Okay gang—we're back with the Promises gang after I specifically
said I was going to leave them alone for a bit *facepalm*
I officially have no self control. Anyways...
This is for an awesome cause, one I'm super excited to be a part of.
The Babies At The Border charity compilation is raising money to
help the children and their families affected by the tragedy at the border in the US.
I'm honoured to be one of over a hundred authors submitting pieces to this
compilation. For just a ten dollar donation to one of the chosen charities, you
can receive the entire compilation! To find us, search 'Babies At The Border Charity
Compilation' on Facebook or 'BatB_2018' on Twitter. Also, you can find all the
information for donating and the compilation at
babies at the border (one word) dot blogspot dot com.
Anyway...enough of my rambling! This is part of chapter one of between ten and twenty,
just to whet your appetites. I'll post a couple of teasers on my Facebook page,
CiaraShayee, as well as pic teasers. The rest will be exclusive to the compilation
until December, when I'll post the rest right here.
Huge thanks to my beta, annharding, for being amazing and dropping
everything to work on this for me.
All the familiar characters, of course, belong to
Stephenie Meyer. The originals are all mine.
~ oOo ~
Summary: At ten, she idolised him. At thirteen, she crushed on him. At sixteen, she fell in love with him. And at eighteen, his perfect image was shattered. Marley knows it's pointless loving Baden Kane, but first loves are hard to shake—especially when they're a famous singer who also happens to be a family friend. His promises are the sweetest lies, but her sweet tooth is rooted deep.
Promises are the Sweetest Lies
"Now, are you sure you don't want to come with us? Nobody will mind if you do."
Marley shook her head with a small smile, stroking the chubby cheeks of the baby in her lap. "No, thank you, Ma."
The little boy stirred awake as she brushed a lock of dark hair away from his forehead, flashing an enormous pair of dark chocolate eyes.
"Hey, baby boy," she cooed, bending to kiss his button nose. "Are you awake now, little bear?"
As she fussed over her little brother, Marley could feel her mother's gaze on her—could feel her contentment at having her home, finally. The flash of Bella's phone camera preceded a squeal from the baby and a yell from the top of the stairs.
Volume control—something severely lacking in the Cullen household.
"Mamma, have you seen my black trainers?"
Bella shook her head and stowed her phone, patting Marley's shoulder before heading upstairs to help her son find his shoes.
Meanwhile, Marley soaked up her brother's smiles and giggles. She'd only been back for a visit a few weeks ago, but the sweet six-month-old seemed to have changed so much even in just that short space of time.
"Oh, Teddy," Marley sighed, sitting him up on her knees and bouncing him lightly. "Why do you have to grow so fast, huh?"
He offered her a gummy grin and a spit bubble in reply.
The oldest and youngest of Edward and Bella's children, Marley and baby Eddison—or Teddy, as he was more often known—had a strong bond. Eddison lit up whenever his big sister was around; in turn, Marley doted upon him as much as possible. She couldn't wait to dress him in the little outfits she'd found in the costume store just off campus. He'd make the cutest cowboy, that was for sure.
No matter how strong her bond with Eddison grew, nobody compared to the man standing in the doorway with tear-filled eyes and a brilliant, double-dimpled grin. He'd been away in London at some super important meeting when she arrived late last night, so this was the first time she'd seen him in almost a month.
"Daddy!" Marley carefully set Eddison on his playmat before throwing herself into her dad's outstretched arms, the familiar scent of his aftershave coupled with the scratchiness of his beard against her temple bringing nostalgic tears to her eyes. "I've missed you."
Sighing, Edward squeezed her. "I've missed you, too, Little Sweet. It's been too long—you're too far away."
"Daddy…" Her tone brooked a warning that made Edward chuckle as he pulled back, cupping her cheeks and brushing a few stray tears from her face.
"I know, I know. You're twenty years old, all grown up, and I promised I wouldn't nag, so I won't." His emerald eyes glinted with happiness. "It's just great to have you home, even if only for a flying visit."
