“That’s your right.”
She lets it go to voicemail with a halfhearted grin. Chloe letting go of things that upset her has been a big step for her. Our fight opened my eyes to the stress she keeps inside. It opened her eyes to the idea that finding balance isn’t just a phrase, but something she has to seek out. We’ve been studying more the last few weeks, setting timers, and then taking well-earned breaks, like this one to the tattoo parlor.
The artist continues, but less than a minute later, she wipes a stain of blood away, and says, “I’m done.”
“That was fast,” she says. I help her sit up, but she’s going to be a doctor, so I should have known she’d be fine.
Holding my finger to hers has her smiling. “No regrets?”
I pay and when we walk out, I ask, “Are you going to call your dad back?”
“No.” Her answer sounds so final, almost unlike her, or maybe this is a new side of her. When we get in the truck, she adds, “I don’t want you to change, Joshua.”
A little lost why this conversation detoured, I reply, “Don’t worry. I’m stubborn.”
Humor goes a long way, and she smiles. “When you come to Newport to visit, don’t be someone you’re not when you meet my dad. Let him see who you are with me when you come to Newport. Okay?”
“Good or bad, baby, I’ll still be me in three weeks.”
She leans over and gives me a kiss. “Being your amazing self will win him over. That’s enough. You’re enough.”
I start the Blazer and glance at her once more before backing out. “I’m going to make him fucking love me.”
Giggling, she runs her fingers through the hair at my neckline. “That’s more than I can ask for.”
* * *
Bryant and Todd aren’t the only ones who can do research.
I’ve had six days without Chloe and no clue until we were apart just how dependent I’d become on her. Not in a negative, crazy way, but I’ve missed my friend. I missed the life we’ve been building with each other—waking up to her, kissing her, having sex with her, and falling asleep with her curled to my side. Studying and homework aren’t my favorite things but doing it with her makes it less painful.
I miss the random conversations we have and watching movies with her. Cooking for her is something I look forward to. The simplest dishes always earn rave reviews. Errands or running together, it’s all just better because I’m with her.
With her in Newport for the holiday, I’ve had too much time on my hands to dwell on the warnings she’s given in regard to her dad. “Don’t be someone you’re not when you meet my dad. Let him see who you are . . . Those words have stayed with me. I didn’t spend much time googling, but I did enough to know that Norman Fox, her father, is exactly as predicted—brain surgeon, bigwig in the medical world, superstar in Newport, and fucking rich as fuck. Chloe and Cat may have welcomed me with open arms, but I have a feeling Dr. Fox will be another story altogether.
Norman Fox is driven by ego and money. His expectations are unattainable, yet everyone has to abide by his rules. God, he reminds me so much of my father. If there is one thing I’ve noticed since I met Chloe, is that she started to spread her wings. Is there a way where I can ensure he won’t drag her back down? It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll do whatever I can to win him over if that keeps her soaring.
Walking outside the airport, the overcast sky makes it easy to find the only ray of sunshine I need. Dressed in an orange skirt and white sweater with little white sneakers, she lowers the sign she’s holding for me the moment we lock eyes, and she runs. My suitcase is forgotten as I catch my girl, arms embracing and lips locking.
My heart beats strong, fresh air invigorating me, and life feels complete now that I’m with Chloe again. Setting her down, I look into her bright eyes and grin because I’m with my girl again. “I missed you so much.”
“It’s only been a week.”
“I never want a minute without you in it. Happy Birthday, baby.”
Sagging against me with a sweet smile I put there, she leans her head on me, arms tightening, her heart beating wild. When she takes a step back, she holds up the sign in front of her. “Damn right,” I say and then kiss her again.
She sucks in a breath, leaning back with the “Soulmate” dropping to the ground. “That was quite a kiss, Joshua.”
“Like I said, I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” Grabbing the sign, she then tugs me toward the vehicle. “Ready? We’re over here.”