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You + Your Crush + Paradise = ??

“What else do you need help with, Tatum?”

“It’s Chef Teddy to you, Siren.”

She sucked her teeth. “You real aggravating. What else?”

“So you not gon’ say it?”

She groaned. “Why you gotta do the most?”

I shrugged. “Because you like it. Say my name, Siren.”

Her breathing changed and I could damn near see her heart beating out of her chest. She squirmed in her stance and she had this far off look in her eyes. Yeah, she definitely more than liked me. I decided to poke the bear. I dropped my knife and closed the distance between us.

I traced my index finger over her exposed collarbone, up the side of her neck, and then across her jaw. She sucked in a deep breath and held it. I liked that I had this effect on her, but I needed her to come out of this shy shit.

“Say my name, Siren.”

“Teddy,” she breathed.

“Good girl. Go relax. I’ll finish dinner.”

I needed her as far away from me as possible, or I was going to fuck the shyness up outta her. It took a few minutes for my soldier to stop saluting, as my grandfather would say. When I was good, I moved around the kitchen with ease, preparing and cooking the rest of our meal.

Once dinner was done, I plated our food and then set the table. I put what was left of the food in dishes and sat them on the table just in case either of us wanted more.

I grabbed the wine out of the fridge and two wine glasses from the cabinet. I rinsed them out and then took everything to the table. Once I had everything together, I called out for her.

“Dinner’s ready, Siren.”

I heard shuffling behind me and I hadn’t even realized that she was laying on the couch asleep. She brushed past me and into her bedroom and I could hear the bathroom door close. I was glad that she was going to freshen up because if she had sat at this table with a stale mouth, I would’ve snapped.

A few moments later, she came back out and joined me at the table. I could smell the mint from her toothpaste.

I reached my hands out for hers, and she accepted them quickly. I blessed our food and we dug in. All that could be heard was the silverware hitting the plates. I must say that I shock myself every time I get in the kitchen. I like to cook, which could have been my career, but I love designing buildings.

“So, how is it?” I asked, wanting to talk to her.

She wiped her mouth with her napkin, “It’s damn good, but I have a feeling that you knew that already, Tatum.”

“I mean, I do my thang in the kitchen, but I really wanted your opinion. Tell me something about you that not many people know,” I said, pushing my plate away from me.

“Uhhh you already know that my parents are gone, I’m single, I’m a paralegal, Laine is my sister, blood or not, and Calvin has been the big brother that I always wanted. He’s always dropping lil’ gems and tidbits that I don’t know I need.

“I want a relationship like the one my parents had or even one like Laine and Calvin. Yeah, they go through stuff, but the way Laine is able to freely be her without judgment from Calvin is a beautiful sight to see.”

“Before ole boy, you weren’t in a relationship?”

“Oh, quite the contrary,” she chuckled. “I was. Chris and I were together for two and a half years; everything was good. I was happy for the most part, but then my mom passed away. I sunk into a deep depression, took a sabbatical from work, and gained a hundred pounds.

“At first, he was trying to pull me out of it, but then he started resenting me for gaining weight. The resentment turned to him downright disrespecting me.

He wouldn’t hold my hand in public because he didn’t want people to think that he was a chubby chaser. Then he started cheating. I came home one day and he was fucking some random on our couch. I beat his ass, packed, and left. I went to counseling after that to deal with my grief and then I joined a gym to lose the weight and feel better about myself as a person.”

“I’m sorry that you had to go through that,” I paused and reached across the table to squeeze her hand. “You deserve better than those clowns. You’re beautiful, Ayala. And before you get in your head, I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. What I need you to do is see that inside yourself, and once you see it, I need you to embrace and own that shit!”

I tugged on her hand, signaling for her to come to me, and she did without hesitation. She rounded the table and stood in front of me. I pushed my chair back and stood in front of her.

“You can’t control others’ actions and their perception of you. That’s not your job. The only thing that matters is the way YOU see YOU. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.

“I want you to start speaking positive affirmations to yourself every day, and more than that, I want you to start believing that you deserve everything that you want and desire. Do you hear me, Siren?”

“Yes, Teddy,” she said with so much confidence.

My dick instantly swelled and longed to be inside of her. I didn’t want to bring attention to the situation down below, so I kept looking at her, etching every feature to memory. Her eyes were light brown with flecks of gold. She had the poutiest lips and I wanted to kiss them.

She had a birthmark on the left side of her neck that appeared just a smidge darker than her complexion. I noted it. I wanted to kiss and suck on that exact spot while I was buried deep inside of her.

“What else do you want to do tonight? We can sit on the beach and talk some more. We can watch movies and just kick it. We can do whatever you want, Siren.”

“Movies and snacks sound good. Lemme clean the kitchen before we start, though.”

“Nah, I got it. Just figure out what you want to watch.”

“You got a whole situation you need to handle before we can watch a movie,” she looked down at my crotch and then back up at me. “Go handle your business, and I’ll get the leftovers put up and get the kitchen together.”

I chuckled. “I was hoping that you didn’t notice that.”

“I mean, how could I not. It’s damn near laying on my thigh.”

I threw my head back and laughed. “Yo’, you wild. He’s not, but he will be. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

As much as I didn’t want to, I let her hands go and stepped back from her. She winked at me before I walked into my room.