Blood & Thunder, page 12part #2 of THIRDS Series
THIS NIGHT was turning into one spectacular clusterfuck. Lou ordered a JD and Coke and Dex ordered a beer. He took a quick survey of the place. Calvin and Hobbs had disappeared. Ash was over in the corner with Cael, having an animated conversation that Cael seemed to find particularly amusing for some strange reason, while Letty and Rosa were on the dance floor busting some serious moves. Relieved his team was none the wiser to his disaster of a love life or more likely, life in general, he turned to Lou, who was looking both embarrassed and startled. Seeming to snap himself out of it, Lou spoke up.
“My partner at the THIRDS and my Team Leader,” Dex replied in a hushed tone, though there were enough people crowding the bar and enough noise to drown out their conversation from eavesdroppers.
Lou nodded. “I was going to say scary, but okay.”
“That too. I need you to keep what you saw to yourself. I could get into trouble if my superiors, including my dad, found out, not to mention I’d be transferred from the team. Please, Lou.” To his surprise, Lou stiffened, looking affronted.
“Dex, I’d never be so vindictive. Especially not with you.”
“So, he’s a Therian.”
“Yes.” He knew Lou had a thing against Therians, though he’d only discovered it while in the process of being dumped. It had been an unexpected revelation to say the least.
“Is….” Lou swallowed hard, his eyes falling to his drink. “Is that why it didn’t work between us? Because I wasn’t—”
“No! Jesus, Lou.” Dex put his hand to Lou’s shoulder. “I really cared about you. I still do. What happened between us had to do with us not being right for each other and nothing to do with you being Human. I wasn’t making you happy, and you deserve to be happy.”
Lou nodded. “Does he make you happy?”
That was the million-dollar question. Or was it? “When I don’t want to strangle him, yes, he makes me happy.” A sad smile came onto his face. “Even if he has a hard time believing it.”
“Sounds like you two have issues to work out.”
Issues? More like subscriptions. Dex took a sip of his beer in an attempt not to give it too much thought. “Yeah, but I think we’ll get there. He’s a good guy.”
There was silence between them, both taking sips of their drinks until Lou got that mischievous look in his eyes. “I guess he’s kind of hot, for a Therian. I bet he’s huge.”
“Oh my God, Lou!” Dex nearly spit out his beer. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stared at his ex-boyfriend. Lou gave a delicate snort.
“You’re such a prude. Well, is he?”
He knew Lou wasn’t going to let up until he got his answer. Dex had never been shy about this sort of thing, but talking about Sloane’s sexy parts with his ex was wrong on so many levels. “It is proportionate to the rest of him.”
“In other words, he’s hung.”
Dex pinched the bridge of his nose, resigned to the absurdity that was this evening. “Yes. I can’t believe I’m discussing my guy’s dick with my ex.”
Lou’s face went beet red, and Dex wished he’d ordered Bradley’s “special” instead of beer.
Over his shoulder, a gravelly voice sealed the deal. He should have expected it, really. “That makes two of us. But I guess I should be glad you approve.”
Lou held his hand out to Sloane, a wide smile on his face. “You clearly know who I am. Thank you for not punching me.”
Sloane accepted the handshake with some hesitation. “I’ll admit, I was tempted, but I guess if you hadn’t dumped Dex, he wouldn’t have given me a chance.”
“He’s an amazing guy.”
“Having second thoughts?” Sloane cocked his head to one side, his expression guarded.
“He’s happy, and that’s all I ever wanted for him.”
Dex noticed the way Sloane peered at Lou. Did he not believe Lou? Then again, he didn’t know Lou and therefore had no reason to. “You were flirting with him.”
“Before he told me he was seeing someone. Look, I know you’re probably expecting me to be the evil ex who comes swooping in trying to dig my claws into him, take back what I think is mine, and all that campy drama, but I’m not. I respect him, and I would never come between him and someone he cares about. I had my chance, and I blew it. So take it from me. Don’t blow it. I would, however, like to be his friend. Would that be acceptable to you?”
Dex had to admit, he was surprised. Not that he had anything against being friends with Lou. He was a good guy, despite the dumping, but Lou had been adamant about Dex not contacting him, and Dex had obliged, deleting Lou’s details from his life. He recalled Lou’s answer on having second thoughts, or rather the fact he hadn’t given Sloane a direct answer. Had Lou been having second thoughts? He’d never tried to get in contact with Dex. Not that it mattered. There was only one guy who made Dex’s toes curl, and that guy was currently giving thought to Lou’s offer. What the hell?
“Remember,” Lou added with a wicked grin, “I know everything about him. Like his fear of goats.”
Dex’s jaw dropped. “Seriously, Lou? That’s what you’re going with?”
“Deal.” Sloane held his hand out, and Dex watched, stunned, as his ex-lover shook hands with his current lover. With an arched eyebrow, Sloane turned to Dex. “So, goats, huh?”
“Have you seen their eyes? The way they climb up the side of mountains or perch on branches like gravity doesn’t apply to them? They’re evil! Evil I say!” An image of the hairy beasts with their freaky eyes made him shudder. Sloane and Lou both laughed, and Dex let out a groan. “I think I liked it better when you wanted to punch him.” Sloane ignored him, giving Lou a pat on the shoulder.
