THIRDS Thursday - 5/3/18

Prompt: How does Ethan's family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)? 

PART ONE

“No way!” Calvin stared up at the apartment complex. “You live here?”

Ethan shrugged. He looked embarrassed, and Calvin knew why.

“Yeah, it’s a really shitty neighborhood.”

Ethan nodded, his cheeks going pink as he looked down at his sneakers.

“It kinda sucks less now though.”

Ethan tilted his head, his brows drawn together in question. This was so awesome. Calvin couldn’t help his huge smile. He pointed to the apartment complex next door.

“That’s where I live.”

Ethan’s eyes went wide, and then his face lit up. He pointed to Calvin then at the building, and Calvin nodded.

“Yep. We just moved into that roach motel.” He scrunched his nose, and Ethan nodded. He waved a hand over his nose, and Calvin laughed. “Yeah. The hallway smells like piss, but it’s worse at night.” He followed Ethan inside the building and toward the stairs. Now that he was in Ethan’s building, he felt kinda scared. “What if they don’t like me?”

Ethan stopped on the steps, and smiled at him. He shook his head. It didn’t help that Ethan still looked kind of a mess from earlier when Ruben and those jerks had pushed Ethan around. His clothes were all dirty, his jeans torn, and his lips split. What if Ethan’s family hated him because he was a Human? Just because Ethan’s mom was Human didn’t mean she’d like Calvin. The rest of the Hobbs family were tiger Therians.

Ethan grabbed Calvin’s wrist, and started running up the stairs, making Calvin laugh.

“Hey, slow down! Some of us have short legs!”

Ethan laughed, and Calvin smiled wide, his heart skipping a beat. He had a best friend. He’d always wanted one. What if Ethan’s brothers didn’t like him? What if they told Ethan he couldn’t be friends with Calvin? The thought made the back of his eyes sting. He’d just have to show them that he’d be a good friend to Ethan.

They reached the floor Ethan’s apartment was on, and Calvin was out of breath. Man, he couldn’t wait to grow up and be tall. Maybe then he could be fast enough to keep up with Ethan. If Ethan’s family didn’t kick him out, he’d call his mom to let her know where he was so she wouldn’t worry. She wouldn’t be home until nine anyway, but still. It was almost dinner time since they’d had to take the extra long way home. Stupid Ruben. His brother and friends had come to pick Ruben up at after school and Ruben had told his brother something about Ethan. They’d chased Calvin and Ethan for blocks. Man, he was tired.

Ethan opened the door, and Calvin followed him inside, putting his bag down beside Ethan’s. The apartment was a little bigger than the one he and his mom lived in, except here there were four Therians sharing the tiny space. If Ethan was this big at eleven, Calvin couldn’t even imagine how big his brothers were.

“Hi, baby. I’m so glad you’re home. I was getting worried.”

A pretty woman around his mom’s height with dark brown hair and hazel eyes walked out of the kitchen, her eyes tearing up when she saw Ethan. She hurried over, and dropped to one knee in front of him to cup his face.

“Ethan, are you hurt anywhere else?” She checked him over, her worry turning to anger. “Is it those boys again?” She shook her head, tears in her eyes. “How much worse does it have to get before that sorry excuse for a principal does something? That’s it. I’m asking Rafe to go in and speak to him.” She stood, and Ethan grabbed her hand, his eyes wide as he shook his head adamantly. “Ethan, Rafe’s a THIRDS agent now. If that man won’t listen to me, maybe—”

Ethan shook his head, pleading.

“We’ll discuss this with your father later.” She looked at Calvin and blinked, as if seeing him for the first time. “Oh, hello. I’m so sorry. I’m Julia Hobbs.” She held her hand out to Calvin, and he shook it.

“Calvin Summers,” he replied. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Hobbs.”

Julia smiled brightly, and Calvin relaxed. She seemed really nice. “Are you a friend of Ethan’s?” she asked, looking to Ethan who nodded, his smile big.

“We’re best friends,” Calvin said cheerfully.

Her eyes grew glassy, and Calvin wondered if he said something wrong.

“Is that okay?”

Julia pressed her lips together, and nodded. “Of course, sweetheart. Hey, would you boys like some milk and chocolate chip cookies? Dinner won’t be ready for another hour. A couple of cookies wouldn’t hurt.” She winked at them, and they followed her excitedly into the kitchen. It was small, with a table and four chairs in one corner. Ethan sat on one side, and Calvin sat across from him. He thanked Julia for the glass of milk, and cookies. They were so good! They were homemade too.