It was Marley's turn to wear a gleeful grin as she contemplated ruining the surprise she had planned. It would mean her father's smile wouldn't be slipping anytime soon, but...no. She had a plan. Whenever she chose to tell him, he would be ecstatic to learn her visit wasn't as 'flying' as he thought, but Marley had already decided to wait until she was due to depart to tell her parents and siblings about her gap year. They expected her to leave next Friday, thinking she'd be heading back to university to return to her barista job, when she was, in fact, not going anywhere. Her friends had already helped her pack up most of her room—all her things were being shipped down from Leicester the following weekend, when Maggie's uncle drove her and her things back to Eastbourne. They'd opted to share his van rather than both fork out for individual shipping. It complimented Marley's scheme to keep her family in the dark, too.
"Mamma says you're not coming out with us today. You're welcome to, you know?"
"I know, Daddy, but I'm still knackered after the long drive yesterday, and I've got a few things to unpack…" she trailed off with a small, amused smile when he mumbled about how she may as well not bother, seeing as she was disappearing so soon.
Eddison let out a loud squeal, clearly not happy at being ignored, so Edward released Marley to scoop his son into his arms, peppering the boy's face with kisses as he squirmed and giggled. Marley watched with warmth spreading through her veins and a wide grin on her face; she missed this. Heading to Leicester for university hadn't been easy, not even a little bit, but it was seeing her dad and brother that made her the most homesick.
Well, both her parents and all her siblings, actually.
Bella re-joined them with the rest of the Cullen brood trailing after her, each of them dressed for the birthday party they were attending after their dentist appointments this morning.
Bodhi was the first to throw his arms around her, and Marley couldn't deny the sting of guilt when she realised it had been almost two months since she'd seen him—he was at a football tournament when she last visited. Now just a month shy of fifteen and easily as tall as her at five-seven, he was looking more like a man than a boy with every passing day. His once sweet, soft voice was deepening with every conversation, his now-angular face almost identical to their Pawpaw Charlie's.
"Hey, sis," he sighed, his long arms easily encasing her as she held him by his mop of blond curls and his back, cradling him just as she had when he was a baby.
"Hey, little Beesy." Just as strong as her bonds with Eddison and Edward, but in a different way, her bond with Bodhi was something nobody else could, or would, ever understand. They'd been through so much together; seen so much. Nobody would ever replace Beesy in her heart.
"You just had to show up in the middle of the night, huh? Dramatic, much?"
Ruffling Bodhi's curls, Marley smirked and gave him a playful shove away from her. "Whatever, Bees. You're just jealous that the favourite child is home."
Scoffing, Bodhi slumped onto the sofa and shook his head as Marley pulled their younger brother into her arms. Like Bodhi, Enrico was tall—even at eleven, he wasn't far off Marley's height. Cheeky and every bit his father's son, he wasted no time with pleasantries, wrapping his arms around Marley to give her a hard squeeze. "You're home in time for the finals of my football tournament!"
Marley beamed, kissing his freckled cheeks and brushing his mop of dark hair away from his face. He really was Edward made over, from his copper toned mane to his mint green eyes. "I can't wait to watch you, Rico. I brought my pompoms and everything. Will you score a goal for me?"
Puffing up, Enrico nodded and flashed her their daddy's crooked grin. "Sure! I'm the top goal scorer for our whole league...right, Dad?"
Proud as punch, Edward rocked baby Eddison in one arm and looped his other around Bella's waist. "You sure are, son."
Last, but certainly not least, to enter the room and squeal their way into Marley's arms, were her adoring sisters. Maisie and Bailyn shrieked loud enough to startle Eddison as the sisters giggled and embraced in a three-way hug. Nobody had been more excited than Marley to find out that she was getting not just one, but two sisters just a year and a half after Enrico was born. Maisie and Bailyn were a gift no-one had expected, especially not so soon after Enrico's arrival, but the now-nine-year-old identical twins were a delight.
With their long blonde hair and blue-green eyes, they were almost carbon copies of their mother at this age. The only thing that set them apart was the dimple that appeared to the left of their smiles whenever they were happy—they got that from their daddy.
