Maddox (Next Generation Carter Brother #5) by Lisa Helen Gray

PROLOGUE


AMELIA




The balls of my feet throb as I make my way along the cracked path. It has been a long, tiring day, and although I’m exhausted, nerves rattle in my stomach, pulling me forward and towards home.

Two more streets and I’ll be there.

I’ll talk to Cameron, and he’ll tell me everything is going to be okay. He has to. Because right now, I’m scared, unsure of what our future will hold.

At twenty-three, I have only just finished my internship and nursing degree. I had my final exams and last shift at work today. A shift that ended far too early because I collapsed whilst putting away stock. With all the long shifts, the extra schoolwork, and a five-year-old daughter, I’ve been exhausted. It was bound to happen.

All I want is a day with my daughter, to relax. Just one. The last two weeks have been hectic, and I’ve hardly spent any time with her. But with Cameron still out of work, we need the money, so I’ve taken on the extra shifts.

Cameron hasn’t been taking the extra time at work well, and has gotten angrier as each week passes. He’s getting sick of being the one to do the cleaning—like he does any—and is tired of watching over our daughter. She can be demanding, but only in a good way. She loves having all the attention and is so friendly and loving. It’s all slowly tiring him out, but he can’t blame it on the cleaning because whenever I get back, it’s worse than when I left for the day.

When we moved out here, Mum and Dad followed months after so they could help out with Jasmine. At first, it was only ever meant to be temporary, but they stayed longer, finding a home that was closer, wanting to help me.

A few years ago, they moved back home, so I no longer had their help. It was hard without them, and that was when things really began to get worse with Cameron.

My best friend, Scarlett, helped out when she could, but I didn’t like placing that responsibility on her. She was the only one, out of all my friends, who stuck around after I announced I was pregnant. I didn’t want to push her away by forcing my family on her.

A bench near our housing estate comes into view, and I practically whimper. I take longer strides before dropping down on it and shoving my face into my hands.

“You’re pregnant.”

Those words are a haunted whisper. I can’t be pregnant. Not again. But the results don’t lie. I took four tests, and each one came back positive.

Pregnant.

I’m not sure how Cameron is going to react to the news. I’m worried this will be the thing to tip him over the edge. He’s been hard to read lately, and his temper constantly gets the better of him. And it’s me who he lashes out at. I fear Jasmine will be next, and there is no way I’m going to let him near her. He needs to get his head on straight and re-evaluate his life.

“Nothing good will come from being with him.”

Mum’s warning had felt like the beginning of a countdown, and with each passing minute, the noise of it ticking on gets louder and louder, like it knows something is about to happen. A part of me has always worried she was right. His family doesn’t have the best track record around town, which Cameron inherited. He isn’t like his family though.

When I met him, he was different—at first. I loved him—I have since I was fifteen years old—and there wasn’t anything anyone could have said to change that, especially back then. Whilst everyone saw a bad boy, I saw a boy who was struggling to get by, who worked hard to look after his family when his mother couldn’t.

When I got pregnant at seventeen, it shocked us all, but we made it work. Cameron could have run scared, but he stayed, assuring me we could do it. I still managed to do all the things I had planned to do when I left school, just minus a few friends.

Jasmine is my world, and I wouldn’t change her for anything.

But another baby…

I’m scared. I’ve just finished my exams, and depending on my results, I should be looking for a full-time position. Now, I’m going to struggle. No one is going to hire a pregnant woman who will have to leave in eight to nine months, and my contract at the hospital ended tonight, so I don’t have that to fall back on.

Standing up, I exhale, then push myself to finish the journey home. I normally drive to work, however, when I do shifts that finish at eight in the morning, I opt to catch the bus or grab a taxi. There’s no way I could drive home after staying up all night to do a twelve-hour shift.

However, I left in a rush tonight because I didn’t want to leave Jasmine when she was acting out of character. In my haste to get to work on time, I left my purse at home, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have had the money to pay the fare to get home.