THIRDS Thursday - 4/12/18

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 ONE

“When’s Dad going to get here?” Cael huffed, swinging his legs back and forth on his side of the booth, his feet not touching the floor. “I’m hungry. And thirsty.”

“Soon,” Dex replied, rifling through Cael’s Tiny Toon Adventures backpack. “He probably got stuck at work.” He pulled out a sandwich bag with some pretzel sticks then handed them to Cael who scrunched his nose up at them. “Just until Dad gets here. Then you can have a burger that’s bigger than your head.”

“But I’m so hungry now,” Cael moaned. “I could die.”

Dex rolled his eyes. And his dad said he was dramatic. “You’re not gonna die.” He pulled out a kiddie cup with water, and placed that in front of Cael who eyed it like it was going to eat his flesh or something. “Would you just chill out.”

“Dex,” Cael whined.

Dex put his hand up. “Talk to the hand.” His hand was smacked away, and he was met with a very stern pout.

“How come you get to have pie?”

“Because I’m not a cheetah Therian whose hormones are all over the place.” Cael had his first shift just a little under two years ago, and since then his little Therian hormones were going nuts. The doctor told them not to give him anything with too much sugar or caffeine. His mood swings were totally freaked out. Sometimes he was sweet and adorable, sometimes everything made him cry, and sometimes he was a little shit.

“As if! You’re a teenager, so your hormones are just as bad.”

The duh was implied.

“Are you giving me sass?” Dex arched an eyebrow at him.

Cael’s exasperated sigh was loud as he rolled his eyes. He tilted his head and studied Dex who took a sip of his cappuccino because finally his dad said he could have coffee. Not that he hadn’t had coffee a long time ago, but now his dad knew about it. The diner didn’t actually offer cappuccinos, but the waitress thought he was cute, so he’d batted his lashes at her and boo ya! Cappuccino.

“Why does all your clothes have stripes now?”

“Because it’s cool,” Dex replied.

“You look like Freddie Krueger.” Cael giggled his face off at his own joke.

“Are you saying I haunt people’s nightmares?”

Cael nodded, his expression turning very serious. “Except you don’t kill people, you just annoy them.”

Wow. Pre-teens were the best. Not.

Dex brushed his long bangs away from his eyes, and glared at his little brother. “I remember when you used to be cute.”

Cael smiled wide and put his index fingers to his dimples. “I am cute.”

Dex snorted. “Whatever.”

“And your jeans are full of holes.”

“That is also cool.”

“It’s silly.”

“Because you’re nine.”

“Nine and a half,” Cael clarified. “If your boyfriend kisses another boy does that mean he’s not your boyfriend anymore?”

Dex almost choked on his coffee. “What?” he wheezed.

“I said, if your boyfriend kisses another boy does that mean he’s not your boyfriend anymore?”

Dex wiped the coffee he’d dribbled on himself. “Why would you ask that?”

Cael pointed behind Dex, and Dex turned to find his boyfriend—no, ex-boyfriend—sucking face with another guy. Dex jumped out of the booth, and marched over, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Hey, Tommy. Found his tonsils yet?”

Tommy jumped so high, he hit the table with his knees, spilling the milkshake he was sharing with some guy who was not Dex.

“Dex! What—what are you doing here? I thought you were going to the movies with your dad and little brother.”

“I am. Unlike you, I didn’t lie.” Dex grinned widely at the blond guy who looked like he was about to freak out. “Hi, I’m Dex. Tommy’s ex-boyfriend as of….” He checked his watch. “Two minutes ago, when I discovered he was a cheating asshole.”

“Come on, Dex,” Tommy said, running his hands through his long hair. “It’s not like it was serious or nothing. I mean, your dad works for the THIRDS and your brother’s… one of them.”

Dex flinched. He hadn’t expected that. “One of what?” he asked through his teeth.

“You know,” Tommy muttered, shrinking back into his seat as Dex loomed over him.

“I don’t know. I need you to be more specific, Tommy. You didn’t seem to have a problem with my family when you were moaning my name in the boy’s locker room during the pep rally.”

“Dex,” Tommy hissed, his gaze darting around the diner, and his face as red as his hair.

“Wait,” blond guy said, sitting up with a frown. “Last week’s pep rally?”

Tommy groaned and slunk down so far in the booth he was almost on the floor.

“You said you had band practice!”

Dex grinned. “Oh, he was blowing something all right, but it wasn’t a clarinet.”

The blond grabbed the milkshake and threw it in Tommy’s face. Dex jumped back quick enough not to get strawberry milkshake all over him. He laughed as the guy stomped out of the diner.

“Dex, please, I’m sorry.” Tommy grabbed his hand, trying to stop him from going. “It won’t happen again. I promise.”

