Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: THIRDS by Charlie Cochet Part 4

Tried and True #10
When THIRDS agent Dexter J. Daley met Team Leader Sloane Brodie, he couldn’t have imagined how slamming into his new partner—literally—would shake both their worlds. Now four years later, they’ve faced dangers, fought battles both personal and professional… and fallen deeply in love. Now their big moment is finally in sight, and they’re ready to stand up together and make it official. Unfortunately, as the countdown to their big day begins, an enemy declares war on the THIRDS….

With their family in danger, Dex and Sloane are put to the test on how far into darkness they’ll walk to save those they love. As secrets are unearthed, a deadly betrayal is revealed, and Dex and Sloane must call on their Destructive Delta family for one last hurrah to put an end to the secret organization responsible for so much devastation.

Dex and Sloane will have plenty of bullets to dodge on the way to the altar, but with happiness within their grasp, they are determined to get there come hell or high water…

Love and Payne #11
Austen Payne, THIRDS Squadron Specialist Agent (SSA) for Destructive Delta and TIN operative, has seen the worst the world has to offer, faced lethal killers, and helped bring down dangerous organizations. But nothing terrifies him more than falling in love. After years of undercover work, Austen is a master at defending himself and protecting his heart… until he meets Osmond Zachary.

THIRDS Defense Agent Osmond Zachary has a huge, doting family, yet something is missing in his life. After meeting grumpy, foul-mouthed, jittery cheetah Therian Austen Payne, Zach knows exactly what that something—or someone—is. Unfortunately Austen seems determined to avoid Zach at all costs.

When Zach foils an assassination attempt, he ends up in the killer’s crosshairs, and Austen is Zach’s best chance at staying alive. Zach hopes the crisis will bring them closer, but Austen has every intention of walking away as soon as the danger is over.

Happily ever after isn’t for guys like Austen, but Zach is determined to show him it can be….

Tied and Truth #10
Original Reveiw December 2017:
The time has finally arrived! Dex and Sloane are ready to make their commitment to each other official but before the big day gets here, someone has declared war on THIRDS and puts the men's family in harm's way.  Will Destructive Delta be able to rally one more time and save everyone in time for the wedding march? Dex, Sloane, and their dearest and nearest have never walked away from a fight and certainly are not about to walk away from this one but will every one make it to the ceremony on time?

This series was amazing when I read it back in October and Tried & True was just as thrilling.  The passion between Dex and Sloane is still as wild and untamed as it was in book one, Hell & High Water, truth is its grown even stronger.  On one hand, T&T is a bit of a sad read seeing how its the end of the THIRDS series but knowing the gang will return in all new adventures has my pulse racing and adrenaline pumping with all the possibilities yet to come.  So much goodness from beginning to end.

Being released around the holiday season put me in a quandary.  I love reading Christmas themed stories and once Turkey Day arrives then its time for all the halls being decked and the trees being trimmed.  But then Charlie decides to tell a little wedding tale mixed with all the ups, downs, humor, drama, claws, fists, and jaw-dropping WOW-ness that we've come to love about the THIRDS universe.  How was I going to put aside my ever growing list of fa-la-la-ing romances to read about Dex and Sloane's latest adventure?  Well, I just had to make myself.  Okay, that's a lie.  There was no amount of "making" me do it because even though I didn't take the time to write & post my review until the week between Santa's visit and saying goodbye to Father Time & hello to the New Year baby, I read Tried & True only days after it appeared on my Kindle, I had to get the tree up and house decorated after all😉.

I'm not going to touch on any particulars but let me just say this: Tried & True lives up to the level of HOLY HANNAH BATMAN that Charlie's entire THIRDS series has reached for me.  There is no amount of clever words that would even begin to express how much I have loved this unique and intriguing universe that she has created and even though we have reached the end of the THIRDS series, there is so much potential for future stories as the team moves on to their new positions.  I for one will be among the first in line to read them.  If you haven't started this series yet, now is the perfect time to begin the journey.  Don't be put off with the number of entries in the series because once you start, you'll just keep going and before you know it you will be reading Tried & True and be singing its praises as much as I am.  Thank You, Charlie Cochet for giving us Dex, Sloane, Ash, Cale, the rest of Destructive Delta, and their trusted friends and family.

Love in Payne #11
As a THIRDS SSA for Destructive Delta and TIN operative, Austen Payne has faced the worst of the worst head on but now he's faced with falling for THIRDS Defense Agent Osmond Zachary and he finds himself terrified and fighting it every step of the way.  Osmond "Zach" Zachary fell for Austen long ago but fears the feelings will never be returned but as he's faced with being the one who needs protecting and Austen heads up the protection detail will the two of them finally find a chance at more?  Will Austen's fears of the heart stop their possibilities or will those seeking to end Zach take the choice away from them first?

I fell for Zach the minute Dex got to his cheesy doodles back in THIRDS book 1: Hell & High Water.  He was a huge bear Therian shifter who no one wanted to cross but somehow the whole cheesy doodle introduction just made him absolutely adorable too.  As for Austen, you just knew there was a backstory there that was waiting to be told and I am so glad Charlie Cochet finally let us in on Austen's history.  I won't go into any more of his past other than to say it breaks your heart and even though I didn't think it possible to love him more, the author found a way.  You just want to wrap both of them up to keep them safe but then you realize that they are far more equipped at protection than a thousand layers of bubblewrap you could cuddle them up in.

