Creed, p.25
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       Creed, p.25

           Kristen Ashley
 

  He leaned forward on the last word then sucked in breath before he leaned back and went on.

  “It burns that you gotta listen to them talk the way they do, cuttin’ each other to the quick, layin’ into each other until they bleed, daily. It burns I can’t protect you from that. I can’t protect you when I see you in town in a dress he wants you to wear, a dress that’s not my Sylvie. It burns so deep, the need to take you away, put you in my truck, deliver you from that shit and I can’t. All I got… all I got, Sylvie, is livin’ for the nights you’ll come to me. The nights I can make sure you got a decent meal in your belly because that bitch sure isn’t gonna fuckin’ feed you and your Daddy doesn’t care. The nights I can show you someone, one single person on this whole goddamned earth loves you, lives for you. Your Momma married that man, gave up on you, moved to California and now you get a fifty dollar check every birthday and Christmas and maybe a phone call, if you’re lucky. You got no one, like me. That’s the way it is, that’s the way it’s always been. So I live for the nights when I have you because I’m all you got, and baby, you’re all I got too. That’s the way it is, that’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it always will be.”

  “You protect me,” I told him softly.

  “Not enough,” he retorted harshly.

  “Creed –”

  “So, baby, don’t,” he talked over me. “Don’t do anything to fuck this up. We got seven months. Seven months to wait it out then we’ll be free. Free of your Daddy. Free of my Ma. Free of this hellhole. Free to just be.”

  “Okay,” I whispered instantly.

  We stood, me in Creed’s room, Creed in the doorway, staring at each other.

  “You protect me,” I repeated, still whispering.

  “Not enough,” he repeated too, not whispering.

  “If I didn’t have you –”

  “You got me,” he clipped.

  I took a step toward him, stopped and said, “I know. But if I didn’t have you, I don’t know where I’d be.”

  “Right back at ‘cha, beautiful.”

  I licked my lips then pressed them together before I unpressed them and said quietly, “You asked me not to date Jason again, I didn’t. And he didn’t get anything from me. I swear.”

  I watched Creed’s chest expand with his breath then he crossed his arms on it and nodded.

  “Can we stop fighting now? I don’t like it,” I whispered.

  I saw his face get soft before Creed ordered gently, “Come here, Sylvie.”

  I didn’t hesitate. I went there. When I got close, Creed’s arms uncrossed and I walked right into them. It was his turn not to hesitate and they folded right around me.

  Against the hair at the top of my head, he promised, “We get through this shit, we get away, I’ll give you a beautiful life, baby. I promise. I fuckin’ swear, a year, two, all this shit will be a memory and you might not have everything you’re used to but what we do have will be beauty.”

  I nodded, my cheek sliding against his flannel shirt, my arms wrapping around him tight.

  “I’ll give you beauty too,” I promised back.

  “You already do,” he whispered and my belly dipped.

  “And I’ll give you Kara and Brand,” I went on.

  “Lookin’ forward to that, baby.” He was still whispering. One of his arms left me and his hand came to my chin. He lifted my face up to look into his grinning one. “Look forward to makin’ ‘em just as much.”

  That made me feel tingly and I grinned back.

  I felt my grin fade and I pressed close before I said softly, “I love you a whole lot, Tucker Creed.”

  His grin faded, his hand at my chin disappeared so both arms could wrap back around me and he gave me a squeeze before he replied, just as softly, “You’re my world, Sylvie. Always have been. Always will be.”

  I pulled a breath in through my nose, gave him a smile that even I could feel was crooked and trembling, I closed my eyes tight and shoved my face into his chest.

  Like always when I was there, his arms gave me yet another squeeze and he became what I was to him. Everything. My whole world.

  As always.

  As it always would be.

  Chapter Nineteen

  Worth Every Fuckin’ Minute

  Present day…

  I was showered and getting ready to check out of the hotel room, take off and discover what Phoenix had to offer when a knock came at the hotel door.

