Gummy Bears & Grenades

THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley can’t wait to marry his fiancé, Team Leader Sloane Brodie, but first he’s looking forward to celebrating his bachelor party—which he intends to be a shenanigans-free evening of getting his groove on with family and friends.

Of course events don’t work out as planned, but for Dex that’s nothing new. One thing is for sure, dodging drug dealers and hired thugs amid booze, dancing—and even a bear costume—will guarantee it’s a night Dex will never forget. Now he just needs to survive all the fun.

Enjoy this bonus story from the THIRDS universe. These events occur between Darkest Hour Before Dawn and Tried & True in the series timeline. While reading this story would enhance your experience of the THIRDS series, it is not necessary to read before Tried & True.

Chapter One

SLOANE WAS overreacting. At least that’s what he kept telling himself. The situation wasn’t as dire as he was making it out to be. Plus, he had a whole support team in place, the majority of whom were highly trained agents. One was a TIN operative, for crying out loud. They all had his back. They knew what was at stake. How much trouble could one man get into?

“I think I should wear my work boots. They’re flame resistant.”

Oh dear God.

Sloane had to sit down. He sank into the armchair beside the closet while Dex tried to decide between his black designer boots and his THIRDS-issued military-grade combat boots.

“Babe?” Dex turned and chuckled. “Would you stop freaking out? It’s going to be fine.”

“Then why do you need the work boots?” How could Sloane not freak out when Dex was going to be out there without him? It wasn’t so much that he worried about Dex. Despite his mate being marked, Dex could handle himself. Sloane was confident in Dex’s skills. In fact, Sloane was proud of him. Proud of how far he’d come since his rookie days at the THIRDS. Dex had escaped Wolf, for heaven’s sake. No, he wasn’t worried about Dex. He was worried about everyone else. Their city was in danger of being thrust into chaos the likes of which it had never seen. Sloane wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready for his half-Therian mate to be out there without him.

Dex straddled Sloane’s lap, which made Sloane feel marginally better. A sweet kiss to his cheek, then the other, certainly helped. He closed his eyes as Dex brushed his lips against his temple, a feathery touch before Dex slipped his fingers into Sloane’s hair. The tension in Sloane’s shoulders eased, and he inhaled deeply through his nose, his mate’s scent like a soothing balm.

“It’s just a bachelor party,” Dex assured him.

“Your bachelor party,” Sloane murmured, enjoying Dex’s fingers in his hair. He’d have to cut it soon before Tony ended up doing it for him. He shuddered at the thought.

“You just thought about my dad cutting your hair again, didn’t you?”

Sloane opened his eyes to meet Dex’s sparkling blue gaze. He frowned. “He didn’t cut it. He butchered it. It was a traumatizing experience.” The snip of scissors still made him flinch.

“I know it was. It’s okay. No one’s going to lay a finger on your precious locks while I’m around.” Dex brushed his lips over Sloane’s. “Just think, in less than six months, you’re going to be Mr. Sloane Daley.”

Sloane couldn’t help his dopey grin or the way his heart soared at the thought. A part of him still couldn’t believe it was happening. He was getting married. Him. After Gabe’s death he’d resigned himself to a life without love, believing he was too broken to ever find someone who would want to keep him. Dex had challenged him in every way and proven to him how wrong Sloane was about himself, life, everything. Sloane couldn’t imagine his life without Dex. Smiling wide, Sloane slid his hands up Dex’s thighs to his waist, then wrapped his arms around his beautiful man. How had he gotten so lucky?

Glowing amber surged from Dex’s pupils, spreading through the brilliant blue. It stole Sloane’s breath every time. He put his hand to Dex’s cheek, mesmerized by the change. Everything about Dex enthralled him.

“You’re so beautiful.”

Dex’s sultry smile went right to Sloane’s groin. “Aw, you’re so smitten with me. I kinda like you too.”

“Yeah?” Sloane laughed softly. He took Dex’s hand and brought it to his lips for a kiss.

“Just a little,” Dex teased, wrapping his arms around Sloane’s neck.

Sloane hummed. “That so?” He slipped his hands down to Dex’s ass and gave his cheeks a squeeze before bringing Dex against him and his growing erection, making Dex moan. “Guess I’m going to have to try harder to change that.”

“Speaking of hard….” Dex ground his hips against Sloane’s, his breath hitching. “You trying to seduce me, Agent Brodie?”