I won't go into the mystery element of the story too much other than to say: Zach saves the life of someone certain people didn't want saved and in doing so he has a target on his back.  Austen definitely has his hands full with this particular assignment but he gets a glimpse at what true family love should look like and for someone who has "hardened" his heart against love he is uncomfortable at times but those walls are slowly being broken down at the same time.  As for Zach's family well all I can say is they are an intriguing group of characters that will make you laugh and cry, from the youngest nephews to the older parents they all have something to offer.

At first I was missing Dex, Sloane, and the whole Destructive Delta gang but Austen and Zach are a pretty great pair and I loved finally being able to see their journey begin and grow.  Have to admit that as much as I completely fell for Austen and Zach, I loved seeing Sparks in a little different light, dare I say she might have even smiled or let out a laugh?  I won't say why or how that came about but that scene was brilliantly written and made me laugh almost as hard as the whole cheesy doodle scene back in book 1.  I haven't mentioned Austen's pal, Brayden but I really hope we get to see his story down the road because he deserves one.

Love and Payne is a great addition to the whole THIRDS universe.  From beginning to end I was hooked, there is mystery, action, drama, romance, lust, humor, and of course the whole paranormal element as well as plenty of romance.  If you are a fan of the THIRDS series then you already know how special these men and women, Therians and humans, agents and spies, are so you definitely want to read this one and if you have yet to give this whole universe a try then I highly recommend stop reading this review and go start THIRDS, trust me it will be time well spent.


Tied and Truth #10
Chapter One
HE WAS on his own.

Dex breathed in deeply through his nose, then let the breath out slowly through his mouth. He steadied his heart, his pulse, his breathing. His body answered to him, not the other way around. It was three against one, though there was only the one he had to worry about. He had to stay on his guard with that one.

“You’re going down.”

Dex opened his eyes, his focus on the huge tiger Therian before him. His dear delusional friend had no idea what he was getting himself into. Seb would be the one going down, but first…. Dex curled his lip up on one side as he moved his gaze to Hudson. The good doctor would be the first down but the last man standing. Dex would make sure of it. His most challenging target, however, slowly circled Dex. He could feel his mate’s eyes burning over every inch of him.

Sloane came back into view, the predator inside him looking out at Dex through molten amber eyes, his pupils dilated. His Felid was awake, ready to hunt, and Dex was his prey, or so Sloane believed. Sloane flexed his fingers, the knuckles stretching the blue wraps around his hands. The black racerback tank accentuated his broad muscular shoulders, and Dex allowed his gaze to travel down the thick biceps to his deliciously corded forearms. The tank was snug against his expansive chest, down to his torso and tapered waist. The loose black yoga pants rested low on his hips, and his feet were bare.

“Holy shit, your eyes.”

Dex ignored Seb and kept his gaze on Sloane and the smug smile now on his face. He knew the change in Dex’s eye color was his doing. Didn’t matter. It wouldn’t change what was going to happen. His mate was going down.

“You boys going to stand around all day?” Dex balled his hands into fists at his sides, the orange wraps shifting against his skin.

As expected, Seb charged first. Dex ducked beneath his right hook, spun, and slammed his hands into Seb’s back, sending him reeling forward. Dex lashed out, grabbed Hudson’s arm, and kicked his leg out from under him. He used his weight to flip Hudson over his shoulder and throw him onto the mat. Seb lunged at him, but Dex was quicker. Much quicker. He dropped and rolled out of the way, then popped up behind Seb and kicked at the back of his bad knee.

Seb roared, and Dex smiled.

That’s it, big guy. Get pissed. But don’t get sloppy.

Seb snarled as he pushed through the pain and came after Dex, his Felid half shining through his green eyes. Dex ducked and dodged. He slapped Seb’s fists away from him. Movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention, and Dex brought both fists down against Seb’s arms, then came up with a fierce uppercut and a kick to the abdomen that sent Seb rolling across the mat. Then Dex spun and ducked under Hudson’s right hook, landing a punch against Hudson’s ribs that left him gasping for breath. Dex pulled Hudson’s leg out from under him and brought both fists down against Hudson’s back, slamming him down hard into the mat, knocking the wind out of him. Hudson inhaled sharply as he writhed in pain. A low growl rose through him, and when he tried to get up, Dex put his foot on Hudson’s back and pushed down.

“You’re not even trying,” Dex growled.

“Dex,” Seb warned.

Dex stepped back and motioned for Seb to advance. “I’m not going to baby him, Seb. You want him to be prepared? You want him to survive out there? Then he has to learn.” Dex moved his gaze to Sloane, who was circling him, a barely there smile on his face.

I haven’t forgotten about you, baby. Your turn will come.

Hudson was still on the mat, his forehead pressed against it.

“Get up, Hudson,” Dex demanded. “Get your ass up off that mat right now.”

Seb and Hudson might have been sworn in and were officially TIN, but they were behind in their training. Sparks arranged for them to start their TIN Operative Training Program as soon as Dex and Sloane returned from their honeymoon. Since their recruitment, Seb and Hudson had been doing the same TIN Associate Training Program Dex and Sloane had been doing for months. The two had a hell of a lot to catch up on, and Dex felt for them; he did. Especially Hudson. As a medical examiner, Hudson had never been put through the training as a THIRDS Defense agent, so he had the most to learn. Making him the most vulnerable. Not to mention the most hesitant. Hudson was a wolf Therian, and although he could be as fierce as any Felid, he was soft-hearted and tended to be a nurturer. Hudson was a logical thinker, which was great, but his new role with TIN required instinct and action.

