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Cruel Paradise (Oryolov Bratva Book 1): Chapter 73


“A-Aunt Emma?”

“Hiya, Josh.”

I sound stupidly cheerful, considering I’m sitting in the middle of our broken coffee table covered in scrapes and bruises while fresh blood wells all along my arms and legs.

“W-what happened?”

“Um, I just—fell. I’m okay, I swear.”

He circles around slowly. His bottom lip is trembling but he’s trying hard to keep it together. Which is why the trembling is getting so much more pronounced. I can’t even try to comfort him with a hug because I don’t want any of the glass slicing him.

“You fell?” he repeats.

“Yep. Whoopsie-daisy!”

It takes some careful maneuvering to get up out of the glass pile. I end up using the coffee table’s frame to tug myself up onto my feet. Glass crackles around me and Josh’s eyes bulge wider.

“You’re hurt.”

“I’m fine. Nothing a little Neosporin won’t fix.”

“Aunt Emma.” Josh’s voice is trembling now, too. “You need to go to a hospital.”

“No! I just need to clean up and—

“If you don’t go to a hospital right now, I’m calling Ruslan.”

I freeze. Did I just get threatened by an eight-year-old? Better question: is the threat working? “Josh, honey, there’s no need to involve Ruslan.”

“Then go to the hospital yourself,” he insists.

Stubborn much? He gets that from Sienna, too.

“Okay, okay, I’m going. But first, let me call Aunt Pheebs. She’ll need to stay with you guys while I go to the hospital.”

Josh doesn’t look appeased. “We’ll come with you.”

I walk gingerly over to the sofa where I left my phone. “No honey, it’s okay. Really—”

“Did he do this?”

Thankfully, my back is to Josh and he doesn’t see my cringe. I manage to compose it just before I turn back around with my phone in hand. “It was an accident, honey. You know how clumsy I can be.”

Josh isn’t buying it. His eyes fill with tears. “He’s a monster.”

My heart breaks. “Sweetheart…”

“He’s a monster and I’m gonna kill him.”

“Josh, no. You are a better man than that. You’re a better man than him. Don’t sink down to his level, okay? Trust me—it’s not worth it.”

He starts chewing on his bottom lip but he gives me a tiny nod. I have to be satisfied with that as I type a quick text to Phoebe. It takes some effort to keep my fingers from shaking.

EMMA: Hey hon, I know this is super last minute and I understand if you can’t make it, but can you maybe watch the kids for a couple of hours?

She starts typing back almost immediately.

PHOEBE: So sorry babe. Just got in a meeting. Bossman is here so I can’t get out of it. He’s a hard ass, too—just not in a fun way like your boss man.

It’s funny how her words send this weird stabbing pain straight through my heart.

He’s not my man anymore. In fact, he’s not even my boss anymore.

PHOEBE: What’s going on? Is everything okay?

Since she can’t do anything right now, there’s no sense in worrying her.

EMMA: Everything’s fine. I’ll figure something else out. Not a big deal.

It is unbelievably hard to keep myself together but Josh seems like he’s close to falling apart. Which means I definitely can’t afford to do the same.

“Okay, hon. Change of plans. Aunt Phoebe is at work and she can’t get out of it, so—”

“You still have to go to the hospital,” he says firmly.

I sigh. “Alright then. Guess you’re all coming with me. I’m gonna go—” I look down at myself. “—clean myself up a bit. I don’t wanna scare the girls. Can you get them ready?”

He nods and heads to their room while I limp towards mine. My tiny little bathroom mirror shows that I’m more torn up than I thought I was. I’m hurting so much from head to toe, inside and out, that it’s like my brain isn’t even bothering to register it as pain anymore. Just numbness radiating through me.

Josh is right, though—I do need to go to the hospital.

I swap my clothes out for long pants and a long-sleeved shirt that covers most of the damage. I actually look halfway presentable when I walk out. The girls are oohing and ahhing over the shards of broken glass.

“Girls, walk around the table, please, and make sure to keep your shoes on. Let’s go.”

We have to take Ben’s busted Chevy because the Asshole Extraordinaire took the Mercedes. Turns out, driving while you’re bleeding from fifty different places on your body is quite a challenge. Every time I spin the steering wheel, my right underarm stings with sharp pain.