  I walked to the door, looked out the peephole and stared at the beauty pageant beautiful, tall woman with dark arched brows and gleaming, straight brunette hair standing outside.

  A woman who looked a lot like Kara Creed.

  Shit.

  Fuck.

  Shit.

  I sucked in breath, tamped down my irritation, arranged my features and pulled open the door.

  She looked right into my eyes with her unusual light brown ones. The rest of her would make a less badass woman quail. She was built, all hips and tits and a tiny waist. Fashionable clothes, the fit, style and colors suiting her. Perfect skin that didn’t often get touched by the sun or she wore SPF makeup.

  She was everything that was not me.

  She said not a word. I didn’t either but she knew I met her daughter and I’d be all kinds of stupid not to see the resemblance so I decided not to play dumb.

  We checked each other out for a while and finally, I spoke.

  “Hey.”

  Lame, yes, but what else did you say?

  “You’re Sylvie,” she replied.

  “And you’re Chelle,” I returned.

  She lifted up her chin, exposing a long, slim, elegant neck.

  I tipped my head to the side. “How did you find me?”

  She didn’t hesitate to answer. “Only one nice hotel close to Tucker. He wouldn’t put you in anything but the best he could find. The best of the best isn’t close and he wouldn’t have you anywhere that wasn’t close.” She shrugged. “So here I am.”

  She knew Creed. That wasn’t a surprise, they’d been married. She also knew how he felt about me. That, also, wasn’t a surprise, he’d told her.

  But she called him Tucker.

  Weird.

  “And they gave you my room number?” I asked.

  “For two hundred dollars,” she answered.

  Seemed she paid Creed loads of attention and not just about me.

  Time to move this on.

  “Okay, Chelle, what can I do for you?” I asked.

  “You can let me in,” she replied.

  I shook my head but did it gently and dipped my voice low. “I don’t think –”

  She lifted up a slim, elegant hand, slim, elegant gold bangles clanking as she did so and dipped her voice low too. “I’m not here to be ugly, Sylvie. I promise. I just want to talk.”

  “About what?” I pressed.

  “About things I’d rather not say in the hall.”

  Goddamn it!

  If I didn’t let her in, I’d seem bitchy. That said, I totally didn’t want to let her in.

  I had no choice, really, and that sucked.

  I stepped back, opening the door as I did and moved aside.

  She walked in and it looked like swanning but I had the feeling that long-legged grace came naturally.

  I closed the door, followed her and when I arrived in the bedroom area, I saw she’d stopped and was examining my zipped up, beat up, leather satchel.

  I stopped well away and offered, “Do you want me to make some coffee? I’ve got one of those little pots and plenty of java.”

  She looked to me and shook her head. “I’m good.”

  I nodded and fell silent. She was here, I didn’t invite her. It was up to her to lead.

  She regarded me closely. “I’m not what you expected,” she stated quietly.

  “Nope,” I agreed, giving her no more.

  I actually didn’t know what I expected, Creed was hot, successful and all man, he could get anyone, ev
en someone as beautiful as Chelle. But she was way more polished and stylish than I would expect would turn the eye of a man like Creed.

  She pulled in a delicate breath and asked, “He hasn’t spoken of me?”

  Shit. I didn’t want to be doing this but I really didn’t want to get into this crap. So I had to put on the brakes before we even really started.

  “Okay,” I threw out a hand, “I don’t want this to go bad. From what I know, you understand what’s happening, not a little bit of it, all of it. So I think you get I’m gonna be around as in around… a lot.”

  She didn’t flinch but that didn’t mean I didn’t catch how much that cost her.

  “So,” I went on, “I wanna be careful here, I don’t wanna create bad blood. You and Creed get on, so I’m gonna try not to fuck that up. So don’t take offense when I say this but, giving you the honesty, I’m not gonna talk to you about what Creed and I talk about. I’ll say this. I know a little bit about you. I know you both love your kids. I know you’ve made good ones. I know you got a new man. I know you know about me and I know the break with Creed wasn’t good for you. Can we leave it at that?”

