Blood and thunder, p.5

Blood & Thunder, page 5

 part  #2 of  THIRDS Series

 

Blood & Thunder
 



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  “I was uh, giving you an impromptu hand job, and you called me Gabe.” Dex pulled his hand out of Sloane’s, watching his partner’s brows draw together in confusion before realization dawned on him.

  “Shit. Dex. I—”

  “I know. You miss him. Your subconscious, your heart, it wants what it wants, right?”

  “Don’t, please.” Sloane reached for Dex’s hand again, and Dex allowed it. “What do you want from me, Dex?”

  Dex didn’t spend long thinking of his reply. What he wanted was unattainable, at least at the moment. The future was unclear. “I know it’s selfish, but I’d like it if when you were with me, that you were with me.” He was asking for too much. It wasn’t as if Sloane could control his subconscious.

  “I am. I just need—”

  “Time. I know.” Dex hated seeing the crestfallen expression on Sloane’s face, but he couldn’t summon the strength to brush his feelings aside with a joke. Not this time.

  “We’ve been apologizing to each other a lot lately,” Sloane said quietly, his thumb stroking the back of Dex’s hand.

  “Yeah.”

  “Do you… want me to go?”

  Dex met Sloane’s eyes, the butterflies in his stomach fluttering at the unspoken need. “Do you want to?”

  After some hesitation, Sloane shook his head, his bottom lip jutted out tragically. “No.”

  “Good.” Dex turned off the TV, tugged at Sloane’s hand, and led him upstairs. He climbed into bed and lay on his side, his heart heavy. Sloane wrapped his arms around Dex’s middle, and pulled Dex back against him, the gesture bringing a small smile to Dex’s face. He rolled over to face Sloane, and a pang of guilt hit him for the troubled look he’d placed on his partner’s face. He leaned in for a kiss, relieved when Sloane returned his soft kiss.

  Maybe Dex should have gone back to sleep and not said anything. The guy had enough on his plate without Dex acting like some whiny, clingy boyfriend. Especially since he didn’t even qualify for the title.

  It wasn’t as if Dex hadn’t been in this situation before. He was always moving too quickly, but he’d never had a problem with it. Now, things felt… different. He felt different. Something about the guy had Dex wishing for things he’d never even thought about before. Was it because when he looked into Sloane’s bright amber eyes, all he saw was a world of pain and heartache? Did he really think he could change that? Even if they had a lifetime together, would those eyes ever be filled with something… more? Not liking where his thoughts were heading, he pulled back and ran a thumb over Sloane’s brow, speaking quietly. “Get some sleep.”

  “Dex….”

  Dex put his finger to Sloane’s lips, giving him as much of a smile as he could muster. “It’s okay. Really. One day at a time, right?”

  Sloane nodded, though his uncertainty was clear. Despite that, he closed his eyes as Dex continued to stroke his face, enjoying the feel of Sloane’s stubble, the rugged line of his jaw, the way his hair fell over his eyes. His partner was always letting it grow out until Tony threatened to take a pair of scissors to it. Dex liked when it curled around Sloane’s ears, softening his features. It was a long time before Dex fell asleep, and when he did, it was restless and filled with unpleasant dreams of a madman chasing him and a lover he could never reach.

  Chapter 3

  SLOANE WALKED through the empty, white halls, the too-bright lights almost blinding. There was something familiar about the place. An icy chill ran up his spine, and for a split second, he thought he was back. Had they come for him? Looking down at himself, he was relieved to find he was no longer that frightened child, one of many occupying a room in the numerous wards. He was grown up, far stronger than he had been at the time. His rifle was in his hand, and he was dressed in his uniform. He was here on a mission. Something important. He wished he could remember what that something was.

  As he advanced with caution, he did his best to control his breathing. There was a set of double doors at the end. White like the rest of the hall. He didn’t know what it was, but something felt wrong. He went to press his earpiece when he heard panting, followed by a voice that brought him to a halt.

  “Sloane… help me. Please….”

  “Gabe?”

