To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(14)

By: Arell Rivers

I need to talk with Dad. Back in New Jersey, Aunt Doreen should be getting the turkey out of the oven soon, so I FaceTime him.

“Hey, Cole, happy Thanksgiving.” Dad’s smiling face looks back at me. His dull eyes tell the real story; this day has been tough on him.

“Hi, Dad. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.”

“How are you liking Paris?”

“I like it. Great food. Amazing sights.”

Dad nods his head. “Your mom and I enjoyed our trip there. Make sure you go to Notre Dame.”

“It’s on my itinerary.”

“That’s good. Everyone here has been asking about you. We miss you.”

“I miss you all, too. Even Trex.”

Jayson’s voice comes from off-camera. “Hey, are you talking with Cole?” Dad turns and the camera jumps around, then comes back into focus on the two of them. “Her name is T-Rex!”

I chuckle. “Did Aunt Doreen let you bring the furball to Thanksgiving dinner?”

“Like she had a choice. Of course.”

Jayson zips out of the frame, and Dad says, “Get ready to make kissy noises.” We both start laughing, hard. Genuine laughter just feels different.

Pausing to catch our respective breaths, Dad asks, “Has the paparazzi been leaving you alone over there?”

“Yeah, it’s been pretty quiet.”

“That’s good. Where did you eat Thanksgiving dinner?”

“Emilie’s family invited me over. I just got back to my hotel room, actually.” I pan the camera to the Eiffel Tower. “Of course, it isn’t Thanksgiving over here, but her mother made an excellent meal.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“I’m good. My ribs are fully healed and I’ve been working out to rebuild my strength.”

He gives me a thumbs up sign. “Any news about Rose?”

I shake my head and use the dreaded words. “Status quo.”

“I’m sorry, son. Losing your mother was terrible, but what you’re going through with Rose is almost worse.”

“Rose will wake up, Dad. She has to.” He straightens up and adopts his pharmacist look.

Pre-empting him, I plead, “Don’t say anything. I have to believe. It’s the only thing keeping me sane.”

Sighing, he asks, “Has there been any news about Starr?”

“Not really. The hacker was a dead end, as was the ‘present’ she sent me for my birthday. The police can’t find her. Kates thinks she’s on the run after what she did to Rose, although she sent flowers to her at rehab recently. And his guys intercepted a package she sent to me at this hotel. I told them I didn’t want to know what’s in it.”

“Just stick with your bodyguard. That woman can’t hide forever.” He looks off to the right. “Oh, boy.”

Carl and Jayson crowd into the screen, holding up their spoiled rotten dog. I squint.

“Is Trex in a Pilgrim costume?”

“‘THE POWER COUPLE was spotted all over Paris yesterday, taking in the city’s museums, enjoying crepes in the Tuileries and shopping in trendy boutiques. The French supermodel “delighted him by trying on a dress he picked out,” says a clerk at an upscale store near the Place de la Concorde. The shopkeeper continues, “He ended up buying the dress and a lovely necklace. They are obviously in love.”’ Mom turns the iPad around. Three smiling faces look back at me. “And here’s a photo of Cole, Emilie and the clerk.”

My eyes return to Mom, who turns the iPad so she can finish the article. “‘Later, Manchester met the model’s parents and shared a meal at the Dubois family home in Saint Germain-des-Prés in the 6th Arrondissement, one of the city’s most luxurious districts. Although it was Thanksgiving back in the United States, rumor has it they dined on Cornish game hen instead of turkey. Respecting the family’s wishes, Manchester returned to the Hotel Plaza Athénée for the evening, alone.’ And here’s a photo of Cole and Emilie kissing good night outside her home.” The screen shows the two beautiful people in an intimate embrace.

Something about that last photo niggles at the far recesses of my brain. I can’t catch the thought between the jackhammers that have taken up residence inside my head, but I don’t think the picture is painting the whole story. The pain is always worse when something triggers one of my lost memories. Bringing shaking fingers to my throbbing temples, I rub them to try to make the banging cease. I raise my hand. “Stop.”