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Shattered Cradle by Nicole Fox Book

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Shattered Cradle by Nicole Fox Book Read Online And Epub File Download


I joined the Mile High Club and ended up pregnant.

If only the story stopped there.

But no—it gets worse.

It gets so much worse.

Because the man who swept me off my feet thirty thousand feet in the air didn’t pick me at random.

He chose me for a purpose.

A very specific purpose.

And when Aleksandr Makarova decides he wants something…

He gets it.

No matter what—or who—he has to break in the process.

SHATTERED CRADLE is Book Two of the Makarova Bratva duet. Aleks and Olivia’s story begins in Book One, SHATTERED ALTAR.


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Shattered Cradle by Nicole Fox Book Read Online Chapter One


Things are close to breaking.

Rob is on edge. Emotionally, of course, but somehow, it feels almost literal. Like he’s teetering on the precipice of some huge, dark canyon and wondering whether he should just jump.

I’m terrified that anything I say or do could push him. It’s why I’ve stayed silent since we got in the car, even as his knuckles whiten from the death grip he has on the steering wheel.

In the before time—before Isabella, before Aleks, before the plane ride that changed my life—I would’ve backed away and let him simmer down on his own time. Even now, I’m considering doing just that. Rob is a pressure cooker, and with every new betrayal he learns about, the temperature ticks one degree hotter.

But we don’t have the luxury of time.

Not anymore.

And I’m not the same girl who was wrenched from her family three months ago. Being away from them, having to take care of myself, has made me stronger than I ever knew I could be.

“You need to listen to me, Rob,” I say. “I lived with Aleks. I spoke to Jennifer. I’m telling you the truth about what happened.”

“Stop calling her that,” he snaps.

“It’s her name. I know you don’t want to hear it. Believe me, I understand that denial is easier—”

“You think I’m in denial?” He wrenches the wheel in such a sharp turn that I smack up against my window.

“What would you call it?” I snap. “She’s not who you thought she was. Jennifer came into your life pretending to be Isabella because you were the agent assigned to the Makarova case. He sent her to get—”

“I can’t believe you, of all people, believe that motherfucker’s lies,” he says.

I almost want to laugh. Rob’s philosophy is as simple as it gets. For years, he has divided the world into two kinds of people: “good guys” and “motherfuckers.”

Good guys follow the rules; motherfuckers break them.

Good guys love their families and their friends and their country; motherfuckers hate everyone and everything.

Good guys rescue kittens from trees and help old ladies cross the street; motherfuckers steal candy from babies and push old ladies into traffic.

He’s branded lots of people as motherfuckers. But now, he doesn’t have to specify which one in particular he’s talking about.

There’s only one who matters anymore.

“We need gas,” Rob mutters under his breath. His face is set with determination. I’ve seen that face before, right before every game he ever played. Football, basketball, swimming—if he tried it, he was good at it, and if he made that face, he won.

The trophies are still sitting up on the mantel in the house, front and center so every guest can see it. They’re testaments to the man he was always meant to become. Early proof that he was going to be somebody.

Robert Lawrence: smart, capable, handsome young man.

And he delivered on his promise. Decorated FBI agent. Devoted servant of the law. A man who had his shit together and the world at his fingertips.

Except right now, I don’t see any of that. All I see is a desperate, haunted lone wolf who’s been chasing the same demon for so long that he’s unwilling to accept that it’s the wrong one.

“I haven’t been brainwashed, if that’s what you think,” I say calmly.

I wince as Rob whips us off at the next exit and squeals into position at the first gas station pump. He gets out of the car without a word.

I take a deep breath before I climb out of my own door.

“Where are you going?” Rob demands over the hood of the car.

“I need to pee.”

“Wait until we get to the safehouse.”

“Tell that to my bladder.”

He gives me a long-suffering sigh. “Wait until I’ve finished pumping at least. I’ll come in with you.”

I wrinkle my nose. “Rob, I think I know how to pee by myself.”

“I’ll just stand outside the door.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be in and out in two seconds. Just chill.”

