The warmth of the white sand between my toes was a pleasurable contrast to the ocean spray moments earlier. Vincent seemed to be surveying the beach as we stepped off the pier, but after a moment he turned to me.
“I hope you like seafood,” he said, “because that’s all there is to eat here.”
I looked around. “I’m guessing it’s fresh.”
He smiled. “Just caught. Let’s grab a table.”
We walked over to the restaurant, Isabela & Antonio, and took a seat at one of the two tables on the covered patio. The establishment was owned by a husband and wife, both of whom were in their fifties and appeared to live on the second story of the building. Isabela took our order: I got the mahi mahi with mango salsa and Vincent asked for peppercorn crusted swordfish.
“Do you eat here often when you’re down on your island?” I asked, once she had gone back to the kitchen.
Vincent nodded. “Antonio keeps it simple, but he’s a great cook, and you can’t beat the quality of the fish. I also buy from the local fisherman and cook myself at the cabin, but I like to support them any time I come over.”
“It doesn’t look like they have much competition.”
He looked back toward the kitchen. “That’s true, but people here tend to take pride in their work for its own sake, especially people like those two who weren’t born here. You don’t try to make a life in a place this remote because you’re lazy, that’s for sure.”
I knew enough about Vincent’s background to know he valued people who worked hard. You didn’t get to where he had gotten without that kind of work ethic. I was the same way, though I wasn’t quite as adventurous about going out on my own. “So far you’ve had very good taste. I’m excited.”
He smirked. “Good. I like it when you’re excited.”
I blushed. He had been showing his affection a lot lately. “I’ll bet. So how long have you been coming down here?”
“Years and years. I was coming here way before I bought the island. Surfing is good on the other side of the island. Too calm on this side.”
Calm was good from my perspective. “I like this beach.”
“Sure, and the conditions on the water are usually great for the boat.”
“You’re always looking for a little extra excitement, aren’t you?”
“Usually. Not so much since I met you, though. You’re a handful.”
A minute later, our food came. Vincent was right: the preparation was simple but the ingredients spoke for themselves, which was the opposite of a lot of the food at restaurants in New York. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was after our morning activities, but as soon as I smelled my food I realized I was starving. We both inhaled our meals. Isabela came with the check, Vincent paid, and we were soon making our way to the convenience store.
“We just have to pick up some odds and ends for the cabin,” he said. “It’s hard to get used to not having the basic necessities right around the corner when you’re used to the city, but around here you have to.”
I shrugged, contemplating the food in my belly. I wasn’t ready to get back on that boat just yet. “No problem. I bet you’re already thinking about flying around in your boat.”
“I’m thinking about doing something in the boat, that’s for sure.” He winked.
My cheeks warmed. Could he really be in the mood again after yesterday and this morning? We’d certainly be exposed on the boat. But the rocking from the waves would be an interesting element. At this point, I knew if he came onto me, I would probably end up going along with it. He hadn’t been wrong when it came to finding ways to pleasure me so far. I was still contemplating as we walked into the store.
The general store was surprisingly packed with merchandise, all at an eye-popping markup. When you’re the only store in town, I guess you can charge what you want. Vincent picked out some toiletries and other necessities while I followed behind. He was a very efficient shopper. Within minutes we were at the checkout line. I was spacing out musing on the color labels of the liquor collection behind the counter—there was a very heavy rum focus—when a stunning blonde woman came in wearing a red bikini and stopped at the edge of the counter.
She had long, wet blonde hair and the definition of a beach tan—there was even sand still clinging to her torso. She had ample br**sts, curvy hips, and a flawless complexion. Her six pack was so defined I wondered whether she was a fitness model. In fact, the more that I looked at her, the more I thought she must be an athlete of some kind.
When I turned my attention back to the counter, I saw the effect she was having on the men in the store, the clerk behind the counter included.
And Vincent. He turned his attention toward her like a shark smelling blood.
Jealousy stirred in my stomach. Working at a desk in the city didn’t exactly let me compete on the body front with a woman like that.
The man at the counter cleared his throat. I thought he was going to point out some version of “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” but he just said, “Hello, Ariel.”
She had a model’s smile, and she used it here. “Hello, Emilio.”
Then she caught a glimpse of Vincent and beamed. “Vinny! Oh my gosh, you’re here.”
“Ariel, what a surprise.” He smiled.
“I can’t wait to straddle your newest board.” She laughed.
Vincent shifted. “You’ll have to let me know what you think. What are you doing in St. Lucia?”
She pushed her hair back over her shoulder and tossed her head. Every movement she made irked me. “Surfing is doing a photoshoot on this side of the island. You know, because of the sand. Not that I need to remind you how nice the sand is over here.” She winked.
I looked up at Vincent’s face. He appeared slightly flustered and he averted his gaze. Calm and collected Vincent losing his composure? How could she have such an effect on him? My jealousy worsened.
Ms. Photoshoot stepped closer to Vincent. I put my arm around his waist to remind him that I was still here. It made me angry he was ignoring me in front of this gorgeous woman. Didn’t he realize he was making me jealous?
Vincent shook his head as if he were in a trance. “Sorry, bad manners. Ariel, this is Kristen. Kristen, this is Ariel Diamond.”
He didn’t even introduce me as his girlfriend. Reeling, I felt I should speak. “So are you a model?”