Category - Flash Fiction

THIRDS Thursday - 4/14/16

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 3

Sloane had heard enough. He headed for the door when Sparks stopped in her tracks. She turned, blocking his path.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Was she serious?

“I’m going to find Dex, and I’m going to make whoever took him feel the pain I feel before I make them fucking bleed.” His anger was boiling over, and if anyone got in his way they were going to regret it.

Sparks narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re staying here. All of you are. My operatives have everything under control. The area is secure, and a team is out searching for Dex. Stay put.”

“You’re out of your fucking mind!” Sloane balled his hands into fists, his canines growing in. “You really expect me to stand here and do fuck all while he’s out there?” He stepped up to her, his vision growing sharp. “Get the hell out of my way.”

Sparks studied him. “The last thing I need is you and your team running around the city stirring up trouble we don’t need, drawing attention we don’t need. My operatives are handling it.”

“Fuck your operatives,” Sloane snarled, “and fuck you.” His inner Felid roared and Sloane shoved Sparks up against the wall. The front door slammed open and a wave of Therians in black suits flooded into the house. A blond jaguar Therian rushed him, and Sloane released Sparks, twisting and throwing a punch that landed across the guy’s jaw. The jaguar Therian barely blinked. He slammed into Sloane, throwing his arms around Sloane’s waist and knocking him back into the wall.

“Sloane!”

From the corner of his eye Sloane saw Ash take action, but he didn’t get far before he was up against several operatives. His team was surrounded, and Ash put himself between them and Sparks’s TIN Men. Sloane struggled against the blond jaguar Therian. The guy was as tall and muscular as Sloane was, and as trained as Sloane was, this guy was obviously on a whole different level. That didn’t mean Sloane wasn’t going to give it his all.

“Get the fuck off me!” Sloane thrust his head forward, head-butting the guy and sending him staggering back.

“Sloane,” Sparks hissed. “Stop, and let us do our job, or I’m going to have to do something you won’t like.”

Sloane’s eyesight sharpened, and he let out a fierce roar as he charged the blond Therian. He dodged the guy’s fists, and managed to deliver a punch to the kidneys. The guy snarled, and thrust his fists down against Sloane’s back. Sloane fell to his knees, but he quickly rolled out of the way before he could get kneed in the face. He popped up on his feet and put his fists up, rolling his shoulders as he waited for blondie to make the first move.

“Come on you Armani asshole.”

Blondie smoothed down his suit, and ran a hand through his hair before he charged Sloane. They crashed to the floor, thrashing, and landing blows. Sloane straddled the guy, his fury all he could feel as he delivered another blow across the face. They were trying to keep him from Dex.

“Get the fuck out of my way,” Ash snarled. “He needs me!”

Sloane pulled back his hand, his claws razor sharp when his arm was seized. They grabbed a hold of him wherever they could grab him. His arms, legs, torso, and neck. He twisted his body, and struggled fiercely, trying to free himself. His muscles began to burn, and he let out another fierce inhuman roar.

“He’s going to shift!” Someone yelled, and the light in the room began to dim. “Get the injector!”

“No!” Sloane pulled at his arms, but it was no use. There were too many of them. They pushed him down onto the couch, a wall of black suits holding him down. “Get the fuck off me! I need to find him!” His skin felt like it was on fire as he strained against the Therians holding him.

“I’m sorry, Sloane. This is for your own good.” Sparks looked down at him, her expression almost sympathetic.

“Please,” Sloane begged. Tears blurred his vision, and he tried to shake his head, but they held it firmly. “Please don’t do this. I need to find him.”

The blond Therian pressed the injector to Sloane’s neck, but even then Sloane didn’t stop struggling. He met Sparks’s gaze.

“You’re going to have to keep me under, because I won’t stop. I won’t stop fighting until he’s back in my arms, safe.”

Sparks nodded, and the injector fired. Sloane gasped for breath, his back arching violently off the couch cushions, his muscles seizing as the drug surged through his blood. The agents released him, and Ash pushed through.

“Get the fuck out of my way, assholes!” He dropped to his knees beside Sloane, his face pained. “I’m so sorry, Sloane. I couldn’t….”

Sloane gritted his teeth, but he smiled at Ash. You tried. It’s okay.

Ash nodded, his eyes red as he put a hand to Sloane’s forehead. “We’ll get him back to you. I swear. Have faith in him. He’s one tough little son of a bitch.”

Sloane would have laughed if he could. His body stopped seizing, and his limbs grew heavy. There was no instant knock out. Whatever the hell it was, it worked its way through his system slowly. He was in a daze, but still awake, gradually slipping under. It was like being in quicksand, sinking inch by inch. Struggling would only make him sink faster. All he could do was wait to be pulled under. Ash soothed him. He ran his fingers through Sloane’s hair. His best friend always seemed to know what he needed.

