Against the grain, p.14
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       Against The Grain, p.14

         Part #5 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
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  me.” He laced their fingers together. “I’ll admit, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but as long as I’m doing it with you, I know I’ll be okay.”


  “If you tell your brother about how sappy I sound, I will seriously have to retaliate. Like, tell him you have his iPod.”

  Cael’s jaw dropped, but his eyes were filled with amusement. “You’d narc on me to my brother?”

  “If it means keeping him off my back about not being an asshole, then I might. Probably not, but I feel like I need to have some kind of leverage. Who the fuck am I kidding? You know you have me wrapped around your little finger. God, is this what it’s like for Sloane and your brother?” No wonder Sloane was always giving in to Dex. How the hell could he say no to anything this amazing man asked of him?

  “Sort of. Unlike Dex, I promise not to abuse my power.”

  A mischievous smile came onto his face. Damn, he was beautiful.

  “Too much.”

  “You little sneak.” Ash poked Cael playfully in the ribs, making him squirm.

  “Stop!” Cael squealed.

  The door slammed open, and a familiar voice shouted out, “Hands where I can see them!”

  Ash slowly put his hands up, and Cael joined him, his eyes wide.

  “Shit,” Dex muttered, Sloane cringing behind him.

  “Did you just kick my front door in?” Cael crawled off Ash and scrambled to his feet, his hands going to his head at the sight of splintered wooden doorframe. “You kicked in my door!”

  He spun to his brother, who returned his gun to his off-duty holster.

  “Um, happy New Year?”

  “What the hell, man?”

  “Dude, you disappeared from the bar without saying a word, left your coat behind, and then Bradley says you weren’t looking so good, and after you left some guys got into an epic fistfight outside. There’s blood in the fucking snow and you don’t pick up your damn phone and—”

  Cael looked away, his voice soft. “It was Fuller.”

  “What?” Dex had Cael in his arms in seconds. He ran a hand over Cael’s hair and looked him over. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” He put his thumb to Cael’s lip and the small cut left behind from Fuller’s slap. “That motherfucker! He did this, didn’t he?”

  Dex released Cael and started pacing. Ash had never seen him so livid.

  “I’m going to find that asshole and put the fear of God in him. The fucking nerve of that prick showing up and—”

  “Dex, I’m fine.” Cael took hold of his brother’s shoulders to stop him from pacing. “Ash was there. He broke Fuller’s nose. That’s the blood you saw.”

  Dex turned to Ash and gave him a nod in thanks before turning back to Cael. “How are you, really?”

  Ash caught Sloane’s eye and motioned over to the balcony. He grabbed his coat and slipped into it, letting Cael know he was stepping out with Sloane so he and his brother could talk. After sliding the door closed behind Sloane, Ash walked to the handrail and leaned against it.

  “Who’s Fuller?” Sloane asked, joining him. “And why did Dex look like he was about to take someone out when Cael said his name?

  “Probably because he’s tempted to. Don Fuller is Cael’s ex. A real asshole.” Ash told Sloane as much as he needed to know about the situation without infringing on Cael’s privacy.

  Sloane stared at him. “Shit. I had no idea.”

  “Yeah. They’ve kept it close to their chest. Guess there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Daley-Maddock family. Maddock told me the day he came to talk to us at Dekatria. He was worried. At the time, I wished he hadn’t told me, but now? Cael had a panic attack.”

  “Fuck. It’s probably a good thing Dex wasn’t there. God knows what he would have done to Fuller. What the hell’s he doing back in New York?”

  “I don’t know, but I find it pretty fucking convenient that he happened to show up at Dekatria. I ran a check through Themis the moment we were called back on duty to make sure the bastard was still in Carson City and he was. I was supposed to receive a notification if he crossed state lines. How the hell he made it here without Themis picking up on it is bugging me. Either way, I’m not letting that son of a bitch near Cael again. He’s done enough damage.” Ash went quiet for a moment before addressing a different issue. “Are you free sometime this weekend for a chat? Without your shadow.”

  Sloane chuckled. “Sure. Anytime.”

  “Okay. I’ll call you, see when I can drop by.”

  “Everything okay?” Sloane asked worriedly.

  Ash wasn’t the most skilled at opening up, but Sloane was his best friend. There was no one he trusted more. Whatever happened in life, he knew Sloane would always have his back, just like he’d have Sloane’s. If he was going to really make a go of this, he wanted to do it right. Also, Sloane had experience in being wrapped around his boyfriend’s finger.

  “Yeah, I might need some advice. I’ve, uh, I’ve never been in a committed relationship before.”

  Sloane’s jaw went slack, and Ash felt his face burning up. He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

  “Like official?”

