"I'm taking Triton for a walk and you're coming with us"
"No I'm not"
"Yes you are"
"I'm not a fucking child Stone!"
"Then stop acting like one and get your shoes and jacket on"
Without warning Sebastian came over to where Ariel was sitting at the kitchen island table and took her bowl of oatmeal and dumped it in the sink
"You chose to do this the hard way Carmichael"
Ariel felt her cheeks grow warm from embarrassment and unwanted butterflies as Sebastian kneeled down in front of her and gently placed each of her shoes on and tie her laces like she was a damn toddler.
At the same time she found herself being moved by the gesture, which confused the hell out of her because she was a grown woman now not the love struck teenager she used to be.
"That wasn't so bad"
"I'm still pissed at you"
"Of course you are"
Sebastian was well aware of how pissed off Ariel was at him and he didn't care.
There was no way in hell he was going to let her purposely ruin what was considered her best work. He was curious about why she was so nonchalant about the ugly smear across her portrait.
He knew she didn't do that.
"I want to work on my paintings"
"You're too impulsive right now"
"What are you my father?"
"Wouldn't be possible aren't we like three months apart in age?" he smirked "besides the fresh mountain air will do you some good"
Triton came running from the kitchen and immediately started barking happily and pawed happily at the door.
"Looks like somebody is ready to" Sebastian chuckled "you want to get your jacket or do you need me to help you with that too?"
"Fine" Ariel flustered "but just this once I didn't come up here to be constantly nagged by the two of you"
"Alright Triton slow down a little bit boy!" Sebastian chuckled
The huge tan and brown Mastiff looked back at his owner with his tongue hanging happily and what looked like all of the drool he had hanging down his jaw.
Ariel wrinkled her nose at that. It wasn't that she didn't like dogs in fact she loved most cats and dogs but the ones like Triton annoyed her because they were considered "big manly" dogs that men usually have.
A simple Beagle or even a Labrador Retriever doesn't scream masculinity. She was sure he was a sweet dog but he was too much for her.
"You don't have a leash for him?"
"At home yes but usually out in places like the forest or mountains I prefer to let Triton go" Sebastian replied "besides I have him well trained enough so he listens to my command"
"Who takes care of him during football season? I mean when you have to travel"
"I have a neighbor who watches dogs and a cousin who sometimes crashes at my place so he watches him too"
Once Sebastian and Ariel caught up with Triton the dog went sniffing around for a spot to relieve himself. When Triton lifted his back leg to urinate Ariel was surprised to see that the large dog was very much intact.
"You never got him fixed?"
"No" Sebastian chuckled "obviously not if he still has his testicles"
"Most people get their pets fixed Stone"
"Well I'm not most people Carmichael you know that; besides I'm not castrated so why should my dog be?"
Ariel blushed and then rolled her eyes as if she wanted to know about the state of Sebastian's genitals. Men can be so damn typical sometimes. Given his super star athlete status Ariel was sure that he had women on heavy rotation in and out of his bed.
"I hope you're keeping him away from female dogs then"
"Trust me Triton hasn't fathered any puppies; not possible since he's an only dog"
Once Triton was finished he immediately began chasing a squirrel that caught his attention.
"I could talk about Triton all day he's the best dog I've ever had" Sebastian said "but I'd rather talk about you Carmichael"
Ariel paused refusing to once again give him direct eye contact
"What about me?"
"I don't know you tell me," he said putting the ball in her court "it's been ten years"
If Sebastian could pick out the one thing that had not changed about Ariel Carmichael in the past decade it was her being reserved. She had always kept to herself for the most part.
Sebastian looked over at her and she looked away from him. It didn't help that some of her burgundy red passion twists covered half of her face making her look like her namesake mermaid.
Ariel had the habit of biting her lower lip when she was thinking, doing her artwork, or sometimes when she was just plain nervous.