I walk away. Rob calls after me, but I ignore him.

The moment I’m inside, I fly to the back of the store where the medical supplies are. I grab the first pregnancy test I see and head straight to the counter.

“Just the one?” the pot-bellied man behind the counter asks.

“Yes, please.”

He rings it up for me. As soon as he sets it back down, I grab it and shove it out of sight in my pocket. Outside the window, Rob is setting the pump back in place.

“Uh, do you have a bathroom?” I ask.

The cashier gestures to the back of the store. “Back thataway.”

“Thanks. Oh, and—” I point through the window to Rob. “If that man comes in here… please don’t tell him what I bought.”

I don’t give him any other explanation before I rush towards the dingy little bathroom and shut the door.

I try not to think as I go through the motions. I just focus on the action steps. Open the package, sit on the toilet, position it between my legs.

This is perfectly normal, I say again and again.

But as I sit the test down on the rusting sink, goosebumps brush over my skin.

I clean up and wash my hands slowly. I try not to look at the test as I count aloud.

“One. Two. Three…”

It’s the longest three minutes of my life.

But just as I say, “One hundred and eighty,” I look down and see something starting to take shape in the test window.

It’s slow, though. Agonizingly slow. Like the universe is teasing me or punishing me, I’m not sure which.

The instructions on the back of the box tells me how to read the results.

One line—negative.

Two lines—it’s his.

Three loud knocks on the door make me jolt so hard I almost knock the test off the sink.

“Liv! You in there?”

“Jesus!” I gasp, turning towards the door before I’ve got a chance to read my test. “Yes, I’m in here, Rob. Can I have a freaking minute?”

He doesn’t say anything, so I turn back to the test, flustered. I forget to mentally prepare myself before I do, so when I see it, it hits me like a runaway train.

Two lines.

Two very definitive, very bright pink lines.

I knew I was pregnant. Instinctively, I knew. And yet, having confirmation makes a difference.

Before, I was scared of what it meant. Terrified to have my life turned upside down. For everything to be different.

But now, knowing it’s a reality? I’m excited.

And that alone confirms something else for me.

I want this baby.

Even though I know it’ll be complicated and messy, I want this baby.

Rob knocks again. “What’s taking so long?”

I grit my teeth, bury the test in the trash can under a few wads of paper towels, and walk outside.

“Can’t a girl pee in peace?” I ask irritably.

“Not when some very bad men are trying to find you.” He doesn’t even wait for me to follow him out to the car. He grabs my hand and pulls me along behind him.

“Let go, Rob. That hurts.”

I tear my arm from his and throw him a glare. He has the presence of mind to look slightly ashamed of himself, but he doesn’t offer me an apology.

“I want to see Mom and Mia,” I add as we get back in the car.

“You will. They’re at the safehouse. Donald wants to protect them, too.”

“Why?”

Rob looks puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, why has he been so generous? What does any of this have to do with him?”

“He’s a good guy. I was looking for a lead and someone gave me his name. They said that if I were to contact him, he might be able to help me.”

“Who tipped you off?” I ask suspiciously.

“Does it matter?”

“Of course it does. What if the guy was a plant?”

He gives me a condescending look. “A few months with Makarova and you think you know how these games are played.”

“Maybe I do.”

He sighs. “You’re in over your head with this stuff, Liv.” His tone is gentle, but it stings all the same. “Hargrove has a personal stake in this, too. He lost his goddaughter the same way I lost Isabella—with all signs pointing to Aleksandr Makarova.”

My first instinct is to defend Aleks, but I know that nothing good can come of that right now. I’m not even sure I understand the instinct myself.

So I sit there and stew. With every passing second, it’s like I can feel myself reverting back to the meek, doormat girl I was before Aleks came into my life.

“Here we are,” Rob announces after a few minutes have passed.

I peer through my window at a legion of tall buildings clustered down the block. All gleaming glass and black metal, with the kind of distinctly regal, unfriendly vibes I associate with the rich and infamous. A sign just above us reads THE IMPERIAL in swirling ivory font.