  “Through the doors… please hurry! Oh God—”

  Sloane bolted down the hall and burst through the doors, coming to an abrupt halt just inside the vast empty gray room. “Please no.” He shook his head, his heart leaping into his throat and the back of his eyes stinging. Gabe knelt on the floor, his hands tied behind his back. Beside him, in the same position, was Dex. Isaac stood with a .38 in his hand. Sloane went to aim his rifle but when he lifted his arms, his hands were empty. What the hell? What was going on? How did Isaac get hold of Gabe and Dex? Why couldn’t he remember anything?

  “It’s time for you to make your choice.”

  Sloane stared at Isaac, not understanding. Isaac cocked his gun and put it to the back of Gabe’s head. “No! Please.” A tear rolled down Sloane’s cheek, his hands shaking as he held them up in front of him, a terrifying sense of dread washing over him, as if he knew the outcome of this scenario. “Whatever you want, but please, don’t hurt them.”

  Isaac’s malicious grin all but stopped Sloane’s heart, and he moved the gun from Gabe to Dex and back. “Make your choice.”

  “Why are you doing this? Gabe’s your brother!”

  “Why? Because I’m a psychopath, obviously. And you? You’re a coward. Five seconds.”

  Sloane looked from Gabe’s tearful hazel eyes to Dex’s pools of crystal blue before he shifted his gaze back to Isaac. “How about a trade? Me for them. It’s me you want, right?”

  Isaac cocked his head to one side in thought, before his lips curled into a malevolent grin. “And give up the opportunity to make you suffer? No. Five.”

  “I love you, Sloane,” Gabe said, drawing Sloane’s attention.

  “Four.”

  Sloane’s gaze went to Dex, his expression breaking Sloane’s heart. Dex smiled tenderly and nodded. “I understand.”

  “Three.”

  “I can’t,” Sloane pleaded with Isaac. “Please, don’t do this.” How could he? He loved Gabe, but that didn’t mean he could let Dex go. Dex was… extraordinary. He’d never met anyone like him. There was so much Sloane wanted to learn about him, to experience with him. Dex was good to him, always there to pick up the pieces, doing so with a warm smile and tender touch.

  “Two.” Isaac moved the gun between Gabe and Dex.

  “Please,” Sloane begged, dropping to his knees, his vision blurring from his tears, and his heart breaking. He never thought the day would come when he would find himself on his knees, begging a madman like Isaac, but he would do anything for the men before him. “Please.”

  “One.”

  The gun moved to Gabe’s head and Sloane cried out. “Not him!”

  A shot rang out and Sloane released an anguished cry—

  Sloane gasped, choking on a fierce cry, the room around him dark. Where the hell was he? What was going on? Was he still at the research facility?

  “Sloane!”

  Sloane scrambled off the bed so fast, he ran into the wall with his shoulder. He spun around, his heart beating wildly, his gaze moving frantically around the room before it landed on the man in the center of the large bed, the slice of moonlight cutting through the small gap in the curtain landing on disheveled dirty blond hair, casting a glow around the man’s head.

  “Dex?”

  Dex climbed off the mattress, his hands held up in front of him as he gingerly took a step closer, his expression filled with concern. “It’s me, buddy. It’s Dex.”

  It had been a dream. No, it had been a nightmare, a very real, very vivid one that came flooding back in excruciating detail. What had he done? “Oh God.” He slid down the length of the wall, covering his face with his hands. Dex placed a hand on his shoulder, and Sloane couldn’t bear to look at him. He could still see it…. Dex
s limp body lying in a pool of blood, his bright blue eyes on Sloane… blood trickling from the corners of plump lips smiling tenderly at him.

  “Hey, come on, talk to me. Tell me what happened.”

