Wednesday, 26 August 2015

'Till Death Us Do Part (Part Two)


0897 (by nikodem nijaki deviantart.com)


Claudia

Mayfair, London

"I've left him!" Claudia Creed declared in tremulous voice.

It was Harley Street, and she was standing before Miles Balfour.

For a moment the words hadn't quite registered with the accomplished gynecologist.

"I've walked out on Nicholas!" Claudia added with bravado. "It's over!"

She looked fragile as she stood before him with one suitcase.

Claudia Creed was beautiful and elegant but the marks of sorrow were etched on her face and her sad brown eyes.

Miles Balfour wasn't dreaming it

He acted decisively.

"Jenny, please cancel all my appointments for the rest of the day " Balfour informed his secretary briskly via the intercom.

Balfour had treated some of the richest and most powerful couples in the world including members of the royal family and he was much sought after.

But the woman he had secretly loved for over a decade was standing in his office professing the one thing he had been waiting for the duration of her unhappy marriage.

Work could wait.

It took a lot to tear him away from Harley Street but today he was only too eager.

"Let's get out of here" Miles Balfour informed Claudia Creed decisively as he grabbed his coat.

It felt treacherous to be taking out the wife of his best friend.

But the truth was, the marriage of Nicholas and Claudia Creed had been in trouble from the start and Balfour knew it.

They were the two most mismatched people he had ever known.

Back in the day, Claudia was a shy and self effacing actress just on the cusp of making it in Hollywood.

She was Claudia Saab then and the darling of European art house.

She was a breath of fresh air and she wouldn't even touch alcohol.

Miles Balfour could feel something happening the moment he met and he knew her marriage to Nicholas Creed was doomed from the very start.

Claudia was a pretty and charming Swiss woman who was totally unlike any of the women who had been with Nicholas Creed.

Creed was confidant and rumbustious and devastatingly attractive to both women and men.

And Saab was instantly infatuated with him and the whirlwind romance ensued.

It was a marriage of convenience for Creed and nothing more.

Nicholas Creed had never truly loved his wife.

She bored him and there wasn't enough time in the day for that.

Miles longed to take Claudia in his arms.

He gently took her arm.

"Everything is going to be okay" Miles Balfour soothed her.

She was shaking like a leaf but seemed to visibly relax a little.

"I can't go back" Claudia replied.

Tears filled her eyes.

"You don't have to" Balfour assured her firmly.

He didn't need to know the details.

He knew what Nicholas Creed could be like.

Creed was the kindest and most generous man Balfour had ever known.

But he could be selfish, arrogant and ruthless.

Now the object of Miles Balfour's affection was standing in his office and his world had just been wrought asunder with just a few words.

Perhaps he should have hesitated but Balfour had already formulated a plan which was guaranteed to elicit the enmity of Nicholas Creed.

But he was willing to take the risk for Claudia.

Miles Balfour knew how vindictive Nicholas Creed could be and there had always been rumours of much darker activities.

He was a shark who could decimate his opponent with a smile upon his face.

It all added an element of danger to the swaggering playboy that was Nicholas Cosimo Creed.

Stories of his sexual prowess were legendary.

Nicholas Creed knew how to fuck a woman.

And at over six-foot tall with the good looks of a matinee idol and the physique of an Olympic athlete, his face on the cover of a magazine and in the gossip column of a newspaper were always going to be assured.

On the face of it, Claudia was never going to measure up to the more experienced women of his choice.

He had been one of the most eligible bachelors in the world but his parents had been pushing him to settle down and start a family to keep the auspicious Creed line going.

So he chose the safest woman he could find.

Claudia Saab was famous but not too famous that she eclipsed her new husband and presumably pliable enough to provide a few heirs and stay in the background.

The Creed family approved and found her to be a "sweet girl".

Saab was totally inoffensive and would give the Creed heir children and stay unobtrusively in the background.

Or so they thought.

Claudia had been dazzled by the handsome man who was wooing her and she was willing to give up her burgeoning acting career to be with him.

