Hell and High Water
(Thirds Series, Bk #1)
By Charlie Cochet
When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences—and the media frenzy—aren’t far behind. He soon finds himself sans boyfriend, sans friends, and, after an unpleasant encounter in a parking garage after the trial, he’s lucky he doesn’t find himself sans teeth. Dex fears he’ll get transferred from the Human Police Force’s Sixth Precinct, or worse, get dismissed. Instead, his adoptive father—a sergeant at the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron otherwise known as the THIRDS—pulls a few strings, and Dex gets recruited as a Defense Agent.
Dex is determined to get his life back on track and eager to get started in his new job. But his first meeting with Team Leader Sloane Brodie, who also happens to be his new jaguar Therian partner, turns disastrous. When the team is called to investigate the murders of three HumaniTherian activists, it soon becomes clear to Dex that getting his partner and the rest of the tightknit team to accept him will be a lot harder than catching the killer—and every bit as dangerous.
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Sloane observed Dex as he made his way to the center of the mat. The guy had a nice ass too. On that note, maybe it was time for Sloane to get laid. It had been way too long since he’d picked anyone up, but then, the only thing that seemed to interest him these days was the job. Why the hell was he thinking about sex now? He followed Dex onto the blue mat and stopped a few feet away from him, pushing any and all sexual thoughts out of his mind. He had work to do. A lot of work to do.
Dex readied himself, stretching his neck and back. Despite his disastrous introduction, the guy actually had excellent poise. He balanced perfectly on one leg while he pulled the opposite knee up to stretch then swapped and did the same with the other. He bent over and grabbed his ankles with ease then slowly rolled his back to stand upright again. Rotating his shoulders, he shook himself off and hopped on his toes for a few seconds to warm up. His movements revealed he was lithe and flexible, yet Sloane couldn’t understand how this was the same guy who had scored top of his class during the training run. It was true he didn’t know much about Dex, but he’d read the file the moment he’d been informed of the decision.
Both parents had been killed during the riots when he was five years old. He’d been adopted by his father’s friend and work partner, Anthony Maddock. A year later, his baby Therian brother was rescued and adopted. Went to Berkeley at eighteen for four years, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Justice Studies, and joined the HPF a year later. Four years after that, was promoted to homicide detective. Dexter J. Daley, thirty-three years old, unmarried, and recently testified against his Human partner in a murder trial. Sloane was still figuring out what to think about that last part.
Dex took his stance, bending his knees, his left leg a little farther up than the right, and his fists up near his face.
“Your stance is good,” Sloane murmured, ignoring Dex’s surprised look. Taking up his own fighting stance, Sloane motioned for Dex to advance. “Okay. Come at me.”
Dex shook his head. “No.”
Sloane paused. Was the rookie messing with him? “What do you mean ‘no’?”
“How about you come at me.”
“That’s not how this works.”
“I’ve seen what attacking you head on does. You want to see what I can do? You’ll have to work for it.”
Sloane arched an eyebrow. Well, if nothing else, the guy had balls. “Okay. Remember, you asked for it.” He advanced, faked with his right to land a left hook to Dex’s ribs. A swipe to his left foot brought Dex crashing down to the mat.
“Fuck,” Dex moaned, rolling out of the way. He jumped to his feet and rounded his shoulders. “Okay.” Bouncing on his toes, he circled Sloane. “Let’s try this again.”
This match was over. Rookie just didn’t know it yet. Sloane was good at exposing weaknesses, and he was already working on discovering his new partner’s.
They slowly circled each other, and Sloane got closer to Dex with each step until he was close enough to throw a punch. Dex blocked it, his concentration focused on keeping Sloane from landing a hit. He was studying Sloane, trying to get a handle on his technique so he could formulate a plan of attack. Rookie was using his head—that was good—but he was taking too long to decide on his course of action and that was bad. Hesitation was something his Human partner couldn’t afford out in the field, not when dealing with Therians. As a species, Therians were faster, stronger, healed quicker, and had a higher level of tolerance when it came to pain.
Dex blocked a left hook to the ribs with his right elbow tucked up against his body, but in anticipation of Sloane faking a right, he tucked his left elbow in as well, leaving his head exposed. Sloane took advantage and clipped Dex under his chin. His head came up, once again leaving himself exposed long enough for Sloane to give his cheek a smack. Dex shuffled back, eyes wide.
