To Have and to Hold (The Hold Series Book 3)(8)

By: Arell Rivers

If only she knew how long I would wait for her.

My cell phone rings, startling me. After checking my caller ID, I greet Nolan Kates, my private investigator. “Cole, I just found out that the hacker is taking a plea bargain.”

My eyebrows go up. “That’s a surprise. Did they finally get details about Starr out of him?”

“Not much. As you know, she contacted him indirectly and wired money into his account from offshore funds. The prosecutor was more interested in how he hacked into the database and created a false marriage record. The plea centers around his agreement to give up his trade secrets, as it were.”

“So, another dead end for us?” I close the box with Rose’s ring in it with a decisive snap.

“We’ll find her, Cole. Just be patient. How is Jared working out?”

“J-Man’s good.” I walk over to the safe again. “How’s Wills?”

“He’s working really hard on his physical therapy. He should be able to return to limited duty in January.”

Returning my treasure to its the safe, I respond, “Good news there. Please pass along my regards.”

“Will do.”

“By the way, I just spoke with Lynn and there’s no change with Rose.” I trace the keypad on the safe.

“She’ll wake up.” He pauses. “I need to let you know that Roberto intercepted a flower delivery Starr sent to Rose this morning. He’s investigating, but she probably used cash.”


I disconnect the call, pitch my cell across the room and wander into the suite’s bedroom. After doing twice the amount of my usual exercises, I take a quick shower and crawl into the huge, empty king-sized bed. My body is exhausted, but my jet lag is a fierce adversary. I can’t fall asleep.

I flip through the channels, but nothing holds my interest. A box catches my attention only after I throw the remote onto the side table. It’s wrapped in muted beiges that match the wall color, otherwise I would have noticed it before.

I pick the box up and turn it over. No card. Well, I’m the only one staying in the suite and the paper clearly says happy birthday, so it has to be for me. I remove the paper, open the box and rip off the bubble wrap.

My heart freezes. Taped to a picture frame is a card with my name on it. In red lipstick. Starr.

The night sky is dotted with sparkling constellations. The Big Dipper appears to be shining the brightest. As I’m studying it, the handle disconnects and the ladle reforms as a woman’s face. A terrifying woman’s face who comes down from the sky and chases me, its star-eyes glowing. Its mouth opens and emits a harsh wail. Stay away from me!

I REACH OUT to my bedside table to turn off my alarm clock, but only hit air. An unexpected antiseptic smell hits my nostrils.

“She moved! She moved! Come here, she moved her arm!”

Mom? Why is Mom here?

“Mom?” My voice sounds like a frog. I clear my parched throat and repeat, “Mom.”

I open my eyes. Sterile white walls. I turn my head from left to right, seeing medical equipment and lines attached from me to them. Where am I?

“Oh my God. Rosie. Do you know who I am?”

Why is she asking me that stupid question? “Mom, what’s going on?” I reach up and try to remove the annoying wires from my nose.

“Just leave them, honey.” Mom strokes my arm.

I shift in the bed, but something prevents me from moving my leg. “What’s on my leg?”

Mom puts her hand over mine. “Your leg’s in a cast. Your ankle was broken in two places, and they had to operate. Don’t worry, it’s healing just fine.”

Healing? I had surgery? Why? When? “What’s today?”

“It’s November 8th, honey.”

November? Before I can formulate my next question, another woman enters the room. “Hello. I’m Naomi, one of your nurses. How do you feel, Rose?” She writes notes on a paper attached to a clipboard.

What’s going on? Am I in a hospital?

Nurse Naomi puts the clipboard down. “Rose?”

My attention returns to her. “I’m okay, I guess. I have a headache.”

The woman makes a note on her paperwork. “Your doctor will be here shortly. I’ll tell him so he can prescribe some medication.”