Dex snatched his hand away. “You bet your ass it won’t. We’re over Tommy.” Jerk. He marched back to his booth, and stopped short. A gasp escaped him at the sight of pie crumbs, but it was the empty cappuccino mug that was freaking him out. He looked at Cael who was completely still, his pupils blown so big his silver eyes were black.

“Cael, where’s my coffee?”

Cael smiled big, and Dex took a step back.

“I drank it. Aaaaalllll of it.”

O.M.G.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 4/5/18 Love and Payne Excerpt + Giveaway

Hello, all! April has arrived, and for me that means edits, edits, edits. This month I'm working on edits for Love in Spades and Love and Payne. Plus I'm writing the second Kings book Be Still My Heart. These fellas are certainly keeping me busy!

For this week's THIRDS Thursday we have an excerpt from Zach and Austen's book, Love and Payne. Don't worry, no spoilers included! I'm so excited about introducing you all to the Zachary clan. Zach and Austen's book has been a long time coming. I hope you all enjoy following these two on their road to love. You can bet it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Also, there's a giveaway! Check the end of the post for more info.

Love and Payne Excerpt

“Who the fuck are you guys?” Edan asked, his wide eyes on Brayden.

“You okay?” Brayden asked, stepping up to Edan, his expression softening. “Did they hurt you?”

What the hell? “I’m fine, buddy. Thanks for asking,” Austen said dryly, catching his breath.

Brayden gave Austen a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“Whatever.” Austen waved a hand in dismissal before dropping onto the couch. Not like he could—or wanted to—compete with eye candy like Edan. The guy was sexy as sin, with bad boy looks and muscles to spare.

Colin glanced from Austen to Brayden and back before erupting. “What the ever-loving fuck is going on!”

Austen let out a snort. “And he says I curse a lot.”

Bram stood at the foot of Zach’s bed. “Caley said Zach’s boyfriend was in trouble.”

“I’m not his boyfriend,” Austen said with a heavy sigh. Why the hell did everyone think he was Zach’s boyfriend? Wait…. Austen sat up and peered at Edan, who was Zach’s partner in crime. The two were always together. “Did he tell you I was his boyfriend?”

Bram shook his head, and Colin let out a snort, his amber eyes boring into Austen. “If our baby brother had a boyfriend, he would have told us.”

“Well….”

Everyone turned to look at Edan, who cleared his throat, addressing Austen. “He never specifically used the word boyfriend, but the way he talks about you, and how often he talks about you, made me wonder. You’re Austen Payne, right? SSA for Destructive Delta.”

Colin frowned at his brother. “How come this is the first time I’m hearing about this?”

Edan rolled his eyes. “Because you go all Terminator protector mode on him. You know how much he hates that.”

Colin narrowed his eyes, then moved his wary gaze to Austen. “You and I are going to have a long talk about this.”

“No, we’re not,” Austen said, getting up. “Here’s what’s going to happen.” He pointed at Bram. “You’re going to call Lieutenant Sparks and tell her exactly what happened. She’ll take it from there.” He moved his finger to Edan. “You will relay to your lieutenant whatever Sparks tells you.” He turned to Colin. “And you’re going to make sure no one in your family knows what happened here. Meanwhile, I’m going to find a safe place to hide Zach.”

Colin moved forward. “Are you out of your mind? Who the hell do you think you are?”

Austen stepped up to Colin and poked him in the chest. “I’m the guy who’s going to keep your brother alive. Now you listen here. I’m only going to say this once. My priority is keeping Zach safe. Someone sent two trained killers after your brother. They won’t be the last. How do I know that?” He crouched beside the wolf Therian he’d killed, and pulled down the glove to reveal a tattoo of a black heart shredded through with a clawed hand around it. “Because these guys belong to the same network of killers for hire.”

“And you think the THIRDS can’t keep him safe?” Colin asked, sounding affronted. “You think you can keep him safe?” He let out a derisive laugh, and Austen bristled.

“You’re not just an SSA,” Edan said, looking from Austen to Brayden and back, “are you?”

Brayden gave nothing away. He came to stand beside Austen, his hands clasped in front of him.

“I’ve never seen SSAs fight like that.” Edan crossed his tree-trunk arms over his wide chest. “Considering your connections, I’m going to go with TIN.”

The air was sucked out of the room, the two remaining Zachary brothers staring at them in stunned silence.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that information. What I can confirm is that your brother is in someone’s crosshairs, and as skilled as you and your brothers are, my security clearance and skillset are above your paygrade. I can keep him safe.”

“And we’re just supposed to take your word for it? If you really are TIN, then for all we know your being here is what put him in danger in the first place,” Colin snarled, his hands curling into fists as he took a step toward Austen. Brayden placed himself between Colin and Austen. He had to lift his chin and stand on his toes, but the growl that followed his hiss was impressive for a guy who looked about as terrifying as a fluffy bunny.

“Listen here. Austen has been doing this far longer than you have. If he says he’s the best guy for the job, he’s the best guy for the job.”

