To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(4)

By: Arell Rivers

“Damn. We’re going to miss you at Aunt Doreen’s.” I nod in agreement and replace my glass on the table. Jayson continues, “We’ll just have to have a do-over when you get back.”

“I have a short break in mid-December. Back to Europe by mid-January.”

Pressure gathers at the back of my head. Standing, I roll my shoulders and bring my wineglass over to the dishwasher. My brother’s still packaging the leftovers at the stove, and I wrap my arms around him on impulse. “Thanks for dinner. I owe you one.”

He steps back with a crooked smile on his face. “Damn straight, you do.”

I chuckle and promise him French toast before I leave, then make my way up to my bedroom. My big, empty bedroom filled with memories I wish could be lived in reverse, over and over.

I start my new bedtime routine of doing one hundred sit-ups, followed by one hundred push-ups. Three sets aren’t enough to tire me out, despite protests from my mended ribs. Five sets completed, I stand and walk into my bathroom. I’m in and out of the shower in under a minute. Then I collapse nude into bed, close my eyes and pray for the amnesia of sleep.

THREE DAYS LATER, my luggage is packed into the trunk of a limo Gruesome sent to bring me to the airport. At least she’s good for something. Jayson left yesterday, reminding me to perform as if Rose were watching. As if I needed to be reminded.

I motion for the driver to roll the window down. When he complies, I bend down. “I have a little time before we need to leave, right?”

The driver nods, his expression hidden by over-sized sunglasses.

“Good. I’ll be back soon. There’s somewhere I have to go first, and I can’t pull up in your wheels.”

His chin rises in acknowledgement and the window rolls back up. Moments later, I slide into the passenger side of my SUV. Jared, already behind the wheel, starts the engine and guides the car along a familiar path. Soon he pulls into an empty spot.

Positioning a baseball cap low over my eyes, I head into the building, clear security, take the elevator to the fifth floor and go directly to the floor’s quiet lobby. Jared, who followed me inside, fist bumps Roberto and then sits next to him. Despite all of this place’s security measures, I insisted that Roberto be stationed here. After all, he’s seen Starr first-hand.

I show my pass to the security guard stationed at the inner door, he scribbles something on it and buzzes me into the restricted wing. Only her mother and I are cleared to visit. Well, and . . . I refuse to think about him now.

I make my way to the second door on the left and enter the room. My eyes go directly to the single bed. A tiny brunette lies unmoving under a blue blanket, her delicate hands arranged on top of it. Machines are stacked next to her head. I give them a sweeping glance. Nothing new.

Rolling a chair over to her side, I sit and whisper, “Ro, Rose, it’s me, Cole. Can you wake up for me today?”

No response. Status quo.

Stroking her dull brown hair with shaky hands, I say, “Like I told you yesterday, I’m leaving today. I’m all packed. I’ll be back for you on December fifteenth. That’s just forty-one days from now. Forty, if you count the fifteenth.”

My hands skim over her the blankets, down to the full-leg cast protecting her broken tibia and fibula. The physical therapists were around this morning according to the white board. Good. Her muscles can’t atrophy. She’ll wake up from this coma soon. She has to.

Returning to her face, my tanned hand contrasts against her pale cheek. “You’re so beautiful. I have your engagement ring, you know. When I get back, I want you to say ‘yes’ to me and wear it. Fuck the public. I want everyone to know you’re mine.” My breath catches on a sob. “Rose. Please, you have to come back to me.”

I drop my head onto the pillow next to her shoulder and gently pull her into a hug. She’s been like this ever since the accident six weeks ago. I hold her immobile body, willing her to open her eyes. She never does.

Wiping tears from my cheeks, I kiss her slack lips. “I love you with my whole heart, Rose Bloomer. I’m doing this for you. You arranged this tour for me. It’s sold out and I know you would insist I go and perform. I’ll show you the photos when I get back, and we’ll go back to the places you like best.” I carefully return her to the bed, fixing the blanket around her small form.