“It’s okay, buddy. I got you. I’ll be right here.” Ash’s other hand went to Sloane’s arm and he gave it a gently squeeze. “Hey, remember the first day we met Dex? When he came running in like a bat out of hell, smacked into you, and then brought that weapons display down on you, him, and Zach? All over a packet of Cheesy Doodles?”

That seemed like a lifetime ago. Sloane smiled, and he felt a tear roll down the side of his face. Ash wiped it away with his thumb. How could he forget?

“You were so pissed off,” Ash said with a soft laugh. “You didn’t know whether to beat the shit out of him or get him hauled off to the psych ward.”

Sloane turned his hand over, closing his eyes when he felt Ash take hold of his hand and squeeze, his voice quiet when he spoke.

“He’ll be back in your arms soon.”

Heaviness seeped in Sloane’s bones, and as the darkness came for him, he held onto the light. The light that was Dex. The warmth of his smile. His infectious laughter. The unconditional love he had for Sloane. Sloane needed that light. He needed Dex. They’d find him. Alive.

They had to.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 4/21/16

THIRDS Thursdays

PromptTaylor’s reaction the first time he realizes Sloane has marked Dex. We saw a posturing scene briefly, but the first time he caught a whiff of the mark I wonder what his reaction was and what he thinks about it. Like did he notice the mark in the locker room showers or just as Dex passed by his office? It could be any number of chance encounters. That would be interesting he totally is a walking sexual harassment case just waiting to be reported to Sparks. Has he ever been reprimanded by Spark’s? I certainly would not want to be in her crosshairs, or rather in front of her bow. Heck, just her glare would be enough I think. She’s freaking awesome. 


Man, he hated reports. Fucking bane of his existence. He’d just finished typing up the last paragraph of his incident report when Herrera popped his head into Taylor’s office.

“Dude, guess who’s back on duty?”

Taylor tapped “save” before turning his attention to his teammate. There was a sudden roar of applause and Taylor couldn’t help his sneer. “Let me guess, the prodigal son has returned.”

Herrera shook his head. “Man, let it go. You never stood a chance.”

“Fuck you, Herrera.” Taylor flipped him off and turned back to his desk’s interface. Sloane should have never even been in the picture. The guy was Team Leader, and Dex was his partner. He should have never gotten involved with Dex. Asshole didn’t even give Taylor a chance. No wonder he’d been so pissed off the first time Taylor had talked about Dex and what he wanted to do to him. Fucker had already been screwing his partner.

“You coming out or what?” Herrera asked, sounding frustrated. Like Taylor gave a fuck.

“Since when do we congratulate people for not fucking dying?” Taylor growled.

“That’s harsh, man.” Herrera shook his head and walked out.

So now he was the dick? He wasn’t the one who’d planted the bomb in Keeler’s truck. He wasn’t the dumb fuck who went out there and set off the bomb, getting caught in the explosion. Why the hell should he feel sorry for Sloane Brodie. The guy had fucking everything. Taylor looked out into the bullpen, straightening when he saw a blond head of hair and a familiar smile.

The guy was hard to miss even in a room full of Therians who were bigger, taller, and bulkier. It was that damned smile. Taylor had never seen anything like it. It was the first thing he’d noticed about Dex. His mouth. And his eyes. But his mouth was fucking sexy. Full pouting lips that spread into a smile that could light up any room. It was strange. Usually the first thing Taylor noticed about a guy was his ass. And although Dex possessed a beautiful perky ass that made Taylor drool, it wasn’t the first thing he’d noticed about the guy.

From the moment Taylor had spotted Dexter J. Daley, he’d been consumed by lust. His mistake—he discovered all too late—had come when he’d approached Dex like any other potential lay. Taylor had never been interested in more than a quick fuck or one-night stand, and he never found himself attracted to Humans. He liked it rough in the bedroom, and sometimes he enjoyed a little kink, but Humans had trouble keeping up with him. Clearly Dex didn’t have any trouble keeping up with a Therian lover, considering he was still with that douchebag Sloane Brodie. The thought alone was enough to make him hiss.

It wasn’t that he disliked Destructive Delta. In fact, he respected them. They were one of Unit Alpha’s top teams for a reason. They had a track record that couldn’t be beat. Sure, they caused a hell of a lot of property damage, and had a habit of breaking the rules, but there was no one who would go to war to make things right like those guys. If Beta Ambush was going into the fucking fray, there was no one else who he’d rather have his back. Still, they pissed him off. No one got away with shit like Destructive Delta. Especially with Sparks. All she had to do was look at someone and they were ready to shit their pants, but not when it concerned Sloane Brodie. The fucking golden boy of Unit Alpha. If the dude weren’t solely into cock, Taylor would have guessed he was banging Sparks.

Taylor had bided his time. He figured Sloane would fuck things up with Dex the way he seemed to fuck up everything else. After Gabe died, Sloane had practically run his fucking team into the ground. For months Taylor wondered why the hell Sparks didn’t bench Sloane. Permanently. Then Dex showed up and everything changed.

As the crowd outside dispersed, and Sloane headed after Sparks, Taylor left the office and followed Dex into his. Before Dex could sit, Taylor knocked on the glass wall.

