Page 7 of Her Paradise

I heard him talking to my brother about it one night. That he wanted a family of his own. He said that’s what he dreamed of most in life. He was sick of waiting, but I don’t know why he’s suddenly decided I’m the one for him when all this time he went out of his way to avoid me. I’m clearly not his type. He could have his pick of women around here anyway.

When I reach him, he picks me up and puts me in the passenger seat. I’m not even surprised by the action. When he leans in, our eyes lock and my heart starts to race. I think back to the one and only time he kissed me a few weeks ago. He caught me completely off-guard. I’d been so stunned I had just stood there, letting him do it right in the middle of town. As if the town wasn’t already buzzing about us. No wonder they all went in on that prank with him. The assholes gave me up for a non-local!

Just when I think he’s going to kiss me again, he leans back and shuts the door. Disappointment slices through me when it shouldn’t. I’m supposed to be mad about what he did.

He hops into the driver’s seat and backs out of the parking lot.

“A dating site, Sammy? Are you trying to kill me?”

I peek over at him. I can see the hurt on his face and it makes me feel guilty for a second. Am I not supposed to date? I’m sure he’s been up to no good while he was in the Marines and even after he moved here. Not that I’ve ever seen him with anyone, but I bet Cyrus would be discreet about something like that, making sure not to mess around with a local. Not with the way this town whispers.

“Oh, don’t act like you’re a church boy,” I throw back. “Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I don’t have needs, too.”

Jealousy is a real bitch. I hate that I act this way when I’m around Cyrus, but I don’t know what else I can do. Too many feelings fester when it comes to him. Anger is the only thing I can focus on so I don’t break.

Cyrus slams on his brakes and looks over at me. “You think I’ve been fucking around on you?” His voice is filled with so much emotion. Like he can’t believe what I’ve just said.

“We aren’t together! How could you be fucking around on me?” I shout. I’m getting good and worked up now.

He shakes his head. “I can’t even remember the last time I even kissed a woman before the one I gave you a few weeks ago.” His eyes lock dead on mine. “It was before I went into the Marines.”

He drops that little bomb and leaves me shocked. Then he turns his head and starts driving again. I want to ask if he’s serious. I can’t even wrap my mind around it. How is that even possible?

“Vicky told everyone—”

“Vicky’s a fucking liar,” he says, quickly cutting me off. “I set her straight over a year ago when I heard that bullshit.”

My body relaxes as something lifts off my chest that I didn’t even know was there. I believe him. Cyrus is like a unicorn all the local women have been trying to catch. Vicki claimed to have ended up in his bed one night, and that shit ate at me. That’s when I really started going in hard on Cyrus.

“I only joined the dating site to make you mad. I knew you’d find out about it,” I admit.

I want to tell him something honest since he told me the truth. I watch as some of the tension leaves his hands and he loosens his grip on the steering wheel.

“It really scared me, Cy,” I tell him as we drive closer to my home. “You don’t know how many nights I lay awake when you and Derick were deployed, worrying about you two. Then you get back here—”

“You were pissed I was here,” he cuts in.

“Yeah, I was, but I was relieved, too. I knew you were safe. I didn’t have to have that fear anymore when I lay down at night. Then to think I’d lost you. Here, of all places.” I shake my head. “All that shit came rushing back. It was a lot to take.”

“I’m sorry. It’s been hell with you not talking to me. It eats me alive.” I can actually hear the pain in his voice. “I rather you be pissed at me and pulling your crap than radio silence.”

“So you just want me to go back to being a bitch to you?” I tease.

“Don’t call yourself that.” I try to fight a smile. “Go out with me tomorrow. Let’s talk. I can’t do this anymore. I will if I have to, but damn it, Sammy, seeing you and not being able to touch you is hell on earth.”