“Trying?” Sloane stood with Dex in his arms, loving the quiet gasp Dex let out. He carried Dex over to the bed, then dropped him onto the mattress before swooping down to capture that pouting smile. God, he loved Dex’s mouth. Loved kissing his lips until they were pink and swollen. Sloane fumbled with Dex’s belt buckle as he growled against Dex’s mouth, “Maybe you need a little something to remember me tonight.”

Dex arched his back, his reply a gasp. “Yes.”

Sloane jerked Dex’s dress pants and underwear down before he got off the bed and grabbed the back of Dex’s knees. He tugged Dex over to the edge of the bed, yanked his pants off, and tossed them to one side of the bed. Needing to see as much of Dex’s naked body as possible, Sloane shoved Dex’s button-down shirt up his torso. He licked his lips at the muscles of Dex’s chest and the six-pack he now sported thanks to months of intense TIN training. Dex’s whole body was stronger, more defined, his biceps thicker, but that delicious tapered waist, the leanness Sloane loved, was still there.

“Sloane,” Dex moaned, his head back and his eyes closed as he palmed his hard cock. The sounds coming from Dex were decadent and sinful, moans and gasps he made because of Sloane only. Sloane grabbed the lube from the nightstand and quickly poured some onto his palm. He slicked himself before lining up. With a feral growl, he pushed inside Dex.

Dex’s mouth fell open in a silent cry, and Sloane sank deeper and deeper until he was settled against Dex’s ass. He wrapped an arm around Dex’s leg, his eyes never leaving Dex’s face as he pulled out and plunged back in. He leaned in, using his weight to pound into Dex, intent on making sure Dex felt him for hours.

“Feeling seduced yet?” Sloane asked, changing his angle and hitting Dex’s sweet spot.

“Oh God, yes!” Dex arched his back again, and Sloane moaned at the sight of Dex’s muscles tensing and the sound of his ragged breath as he came over his hand and abdomen. Running his fingers through the sticky mess, Sloane thrust his hips over and over, his release barreling through him. He growled out Dex’s name as his body tensed. He came inside Dex, and the heat and tightness around him, along with the force of his orgasm, had him doubling over between Dex’s legs. Needing to catch his breath, Sloane let his brow rest against Dex’s, smiling when Dex tipped his head back to brush his lips over Sloane’s.

“I love you,” Dex said softly, his fingers caressing Sloane’s jaw.

Sloane swallowed hard and turned his head, reluctant to give voice to his growing fear.

“Sloane? Talk to me, babe.”

“What if you get tired of it?”

Dex gently turned Sloane’s face so he could meet Sloane’s eyes. “Tired of what?”

“Of my feral half being so… possessive of you. Some guys hate it. I’m trying. I really am.”

“Sloane, I’m not ‘some guy.’ I’m your mate, and in a few months, I’ll be your husband. No one knows you and your feral half like I do. I know when you say I’m yours, or that I belong to you, you don’t really think I’m your property. You’re a good man, and I love how you love me. If I didn’t love you and all you are, just the way you are, I wouldn’t be here. We’re about to start a whole new adventure together, in more ways than one. I’m ready. I’m more than ready.” Dex’s beautiful smile, his eyes filled with so much adoration and certainty, chased the looming shadows from Sloane’s heart, like he always did. Even on his darkest days, Dex was a source of warm, radiant sunlight.

Dex’s smile grew wicked. “What do you say? Ready to unleash a whole new level of kickass on the world?”

“I’m a little terrified right now,” Sloane teased.

Dex waggled his eyebrows. “Come on, you know you want to.”

Sloane snickered. He nodded, sealing the deal with a kiss. “Wherever you go, I go,” Sloane promised.

“Sloane? Dex?” Seb called from downstairs, and Sloane sighed. Ash must have used his key to let himself and Seb in.

“I got no pants on,” Dex replied, and Sloane snorted out a laugh.

“We’ll wait down here.”

Sloane chuckled. He told Dex to stay put before grabbing the wet wipes from the nightstand, then handing them over so he could sort out Dex’s pants. With a smile, he handed Dex his bright orange boxer briefs, followed by his pants. Dex quickly dressed, tucking his shirt in and smoothing it.

Dex held out his arms. “How do I look?”

“Like you just got thoroughly fucked.”