“Hey.” Taylor felt like an idiot. He hated the way his voice sounded unsure, and he especially hated the way Dex looked at him. Like he was waiting to defend himself against Taylor. Okay, so maybe his past actions were to blame, but it wasn’t like he was going to assault the guy. He cringed at the memory. He’d pretty much already done that. Shit. Why the fuck didn’t the guy hate him?

“Hey.” Dex sat on the edge of his desk studying Taylor.

“Welcome back.”

“Thanks, man.” Dex smiled widely. It was genuine and sweet.

Taylor found himself smiling like a moron. He’d come to know Dex’s smiles pretty well. He wondered how many people knew the guy had different smiles. There was the one he had for his friends and teammates, the one he had for his father and sergeant, the one for the rest of their teammates, the one he used when he was just trying to be polite, and the one he used when he didn’t trust someone and was trying to get a read on them. Then there was the one he had for Sloane. It made Taylor’s insides twist. Sloane didn’t deserve that smile. He didn’t deserve the little creases that formed at the corners of Dex’s bright blue eyes when he smiled. Or the dreamy look that came into his eyes. Like all he could see was Sloane and no one else.

Taylor was about to ask how Dex was feeling when his inner Felid stirred. He stepped into the room and sniffed. Something was… different.

“You okay?” Dex asked.

The scent suddenly intensified, and it filled Taylor’s nostrils. It was heady. A mixture of citrus shampoo, Dex’s scent, Sloane’s, and something else. All at once, Taylor crossed the distance between them. He grabbed Dex’s arm, tugged at the cuff, and pushed his sleeve up, ignoring Dex’s protest.

“What the fuck, Taylor? Get off!”

Taylor was stronger. He held onto Dex’s arm and gasped when he saw the bandage. He stared at Dex.

“You let him fucking mark you?”

Dex jerked his arm out of Taylor’s grip, and quickly rolled down his sleeve, his voice clipped when he spoke. “It’s none of your damned business.”

Taylor couldn’t believe it. Sloane had marked Dex. “How could you?” He shook his head. “Why?”

“Why?” Dex’s expression softened. Was it pity? Understanding? Did he somehow know that Taylor had been thinking about him on and off for months? No, that wasn’t possible. Taylor had done his best to keep his distance.

“I asked him to mark me because I love him, and I’m his.”

Taylor’s chest felt tight. Man, he was such a fucking loser. Had he really thought he had a chance? He kept telling himself Dex would get fed up with Sloane’s shit and dump his ass. The guy was fucking neck deep in baggage, it was bound to send Dex running. Instead, Dex fell in love with him and asked Sloane to mark him? It made no fucking sense.

“You really think he’s going to change?” Taylor spat out, feeling humiliated at his own stupidity. Of course Dex would never leave Sloane. Dex was so fucking good. He was patient, understanding, and so damned loyal it hurt. “Sloane Brodie will never change. He’s been a miserable bastard from the day he showed up here. Everything he touches turns poisonous and dies.”

“That’s enough,” Dex said through his teeth. “My relationship with Sloane is none of your business. Thanks for the welcome, but I think you should go.” Dex turned, and Taylor caught his arm. Dex was furious, and he had every right to be. Taylor tried to find the right words. He was so shit at this.

“Look, I’m sorry for being such an asshole. I just….” Taylor swallowed hard, trying to get the words out, especially with Dex looking at him the way he was. Like he was searching for something inside Taylor. No one had ever looked at him like that. Probably because no one ever gave a shit about him long enough to try and figure him out. “I don’t deserve you. I get that. But neither does he. All he does is hurt you.”

Dex stared at him. “What the hell, man?”

“Do you really think I’m that oblivious?” Taylor let go of Dex’s arm and shook his head. “You’re a really shitty liar, and your wear your heart on your sleeve. It would take a fucking moron not to see when you’re upset.”

“Have you been watching me?” It wasn’t an accusation, more like he was curious.

Taylor shrugged. “I notice things.” He met Dex’s gaze. “I notice you.”

Dex nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving Taylor’s. “I really think you should go.”

“I agree.”

At the sound of the gruff voice, Taylor bristled. At least he would have if he were in his Therian form. Teeth clenched, he turned to find Sloane in the doorway, eyes narrowed.

“There something you want, Taylor?”

Taylor looked over his shoulder at Dex. His big blue eyes filled with concern as he looked between Taylor and Sloane. As much as Taylor would have loved to plant one in Sloane’s face, he didn’t want Dex to think any less of him than he already did.

Taylor shook his head as he swept by Sloane. He paused then leaned into Sloane, his voice low. “When you fuck this up—and you will—I’ll be the man he needs. The one you never could be.”

Fury flashed in Sloane’s eyes, and Taylor readied himself for a punch that never landed. He frowned, staring at the back of a blond head. Goddamn it, Dex.

