Tag - Dexter J Daley

THIRDS Thursday - 8/30/18

Prompt: Dex goes to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert.

**** WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT AND CHARACTER SPOILERS FROM BOOKS 1 THROUGH 10 ****


PART TWO

It was almost time.

The bags were by the door, and Sloane had triple checked everything, making sure they left nothing behind, especially the electronic devices meant to keep Dex busy on the plane. It was a matter of safety. Cael had made the mistake of selecting the two empty seats in front of Dex and Sloane’s for him and Ash, meaning Dex would be sitting behind Ash. No good could come of that. In the interest of getting everyone to Florida in one piece, Sloane would be sure to keep Dex busy.

The doorbell rang, and Dex whizzed by in a blur of pink and blue. Sloane shook his head in amusement at his husband. No one should be that excited at this time of morning, and normally Dex wasn’t, but the copious amounts of coffee had done its job. Dex threw open the front door greeting Ash and Cael in his cargo Bermuda shorts and blue button-down shirt covered in pink flamingos.

“Are you two ready to penetrate Florida with me? Wait, that came out wrong.”

“I regret this already,” Ash muttered.

“Ignore him,” Cael said, hugging his brother. “He’s been saying that since we booked our flights. A month ago.”

“As of now, we are on vacation, and while on vacation,” Dex put his thumbs to the sides of Ash’s mouth and pushed up to make him smile, “there are no upside-down smiles, mister.”

Ash narrowed his eyes. “You’re one second away from losing those fingers, Justice.”

Dex released him with a huff. “You better get used to smiling, because after the concert we’re going to the happiest place on earth.”

“It can’t be the happiest place on earth. You’ll be there,” Ash deadpanned.

Dex arched an eyebrow at him before turning to face Cael. “Life of the party, your boyfriend.”

“Oh my God, Dex, we’re going Disney World!” Cael bounced on his toes excitedly. “I haven’t been there since we were kids. Remember when Dad took us for your tenth birthday and you ate so much cotton candy you puked rainbows when you got off the Mad Tea Party ride?”

“Of all the things we did that day, that’s what you remember?”

Cael shrugged. “It was pretty epic. I mean it looked like a rainbow was shooting out of your mouth.”

Sloane did his best to contain his laugh at Ash’s pained expression. “Sweetheart, it’s too early for me to be interacting with your brother much less hear about his projectile vomiting.”

“Oh, right. Of course.” Cael stood on his toes and kissed Ash’s cheek. “Thank you for coming with me.”

Ash snorted. “Like I was going to send you to some tropical location without me. Not with the way those swim trunks you packed mold to your ass when they’re wet.”

“TMI, buddy. TMI.” Dex perked up, and Sloane smiled. “The car’s here!”

Ash sighed. “Because that’s what the world needed, Dexter Justice Daley with Therian abilities.” He narrowed his eyes at Sloane. “You and your stupid blood.”

Sloane flipped his best friend off. They could joke about it now, how Sloane’s blood had changed Dex, but that hadn’t always been the case. As they picked up their bags and headed outside, Sloane remembered how painful it had been knowing his blood had altered his husband’s Human DNA, not to mention the horror that came once Dex’s body had accepted Sloane’s mutation. He’d almost driven himself crazy thinking of the what-ifs, but Dex refused to let him go down that path. The uncertainty was troubling. Dex’s new hybrid DNA was unknown territory for them, TIN, and the hundreds of TIN scientists who’d run test after test on Sloane’s mate. They had no idea the extent of the changes within Dex because they were still happening.

“I’m sitting up front,” Ash declared, snapping Sloane out of his thoughts.

Thankfully the ride to the airport was uneventful, as was their wait at the airport. Mostly because Ash grabbed Cael and disappeared until boarding time arrived. Ash loved Dex, defended him, had been there for him when Dex had needed it most. He also wanted to kick Dex’s ass most of the time. Sloane had never seen anything like. Was he surprised? No one knew Dex or Ash like he did, so no.

Boarding time came, and they waited for their section to be called. Dex and Cael were both practically vibrating with excitement. It was really adorable. While the brothers talked a mile a minute about everything they’d do and eat while at Disney World, Sloane turned to Ash.

“So what are you two going to do while we’re at the concert?” Sloane had booked them a room at a hotel near the arena and they’d be meeting Ash and Cael at the park gates the next morning.

“Cael wants to go to some big Therian waterpark. Apparently, you can swim around in your Therian form.”

Sloane blinked at Ash. “And um… are you going to swim in your Therian form?”

“Yeah, why?” Ash peered at him.

“Just curious,” Sloane replied, congratulating himself on maintaining his stoic expression. While Ash was distracted having his e-ticket scanned, Sloane quickly caught up to Cael. “Are you taking pictures at the waterpark?”

Cael studied him. “Of course. Why?”

“I just want to make sure you don’t miss out on any memories.” Sloane smiled brightly. He could feel Dex’s eyes on him.

Once they’d put their bags in the overhead compartment and beneath their seats, Dex took his seat in the middle, and Sloane the aisle seat. Sloane had to give Dex credit. His husband managed to wait until they were in the air before whispering hoarsely at him.

“What are you up to?”

Sloane blinked innocently. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Don’t give me that look. I invented that look. Spill.”

They leaned into each other, their heads together as they murmured conspiratorially. “Ash and Cael are going to a waterpark.”

“So?”

“A Therian waterpark.”

“Not following.”

“A Therian waterpark where you can swim in your Therian form.”

Dex squinted at him. “Is the altitude messing with your oxygen intake?”

Sloane rolled his eyes. “Babe, Ash is going to go swimming in his Therian form. In Florida.” He watched as realization slowly dawned on Dex and his brilliant blue eyes widened. A low, long exaggerated gasp escaped him.

“Holy shit, there’s not going to be enough hair products in the state capable of taming the epic lion mane frizz. He’s going to look like a giant Pomeranian!” A wicked gleam came into his eye and he cackled evilly. “I need photographic evidence of this.” And Sloane didn’t doubt he’d get it. Humidity and Ash’s mane were not going to get along. Mane frizz was real, and the bigger the mane, the bigger the frizz. With lion Therians, their mane reflected the kind of strength, vigor, and ferocity they possessed. The tougher they were, the darker more majestic the mane. Dex wasn’t wrong when he said Ash was a precious princess when it came to his mane.

Thankfully, Ash and Cael spent most of the flight being “disgustingly lovey-dovey” as Dex put it which meant his attention was purposefully focused on Sloane, his eBook reader, his phone, and everything not Ash. They landed in Orlando, and the moment they stepped out of the plane, Ash was off.

“Holy blazing fuckballs! Why is there no air? I’m already sweating, and we haven’t even gotten outside yet. God, I hate Florida.”

“You hate everything,” Dex replied, amused.

“Yeah, but I hate Florida especially with its sweltering heat, stifling humidity, and stupid palm trees. They’re not real trees!”