"You're home!" they cheered, peppering her with question after question about university, her friends, had she seen the video of their recent ballet performance and weren't they great?
Now reunited with all of her five siblings, Marley sat back on her bended knees and soaked it all in. It was loud, chaotic, and a complete culture shock after so many weeks away from her busy family, but it was perfect.
~ oOo ~
Like with any large family, getting the Cullen gang out of the house proved...challenging.
With Marley home to help, it was a little easier—but not a lot. By the time Bella and Edward had corralled their youngest five children into the minivan, Marley was exhausted and more than ready to put her feet up on the sofa and enjoy a bowl of cereal in front of the TV with more than just the basic channels shown in the dorms. Sammy the dalmatian—now twelve and a lot slower than he used to be—followed her with a wagging tail and a happy, doggy grin, content to have his ears scratched each time she passed him.
She remained in her shorts and t-shirt pyjamas, sliding her feet into her worn-soft slippers before pouring cereal into a pasta bowl, filling it with milk, and heading back into the living room. Sammy climbed onto the sofa to sit with Marley, his hip popping as he sat with a long huff.
Foregoing her cereal for a moment, Marley gave his soft head a kiss, cradling his muzzle as he gazed at her with slightly cloudy, mis-matched eyes. The spots on his face were now a faded grey rather than the black they'd been as a puppy, his once-sharp gaze made foggy by age and sad from the loss of his sister. They'd lost Faith to a cancerous tumour a year ago. She was much-missed, her absence still glaringly obvious twelve months on.
"You're a good boy," Marley told him with a thumbs up. Regardless of his deafness, she'd always found herself talking to him. His tail gave another thump against the cushions as he rested his head on her knee.
Only halfway into the first episode of Friends, the doorbell rang. With a grin, she bounced up with Sammy trundling along behind her, assuming it was her Aunt Rose or Uncle Emmett. Bella had warned her to expect them now they knew she was home. Marley had missed them all—silly Uncle Emmett, sweet Aunt Rosalie, and their three crazy littles, Xavier, Ella, and Dennis.
But it wasn't any of them.
As soon as Marley opened the door, her best friend threw her arms around her with a squeal. "You made it, finally! It's been so boring without you, Marshmallow. I tell you, bunning off the last week of lectures and coming home early would have been a hell of a lot more interesting if you'd kicked off your goodie two shoes and come with me."
Lia didn't waste any time waiting to be invited in—she toed off her shoes, gave Sammy an ear scratch and a kiss on his nose, and headed straight for the kitchen, leaving Marley smiling and shaking her head in her wake as she closed the door and followed her through the hall. She leaned against the end of the counter as Lia rummaged through the breadbin, her pierced lips curling up when she found what she was looking for.
"I've fucking missed these," Lia declared, holding up the tupperware box of homemade oatmeal cookies.
"Ma sent some a few weeks ago," Marley pointed out, snatching the cookie Lia tossed her out of the air. "You can pour us some milk, too."
"Got it, got it."
Marley flopped back on the sofa in the living room and paused her show, sighing as she relaxed back into the cushions and listened to Lia cheer the chocolate milk in the fridge.
Now it feels like home.
Ever since they were small children, Lia and Marley had been the best of friends. They'd bonded over a shared love of Bella's homemade oatmeal cookies and Lia's mum's homemade lemonade. They began taking turns having sleepovers at each other's houses, both more than comfortable letting themselves in and making themselves at home after over a decade of friendship. Lia's parents, Greg and Aly, were kind and welcoming, always treating Marley the same as their own three children—Lia, the eldest, followed by Louise and Logan.
"So, Mars…" Lia handed over another oatmeal cookie and a glass of cold chocolate milk, then dumped herself on the sofa beside Marley. Sammy sprawled himself out on the rug, his eyes on the girls and their snacks just in case they dropped any crumbs. "What're your plans for the day?"