Julia took a seat at the table with a cup of tea. She looked worried. “Calvin, do your parents know where you are?”

“My mom is at work. She won’t get home until nine. May I use your phone later to call her, so she won’t worry?”

“Of course you may. What about your other parent?”

Calvin worried his bottom lip with his teeth, and shrugged. “It’s just me and my mom.”

“And will your mother… be upset if she knows where you are?”

Calvin frowned. “Why would she be upset? She only gets upset if I’m not home when she gets home from work, since it’s late, or if she doesn’t know where I am. Stuff like that.”

“Does she know you and Ethan are best friends?”

Calvin shook his head. “We only became best friends today. She’s going to be really happy.”

Julia perked up. “Oh?”

Calvin nodded and took another bite of his cookie. “She’s a mom. She worries. It’s a new school.”

“And will your mom be okay that your new best friend is a Therian?”

Ethan stiffened, his brows drawn together, and his eyes watery. He pushed his chair back, and jumped down before running from the room. What the heck? Calvin jumped down, and ran after him.

“Ethan!”

Ethan ran into a room, and Calvin followed. There was a set of bunks beds on one side, and another bed on the other side of the room. Ethan threw himself on the bottom bunk, and covered his head with a pillow.

“What’s wrong?” Calvin asked as Ethan curled up on himself. He wouldn’t let go of the pillow when Calvin tried to pull it away.

Julia sat on the edge of the bed, her hand on the pillow where Ethan’s head was buried under. She looked so sad. Calvin looked up at her, not understanding.

“What did I say?”

“Calvin, honey, your mother might not want you to be friends with Ethan.”

Calvin frowned. “Why?”

“Well, because Ethan’s a Therian.”

Calvin stared at her. “Is that all?”

Ethan sat up, and smacked Calvin with the pillow.

“Ethan,” Julia scolded.

Ethan huffed, and crossed his arms over his chest. Was that really it? Wait. Was that why Ethan didn’t have any friends? Because the other kids’ parents didn’t want Ethan? The more he thought about it, the angrier he got.

“That’s stupid!” He marched angrily from one side of the room to the other. Really, he didn’t get very many marches in because the beds were so close together, but he was so stinking mad! “My mom doesn’t care. She says Therians are just like Humans and should be treated like equals.” He spun to face Ethan. “My mom is going to love Ethan. Just you watch.”

Julia smiled wide, and Ethan flew out of the bed, running into Calvin and knocking him over with a big oomph! They hit the floor, and Ethan hugged Calvin tight, making him laugh.

“You’re such a dork,” Calvin said, but he hugged Ethan tight.

“Mom?”

Ethan sat up, his smile huge.

“In here, Seb, darling.”

Calvin sat up, his eyes going huge at the tiger Therian that stepped into the doorway. Oh my Gosh.


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

Autism Awareness Blog Hop

Hello, all! I’m honored to once again be part of the annual blog hop for Autism Awareness along with a fabulous group of authors. If you’d like to check out the other posts, you can do so here: http://rjscott.co.uk/autism-awareness-month-2018

Autism Fact:  Dogs have been shown to improve autistic children’s quality of life, independence, and safety. The presence of a trained dog can reduce aggressive behavior, calm the child, and serve as a link to the child’s community.

I may write about Big Cats, but at home, I have a different type of four-legged fur baby. I’m a big believer in the healing power of dogs. I love dogs. Love how they have the power to impact your life. Olly has certainly made a big dig difference in my life. He’s a four-year-old Doxiepoo who has done a world of good for me. Being an author, I spend a lot of time in my office behind my desk. Olly doesn’t just keep me company. He makes sure that I don’t spend too long at my desk without getting up. He takes a nap, maybe plays with some of his toys, and then decides enough is enough and mom needs to step away from the glowing rectangle.

When I don’t feel well, Olly knows. How do I know he knows? When I’m in bed he either curls up at my feet or on them. When I’m not well, he stretches out his long little body and is pressed against my side from nose to tail. Sometimes he’ll be at my shoulder. If I’m having a rough day, all I have to do is look at his little face, and it helps so much. He makes me laugh all the time with his weird little dog ways and his expressions. I swear sometimes he looks at me like I’m just so weird. It’s hysterical. He’s definitely a snuggler, and far too smart for his own good. He’s an expert at conning a treat out of you. I’m just blown away by how much love dogs have to give, how attune they are to their humans.

