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Beloved Bride

Beloved Bride

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Is almost losing everything enough to change a man?  My husband is about to lose everything he’s worked so hard to keep. His empire. His daughter. Me. I can’t love a man who does the things that Viktor does. I can’t belong to him, not in the way I want to. It doesn’t matter what he’s awakened in me, or how much I crave him. How much my heart wants him.  Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

Beloved Bride is the final book in the Bridal Trilogy. The trilogy is complete. Reading order Captive Bride, Stolen Bride and Beloved Bride.
Beloved Bride contains several scenes that readers may find difficult. Readers with sensitivity to some material should proceed with caution.

Major Tropes

  • Enemies To Lovers
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Billionaire

Synopsis

The final book in the Mafia Bride trilogy.

Is almost losing everything enough to change a man?

My husband is about to lose everything he’s worked so hard to keep.His empire.His daughter.Me.I can’t love a man who does the things that Viktor does. I can’t belong to him, not in the way I want to. It doesn’t matter what he’s awakened in me, or how much I crave him. How much my heart wants him.Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.But the danger Viktor poses to my heart isn’t all we’re facing. Alexei is coming. For me, for Sofia, for Ana, to wipe out the men of the three families and take it all for himself. If he takes me, I know that Viktor won’t rest until he saves me. But what I want more than anything is for Viktor to save himself.

I want him to become the man that I know he can be—so that I can become everything I long to be for him.His lover.

His wife.

His beloved bride.Beloved Bride contains several scenes that readers may find difficult. Readers with sensitivity to some material should proceed with caution.

Click Here To Read An Excerpt

For a minute, all I can hear is the screaming.

Anika. Anika. Anika.

Her name repeats over and over in my head as I fling myself to the carpet next to Viktor, reaching for the tiny hand outstretched on the bloodied rug. In that moment, I forget about Viktor, our argument, the conversation we just had, everything that happened out in the gardens. The world narrows down to the small, still body in front of me, her skin waxy pale and her eyes shuttered closed, fringed lashes on her cheeks. 

Viktor is already reaching for her, scooping her up into his arms. Luca reaches out, a hand on his shoulder as he tries to stop him, but Viktor flings it away.

“Viktor—it might not be good to move her—”

“Get out of my way!” he roars, rising to his feet with his daughter clasped in his arms. “Get the fucking doctor,” he adds to no one in particular, and I see Levin already in motion, reaching for his phone. I almost wonder if I should do it myself, but Viktor is already heading for the stairs, and I want to be with Anika. I don’t want to let her out of my sight for even a moment.

And I want to be with my husband right now, too. Everything else fades into the background, faced with the terrible possibility that we could lose Anika.

We can’t. That can’t happen. I won’t let it.

I think that over and over as I follow Viktor upstairs, as if there’s really anything I could truly do about it. “Where’s Yelena?” I ask breathlessly as we reach the hallway, and he turns to walk towards Anika’s room. 

“She was in the playroom when the shooting started,” he says curtly. “Some of our security is there, keeping her safe.” 

“Should I check on her—”

“Do what you want.” His voice is clipped, all of his focus on the child in his arms. “I’m staying with Anika.”

I follow him into the bedroom, watching as he lays her down on one side of the bed. Even the full-sized bed in her room makes her look small in her current state, her blond hair tangled and matted around her face, the blood on her shirt an ugly, terrifying stain.

It’s impossible to tell what is hers and what could be from someone else. I press one hand to my chest as I step closer, willing it to slow down, for my panic to recede, so that I can think. So that I can be there for Viktor, who is pale as death, kneeling next to the bed as he reaches for his daughter’s hand. It’s very small in his, her arm limp, and I swallow hard, fighting back the tears. Crying won’t help anything right now. Truthfully, I could probably be of more help watching Yelena or going downstairs to help Sofia and Ana. But I can’t pull myself away from this spot. 

There’s a brisk knock at the door, and Levin steps inside. “The doctor is on his way,” he says briskly. “I told him that the first priority is Anika.”

“Send him up as soon as he gets here.” Viktor reaches out, touching the little girl’s stomach. “She’s still bleeding. Caterina, get something—”

I nearly shove past Levin in my haste, looking for the first bathroom or closet that I see. There’s a linen closet a few steps away, and I grab a handful of washcloths, hurrying back into the room and handing one to Viktor. He shakes his head, still gripping Anika’s hand. “You do it,” he says firmly. “The wound is in her belly. Hold the cloth there. I can’t—”

He breaks off, but I know what he’s not saying. He doesn’t want to let go of her hand, because he’s not sure that she’s going to make it. I’m not sure either—can a child as small as Anika survive a wound like that? She’s still breathing, but shallowly, her skin waxy and pale. I press the cloth to her stomach, feeling another twist of nausea at the sight of blood blooming over the cloth, but I don’t let go. I’ve never been particularly good with this kind of thing, which I suppose is a shortcoming, being in a mafia family and married to the Bratva leader. Blood and violence are a part of our lives. 