Marley twisted her lips and nodded pointedly at Lia's outfit. They were wearing matching pyjamas, both in shorts and tank tops. The fact that Lia had driven over in pyjamas came as no surprise to Marley. "About the same as yours, I imagine. Lounging, Friends, and binge-eating Ma's homemade everything."
Lia's blue eyes sparkled with glee. "Perfect. Now...is Papa Cullen around? 'Cause I've missed him almost as much as I've missed Mamma Bella's cookies."
With a roll of her eyes, Marley kicked Lia's foot and unpaused the TV. "No, he's out with Ma and the littles. You'll have to get your fix later, if you're sticking around."
Lia simply shrugged and got comfortable. "Eh, I'll hang with you. I've got nothin' better to do. And it's been way too long since I've had me some Daddy C."
"You're incorrigible, you know that? You realise this is my dad you're drooling over?"
Unrepentant, Lia chomped another bite of her snack before following it up with a chug of milk. "It's not my fault your Ma is married to a serious DILF, Mars."
Lia made no secret of the fact that she liked to fawn over Edward whenever he was around. She went from pierced, tattooed, biker chick to demure goodie two shoes the second he appeared—well, when he was listening, anyway. When he was out of earshot but still within ogling range, all bets were off. It both amused and disgusted Marley.
"If you can quit being a slut over my Dad for five minutes…" Marley giggled as Lia gently shoved her. "I've got some face masks that need using up."
"Sounds good to me. I need to look tip top for DILFward."
~ oOo ~
An hour later, Marley and Lia had slathered their faces in cream promising forever youthful skin and the elimination of blackheads, painted their fingernails—pale blue for Marley, alternating black and yellow for Lia—and were just starting on their toenails.
"Same colours?" Marley asked, sliding a foam toe separator between Lia's toes.
"Hmm...oh, go on then. I suppose they'd better match. How about some music first though?"
With a shrug, Marley unfolded herself from the sofa and crossed the room to the sound system on the the wall.
"Oh, Marshmallow—put that album on that I like! You know, the one by that guy…the one who's friends with Hot Papa?"
Marley's heart fell into her stomach. "Ralph Kane?"
"That's the one!" Lia snapped her fingers. "Maaan is he one fine specimen. Any chance he'll be making a pitstop in little ole Eastbourne this summer? It's been…what? Two years since he's been back? Surely he's due a visit and I'm due some ogling time."
Thankful she was facing away from her friend, Marley scowled as she flipped through the CD cases on the rack and huffed. "Doubtful."
"I read that he's in Vegas splashing the cash at some big poker tournament. Gee, what I wouldn't give to get on top of that fine beast. Did you know, he…"
When Lia went off on a tangent, she didn't need any kind of audience participation, so Marley let her mind wander as she searched for Ralph Kane's debut album. He'd released lots more since the original set of ten songs, but this was the one Lia always requested.
The idea of him 'making a pitstop' was ludicrous. He hadn't made any effort to drag himself away from his harem of women or flashy penthouse in New York for over two years.
Not since the accident…
"C'mon, Marshmallow. Oh, here we go! Right in front of you, you silly twit." Lia bumped Marley's hip with her own, grinning wolfishly as she slipped Dark Days from the rack and waved it in front of Marley's face.
"Oops. Give it here, then. And stop pulling funny faces—you'll crack your mask."
The idea of spending the afternoon listening to Ralph's album put a frown on Marley's face, but she managed to school her expression by the time she hit 'play' and shoved the remote in her pocket so she wouldn't have to get back up. As the first, heavy chords of Dawn began, she slumped on the sofa and tried to focus on painting Lia's nails instead of the entrancing lyrics and the deep timbre caressing the words.
It was impossible. His voice drew her in—it always had.
Marley remembered when Ralph wrote this song. She was there when he named it. He couldn't decide what the title should be, so he and Marley had made a chart containing all the keywords from the song before tacking it on the fence, closing their eyes, and blindly throwing darts at it. The first word to be hit three times would be the title—so, the song became Dawn when Marley's dart joined Ralph's two.