“Let me buy you a drink.”
This couldn’t be happening. Why was this happening? This night had started out so well. “Why? Why are you buying him a drink? Are you going to ask him stuff about me? What happened to getting to know someone? The thrill of the chase. The mystery.”
“Overrated,” Sloane replied sweetly, not bothering to look at Dex. “So, this zombie thing he has going on in the morning before he’s had coffee. How long do I have to get away with something before he’s awake enough to know what’s happening?”
“What?” Dex squeaked. That was his most guarded secret. How could Lou betray him like this? Dex pinned his ex with a glare, which only resulted in a knowing smile from Lou.
“Ah, the Waking Dead.”
Sloane let out a laugh and Dex gasped. He quickly recovered and slammed a fist down on the bar. “You can’t tell him about the Waking Dead! I forbid it! I’m demanding you adhere to the ex-boyfriend code of honor.”
“There’s no such thing,” Lou stated. “So, the Waking Dead. From the moment he gets his ass off the mattress until he takes the first sip—providing he hasn’t showered, you’re in the clear. After the first sip, you have exactly twenty-three minutes.”
“Oh my God, you timed me?” Could this night possibly get any worse?
“Of course. How else do you think I got you to say yes to the white antler chandelier?”
“I knew it!” Dex thrust an accusing finger at Lou. “I knew there was a reason I couldn’t remember saying yes to that hideous monstrosity. I’d like to say, this is not cool, and you’re both dicks.” He sulked all the way to their table where most of his team had regrouped. “Rosa, I need your maternal bosoms.” He flopped down onto the chair and let Rosa wrap him in her embrace, his head pressed against her breasts as she petted his head. Ash’s expression would have been hysterical if Dex wasn’t so busy being miserable.
“Let me get this straight.”
“Did you intend that to be a pun?” Cael asked in amusement, obviously knowing what Ash was about to say. Hell, they all knew what Ash was about to say.
“Quiet, you.” Ash turned to address Rosa. “So because he’s gay, he can get all up in your boobs and that’s okay?
“Not true,” Dex said, snuggling against Rosa. “They’re very comfortable.”
Rosa rolled her eyes, her attention returning to Dex. “Aw, poor baby. What’s the matter?”
Dex threw a hand toward the bar. “My life is ruined.”
“Is that your ex talking to Sloane?”
“They’re laughing together.”
Rosa cringed. “Ooh, your ex is spilling the beans, isn’t he?”
“Apparently, in exchange for being my friend, Lou gets to tell Sloane whatever he wants to know. Sloane knows about the Waking Dead, Rosa! The Waking Dead!”
“I… I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to assume that’s bad.” She looked to Cael with a shrug.
“That’s bad,” Cael said, looking concerned. “He really told Sloane about the Waking Dead?”
“Yes!” He needed a drink. “I need a drink. Someone get me something that’ll get me shitfaced. I need to soften the blow of this heinous breach of the ex-boyfriend code of honor.”
“No such thing,” Letty chipped in.
“Et tu, Letty?”
Ash pushed his whiskey glass containing a clear drink in front of Dex. “Vodka and lemonade. You wanna inhale the fumes? That should be enough.”
“Screw you.” Dex snatched up the glass and threw the contents back. “Damn it, Ash,” Dex wheezed. “You dickhead. There was no lemonade in that at all, just vodka!”
Ash let out an evil cackle. “I know. I really enjoy watching you get shitfaced.” Cael let out a fierce yawn and rested his head against Ash’s shoulder. With a chuckle, Ash wrapped an arm around Cael. “Looks like someone might be ready to call it a night.”
“Damn. I really wanted to get more drunk. Drunker. My brain’s given up.” Cael sat up, his hair sticking out on one side of his head. He grinned sleepily at Ash. “I’ll pick you up in the morning.”
Dex arched an eyebrow at his brother, his face feeling flushed. Looked like the vodka was doing its job. Sweet. “You pick Ash up for work?”
“Yeah, we carpool. Saves on gas,” Cael replied with another yawn. “So what? You and Sloane carpool.”
Dex opened his mouth then quickly shut it. He and Sloane carpooled because they were more often than not waking up after a night of horizontal poking. “True,” he muttered, though it didn’t exactly scratch the particular itch he got when he thought about his brother carpooling with Ash. Neither had to worry about scrimping on gas money. He doubted Ash was the environmentally conscious sort. They weren’t even partners. What was the real reason they carpooled, and whose idea was it? Could it be possible his brother actually—gasp—enjoyed hanging with Ash? Ash caught him contemplating and scowled at him.
“Don’t hurt yourself, Daley. My apartment’s not far from Cael’s, and it’s on the way to work. Plus sometimes we hang out if it gets late, or we have a few too many, and the last thing I want to do is worry about facing morning traffic. I am not a morning person.”