Especially lately, it’s become more and more clear that being squeamish isn’t something I can afford.

“Where the fuck is that fucking doctor?” Viktor growls under his breath, his lips pressed tightly together. “If she dies because he took his fucking time—”

“He’s coming as fast as he can, I’m sure of it,” I say softly. “She’ll live, Viktor. She has to—”

“You don’t know that.” He looks up at me then, and I can see the naked pain in his eyes. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that level of emotion from him without something tempering it, concealing the true depth of it from me. I know why now, of course—why he’d wanted a wife to fuck and give him an heir and nothing more. There’s more to that conversation that I know we need to have, too—but not now. 

“She’s a fighter,” I say gently, taking the bloody cloth away from her belly and replacing it with a clean one. It’s slower to stain this time, which I hope is a good sign—and not a sign that we’re losing her. “It’s Anika, Viktor. She’s stubborn as hell, you know that. She’s not going to go out like this.”

Viktor laughs at that, a startling sound, as if he hadn’t expected it. “You’re right,” he grunts, rubbing his thumb over Anika’s fragile, pale knuckles. “Out of the two of them, she is our little fighter. She won’t give up so easily.”

I give him a startled look, wondering if he realized what he just said. Our little fighter. Something warm and soft blooms inside of my chest, because when I think of reasons to stay with Viktor, beyond obligation and my own reluctant desire, I think of his daughters. Of Anika and Yelena, who needs a mother, someone who can raise them to think for themselves, to see beyond the world that they’ll grow up in. Someone who can do better for them than my own mother did.

I know Viktor married me to be a stepmother to them. But for him to say that, to call Anika ours, means something to me.

Why can’t he just do something different? My heart aches in my chest, looking at my handsome husband as he holds his daughter’s hand, his face taut, his eyes begging her to make it, to survive. I know if Anika dies, his loss will be incalculable. I can’t understand why he can’t apply that to the women who pass through his warehouse, why he can’t think of the parents who have lost their children, grown as they are. I’ll talk to him about it again, I think to myself, glancing nervously at the door as we wait for the doctor. Maybe this will make him see things differently. Maybe there’s some way to convince him.

I’ve tried not to think of how things could be, because that seems like a recipe for disappointment and misery. Sofia learned to live with her husband’s position and obligations, to turn a blind eye to the things she might disagree with, and to exist in a world that she might not have chosen for herself. It should be easier for me because I was born for this, raised for it. I was born into a world of violent men who did evil things, and I’d always known I’d have to turn a blind eye to what my husband did.

So why is it so hard with Viktor? Is it because what he does feels so much different from moving weapons or selling drugs? Is it because I can’t stop seeing his daughters’ faces every time I look at Sasha? Is it because I’m a woman with stepdaughters, who can’t see how what he does has any moral value at all, despite his arguments?

Or is it simply because I want him, because my feelings for him are greater than just obligation, no matter how much I want to pretend otherwise—and I can’t justify that to myself unless he changes?

My train of thought is cut off abruptly by the door opening as the doctor strides in, his face tightening instantly at the sight of Anika on the bed. I’m sure he must know that Viktor won’t take his daughter’s death lightly, and the man must be quaking in his shoes, knowing that the responsibility of saving Anika rests on him

“What’s happened?” he asks briskly, taking in the scene in front of him—Anika’s still body, her hand in Viktor’s, the cloth I have pressed to her stomach. 

“There was an attack.” Viktor’s tone is taut and brittle. “Gunshots. Anika got caught somewhere in the middle of it. I’m not sure what her injuries are, exactly—”

“Excuse me.” The doctor nudges me aside, leaving me with a bloody cloth in my hands and my heart beating rapidly again, my anxiety rising at the look on his face. “This would be difficult for a healthy adult to survive,” he says tersely, looking at Viktor. “For a child of her age—”

“She can’t die,” Viktor says sharply. “I’m relying on you to—”

“I’ll do all I can, pakhan,” the doctor says, inclining his head respectfully. I’m momentarily startled by the address, but after a moment’s thought, it makes sense. Of course, here, near his safe house, in Russia, Viktor would have a doctor who is loyal to him and aware of his position. No wonder the man was practically shaking when he walked in. He knows well enough who Viktor is and his reputation. 

