CORAL - Forever (A Romance Trilogy, Book 3)

PROLOGUE

 

HIS
EVIL BLACK EYES STARE DOWN AT ME
,
as a sickening smile spreads
across his face. I didn’t think I would ever see those eyes again – Not in this
lifetime.

“I remember you,” he whispers.

My whole body shudders as I hear his words. I want to scream
at the top of my lungs, but I can't – not here. I squeeze my eyes shut for a
moment, trying to block him out.
Tristan, please hurry back!

He moves closer to me, I take a step to the side, trying to
put some distance between us, but he discreetly grabs hold of my elbow stopping
me.
No!

I’m instantly transported back in time – I’m five years old
again – My heart is palpitating, my hands are sweating; and my legs are
uncontrollably shaking; I feel like I’m going to pass out –
Tristan...where
are you?

“Let go of me,” I growl.

He laughs, an evil twisted laugh, my stomach twists and
rolls in response.
Oh god!
I think I’m going to be sick!

Bile rises into my throat. I swallow hard and try to stay
focused.

I feel his hand touch the top of my shoulder. “You’re still
so shy,” he whispers. “And your skin...still so soft,” he adds, tracing his
finger down my forearm.

“Don't touch me,” I snap, pulling my arm out of his reach.

His smile widens. He takes a step to the side so he’s stood right
in front of me. I take a step to the right, I need to get away from him but he
mimics my movement, effectively blocking me from running away from him.

“Come on Coral,” he cajoles. I snap my head up and glare at
him –
He remembers my name?

“Stay away from me.” I threaten, tears pooling in my eyes.

He laughs again and takes a step to the side. “Vodka, on the
rocks.” He snaps at the barman.

I want to run, but I feel like my feet are encased in
cement.
Come on Coral, you can do this, get away from him!

My eyes frantically dart around the room, hoping and praying
that I can catch Tristan’s eye and he can save me, get me away from this evil,
twisted man. But the fear quickly turns to anger, I can feel the adrenalin
pumping through my veins, getting ready for fight or flight.

I grit my teeth and try to control the rage building within
me – I swear if I had a gun I would shoot this man, kill him dead, right here
in front of all these people...

I close my eyes and take a deep rasping breath...
Tristan,
help me!

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

SOMEONE IS TRYING TO WAKE ME
by tapping my cheek…
No, stop it!
– I’m tired…so tired. My
mouth tastes dry and rancid and I hurt all over, I just want to go back to
sleep. I can see a light trying to push through the darkness of my eyelids….
No
stop!

“Give her some time.” I hear a woman’s commanding
voice say. “She’s going to be pretty groggy so don’t crowd her. Coral, can you
hear me?” She asks.

My cheek is being tapped again…
leave me
the fuck alone lady!

“Come on sweetheart, open your eyes,” she
says.

I blink my eyes open, then squint. It’s too
bright and my surroundings are unfamiliar. I hear several gasps and someone
starts crying –
What’s going on?

“Can everyone please leave the room,” she
says. I hear a door open and close, I open my eyes and try to see who it is. “Welcome
back,” she says smiling down at me.

I close my eyes again, the darkness is
pulling me back under and I want to go…

“Coral, stay with me sweetheart. I need you
to tell me how you’re feeling?” she asks.

I start blinking more rapidly as I try to
work out, through the strange blurry haze; what’s going on?

“Coral, please answer me. How are you
feeling?” she asks again. I squeeze my eyes shut and take a second to assess –
my body hurts all over –
Why?

“I feel like I’ve been hit with a truck?” I
whisper.

I hear a deep voice curse –
Tristan?
I open my eyes and try to find him, but I can't see him; and I can't lift
my head to search for him either.

“Coral, my name is Dr Green you’re in hospital. Do you
remember what happened?” she asks.
Dr Green? Hospital?
I have no idea
what she’s talking about. I feel so confused, disorientated...I squeeze my eyes
shut and try to remember...but nothing comes to me.
Why am I in here?

“Coral please look at me,” she asks so I open my eyes and
look up at her. She shines a bright light in each of my eyes, making me squint
again, then she starts
f
eeling under
my glands – prodding in places I’d rather she didn’t prod!

“Are you in any pain?” she asks.

“Yes, I hurt all over,” I whisper.
Why?

“Yes, that’s to be expected,” she says
smiling warmly at me. I watch her walk over to a machine and press a button. “That
was for the nurse, her name is Jenny and she’s going to take care of you, ok?”
I nod in reply. Then she comes back over to me, sits on the edge of the bed and
presses another button, my bed starts to move so I’m sitting more upright. I
immediately spy an IV line in my right hand.
Ugh…I hate needles

The moment I think that it starts to burn
and itch, it feels so sore…
I want it out of me!