“Babe, please.” Dex put his hand on Sloane’s arm, and Taylor witnessed the anger drain out of the huge jaguar Therian. His expression softened, his amber eyes filled with so much adoration it made Taylor feel sick to his stomach. Afraid he might lose his breakfast, he stormed back to his office. He dropped into his chair, and was so lost in his own pitiful thoughts, he was startled by the movement in front of his face. He blinked down at the coffee cup on his desk. Looking up, he found Herrera standing next to his desk, a strange expression on his face.

“Large triple shot skinny mocha with chocolate powder. Thought it might cheer you up.”

It was his favorite. “Uh, thanks.” Taylor took the hot cup in his hands, feeling his cold insides grow warmer. He took a sip and sighed. Damn that was good.

Herrera gave him a smile. Then it fell away and he shifted uncomfortably. “Listen, I’m sorry about Dex. I know you really like him.”

Taylor shrugged and took another sip of his drink.

“You’re a great guy, Taylor. I’m sure the right guy is somewhere out there.” With that he turned and walked away. It was weird, hearing those words from Herrera. Usually they just cursed at each other, messing around. Herrera was his friend, but the guy never got emotional on him. Most likely because he knew Taylor would tease the fuck out of him.

As he sipped his coffee, he thought about Dex being marked by Sloane. Those stupid fucks had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. If Taylor had felt that pull toward Dex, he could just imagine what it would be like for Dex out there. He hoped Brodie was prepared. The best thing for Taylor to do would be to stay as far away from Dex as possible. Yep, that’s what he’d do.

Easy.


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

THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press!

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Hello all! I'm super excited to announce that THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 is now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press!

DSP: http://bit.ly/CCDSPTBTB1

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.

** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue.


THIRDS Thursday - 5/12/16

THIRDS Thursdays Prompt: I have just finished Cal and Hobbs’s story, and I would love to read about Nina and Cael’s party from Hudson’s POV.

*** SPOILERS *** This flash fiction contains spoilers from Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6)


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.”

“Nina—”

“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.

Lobito, please.”

“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.”

“Sweetheart….”

“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?

“I can’t.”

“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.

“Get down!”

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.


THIRDS Thursday - 5/19/16

THIRDS Thursdays Prompt: I would love something romantic with Dex and Sloane again - the end of Catch a Tiger has given me such a craving for my favorite power couple!

“You need to think about what you just said.”

“There’s no thinking necessary, Sloane. Only doing.” Dex wasn’t budging on this. He was right. How could Sloane even think otherwise? It was madness?

Sloane shook his head. “Thinking is always necessary.” He quirked a smile. “For most of us.”

Dex was not giving into that sexy smile. No, sir. “I can’t. We are not living in a crazy house!” Dex threw himself onto the couch dramatically, his face buried in a throw pillow.

“I hate to break it to you, babe, but that ship sailed a long, long, very long time ago.”

Dex thrust his middle finger out at Sloane, or at least in his general direction. Dex could hear him moving around the living room. That and Sloane’s chuckle. Bastard.

“So this is what it’s like when you don’t get your way, huh? Interesting.”

Dex’s voice was muffled by the pillow as he spoke. “Oh, I am so getting my way.”

“Nope.”

He thrust a finger in the air. “I always get my way!” It shall be so!

Sloane grabbed him by the waist, and Dex yelped as he was lifted off the couch. He refused to let go of the throw pillow. Begrudgingly he allowed Sloane to pull him onto his lap.

“Babe, it makes no sense.”

“It makes perfect sense!” Dex shook his pillow since he couldn’t shake Sloane. “Genre first, then alphabetical within genre. How does that not make sense?” Dex’s whole body was practically vibrating with the need to fix and tidy. There were boxes all over the living room. Untidy open boxes that he’d tried to straighten and organize, but he couldn’t finish because they were still working on the other boxes. They’d been unpacking what was left of Sloane’s stuff from the move, and it was time for Sloane’s movie collection to make sweet love to Dex’s movie collection and they would multiply into a beautiful family of awesomeness. Except Sloane wanted to alphabetize the whole collection, and that was just chaos!

Sloane let out a sigh. He was clearly trying his best to be patient. “Babe, your genres are not normal people genres, and I won’t be able to find the movies I’m looking for.”

“It’s easy.” Dex got up and went over the to their new shelving unit against the right wall. Seriously. His boyfriend was a Team Leader for the THIRDS. How could he not grasp Dex’s simple movie filing system? “We start with musicals, then go into the classics, followed by gangsters, then—”

“Why does the Wizard of Oz go under musicals instead of classics?”

Dex blinked at him. “Because it’s a musical.”

“But it’s also a classic.” Sloane sat back, crossing his beefy arms over his chest and making the fabric of his black T-shirt stretch over his biceps. Why was his shirt so snug? Where were his shirts that fit? Why was Dex complaining? Right! Movies chaos. Dex narrowed his eyes. Sloane was trying to distract him. No dice, Brodie. This is happening whether you like it or not.