Dex wouldn’t go easy on them because they were his friends. His family. In fact, it was precisely for that reason he couldn’t go easy on them. Shit was about to get real, and he needed those he cared about to be prepared. If he had to be the one to push, to break them and help put them back together, then so be it.

Hudson glared at him and sat back on his heels.

Dex marched over, grabbed his arm, and hauled him to his feet. He thrust a finger in Hudson’s face. “I said get your ass up.”

Hudson’s wolf Therian growled at him, his steel-blue eyes intense. Good. Hudson had a temper buried deep down behind all that sweetness and timidity, and Dex knew just how to expose it.

Dex took a step back, his attention moving between Seb and Hudson. The two exchanged glances, and Dex grinned. Now we’re talking.

The pair came at him at the same time, and Hudson even managed to land a hit, punching Dex across his jaw. Finally, they were getting somewhere. Dex maneuvered around Seb, making sure none of Seb’s punches landed. If they did, he wasn’t too worried. Not that he wanted to get punched in the face by a tiger Therian, but where it once might have broken his jaw, now he could take the hit and bounce back.

“Why do you keep trying to punch me?” Dex asked Seb.

Seb spun with a snarl. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the fact you’re underestimating me, seeing me as a Human, as someone smaller and weaker than you that you can overpower. Your punching me is not going to knock me out.”

“I never said you were weaker,” Seb replied, his eyes narrowing.

“No, you’re just treating me like I am.” Dex motioned to Sloane. “Would you attack Sloane the same way?”

Seb frowned, puzzled. “Well, no, obviously.”

“Why? Because he’s bigger? Stronger? A jaguar Therian?” Dex shook his head. “Never underestimate your opponent.” Seb took a step forward, and Dex put a hand up to stop him. “Stay there. Both of you. Observe.” Dex turned to Sloane and took his position. “How about showing them how it’s done?”

Sloane ducked his head, his amber eyes almost black as he met Dex’s gaze. “My pleasure.”

Dex readied himself. This was going to hurt oh so good. He’d done it before. Several times. Dex grinned wickedly. Sloane wouldn’t attack first. He never did. His Felid half wanted to stalk, to catch Dex unawares, which was why Dex wouldn’t give him the opportunity. He took off in a run toward Sloane. Sloane was heavier, bulkier, and weighed a fuckton more than Dex, which worked to Dex’s advantage.

Whatever Dex did, Sloane would do his damn best to keep his feet on the mat. The floor was not where he wanted to be. Which was why it was exactly where Dex had to get him. The bigger the Therian, the harder they fell. Sloane took his stance—left leg forward, right leg back, knees slightly bent as he anchored himself. He held up his fists, ready to strike. Dex picked up speed, grabbed Sloane’s shoulder, flung himself up in a flying scissor kick, and wrapped his legs around Sloane’s neck, using the force of his momentum to bring Sloane down, flipping him over onto the mat. Dex kept his legs wrapped around Sloane’s neck. This was where Dex would have gouged out the dude’s eyes, but he wasn’t about to do that to his beloved, so instead, he tightened his hold and smacked Sloane in the face.

With a feral growl, Sloane rolled with Dex still on him so Dex had his back to the mat. He thrust his hands down against Dex’s groin and jerked backward, but Dex only squeezed his legs around Sloane’s neck. He grabbed Sloane’s thumb and bent it back, forcing Sloane’s arm—and more importantly his elbow—away from Dex’s groin area. Had this been a real scenario, Dex would have won by now. Sloane twisted and threw his weight against Dex, thrusting his elbow back and hitting Dex in the balls.

“Fuck,” Dex said through gritted teeth, loosening his grip enough for Sloane to force one leg off him and giving Sloane the room he needed to slip out. Dex rolled away just as Sloane came down elbow first, hitting the mat right where Dex had been. That would have hurt like a son of a bitch. Dex pushed through the pain to his boy bits and got to his feet in time to have Sloane slam into him from the side. Dex landed several feet away, his whole left side throbbing from being bodychecked by a two hundred forty pound—probably more like two hundred fifty pounds now—Therian.

All he could do was push through it and get on his feet quickly. When Sloane lunged at him, Dex dug deep. His eyesight sharpened, and he let out a fierce growl as he threw one arm around Sloane’s waist and grabbed at the back of Sloane’s right leg, jerking it forward so he could lift Sloane off his feet and slam him onto the mat where he brought his knee down against Sloane’s stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He was mindful to use just enough force to hurt but not seriously injure his boyfriend. With an arm pressed to Sloane’s neck, his knee ready to do some damage, and a fist over Sloane’s face, Sloane tapped out.

Dex grinned down at him and kissed him before rolling off. Sloane laughed softly as he lay on the mat, his chest rising and falling in rapid breaths. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his wrapped hand. He turned his head to look at Dex.

“Nicely done.”

“Thanks.” Dex got to his feet and held his hands out to Sloane, then helped him up. He turned to Seb and Hudson, who were gaping at him. “Obviously that would have ended a lot sooner had I gouged out his eyes, but I kind of like his eyes,” Dex said, batting his lashes at Sloane. “They’re pretty.”

