Creed, p.23
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       Creed, p.23

           Kristen Ashley

  “Totally,” Kara muttered after her father, now reaching for spoons. “It’s too hot,” she fake whined. “I feel the heat coming through my shoes.” She looked at me as she handed me a spoon and went on, “We don’t complain the ocean’s too salty when we go visit them.”

  Brand snorted before he said, “The ocean’s too salty. I am so totally using that when we go back to Maine.”

  “And the air’s too heavy,” Kara added.

  “And the breeze is too breezy,” Brand put in on a boy mini-giggle.

  “How about the Creeds don’t bellyache or even pretend to be wusses but suck it up like true Creeds?” Creed suggested, turning away from the fridge.

  Kara grinned at her brother, handed him a spoon and all got quiet as Creed arrived with the ice cream, opened it up, scooped it out and piled it on.

  I watched him do this with avid fascination.

  Holy shit.


  I was full of noodles and I still was considering taking all three of them out so I could have that shit all to myself.

  Five minutes later, I would lament I didn’t make this move. This was because, with what was clearly abundant practice, the three Creeds fell on that pizzookie like chocolate chip cookie dough was being outlawed the next day. It was every man and his spoon for himself. With difficulty, spoons clinking against spoons, I got a load on mine and got it in my mouth but before I got it back to the pan, swear to God, more than half the pizzookie was gone.

  Apparently, Creed gently drilling manners into his children did not include allowing the guest to have a head start on the pizzookie or even a clear go (or two).

  As I was trying quickly to form a strategy to get my spoon in there, I heard Creed order with mouth full, “Don’t be shy, baby.”

  I made the mistake of looking at him to see him grinning, mouth still full, then he swallowed and honed back in on the pan. By the time my eyes got back there, I estimated there were approximately five bites left.

  “Can’t be shy when pizzookie is on the line,” Brand murmured his advice then shoved pizzookie in his mouth, Kara and Creed’s spoons scooped out more and I went in, got a load and hoisted it to my mouth.

  By the time I went back, mouth barely having taken its first chew, it was all gone.

  I’d had two bites and the entire ten inch cake pan was full when we started.

  I looked around the island at the chewing, grinning Creeds, the young male version having melted chocolate and cookie crumbs on his lips.

  Okay, right.

  I might only have had two bites but next time, I’d do better. Definitely.

  And I liked this pizzookie crazy family.


  * * * * *

  “What’d I say?”

  This was Creed, on his back in his bed, me straddling him, his hands on my bare ass, his cock still inside me and we’d just spent several minutes, hands groping, faces nuzzling, post-orgasm.

  I stopped licking his neck and lifted my head to look down at him.

  After pizzookie and some Diamondbacks baseball, I’d left under enthusiastic, heartwarmingly authentic, “See you later, Sylvies,” from Kara and Brand. Then, three hours later, I came back to have sex and sleep with Creed.

  Now he was asking me a question and I didn’t know what he was talking about.

  “What?” I asked.

  His hands slid from my ass, up my back, out over my ribs then up, up, up to frame my face. “The kids. They like you.”

  “Not enough to give me a clear go at the pizzookie.”

  Creed grinned.

  I kept talking but quieter.

  “Kids tend to like thirty-four year old women who go all out in a squirt gun fight and don’t mind looking stupid and accidentally running into the pelican that shoots water out of its mouth.”

  One of his hands moved down to curl around my neck. The other one slid into my hair at the side, through it and down the back where his arm ended curling around me as he replied, “Yeah, they do. Being a big goof goes down good with kids but it was more than that, baby. They just like you.”

  I hoped his latter words were true but I was stuck on his earlier words.

  “I’m not a big goof. I’m a badass even with a squirt gun. I totally kicked both their asses.”

  “Baby, you ran into that pelican and they nailed you,” he reminded me.

  “Sure, but I recovered and rallied huge.”

  His grin came back. “Yeah, and that’s when I nailed you.”

