To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)

By: Arell Rivers

For Mom, who has always believed in me ~ and challenges me to be my best.

“YOU’RE GOOD AS new now, Cole. I’m signing off on your tour.”

Shaking his hand, I say, “Thanks, Doc.” He’s a nice enough guy, but I don’t have any desire to see Bones again anytime soon. He makes a few more notes in my file and leaves the room.

Hopping off the examining table, I’m relieved not to have any pain. Just a simple sneeze six weeks ago sent me screaming for cover. Now to get back into shape.

Bones’s ever-helpful nurse holds up my Planetarium T-shirt. Flushing, she stammers, “Can I help you—I mean, do you need any help putting this on?” She shakes my top.

I stifle the urge to roll my eyes. “I got it, darlin.’” My ribs are just fine—and she knows it. Still, I continue, “Besides, I won’t have a pretty lady like yourself to help me get dressed on tour.” I extricate the cotton from her fingers, careful not to make contact. No need to overload her circuits.

She giggles. “Oh, I bet you’ll have a line of willing women to help you.”

Pulling the shirt down my naked torso, I reply, “Nah. Not how I roll anymore.” I wink at her to ease the sting.

“I guess you’re sticking with Emilie. Some girls have all the luck.” She blows me a kiss and leaves the tiny examining room. Yeah, that’s it. Emilie. The beautiful supermodel the world believes is my girlfriend.

Bending over to pick up my leather jacket, I accidentally knock over a magazine. The Gossip, of course. The rag that published my stalker, Starr’s, crazy story about our fake marriage. It’s old, from right after the accident. A close-up of Emilie’s tear-stained face is on the cover, paired with a headline screaming, “COLE MANCHESTER ALMOST KILLED IN CAR CRASH.” The subheading says, “A Broken Emilie Dubois Visits Lover in the Hospital.”

Out of perversity, I flip to the cover story. Scanning the article—my real girlfriend, Rose, is never once mentioned—my eyes land on that photo. The one I promised Dad I wouldn’t look at ever again. I can’t keep my promise, though. The ruin of my car wrapped around a tree, both airbags deployed. The passenger side is mangled. The photo causes more pain than a couple of broken ribs ever could. Sucking in an agonizing breath, I lean backward, ignoring the crinkling of the paper as my ass comes into contact with the exam table.

That fucking bitch. How Starr has avoided both the cops and private investigators is beyond me. If I ever see her again, or when I do, she won’t get any mercy. She’s taken my heart away. My love. Physically, I may be healed, but how do I go on? The arrangements are still in place for the world tour to promote my new album, so that’s the obvious answer. Too bad I can’t summon any enthusiasm for it.

My cell rings. Digging through my jacket pocket, I check the caller ID and answer. “Hi, Russell.”

“How are you doing? Get good news from the doctor?”

My manager is checking in on his investment. I take a deep breath and shake my head. No, that’s not fair. Russell’s a good guy. He really cares. “Yeah, Bones just gave me final clearance for the tour.”

“That’s good news. A change of scenery will do you good.”

The antiseptic white walls capture my interest for no apparent reason other than they’re the same color as the airbags that feature prominently in my nightmares. I deep six the magazine. “I guess. It’s hard leaving, you know?”

Over the phone, Russell clears his throat. No one ever knows what to say. I’m so sick of the averted eyes, the pity. Maybe Russell’s right. Rehearsals are they only way I’ve managed to divert my thoughts from the crash, even if it’s just for an hour or two at time. Perhaps touring will be good for me?

Can’t be much worse.

“I’m here for you, Cole. If you need more time, I’ll make it happen. Just know that all of Rose’s strategies are in place for you.”

Rose. My limbs go numb at the sound of her name. I catch my phone before it drops on top of that shitty magazine. Rose. My Rose. She wouldn’t want me to postpone the tour if I’m physically able to go. Which, apparently, I am. If touring without a heart is possible.