Title: Against the Grain
Author: Charlie Cochet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Length: Novel, 216 pages
Release Date: August 3rd, 2015
Blurb: 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.
At one point, Ash felt Cael’s leg pressed up against his, and it was ridiculous how happy the tiny gesture made him. If it was even a gesture. Ash swiftly put it off to being an accident, but then a little later, Cael reached over and wiped a thumb over the corner of Ash’s mouth, telling him he had a breadcrumb.
“You should have seen him,” Dex said with a laugh. “He looked so adorable with his cheetah fuzz shaped into spikes, from his head down to his back. Like a little spotted punk rocker.”
Maddock shook his head at Dex. “It took me two hours to wash all the hair spray off your brother’s fur.”
“We were pretending to be Guns N’ Roses,” Cael explained. “Dex was singing ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ and I was backup sing—er, chirping.”
Ash laughed and playfully bumped Cael’s shoulder. “I’m going to have to agree with Dex. That’s adorable.” Even in his Therian form, Ash thought Cael was the sweetest thing he’d ever laid eyes on. Cael could be in his Therian form among thousands of cheetahs, and Ash would be able to point him out. His little gestures, the heart shape of his nose, or the way he chirped away, as if anyone not in their Therian form might understand him if he tried hard enough.
Dex grabbed Sloane’s arm. “Tell me you recorded that. Doesn’t matter. I have witnesses.” Dex stood and motioned to all of them. “Witnesses! You all heard it. Ash said he agrees with me.”
“Oh, good Lord. We’re never going to hear the end of this,” Maddock sighed, getting up to clear the dishes.
“Do you realize how epic this moment is?” Dex said, helping clear up.
“It’s not really that epic,” Maddock replied.
Dex let out an exaggerated gasp. “Where have you been living? Ash Keeler has agreed with something I, Dexter J. Daley, has said.”
“About your brother being adorable. Not exactly earthshattering. He’s thought that since they met.”
The table fell into silence as they all gaped at Maddock. Well, this was news to Ash. What the hell? Seeming to notice the quiet, or more likely the lack of Dex talking, Maddock looked up.
“What are you, fish? Close your mouths.”
Four mouths promptly closed.
“It’s not rocket science. I’ve known that boy since he joined, and he’s threatened every agent he’s ever met with kicking their ass. Except for Cael.”
Hard to argue with that. It was the truth.
Dex frowned at Ash. “You threatened to kick Hobbs’s ass?”
Ash nodded. “Yep.” Was it his first week of being on the job? He was pretty sure it was the first week.
“Dude, that’s not cool. Hobbs is awesome.”
“He can also be a pain in the ass. Plus when we first met, I didn’t know he had selective mutism. I asked him a question, and he wouldn’t answer me. He’d whisper to Calvin, who’d answer for him. I got pissed off and told him if he didn’t tell me himself, I’d kick his ass.” Ash had never met a tiger Therian as big and insecure as Hobbs. The whole encounter had left him confused. Here was their new demolitions expert, and he couldn’t talk. How the fuck was he going to communicate with his team? Ash wasn’t proud to admit he’d had a shit fit. He understood the THIRDS was about equality and representation when it came to hiring, but he had been genuinely concerned about the safety of his team. Not long after, Ash had seen how wrong he’d been about Hobbs. Not that he’d admitted it.
Dex let out a sound of disgust. “Dude, not cool.”
“I said I didn’t know. I apologized afterward, and that’s saying something.”
Ash got up to help clear the dishes, with Dex going on about how he should really think about using some of those scented candles Rosa had gifted him. Ash proceeded to flip him off.
When Cael stood to help, Ash put a hand to his shoulder.
“Relax, I’ve got this.”
He gave Cael a wink and walked the dirty dishes to the kitchen with Dex yammering on behind him. The guy was like a fucking mosquito buzzing in your ear and trying to suck the life out of you. Ash placed the dishes in the dishwasher, giving grunts and one-word replies. He grabbed the dishes from Dex and put those in as well. He wished he could stick Dex in there. Finally someone up there decided to give him a break, and Dex left the kitchen, singing some stupid song about a lion sleeping tonight or something.
Ash frowned at Maddock. “Does he never shut up? How the hell did you live with this for so long?”
“It’s called patience,” Maddock replied. “Not exactly your forte.”
“Oh, I can be patient. That’s not what’s required when dealing with your oldest. I’d say sedative is more the word you were looking for.”
Maddock laughed. “Just get in there, Keeler.”
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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.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This series is one of my favorites. I love how each character has their own totally unique personality. Sometimes in a series, the storyline and roles in the books seem to repeat. That is definitely not the case here.
Actually, I have to admit that I wasn't always crazy about Ash. He's the type that almost everyone thinks is an ass. We saw hints of the real him in the other books, but it was wonderful to see things from Cael's point of view. And seeing how Ash truly feels about Cael made me all swoony.
From the previous books, we know that there are some seriously shady dealings going on within the scientific community. Of course it involves people inside Thirds. There are lots of mysterious meetings, unknown drugs and cases of figuring out who's good and who's bad.
Our favorite Thirds agents are still one big family. They work hard and play hard together. The more I learn about their backgrounds, the more I love them. All the office romances are like the icing on the cake.
Against the Grain was one of my most highly anticipated reads this year, and it did not disappoint. I loved every word, and I cannot wait for more from one of the best casts ever.