Blood & thunder, p.11
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       Blood & Thunder, p.11

         Part #2 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
 
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  While Dex wheezed and Rosa patted his back, Sloane leaned over to grab his friend’s arm. “What the hell are you doing?”

  “Just buying my teammate a drink.” The evil in Ash’s eyes annoyed Sloane. No one knew Ash better than he did.

  “Bullshit. You’re trying to get him shitfaced.”

  “I hate to break it to you, but your boy’s already well on his way to being shitfaced. With whatever the hell was in there, I give him twenty minutes before he’s doing something extraordinarily stupid, and I’m going to be around when he does it.”

  Bradley arrived with the shots, and with a “thank you,” Ash took one for himself before pushing the other two in front of Dex. “Time to man up, Daley.”

  “Ash,” Sloane warned.

  Rosa turned to Letty. “Let’s go dance before they start whipping them out to see whose is bigger.”

  “I’m coming with you,” Cael said, jumping to his feet. “I don’t want to be here for whatever chaos is about to ensue.” He joined Rosa and Letty, following them to the dance floor where the DJ was getting ready. The lights dimmed, the dance floor lit up, and the music started thumping.

  Dex settled back in his seat, his arms folded over his chest. “I don’t have to prove myself to you.”

  With a wicked grin, Ash shifted his gaze to Sloane. “What’s it like having a blond partner? Do you have to remind him which end of the gun the bullets come out of?”

  Calvin looked on unimpressed. “A blond joke? Really? That’s pretty sad, even for you, Ash.”

  “You two still here?” Ash waved a hand in dismissal at Calvin. “Why don’t you and your toy tiger go play pirates or something? Leave the drinking to the big boys. And Dex.”

  Hobbs vacated his seat so quickly, his chair toppled over. He took a step toward Ash, only to have Calvin put a hand to his chest. “Forget it, Ethan. You know he’s just being his usual dickhead self. Come on.” Calvin straightened Hobbs’s chair and ushered his partner toward the bar.

  “I don’t know whether to be comforted or disturbed that you’re as much of a dick to the rest of your team as you are to me.” Dex gave a snort of disgust. “Look at you. Your biceps have biceps. What’s your problem, Ash? You’ve been an asshole since I joined. Or is that part of your charming personality?”

  Ash shrugged, looking unfazed. “I don’t have to have a reason to dislike you. I just do.”

  “At least I have a reason,” Dex muttered. Sloane felt Dex’s leg slip in behind his, rubbing against it. He took another sip of his beer. What he wouldn’t give to be somewhere dark and quiet where he could strip Dex, push him onto his knees, and make him beg for it.

  “And what’s that?” Ash asked, throwing back one of the shots in front of them.

  “You’re an asshole,” Dex replied. The “duh” was implied in his tone.

  Ash opened his mouth to answer, when a soft gasp got their attention. Sloane tilted his head up, puzzled by the slender, good-looking guy with dark hair, a rich tan, and big hazel eyes standing beside their table, staring at Dex.

  “Oh my God. Dex?”

  Dex stared right back. “Lou?”

  The name hit Sloane like a punch to the gut. It took everything he had to school his expression and appear mildly interested, instead of his initial thought of what the fuck? This was just perfect. What the hell was Dex’s ex-boyfriend doing here? Sloane watched Lou round the table, his too-tight designer shirt and equally tight designer slacks accentuating his sinewy frame and tight ass. His heart-shaped face lit up when he looked Dex over, his wide smile exposing perfectly straight, bright white teeth. Sloane disliked him even more than he previously had. Ash arched an eyebrow at Sloane, who gave him a pointed look. There was no telling what would come out of Ash’s mouth, and things were awkward enough already.

  “Wow, look at you,” Lou gushed. “You look amazing. Must be all the training they’ve got you doing.”

  Seriously? The ole “have you been working out” chestnut? Was that still in circulation? Did guys go for that? Dex patted his stomach, his cheeks flushed. Apparently they did. Or it could be his idiot partner.

