldn’t stand to see Seb in so much pain. It twisted Hudson’s inside. The pain was excruciating, and he held onto his stomach. Damn his traitorous body. His inner wolf howled and snarled. It was desperate to be reunited with Seb. Hudson gritted his teeth. Piss off. It’s over. You know it as much as I do. His wolf was having none of it, and the more Hudson yelled at him to shut up, the more his inner wolf snapped his jaws and made Hudson bleed, punishing him for keeping them apart.
“I know what you’re doing, and you have to stop right now. You can’t hide your emotions away in a little box and lock them up without losing a piece of you, without locking everything else up too. I know you. You shut your heart away until you don’t feel anything at all. I won’t let you do that to yourself.”
“You really have no say in what I do or don’t do to myself,” Hudson replied sternly. He hurried down the stairs with everyone trailing behind him. Downstairs he pushed his way through the crowd toward the front of the bar when he saw it.
Nina and Rafe sat in a booth by the door kissing.
The remainder of Hudson’s broken and battered heart shattered. It wasn't possible. He gave a start when Seb launched himself at Rafe.
“You son of a bitch!” Seb landed a punch across Rafe’s face. “For years you blamed what happened on my being in a relationship with Hudson, giving me shit for it, and you’re with Nina?”
“Get the fuck off me!” Rafe growled, pushing Seb away.
Hudson stood frozen, his wide eyes on Nina. “You and him?”
Nina quickly exited the booth and held her hands up. “Hon, please let me explain.”
“Explain?” Tears pooled in Hudson’s eyes, his emotions at war with each other. Anger and hurt battled for dominance. “How could you keep this from me? I confided in you. You knew everything. You knew that bloody arsehole tried to get me sacked, and you’re sleeping with him!” After the incident, his life had been a living hell, made worse every day by Rafe's one-man crusade to ruin him. How many nights had Hudson spent crying on Nina's shoulder? She'd stood at his side as Rafe tried to destroy him and what was left of his career.
Seb stared at Rafe in disbelief. “You tried to get Hudson fired?”
“He ruined your career,” Rafe spat out heatedly. “He put you and our family through hell. We got death threats!”
“What?” Hudson looked aghast. Death threats? Why hadn't Seb told him?
“That’s right,” Rafe replied through his teeth. “Seb never told you, but we got threats. Someone jumped him and tried to stab him, and that was after someone tried to run him down. Bet he didn’t tell you that either. You ruined his fucking life!”
He had, hadn’t he? Ruined them both. Seb had been demoted, transferred from Destructive Delta, and stuck in Archives while Hudson had kept his position as Chief Medical Examiner.
“He didn’t do shit except put up with your disgraceful behavior time and time again. You’re such a fucking hypocrite,” Seb growled, shoving Rafe, and getting pushed back.
“Please, stop!” Hudson tried to get close to Seb, but getting between two tiger Therians determined to beat the hell out of each other was dangerous. The two were far bigger, stronger. Nina begged Rafe to stop, but neither Rafe nor Seb were listening. This was his fault. He’d brought Seb so much pain, and continued to do so.
A crowd gathered as Seb punched Rafe, and Rafe tackled him to the floor. They thrashed around, cursing and shouting at each other, blaming each other for pain caused. Rafe grabbed Seb and hauled him to his feet. A strangled sound caught Hudson's ear and he turned to find Ethan standing there, frozen to the spot.
“Oh, no.” Hudson quickly joined Calvin at Ethan’s side. Ethan was on the verge of having a panic attack. Hudson called out to Seb, pleading. “Seb, it’s Ethan!”
Seb and Rafe pushed away from each other just as Hudson heard the shriek of tires. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and his inner wolf growled and whined at the impending danger. Seb hurried over, and Hudson threw himself at Seb as a familiar “pop” met his ear. Seb wrapped his arms around Hudson on instinct, and Hudson gasped, the pain shooting through his body setting his insides on fire. He willed himself not to panic at what it meant. Rafe shouted to the crowd.
A spray of bullets shattered Dekatria’s glass windows and splintered the wooden beams, tearing through everything and anything. Screams and shouts echoed through the room as everyone scrambled and dropped to the floor. Hudson hoped Seb wouldn’t be too upset with him.
“Oh God, please, no. No. Lobito, what did you do?” Seb cradled Hudson in his arms, his lips pressed together as Hudson coughed. He tasted blood. His own. “Why?” Seb caressed his cheek, and Hudson leaned into the touch. How he’d longed for that touch. Seb’s arms were strong around him, his body warm. I miss you more than you could know. Would it be terribly pathetic if he thought it was all worth it just to be in Seb's arms again?