Dex smiled sweetly. “If it had no music, it would be under classics. After gangsters, we have modern movies set in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and early 50s, followed by time periods, and eighties movies. Then we have movies based on books, comic book movies separated by studio, action, crime, suspense, drama, horror, noir, science fiction, fantasy, comedy, romance, other historical, war, 3D animated, 2D animated, documentaries, and TV shows. Boxsets go under their genre.”

Sloane studied him. “Why doesn’t noir go with classic?”

“Because we have neo-noir titles which aren’t classics.”

“Right. So L.A. Confidential would be…?”

Clever bunny. Sloane was trying to trip him up. Dex almost scoffed. Like he wouldn’t know what genre to put his own movies under. “It’s set in the early 50s.”

“But it’s also neo-noir, thriller, drama, and crime.”

He knows too much. You know what you have to do.

Sloane’s eyes danced with amusement. “And the Blu-rays? Why do they have to be together again?”

Dex gasped and threw a hand to his chest. “Are you kidding me? Because they’re Blu-rays! It’s a different format, and the boxes are smaller than DVD boxes! And they’re blue!”

Sloane nodded. “Right. What about Avatar? Would it go under science fiction, fantasy, or 3D?”

Don’t fall for it. Ignore the dimple. Ignore the dimple. “Science fiction,” Dex replied, doing his best to remain calm. His system made perfect sense. It was a logical procession of movie magic.

“Really? Because the majority of that film is animated.”

Breathe. Just breathe. “But there are live people in it.”

Sloane stared at him. “Well of course there are. I don’t think audiences would approve of using dead ones.”

Dex pitched the throw pillow at Sloane’s head. It was batted away with a laugh.

“You’re not taking this seriously,” Dex huffed. He folded his arms over his chest, his bottom lip pouting. He was being petulant, he knew it, but… it’s how he’d always organized his movies. Why did he have to change it now?

Because you’re an adult. Sort of. And that’s what happens when your boyfriend moves in. You compromise. His stuff merges with your stuff to become our stuff.  

A gentle hand landed on his head, and Dex looked up, surprised to find Sloane smiling warmly at him. Dex had been so lost in his own pouting he hadn’t seen or heard Sloane get up.

“Aw, this is really bugging you, isn’t it?” Sloane pulled Dex into his embrace. He wrapped his arms around Dex’s waist, and kissed the tip of Dex’s nose.

“I know it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Sloane replied before placing a kiss on Dex’s right cheek. “It’s one of your quirks. Like the cleaning and tidiness. I get it.” He placed another kiss to Dex’s cheek, on the left this time.

Dex wrapped his arms around Sloane, melting into his warmth. He met Sloane’s amber gaze. “I’m sorry. This is our home now. I shouldn’t be such a controlling douchnozzle.” A lot was changing, and it was everything Dex wanted. He just had to learn to give up control a little in areas he wasn’t used to giving up control in. He hadn’t lived with anyone since Lou, and Lou hadn’t cared how things were organized.

“You’re not being controlling or a douchenozzle,” Sloane assured him. “You have your needs, and I respect that. I didn’t mean to tease you. Of course you can organize the shelves however you want. If it makes you happy….” He brushed his lips over Dex’s. “It makes me happy.”

Dex searched Sloane’s eyes, his heart swelling at the love in that molten gaze. How had he ever gotten so lucky? Did Sloane really not care, or was he just saying that to make Dex happy? “Really?”

Sloane nodded. “I promise. Just because I’ve moved in doesn’t mean you have to change everything. If it’s important to me, I’ll let you know, and we’ll compromise. The bedroom went smoothly, didn’t it?”

“True, but I was hardly about to organize your clothes. How you sort your sock drawer is none of my business, though I can’t promise some fun socks won’t make their way into that black hole of monochrome cotton you’ve got going on in there.” Dex had never seen so many pairs of black and gray socks. He needed to add some color in there, or better yet, some Star Wars socks. Sloane wouldn’t say no to those.

“Whatever you want.”

Dex felt his tension melt away. He lifted a hand to Sloane chest, and smiled up at him. “You really mean that, don’t you?” Sloane understood him like no one else, and what he didn’t already know, he was quickly learning. Despite Dex’s growing list of weirdness, Sloane happily went along with it because he loved Dex. It suddenly hit Dex, and he could barely contain his grin.

“Hey! You’re here!”

Sloane’s soft laughter made Dex weak at the knees. “Yep. I guess we’re kinda stuck with each other now.”

It was amazing how Dex didn’t have to explain. Sloane just knew what he meant. He didn’t know whether it was the bond, or how far their relationship had come, but Dex cherished it. He cupped Sloane’s face and brought him in for a kiss. Dex loved kissing Sloane. Loved when they spent what felt like hours on the couch, or even standing against the counter in the kitchen just kissing. He wanted to stay like just like this, wrapped in Sloane’s strength and love.

Dex smiled against Sloane’s lips as Sloane began to sway. He moved Dex with him as he started quietly singing Ray Orbison’s I Drove All Night. Dex loved that song. Mostly he loved that Sloane had picked a song from his Favorites playlist to sing to him.