Dex blinked at him. “You? Grumpy in the morning?” He jumped from his chair and held his hands out. “Stop. Everyone stop what you’re doing.” The people seated closest to them stopped to observe in amusement. “This is serious news. Ash Keeler, the warm, fuzzy bunny you see before you, is not a morning person. He is, in fact, grumpy. You might want to tweet that. The world shouldn’t be deprived of this shattering revelation. Thank you for your time.” He resumed his seat, a wave of fuzziness washing over him and making him all tingly. Yay, vodka. He grinned broadly at Ash, who ignored him to address Cael. Pfft. Rude.
“Ten squads, Cael. Your dad could have put him on any other squad, but no, he sticks Dudley Do-Right on ours. Be honest with me. Your dad hates me, doesn’t he?”
“Everyone hates you,” Dex muttered, looking down at his shirt. Was it inside out? Hey, sunglasses. He put on his aviators and smiled at Ash. “That’s why everyone wants to kill you, remember? Why’s it so dark in here?” He looked around with a frown. “Rosa? Something’s wrong with the lights. Is it closing time? No, wait, the lights would get brighter not darker.” Where the hell was Sloane? He looked up and gave a start. “Whoa! Hey, partner, I was wondering where you were.” Why was Sloane looking at him funny?
“Why are you wearing sunglasses?”
“What?” Dex touched his eyes. “Oh. I don’t know. Why not? Where’s Lou?” A thought struck him and he chortled. “Skip to my Lou.”
“Oh God. Yeah, it’s time to go,” Cael said, getting up, making Dex momentarily sad.
“Why?” He stood, the world spun, and he threw a hand out, hitting something hard that suddenly steadied him. Man, it was dark in here. “Come on, little bro. I’ll buy you a drink.”
“I don’t think so. You’ve had enough for the both of us and I’m tired. Sloane, can you take him home before he ends up drooling on the bar? Again.”
Sloane chuckled. “Sure.”
Mm, sexy rumbly chuckle. No, not sexy. Dex whispered to himself in his head, the team is here. Play it cool.
“Hey,” Dex thrust a finger at Ash. No, wait, he meant to point at his brother. He moved his arm over. “There you are. I did not drool on the bar. I spilled my drink and then fell asleep on it. It was sticky. Get your facts straight.”
“Okay, then. Good night, everyone.” Cael waved and Dex waved after him, smiling broadly.
“Ash, take care of my precious baby brother, or I will drug you and shave off your mane. Have you ever seen a lion without his mane? Not so majestic. Either that or you’ll look like a lady lion.” He turned to Sloane. “Help me out here. Lady lion?”
“Lioness,” Sloane offered, a dimple forming on his cheek. Dex was tempted to put his finger to it, but controlled himself.
“Right. Lioness.” He turned back to find Ash and his brother gone. With a snort of disgust, he turned to Sloane. “That guy is sooo fucking rude. I’m hungry.”
“All right. Time to go.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dex turned and blew a kiss at Rosa and then Letty. “Hasta luego, mis ermanas, or is it companeras?” Dex let out a gasp. “Oh my God, you guys! Why didn’t you tell me I sounded like such a douche speaking Spanish?”
“It’s hermanas and compañeras,” Rosa corrected, but kissed his cheek anyway.
“I love you, Rosa. You’re so good at kicking Ash’s ass.” He hugged her tight until Sloane started pulling him away. “Love you, Letty! Your gun skills make angels cry ’cause it’s so beautiful.”
“Okay. Let’s get you out of here before the public loses any more respect for our organization.”
Dex allowed Sloane to lead him outside into the cool night air. “I’m hungry. And why’s it so dark?” Something moved in front of his eyes and it got brighter. He looked up at a handsome smiling face. “You’re so hot. I’m hungry.” Sloane. Food. Sloane. Food. How was he supposed to decide? Unless… “Can I have both?”
“I think you left the other half of that question in your head,” Sloane said with a chuckle as he walked Dex down the street, his big, strong, beefy arm around Dex’s shoulders. He liked Sloane’s arms. And other things. “I’ll make you a sandwich soon as I get you home,” Sloane added.
Next thing Dex knew, he was sitting inside some car. “Whose car is this?”
“It’s a taxi,” Sloane said, handing him something cold and wet. “Here. Drink this.”
“I’m not thirsty.” He took a swig and scrunched his nose. “This doesn’t taste like anything.”
“Because it’s water. Just drink it.”
“All of it?” Dex’s eyes widened. “It’ll make me pee.”
“Then you pee.”
“You’re so smart.” Dex leaned into Sloane and inhaled deeply. “God, you smell good.” Dex opened his eyes and found he was standing on the sidewalk in front of his house. Damn. That taxi was astoundingly fast. Like… the Doc’s DeLorean. Now that was a cool car. He closed his eyes for
“Am I a sucky partner?”
SLOANE CAME to an abrupt halt at the murmured words. “What?”
This was usually the part where Sloane ended up at Dex’s for some hot, drunken sex, except tonight, something was off, namely Dex. Sloane wrapped his arm around his too quiet partner as he helped him up the front steps. Before getting in the cab, he’d managed to walk Dex around in an attempt to sober him up and made him drink a whole bottle of water. He’d expected some more of Dex’s drunken ramblings, but not the serious concern on the man’s face and certainly not the question he’d spouted.