Dex opened his mouth to reply, but no words were immediately forthcoming. “I’ll take it.” Chuckling, he walked over to the closet and picked up his dress boots. “I promise not to do anything that’ll make you regret asking me to marry you.”

“Nothing would ever make me regret asking you.”

Dex smiled sheepishly. “Can I get that in writing? Signed by a notary?” Sloane’s eyes went wide, and Dex patted his arm. “I’m kidding.”

Sloane followed him out of the bedroom and downstairs into the living room, where Seb and Ash were talking. They both stood and turned. Ash’s sniff was followed by a snort of disgust.

“Really, bro? One night. He’s out of your hair for one night and you couldn’t keep it in your pants?”

Dex winked at Ash on his way to the kitchen, where he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. Seb coughed and averted his gaze, his cheeks slightly flushed. Dex’s scent was kind of heady, but it would fade some as the night went on. It had been happening a lot more since the change to his DNA. He didn’t quite smell like a Therian, but he didn’t completely smell Human either.

Sloane shrugged. “Why should I?” Like he needed an excuse to have sex with his beautiful, sexy partner.

“You wanna maybe piss on him and mark your territory some more?”

“I wasn’t—” Sloane shut his mouth when he realized what Ash had said. In the kitchen, Dex almost choked on his water. He coughed and wheezed. Shit. Sloane took an interest in his boots, ignoring the silence in the room. At least until Ash burst into laughter.

“Holy shit, you didn’t? You did! You squirted Daley?”

“Charming.” Sloane wrinkled his nose. “It was a long time ago. I was in my Therian form, and we ran into some guy Dex had slept with in college or something. My feral half got a little… carried away, and it just sort of happened.” It had not been one of his better moments. God, he’d been mortified after he’d shifted back to Human form, and that was after several hours of Dex coaxing him to shift back.

Seb and Ash exchanged glances before falling into peals of laughter.

Sloane crossed his arms over his chest. “Whatever. Like you two aren’t as bad.”

Ash waved a hand as he got control of his laughter. “I have never had the urge to piss on Cael.”

“Because Cael’s a Therian and so is Hudson.” Sloane narrowed his eyes at his friends. A thought occurred to him, and he smiled evilly. “Maybe you haven’t had the urge to mark your boyfriends that way, but just try and deny that your feral halves haven’t had the urge to jump them while you were both in your Therian forms.”

The laughter died instantly.

Sloane grinned smugly. “That’s what I thought.”

Dex gaped at Ash. “Ew, dude, seriously? You want to jump my brother’s bones while he’s in his cheetah Therian form?”

“I don’t. My feral half wants to, and only while I’m in my Therian form. Jesus, Daley, what the hell’s wrong with you?” Ash shook his head as if he were trying to get away from the very idea.

Dex shuddered, then gagged. “Oh God, why? Why did you have to tell me that?”

Ash held up a hand. “Hey, in our felid forms, it’s perfectly natural. You know our animal instincts are at their strongest when we’re in Therian form.”

“There’s nothing natural about your lion ass humping a fluffy Chirpy.”

Ash rolled his eyes. “You’re an idiot.”

“This conversation has turned incredibly disturbing,” Seb said, shaking his head. “Why do things always get weird with you guys?”

Ash pointed to Dex. “That’s why.”

Seb’s expression was pained. “Can we not talk about humping in our feral forms? I would really appreciate that.”

The front door opened, and Hudson greeted them cheerfully. His smile quickly faded. “Why does everyone look so… distressed?”

“Because Ash wants to do my brother when he’s in his feral form,” Dex offered.

Hudson’s eyes went huge, and he gaped at Ash. He blinked and was suddenly in doctor mode, his expression turning sympathetic. “That’s not uncommon. Many Therians suffer from such conflicting emotions with regard to their feral halves and their partners. Perhaps if you discuss the matter with Cael, and even arrange for some roleplaying, you might—”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ash grabbed Hudson’s shoulders. “Now you listen here, Doc. I am not going to fuck my boyfriend while he’s in his Therian form. I was talking about my Therian half and his Therian half.”

Understanding crossed Hudson’s features, and he let out a sigh of relief. “Oh, well that is perfectly normal. Every Therian goes through that, especially when a relationship is new.”

Dex studied Hudson. “Really? Did Seb ever try to mount you?”

Seb groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “Why are we still talking about this?”

