Rise amp fall, p.12
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       Rise & Fall, p.12
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         Part #4 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
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  “It wasn’t meant to be. You’ve got enough shit going on without me stressing you out even more.” They both knew what he was alluding to, but Dex was grateful when Sloane didn’t get into it. Sloane had to know what he was up to, though Dex couldn’t fathom why he was pretending otherwise.

  “What if I’d hurt you? What if I’d—” Sloane lowered his gaze to the bandage on Dex’s arm and his eyes widened. “I did hurt you.”

  Dex shrugged. “It’s okay. I kind of like it.” Sloane narrowed his eyes, and Dex quickly held a hand up. “Not in a kinky I-want-you-to-use-me-as-a-scratching-post sort of way. It’s like you’ve left your mark on me.” Dex reached out and ran his thumb over the tattoo on the left side of Sloane’s neck marking him as a jaguar Therian.

  “It’s not the same thing at all.”

  “Isn’t it?” Dex continued to stroke the black tattoo. “This tells others what’s inside of you.” He took Sloane’s fingers and placed them over the bandage on his arm. “This tells them what’s inside of me.” Dex let out a soft laugh, feeling embarrassed. Man, he was such a cheeseball. “That probably sounds stupid.”

  Sloane pulled Dex close against him. “Not as stupid as you think.”

  They were both quiet, and Dex had no doubt Sloane was thinking along the same line as him. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”

  “Not right now. But soon. I promise. I’m just really tired right now.” Sloane looked it, and Dex felt guilty. Even if he hadn’t caused Sloane’s rogue shifting, he’d played a part in it. His partner didn’t need any more stress. His thoughts went back to what he’d been considering after his shower. His partner needed to relax. To feel good.

  With a wicked grin, Dex ran a hand up Sloane’s leg, slipping it under the soft cotton T-shirt. He placed a gentle kiss to Sloane’s neck under his ear, hearing his partner’s sharp intake of breath. Another kiss soon followed lower down. He trailed kisses down Sloane’s neck as his fingers travelled up firm muscles until it reached one of Sloane’s nipples. Dex gave the bud a squeeze, and he smiled against Sloane’s skin as his partner moaned, a low, deep sound rumbling from somewhere inside Sloane’s chest. Encouraged by the sound, Dex moved his mouth over his partner’s, kissing him, pressing his tongue against Sloane’s lips and demanding entrance.

  Sloane relinquished and parted his lips, allowing Dex to slip his tongue inside, tasting Sloane’s mouth and releasing a low groan. God, he loved how Sloane tasted. How his firm body felt against Dex’s. His scent, which was a delicious mix of body wash and male, drove Dex crazy. They kissed languidly at first, at least until Dex’s hand travelled south, and he cupped Sloane through his loose pajama bottoms.

  “Mm, I missed this,” Sloane breathed against Dex’s ear.

  “Me too.” Dex massaged Sloane’s cock through his pants, enjoying the way it hardened underneath his touch. He felt his partner’s hands move to the hem of his T-shirt and he sat back as Sloane pulled it off him and tossed it onto the bed behind Dex. He loved having Sloane’s strong hands on him, roaming his torso, gliding up and around his middle, fingers digging into Dex’s skin. It felt like forever since they’d had sex, though it really hadn’t been long. Damn it felt good.

  Dex slipped his hand under the waistband of Sloane’s loose pajama bottoms and started stroking him. He watched the way his partner closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the pillows. His back arched slightly and he groaned. After a heated kiss left them both panting and eager for more, Dex pulled back so he could drag Sloane’s pants off him. Sloane made to remove his shirt, but Dex stopped him. “Let me. You just relax.” He removed Sloane’s T-shirt for him and leaned in to whisper in his ear. “I promised I would make you purr. I hope you’re ready.” When he pulled back, the fiery look in Sloane’s eyes sent a shiver through Dex from head to toe.

  “You better get to it, then.”

  Dex smiled and rolled onto his ass so he could swiftly remove the rest of his clothes, chucking them on the floor. He crawled back to Sloane, his dick getting hard at the sight of Sloane’s pupils dilating in anticipation. His partner remained still, watching his every move. Dex gave Sloane’s thigh a playful smack. “On your back, Sexy.”

