We’d Kill Each Other, Chelsea Childling

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

Chelsea waited until the baby was asleep once more and the pizza guy had left his bounty. She had a million questions, but she wanted to take the time to process the last few hours. She had shown up on Keegan’s door to work through her emotions only to bombarded with more.

A baby.

The tangle in her head and heart only felt heavier and more tangled, made worse by her relief that the little girl wasn’t biologically Keegan’s.

He studied her over the can of beer he held to his lips. “So, what are you thinking?”

“That I’m a terrible person for feeling relieved that Kate isn’t your kid in the genetic sense.”

He chuckled. “Yes, I still don’t have sex at all, not just not with you.”

She lifted a middle finger. “I already said I’m a terrible person.”

Keegan leaned back in his chair. “You aren’t a terrible person for thinking that. It’s totally natural.”

Chelsea pushed down her guilt. “So who spawned the little bundle of joy?”

He rubbed at his eyes. “My sister.”

“I thought you had a brother?”

“I do. And I have a sister.”

A lump formed in her throat. “Okay, I am a terrible person for not knowing this.”

“No, you aren’t.” Keegan took a long drink. “It’s not like I wanted to talk about my family.”

A familiar trill of annoyance and anger rose in her. “But you made me talk about mine.”

An equally familiar look of strained patience painted Keegan’s face. “Only when you brought them up.”

They glared at each other across the table before laughing. Chelsea leaned over and grabbed his hands. “This is why we can’t date right?”

He squeezed her fingers. “This and us being hunters in general.”

“But you’re gonna raise a kid?” She hoped the question didn’t sound as judgmental as it felt.

Keegan leaned back. “Yeah, I am. I can hunt small stuff while she’s in school.”

A thought nosed its way into the forefront of her mind. “How… do you… have a… job?”

“Why?” He didn’t smile, but he seemed pleased with himself. “Are you offering to be my sugar mama?”

“I hate you.”

He chuckled. “I think that’s a new record for your declaration on undying hatred.”

She leveled a finger at him. “This is why we can’t date.”

“This and you still being in love with Jackson Hawk.”

Tears welled up. “That’s.. Not true.”

Keegan sighed as he wiped at her cheeks. “Yes, it is. That’s why you’re here.”

“Shut up.” She scrubbed a hand across her leaking eyes. “We aren’t talking about me right now. This is about you and your daughter, and how you are going to feed her.”

Keegan’s smirk shaded to self-satisfied. “So you really are offering to be my sugar mama.”

She found a laugh somewhere. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

All the amusement faded from him as he leaned forward once more. “Kate and I are fine. My sister owns the house and pays the bills. I’m literally just here to take care of Kate.”

Chelsea leaned back, arms settled on her rapidly tumbling stomach. “I wasn’t under the impression that you went weak over kids.”

He shook his head and nibbled on a crust of pizza. “Neither was I. But my sister is a lot like our dad, and I couldn’t let that happen to Kate.”

His averted eyes burned through Chelsea’s anxiety. “Screw that. I can buy a house, easily. We can–”

He laughed. “We’d kill each other.”

She rested her elbows on the table. “And I may maim your sister if I see that look on your face again.”

“Don’t worry.” He snorted. “She’s out of state, at a conference.” He tossed the crust aside. “Enough about my sister. You need to talk or you wouldn’t be here.”

Chelsea studied the copper bangles on her wrist. “This was Bentley’s idea.”

Keegan snorted. “This is the second time today that you’ve told me the dog is making decisions for you. I might be legitimately worried.”

She shrugged and wiped at her aching eyes. “I was talking, rambling, and he got excited when I said your name. It’s not like he does that every time I mention you.”

“You really think he understands you?”

She slumped in her chair. “Don’t you?”

He opened his mouth and then shut it, before rolling his eyes. “Okay, yeah, he does. But you still came here. You still slept with Jackson Hawk. The dog isn’t really making the decisions right?”

Chelsea pulled in a shaking breath. “No, but he makes his opinions known and I pay attention. Both those actions were his ideas.”

Keegan leaned back. “You are deliberately missing the point here. You made those decisions, not Bentley.”

She sniffed back tears. “Yeah I did, and I made the decision to run out on Jackson.” She sniffed again, but the tears came anyway. “So I hurt him, and now you. I’m so sorry.”

Keegan ran a hand through his hair. “Stop that. You and I are good.”

“I am such a mess.” She clutched at the pit opening in her stomach.

“Yes.” His laughter lifted her spirits even as it pissed her off, but his fond look quelled some of her rage. “It’s good to see you be a mess over human interaction, instead of being a mess over trying to avoid it.”

She stared at her hands. “This doesn’t feel any better. This feels like I’m back on the prairie. I thought I was done with this.”

Keegan leaned back. “Suppressing shit until it doesn’t hurt isn’t the same as dealing with it, and you never dealt with Jackson or Amber.”

Chelsea pushed away the rising guilt. “This is why I needed to be here.”

He stretched his arms and rose to his feet. “You are always welcome to stay on my couch. But I need to get some sleep before Kate wakes up again.”

Chelsea found herself standing, her arms wrapping around Keegan’s thin frame. “Would it be too awkward to share the bed after all this time?”

His body went rigid for a moment before he relaxed into her. “Of course not.” He squeezed her back, resting his head on hers. “I love you. You know that, right?”

She nodded into his shoulder, throat thick and eye burning. “I love you, too.”
***

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