“Mom and Mia have been staying at The Imperial?” I exclaim.

He nods. “In side-by-side suites.”

“Jesus,” I breathe.

When we enter the hotel’s grand lobby, I’m hit with the scent of fresh flowers. Roses, lilies, and orchids cluster in arrangements on every ledge.

The hotel staff wave to Rob as he drags us through the lobby toward the elevators. We bypass the regular ones and step up to a pair of special, shining brass doors twice as tall as me.

“Are you sure we can use this one?”

He pulls out a keypass and presses it against a scanner I didn’t even notice. “Very sure. After you.”

“Wow, secret elevator,” I say as we step in and he presses a rapid combination of buttons. “You must be important.”

He doesn’t so much as smirk. His easy humor has slowly disintegrated over the last year and a half. My heart breaks a little bit the longer I look at him.

The feeling in my gut is the same one I had the day of Dad’s funeral. That inexplicable sense that someone I knew and loved and trusted is gone forever.

“Did you tell Mom or Mia that I called you?” I ask. The elevator glides upwards smoothly.

“No, but Donald knows.”

“You’re on a first name basis with the millionaire?”

He throws me a glance. “He’s a billionaire, actually. And yes.”

“How friendly of him.”

“He’s thrown a lot of resources into protecting us, Liv,” Rob says. He sounds like a parent, sternly reminding me to say “please” and “thank you” to nice strangers. “Maybe be polite when you meet him.”

We’re both saved from further conversation when the elevator doors whisk open.

The room beyond is large with plush carpets and gilded ceilings, but I barely get a chance to admire it before Rob is cutting a hard right and heading for another door. I hurry after him.

The first door he opens leads to an even larger, more opulent space. Tasteful furniture fills the room and floral arrangements like the ones in the lobby top every surface—side tables, the bar, the coffee table.

But the view is what catches my eye. We’re sixty-plus stories up and the city is laid out before us like a toy set, glimmering in the sunlight.

“Olivia!”

I turn in the direction of the deep, friendly voice.

The man walking towards me is every bit as charming as he appears on TV. He radiates calm charisma. The camera hides some of his grays, but honestly, that does him a disservice. Donald Hargrove is attractive, plain and simple.

“I’m Donnie,” he says by way of greeting. “I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you from your brother.”

I glance at Rob. “That’s surprising,” I remark. “He’s not really the type to open up much to strangers, especially about his family.”

“Well, I like to think we’re more than strangers, Olivia! But have no fear—nothing has changed in your absence,” Hargrove says with a wink. “It was actually your sister who can’t stop talking about you. She may be your number one fan.”

That warms me. But it raises a few questions, too. None of which I feel comfortable asking in Hargrove’s presence.

I notice two men standing to the side of the room. They’re dressed in black suits and, despite the fact that we’re indoors, they both have wraparound shades on.

“My bodyguards,” Hargrove says, noticing where my gaze is placed.

“The uniforms are a little on the nose, don’t you think?”

He laughs. “Conspicuous is kind of my style.”

I’m still not sure why Rob completely trusts the man, but I can at least understand why he likes him. Despite his larger-than-life persona, Hargrove has this way of talking that makes you forget the fact that he’s worth billions of dollars.

“Would you like something to eat or drink, Olivia?”

I shake my head, despite the ravenous growling in my belly. “I’m good. I think I just need to rest.”

“Of course,” he croons. “You’ll have everything you need in your private suite.”

“My private suite?” I repeat stupidly. “Um… I really don’t think that will be necessary. I mean, it’s generous of you. But we have a home.”

“I understand your hesitation, Olivia,” he says, addressing me like we’re old friends. “But the Bratva knows where that house is located. It would be too risky to go back there. It’s the reason your family has been living here for the last six weeks.”

“Six weeks?” I ask, turning to Rob.

He nods, confirming it. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it at first, but then I realize I don’t really have the right to have an opinion.

Being taken hostage by Aleks must have absolutely shattered their sense of security. Living in this beautiful building, sixty stories above the city and surrounded by scary-looking security, had to have been a godsend.