“Pretty sure they are,” Dex argued.

Ash continued his tirade despite being in the airconditioned baggage claim. Once they’d collected their luggage, they stepped outside, and Ash flicked Dex in the ear.

“Ow! What the hell, man?”

“This is your fault. You couldn’t see your stupid concert somewhere with a breeze?”

“Like you’ve never lived through a New York City summer,” Dex grumbled.

“That’s different. The air doesn’t try to choke me.”

Dex opened his mouth to reply, and Sloane clamped a hand over his mouth. The last thing they needed was someone calling airport security about the crazy blond guy in the flamingo shirt and the homicidal lion Therian. Cael, being experienced in all things Ash had already called them a car, meaning in less than ten minutes, they’d parted ways. Ash and Cael headed for the hotel Dex and Sloane would be returning to the next evening after the park. Dex insisted on driving the rental, insisting it was for the sake of Sloane’s blood pressure. Sloane figured it was just Dex wanting to drive like he always did. Nope.

“This particular stretch of highway is lovingly known as Satan’s dongle.”

Sloane held onto the oh-shit bar, his gaze sliding to Dex. “Known to who?”

“To me,” Dex replied cheerfully. “I-4 is perpetually under construction and at this moment in time has more twists and turns than a racecar track, which by the way, would be safer to drive in.”

Dex had Def Leppard blasting in the car on the drive to Tampa. They had the rest of the morning and afternoon to just relax, so they went to their hotel room, checked in early, and went to the pool. For the first time in a long time, Sloane’s muscles relaxed. The hotel was Therian-friendly, so no one batted an eye when Dex and Sloane held hands, cuddled in the pool, or stole kisses.

Later in the early afternoon, they pulled on some comfy clothes, and took a nap—with several alarms set to wake them up in time for changing and getting some food. It was heavenly, and while Dex dozed, Sloane stayed up a few extra minutes just to relish in the feel of his husband in his arms as they lay on the clean, soft sheet, the only sound in the room belonging to the A/C. Sloane nuzzled Dex’s temple before placing a soft kiss to his citrus-scented hair.

“I love you, baby.”

Dex sighed and snuggled closer.

Their alarms went off at three that afternoon. They showered, changed—Dex in a Journey t-shirt and Sloane in a Def Leppard t-shirt—then headed to a Cuban restaurant where Dex ate his weight in mojo pork. By the time they’d parked in one of the parking lots near the venue, the place was filling up fast. They waited in line so Dex could by his band t-shirt, or t-shirts. As in one of each, including the pink one because it had “a different design than the others”.

They joined the throngs of people, and Sloane couldn’t imagine having to deal with this kind of weather every day. It was one thing when you were on vacation, but having to deal with it when you had to work? Fuck, the the THIRDS guys down here deserved a medal for going out on call in this weather with their full gear.

“It smells like armpits and assholes.”

Dex popped his head up and scanned the crowd. “Ash?”

“Not Ash,” Sloane said with a chuckle.

It seemed like a lifetime went by before they were past the metal detectors and inside the building.

“Babe, I want a burger, fries, and a drink. Looks like we’ll have to refinance the house.”

“That’s concession prices for you. Imagine if Ash were here.”

Dex’s eyes went huge. “These people would not survive.”

They carried their overpriced food to their seats in front of the stage, finishing just as the music started to play. The lights dimmed, and Dex bounced on his seat. His phone buzzed, and whatever it was had him barking out a laugh so loud concertgoers three rows over turned to see what was so funny. Dex was in tears. He showed Sloane his phone, and Sloane burst into laughter. He was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. It was a picture of Ash in his lion Therian form, and just as Dex predicted, he looked like a giant Pomeranian. A very grumpy, very fluffy, Pomeranian.

As the screen lit up with “Tampa” in the signature Def Leppard font, the packed-to-the-brim arena went crazy and Dex jumped to his feet, arms in the air as his scream joined everyone else’s. The screen rose, revealing the band in front of a wall of flickering TV screens. They kicked things off with Rocket, and Sloane was quickly swept into the fervor, jumping and screaming with his husband, rocking out with the crowd. At one point, Sloane felt a tug on his sleeve, and Dex jumped into his arms, legs wrapped around his waist.

“I love you!” Dex screamed loud enough for Sloane to hear.

“I love you too. Happy birthday!”

They kissed to the sound of guitars and drums. A blast of warmth exploded through Sloane’s chest, his body vibrating, and he realized it was coming from Dex. His mate was so happy, his rumbling purr was feeding his own inner jaguar. They might have been enjoying Dex’s gift, but knowing how happy he’d made Dex was the best gift Sloane could ever receive.


THIRDS Thursdays goes on hiatus the month of a THIRDS release, so we'll be back in October with more THIRDS Thursdays!

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

Who wants to continue Dex, Sloane, Ash, and Cael's vacation in Florida when we come back in October?


THIRDS Thursday - 8/23/18

Prompt: Dex goes to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert.

**** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM BOOKS 1 THROUGH 10 ****


PART ONE

“Sloane.”

Grunt. Too early.

“Sloane. Sloooane.”

Something was poking him. Something was going to lose a finger if it continued.

Sloane rolled over with a grumble, taking the duvet with him. It was still dark which meant it was still sleep time. His inner jaguar growled low and the sound rumbled up from deep in Sloane’s chest. “Sleep.”

“Babe. Baby. Boo Bear.”

Sloane’s body grew heavy. Why was he sinking into the mattress? His mate’s scent filled his senses. Ah, that would be why. Dex was sprawled on his back from head to toe.

“Sleep,” Sloane murmured. “Heavy,” he added. Dex didn’t weigh what he used to. All that change in muscle mass had him going from his one hundred and seventy-five Human pounds to two hundred and fifteen not-all-Human pounds. Not that Sloane couldn’t carry Dex’s weight—he could carry Hobbs’s weight if he had to—but Sloane was on his stomach with his face buried in his fluffy pillow wanting to sleep. His body was sore from all the TIN training, and he was determined to make the most of their time off.

“You’re comfy, but mostly I need you to get up.” Dex rolled off him, landing beside Sloane. “Baby, I neeed you to get up.”

Sloane huffed and cracked open one eye which he promptly narrowed at his far too awake husband. “How are you awake?”

“I had coffee,” Dex replied, his smile huge. “A lot of coffee.” Were his pupils dilated? Was his husband having one of his random hybrid moments? They seemed to be happening with more frequency lately. At times he appeared all Human, and other times he was giving off some serious Therian vibes that had Sloane’s inner jaguar clawing to get free to reclaim his mate. It was freaky and a little concerning.

“I’m awake,” Sloane said, rolling onto his back. Dex straddled his stomach and leaned in, his floppy hair falling forward and in need of a cut.

“Hi, Handsome.”

Sloane’s heart swelled, and he placed his hands on Dex’s hips. “Hey, beautiful.”

