Book two of the Stanton series in the follow up from the gripping debut novel by T L Swan, Stanton Adore.
Unconditional love, does it really exist or is it an urban myth. What does it really mean? Do you love someone because of their flaws? Or in spite of them.
And at what point are the conditions more to bear than the love is worth.
This is what I’m trying to decipher, this is my story, I’ll let you be the judge.
“Hi Birgetta how is he today?”
“No change, love. He still hasn’t left his room. He’s been locked up there since Friday. Go and drag him out.”
I shake my head in disgust. He needs to snap the hell out of it—it’s been weeks. I knock on the door … knock … knock … knock. No answer. I open the door, expecting to be told to go away, just like he has told me every day for the last week. My eyes flick to the television. Jesus, he’s watching porn. Actually, that’s a good sign—maybe he’s returning to some normality. I can’t see him so I look back down the hall and into his bathroom. No, nothing. My eyes are drawn to the television again as I hear the girl’s voice … Australian. I narrow my eyes at the screen. Shit, that’s Natasha! He is on his back and she is on top and topless … Oh fuck. I don’t want to see this shit. Why do they film themselves? Then I see it: a bare foot coming from behind the bed on the floor. I frown and walk around to the other side of the bed. To my horror Joshua is lying on the floor, unconscious. My eyes scan the room and I see a tray of cocaine on his side table.
My eyes widen as I put the pieces of the puzzle together. Oh fuck—he’s taken an overdose!
“Ben! … Help! … Call an ambulance!” I scream. I drop to my knees beside him. “Ben!” I scream again.
Ben casually walks to the door eating an apple. “What’s up?”
“Joshua has taken an overdose! Call an ambulance.” Ben’s eyes scan down Joshua’s body. He stands still , eyes wide with shock.
“Fucking move, Ben!” I yell.
He snaps out of it and runs down the hall, yelling to Birgetta. “Call 911—the stupid fuck has overdosed.” I hear Birgetta scream and at the same time Joshua starts to convulse.
“Oh my god. Hold on … Joshua hold on.” I start to panic as fear grips me, then I try to roll him onto his side.
Ben runs back into the room. “Get him on his side,” he yells.
“What does it look like I’m trying to fucking do? Help me,” I scream. We both work together and roll him onto his side and he has what seems to be another small fit. “What’s happening?” I yell.
Ben shakes his head, “I don’t know.”
I put Josh’s head in my lap as I start to hear my heartbeat in my ears. What the hell do I do? “Go and find the fucking ambulance!” I scream through my tears. Ben nods and runs back out of the room. “Josh … stay with me. Wake up. You can’t die …What the fuck were you thinking?”
Birgetta runs into the room and drops to her knees beside him. “Joshua, my boy, it’s going to be alright. You need to be strong, the ambulance is on its way.” She takes his hand and holds it up to her lips and starts to pray as she wipes the hair from his forehead.
“How much has he had?” she asks Ben.
He hunches his shoulders, “I didn’t even know he had any drugs in the house. Carson must have left them here.”
“What’s taking so damn long?” I shout. Ben starts doing CPR and I hold my breath. I hear people running in the hallway outside and I realise that the whole house is in an uproar. All of the staff have come inside and are freaking out. I finally hear the ambulance sirens and I put my head in my hands and burst into tears of relief. They are led into the room by Murray, Joshua’s gardener, and the paramedics immediately start to work on him. I am pushed to the back of the room as they take over. My heart is in my chest and Birgetta and I are crying uncontrollably. We embrace and sob into each other’s shoulders as Ben runs from the room and vomits in the bathroom. Within seven minutes Joshua is on a stretcher and being wheeled through the house and into the back of the ambulance.
And we are left in shock.
‘Cabin crew, crosscheck’.
I sit back in my seat and brace myself for the takeoff. Jeez, I hate this. I sort of thought I would be used to this extreme sport by now, but my stomach is in my throat. I don’t know any other twenty-five year-old girls who act like a two-year-old when flying. Max, my right-hand man, is sitting next to me. I have made him sit next to the window just in case … you know. Glass smashes on impact, so I hear. I give him a weak smile. I have grown quite
fond of dear old Max in the last two months. He has been by my side during the most traumatic eight weeks of my life. Joshua left him to guard me when he went back to America. At first I think it was to guard me from myself and then it was to guard me from Brock my brother. I smile as my eyes flick to him—he did that job well. Max and Brock have been hating each other for weeks. Brock blames Joshua for Dad’s death and every time Brock even brings up Joshua’s name, Max shuts him up with just a look. I’m having a hard time dealing with Brock myself. I blame him for Joshua leaving and Dad’s death. If he hadn’t made it so hard for us, Joshua would have come to the hospital with me on that dreaded day. He would be here with me now and we would be dealing with this mess together as it should be.