"You're pretty determined not to look me in the eye"
"I don't have to"
"I'd still like to talk to you" Sebastian said, "it looks like you're still quite the artist---"
"It's a hobby" Ariel replied rigidly "nothing more and nothing less"
"You seem to enjoy it"
"What do you mean by that?"
"It's hard to sometimes that's all; my oil paintings don't pay the bills Stone"
"Life is short Carmichael that doesn't mean you stop doing what you enjoy doing"
"Life is also isn't some walk in the woods it throws curveballs sometimes"
"That's true" Sebastian agreed "but you do realize you're talking to a professional athlete I'm used to curveballs"
"You're also a straight white man with privilege"
"Yeah that too"
"I don't have that"
Sebastian picked up on the sadness and the insecurity in his former classmate's voice and it made him angry for her to hear that.
"You're right" he said seriously "you're not white and you certainly aren't a man but your art is obviously your voice"
Ariel stopped in her tracks as her mind wandered back to her prized self-portrait.
"Hassan! Please don't!"
"Your art ain't worth a damn anyway just like you"
"I have a regular voice just like everyone else" Ariel insisted stubbornly
"No it's not like everyone else's it's different and you know that"
"I do my art for me not for everyone else"
"That's not you Ariel"
"Yes it is"
"No it's not because even I remember how excited you used to get about the annual art shows in high school and senior year is when you shined"
"Well that was then and this is now"
"Or something happened to make you change your view of your art"
There was silence between them now and Ariel found herself replaying the same scene of Hassan breaking her down physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Before either of them said anything more; Triton came running back to them.
"Aw Triton what happened boy? You smell like a skunk!"
"I think he got sprayed by one"
Triton barked happily wagging his tail obliviously as if he didn't stink to the high heavens. It looked like walk time was over.
An hour later Ariel was watching a very shirtless Sebastian scrub down his two hundred pound Mastiff. She knew he was an athlete but damn he was....well the definition of ruggedly handsome. She had been attracted to him in high school but adult Sebastian was on a whole different level.
"Hold still boy! You're getting more suds on the porch then on you"
Triton barked as he shook himself down sending the soapy water all over the place and Sebastian laughed.
"Are you ready to rinse him off?" Ariel asked as she awkwardly stood far away enough from Triton with the water hose
"Yup fire away"
Ariel sent the strong spray of water flying to Triton and the dog's fur became free of the suds and he jumped up and down excitedly.
Triton became so excited that he hopped out of the large tin tub and onto Ariel knocking her to the ground.
"Stone get him off me!"
Triton attacked Ariel's face with his tongue and gave her many kisses much to her dismay.
"Alright boy knock it off!" Sebastian whistled at the dog "come on Triton!"
Giving Ariel one last "kiss" Triton got off of her and went to go shake his fur dry at the other end of the porch.
"You alright Carmichael?" Sebastian asked holding out his hand to help her up
"I don't know I just got the wind knocked out of me by your dog"
"I see he left you some kisses too"
"Those were kisses?"
"To him they are yes"
Sebastian handed Ariel a clean towel to wipe her face and said
"Then again I can't blame him for wanting to kiss a pretty woman"
Ariel blushed and she wished that Sebastian hadn't had said that; at least not with his shirt off. Was he really flirting with her or was he just teasing.
"He's going to need plenty of more baths" Ariel said quickly changing the subject "skunk stench doesn't just go away with one"
"Oh I'm sure of it but the question is are you going to be my lovely assistant while doing so?" Sebastian asked crossing his arms bringing attention to his chest
"No I told you just once" Ariel replied "now I'm going to shower and change"
"Can you be sure to leave some hot water for me?"
"I can do that"
"Or we could just shower together and conserve the water"
Ariel threw the towel back at Sebastian and made her way back into the cabin.
"Not happening Stone"
"I'm just teasing you Carmichael"
What an arrogant cocky asshole....but after today Ariel did see the sensitive side of Sebastian and she was starting to feel conflicted about her feeling for him.
Feelings she hadn't had for ten years.