  My eyes narrowed, “Creed, hot stuff, you didn’t nail me until ten minutes ago.”

  His grin got bigger. “I nailed you then, too.”

  I disagreed. “It was totally a tie in the squirt gun fight.”

  He disagreed with me disagreeing. “I kicked your ass. You were drenched.”

  “You did not, the pelican kicked my ass,” I shot back.

  His body started shaking under mine as he asked, “Seriously? You’re okay with the fake pelican squirting water out of its mouth kicking your ass and you’re not okay with me doing it?”


  Seeing as this could go on all night, I decided to put a stop to it by announcing, “Paintball tiebreaker when we get back to Denver.”

  “Beautiful, I don’t play at business unless I got swim trunks on and my kids with me.”

  The breath went out of me at his calling me “beautiful”. Something he hadn’t done in sixteen years. Something I loved back then. Something I missed. Something I loved having back so much, it hurt.

  “Sylvie?” he called.

  I focused through the exquisite pain and saw the amusement had faded from his face and his eyes were intent on me.

  I didn’t share.

  I just whispered, “Then, baby, you’re missing out. Business is business and fun is fun and paintball is a freaking blast.”

  He ignored me and asked, “Where were you?”

  I knew what he was asking but I didn’t answer. Instead, I told him, “I’m right here, with you.”

  “Five seconds ago, you were somewhere else.”

  “Creed –”

  His hand at my neck slid back into my hair and his arm around me gave me a squeeze while he prompted gently, “Sylvie, asked you a question.”

  I pressed my lips together then slid my hands up his chest, one stopped at his neck, the other one I wrapped around his jaw and watched as my thumb traced the edge of his lower lip.

  When my thumb was retracing its path, I looked into his eyes and whispered, “I missed you calling me ’beautiful’.”

  “I missed havin’ you close so I could call you that,” he whispered back.

  I shifted off his cock but moved down his body so I could lay my cheek on his chest and both his arms went around me.

  “It’ll never stop hitting us,” I said softly.

  “Don’t ’spect so,” Creed said softly back.

  “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like winning when that sucker punch comes and we’re reminded of how much we lost,” I told him then felt, weirdly, his body shaking under mine like he was laughing.

  I lifted up and looked down at him.

  Yes, laughing.

  “This is funny?” I asked quietly.

  His hands came back to frame my face and he replied just as quietly through his waning laughter, “Baby, I hauled you into my house last night, kissed you at the door. I made love to you in my bed. I woke up to you. I spent the day with you and my kids. I watched you go down over the pizzookie. You barely got your spoon in there. And, ten minutes ago, I watched you ride my cock hard and make yourself come before you made me do the same. No way, after what they took from us, no way am I gonna let them make me feel that isn’t anything but what it is. Us winning.”

  Shit, he was right.

  He also wasn’t done.

  “Wish I was a better man,” he said quietly. “Dad’d be pissed at me, he knew I was even thinkin’ this but, I get the chance, I’ll spit on your father
s grave, what he did to you, what he did to me. But, if I don’t get that chance,” his hands at my face pressed in and his voice dipped low, the smooth sliding clean out of it, his expression shifting to intense, “I’ll take this. I’ll take this every day and every day I’ll know in the end I beat that bastard. He might not have been alive to see it, but I beat his goddamned, motherfucking ass.”

  Seriously, he was hot when he was being all vengeful badass.

  Thinking that, it hit me.

  I loved the Creed that was and he was still in there, with his kids, with me.

  But without what happened to us, this Creed would never have been.

  And I loved this Creed in a way that maybe time had dulled the feeling I had before even though it didn’t feel that way. Because I loved the man under me in a way that wasn’t just meant to be. It wasn’t a way we were born to be. It was in a way that needed to be.

  With sudden clarity it hit me that I was always a bit of this Sylvie. I liked clothes and I gossiped with my girls and I put on makeup, even now. But I was not the daughter my father wanted, who adored ballet and wore ribbons in her hair and didn’t beg him to let me go fishing with him every time he went out with his buddies.