I had an affair and Joshua is another man’s child.
I frown as I go over the words Margaret spoke to me just yesterday. We are not cousins. We do not share DNA. At first I was ecstatic and hopeful and now the hard cold reality has started to sink in. Joshua is going to be devastated, because he idolises his
father. He is not biologically a Stanton. For him it might be better if we were cousins. My heart is heavy. I wish to god that Margaret the bitch hadn’t told me about her sordid previous life, but then, on the other hand, I would not be on my way to him if she hadn’t. I’m so damn confused. It’s like his loss is my gain and I feel guilty and torn. I shouldn’t be relieved that we are not related … but I am, in fact I’m ecstatic. I haven’t slept but am displaying promising
signs. I have been comfort-eating for China since that dreaded meeting in my office yesterday. I have hardly eaten a thing for two months so this is good, this is real progress. Why have we had to sacrifice both of our beloved fathers to be together? I know my
father had an undiagnosed heart condition and that he was a ticking time bomb, but I pulled the pin. I know that, we all know that. It is just not fair and so unrealistic. Talk about a beautiful, tragic love story, ours takes the cake. Loving each other for so long from
afar, fighting our social restraints and conscience to be together, trying desperately to resist a deep natural desire … it doesn’t make sense. I’ve never heard of a couple with so many barriers, not any that have made it anyway. I blow out a breath as I pop two sleeping
tablets into my mouth and take a sip of water.
“Wake me up if the plane is going down,” I yawn to Max.
He smirks. “Sure thing,” he replies.
“Meh, actually. Don’t. I would rather be asleep as I drown … or catch on fire.” I frown as the disturbing thought rolls through my head.
He pats the back of my hand. “Sleep worrywart.” I return his warm smile and nestle into position. Josh is right—I do feel safer with him around and I can totally be myself. He’s seen me at my absolute worst and hasn’t resigned yet which is strangely comforting. Max has even been sleeping in the guest room at Mum’s while Bridget and I have been staying there. Mum wouldn’t let him stay out the front in the car all night … every night. I think
that deep down she feels safer having him around as well. Brock has gone back to Afghanistan for another six-month deployment so the house is eerily man free. He’s refreshing, although he hardly ever says anything. I know he’s in my corner and I trust him.
“Natasha, put your seat back up.”
I frown as I wake and stretch. “What … I slept the whole time?” Max gives me a smirk as he nods. “Oww, my legs are asleep,” I groan as I seep back into consciousness. My heart starts to race as excitement courses through me. I’m going to see him for the first
time in two months, my beautiful Josh. My god I’ve missed him, I can’t wait to hold him in my arms and kiss his beautiful lips. I know he has been suffering like me. This whole ordeal has been a living nightmare.
“How are we getting to Josh’s?” I ask.
“Ben is organising one of the drivers to pick us up. I rang him before we got on the plane.”
“You told him I want it to be a surprise, didn’t you?”
He nods. “Yes, don’t worry.”
Thirty minutes later we are at the luggage terminal and Max sees one of Josh’s drivers through the crowd. He nods at me as he walks over and starts to quietly talk in Max’s ear. I frown. That’s odd. What’s he saying? Bit rude, whispering.
“Max, I’m going to the bathroom.” He nods and then continues talking as I walk away. This is weird—Max doesn’t usually leave me alone at all. He must have really missed his friend the driver, they sure are deep in conversation. I exit the bathroom to see Max waiting patiently outside for me. I smile.
“Natasha, I need to talk to you honey.”
I smile and frown—honey… he’s never called me that before.
He looks uncomfortable, “There has been an accident.” I frown. “It’s Joshua,” he whispers.
“What …what kind of accident?” I gasp. He grabs my arm and I snatch it away from him. “What’s happened Max? Tell me.”
He swallows and looks around as if surveying the situation.
“Joshua is in hospital. He has taken a drug overdose.”
My eyes widen, “What? What do you mean? What drug?”
He rubs the back of his neck. “Cocaine, honey.”
My face drops and I turn and start to sprint toward the door with him hot on my heels.
I look around frantically for the Audi. “Where’s the car!” I scream.
He grabs my arm, “Natasha, calm down.”
