Creed, p.21
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       Creed, p.21

           Kristen Ashley
 

  “Okay,” I whispered.

  His body relaxed at my side. “Okay.”

  “So,” I started to recap, “I give you Phoenix and living in an oven for a few months out of the year. You give me a fab pad with a pool but the rest, can we agree to wing it? See how it goes.”

  He waited a beat before he muttered, “I can live with that.”

  I grinned at him and muttered back, “Good.”

  I saw his return grin before he bent his neck and touched his mouth to mine.

  He lifted his head and whispered, “Gotta get rid of this condom, baby. Be back.”

  I nodded against the pillows. He bent his neck again to touch his lips to my throat before he started to roll off the bed.

  But he stopped and looked back at me.

  “Just to say,” he began, “this house and all it is, all that’s in it, it’s about me, it’s about givin’ good to my kids. Absolutely. But make no mistake, Sylvie, no way in the back of my head while I was buildin’ all this, buildin’ my life, I didn’t think I wished I was giving it to you.”

  After he dropped that bomb, he finished rolling away from me.

  I had no retort, mostly because I’d stopped breathing.

  I took in a deep breath in order to jumpstart my oxygen intake and rolled three times to the other side of his massive bed. I swung my hips around, put my feet to the floor and got out, reaching down. I pulled on my panties and cami and wandered to the windows.

  Seriously, his view was fucking fantastic.

  I felt him enter the room, heard his bare feet padding on the floor then I felt his arms wrap around me from behind.

  I relaxed into him.

  Then I asked what I’d wanted to ask since I got there.

  “How’d it go with Chelle and the kids?”

  His body grew tight for a second, as did his arms before he sighed and relaxed.

  I did not take this as a good sign.

  “Head’s up, Kara is gonna like you, probably rabidly. She’s determined to like you. She’s thrilled past anything healthy I got a woman in my life.” This was surprising news so I turned in his arms while he was still talking, curled mine around him and looked up at him as his chin dipped so he could look at me. “Mostly, this is to stick it to her mother. I do not get what’s goin’ down between those two but I figure what she fakes for you in order to hurt her Mom will eventually become genuine and not a way to fuck with Chelle. It’s just that, now, that’s where she’s at.”

  “Oh… kay,” I agreed slowly, not getting this either. Then again, my stepmonster mostly ignored me and I returned the favor. We existed in the same house. She gave an effort that was all show when she thought she’d get something from my father in return. Usually, even when I was really young, she went her way and I went mine.

  My Mom called her a scheming, greedy gold digger which was what she was seeing as she was Daddy’s secretary before he divorced my mother to make her his wife. And I liked my Mom as best I could, seeing as my Dad devoted his life to all things fucked up including doing everything within his formidable power to make my mother’s life miserable and that included keeping me away from her. He did this until she gave up the fight and took off to California. Before that, no way I’d use the stepmonster to screw with precious time with my Mom. No way in hell.

  But, whatever. Kara Creed was not me. I was just going to have to deal.

  “Brand’s Brand,” he went on, taking me from my thoughts. “He likes everyone. His response to me tellin’ them about you was, ’Awesome cool, Dad’.” Creed said the last with a smile and kept talking. “He likes people. He’s social. Talkative. Even when he was a baby, he met people’s eyes and smiled at them. Just like my Dad. Dad could and did talk to anybody. He never went anywhere where he didn’t have a friend, mostly because he made friends if there wasn’t one there already. Brand’s just like that.”

  That sounded better so I gave him a smile and a squeeze.

  His expression grew thoughtful and his gaze drifted over my head as he murmured, “Chelle’s happy for me.”

  I blinked up at him. “Say again?”

  He looked down at me. “She didn’t do cartwheels but yeah, you heard me. She was happy.”

  “You’re kidding,” I whispered, not having a good feeling about this.