  So maybe the Sylvie due to circumstances I became was the Sylvie I was supposed to be.

  And Creed had always had badass in him. He was his father’s son. We even talked about him joining the military when we got wherever we were going to go, settled in and he was okay with the possibility of leaving me to go on assignment.

  So maybe due to circumstances, he became the Creed he was supposed to be.

  And because the universe wasn’t right without us together, we became that way then we came back together.

  On this thought, I pressed closer and asked, “Do you think that shit had to happen so I could be who I am with who you came to be?”

  Both his hands slid into my hair and fisted gently at the back of it, none of the intensity shifting out of his face when he replied, “Fuck… no. My Sylvie who had my back and stood by my side as best she could from the age of six to the age of eighteen did not deserve years of torture and living with the knowledge a man is dead at her hand and I didn’t deserve the shit dished out to me either. What I think is, it’s life. Life can be shit. We had our shit. We’ll have more of it, though, God willing, not that fuckin’ bad and we made our way back together because together is the way we’re born to be. But,” his hands in my hair pulled me closer and his voice dipped lower, “you wanna think it was supposed to happen that way. That makes you feel better. Think it. I just don’t agree.”

  “The me that I am right now though, Creed, feels like the Sylvie I was meant to be,” I pointed out.

  “Yeah, you are,” he agreed. “Comfortable in your skin. Good at what you do. You enjoy it. You like the way you live. I can see that. But you could have become this Sylvie without that shit buried in your soul,” he replied and I tipped my head to the side.

  “Would you be down with that?”

  He lifted his head an inch from the pillow so our faces were mega close and he whispered, “Then and now, beautiful, I’ll take you any way you come to me.” His hands in my hair shook my head gently. “Any way. I love this Sylvie. I loved that Sylvie. I just love you, baby.”

  And I just loved him.

  Any way he came to me.

  To share this, I shoved my face in his neck.

  Creed got the message and I knew this when his arms circled me and he gave me a mighty squeeze.

  He allowed seconds to tick by before he murmured, “Gotta let you go, need to deal with this condom.”

  “Right,” I murmured back and shifted off him.

  He kissed my shoulder before he exited the bed. I had pulled on my panties and camisole by the time he got back.

  Creed turned off the lone light we had on and pulled me into him, tucking me close and I took us full circle.

  “I’m glad your kids like me, Creed.”

  “What’d I say?” he asked in reply.

  I pressed in closer, grinning at his shadowed skin.

  Creed’s arms around me tightened then loosened and I relaxed into him.

  Finally, I gave it to him.

  “Just so you know, you haven’t changed much but I’d take you any way you came to me, too,” I whispered. “I loved you then. I love you now. I just love you, Creed.”

  I heard him draw a breath as I felt his chest expand with it.

  Then he released it and I felt his lips brush the top of my hair.

  “Good to know,” he muttered there.

  I smiled at his shadowed skin again before I took a deep breath and, in my man’s arms, after a day of fun and relaxation, a night of good food and then great fucking, I slipped straight into sleep.

  * * * * *

  Daddy showed him the picture. Me, wearing heels, a dress Creed had never seen, my hair done up in a way I never did it, looking older, like the days he’d spent there were years. I had Dixon’s arm around my waist, my hand lay on his chest and my head was resting on his shoulder.

  “I told you,” Daddy whispered, his voice ugly in his glee. “Right from your arms to Jason’s. Right to Jason.”

  Creed tried to focus through the hunger, the pain, the discomfort, the smell. He couldn’t see my face. He could barely see my profile.

  But he knew I’d never go to Dixon.


  Daddy went on, “He’ll make her happy. I promise you. I promise you, Tucker. He’ll make her happy. I’ll see to it. She’ll be happy in a way you never could make her be.”

  Creed closed his eyes.

  Daddy lost patience, his fingers shoving in Creed’s hair, yanking his head back and the pain spiked along the slice in his scalp. “Look at it!”

