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Her Paradise by Riley, Alexa (1)


Sammy… Age 16

I snap a picture of myself in the mirror and text it to Nikki.

Me: Do I look like a woman?

She responds instantly.

Nikki: You’ve looked like a woman since your boobs came in last summer! LOL

I laugh. I hated my boobs when they first came in. All of a sudden, boys started to annoy the ever-loving crap out of me. Not to mention they all thought I was up for grabs since my brother shipped off and there was no one here to scare them.

Nikki: Make him some of your sprinkle cookies. He’ll fall in love with you at first bite *winky face*

Me: Oh, I’ve been baking ALL week.

It’s crazy how I’ve gone from not wanting attention to all to throwing myself at someone. Though Cyrus is not just someone. It’s been three long weeks since my brother’s been home on leave. He’s leaving in two days, but that’s not the problem. What’s gotten me so worked up is the friend he brought home with him. His Marine buddy who tagged along with him back to the island is everything I never knew I wanted in a man.

Cyrus. Even his name makes my stomach flutter. Since the moment he stepped out of the truck with my brother, Derick, I’d fallen head over heels in love. Each day he’s here it grows even worse. He’s sweet, funny and is so freaking nice I can’t stand it. He makes me feel things I probably shouldn't for someone his age, but I don’t care. He’s my one and I know it. I just have to tell him, let him know we’re supposed to be together. That I know he has to go back overseas, but I’m going to be here waiting for him when he’s done.

I adjust my bikini top to make sure my boobs aren't going to peek out. Living on an island, it’s normal for most of the town to run around in swimsuits. It can get crazy hot and you always end up in the water at some point or another.

Maybe it’s silly, but I’d sprung for an American flag bikini and it finally got here yesterday afternoon. It was my best friend Nikki's idea. She said I should try and look like the girl next door. All-American. I wasn’t really sure about cutting another inch off my jean shorts, but she thought it would get his attention. I don’t want him to think of me as some silly girl with a crush. I want him to see me as a woman who will wait forever just for him.

I put on some lip gloss then drop it and rush out of my room when I hear movement upstairs. Hurrying into the kitchen, I pretend like I’ve been here the whole time cooking. Moments later Cyrus walking into the room. He stops dead in his tracks when he sees me. I pretend like I don’t know he’s there for a few moments and hum to myself. Out of the corner of my eye I see he’s turning around like he’s about to leave. Crap.

“Hey, Cy,” I call out, making him stop. “Want me to make you some breakfast? I make killer French toast.”

He turns back around and his eyes lock with mine. I want him to look at me, at my body, but his eyes don’t go any lower than my chin.

“I already made the coffee.” I point towards the pot.

“Yeah, sure,” he finally says.

He steps into the dining room that’s connected to our open kitchen. He’s wearing low-slung sweats and nothing else. His chest and feet are bare, and his hair is an adorable mess. God, he’s so handsome and rugged. Nothing like the guys here on the island. Since he’s gotten here he hasn’t shaved, and there’s dark stubble on his chin. When I asked him about it he said it’s the only time they’re allowed to be unkempt, so he’s going with it.

“Give me a second.” He leaves the room and I hear him going up the stairs.

My shoulders drop when I hear the shower turn on. I go ahead and make the French toast and put some bacon in a skillet. A little bit later he comes strolling back into the room and grabs a cup of coffee. He’s fully dressed now and takes a seat at the breakfast bar.

“Did my brother come home last night?” I ask.

Cyrus’s cup of coffee stops before it meets his mouth. I can tell he doesn't want to answer me. I’m guessing because he doesn't want to lie. No, I bet he’s the kind of man that would never lie. He’s got too much honor.

I roll my eyes. “I know my brother, Cyrus. If he’s not coming home, it’s because he went home with a girl last night. It isn't something new. I just wasn't sure if I should make enough for him or not.”

“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.

“You wanna go to the beach with us?” Derick says. “I need to remind all these boys around here that I’ll fucking kill them if they start messing with you. Doesn't matter I’m not around. I’ll still find out, and when I come back I’ll kick their asses.”

I shake my head. His comment is nothing new.

“I’ll go change.” Cyrus stands before I can answer Derick.

“Yeah, let me go grab some stuff,” I say before I lick the syrup off my lips and watch Cyrus leave the room.

“I need a shower,” Derick says and leaves next.

I drop everything into the sink. I’ll wash the dishes when we get back.

I head towards my room to pack a beach bag. I should probably pack a picnic basket, too. Maybe Derick will meet some girl on the beach and leave Cyrus and me to be alone. A day at the beach with him sounds perfect.

I enter my room but stop when I see Cyrus is there pacing back and forth. I shut the door quickly and my heartbeat picks up. Maybe he’s going to kiss me now. I smile, but it drops away when his eyes meet mine and he stops pacing.

“That shit cannot happen again,” he says in a low voice.

I swallow hard and feel a lump start to form in my throat. But I push it away and focus on the anger that’s rising in my chest.

“What happened to not cursing around me?”

“This isn't a game, Sammy. You’re sixteen.”

I straighten my spine. “You were going to kiss me,” I grit out. “That wasn't one-sided. Plus, I turn seventeen next week.”

His breathing grows heavy and I can tell he’s fighting with himself about what to say next.

“You stay away from me and I’ll stay away from you. We only have a few more days to make it through,” he finally says.

“Get out of my room,” I tell him and open the door. He stands there for a second before he nods his head and walks toward the open door. He stops when he’s next to me.

“Put on a fucking shirt.” I see red, but he’s already out the door, so I slam it behind him.

I’m so mad I want to scream. “Fuck you, Cyrus Walsh. I’ll make sure you don’t have to spend one more second around me.”

Little did I know he wasn't going to make that an easy task