  “Baby, your name is inked on my back and she loves me no matter I dicked her over. You don’t know her, we haven’t gotten deep about her but I told you she’s a good woman. When I say that I mean, she’s a really fuckin’ good woman. Funny, loving, smart, sweet. In a fucked up drunken speech, I gave it all to her. She knows about the lake, the pier, the necklaces, the promises, all our history. You’re inked on my skin. I named her kids your names. That shit, our shit, our history, our connection was and is extreme. She gets that better than anyone but you and me and she loves me. She can’t have me but she can be happy that I have what I need.”

  Okay, he was a man so he didn’t get this shit but women so did not work that way.

  Ever.

  “Okay,” I said but even I could hear I was full of shit.

  His arms gave me a squeeze and his face dropped closer to mine. “You’ll meet her and you’ll see. She is not like other women. She’s just Chelle.”

  “Mm-hmm,” I mumbled and still sounded unconvincing.

  He studied me then his mouth curled before he muttered, “Nothin’ to do but wait and let you experience it yourself.”

  Something not to look forward to. Chelle Whatever-her-name-was-now was so not happy Creed had found me.

  Shit.

  I decided not to make any noise at all since even my mumbles were lame.

  Creed gave me a squeeze as he said quietly, “Kids sleep late but told them we were going to Wet ‘n’ Wild tomorrow so they got wound up. That means tomorrow is a Disneyland day where they’ll be up early, rarin’ to go. We gotta hit the sack so we can get up earlier than them, get you back to the hotel then you can come back”

  “Right,” I whispered and started to move away but his arms got tight again and stayed that way so I looked back up at him.

  “This shit, hotel, us separated, you comin’ in under the radar, out early, thanks for doin’ that for my kids, baby,” he said quietly and I tipped my head, pressed deep and held on tight right back.

  “Anything, Creed.”

  I meant it.

  Creed knew it.

  I knew this because his face changed. His head moved. His mouth took mine and he kissed me deep and sweet.

  After he lifted his head, he let me go but took my hand and moved us to the bed where we both moved in then he tucked me close.

  “Love you, Sylvie,” he muttered into the top of my hair.

  “Love you back, Creed,” I muttered to the skin over his collarbone.

  His arms gave me another squeeze and, luckily, shortly after, tucked close to Creed, I fell into a dreamless sleep.

  * * * * *

  Creed

  Creed’s eyes opened and he saw the dawning sun but felt Sylvie in his arms, in his bed, in his home.

  He pulled in a deep breath, his chest expanding, pressing into his woman’s soft skin, soft body and he let that cut through him, leaving beauty in its wake.

  Taking long moments of quiet, alone in the weak light of dawn, holding his Sylvie, finally, his eyes moved to the alarm clock on his nightstand.

  Then he shifted carefully, moving slightly away to stare down at her. Her thick, long hair a tangle on his pillow, her profile relaxed in sleep.

  Creed watched her.

  Since having her back, this was not the first time he’d done this. In fact, he did it every day.

  Every single day.

  Because lying beside a still asleep Sylvie, he had her back. His little, sweet, funny, loving Sylvie who had no idea how beautiful she was. His Sylvie who had hope and love written all over her face. There she was, asleep right beside him. Those sharp edges sheathed, she was all soft, all beauty, all the memory of his Sylvi
e.

  She told him that the old Sylvie was gone. He didn’t tell her she was wrong and he’d never tell her. He had the new Sylvie and, in these moments before her eyes opened and the day started, he had the old one too.

  And down the hall, his kids slept in his house on a hill far away from fucking Kentucky and the memories buried there.

  Therefore, Creed had it all.

  Everything.

  He lifted a hand to cup her cheek then slid her hair away from her face. He watched her features shift, her eyes flutter. She moved to her back, he saw the green gemstone twinkle at her neck and he felt the beauty of that in his gut.

  “Is it time to get up already?” she asked, her voice soft and husky with sleep.

  Creed shifted his fingers through her hair, pulling it down her chest then he curved his hand around her ribs under her breast as he nodded.

  “Damn,” she muttered, arching her back in a little stretch.

  He glided his hand up between her breasts, up her chest to the chain at her neck where he stopped and twisted it around his forefinger.