Hudson smiled, tears in his eyes as he placed a bloodstained hand to Seb’s jaw. “We both know why.” His bottom lip trembled, and his face crumpled as the tears fell. Why did he have to love this man so damned much? It was a beautiful curse he couldn’t seem to escape. “I’m so sorry. For everything.”
Hudson was briefly aware of Nina shouting and the rest of Destructive Delta joining them. Rosa and Sloane rushed to Hudson’s side, and Sloane cursed as he inspected Hudson. He was tired, so tired. Judging by his friend's expression, it wasn't good. Had he been shot more than once? He couldn't tell.
“I found an exit wound.” Sloane pushed his hand down against Hudson’s side, and Hudson almost lost consciousness. It hurt so bloody bad. Or was that his heart?
“Where else is he hit?”
Rosa put her hand on Seb’s shoulder. “Seb, you need to lay him on his stomach. One of the bullets is still in there, and he’s losing a lot of blood.”
Don’t let me go.
Seb ran his hand over Hudson’s head. “Please, don’t leave me. Not like this.”
“Seb!” Sloane ordered.
Seb gently laid Hudson on the floor on his stomach. Was he drowning in his own blood? Funny, he should know these things. He was a doctor after all. His head was fuzzy and he couldn't think through the fog. Seb placed his rolled up jacket under Hudson’s head. It smelled like him, a mix of subtle cologne, shower gel, and his own delicious scent. Hudson would recognize it among a thousand tiger Therians. His Therian half whined, curling up on itself, seeking comfort where it could.
Seb took hold of Hudson’s hand while Rosa and Nina went to work trying to stop the bleeding. In the distance sirens wailed. Ethan joined Seb on the floor, kneeling beside him. He put his arm around his brother, and Hudson was glad Ethan was there. Seb had always been closest to his baby brother.
“You’re going to be okay,” Seb told Hudson, brushing Hudson’s hair away from his brow as Nina and Rosa worked furiously to stop the flow of blood. Hudson tried his best to control his breathing, but breathing in general was becoming difficult. His body was heavy, the darkness encroaching. He looked over at Seb and smiled. Forgive me.
“I know it’s… selfish, but… please stay with me?” Did he sound as scared as he felt? Seb held on to his hand, his expression determined.
“You know I will. It’ll be okay.”
Hudson wasn’t so sure. Whatever happened, Seb was safe. Hudson was glad it was him, and not Seb. What would Seb's family do without him? What would happen to Ethan? No, it was better it was Hudson. He had no family. Not anymore. Seb had been his family, and Hudson had ruined that too, but at least now he understood how wrong he was. Loving Seb wasn’t a curse. It was a beautiful gift. One he was lucky to have been given. Their time together may have been brief, but at least Hudson had experienced the full extent of adoration. Images of him and Seb in bed flooded his thoughts and he smiled. He’d been loved. So very loved. As his lids grew heavy and the chaos around him faded, he hung onto the memory of Seb’s kiss, and his heartfelt declaration of love. Seb still loved him. Hadn't stopped loving him. It meant everything to Hudson.
It was all worth it. You're worth it. Worth everything. I love you, Seb.
Copyright © 2016. Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.
Prompt: I would like a prompt from the last book…. Ethan and Calvin go to Calvin’s mom’s house for some old fashion southern food and Dex wiggles himself and Sloane into an invite…… I want to see that scene.
“I’m starving. Mom’s invited us over for dinner.”
Ethan’s eyes lit up, and his stomach rumbled. “Did she…?”
“Of course she did. She made chicken-and-dumpling casserole, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, and her famous pecan pie. Like she doesn’t know you,” Calvin said with a chuckle.
A mew escaped Ethan, and his mouth watered. Calvin’s mom made the best southern food ever. Usually he ate so much he wouldn’t be able to move for hours. She knew all his favorites and always cooked up Therian-sized portions, plus leftovers because she knew neither he nor her son liked to cook. Ethan could eat Darla’s cooking every day, though it was probably a good thing he didn’t, or he’d never fit into his uniform. He grabbed Calvin’s hand and pulled him along to hurry him up, making him laugh.
“I’m driving,” Ethan declared before hurrying out of the locker room with Calvin in tow.
“Yeah, all right. Just don’t get us pulled over. Again. I have a feeling the next cop might not see jambalaya as a good enough reason not to give you a speeding ticket.”