“Guess what today is?”

Sloane pretended to think about it. “Isn’t today the anniversary of Ash threatening you for the first time with bodily harm?”

“No, that’s next month.”

Sloane tapped his fingers against Dex’s waist. “Let me think.” He slid his hands up under the worn out and well-loved Journey T-shirt. “Is it the anniversary of when we first met?”

“Also next month. You’re just stalling so you can feel me up,” Dex teased.

“Am I?” Sloane grabbed Dex and rolled them over so Dex was beneath him. He smiled down at his husband.

Husband.

Sloane still couldn’t believe it sometimes. How was it possible this beautiful man got even more gorgeous with age? Next month it would be five years since they’d met, yet it felt like a lifetime ago. A few extra lines had appeared in the corners of Dex’s brilliant blue eyes when he smiled, and when he grew out his beard the blond was interspersed with some gray. Leaning in, Sloane brushed his lips over Dex’s. “Happy birthday, baby.”

Dex blinked at him. “Birthday?”

“Um, yeah.” Sloane shook his head with a chuckle. “It’s your birthday today. Isn’t that why you’re excited?”

“What? Oh, right! It is my birthday, isn’t it? That’s not why I’m excited. I’m excited because we’re going to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert!”

“Of course.” Sloane should have known. It wasn’t as if Dex hadn’t been going on about it for months. Because of their training, they’d been out of the country on and off for several months, and each time they missed a tour date. The moping had gotten so serious that Sparks had insisted they take a month off, conveniently around Dex’s birthday when two of his husband’s favorite bands happened to be in concert. Sloane had surprised Dex with front row tickets. He’d been rewarded handsomely for his gift. In fact, he’d been rewarded for days, and he had a feeling he’d continue being thanked after the concert.

Since they were flying to Tampa, Ash and Cael were coming with them. Although Ash had no desire to be “in Satan’s taint” as he put it, Cael was so excited he could barely sleep knowing they were all going to visit his favorite theme parks the day after the concert.

“I’m concerned,” Dex said, his expression serious.

“About?”

“Ash. You know how he feels about humidity. Has he ever been to Florida? By his comment about Satan’s bits, I’m going to say he has not.”

“I told Cael to buy him summer clothes,” Sloane said.

Dex’s gasp of delight was epic. “Oh my God! I can’t wait. What do you think are the chances of Ash ending up in a tropical shirt?”

“I think the chances are slim. Like, Letty and Ash sitting down and sharing their feelings with each other slim.”

“I don’t know. Chirpy can be pretty persuasive.”

Sloane moved his gaze to their packed suitcases then back to Dex. He peered at him. Dex’s smile had him groaning. “Oh God, what did you buy me, and how bad is it going to assault my vision?”

“Come on, we’re going to be in Florida in August. It’s going to be hot as balls.”

“Answer the question.”

“It’s a very modest, lightweight, button-down shirt. It’s even black.”

Sloane arched an eyebrow at him.

“With palm trees. And sailboats.”

Sloane let his head hang, ignoring Dex’s laugh.

“Come on, Babe. You’re going to look sexy as always. I promise.”

“Should I even ask what else you stuck in my suitcase?”

Dex waggled his eyebrows. “Don’t worry. All the fun stuff is in my suitcase.”

Sloane opened his mouth then closed it. If he didn’t know, he wouldn’t worry. Heaven help the poor TSA agent who decided to check Dex’s luggage because God only knew what his husband had packed.

“We should start getting ready,” Dex said, pushing against Sloane’s chest. Sloane didn’t budge.

“Sweetheart, you do realize we went to bed two hours ago, right?”

“What?”

Sloane dropped back down onto his side of the bed then pulled Dex close. He kissed his goofy husband and covered them with the duvet. “It’s just after midnight. We don’t have to get up for the airport for another five hours. You should get some sleep.”

Dex stared at him. “But Sloane, I drank so much coffee.”

“You’ve drunk so much coffee that I’m pretty sure your blood type is coffee. You can go to sleep. I know you can.”

“How?” Dex whispered, peering at him. “How do you know, Sloane? Is it a sixth sense? Can you sense it? Your jaguar keeps sensing all kinds of weird shit lately.”

“I know it because we’ve been training how to do it for months.”

“Oh, that’s right. Have you set all the alarms?”

Sloane closed his eyes and smiled as Dex cuddled close. “Yes, Dear. I have set all the alarms.”

“Good. Night.”

Within seconds, Dex’s soft snores filled the room, and Sloane couldn’t help but give his husband a squeeze. “I love you,” he murmured before placing a kiss on Dex’s brow. In a few hours, they would be in Florida. It was only a mini vacation, and Sloane knew Dex was disappointed the rest of the team couldn’t take the time off, but Sloane was determined to give Dex a birthday he wouldn’t soon forget.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 6/28/18

PromptWe all know Dex is a trouble magnet with a super big heart. Maybe they work on a case and during a raid they find a little 5 year old bratty Therian Jaguar girl, whose needs looking after till her family can be found.


FINAL PART

Dex noticed Sloane had something hidden behind his back as he walked over to Solange. “Sorry I took so long.” He stopped next to her then knelt. “Guess what? Your mommy and daddy are on their way to pick you up, and look who’s here.”

Solange squealed when Sloane presented her with a stuffed lion toy, and Dex couldn’t help his laugh. It had floppy arms and legs, a big brown nose, and the biggest, craziest mane Dex had ever seen. She got her little arms wrapped around it, and hugged the stuffing out of it.

“So what have you two been up to?” Sloane asked, just as Ash entered the room.

Maybe the floor would swallow Dex up, and he wouldn’t have to witness this crushing, life altering moment. Okay, maybe he was being a little dramatic, but still.

Ash opened his mouth when Solange piped up.

“Dex and I were singing!”

The room plunged into silence, everyone staring at Solange.

Sloane blinked at her. “You were singing?”

“Yep. We were here the whole time, and we were singing a fun song. Do you want to hear it?”

Sloane nodded.

Two words in and Dex was on the floor in a fit of laughter. Ash’s eyes were huge, and Sloane had a fist to his mouth to keep himself from laughing. Meanwhile, at the top of her lungs, Solange sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Ash looked so confused, and Dex was afraid he’d pee his pants he was laughing so hard. “What’s happening right now?”

Solange continued to sing, her voice going up really high in pitch for certain parts of the song, and Dex just couldn’t breathe.

“Yeah, no.” Ash turned and left.

“Do you like it?” Solange asked Sloane.

Sloane laughed softly. “I do. I also think it’s very sweet for you to cover for Dex.”

Dex froze. He sat up, and gaped at Sloane. “You know?”

Sloane stood, and held a hand out to Dex, helping him to his feet. He made sure to stand where he could keep an eye on Solange. “Yes, Babe. I came back to ask Solange a quick question and didn’t see either of you. I figured she managed to sneak away.”