  “You did it again,” he murmured and she blinked.

  “Did what?” she asked.

  “Wakin’ up beside me, in my bed, in my house, you did it again.” When her brows drew together he finished, “My Sylvie, the dreamweaver, makin’ dreams come true.”

  Her face went soft, hope and happiness flashed in her eyes and there he had it again. In those moments, he had her back. His Sylvie, both of them, right there in his bed.

  Yes, he had it all.

  Everything.

  Or he would when he had her mouth.

  So he went about taking it, dipping his head even as he tugged gently on the chain to pull her to him.

  Sylvie lifted up and met him halfway and there it was.

  Tucker Creed had everything.

  Absolutely everything.

  Fucking finally.

  * * * * *

  Sylvie

  “Shit, I’m nervous,” I whispered.

  It was early. I was standing at the front door in Creed’s arms and he’d just finished kissing me a kind of good-bye, the kind of part being that I was returning in less than two hours.

  “Don’t be,” he whispered back.

  “Kids like me,” I kept whispering. “But what if they’re, like, the only two kids I’ve ever met who think I’m a loser?”

  Creed grinned and his arms gave me a squeeze. “They’ll love you, Sylvie. Honest to God. Don’t worry.”

  Being back in Creed’s arms always felt good. It made me feel safe in a way I hadn’t since I lost him.

  It just wasn’t working then.

  “Creed –”

  He suddenly let me go and his hands came up to cup either side of my head and his face, already close, came to a breath away.

  “My kids are not dumb,” he announced and I stared into his eyes.

  “I didn’t say they were.” You guessed it. I was still whispering.

  “Baby, they’ve seen my tat.”

  I pulled in breath.

  He kept talking.

  “It was not lost on them I was fakin’ it with their Mom and not just because we got divorced. Kids sense that shit. Trust me. It was not lost on them that things didn’t get a whole lot better for me when she and I were done and it will not be lost on them that you got the name inked on my skin and I’m finally fuckin’ happy. One day, when they’re older, when they know you better, when they can deal with the part of the story we’ll share with them, we’ll share it with them. They’ll get it and be happy for both of us. That’s what love is, Sylvie. That’s family. I didn’t know it because I didn’t grow up with it. You didn’t either. But havin’ my kids, I get it. The change might take some gettin’ used to and I’m not sayin’ the road won’t turn rocky along the way. I just know my kids love me and they’ll see me happy, so they’ll love you at the very least for makin’ me happy.”

  Right, that made me feel better.

  “Okay,” I agreed softly.

  Creed’s eyes roamed my face then his hands slid down to either side of my neck before he said softly back, “Can’t wait to give you that.”

  “Give me what?”

  “A family.”

  My heart lurched and it didn’t feel bad. Not even a little bit.

  He kept speaking.

  “Just you wait, baby. Didn’t live free and easy. Didn’t feel totally alive. Not without you. But I got my kids and I had somethin’ to live for, work for, keep goin’ for.” His thumbs moved out and stroked my jaws before his voice went rough to say, “Now, I got it all.”

  Jeez, he was killing me.

  “Shut up or you’ll make me cry like a girl and I never cry like a girl except when I find out my Dad was more of an asshole than I already knew him to be and the man I loved since I was six was tortured at his hands. Furthermore, crying makes me cranky. I don’t need to be made cranky three hours before meeting your kids. Get me?”

  He grinned and muttered, “Got you.”

  “Good,” I muttered back.

  He leaned in, pulling my head down to kiss the hair at the top before he moved back.

  “Go, baby.”

  “Right, Creed.”

  I got up on my toes to brush my mouth to his. He let me go. I let him go. He opened the door and I hitched the strap of my bag up on my shoulder before I headed out into the furnace.

  God. It wasn’t even eight and it already had to be a hundred degrees.

  I looked back over my shoulder as I walked down his walk and the heat assaulted me.

  Creed was watching me move and Creed was smiling.

  Suddenly, I didn’t feel the heat.