“I don’t care who you guys are,” Colin spat, looming over them with a menacing scowl. “We’re his brothers. There’s no way in hell we’re going to stand down.”

Bram nodded his agreement. “We’re involved whether you like it or not. He’s our baby brother, so we’re not going to leave him out there on his own. I don’t care who you work for or how good you guys are.”

Austen knew enough about the Zacharys to know the brothers weren’t going to back down. Bear Therians were almost as stubborn as lion Therians. Almost. Austen let out a heavy sigh.

“Okay. But just Bram and Edan.”

“No way,” Colin ground out. “You’re not keeping me out of this.”

“You got kids. Hell, you have grandkids, Colin.” Austen shook his head. “I’m not having that shit on my conscience.”

“This isn’t up for discussion,” Colin stated firmly.

Goddamn bear Therians and their stubborn asses.

GIVEAWAY

Hello, all! I'm giving away a THIRDS swag pack which includes this snazzy TIN tote bag! Giveaway is open internationally.

To enter just leave a comment below with which THIRDS couple/characters you want to see get their book next!

Giveaway ends April 30th at midnight EST. Please allow a week for shipment of your goodies.

*** WINNER UPDATE ***

Thank you all so much for joining in the fun! Chosen at random, the winner is Didi P.! If you didn't win this time around, don't worry, we have more giveaways heading this way! Thank you!


TTC Books and More Annual Autism Awareness Auction

Hello, all! This year's annual autism awareness auction from TTC Books and More is underway, and I'm honored to be donating to this amazing cause.

My items for auction is a Four Kings Security "Employee Kit" Link: https://www.facebook.com/TamsBookBlog/photos/a.1543703375728538.1073741835.298952360203652/1547495798682629/?type=3&theater Auction: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1543703375728538.1073741835.298952360203652&type=3

What does the Four Kings Security "Employee Kit" include? Some really cool stuff!

Four Kings Security branded hoodie personalized with your initials Four Kings Security brand laptop bag Four Kings Security brand coffee mug, mouse pad, and a personalized employee lanyard.

There will also be a few little bits thrown in, like Ace's favorite brand of playing cards, a pack of which he always carried with him.

Due to the items in the giveaway, this is only available for US shipping.


THIRDS Thursday - 3/29/18

****SPOILER FROM TRIED & TRUE BOOK 10**** . . . . PromptWill we ever read of when Ash asked Cael to cohabit from their point of view?

PART THREE

Here goes everything.

Ash reached into his pocket, pulled out the copy of his house key, and held it out to Cael.

“I’d really love it if you’d move in with me.”

After racking his brain for what to say, overthinking his words over and over, he decided fuck it. He wasn’t a poet. He’d never been great at expressing his feelings, other than anger or annoyance, and although he was open with Cael, he was still not the pretty prose type of guy. He wanted Cael to move in with him, so that’s what he said.

Cael’s eyes went huge as he stared at the key in Ash’s hand. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him, but he ignored them, and focused on Cael, his heart pounding in his ears.

“Baby?”

Cael nodded and flung himself into Ash’s arms, and with a laugh, Ash caught him, squeezing him tight before kissing him.

“Yes,” Cael murmured against his lips. “Always yes.”

The words sent a shiver through Ash, and he let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He gently put Cael on his feet then took his hand, leading him back to the table. He braced himself.

Dex put his elbows on the table and let his chin rest on his hands. “So… what’s new?”

Ash rolled his eyes. Dork. He sat down, pulling Cael close to him. “I asked Cael to move in with me, and he said yes.”

Dex put a hand over his heart as he leaned against Sloane. “Our little lion Therian is growing up so fast.”

Ash flipped Dex off as he hugged Cael close. His heart was beating so damned fast he thought it was going to explode. Cael said yes. He glanced over at Letty who was not even being subtle about her “I told you so, asshole” look. He was pretty sure she was just dying to say the words.

Sloane sighed. “Seems like only yesterday he was threatening to stab me with knitting needles.”

Dex let out a bark of laughter.

From across the table, Taylor looked at Angel. “Hey, you know what you should get Cael as a housewarming gift?”

Angel’s eyes went wide. “Oh fuck. Don’t say it, bro. Please don’t—”

“A fern.”

The table broke out into peals of laughter, and Ash glared at Angel. “Why? So you can piss on it?” Who the fuck went around pissing on people’s houseplants? He didn’t care how drunk the guy had been. The plant had been in his fucking living room! Who did that? Just because he had a dick and needed to piss did not give him cart blanche to go around relieving himself wherever the fuck he wanted. Asshat.

“Fuck me,” Angel groaned. “One fucking time. One time.” He narrowed his eyes at Ash. “Okay, Keeler. You want a fern, I’ll get you a fucking fern farm.”