  Sloane licked his bottom lip, his eyes remaining on Dex as he shimmied down to lie flat on the bed. God, his partner was hot. From his intense gaze to the tiny specks of silver growing in his stubble. Dex traced his fingers down the side of Sloane’s thick neck, over a smooth muscular chest, tight abs, strong thighs and legs. Jutting up from a nest of dark curls, a mouthwatering treat waited for him. Having raked over every last inch of Sloane’s body with his eyes, Dex straddled Sloane with his back to his partner. He bent forward, his ass all but inches away from Sloane’s face. With a lusty smile at his partner from over his shoulder, Dex took hold of Sloane’s wrists and moved his hands onto his ass cheeks.

  “How about an early lunch?”

  Sloane’s gasp was music to his ears. “Fuck.”

  “For now, how about lick me, suck me, fuck me with your tongue?” He arched his back and stretched, a delicious shiver going through him when he felt Sloane’s fingers brush along the curve of his spine.

  “I…. Wow. Yes. Okay.”

  Dex bent over, aware of every ragged breath, every gasp, and whispered curse his partner let out as Dex took hold of Sloane’s cock and swallowed it down to the root. His partner bucked beneath him, and Dex tried his hardest to concentrate on giving Sloane pleasure while his partner’s tongue turned him into a trembling mess. Sloane was putting his all into it, making a meal out of Dex’s ass. Okay, maybe Dex had overestimated his sexual prowess. His intention had been to make Sloane squirm and melt with pleasure, but it was Dex who was squirming. He whimpered around Sloane’s cock and squeezed the base when Sloane’s tongue entered him again. He popped off Sloane with a curse and glared at his partner over his shoulder.

  “I’m supposed to be the one making you curse.”

  “And you are, sweetheart.” Sloane wriggled his eyebrows and ran his tongue up one of Dex’s ass cheeks before giving it a bite. He pulled back with a groan and gave Dex’s ass another squeeze. “This ass. I have dreams about this ass. It’s amazing.” He gave it a smack, and Dex let out a surprised yelp before laughing. Sloane smoothed the sore spot on Dex’s ass cheek with his palm before giving it a kiss.

  “What about what’s attached to it?”

  Sloane shrugged, amusement sparkling in his eyes. “It’s okay, I guess.”

  “Oh, you dick!” Dex laughed and tugged at Sloane’s cock, making him suck in a sharp breath. Some form of unspoken challenge seemed to have passed between them because they both doubled their efforts, doing their damned hardest to make the other come first.

  His partner was close, Dex could feel it. Sloane pulled Dex back and swallowed his cock, his spit-slick finger entering Dex and hitting Dex’s prostate. Oh shit. Dex was so going to lose this one. Their pace quickened, and their movements grew erratic. Dex’s muscles tightened, and with a low groan he came inside Sloane’s mouth. Seconds later, Sloane followed, and Dex swallowed around Sloane’s cock. He continued to suck Sloane off until his partner went soft in his mouth. Pulling back, Dex flopped onto his side, his chest heaving and his leg muscles twitching. The only sounds filling the room were of their own heavy breathing.

  “That was… that….” Sloane let out a soft laugh. “Damn that was hot.”

  Dex couldn’t form a coherent sentence in his head much less out loud and ended up nodding as he stared at the ceiling. He heard his partner’s deep sexy laugh and felt Sloane’s hand on his stomach. With a smile, Dex closed his eyes. When he opened them, it was dark. Shit. What time was it? He carefully sat up, making sure not to jostle Sloane who was fast asleep. Glancing at the alarm, he was relieved to see he had enough time to get dressed and take a cab over to Lou’s for the van he prayed Lou would lend him.

  Man, he felt like such an asshole. Turning on the lamp, Dex stood at Sloane’s bedside watching him sleep,
looking so peaceful and content. He couldn’t leave Sloane on his own like this. Right now, it was getting pretty damn hard to look at himself in the mirror. He quickly changed into an all-black outfit. Black jeans, boots, long sleeve T-shirt, and black leather jacket with a black scarf and beanie. It was getting pretty chilly since they were halfway through October. He was looking forward to spending another Christmas with Sloane, Tony, and Cael. Maybe even Ash. With one last look at Sloane, Dex covered his partner with a blanket before he turned off the lamp, and headed downstairs. On his way out the door, he called Rosa.

