Creed's Claim(4)

By: Mina Carter

And he was about to tattoo her for the first time.

She took a nervous little breath and smiled. “Yeah, just there then please. Thank you, Creed.”

The sound of his name on her lips was enough to fuel a whole host of new fantasies, but he kept them in check and started to work. Within a minute or so, he was almost able to forget that the soft, creamy skin under his hands was Kaitlyn’s. She didn’t murmur or flinch at the kiss of the needle. She merely lay back, one hand pillowing her head as he worked.

He didn’t need to look at the pattern for reference. This particular image was from his personal collection and he knew every line and shadow, every nuance and shade, even how it would lie over the skin where she’d told him she wanted it. Drawn for her, he’d inked this design in his dreams so many times that he could do it with his eyes closed.

But he didn’t. Body tight, he drew on his reticent bear to ensure his hands didn’t shake and worked the ink.

“So, you just back for a visit?” he asked, his voice low as the two other girls chattered away in the front of the shop. “Last I heard you’d gotten a fancy job in the city…and were getting married?”

He tried not to be obvious about checking out her ring finger as he spoke, but then realized she had her head pillowed on her left hand. Bloody idiot, he should’ve checked before.

She flinched as he moved the needle, but the subtle scent of distress told him it wasn’t physical pain but rather emotional that had caused it. “Just a visit for the moment. The job is great, but the guy fell through.”

She gave a nervous laugh as Creed looked up, and he read the pain in her eyes. Anger surged to the fore, his bear snarling deep within. The asshole had hurt her, obviously, and that would never stand.

“Who was he? I’ll go break his legs for you if you like.”

She blinked, then barked out a laugh, reaching out to pat him on the arm when he lifted the iron from her skin. “No, no need for that. He really isn’t worth it, I promise. I’m well rid of him.”

“Hmmm,” he grumbled, concentrating on one of the more difficult areas of the design. “If you’re sure. The offer’s open.”

She lay back, a smile on her face when he risked a glance up.

“Thank you, I’ll bear that in mind.”

Chapter 2

Lizard Lick never changed. Kait smiled and took a long swallow from the bottle in her hand. It went down smooth and silky, and she let a happy sigh escape her lungs as she looked around the interior of the imaginatively named Lizard Moon. A sign over the door touted it as the best pool bar in Lizard Lick. Since it was the only pool bar in town, that claim was accurate by default.

Sure, it wasn’t as swanky and upmarket as the wine bars her ex had taken her to in the city. The décor was less interior design and more whatever paint was on special at the time and would cover the tobacco stains. There were no fancy chandeliers or specially commissioned artwork on the walls. The carpet underfoot wasn’t designer anything, but a muted, faded pattern that was slightly sticky underfoot. Just the same as it always had been.

And she wouldn’t change it for the world.

Here, she didn’t have to dress up and pretend to be something she wasn’t. Didn’t have to be the perfect career girlfriend of the boardroom hotshot her fiancé had fancied himself to be. Their relationship had never been about them, it had all been about him. Team Aiden, he’d called them, controlling everything about her to better suit the image he wanted to project.

Some of his requests had seemed pretty harmless, even beneficial. Like the membership to the exclusive gym he’d insisted on paying for her. She’d needed to lose a few pounds after Christmas, so the chance to work out in an excellent gym without having to wait for the machines was heaven. Then had come the personal trainer, to ensure she got the “best out of her workouts.” From there it had been an easy slide into agreeing to lighten her hair, getting long blonde extensions, and having every detail of her wardrobe approved by the “team leader.”

But the final straw had come when he’d booked her in for a combined boob job and liposuction procedure for an early birthday present. She’d thought it was a joke at first but apparently her looking like a porn star was helpful for his promotional prospects. He’d genuinely been confused as to why she wasn’t happy. Then he was annoyed and called her an ungrateful bitch for the time and effort he’d expended to bring her “up to scratch.” It was then she’d realized he’d never seen them as equal; he’d always seen her as the girl from the hick town and beneath him.