They were headed for the elevator when Dex and Sloane showed up. Both were out of breath and flushed. Dex’s uniform shirt was half hanging out, and Sloane’s collar was a mess.
“I don’t even want to know,” Calvin muttered.
“Hey, we’re getting some dinner,” Dex said as he tucked in his shirt. “You guys wanna come?”
Ethan shook his head and pointed to Calvin before patting his belly.
“Sorry, Mom’s homemade chicken-and-dumpling casserole wins out over air itself. Seriously. There’s no keeping Ethan from my mom’s cooking.”
Dex’s eyes sparkled. “That’s right. Your mom cooks real southern food. Old-school recipes made from scratch, passed down for generations. Fried green tomatoes?”
Calvin sighed and took his phone out of his pocket. He tapped the screen before placing it to his ear. “Hey, Mom. We got enough for two more? One’s a Therian, the other eats like one. Great. Thanks. Love you too. See you soon.” Calvin hung up and grinned as the elevator pinged. He motioned to the open doors. “After you.”
Dex and Ethan all but fell over each other trying to get in the elevator. Inside, Ethan gave Dex a shove. Calvin stepped in after Sloane.
“Yeah, a word of warning. Don’t get between Ethan and my mom’s dumplings.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes at Dex. I will bust your shit up.
Dex held his hands up. “I apologize for any disrespect caused while hungry. It’s not me. It’s my stomach.”
Ethan patted Dex’s shoulder, perhaps a little harder than necessary. Dex shook his head and chuckled. Good food and good company. Today was turning out to be a pretty good day after all.
When they reached Darla’s house, it went from a good day to a great day. Ethan could smell the food from the moment he stepped out of his SUV. His stomach rumbled, demanding it be filled with tasty dumplings immediately. He ran up the front steps of Darla’s house, grinning widely when she opened the door.
“Hello, angel.” Darla pulled Ethan in for a hug, and Ethan squeezed her in return, mindful of his strength. For him, Darla Summers was like a second mother. Despite working long hours to support herself and her son, she hadn’t thought twice about helping Ethan and his family. It had been hard for Ethan’s mom, taking care of a husband in constant excruciating pain, and a small son with crippling anxiety and selective mutism. Darla had stepped in like she’d always been there. Ethan had never known anyone as strong as his mom until he met Darla Summers. She was a slip of a woman compared to his bulky near-three-hundred-pound frame, yet she could make the toughest Therian quake in their boots with one raised eyebrow. She had the same sparkling blue eyes as Calvin, and the same golden blonde hair.
Ethan stepped inside so she could hug Calvin. She gave his head a kiss. “Hey, baby.”
“Hi, Mom.” Calvin gave her cheek a kiss before moving to one side. “You remember Sloane.”
“Sloane.” Darla smiled warmly, ignoring Sloane’s outstretched hand to pull him in for a hug. Ethan did his best not to laugh. Their Team Leader wasn’t accustomed to mom hugs. Sloane stiffened for a heartbeat before returning Darla’s hug with a smile.
“It’s been too long.” She gave him a pointed look, and Sloane cleared his throat.
“It has. I’m sorry.”
Ethan couldn’t help but snicker at Sloane’s abashed expression. Yep. Quake in their boots.
Next came Dex. Ethan braced himself. Knowing Darla, he wasn’t surprised by her expression when Calvin made the introductions.
“Mom, this is Dex.”
Darla gasped. “Oh heavens! There really is a Dex?”
Dex gave her that big cheeky boyish grin of his, and winked. “Yes, ma’am.” He opened his mouth to speak again when Darla threw her arms around him, and squeezed him so tight it made Dex laugh.
“Thank you, Dex.”
“You’re welcome.” Dex pulled back, his expression bemused. “Though I’m not sure what I did. I’m going to assume it was a good thing.”
Darla’s eyes grew glassy, and she took hold of Dex’s hand. “You saved my boys.”
It seemed to dawn on Dex then. He shrugged, looking embarrassed. “I was just doing my job.”
“No, darling. You were doing more than your job.” Darla shook her head, her intense blue eyes on Dex. “You risked your life to save them. I know all about how you pulled Cal to safety in Greenpoint, and when you dragged Ethan to safety after the explosion at the Therian Youth Center.” She looped her arm through his to escort him inside the house. “You’re a hero.”
Calvin closed the door behind them, shaking his head at his mom. “You really shouldn’t encourage him. His ego’s big enough.”
“Hush now,” Darla scolded lightly. “This boy saved your life. He deserves to have his ego fed.”