  She answered in two rings. Her voice filled with concern. “¿Qué pasó?”

  “I need a favor.”

  “Sure. Is it about the meeting tonight?”

  “Sort of. I need you to skip the meeting. I can fill you in tomorrow. Right now I have something more important to ask of you.” He locked up the front door and took a seat on the top step.

  “Okay.”

  “Can you come over to my house and look after Sloane? He hasn’t been feeling well, and I don’t want to leave him on his own. He probably won’t wake up for a while. I’ll leave the key under the potted plant to the right of the door.”

  There was a long pause before Rosa answered. “So he’s not part of the meeting?”

  “No, and it’s important you don’t tell him about it either.”

  “Dex—”

  “Please, Rosa. I need to do this. Trust me.”

  Rose sighed. “Está bien. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

  “Thank you. I owe you one.”

  “You owe me several for this.”

  “Whatever it is, it’s done. Good night, Rosa.”

  “Be careful.”

  “I will.” He hung up and slipped the key under the pot before calling for a cab. Walking down the stairs, he stopped at the bottom as a little old lady walking her tiny dog went past. Dex gave her a wave and a smile. “Hi, Mrs. Bauman.”

  With a huff, she continued on her way. At least this time she hadn’t caught him in his underwear or lying on the sidewalk in his uniform holding his tranq rifle. As he waited down on the sidewalk in front of his house for the cab, he looked up at the bedroom. He thought about how much fun he and Sloane had in bed earlier. He also thought of Sloane’s words before he’d lost himself to his feral side.

  “To protect you!”

  Protect. It’s what Dex was trying to do. He hoped Sloane understood. Most of all, he hoped Sloane would forgive him.

  Chapter 7

  “SERIOUSLY? WHAT are we, the fucking A-Team now?”

  Dex ignored Ash and addressed the team gathered inside the sleek black catering van with fancy white scripted letters that he’d borrowed from Lou. Thank God it was Therian-sized, or they never would have fit. It was pretty tight as it was with three Humans and four Felids. Lucky for Dex, Lou had been in a good mood. In fact, he’d been floating high. Dex assumed his date with Bradley had gone well. Lou had been all too happy to give Dex whatever he wanted, handing the keys over while he rambled on at full speed about how sweet and funny Bradley was, how handsome, smart, business savvy, and about his tattoos, how maybe Lou would get a tattoo—which had knocked Dex for a loop considering how squeamish Lou was about needles.

  Ash had put in a call to everyone and given them the location of the van they currently occupied. They were in a parking garage a block away from Clove Catering next to the fire station. Everyone sat on the benches on either side of him waiting to know what they’d been called out for.

  “Why are we in a catering van?” Cael asked, eyeing Dex suspiciously.

  “I asked you guys to come because I need your help.” In reality, on the drive to pick up Ash, Dex had started to have second thoughts, but Ash insisted they needed backup on this. The two of them had argued—as usual—but in the end Dex had conceded, and not because Ash threatened to go ahead with the meeting anyway, but because the guy was right. Dex wouldn’t be able to do this on his own. Hogan and his crew outmuscled him. Ash had also admitted he felt like he’d been followed on his trip to the grocery store the other day. It had sealed the deal for Dex.

  “Is Sloane okay?” Letty asked him.

  “Sloane’s fine. He, uh, doesn’t know we’re here.”

  “I’m not sure I like the sound of this,” Cael muttered.

  Calvin looked around the van. “Is anyone going to tell us what’s going on? Is this Lou’s van?”

  Dex was trying to come up with the right wording when Ash did his Ash thing and blurted it out. “Dex has decided to put his career on the line to track down Hogan.”

  “What?” Cael jumped to his feet and faced Dex. “Are you crazy? You can’t go against Sparks’s orders.”

  “I don’t expect any of you to join me, but at least hear me out. Hogan’s not going to stop with the Westward Creed. He sent two of his followers to case Sloane’s apartment, and we’re pretty sure he sent someone to keep an eye on Ash.”