Dex narrowed his eyes. “Ash told you, didn’t he?”

“He did. Yes. Like, the moment he saw her.”

“Where was she?”

Sloane chuckled. “Here.”

“What?”

“She was hiding under my desk.”

Dex’s jaw dropped. Hiding in plain sight. Of course she was. Man, he felt like an idiot. He not only lived with a jaguar Therian, he was mated to one. They were experts at hiding so they could pounce. Sloane’s desk was the first place he should have checked.

“That’s also why we smelled her scent.”

Dex nodded his agreement. He thought her scent hadn’t changed because she’d just been in the office, but in truth it was because she hadn’t left. That sneaky sneak. “Wait, how did she end up with Ash if she didn’t leave the office?”

“He dropped by to discuss the case and found her sitting in my chair, but no you. When he asked her where you were, she said she’d show him.” Sloane looked down, and Dex followed his gaze. Solange stood beside him tugging at one of his pockets.

“Don’t be mad at Dex. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have pretended to run away. He’ll be a really good daddy, I promise.”

Sloane’s expression softened, and he picked Solange up, his smile making Dex melt. “You know what? I think he’ll make a great daddy.”

“You do?” she asked, her smile wide.

Sloane nodded then gave them each a pointed look. “I’m not happy with either of you, but that doesn’t change how great I think you both are.” He turned his attention back to Solange. “You shouldn’t pretend to sneak away like that, or actually sneak away. You really worried Dex. What if you weren’t somewhere safe? How would your mommy and daddy feel if something happened to you?”

Her bottom lip jutted out in a miserable pout. “They’d be sad.”

“They’d be heartbroken.” Sloane turned his attention to Dex. “I’m not sure what you were doing when Solange pulled a Houdini on you, but she reminds me of a certain someone.” He shook his head in amusement. “I take my eyes off you for two seconds, and next thing I know, I find you Duct taped to a medical examiner’s table.”

Solange arched a perfect little eyebrow at Dex. He was being judged by a five-year-old. Splendid.

“Here’s a life lesson. Never steal cookies from a wolf Therian. They are very serious about their food. Especially cookies. They might look all sweet and nerdy, but don’t let that fool you.”

Sloane laughed, and Solange giggled.

“I’m glad my misfortune amuses you two,” Dex said with a sniff.

Sloane pulled him close, and kissed his temple. “I love you. But next time, call me, huh? We’ll work it out together.”

Really, Dex should have known better. “I will. I’m sorry. I just kind of freaked out a little.”

“I know. That happens when your blood sugar is low. Then you crash. So how about I stay with Solange while you get yourself something from the canteen.”

“Have I told you lately how amazing you are?”

Sloane shrugged, his smile dazzling. “I’m not going to complain if you feel the need to say it again.”

“You’re amazing.” Dex kissed Sloane’s cheek before heading for the door. As he headed for the canteen, he thought about Solange and how after everything she’d stuck up for him, so he wouldn’t get in trouble with Sloane. She was a good kid. He thought about the reason he’d take his eyes off her, and an idea struck him. He’d run it by Sloane, but he didn’t think Sloane would mind. Ash on the other hand….

“I hate you so bad right now,” Ash hissed.

When Solange’s parents arrived to pick up their little girl, after her mother bawled her eyes out and her father paced the office in a controlled rage at the babysitter’s negligence, everyone settled down. Solange’s parents were pressing charges, and they had every right to. They’d trusted the babysitter with their precious child, and their trust had been betrayed. Both parents had gone pale when they’d discovered where Destructive Delta had rescued her from, and they were extremely grateful. The THIRDS had made new allies.

As they talked, Dex discussed his idea with Solange’s parents, and then Solange’s mother broke down in tears before lunging herself at Dex, and hugging him tight.

As it turned out. Dolly wasn’t just any lion, but actually Growly the Grumpy Lion, a very famous children’s TV show lion. A British kids TV show lion. Growly was a lion Therian who in his Human form wore a giant crazy mane and was super grumpy which the kids found hysterical. Who would have known that within their ranks they had their own Growly the Grumpy Lion. And, oh, he was very grumpy right now.

Ash sat in the middle of circle of kids, arms crossed over his expansive chest, big fluffy mane with little lion ears over his head.

“Do you live in the jungle?” A little Human boy asked, waving his hand in front of Ash’s face.

“No. I live in Leeds apparently. Probably because it starts with an “L”. Why it couldn’t be London, I don’t know.”

“You don’t sound British,” another little boy said.

Ash sighed, and when he spoke, Dex just knew he was imitating Hudson. If Hudson were a grumpy ass lion Therian pretending to be a British wolf Therian. “I’m British. I drink tea, and eat cookies, but I call them biscuits because I like to be difficult.”

The kids all laughed their little faces off and Hudson frowned.

“I don’t sound like that.”

“Eh, you kinda do.”

Hudson narrowed his eyes at Dex. “As if I would take the word of a biscuit thief.”

“You’re just strengthening his case.”

Sloane stepped up beside Dex, and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him close. He kissed Dex’s temple and spoke so only Dex would hear. “I think you’ve just made Solange the most popular kid at her school. How did you get all the parents to let their kids come?”

“I just used my Daley charm.”

“Too bad that charm won’t work on Ash. I love you, Babe, which is why when this is over, I’ll try and buy you some time so you can make a run for it.”

Cael stepped up to Dex’s right. He was so smitten as he watched his boyfriend. “I had no idea Ash was so good with kids. He’s amazing. Also, you’re a dead man. Just saying. I’ll try and buy you some time, so you can get away.”

Dex chuckled. “I appreciate that my family is willing to risk the wrath of Ash to give me a running head start, but I really don’t think it’ll be necessary. I think he’s secretly enjoying it.”

One little girl launched herself into Ash’s arms. He lifted her up and she sneezed. She’d also had a mouth full of fruit juice which Ash was now wearing.

Dex hugged Cael then turned to Sloane and kissed him. “Make sure my grave says I died valiantly in combat.” Dex took off to the sound of Ash roaring his name. Yep. Just another day at the office for Destructive Delta.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 6/21/18

PromptWe all know Dex is a trouble magnet with a super big heart. Maybe they work on a case and during a raid they find a little 5 year old bratty Therian Jaguar girl, whose needs looking after till her family can be found.


PART THREE

How good could a five-year-old be at hiding?

The answer was very good. Dex had less trouble hunting down wanted criminals than he did finding this kid. He casually strolled through the bullpen, paperwork in his hands so as not to look suspicious. Nonchalantly, he began checking under desks. She had to be somewhere around here. He hadn’t heard back from Hobbs or Calvin, so they clearly hadn’t found her either.

“Um, what are you doing?”

Dex popped up and grinned widely at Taylor. “Hello, Ellis. How are you doing this fine evening?”

Taylor narrowed his eyes. “Don’t call me that. Why are you snooping around Angel’s desk?”