“How about we go upstairs to the bedroom, and see if there’s anything left to unpack. From the bed,” Sloane teased, nibbling on Dex’s ear.

“Definitely better vantage point,” Dex agreed. “I love you.”

Sloane gave Dex’s lips a kiss that made his toes curls. “I love you too, sweetheart.”

As Sloane led Dex up to their bedroom, he was filled with excitement. This was the start of something new for them. Whatever came their way, they’d face it together.

 
Copyright © 2016. Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 5/26/16

THIRDS Thursdays Prompt: Could we maybe see Tony and Dex’s parents? Could be before or after Dex was born. :)

“I blame John.”

Tony chuckled and looked up from his newspaper. Gina groaned as she slowly walked around the living room.

“It takes two to tango,” Tony said, motioning to Gina’s big pregnant belly. She was due any day now, and the closer she got to giving birth, the more she blamed John. Of course John never took it to heart. He was a loving husband who did his best to make sure Gina had everything she needed to be comfortable. They were as prepared as two soon-to-be parents could be.

Gina arched an eyebrow at Tony before her pale blue eyes narrowed. He gingerly lifted the newspaper in front of him to hide his face from her. If she had the slightest inkling he found her amusing she’d launch a throw pillow at his head. Wouldn’t be the first time. John said that for a pregnant woman, she had reflexes like a ninja.

“That’s not what I meant.” She groaned again, and he looked up to make sure she was okay. She rubbed her belly as she walked. “This kid thinks I’m an obstacle course. He’s like John. Always fidgeting.”

“Yeah, but you love the big dope.”

Gina let out a school-girl sigh. “I do. He’s so pretty.”

Tony laughed. “That’s why he gets away with everything. He just bats those pretty eyes and you’re a goner.”

Gina let out a very indelicate snort. “Please. Like you’re immune to that smile.”

“Smile doesn’t get me,” Tony replied with a shake of his head. “It’s that damned dimple. That and the fact he does whatever the hell he wants anyway.”

“We both love the dope, so you’re as screwed as I am. What’s today’s headline?”

“Oh no.” Tony quickly closed the paper and folded it up as Gina glared at him. He’d been given very clear instructions not to let Gina read the papers. A few months ago the government started the Therian database, requiring Therians to go to their nearest CDC clinic for classification. It was rumored they were creating a system that would have Therians marked. John had been furious, as had Tony. Gina had been livid, launching a campaign against the movement and becoming the first medical officer at the CDC Registration Office to volunteer working specifically with Therians, a position she’d demanded be introduced. No one said no to Gina Daley.

John decided that reading the newspaper was off limits for a while. The headlines upset her too much. Of course Gina was as stubborn as her husband. Telling her she couldn’t do something was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Gina Daley was a stunning young woman who stood at five foot three without heels, had dirty blonde hair and the palest blue eyes Tony had ever seen. She looked angelic in her pink flowered maternity dress. She could also put the fear of God in any mortal, including him.

“Tony, give me the paper.”

He blinked up at her innocently. “It’s under my butt.”

“I don’t care. Besides, I’ve seen your butt.”

Tony felt his face burn. “That wasn’t my fault.”

“Of course it wasn’t,” Gina agreed, “but that’s what you get when you let John convince you to take your clothes off in protest of campus Therian segregation. That wasn’t going to get you two anything other than some serious rubbernecking. It was like a feeding frenzy. You know how many fellow students I had to chase off that day? Geniuses you two.”

Tony shrugged, and did his best not to laugh at the memory. “We were a couple of stupid college kids.” Poor John. It said something that he was more terrified of losing Gina to his shenanigans than he’d been about getting kicked out of school. Gina had been annoyed with her fiancé, but she adored John, crazy antics and all. He learned pretty quick after that. “That was such a long time ago, Gina. We’ve both matured.”

“That was two years ago.”

Tony pursed his lips. “I got nothing.”

“Between your ears apparently. Like John. Give me the paper.”

Tony put a hand to his chest. “Ouch. You want me to get you some chocolate or something?”

“Anthony Maddock, so help me if you don’t give me that damned newspaper I’m going to—” She let out a groan/yell combo that scared the shit out of him. She was either about to kick his ass, or she’d just had her first contraction. They stared at each other, wide-eyed.

“Was that…?”

Gina nodded.

“Do you think it’s time?” He watched as Gina walked around, breathing in and out through her mouth. Less than a minute later another contraction hit and nothing she did made it stop.

“I blame John!”

“Yeah, it’s all John’s fault. Just breathe. I’ll get your bag.” He jumped from his chair, making a swipe for the newspaper before Gina could grab it. He shook his head at her. “Woman, you’re going into labor! Forget the damn newspaper!”

“Fine!” She breathed deeply in and out as he ran to get her overnight bag from the hall closet where he knew it was. The three of them had come up with an action plan in order to be prepared for this day. Another scream soon met his ear, and he hurried back to the living room. Where the hell was John?