I snatch my arm away from his grip. “Take me to him!” I yell, as I start to freak out. This is all my fault. Dear god no, not this. The car pulls up and I dive in as I angrily swipe the tears from my face. I have had just about as much as I can take.
“I can only speak to immediate family.“Of course, his brother who is also a doctor is in with him now,” I reply. He nods and enters the hospital room and I follow. Cameron turns to face us as we walk in. Joshua is in the hospital bed, unconscious and still. He is hooked up
to machines in the intensive care ward and nurses are everywhere. I have never been so frightened—actually that’s a lie. I have, when I was in a hospital ward just like this watching my father lose his battle for life. How did it get to this? I thought he was ok. I knew he was down but I never thought he would purposely take an overdose. This is my worst nightmare.
“I’m Mark Reynolds. I will be Joshua’s doctor.”
Cameron nods and holds out his hand to shake the doctor’s. “Cameron Stanton,” he replies as he turns back to look at his brother. “What are the stats?” Cameron asks.
Dr Reynolds picks up the chart from the end of the bed. “We have put him in an induced coma to bring his heart rate and blood pressure down. He is suffering Tachyarrhythmia and at this point we are very concerned about him suffering a cerebral hemorrhage or heart failure.”
Cameron drops his head and picks up Joshua’s hand. “Christ,” he murmurs. “How long until he’s out of the woods?”
The doctor shrugs. “Usually about twelve hours, but it could be sooner. If we can just keep his body cool, I think he will make it but I can’t be sure. And then you know of course, depending on how long he went without oxygen, there is a chance he may have sustained brain damage.” Cameron nods and drops his head again as I slump into the chair. Why is this happening? “I would suggest you call your family. Is he married?”
Cameron looks at Joshua again. “Yes,” he replies softly. “His wife Natasha is on her way.”
The doctor rubs Cameron’s shoulder. “I suggest you start praying.”
He gives me a nod before exiting the room.
“Natasha is on her way?” I ask.
Cameron nods, unable to speak past his tears, and slumps onto the floor next to Joshua’s bed, his head in his hands. For five hours I sit silently in the corner as I watch Joshua’s nurse apply and reapply water cooling blankets directly to his skin and check his vitals and check his vitals. He is hooked up to so many machines but the heartbeat sound echoing through the room is comforting—as long as I hear that beep all is ok. Cameron is a mess. I have never seen him like this. He had to ring his mother and break the news. I feel
like I am having an out-of-body experience. I am numb—this can’t be real.
“I’m going to get you a drink Cam.” He gives me a weak smile and nods as I walk back into the hall. Ben is waiting patiently with Pete, Joshua’s driver, in the small lounge area opposite Joshua’s room. They both immediately stand as I walk toward them, their faces anxious.
“He’s still ok, no news.” I mutter.
“Thank god,” Ben blows out a breath.
I rub my head. “I’m going to get some coffee. Do you want some?”
Ben nods, “Yeah, I’ll come with you.”
“I’m just going to the bathroom. I won’t be a minute.” I head through the double doors that lead to the bathrooms.
Two minutes later Ben comes into the bathroom after me. “Do you want the bad news or the bad news?” he asks me.
“Dear god, what’s happened?” I stammer.
“No, nothing with Josh … sorry that was put badly. Vinegar tits just arrived.”
My face drops. “Who in the hell rang her?”
He shrugs, “I don’t know.”
I am not in the mood for this bitch today. I shake my head, wash my hands and head back out to the lounge area.
She storms over to me. “Why in the hell wasn’t I rung?” she snaps.
I narrow my eyes. “Hello Amelie, you weren’t rung because you are not immediate family or Joshua’s girlfriend, that’s why.”
She scowls at me. “Last time I looked you were neither of those things either.”
I roll my eyes. “Go home Amelie. Natasha is on her way and I know for a fact that Joshua doesn’t want you here. I will call you if there is any news.”
“I am here because Margaret, Joshua’s mother, called me and I am not going anywhere. Why in the hell was Natasha called? She left him if you care to remember,” she snaps.
Cameron walks out of Joshua’s room and looks up to see Amelie. His face drops and he quickly turns to go back into the room, hoping to escape her.
“Cameron,” she storms over to him before he can make an unnoticed getaway. “Why didn’t you call me? I’m furious.”