How about you? Do you have a fur-baby?

GIVEAWAY

I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one random winner.

Just leave a comment below. Giveaway ends May 4th at midnight Eastern US time. Winner will be notified via email and announced here on the blog shortly after.

*** GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***

Thank you all so much for joining in the blog hop, and for taking the time to comment. We have our gift card winner. Xanthe Anderson! Congrats! You should have received an email regarding delivery of your prize. Thank you all again so much for joining in!

 

THIRDS Thursday - 4/26/18

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 THREE

Man, his life was weird.

Dex stood just outside his little brother’s bedroom, hands on his hips as he watched Cael bounce around the room like a pinball machine ball. Shortly after his dad asked him to explain what happened, Cael distracted Tony by climbing up on the kitchen island counter, and proclaiming he was Superman. Knowing what was coming—and possessing the instincts of a fierce THIRDS agent and unflappable parent of two boys—Tony dove toward the counter just as Cael jumped, catching him before he could hit the floor belly first. Tony promptly decided they needed to “secure Cael” before any conversations happened.

Tony watched Cael, keeping him from climbing up on any more furniture while Dex “Cael-proofed” the bedroom. Every couch cushion, pillow, comforter, mattress, and throw pillow was currently in Cael’s room, lining the walls and floor. The furniture had been removed so Cael couldn’t climb anything and jump. Being a felid, Cael’s first instinct was to climb, and as he was not in his Therian form, not to mention still just a kid, there was no landing on his feet.

Until the caffeine wore off, there’d be no playing with anything that wasn’t soft and squishy. Not that Cael cared. He was too busy flinging himself at mattresses.

“Okay, now that we’ve taken care of your brother, explain,” Tony said, arms crossed over his chest.

“I left him alone for like two minutes! I didn’t know he was going to drink all my coffee, and you know what a pain in the ass it is to catch him, and on caffeine it’s even harder.

Tony narrowed his eyes. “What did I say about language and tone?”

“Oh, come on!”

“Dex,” Tony warned.

Dex thrust a finger out in Cael’s direction. “He was in a tree! Naked! Do you know how embarrassing that was?”

“Are you saying you’re embarrassed of your brother?”

Dex’s temper flared. “How can you say that? I was defending him! That asshole called him an animal and I wanted to punch his lights out, but you’re always telling us that you can’t fight stupid with violence. I would never be embarrassed of him. Why would you ask me that?”

“Why are you so angry?” Tony asked, his expression unreadable like always.

“Because I am.” Dex started pacing, his hands balling into fists at his sides. “Why do people have to be such assholes? Why can’t they just leave us alone? So what if we’re different? Who cares?”

“Son?”

Dex was so angry he wanted to punch something. “Fucking assholes.”

“Dexter.”

The soft-spoken word had Dex stopping in his tracks, and he reluctantly turned to face his dad, his eyes stinging at Tony’s concerned expression.

“What’s this really about, kiddo?”

“I left Cael alone because Tommy was at the diner. He was kissing another boy.”

“Oh.” Tony’s expression softened. “I’m so sorry, son.”

“He said it wasn’t serious.” Dex sniffed, and rubbed his eyes, hating that he couldn’t hold back the tears. “He was never going to be serious about me because… because you work for the THIRDS, and Cael’s a Therian.”

“Come here,” Tony said, pulling him close. Dex stubbornly didn’t move until his quietly dad said his name again then Dex flung himself into his dad’s strong arms. No matter what happened, his dad would always be there for him. “I know you cared about Tommy, but it’s clear he’s not mature enough to really understand you. If he has a problem with who you are, or who your family is, he doesn’t deserve you, kiddo. You’re too good for a guy like that.”

“Why don’t they ever stick around?” Dex asked, crying into his dad’s chest. It sucked. Boyfriends were jerks.

“Because you haven’t found the right guy for you. One day, you’re going to meet him, and he’s going to love you for who you are, because of who you are. He’s going to think he’s the luckiest guy in the world because you love him. It won’t be perfect. No relationship ever is. And I’m sure you’ll fight, and drive each other crazy, but you’ll stick by each other’s side through thick and thin. You’ll see. When you least expect it, you’ll run into him.”

Dex hugged his dad tight. “Thanks, Dad.”

“Dex.”

