Stutter(Bleeding Hearts Book 2)(3)

By: A. Zavarelli


“I want an update every hour,” I said. “Even if there’s nothing to report.”

Mick was silent for a moment before mumbling his agreement. He had his own opinions on this whole situation. Opinions I had no inclination to hear or give a fuck about.

“You got it, boss.”

I moved to hang up before I thought of something else. “Did she get my flowers today?”

“She sent them back, sir,” he said quietly.

As I expected. It was the same every other day.





Chapter Two


Brighton



Staring down at the sonogram in my hand, I fought away tears for the fifth time that day. I still couldn’t believe Ryland and I had made this. It was only a little squiggle, but it was still the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The moment was bittersweet. Ryland should have been here with me, staring at what we created in awe. We should be experiencing all of these things together. But he still didn’t know, and I didn’t know when or if I could tell him.

I was scared. For so many different reasons. I didn’t know what he was going to think. But even worse, I was scared that he would never let go of his need for revenge. And I couldn’t bring my baby into that mess. I wouldn’t.

Even still, I missed him so much it hurt to breathe. Most days, I could barely get out of bed. A month had passed since I’d seen him. A month of unending pain. I knew it wasn’t good for me or the baby to be so stressed, but I couldn’t help it. I hated him. I loved him. It felt like my heart was split in two. After everything, I still wanted him. But I doubted I’d ever be able to trust him again.

I picked up the photo I’d had framed of us. It was the only one I had. The night we were photographed by the paparazzi. The night he’d showed the world I was his. But he’d had an ulterior motive for doing so. Even that moment was tainted by darkness. There wasn’t a single part of our relationship I could recall that wasn’t. That was the way it always went with him. Pleasure and pain.

But not anymore.

I needed to put Ryland out of my mind. I needed to do what was best for me.

It was time to move on.

***

The landlord arched a brow at me expectantly while I took another look around the apartment. “Well?”

I clutched my purse a little tighter and gave him a stiff nod.

“I’ll take it.”

Nicole wrinkled her nose and squeezed my arm as if I’d lost my mind. “Brighton, are you sure about this?”

I gave her a weak smile and shrugged. Sure the place wasn’t the best. The walls had some cracks. And the paint was probably lead based. It kind of smelled like old socks. But it was in my budget, which was really the only determining factor at this point.

For the last month, Nicole and I had both been crashing at Matt’s cousin’s house. It was very generous of her to offer, but I knew I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. I had enough in my savings to live off of for six months if I was careful. And that meant settling for a less than stellar apartment.

“Nicole, I can’t stay at Misha’s. I need to get established somewhere of my own before the baby comes.”

“Yeah, I know,” she whispered. “But I’m pretty sure this neighborhood has like the highest murder rate in San Francisco.”

The landlord snorted and scratched his balls. “Are you gonna’ take it or what? I have other shit to do.”

“Yes,” I said again, a little more resolutely this time.

Nicole sighed and turned to the landlord, gesturing between us. “She means we’ll take it. As in both of us.”

“Nicole…”

“Nope.” She raised her hand and gave me a stern expression. “I’m coming with you. No way in hell am I letting you live in this neighborhood alone. And you’re right. I’m not working at the Bennett Corporation any more, I need to start thinking more realistically in terms of money.”

I reached over and hugged her before the landlord slapped down a lease. I knew Nicole was only doing this as a favor to me, but I was grateful nonetheless. She’d left her apartment and her job when she found out what happened, and she hadn’t spoken to Ryland since.

I didn’t know how I felt about that, but Nicole insisted it had been a long time in the making. She assured me she would have quit regardless of the car accident, and she didn’t want an apartment that wasn’t rightfully hers.