“Not snooping. I’m um, inspecting for dust bunnies.” Dex bent over and looked around. “Nope. No bunnies of any kind.” He straightened, removed a pen from his pocket, clicked it, and scribbled on his paper. “Excellent work. Those dust bunnies can wreak havoc if not properly contained.”

“I’m sure,” Taylor replied wryly.

“Well, I better get to inspecting the rest of the floor. Thanks, El.”

“That’s definitely a no. No nicknames, no abbreviations.”

Dex opened his mouth to ask why when Angel appeared, his smile cheerful.

“Hi, Dex.” Angel turned to Taylor, and his smile widened. “Hey, E, ready to go see Hudson about those lab results?”

Dex arched an eyebrow at Taylor, holding back a knowing smile when Taylor’s cheeks turned pink, and he narrowed his eyes at Dex.

“Shut up, Daley.”

Ooh, he’d been demoted to Daley. Ouch.

“Sure,” Taylor grumbled, following Angel.

Dex unleashed his smile once Taylor was gone. He couldn’t wait for Taylor to finally give into whatever he was clearly feeling for Angel, and just make a move. The suspense just might kill him. Speaking of killing. He was also going to be a dead man if he didn’t find Solange. He continued his inspection of the bullpen. Had it been anyone else, his fellow agents would have wondered what the hell he was on, but it was him, so t hey didn’t even spare him a glance. Hm, maybe he was getting to be a little predictable if his coworkers didn’t so much as bat an eye to his behavior.

“Lose something?”

Shit. Dex cursed under his breath. Of course. Because out of all the agents in Unit Alpha, of course it would be Ash who stumbled across his fuck up. Dex stared at Ash and the little girl in his arms. To add insult to injury, not only had Ash found Solange, but she was doing a little happy wiggle in his arm while she sipped on her juice, because clearly Dex was the big scary guy, and the huge ass growly lion Therian was what? Dex narrowed his eyes at her.

“Really? So I’m scary? What about him?” Dex motioned to Ash, ignoring Ash’s arched eyebrow.

Solange beamed brightly, and petted Ash’s head. “He’s like Dolly.”

Dex was torn. On the one hand, he was insulted by the fact she believed he was scarier than Ash, who reminded her of her dolly, which Sloane had sent Cael and Rosa to pick up from her house. On the other hand, she was comparing Ash Keeler to her dolly. In the end, tormenting Ash won out, and he burst into peals of laughter until he had tears in his eyes.

“I am underwhelmed,” Ash said with a grunt. “The only reason you’re still conscious right now is because there is a child present. One that’s not you. Also, I get to be there when Sloane finds out you lost the kid.”

Dex’s laughter died. “You can’t tell him.”

“Oh, yes I can, and I will.” Ash’s grin was pure evil. He turned and headed for Dex and Sloane’s office.

Dex couldn’t believe he was about to say this, but what choice did he have? “Please, I’ll do anything.”

“Believe me, there is nothing you can promise me that will be worth more than watching you crash and burn in front of Sloane.”

“But… but that’s just mean.”

“I’m sorry, have we met? Do I look like I care?”

“Yes. You do care. You pretend otherwise, but I know you love me.”

“That right there just landed you an expedited trip to your demise.” Ash pulled out his phone, and Dex groaned.

“Man, who peed in your Cheerios this morning,” Dex grumbled.

“Keep it up, Justice.”

Stupid Ash. While Ash called Sloane, Dex removed his phone from his pocket, and sneakily snapped a photo of him while Solange was turned away, so he wouldn’t capture her face. Despite being pissed at Ash, Dex couldn’t deny the adorable picture the two made. Solange was tiny next to Ash. He carried her tucked against him, his arm around her, like he’d done it a hundred times, her weight probably not even registering. Solange had her little arm around his neck and she bopped along to some imaginary song.

Dealing with kids wasn’t knew for them. Sadly, in their line of work, they often found themselves rescuing Therian kids from danger, but once the danger was over, usually Dex, Cael, and Rosa took over because most of the time, the kids didn’t respond well to the larger Therian agents, especially the Apex predators. Other times, they only responded to Therians of their classification, like the way Solange responded to Sloane. Nine times out of ten, the kids were scared shitless of the lion Therian agents. Ash never took it personally which Dex thought was kind of shitty because he knew it was down to the years of prejudice Ash had faced, not just for being a Therian, but for being a lion Therian. Yes, Ash was a surly bastard, but he was a good man.

Right now, he was also a jerkface.

“I can’t believe you’re going to tell Sloane.” Dex dropped down into his chair with a huff while Ash carefully sat Solange down in Sloane’s chair. She smiled up at him, dimples showing. Damn, she was good.

“Can I have some water?”

“Sure. I’ll be right back. Don’t move, okay?”

Solange nodded, and Ash headed for the door, pausing long enough to give Dex a pointed look. “Don’t lose her again.”

Dex glared at him, but didn’t respond.

Solange kicked her feet happily as she smiled at Dex. “You’re going to get in trouble.”

“He sighed. No, not really. Sloane might get mad, but it’ll be okay. Mostly he’s probably just going to be disappointed.” Dex couldn’t help his sigh. “I don’t mind if he gets mad. I deserve it. I’m just worried he’s going to think I won’t make a good dad.”

Solange cocked her head to one side. “Why?”

“Because I lost you.” Dex jumped to his feet and started pacing. “I mean, we’re getting married. It took him a long time not to freak out at just the thought of having a kid, and then he tells me he wants a family one day. What if he decides he made a mistake? That I’m not ready to be a parent. Not that we’re planning on being parents anytime soon, but what if this was like a test, and oh God, I failed miserably.” Dex fell back into his chair. “I suck.”

“Hey, guys.” Sloane walked into the office, his big smile making him look even more handsome. God, he was so madly in love with Sloane, and that meant he would face whatever consequences came his way. Chances were Ash would walk through that door any minute now to gloat about Dex’s epic failure.

Well, time to face the music.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 6/14/18

PromptWe all know Dex is a trouble magnet with a super big heart. Maybe they work on a case and during a raid they find a little 5 year old bratty Therian Jaguar girl, whose needs looking after till her family can be found.


PART TWO

Dex had faced off against many a nefarious foe, but none had been as devious, sharp, and dangerous as the one sitting in the chair across from him. Narrowed amber eyes dared him to make the first move. He wasn’t falling for it.

“You’ve lost, Buttercup. That big hunk of man is mine.”

Solange narrowed her eyes to slits, and Dex waited. Suddenly she sat up, and sniffed the air before her lips curled into a wicked smile.

Wait. What’s happening here?

She inhaled deeply then let out an ear-piecing wail just as Sloane walked through the door with a sippy cup and small container of veggie sticks.

“Dex, what happened?” Sloane hurried over to her, and she raised her arms up so he could carry her. “It’s okay, sweetheart. There’s no need to be scared.” He lifted her into his arms to comfort her, and when he turned away, she stuck out her tongue at him. The little sneak!

