Category - Flash Fiction

THIRDS Thursday - 1/14/16

Prompt: Is there any way we can get a story from Zach's POV? Does he think about Austen? Does he think about Dex and the Cheesy Doodles? I just want to know what he thinks about.


Thank goodness that was over.

As much as Zach enjoyed working protective detail for Unit Beta, babysitting the Therian teenagers of visiting foreign dignitaries was not his favorite. Most were no trouble, but occasionally some of them regarded themselves as celebrities, and their entourage had a habit of treating him like he was their personal butler instead of the highly trained THIRDS agent he was. This time around was the worst yet. The eighteen-year-old leopard Therian and her half a dozen friends were terrifying.

They kept poking his abs, making him hold out his arms to see how many of them could hang off his biceps. One of them even grabbed his butt. Five hours of giggling, of being made to show how strong he was, of being asked completely inappropriate questions about his anatomy, had exhausted him. It was all submitted in his report, and his sergeant was very good at following up on claims of impropriety. The hiring agency would be warned about conduct for future contracts. The THIRDS wouldn’t permit their agents to be harassed, no matter who they were working with.

Zach didn’t want to get the girls in trouble, but his partner had told him it was an important lesson they needed to learn. At least it was over. Now he could enjoy his break and his favorite—

“You,” Zach muttered, his eyes narrowed at the blond Human.

Dex looked up, pale blue eyes wide. “Me.”

Zach didn’t know what to do with agent Dexter J. Daley. He was strange. No. That wasn’t right. Even strange wasn’t strange enough for him. Of all the vending machines at HQ, why did Dex always end up at the same one Zach intended to use? And why was there only ever one darn packet of Cheesy Doodles left? He supposed the answer to that stood in front of him. The guy ate almost as much as Zach did. Besides, the Cheesy Doodles should be his considering this was Unit Beta’s canteen.

Let me guess,” Dex said with a big grin, “these are yours?” He pointed to the lone pack of tasty Cheesy Doodles behind the glass.

Zach nodded.

“I don’t suppose my telling you I was here first would resolve this?”

Zach arched an eyebrow at him. Not even close.

“I didn’t think so,” Dex sighed. “I’ll tell you what, big guy. I’m beat, so outrunning you today is not in the cards, as fun as that is.”

Dex didn’t really outrun Zach. It was more like he squeezed himself into places Zach didn’t have a chance of fitting into. Like the laundry chute in Sparta. Zach had to give the guy credit, he meant business when it came to Cheesy Doodles. No peril was too great, or equipment locker too small. The man went to great lengths to escape with Zach’s cheese snacks.

“How about we share?”

Zach considered this. Share his Cheesy Doodles with Dex, or be forced to chase the agent all around the building, and in the end lose his snack. Although Dex did say he was too tired to run today.

Dex put his change into the machine and tapped the digital screen. The bag plopped down.  Zach readied himself. Dex was going down. Those Cheesy Doodles were Zach’s.

“Man, for a small guy, Austen is one tough little bastard.”

Zach straightened. “Austen Payne?”

“Only Austen I know,” Dex replied with a nod. He grabbed the packet of Cheesy Doodles and motioned over to an empty table. Zach followed, but only because he didn’t want to lose sight of his Cheesy Doodles. Not because he wanted to know about Austen Payne. Zach scrunched up his nose. That was a lie. He wanted to know more about the mysterious cheetah Therian he’d looked after in the abandoned building a few months ago.

Zach sat down across from Dex, his eyes on the packet. It made a lovely sound when it was opened. To his surprise, Dex offered him first dibs. Zach grabbed a couple and waited for Dex to say whatever he was going to say. The guy was very smart, despite playing the fool. Zach had seen him in action plenty of times, out in the field and training in Sparta.

“You asked Sloane about him.”

There was no teasing or malice in Dex’s tone. It was simply a statement. Zach nodded. He ate one of his Cheesy Doodles.

“I asked him how Austen was doing,” Zach admitted.

“Still alive and kicking. And being a pain in everyone’s ass.”

Zach shrugged. That was Dex’s opinion. Zach didn’t think so. “He does what you do.”

“And what’s that?” Dex asked, his head cocked to one side in thought.

“Act like a clown to hide the truth.”

“And what truth might that be?” Dex popped another Cheesy Doodle into his mouth before offering the bag again. “Also, Austen and I are nothing alike. The guy’s like an obnoxious little ninja. You know he breaks into my house to steal my Cheesy Doodles?”

Zach stared at Dex before letting out a quiet laugh.

“That’s right. Your boyfriend’s a thief.”

Zach stopped laughing. He narrowed his eyes. “He’s not my boyfriend. The truth he hides is his true feelings. You make jokes to hide insecurities.”

Dex studied him. “Interesting. However, we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about Austen.”

“I just wanted to know if he was okay.”

“Because you were thinking about him.”

Where was Dex, going with this? Dex peered at him, and Zach was forced to look away. Okay, so he had been thinking about Austen. There was something… sad about him. Zach didn’t know that much about Austen other than what Sloane had told him, but the thought of the spirited cheetah Therian being all alone in the world made Zach sad. He’d never been alone. Heck, he’d grown up with eight brothers and sisters, plus cousins, aunts, and uncles. The Zachary clan was huge.

Zach shrugged. He couldn’t deny he’d been thinking about Austen. Whatever Austen did as an SSA, his job was very dangerous. Zach knew that much. At least he cared about what he did, considering he’d been helping Sloane out when he got hurt. From their short time together, Zach had been able to gleam some insight into Austen. It was obvious that outside of Sloane, Austen wasn’t used to anyone being kind to him without wanting something in return. Zach cleared his throat.

“So, you’ve seen him recently?” Zach wasn’t particularly pleased by the impish smile on Dex’s face, but he ignored it.

“Today, actually. We had a training exercise and he wiped the floor with us.”

Zach’s brows shot up. “Us? Who’s us?”

“The whole team. Hobbs, Ash, Sloane.” Dex shook his head in shame. “That’s what we get for underestimating him. Dude’s got mad skills.”

“Good,” Zach said, pleased.

“Good we got our asses handed to us?”

Zach laughed at Dex’s stunned expression. He shook his head. “No, silly. I’m glad that he can defend himself against bigger Therians.”

“I think he’s been training harder, after what happened with those Coalition jerks. I get the feeling Austen doesn’t like getting caught.” Something in Dex’s eyes made Zach pause. There was more to that declaration.

“Anyway, thanks for the chat,” Dex said as he got up, handing Zach the rest of the packet. “You know, just because you don’t see him, doesn’t mean he’s not around. He likes to keep tabs on people close to him. He just doesn’t like them to know he’s keeping tabs on them. The guy’s about as emotional as an armadillo.” Dex patted Zach’s shoulder and gave him a wink. “Until the next pack of Cheesy Doodles.”

