Creed, p.32
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       Creed, p.32

           Kristen Ashley

  I pressed my face into his skin, into my tat. “Sorry, baby, sorry, so, so, sorry. I should have shut up. I shouldn’t have kept talking.”

  He twisted in my arms and his big hands cupped either side of my head, jerking it back with only a modicum of gentleness and his shadowed face was all I could see.

  “You work that shit out, Sylvie, you work it out and you do it with me,” he growled.

  “Okay.” I thought it best to agree immediately.

  “You give me everything you got, I’ll deal.”

  “Okay,” I agreed again, immediately.

  “They took a month from me. They took six years from you. I’ll deal.”


  He used his hands on my head to yank me forward and I did a forced face plant in his chest before his arms wrapped around my head.

  When I felt his chest expand with a huge breath then release I felt it safe to note, “They took a month from you, six years from me but they took sixteen years from us.”

  “Yeah. And we’ll both deal with that shit by me makin’ love to you, planting my baby inside you and both of us, when we make more, all of us livin’ free, easy and happy for the rest of our lives, exactly how they did not want us to be.”

  It was easy to agree to that one.


  Creed didn’t let me go and I let him hold me.

  This went on awhile. So long I decided to move things on.

  “Uh… Creed?”

  “Right here, Sylvie.”

  “This might not be the time but I’m thinking at least three kids, maybe four.”

  His body turned to stone.

  “Okay, three,” I said hurriedly.

  Creed said nothing.

  “Right, then, two. But, warning, I’m sticking on two.”

  Creed still said nothing.

  “Though, if it’s two boys, we have to go for a girl…” I paused, “and, uh, vice versa.”

  Creed stayed silent but started walking me backwards to the bed. We weren’t too far so we went down in two steps, me on my back, Creed on top of me.

  After we bounced twice and settled, Creed spoke.

  “You want four kids, we best get to work, baby.”

  I grinned.

  There it was. Creed made it all better.

  Unfortunately, he went on, “We stop at three, you get to an age where four isn’t healthy.”


  “I’m not old, Creed.”

  “Gotta have two years in between.”

  “Is that a rule?”


  Seriously. Sometimes a bossy badass was annoying.

  “Creed –”

  His head was descending and I stopped talking when it froze in its descent for a moment before he dipped his chin and looked at me through the dark.

  “It’s two oh five,” he announced weirdly.

  “What?” I asked.

  “It’s two oh five, baby.”

  “Okay,” I said slowly, not understanding the information he seemed intent on imparting on me. Or, more to the point, not understanding why he seemed intent on imparting this information on me.

  His lips came to mine. “You’re a minute into your thirty-fifth birthday.”

  Oh. Yeah.

  Right on!

  “Yippee,” I whispered against his lips. I was pretty sure he was going to kiss me but he rolled, got on his ass, did something in the dark by the nightstand then he came back to me.

  His hand trailed down my arm, found my wrist, lifted it and turned it so my hand was palm up.

  I felt a box set in it.

  “My girl’s green,” Creed murmured.

  Oh shit.

  Oh crap.

  Oh fuck.

  I had this back too.

  Not that I forgot it, just that I had it back.

  I had it back.


  Tears clogged my throat and through them, I pushed out a weak, “Creed.”

  “Open it, Sylvie.”

  I sucked in breath and started to shift up. Creed moved to my side, I got up on my ass and, in the dark, I opened it. I didn’t even look at it, not that I could see it if I tried. I just pulled it out, tossed the box aside and my fingers slid along the chain until I found the clasp.

  “Will you lift my hair, baby?” I muttered and Creed moved to do as I asked.

  When he shoved a hand under and lifted the mass up, I clasped the necklace on and felt its cold settle next to the one I was already wearing.

  My eyes went to him. “Love it.”

  My hair tumbled down, I felt his hand cup my jaw and there was a smile in his voice when he remarked, “You can’t see it.”