He was the most exciting man she had ever known.

Creed seduced her easily and she believed it was love.

But she was wrong.

The new Mrs Creed soon felt trapped in the golden, gilded cage that became her world.

A fly caught in a spider's web.

And much to the disgust of  Cosimo and Perdita Creed, their daughter-in-law had only been able to provide their golden boy with a girl.

Claudia Creed was also showing disturbing signs of rebellion.

As far as the Creed's were concerned, the former Swiss actress was selfish and ungrateful but they did not want to have their son humiliated with a divorce.

The Creed family closed its ranks.

They blamed Claudia for the unhappiness of the marriage and the poor girl soon found herself more alone than ever.

Now she had made a bid for freedom and it was suddenly too much for her.

The last thing she remembered was the kindly Miles Balfour smiling at her as he opened the door of his chic London office.

Then everything began to swirl around her.

She could hear Jenny asking : "Mrs Creed, are you alright? Are you alright?"

Then everything went black.

Twenty minutes later and she had been revived by a concerned Miles Balfour and his erstwhile secretary.

Jenny handed Creed a glass of water.

She was sitting on the couch outside Balfour's office.

"I'm sorry" she whispered

"It's okay. You don't need to say a word" Miles told her gently.

Claudia nodded and managed a smile.

All the back to Balfour's Mayfair apartment, Claudia Creed grappled with the enormity of what she had done.

She had turned her back on a world famous millionaire and the kind of lifestyle that countless could only dream of.

But as the bustling city of London flashed past her, Claudia Creed felt like a butterfly leaving a cocoon.

Creed was still badly frightened and her daughter was never far from her thoughts but she was with a good man and she would find her feet.

The world seemed like an imposing place.

Suddenly they were there.

"Make yourself at home" Miles Balfour informed Claudia Creed with a smile.

She was stunned by how plush and luxurious the spacious apartment was.

There was a marble floor and deep pile rugs, huge leather sofas and and open fire in the living space.

It appeared to be fitted out with all the latest mod cons and there was huge television mounted on the wall and remote controlled shutters and lighting.

Claudia Creed took some moments to collect herself as she surveyed the surroundings.

It was not some bachelor pad equipped with boy toys but the tasteful abode of an affluent man with superb taste.

For several moments she marveled at the huge book case which spanned the length of an entire wall and for a moment she mused on her husband's classic library with its endless shelves filled with books.

The books in Balfour's flat looked well well thumbed and had clearly been read and reread.

She smiled at the stacks of neatly piled music CD's and vinyl and mountains of movies all neatly filed away.

Claudia felt at home.

She sank into the sofa.

"I'll make some tea"  Miles Balfour informed her as he took her suitcase into the guestroom.

"That'll be nice" Claudia replied.

Her eyes had noticed the drinks cabinet but it was obvious from the unopened and a couple of half finished bottles that Miles was not a drinker.

Claudia had no taste for the hard stuff.

And as she considered the next few steps in her new life, exhaustion overtook her and she slept where she lay.

By the time Claudia awoke, it was already dark outside.

"How long have I been sleeping?" Claudia cried.

Miles had been watching her slumber for almost three hours.

She looked like a little kitten curled up by the fire and at one point he had tenderly brushed her hair away from her eyes.

"You were very emotional and tired, It's okay"

"I'm so sorry Miles ..."

"Don't be. Let's eat"

Miles Balfour had ordered a Chinese takeaway and had kept it heated.

He knew the novelty of eating it would not be lost on Claudia who had been waited on hand and foot for a decade.

She laughed lightly and together they ate and drank champagne and talked.

The white elephant in the room was still Nicholas Creed but they omitted his name, even when Claudia began to open up about her unhappy marriage.

Miles Balfour listened intently.

Suddenly she was the shy ingenue again who was completely without pretension.

She talked about the early days of her relationship with Nicholas Creed when they would begin the day in one country and end it in a country on a different continent.

