Blood and thunder, p.15

Blood & Thunder, page 15

 part  #2 of  THIRDS Series

 

Blood & Thunder
 


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  “He saved mine first.”

  “Yeah, but if you hadn’t persisted in going back for him….” Calvin shook his head.

  “Don’t mention it.” He threw an arm around Calvin, limping along, and shooed away the EMT that started buzzing around his leg. “This can wait. It’s only a scratch. Go help someone else who needs it more.” The woman ran off, and Dex gave Calvin a broad grin. “There is one thing you can do for me.”

  “Anything.”

  “When your partner wakes up, talk to him about going on a diet. Seriously, I think I pulled something.”

  Calvin blinked at him before letting out a laugh. “I’ll do that.”

  As Calvin helped him to the stairs, Dex braced himself. “So on a scale of one to diva, how pissed off is Sloane at me right now?”

  Calvin winced. “I’d say…. Mariah Carey pissed.”

  “Shit. Mariah? Really? You sure he’s not Tom Cruise pissed, demanding a hotel be cleared out for him and his dinner?”

  “Nope. Definitely Mariah pissed.”

  “Damn it.” Maybe he should play up his injury. No, that would probably blow up in his face. He had no idea what lay in store for him, as it was the first time he’d gone against Sloane’s orders. But Dex had been right to do so. If he’d waited until backup arrived, waited for them to clear the area, before going in for Hobbs…. He’d rather not think about it.

  “Calvin? Dex? Where the hell are you two?”

  “Speak of the devil,” Dex murmured. “We’re on our way.” Calvin helped him down the stairs and the moment he stepped foot in the lobby, Sloane was waiting for him, and he was most definitely pissed off.

  “What the hell—” Sloane took in his bloodied leg, his face going red as he pulled off his helmet and thrust it at some poor agent within arm’s reach. “I told you it was dangerous. Did you get that looked at?”

  “It’s fine, just a scratch. I’ll go now.” Dex thanked Calvin, who couldn’t mask his relief at being able to run off, and Dex made his way outside the building. The sidewalk and street were littered with agents, EMTs, firefighters, news vans, reporters. It was a nightmare. Outside, Sloane pulled Dex to one side.

  “What the hell did you think you were doing?”

  “My job,” Dex replied, making certain no newspersons heard him. The last thing they needed was the press reporting how the THIRDS couldn’t even manage their own teams. They were going to be crucified for this. Didn’t matter that they weren’t clairvoyant, that they didn’t have enough evidence, or information to go on. All they would see was that the THIRDS had failed and innocent kids were hurt. A part of him believed they were right. The last thing he needed right now was to be chewed out by his Team Leader.

  “No. Your job is to follow orders, and you sure as hell weren’t doing that.”

  Dex limped over to their BearCat and tossed his helmet inside the open back doors. Rosa was at the console connected to dispatch, updating the various THIRDS units on scene. Instead of helping, Dex was stuck arguing.

  “You really thought I was going to walk away when there was even the slightest chance of going in there and saving him?”

  “I expected you to wait for backup,” Sloane insisted.

  “There was no time to wait for backup!”

  “Dex!”

  You’ve got to be kidding me. He really was not in the mood for Ash. Dex turned to snap at him. “What?” At Ash’s stricken expression, Dex knew something was wrong. “What happened?”

  “It’s Cael.”

  “What about Cael?” Ash’s hesitation, coupled with the pain on his face, scared the hell out of Dex and he grabbed Ash’s vest. “Ash, where’s my brother?”

  “He got knocked out during the blast. Part of the ceiling collapsed in one of the rooms he was in. The EMT that checked him over says they won’t know how serious it is until they get him back to the hospital. They’re loading him up in that ambulance there.” Ash pointed out one of the ambulances, and Dex started for it when Sloane caught his arm.

  “We’re not done here.”

  “Are you serious?” Dex gaped at Sloane. “That’s my brother.”

  “I know that,” Sloane replied, clearly attempting to summon patience he didn’t have left. “I know you’re worried, but we have a job to do. You have a job to do.”