  “Don’t care. Still love it.”

  For a moment, yet again, Creed said nothing.

  Then he said something, he just didn’t use words.

  He moved into me, covered me and used body language.


  Thus my thirty-fifth birthday, unlike any of the thirty-four before, except one, started perfectly.

  * * * * *

  This was it.

  The life.

  It was evening. I lay on my back in my backyard, elbows in the turf, bare feet crossed, gut filled with Creed’s homemade, shredded chicken barbeque sandwiches, store bought macaroni salad and Charlene’s birthday cake. I was watching Brand and Kara play with Adam and Leslie. Creed was lying in the grass twenty feet away letting Theo use him as a jungle gym while Charlene was in my kitchen. She had put her foot down declaring I was not allowed to do the dishes on my birthday (not that I would, they could wait a day or three) so she was doing them.

  I lounged thinking that I loved this. I only ever had a hint of this feeling, spending time with Creed and his kids in Phoenix, but I got it.

  This was what family felt like.

  This was what friends and family felt like.

  This was what it felt like to be surrounded by people you loved who loved you (mostly, Kara and Brand probably weren’t there yet but I hoped they someday would be).

  Outside of having Creed, this was the best feeling in the world.

  And when he and I made our babies and Kara and Brand got to know me, it would only get better.

  I’d had eleven great birthdays, the ones I spent with Creed growing up.

  Those were great, but this one was better.

  Further, it was official. Creed’s kids were good kids. Maybe Creed gave them a head’s up and some instruction but they didn’t even blink when they met Adam. They also didn’t treat him any differently.

  Kara, especially.

  I was surprised, considering her age, but she seemed to have a natural ability both to look out for Adam without making it seem like she was while at the same time she included him.

  It was pretty awesome.

  It had been Creed’s idea to bring the kids up to Denver. He said it would be a before going back to school mini-vacation for them because they’d never been here before. We were going to Elitch Gardens amusement park the next day and the Butterfly Pavilions on Sunday before he had to put them back on a plane.

  He said that he also wanted to them to come up because even kids absorb things, witnessing people in their element and meeting the people who meant something to them. So it would be an opportunity for them to get to know me better.

  It was my decree that they were staying in a hotel. Firstly, my second bedroom was still a pit and I hadn’t had the chance to clean it out. I also thought it was way too soon to introduce them to the kind of intimacy Creed and I sleeping together would communicate.

  Creed agreed but only with the stipulation that I join him in his room (he and the kids had adjoining rooms) when he called to tell me they were asleep.

  But the whole weekend, outside of the nights, would be spent together.

  I was looking forward to it. Not only because I fucking loved roller coasters and they had tarantulas you could hold at the Butterfly Pavilion and tarantulas
weighed about an ounce, they were furry, cool and I thought they were the shit. But also because I got a birthday weekend like I’d never had before.

  Filled with family.

  I heard dishes clanking in the kitchen while I watched Creed roll to his back, grab Theo and toss him in air repeatedly, making Theo giggle. I hoped like all hell all the unprotected sex we were having meant I’d soon see him again doing just that.

  But with our baby.

  I was so focused on this, when Brand threw himself into the grass beside me, my body jerked and my head whipped around.

  “Hide and seek is for babies,” he declared and my gaze moved into the yard to see, with difficulty but also patience, Kara organizing the game with Adam and Leslie.

  “I don’t know,” I replied to Brand. “Seems like it’d be fun to me.”

  He grinned at me. “A squirt gun fight would be fun.”

  I grinned back. “Yeah,” I agreed. “Little too late for that, though. Charlene and the kids’ll be heading home soon.”

  He looked into the yard. “Bummer.” Then his eyes came back to me and he suggested, “We could do it when they leave.”

  “I don’t have any squirt guns,” I informed him, making a mental note to put that on my shopping list and stock up.

  “Does Denver have stores?” he asked cheekily.

  “Uh… yeah,” I answered.