Zach nodded. I look forward to it.

The rest of the day went quickly, and soon he was home. After a hot shower, he came downstairs in his T-shirt, and loose pajama bottoms. His feet were bare as usual. He wasn’t a fan of socks. He fixed himself dinner, talked to his mom on the phone, and promised he’d be there for his dad’s birthday party that weekend. He was too tired to go out, so he stayed in watching TV. During the commercial break, he headed into the kitchen for a bottle of water and his Cheesy Doodles. He opened the cupboard where he stored them, and frowned.

They were gone.

This morning there had been a full bag. He was certain of it.

A slow smile crept onto his face.

He went to the fridge and scribbled a quick grocery list, adding Cheesy Doodles to the bottom.

Better make that two bags.  


  Copyright © 2014 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 1/21/16

Prompt: I would like to see Calvin supporting Hobbs during the situation that arose with Hobbs (trying to say without spoiler) in Against the Grain. It was a big part of the background in that book and since the next story is about Cobbs, I would love to see more of what is going on with them. Thank you.


Time to get up.

Calvin stretched with a groan before rolling over. His bed was nice and warm, but he really should get his ass out of bed. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up with a yawn. What time was it? He grabbed his phone from the nightstand, and frowned at the screen. Shit. It was almost nine. Ethan probably already had breakfast. Forcing himself to get out of bed, he let out another yawn before getting his butt in gear, and making use of the bathroom. After washing up, and brushing his teeth, he headed for the kitchen. Man, he was beat.

It had taken Ethan longer than usual to fall asleep last night. Now that he thought about it, it had probably been about three or four in the morning when he finally crawled into bed. At least Ethan had slept through the night. If he’d had nightmares, he would have ended up in Calvin’s bed. His best friend had been having a rough time with his anxiety lately. It hadn’t been this bad in a long time. Ethan had his really rough days, but since he’d started his medication back in college, he’d been having fewer of them. Calvin was at a loss to what had changed.

When Calvin reached the kitchen, his heart sank. Ethan wasn’t up yet. Ethan was always up before him. The only reason his best friend would still be in bed was if he wasn’t feeling well, or because of his anxiety. Hopefully he could get Ethan to eat something.

Calvin made them both breakfast sandwiches. He made some coffee for himself, and some hot chocolate for Ethan. When he was finished, he placed everything on a tray, and headed for Ethan’s bedroom, knocking before he went in. As expected, Ethan was buried under a mass of duvets, surrounded by scores of pillows. Calvin couldn’t even see him, just the big lump in the middle of the bed. His heart squeezed in his chest. It was pretty bad. He placed the tray on Ethan’s dresser before walking over to the bed, and taking a seat on the edge of it. The big lump moved away, so Calvin knew Ethan was awake.

“Morning, sunshine. I made you your favorite breakfast sandwich, and some hot chocolate.”

There was no reply.

“Do you want me to go, or stay and have breakfast here with you?”

The lump moved, and a hand slipped out from under the duvet, turning over palm up. Calvin tickled Ethan’s palm, same as he’d been doing since they were kids. When Ethan used to hide under his blankets and refuse to come out, Calvin would find his toes or his hand, and tickle him. The lump moved again, growing taller as Ethan sat up under the duvet, pulling it down to wrap around his shoulders. His hair was sticking up, and his cheeks were pink from the heat.

“Want some hot chocolate?” Calvin asked, receiving a nod in response. He wasn’t talking. Not good. Calvin got up and went to the dresser. He brought back the mug and held it out to Ethan, who took it with a nod of thanks. He sipped it, a small smile coming onto his handsome face. It always broke Calvin’s heart seeing Ethan so vulnerable. When people looked at Ethan, they couldn’t understand how it was possible for a huge three-hundred pound tiger Therian—a man who stood at almost seven feet tall, with the strength of several Humans—to be left debilitated by such a thing as anxiety. Calvin understood. He also understood what it meant to love someone who suffered from Selective Mutism, and severe Social Anxiety. As such, his purpose wasn’t to put up with Ethan, as some believed. His purpose was to love and support Ethan in every way he could, during the good days, and the more challenging days.

“We can stay home today,” Calvin said, getting up to bring their sandwiches over. He put the tray on the bed between them, careful not to spill his coffee. Ethan shook his head.

Ethan’s smartphone went off, and he looked at the screen. He motioned for Calvin to pick it up. It was Julia, Ethan's mom. Calvin tapped the screen, and put it to his ear.

“Hi, Julia. It’s Cal. I’m good, thanks. Ethan’s just having some hot chocolate in bed. It’s getting pretty chilly out isn’t it?”

Because of Ethan’s anxiety, he needed routine, as well as habits. Hot chocolate in the morning, in bed was usually a signal to Julia that Ethan was having a tough day. They didn’t tell Ethan that because it would only make him feel guilty, and Lord knew Ethan felt guilty about enough as it was.

“I’ll tell him. Thanks. Take care, and give my mom a hug for me. Tell her I’ll call her later.” They exchanged a few more pleasantries before he hung up. He took a sip of his coffee. “If you’d rather not go out today, it’s no big deal. We could stay home, watch some movies. Your mom said she’d drop off some food.”

Ethan shook his head, and Calvin nodded. They ate their sandwiches quietly. The silence was never awkward between them, but Calvin knew Ethan was already beating himself up for feeling the way he was feeling, as of he could help it. Once they were done with breakfast, Ethan motioned to his closet.

“Sure thing.” Calvin walked over to pick out what Ethan was going to wear to Thanksgiving dinner. As he did, he pretended not to see Ethan sitting on the edge of the bed, a deep frown on his face as he glared down at the floor. With a deep breath, Ethan stood, took a step forward then shook his head, and went back to the bed. He dropped down onto it, and closed his eyes. Calvin wanted to tell him again he didn’t have to, but that would only frustrate Ethan, because he knew he didn’t have to, but he wanted to, and because he wanted to and couldn’t, he’d get upset.

Calvin picked out Ethan’s clothes, checked his email, then spent the next three hours soothing Ethan, and helping him get out of bed. They had a light lunch in the kitchen, but Ethan still wasn’t talking. Calvin made his best friend some tea, which helped soothe him, but he was still on edge. They showered, dressed, and put on their coats. It took a couple of tries, with Ethan heading back upstairs after reaching the sidewalk on the first attempt. Calvin followed him up, comforted him, and assured him whatever he wanted to do would be fine. Calvin didn’t mention how no one would be upset with him because Ethan would only hear the part about folks being upset, and him. At times like this Calvin had to be exceptionally aware of how he phrased his words.

