Page 2 of Her Paradise

“He’s not here,” he says with a sigh.

I lean my hip up against the counter. “But you came home.” I bite my lip. “Early,” I add. He shrugs, taking a drink of his coffee. “You don’t like any of the women around here?” I raise an eyebrow.

He’ll never know how much I hate seeing him go out to the bars while I’m back here. It eats at me until he gets back. When they’ve gone out, Cyrus has always been back home before ten. Once I even heard him turn Derick down when my brother wanted a wingman. One night he stayed back and played Mario Kart with me. Another night I showed him some of the trails around here on the four wheelers.

“Not something I need to be focusing on right now. I’ve got a few more years in the service.”

“I was starting to think maybe you had a girl back home somewhere or something.” I walk over towards the stove and flip the bacon.

“Don’t really have a place I call home. But if I had a girl somewhere, that’s where I’d be. With her.” I look over my shoulder at him.

“But you don’t?” I push, just to make sure.

He shakes his head and I smile.

“Hard to believe a guy like you is single.” I make him a plate of food and take it over to him. Then I go and get him some milk, because you can’t have French toast without a cold glass of milk.

“Thank you. You have no idea how much I’m going to miss your cooking when I leave here.”

“Well then, you’ll just have to come back, won’t you? It will give you something to look forward to.”

“Yeah, something like that.” Our eyes stay locked for a moment before he looks away and begins to eat his breakfast.

“You know, I can start sending you packages, too, like I do Derick. I’m sure he’s stingy with the baked goods I send over.”

“Like a dog with a fuckin—” He cuts himself off. “Freaking bone.”

I laugh. “Cy, I grew up with Derick. I can curse with the best of them.” I wink at him.

“I’m sure, but I don’t have to do it in front of you.”

I smile, oddly liking that he wants to be a gentleman around me. Growing up with just my dad and brother, things could get a little manly at times.

I make my own plate and go sit down next to him. “So you want me to send you stuff?” I ask again.

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

“It’s not a bother.”

He looks over at me, and this time he doesn’t look away. He’s so close, and I lean toward him and part my lips. He leans in, too, and my heart is beating out of my chest. He’s going to kiss me. My eyes close and I feel his breath against me.

But just then the screen door bangs open, making us both jump back. A few seconds later Derick comes strolling in, breaking the precious moment we’d almost shared.

“French toast,” he moans, and I jump off my chair. I try to mask all the feelings running through me and keep my head down.

“Here, have mine. I’ll make myself another plate,” I say hurriedly and busy myself in the kitchen.

“God, I love you, Sammy.” He plops down in the seat I just vacated.

I glance over at Cyrus, whose jaw is set hard. He looks mad.

“Who pissed in your Cheerios?” Derick asks him, but Cyrus ignores him. “And what the fuck are you wearing?” Derick barks, and I turn around to see he’s talking to me.

My face heats with embarrassment.

“Probably nothing worse than one of the barflies you took home last night,” I fire back. He opens his mouth to reply, but I cut him off. “Keep it up and I’ll cut you off.”

One way to get to my brother is to take his food from him.

“You wouldn’t do that to me. You love me too damn much.” He smiles.

I shake my head and go to make myself something to eat even though I don’t feel hungry anymore. I can’t believe Cyrus almost kissed me. Grrr. My stupid freaking brother.

Derick starts rambling on about what they should do today, not noticing the tension in the room. I peek over at Cyrus every now and then, but he still has that pissed look on his face. He keeps looking over at me, but I have no idea of what to make of it. It’s putting me on edge.

I eat my food standing at the counter.

“You wanna come with us, Sammy?” Derick asks.

“What?” I got lost in my thoughts about Cyrus for a moment while I was eating.

After I thought about it more, the almost kiss is a good thing. At least I know he’s into me. Now I just have to get him alone so we can talk about this. We only have a few days left before he heads out. Thoughts of writing to him while he’s away have a smile forming on my lips.

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