  Ash nodded. “Seeing Fuller hurting him…. My feral half was clawing to get out, to tear Fuller apart for laying a hand on Cael. I had to protect him. It was stupid, letting my fear stop me from being with someone I feel so deeply for. Nothing’s changed, yet everything’s changed.” He sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m still so fucked-up inside and terrified of being out in the open about it, but at least now I can face that fear with him at my side.”

  “Congratulations, man. That’s great.”

  Sloane pulled him into a hug, and Ash groaned, pretending to be put off. His friend was so happy for him. Ash could see it in Sloane’s eyes. Like he’d been wanting this for Ash almost as much as Ash had wanted it for himself.


  Ash peeked through the glass doors to find Cael standing by the broken door with Dex as they talked. Dex looked worried, despite Cael clearly attempting to reassure his big brother. Ash was with Dex on this one. He had no doubt Dex was going to be keeping an eye on his brother. He’d probably look into why Fuller was here. Giving the brothers more time to talk, Ash went back to chatting with Sloane. In the back of his mind, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d be seeing Fuller again real soon.

  CAEL WAS exhausted. And now he had a broken door.

  “I’m sorry. I’ll replace it.” Dex fiddled with the split frame. Cael supposed he should be grateful his brother was the one who’d kicked at his door and not Sloane. Damn thing would have been torn off its hinges.

  As much as Cael wanted to be mad at his big brother for busting his door down, he couldn’t be. Dex had believed Cael was in trouble. He did wish his brother could save the day with a little less property damage involved. It drove their dad just as crazy.

  “It’s okay,” Cael said, fastening the bottom deadlock. Luckily he never used that one, or the chain lock. “You still need to fix it, though.”

  “I’ll get someone over tonight.”

  “Dex, it’s—” Cael checked his watch. “—one in the morning. On New Year’s Day. Unless you intend to hand over your first born as payment, it can wait.”


  Dex’s brows drew together, and Cael nodded to the couch. He knew that look. His brother was worried about him. The last thing Cael wanted was to worry Dex. His brother had enough on his mind as it was.

  Cael dropped down onto his comfy couch, pulled his legs up, and folded his arms over his knees. “I had a panic attack.”

  “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

  Cael shook his head, a smile coming onto his face at the memory. “Ash helped me.”


  “Yeah. He was great. Asked me what I needed, helped me focus on breathing, made me feel safe. He helped calm me. Even made me my favorite tea.


  Cael couldn’t help the big dopey grin that came onto his face, his cheeks feeling hot. “We’re officially dating.”

  Dex gaped at him. “Shut the front door!”

  “I can’t. My dorky brother broke it,” Cael said, giving him a push. His excitement bubbled up, and he grabbed his brother’s arm. “Can you believe it?” He bounced in his seat, and Dex grabbed Cael’s arm, bouncing along with him.

  “I’m so happy for you!”

  “Oh my God, we’re like teenage girls!” Cael squealed, still bouncing.

  “I don’t care! Oh my God, Ash is your boyfriend. That’s… I can’t even. I don’t… I’m….” The sliding glass door to the balcony slid open, and Dex stopped bouncing. “Play it cool. They’re coming back in.”

  “We can hear you, dumbass.” Ash closed the door behind Sloane and walked into the living room. “Therian hearing.”

  Dex turned back to Cael with a frown. “You sure you don’t want to maybe date a cactus? Less prickly.”

  Cael laughed and hugged his brother, and after reassuring Dex for the bajillionth time that he was okay, was going to be okay, would call if he wasn’t okay, Dex and Sloane said their good-byes and left. By then it was nearly three in the morning.

  “I need a shower,” Ash muttered. “You mind if I use yours and crash here?”

  Cael smiled. “Of course not. Just leave the water running when you finish. I could use one too.”

  He took his empty teacup to the kitchen, noting how Ash quietly followed. Cael didn’t utter a word as he placed the teacup in the sink and proceeded to wash it. Ash slipped his arms around Cael’s waist and delivered a kiss to Cael’s temple, their bodies pressed together.

  “How about if you join me? You know, conserve water, ozone, environment, and all that hippie shit.”

  Cael chuckled and turned in Ash’s arms. “Well, when you put it that way, how can I resist?”

  “All right,” Ash sighed, his eyes alight with amusement. “How about, will you join me in the shower because I’ll miss you if you’re not there with me?”

  “Now that’s more like it.”

  Cael laughed as he grabbed Ash’s hand and pulled him upstairs with him, both of them shedding clothes along the way. By the time they reached the bathroom, they were both naked and all over each other, kissing, touching, fingers digging and stroking. Ash bumped into the doorframe on the way in, and Cael giggled against Ash’s lips. The big goof.