Back then, Creed was attentive and considerate but it was clear that he was having misgivings.

Claudia spoke bitterly about her snobbish mother-in-law and her indifferent father-in-law who turned against her as soon as they realised that she was not the girl they expected.

She recalled the endless drip, drip of traversing the huge Creed residence or of spending time with rich bitches who were only concerned with their next vacation or pair of shoes.

The shallow world of the privileged did not appeal to her and she even felt distant to her little daughter who was the image of her father.

She spoke candidly of her drink problem and how she had turned her back on her career and now she wondered if the old Claudia would ever return.

Claudia drank to numb the pain and the psychological torment of being with a man who did not love her.

Miles Balfour fought the urge to embrace her.

He spoke of his disillusionment with the racy world that he had once shared with Nicholas Creed.

It had never been his world and he had never lived the playboy lifestyle.

Miles had been engaged briefly to an American heiress but it hadn't worked and he had remained resolutely single.

He still missed his father who had died when he was still a child and his mother who had only recently passed after a long illness and he had thrown himself into his work.

Miles Balfour was a sensitive man whose work in the gynecological field gave him huge satisfaction.

"You're a good man" Claudia told him.

Then she traced the line of his face with her hand.

The couple looked into each other's eyes for several long moments.

They could feel something was happening.

Mile Balfour longed to kiss the beautiful former actress but it was too soon.

That night Claudia retired to the plush guestroom but was unable to sleep.

Miles also lay awake in his big designer bed as he grappled with the days occurrences and the fact that the woman he loved was just a few feet away.

But the shadow of Nicholas Creed still hung over them.

The following morning Claudia emerged from her room in Balfour's white cotton Prada dressing gown.

For several moments he marveled at how beautiful she was with her long brown hair tumbling over her shoulders.

She was glowing.

"You look absolutely beautiful"

"I do feel better"

"Come on, get dressed and we'll go out for breakfast and a spot of retail therapy"

In her haste to escape, Claudia had left most of clothes and things back at the house.

But she had won her freedom.

For a moment she looked lost.

"Are you okay?" Miles Balfour asked her with concern.

She looked at him with big tragic eyes.

"You will see Alicia again. I promise"

Balfour could read her mind.

As they left the flat, Miles knew that Nicholas Creed would be out looking for his wife and it would not be long before he discovered where she was.

The media would soon be following.

It might the last few days they enjoyed together before the storm.

When Miles Balfour called his secretary that morning, she had already suspected what was happening.

Jenny could be trusted upon to be discreet.

Claudia Creed no longer knew who she was but with the help of Miles Balfour, she was sure to find out.

The couple drove to Knightsbridge and Balfour showered Claudia with presents even when she protested.

They ate lunch at Zuma before embarking on another leg of  their shopping expedition at Harrods.

It was 6 pm when the couple returned to Balfour's flat laden with bags of designer outfits, shoes and groceries.

Miles prepared his "legendary" spaghetti bolognese and they shared a bottle of Pinot noir as they talked into the early hours.

That night they were unable to sleep in their rooms as their minds inevitably reverted to each other.

The following morning Miles Balfour left for work early.

He was loathe to leave Claudia alone but she assured him she would be okay.

"Go, people need you. Work your magic" she said, and she kissed him on the cheek.

It was going to be a good day.

That morning Claudia watched It's A Wonderful Life as she pondered the day ahead.

At lunch time she put on a pair of black Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses and a Gucci hat and ventured outside.

It was a good day to be alive.

As she walked the streets of London, Claudia Creed mused upon her the turn in her fate.

She was still afraid and convinced she was being followed.

It was a bright autumn day and red and gold leaves swirled before her as she sat on a bench in Mayfair Park.

Autumn in London (by Little Dreamer deviantrt.com)
Claudia observed a young couple pause beneath a tree to kiss.

She smiled.

Claudia Miles thought of Miles Balfour.

He was her knight in shining in armor.

He was the only man she could turn to and he had saved her life.

And now she was seeing him in a different light.

