Hard to Hold by Arell Rivers

… I grab my purse and yank the door open. Of course, one of my nails breaks in the effort, but I’m beyond caring. I just need to escape. I rush past the cubicles toward the elevator. I’m sure no one even noticed that I left, except maybe Kim, who probably feels triumphant.

A heavy hand lands on my arm, abruptly halting my progress toward the lobby and freedom. A deep male voice growls in my ear. “I said stop.”

When I look up, angry green eyes bore down into me. Cole glances around and pulls us into an unoccupied office.


I reply through gritted teeth, “Cole.”

“We need to talk.”

“This isn’t the time or the place.”

“I don’t give a fuck.” He runs a hand through his hair. His eyes now register hurt and anger in equal measure. My defenses start to lower, so I work double-time to shore them back up. “Ro, this is killing me.”

“You don’t think it’s killing me, too?” Refusing to look back into his eyes, I feign a sudden fascination with my hand, rubbing my broken nail over my index finger. Polish has chipped off that nail, too.

“The photos. Mom. Us. It’s too much.”

“Kim can provide an objective eye. Let her help you.”

He takes hold of my shoulders. “Fuck, I can’t do that. Everything is so out of whack. I need you.”

Refusing to look at him, I close my eyes. Which only intensifies my awareness of him. The heat emanating from his body, the way his fingers tighten and loosen on my shoulders. His musky scent. I could step forward and be in his embrace. It would comfort both of us. But no, he has to go through those photos. I need him to focus on the task at hand.

“Can you please help me with the photos? Nothing more. I just. Can’t. Think.” His large frame shudders.

Julie was a wonderful woman. Those photographs show her love for him. I can’t let him go through this alone.

“Yes,” I whisper, surprising us both.

He wraps me in his embrace. Being surrounded by his arms is heaven. I inhale his intoxicating scent, allowing myself to enjoy being here, my face pressed against his chest, his chin on top of my head.

A few moments pass. I need to stop this. We’re not a couple anymore. The words “Mrs. Starr Manchester” flash before my closed eyes.

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