  Cael turned his worried gaze to Ash. “Someone followed you?”

  “Yeah,” Ash answered quietly. He gave Cael a shrug and a small smile. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”

  Cael looked like he was about to argue but instead let out a sigh and turned his attention back to Dex, who carried on.

  “If he’s sent his goons after Sloane and Ash, what makes you think he won’t send his crew after the rest of us? I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my family safe. As Ash pointed out to me recently, Destructive Delta is my family. Hogan’s caused enough damage and ruined enough lives.” He turned to Hobbs and met his troubled gaze. “Your brother’s a great agent, and I’m sure he’s gonna be one hell of a Team Leader, but he’s on the outside looking in. We’re already knee-deep in this shit. It’s our family that asshole tried to kill.”

  “I’m in.”

  Calvin’s declaration caught everyone off guard, especially Dex. He’d never seen his teammate looking so determined. “Cal?”

  “You’re right. We’ve always had each other’s backs. This is on us. We should be the ones bringing his ass in. The most Sparks can do is suspend us.” Calvin turned to Letty who scoffed.

  “Like you have to ask.”

  Hobbs nodded his agreement, leaving only Cael who gaped at Dex as if he’d lost his marbles, which he possibly might have.

  “Dad will kick our asses.”

  “Yeah, he’ll be pretty pissed. But we’re all grown up, Cael. We need to stop worrying about what Dad would want us to do. It’s our choice.”

  Cael worried his bottom lip as he thought about it.

  “It really is okay if you don’t do it,” Dex assured him. “I’d kind of prefer if you didn’t, but it’s your choice.”

  Cael shifted his gaze to him before nodding. “I’m in.”

  “Cael—”

  “You said it was my choice, Dex.” Cael folded his arms over his chest. “And I choose to join you and make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”

  “Stupider,” Ash corrected.

  Cael sat back down on the bench, keeping his gaze everywhere but on Ash, and he shifted uncomfortably when Ash took a seat beside him. These two were going to drive him out of his freaking head. Putting his brother’s relationship drama aside for later, Dex addressed the team.

  “Perry’s handed himself in to the THIRDS, and we believe Jackson’s hauled ass to California. I doubt Hogan’s realized his prey’s flown the coop. There’s a good chance relieving him of his revenge will draw him out, but I’d rather we get to him first. If he doesn’t bail, he might try to regroup. Thanks to Austen, we’ve got some useful intel. Hogan only has a handful of reliable members left, the rest are just muscle. With Merritt dead, Hogan has promoted Drew Collins to be his second-in-command. Collins is a cougar Therian. He’s a tough son of a bitch to track down, which means we need to work around him to get to him.”

  “In other words, go for someone close to Collins,” Cael said, nodding in agreement. “Who’s the target?”

  A
usten stepped forward and held a tablet out in front of him displaying a high-definition image of a wolf Therian with dark hair and silver eyes. “This is Felipe Bautista, Collins’s boyfriend of ten years. Collins is crazy about the guy, but his loyalty to Hogan keeps him away a good deal of the time, and poor Felipe gets lonely. They argue a hell of a lot. Collins is never there, and Bautista resents being told to stay home and wait like some lapdog. I’m still unclear whether Bautista knows what his boyfriend is up to. If he does, he’s playing dumb. So while Collins is busy playing wanted terrorist, Bautista is at Candy Bar picking up cute boys.”

  “So what’s the plan?” Ash asked.

  “Send someone in undercover.” Austen removed a small transparent baggie from his jeans pocket and held it up. It contained some kind of white powder. “Then slip a little something in his mojito, get friendly with him, and let the pixie dust do its thing. You ask and he’ll answer.”

  “What is that?” Dex asked warily. He wasn’t sure about drugging Bautista. “Is it safe?”

  “It’s a special formula. Don’t worry, when he wakes up, he won’t remember a thing. The only side effect he’ll feel is the hangover from hell, which is why it’s important whoever goes in gets him nice and tipsy. He’ll think he had too much to drink and—”

  Dex snatched the bag from Austen. “What’s in this?”

  “Hey, man, take it easy.” Austen held his hands up. “You don’t want to drop that shit in here, or we’re all fucked.”