They had always exchanged glances and there had always been some affection between them but suddenly his kindness and consideration had taken a new significance.

A mother and her daughter passed and Claudia felt a stab of pain to her heart as she remembered her daughter.

Alicia.

The pretty little girl who she was all her father.

She had abandoned her.

Claudia wept.

When she had composed herself she strode out of the park with a new determination.

She would see her daughter again and one day she would explain everything.

As Claudia approached the flat she was convinced that a camera had flashed.

She looked around her but could see nobody.

They must have been lurking in the bushes or perhaps she was finally going mad.

Whatever it was, the world would soon know that her marriage to Nicholas Creed was over.

And then they would all be fair game.

That evening Claudia prepared Älplermagronen for dinner as she listened to Miles Balfour recounting the day.

He informed her that Jenny the secretary had assured him that nobody suspected that anything was going on between them or that anyone knew that she had left Nicholas Creed.

But it wouldn't be long before it emerged.

"I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me. I would have been lost without you" Claudia told him.

"Don't mention it"

"You've saved my life"

"I'd do it all again"

The couple were looking into each other's eyes.

Claudia was looking particularly lovely in a scarlet Chloe backless dress.

She reached out and touched Balfour's hand.

It was the moment that he had been waiting for.

"You sure?"

She nodded.

Miles Balfour took Claudia's hand and led her to his bedroom.

The following morning he awoke to find the woman he loved sleeping beside him in the big silken bed.

They had made love all night.

It was the first day of the rest of their lives.

Miles arose to get himself a glass of water but was startled by the sound of loud banging at the door.

The magic spell had been broken.

The unmistakable voice of Nicholas Creed resonated through the gold letter box.

"Claudia! I know you're in there! Come out!"

Claudia emerged from the bedroom.

Her happiness had been short lived.

Nicholas Creed had come back to reclaim her.

"Come on, Claudia! You know I love you!"

Miles Balfour motioned to Claudia not to answer him.

She clung to him as tears welled in her eyes.

The banging continued.

"Don't do this to me! You know you mean the world to me!"

There was genuine anguish in  Nicholas Creed's voice.

Guilt united the couple as they huddled by the door.

"I fucking know you're in there! You and Miles, you bastard! Show yourselves!"

There was a loud crash as Creed kicked the door and then there was silence.

The secret was out.

Veronique

Monmarte, Paris

Veronique Bibeau checked the elegant Gaston Jolly clock.

It was 3.30 am

The beautiful French journalist watched her lover as he slept beside her in the big antique bed.

Nicholas Creed look so innocent and vulnerable.

Like a little boy.

They had made love in a frenzy.

Now the plush bedroom was silent.

It had been the scene of many trysts but now the air of danger had finally been extinguished from their clandestine love.

The world knew all about them now.

And the tide had turned dramatically.

The sassy journalist was desperately in love with a millionaire playboy and sometimes she no longer recognised the woman who looked back at her in the mirror.

But she couldn't help herself.

She arose from the big bed and slipped on her silk Kenzo kimono and quietly left the bedroom.

The living space had been illuminated by a full moon and Veronique noticed that her phone had lit up.

Somebody was calling her.

And it could only be one person.

Veronique sighed as she answered it.

"Is he there?" The familiar voice demanded on the other end of the line.

"If by that question you mean Nicholas ... then yes, he is"

"Batard!" The caller spat.

Mimi Durand.

The uncompromising French supermodel was Veronique's soul mate.

She was a seventeen year old teenage delinquent born on the wrong side of Paris when she was discovered by legendary fashion designer Yves Legrand stealing sweets in À la Mère de Famille.

Back then she was just little Marianne Durand.

Legrand was impressed by her kittenish features and gutsy spirit and her career took off shortly after that.

She was one of the world's most sought after supermodels but in her head she was still the little street urchin who had been molested by her father and had watched as he beat up her mother and little brother.

It was a rainy day in Paris when she first met Veronique.

Her career was just about to rocket.

