The next morning, Cyrus had got up early to hit the hotel gym. He was on the treadmill when his cellphone rang. He didn’t recognize the number but figured no one knew the number but friends and family, so he decided to answer it anyway.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Cyrus, It’s Tammy. We need to talk. ”
Cyrus stepped off the treadmill slowly. He felt his chest clenching like it was in a vise. He couldn’t get his mind around who was calling him or even why.
“Cyrus? Are you there?”
“Yes. What do you want?”
“I know you don’t want to talk to me.”
“Good. Then we have nothing else to say. Bye.”
“No! Wait. Please don’t hang up. We need to talk.”
“There is nothing to talk about. I haven’t spoken to you since our divorce. Why call now?”
“I need to see you.”
“Tell it to your grandpa… I mean husband.”
“He left me.”
“Did he find someone younger? Maybe someone who is still in high school? I know the dirty old bastard likes them young.”
“That’s not funny.”
“No, it’s not. It’s sick for him to marry someone who is his children’s age. Whatever is going on with you two, it's not my concern.”
“That’s not fair, Cyrus.”
“No. What’s not fair is having your wife leave you for an old fossil like him.”
“Please. I don’t want to fight. I really need to talk to you. It’s urgent.”
“Save it. I have things to do today. Talk to my lawyers. This conversion is over.”
“Please? I need to talk to you. I don’t have anyone to turn to.”
“Listen. I’m with someone now. I’m not going to be your rebound because you got dumped.”
Cyrus hung up the phone, furious that Tammy would have the nerve to call him. Especially now that he was finally trying to move on with his life. Two years had passed without even so much as an apology for what she had done to their family. Why should he give her the satisfaction of even a simple phone call?
Heading back to the hotel room he was fuming. To calm himself, he went by the hotel gift shop to grab something for Mia. He didn’t want to return back to the room and deflect his frustration on her, so he had to take some time to calm down. Mia didn’t deserve being the target for his anger. He found a cute sundress that was similar to the one Mia wore on their first date. He saw her admiring it when they came in the night before and thought it would look nice on her.
Cyrus got back to the room and Mia was awake eating the breakfast he had ordered for them. She was watching TV and laughing at some reality show.
“Morning beautiful.” He went over and kissed her forehead. “I got you something. I figured you would want something to change into for the meeting with Davis. I didn’t get underwear or any of that stuff. So I guess you may have to go commando.”
She giggled at his comment as she opened the gift. ” I have undergarments in my stage bag. Oh my gosh! This is so pretty. I saw it last night in the gift shop window. Thanks for the dress. I love it. That’s so sweet of you. You really don’t have to keep buying me things. It’s nice but I don’t need you to do all this.”
“I know. I just saw you looking at it and I wanted to do something nice. I thought it would look great on you.” He sat down on the bed, rubbing his head and looking at the floor.
Mia went over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Something wrong, babe?”
He took a deep breath before answering resting his hands on her hips. “My ex called while I was in the gym.”
Mia’s arms dropped to her sides as her head hung down. “Oh.”
“Don’t worry. She and I are done. I want no part of that. I hung up on her.”
“What did she want?”
“I guess her decrepit old man left her. I don’t know what she expected. The guy just wanted her because she was half his age and it made him look good to have her on his arm. He’s a disgusting old man. His son and daughter are around the same age as Tammy and they have nothing to do with him.”
“Eww. They are the same age?”
“Yeah. He’s old enough to be her dad. I can’t stand him. He’s ruined my life even before I met her.”
“What do you mean he ruined your life?”
“He was the reason for my scars and my parents dying.”
“Oh, Cyrus. I’m so sorry. What happened?”
“It’s a long story. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my troubles. ”
“I’d like to know what happened with your scars and why it’s so upsetting to you. You can talk to me if you want. No pressure though.”
“I guess it would be nice to finally talk to someone. It’s hard to talk to my sister and brother about it. I don’t like to bring up all those old painful memories to them.”
“I’m here for you. If you want to talk, I’m here to listen. So... tell me. What happened?”
