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“Can I speak with you in private?” It became increasingly difficult for Kemi to maintain the pretense that he was a new more peaceful version of himself.

Lydia wasn’t fooled by his act one little bit. She knew the man and the monster all too well. No matter how hard he fought to keep up the charade, she had already identified the signs that hinted his mask was about to slip. Since he never had to exercise control over himself before, it was only a matter of time before the truth presented itself. The longer he sat in her presence, the easier it was to see the real Kemi peeking out from behind the façade he was desperate to reflect.

The same old aggressive jerk she’d dealt with for far too long only required a small push to make him reveal his true self.

“I’m sorry, but Michael is under strict orders from my HUSBAND not to leave my side.” As if she threw ice water in his face, his features distorted from the stern rebuke she issued regarding the man tasked with protecting her.

Once she made her statement, Lydia chuckled deep down. She saw the cracks rip open as she intentionally placed emphasis on the word husband.


Very few people were let in on the marriage between Ryder and Lydia. The couple was well aware of the people who received their statements regarding their marriage and other selected information about them tying the knot.

Ryder’s mother and grandmother were intentionally supplied with the details at the last minute as a way to prevent their interference with the wedding. Kemi received a copy of an article from one of his known associates. An anonymous source sent an article displaying several pictures of the couple kissing and smiling in the society section of the Texarkana Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. Another article was published in the Arkansas Society Revue which was a magazine dedicated to the life and lifestyles of the upper crust in the State of Arkansas.

Nelda Kensington received a text from one of her poker buddies. A lady she despised congratulated her on her daughter’s nuptials to one of the wealthiest and most affluent men in the state. If only the details had come from someone she actually liked, maybe she would have taken the information a little better. To receive the text from a woman she considered to be her enemy, it was like rubbing salt into open wounds.

No matter who contacted her about the marriage, Nelda would have been devastated because she already had plans for her daughter and they didn’t include a white man who was bigger than life. He was far too wealthy and too powerful to be convinced of the plan she had devised and worked in one way or another to institute since the child’s birth but solidified five years ago when her dear sweet child was taken from her.

Lydia’s mother was far from elated by the news as the sound of her cellphone shattering against the kitchen’s French vanilla cream marble floor screaming like a madwoman at any of her onlookers. It was definitely not the response of someone whose daughter had married quite well for herself.

Anyone not a part of Ryder and Lydia’s plan was left exposed and wounded by the confirmation of the couple’s union.


“What the hell do you mean your husband. We were engaged to be married. You were supposed to be my wife. How could you betray me like this?” No longer able to hide the animal inside him, Kemi jumped up in anger and nearly crossed the desk when Michael sprang to his feet and restrained the man before he had a chance to make the biggest mistake of his life.

“Sir, I must advise you to have a seat or you will be forcefully removed.” The stone-like figure of a man did his job as a professional... of course, but anyone with eyes could see he wanted the visitor to make the wrong move just once more so he would have the excuse he needed to put him in his place.

“So, this is how you treat me after all these years. You got the white man to stand up to me on your behalf. I should have killed your ungrateful ass when I had the...” Kemi lunged at Lydia again and found that she was no longer the pushover he once abused mercilessly.

Her security guard grabbed Kemi by the neck. He lifted the offensive brute up with his feet swinging back and forward in one swift motion. Immediately, Michael body-slammed Kemi down to the floor. With his knee on Kemi’s back, he got on the walkie and called for the clinic to be discretely surrounded soon after he placed a call for the assistance of the local police. Michael zip tied the aggressor and sat him down in the same chair as he struggled to refrain from beating the abuser’s ass.

To watch how the guest behaved in his presence was a shock. He caught a glimpse of what this douche bag put Mrs. Thornton through. He was glad to be there to let the man know that his days of tormenting such an angelic person were over.

The police came and took statements about what transpired. They removed the offender and advised Mrs. Thornton to press charges on the man and seek an Order of Protection so the man would legally be prevented from contacting her again. The whole episode was over in twenty minutes and Lydia was encouraged to leave for the day.