  Instead, I lifted an arm to give him a finger flick before I jogged to the car, feeling my long hair swaying over the skin of my shoulders and back.

  I got in my rental and drove away to take a shower and prepare to meet Creed’s kids and get wet at a water park in extreme heat.

  And as I drove away, Creed stood in his open door, letting out the air conditioning and he kept watching me.

  All the while, still smiling.

  Chapter Sixteen

  I Absolutely Do

  A cool autumn day in Kentucky, seventeen years earlier, Creed is twenty-two, Sylvie is seventeen…

  Creed tore his mouth from mine.

  “Sylvie, baby,” he murmured.

  Losing his lips, I moved mine to his neck and, I didn’t know why I did it, I just did, I touched the tip of my tongue to his skin.

  Oh my.

  He tasted beautiful.

  “Sylvie!”

  At his sharp, rough tone, I dropped my head back to the blanket Creed laid over the grass under the trees by the lake and looked up at his handsome face.

  “What?” I whispered and my whisper was breathy.

  He stared down at me then I felt his hand cup the side of my face, the pad of his thumb swept my lips and he whispered back, “Give me a break, baby.”

  I took in a shuddering breath trying to get my heart to stop beating so hard.

  I didn’t want to give him a break. I wanted to keep kissing him. No, I wanted him to keep kissing me. I wanted him to kiss me forever.

  Forever.

  He was that good of a kisser, for one. For another, he was Creed and he was finally all mine.

  I had no idea my face made it clear I not only wanted his kisses but I wanted more. I would find out, in a way, when his hand moved away, he dropped his head and shoved his face in my neck.

  “Fuckin’ hell, you’re killin’ me.”

  That didn’t sound good.

  “I… I…” I swallowed. “Am I doing something wrong?” I whispered.

  His head shot up and his hand returned to cup my face as he shook his head. “No, beautiful. No, baby,” he assured me gently. “Maybe we should just take a break from neckin’ for a while.”

  This was not a suggestion I liked but I finally got it.

  I was making him hard.
<
br />   Oh my God! I was making Tucker Creed hard!

  Me!

  Sylvie Bissenette!

  Oh my God!

  He liked kissing me too, not like I thought he liked it. Like… really. Maybe even as much as I liked kissing him.

  Wow.

  I liked that.

  I tried not to grin but it didn’t work too well. I knew this when his eyes dropped to my mouth, they went funny in a way that made my belly feel funny and also made me bite my lip.

  His gaze came back to mine and he muttered dryly, “I see my girl gets it.”

  “Um…” I muttered back and he grinned.

  “Yeah, she gets it,” he kept muttering then his face got closer. “I dig that you like you can do that to me but just so you know, it feels good, gettin’ excited but for a guy, it can go bad.” He saw it coming, my question, so he lifted up his chin slightly before shaking his head. “Not gonna explain. Not now, baby. Later, maybe. Not now.” He rolled to his back, pulling me with him so I was lying partly to his side, partly on him and he lifted a hand to pull my hair away from my face before suggesting, “Let’s just talk for a while.”

  I preferred kissing but I could do that too.

  So I agreed, “Okay.” Then I studied his face and fell into the Creed and me that was and would always be. “Is everything okay with your Mom?”

  His hand left my hair, his torso lifted up and he got up on his elbows behind him even as I stayed close. Once in position, he rolled his head around on his neck like he was trying to stretch away tension there.

  He did that a lot when I brought up his Mom.

  She was living with him again. She’d moved out, moved in with a man but they’d got in a fight and now she was back. This, unfortunately, happened a lot. She’d find the man who was the love of her life, date him for a few weeks, move out then move back in when it went sour. Sometimes her being away lasted a few days. Sometimes, if Creed was lucky, it lasted months.

  This time, it had lasted months.

  Now it was over.

  Creed did not like his Mom coming home because he didn’t like her much. He also didn’t like it because that meant I couldn’t come over at night, eat with him, watch TV, neck on his couch before he walked me through the woods to my car that I’d park on the old abandoned lane that went nowhere.

 
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