To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(7)

By: Arell Rivers


“Yes, Boss Lady.”

Shari disappears inside the room. Shortly, an Aussie DJ comes out and ushers me inside. I cement a fake smile to my cheeks. After the DJ introduces me, I start signing autographs and snapping photos. It’s been months since my last meet-and-greet, but it’s amazing how quickly I fall back into my old routine. Jared stands on the sidelines, ready to intervene if it’s needed. Both of us know what can happen when a fan gets twisted.

At least my Aussie fans have a cool accent. Some of my smiles actually are real.

Sometime later, I enter the VIP section of a nearby club. Zed’s shoulder-length black hair and Jeffrey’s fire engine red curly mop catch my attention. I plop down between the two. My usual lead guitarist’s girlfriend had a baby two months ago, so he had to skip this tour, but Zed has assimilated into our little touring company well.

After a couple of drinks, my body starts to complain about all the exertions I’ve put it through today. Performing, both on and off the stage, has taken a toll on me. My ribs may have healed, but my stamina hasn’t fully returned.

Yawning, I say, “Guys, I’m going to head back to the hotel. I’m beat.”

Jeffrey taunts, “The old man needs his beauty rest. Look what happens when you turn thirty-three. Pretty soon he’ll be eating dinner at five.”

I punch him in the shoulder. Looking at the lady attached to his arm, I say, “Are you sure you want to hitch your wagon to this loser, darlin’?”

Her eyes travel up and down my body, a clear invitation written in them. I have no desire whatsoever to consider it. Absorbing my lack of response, she runs her fingers up Jeffrey’s bicep and purrs, “Drummers make my heart beat faster.”

Jeffrey gives me a triumphant smile. Well, he’s not looking for anything more than tonight’s bed warmer, so this hook-up will work for the both of them. That sort of thing used to work for me, too. Before Rose. Now, the thought holds no appeal. Zero.

God, I miss her.

Jared escorts me back to the hotel. Several bottles of Dom Pérignon have been delivered to my suite in my absence. The first has a card attached from Russell. The next one is from Jon Merkin, my A&R rep at Platinum Records. Dad, Jayson, Carl and T-Rex chipped in for a third. Gruesome even sent one. All of their notes congratulate me on the start of my world tour. And send me birthday wishes.

The bottles of champagne seem to mock me as I collapse onto the couch. I’m alone, halfway across the world from my love, who hasn’t opened her gorgeous blue eyes in nearly two months. The last thing I want to do is celebrate.

Pulling my cell phone out of my pocket, I look at several photos of Rose and then check the time: two a.m. Which makes it what? I Google the time difference. It’s seven a.m. yesterday in LA. Lynn is an early riser, so she’s probably already at the rehab center. Ever since the wreck, she’s been living in Rose’s rental house, spending most of her time at her daughter’s bedside. Things might not be easy between us, but that’s something I can admire. I place my call.

“Hi, Cole.”

“Hello. Just finished up opening night here in Sydney. How’s Rose?”

“Status quo.”

What did I expect? A birthday miracle? Sighing, I say, “Soon. She’ll wake up soon. I can feel her fighting to come back.”

“My girl is strong. She’ll surprise all of these doctors.”

Through the phone, I hear a man’s voice in the background. “Is the doctor with you now?”

“No. Marco’s here.”

Well, fuck. I had no way to override Lynn’s decision to put Rose’s high school boyfriend—her best friend’s son—on the short list of Rose’s approved visitors. But I hate every second The Fucker gets to spend with her. It would be futile to reopen that argument now.

Another voice says something, and Lynn returns to our call. “Actually, the therapist just came in to exercise Rose’s good leg. I better go.”

“Give her a kiss for me.” Following her murmured agreement, I disconnect the call.

Silence.

After a while, I find myself standing in front of the in-room safe. I take out the engagement ring I offered Rose, still nestled in its original box. Her words echo in my brain: I can’t say yes, Cole, but it’s not a no. It’s a later, okay? I need to get my life sorted out before I can say yes. Will you wait for me?