“I didn’t do anything. She’s trying to steal you away from me.”

Sloane turned to arch an eyebrow at him. “Really, Dex? She’s a five-year-old, not your nemesis.”

Oh, she’s both, Sloane. Believe me, she’s both. Dex narrowed his eyes at her.

Solange pulled away, bottom lip quivering as she pointed to Dex. “Scary man.”

Dex’s jaw all but hit the floor. “What? Are you kidding me?” They were in their office in Unit Alpha. The floor was filled with huge ass Therians of all classifications, and he was the scary one?

Sloane put Solange down in his chair. “Aw, it’s okay. He’s really not scary at all. In fact, he’s usually very silly.”

“Oh, now I’m silly?” Dex crossed his arms over his chest, and pouted. “I am not silly. I just happen to have an exceptional sense of humor and childlike wonderment.”

Sloane hummed. “Tell me, who was it that refused to go down the doll aisle in that toy store when we were called in to remove that drunk Therian frat boy?”

“Hey, I had a very grownup and legitimate reason for not going in there.”

“And that was?” Sloane asked, looking amused.

Damn him and his stupidly handsome face that Dex wanted to kiss all over.

“Dolls are creepy. I’ve seen Chucky.”

“That was just a movie,” Sloane said with a chuckle.

“It was,” Dex agreed, “but I also saw Chucky. Literally. There was a Chucky doll in there. So, H to the no. Who would buy their kid a Chucky doll? Then again….” He eyed Solange who blinked innocently at him. Yeah, I can see right through you. You’re not fooling anyone. Okay, maybe you’re fooling Sloane, but not me.

Sloane turned for the door, and Dex pointed to his eyes then to her, mouthing the words “I’m watching you.”

“Look after her for a few minutes while I check in with the Sarge. We’re trying to get a hold of her parents.”

“Wait!” Dex jumped out of his chair, and ran over to Sloane talking quietly. “You’re leaving me alone with her?”

Sloane laughed softly. “Dex, what’s gotten into you? She’s just a kid. You’re great with kids.”

“Yes, kids. Not spawns of Beelzebub.”

“Oh my God, you’re not really jealous, are you?”

Dex sniffed. “No.”

“You’re a terrible liar,” Sloane said, kissing him. It was short, but sweet. “Just use that Dexter J. Daley charm. You’ll be fine.”

Sloane was right. He was overreacting.

Dex turned, and walked over to their desks. Solange sat in Sloane’s chair, her little legs kicking back and forth as she sipped her drink and crunched on her veggie sticks.

“I think we got off on the wrong foot,” Dex said, taking a seat on the edge of the desk. “I don’t think you’re really trying to steal my fiancé.”

She looked up at him and smiled. “Sloane’s my boyfriend now.”

“Listen, kid. You’re five. I have T-shirts older than you.”

“Sloane’s going to have tea with us. The Queen’s coming, and I’ll be a princess. The Duchess Mrs. Bunny-Fluffs will be there, and Prince Puppy-Pants. Then Sloane will come to my birthday party, and he’ll tell all the kids at school that they have to come, and they will because he’s a THIRDS agent and they have to listen to him.”

Dex frowned. “Did the kids you invited to your party say they weren’t coming?”

Solange wrinkled her nose, her legs stopped moving. She stared down at her veggies, and just shrugged.

“What school do you go to, Solange?”

She told him, and Dex went to his desk interface. He placed his palm to the scanner to wake it up. Typing away, he did a search on the school, and sighed. It was an elite private school where most of the students were from wealthy families. Wealthy Human families. Damn. These were kids whose parents were politicians, government officials, and high-profile media personnel. Several names he recognized, and they were good people. So why wouldn’t they let their kids go to Solange’s birthday party? It couldn’t be just because she was a Therian.

“Solange, do you—” Dex jumped from his chair. No. No way.

She was gone.

Oh fuck. Sloane was going to kill him!

Dex ran out of the office, into the bullpen. There was no way he was going to find her on his own. The floor was huge with a never-ending number of places a tiny Therian could squeeze into. He was going to need backup. Dex tapped his earpiece then remembered Sloane would hear him. Shit. He ran to Calvin and Hobbs’s office.

“Guys, I need your help.”

Hobbs looked at Dex then around him. He put his hand out to the side about waist height.

“I lost her.”

Calvin shot to his feet. “You what? Are you insane?”

“Seriously, all I did was check something on my system, and when I looked up, she was gone. Please. We gotta find her before Sloane finds out.”

Calvin snorted. “You really think Sloane isn’t going to find out? For all we know, Solange is with him now. She’s really taking a liking to him.”

“Please.” Dex ran over and grabbed Calvin’s shoulder. “Whatever you want, it’s yours. I can’t let Sloane think I’d make a terrible parent.”

Calvin’s expression softened. “Dex, this doesn’t mean you’d make a terrible parent. Of course we’ll help you finder her.”

“Thank you.” Dex hugged Calvin tight. “You’re a good friend.”

“It’s going to cost you your Star Wars Rebel Resist backpack.”

Dex gasped as he jerked away. “Scratch that, you’re an extortionist.”

“Do you want our help, or not?”

“Fine,” Dex growled. “But you only get the backpack if we find her before Sloane does.”

“Deal.”

Dex spun on his heels, and jabbed a finger in Hobbs’s direction. “Your boyfriend’s a jerkface.”

Hobbs shrugged, his smile wide.

They headed out into the bullpen to find Solange. “Hobbs, can you check that she’s not already with Sloane? Calvin, you search the areas outside the bullpen, I’ll search the bullpen. Do not tell anyone I lost the kid. She’s gotta be around here somewhere.” He wasn’t worried that she wasn’t safe. Unit Alpha was the safest place she could be, and there was no way she could leave the floor. Only Unit Alpha authorized personnel could enter and exit the floor, and no one was going to let an unaccompanied five year old go anywhere.

It was going to be fine. He could do this. Ash told him all the time that he had the brain of a child. If anyone could find her, he could. He just hoped he found her before Sloane did.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 6/7/18

Prompt: We all know Dex is a trouble magnet with a super big heart. Maybe they work on a case and during a raid they find a little 5 year old bratty Therian Jaguar girl, whose needs looking after till her family can be found.


PART ONE

“On my signal.”

Sloane’s low growl carried through Dex’s earpiece, and he replied with a quiet, “copy that,” along with the rest of the team. They had an arrest warrant for a wolf Therian responsible for the deaths of two young Therians thanks to a dangerous synthetic drug he’d been dealing around the clubs. According to Intel, the guy was holed up in the multimillion dollar brownstone down the street.

They fell into formation behind Sloane, and quickly headed for the house in question. There were at least four other Therians in the house, possibly armed. The street was barricaded with the Sarge keeping surveillance inside their BearCat on one end, and West doing surveillance from Theta Destructive’s BearCat on the other.