So I lift my left hand – it takes a hell of
an effort to do so – and reach over to my right hand. In my dazed state I try
to pull at the needle, but the tape is stopping me!

“No Coral,” she softly scolds. “That’s your
IV line.” I look up at her, I can see her more clearly now, she has auburn
hair, bright green eyes and a very freckly face.

“Now, this may come as a shock to you, but
I need to fill you in on what happened’ – “I’d like to do that,” I hear
Tristan’s low voice interrupt.

I search the room for him, my eyes finally
resting on the tall stature that has stood up and stepped forward…
Tristan?
Our eyes lock, I frown back at him trying to work out why he looks so mad, his
eyes are dark, really dark, like rich dark chocolate as he glares at me, then
his stares emotionless at the doctor. I stare wide-eyed at my man –
What the
hell has happened to him?
He looks completely washed out,
dishevelled, like he hasn’t slept in days; and
he has a full beard? –
How did that happen?

“Mr Freeman, I have to disagree’ – “I know
her, you don’t. This isn’t a debate, she’ll hear it from me,” he orders. The
atmosphere in the room instantly drops ten degrees and is so silent you could
hear a pin drop. The doctor stands back from the bed and puts her hands on her
hips, she does not look happy.

“As you wish, but I’m putting it on record
that I disagree,” she says.

“Fine by me,” Tristan snaps.

“Coral, are you happy for Mr Freeman to run
through what happened?”

“Yes,” I croak.

“Ok.” She smiles warmly at me. Another lady
enters the room, and as she does, I notice there’s a big glass window to the
right of the door and everyone is here, watching me.

Gladys is tightly wrapped in Malcolm’s arms,
as she chokes back tears; he looks pretty cut up too. Deb’s and Scott are
hugging Lily, who sleepily waves at me. Rob and Carlos are stood next to one
another, their hands locked together, they both look relieved as I catch their
eyes, and George and Joyce are here too? They all look so tired and warn out –
What’s
going on?

“Hello Coral, my name is Nurse Jenny, you
feeling uncomfortable honey?” I look up at the strawberry blonde woman, with a
soft round face and kind hazel eyes.

“Yes,” I breathe.

“Coral, I’ll see you soon.” Dr Green says
nodding to the nurse. I raise my hand to wave her goodbye; she smiles at me as
she exits the room.

“Alright now Coral, you should start
feeling the pain relief any moment now.” As Nurse Jenny says that, I get a warm
weird feeling flooding my veins, my body, making all pain disappear. “Are you
thirsty honey?” Nurse Jenny asks.

“Very,” I say, my throat feeling burned.

“Alright, I’ll be back in a moment,” she
says and exits the room.

“Tristan,” I croak, trying to lift my hand
to him.

He’s straight over to me, gently squeezing
my hand. He looks like hell, what happened to him? I want to question it all, but
the room starts to pull away from me, I feel like I’m slipping into a dark
tunnel. I try really hard to fight against it, but it’s no good, the blackness
takes me away again…

 

I FEEL A HAND STROKE MY CHEEK
, my forehead, and then softly stroke my hair. Then it stops and the
soft fingers are tracing my lips.

“Mmm…” It feels so nice.

“Coral…” I hear Tristan’s voice, it sounds
soft, exhausted. I push myself to fight against the haze and blink my eyes
open.

“Hey…” I croak my throat feels so sore. “Where
am I?” I ask blinking more rapidly.

“Hospital,” he softly says.
Why am I in
hospital?

“Um...I...which one?” I ask.

“Montefiore,” he answers grimly.

I frown back at him in confusion – This
does not look like a hospital; more like a hotel room. Light cream walls, and very
modern looking, with white and pale blue furnishings?

“I don’t know that one,” I croak.

“You do, you just don't remember,” he tells
me. I open my eyes again.
This definitely looks like a hotel room.
I
suddenly become aware that there’s something attached to my face, some kind of
tube? I lift my hand to pull at it.

“No baby, it’s your cannula; it’s helping
you breathe, ok?” Tristan softly says, his hand stopping mine. I close my eyes
and swallow hard again.

“Thirsty,” I say.
Why do I feel so out
of it?

“Ok.” I hear Tristan shuffling around then
he’s next to me again.
“Open your eyes baby,” he tells
me, so I do. Tristan is leaning over me with a cup and a spoon in his hand.
“You’re only allowed crushed ice for now.” He dips the spoon in the cup and
feeds me a small amount. He does that a few times, he’s concentrating hard on
the task, his brows furrowed together.

“Enough?” He asks after the fourth spoon.