  She didn’t answer me.

  Instead, she stated, “He wanted no memory of you.”

  I didn’t get this so I asked, “What?”

  She swept her hand up and down her front. “After you, he told me it took years but when he couldn’t bear it anymore, the nightmares, the anguish, the longing, in an attempt to bury it, he fucked everything that moved. After you, he told me, he did everything he could do to drown out the memory of you. After you, there were no blondes. After you, there were no women who were slim and little and looked like they needed protecting. After you, those women ceased to exist. He didn’t even look at them. He wanted no memory of you.”

  Okay, I liked this and hated it, in equal measure.

  “Do you know why that was?” I asked and she nodded but I went on, “If you really do, Chelle, you know that was more than being about me.”

  “True. But we both know it was mostly about you.”

  Okay, she was probably right about that.

  I pulled in breath, opened my mouth to speak but she got there before me and when she spoke, she was whispering.

  “I have never…” she swallowed, “not in my life, not in all the time with him, except when the kids were born, I have never, ever seen him the way he was at lunch on Friday.”

  I shut my mouth.

  She closed her eyes and I saw her draw in breath through her nose before she opened them again and continued whispering.

  “Please, don’t hurt him.”

  That was so unexpected I felt my body give a small jerk.

  Then I started, “Chelle –”

  She shook her head and raised her hand. “You’re everything to him.”

  I shook my head too and returned, “I was. Now, I know he feels the way I feel about being back together, but he’s got your kids and he adores them.”

  She nodded. “I know that. I know that, Sylvie, but we both know the love we have for a child is not the same as the love of a lifetime. I know he loves them. He’d do anything for them. That’s not what we’re talking about. That’s a different kind of everything. And if he’s told you even a little bit about me, you know I love him. I want the best for him. That will never change, he’s with me or he’s not. I know from what he told me, you’re the best for him. You were with him since the beginning, you came into his life just a year after his Dad died. So that girl before, that girl that became the woman he loved was everything to him. But time has passed. Now, I need to know you’re still the woman who will see to him, who will make him look like he looked at lunch even though he tried to hide it so he wouldn’t hurt me. Who made him look like I’ve only seen twice in my life and that was when Kara and Brand were new to this world and placed in his arms. Who made him look happy.”

  Holy shit.

  Creed was not wrong. She actually was happy he found me again.

  “Okay, Chelle, gotta say you’re kinda freakin’ me out,” I admitted.

  Her body gave a start then her lips twitched. “There it is, he didn’t tell you much about me.”

  I grinned. “He did. I just didn’t believe him.”

  Her lips tipped up but she didn’t commit fully to the smile before they untipped and she said softly, “You can believe him.”

  I had to say, this was pretty cool and since it was, since she put it out there, since she paid two hundred dollars to do it and since she did really care a lot about Creed, I gave it to her.

  “He’s my world. I’ve been lost for sixteen years without him. Lost, broken and lonely. Having him back makes me feel whole again. I’d die for him.”

  “I hope you don’t have to but… good,” she replied.

  I grinned at her. “I hope I don’t have to either. That would suck.”

  She gave me a small grin back before she looked at my satchel then back at me. “Okay, well, I um… that’s kind of all I wanted to say or, uh… to hear. I don’t want to take up too much of your time so I’ll just head out.”

  I nodded and stepped aside so she could pass. I followed her down the short hall and stopped away from the door where she stopped, hand on the handle, her head tipped down to look at it. She stood there a beat like that and didn’t move so I was about to call her name before her head snapped up and, not taking her hand from the handle, she turned to me.

  “He didn’t tell you.”

  Oh crap. This wasn’t good. Not only that she was clearly about to impart something on me that Creed had not gotten around to telling me but the look on her face that said not good things.