They swiftly approached the front steps of the house, and followed Sloane up, standing to one side as Sloane gave the signal, and Ash hurried past with the breaching gun. As soon as he pulled the trigger, and the door was open, they flooded into the house shouting orders, and checking the rooms.

Sloane signaled for Dex, Cael, and Letty to check the rooms upstairs, so they left their team to check the rest of the house. Dex checked the first room. It was a bathroom.

“Bathroom’s clear,” Dex said before moving onto the next room. It was dark, but thankfully that wasn’t a problem for him anymore. He slowly crept around the room, checking behind the door, the closet, and under the bed before turning on the light. A small shadow appeared in front of him and he screamed. Holy shit! That had not been in the room a minute ago. That was the last time he watched a Japanese horror flick before bed.

A little girl stood staring at him. She was stinking adorable with her pitch-black hair tied up in a side ponytail and her pink Hello Kitty pajamas. She had on pink socks with little red hearts on them. Aw. The classification tattoo on her neck said she was a jaguar Therian—which would explain the silent ninja moves—and she couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. Her big amber eyes were fixated on him.

Sloane’s voice came through his earpiece. “House has been cleared. We’ve secured Hill and his crew. Sarge is pulling up the BearCat now. Dex? Where are you?”

“Upstairs,” Dex said quietly. “I, um, found something.” He crouched down slowly in front of the little girl. “Hi, there. I’m Dex. It’s going to be okay. You’re safe now. Is your mommy or daddy here?”

Her bottom lip wobbled, and her big amber eyes filled with tears.

Uh oh. Oh no, no, no. Please don’t cry. Please don’t cry. “Hey, it’s okay,” Dex soothed.

An ear-piercing shriek that nearly split Dex’s eardrum infiltrated his helmet, bouncing around, and making him hiss at the pain. It was followed by groans and curses from the rest of his team.

“What the fuck was that?” Ash growled.

Dex ignored him. “Uh, Sloane? I need you. Right now. I need you this second.” Dex tried to gently hush the girl, cooed at her, tried to soothe her. She glared at him and screamed louder. Oh sweet Jesus. How do I make it stop?

Dex felt Sloane’s presence before he even saw him. He glanced over his shoulder, relieved.   

“Jesus, what the hell is making that noise?”

Dex stood, and moved out of the way, watching as Sloane’s eyes went huge. He stared at the miniature banshee intent on summoning some otherworldly beast.

“What uh….” Sloane cleared his throat. “What exactly is it you want me to do?”

“Kneel.”

“What?”

Dex knelt down, and motioned for Sloane to do the same. They needed to show the little girl that they weren’t a threat. Dex smiled softly at her. “This is my partner Sloane. He’s a jaguar Therian too, just like you.” Dex took hold of Sloane’s chin, and turned his face so she could see his classification mark. “See.”

The wailing stopped, replaced by sniffles.

Oh thank God.

Her eyes remained glued on Sloane whose gaze darted to Dex and back. Dex nudged him.

“What?”

“Do something.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Smile.”

Sloane smiled tentatively, and Dex coughed into his hand so he wouldn’t laugh. Clearly, Sloane knew him too well, and elbowed him before clearing his throat and holding his hand out to the little girl.

“Hi, I’m Sloane. What’s your name?”

She squinted at him then looked him over. “Are you really a THIRDS agent?”

Kinda judgy for a five-year-old.

Sloane nodded. “Yep.” He pointed to the “THIRDS” name tape then turned so she could see the THIRDS patch embroidered on his sleeve.

She took her time thinking about something before sighing. It was the most put-upon sigh Dex had ever heard in his life. Like they were the most exasperating people on the planet and were eating into her very valuable time.

“I’m Solange.”

“That’s… a very unique name,” Dex said.

“It’s French. It means “solemn”,” she stated, her chin lifted high, and small hands on her hips.

Dex nodded. He held back a smile as he moved his gaze to Sloane. “It means solemn.”

Sloane peered at him suspiciously. “What?”

“If you take out the “g” in Solange, and move the “l”, you get another name.”

“What are you—Oh.” Sloane narrowed his eyes at Dex. “Funny.”

“Sloane? Dex? What’s going on in there?” Tony asked. “Everything okay?”

Sloane tapped his earpiece. “Yeah, um, we’ve got a Therian child up here.” He smiled at Solange. “Sweetheart, are your parents here?”

Solange shook her head. “They’re in an airplane. Nat was babysitting me at home, but her stupid boyfriend said he was bored and wanted to play video games at his place.” She folded her little arms over her chest, her scowl fierce. “He didn’t even let me bring Dolly.”

“Okay. Did you hear that Sarge?”

“Yeah, we don’t have Nat in custody. We’ll bring Solange to HQ with us, see if we can locate Nat or the parents.”

“Copy that.” Sloane smiled that big gorgeous smile of his, and Dex almost swooned. Solange certainly did. “Okay, Solange. How about we take you back to THIRDS headquarters with us, and we’ll see about getting a hold of your parents, okay?”

Solange nodded, her big amber eyes widening slightly. “Can we stop by my house and pick up Dolly?” Her bottom lip did that little quivery thing, and Dex had to give it to her. She was good. Sloane’s expression softened.

“Of course we can, sweetheart.”

She threw herself at him, and he caught her, chuckling before he lifted her into his arms. With a little sigh, she snuggled against him, her little arms wrapped around his neck. Sloane turned for the door, and she lifted her head to look at Dex then she stuck her tongue out at him.

What the…?

Dex narrowed his gaze, and gasped when she mouthed the word “mine.”

Oh, it’s on now.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 4/19/18

Prompt: Tony and the boys when they were young. I would like to see the first time that Cael had coffee and how they figured out he can’t have it ever again.

PART TWO

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod! Don’t freak out. It’s cool. Everything’s cool. So his hyperactive, cheetah Therian little brother ate a bunch of sugar and drank an entire cappuccino. It was fine. They were fine.

“Dex,” Cael whispered loudly.

“Yeah?” Maybe Dex had gotten lucky and the caffeine wasn’t affecting Cael. Other than the blown pupils, he was just sitting there. Shit. He was just sitting there.

“Everything is so sparkly.” Cael gasped. “It’s like magic! Let’s go the enchanted woods!”

“The what now?”

Cael jumped up in his seat, and Dex made a dive for him, but he wasn’t fast enough. His brother scrambled onto the table then jumped off before running out the door.

“Oh crap!” Dex grabbed Cael’s backpack, and hauled ass out of the diner after Cael, shouting out apologies as he pushed people out of his way. Cael was heading straight for West 22nd St. “Cael, stop!” Dex ran as fast as he could, snatching Cael by the back of his T-shirt just as a car came careening around the corner. He jerked Cael back against him as the car skidded to a halt, horn blaring, the guy behind the wheel cursing him out, and flipping him off.