The wobbly, sniffly voice had Dex pulling away from his dad. He turned to find Cael standing on the other side of the mattress blocking the doorway, bottom lip trembling, big gray eyes filled with tears.

“Yeah?”

Cael lifted his arms, and Dex picked him up, laughing softly when Cael wrapped himself around Dex. Looked like the caffeine was finally wearing off.

“I’m sorry.” Cael sniffed before he started wailing in Dex’s ear. “Don’t be mad.”

“It’s okay, Chirpy,” Dex assured him gently, rubbing a hand soothingly over his back. “I’m not mad.”

“Tommy’s a butthead,” Cael said through his tears.

Dex chuckled. “He is a butthead.”

“You should—” Hiccup. “Put frogs—” Hiccup. “In his locker.”

“I don’t think the frogs would like that.”

Cael nodded his agreement. He pulled away enough to look skeptically at Dex. “You promise you’re not mad at me?”

“I promise,” Dex assured him.

Cael hugged him tight before turning and holding his arms out to their dad. Tony took him from Dex, and Cael snuggled up close.

“How about we order a Therian-sized pizza from our favorite place?” Tony headed toward the stairs, and Dex followed.

“With extra cheese?” Cael asked, perking up.

“With extra cheese,” Tony agreed.

“Yay!”

As they headed downstairs to the kitchen, Dex shoved his hands into his jean pockets. Cael rambled on about how yucky coffee tasted and when could he have hot chocolate again, and for a moment Dex thought he was off the hook. They reached the kitchen, and Tony settled Cael at the dinner table with his Gameboy so he could order the pizza. He turned to Dex and arched an eyebrow.

“No phone for a week.”

Dex let his head fall back with an epic sigh. “But, Daaaad. I’ll be socially isolated.”

“You’ll see your friends at school,” Tony replied, heading for the phone.

“Yeah, but what if something happens after school? And what about over the weekend? How am I supposed to stay in the loop? My reputation will suffer.”

“You’re a teenager. You don’t have a reputation.”

“Totally not true.” Dex threw himself dramatically on the couch, face buried against the cushion. Man, he couldn’t wait until he was an adult. Things would be so much easier then.

“You know better than to turn your back on your brother. A few seconds is all it takes. What if he’d gotten hurt?”

Dex grunted.

The couch cushion dipped, and Dex turned his head, bottom lip jutted out when Tony put a hand to Dex’s hair.

“You’re a good brother, Dex, and I know it’s not easy. I’m at work a lot these days, and sometimes you just want to be out being a teenager, but it’s just the three of us kiddo. We have to look out for each other.”

Dex’s heart squeezed in his chest. “I know.” He hated that his dad had lost almost all his friends and family after adopting him and Cael, though it had been the Therian baby that had been the real issue for them. Screw them. They didn’t deserve his dad. “Can I still have friends over?”

“Yes, you can still have friends over.” Tony stood, and went back to the phone. “I’m sorry we missed the movie tonight. How about we go tomorrow?”

Both Dex and Cael jumped up from their seats.

“Can we get popcorn?” Cael asked excitedly.

“And nachos,” Dex added. “With extra cheese.”

Tony laughed. “Yes, fine.”

“Woot!” Dex turned to Cael, and they high-fived while doing silly victory dances around the kitchen. They had the best dad ever, and he was right. One day Dex would find the perfect guy for him, and their family would be even bigger and more awesome. One day.


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

Be Still My Heart - Official Release Day Giveaway!

Hello, all! Although Amazon released Love in Spades a day early (which, yay!), today is the official release day which means we're having an awesome giveaway to celebrate!!

One lucky winner will receive a Four Kings Security gift pack which includes a host of awesome goodies, including a pack of Ace's playing cards, tote bag, mouse pad, a handmade Four Kings bracelet, and more!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below!

Giveaway is open internationally. Ends May 1st, 2018 at midnight (Eastern US time), and will be announced on the blog shortly after. Winner will be notified via email and announced here on the blog shortly after.

Please allow time for your goodies to arrive.

When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.

Ex-Special Forces soldier Anston “Ace” Sharpe is fighting a different battle these days—one involving the world of private security across the state of Florida. As part owner of Four Kings Security, Ace and his fellow Kings tackle everything from armed transport and investigations to cyber intelligence and executive protection. Cocky, fearless, and brash, Ace isn’t afraid to take risks.