Dex nodded. “Listen to your mother. She’s obviously an incredibly perceptive lady.”
“I hope you realize there’s no getting rid of him now,” Calvin said with a sigh. “You compliment him, and then feed him? I’m pretty sure whoever came up with “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was talking about him.”
“He’s right, Darla.” Dex put a hand to his chest over his heart. “Good food pretty much guarantees an unofficial adoption in my book. You feed me, you gotta keep me.”
Darla threw her head back and laughed. She gave Sloane a wink. “He’s adorable. I can see why you fell for him.”
Calvin stared at his mom. “I never told you they were together.”
Darla waved her hand at him in dismissal. “Oh, honey. Anyone with a half a mind can see these two are crazy about each other. Now help me get the table set.”
Ethan and Calvin exchanged glances. It was like when they were kids and they’d sneak under the covers with a flashlight to read comic books. Somehow she always knew they were awake despite them not making a sound or shining the flashlight near the door. Sometimes Ethan suspected she had Therian hearing.
Calvin headed for the kitchen, and Ethan eagerly followed until Calvin stopped and turned to arch an eyebrow at him. “And where do you think you’re going?”
Ethan pointed over Calvin’s head to the kitchen where all the tasty food was. He smiled innocently. I’m just going to help you.
“You’re going to help me, is that it?”
Ethan nodded, and grinned. Yep. I’m thoughtful that way.
“Of course you are. Ain’t you cute,” Calvin drawled, his accent always thicker when he was around his mom. “You seem to forget how long I’ve known you. If I let you in there half the food will be gone before it reaches the table. Sit your butt down.”
Ethan huffed. Fine.
“You need help?” Dex asked.
Ethan let out a snort and clapped him on the back. You are hilarious, my friend. He shook his head at Dex. If he’s not letting me back there, there’s no way you’re getting back there.
“Will anyone who doesn’t suck food in like they’re a black hole help me in the kitchen. The rest of you sit at the dinner table.”
Sloane chuckled as he followed Calvin into the kitchen, while Ethan and Dex walked over to the dinner table.
“I happen to have a normal, healthy appetite,” Dex called out as he pulled a chair out for himself near the end of the table. Ethan situated himself across from him. It was best he remained near the competition.
“There’s nothing normal about you,” Calvin replied.
“Cal!” Darla scolded. “Manners.”
“It’s okay,” Sloane assured her. “They’re always like this. Welcome to Destructive Delta.”
Darla came out from the kitchen with a huge red casserole dish that had Ethan whimpering. Not even his birthday excited him as much as Darla’s cooking.
“I don’t know how you do it, Sloane.” Darla carefully set the dish down on the potholder. “These boys must be a handful.”
“They’re something alright,” Sloane muttered, before giving Dex a wink.
Less talking, more food bringing. If Calvin was ignoring him, he’d have to bring out the big guns. Ethan jutted out his bottom lip at Darla.
“Oh, baby, I bet you're hungry.” She gave the top of his head a kiss and hurried Sloane and Calvin back toward the kitchen. “Hurry up, boys. Your men need to be fed.”
It took Ethan a moment to realize Darla had said “your men”, and not “your man” in regards to Dex and Sloane. Ethan looked up and Dex wriggled his eyebrows knowingly. Did Darla suspect something? Had Calvin said something to her about them? Calvin hadn’t responded. Maybe he hadn’t caught it? Dex leaned forward, and Ethan eyed him warily.
“Nice touch with the lip thing. I say we hit her with a double whammy. Betcha we get served first.”
Ethan’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. That’s… genius! Why hadn’t he thought of that? Ethan nodded in agreement. More food came until the whole table was filled with steaming dishes. Ethan glanced over at Dex who gave him a wink. The two of them pouted, and Dex even threw a little sigh out for good measure as he gazed longingly at the dumplings.
“Oh, you must be starving!” Darla took a plate and turned to Calvin. “I’ll serve Dex, you serve Ethan.”
Calvin looked from Ethan to Dex. When his mother turned away, he narrowed his eyes at Dex. Ethan grinned widely at Calvin as his best friend served him up a huge Therian-sized plate. As if sensing Dex could eat his weight in food, Darla served Dex up a Therian-sized plate. They held out long enough for Darla to say grace before they dug in. Ethan couldn’t remember Dex ever being quiet. Sloane stared at Dex before turning his attention to Darla who looked amused.
“I swear, I do feed him,” Sloane assured her.
Calvin swallowed his forkful of food before looking worriedly at Sloane. “You sure he’s okay? The last time he was this quiet, he was unconscious.”