  He opened his eyes and there I was.

  His Sylvie.

  Even in another man’s arms, he drank me in.

  “That’s where she’s meant to be,” Daddy told him.

  Creed knew Daddy was wrong.

  That wasn’t where I was meant to be.

  Because we were meant to be.

  “He’ll make her happy,” Daddy continued. “I promise you that. You promise to vanish from her life, I promise, I vow, Sylvie will be happy.”

  Creed’s eyes moved from the photo to Daddy and he whispered, his voice hoarse and weak, “He’ll never make her happy.”

  Daddy yanked again on his hair, arching his neck pack, more pain, this excruciating, tearing through his entire scalp, down his neck and spine.

  But Creed didn’t even groan.

  All he said was, “Never.”

  * * * * *

  I shot up to sitting, the dream still having a hold on me but I didn’t get the chance to dart out of bed and do anything crazy.

  This was because Creed had me on my back with him on me, his hands moving soothingly over my skin and his lips whispering, “Just a dream. Just a dream, baby.”

  I wrapped my arms around him and held on tight through the shakes that trembled through me.

  He rolled us to our sides and silently held me through the shakes, one hand drifting up and down my back, one hand sifting through my hair until the shakes left me.

  Only then did he speak.

  “This shit has got to stop.”

  I tipped my head back and whispered, “I’ll get through it, Creed.”

  I saw his darkened chin dip down and he replied, “Yeah. You will. By talkin’ to somebody. I don’t care who it is as long as it’s a professional.”

  I felt my body get tight. “I’m not gonna go see somebody.”

  “Yeah you are.”

  I pulled up so we were face to face. “I’ll be fine,” I told him. “I’ll get through it.”

  He disagreed. “Not on your own, you won’t.”

  “Creed, it’s just bad dreams.”

  “Sylvie, you got the beginnings of PTSD.”

  It was then I felt my body go still.

  Then I returned firmly, “
I do not. It’s not a big deal. It’s just dreams.”

  “It’s not just dreams, baby.”

  “It is. That shit didn’t happen to me,” I reminded him. “It happened to you.”

  “You’re right. The shit you’re dreamin’ about, it happened to me. What that shit led to, what’s buried and what’s fuckin’ with your head even if it isn’t comin’ out, is what happened to you after that happened to me. You’re dealin’ with a new load of fucked up shit on top of the old load you haven’t sorted through and your head is focusing on what you didn’t experience in order to avoid what you did.”

  Oh God, now he was making sense.

  “That’s whacked,” I scoffed to cover the fact he was freaking me out and Creed rolled into me and on me.

  “It fuckin’ isn’t,” he growled. “Trust me that shit happened to me so I fuckin’ know. Years after that, Sylvie, years, that shit did a number on me. You think I didn’t have nightmares? You think I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat time and time a-fuckin’-gain? You think, to this day, I don’t always carry water with me in my fuckin’ car? I hear the sound of chains, my gut gets tight. To. This. Day. You were sold to an animal, an owned human being forced to do what he wanted you to do in ways no woman should have to perform and ended up killin’ him with a knife. You don’t do that shit and move to Denver and everything is cool. You process it. If you’re smart, you find the tools to deal with it because it’s always fuckin’ there. You just gotta learn to control it before it controls you.”

  I hated that he went through that, all of it but also this new nuance he shared with me.

  And I hated it when he made sense.

  But I wasn’t ready to give in. “I can’t talk about this now. I need sleep then I need to get back to the hotel.”

  “Yeah, you need to do both of those things but you can do them after you agree to see somebody.”

  “Creed –”


  I fell silent.

  He did, too.

  We stared at each other in the dark.

  God! I wished I was more patient.

  “Fine,” I snapped.

  I felt his body relax which sucked because I hadn’t noticed how tense he was. His tenseness communicated eloquently that my dreams were bothering him, maybe even more than they bothered me and that didn’t suck. That sucked huge.

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