“She is a small child,” the doctor continues in his calm, thickly accented voice. “I cannot work magic. But if she can be saved, I assure you that I will—”

“Do whatever you have to,” Viktor says sharply.

“I will. But for now, I need you both to step away so that I can do my work and examine her.”

For a moment, I think Viktor is going to refuse. His jaw tightens, and I can see how difficult it is for him to let go of Anika’s hand, setting it gently on the bed as he pushes himself to his feet.

I come around to the side he’s standing on, and I half expect him to push me away or ignore me. All of his focus has been on the small girl lying on the bed, which is no surprise. But what is a surprise is when he reaches out for my hand, his broad, rough palm wrapping around mine as he clutches it tightly. When I look up at him, he’s still staring straight at the bed, watching the doctor like a hawk as he examines Anika. His face is drawn tight, years older in a matter of minutes, though he’s still as coldly, cruelly handsome as ever. But in this moment, my brutal Bratva husband isn’t pushing me away, punishing me, or shutting me out.

At this moment, he needs me. And though I have so many reasons to pull away myself, to shut down and step away, leaving him to his worry and his grief, I don’t. I can’t find it in myself to let him suffer alone.

After all, at the very least, he cared for me when I was most in need of him. He helped me, fed me, bathed me, did all he could to make sure I survived. And now that it’s not me lying on a bed, in pain and close to death, I know he needs me to return that care.

I feel almost guilty for my suspicions now, thinking he was behind my kidnapping. In retrospect, thinking over everything he told me in the garden, it feels like ridiculous paranoia. The only thing keeping me from feeling entirely ashamed is the fact that every man in my life so far, including Viktor, has treated me in a way to make me think that such a horrific thing could be possible. 

The punishments haven’t helped, I think grimly. Even now, I feel sore and stiff from the last one he meted out, not to mention what we did up against that tree in the garden. But even those I feel conflicted about, because as much as I resent my husband “punishing” me, the methods he uses, make me feel as if I’m melting from the inside out, as if some deep, primal part of me has always needed exactly that. As if I want it, whether it’s deserved or not.

The doctor clears his throat, breaking me out of my thoughts, and I feel Viktor tense next to me.

“She’ll need surgery to remove the bullet,” the doctor says. “There’s no time to take her to the nearest hospital; she wouldn’t make the trip. I’ll have to find a way to create a sterile environment here and have your man send for assistance. She’s stable for now, but I’ll need to operate as soon as possible.”

“Do what you need to,” Viktor says curtly. “Levin will make certain that you have everything you require.”

“Thank you, pakhan.” The doctor eyes me. “This is your wife?”

“Caterina Andreyva,” Viktor says. “My wife and my daughter’s stepmother.”

“She’ll need close care, if she survives the surgery,” the doctor says. “Is your wife up to the task?”

“I’m standing right here,” I say crisply, my annoyance with the peculiarities of mob men and their associates just about at its breaking point. “You can speak directly to me.”

The doctor looks at Viktor, as if confirming that, and I see Viktor’s mouth twitch with an unusual hint of humor, especially under the circumstances. I’d forgotten that, at times, he likes my feistier side. 

Just not always when it’s aimed at him.

“You heard my wife,” Viktor says coolly. 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Andreyva,” the doctor says, paling slightly. “What I meant to ask was, are you up to the task? I know not everyone can handle medical—”

“I’ll be fine,” I tell him firmly. “Anika is my daughter too, as far as I’m concerned. Whatever she needs, I’ll assist with.”

“Very good.” The doctor seems relieved that the conversation hadn’t exploded as it could have. “Please have your man make the arrangements as quickly as possible.”

“Stay here,” Viktor says to me, still holding my hand. “I’ll go speak with Levin and return directly.”

He didn’t say please, though I hardly expected it from him. Still, it sounded more like a request than an order, the closest I’ve ever heard from him. “Alright,” I say softly. “Hurry back.”

Viktor looks at me, surprised. “I will,” he promises. And then, wonder of wonders, he raises my hand to his lips, kissing it gently before turning sharply towards the door to go and find Levin.

I look back at the bed and the small girl lying there, her shallow breaths very visible.

Fight, Anika, I think quietly, wrapping my arms around myself as I watch her, my heart in my throat. For all of us, fight.

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