Ariel laughed in a way I found patronizing. “I’m mostly a surfer, but I do some modeling work, as well as riding Vincent’s board every chance he gives me.” She turned head and shoulders toward Vincent, as if I didn’t exist. “Which, again, hasn’t been enough lately, Vinny. When am I getting my personalized new toy.”
He laughed. “I’ll look into making sure you get it when I get back to work.”
Another perfect smile tore its way through my ego. Who was this woman that was expecting a personalized surfboard from Vincent’s company? Did she and Vincent have some kind of past he hadn’t told me about? She was acting super familiar with him, and he wasn’t shy around her either.
“Good,” Ariel said. “Done any surfing lately? Or have you been hunkered down in that awful office of yours?”
My mind recalled the surfing lessons Vincent had given me on our first date. I hadn’t been very good, but it had still been a fun day, especially in the showers afterward. That had been an important day for our relationship.
“Not really. We’ll have to get together some time to do it properly.”
I couldn’t believe this.
Ariel continued. “Good, I’m holding you to it. You’re always so much fun. Anyway, I have to get back to the set soon. Let me know about that board.”
She left us to finish her shopping and Vincent checked out while I continued feeling invisible. It was unbelievable how small he’d made me feel. The way he interacted with Ariel made it seem like he didn’t want me there. There were some ways I just didn’t fit into Vincent’s lifestyle, and one of those was doing extreme sports activities he loved.
We were both quiet on the walk back to the boat. I wondered whether I would ever be enough for Vincent. We were barely into our relationship—or whatever it was we were doing—and already I was seeing holes.
As he untied our boat, his shirt slipped exposing more of his torso, including his diamond tattoo. It couldn’t be a coincidence the symbol coincided with Ariel’s last name. Was that for her? I decided I needed to ask him about his relationship with her, whatever that was, but the boat ride back to his island wasn’t the place to do it. As the wind blew against my face, I thought about how I was going to broach the subject.
By the time we returned to the cabin and unpacked the items we bought, it was almost four o’clock. Vincent and I spoke little from the time we left the dock until we had finished putting away supplies. He seemed distant in a way he hadn’t been since we’d been seeing each other, and it worried me. I took a seat at the dining table as he was beginning to busy himself in the kitchen.
“Vincent. We need to talk.”
He looked up from the vegetables he was chopping and squinted. “Is something wrong?”
His obliviousness was amazing. The anger that had been bubbling up under my skin was ready to spill over. “That wasn’t okay.”
“Don’t play dumb. Every second you were talking to Ariel Diamond you were wishing I wasn’t there.”
Vincent took a deep breath, put down his knife, and sat next to me at the table. “That’s not true. I’m very glad you’re here.”
I crossed my arms. There was no way he was getting off easy on this one. “Don’t try and smooth talk your way out of this. Who is she?”
“She told you, she’s a surfer. She’s a world-class surfer, actually. Big name in the industry.”
“My company sends her free products for testing and endorsement. So that’s what you heard when she was talking about sending her the new board.”
“Okay, that explains that. How about ‘Vinny?’”
He said nothing. His thousand yard stare reminded me of the way he looked in the store.
“You’re getting way too upset about this.”
I hated the way he was deflecting. The more he stalled, the more I realized something was up. “Am I? Have you had sex with her?”
He flinched. “Why would that matter?”
“Because I’m asking. You have, haven’t you? Why didn’t you tell me?”
He threw his hands up. “Because it’s not important! Do you really want me to run down a list of every woman I’ve ever slept with?”
Thinking about the length of that list made me nauseous. I was sure he had slept with many, many more people than I had. Still, that wasn’t what this was about. “No, I’d rather not think about that. But were you going to wait for me to bring it up before you told me anything about your relationship with her?”
His jaw worked, but he remained silent. I could tell he was going through the options of what to say in his mind. After several minutes of waiting for him to speak, I felt like I needed to move the conversation along.
“Okay, you’re clearly not being forthcoming about this, so I’m just going to ask you: is the diamond tattoo on your chest for Ariel? Or is that just a weird coincidence?”
His mouth formed a thin line. He took several deep breaths, then put his hand on the table. “I should start at the beginning: it makes me feel old to say this, but I’ve known Ariel Diamond for thirteen years. Since I was a teenager.”
I nodded. That was longer than I had known anyone except my parents.
He watched me for a minute, but I wasn’t saying anything. He continued. “We met while I was in college. She was part of the crew I surfed with in California while I was in school and then after. You could say we kind of came up together. So I’ve known her for her whole career, and she’s known me for mine.”
“And you guys dated?”
He nodded. “Yes. Eventually we started dating. I got the tattoo for her when I was twenty.”
“How long did you date?”
“A few years. It was up and down. We aren’t really compatible, though I fought against that at the time. The only thing we really have together is surfing.”
“So you loved her?”
“I definitely thought so at the time.”
The next question was one I wasn’t sure I would get an honest answer to. “Do you still love her?”
He shook his head firmly. “No. We still have a friendship, but I moved on a long time ago.”
I had my doubts. He had a tattoo devoted to the woman. She was more than just a flame he had moved on from. “Really? Why didn’t you get the tattoo removed?”