Swinging her legs out, she straightens her skirt and tugs her sweater as she takes his hand.
I cringe. This wasn’t the first impression I wanted. Not by a long shot. Yep, I’ve royally fucked this up. When I start climbing out, he remains, imposing his tall frame when we come face to face. He’s not taller, but he holds his own, briefly reminding me of my own dad. Again. “It’s good to meet you, Mister—”
“Doctor. Dr. Fox.”
“Yes. My apologies, sir.” Since he’s unwavering, I move around him, hoping to get this train wreck back on the tracks. “It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Fox. Chloe’s told me a lot about you. It’s great to meet someone of your esteem.” I see more Chloe in Cat with their matching green eyes and height than her father.
The gray hair that covers his sideburns blends into a fairly full head of brown hair. I’m guessing a casual jogger by his build. Fit, but not overly so. The tan forearms and pale hands from wearing gloves might have me betting he’s a golfer as well.
“Like what?” he asks, finally shaking my hand.
“What?” My eyes dart to Chloe for help.
“What has my daughter told you about me?”
Wrapping her arm around his, she turns him toward the house. “I was telling Joshua how you caught a swordfish last summer in Bermuda.”
“It was a Blue Marlin,” he corrects, looking back at me before they take the steps.
I exhale, shaking my head while standing in front of the grand mansion. My mouth falls open as I realize I’m so out of my league, more than I initially thought. “Holy shit.”
The driver says, “Yeah. It’s quite a house.” I glance over at him, and he rubs his fingers together. “Money. Money. Money.”
By looking at this property, I agree. And here I thought my dad was loaded.
Chloe calls for me, “Come on, Joshua.”
“Take care, man.”
He leans against the car. “Good luck.”
I grab the case and dash up the steps to catch up with them. Her father asks, “Do you fish, Joshua?”
Shooting Chloe an irritated glare, he returns his gaze to me with curiosity. “Then why does Chloe call you Joshua?”
“It’s a funny story.” I grin because Chloe can barely contain her laughter. “She thought that was my name because—”
“It’s not?” he asks, not the least bit amused.
“No, it is.” Giving up on explaining this, I say, “You can call me Josh or Joshua. And yes, I do fish. We have a great lake, well, not one of the Great Lakes since it’s Connecticut, but it’s a damn fine fishing lake just outside of town. Bass, carp, catfish, yellow perch are the most common caught.”
We follow him inside. Bending toward Chloe, I whisper, “I’m fucking up big time.”
She shakes her head and rubs my shoulder. “You’re doing fine,” she whispers.
I stop at the entry to the living room, setting my suitcase down while they walk into the largest room I’ve ever seen in a house. The ocean is set across a vast lawn as a backdrop. Wow. This place is incredible.
This house makes me feel small and insignificant, like my father’s house in the Hamptons. I wonder how it makes Chloe feel. Her father stops in front of one of the windows and says, “We haven’t had snow yet. It’s unpredictable this time of year, though I suspect we won’t have any while you’re visiting.”
“That’s okay,” I say, and then clear my throat in an attempt to smother the sinking feeling I get being here, triggering insecurities my dad instilled. Am I going to be enough for either of them? “We get our fair share in New Haven.”
“Yes, I remember. I need to get back to work.” Turning to his daughter, he says, “You’ll show our guest around?”
“Yes,” she replies, returning to me.
Turning toward me, he shakes my hand again. “I hope you enjoy your stay. My daughter’s birth is always worth a celebration. She’s going to make an incredible surgeon one day and save many lives.”
Chloe’s face is one of indifference to the most. To me, disappointment shadows the gold centers. “Thank you for the invitation.”
When he disappears down a dark wood paneled hall, Chloe moves in the opposite direction. “I’ll show you to your room.” She swings around the banister and starts up the stairs. “Chloe?”
She turns, looking back at me with the railing between us. “Yes?”
Covering her hands on the wood, I ask, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she replies, plastering on a smile I imagine visits this house regularly.
Coming up the stairs, I stop two down from her. “It doesn’t matter what he says. You’ll save lives working in the ER too. It’s not about fame for you but the ability to serve.” I take another step, then slide my hands around her waist. “And though it’s just me, and I’m not sure that it holds weight with your dad, but I think you’re already incredible.”