Page 57 of Corrupt Kingdom

Without even realizing it, I have grown to care for this man. There’s much he tries to hide, but like the Wizard of Oz, once you pull back that curtain, it’s all there to see. That’s what I think I’ve been doing this week, yanking back the curtain, and what I’ve seen, I’ve liked.

More than I should.

“Let’s do something different today. I need to get out of this house.”

“What do you have in mind?” I ask, happy to do something different, I could use the fresh air too.

“I thought you could choose,” he says, taking a sip from his coffee mug.

Us sitting here, drinking coffee and planning our day, feels domestic. My skin warms with the implication.

“It’s nice out. Maybe we can sit by the water.”

He cringes. “The last time we were near the water, you almost drowned, and I was injured.”

“First off, I’m a capable swimmer when I’m not trying to escape,” I challenge. “When I was younger, we used to do a polar bear challenge. We would jump into the water when it was still cold out. We should totally do it. It really makes you feel alive.” I close my eyes and smile at the memory of my mom and I running into the frigid ocean waters. “Maybe we’ll be able to see fish.”

When I open them again, Cyrus has put his hands up in surrender. “I have equipment and life vests,” he offers as an olive branch. “There might not be great visibility from the storms, but we can try.”

I hadn’t thought about that. From my time at the beach, I know that storms kick up the sand and typically make the water murky for a day or two following. It’d be unlikely that we’d see anything.

“We could take a walk around the island and see what the water situation is. That is if you feel up to it?”

He nods.

“How’s your leg? Do I need to rebandage it?”

“I’m fine, Ivy. I’m not a child you have to take care of.”

I roll my eyes. “I was just checking.” Quietly I think of what else we can do, when an idea hits me. “I could pack a picnic,” I continue, suddenly excited to have a journey. Now that I know he plans to let me go, I don’t feel like a prisoner so much. I’m actually looking forward to enjoying the beauty of this place.

“We can do whatever you want,” he says, smiling. I cock my head at him, looking at the way his lips pull up. He’s a devastatingly handsome man to begin with—even when his appearance is dark and ominous—but when he smiles . . .

It makes me feel alive. Something tells me he doesn’t show this side to anyone, and I cherish it. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I want to bask in its glow while I can.

“I have to get dressed. We’re wasting the day away.” As I rush from the room, I can hear him laughing, and his carefree attitude has me smiling from ear to ear. As I get dressed, I mentally make a list of what I should pack for our picnic. I think another bottle of wine might be good to get him to open up and spill his secrets.

Yes . . . definitely wine.

I take a quick glance in the mirror and smile at my reflection. Despite everything I’ve been through, I look . . . happy. My cheeks are rosy, and these clothes fit me like a glove. I marvel at how the random attire he brought me plus the clothes I found in the armoire fit me. They are a little tighter than I’m accustomed to wearing, but they make me look good.

I wonder who they belong to.

What girl has Cyrus brought here before? Why would her clothes still be here? Has he kidnapped someone before? I shake off the thoughts running amok through my head. I really don’t want to know because it won’t change my current situation. In fact, it will just ruin my day. A day I intend to enjoy.

I run down the stairs and package our lunch, eager to get out into the beautiful sun and finally explore the island . . . with Cyrus. I can’t help the excitement that flows through me at the thought of spending the day with him in paradise.

Dumb girl.

I internally chastised myself for being so flimsy with my heart. It isn’t anything serious. I’m simply attracted to him, but that is still way too much, considering.

“Cyrus,” I call out, trying to figure out where he is.

When he walks around the corner, I swear I stopped breathing. He’s wearing a pair of jeans and a thermal. The man might look great in a three-piece suit, but lord. My eyes rake over him, and I can’t help the way my mouth drops open. He clearly sees my reaction if his answering smirk is any indication. I really need to be more careful about being so blatant with my staring.

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