To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(10)

By: Arell Rivers

Roberto. I concentrate on this new name. A vision of a dark haired, dark eyed, large man comes to mind. A knife protrudes from his thigh. My stalker put it there. Stalker?

The alarm sounds over my head again. Nurse Naomi’s hands are on my shoulders, soothing me, while she instructs me to breathe deeply. I do so, although it’s difficult over my panic.

After she leaves, I ask, “Mom, I have a stalker?”

“Well, to be precise, Cole has the stalker. But, I won’t let her get to you ever again. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you safe.”

Cole. My client. Why would his stalker have it out for me? An image of Cole’s face comes to mind and morphs into a woman with glowing eyes. My stomach twists. Stay away from me!

“Keep Cole away from me.”

“Shhh,” she says, stroking my hair. “Don’t you worry.”

I close my eyes and finally welcome sleep.

ALMOST THREE WEEKS have passed, and I’m now touring in France. According to Lynn, it’s still status quo with Rose. Which means I’m in a holding pattern, too, except at least I’m in Paris, with Emilie’s companionship. I take a deep breath of crisp, clean air, lightly perfumed with the scent of chestnuts. “Paris is wonderful.”

Emilie smiles, “Oui. It is nice to share my home with you. This is my most favorite museum here. I am captivated by Rodin’s sculptures.”

We stand in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, facing the sculptor’s most famous work, The Thinker.

“Go over there and pose.” She holds up her camera.

Scrunching up my nose, I open my mouth to decline her offer.

“I want to make a gift for Rose. When she wakes, she will love seeing you looking so silly.”

And just like that, I close my mouth. Damn. I walk over to the statue and pretend to be pondering life’s greatest mysteries like the man cast from bronze behind me. The only mystery I want solved is the key to waking up my girlfriend. It’s been over two months.

Nearby, we’re being watched by Jared and Louis, another of Kates’s bodyguards I hired to keep watch on Emilie after Starr’s attack. I give my bodyguard a dirty look and he turns his laughing face away from me. I’ll get you later, J-Man.

Emilie adjusts her camera strap so it doesn’t interfere with the scarf she’s wrapped around her head. She pulls huge sunglasses down to her nose, bundles herself in her coat and walks toward me. Both of us are in pseudo-disguises, but I’m not certain they’re necessary. Even though she’s this city’s current “It Girl,” the French aren’t as likely to fan out, I’ve discovered.

“I’m enjoying my visit to your fair city, Em. It’s nice to be able to walk around in public without being bothered.”

She offers me a sweet smile. “It helps that it is late November. The weather is too cool for many tourists.”

“You have a point. Better for us, though.”

Exiting the museum’s property, we walk past the majestic Invalides, a military museum of the Army of France as well as Napoleon Bonaparte’s burial site. All the books and photographs I’ve seen over the years haven’t done the city justice. The vibe is electric. And the scents . . . We pass yet another “boulangerie,” a bakery specializing in all sorts of amazing breads. My stomach rumbles.

“Remember when you made me try a hot water dog in New York City?” Emilie must be getting hungry as well.

I suppress a chuckle. “You mean a dirty water dog?” Kissing her cheek, I add, “That memory is priceless.”

Pushing her sunglasses up her nose, she says, “Your dog was good, but now you are in my city and you must try one of our crepes.”

The very word makes my mouth salivate. “Show me the way, mademoiselle.”

She directs us toward a stand selling crepes with all types of fillings. Once I have my ham and cheese crepe and Emilie has her buckwheat and mushroom packet, we stroll together into the Jardin des Tuileries. Even in November, the formal garden is exciting with the bustle of people among the fountains and statues, but none of the flowers are in bloom. I need to bring Rose here in the spring.

Nibbling on her crepe, Emilie takes a seat next to me, facing a fountain spraying water straight into the air. All of the chairs are filled with couples doing the same exact thing, enjoying the cool fall afternoon.