As if by magic, John walked through the door. “Hey, baby. I got you your chocolate chip ice cream and potato chips.” He grinned that big school-boy grin of his.

“John, this is all your fault!” Gina shrieked.

“What?” John looked between her and Tony. “What did I do?” His eyes went wide and he gasped. “I swear, it’s just a scratch.”

Uh-oh.

Gina turned to face John as she huffed, doing her best to control her breathing. “What’s just a scratch?”

“Um….” He looked to Tony for help, but Tony had no idea what the hell his best friend was talking about. Knowing John, it could be anything. Realization hit John, and he stared at Gina. “Wait, are you… are you going into labor?” John rushed over and took hold of her hand. His eyes got all teary and a grin stretched across his face. “We’re having a baby.” His dimple appeared, and Gina was a goner. She burst into happy tears.

“We’re having a baby.”

“Okay. We need to um….” He ran to the hall, opened the closet then released a panicked cry. “It’s gone!”

“John,” Tony called out, trying to get his friend’s attention as John frantically ran around the house, opening and closing doors. He ran back into the living room.

“The bag is gone! Oh my God, I’m not prepared for this!”

Gina let out another painful cry, and John Joined her. Tony didn’t know whether to laugh or join in too. He lifted the bag in front of him.

“John. The bag’s right here.”

John snatched it away from him. “You couldn’t have said something sooner?”

“I tried,” Tony said, holding back a laugh.

“All right, let’s go.” John took Gina’s arm and breathed with her as they headed for the front door. Tony locked up, seeing as how John was occupied with other thoughts like not freaking out. John helped Gina into the back of Tony’s black and gold Firebird then climbed in after her, leaving the overnight bag on the floor. With a smile, Tony placed it in the front passenger seat. It was probably best he hold onto it.

Tony stayed calm, letting John do all the breathing and creaming as he got them to the hospital. It was adorable watching his best friend all but carry Gina inside. He hovered over her, talking to her, breathing with her, comforting her. He asked a million questions, hovered over the nurses, asked them about things he’d read in books. While John took care of his wife, Tony took care of John. If he didn’t, who else would? Tony kept John in fresh supply of coffee, and when the time came, Tony was asked to wait outside by the nurse. Only family was permitted to stay, and usually that just entailed the parents.

“No.” John shook his head at the nurse as he held on tight to Gina’s hand. “He’s family. He stays.”

Tony swallowed past the lump in his throat. “John, it’s okay.”

John looked determined. “I want you to stay.” His expression softened. “Please.”

How could Tony say no? He nodded, and tried his best not to give into the tears that threatened to break free, especially when Gina threw her free hand out to him. He quickly took hold of it, and cursed under his breath when Gina all but broke his fingers. John laughed, tears running down his face.

“Now the pain’s evenly distributed.”

Tony would have flipped him off if the room wasn’t full of hospital staff. For what seemed like hours, Gina screamed, breathed, pushed, cursed them, threatened them, burst into sporadic laughter then tears, while Tony and John did the same. Next thing Tony knew, there was a hearty cry, one that hadn’t come from Gina, her husband, or Tony.

“Kids got some lungs on him,” Tony said with a laugh.

“Gets it… from… John,” Gina huffed, breathless.

“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Daley, it’s a beautiful, healthy, baby boy.” The nurse handed a wrapped bundle to Gina, who burst into fresh tears. Tony had to pull out his own handkerchief. Man, they were bawling worse than the baby. The room quieted, and John kissed his wife. Tony’s heart swelled, and he had to turn away from the tender moment. There was so much love coming from those two as they held their little boy. Tony felt blessed to be a part of this. Gina and John weren’t just his best friends. They were his family. He loved them fiercely.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around Tony, and he felt John press his head against his back. “Thank you.”

Tony chuckled. He turned and hugged John back. “For what?”

“For being the brother I never had.”

Sweet baby Jesus, the man was going to be the death of him. “Being a daddy’s made you sappy.”

John laughed, his blue eyes sparkling. He pulled back, his grin huge. “I’m a dad!”

“Heaven help us all,” Tony teased. “That boy is going to be spoiled rotten.”

“By who? You?” John walked back over to Gina who was singing softly to her baby boy.

“I plead the fifth,” Tony said as Gina motioned for him to come over. She moved the soft blue blanket so Tony could get a look at the little wrinkled bundle. He had Gina’s big blue eyes and pouty pink lips with rosy cheeks. He was absolutely adorable. Tony loved him already. Gina smiled lovingly at her baby.

“Anthony Maddock, meet Dexter Justice Daley. Dex, meet your Uncle Tony.”

Dex stared up at him before putting a tiny fist to his mouth. He wasn’t still for a moment, wriggling and making baby noises, like he was ready to start talking already.

“Oh Lord, this one’s gonna be a handful.” Tony couldn’t stop smiling. He kissed Gina’s cheek. “Congratulations, sweetheart. He’s beautiful.”