Sloane chuckled. He shook his head and wiped more sweat from his brow.

Rolling his shoulders, Dex turned back to Seb and Hudson, his expression stern. “Now, let’s try that again.”

“HOLY….” PANT. “Crap.” More panting.

Sloane dropped onto the mat. He was dripping with sweat, and every muscle in his body ached. He wiped his face with the clean towel, then chuckled at Seb, who dropped next to him and lay sprawled on his back.

“I think… my heart… is going to… explode,” Seb said, breathless.

“I warned you, didn’t I? But you didn’t listen. Your exact words were ‘how strong can he really be?’”

Seb turned his head to pout at Sloane, his brows drawn together. “I was wrong, Sloane. So very wrong. I will never doubt your words again.” He sat up with a groan and grabbed one of the rolled-up towels beside him to wipe the sweat off his face. “I can’t believe Dex took me down.”

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Seb narrowed his eyes at Sloane. “I’m a tiger Therian. Your not-even-two-hundred-pound boyfriend is not supposed to be able to take me down.”

“Except he’s been training his ass off, is no longer Human, and I’m pretty sure he’s still getting stronger.” Every time Sloane sparred with Dex, he noticed an increase in Dex’s strength. It was in minimal increments, but enough for Sloane to see the difference. “It seems to come in little bursts when he gets worked up or pissed off, but when that happens, he’s stronger than I am. If this keeps going, he may even end up stronger than you, or who knows, maybe even Zach. Not even TIN knows what’s going on inside him. The tests are starting to come back inconclusive again.”

“How is that possible?”

Sloane shrugged. “No one knows. TIN’s brought in their top specialists, and every time they run a test for something, whatever they’re looking for, it’s gone, but they know it’s there because they can see it. They did a blood test, and it came back Human, but when they did a different test that wasn’t specifically looking at his blood, it pinged Therian. It’s like his DNA and everything that makes him a hybrid is trying to protect itself by avoiding detection.”

Seb seemed to think about it. “So if someone ran a test to see if he was Therian, they’d get something else?”

Sloane nodded. “Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. My worry is when he’ll need to get treatment. Unless whoever’s treating him knows what he is….”

“Fuck. It’ll be a mess.”

Which scared the living shit out of Sloane. They had Hudson and TIN to provide the best medical attention possible, but what if either wasn’t an option? How the hell did a regular hospital treat a half Human, half Therian? Especially if every test they ran came back screwed-up? Hopefully they’d be able to get to the bottom of it soon. Sloane didn’t like the idea of them not being able to get Dex medical treatment when he needed it.

Seb stared at him. “Shit, Sloane. What the hell is in that DNA of yours?”

“I don’t know, but as long as it doesn’t hurt him, I’m okay with it. Knowing he can hold his own against whatever he faces out there is good enough for me. Hopefully the rest will get sorted out.”

A slew of British curses met Sloane’s ear, and he cringed.

“Your man does not like to lose.”

Seb’s eyes went slightly wide. “Are you kidding me? Everyone’s always surprised when he kicks their ass at pool, or football, or soccer, thinking that he’s this awkward science nerd, but he is ruthless when it comes to competition, and yeah, he hates losing.” Seb drew his knees up and let his elbows rest on them. “He doesn’t get pissed at his opponent, though. He gets pissed at himself. As if his losing reflects how inadequate he is. A complex gifted to him by his asshole father.”

Sloane turned his attention to Hudson, whose brows were drawn together in concentration as he circled Dex. Both had their shirts plastered to their skin with sweat, and Hudson had smartly worn contacts, even though he hated them. Sloane lost count of how many times Dex had dropped Hudson to the mat. Hudson charged, and Dex spun on his heels, ended up behind Hudson, threw his arms around his waist, picked him up, and slammed him down.

“He’s being a little hard on Hudson, don’t you think?” Seb asked, concern etched on his face.

Dex wasn’t holding back, but he had his reasons. “Hudson means a lot to Dex, and he wants to make sure Hudson’s prepared for whatever we face. If that means he pisses Hudson off, then he’ll do it. Dex might be a joker in a lot of respects, but when it comes to the safety of those he cares about, he’s hard-core.”

“I can see that.”

Even though Sloane felt for Hudson, especially every time he hit the mat, he couldn’t help but admire Dex. His perfect posture, his expertly calculated moves, the way his muscles flexed beneath his clothes. The loose black workout pants accentuated Dex’s perfectly rounded ass, and the sweaty shirt stuck to his skin outlined the delicious curve of his spine and the muscles of his finely sculpted torso. He’d wiped the floor with Sloane, and Sloane couldn’t be prouder.

Seeming to have had enough of being floored, when he next hit the mat, Hudson wrapped his legs tight around Dex, and the two crashed down together, thrashing about as each one tried to get the upper hand. They rolled around, grunting, Hudson’s legs wrapped around Dex’s waist, Dex’s head in a choke hold. Somehow, they ended up with their shirts halfway up their bodies, and Seb cleared his throat.

“I know this is probably inappropriate, but is it me, or is this kinda… porny?”

Sloane tilted his head for a better angle as Hudson arched his back to try to budge Dex, but Dex had managed to get out of the choke hold and had Hudson’s wrists pinned above his head.