“Mrs. Thornton are you okay?” Michael asked as he quickly escorted her out to the SUV that was waiting for them at her private exit.

“I’m fine thanks to you. I truly appreciate the way you took care of him.” She said with a small tremble in her voice.

“It was my pleasure to put that piece of trash out for you.” He smirked to himself. Before she had a chance to respond, a brick red 2020 Ford F250 Platinum careened in front of the black 2020 Chevy Suburban they were entering. The driver, the security team, and especially Mrs. Thornton recognized her husband’s truck even before it came to a stop. When he jumped out, there was no doubt the driver was Ryder as he frantically headed in their direction.

“Is she okay? Is everything alright?” Ryder questioned everyone. When he saw Lydia, he grabbed her and pulled her into his loving embrace.

“Baby, I’m okay. Michael took really good care of me.” She assured the panic-stricken giant. He cupped her face and kissed her forehead immediately followed by the way he hungrily took possession of her lips leaving Lydia flustered and breathless.

“I was so worried about you when Michael called me. I know he is the best at his job, but I had to see you for myself. I had to make sure you were okay.” He breathed against her lips as he turned to lead her to his truck.

“As you can see, I’m fine.” She pulled him close as her hands slid up his face to pull him to her level. Juicy milk chocolate lips drew him into a kiss that left him flushed and a bit dazed. Ryder’s sky blue eyes reflected the storm that mirrored in her electric blue eyes. All who witnessed their exchange saw there was something brewing between the two of them. Stunned by the fire he felt from the kiss, he ran his hand through his professionally cut and styled hair.

Ryder patiently waited for her to get situated in his truck before he locked the door and then addressed the head of his security team.

“Mike, if you will follow us, I would appreciate it. I want to ride home with my baby girl.” He smiled as he hopped in the truck and they pulled off.


Unbeknownst to them, one of Kemi’s associates witnessed the entire scene. He took note of how the man treated Lydia. The fact that he was ecstatic when he arrived and all was well didn’t get past him. The affection he displayed without a care for who might be watching was all carefully documented. The man especially made notations regarding their kiss and the way Lydia’s husband refused to let her out of his sight once he was in her presence.

Everyone involved in the plan to gain access to her fortune once believed the marriage to be a fake.

That was until his surveillance proved that Kemi’s ex was now a wife and she belonged to one of the most powerful families in the South. Lydia wasn’t someone they could easily access and there was nothing her mother, ex-fiance, or anyone else had the power to do anything about it. Things had changed with the confirmation of the marriage’s legitimacy.

The fact that it was the real deal placed Cornelius in an awkward position. He had a stake in the union between the Eustace and Kensington families. His money vanished before his eyes as he watched Ryder Thornton and his security team safely escort the new Mrs. Thornton from the volatile situation.

It was time to change plans before he lost his shirt in this deal. If he hadn’t listened to Kemi and invested his money in the so-called masterplan he had concocted, Cornelius Bruce wouldn’t be out almost forty thousand dollars.

With each calculated misstep, the man came to terms with the fact that his partner made too many costly mistakes. His temper began to flare to the point of becoming enraged at the new situation. All the time and money he had invested at this point were in danger of being lost.

Six blocks down from the clinic and around the corner, he had found a place to leave his car while he did his surveillance. Walking back in that direction, he began to form a plan of his own.

The parking lot was across the street from the local Family Dollar Store which he believed was a safe place to park his classic black 1965 Buick Skylark Gran Sport. He disengaged the alarm system and entered his vehicle. As soon as he was seated comfortably in the car, Cornelius placed a call.

“Man, that motherfucker has lost his mind. He went in there and acted a damn fool. The last I saw was him being hauled out of the clinic in handcuffs. I’m about to lose my motherfucking money because of his bullshit.” The discussion was brief but it got to the point.

“Make contact with her husband and offer him something he can’t refuse. One way or another, we will recoup the money we invested in this little project.” The person on the other end of the phone instructed. Cornelius agreed with the order and made his way to meet with his contact.

It was time to come up with plan B and put it into effect... IMMEDIATELY.

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