  Sloane shook his head. How could he explain to Dex what he’d done? He knew it was just a dream, but what did that say about him? About them? God, it had all been so real. He grabbed Dex and pulled him against him, hugging him so tight he heard Dex’s low groan, but he couldn’t let go. He had to know Dex was real, there in his arms, and alive, not executed at his words. “I’m sorry,” Sloane whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

  “For what?” Dex wheezed, tapping Sloane on the shoulder. “You know I love a good hug, buddy, but you’re kinda crushing me here.” Sloane loosened his grip, but he didn’t let go. He still couldn’t meet Dex’s gaze, so he buried his face against his partner’s neck. “That bad, huh?” Dex gently stroked Sloane’s arm. He didn’t deserve such tenderness.

  “Yes,” Sloane replied, squeezing Dex involuntarily. He felt like such a child. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell Dex what he’d done. Isaac was right. He was a coward. Since he’d appeared on Dex’s doorstep in December after telling him he wanted to see where things went between them, telling him he wanted to move on, he still found himself unable to. Dex was so patient, the most patient guy Sloane had ever known, but how long could that last? He’d told Dex he just needed time, and he did, but what if time didn’t help? What if he could never let Gabe go? How long could he go on giving part of himself to Dex, hurting a good guy when Dex deserved so much better?

  “Hey, look at me.” Dex gently took Sloane’s face in his hands, and Sloane lifted his gaze, a lump in his throat at the kindness in that handsome face. “It was a bad dream, okay? Whatever it was, you’re here now, with me. You’re safe, okay? Everything’s okay.”

  Sloane nodded. He wished he could believe that. Despite the uneasy feeling in his gut, he allowed Dex to lead him back to bed, trying not to feel guilty over his subconscious choice. He held Dex close as he lay in bed, remaining awake long after Dex had fallen asleep. Sometimes he looked around the room and asked himself what the hell he was doing here, but then he only had to feel or see Dex beside him and a little voice in his head told him it was exactly where he needed to be. It was that feeling he drew on, allowing it to wash away the remnants of that terrible dream. It was okay. He was here with Dex. Everything was okay.

  Remarkably, he managed to get in a few hours of sleep. He woke up before Dex, which was nothing new. He always did. It was kind of cheesy now that he thought about it, but not only was he always the first one awake, but he wanted to be. It had become his routine. He’d wake up, and watch Dex sleep for a brief moment, grinning like an idiot at his partner’s sleeping form. The guy always looked like he’d gone three rounds with the duvet and lost. It was wrapped around his waist, one leg on top, arm tucked up against his body, the other under his crooked pillow, his hair sticking up every which way and stubble grown in. Damn he was sexy.

  Sloane carefully leaned over and placed a kiss to Dex’s bare shoulder, tempted by the curve of his spine leading down to that plump ass underneath the covers. God, he loved Dex’s ass. Then again, there wasn’t a whole lot of Dex not to love.

  Love?

  He quickly pushed that thought aside. What the hell was wrong with him? He cared about Dex, he did, and he had no trouble being affectionate, or showing Dex how crazy he made him, but love was another matter, one he wasn’t willing to explore. He’d loved Gabe, and look where it got him. No, when Gabe died, he took all the love Sloane had with him, took a part of Sloane with him, one he’d never get back. He did care about Dex, and he was sure if he let himself, he could get attached to the guy, find himself needing and wanting to be with him, but love wasn’t something he could see ever happening to him again.

  Annoyed with the direction his thoughts were going, he climbed out of bed, grabbed his boxer briefs and T-shirt, and went about his morning routine. He’d have about forty minutes before Dex came ambling into the kitchen like the walking dead in search of coffee. Sloane had never met anyone who loved—or needed—coffee as much as Dex, and they worked for an organization that depended on the stuff like junkies relied on crack. If coffee became an illegal substance, the THIRDS would crumble, and his partner would likely end up a drug kingpin, trafficking coffee beans across the five boroughs.

  The morning after the first time they’d had sex, Dex had been his usual self, and his enthusiasm had led to a hot blowjob for Sloane in the shower. Sloane quickly discovered it had been a one off. A mixture of medication from his injuries at the time, his excitement of getting back to work after weeks of recovery, and Dex’s keenness to sex Sloane up, had been responsible for the man’s alert state. After that, until his partner had his coffee, no signs of life existed.