The rest of the evening was spent laughing, teasing, dancing, and drinking. By the end of the night, Ash was looking forward to getting home, especially since Cael was coming home with him. When they arrived at his apartment, he’d closed the door, hung up his jacket, and stood there, taking in all the evidence of Cael’s presence. The number of pillows on his couch had tripled since they’d started dating because Cael loved to be cozy, especially when Ash wasn’t home. There was also a super soft blanket in almost every room, and in some cases more than one.

Cael had his own drawer in the bedroom with everything from underwear and socks to pajamas and jeans. Ash had made space in his closet ages ago, so Cael could keep a spare uniform. That soon grew to include other items of clothing. Cael’s toiletries were in the bathroom, his favorite baking utensils in the kitchen, snacks in the pantry, food in the fridge. In the living room, half the movies were Cael’s, and Ash had extra shelves put in to house all the video games. Holy shit!

“Figured it out yet?” Cael stood on his toes and kissed Ash’s cheek.

“When did you start moving in?” Ash removed is boots then let himself be led into the living room. He sat down on the couch, and Cael dropped down into it, his boyish smile wide.

“From the first night you asked me to sleep over.”

Ash thought about it. “But we hadn’t even been dating.”

“True.” Cael’s cheeks flushed, and he shrugged. “But whenever I brought something over, instead of letting me leave with it, you’d say, “why don’t you just leave it here?” and so I did. It happened more and more until I realized that in your own Ash way, you were making me a part of your life. You wanted me here with you, but you weren’t ready for what that meant, so I just happily went along with it, hoping you’d realize what you wanted and ask me.”

Ash’s jaw went slack as Cael dropped that truth bomb on him. How the hell had he been so oblivious? Had he really been slowly moving Cael in with him without even realizing? Well, damn.

Cael laughed softly and kissed his cheek. “You’re so adorable.”

Only Cael could get away with calling him that.

“So,” Ash said, clearing his throat. “When do you want to move the rest of your stuff in?”

“How about after the wedding? Dex and Sloane will be on their honeymoon, and we can ask the rest of the team to help.”

Ash nodded. “Okay.” He smiled at Cael as he wrapped an arm around him, and brought him in close. “We’re really doing this.”

Cael cuddled up close, and Ash turned on the TV, smiling when Cael stretched his long, slender frame across the couch, and lay his head on Ash’s lap, lifting up when Ash moved one of the throw pillows beneath his head. Ash wasn’t really paying attention to the comic book based TV show. He was too busy being in awe of his beautiful boyfriend. All this time, Cael had known what Ash wanted before he did, but instead of pushing, he waited until Ash was ready. How the hell had he gotten so damned lucky? He brushed his fingers through Cael’s hair, his heart full. This right here, was everything he never thought he’d have.

You know what comes next, right?

“When do we pick up the rings?” Cael asked, looking up at him with big gray eyes.

“What?” Ash croaked.

“The rings? Sloane and Dex’s rings.”

Holy shitting fuck.

Ash coughed into his fist to give him time to collect himself. “This weekend.”

“You okay?”

“Yep. Great. Perfect.” He smiled, and Cael squinted at him.

“You sure?”

“Absolutely. Hey, isn’t that guy from that other show you watch?”

Cael turned his attention back to the TV. “Yeah. It’s the same universe, so they can do crossovers.”

Thankfully Cael became engrossed in his TV show like he always did, and Ash could breathe again. It was fine. He’d be fine.

One step at a time.

Cael turned his head and smiled up at Ash. There was so much love and adoration in Cael’s eyes, it stole Ash’s breath away.

“I love you, Ash.”

“I love you too, sweetheart,” Ash said softly as Cael sat up, and straddled his lap. He kissed Ash, and nothing had ever tasted sweeter.

Maybe one day….


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

THIRDS Thursday - 3/22/18

****SPOILER FROM TRIED & TRUE BOOK 10**** . . . . Prompt: Will we ever read of when Ash asked Cael to cohabit from their point of view?

PART TWO

Dex was ridiculous, but how could Ash hold it against him when he made Cael so happy? While the dork danced around the stage and sang one of his cheesy eighties songs, Cael sat on Ash’s lap dancing and singing, arms in the air. He was so damned beautiful, brightening up Ash’s life—and mood—like nothing or no one he’d ever come across. It’s what Sloane was always telling him, and Ash understood. Didn’t mean he thought Dex was any less of a man-child, but he understood now.

Ash wrapped his arms around Cael, holding on tight, and laughing as Cael rocked out. Everyone was in a good mood, dancing, singing, having fun. It was nice. It seemed like some shit was always going down, like they couldn’t catch a break, and holy fuck did he need a break. His life was complicated enough as it was with all the upcoming changes. Everything was changing. His job, Sloane getting married, him planning to ask Cael to move in….

“You okay?”

Cael’s voiced snapped him out of his thoughts, and he smiled. “Yeah. Can’t believe Sloane and your goofy brother are getting married.”