Cameron frowns at her and shakes his head. “I notice you haven’t asked me how he is, thanks Amelie.” Cameron’s eyes flick to me in disgust. We don’t like Amelie. We did at first but we have watched her manipulate Joshua like a fiddle too many times. She’s a conniving two-faced bitch but Joshua seems to think she is this gentle pure friend that he has to protect. We decided collectively about two years ago that at least if Joshua spent his weekends with her, he wasn’t getting into trouble with Carson. Better the devil you
know sort of thing. She is the ultimate player and she is making a play right for Joshua. Thank god she’s not his type. I think I will kill him if he ever goes there.
Cameron puts his hands in his pockets and glares at her. “Natasha is on her way so you need to go home. Adrian will call you if there is any change.”
“I want to see him,” she snaps.
Cameron shakes his head “It’s only family at this stage. I will call you when he wakes. Seriously go home. I promise. Someone will call you.”
The doctor walks back up the hall. “Ah, Mrs Stanton?” he questions.
Cameron’s eyes flick to me nervously. “No, this is not his wife. Natasha is on her way.” Amelie’s eyes widen in shock as the doctor re-enters Joshua’s room. Cameron smirks at me and follows him. Oh no … Great. How am I supposed to explain this shit?
“Joshua and Natasha are married?” she gasps.
I shrug. “Um, yes, not that it is any of your business.” Holy shit, she’s going to go ape. She shocks me and does the exact opposite, goes deathly pale and slumps silently into the seat. Why in the hell has Cameron told everyone that Joshua is married? It doesn’t make
sense. I head back down to the cafeteria in the foyer of the hospital to grab our coffee. I am waiting in line when I see her, Natasha sprinting through the hospital hysterical, with Max running to keep up with her. I smile, this is how you act if the person you love is on death’s door. Thank god she is here.
“Natasha,” I call out to her. She sees me and runs over and crumples into my arms in a fit of tears. This girl is beautiful. On the inside more than the outside.
“Adrian,” she cries. “Where is he? I need to see him.”
I wrap her in my arms. Even I’ve missed this beautiful girl. “I’ll take you to him, baby.” I nod to my bodyguard to take care of the coffee and I take her hand and lead her to the lifts to see him. We approach his room. Amelie lifts her head and glares at Natasha. My anger rises. I could just knock this bitch’s head off. Natasha doesn’t say anything but frowns at me. I lead her to his room and open the door. The doctor turns to us.
Cameron nervously looks at Natasha. “Dr, this is Joshua’s wife Natasha.”
She smiles and slightly frowns as she holds out her hand to shake his. “Your husband has taken a cocaine overdose. We have stabilised him and put him into an induced coma but he is not out of the woods just yet.” She nods as she tries to hold in the tears. She leans over Joshua and embraces him as she breaks into sobs on his chest. Both Cameron and I tear up at her obvious devastation.
This is hard to watch.
“Joshua. My god, what have you done?” I cry into his chest as sobs wrack my body. The doctor leaves and I turn to cuddle Cameron who is just as distraught as me. My eyes flick to Adrian. “What happened, how did this happen?” I sob.
Adrian hunches his shoulders. “We are not sure, but we think it was accidental.”
My eyes go back to my broken love. “Does he use cocaine regularly?” I ask as I gently run my hands over his forehead.
Cameron frowns. “No, not regularly. Tash, this was an accident. He has been down lately. He would have just been trying to get through the day.”
Realisation hits me. “This is all my fault,” I sob.
I turn back to Joshua, my beautiful Josh. He is nearly unrecognisable to me. He has tubes coming out of him everywhere and is hooked up to machines. He is a lot thinner than when I last saw him and pale—he has no colour. He has a beard, probably around two or three weeks growth. He’s been neglecting himself, as I have. We are as bad as each other—I have never looked like such a sack of shit in my life.
I put my head back down on his chest and sob. “I’m so sorry Josh. I didn’t know what to do. My dad said it was wrong and then he died,” I sob out loud. “And then I lost you. I was so deep in grief I couldn’t see straight, and now you’ve done this, and it’s all
Adrian walks over behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Tash, this isn’t your fault, and it has been a terrible string of circumstances. Ones that have been out of your control. Josh doesn’t blame you—he understands. He is just not handling things well at the moment, but he will get better and now you are here you can work things out together.”
I nod as I wipe my eyes and turn back to look Joshua. “You’re right, he has to get better.” A sudden burst of anger breaks through.
“Do you hear me Joshua … don’t you dare think about dying. You can’t leave me … not now. You fight this … do you hear me. So help me god, Joshua Stanton … I mean it, listen to me.” I break back down into a fit of tears Dear god let him be ok, this is such a
Cameron walks back over and pulls me into his arms. “He needs you to be calm Tash. We are trying to regulate his heartbeat, being irrational will not help the cause.”