With a sigh, Cyrus thought back to that night. He went to the bed and sat down rubbing his hands together. “It was my birthday. My parents left Holly with my aunt and Isis one day, so they could take me to town to get me a dirt bike. I had asked for it for years and my dad decided I was getting responsible enough to have one. Wraith always had bikes since we were kids and I looked up to him. I wanted to be just like my big brother when I grew up. Wraith was tough and a great role model.”
“I can see that. You both seem so close.”
“We are. Even though he was older than me, he never treated me like a kid. We were like best friends.”
“That’s nice. I don’t have any brothers and sisters. I wish I did.”
“It’s great. We really lean on each other when times are tough. The night it happened, I was the summer before my eighth-grade year. Holly and Isis were still in elementary school. Holly is a lot younger than Wraith and I. Mom had her later in life. We were all pretty far apart in age and she used to tell us she needed a break in between us because we were a handful. She was probably right. We were tough kids and always got into some sort of trouble together.”
Mia giggled thinking about Holly. Everyone seemed to be afraid of her. “I can see that. I heard stories about Holly.”
“Yeah. She’s a wild one. Anyway, Wraith had already graduated and was in the military stationed in Iraq when the accident happened. The man Tammy married was the man who killed my parents. He was a drunk driver and hit my parent’s car, running them off the road. I always thought he did it on purpose. He hated my father.”
“Was he arrested?”
“Yes. But he got off once he went to court. He knew too many people in the town. He claimed he was parked on the side of the road and my dad ran into him. The judge wouldn’t even allow his alcohol test to be part of the evidence. I knew he was drunk. His son was my friend and every time I visited them, Greyson was drunk. Everyone in town knew it was a cover-up. He got off and my parents died. How fair is that?” Cyrus sighed, rubbing his fingers over the scar on his face.
“That’s horrible. I can’t even fathom how hard that must have been.”
“Yes, and it still haunts me. The accident was bad and I was burned. A shard of metal went through my abdomen too, and I almost bled to death.” Cyrus lifted his shirt. “That’s what this scar is from. The burns were from the car catching fire. There were a couple of truck drivers who helped me out of the car. They were not able to get my parents out before the car was engulfed in flames. They told the police officers that my father asked them to save me first. My mom died on impact.”
“And you saw all that?”
“Thankfully, no. I was knocked out. I didn’t see my parents die. When I woke up, I was in the ICU and Wraith was standing over me. He was getting married anyway and he and his wife Lilly took Holly and me in to raise.”
“The woman in the wheelchair? What happened to her?”
“About a year before my parents died she was in a car bombing in Iraq. Wraith saved her life. They were in the same platoon. That’s how they met. Wraith and Lilly are so in love. I don’t know what would have happened if Wraith lost her. She is the love of his life.”
“He has been through a lot then. First his wife’s injury and then losing his parents. Then raising you and Holly. That’s a lot for one young person to handle. ”
“He went through a lot but he just keeps going. He’s stronger than all of us. Even though he went through all that, he’s still light-hearted. He pretends to be tough but I know him. He cares more than he lets on. Family means everything to him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry. I guess him taking on all that responsibility so young, made me want to be strong for us all. I feel it’s my responsibility to take care of my family now too. Like taking Isis into my home when she was in trouble. I took care of her after her dad passed away. Her mom was sick and wasn’t able to deal with her alone. Wraith and I raised those girls.”
“That’s nice that you did. Wraith seems like a wonderful person for taking care of you and Holly.”
“He never even hesitated to raise us. Wraith just stepped up and took charge and I really admire him. Lilly was a great mother figure too. She’s a wonderful woman. You remind me of her. She’s really kind and funny. And she’s tough. She competes in the Special Olympics. You’ll like her. ”
Mia sat next to him and took his hand running her thumb over his knuckles. “I’m sorry all that happened to you.”
“I had moved past it all until Tammy left me for that evil man. It’s like he just keeps doing things to ruin my life.”
“Why do you think she called?”
“She’s probably wanting money. I heard she has a kid now. That is the one thing that bothers me the most. I couldn’t have kids because he took that from me.”
“You can’t have children?” Mia felt her heart clench. She wanted children and was afraid her biological clock was ticking.
