To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(11)

By: Arell Rivers

One younger couple share a crepe. The girl’s brown hair blows in the wind and her boyfriend reaches out to tuck some of the wayward strands behind her ear. Like I used to do for Rose.

I switch my gaze to another couple, this one elderly. The husband holds his wife’s hand, bringing it up to his lips for a kiss. I sigh, causing Emilie to glance at me.

“That couple reminds me of my parents. Today is Thanksgiving back in the States.”

She puts her hand on my forearm. “My parents are excited to meet you. They are making a special dinner tonight. It will not be turkey and stuffing, but hopefully you will like.”

“I’m sure I will.”

Right now, Aunt Doreen is probably getting our turkey ready to go into the oven. The elderly couple stands and strolls away, hand-in-hand.

“I need to call my dad later today. Make sure he’s all right. It’s his first Thanksgiving without Mom.”

Emilie squeezes my arm. We finish our light lunches in comfortable silence. “Do you want to go shopping or maybe to the Musée du Louvre?”

I’d really like to see the Louvre, but I have a private visit arranged there for later in the week. Even though Paris has an easy vibe, I don’t want to risk going into the famed museum without something pre-arranged. Can’t chance what a crazy fan might do.

“I think I’m scheduled to go to the Louvre in a couple of days.”

She nods. “Then shopping it is.”

I take another sip of my coffee. Simple things just taste better here.

“How about we find something for Rose?”

“Sounds good,” I say, managing a real smile. Everyone’s pulling for you, Ro. “She’s going to have so much to open. I bought her gifts at every stop in Australia.”

I wrap my arm around Em, cocooning her with warmth as we meander around the streets of Paris. Emilie veers into a small clothing boutique and greets the shopkeeper with a sunny “Bonjour.” She doesn’t touch the scarf, but deposits her sunglasses into her rather large bag. I keep my head down after removing my cap. Jared comes in and takes up residence in a corner, while Emilie’s guard remains on the street.

The young girl behind the counter smiles at her newest customers. Emilie starts looking at some necklaces. I’m on my way toward a rack of dresses when I notice the clerk do a double-take.

Returning to Em’s side, I bend down to her ear and whisper, “I think we’ve been recognized.”

She looks over at the clerk, who’s now watching us with an excited look on her face. In a hushed tone, she says, “Oui. You may be right. Do you want to leave?”

Fuck it. I’m sick of hiding, and aren’t we doing this for the publicity, anyway? “No. Let’s play it by ear, okay?”

Nodding at me, Emilie returns to the jewelry. I go to the dresses and find one that’s the perfect shade of blue. But I’m not sure if it’s Rose’s style.

When I catch Em’s eye, she seems to understand the nature of my distress and comes over to my side. Lifting up the dress, I ask, “What do you think?”

Emilie takes my selection and holds it in front of her, like women do. How they can tell so much from doing so, I’ll never know.

“There will be lots of cleavage with this one.” She looks at me, then continues, “But you will like that, no?”

I can’t help but smile at that.

She is silent for a moment, running her fingers over the soft material. Quietly, she asks, “This is her size? I mean, her size before the accident? She will have lost weight now.”

My cheeks hollow.

“I am sorry, Cole. It is just that she has been in the coma for so long. If . . . when she wakes up, it may be a while before she gets back to her normal weight.”

I stop my hands from making fists. She will wake up. She has to. Taking a deep breath, I say, “Maybe I should stick with jewelry.”

I return the dress to the rack and accompany Emilie to the jewelry counter. Em holds up the necklace she was admiring. It’s pretty, but not for my Rose. Another bauble catches my eye. The heart pendant is simple, understated, yet it’s filled with the fire of many beautiful stones. Blues, reds, yellows, and purples.