She was the upcoming "it" girl and Veronique was promising young journalist just making her mark.

Two worlds collided.

Veronique had saved her life and since then they were like metaphysical Siamese twins; telepathically tuned into each other.

Mimi Durand detested Nicholas Creed and she hated the way Veronique had changed since she'd been with him.

She had always taken an interest in her friend's love life.

None of the men had quite measured up, so why should Nicholas Creed be any different?

Sure, he probably had bigger balls, but outside the bedroom he was just like all the others.

Nicholas Creed was just another overgrown baby.

Except that Veronique was genuinely in love with him.

And it was killing her.

Once upon a time she had been a self possessed  woman brimming with confidence and joie de vie.

But now her self esteem had been eroded and she clung to Nicholas Creed like a drowning woman clinging to a life raft.

And her pristine reputation had been damaged.

Nicholas Creed was better able to deal with it - he was a man.

But Veronique was a woman and women never came out well from these predicaments.

"Are they still out there?" Mimi Durand asked.

Veronique walked over to the window and peeped tentatively out.

Paris (by sunbeamy deviantart.com)
Several yawning photographers were huddled together in the moonlight.

"Oui" The French journalist replied wearily.

"Fuckers!" Mimi Durand retorted.

Ever since the world had learned about the French journalists affair with the charismatic hotelier, lurid details of their relationship had begun to appear in the press.

The media were permanently camped outside her exclusive Parisian apartment and she was followed everywhere.

Claudia Creed's legal team had mounted an offensive which painted Nicholas Creed as a negligent and unfaithful husband and Veronique as a shameless French coquette.

Nicholas Creed retaliated in characteristic robust fashion by getting the best lawyers in town and depicting Claudia Creed as a hopeless drunk who was neurotic and unfit to be a mother.

It was war and it was getting ugly.

This was the price Veronique had paid to be with her man.

"It won't last forever ..." Veronique declared optimistically but there was a tremor in her voice.

Mimi Durand could barely stifle a snort of derision.

"Look, I just hope he's got a really big cock because nothing is worth all this shit!"

She knew that Veronique was seriously in love with Nicholas Creed and she despised him for it.

There was a long pause.

"How long is he there for?" Mimi Durand finally asked but the note of irritation was evident in her voice.

"He is flying out to Los Angeles late tomorrow morning to oversee a new hotel"

"Cunt"

"Well, if you're going to be rude about it ...."

"Okay, okay. Don't go all Virgin Mary on me ... I'll be round there at 1pm"

"Right then"

"You better be. We've got a lot to talk about and the paparazzi are going to be all over us like bitches in heat"

"Oui bien sûr"

"Don't forget to tell that son of a bitch to drop dead from me"

The phone clicked off.

Veronique smiled to herself.

"Que ferais-je sans toi Mimi" she sighed.

Later that morning she watched through a crack in the curtains as her lover waded through the baying media crowd.

They had had a passionate farewell and Veronique had reluctantly let Nicholas Creed go.

Now she watched as he climbed into the waiting limousine, pausing briefly to look up.

Then he was gone in a blaze of flashing cameras.

And suddenly Veronique felt completely empty.

News of Nicholas Creed's breakup was front page headlines and on the cover of several down market magazines.

Neither Creed nor Veronique could escape the scrutiny so they decided to give in to it.

They had nothing to hide anymore.

They were in love.

But nobody knew just how much guilt still plagued Veronique.

They could not know that she had been prescribed anti-depressants and was taking uppers and downers.

Her career had stalled because it was just too tricky for her to get to the office and she was forced to work completely from home.

The French still adored her but they questioned her judgement and she was no longer the golden girl who could do no wrong.

Veronique was now a fallen angel.

She  would have to find the strength to pull herself together and face the day.

Veronique ran herself a bath and pinned up her raven hair.

She swallowed a couple of pills with a glass of water.

"The show must go on"

At exactly 1pm, a shout that was more like a battle cry filled the airwaves.