“What the fuck was that?”
“I’m sorry. Did I smear your makeup?” Sloane held back a smile at Dex’s glare. This was too easy. Forgetting all about keeping his distance, Dex charged him.
A fierce combination of hooks, jabs, and an attempt at an uppercut were nicely executed, but still not enough to catch Sloane off guard. He blocked Dex’s advances, ducked under a right hook, and grabbed Dex’s leg. With a forceful pull, Dex was once again sprawled on his back.
“I haven’t spent this much time on my back since college.”
Sloane laughed. “It’s a good look for you, Rookie.”
“You asking me out on a date? Because I don’t date assholes,” Dex grumbled, sitting up.
“I may be an asshole, but even I’ve got standards.”
With a smirk, Dex hung his head and held an arm out.
“Giving up already? How disappointing.” Sloane reached out and took Dex’s hand, ready to pull him up when Dex twisted his torso and kicked a leg out, catching Sloane on the side of his knee and sending him down onto it. He was jerked forward and Dex’s legs wrapped around his waist. He twisted his lower body to throw Sloane onto his back. Dex landed on him, his hands pinning Sloane’s wrists to the mat beneath them, their faces inches away from each other.
“So, about that date,” Dex said, laughing breathlessly. His eyes shifted to Sloane’s lips before moving back up and his smile grew wider. The little shit was taunting him.
Sloane didn’t know what pissed him off more, that he’d been caught by surprise, or that he was enjoying it. His anger started bubbling up inside him and that pissed him off even more. He didn’t get angry. Anger meant the rookie was getting to him.
With a pleasant smile, Sloane jerked his left wrist free to snatch Dex’s in a tight grip. He looped his arm around Dex’s neck, forcing Dex’s arm to come up and around as well. With a swift yank, Dex spun off him and onto the mat.
That was better. Sloane casually got to his feet with a satisfied grin. He took a deep breath to regain his calm and turned, frowning at the sight of Dex on his stomach, his back arching as he let out a frustrated groan. He ignored the curve of the rookie’s spine and the way he looked when he got onto his hands and knees. Jesus, what was wrong with him? It was time to put a stop to this… distraction.
Come on,” Sloane snarled. “Get up. I’m not here to be your Xbox buddy.”
“Come on, Dex!” Cael sat on the floor a few feet away, and Sloane tilted his head, his bottom lip jutting out in a pout as he teased Dex.
“Aw, isn’t that cute? Baby brother is cheering for you.”
Dex lunged at him, throwing his arms around Sloane’s waist in an inane attempt to knock him over. Sloane didn’t go down. He was bigger, stronger, and heavier than Dex, but to the rookie’s credit, he managed to get in a nice jab to the ribs. With a well-maneuvered twist of his body, Sloane was out of Dex’s grip and holding him in a headlock. Instead of punching him, he delivered another slap to his cheek. Dex let out a frustrated growl and tried to push away from him.
“Ooh, Rookie’s got a bit of a temper.” Sloane ruffled Dex’s hair, pissing him off further.
“Aw, isn’t he cute,” Ash teased from the end of the mat.
Rosa burst into laughter and Ash glared at her. “Are you fucking serious?” He turned back to Sloane with a scowl. “You better kick his ass.”
Dex struggled in Sloane’s grip. “Come on, Rookie. Is this the best you got?”
“This isn’t fighting,” Dex spat out. “This is you being a prick.”
Sloane shrugged. “Either way, I’ve seen what you can do and I gotta say, it’s pretty uninspiring.”
“Uninspiring, huh?” Dex pulled back a fist and Sloane released him, jumping back and narrowly missing Dex’s fist, his knuckles brushing Sloane’s crotch. Sloane gaped at Dex.
“You were going to punch me in the nuts?”
“You said it yourself. This isn’t a fight, so yeah. And I would have enjoyed it too.”
“Hey, watch it.” Sloane stormed up to Dex who held his ground, his chin lifted defiantly. Rookie had nerve, but he needed to learn his place. Sloane grabbed him, hauled him off his feet and slammed him into the mat. “Stay the fuck down, if you know what’s good for you.”