  Ash put his hand on Sloane’s shoulder. “Can I talk to you?”

  “Not now, Ash.”

  “Sloane.”

  “Fine.” Sloane released Dex, jabbing a finger in his direction. “I expect a debriefing later, Daley.”

  “Yes, sir,” Dex ground out through his teeth before he made a dash for the ambulance calling out to them. “Wait!” He reached one of the EMTs before he could close the door. “I’m coming with you. That’s my brother.” He climbed into the back of the ambulance, taking a seat on the bench as the doors closed.

  “Cael.” Dex ran a hand over his brother’s head, hating the look of him covered in grime and blood. He’d been so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t heard the EMT talking to him. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

  The guy pointed a blue-gloved finger at Dex’s leg. “Would you like me to take a look at your leg?”

  “Please. Thank you.” He brushed Cael’s hair away from his head. “Is he going to be okay?”

  “We won’t know if there’s any internal damage or the extent of it until we get him x-rayed and scanned.” Something in Dex’s face must have given the guy pause, because he gave Dex a sympathetic smile. “His vitals are good. He received no lacerations, or severe injuries from what we can see. It’s likely his brain was rattled around a bit from the impact. We’re probably looking at a couple of nights of observation and rest before he’s cleared. It’s a good thing your brother’s Therian. It’s the only reason there hasn’t been any loss of life.”

  “None of the kids….”

  The EMT shook his head. “No. Don’t get me wrong; we’re transporting several children in critical condition, but they’re going to pull through. There are plenty more with serious injuries, but being Therian has saved their lives. If they’d been Human, there’d be fewer flashing lights and not enough sirens.”

  “Thank God for small miracles,” Dex muttered. He thanked the EMT, letting him go about his business patching up Dex’s leg. On the way to the hospital, countless questions went through Dex’s head. Had Isaac known the Therian kids would be more resilient? How would he know there wouldn’t be casualties? Why the hell would he pick a youth center? If he’d really wanted to cause loss of life, why hadn’t he? Something in Dex’s gut told him there was more to this than what was on the surface. There had to be a reason behind the bombing, just as there had to be a reason behind Isaac targeting the CDC Therian registration office. If only they could figure it out before Isaac ended up destroying the city.

  DEX HAD spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening hovering outside Cael’s room at the New York Presbyterian Hospital waiting for the doctors to tell him about his baby brother. He’d managed to stop seething a few hours ago, after being forced to fight his way through reporters and angry mobs the moment he’d stepped foot off the ambulance. It was lucky the THIRDS had assigned agents to the hospitals receiving the wounded, or Dex would have ended up in jail for assault. Despite limping and looking like he’d been to hell and back, the villagers had their pitchforks out, demanding he be burned at the stake for his failures. Despite arriving earlier, Calvin hadn’t fared any better with the crowd, but managed to make it inside without punching anyone’s lights out.

  Two doors down, his teammate had waited for word on Hobbs, who was in worse shape than Cael. After a bunch of x-rays and scans, Cael’s assigned doctor had assured Dex his brother looked worse off than he was. He’d been knocked out but nothing was broken, fractured, or concussed. They would be keeping him a few nights to observe him and keep running a few Therian tests to make sure. Apparently his brother had a hard head, and lucky for them, that hard head had been protected by an ev
en harder helmet.

  As soon as Tony was able to get away, he was thundering through the hospital, voice booming, and boots stomping like Godzilla through Tokyo. Dex had heard him from Cael’s room. His dad deflated the moment his gaze landed on Cael, his gaze going from Cael to Dex and back. The two of them had blubbered like a couple of babies, despite knowing Cael was going to be fine. Then his dad put his game face on, told Dex to call him if anything changed, and stalked off. That had been an hour ago.