  A shuffling sound, followed by a long groan caught his ear and Sloane turned, watching in amusement as Dex took a seat at the counter. Sections of his hair stuck up in peaks, making him look like he had little devil horns, and he had a pillowcase mark across one pink cheek.

  “Morning,” Sloane said cheerfully.

  Dex looked up at him without raising his head. He let out a grunt and Sloane chuckled. And the guy called him grumpy pants. Adding the hot frothed milk to Dex’s coffee, he placed the bucket-sized cappuccino in front of his partner. Dex wrapped his hands around the mug, shuddered from head to toe, and rather than lifting it to his mouth, he hunched over to put his lips to the mug, and sipped.

  “Oh God,” Dex moaned, closing his eyes, making the same face he did during sex. It went straight to Sloane’s groin. Curious, he decided to ask.

  “If you had to choose between coffee and—”

  “Coffee.”

  “You didn’t know what I was going to say,” Sloane laughed.

  Dex shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Coffee.”

  “Me or coffee.”

  “Coffee.”

  “Wow. Okay, sex or coffee.”

  “Coffee.”

  “Your brother or—”

  “Coffee. I would totally trade my brother for a good cup of coffee.” He took a sip with a contented sigh. His gaze shifted to Sloane. “Okay, maybe I wouldn’t trade him in for coffee. Although….” He pursed his lips thoughtfully then shook his head. “No, you’re right, that would be wrong.”

  Sloane didn’t mind he came second to coffee, because all he had to do was bide his time. The dark, frothy brew might dominate his lover’s mind at first, but as soon as Dex was finished, they’d both have breakfast, and then the dishes would be cleared and washed. They’d go upstairs, brush their teeth, and Sloane would take off his shirt on the way to the armchair at the end of the bedroom where his clothes and toiletry bag were. As expected, he’d never make it there.

  Dex pounced, arms wrapping around Sloane’s waist, one hand caressing Sloane’s chest, the other slipping underneath the elastic band of his boxer briefs while Dex delivered kisses to his back, the tip of his tongue licking, teeth nipping.

  “Still thinking of trading me in for coffee?” Sloane asked huskily.

  “I may have been a bit rash. You know I can’t be trusted when the Starbucks siren gets me in her caffeinated clutches. I’m weak. It shames me.” Dex’s hand wrapped around Sloane’s hardening cock, drawing a low moan from Sloane, his other hand tugging down Sloane’s underwear. Dex’s teeth bit down on the flesh of his ass cheek, and Sloane bucked into Dex’s hand with a low growl. “What can I do to make it up to you?” Dex’s tongue poked out to lick Sloane’s ass where he’d bitten him.

  “We don’t have much time,” Sloane replied, trying to keep his breath steady.

  “How about I let you fuck my mouth in the shower? I know how much you like that.”

  “Like” would be an understatement. As Dex took his hand and led him to the bathroom, all Sloane could think about was how mornings were a lot more fun with Dex around.

  THE THIRDS training facility was huge, oc
cupying three buildings along York Avenue, stretching down three blocks with an outdoor facility running down the length of Cherokee Place. It was rather impressive.

  For months, it seemed as if Dex was always in one training session or another. Today it was bonding with your Therian partner, a session Dex was meant to have taken months ago when he first joined, but due to everything going on with the HumaniTherians case he’d been working on with his team, it kept getting postponed. The rest of the rookies in this session were brand new recruits, making Dex the most experienced rookie there.

  He waited in the huge changing bay filled with rows and rows of curtained off sections to give Therian agents privacy during and after their shift, including receiving Postshift Trauma Care afterward. Sloane had left his clothes and belongings in the equally expansive locker room next door before walking out in nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. He’d given Dex a wink before slipping past him behind the curtain of their designated area. Dex stood dutifully in front, his hands clasped behind his back trying not to freak out at the hundreds of feral growls, roars, and howls echoing through the place. He was used to Therians shifting, especially having grown up in a house with a Therian brother, but standing in a room filled with hundreds of them was something he was still growing accustomed to. Instead, he concentrated on his partner.

 
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