“Yeah...Tristan…it hurts, I hurt all over,
why?” I croak.

“Ok baby.” I watch Tristan walk over to a
machine and press a button. Fear ripples through me; fight or flight kicking
in. My worst fear comes rushing to the surface – I’m being carted off to a
fucking mental home just like my Mom.
Shit! I have to get out of here!

“Tristan!” I panic. “Why am I in here?” I
say breathlessly.

“Hey.” He’s instantly by side again.
“You’re ok now baby, I...I thought I’d lost you,” he chokes.

“What was that button?” I ask. “Why am I in
here?” My heart is racing against my chest, the machine behind me echoing it’s
action. I look up at Tristan, he looks lost, confused, mortified.

“Coral please...calm down,” he pleads.

“Answer my question then!” I bark, my voice
breaking on me.

“It’s nothing to worry about darling, I
just called for the Nurse that’s all, she’ll be here in a moment to give you
some pain killers. You...you don't remember?” He asks rubbing his hand across
his face. I shake my head in reply then I really take a good look at Tristan.

He has dark rings under his eyes and he
looks exhausted. He has no
colour
, his face is deathly
white and his eyes have lost all their sparkle; and he’s grown a beard?
How
did that happen?
Then I notice a nasty gash across his forehead leading
into his hairline. It looks like he has stitches.

“What happened to you?” I whisper reaching my
hand up to his forehead.

“Never mind me,” he answers brusquely. “But’
– “No buts baby,” he says, his eyes glistening over, then he leans in and
softly kisses my lips. I can feel the relief behind his kiss…
oh Tristan,
what happened to you?

“Tristan,” I mumble. “Please…I still don’t
understand, how did I get here? I remember we were arguing…” I tell him,
everything else is a blank.

“You don’t remember anything after that?” He
asks darkly.

“No.” I frown. “Why? What happened?” I ask
taking a breath. Ouch, that really stung, my lungs hurt? –
Why does it hurt
to breathe?

“You... you came back,” he snarls, his
hands bunching into fists. “You were right, everything you told me Coral, it
was all right,” he growls.
I came back?

“I...I...” I blink around the room trying
to remember. Then all of a sudden I get a flashback of running down the
concourse – something happened to Bob?

“Bob!” I squeak.

“He’s fine, he’s staying with Gladys,” he
tells me, softly stroking my cheek.

I feel relieved that Bob’s ok, but it still
doesn’t answer my question. “I still don't understand?”

“We argued about Susannah, do you remember
that?” he asks.

“Yes,” I swallow hard. “You told me we were
through…you told me to leave…” I stop unable to say anymore. I’m not really
sure how I feel about that now, I’m just so glad Tristan’s here, that he’s ok.

Tristan squeezes his eyes shut as though
he’s in pain. “I was
never
going to end it Coral. I just needed to clear
my head…” he stops for a moment. “When you left, you went to Rob’s, and then
you got a call. Susannah attacked Bob, ransacked your studio.” I gasp aloud –
Susannah!

“Tristan, she’ – “Hey, it’s ok, she can't
hurt you or me,” he says.

“She’s gone?” I swallow hard, feeling
relieved.

“Yes, after you left I called her and
questioned her about what you’d found out.” Tristan laughs sarcastically,
shaking his head at himself. “She denied it all of course, then she turns up on
my doorstep and admits it’s all true, said she was quitting the company, and
that she needed help. I invited her in, she poured us both a drink…I didn’t
think anything of it but she drugged me with Rohypnol.” He looks down at me,
his jaw tensing several times.
She date rape drugged him? I wonder if she…?

“She got me upstairs,” he continues. “I was
pretty out of it, she told me to call you but I wouldn’t; so she hit me over
the head a couple of times,” he says tracing the gash on his head. “I don't
really remember anything else, until you turned up.”

I frown back at him. “I turned up?” I
whisper in confusion.

“Yes, yes you did you brave, stupid girl,”
he says leaning down to kiss me again. “You’re my heroine, you know that?” he
smiles.

I stare back at him, searching his face,
trying to understand it all. Then it starts coming back to me, one flash image
after the other – Bob on the floor in my studio, the ambulance driving away,
driving Rob’s car, finding Tristan beaten, tied up, bleeding – just like the
dream – then Susannah in his bedroom, but it still doesn’t explain why I'm
here?

“I...I remember finding you, you were
bleeding,” I say. Reaching up I stroke his face again, Tristan takes my hand in
his and kisses it several times.

“She shot you,” he croaks, fighting back
the tears. “You crazy girl, she was aiming at me and you jumped in front of me.”
She shot me?

Then I remember – clearly – Susannah was
pointing the gun at me then she pointed it at Tristan.

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