“That… that’s very kind of you, Mr. Hargrove.”

“None of that, now!” he chuckles. “Call me Donnie, please. Or Donald, if you must.”

“Donald it is,” I mumble.

He smiles, but I can tell he’s searching my face for something. It takes me a second to put my finger on it.

Trauma. That’s what he’s looking for. Signs of scarring. The damage left behind from being abducted by a dangerous man.

But clearly, I’m disappointing him. Not nearly as broken as he hoped for, I guess.

“Before I let you go, however, would you mind if I asked you something?”

I tense. “Um… sure. Go ahead.”

“Are you okay?” he asks, emphasizing the word. He blinks slowly, sincerely, with a look in his eyes like he truly cares. His hand is warm and heavy on my shoulder and the faint scent of a pleasant cologne wafts into my nostrils.

It would be so easy to tell him no. To admit the truth of what’s happened to me.

But I’ve spent three months denying it, hiding it, running from it. It’s become second nature.

I’m not sure I know how to stop.

“Oh, yeah. Yes, I’m okay.”

He straightens and frowns for a moment. He didn’t expect me to say that, I think. Just like he didn’t expect me to seem undamaged. “If I may ask, how did you manage to get away?”

Realizing that I don’t want to give Yulia away—God knows why, but I don’t—I give him a vague answer. “I had some inside help.”

Donald nods. “It's good to know that his people aren’t completely loyal to him.”

“No, they are,” I correct. “But it’s just… it’s complicated.”

Rob steps forward. “We’re going to need information from you, Liv. We need to know anything you can tell us about Makarova and his—”

“Robbie,” Donald interrupts gently, “the poor girl’s just gotten her freedom back. Maybe we should let her enjoy that for a minute before we inundate her with questions.”

Rob looks annoyed by that, but I’m grateful. On the other hand, I’m slightly weirded out by how Donald is using a nickname that Rob has hated with a burning passion for as long as I can remember, and yet Rob is just taking it in stride.

“For now, it’s enough to know that she’s here and she’s safe,” Donald continues with satisfaction. Then he turns to me with a curious glance. “He… he didn’t hurt you, did he?”

This time, I refuse to be vague about my answer. “He didn’t hurt me,” I say fiercely. “He was… he is a difficult man to be alone with. But he never once hurt me.”

Not physically, at least.

Rob frowns doubtfully. “But you do look kind of pale.”

Nausea has been creeping its way up my throat over the last few minutes. The flowers and cologne that were pleasant when I first entered the room are repulsive now.

Sheer willpower is all that has kept the contents of my stomach down. But I can feel my control slipping.

“I’m fine,” I snap, even as my belly growls. “But is there a bathroom I can—oh, God…”

I dry heave and clap a hand over my mouth as Rob steers me towards the bathroom. But it’s too far. I’m three steps into my sprint when I realize I’m not going to make it.

So I crumble to my knees at the foot of the grand piano and empty everything I have on the floor. It’s painful and violent as it comes up.

And when there’s nothing left to give, I feel suddenly exhausted. I could fall asleep right here.

Someone hands me a tissue as Rob starts barking orders. “We need a doctor,” he says. “Immediately. Donnie, call—”

“No,” I say firmly. “I said I’m fine.”

“Liv, you’re clearly sick. You’re white as a ghost and you just threw up all over Donald’s carpet.”

“I’m sorry about that, Donald,” I say sincerely. “Or would you prefer I go back to calling you Mr. Hargrove now that I’ve ruined your carpet?”

He smiles. “My feelings would be hurt if you did.”

“Liv!” Rob interrupts angrily. “Stop trying to downplay this.”

“I’m not downplaying anything!”

I close my eyes. My head is pounding, my throat is burning, and I just want him to shut up, to leave me alone in some peace and quiet so I can sort through the wreckage of my life.

Shut up.

Shut up.

Shut up.

“Yes, you are,” he presses. “You’re sick. You’re—”

That does it. “For God’s sake, I’m not sick—I’m pregnant!”

Rob’s jaw drops. I guess that’ll shut him up.



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