Creed, p.16
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       Creed, p.16

           Kristen Ashley
 

  Then they locked on mine.

  “He’d be pissed at me… wishing away the years.”

  With that, he left, slamming the door behind him.

  I stared at the door and realized I was breathing heavily.

  Then I closed my eyes tight wondering what on earth all that was about.

  I opened them and forced myself to get ready for bed.

  But I did not sleep.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Issues with My Man Being a Badass

  Present day…

  I walked into the bedroom and saw Creed in my bed, up on a forearm looking both pissed and sleepy.

  Oh, and hot.

  “Where the fuck you been?” he growled and I stopped dead. When I didn’t answer, just kept staring at him, he went on, “Baby, get this, woke up without you for sixteen years. Got you back for good yesterday. Don’t wanna do that shit again. You get up, you wake me. Even if it’s just to kiss me and tell me you’re leavin’ our bed. You with me?”

  I kept staring at him.

  “Sylvie,” he continued growling. “Are you with me?”

  I took off running and, close to the bed, took a flying leap, arms wide and landed flat on top of him.

  He grunted and so did I. His hands had curled around my waist while I was on the downward plunge and his fingers dug in as I lifted my head to look down at him.

  “Morning!” I chirped and he started grinning but stopped when his eyes dropped to my throat and I felt his entire body go stone-still.

  “Fuck,” he whispered.

  “Love them,” I told him.

  His eyes came back to mine and they were agonized.

  “Fuck,” he repeated in a whisper.

  I ignored the agony and dipped my face close.

  “Every one of them,” I whispered back.

  “You wearin’ them all?”

  “All twenty-six. Even the ones you got me when I was a little girl. They’re tight but I'm wearing them.”

  His hand went from my waist, pressing in, trailing up my body then I felt his fingers weave through the tangle of chains.

  I’d gotten up way early because they were calling me. So I left Creed in bed, went to my dresser, got the old then went out to the living room to collect and inspect the new.

  And every last one of them I put on.

  “Dreamed of this,” he murmured, his eyes glued to the chains. I dropped my head to rest my forehead on his. “Dreamed of seein’ you again, my green at your neck.”

  “Guess today that makes me the woman who can make dreams come true,” I remarked, trying to keep it light and his eyes came to mine, so close, so blue. Gorgeous.

  “Yeah,” he said softly and I watched a light ignite in his eyes. “Though, never dreamed of you wearin’ all of them at once.”

  I pulled my head away and tucked my chin in my throat in the wasted effort of trying to see them, doing this muttering, “I don’t know.” I looked back at him and smiled. “I think they look awesome.”

  He smiled back and my smile got bigger but his faded as he lifted both hands to either side of my head and held them there, his eyes moving over my face, his hands holding me steady.

  “You love me?” he asked quietly.

  I dipped my face close and answered quietly, “On a cold night, a long time ago, you put your hands almost exactly where they are right now and, I might have been six years old, but I fell hard. So, yeah. For over twenty-seven years, every day, every minute, every second, I’ve loved you, Tucker Creed.”

  His hands left my head and my back hit the bed because Creed flipped me there before he kissed me, hard, deep, long, a kiss filled with twenty-seven years of love and beauty.

  It was the best kiss of my life.

  * * * * *

  “I’m seeing I’m gonna have issues with my man being a badass,” I stated, standing in my front yard in my jeans, tee, boots, belt with my coat of mascara, eyeliner, gun in its holster on my belt, travel mug in hand and narrowed gaze on Creed.

  “Just get in the truck, Sylvie.”

  “’Vette, Creed.”

  “I drive.”

  “No, I drive,” I shot back.

  “I drive,” he reiterated.

  “Why, because you’re a man?” I asked.

  “No, because I lied yesterday. I’m not all right with bein’ dead and havin’ you back for one day. After this morning, I want another day, at least, and, as I’ve already said, you’re a lunatic behind the wheel. We’re ending this day eating steak I’m grillin’ and drinkin’ beer then fucking. We’re not ending it in a fiery ball of flame.”

  “I’ve never had an accident in my life,” I informed him.