  “Thanks. Yeah, it’s pretty intense,” Dex replied, looking embarrassed. “What are you doing here?”

  “I’m not normally down this side of town, but we landed a big client and wanted to celebrate. One of the staff kept raving about this place. Something about some cute guy who’s always singing here and….” Lou’s eyes went wide and his hand flew dramatically to his lips. “Oh, hell. He’s talking about you, isn’t he?”

  “Um….” Dex cleared his throat. “I’m sure I’m not the only guy to sing in here, with or without a Karaoke machine.”

  “Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed. I should have known, especially when he mentioned the eighties songs.” Lou giggled and Sloane gritted his teeth. Under the table, Ash kicked him, and Sloane’s glare was enough to get his friend to back off.

  Dex cringed. “Yeah, okay, he was probably talking about me.”

  “This is so awkward. I’m probably the last person you wanted to see in here. I’ll grab my friends and go.” Lou turned, when to Sloane’s surprise, Dex caught his arm.

  “Hey, listen, it’s cool. You and your friends have fun. It’s no big deal.”

  It was Sloane’s turn to clear his throat, and he held back his aggravation at Dex’s startled expression, as if he’d forgotten he wasn’t alone.

  “Shit, sorry. Lou, this is my partner at the THIRDS, Sloane Brodie, and my teammate Ash Keeler. Guys, this is Louis Huerta.”

  “The guy who dumped you after you got beat up by your cop buddies, right?” Ash said pleasantly, a big grin stretching across his face.

  With a heavy sigh, Dex turned his attention back to Lou. “Ignore him. He only has one setting—asshole.”

  Lou looked nervously from Ash to Sloane, offering a tentative smile. “It’s nice to meet you.” He shifted his gaze to Dex. “You think we can talk a sec?”

  “Okay.” Dex excused himself and followed Lou over to a small standing table toward the end of the room, away from the dance floor where it was conveniently atmospheric, with most of the lighting coming from the amber wall sconces and the candle in the center of the table.

  “Well, well. Look who came crawling back,” Ash drawled.

  Sloane decided he was definitely too sober for this evening. “What are you talking about?” Did he want to know?

  Ash leaned forward, nodding toward the corner of the room where Lou and Dex were chatting. “Come on, man. Look at him. He can’t keep his hands off Dex.”

  Sloane discreetly followed Ash’s gaze and frowned at Lou playing with Dex’s dog tags. He was obviously flirting. His hand went to Dex’s bicep, giving it a squeeze. Dex said something and Lou laughed, slapping Dex playfully on his side, making Dex wriggle. His partner was ticklish under his arms and down his ribs. Clearly, Lou was aware of the fact as well. It struck him then how Lou had more intimate knowledge of Dex than Sloane did. The thought brought a sour taste to his mouth.

  “He might have bailed when the shit hit the fan, but Dex is a THIRDS agent now. His pretty-boy face has been all over the news since he joined. Love him or loathe him, he knows how to work the room and play to the crowd. Why do you think Lieutenant Sparks keeps loaning him out to the Community Relations Department? He’s got the PR agents practically wetting themselves.”

  “Careful, Ash. Those are starting to sound like compliments.” Sloane couldn’t help his smile. It was rare moments like this one when Sloane wondered if deep down, Ash didn’t hate Dex as much as he said he did. His best friend was frustratingly hard to read at the best of times, much less when he was purposefully keeping something from Sloane.

  “Fuck off. I’m just saying, Dex is in a whole new league and some people are bound to take notice, including those from his old life.”

  “And you’re telling me this because?”

  Ash shrugged, averting his gaze. “You’ve stopped moping. For the most part. I think
you’re mopey by nature. I’d hate for something or someone to come along and mess your shit up again.”

  “I don’t fully understand what you’re trying to tell me, and it’s probably best I don’t.” Worse than Ash being a dick, was Ash being concerned. It happened so rarely, that when it did, Sloane didn’t know what to do with it.

  “I’m saying, he’s your friend, and he’s helped you. He’s good for you.”

