To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(12)

By: Arell Rivers

“This would look amazing with that dress.”

“It would, Cole.”

Rose has to have these. I bring both items up to the register. I’ll just have to help my girlfriend gain some weight. Wake up, Ro, and I’ll force feed you croissants and milkshakes.

After ringing up my purchases, the clerk lifts up her cellphone. In heavily accented English, she asks, “Photo with you?”

Emilie speaks with the girl in rapid-fire French. Turning to me, Em says, “Would you mind? The girl is a fan of your music. She wants to take a photograph with both of us.”

“I’m fine with it, so long as you are.” When Emilie nods, I continue, “Tell her I’ll take a selfie.”

Em explains my offer, causing the clerk to bounce up and down on the balls of her feet. She passes me the phone and a blush steals across her face when our hands touch. Blue eyes look up at me. Damn. She’s about Rose’s height, too.

Swallowing the sudden lump in my throat, I choke out, “Ready, ladies?”

With a woman on either side of me, I position the camera. Everyone smiles and I take several photos. When I return the phone to the clerk, she checks the shots and then beams at the two of us.

“Merci, Cole and Emilie.”

“THANK YOU, DANIELLE, for inviting me to your home. Your dinner was wonderful.”

The scratched light-colored wood table—Jayson would call it some fancy-ass name like Napoleonic Renaissance or some shit—barely managed to hold all of the courses. Not a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by any stretch, but it was delicious nonetheless. Mom would have loved this room, with all of its wood beams and the window seat overlooking the backyard.

“It was my pleasure.”

Emilie’s younger brother Gerard chimes in, “It’s not every day that we get to eat with a true music star.”

I chuckle. “Just a supermodel.”

Gerard makes a face at his sibling. It occurs to me that it has to be a little awkward for the sixteen-year-old boy to see his older sister’s face and body plastered everywhere.

“So, do you play an instrument?”

“Oui. I play piano.”

“I learned to play piano when I was ten. Guitar didn’t come until later.”

“Watch out, Cole, or you will be sitting through a recital,” Emilie’s father, Henri, jokes.

Gerard scowls at his father before looking to his mother for defense. He’s unlikely to find any help there. Danielle looks too pleased to have every seat taken at her dinner table. Mom used to be that way, too, and I have a sudden flash of what it would be like to sit down for a meal with Mom and Rose. I miss them both so much. I place my fork down. Done.

Emilie pipes up, “I’m so proud of Gerard. He just started a band.”

“That’s cool, man. Good luck with it.”

Her brother salutes me with his wineglass. Gotta love France’s relaxed drinking age.

“So, Emsy, how is Rinaldo?”

Emilie wipes her mouth with her napkin, a delicate gesture that does nothing to conceal her pink cheeks. She responds to her brother in a curt tone. “He is fine.”

Her mother doesn’t take the hint. “Are you two getting back together? I thought you had broken up?”

Looking directly at me, Emilie replies, “We saw each other when I was on the shoot in Barcelona a few weeks ago. We went out to dinner. That is all.”

Interesting. I had wondered if they’d meet up while she was on that Vogue shoot.

“His team is on a major winning streak,” Danielle prodded, watching her daughter for a reaction. “I have been following Las Cenizas Football Club de Barcelona, and they can go all the way this year. Rinaldo is on fire, as you Americans say.”

Risking my fake girlfriend’s wrath, I dip my toe in. “Is he seeing anyone right now?”

Playing with her wineglass, Emile says, “No.”

Has her family heard about Wills? I don’t really know what, if anything, went down between them, but she did visit him in the hospital and rehab often. Her tear-stained photo on the cover of that rag wasn’t photoshopped. She wasn’t crying over me, either.

Her mother continues, “Well, I think he is a fine young man.”

“And he got us good tickets to the game, right maman?” Directing his attention to me, Gerard explains, “Mother is a die-hard football fan.”