  “Then I get to ride with you in your ‘Vette when we go get ‘em.”

  My grin became a smile. “It’s a plan.”

  He looked back at the yard and stated, “It’ll be so cool when you move in with Dad and we move in with you guys. Squirt gun fights all the time.”

  I stared at his profile, forgetting how to breathe.

  I forced myself to remember and asked a wheezy, “What?”

  He looked back at me with another grin. “Kara says you’re gonna move in and when you do, we’re gonna move to Dad’s. He has a better pool and he likes football, so we can watch it on the big screen. Not like at home where Mom makes me and Van watch it outside on the smaller TV.” He paused then finished, “Oh, and you have a ‘Vette which is way cooler than any of Dad’s or Mom’s or Van’s cars.”

  I blinked at him before I cautiously asked, “You’re, uh… moving in with your Dad?”

  He nodded and looked back at the yard. “Yup. Kara says you’re Sylvie and we know what that means.”

  Holy shit!

  “What does that, um… mean?” I asked and his eyes came to me.

  “You’re on Dad’s back.”

  God, Creed was right. His kids were far from dumb.

  “Brand –” I started but he interrupted me, not that I knew what I was going to say.

  “Kara says you’re, like, the one. She says Dad’s been waitin’ for you to come back for, like, ever. She says that now you’re back, Dad will be happy and he’ll want us all together. She says Mom couldn’t hold onto him because she wasn’t you. Now he has you and we can be a family again. Least that’s what Kara says.”

  He looked back to the yard as I mentally scrambled to figure out what to say, what to do at the same time sending vibes to Creed in an effort to get him to come over and rescue me from this crazy, landmine filled conversation.

  Even as I scrambled, Brand, being Brand, kept talking and when he did, he gave me the remaining puzzle pieces as to why Kara and her Mom didn’t get on and why Kara attached herself to his hip when she was around Creed.

  “Kara says Dad’s the best guy on earth and I agree. Totally. Only the best girl for the best guy, she says. She says she wasn’t surprised when she met you because you’re like Dad, cool and pretty but fun.” He shot another grin at me. “Dad can be kinda strict.”

  “Uh…” I mumbled.

  Brand kept talking.

  “Mom’s cool too, I think. Kara and her, though…” he shrugged and looked away. “I like Van but Kara says he’s no Dad. He isn’t but he’s okay. I like him but I think he tries too hard with Kara and that’s kinda lame. I mean, he should be with her like he is with me, you know, natural-like.” He shook his head. “But he isn’t.”

  Van, obviously Chelle’s husband, wasn’t with Kara like he was with Brand, I suspected, because Brand liked him and he didn’t have to try.

  Brand continued blabbing.

  “Kara says a woman like Mom gets a man like Van and a woman like you catches the eye of a man like Dad. She says it’s going to be totally awesome when we move in with you guys because we’ll be cool just like you. I love her but Mom and Van aren’t cool. Mom and Van are, like, totally normal.”


  Shit, shit, shit.

  Brand wasn’t done.

  “Kara blames Mom for Dad leaving. She always did, you know. I didn’t get it but after we met you and she explained it, I did. Mom couldn’t hold him because Mom wasn’t you. I miss him but Kara, she like, really misses him. She’s a pain but she’s my sister and it kinda hurts to watch.”

  And there it was.

  Kara blamed Chelle for Creed leaving.


  Shit, shit, shit!

  “She’s a whole lot better now,” Brand finished.


  Well, I guessed I couldn’t ease my way into being a part of the family. Not with these people. They were sucking me into the big stuff right away. All of them.


  “Brand,” I called.

  “Yeah,” he answered.

  “Look at me, would you?”

  He looked at me.

  I took in a breath.

  Then I laid it out.

  “I gotta tell you, straight out, that I gotta talk to your Dad about what you just told me.”

  His head tipped to the side. “Why?”

  “’Cause I’m not real sure how you and Kara think it’s gonna go is how it’s gonna go.”