  “Chelle, I don’t think –”

  “It’s very him not to tell you,” she cut me off to say.

  “If there’s something you’ve figured out he hasn’t told me, maybe we should let Creed tell me.”

  “He might not and you should know. I know you don’t know already because you aren’t angry. You aren’t acting like a bitch.”

  Okay, seriously did not like this.

  “Again, how about we let Creed tell me.”

  She ignored me. “He’s a good man. He feels guilt he shouldn’t feel. I did it to myself.”

  “Chelle –”

  “I deliberately got pregnant with Kara in order to trap him into marrying me.”

  Holy shit!

  I stared, mouth hanging open and everything.

  Unfortunately, words kept coming through her lips.

  “I knew he didn’t love me. I always knew he didn’t love me but I loved him. Too much. I did that to him and he loves Kara, Brand and when I got pregnant I knew something was wrong. He was battling with something in his past. He didn’t tell me what it was but I knew it was holding him back from living a full life. So I got pregnant, convinced him to try to get on with his life and he settled for me. I knew it the whole time, Sylvie. He’d never gotten over you, though I didn’t know the issue was you, and if I hadn’t done that to him, he’d still be alone. He could have come to you free and clear. You could have your own kids you’d named those names. It could have –”

  “Please stop,” I interrupted her and before she could begin again I kept going. “I gotta say, it isn’t cool, doing that to a man, not deliberately. Shit happens, I get that but deliberately?” I shook my head. “And babe, I can tell you get that he feels shit for breaking your heart but there’s no going back now. There’s only forward and this is between you and Creed. You need to sit down with him and talk. It isn’t fair to any man to carry the load he’s carrying from breaking it off with you when the whole time you knew it was a possibility.”

  She turned fully to me. “I’ve talked to him, he won’t listen.”

  There it was. The reason she was telling me this.

  She wanted me to intervene.

  I had to put a stop to this and pronto.

  “Right,” I began, “this is new, for you, him, me and we gotta feel this out as we go
along but I can say at this juncture I’m uncomfortable with being a Creed, Chelle go between. If you’re here to corral me into helping you two work out your issues, just saying, again giving you the honesty, I got enough to deal with right now with Creed back in my life, things at home at the same time hoping your kids like me. I can’t be that for you and I’m not sure I ever want that role. If you want it, you gotta do it yourself. I’m not saying I don’t want to be involved in things as they crop up down the road. I’m going to be a member of this family and, babe, not to hurt you but Creed and I’ll be building our own. But I get there will always be a Creed and Chelle that raise two great kids and although you got your man and Creed has me, you two have to keep your shit together so you can do your best job raising those two kids and that doesn’t involve me. It doesn’t involve your man. It involves you and Creed. You with me?”

  She studied me then replied quietly, “I’m with you, Sylvie.”

  I nodded then continued, “We got a job, you, me, Creed and your man, to be cool always for your kids. You probably know Creed had a revolving door of father figures and my stepmom was a loser. No kid deserves that and I never wanna do that to a kid, especially not kids that are Creed’s. So let’s find ways to figure that out so they don’t feel this and just know they have a lot of love centered around two great parents who want the best for them.”

  I saw her eyes warm before she told me, “I think we can do that job.”

  “I know we can,” I returned.

  She held my gaze then nodded before saying, “I’m glad you feel that way, Sylvie, because that’s the way I was hoping it would be. Every, uh… ex-wife who’s a Mom always fears when her ex finds another woman and what that will bring. I’m pleased it brought you.”

  I grinned again and stated, “You trapped him or not, babe, he got you pregnant so he did choose you so let’s just say Tucker Creed has good taste.”

  She grinned back. “Yeah, let’s say that.” At my nod, she finished, “I should get going.”

  “Later, Chelle.”

  “’Bye, Sylvie.”

  She turned to go but I stopped her by calling her name and she turned back. “Just out of curiosity and if it’s personal between you two, you don’t have to tell me but why do you call him Tucker?”

 
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