  “So you keep telling me. Are you saying I should stop him from hooking up with someone, and the possibility of being in a happy relationship because he’s good for me? Is that what you’re saying?”

  Ash blinked at him, looking truly confused. “Well, yeah.”

  “You are… astounding.”

  “I know.”

  “That wasn’t a compliment.”

  “Tough shit, that’s how I’m taking it.” Ash looked over his shoulder, a deep scowl coming onto his face. “That shitbag.”

  “Who?”

  “Some jackass is coming onto Cael and doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the words ‘fuck off.’ Sometimes Cael’s too polite. How come he can rip a guy to shreds when it concerns his brother, but when it’s about him, he’s so damned nice about it.”

  “Cael’s a nice guy,” Sloane replied with a shrug. “Besides, he can take care of himself.”

  “It’s not him I worry about. That guy’s got ‘sleaze’ written all over his face.”

  Sloane leaned to peer around Ash. His friend was right. The guy crowding Cael was definitely a creep. No matter how many times, Cael pulled away, the guy kept getting all up in his personal space.

  “Excuse me.” Ash got up and Sloane hoped his friend wasn’t about to get them kicked out. When it came to Cael, Ash had little control. It wouldn’t be the first time Ash had gotten into a brawl over Cael, despite Cael’s protests that he didn’t need rescuing. Sloane could sympathize with the younger Therian, but it was hard stopping a train once it was going full speed with no brakes.

  Sloane found himself on his lonesome at their table. He discreetly sneaked another peek over at Dex, his heart hammering as he watched Lou dance with Dex. To Dex’s credit, the guy looked uncomfortable, and he seemed to be trying to talk to Lou, who of course was distracted by other things, like Dex’s lips. Lou reached out to cup Dex’s cheek, and Sloane got out of his seat. He’d had enough fun for one night.

  “Fuck this.” He’d just about made it to the door, when someone grabbed his arm.

  “Hey!” Dex pulled him past the coatracks, through a door on the right, and they ended up in an empty hallway with a set of stairs leading down to the basement and at the far end, a supply closet. “What the hell, man? I turn around and you’re leaving without me?”

  Sloane shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged. “I’m sure you could have found a ride. Lou’s probably dying to give you a lift home.” He knew he sounded like a jerk, but he couldn’t help it. He was pissed off. Whether at himself or Dex, he wasn’t sure.

  “Whatever you’re thinking, stop it. We were only talking.”

  And flirting, and dancing, and touching. This was stupid. What’s more, this wasn’t like him at all. He’d never had bouts of jealousy where Gabe had been concerned. Maybe because he’d never worried Gabe would leave him. Gabe had also never fraternized with any of his ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. The idea that Dex would so easily dismiss what he’d been through with Lou, and let the guy waltz back into his life, aggravated Sloane. “How can you act like nothing’s happened? He dumped your ass when you needed him most, and now he shows up out of nowhere, flirts with you, and you accept it like you’re old friends?”

  “Like I said, we were talking. Why are you pissed off with me? You’re the one who was going to bail on me.”

  Sloane could see Dex growing angry with him, and he really couldn’t understand why. What the hell did Dex have to be angry about? Sloane wasn’t the one with his ex’s hands all over him. He leaned a shoulder against the wood paneling and shrugged. “I figured if you wanted to give Lou another chance, who am I to stop you.”

  “Oh, fuck you.” Dex shook his head, his face growing red. Before Sloane had a chance to ask Dex what he was getting so pissy about, Dex met his eyes, his gaze intense. “Is that it? That’s all it would take for you to walk away? You don’t bother asking me what that was about, or what’s going on, just ‘hey, have a nice life with your ex.’ You dick.”

  “You’re the one acting like he’s back in your life. Like it’s no big deal. You even stopped him from leaving,” Sloane spat back. Why was he allowing this ridiculous situation to get under his skin?

  “What did you expect me to do? Punch him? Tell him to fuck off?”

