To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(2)

By: Arell Rivers


“Cole?”

“Yeah, I’m here. Sorry.” I slide my arms into my jacket. “Let’s do it. As planned.”

“Okay.” He coughs. “Everything’s a go. You leave for Sydney on November 4th. I’ll make sure Shari contacts you with all the details.”

“Thanks.”

Disconnecting the call, I leave the doctor’s office, fishing through my jeans pocket for the keys to my new Volvo XC90, the safest SUV on the market. Too little, too late. Jared falls in beside me. He’s my security detail now that Wills can no longer . . . Don’t think about that. As we approach the vehicle, I hand off the keys to him. Neither of us says anything as we climb into the car; I’m too busy telling my mind what not to think, what not to remember, to make small talk. Soon, Jared is pulling the car into my driveway.

“I’m in for the night.”

“Shawn’s watching the house. You’re all good.” I get out and tap the hood, then step back as he drives off.

As I walk into my house, stillness assaults me from every angle. Even with all the lights on and music playing, the house is dead. No, not dead. Worse. More like in a perpetual state of anguish.

My decidedly upbeat houseguest pops his head out of the kitchen. “Cole, baby, you home?”

Rolling my eyes, I join my brother in the kitchen. Empty jars and cans line the counter, together with a bottle of red wine. A cheese grater sits next to a pile of cheese. “Hey, Jayson.”

He flicks a dishtowel at my chest, making direct contact with my ribs. I grunt, bend inward and fold my arms around my torso.

“Holy shit, I thought you were fine.”

Wait for it.

I pretend to groan.

As soon as he steps close enough, I spring up, wrapping my arm around his neck, putting him in a chokehold. “Every. Time.” Jayson’s laugh is cut off as I grind my knuckles into his head.

“Stop it, Cole! Stop! Stop!” Laughing, I release him and step back. Leave it to my baby brother to cheer me up without even trying.

Jayson is able to hold his dirty look for all of two seconds before falling into a fit of laughter. “Cretin.”

“At least your vocabulary has improved since high school.”

“You’re a jerk, you know that?”

I quirk my eyebrow at him. “I’m not the one who just punched an injured person in the ribs.”

“Injured, my ass.” He returns to the stove.

Smelling something familiar, I ask, “What are you making for dinner? Mom’s meatballs?”

Jayson smacks the wooden spoon along the edge of the pot. “Not that you deserve them.”

My lips turn upward for a moment. Then the familiar feeling of loss strikes me. Mom’s gone for good, and Rose . . . I’ve lost so much. I deflate and look down at the floor.

Jayson, who’s all too good at reading my moods, says, “Hey, you’ll like them, I promise. Here, taste.” He goes to the silverware drawer, pulls out a spoon and dips it into his creation.

Automatically, I take the spoon and blow on its contents. I swallow, then say, “Damn. That’s good.”

He tastes, adds some more salt and stirs the concoction with the wooden spoon. “Yup.”

“I got the doctor’s go-ahead, so I’m leaving for Sydney in three days. First stop on my sixteen-month world tour.”

“Are you ready for that?”

I shrug. “Sure. We just finished up the staging and rehearsals. Plus, the shows in the first leg of the tour are all sold out.”

Jayson takes a seat on one of the barstools by the island. I join him. “Guess it’s time for me to fly back to Jersey.”

“Thanks for staying with me all this time. I know it’s been rough for you being away from Carl. And Trex.”

“That’s T-Rex, asshole.” Despite my deliberate mispronunciation of his Shih-Tzu’s name, he grins at my mention of the dog.

Jayson, his partner Carl and Dad arrived in LA right after the crash. Dad and Carl left after a few weeks, once it was clear that my body would heal. They’ve each come back to LA for long weekends, but Jayson hasn’t left my side. I’m not sure how I could have survived without him.

To cover up the tears knocking on my eyeballs, I say, “Besides, don’t you have a job back there?”