“Uh, yeah, definitely porny.” Sloane stood at the same time as Seb. “Maybe we should take a break,” Sloane called out. Dex looked his way, and Hudson twisted his body, flipping the tables on Dex and rolling them over so he was sitting on Dex’s stomach.

“Ha!” Hudson threw his arms up in victory when Seb took hold of his wrist and pulled him up. Hudson smiled at his husband. “Hello, darling.” He put a hand to Seb’s cheek. “Your face is so red. Didn’t you get any rest?”

Seb cleared his throat again. “Um, yeah, just, you know, why don’t we hit the showers, and meet up for something to eat later?”

Before Dex could reply, Sloane spoke up. “Great idea.” He helped Dex to his feet, pretending he hadn’t noticed Dex narrowing his eyes at him. They agreed to meet up later, and Sloane took hold of Dex’s hand and quickly led him out of the training bay.

“Um, Sloane? What’s going on?”

Sloane shook his head. “Nothing. Just going to hit the showers.”

“The locker room is the other way.”

Sloane had no intention of showering anywhere near anyone else.


Sloane led Dex back to his new private training bay, and more importantly, his office with the fully stocked, brand-new shower. As soon as they got into his office, he put the room in privacy mode, turned, and pounced.

Love in Payne #11
Chapter One
“THIS IS not gonna be pleasant, but you’ve all worn the uniform long enough to know what we do rarely is.”

Team Leader Colin Zachary faced the row of THIRDS Defense agents from Alpha Sleuth, which Osmond Zachary was a member of. It was tough having six older brothers who worked for the THIRDS, all as Defense agents. It was tougher when one of them was your Team Leader. Colin was a no-nonsense kind of guy who could scare the shit out of someone just by looking at them. Bear Therians were frightening in size and were often written off as brainless, muscle-bound thugs. Like the rest of his brothers, Colin might be a brick wall of a guy, with a head hard enough to match, but he was quick, sharp, and smart. He was taller than Zach’s seven foot four and had twenty pounds on Zach’s three hundred and ten pounds. Everyone respected the Zachary brothers, and Zach was proud to work alongside them, even if they did like to bust his balls whatever chance they got. Thankfully Finley, Boyd, Bram, Alastair, and Edan, weren’t on Alpha Sleuth.

“I know Mr. Barlow and Mr. Kerner aren’t the most popular guys right now.”

Yeah, no shit. Zach refrained from scoffing, unlike some of his teammates. That was an understatement if he ever heard one. Prosecutor Aaron Barlow couldn’t seem to keep himself out of the headlines these days, and not because he was running for senator in the upcoming election, but for his controversial comments regarding harsher laws and regulations for Therians. The man could spout that he wasn’t anti-Therian as much as he wanted—after all, some of his best friends were Therians—but the second he opened his mouth, the disdain was clear as day. He spoke of stronger laws to protect citizens, but what he meant was stronger laws to protect Humans from Therians, because Therians weren’t real citizens. They were a mistake Humans were forced to tolerate.

Barlow’s counsel, Bill Kerner, wasn’t as vocal, but his anti-Therian stance was just as known. The man was ex-JAG, and rumor had it Kerner was quietly pushed out of the US Army JAG Corps when his personal beliefs bled into the courtroom and could no longer be ignored. The two men had become a powerful force, driven by hate and a common goal, causing an even greater divide between Humans and Therians—not to mention giving anti-Therian groups everywhere the excuse they’d been looking for to escalate the violence against Therians.

Several of Zach’s fellow agents exchanged glances. They were most likely thinking along the same lines as he was. Barlow and Kerner despised Therians, had no trouble publicly expressing how little they thought of the THIRDS, yet neither had any qualms about sending THIRDS agents out into the line of fire to protect them. Apparently, Therians were good enough to take a bullet for them, just not good enough to be equals.

“I know. I know.” Colin held a gloved hand up and sighed. “But it’s our job. We swore an oath to preserve life, no matter the species and no matter how much of an asshole someone is. We’re going to go out there and do our jobs. Mr. Barlow and Mr. Kerner will be exiting the building via the front of THIRDS HQ.”

Next to Colin, his Human partner, Duke, shook his head and sneered. “Are you fucking kidding me? I thought Lieutenant Mendoza and Sergeant Volkov talked them out of that dumbass decision.”

The vein on the side of Colin’s head pulsed, and Zach could tell his big brother was probably popping brain cells trying not to lose his shit. Colin never lost his shit. When he spoke, he was calm and in control.

“Mr. Barlow has chosen to ignore our counsel and that of Unit Beta’s THIRDS officers, stating he refuses to be intimidated. We’ll be going out as the first line of defense, with Beta Sloth and Epsilon Ursid providing backup. A car will be waiting for Mr. Barlow, his daughter, his assistant, and Mr. Kerner outside the gate, and a perimeter has been set up by Unit Alpha to keep the protestors away. We advised Mr. Barlow against having his daughter with him for this visit, but he informed us he and his daughter have a private jet waiting to fly them to DC, so they’ll be heading straight for the airport from here. The crowd continues to grow as word of Mr. Barlow and Mr. Kerner’s presence spreads, so remain vigilant. They’re due to finish their tour of Unit Alpha in twenty minutes. If Lieutenant Sparks hasn’t skewered them with one of her five-inch heels.”