  Sloane ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath, trying to get a grip on himself. “I don’t know. I didn’t know what to think.” This was all so new to him. He kept telling himself not to get so close, despite knowing it was too late.

  “That’s why there’s this thing called communication, Sloane. Let me demonstrate. ‘Sloane, does what we have mean so little to you that you would walk away just like that?’ Now you answer.”

  Sloane gave Dex a warning look. “Don’t patronize me.”

  “You’re right. I apologize. I’m pissed off and that foggy shit Bradley made is getting to me. Now answer the question.”

  “I fucked up, okay?” What else did Dex want from him? It seemed like lately all Sloane did was either apologize to Dex or explain himself. He didn’t like it.

  “Try again.”

  “Fuck off.” Sloane crossed his arms over his chest. Maybe he was being childish and defensive, but he didn’t appreciate Dex’s tone. He appreciated the fact that Dex was right even less. Dex stepped up to him and gently moved Sloane’s arms away from his chest. Sloane allowed it, watching Dex intently as he closed the distance between them, his pale blue eyes pleading.

  “Sloane.”

  Sloane was contemplating another evasive answer, but studying Dex’s expression, his slightly parted lips, and handsome face, he couldn’t do it. “No, it doesn’t mean that little to me.” He could feel his anger melting away. Dex had a point, and Sloane wasn’t so egotistical he couldn’t admit when he was wrong. “I got upset and didn’t think things through. I figured an offer at a real relationship with someone you cared about would tempt you. I wouldn’t blame you.”

  Dex’s brows drew together. His expression filled with anger and what Sloane suspected was hurt, before he moved away. “You’re such a dick. My God, are you taking lessons from Ash?”

  The unexpected hostility stunned Sloane. “What did I do now?” He watched Dex pace around before his partner finally stopped, his shoulders slumping. He seemed to deflate, and Sloane felt shitty for bringing that look onto Dex’s face.

  “Next time, talk to me, please. If I didn’t want to be with you, I wouldn’t be. Or do you think I’m biding my time with you until something better comes along?”

  “I don’t think that. I fucked up.” Sloane pulled Dex into his arms, aware of the slight hesitation. If he kept this up, one of these days Dex was going to be the one walking away. He didn’t like how the thought made him feel. He wrapped his arms tightly around Dex and kissed his temple, inhaling Dex’s scent. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. Dex’s arms circled his waist and gave him a squeeze.

  Knowing their teammates were busy and most likely didn’t know where they were, Sloane took a chance, stealing a kiss. It started slow, Dex’s mouth tasting sweet from the shots, his lips soft and sending a rush of blood down to Sloane’s groin, but it quickly turned heated. Sloane slipped his hand under Dex’s T-shirt, his fingers stroking smooth skin over hard muscle. He dug his fingers into Dex’s ass, reveling in the low moan Dex let out against his lips, loving the shiver that Sloane could feel go through his partner. He reminded himself he was responsible for that. His thoughts went to Dex writhing underneath him, the way he stole Dex’s breath, left him speechless, in a sweaty, panting mess. His mouth
demanded more from Dex, and he pulled Dex hard against him, his erection rubbing against Dex’s.

  “Dex? Is everything—Oh wow.”

  Sloane pulled away with a start, his breath heavy and his eyes wide at Lou standing there, his mouth hanging open. Shit.

  “Shit.” Dex thrust a finger at Sloane. “You, don’t you dare disappear on me. I’ll handle this.” He took Lou’s arm and led him outside, leaving Sloane standing there with nothing but the muffled sounds coming from the dance floor and the taste of Dex on his lips. Fuck. He rubbed his hands over his face as he considered his next course of action. Okay, he was the Team Leader of a tactical team operating under the military branch of the United States government. He could handle one ex-boyfriend.

  Sloane went over his options. Not that he didn’t trust Dex to handle the situation. After careful consideration, he came up with two choices—threaten Lou into silence, or use this situation to his advantage. The first one sounded fun, but the latter was the smarter choice. He’d give Dex a few minutes, then he was going in. One way or another, their secret had to remain that.

 
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