Page 6 of Her Paradise

“There was a latch?” Nikki asks in shock.

“It belongs to Mason Crawford. His boy was a bit husky, got stuck in it all the time. Mason had a latch put in,” I say as I grab the towel nearby and step closer to her. “I’m guessing he forgot to tell you about that.”

I start to rub the mess off her, but she makes a growling sound of frustration and jerks the towel out of my hand. She stomps past me and out of the room, and I can feel myself smiling for the first time in a while.

2

Sammy

“How do I get myself into these messes?” I groan as I step out of the bathroom.

I stomped past Cyrus and straight into the shower in Nikki’s room. Now that I’ve got all that stuff off of me, I can put some clothes on.

Nikki bursts into a fit of laughter. Ugh, as if I hadn’t made enough of a fool out of myself in front of Cyrus.

“I told you this could go badly,” she says through her tears, and I narrow my eyes on her.

“You did not! You suggested the plane. You’re the one who said it would add to the picture!” I fall back onto her bed next to her. Cyrus can wait. I need to get myself together before I’m enclosed in a small space with him for any amount of time. I need my wits about me. It’s the only way to be around him. He knocks me off balance so easily.

“I think it was fate. Of course he was the only one to respond when I called it in,” she chirps, way too happy about this. “You need to talk to him.”

“You sound like a lovestruck fool. I can’t take your advice anymore. All you see are hearts and rainbows.” I roll my head to the side to look at her. “Remember when Derick brought his friend to visit once when he was home on leave? The one who turned me down?”

“Oh shit.” Nikki slaps a hand over her mouth. “How haven’t I put that together by now?”

“Yeah,” I say glumly. She knows how upset I was over that.

“God, all this makes so much sense now. Man, I hate to admit it, but I forgot about that.”

I could see that. After I let myself be pissed for a few days, I never brought it back up. I wanted to push that memory away as best I could. But no matter what I did it never worked. He was always there at the front of my mind.

“You know I’m on your side, but—” I already know I’m not going to like whatever it is she’s about to say. “He played a dirty trick on you, but you kind of had it coming. What with all the shit you’ve done to him.”

I can’t help but smile at all the pranks I’ve played on Cyrus since he took the job as sheriff and moved here. If I really think about it, I know that every time I pranked him I was trying to get his attention. I knew every time I did something he’d come looking to give me hell. I even got myself thrown into a cell a few times. He never charged me with anything, but he’d make me sit there a few hours like I was in timeout.

“I was so scared,” I say, feeling my chest tighten. “Scared I’d never get to know what it would be like to call Cyrus mine. Scared of so much wasted time.” My eyes start to water, but I take a deep breath and stuff all the sadness down.

“Sammy, the answer is right in front of your face. Stop wasting time.” Nikki reaches out and squeezes my hand. “Don’t make yourself miserable. Trust me, it does nothing. I know this.” I smile, thinking about how Liam fucked up and had to do a serious grovel to get Nikki back. If only she had let him talk that first day, she wouldn’t have been so miserable.

“Okay.” I stand up and give her a hug before walking out of her room and to the front porch of the Mermaid. I see Cyrus leaning up against his SUV waiting for me. He pushes away, opening the door for me, and I walk towards him, making sure my hips sway just a little bit more as I go.

I don’t know what’s happened over the last year, but the way he looks at me has changed. He wants me so bad the lust is clear in his eyes. Why things have suddenly changed, I have no idea, but it’s been driving me crazy. I’ve wanted him from the second I saw him, even though I was too young. It seems to have taken him longer, but I think he’s finally caught up.

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