  “And today, you won’t have one either even though you’ll court it.”

  “I’m not that bad of a driver.”

  “Baby, you are.”

  “Am not!” I snapped.

  Creed looked to the heavens.

  “We have a meeting with Knight in twenty minutes, Creed,” I reminded him and his eyes came back to me.

  Then his arms crossed on his chest.

  I crossed mine on my chest and we went into stare down.

  I may have mentioned patience wasn’t one of my virtues. Actually, I didn’t have many virtues but patience definitely wasn’t one of them.

  So it was me who gave in.

  But I did it grumping, “Oh all right,” and stomping to his truck.

  I avoided looking at his face as we both angled in. I was in a good mood. I had my eighteenth birthday peridot at my neck (tough choice but I decided on chronological) and the man I loved since I was six at my side so I didn’t want my mood broken.

  Creed pulled out of my driveway like a Grandpa.

  I didn’t inform him of this.

  Instead, I shared, “Just so you know, I speak English. You don’t have to macho-speak with shit like ‘you with me’ after you macho-speak with a bunch of bossing me around. I get you. I’m with you. Or if I’m not, I’ll tell you.”

  “Noted,” he muttered but sounded like he was smiling.

  I made the diplomatic decision not to look.

  Then it hit me.

  “You’re not gonna stop talking like that are you?” I asked.

  “Nope,” he answered.

  I sucked back coffee.

  Then I turned on the radio.

  “Switch it to news, baby,” he ordered.

  I absolutely did not switch it to news. I switched it to country with excellent timing. Kellie Pickler was just beginning to sing, “Tough”.

  “Sylvie, news,” Creed in a way repeated.

  “News is depressing. Kickass country bitches are awesome.”

  “Sylvie –”

  I started singing. Loud.

  Silence from the driver’s seat.

  Then a burst of laugher.

  So that was when I kept singing but did it smiling.

  * * * * *

  “You, a word. The rest of you, downstairs.”

  This was Knight and on the first “you” he pointed a finger at Creed. We had just made it to his office at Slade. Rhash and Live were already there. Everyone but me looked at Creed. I glared at Knight.

  I knew what this was about. Knight loved me. He hadn’t told me but he’d shown me. He thought Creed “shredded” me. He was instigating a badass throw down that, I suspected, would include threats and intimidation as to what he’d do if Creed hurt me again which had zero chance of working on Creed. Mostly because I knew in my soul Creed wouldn’t hurt me. Partly because Creed was as badass as Knight, just a little more rough around the edges and threats and intimidation didn’t work on badasses. Still, Knight was going to say his piece.

  I loved that. I loved him. I loved that about him.

  But it was totally unnecessary and it could cut into our happy vibe and I didn’t want that to happen for me or Creed.

  Knight’s eyes sliced to me. “I’m having a word with Creed now, Sylvie.”

  “And I’m feeling
a girlie tantrum coming on, Knight,” I shot back.

  He scowled at me.

  I glared back.

  Then he stated the God’s honest truth.

  “You know you don’t have the patience to win this.”

  I rolled my eyes.

  Then I decided to make a point, walked right up to Creed, grabbed his head, pulled it down to me and laid a long, wet one on him.

  We broke the kiss with Creed smiling so huge he looked in danger of laughing.

  I tossed Knight an unhappy look, ignored Rhash and Live staring at me with huge eyes and sashayed to the door.

  I was standing outside the door at the bottom of the stairs that led up to Knight’s office when Rhash and Live lumbered down behind me.

  “What the fuck was that?” Rhash asked upon arrival. He was clearly both curious and also wondering why I was making out with the hired investigator seeing as that was a wee bit unprofessional.

  Quickly, succinctly, honestly and somewhat brutally, I laid it out.

  All of it.

  When I shut up, they were both staring at me.

  “Holy fuck,” Rhash whispered.

  “They starved him, beat him, chained him and sliced him?” Live asked quietly. “For a month?”

  “Yup,” I answered. “But they’re dead. We’re not. I’ve got twenty-six peridot necklaces and had a morning that included,” I lifted up my fingers with the count, “three orgasms. And this was before we went over to help out Charlene. So we win.”