“I know, right?” Cael’s smile was wide. “But I can’t imagine my brother with anyone else. They’re just so perfect for each other.”

Ash wouldn’t have thought that back when Dex had joined, but at the time they’d all still been mourning Gabe’s death. To say Dex had rubbed Ash the wrong way was the understatement of the century. Over the years he’d grown on Ash. Like a fungus. He’d never admit it, but he could see now that Dex was good for Sloane. His best friend had healed, and Sloane wouldn’t have even considered that as a possibility for himself were it not for Dex.

“You’re very pensive,” Cael said, wrapping his arms around Ash’s neck, his sweet face filled with worry for him.

“Just thinking about everything that’s changing.”

“As long as we’re together, we’ll get through anything,” Cael assured him, kissing his cheek.

Now how the hell was anyone supposed to mope around Cael? “You’re right.” Ash cupped his cheek and kissed him, not caring who saw. He couldn’t believe that a few short years ago he’d been so hung up on being with Cael or showing affection for him in public. If he could go back, he’d have punched himself in the face for being such an asshole. Ash held Cael tight, and kissed his sweet, plump lips, loving the taste of them, how soft they were, and how right it felt.

When the song was over, and karaoke ended, everyone joined them at the table. They put in their drink and food orders, and Ash busted Bradley’s balls about the damned karaoke. The guy really needed to stop letting Dex loose on the damn playlists. Some eighties song played, and Dex jumped to his feet.

Ash let out a long, loud groan. “Bradley, you’re killing me, bro.” He shook his head, his frown deep. “How much is he paying you to play this shit?”

“Nothing,” Bradley said, smiling wide. “Come on, man. He’s getting married. I couldn’t say no. Look how happy it made him.”

When Sloane caved, allowing his annoying fiancé led him toward the dance floor, Ash shook his head in disgust at his friend. “You know, the word no exists for a reason, pal. You should try it sometime.”

“Pot, kettle, Keeler,” Sloane called out as Dex led him to the dance floor.

Whatever. Cael did not have him—Who the hell are you trying to fool, Keeler? Okay, yes, maybe Cael did have him sorta, maybe, kinda, a lot wrapped around his little finger, but who the fuck cared? If he could do something to make Cael happy, why wouldn’t he? Even his mom adored Cael. The two were thick as thieves. It was a little scary sometimes, especially when they plotted against him. Like the time his mom wanted them to go with her to see some musical on Broadway. As much as he loved his mother and Cael, he was not going to sit through hours of grown adults singing and prancing around in ridiculous costumes.

One Saturday night, he dressed up to join his mother and Cael at some snazzy restaurant for a nice evening meal, but afterward the cab dropped them off in front of the theater instead of home. His mom and Cael laid it on thick, huge pleading eyes, pouting lips, and fuck him if he didn’t march inside that stupid place, sit in his seat three rows away from the tutu wearing jackass, and take it like a fucking man, because he loved his mother and his boyfriend.

“Let’s play that game that who’s more likely game,” Letty piped up, and everyone agreed. Well this was going to be interesting. Dex and Sloane joined them just as Hudson took a sip of his drink. The doc was so going to be plastered before the game was even over. He was such a lightweight. It didn’t take long before Calvin got Dex, and the shots were lined up. Ash laughed his ass off when Cael spilled the beans on Dex being chased by the police in Spain for streaking, and then arrested in Vegas for swimming in the Bellagio’s fountain. Dex reminded Sloane that retribution was nigh after Sloane got drunk and called Maddock an old man.

Ash spit out a mouthful of beer that sprayed across the table, causing Calvin, Hobbs, and Dom to dive out of their chairs. Dex was in tears from laughing so hard.

“Fuck, Keeler.” Calvin got up off the floor, then picked up his chair, which had toppled during his swan dive.

Ash grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard, and he gaped at Sloane. “You called Maddock an old man?” Sloane let his head fall back with a groan, and Ash patted his shoulder. “It was nice knowing you, bro.” Frankly he was surprised Sloane had survived. Everyone teased Sloane, and Ash couldn’t wait to see what Maddock had planned for Sloane. As the table erupted into laughter and teasing, Ash realized that if he was going to do this, now was the time.

“Excuse us for a second,” Ash said, getting up. He took Cael’s hand and started leading him away from the table which got quiet for some reason. Ignoring them, Ash gently pushed Cael forward.

“Keep it PG, Keeler,” Dex called out. He never knew with this group.

Ash held up a finger in Dex’s direction. “Shut your mouth.” Fuck, he’d never been this nervous about anything in his life. He walked Cael over to one of the tallboys near the bar, and dried his sweaty hands on his jeans.

“Ash, is everything okay?”

“Yeah, um, this is gonna take a minute to get out, so bear with me.”

