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.
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….
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 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?”
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.