Title: Against the Grain
Author: Charlie Cochet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Length: Novel, 216 pages
Release Date: August 3rd, 2015
As the fiercest Defense Agent at the THIRDS, Destructive Delta’s Ash Keeler is foul-mouthed and foul-tempered. But his hard-lined approach always yields results, evident by his recent infiltration of the Coalition. Thanks to Ash’s skills and the help of his team, they finally put an end to the murdering extremist group for good, though not before Ash takes a bullet to save teammate Cael Maddock. As a result, Ash’s secrets start to surface, and he can no longer ignore what’s in his heart.
Cael Maddock is no stranger to heartache. As a Recon Agent for Destructive Delta, he has successfully maneuvered through the urban jungle that is New York City, picking up his own scars along the way. Yet nothing he’s ever faced has been more of a challenge than the heart of Ash Keeler, his supposedly straight teammate. Being in love isn’t the only danger he and Ash face as wounds reopen and new secrets emerge, forcing them to question old loyalties.
“Hey. Need help?”
“Sure. I was about to remove the pies from the oven if you want to grab them for me. Just pop them on the counter.” He went back to sorting out leftovers into Tupperware containers and stacking them in the fridge. Ash removed the pies from the oven where they’d been keeping warm and placed them on the counter beside Cael.
“Anything else I can do?”
“Cabinet up top and to your right, there’s some serving dishes. Could you take half of each pie and place them on the dishes? The rest goes in the fridge.”
“Why not just leave out the whole pie?” Ash asked curiously.
“Because then Dex will eat the whole pie.”
Of course. “Where the hell does he store it all?”
Cael shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“Then again, the way his mouth runs, he’s probably burning mass amounts of calories.”
Cael chuckled. “And this is news to you?”
They went back to their duties, and the room went quiet again. It was driving Ash nuts. Cael was being quiet, and Ash had no idea what to say to break the silence. What the hell should he talk about? What had they talked about before? It was like he was in uncharted territory, which was absurd. He’d known Cael for years, and they’d never had any trouble holding a conversation. Even when neither of them spoke, the silence had been comfortable.
Cael caught Ash’s arm, took the pie from him, and placed it on the counter. “This is ridiculous. We’ve never been uncomfortable around each other. I know things have changed between us, but has it changed that much? I miss my friend.”
He searched Ash’s eyes, pleading. All at once, Ash felt himself relax. He smiled down at Cael and put his hand to his cheek.
“I miss my friend too.”
“How about for the holidays, we put a hold on all the complicated stuff and just enjoy each other’s company? Do whatever feels right, and we’ll take it from there. No expectations, no waiting for the other shoe to drop, no overthinking things, and no pressure. Let’s relax and have some fun.”
“I like the sound of that.” Just when he thought he couldn’t be more amazed by the wonderful young Therian before him, he was proven wrong. How could Cael be so insightful to his needs, so unselfish and understanding?
“Good. Now let’s join the others before Dex eats all the cookies. He always hogs all the macadamia chocolate-chunk ones.”
Cael narrowed his eyes, and Ash chuckled.
“I’ll make sure he leaves you some.”
Cael turned away to pick up one of the pie dishes when Ash gently caught his arm and pulled him back.
“Question.” He should probably give more thought to what he was about to say, but fuck it. He couldn’t let Cael put in all the effort. Ash had to do his part, so he went with his gut.
“Yeah?” Cael cocked his head to one side, and Ash hoped his face wasn’t as red as it felt.
“If I get the urge to sneak a kiss at any point, would that be okay with you?”
Cael brightened, and Ash’s silly heart did a flip.
“I’d like that.”
Ash pulled him into his embrace and kissed him. Not the peck on the cheek or the brief press of lips Ash had been expecting to give, but a kiss that had him all but dropping to his knees. It was sweet, warm, and tasted deliciously of Cael. Ash never wanted it to end. He felt Cael’s tongue against his lips, and Ash opened his mouth, inviting Cael to taste and explore. To his delight, Cael accepted, deepening their kiss. He pulled Cael against him, his arms wrapped tight around Cael as if he might try to escape. A low rumble of a moan reverberated from Cael’s chest, sending a shiver up Ash’s spine. So much adoration and need, with more passion than Ash could have imagined. Tentatively, Cael wrapped his arms around Ash, his fingers digging into the firm muscles of his back. Damn, it felt so good.
As much as he told his heart not to give in so quickly, it was no use. Having Cael in his arms, feeling his strength, knowing the depth of Cael’s affections, had Ash surrendering himself without a second thought. He left himself bare. Every nerve ending, every vulnerable, tender inch of him. Ash brushed his lips over Cael’s as he pulled away, his thumb caressing Cael’s cheek. “You’re blushing,” he murmured breathlessly.
“I like it. I especially like that it’s because of me.”
That certainly didn’t seem to help poor Cael’s blushing situation. His cheeks burned crimson. “It’s always because of you.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you. You’re so beautiful. And the best part is, you’re not even aware of how wonderful you are.”
Cael shrugged bashfully. “I guess you bring out the best in me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Ash took Cael’s hand in his and placed it to his heart. “You bring out the best in me. I had no idea what my life was missing before I met you.” He felt it down to his core. What he was, what everyone thought of him, meant nothing compared to what Cael believed of him.
|| Amazon ||
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.
Winner’s Prize: Against the Grain Swag Pack and $10 Amazon Gift Card.
Promotional post. Materials provided by