Sloane leaned forward to look at Dex’s face. “He’s breathing. And chewing. So yeah, he’s alive.”
“Congratulations, Mom. You’ve achieved the unachievable. It’s been ten minutes and Dexter J. Daley hasn’t spoken one word.”
Ethan stuffed another piece of cornbread in his mouth.
Dex swallowed and smiled sweetly at Darla. “That’s a beautiful bouquet of flowers, Darla.”
Darla turned to look at the flowers and Dex flipped Calvin off.
“Why thank you, Dex. I love having fresh flowers in the house. Also, I saw that.” She turned back and took a dainty bite of dumpling before giving Dex a knowing look.
Dex almost choked on his cornbread. He took a big gulp of sweet tea before gaping at her. “How did you know?”
“Please, Dex,” she let out a soft laugh before motioning to Calvin and Ethan. “I know all about raising rambunctious boys. Would you like seconds?”
“Yes, please.” Dex beamed at her as she took his plate from him. Ethan couldn’t believe how much Dex ate. When dessert came, Dex ate nearly half a pecan pie. Luckily Darla had made three. By the time they were done, neither he nor Dex could move.
Dex sat back in his chair, and lolled his head to the side to look at Sloane, his hand rubbing his fully belly. “Sloane, I think I’m pregnant.”
With a chuckle, Sloane stood. “And on that note, I’m going to help wash up.”
Calvin laughed as he helped Sloane clear up the dishes. Ethan would have helped except that would require moving. Then he noticed the one slice of pie left. It sat on its white porcelain dish looking mighty lonesome. Problem was, Dex was eyeing it too. Ethan narrowed his eyes, and Dex did the same. They both sat up. Dex laced his fingers together and placed them on the table, his gaze never leaving Ethan.
“I’m the guest. I clearly should get the last slice.”
Ha! I don’t think so.
Ethan shook his head. There was no way Dex was getting between him and that heavenly slice of pecan perfection. Slowly, he put his hands on the table, his gaze on Dex. They both readied themselves when Calvin swiped up the plate. Dex’s gasp drowned out Ethan’s own. Calvin scooped up half the slice and stuffed it in his mouth, moaning loudly.
“So good,” he said through a mouthful of pie.
“You… how… why?” Dex whimpered. “My pie.”
Ethan scoffed. You mean my pie.
Calvin blinked at them innocently. “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you guys gonna eat this?” With a shrug, he finished the pie and walked off. Ethan watched him go before turning back to Dex, his bottom lip jutted out.
“Hey, he’s your partner.”
Ethan kicked Dex under the table.
“Ow!” Dex tried to retaliate but his legs weren’t as long as Ethan’s so he couldn’t reach. He pushed himself back, cackling at Dex’s frown. “Damn tiger Therians. Why do you have to be so tall?”
Ethan shrugged. Why do you Humans have to be so short?
A piece of pie materialized in front of him and another in front of Dex. They looked up at Darla who put her finger to her lips before heading back to the kitchen.
Definitely a great day.
THIRDS Thursdays is on hiatus for the month of July for the release of Smoke & Mirrors. We return August 4th!
THIRDS copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published with Dreamspinner Press.
Hello, all! Tried & True, the final book in the main THIRDS series will be released in a few days, and to celebrate we've dropped the price on books 1 through 9!! If you're looking to catch up on the series, or want to drag a friend into the crazy world of Dexter J. Daley and Destructive Delta, now's the perfect time to stock up on the series, plus book 2, Blood & Thunder, is FREE!!
Why is Book 2 free instead of book 1? We had Hell & High Water free just a few months ago for the release of book 9, so hopefully folks who'd wanted to pick it up did. With that in mind, we decided to go ahead and make book 2 free this time around.
THIRDS eBook Sale (including FREE Blood & Thunder) is at Dreamspinner, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. Sale ends November 28th.We're waiting for Amazon to make Blood & Thunder FREE, but you can still pick it up at no cost from Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Dreamspinner Press. Here are the links to the individual book pages which has a listing of links for all booksellers, plus the price drop for each. Happy Reading! Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book 1): $0.99 Blood & Thunder (THIRDS, Book 2): FREE Rack & Ruin (THIRDS, Book 3): $1.99 Rise & Fall (THIRDS, Book 4): $1.99 Against the Grain (THIRDS, Book 5): $2.99 Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6): $2.99 Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7): $3.99 Thick & Thin (THIRDS, Book 8): $3.99 Darkest Hour Before Dawn (THIRDS, Book 9): $3.99
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