If only they were so lucky.

“Okay, Alpha Sleuth. Grab your shields and let’s move out.”

Zach grabbed his shield and turned to fist-bump his Human partner, Sawyer, before they fell into formation behind Colin and Duke. They made their way through the armory and up to street level. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as they neared the exit. He could hear the noise of the crowd through his helmet before the doors even opened. Rolling his shoulders, he lifted his shield and readied himself as his team exited THIRDS HQ and headed for the gate. Across the street, a mob of protestors—both Human and Therian—chanted and shouted against Barlow and what he stood for. Agents from Unit Alpha, also in full tactical gear, stood among the crowd, while Unit Alpha’s Recon agents maintained the peace.

“Ten minutes,” Colin said, his voice coming through Zach’s earpiece.

Human security in black suits were scattered up and down the sidewalk, in the street, and around Barlow’s car. News vans were parked along the opposite side of the street, cameras and newspeople reporting on the event, with more than one reporter pushing their way through the crowds to get to Unit Alpha’s Defense agents, most likely hoping to get a sound bite from Therian agents. Good luck with that.

Barlow and his entourage exited the THIRDS, and instead of heading straight for his car, he stopped halfway there and turned to wave at the crowd, as if they’d been chanting his name instead of cursing it.

Zach gritted his teeth. What the hell was the guy doing? Like he was purposely trying to antagonize the crowd. The more he waved and smiled, the angrier the protestors became. Something tugged at Zach’s fist, and he turned his head with a frown, but no one was there. Another tug had him dropping his gaze, his eyes going wide at the tiny Human girl gazing up at him with big brown eyes and a big smile, her small hand gripping his gloved fist. She couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. Zach uncurled his fist on instinct, and she took hold of his hand. She was chatting away at him, but he couldn’t hear her through the noise of the crowd and his helmet. Glancing up, he spotted her father talking to his counsel, unaware that his daughter had wandered away from his side.

A tug to his hand had Zach turning his attention back to the little girl. She held her brown teddy bear up to him, and with a smile, Zach knelt in front of her. He pushed up his visor so he could hear her better.

“Hi,” she said with a smile. “I’m Maisy.”

“I’m Zach. It’s nice to meet you, Maisy. Why aren’t you with your daddy?”

Maisy looked at her dad and shrugged. “He’s always busy.” She turned her big brown eyes back to him. “You’re very tall. Are you a bear Therian?”

Zach nodded. He pulled down the collar of his tactical vest so she could see his classification tattoo on the left side of his neck.

“I wanted to show you my teddy. He’s just like you,” she said proudly, presenting him with her stuffed toy.

“Oh?” Zach gently took the bear from her. “Is it because he’s a very handsome bear?” he teased.

Maisy giggled and shook her head, her curly pigtails swishing with the energetic movement. “No.”

Zach let out a mock gasp. “Are you saying I’m not a handsome bear?” Maisy’s laughter made him smile wide. She was adorable.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” Maisy replied with another giggle. “I meant you protect me, just like Teddy. Daddy says all Therians are dangerous and scary, but you’re not scary. You’re a good bear, like Teddy.”

Zach blinked at Maisy, her words causing a lump to form in his throat. He swallowed past the emotions bubbling up inside him at her sweet innocence. How long would Maisy—with a parent so full of hate—continue to believe he was a good bear? “Thank you.”

“Maisy,” Barlow hissed angrily. “You get away from him right now!”

“But, Daddy, Zach is my friend.” Maisy lifted her little chin in defiance as she held on to Zach’s hand.

Barlow’s stunned expression would have been comical if it hadn’t been followed by the fiery loathing in his eyes when he moved his gaze to Zach. The man marched over, and Zach slowly stood, aware of Maisy inching closer to his side rather than going to her father.

Barlow thrust a finger up toward Zach’s face as Zach towered over him. “How dare you touch my daughter. I’m going to have your badge for this—” He dropped his gaze to Zach’s name tape. “—Agent Zachary.”

“Is there a problem, Mr. Barlow?” Colin asked somberly, appearing before them. Barlow gave a visible start before quickly composing himself.

“Yes, there is.” He looked at Colin’s name tape before letting out a snort of disgust. “Not that you’ll do anything about it, since he’s clearly related to you. When I’m elected, that’s the first thing I’m going to push to have changed at the THIRDS. This organization is a disgrace, allowing family members to work together. God only knows the level of corruption.”

Colin narrowed his eyes at Barlow. “May I ask what infraction you believe Agent Zach has committed?”

“He put his hands on my daughter.”

Zach forced himself to remain quiet. Anything he said would only escalate matters. Barlow had formed his opinion of Zach far before Maisy decided they were friends.

Colin took note of Maisy’s small hand wrapped around Zach’s, her teddy held close to her as she all but hid behind Zach’s leg. When Colin lifted his gaze to Barlow, his eyes grew hard, and there was no question what he thought of Barlow. Colin had always been an expert at making his thoughts known with just a look. “I would be more than happy to accompany you inside, where we can discuss your grievance with Lieutenant Sparks.”

Barlow clenched his jaw, his muscles visibly tightening. Unit Beta might have their own THIRDS officers, but Unit Alpha’s Lieutenant Sparks ranked above them all, and her connections to both Humans and Therians in positions of power was enough to make any politician think twice, especially when they were throwing around dangerous accusations that had no merit.