  A cold chill travelled up Dex’s spine. It couldn’t be. “Is this made with scopolamine?”

  Austen’s stunned expression said it all.

  “Fuck me.” Dex handed the bag back to Austen, his insides twisting. “Who gave it to you?”

  “What the fuck does it matter?” Ash growled.

  “It fucking matters!” Dex snapped, giving Ash a start. He turned his attention back to Austen who was studying him. “Did the THIRDS give it to you?” For the first time since Dex had known Austen, he saw the cheetah Therian’s expression turn grim and his dark eyes cloud over. Something told him there was a whole other side to the cheetah that wasn’t so cheeky.

  “It’s not relevant to this investigation.”

  “It’s not relevant? We’re about to put it in someone’s drink, and you’re telling me it’s not relevant? Pearce injected me with that shit and fucked me up, almost got me to kill someone, and you’re telling me it’s not relevant?”

  Cael got to his feet. “Hold on. It’s the same drug from the lab? The lab that technically never existed which has been decommissioned?”

  Austen casually returned the baggie to his pocket before folding his arms over his chest. His hard gaze moved from one Destructive Delta member to the next. “Are you G.I. Joes done pretending like fucked-up shit don’t happen on both sides of the law? If you want to back out, now’s the time to do it. You brought me into this, not the other way around. I have enough shit on my plate without putting my neck out on the line for an unauthorized mission.” His dark eyes landed on Dex. “Right now, your partner’s in Hogan’s sights. You gonna wait around for him to finish what he started, or are you going to put an end to this bullshit?”

  Dex gritted his teeth. He should have known the whole mess with the Therian Research Facility wasn’t behind them, but he had other worries right now. “Fine. Let’s do this.”

  With a wink and a smile, Austen patted Dex on the arm. “That’s more like it. Now, as I was saying. We get Bautista to talk. He’s a talker. He’s also a cuddler. If he really doesn’t know anything, we cut him free, put a tail on him, see if he leads us to Collins, though it’s unlikely. I’ve been tailing the guy for days, and Collins is always the one who finds him, not the other way around.”

  “What kind of guys does Bautista go for?” Letty asked.

  “Cute guys.”

  Letty rolled her eyes at Austen. “Thanks for narrowing it down.”

  “Ash is out of the question. You’ll just scare the shit out of him.” Austen moved on to Hobbs. “You’re cute, darling, but too big.” He gave Hobbs’s bicep a squeeze and a wink. He turned to Cael and gave his cheek a pinch. “Sorry, my friend, but you and I are too adorable. Bautista has a type. And it’s not just willing and able.” Austen spun on his heels and jutted his fingers at Dex and Calvin. “The guy’s a sucker for the classics. Blond and blue-eyed.”

  “I’ll do it,” Dex said. It wasn’t fair for him to expect Calvin to take such a risk when it was his idea to go after Hogan.

  Ash’s protest descended swiftly. “Hell no.”

  “You don’t agree?” Dex gasped. “What a fucking surprise.”

  “For one, I don’t like the fact we’re lying to Sloane. It’s bound to blow up in our faces. But more importantly, if anyone from Hogan’s gang shows up, including Collins, we’re screwed because they’ve seen your face. They saw you at the exchange. In fact they’ve seen all our faces.”

  “No they haven’t.” Calvin held a hand up. “I wasn’t at the exchange. Well, technically I was, but I was up on one of the containers. No one in the group saw me. I’ll do it.”

  “Do you even remember how to pick someone up? When was the last time you had a date?”

  “Screw you, Ash.” Calvin turned to Dex, his expression unwavering. “I can do this.”

  “Are you sure about this, Cal?”

  Calvin gave him a stern nod, and Austen rubbed his hands together gleefully. The guy really enjoyed his job way too much. “All right. We’ll meet up a block away from Candy Bar at ten o’clock.” He checked his watch before winking at Calvin. “You have three hours to make yourself look pretty. Wear something nice.” He turned to Cael and threw an arm around his neck. “You’ve got two and half hours to turn this van into something James Bond would be proud of.” Austen waved at them and slipped out of the van. Dex braced himself.

 
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