Soon they’d arrived at Ethan’s parents’ house, and Ethan managed to give him mom and dad a hug. Calvin hugged everyone. His mom had been there since early morning helping Julia cook Thanksgiving dinner. When Seb hugged Calvin, Calvin whispered in his ear about Ethan having a rough day. Seb gave him a nod. When dinner was ready and on the table, Seb sat himself at the end, opposite his dad who was at the head of the table. Seb placed Ethan between him and Calvin so he’d feel safe. Rafe was running late, so Julia insisted they go ahead and start dinner after Thomas Hobbs said grace.

As they ate, Calvin kept an eye on Ethan. It was good to see him smile, even though Calvin knew Ethan was trying so very hard to make it seem like nothing was wrong. The door opened, and Calvin held back a curse when he saw someone unfamiliar come in with Rafe. In a matter of seconds, all hell broke loose. Ethan jumped to his feet, accidently knocking into the table. The glasses fell over, red wine spilling across the white linen. Rafe threw his hands up as he walked over.

Calvin quickly stood at Ethan’s side. “It’s fine, Ethan. Breathe. It’s okay.”

Julia and Calvin’s mom began to mop up the spilled liquid while Seb grabbed his older brother, growling quietly at him. “Why the hell didn’t you call first?” He sniffed at Rafe. “Have you been drinking? Are you drunk?”

“Get off me,” Rafe snapped, removing Seb’s hand from his arm. “I shouldn’t have to call just to say I’m bringing a friend to dinner.”

Ethan began to make wheezing noises, and Rafe started yelling. What the hell was wrong with him? He knew better than to just spring someone up on his brother like that. Meeting strangers was difficult as it was for Ethan, much less when he was having setbacks with his anxiety. Calvin glared at Rafe, warning him to stop. All he was doing was making things worse.

“Ethan baby, it’s okay,” Julia said, coming over to pat his arm gently. It would have helped if Rafe would just stop his damn shouting.

“Stop coddling him. That’s why he does it,” Rafe fumed, turning his attention to Ethan. “That’s enough, Ethan! You’re a grown man, for fuck’s sake. Stop acting like such a child. You have everyone’s attention, now stop it.”

“Rafe!” Julia gasped. She glowered at him. “You know better than that.”

“He’s doing it for attention!”

Rafe’s friend looked Ethan over before he started laughing. “Man, you never said your brother was such a spaz. He’s almost as big as you are. What’s the big deal? Wait, isn’t he supposed to be a THIRDS agent? Seriously? This guy? He looks like he's about to cry.”

“You son of a bitch!” Calvin rounded the end of the table and tackled the guy, the two of them tumbling to the floor, and bringing chairs crashing down with them. Calvin landed a good punch across the guy’s jaw.

“Cal! Baby, please!” His mom called out across the room, but Calvin was too busy smacking the stupid out of the jerk.

“Cal, come on,” Seb pulled Calvin off. “He’s not worth it.”

“You asshole! What the hell’s the matter with you?” Calvin spat out as he tried to get away from Seb. “Who the hell do you think you are coming here and talking shit about someone you don’t even know? You don't know him!”

Julia’s tearful call of his name snapped Calvin’s attention away from Rafe and his asshole friend. He turned to find Ethan on the floor, his hands covering his ears, as he took in big gulps of air. His whole body was shaking, and if they didn’t do something quick, Ethan was going to have a full blown panic attack.

“Seb, help me out.” They gently helped Ethan to his feet, and quickly but carefully led him to his old bedroom. It was just as it had been before Ethan had moved out for college, with posters of his favorite TV shows, movies, and music bands. Everything decorated in shades of calming blue. Luckily the bed was Therian-sized, so Ethan still fit. There was even enough room for Calvin to climb in with him, but first he had to make Ethan comfortable.

“Thanks, Seb. I got it.”

“Just call me if you need anything,” Seb replied. He left the room, closing the door behind him. Calvin didn’t waste time. He sat Ethan down, and pulled off Ethan’s sweater, knowing it would soon feel stifling to him. Then he knelt down in front of Ethan and pulled off his shoes and socks. Once he’d done that, he unbuckled Ethan’s belt, and gently tapped his flank.

“Lift up for me, buddy.”

Ethan did as asked without thought. They’d done this so many times that Ethan checked out for a good deal of it. He lifted his hips, and Calvin pulled off his slacks. As soon as he wore nothing but his undershirt and boxers, Calvin lifted the duvet.

“Okay, time to get all snuggly.”

Ethan lay down, and pulled his legs up, a heart wrenching sigh escaping him as he pulled the duvet around him, followed by his pillow. He had all but his face covered as he burrowed himself in his blanket cave. Soon he was breathing better. Calvin removed his clothes, staying in just his undershirt and boxer-briefs. He sat on the edge of the bed, smiling warmly at Ethan who shimmied back, and lifted the covers so Calvin could get in beside him. As soon as he was in, Ethan pulled him and the duvet close, wrapping the two of them up in fluffy, comfortable warmth. Now Ethan was safe. His body visibly relaxed, the tremors easing.

“I’m sorry,” Ethan murmured quietly.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry for. You did nothing wrong, Ethan.” He ran a soothing hand down Ethan’s arm. “It’s okay. We’re okay now. Just you and me.”

“I ruined Thanksgiving.”

“No, you didn’t do anything. Rafe knows better than to do what he did, and what’s more he was drunk. He showed up to the house, to Thanksgiving dinner, drunk. None of this is on you. You’re loved, Ethan, you know that. Your mom will probably make us some big turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings. Your mom makes the best Thanksgiving subs.”

Ethan laced their fingers together, giving Calvin’s hand a squeeze. His eyes were glassy, but he managed a small smile. “Thank you, for all you do for me. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” He inhaled deeply, and let it out slowly. “You're the only one who makes me feel safe.”

“You know whatever you need, I'm here for you.”

Ethan snuggled closer. He placed a kiss on Calvin’s brow. “Yeah.” When he pulled back, Calvin was surprised by the tears in his eyes. “Don’t leave. Don’t ever leave.”

“Never, Ethan.” He put his hand to Ethan’s cheek, smiling warmly when Ethan closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.

Ethan opened his eyes. “Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Okay.” Ethan closed his eyes, his fingers still laced with Calvin’s.

Calvin stayed awake like he always did, until Ethan had fallen asleep. He placed a kiss to Ethan’s cheek. “I’ll be right here. Always.”


  Copyright © 2014 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 1/28/16

Prompt: "Kiss and make up"- Dex really, really mad with Sloane and Sloane trying his best to make up for it. 


Sloane loved date night, especially now that they didn’t have to go outside the city. With Sparks knowing about them, all they had to do was be discreet. Instead of having to drive upstate or to Jersey, they just made sure to stay away from headquarters. After a delicious dinner where Dex had eaten his weight in noodles, they were walking off some of their food in Central Park. It was a gorgeous night, but the most beautiful sight was that of his boyfriend walking in the soft glow of the park lamps and the moonlight in the night sky.