Cael walked in and looked around. “What’s going on? What are you guys—”

They all shouted simultaneously, “Nothing!”

Cael started. “Geez, okay. Sorry I asked.” He turned his attention to Dex. “Everyone’s on their way. ETA five minutes.”

Dex nodded, and in all honesty, Sloane was a little relieved they were leaving. Who was he kidding? He was a lot relieved.

“I’ll see you guys outside. I just want a quick word with Seb and Ash.”

Dex nodded and ushered Cael and Hudson out, then closed the door behind them. Sloane turned to the only two who could possibly keep this evening progressing without incident. As soon as Cael had sent out the invites to Dex’s bachelor party, Sloane had contacted Seb and Ash and asked them to prepare.

“All right. What contingency plans have you two put in place should any Threat Level Fuchsia scenarios arise?”

Seb and Ash glanced at each other before turning their gazes back to Sloane. Their expressions didn’t bode well. Seb spoke up first.

“When you said prepare for tonight, I thought you meant make sure your boyfriend doesn’t get so drunk he strips down to his underwear and starts dancing on the bar, or try to keep him out of jail. I didn’t realize you meant put together an emergency tactical strategy.”

Sloane pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay.” He looked up at Ash. “What about you?”

“Relax, bro. We got this.”

Sloane narrowed his eyes and leaned into Ash, sniffing him. “Have you already started drinking?”

Seb snickered, his laugh turning into a cough when Ash arched an eyebrow at him.

“No, smartass. I can handle your dorky fiancé.”

Seb didn’t even attempt not laughing this time. “You are so delusional, Keeler. We’re toast.”

“Speak for yourself. Cael might not be able to hold his booze, but your Brit is worse.”

Seb frowned at Ash. “Which is why you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re going to be able to keep an eye on Dex the whole night. The second some guy tries to put the moves on Cael, you’re going to lose your shit.”

“First, Cael can take care of himself. Second, excuse me while I laugh my ass off at you telling me I’m going to lose my shit over some dude hitting on my boyfriend. Since you got back from your honeymoon, you’ve been even more of a sap over Hudson than ever. It hurts my teeth just looking at you.”

Sloane sighed. “You two done arguing over who’s more ridiculous?”

“You’re right,” Ash said, smiling sweetly. “Because the answer to that would be you.”

How long had they known Dex? Had they not been present for the last three and a half years? The number of incident reports he’d filled out in the last year alone was staggering. Everything ranging from squirrel invasion to not-so-spontaneously combusting baked goods. How his boyfriend managed to get a scone to bring down a building was beyond him. Sloane didn’t care how stale the thing was, it shouldn’t have demolished an entire building. Thankfully the place had been condemned, and they’d received a minor scolding rather than getting their asses handed to them by Sparks.

“You think I’m overreacting?”

“Just a tad,” Seb admitted.

Oh, Sloane was so going to enjoy throwing their words back at them. “Okay. Go on. Have fun. I’ll notify my bank to have some bail money ready. If something blows up or comes crashing down, it’s on you two.”

Ash rolled his eyes. “And I thought Dex was the drama queen.”

“Get out,” Sloane grumbled, shoving them toward the door.

As soon as they were outside, Dex came over and kissed Sloane’s cheek. “Oh, I almost forgot. Dad’s expecting you for dinner.”

“Wait. What?” When did that happen?

“Dinner. Tony’s house. Have fun. If he asks you to play air hockey, just say no. He’s a wee bit competitive. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Sloane murmured absently. Dex headed back to Hudson and Cael as if he hadn’t just told Sloane he’d be hanging out with Tony the rest of the evening. On his own.

Sloane had known Tony for years, and yes, the man had been like a father to him, but this was completely different. Tony wasn’t just his sergeant and a father figure; he was Dex’s dad, his fiancé’s dad. Sloane quickly shook himself out of it. He was being a drama queen. Like he couldn’t handle Anthony Maddock. Whatever some believed, Tony wasn’t so scary. He was a regular guy who worked his ass off and loved his boys. Sure, he could be intimidating, but that was on the job, or if Sloane did something to warrant being on the other end of his wrath, like when Dex was kidnapped and tortured. This was good. They could talk. No problem. But first….

Sloane shot Tony off a quick text. Before he headed over to dinner, he had somewhere to be. And he wouldn’t miss it for the world.