  Somehow they managed to get the water turned on and at a temperature that wouldn’t freeze their boy bits off. They stepped into the bathtub, and Ash took hold of the soap. Gently he pulled Cael in front of him and lathered him up, delivering kisses as he did. His hands didn’t miss a spot as he soaped Cael up. Lost in Ash’s ministrations, Cael closed his eyes, feeling Ash washing his hair before leading Cael under the showerhead to rinse him off. What had started as a frenzy of hands and lips had become a sweet expression of affection. They washed each other, offered tender kisses and slow, lingering caresses.

  Once they were done, Ash helped Cael out of the tub, and they dried each other before Ash swept Cael off his feet, making him laugh. He carried Cael into the bedroom and laid him in the middle of the bed before crawling over him, lowering himself onto his elbows so as not to put all his weight on Cael. Cael spread his legs so Ash could fit against him. How he loved the feel of Ash on him. Despite Ash’s size and strength, Cael had always felt safe with him.

  “Thank you, for looking out for me,” Cael offered softly, his fingers running through Ash’s wet hair.

  “Always.” He brushed his lips over Cael’s, the heat from Ash’s body sending the most delicious shiver through him.

  Cael tentatively thrust his hips up, his hard erection pressing against Ash’s stomach, and Ash released a groan, his hips grinding gently down. The scent of soap and Ash invaded Cael’s senses, and he let out a whimper. His skin was ablaze, his insides twisting. He tried his best to let Ash take the lead, not to push, but it was killing him. He was desperate to feel Ash inside him, had wanted this for so long.

  “Please,” Cael whispered, his body writhing with need. If something didn’t happen, he was going to lose his mind.

  “Lube and condoms?”

  Cael’s heart was ready to burst out of his chest. He pointed to the nightstand on his left, and Ash didn’t waste any time, returning with the bottle of lube and a condom packet before Cael’s skin cooled from his absence. Cael felt his face burning up, and when he dropped his gaze to Ash’s hands, he realized he wasn’t the only one about to go off like a firecracker. Ash’s hands shook as he tried to open the condom packet. Cael sat up, his hand coming to rest on Ash’s.

  “Are you sure?”

  Ash met his gaze, fire burning in his amber eyes. “I’ve never been surer of anything in life.” He kissed Cael and placed the condom in Cael’s hand, murmuring against his lips, “Put it on me.”

  Cael smiled and took the condom from him. He tore the foil packet open as Ash sat back on his heels, his tanned skin smooth and his thick cock jutting up against his stomach. Cael took a moment to admire the stunning Therian before him. Ash was all sculpted muscle, from his expansive chest and six-pack down to his strong thighs and legs. His large hands rested on his thighs. Cael loved Ash’s hands. Ash was handsome, rugged, intimidating, and at times mean-looking, but Cael saw the gentle, loving soul within the warrior’s frame.

  Having looked his fill, Cael rolled the condom on Ash, loving the way Ash sucked in a sharp breath and closed his eyes. Cael picked up the lube and applied a generous amount to Ash’s cock, his eyes on Ash’s face as he stroked him, squeezed him ever so gently. Not being able to hold out any longer, Cael lay on his back and took one of his pillows to place under him, his body trembling with anticipation.

  Ash knelt between Cael’s open legs and took hold of the lube, a blush coming onto his cheeks as he poured some on his fingers. His eyes locked on Cael’s as he lifted one of Cael’s legs to his shoulder, his finger entering Cael. Cael moaned, his fingers closing around fistfuls of the sheets, his back arched at the sweet invasion. Ash took his time prepping Cael, their eyes never looking away. When he was done, Ash lined himself up and pushed the tip in. Cael let out a desperate whimper. Slowly, Ash pushed in little by little. It was driving Cael crazy.

  Cael sucked in his breath as Ash began to move, rocking gently against him. Ash swore under his breath and closed his eyes, his head falling back as he moved in and out of Cael. He turned his head and kissed Cael’s leg, ran a hand down it before opening his eyes and meeting Cael’s gaze once more.

  “You’re so beautiful,” Ash breathed.

  He released Cael’s leg and bent over him, holding Cael close to him. He kissed Cael slow and deep, matching his thrusts. Cael shivered at the delicious pleasure, and he wrapped his arms tight around Ash. He didn’t know what was going on in Ash’s head at the moment, whether this was all very strange for him. Cael did his best to make sure Ash was lost in them and nothing else. Ash went slowly, as if he were savoring every second. They explored each other, touched, and tasted. It was absolute torture. Cael never thought it could feel this amazing. Ash stretched him wide, but it was nothing Cael couldn’t handle. Ash’s skin was flushed, his brow beaded with sweat as he moved against Cael.

