Vouloir - J.D. Chase

This book is dedicated, as always, to my girls who show me what unconditional love is with every beat of their beautiful hearts.

Yet again, I’d like to dedicate it to my other half, Chris Young, for his unconditional support. From assisting with cover design to keeping me afloat when I get submerged in the chaos that only an impending deadline can bring.

They say home is where the heart is, my home is wherever you all are.

I CUT THE CALL and resist the temptation to throw my phone. I’ve killed too many phones that way. Instead, I dress quickly but when I leave the room, I’m practically pulsating with anger. I yank the door closed, feeling the vibration of the satisfying slam absorbed by my wrist. Childish I know but hey, it saved a life, albeit an electronic one—and now I’m off to save another.

The satisfaction from releasing frustration via the door is short-lived. Almost immediately, I feel guilty. It’s two o’clock in the morning. And I’m not the only one home.

Sure enough, within seconds I hear muffled sounds before his handsome, newly awoken face appears around the doorframe of his room.

I’m pulling my coat from its hanger when I see him. ‘Did I wake you? I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I have to dash out, Bernie called me in. Is there anything you need me to pick up while I’m out?’

He knows well enough that I could be back in a couple of hours, or I could be gone for a lot longer. The chances are the shops will be open again before I make my way home.

‘Ugh, no. I’m good. I’ll just go back to bed.’

I grab my bag and throw it over my shoulder. Then I apologise again, cupping his face in my hands. I take in his pasty complexion and resolve to try again to get some sun on his face. An easy task you’d think. But it’s a mammoth one for him. And one I don’t have time to work on right now. I give myself a mental shake and him a kiss on the cheek before heading out of the door. A quick hop on the tube and I’m almost at the hospital. I blindly follow the signs for the child and adolescent mental health wing—I’ve been here too many times to need direction.

Ten minutes later and I’m inside a treatment room. A seventeen-year-old boy is hooked up to a whole bank of machines to purify his blood after his mission to end his life failed. It’s his second suicide attempt in the last few months, so Bernie informs me. Apparently, the first one was written off as a cry for help when he had his obligatory psych assessment; he wasn’t seen as a risk. Why? Because he’d only taken sixteen paracetamol tablets. If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that . . . I just know that nobody bothered to ask him how many tablets he could get his hands on at the time or whether he knew that at least twenty are required—thirty if you want make certain. To an unwitting teen, taking a whole pack of sixteen would most likely seem enough.

He’d clearly done his research this time. He’d taken two packs. Thirty two tablets. Suddenly, the authorities are sitting up and taking notice. And thankfully, my former colleague Bernie is on call tonight. And calling in yet another favour.

She’d filled me in briefly on the phone—hence my anger. I know that if Bernie calls me, there’s a sexual element to someone’s crisis. It’s what I do. And yeah, there are so-called experts within the National Health Service, but Bernie knows as well as I do that, more often than not, those ‘experts’ are usually out of their depth. Rarely does anyone have the experience or in-depth knowledge to deal with anything more complicated than the common relationship issues of the average heterosexual couple.

No, the young lad before me doesn’t fall into that category at all. Not simply because he’s gay. Nor because his parents can’t handle that fact. But because he had already discovered, by the tender age of seventeen, that he was a masochist. And, thanks in part to the World Wide Web, he’d taken steps to sate his sexual cravings. Fair enough—I’m all for that; I’d be a complete hypocrite if I said otherwise. But he wasn’t yet savvy enough to keep himself safe. He’d been hurt. Badly. And, thanks to his parents’ complete denial of his