Cyrus looked up at the ceiling, trying to keep from crying. “No, Mia. I can’t. I hope that doesn’t change things between us. I wasn’t ready to talk about this but maybe it’s better you know now rather than later. I do want kids but I don’t know if it will be possible.”
“I don’t care. I always thought I would probably adopt.”
“The doctors say it’s a possibility that I can, but a slim one. It would be hard. They were able to repair some damage.” He teased, nudging her arm. “And don’t worry. My goods are all in the right place and I am a fully functioning man.”
Mia nudged him back with a slight chuckle. “I wasn’t even thinking that.”
“Yes, you were. I’m 100% full man-power down there.”
“Good to know. I may want to use that equipment at some point.”
“I hope so. My little Cyrus is primed and ready for you, baby.”
“Not so little. I saw that shower selfie and it outlined under that towel.” Mia covered her face, trying to hide her blush. “I’m not sure I can take all that. It’s like a baby elephant trunk.”
“The whole fun is trying.” Cyrus winked at her with a squeeze of her hand.
“Thank you for confiding in me. I know it must be hard to talk about.”
“It is, but I feel comfortable talking to you. I don’t want any secrets between us. Anyway, I should get ready to meet Davis and Gage. We have a big day today.”
“Cyrus, I have a question. ”
“What if Davis does want me on the show? What about my life here? What if I freeze on the big stage and mess up everything?”
“Well, as far as your life here, are you keeping the salon? You don’t have to move if you don’t want to. We are on the road most of the time. It’s your choice on those decisions. If you need help I’m here for you. I know it’s going to be a huge transition.”
“As I told you before, I’m sick of salon life. I love my clients and my friends there, but it’s so… mundane. It seems all glam on the outside but after doing it every day, it goes old. I think I may sell my half to my co-owner. She has wanted to buy me out for years. I would have extra money to travel and expenses? I’m not rich, ya know.”
She winced at the thought of having to think about the changes. Changes were something she wasn’t used to.
He chuckled. “You will be rich once you’re signed to a contract. Besides that, IWX takes care of travel. You’ll be taken care of. Do you think my girl is going to not be taken care of? I got you, baby. You will travel with me and my family. On my private jet or we will drive together from town to town on our tour bus. I know we talked about your interest in working in talent recruiting. I could use some help at the office too. If you’re interested in some extra work behind the scenes, we can always use an extra hand.”
“Whoo! Hold up. Private jet? I forgot you’re the executive vice president of the company now. I would love to work and learn from you… wait? Your girl? You keep saying that. What’s that mean to you exactly? I want to be sure we are on the same page here.”
Cyrus went to the table in the room, snacking on the food he had ordered. Looking up from his breakfast he smirked. “Oh. Does girlfriend sound better, Miss Mia? I did wake up with you in my arms this morning. I’m not letting all that go so easy.” He winked.
“Girlfriend? You… want me to be your...”
“Yes. I do. Stop overthinking this. Don’t you want that? In your sleep, you did mention it.” He licked his lips smugly with a sly grin. “You talk in your sleep by the way.”
“I do not!” She covered her face, throwing herself back on the bed. “Oh geez! I did… didn’t I.”
“Yep. So… girlfriend? Or am I just going to have to wait for that too?” He reached over pulling her over to him. Placing her on his lap and rubbing his hand up her thigh.
“I like the sound of that. Are you sure? We just met. You really may change your mind once we don’t… ya know.” She kissed his cheek and warped her arms around his neck.
“I’m not changing my mind, flower. It’s so sweet how you can hardly say sex without blushing. So innocent.” Cyrus smiled at her sweetly.
“Innocent? Haha. I think it’s cute you think that. I may have not had sex but I know how to keep a man satisfied in other ways.”
“What ways?” Cyrus wagged his brows at her.
“Such a flirt. Be a good boy and you may find out.”
“The thing is, we have talked for weeks now. We know a lot about each other. I think we are past the stage of just meeting and trying to impress each other. Don’t you? I figure people are going to start asking questions when they see us together all the time. I want to be able to tell them proudly this is my girlfriend.” He looked serious as she laid her head on his shoulder.
“I feel like a modern-day Cinderella,” she hummed happily.
“Well, you are a dream come true. I’ll be your Prince Charming.”
“You already are, ya big softy.”