“Are you trying to intimidate me?” Barlow growled at Colin.

Colin shook his head. “Absolutely not, Mr. Barlow. You believe one of my agents acted inappropriately, and I’m taking that accusation very seriously. The matter will be investigated fully, and fortunately”—he motioned toward the many news cameras pointing in their direction—“we should have plenty of video footage of the incident. Shall I send agents to collect the evidence? I’m certain the news stations will be more than happy to cooperate. I’ll need to take an official statement from you and your daughter. Shall we go inside?”

A tall, lanky man in an expensive business suit approached, then leaned over and whispered in Barlow’s ear. Whatever he said had Barlow turning red, and when he spoke, it was through gritted teeth.

“That won’t be necessary.” Barlow plastered a smile on his face and turned to Zach. He held out his hand. “I apologize for misunderstanding the situation. My daughter is very important to me, and I can be a little overprotective. Thank you for your dedication and service, Agent Zach.”

Zach gently removed his hand from Maisy’s and shook Barlow’s hand, amused at his attempt at a forceful grip. All Zach had to do was squeeze and Barlow would be on his knees. Of course, he didn’t. Instead he nodded in acceptance of Barlow’s apology. Barlow leaned in to whisper at him. “Come near my daughter again, and I will bury you.” Patting Zach’s arm, he held his hand out to Maisy.

“Come along, Maisy. Time to go.”

“I don’t want to,” Maisy protested. “I want to stay with Zach.”

Barlow’s nostrils flared. “Maisy Lou-Anne Barlow, you come with me this instant.”

Maisy shook her head and dug her heels in. The entire exchange was being broadcasted on national television, and Zach felt for Barlow, who was growing more red-faced by the moment.

Zach knelt in front of Maisy and smiled warmly. “You should go with your daddy. How about if I walk you to the car?”

Maisy let out a heavy sigh, her shoulders falling dramatically. “Okay,” she mumbled. She looked up at her father expectantly, and Barlow let out a sigh much like his daughter’s as he removed his gloves from his black trench coat and began pulling them on.

“Fine.” He spun on his heels and started for the car, grumbling something unintelligible under his breath.

Zach chuckled at Maisy’s adorable pout, and as he stood screams filled the air, followed by gunshots and the revving of an engine. Zach’s blood turned to ice when an armored vehicle jumped the sidewalk. Where the hell had it come from?

Barlow’s security grabbed their employer and shoved him into his limo, ignoring his cries for his little girl. If they planned to come back for her, they wouldn’t make it in time. Zach swept Maisy up in his arm and cradled her to his chest as he broke into a run, his ballistic shield protecting them from any stray bullets as THIRDS agents opened fire on the vehicle. Colin’s alarmed voice came through Zach’s earpiece.

“Zach, look out!”

A second vehicle rounded the corner ahead of him and jumped the curb. It lurched forward, and Zach quickly scanned the area around him—two vehicles headed in his direction, one from each side, parked cars blocked him on his right, and the THIRDS HQ fence towered to his left. He was boxed in. Maisy’s screams had him bolting again, and he spun toward the limo. The door flew open, and Barlow punched one of his security guys in the face when the man attempted to stop him from opening the door farther.

“Maisy!” Tears streamed down Barlow’s distraught face as he scrambled away from his security to reach his daughter.

Zach made a run for him, but he wouldn’t make it in time. If he could get Maisy to her father, the armored limo would offer them ballistic protection. Zach dropped his shield to the ground, curved side up. “Barlow! Incoming!”

Barlow nodded, and Zach quickly laid Maisy on the shield and strapped her in. “Hold on real tight, okay.” She nodded frantically, and Zach thrust his shield forward. It skidded across the sidewalk, and as soon as Barlow had Maisy in his arms, Zach turned, his brother’s panicked cry in his ears.


Zach heard the skidding tires, saw the smoke, and braced himself as best he could before the armored truck slammed into him. His feet left the ground along with the rest of his body. He soared through the air and fell. Then everything went black.

Saturday's Series Spotlight
Part 1  /  Part 2  /  Part 3

Author Bio:
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.


Tried & True #10

Love & Payne #11

Release Blitz: Love's Trials by Janice Jarrell

Title: Love's Trials
Author: Janice Jarrell
Series: Revolutionary Heart #2
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Cover Design: Robin E. Vuchnich
After half a lifetime spent in short-term liaisons that allowed no intimacy, charismatic Irish police officer, Colin Campbell, found the love of his life. Dark-eyed, steady Joshua Abrams burned through Colin’s emotional barriers and taught him to look at life through new eyes, eyes that made room for the love and closeness he had always denied himself. Deeply in love and completely happy, their life together remains idyllic and their fiery passion for each other seems limitless.

They survive the Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' riots, though not without scars. But later that month Colin’s position with the campus police force places him in charge of an informant program designed to crack a dangerous drug ring. Fully aware of the risks, he swears to Joshua that he will oversee the program without becoming directly involved. But Colin's promise begins to crumble when he becomes the only one who can save a young Nigerian exchange student from a deadly drug lord.

Colin drew in a breath. He released Joshua, then took his hand and drew him toward the couch. "Sit with me a minute. I need to tell you something."
Joshua shook his head as he fell onto the couch beside Colin. "You're going to do it," he said. "You're going to be part of the drug investigation."