“Come here.” Sloane came to a stop and snagged a hold of the loop in Dex’s jeans, pulling him against him, and smiling when Dex wrapped his arms around Sloane’s waist. He leaned into Dex and bent his head down, murmuring quietly. “How about we go home, shower, and get into bed. We can watch some TV…” He trailed a hand discreetly down to Dex’s hip and squeezed. Maybe get cozy.”

Dex kissed Sloane with a hum. “How can I say no to that?”

“Freak fucker.”

They both turned, frowning at the two Humans standing there sneering at them in disgust. With a sigh, Dex took Sloane’s hand and tugged him along with him as they headed for the street. A shitty end to an otherwise perfect evening. At least Sloane wasn’t on crutches anymore. Not just because it meant he could pick up his pace, but more so he wasn’t tempted to knock some sense into these assholes.

“You’re disgusting. Spreading your perversion,” one man spat out at Dex as he and his friend followed Dex and Sloane. “Fucking an animal. It’s sick.”

Dex came to an abrupt halt, turning to the two men, his blue eyes blazing with anger. “What did you fucking call him?”

“Dex, leave it,” Sloane urged gently, putting his hand on Dex’s shoulder. “Let’s go.” Sloane was used to the names. To people spitting at his feet. He’d dealt with it all of his life, and made peace with the fact it would take time before the world came around to the idea that he was just a regular guy like every other guy, with a few Felid exceptions. Dex on the other hand, wasn’t used to it, and Sloane’s view on the matter was a sore point for his partner.

The man’s friend stepped forward with a leer. “He called your boyfriend an animal, a rabid beast that should be put down with the rest of the freaks.”

“You ignorant son of a bitch!” Dex lunged forward and Sloane caught him. He picked Dex up and moved him to one side, blocking his view of the two Humans.

“Babe, why don’t you go call us a cab, huh?” He cupped Dex’s face and smiled. “Let’s not have our evening ruined by these jerks. Come on.”

Dex inhaled deeply and let it out slowly through his mouth. He nodded. “Okay.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Dex’s brows drew together. “What? I’m not leaving you here with these assholes.”

“I can handle two Humans. I’m just going to talk to them, okay? Then I’ll be right beside you and we’ll go home and continue our date night.”

Dex was ready to argue some more but his phone rang. It was Cael.

“Go on. Talk to your brother, get us a cab.”

It was clear Dex didn’t want to, and if he didn’t have Cael on the other line, he probably wouldn’t have. As soon as Dex was out of sight, Sloane turned back to the two men.

“You know, we’re not going away,” Sloane said, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets. “So what then?”

“We’re going to change the world, put you animals back in your cages.”

Sloane nodded. “Right. I hate to break it to you, but the world’s already changed, and people like you will either have to resign to the fact that we’re not going anywhere, or you can be decent Human beings, and turn all that energy toward a cause that truly needs it.”

The first guy turned to his friend with a laugh. “Sounds like a load of Therian hippie bullshit to me.”

Well, he’d tried. Sloane shook his head and followed the path Dex had taken when something hard struck him in the back, knocking the wind out of him. He hit the ground with a groan and rolled onto his side when he was kicked in the stomach. Motherfuck!

“We weren’t done with you,” one man snarled.

Sloane let out a growl and lashed out, grabbing one by his leg and swiping it out from under him. He went down with a flurry of flailing limbs and colorful expletives. Sloane made to get up when he found himself surrounded. Shit. Where the hell had the other three come from? He put his hands up in front of him.

“Listen to me. You don’t want to do this.” Slowly he reached for the inside of his jacket where his badge was. Before he could pull it out, they were on him. A punch to the face split his lip, and a kick to the back of his healing leg had him seeing stars. He reached into his jacket and his badge fell onto the ground. Before he could grab it, one of the men snatched it up.

“Oh Fuck.” He stared at the badge tucked in the wallet before pushing his friends off Sloane. “We need to get the hell out of here.”

“What?” His friend snarled, ready to land another punch when he was shown the badge.

“He’s a THIRDS agent.”

The men flew off him and bolted. That was fine. Sloane had gotten a good look at them and even heard them addressing each other by their names. They’d be brought in by the end of tomorrow. With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet. He stretched out his leg. It was a little sore, but he’d be okay. At least until he got to the sidewalk where Dex was waiting for him. The moment Dex saw him, he rushed over.

“What the hell happened?”

“I got jumped.”

Dex stared at him. “Those guys jumped you?”

“And their friends.” Sloane tongued his split lip and winced. “Five in total. I’ll call it in tonight. Everything okay with Cael?”

Dex’s eyebrows nearly reached his hairline. “Is Cael—Are you fucking kidding me?”

“What?” Sloane cocked his head to one side. “Are you mad? Why are you mad?”

“I’m not mad,” Dex replied through his teeth. “I’m beyond mad.” He took a deep breath and calmed down. “We’re going home.”

“Okay.” Sloane had no idea what had gotten into Dex or why he was so pissed, but he agreed this wasn’t the place for an argument. Sloane hated arguing in public. He waited quietly as Dex called them a cab. As soon as they were in Dex’s living room, his boyfriend exploded.

“What the hell, Sloane?”

“What?”

“You’re really going to stand there and tell me you have no idea why I’m pissed off?”

Sloane shrugged. Shit. Bad move. Dex threw a hand up.

“Un-fucking-believable.”

Whatever it was, Sloane had fucked up. Bad. Dex was pissed at him. Not Dex pissed, but really pissed. He just wished he knew why.

“Could you at least tell me why you’re pissed at me? I just got jumped by five guys. I’m feeling a little sore.” It was clear Dex was doing his best to keep himself calm.

“You can’t keep doing this to me.”

“Doing what? For fuck’s sake, just say it.”

“You were in trouble and you didn’t call me.”

Was that it? Because Sloane hadn’t called him for help? “Dex, I’ve told you before. I’m—”

“So help me if you tell me it’s because you’re Therian….” Dex shook his head, unable to finish his sentence.

“I handled it.”

“Really? Is that what that was? How many more times do you have to end up in the hospital because you don’t trust in me? In us?”

Sloane frowned at him. “Bullshit. Next to Ash, there’s no one I trust more. If I didn’t have faith in us, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Really? Then why when it comes down to a fight, you push me out. I’m a trained agent. I can handle myself, and those assholes.”

“I know that.” This argument was stupid. Why couldn’t Dex understand? Sloane could take a hell of a lot more of a beating than Dex. Sloane was bigger, stronger, and healed quicker. The last thing he wanted was to see Dex hurt.