“Butthead!” Cael shouted at the guy before dropping to his knees, leaving Dex with an empty shirt in his hand. What the heck was happening right now?

“Cael!” Dex chased his brother into the park, and then his annoying little brother disappeared into the bushes. “Damn it, Cael! Get your little butt out here! I swear, if I get grounded because of you, I’ll—”

“Hi, Dex! Dexter! Look at me! Dex!”

Dex stomped through the bushes, parting shrubbery, and checking behind trees. Little, snot-nosed—

“Look how high I am, Dex!”

Dex’s eyes widened. No way. No, no, no. He looked up, and gasped. Cael sat on a tree branch, in his underwear, swinging his legs.

“Where the hell are your pants?” Just as he said the words, they fell onto his head. He snatched them off then glared at his brother. Of course he’d gone up a tree. Why wouldn’t he? He was a felid. A felid hopped up on caffeine. Scaling a tree in a public park, half naked made perfect sense. Their dad was going to kill Dex. No, first he was going to ground Dex for life, then he’d kill him.

“How did you get up there?” Dex walked around the tree trying to find something he could use to boost him up. How the hell had Cael done it? He was nine, and tiny.

“If I go higher maybe I can touch the clouds!”

“No,” Dex scolded. “No touching the clouds. No touching anything. Just sit there and don’t move until I figure out how to get you down.” He looked frantically around, ignoring Cael’s whine.

“But I want to. Deeeex, they’re so fluffy!”

“They are not fluffy. They’re just water drops floating in the sky.” There had to be something.

“That sounds like science! You’re a science nerd!” Cael cackled his little face off.

“You take that back!” Dex dropped Cael’s stuff at the trunk of the tree before finding a bump sticking out from the tree on one side. It must be what Cael had used. He put his sneaker to it and pushed off in the hopes of reaching one of the heavy branches. Damn felids. And Cael wasn’t even full grown. Why couldn’t his brother have done what any other kid would have done and run for the Jungle Gym? Nope. His brother had to involve nature.

“Are you okay? Do you need me to call the police?” A bystander asked. He looked up and squinted. “Or the THIRDS.”

“Nope. I’m good,” Dex said, making another jump, his fingers grazing the branch.

“Are you sure? The kid’s one of them. We should call the THIRDS. What if he’s dangerous?”

Dex stopped jumping and narrowed his eyes. “He’s nine years old and sitting in a tree in his underwear. He’s not dangerous.”

“He’s a felid,” the guy replied, frowning deeply.

“He’s just a kid, and he’s a cheetah Therian. He gets distracted by yarn balls. Thanks for your concern, but it’s fine.”

The guy folded his arms over his chest. “He’s an animal.”

Dex stilled. He moved away from the tree. “What did you call my brother?”

The guy’s eyes widened, his hands dropping to his side. “But… you’re Human.”

“And you’re an asshole,” Dex snapped.

“That’s it, I’m calling the THIRDS,” the guy snarled.

“No need.”

They all turned at the gravelly voice, Cael’s happy shout the only sound in the otherwise quiet park that was no crowded with bystanders.

“Daddy!”

Tony was in full uniform, his black windbreaker displaying THIRDS in large white letters on his back. He looked huge, and scary like he always did in his uniform. Everyone took as step back as Tony approached the tree. He arched an eyebrow at Cael.

“Cael.”

Cael’s bottom lip wobbled, and he sat at the end of the branch. Tony held his arms out, and Cael dropped down into them. Tony caught him like it was nothing, and Cael wrapped himself around their dad.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Cael said with a sniff. “I drank all of Dex’s coffee, and now I need to wee, and everything’s really loud and bright, and I can hear colors!”

“It’s okay, kiddo.” Tony patted Cael’s back, and turned to Dex. “Grab your brother’s things.”

Dex hopped to it, stopping beside his dad who paused to narrow his eyes at the man who’d been a jerk earlier.

“Was there something you wanted to say to me about my son?”

The guy looked like he was about to pass out. He was sweating. A lot. “Uh, no. Nope. I mean, no, Sir.”

Tony grunted. “Good.” He turned to Dex. “Help me take off my jacket.”

Dex quickly helped Tony take off his windbreaker, first one arm then the other before Tony wrapped Cael up in it, and held him close.

“Let’s go. Your brother needs to burn through the caffeine in his system.”

Parked on the curb was one of the THIRDS huge black SUVs. Tony opened the back door then climbed in with Cael. Dex climbed in after him, and shut the door. Behind the wheel was a huge guy in uniform with fair hair.

“Dex, this is our newest recruit to Unit Alpha, Rafe. Rafe, this is my son Dex, and my youngest, Cael.”

Dex tried not to stare at the guy who turned briefly to nod a greeting at Dex. He had hazel-green eyes, and a very stern expression. Yep, kinda terrifying.

“What kind of Therian are you?” Dex asked.

“Dex,” Tony scolded. “Manners.”

“Sorry,” Dex muttered. He wasn’t trying to be rude, he’d just never seen a Therian that big before. Not up close. There weren’t a lot of Therians at his high school, and most of them were way smaller than this guy.

“Tiger,” Rafe replied gruffly as the car started moving.

“Cool.” Dex had been doing all kinds of research on Therians. Even though he planned on joining the HPF instead of the THIRDS, Tony said it was important for him to know as much as he could about Therians if he wanted to make a difference. Tony had told Dex all about how his mon, and his dad, John, had believed in Therian equality. They’d wanted to make a difference, and so did Dex. The HPF was filled with anti-Therians. Dex was going to change that.

“Get dressed, kiddo.” Tony said, handing Cael his clothes. “I’m sorry I’m late. The THIRDS is making some structural changes,” Tony explained. “We’ve got new recruits coming in daily, along with some new Team Leaders. I’ve been assigned my own team.”

“That’s awesome! What’s it called?”

“Destructive Delta. The Team Leader I have in mind is a little young, but I think he’s going to do great.”

“What’s his name?”

Tony opened his mouth to reply when the SUV stopped.

“Here you go, Sarge.”

“Thanks for the ride, Rafe.” Tony patted Rafe’s shoulder. “See you Monday.”

“You’ve got the weekend off?” Dex hopped out of the car, and grabbed Cael who was singing quietly to himself, making Dex smile. Little dork.

“Yep.” Tony closed the SUV door, and ushered them toward the house. “Things are going to get a little crazy—crazier—at work, so I was given the weekend off.”

Both Dex and Cael jumped and cheered as they ran into the house. A whole weekend with their dad! Ever since Tony joined the THIRDS he’d been working way more hours than he’d been at the HPF. A whole weekend was going to be totally awesome.

“So,” Tony said, arms crossed over his chest, and a deep frown as he faced Dex. “Explain the coffee?”

“Coffee!” Cael whooped and started running around the living room screaming, arms flailing, and somehow he was in his underwear again.

Dex was so going to be grounded.


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

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