  Cael wrapped his legs around Ash and hung on to him for dear life while Ash pushed in deep and pulled out, their bodies moving together as one. Ash’s movements picked up speed, his breath growing more ragged. He pushed himself back onto his knees and hooked his arms under Cael’s legs, his hips smacking against Cael’s ass. With a groan, Cael took hold of his cock, stroking himself.

  “Fuck.” Ash’s movements grew more frantic as he watched Cael touching himself.

  Loving the way Ash licked his lips as he watched Cael, Cael pumped his cock faster, his free hand going to his own nipple to rub and pull at it.

  “Oh God. Yes.” Ash’s breath was unsteady as he thrust
into Cael again and again. “I want to see you come.”

  Cael nodded. He ran a hand over his chest and down to his abs as he jerked himself off, the sweet pressure building. The feel of Ash inside him, his eyes on Cael, had him close to the edge of ecstasy in no time. “I’m going to come,” Cael warned, his muscles tightening as his orgasm slammed into him, come squirting out across his chest.

  “Oh fuck,” Ash moaned, a pained expression on his face as Cael came, forcing him to clench around Ash. “Oh fuck.” Ash held on to Cael’s legs as he fucked him, his hips losing all rhythm as his orgasm hit. He thrust hard and deep, surprising Cael, who let out a strangled cry. Ash pushed himself in, pumped himself a few more times, rotating his hips on the last plunge as his body shuddered and he folded over Cael. He lost track of how long they remained in each other’s embrace. Cael had been drifting off when he felt Ash stir and slip out of him with a low hiss. Ash pulled back and removed the condom. He tied it up and kissed Cael before getting up and heading to the bathroom.

  Ash returned a few minutes later with some wet wipes Cael kept in the same drawer as the condom and lube. Cael smiled bashfully as Ash wiped the drying come off Cael’s chest. He tossed the wipes into the small wastebasket nearby, and Cael took the opportunity to climb under the covers. Despite the heating being on, it was getting chilly. He held the covers back, and with a chuckle, Ash climbed in and pulled him close, nuzzling his face against Cael’s hair.

  “You always smell so good,” Ash murmured against his hair.

  Cael looked up at him, searching his eyes for any sign he regretted what he’d done, but Ash just kissed him and wrapped his leg around him so they were pressed together. Ash closed his eyes and let out a contended sigh.

  “I like this.”

  Ash’s words made Cael’s heart flutter. “What’s that?”

  “Lying here with you, having you in my arms, making love to you. It feels right. Like we’ve always been together.”

  Cael took Ash’s hand in his and held it to his lips for a kiss. “I like the sound of that.”

  “I’m sorry it took me so long.”

  Cael shook his head and planted a kiss on Ash’s chest. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re here now.” He felt Ash’s breath steady, felt his chest rise and fall beneath his hand. Ash was here now, and Cael hoped it’s where he would always remain.

  Chapter 9

  IT WAS time to go.

  Ash lay in bed for a moment, a smile spreading across his face at the memories of the amazing night he’d had with Cael. It was like nothing he’d imagined and by far the best sex he’d ever had. Fuck, if he wasn’t careful, he was going to get hard thinking about it. From here on out, it was going to be tough keeping his hands off Cael. Just looking at him made Ash want to pounce. Then he remembered why he had to go, and the smile fell from his face. He silently slipped out of bed and began picking his clothes up off the floor to dress.

  “You’re leaving?”

  Cael’s sleepy voice brought him to a halt. He turned, unable to help his smile at the sight of Cael sitting up in bed looking endearing, his tousled hair sticking up every which way. Cael yawned, his drowsy, silver Therian eyes all but glowing in the dim lighting.

  “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. I have to go.” Ash pulled on his jeans and was buttoning them up before grabbing his socks when he heard the disappointment in Cael’s reply.


  Shit. Cael thought something else. “It’s not you. I—”

  “It’s okay.”

  Cael drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. Nope. This wasn’t how things were going to be after the amazing time they’d had last night. Ash quickly finished buckling his belt and went to Cael’s bedside. He sat and took Cael’s hand in his.

  “It’s not what you think. I’m not regretting what happened. I’m still soaring from that. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. That’s why I didn’t want to wake you. After last night, I wanted you to keep that feeling.” A lump formed in his throat, and he pushed past it. Shouldn’t he have gotten used to this feeling by now? No matter how many times he’d gone, it still hurt like hell.

  “What’s wrong?” Cael asked, cupping Ash’s cheek. With a sigh, Ash leaned into the touch.

  “Every New Year’s Day, I visit Arlo’s grave.”

  Cael was quiet, pensive, before speaking up. “Can I come with you?”

  Ash searched Cael’s eyes, finding nothing but love and warmth in them. “I won’t be very good company.” And he wasn’t exactly an enthralling entertainer the best of days.

  “You’re always there for me. Let me be there for you.”

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