After years of working alongside his father, Colton Connolly is ready to take the helm at Connolly Maritime, but his father’s retirement is put on hold when Colton begins receiving death threats. If that isn’t bad enough, his father signs a contract with Four Kings Security to provide Colton with round-the-clock protection, despite his adamant refusal. Colton’s life has been turned upside down, the last thing he needs is a shadow, especially in the form of infuriating, sexy-as-sin Ace Sharpe, who seems to be on a mission to drive Colton mad.

Sparks fly the moment Colton and Ace meet on a sultry night club dance floor. But getting involved with a client, even one as fiery and beautiful as Colton Connolly, is a line Ace is unwilling to cross. Colton might be attracted to Ace, but he’d been burned before. He might be willing to put his life in Ace’s hands, but not his heart.

As the Florida nights heat up, so does their passion, and Ace and Colton are faced with a difficult choice—take the plunge and risk it all, or play it safe and walk away?

If Ace can keep a deadly threat from robbing Colton of a future…

BUY LINK

Amazon eBook and KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKS7L44 

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1717203248

💛 EXCERPT

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💛 PLAYLIST

 

 *** GIVEAWAY CLOSED ***

Thank you all so much for joining the giveaway! We have our winner. Chosen at random, congrats, Cazpedroso! You'll be receiving an email shortly on delivery of your goodies.


Love in Spades (Four Kings Security, Book 1) OUT NOW!!

Hello, all! I'm super excited to announce the release of Love in Spades, the first book in the Four Kings Security series! Amazon took a lot less time than I expected to get the book up, so it's out a day early! I can't wait to introduce you to the Kings! I hope you love these guys as much as I do. Happy Reading!

BUY LINK

Amazon and KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKS7L44 

BOOK DETAILS

Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Gay Romance Length: Novel. Print 300 pages Published: April 22nd, 2018 Publisher: Charlie Cochet Cover Artist: Reese Dante Ebook AISN: B07CKS7L44 Paperback ISBN-13: 9781717203243

SYNOPSIS

When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.

Ex-Special Forces soldier Anston “Ace” Sharpe is fighting a different battle these days—one involving the world of private security across the state of Florida. As part owner of Four Kings Security, Ace and his fellow Kings tackle everything from armed transport and investigations to cyber intelligence and executive protection. Cocky, fearless, and brash, Ace isn’t afraid to take risks.

After years of working alongside his father, Colton Connolly is ready to take the helm at Connolly Maritime, but his father’s retirement is put on hold when Colton begins receiving death threats. If that isn’t bad enough, his father signs a contract with Four Kings Security to provide Colton with round-the-clock protection, despite his adamant refusal. Colton’s life has been turned upside down, the last thing he needs is a shadow, especially in the form of infuriating, sexy-as-sin Ace Sharpe, who seems to be on a mission to drive Colton mad.

Sparks fly the moment Colton and Ace meet on a sultry night club dance floor. But getting involved with a client, even one as fiery and beautiful as Colton Connolly, is a line Ace is unwilling to cross. Colton might be attracted to Ace, but he’d been burned before. He might be willing to put his life in Ace’s hands, but not his heart.

As the Florida nights heat up, so does their passion, and Ace and Colton are faced with a difficult choice—take the plunge and risk it all, or play it safe and walk away?

If Ace can keep a deadly threat from robbing Colton of a future…

💛 EXCERPT

goodreads-badge-add-plus

💛 PLAYLIST

💛 PRESS KIT


The Foxling Soldati now available on audio!

Narrated by: Manuel Pombo Series: Soldati Hearts, Book 2 Length: 4 hrs and 3 mins Release date: 04-20-18 Audiblehttps://audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Foxling-Soldati-Audiobook/B07CHTXMPT

Synopsis

Foxling Toka has served the Soldati king for centuries, and now he attends to the kingdom’s cherished Soldati prince. It’s a position of honor, and as Toka helps the once-human prince adapt to their magical realm, he finds joy in their friendship. He also grows bolder in his encounters with Rayner, a Soldati warrior and the king’s second. But the laws are clear: servants and Soldati are not permitted to mate. It doesn’t matter that Toka lost his heart to the dashing cad long ago.

Rayner never imagined he would fall in love with a servant, but the clever and beautiful foxling has ensnared him, and he resents the regulations keeping them apart. When an arrogant and spiteful king visits from a neighboring realm, Rayner is in danger of losing everything. But Soldati warriors don’t surrender, and he intends to fight all the harder to keep Toka where he belongs - in Rayner’s arms.


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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