Mimi Durand had arrived.

"Blow us a kiss!" An Australian photographer called out to her.

"Kiss my ass!" Mimi Durand yelled back at him.

A cheer rose among the throng as she pushed her way through.

Veronique laughed lightly as she observed the scene from the balcony.

Life with Mimi was never dull.

Durand buzzed up.

"Bitch, it's me!"

Veronique was dressed in a grey woolen Marc Jacobs dress and black Yves Saint Laurent coat.

Her black hair was tucked into a black cap and she was wearing large black Dior sunglasses.

Mimi Durand appeared dramatically at the door.

She was wearing a tight black Azzedine Alaia beneath a long black cashmere Prada coat and her trademark wild dark brown hair was tumbling all over her shoulders.

Mimi took off her big Chloe sunglasses.

"Vous regardez bien!" she exclaimed.

"Merci"

"Now, let;s get the fuck out of here. I'm starving!"

The media converged upon the two women as they stepped out into the autumn sunlight.

Veronique clung to Mimi as cameras were thrust in their faces and reporters jostled for their attention.

"Tell us about you and Nicholas Creed. Did he spend the night?" called out an Italian reporter.

"Is he good in bed?" An English reporter exclaimed.

"Better than you!" Mimi Durand shouted back "Now fuck off you little shit!"

There was a scattered outbreak of laughter.

"Oh, come on don't be like that. Speak to us Veronique!" A German reported protested.

"Why don't you all just fuck off and go play with yourselves!" she exploded "Now let us through!"

There was an outbreak of laughter as the media throng parted to let the women through

By the time the two women turned the corner they were both giggling.

"Mimi, You're too much!" Veronique cried.

"If only I was, then you wouldn't need that bastard"

"Please, don't ...."

"He's no good! Look at the price you're paying for him"

"Mimi ..."

"I only hope his cock is big"

Tears welled in Veronique's eyes.

Mimi looked quickly around her before pulling her into an alleyway.

The last thing they needed was an industrious photographer flashing their camera in their faces.

It would be splashed across the newspapers and magazines before the day was out.

"Look, I know you're taking pills" Mimi informed Veronique "I've taken enough to see the signs. What are you taking?"

The French journalist took the bottle out of her Lulu Guinness handbag.

"Fuck me, if you needed pills I would have helped you!"

Veronique managed a smile.

But Mimi could tell the signs of addiction and the devastated journalist was addicted to Nicholas Creed.

"I hate what that fucker has done to you. If ever I get my hands on him ..." Mimi Durand snarled

"Please ... just be my friend today ..."

Mimi Durand nudged her friend playfully.

"You never know. We might even light a candle" she said mischievously

Durand was a lapsed Catholic who believed in God.

At one point she had considered becoming a nun but only if she could wear black stilettos.

They couple laughed lightly as they walked hand-in-hand  towards Les Petites Gouttes.

But the troubled French journalist's mood changed as they sat in the restaurant and she realised that other diners were staring at her.

She had always been aware of quizzical gazes and it had always felt great.

Veronique and Mimi were French icons after all.

But suddenly the scrutiny did not feel good anymore.

"What the fuck are you losers staring at?" Mimi shouted at them.

She was in fighting mode.

Veronique rose shakily from her seat and sauntered towards the ladies restroom.

She closed the door behind her and ran into a cubicle, retching into the toilet bowl.

When she looked into the mirror she was mortified by the haunted and hollow-eyed face that stared back at her.

Veronique pulled out the bottle of pills from her handbag and swallowed a couple quickly.

Soon everything would be okay and she would be floating on a cloud.

She could hear Mimi Durand shouting and it made her smile.

What would she do without her?

By the time Veronique returned to the table, Mimi had finished off most of the wine.

Her hands were still shaking.

"Watch the pills" Mimi Durand informed her knowingly.

It was obvious that Veronique had become dependent upon them.

"Just a little longer ... just a little longer ..."

Mimi Durand reached over and took her hand gently.

