Page 58 of Corrupt Kingdom

“I-Is that what you’re wearing?” I ask, looking anywhere but at him.

“What? You don’t approve?” he teases, grinning ear to ear.

“It’s not that. I just thought—” I blow out too harsh of a breath. He looks too normal, and this feels too intimate. I shake my head. “I just expected . . . a suit,” I say lamely.

“Island is the keyword here, Ivy. We’re on an island. Would you expect me in a suit and tie? Maybe a bathing suit?” His lip tips into a smirk. “Actually, come to think of it, it’s not that cold out. Maybe I should take this off.” His hand goes to lift the thermal. “I’ll grab a bathing suit for that . . . What did you call it? Polar dip?”

“Um. No. It’s fine. I’m fine. You don’t have to change.”

I can barely handle him in jeans. How would I ever handle Cyrus Reed in less clothes?

“I hope you have a swimsuit under that outfit of yours.” His right eyebrow lifts. “Because there’s absolutely no way you’re not ending up in the water.”

“But I . . .” I stuttered lamely. “You can’t get wet. You have a bandage on your leg.”

“It’ll be fine,” he assured. “The bandage is secure, the wound is almost healed, and as long as you’re not trying to escape, there won’t be any issues. We’re not going to go far enough out anyway. It’s a warm spring day, and I guarantee after walking, you’re going to want to take a ‘polar dip.’”

Images of water droplets rolling down his firm chest have my hands clenching and wetness pooling in my panties. How in the hell am I going to pull myself together long enough to spend the day with him?

The way my body is reacting to him is absurd. Embarrassing even. “Doesn’t matter what I’m wearing under here. Let’s go,” I say, needing to get some fresh air, but before walking out I hear Cyrus say to Cerberus. “Blijf” which I remember as meaning stay. He probably doesn’t want him going swimming after the last incident.

For the next hour, we stroll around the island. It’s much larger than I had originally believed it to be, and one whole part is dense trees. It’s almost spooky.

“What’s in there?” I ask, looking toward the dark wooded area.

“I don’t know. I’ve never really roamed that part,” he says, kicking at the sand. “I imagine it’s just trees and overgrowth.”

I remember this spot. It’s where I tried to run the day Cerberus stopped me.

“When I come here, it’s to relax. I use it to get away from the real world.”

“So it’s your hideout?” I say, raising my eyes. “Who are you hiding from, Cyrus?” I meant the question to be funny, but by the way Cyrus tenses, I can tell I hit a sore spot. I want to press him on his reaction, but I also don’t want to force anything from him.

I know from experience that would only back him into a corner and ruin the entire day. And for the first time since I have been there, I feel good. I want that to continue.

Something flies overhead, swooping down toward me. I yelp, guarding my head, but Cyrus is already looming over me, shielding me from whatever it had been.

I’m still crouched in a defensive position when Cyrus’s laughter burst through my spike of fear. After I untangle myself, I look up into his smiling eyes.

“Are you laughing at me?”

He nods his head, continuing to chuckle. I flick his nose, standing on my tippy toes so that we are almost at eye level. “It’s not funny.”

“It was hysterical,” he counters.

I want to keep the banter going, but when I look into his deep brown eyes, I freeze. We are but an inch apart. If either one of us leans in slightly, our lips will touch. My eyes catch the way his tongue darts out, running across his bottom lip, and I shudder.

His arms come around me, pulling me against his chest, and I want to let go. I want to give in and feel his mouth on mine.

I’m just closing the distance when my stomach rumbles loudly, breaking the spell and darkening my cheeks.

“Hungry?” he asks, and that one word is full of so much meaning. He knows it. I know it. We both want it.

30

Cyrus

What is wrong with me?

Like a fucking idiot, I let her pull away. She wanted me to kiss her. She was practically begging me to, yet I let the moment slip through my fingers.

I’ve never been such a fucking pussy in all my life.

Normally, if I want something, I take it, but with her, everything is proving to be different.

If this were a different time and a different place, I would have, but as much as I want it, I can’t reconcile the difference between me and him, if I do.

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