John cooed at Dex before clearing his throat. “I may have put a little scratch on your Camaro.”

Tony put his hand up and took a step back. “I had nothing to do with it.”

“You’re lucky I’m too tired and too in love with my baby boy to strangle you.”

“I love you too.” John chuckled and kiss the top of Dex’s head. “And you, my little man. Here’s your first lesson. Never, ever put a scratch on mommy’s car. It’s precious. Not as precious as you though.” He made cooing noises, and Tony shook his head in amusement. “We need a picture.” John hurried over to Gina’s overnight bag.

“John, I look terrible.”

John rushed back, his shiny new 35mm Canon camera in hand. He kissed Gina, and ran a hand lovingly over her head. “Baby, you’re glowing. Come on. It’s Dex’s first day with his new family.”

There was that dimple again.

“Okay.” Gina held Dex, and Tony situated himself closer as John instructed the nurse how to take the picture. When he was done, he took position beside Gina. He gave Tony and wink and they both leaned in to give Gina’s cheeks a kiss, making her giggle. There was a “click”, and the nurse took a few more photos before Gina said she was tired. The nurse took little Dex, but not before they all showered some more love on him.

They left Gina to rest, and went to get some more coffee. John was quiet, which was unusual for him.

“Hey, you okay, man?”

John nodded then wiped another tear form his eye. “I’m a dad.”

“Yeah, you are,” Tony said with a smile when John’s brows furrowed. He was worried. “Hey, you’re gonna be an amazing dad.”

“It’s kind of terrifying, knowing how much he’s depending on me. He’s going to be looking to me to for everything. Whatever I say, whatever I do could impact the kind of man he’s going to become. What if… what if I mess up?”

Tony took hold of John’s shoulders. “John, Dex is going to be just fine. You know how I know that?”

“How?”

“Because he has you for a father.”

John smiled. He sniffed and wiped at his eyes. “Thanks.”

“Between you and Gina, that little boy couldn’t be more loved.”

“He’s got you too,” John reminded him.

“That he does.” Whatever Dex needed, Tony would always be there for him. “Poor Gina. Now she’s got two kids wreaking havoc.” If Dex was anything like his daddy, he was going to drive her up the wall.

“Hey!” John gave Tony a playful shove. “I resemble that remark.”

Tony laughed and the two of them walked out into a small garden outside the café. It was peaceful. They sat beside each other, sipping their coffees. Every time Tony looked over at John, he had a big dopey grin on his face. Yeah, John was going to be a great dad.

“I can’t wait,” John said softly.

“For what?”

“For all those first family moments. Just the four of us. Dex’s first Christmas, his first tooth, his first steps. First birthday. First day of school.”

“First crush. His first date.”

John pouted. “His first broken heart.”

Tony patted John’s back and smiled. “His first day at college. First love.”

“Yeah,” John let his head rest against Tony’s shoulder with a sigh. “It’s gonna be great.”


Copyright © 2016. Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Beyond the Books Volume 1 Blog Tour!

Hello all! The THIRDS Beyond the Books blog tour kicks off today and we have plenty of goodies heading this way! During the tour you can find out more about THIRDS Thursdays, along with Big Cat Rescue--where the royalties of this book are being donated. Dex drops in to tell you what's so great about Thursdays, and for the release day event you can vote for which THIRDS Thursday prompt will get written up after the tour. Plus there's so much more! There's also two giveaways packed with goodies!

** Please note that different blogs post their content at different times.

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June 1 – MM Good Book Reviews (About THIRDS Beyond the Books & Big Cat Rescue) June 6 – Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy (A Guide to Being Dexter J. Daley) June 7 – Oh My Shelves (What's So Great About Fridays? Presented by Dexter J. Daley) June 8 – The Novel Approach (THIRDS Nerds series Q&A) June 8 – Dreamspinner Blog (Dexter J. Daley's Songs to Seduce Your Jaguar Therian Partner by)

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Release Day Event: June 8th – Love Bytes Reviews (Exclusive Giveaway and vote for the next THIRDS Thursday prompt to be written)

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ABOUT THE BOOK

THIRDSbeyond300Genre: Gay Paranormal Romance, Shifters Length: Novella Published: June 8th, 2016 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Cover Artist: L.C. Chase Ebook ISBN-13: 9781634773072

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.

** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue. goodreads-badge-add-plus

BUY LINK

Dreamspinner Press eBook | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

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Hell & High Water (THIRDS, Book 1) Blood & Thunder (THIRDS Book 2) Rack & Ruin (THIRDS, Book 3) Rise & Fall (THIRDS, Book 4) Against the Grain (THIRDS, Book 5) Catch a Tiger by the Tail (THIRDS, Book 6) Smoke & Mirrors (THIRDS, Book 7)

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Check out the THIRDS on Pinterest.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlie_Cochet_by_madison_parker

Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

Website | THIRDS HQ | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram | Newsletter | DSP |Amazon |Goodreads


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