  After tucking his brother in, Dex decided to check in on Calvin and Hobbs. Lieutenant Sparks had authorized Dex and Calvin to take a couple of personal days, and had even allowed the rest of their team to come visit in shifts. Rosa had kissed Cael’s head, called him her poor gatito, and left with what Dex had been certain were teary eyes. Letty had squeezed the life out of Dex, brought him lunch, and kissed Cael’s head, telling him he’d better be on his feet soon. Neither Sloane nor Ash had made an appearance, but he didn’t hold it against them. Headquarters was on lockdown, trying to sort out the chaos from the bombing, deal with families, address the media, and put every available agent out there on the streets in an attempt to track down Isaac or someone who could lead them to Isaac.

  “Hey,” Dex said quietly, closing the door behind him. Calvin stood with Hobbs’s hand in his. There were IVs and tubes everywhere. They’d cleaned Hobbs up, revealing the countless scratches and nasty bruises.

  “Doc said it’s a good thing he’s a Therian. His size helped. Plus he was wearing his gear and a helmet. If he’d been Human….” Calvin bit his bottom lip then nodded. “He’s going to be okay. He’s got a few cracked ribs from where he landed.” Calvin followed Dex’s gaze to the tubes in Hobbs’s nose. His voice was rough when he spoke. “Smoke inhalation. They’re giving him antibiotics. Luckily, there was no damage to his lungs.”

  There was a sudden loud commotion outside, and Calvin’s eyes widened. “Oh hell. It’s them.”

  “Who?” Sounded like a damn war had broken out. Dex was sure he heard a chair clattering somewhere. He edged away from the door.

  “Rafe and Seb.”

  “I still don’t know who that is.” Should he be worried? By Calvin’s expression, it appeared so.

  “Hobbs’s big brothers.”

  Dex arched an eyebrow at him. “Like, big as in older, right?”

  “Big as in older and big.”

  “How much bigger can they get? Hobbs is already the size of the fuckin’ Chrysler building.” Dex looked down at himself. “How do you not get an inferiority complex being around these dudes?”

  “Dex, we’re Human. You can’t compare yourself to them. Once you accept that you’ll never be as big, strong, fast, or resilient, it gets easier. And it’s not because you’re not trying hard enough, or not good enough; it’s in their blood. Why do you think the THIRDS recruits them?” Calvin ran his hand tenderly over Hobbs’s head. “It might seem like a gift, but some don’t see it that way.”

  “I never realized.” He never would have suspected Hobbs to have any hang-ups about being Therian. Cael had plenty growing up, but with Tony and Dex to support him, he’d grown out of it, even if his little brother occasionally felt inferior to his Felid teammates. Dex knew the feeling. “Wait, you said ‘recruit them.’ Are you telling me Hobbs’s brothers are—”

  The door to the room slammed open and Calvin jerked back. Dex opened his mouth to tell off the two Therians, but when they stepped in the room, he quickly shut it. Rafe and Seb were not only bigger than Hobbs, they were tougher and meaner looking. They were also in THIRDS uniforms. Crap. Hobbs’s brothers were Defense agents as well. Why the hell hadn’t he known that?

  “Ethan….” One of the brothers ran over to the bed and when his expression softened, Dex immediately spotted the resemblance. The guy couldn’t be that much older than Hobbs, with short black hair interspersed with gray, same with his stubbly jaw. The lines at the corners of his eyes were the same as Hobbs’s, showing he smiled often. The second brother was a whole other story. It was clear he was the eldest, and by the looks of it, not the friendliest. His expression was stern, revealing nothing. As opposed to his brothers, he had fairer hair, a few permanent nicks and scars here and there on his clean-shaven face, and had a lightly crooked nose that had clearly been broken one too many times. He had a stoic, military air about him.

  The younger of the two gently put his hand to Hobbs’ head. “What happened?”

  Calvin swallowed hard and looked to Dex. Where the hell was Sloane when you needed him? Shouldn’t the Team Leader be the one to explain why their brother was in a hospital room? “We were clearing out the youth center when we found a lost kid. We got him out and were about to make another round, when Hobbs came across a bomb hidden in a vent. There wasn’t enough time. He shoved me through the fire door and was left behind.”