  He looked a little confused and a little scared as he studied me. “Are you and Dad not, like, hooked up? I mean, are you not the Sylvie from his back? Before we met you, he told us your name and he told us that he’d known you from a long time ago, so we just figured you were that Sylvie.”


  “We are hooked up,” I said quietly. “Very. And I am that Sylvie. It’s just that I need to tell him what you and Kara expect for your future. Or, maybe, if you feel up to it, you both should talk to him about it. That would actually be better.”

  The confusion left, the fear escalated and I knew I was not handling this well at all.

  God, should I call Creed over?

  “Does Dad not want us to live with him?” Brand asked.

  I so totally should call Creed over but I couldn’t since I figured the priority was dealing with Brand’s escalating fear immediately.

  “He does,” I answered. “Definitely. He misses you kids. He talks about you lots. He loves you to bits. But, it’s just –”

  “Do you not want us to live with him?”


  What the fuck should I do?

  Crap. I had to do what I always did.

  Give it to him honestly.

  “Yes,” I stated. “In a perfect world, yes. I think you kids are the business. You’re funny and smart and if I get some practice in, I am so getting my fair share of the pizzookie.”

  That got me a small grin, I took heart in that so I kept going.

  “So if you were around, I’d have lots of practice. But I’ve also met your Mom and I liked her a lot. She’s awesome. She still cares about your Dad and she totally loves both of you. For your Dad to have you, that would mean her losing you. It sucks, babe, you’re young and this is heavy stuff. My Mom and Dad were divorced and it’s not fun, sharing time, wanting both, only getting one at a time.”

  Okay, part of that was a lie but I had to roll with it, so I kept doing that.

  “And, for a while, until you’re old enough to do it for yourselves, your Dad and Mom have got to decide what’s best for you. I’m here to listen and happy to do it but they make the decisions
. You just gotta tell them where you’re head is at and I don’t just mean you. Kara too. Your Dad has told me she and your Mom kinda don’t get along and it worries your Dad and probably really worries your Mom. She should know what’s up with Kara so she and your sister can work that out. You with me?”

  “I think so,” Brand replied.

  I nodded. “So, you do what you want but I suggest you talk to your Dad about all this. I don’t want to burst your bubble but it’s the right thing to do. That said, sorry if it freaks you out, babe, but I’ll be telling your Dad about this. Sometimes we’re gonna have just you and me talks. Hopefully, I’ll get the same with Kara. But sometimes, if it’s really important, like this, I’ll have to make the decision to tell your Dad and I hope you trust me to do right by you when I do.”

  His mouth moved around and he looked at the yard. I looked too and saw that Creed totally missed my vibe and was now, with Theo on his shoulders, playing hide and seek with Adam, Kara and Leslie.


  When I got nothing back from Brand, I looked at him and asked, “Brand, you okay?”

  “I think I’ll talk to him.”

  Like his Dad, something weighed heavy on his mind, he went silent in order to think about it.

  And he just proved he was a smart kid and brave.

  Thank God.

  “You think I should talk to him just me and him or do you think Kara should be with us?” he asked quietly.

  “I don’t know you guys enough to know how to answer that,” I replied honestly. “What do you think?”

  “She might clam up if she’s there. She might get mad if I talk to Dad behind her back.”

  “Then there’s your answer.”

  He looked at me. “What?”

  “If she makes the decision not to participate in the discussion, it’s her decision to make. But you should try not to make anyone mad and if you know it might happen, you should avoid doing what you’re gonna do to make them mad. There are times, but it’s rare, when it’s okay to talk behind someone’s back or break a confidence. This, just my opinion,” I shrugged, “is not one of those times.”

  “I’ll talk to him when she’s there,” Brand decided.

  “Good call,” I muttered.

  We fell silent.

  Theo’s giggle pierced the air.

  “You’re really, pretty, totally cool, Sylvie,” Brand whispered into the silence.

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