Cael nodded, his smile sweet as he stood patiently. He never questioned Ash’s motives, and always trusted him wholeheartedly. Sure, they got into fights. What couple didn’t? But they always talked things through, tried to see the other’s side of things. And the make up sex? Holy shit it was spectacular. There was so much he wanted to say, but had no idea how. How did he put into words what Cael meant to him? “I love you” didn’t seem to be enough. Ash cleared his throat. It was now or never.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 3/15/18

****SPOILER FROM TRIED & TRUE BOOK 10**** . . . . Prompt: Will we ever read of when Ash asked Cael to cohabit from their point of view?

PART ONE

“This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m even thinking about doing this. What if he says no? Fuck. What if he said yes. What if he agrees, and I end up driving away the best thing that’s ever happened to me? Godammitmotherfuck! Why are relationships so fucking shitting hard?”

“Are you done?”

Ash spun to face Letty and growled at her. “No, I am not fucking done. Fuck all the fucking fucks. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuuuck.” He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her. “Now I’m fucking done.”

“Your maturity is inspiring,” Letty replied, not looking impressed. “Why are you so worked up about this?”

Ash threw his hands out. “Did you not hear what I said?”

“Oh, you mean you used words other than ‘fuck’?”

“You’re hilarious. And not helping.” He dropped down onto the couch tucked in the corner of Dekatri’s roof garden where he’d asked Letty to meet him before everyone else arrived. Sloane was busy with training and his stupidly annoying fiancé. Everyone else would be arriving in a couple of hours and meeting downstairs like usual, including Cael who had some errands to run before tonight. Ash figured now was a good time as any to figure this shit out once and for all. He’d been going back and forth on it for weeks, and it was driving him out of his mind.

“Let me ask you something,” Letty said before taking a sip of her beer. “You want to, don’t you?”

“Yeah, of course I do. I wouldn’t even be thinking about it otherwise.”

“And you know he’ll say yes.”

Ash grimaced. “I don’t know that.”

Letty pointed her beer bottle at the bartender. “Dude, even the new guy who’s served you like twice knows Cael will say yes.”

Ash rolled his eyes.

“So, if you want Cael to move in with you, and you know he will, what’s the problem?”

“The problem, as I stated earlier when you weren’t fucking paying attention, is that I’m worried he’ll get fed up with my bullshit and I’ll end up driving him away. I can’t lose him, Letty.” Ash frowned down at his fingers and sighed. God, he was such a sap. He’d watched Sloane slowly spiral down the path of love and thought nope. He never thought he’d fall in love much less get to a point where he couldn’t imagine his life without that person. Granted, he loved Sloane and couldn’t imagine his life without him, but the thought of losing Cael was a completely different fear, and sometimes he just didn’t know what to do with that.

“Ash, Cael has been your boyfriend for over a year and a half. You’re practically living together as it is. If you haven’t scared him off by now, he’s not going anywhere.”

Ash sat up and turned to face. “Well damn, I’m glad I called you over because that little wisdom nugget you just shat out solved all my problems.”

Letty almost choked on her beer, and Ash didn’t appreciate her laughing when he was having a damned crisis. “Wisdom nugget? Oh my God, you’ve been hanging around Dex way too long.”

“Shut up.” He let his head fall back against the couch with a groan and glared at the ceiling. Having feelings was so damned annoying.

She snorted before taking another sip of her beer.

“Tell me, does Captain Kirk comment on what a delicate flower you are?”

Letty flipped him off. “You’re supposed to be advising me.”

“Ash.”

Letty’s soft tone made him turn his head in her direction again, and he was caught off guard by the tenderness there. It didn’t show itself often. Not that she wasn’t a kind person or didn’t care, she just wasn’t the kind to wear her heart on her sleeve. She’d been hurt too often for that, so she kept it all close to her chest, studied people, got to trust them before she opened herself up in any way. They really weren’t so different, though clearly Ash was the bigger, meaner, uncensored version.

“Here’s what I truly believe. I believe Cael is absolutely crazy about you. He’s been crazy about you since you met. And I know you won’t believe me when I tell you this, but you’re good for him.”

Ash scoffed. “You’re right. I don’t believe you.”

“You are, asshole. Haven’t you noticed how he’s become more outspoken?”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“Yes, it’s a good thing. Cael’s always been quiet, and unless someone hurt his family, Cael never really stood up for himself. His confidence since you to have been together has grown so much. He doesn’t let people take advantage of him, or talk down to him, and he’s gotten so much better at standing up to Therians bigger than him.”

Now that he thought about it, Letty was right. Cael was still sweet and kind as ever, but he was more self-assured now than when they’d first met, but he’d always put that down to Cael getting older. He’d been a fresh-faced college graduate when they’d met, and now Cael was in his thirties. Not to mention the last few years hadn’t been easy for any of them, but especially for Cael and his family.