Dex ignored him, his breath coming out heavy as he got back on his feet and threw a punch. Stupid little bastard didn’t know when to quit. Sloane ducked, grabbed Dex around the waist and once again slammed him back down on the mat. With a low groan, Dex rolled onto his side and pushed himself onto his hands and knees. Sloane wiped the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand as he circled Dex. He’d lost count of how many times he’d dropped Dex, yet the guy kept getting back up. Granted, each time took a little longer than the last, but he pushed himself to his feet regardless. Sloane didn’t know whether to be impressed or aggravated.
“You’re not cut out for this, Rookie.”
Dex didn’t reply, simply glared at him. He charged Sloane with a growl, ducking under Sloane’s right hook and landing a jab to Sloane’s exposed ribs. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Sloane used the adrenaline pumping through his veins to keep going and bring his fists down onto Dex’s back. Dex hit the mat painfully, his head smacking against it.
Fuck. Sloane touched his ribs and winced. Damn, the rookie had gotten him pretty good. “Why don’t you stay down? It’s only going to get worse.”
With a humorless laugh, Dex rolled onto his back, his chest rising and falling rapidly. “Let me guess. This is the part where I’m supposed to go crying home to Daddy. “Ooh, my new partner hates me. Boo-hoo.”’ Sloane could see the strain on the rookie’s face as he struggled to stand, sucking in a sharp breath when he straightened. “Well fuck you. Here’s a little FYI for you. I would rather fucking bleed to death than give you the satisfaction, you prick.”
Sloane arched an eyebrow at him. “Charming.”
“I am fucking charming!” Dex shouted, his entire face going beet red. “I am the most charming motherfucker you will ever know, so kiss my perfectly perky ass!”
After some consideration, Sloane cocked his head to one side and shrugged. “I’ve seen better.”
“Oh, now you’re insulting my ass?”
Sloane opened his mouth when a booming voice came over the speaker system.
“Destructive Delta, please report to briefing room “A” in one hour as per Sergeant Maddock’s orders.”
“Looks like you were saved by daddy after all.” Sloane turned to his team and clapped his hands together. “Okay, hit the showers. See you upstairs.” Everyone headed out, and Sloane made his way to the towel rack. He grabbed himself one to wipe his face, and when he turned, he almost ran into Dex, his rig hanging from one hand.
Sloane threw his towel over his shoulder. “See what?”
“Are you asking me to go feral or whip out my dick?”
Dex looked like he was actually considering it. “Come on. I want to see the alpha beneath the asshole. We’ve got lions, and tigers, and….” Dex shifted his gaze to Sloane’s neck, a strange little smile coming onto his face as he looked back up at Sloane. “Jaguar. Oh my.”
Holy shit, the guy was serious.
Dex shrugged. “I don’t see what the big deal is. You’re my partner, we’re in a wide open space, and there are vending machines down the hall for post shift. We’ve got time before we need to get to the briefing room. It’s my turn to see what I’m dealing with.”
Sloane mulled it over. “Okay.”
“Sure.” Sloane circled Dex and crowded him, making him retreat until his back hit the wall. With his arms to the sides of Dex’s head, he watched Dex’s Adam’s apple bob as his new partner swallowed hard. Just as Sloane suspected, Dex was clearly having second thoughts about seeing the “big bad alpha.” He leaned in close, his lips inches away from Dex’s jaw as he inhaled deeply. “Do you know why jaguar Therians are the most lethal of the Felids?”
“My Therian bite has twice the strength of a lion’s. I can use a deep-throat, bite-and-suffocation technique where my fangs pierce through the temporal bones of your skull, right between your ears and pierce your brain.” Sloane gave a little demonstration with his fingers on Dex’s scalp, earning him a scowl. Sloane laughed then whispered in Dex’s ear. “I bet the only word you heard from all that was deep-throat.”
Dex lifted his chin, his eyes dropping once again to Sloane’s mouth before moving back up to meet his gaze. He licked his lips, his eyes clouding over. “Your pupils are dilated. Does that mean you want to fuck me or eat me? Because I might have a problem with one of those.”
About the Author
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 Historical to Fantasy, Contemporary to Science Fiction, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in South Florida, Charlie looks forward to migrating to a land where the weather includes seasons other than hot, hotter, and boy, it’s hot! 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.
You can find Charlie at