Colin's eyes widened. "Lenny! That jackass called you?"

Joshua chuckled and shook his head. "No," he said. "C'mon! Lenny would never do that. No. I was expecting it." His fingers tightening on Colin's. "I knew you couldn't say 'no' to them. Once they started waving the students in front of you it was a done deal."

"You mad at me?"

"Oh, hell no! Are you serious? Why would I be?"

"I know this whole operation worries you."

Joshua looked past Colin to the windows of their house, past which the Rivanna river flowed. "You can't base the way you do your job on what might or might not make me nervous," he said. "You have to do what you think is right." He turned back to Colin. "And I know you always will."

Colin leaned in and kissed him. "I didn't tell you the best part! David's going to partner with me. They want us to develop a set of prerequisites for the students' participation. It's…," he shrugged and wrinkled his nose, "it's paperwork. It's grunt work. It's no big deal."

"I see," Joshua said. "So there's absolutely no chance that you'll end up involved on a deeper level. Zero. None. Nada."

Colin lifted Joshua's hand to his lips. "Josh…," he began, then stopped. It no longer surprised him when Joshua seemed to read his thoughts and often even his fears, and since he couldn't bring himself to lie, Colin was now left with little choice. He sighed and looked somewhat sheepishly into Joshua's dark eyes. "Well…," he began.

"Yeah," Joshua interrupted. "That's what I figured."

"I promise you this," Colin said, pulling him closer. "I swear to you that I will resist any attempt to get me into the field. I will absolutely handcuff myself to my desk."

Joshua's face twisted with doubt, as he returned Colin's gaze, then he shook his head in resignation. "Colin, I believe you. And I truly believe you'll hold to that—"

Colin nodded.

"—right up to the moment when one of them says the words ‘student in danger’."

Colin's eyes fell.

"And thirty seconds after that," Joshua said, "there'll be a white streak where Colin used to be."


"Don't bother denying it," Joshua said. He leaned in to press his lips to Colin’s then sat back, his eyes locking, once again, with the honey-green eyes of his lover. "You're the Man of La Mancha, Colin. You hear the call of glory and off you go. You don't even think about consequences to yourself. You never have. You only care about doing what's right." As he spoke this last his dark brown eyes closed and his head dropped.

"Josh, please..,"

"You are who you are, Colin," Joshua continued. "That's why you're the man I love."

Colin touched his cheek.

"And no matter how this thing turns out," Joshua continued, "I would never, ever want that man to change."

Author Bio:
My name is Janice Jarrell. I am a retired grandmother who lives in Seattle, WA. I have two children and three grandsons. I’ve been writing gay romance since I was twelve years old, only back then it wasn’t called ‘gay romance’. In fact, it had no name at all. It was the fifties, and it was worth your life to admit to being gay, let alone confess to being a girl who constantly fantasized about relationships between gay men. Hell, I didn’t even know what a homosexual was. I lived on a farm out in the sticks in a tiny Michigan village and I’d never, to my knowledge, even heard the word. I just knew I loved the thought of boy on boy romance. I just knew that there was something hot going on between Tom Corbett and his Space Cadets and all those guys on ‘Combat’.

I wrote slash fanfiction for 30 years, writing over 337 stories, some as short as 100 words (a drabble) some as long as a series which was over 119,012 words. I enjoy writing my stories. I enjoyed the feedback I received from my readers. It was a creative release I’d been searching for my entire life and I blessed the Internet for leading me to this artistic oasis for my spirit.

Love’s Magic was my very first step into writing my own characters. I will always be grateful the slash fanfiction community for nurturing the budding author until she was ready to blossom into a fully realized novelist. It’s been an amazing thing to watch the gay community’s growth over these past twenty years. My own journey has echoed theirs in many ways, and I’m grateful to all those gay activists who fought to give the gay community the rights and privileges they always deserved.

I’m also grateful to the gay romance community, readers, authors, publishers and promoters, who are making these, my retirement years, the most creative ones of my life. When I'm not writing, I'm traveling, walking, hiking, knitting, crocheting, and weaving.

I'm very excited about the upcoming release of my second contemporary gay romance novel, Love's Trials. Those of you who fell in love with Joshua and Colin in Love's Magic are in for a treat because they are the STARS of Love's Trials, though they may not thank me for it given the very difficult 'trials' they are about to face.


Love's Trial #2

Love's Magic #1

Release Blitz: Adder and Willow by Sam Burns

Title: Adder and Willow
Author: Sam Burns
Series: Rowan Harbor Cycle #6
Genre: M/M Romance, Paranormal
Release Date: October 11, 2018
Cover Design: Melanie Harlow @ Clause & Effect
Fletcher Lane has a problem. His boyfriend’s parents are coming for a visit, and they want to meet up. He’s ready to commit, so what happens if his prospective in-laws don’t like him? And how is he supposed to keep Rowan Harbor’s unique nature a secret when he might be the worst liar ever born?

To make matters worse, when he finds and helps two strangers stuck on the road, it leads him to a new threat: the man who’s been terrorizing the town has set events into motion that endanger more than just Rowan Harbor. Can Fletcher and his friends stop him before there’s nothing but a smoking crater where the Oregon coastline used to be?

Sam BurnsAuthor Bio:
Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.

If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.


Adder & Willow #6


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