I nod, he’s right. Calm … I need to keep calm. I nod and pull away from Cameron and immediately pull a chair to sit next to the bed. I need to find some inner strength and I need to find it fast. I grab Joshua’s hand and kiss the back of it and put my head down and start to silently pray. Please pull through, please pull through. About three hours later I find myself leaning forward with my head resting on Joshua’s upper arm. I am somewhere in between sleep and delirium when I jump with a start as the nurse and doctor enter the room. I quickly stand to allow the doctor greater access. He checks Joshua over and reads his chart.
He gives me a warm smile. “Mrs Stanton, it seems you have a positive effect on your husband. His vitals indicate a promising result and I think he is going to be ok, he has passed the worst of it. It will be a few days but it seems all is well. We are going to start
bringing him out of his sedation.” A wave of gratitude washes over me and my face breaks into a huge smile. I run immediately to the door and out into the waiting lounge where I see Cameron and Adrian.
“He’s going to be ok,” I gasp. They both stand in a rush to cuddle me and the three of us stand embracing each other. We stand still, united and exceedingly grateful. It is then I notice Amelie standing in the corner of the room alone.
I turn to her and smile. “He’s going to be ok Amelie.” She nods nervously and gives me a weak smile. Cameron then picks me up and twirls me around and I laugh out loud. He carries me back into Joshua’s room to see the doctor himself. The doctor smiles warmly at Cameron and shakes his hand and Cameron excitedly grabs him in an embrace, forget the handshake. Adrian walks in behind us.
“It looks as though he is through the worst of it. We are going to keep him lightly sedated for the next twenty-four hours just to keep his vitals down. Mrs Stanton, do you want to stay the night or are you going home?”
“I will be staying, if that’s ok,” I smile.
He smiles and nods. “I will organise a bed to be brought in for you then.”
“Thank you Dr,” I reply as he leaves the room.
“Why did you tell them we are married?” I ask Cameron.
He looks sullen. “Because I knew if it got bad and they were going to lose him they would have asked you to leave and you wouldn’t have had a say in anything. Joshua would want you with him more than anybody else. I did it for him, not for you.”
I give him a weak smile. “Sorry Cam. I haven’t dealt with this shit very well, have I?” He shakes his head. “No, you haven’t and neither has he—he’s been a total nightmare.”
Adrian must have sensed Cameron’s underlying anger at how I’ve treated Joshua and he butts in.“She’s here now and everything is going to be fine. Isn’t it Tash?” He puts his arm reassuringly around me.
I smile and turn to Adrian as he wraps his arms around me. “Thank you for looking after him for me. I appreciate you guys being such good friends to Joshua. God if anything happened to him.” I shiver in horror I can’t even bear to think of the consequences.
My tears start again. “I’m such an idiot. How could I have treated him so terribly? I just left him and told him I never wanted to see him again, after all we had been through to be together.” Guilt fills me, I don’t deserve him, but to be fair I could never have predicted what the future was going to hold. I was totally blinded by grief. A nurse re-enters the room and injects something into his drip. “What are you giving him?” I ask.
“Diazepam, this will keep him sedated to keep his body temperature down and even.”
“Tash our mum and dad are on their way with our brothers. Prepare yourself—she’s going to be fuming mad and I’m pretty sure it will be aimed at you,” Cameron sighs.
“She came to Sydney to see me and asked me to come to Joshua. She was worried about him and it seems she had a good reason to be,” I whisper. “This is all my fault.”
Cameron and Adrian exchange glances. “She asked you to come to Joshua?” Cameron frowns.
“Ripley’s believe it or not?” I do wide eyes at him. “What’s Amelie’s problem?” I ask Adrian.
Adrian’s eyes drop to Joshua and he hunches his shoulders. “You, I expect. It’s no secret she’s in love with Joshua.”
”Adrian.” Cameron snaps. “Stay out of it.”
I narrow my eyes. “It’s ok. I already know, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that. He loves her as well.”
Cameron and Adrian frown. “No, he doesn’t. He loves you Tash,” Cameron stammers. My eyes drop to my beautiful unconscious man before me. “I know he loves me, it’s ok boys. I’m ok, I can’t blame her for loving him … loving him is easy. It’s the walking
away from him that’s hard.”
They both give me a sad smile and nod. “We will give you some privacy.” And with that they disappear out of the room.