The Impossible Vastness Of Us
But standing in cheap clothes in that big, expensive house, I suddenly felt this overwhelming fear that I would never find my power here, my control. I felt awkward. Unsophisticated. Uncultured.
I felt like trash.
And if possible I hated Hayley and Theo even more for bringing me here and making me feel that way about myself.
“I’ll show you around and then to your room, India.”
The rest of the house made me sick to my stomach with its beauty. I lost count of how many stunningly decorated and lushly furnished reception rooms Theo led us through. The kitchen was twice the size of our apartment. Finally he led us to the back of the house into a more casual TV room. Three of the walls were made up of floor-to-ceiling glass and a twin set of French doors that led out onto a large patio area. I could see a barbecue, large outdoor dining set, lounge chairs and beyond that in the near distance was a massive swimming pool and a pool house that was a miniversion of the main house.
Sitting around the pool, laughing and talking, were a group of kids about my age.
Theo frowned at the sight but as soon as he became aware of my scrutiny he grinned. The sudden change only reinforced my decision to be wary of his character. “Eloise’s out there with some friends. Why don’t we take you out there and then Eloise can show you to your room later.”
I couldn’t think of anything worse.
Immediately the sick feeling in my gut became a swarm of butterflies.
My feet might as well have been weighted down with anchors as Theo and Hayley forced me outside into the late-September sun.
“Eloise,” Theo called, and a pretty redhead stood up from a lounger. She was wearing a beautiful yellow silk dress that looked great against her pale rose skin and probably cost a fortune.
She stepped forward and beamed at her father. I felt a twinge of something I refused to call jealousy as father and daughter embraced—a tight hug that was so full of feeling they would have to be really freaking great actors for it to be faked—and then smiled into one another’s faces.
Theo murmured something that I couldn’t quite hear and Eloise looked chastened. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” Eloise looked squarely at Hayley. “I apologize for not coming out to welcome you properly.”
“That’s okay, sweetheart.” Hayley waved her apology off while I tried not to scowl at them both. Sweetheart? Really? Just how close were Hayley and her new soon-to-be daughter?
“Eloise, this is India. India, Eloise,” Theo said.
Light hazel eyes connected with mine and I tensed. The warmth in them had disappeared.
“Welcome.” She gave me a tight smile.
I gave her a terse nod, which only made her smile tighter.
“I’m going to help Hayley get settled in. Why don’t you introduce India to your friends and then show her to her room. Okay?”
“Sure thing, Daddy,” she chirped.
Hayley squeezed my hand and gave me a bolstering look as though she cared whether or not she was leaving me to my doom. I turned away from her to stare warily at Eloise.
She stared back, not saying a word until we heard the click of French doors behind us.
Eloise crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re here.”
Yes, definitely not the warmest welcome in the world. “So it would seem.”
She frowned at my clothes. “You’ll need to go shopping.”
I didn’t give her or her friend who giggled from a lounge chair beyond us a reaction to her insinuation that my clothes were too cheap for her world.
Pulling on my armor, I did the only thing I could and pretended like I wasn’t intimidated. “Who’re your friends?” I said, walking toward them.
The giggler was a petite girl with flawless golden skin and rich dark brown hair. She was perched on a lounge chair. Sitting on the edge of the pool with their pant legs rolled up were a sun-bronzed blond-haired boy and a stunning blonde girl with perfect porcelain skin and features—they looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. In the pool on a blow-up lounge was a guy with black hair and a curious smirk. Finally my eyes swung to the boy leaning against the pool house wall. He was tall with naturally tan skin, dark hair and dark eyes, one of those boys that were too good-looking to be real, and he was staring at me with cold indifference.
I stared right back with my best I’m so bored I could die expression before turning my attention to the giggler.
To my surprise she gave me a little smile. “I’m Charlotte.”
“More importantly, I’m Gabe,” the boy in the pool called out. He paddled toward our end of the pool and held a hand out while he grinned up at me. He wore his close-cropped black hair in waves and water glistened on his warm brown skin. Freckles a shade darker sprinkled his cheeks and the bridge of his nose, giving his handsome face a hint of adorable. His smiling dark eyes roamed my face.
I bent down and tentatively shook his wet hand. “India.”
“Awesome name.” He reclined back in his lounge chair, drinking me in. His perusal was much different from Eloise’s and I relaxed a little. Maybe I still had a little power. After all, I didn’t magically stop being pretty in Massachusetts.
“I’m Joshua.” The boy with his feet in the pool held out his hand.
The girl next to him hit him in the gut with her elbow and glared at him.
“Ow.” He scowled. “What?”
She shook her head in disgust. “Idiot.”
I ignored her and took his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
It was his turn to nudge the girl. She sighed heavily and looked up at me, giving me the same kind of once-over Eloise had. “Bryce,” she muttered.
I glanced over my shoulder at the boy by the pool house. At my scrutiny he straightened up and walked toward me. He stopped at a lounge chair and sat down on it with a casual elegance you could only be born with. “Finn Rochester,” he said curtly, his voice deep, rich, around those two sharp words.
He was the only one to introduce himself using his last name and I immediately knew I was supposed to register its importance.
I decided then and there I liked him the least—this beautiful, pretentious boy.
“My boyfriend.” Eloise strode toward him and put her hand on his shoulder.
The gesture seemed forced and I had to wonder how Rochester felt about Eloise’s less than subtle claim of ownership.
“And just so you know, Joshua is my boyfriend,” Bryce piped up.
Laughter in my voice at their desperation to claim their boys, I said, “Good to know. I’ll be sure to shelve my inner man-eater around them.”
Gabe chuckled. “No need to shelve it around me.”
“You two—” I flicked my hand between him and Charlotte “—aren’t...?”
“Oh God, no,” Charlotte said.