“Why are relationships so exhausting?” He’d never been inside his own head so much in his life. Where Cael was concerned, Ash always stopped to think first. He never wanted to do or say something stupid that would end up hurting Cael. Sure, he messed up, but Cael taught him to stop, listen, and talk. Fuck did they talk.

“Because we’re all complicated creatures,” Letty said. “He’s been really good for you too, you know.” She playfully bumped into him, and he couldn’t help his smile.

“That I know. Sometimes when we’re watching TV and he’s cuddled up beside me on the couch, I look at him and wonder how the hell I ended up so lucky.” It really did baffle him at times.

“You know, Ash, one of these days you’re going to see what the rest of us sees.”

“And what’s that?”

She smiled warmly at him. “A good man.”

Well shit. Before he could respond, he saw Cael step out onto the rood garden. Fuck, he was beautiful. Cael turned, and when he saw Ash, a gorgeous smile spread across his face. It hit him hard. That smile was for him. Cael really was crazy about him. Deep down, he knew Cael loved him, but there was always that little niggling voice in his head that tried to fuck with him, insisting Cael wouldn’t stick around forever. Surely someone better for him would come along. What if that someone better was Ash?

Cael headed their way, and Letty patted his leg before getting up. “I’ll text you when everyone arrives. You love birds have fun in the meantime.” She turned and smiled at him. “It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

“Don’t tell anyone, okay? I want to ask him first.”

Letty nodded, and he knew she wouldn’t tell anyone, not even Rosa. Letty was one of the few people Ash could trust to keep a secret for him. Cael stopped to greet her, and they hugged before Letty headed off, and Cael dropped down onto the couch beside him.

“Hi, handsome.” Cael’s smile was dazzling, and Ash leaned in to kiss him. He’d never been one for public displays of affection, but with Cael, he didn’t care. There was no way he wasn’t kissing Cael, wasn’t holding his hand, or hugging him. Anyone who had a problem could fuck off.

Ash wrapped his arms around Cael, pulling him close against him, and Cael melted in his arms like he always did. He let out a soft sigh, his fingers curled into Ash’s shirt as he returned Ash’s kiss. It was slow, sweet, and full of love. In that moment, Ash decided. He wanted Cael with living with him. Hopefully, Cael would want the same. There was only one way to find out.


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

THIRDS Thursday - 3/8/18

Prompt: I would like to see our DD boys and girls along with their big cats having some fun and frolics in the snow after we only got a small taste of this in Calvin and Hobbs book...and any other THIRDS colleagues would be welcome to join in the playful games.


FINAL PART

“Damn it, Letty, stop stepping on my feet!”

Dex chuckled as Calvin and Letty—the two most competitive members of their group outside of Dex—continued to yell and tease each other. The tug of war seemed to be going nowhere fast. Letty and Calvin were on one side with Seb, Cael, and Hudson behind them while on the other side, Rosa led the team with Ash, Sloane, and Hobbs. Rafe lay in the snow to one side, tail twitching as he watched the two teams as if it were a tennis match. Dex could hear Hudson’s growls from where he stood. They were so not going to get that rope away from him when this was over.

Lucky for him, his friends all seemed determined to win, giving Dex plenty of time to put together the huge lion head, then the even bigger mane. He was smoothing out the big lion butt when he heard Letty’s curses, and looked up just in time to see her go head first into the mound of snow in the middle, followed by Calvin. Seb and Cael smartly let go of the rope which left it in Hudson’s jaws. He wagged his tail happily, and trotted off, rope dragging behind him. Rosa was on the ground laughing her ass off as Nina chased Hudson.

“No! Give it here! Hudson, you come back here this instant!”

Hudson paused long enough to wag his tail at her before darting off at full speed. Nina dove for the end of the rope, managing to catch it just before Hudson could get away. He stopped, and growled, shaking his head, and in turn the rope.

“Drop it,” Nina scolded. “Hudson.”

Hudson lowered his front, wagging butt in the air.

“Don’t get cute with me.” She marched over, and Hudson quickly released the rope, laying his head on it, his big eyes looking up at Nina. Dex snickered. She stood no chance. No one could resist that furry face. She was playing right into his paws.

“Damn it. Fine. But I want it back when you’re done. Try not to drool all over it.”

Hudson let out a series of little howls before he snagged the rope again and happily carried it over to Seb, dropping it at his paws. Seb chuffed, and Hudson plopped down against him, licking his muzzle. They were stinking adorable.

“Oh my God,” Rosa gasped then burst into laughter.

Dex stood back to admire his handy work as his friends ran over. “So who wants a picture first?”

“Ooh, me!” Rosa said, hand in the air as she jumped up and down.

Dex hadn’t just built any snow Ash. He’d made a snow Ash with his head lowered on his front paws, his mouth set in a snarl, and his big kitty butt in the air. It was also big enough for them to sit on and get pictures. He’d also found an old faded red baseball cap that he cut up and used for a little tongue. A flurry of brown mane swished over, and Dex grinned widely as Ash stared at his frosty doppelganger. He stretched his neck out to sniff at the faux lion.