"That son-of-a-bitch isn't worth it."

And for the first time in over a year, Veronique was beginning to agree with her.

Nicholas

Ascot, Berkshire

Nicholas Creed took a long drag of his cigarette as he sat in his sleek black limousine.

The divorce was getting nasty and the fight for custody of his daughter was getting ugly.

He had retaliated in typical uncompromising fashion by going public about his wife's alcoholism and mental instability.

River Thames 1 (by Neo Joe Art 1997 deviantart.com)
She was leading the kind of lifestyle that millions could only dream of and still it wasn't enough.

She had been fast tracked to the millionairess big time but still she was not content.

Claudia Creed was nothing more than a neurotic, failed actress with air between her ears.

Nicholas Creed regretted ever meeting her.

He should have left her where he found her.

Creed had chosen her because she was safe.

She had been pretty and unassuming when he first met her in France.

She was successful but not ostentatiously so and was a safe bet.

The kind of woman he could bring home to meet the parents.

But now he realised just how big a mistake it had been.

Anyone of his numerous lovers could have taken her place.

"Ungrateful fucking bitch" Creed sneered.

He had dispensed with a moral code a long time ago and reverted to his old ways almost as soon as the ring was on her finger.

Two days after his honeymoon he was in bed with a pretty blonde waitress.

Claudia Creed was determined to divorce her husband, get a generous settlement and take take the daughter she barely knew with her.

She cited her husband's unreasonable behaviour and serial infidelity as grounds for the divorce and for custody.

But her citation was dealt a death blow when it became clear that Alicia Creed was happy to stay with her father.

Nicholas Creed mused on all this as he sat smoking in his big black limousine.

His beautiful French mistress was everything his wife was not.

Classy and sophisticated.

And dynamite in bed.

When they first got together they spent three days in bed in one of his luxury hotels in Paris.

Veronique knew what to do and knew what to say.

Unlike his wife.

Drunk by midday and moping around the sprawling Creed residence.

And now he contemplated his treacherous best friend.

Nicholas Creed and Miles Balfour were so alike that they were often mistaken for brothers and since their twenties they had been inseparable.

Creed had always suspected Balfour of being something of a dark horse.

But he never expected him to run off with his wife.

"Bastard!" Nicholas Creed sneered.

The betrayal stung him the most.

Claudia was a useless bitch.

But Miles Balfour had been his partner and the only man who truly understood him.

Now he was sleeping with his wife and laughing behind his back.

For a few moments Nicholas Creed considered "dealing" with Miles Balfour.

It could be arranged.

But it was far too risky and could also easily backfire.

Nicholas Creed would watch and wait.

Claudia Creed and Miles Balfour were just a couple of dirty rats who deserved to drown on a sinking ship.

Now as Creed contemplated his future he was jolted out of his reverie by a ringing phone.

It was his mother.

"I always knew she was a little tart" Perdita Creed spat "but I didn't know she was stupid as well"

"Mother, please"

"Running off with your best friend. I expected nothing less from her but I am shocked at your friend"

"It's a double blow ... but I'll survive"

"You're father and I will be speaking to Lester James of The Independent later today. We'll get our side of the story across"

Nicholas Creed groaned.

The media were already baying like hungry wolves out for fresh blood.

Perdita Creed hated Claudia.

She was a bad mother and a raging drunk who had humiliated her only son.

And now she was trying to destroy his reputation.

A failed actress and a gold digger.

No better than she should be.

"Hang her out to dry" Nicholas Creed informed his mother.

The phone clicked off.

Creed took another drag of his cigarette.

"Where to, Sir?" Jefferson the chauffeur requested.

Trusty Jefferson.

He had been with the Creed family for over twenty years.

An urbane, grey-haired man who was unerringly professional.

"Take me to the beach" Nicholas Creed replied.

"Yes, Sir"

The beach was where Creed went to when he needed to reflect and work things out.

It would be deserted and he could walk up and down the shoreline.

He needed time to think.