Dex held his bandaged arm up. “When we agreed on this, what did you tell me? That this was a reminder of us. To think about us.” He thrust a finger in Sloane’s direction. “You don’t get to pick and choose when to uphold that promise. We’re equal partners. At work, don’t I have your back?”

“Dex—”

“Do I or do I not have your back on the job?”

“Yes,” Sloane replied grimly. “I trust you to have my back.”

“Then why can’t you let me have your back outside of work? Do you know how that makes me feel?” Dex deflated, his eyes growing glassy. It broke Sloane’s heart. “Every day at work, I have to deal with the fact that I’ll never be as strong as my Therian teammates. I have to train harder, push myself as much as I can so I don’t let you or anyone down, but I understand, because that’s the nature of the job. I’m up against Therian perps who can kill me with one swipe of their paw.” He sighed. “What I’m not prepared to deal with is my own boyfriend believing I’m not enough.”

“Dex, I….”

Dex shook his head and turned to go upstairs. Sloane quickly caught up to him, taking hold of his arm.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that’s how I was making you feel.”

Dex nodded, but he didn’t look Sloane in the eye. His voice was quiet when he spoke. “I’m going to take a shower.”

“I’ll come with you,” Sloane said.

“I just need some time alone. Okay?”

Sloane swallowed hard and released him. “Okay.” He didn’t want to let Dex go, but if it was what his partner needed, so be it. He watched Dex go upstairs. They’d had arguments before, fought, shouted, but they never walked away from each other angry. Sloane didn’t like it. He’d really fucked up this time. What he had believed to be merely a biological fact, Dex had taken as a personal fault.

While Dex showered, Sloane sat on the couch thinking of all the times he’d stopped Dex from doing something because he was Human. In his mind, he’d been protecting someone he cared about, and then later someone he loved. In Dex’s mind, Sloane had been saying he wasn’t strong enough.

“Fuck.” Sloane ran a hand through his hair. He had to do better. Dex was the best thing to ever happen to him. He couldn’t fuck this up any more than he had.

Once Dex finished with the shower, Sloane took his turn. He hated the silence in the house. Dex’s house was never silent. There was music, laughter, joy. It was one of things Sloane loved about the place. It was always filled with love and happiness. Sloane would be damned if he let that change.

After he’d showered and changed into a T-shirt and pajama bottoms he left Dex curled up in bed and went downstairs. He made Star Wars shaped chocolate chip cookies using Dex’s favorite cookie cutters. Then poured a glass of milk, and arranged everything on the Death Star shaped tray. He wrote a small note and folded it up next to the cookies. Upstairs, he left it on the nightstand and came back downstairs. He went to the linen closet, pulled out a pillow and blanket before heading down to the couch. Good thing it was long enough for him.

Having no luck sleeping, he kept the TV on, grateful for the CSI marathon. Around two in the morning while Sloane deduced who this episode’s perp was, Dex appeared beside the couch in his black boxer-briefs, Classic Nintendo T-shirt, and orange socks. He folded his arms over his chest and fidgeted, but he didn’t say anything.

Sloane opened up his blanket and Dex hesitated for a second before joining him on the couch.

“Did you mean it?” Dex asked, allowing Sloane to pull him in close.

“Every word.” His note had been brief, but he’d meant it. Dex was the most precious gift he could have received in his life, and he’d never do anything to screw it up on purpose. “I love you, and at times I’m so scared that this is all going to go away, that I let my fears take over. I’m sorry I made you feel like you weren’t enough. We are equal, and I’m going to do my best to prove it to you every day.”

Dex nodded, a small smile coming onto his handsome face. “Thank you for the cookies.”

“Don’t suppose you left me any?”

Dex let out a snort. “Are you kidding? They were my bribe. I ate them all.” For emphasis, he booped Sloane on his nose on every pause. “Every. Last. Crumb.”

“I wasn’t trying to bribe you,” Sloane began when Dex arched an eyebrow at him. “Okay, maybe a little. I wanted to do something nice for you.”

“And they were delicious.”

Sloane eyed him. “All of them. Really?”

Dex gave his cheek a kiss. “Of course I left you some. They’re on the counter.”

“Aw, thank you.” Sloane couldn’t help but beam at him.

“I’m magnanimous that way,” Dex teased.

“You are. Very magnanimous.” He kissed Dex, reveling in the taste of him, in his warmth, and love. “I love you so much.”

Dex gave him a cheeky grin, and donned his best Han Solo impression. “I know.”


THIRDS Thursdays returns March 3rd!


Copyright © 2014 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


Exclusive Calvin and Ethan Flash Fiction - Catch a Tiger by the Tail blog tour continues over at The Novel Approach!

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Hello all! Today the Catch a Tiger by the Tail blog tour stops over at The Novel Approach with an exclusive flash fiction story with Calvin and Ethan. Find out about what happened at the hospital in Blood & Thunder when Calvin decided it was time to tell his best friend the truth. Remember to check out the rest of the tour for the playlist, character profiles, interviews, flash fiction, and more! Plus enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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THIRDS Thursday - 3/3/16

THIRDS Thursdays Prompt: How about, Ash dealing with caffeinated Cael after the big move, also from Catch a Tiger by The Tail? 

“This isn’t good,” Dex muttered, his worried gaze on Cael who was currently taping boxes together to make himself a robot suit.

Ash agreed with Dex, though he wasn’t about to say so. “Does it always take this long for the caffeine to work through his system?” He would have thought things would happen a little quicker considering Cael’s cheetah Therian metabolism.

“He’s not burning through it quick enough. No room in here for him to freak his cheetah fuzz out properly, and the few minutes you two were running around won’t cut it.”

In Dex speak that meant Cael needed to burn some more energy. The two of them had changed into their Therian forms for a play, but it had been short lived. Three Therians in their Felid forms in one house was not a smart move. It was fun at first, but they’d been forced to shift back after Cael almost knocked Dex’s fancy coffee machine off the kitchen counter. The screech the guy let out could be heard in Jersey.

“Got it. We’re leaving.”

“Uh, okay.” Dex gave him a nod. “Thanks for your help today.”

Ash waved him off. Dex thanking him was too weird for him to deal with, even for something as simple as helping move Sloane’s stuff into Dex’s. Ash headed over to Cael, shaking his head in amusement at Calvin trying to get Hobbs out of the too-small box his tiger Therian butt was squeezed into. Ash was surprised the thing hadn’t burst at the seams yet. Hobbs just chuffed, his eyes closed in contentment. Good luck with that, Cal.

“Time to go, Trouble.”

Cael blinked up at him. “But I’m not done with my robot. He’s going to be even more badass than a Jaeger!”

Ash pursed his lips. “Which one was that again?” It was hard to keep track of all of Cael’s robots.