  The oldest turned to Dex, his amber eyes pinning Dex to the spot. “Who the fuck are you?”

  “Oh, uh, I’m Agent Dexter Daley. I joined the team about eight months ago.” Dex held his hand out, but when the guy left him hanging, he shoved it in his pocket.

  “A rookie? Are you the reason my brother’s lying there?” he growled, crowding Dex.

  “Whoa, hey, take it easy.” Dex put his hands up and took a step back, not appreciating the accusation, but understanding how hard this probably was for the guy.

  “Don’t you fucking tell me to take it easy, Rookie. If you screwed up, I swear I will—”

  “Rafe, stop!” Calvin wedged himself between Dex and Rafe, pushing the larger Therian away. “Dex was the one who got Ethan out. He risked his life to save him. If he hadn’t gone in there, the paramedics might not have made it in time.”

  Surprise flashed through Rafe’s face, but within seconds, the stern mask had returned.

  “Wait, you’re Dex?” Seb came over, shoving past his older brother as if he wasn’t there, and took Dex’s hand. “Ethan’s always talking about you!”

  Dex’s jaw dropped. “Hobbs talks?”

  Seb laughed. “Of course he talks. Can’t get him to shut up sometimes. He’s told me so much about you, it’s like I know you. I swear, every time I talk to him he’s telling me about something funny you did or said.”

  “Hobbs talks? Talks out loud? I had no idea.”

  “Yeah, but only to Seb,” Rafe grunted. “With the rest of us, it’s like he’s a fucking mute.”

  Seb rounded on his brother. “Maybe if you weren’t such a dick to him all the time, he’d talk to you too.”

  O-okay. Obviously some family issues needed resolving here. Rafe gritted his teeth, his jaw muscles clenching, but he said nothing. He walked over to Hobbs’s bedside, Calvin joining him to speak quietly.

  Seb gave Dex a weary smile. “Ethan was diagnosed with selective mutism when he was a kid. Social situations were impossible for him. The anxiety was rough. Thanks to years of cognitive-behavioral strategies and therapy, he got the help he needed to get through it, but he’s still shy. He has trouble talking to certain people or during certain situations.”

  “And it’s never impeded his job?” Dex asked, wondering how Hobbs ended up a Public Safety Bomb Technician for the THIRDS.

  Seb shook his head. “Ethan loves what he does. Always has. When it comes to the job, he’s confident. When he needs to relay information, he’s speaking into a headset, so for him, the way he manages, is that his job is dealing with machines, not people. It’s people who are the problem.” Seb looked over his shoulder at Rafe and shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was quiet. “Don’t feel bad, though. He doesn’t talk to our parents much either. Just me and Calvin.” He smiled warmly. “Thanks, for saving his life.”

  Dex returned his smile. He liked Seb a whole lot better than Rafe.

  “Our brother’s in the hospital and you’re looking for a place to park your dick?”

  Yep. A whole lot better.

  “You know what, Rafe? Fuck you.”

  The brothers started arguing when
Sloane came thundering into the room. His laser glare was set to stun and pissed off seemed to be his new modus operandi. “What the hell is going on here?”

  “What kind of team are you running, Brodie?” Rafe marched up to Sloane and gave him a shove. “How could you let this happen?”

  Sloane put his hands up in front of him, his voice calm. “Rafe, take it easy.”

  “If one more asshole on your team tells me to take it easy, I’m going to put a bullet in them. You didn’t answer my question. How could you let this happen?”

  “Rafe, leave him alone,” Seb warned. “I’m sure Sloane did everything he could.”

  Rafe turned to his brother with a glare. “Tell me, bro. Is there someone in this unit you don’t want to screw?”

  “What the hell is your problem?” Seb spat out, giving his brother a shove.

  “You’re my problem. If you’d kept it in your pants, you wouldn’t have been transferred from Destructive Delta, and you would have been there to have his back. But you couldn’t, could you? And now look at him!”

 
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