The limousine sped out of the iron gates of the Creed residence as cameras flashed and reporters scrabbled about.

That evening Nicholas Creed was so sullen at dinner that even his daughter picked it up.

"What's the matter Daddy?" she asked with wide eyes as she sat on the other end of the enormous table.

"It's nothing, doll"

"Is it Mommy?"

Creed suddenly felt overcome with emotion and was unable to speak.

The little girl put down her napkin arose from the table and walked over to her father.

"It'll be alright Daddy" Alicia Creed assured him as she put her hand on his children.

His little lady.

Dressed in a pretty pink Chloe dress with her blonde hair in a ponytail and walking strait backed like a grown up.

Not yet ten but already everything her mother wasn't.

Nicholas Creed squeezed her hand affectionately.

"I know princess, I know"

He attempted to shield his daughter from all the media attention.

He had wanted to explain everything to her but she was a bright child and she already suspected much of it.

She noticed in the way people behaved towards her in the private school she attended and the strange people who were camped outside the school shouting questions and taking her photograph.

And above all the absence of her mother spoke volumes.

Alicia bare knew her mother because she had been bought up by others in the huge house almost as soon as she could walk.

It was her father who made a great show of her, buying her pretty things and spinning her round as they frolicked in the endless grounds of the Creed residence.

Claudia Creed was a shadowy figure who hadn't shown much interest n her daughter and occasionally looked in on her.

"Bitch!" Nicholas snarled as he hugged his pretty daughter.

That night he spoke to his lover on the phone.

He needed to hear her voice.

Nicholas Creed hadn't seen Veronique Bibeau in seven days but it felt like forever.

At last they were free to live out in the open together

And it was time Veronique met his daughter.

The couple spoke of the life they were going to build together and of the house in Tuscany that they were going to share together.

"It's only been seven days and I'm going crazy here without you" Nicholas Creed informed his lover in a voice that broke with emotion.

"Another two days and you will be here with me again" Veronique Bibeau replied in her unmistakable accented voice.

"I can't live without you" Creed declared.

And Veronique Bibeau believed it was true.

"I'm sending you a kiss"

Nicholas Creed smiled.

"You can have all of me"

As he left his study, Nicholas Creed suddenly noticed one of the new maids.

She was an attractive brunette with dark skin and black eyes.

Gabriela, that was her name.

Gabriela.

"Everything okay, Sir" the maid said politely.

Nicholas Creed noticed she had large breasts.

"Yes, nothing that a little company can't cure" he replied with a big grin.

The following morning Nicholas Creed awoke to his mother giving a grave interview on the NBC News channel.

Perdita Creed attacked her "ungrateful and opportunistic" daughter-in-law and accused her of mounting a hate campaign to destroy her son.

She declared that the assault had only "revealed her lack of breeding" and when she was pressed about her son's relationship with Veronique Bibeau she countered that the French journalist had made her son happy.

The interview was followed by an excerpt from one of his wife's art house movies and there was a brief clip of Claudia Creed leaving Miles Balfour's flat with her head bowed.

The news report also included a brief interview in which Claudia declared that she had felt "suffocated" in her marriage to Creed and that he was "incapable of monogamy" and was a "negligent husband" who had fractured her self-esteem and driven her to drink and to "find solace in the arms of another man".

Nicholas Creed listened with incredulity at his estranged wife and he was on the phone to his lawyer Avi Sayer within minutes.

"I don't care what you have to do. I want that bitch buried alive"

Christmas was looming and Nicholas Creed sent his daughter to stay with his parents.

They would make a fuss of her and make the festive season something to remember in spite of the media intrusion.

Twenty-four hours later Nicholas Creed was on a private jet to France.

Soon he would be in his sweethearts arms and everything would be worth it.

Creed could go through anything so long as Veronique Bibeau was waiting for him on the other side.

Within an hour the jet touched down.

"Baby, I'm home" Nicholas Creed informed his lover by phone.

St James Park (by joda001 deviantart.com)


                      

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