“Pacific Rim,” Cael said, looking around. He turned his head up to Ash with a wild smile that almost had Ash ducking for cover. His boyfriend was kind of scary when he was wired. “You gotta knife?”

Oh, hell no. Ash gently took hold of Cael’s arm and pulled him to his feet. He didn’t trust Cael with anything sharper than a spoon right now. “Come on. I have a surprise for you.”

Cael gasped in delight. “A surprise? I love surprises! Good surprise though, not Dex surprises.” He narrowed his eyes and craned his neck around Ash to glare at his big brother who was oblivious to the daggered look he was receiving. Well, daggered on anyone else, Cael just looked adorable.

“His surprises usually involve stealing my food, candy, or gadgets. Thief. That’s what he is.”

“All right,” Ash said with a chuckle, leading Cael toward the front door. He waved goodbye to everyone, snickering at Dex’s confused expression as Cael pointed two of his fingers to his eyes before moving them to Dex, mouthing the words “I’m watching you”.

Ash managed to get Cael in his truck with his seatbelt fastened, all while trying to keep up with Cael’s mile-a-minute conversation, many of which stopped halfway before a new one topic started.

“Where are we going? This isn’t how we get to your apartment, or my apartment.”

“We’re almost there.” Thank God there was barely any traffic at this time of night. In less than ten minutes they were at their destination. Ash parked, turned off the ignition, and quickly got out in time to catch Cael as he stumbled out of the passenger side. Yeah, definitely no coffee for Cael, ever.

“Why are we at the THIRDS training facility?”

“Because we’re going to go for a run. Well, you’re going to go for a run. In your Therian form.”

Cael’s eyes lit up and the moment his sneakers touched the floor he was off. Ash set the alarm on his truck and ran after him, signing them both in at the security desk and giving the guard an apologetic smile as Cael called to him from across the lobby near the doors that led to the training fields.

Ash caught up, and he was forced to run after Cael. It was easy to forget how much faster his little cheetah Therian was. Most of the time out in the field, Cael was miles ahead, tripping up perps so Ash, Sloane, and Hobbs could wrangle them up. They hit the huge changing bay, and Ash followed Cael to one of the stalls. When he stepped inside, Cael blinked at him.

“Aren’t you going to run with me?”

Ash shook his head. “No. I’m going to be there with you, but I’m not going to change. PSTC remember?”

“We could just get one of the staff to do it. There’s always a few around even at this time.”

Ash stepped up close and put his hand to Cael cheek. He smiled warmly, his heartrate speeding up. “I want to be the one to do it.”

Cael’s cheeks flushed and he smiled. “Okay.”

“I’m just going to be out here while you change, okay?”

Cael nodded, and Ash stepped outside, drawing the curtain closed. It was best he not be in there while Cael undressed or he’d want to do other things. Right now, Cael needed to run, and Ash wanted to be the one to perform PSTC when Cael returned. They didn’t get to shift often off duty, so Ash hadn’t had the chance to perform PSTC on Cael. It was something he wanted to do.

Ash tried not to flinch at Cael’s screams. It was nothing new, but he hated anything that brought Cael pain. As soon as Cael was done, he darted out, chirping happily and pouncing. His heart swelled. He loved seeing Cael in his Therian form, so carefree and playful. Not that he wasn’t those things ion his Human form, but there was a certain peace found when they were in their animal form.

Cael leaped over to Ash with a chirp. He rubbed his head against Ash’s leg before circling him, leaving his scent over Ash.

“All right, you’ve made your point. I’m yours. Let’s go.” He jogged out toward the expansive grassy field with the wide dirt track surrounding it. There were strategically placed water tanks with clean, cool water for Therian agents. Hydration was very important. Near the tanks were steel bleachers secured inside a fenced off area for viewing. Instead Ash walked to the center of the grassy field and sat down, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around them. He smiled up at Cael.

“Go for it, sweetheart.”

Cael chirped and darted off. He was stunning. The way he almost floated when all four paws were off the ground. He was graceful, beautiful, hitting high speeds in short bursts, using his tail to keep his balance as he came around the bend. Ash could sit here all night watching Cael run.

Once Cael had his run, his chest heaving and his mouth open, he trotted over to Ash. He pushed his heart-shaped nose against Ash’s cheek, making him laugh. With a ruffle to his fur, Ash pushed himself to his feet.

“Let’s go home.” Ash headed to the changing bay, following Cael in. He went to the small kitchenette along the wall. It had a couple of cabinets and small fridge that was stocked with Gatorade and protein bars. Enough to get agents going until they could get a proper meal. Once he was done, he heard a soft groan. He brought his supplies over to Cael sitting on the bench, his head in his hands.

Ash took one of the clean large towels and wrapped it around Cael’s shoulders. Postshift trauma was a scary thing. Not just the effects, but the fact it left a Therian in a vulnerable state. At this point they were practically useless. Cael was strong, but also pretty vulnerable at the best of times. Seeing him like this tugged at his heartstrings. He took a seat beside Cael, cooing softly.

“Tilt your head back, sweetheart.”

Cael did as he was told, and Ash held the Gatorade bottle to his lips, the other hand to the back of Cael’s head to support him. Cael sipped at the Gatorade until he was strong enough not to fall over. He slowly ate the protein bars as Ash gently stroked his hair, his neck. The fact that Cael was completely naked was an afterthought. This wasn’t about sex. It was about taking care of Cael, and offering comfort. He placed a feathery kiss to the top of Cael’s head, smiling when he heard a sweet sigh come from Cael.

Once Cael was done, he turned his head, and smiled up at Ash, his cheeks flushed. “This is the first time it’s just been you here, giving me PSTC.”

Ash nodded. He stroked Cael’s cheek with his thumb, caught by surprise when Cael threw his arms around Ash’s neck and kissed him. It was passionate but gentle. Ash gathered Cael up into his lap, never missing a beat. The kiss was sweet, and Ash couldn’t think of a time he’d been happier. He might be more comfortable in their relationship out in the open, but having Cael in his arms, knowing how Cael loved him, it still amazed him.

Ash pulled back, nuzzling his face against Cael’s, his voice breathless when he spoke. “Feeling better?”

Cael lowered his gaze to Ash’s lips, and when he met Ash’s eyes, there was a sinful look in them. “I think I might have a little more energy to burn.”

Ash arched an eyebrow, his body reacting to those full lips, and the wicked gleam in Cael’s silver eyes. “Is that so?”

Cael nodded. “Why don’t we go to your place and you can help me out.”

Ash quickly but gently put Cael on his feet. “What are you waiting for, get dressed.”

Cael threw his head back and laughed.

Yeah, pretty damn amazing.