  “Shit yeah you do. Three?” Live was clearly impressed.

  I grinned at him.

  Rhash’s voice rumbled to me and the tone made my eyes cut quickly to him.

  “He promised him you’d be safe, he’d see to it you had a good life then he sold you into hell?”

  One look at him and I could see Rhash was in the mood to be super scary.

  “Rhash –”

  I didn’t say more because his hand shot out, tagged me at the back of my head, I did a face plant in his wide chest and his other arm closed tight around me.

  All the air squeezed itself out of my lungs and not because he was holding me too tight. Without a choice, though I wouldn’t have taken another one, my arms stole around his bulk.

  “Glad you won, Sylvie,” he whispered into the top of my hair. I took in a deep breath realizing that in the last two days the people I was tight with that meant the world had doubled to welcome back Creed and include Rhashan Banks.

  “Thanks, babe,” I whispered back.

  He let me go and his eyes went right to Live. “You tell anyone I hugged Pip, I’ll break your neck.”

  Live grinned at him and held up his hands. “Lips sealed.”

  I decided sharing time was over. At least for me.

  That was why I asked Live, “You doin’ okay?”

  Something flashed across his face, he looked away, down to the floor then back at me. “No. Don’t like breathin’ that bitch’s air. Don’t like her touchin’ me. Knight’s keepin’ me busy and away from her so I don’t gotta spend a lot of time with her but when I do, gotta keep up appearances. I’ll be happy when this shit is done and I can get shot of her ass.”

  I got that, big time, so I nodded.

  Rhash’s phone beeped, he pulled it out, looked at it and then he shoved it back in his pants.

  “Knight’s done with Creed,” he announced.

  We all moved to and through the door and up the stairs but it was probably only me who was hoping we didn’t open the door to a bloodbath.

  We didn’t. Creed had his back to the wall, arms crossed on his chest, feet crossed at the ankles looking like he was waiting patiently for his woman to get done in a shop so he could take her ass to a bar and get a beer. Knight was leaning against his conference table with much the same look about him. My eyes did a scan of Creed first then Knight and they seemed hunky dory. In good spirits even, like they’d just got done talking about the Rockies chance at a pennant this year. This ticked me off so I stopped and crossed my arms on my own chest.

  My eyes narrowed on Knight. “I know I have a vagina but that doesn’t negate the fact that I have a brain and a spine so I can make my own decisions about my life and deal with the consequences. I’m also not real big on dudes talking about my shit behind my back.”

  He held my gaze steadily and replied, “Babe, cool it. You got a man who cares about you, namely me, this shit is gonna happen. Deal with it because it’s not not gonna happen because you throw a shit fit about it with a gun on your belt.”

  I opened my mouth to speak but Creed cut in so I looked to him.

  “Baby, it’s cool. I’m not gonna be pissed that after what you been through, for the last ten years you had a man who gives a shit about you at your back and doesn’t delay in layin’ it out that, because you got your man back, he’s still gonna have your back. He’s cool. I’m cool. Now you need to be cool. You get me?”

  At the, “You get me?” I rolled my eyes at the same time my phone rang.

  I pulled it out, ignoring Creed’s amused grin and looked at the display. I felt my brows draw together as I flipped it open and put it to my ear.

  “Hey, babe,” I greeted.

  “Sylvie.”

  At the sound of her voice, my back went straight and my eyes sliced to Creed. “Talk to me.”

  “I hurt.”

  Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

  I lifted a hand, my gaze going to Knight. I snapped but he was already straightened away from the table and staring at me, alert. “Serena, where are you?”

  “He just left. At the hotel. I hurt, Sylvie.”

  I heard the pain and tears in her voice.

  Knight was already taking long strides to his desk and computer.

  “You need Baldy?” I asked into the phone, looking down to my boots.

  “Baldy?”

  “Dr. Baldwin, Serena. You need him?”

  “Yes.”

  Shit. Fuck. Shit!