Once we get to the hospital, I have to fill out an endless parade of forms. Any allergies? Am I on any medications? When was the date of my last period? Cause of injury? It makes my head spin.

After I get assigned an appointment, we’re sent to the emergency room lobby to wait. Forty minutes go by and I can’t decide if it’s the longest wait of my life or if it passes in a blink.

When they call my name, I leave Josh with the girls and step into the doctor’s office for my appointment. I have to strip down and let her examine my cuts.

“You mentioned in your forms that this was a… fall?” Dr. Nara asks with a raised eyebrow, emphasizing her skepticism in the last word.

I shrug, which hurts. “I’m clumsy.”

The doctor’s dark brown eyes bore into mine. “Ms. Carson, I’ve seen my fair share of ‘clumsy’ women walk into this hospital. I can tell the difference between an accident and abuse.”

I answer a little too fast. “I’m not being abused. I fell.”

Dr. Nara sighs. “I know how hard it is to leave an abusive relationship. Especially with three children and one on the way, but—”

I flinch back, causing her to pull back the little tweezer she’s holding to pick out the microscopic glass shards that have apparently been embedded in my skin.

“Careful, Ms. Carson.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just… What did you say?”

“Denial is very common among young women who are suffering at the—”

“No, not about that. About the three-children-and-one-on-the-way part?”

She frowns and then consults her clipboard. “You’ve mentioned the date of your last period as June. That was two months ago.”

“Oh, that… I couldn’t really remember my last period. I just put in the date that I could remember.”

The doctor’s brow pinches together. “If you can remember June, why not July?”

“The human brain works in mysterious ways?”

Dr. Nara gives me a sympathetic nod. “As I said, denial is common amongst women who suffer from abusive relationships. I’m sure another pregnancy is less than ideal for you right now but—”

I sigh. “It’s not that. I have a blocked fallopian tube. The chances of me getting pregnant are basically zero. And those three kids are my sister’s, not mine. I’ve never been pregnant. I doubt I am right now.”

She cocks her head to the side. “You have one defective fallopian tube?”


“And the other one?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is your second fallopian tube blocked also?”

“Um, well, no. I mean, not that I know of. But the way my luck’s been going…”

The doctor nods. “Maybe we should do some tests, just to rule it out?”

I swallow. “Sure.”

“I’ll clean you up first and then we’ll get the bloodwork done.”

I spend the next half an hour staring up at the fluorescent lights until I start seeing weird patterns dancing in front of me. Somehow, they all look like babies.

“Alright, Ms. Carson. We have your test results back.” I jerk upright and wince. “Whoa there—let’s take it easy, shall we? You’ve been cut up pretty bad. Those wounds will take a few weeks to heal completely.”

“T-the results?”

She gives me a look that I can’t quite interpret. Is that sympathy? Pity? Apology?

“You are in fact pregnant, Ms. Carson.”

Pity. Definitely pity. The buzz of the overhead lights suddenly sounds like a baby’s cry.

“How… h-how is that even possible?” I stammer. “I had a test done, like, just a few days ago. That was when they caught my blocked tube.”

“Things change quickly. There could also have been some malfunctioning equipment or a faulty reading of the results. But there’s no denying this, Ms. Carson. You’re pregnant.”

Goosebumps erupt all over my arms. I’m pregnant. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad. I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do now.

“Ms. Carson…” I look towards the doctor, hoping that she might have the answers. “You are still in the early stages of your pregnancy. As a rule, we don’t normally encourage this, but—you don’t necessarily have to stay pregnant if you don’t want to.”

I frown. What is she saying? She’s offering me a way out…

My first instinct is NO.

My second instinct is—hell fucking no.

I force my eyes to the doctor’s and my resentment of her suggestion ebbs slightly. All she’s seeing is a victim of domestic abuse with three children to raise. She’s trying to help me.

But she doesn’t know the whole story.

She doesn’t know that this baby was born from something real. That I happen to love the father of this child even if he doesn’t love me and despite how he has treated me. She doesn’t know that I’ve wanted this baby from the moment I saw my sister become a mother. She doesn’t know that I have always taken my miracles where I can get them. Inconvenient or not.

“I’m gonna keep this baby,” I say firmly.

And I’m gonna save my other babies. It’s up to me now and there’s only one path forward.

We have to leave this city.

For good.


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