THIRDS Thursday - 3/31/16

THIRDS Thursdays PromptThat last scene in Catch a Tiger by the Tail but from Sloane’s point of view…from the minute he wakes up to when Sparks leaves. 

Part 1

His head was pounding.

Sloane stirred with a groan. His body felt heavy, and his tongue thick. What the hell? Had he gotten drunk last night? That wasn’t like him. Why was it so hard to remember? He was having just as bad a time moving his limbs.

I love you.

Sloane smiled. That was the last thing he remembered. He’d squeezed Dex tight and told him he loved him. Then he fell asleep wrapped around the man who lit up his life, and his heart.

“Dex,” Sloane murmured, turning onto his back. He rubbed his eyes, and when he opened them it took a moment to focus. Man, what the hell was wrong with him? Nothing a little snuggle with his man couldn’t cure. He rolled toward Dex and his heart stopped. At least it felt as if it had.

The bed was empty.

Sloane bolted upright, immediately regretting the action. He shut his eyes tight for a few seconds, waiting for the wave of nausea to pass. The moment it did, he opened his eyes, a lump forming in his throat. Dex was probably just downstairs having another unsanctioned middle of the night snack. As soon as the thought crossed his mind, his heart dismissed it. That and the state of their bedroom confirming it wasn’t what he’d hoped. Their room had been ransacked.

“Dex?”

Turning, he found Dex’s cellphone on the nightstand. Sloane quickly scrambled out of bed. The closet door was open. Boxes, shoes, and clothes tossed out and all over. Dex’s colorful socks littered the floor. All the drawers in the room were open and empty. A host of emotions coursed through him. Panic, fear, anger….

Dex.

Please, God, let him be okay.

Shit. What if they were still in here? Sloane rushed around the side of the bed and found his gun case on the floor. He swiped it up. It was open, but everything seemed to be in its place. Someone had pressed his thumb to the small screen. It was the only way to open the case. He grabbed his gun, checked the magazine, and tossed the case on the bed before slowly moving toward the bathroom. Standing to one side, he pushed the door open. The bathroom was empty, and in the same state of disarray as the bedroom.

Hurrying out of the room, Sloane came to an abrupt stop at the bottom of the stairs. His blood turned to ice, and it became harder to breathe. The whole place had been turned upside down. The kitchen cabinets were bare, the cutlery on the floor, dishes and drinkware all over. Sloane carefully walked around shards of ceramic and glass. In the living room, the carpet was littered with stuffing from the cushions and throw pillows, and whatever space that didn’t occupy was taken up by books, CDs, DVDs, and knickknacks. No piece of furniture had been left untouched.

Sloane’s breath hitched, and he reeled back, stepping on something that cracked under his foot. He reached down and picked up the splintered CD case. Journey: Greatest Hits.

“Oh, God.” Sloane was numb. Tears welled in his eyes as the tsunami of emotions hit him. The sense of loss was overwhelming. His knees went weak, and he leaned against the toppled couch, sliding down until he sat on the floor. Someone had taken Dex. Sloane didn’t know who, or why, but he knew Dex was hurt, in pain. He could feel it down to his bones. His left arm burned, and his inner Felid roared.

This can’t be happening.

With the CD clutched to his chest, Sloane lay his gun on his lap. For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t think straight. His Felid was trying to claw out, to hunt, find his mate. Sloane shut his eyes tight, wrestling with his Therian half. He needed to keep control. Dex needed him to be able to use his head, not just his instincts. But the harder he tried to get a grip on his Felid half, the fiercer the jaguar inside him fought.

“Stop!” Sloane screamed, his breath coming out ragged. His Felid was having none of it. Sloane could feel him pacing. He was clawing, and fighting to come out. Sloane gritted his teeth, his muscles straining. He wasn’t going to lose control. “No. I’m going to find him. You stand down. You hear me? Stand down!”

His Felid roared, the sound making its way past Sloane’s lips.

Pushing himself to his feet, Sloane stumbled over to the kitchen and snatched up the cordless phone. A groggy voice answered.

“Sloane?”

Sloane opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He tried again, his voice hoarse when he spoke. “I need you.”

“I’m on my way.”

Sloane hung up and let the phone drop. He leaned on the counter, the muzzle of his gun tapping against the counter’s surface. His hands were shaking so bad. His insides were cold. Was Dex cold wherever he was? Was he scared? Was he even alive? No, he had to be. Why else would he be taken? Sloane held onto that.

Inside him, his Felid side continued to claw and tear at him.

“Fuck you,” Sloane spat out. “He’s mine.”

His Felid had other ideas. Stubborn asshole. Sloane hissed, his vision growing sharp, and his fangs growing in. It took everything he had to keep himself from shifting. The bastard just wouldn’t back down.

“Listen, he needs me right now, okay? What the fuck are you going to do, huh? He’s not here. He’s….” Sloane shook his head, his lips pressed together. Damn it.

A knock on the door startled him, and he ran over, gun in hand.

“Sloane, it’s me.”

Sloane threw open the door, relief flooding through him at the sight of Ash standing there. His best friend dropped his gaze to the gun in Sloane’s hand.

“What happened?” Ash strode in, and Sloane quickly closed the door. He took a deep breath, and followed his best friend into the living room. “Holy fuck.” Ash turned back to Sloane, his eyes wide. “What the hell happened?”

Sloane didn’t know where to start. Mostly because he didn’t know anything. He must have looked just as bad as he felt, because Ash gingerly took Sloane’s gun from him.

“I’m just going to hold onto this for you, okay?” He slipped it into his jacket pocket before putting his hands on Sloane’s shoulders. “Come on, buddy. I need you to talk to me. What happened?” He looked around when something occurred to him. “Where’s Dex?”

Sloane’s voice was rough when he spoke. “He’s gone. They took him.”

“Who took him?”

“I don’t know…. I didn’t see them. I didn’t even hear them. I fell asleep with him in my arms, and then….” He rubbed his eyes, frowning when Ash removed his cellphone from his pocket. “Who are you calling?”

“Cael.”

Shit. “Don’t call him.” What the hell was he supposed to tell Cael?

Ash met his gaze. “I have to. Wouldn’t you want to know?”

Reluctantly, Sloane nodded. He paced the floor, trying to figure out his next move, but it was hard to think with his damned Therian half hissing and spitting.

“Sloane, you need to calm down.”

How the hell was he supposed to calm down? The more he thought about, the angrier he became. Someone had broken into their home and taken the man he loved. Who knew where the hell Dex was or what was happening to him? His mind kept going to dark places, and that only pissed off his Felid half even more.

“Sloane,” Ash warned. “You need to stay in control.”

“I’m trying!” Sloane started pacing again. He flexed his fingers, his muscles tensing, and his vision growing sharp. He could feel his canines trying to push through. If he didn’t do something, he was either going to mad, or feral. He wasn’t sure which was worse.