After that, their unorthodox method was called upon several times. Woods, Orion,and River all got their names from scraps of paper pinned to a holey dartboard in the Cullens' back yard. Marley couldn't help but wonder if the dartboard was still out in the shed. It had been upgraded years ago, but she remembered seeing it over Christmas break when she and Bodhi went digging for Christmas decorations. Despite her irritation whenever she thought of Ralph, Marley found herself inexplicably stuck in memories of his grin as she declared the new names of his previously unnameable songs.
Falsely comforting nostalgia was a bitch when the past didn't match up to the present.
~ oOo ~
"Hells bells, Mars—I could eat a scabby donkey! Do you reckon your 'rents would mind us raiding the cupboards?"
Marley snorted and shook her head as she uncurled her legs and made to get up. "I doubt it. You know Ma loves to feed people. I bet she stocked up the freezer ready for your inevitable invasion, too."
Lia was positively gleeful at the notion. She rubbed her hands together and promised to join Marley on the hunt for lunch fixings just as soon as she'd been to the bathroom to wash off her face mask; Marley had gotten rid of hers a short while ago.
However, Lia didn't make it to the bathroom. As she crossed the hallway, a sharp, triple rat-a-tat at the door stopped her in her tracks. She took one look at the dark head of hair through the translucent glass pane in the center of the door and grinned slyly.
"Well, well. Jakey Snakey…that didn't take you long, did it, now?"
Marley's on-off relationship with Jacob Black, their childhood friend, had always puzzled Lia. She'd watched them slip into an easy relationship which had survived the turmoil and separation of attending different universities—Jacob had opted for Chichester in the south while Marley headed north to Leicester. Well, it had withstood the distance for a bit, anyway.
For the first six months or so, they'd stayed in regular contact and visited each other often. More than once, Lia had made herself scarce so they could make good use of their shared dorm room. Although, to the best of Lia's knowledge, Marley had never given Jacob anything other than heated kisses and a grope here and there.
Then, out of the blue around eight months into their first year at university, Jacob broke up with Marley. No warning, no hint of anything awry—just a text message to end their relationship. Just like that. Marley was devastated and Lia, homicidal. She hopped on the first train to Chichester and returned to Leicester the following day with a smirk on her face and the promise that Jacob was suffering for his sins.
Much to her dismay, only a few weeks later, he was back in both Marley's good graces and her heart. Since then, they'd had an on-off sort of deal, never getting too serious but never cutting the cord tying them together. To be honest, it drove Lia a bit mad, but she was pleased he'd shown up so soon after Marley's arrival back in town—she loved to hate and harass him. Plus, as much of an asshat as she thought he was, Marley liked having him around and Lia liked seeing her happy, so...she could deal.
Yanking open the door, Lia had several sarcastic lines queued up for Jacob. They all died in her throat as she sucked in, and choked on, a deep breath.
That's definitely not Jake the Snake.
A million thoughts raced through her head as she took in a disheveled mane of chestnut locks, her eyes travelling down over a broad set of shoulders which tapered down into a fitted t-shirt, worn cargo shorts, and a pair of what seemed to be brand new Converse—the white material gleamed in the sunshine. Lia swallowed hard, spotting the guitar case at his feet and the cigarette dangling from the long fingers of his right hand.
"Uh, are you okay?"
Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…the walking piece of man candy talks.
She'd seen him before, of course; up until a few days ago, her dorm room walls were covered with posters of that face. That body. Admittedly, in most of them he was wearing less clothes, but Lia had a vivid imagination.
She met the visitor's gaze for a split second, her wide eyes barely registering the confused knot of his brows or the stubble framing his jaw before she screamed—loudly—and slammed the door in his stunned face.
The rest of this will be part of the compilation, which require a donation of ten dollars to one of the chosen charities, and you'll be blessed to receive a massive amount of stories from some of the most amazing authors, including some who've been 'retired' for a while!
In other news...Pinky Promises will be coming to Amazon and Kindle over the next month or two, so if that's something you'll be interested in, come find me on Facebook at CiaraShayee so you can see my upcoming cover reveal and keep yourself posted on release dates and such :)