  I looked at Knight, nodded and turned on my boot toward the door. “What hotel, babe? Room number. I’m on my way. So is Baldy.”

  She gave me the hotel name and room number as I jogged down the steps, hearing boots behind me.

  “Hang tight, Serena. We’ll be there, ten minutes,” I told her as I ran across the nightclub still hearing boots behind me.

  “I don’t think I can get up to answer the door.” Her voice was weak.

  Shit!

  “Don’t worry,” I assured her. “We’ll get it. Be there in ten.”

  “Okay, Sylvie,” she whispered.

  “Soon, baby,” I whispered back.

  We were out the door, running down the sidewalk to Creed’s truck parked on the street. He beeped the locks, ran around the hood and we both angled in even as I flipped my phone closed and opened. I called Knight as I gave Creed the hotel name and preliminary directions. Creed pulled away from the curb not like a Grandpa and I put the phone to my ear as I yanked the seatbelt around me.

  Knight answered with, “Already called Baldy. He’s on the way.”

  “You know where she is?” I asked.

  “New rules. Girls report where they’re goin’, phone when they get there, phone when they leave, phone when the door to their house is locked behind them.”

  “Right. She’s in room number six twelve,” I told him.

  “I’ll text that to Baldy,” he replied.

  “Her client pay for an all-nighter?” I asked as Creed took a turn on red he wasn’t supposed to and it felt like the truck was going to go up on two wheels so we both leaned into it.

  “Yeah,” he answered. “Gotta go. Report back.”

  He disconnected and I flipped the phone shut.

  Creed drove and I gave more directions.

  Then he murmured, “Cab’s full of your fury, baby, check it.”

  “Right,” I muttered and sucked in breath.

  Creed drove.

  He pulled up and screeched to a halt in front of the hotel. The valet ma
de the approach but I was out of the truck, running into the hotel and didn’t look back.

  Luckily, reception was clear except the clerk.

  “Hi,” I said when I arrived at the desk. “I have a friend in room six twelve who’s diabetic and she forgot her insulin. She’s in bad shape and I need to get up there and give it to her. She says she can’t make it to the door. Can you give me a keycard to six twelve?”

  He shook his head. “Sorry, against hotel policy. Not unless your name is registered to the room. Really sorry.”

  Fuck! I didn’t bring my money roll with me.

  I flipped open my phone but kept my eyes on him. “Can she call down, tell you it’s okay?”

  “Uh… I’m not sure –” he started then his eyes flew down to the desk so mine did too and I saw a familiar, big, strong, veined, scarred hand sliding a fan of three one hundred dollar bills across the desk.

  “Keycard. Room six twelve,” Creed rumbled, my head tipped back and I looked at his hard profile as he finished, “And advice, don’t say no to me.”

  Okay, maybe I wasn’t going to have issues with my man being a badass. Especially when he was also my partner on a job and could get shit done by being scary.

  The guy took Creed in for approximately a nanosecond then jumped to the stash of keycards, did whatever he had to do with the machine and handed it to Creed.

  I turned and dashed through the lobby. Ignoring the elevators, I scanned for the sign, found it, darted that way and hit the stairs. My legs were short but I still took them two at a time, hearing Creed hurtling up behind me. I hit the door to the sixth floor, winded, heart pumping and shoved through. I didn’t slow down as I ran down the hall, scanning the signage to find the way to six twelve.

  I stopped at one side of the door, Creed right behind me, he stopped at the other side.

  “Gun,” he grunted, I nodded, yanked mine out, he had his in his hand. He shoved in the keycard but his eyes cut to me. “You lead, Sylvie, but careful. This shit’s a set up, you got no vest and today’s not my day to lose you.”

  I nodded.

  He pushed down the door handle and shoved in.

  I moved into the room, gun down but at the ready, staying close to the inside wall, eyes peeled, slow, scanning. I turned my head left and peered around the door to the bathroom. It was clear so I kept moving in, feeling Creed just feet behind me. I hit the room proper, saw her, saw she was alone, saw the state she was in, stopped and lifted a hand back to Creed. I turned my head and shook it once.

 
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