Catch Part 2 in next week's THIRDS Thursday 4/7/16!


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


THIRDS Thursday - 4/7/16

THIRDS Thursdays PromptThat last scene in Catch a Tiger by the Tail but from Sloane’s point of view…from the minute he wakes up to when Sparks leaves. 

Part 2

Sloane’s Felid side was momentarily distracted by Cael’s arrival, and his inner Therian half struggled between wanting to tear apart those responsible for this, and wanting to comfort his mate’s brother. Sloane’s instincts were on high, and it was moments like these that reminded him of the beast inside him. Not that he could ever forget, but there were days when his Felid half was peaceful. Then again, those days were usually the ones spent with Dex at his side. His Felid half was so content then, slumbering peaceful, waking only to stretch, twitch his tail at the occasional box, or yearn for a belly rub. The most Sloane heard from him was that blasted purr that would find its way out even in his Human form.

Cael was frantic. This wasn’t like being out in the field. This was his big brother that was missing, and not like the other times he’d been taken. This was different. It felt different. They didn’t have a clue who could be behind this. Cael had so many questions, but Sloane had no answers. He wanted to comfort, but he wanted to find Dex most of all. Ash stepped in, pulling Cael into his arms, murmuring comforting words as he stroked Cael’s hair.

Sloane left Ash to it, unaware that he’d called in the whole damn team. One by one they arrived, and the more questions they asked, the more on edge Sloane got. He didn’t have any goddamn answers. He appreciated their support. Knew they were here because they cared about Dex. But he had nothing. Cael was beside himself, and Sloane paced while Ash tried to calm him.

“How can I calm down? He’s gone, Ash!”

Calvin and Hobbs were the last to arrive. Their reaction to the state of the living room had been similar to the others. Disbelief followed by worry. Calvin stepped forward. “What’s going on?” Calvin asked.

“Dex is gone,” Sloane replied, his hands going to his head. “I can’t believe this. Look at this place.”

Calvin walked over to Cael. “What do you mean he’s gone? Gone where?”

“We don’t know,” Cael replied worriedly. “Sloane woke up, and Dex was gone.”

“Something’s wrong.” Sloane ran a hand through his hair. His Felid was pacing again. It wanted to do something. It wanted Dex back. Sloane wanted Dex back. “I can feel it. In my gut, deep down, like… I just know he’s in trouble. God, what if he’s hurt or….” Sloane shook his head as Ash grabbed hold of his shoulders.

“Stop. We’ll find him. Whatever’s going on, we’ll figure it out.”

“Did you see the guys who did this?” Calvin asked. He looked like he wanted to inspect the place, but didn’t dare touch anything. None of them did. The whole place had just become a crime scene. His living room was a crime scene. The place where he lay on the couch with his head on Dex’s lap, teasing, playing. Where they watched movies together, watched TV, talked for hours about random things, where… he made love to Dex.

Sloane took a deep breath and released it slowly. “That’s what’s most fucked-up about this. I didn’t hear a thing.” His vision blurred, and he breathed in once again. “I didn’t even feel it when they took him out of our bed. He was in my arms.” Sloane blinked away his tears, anger swiftly taking over. “How is that possible?”

Rosa stepped up to Sloane, looking him over. “My guess is someone injected you with something. How else would they be able to do all this without you waking up?” She checked in between his fingers, inspected his arms, then neck, before she motioned for him to lean in. Gently turning his head, and checked behind his ear. She cursed under her breath. “They injected you with something.”

Sloane’s blood ran cold. “They took him from my arms, and I didn’t feel a goddamn thing. When I get my hands on whoever did this, they’re going to regret ever stepping foot in this house.”

“You’re going to have to find them first.”

They turned to find Sparks at the front door. She was dressed in a black leather catsuit with a host of weapons tucked in her thigh rig and utility belt, along with a crossbow attached to her back.

“What did you do?” Sloane growled as he stormed over to Sparks. “You had something to do with this, didn’t you?”

Sparks calmly walked past him and into the living room, then took a seat on the coffee table.

“I had hoped to be further along in his training before this happened, but unfortunately, the timeline seems to have been moved up.”

“What are you talking about?” Sloane demanded. He flexed his fingers and did his best to keep his Felid half in control. Right now it wanted to sink its claws into Sparks. “Where’s Dex?”

“I don’t know.”

The last of Sloane’s resolve snapped. He thundered over to Sparks and threw out a hand, his fingers closing around her neck. “Don’t lie to me!”

“If I knew, I would tell you. Dex has been taken. I don’t know where or by whom exactly.”

“Exactly? What does that mean? I swear, if you don’t start giving us some fucking answers,” Sloane’s claws pierced his skin, but he barely flinched at the pain, “I don’t give a shit who you are or who you work for, I’m going to start causing you some pain,” Sloane snarled.

Sparks looked up at Sloane, as if she were searching for something. Sloane waited, his patience all but nonexistent, when Sparks finally spoke up.

“Dex was taken by those responsible for his parents’ murder.”

Sloane froze. That wasn’t possible.

“Wait, what?” Calvin shook his head. “Dex’s parents weren’t murdered. They were caught in a shooting that broke out in the movie theater they were at during their date night. Right?”

Sparks tapped Sloane’s hand, and reluctantly he released her. She had information. More than she was letting on. For now, he’d cooperate. He needed to find Dex.

“That’s what everyone has been led to believe, but the truth is, Gina and John Daley were there to meet with someone. Before the meeting could take place, they were killed.”

Cael sank down onto the floor across from Sparks. “I can’t believe this. They were murdered?”

Calvin seemed to have trouble processing. “Why would they take Dex now? I mean, his parents were killed when he was just a little kid.”

“That’s a good question. We believe Gina Daley had something in her possession before she was killed. Something important. It was possible she was going to pass this information on to whoever she was meeting. However, there was nothing on her at the time of her death.”

“That doesn’t answer why now,” Ash said. “Why, after all these years, are they making a move on Dex now?”

“We’ll have to ask Shultzon.”

Sloane threw his hands up. “What the hell does Shultzon have to do with any of this?”

Sparks stood, her steel blue eyes meeting Sloane’s. “Shultzon is the one who ordered the hit on Dex’s parents.”

Sloane stared at her. How…. That son of a bitch. Every time Sloane believed the man couldn’t be any viler, something new came to light to prove Sloane wrong. Shultzon had Dex’s parents killed? The entire room was silent, and only then did he realize all eyes were on him.

“I hope your team is ready, Sloane,” Sparks said as she headed for the door. “You’re going to have to be if you want to get Dex back alive.”


Catch the final installment Part 3 in next week's THIRDS Thursday 4/14/16!


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

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