“What do you think?” Dex asked, patting snow Ash’s mane. “I’m no artist, but I think I captured the snarl perfectly.”

Ash growled, sitting up on his hind legs and batting the snow lion with his paws like he was in a boxing match with it. Calvin was red in the face and on his back in the snow he was laughing so hard. Poor Hobbs sniffed at him like he was concerned about how much oxygen his boyfriend was getting at the moment. Letty was recording, while Nina took pictures, and Rosa was taking selfies on snow Ash. Cael sniffed at snow Ash, and a tiny pink tongue stuck out to lick its mane which brought Ash’s pummeling to a screeching halt.

“I can’t,” Dex hissed as he plopped down in the snow, Sloane coming to sit beside him. “Oh my God, this is better than I could have hoped for.”

Cael licked at the snow, and Ash huffed, getting Cael’s attention. Another huff, and Cael just twitched his tail. Dex had no idea what Felid conversation was happening right now, only that Cael’s apparent licking of snow Ash broke something in real Ash, and the dude went down. He flopped onto the snow, head on his paws, tail smacking against the snow. Dex gasped.

“No way. Simba thought you were licking another lion, Chirpy.”

Ash huffed, and buried his face under his paws. As gruff and testosterone-fueled as Ash was, he was ridiculously sweet when it came to Cael, and of course he was even worse in his Therian form, because although his Human side understood lion made of snow, he didn’t understand that was him made of snow. Cael chirped at Ash, and pushed his nose against Ash’s paws.

Dex crawled over to Ash, and ignored every rule against prodding agitated Felid. He tugged on Ash’s ear.

Ash sprung up with a roar, and snarled at Dex who just arched an eyebrow at his friend. He knew Ash wouldn’t hurt him. He might be an asshole, but he was still Ash.

“Hey, big guy. That’s you,” Dex said, pointing to the snow lion.

Ash peered at him before moving his head to the lion then back to Dex with a huff.

“Yes, fuzzball. I made a snow you. Your boyfriend was grossly licking a snow version of you.”

Ash sat on his haunches, and ex waited while that little tidbit sank into his kitty brain. His tail twitched, and Ash straightened.

“There it is.”

Ash mewed, and Cael pounced on him, licking and nuzzling him. Ash closed his eyes in contentment, basking in Cael’s attention. Dex looked over at Letty.

“Make sure I don’t forget this moment.”

Letty looked puzzled. “You want to remember your brother bathing Ash with his tongue?”

“What—Oh God, why, Letty?” Now he needed brain bleach.

“That’s what you get for joking about my hormones.”

Dex let his head hang. “Right. Got it. Consider the lesson learned. And no, I meant make sure I never forget Ash being jealous over a snow version of himself.”

“Oh, there’s no forgetting,” Rosa chimed in. “We have both video and photographic evidence which is backed up to the cloud.”

Once they’d had their fun, they helped the guys with PSTC, and when everyone was dressed, and steadily walking on two legs again, they all went for a hot meal at a nearby bar. Sloane leaned into Dex, murmuring quietly.

“Babe, I’m a little concerned for your safety right now.”

Dex laughed, especially when Sloane put his arm around Dex’s shoulder, his narrowed gaze on Ash. If looks could kill, Dex would have been dead times over by now.

“So, what’s everyone having?” Dex said, looking at his menu. “Oh look, the porterhouse steak comes with snow peas.”

Sloane groaned, and Ash leaned forward, his voice a low growl. “So, help me if you tell anyone about what happened, I will end you.”

“Tell anyone what? That you got jealous of snow version of yourself?”

“I wasn’t jealous,” Ash hissed.

“Really? Because the photos show otherwise.”

Ash stared at him. “What? What photos?”

Letty waved her phone at him, and he groaned before dropping his face into his hands. “Oh God. I’m never going to live this down.”

“It’s okay, Ash. No one’s going to show those to anyone,” Cael cooed, wrapping himself around Ash, and nuzzling his ear. “Besides, you know you’re the only one. I thought the snow version of you was just so cute. I didn’t want you to demolish it.”

Ash peered at him. “Really?”

“Yep. Of course nothing beats the real thing,” Cael said with a smile, and the two kissed like no one was watching. Dex rolled his eyes, and lifted his menu. He turned to Sloane who stole a kiss.

“Was it everything you hoped for?”

“And more,” Dex said, snuggling close, a shiver running through him.

“Aw, you cold, baby?”

He was just a little, but he wasn’t about to give up this golden opportunity to be cuddled by his big, sexy man. He nodded, and Sloane wrapped both arms around him, holding him close. He nuzzled the sides of Dex’s head, kissing his temple before they both went back to looking over the menu. The rest of their friends chatting, teasing, and laughing. Dex let out a happy sigh. Best snow day ever.


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

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