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“You are a genius.” Lydia sang his praises as she wrapped her arms around his waist. She giggled like a little schoolgirl while jumping up and down for joy. Giving the man his props after the outcome of the day was the least she could do.

Ryder’s investigation into Lydia’s life-story turned up several culprits who diligently worked behind the scenes to create the perfect opportunity to seize what was hers and hers alone.

The time came when she was emotionally and physically stable and Ryder assured himself that the best way to accomplish his goals was to bring Lydia in on everything. His idea was to tell her about it all and ask her how she would like to handle the disloyalty of those involved. He shared with Lydia what had been uncovered hoping she would trust him to help her end the games these schemers had played with her since birth.

For months, they ran drills aimed at preparing her for the many different scenarios which were likely to occur. Lydia learned that Ryder was a master strategizer. Whenever anyone attempted to lie to him and cause his family or business harm, Ryder utilized his considerable resources to outsmart every single person or situation that came up against him. The man was truly skilled at outmaneuvering his opponents.

Literally glowing with joy, Lydia was relieved to have placed her trust and conviction in the knight she had come to believe was heaven sent.

Upon further reflection, she saw there was no time in her life when anyone ever cared for her the way Ryder had. He committed himself to secure her release from the bondage others fought desperately to anchor deep into Lydia’s existence in the most brutal fashion imaginable.

By stripping away her self-worth, their success was assured until he prevented them from taking her out.

Thankfully, their joint efforts began to bear fruit the instant Ryder’s mother confirmed their legal marriage. After Kemi visited her office, that encounter only served to further the cause.

Lydia was left with a sense of empowerment when she held herself together in front of the man who once enjoyed breaking her. No longer afraid of her own shadow, the control she wielded in Kemi’s presence gave her the strength she needed to firmly slam the door shut on the past she had shared with the man who delighted in her misery.

A small amount of drama ensued when Kemi lunged at her, but that too was a calculated risk.

For once in her life, Lydia felt free to breathe without worrying about becoming a victim.

Crystal clear orbs lingered on Ryder’s face completely enamored with the man who proved to her that he merely sought to right the numerous wrongs in her life. His actions made Ryder shine brighter to her than the sun.

Her cheeks burned as she considered that she was a thirty-four-year-old fully grown woman with a crush. It was as if she were back in high school and he was the cute lineman all the girls tried desperately to get his attention.

Lydia wished he saw her as more than an accomplice to get back what Kemi had wrongfully taken from his family. Nothing would make her happier than to hear him express that he wanted more from her than to simply expose and destroy her ex.

᷀ ᷀


Thinking back to the day Michael informed them that Ryder’s mother had witnessed the show, a little smile lingered on her face as she envisioned the two of them racing from the bed to watch as the Iron Maiden stormed out of the Las Vegas home. The look on the woman’s face sent them into fits when they watched retreating as if she had seen the devil himself.

Amelia Walker-Thornton’s pallor was gray-green as she raced out the black SUV parked in the circle drive.

Ryder’s voice rolled with laughter watching his mother escape what he was sure she would fight to the ends of the Earth to undo.

It was apparent the woman believed she had caught Ryder and Lydia in the act of consummating their marriage.

The couple struggled against awkward positioning, fits of laughter, a lack of physical familiarity, and the most uncomfortable little scraps of clothing to produce an Oscar-winning sexual performance.

It appeared their hard work paid off.

For the audience of one, there was no doubt that Ryder was giving it to Lydia in a way that was sure to produce a baby, or at least, that’s what an onlooker would believe when observing the two in bed. However, there was no possibility that the act could produce anything since they were both wearing carefully constructed garments to provide a barrier between them.

When Ryder’s mother showed up at their Las Vegas honeymoon hideout, the security team was already positioned to knock the Iron Maiden off her high horse. Every person, including the snitch, did exactly what they were instructed to do to make sure his mother walked into that room at just the right time.

Positioned in just the right way, it was easy to make anyone believe he was digging deep into Lydia the moment the door opened. They had rehearsed everything the day before and by the time his mother entered the room, she was done in by the scene she bound to have witnessed.

If she had bothered to yank the comforter back, Ryder’s mother would have seen that their intimate parts were completely covered and all their hard work would have gone right out the door.

Once the traumatized woman’s vehicle screeched out of the driveway, Ryder instructed his team to send out articles to a few select newspapers along with a local high society magazine to announce their union.


With the help of a college friend, his security team, and Lydia, Ryder’s plan to keep his wife out of the hands of a group of malicious thugs was implemented with ease.

A few weeks after the couple tied the knot, Ryder’s people confirmed his suspicions that he and Lydia had been placed under heavy surveillance by Kemi’s associates.

He figured it was time to increase the tension amongst the players soon after the wedding announcement was made public.

Ryder and Lydia’s next task was to fracture the bond the crooks shared. By making them think they had lost all they stood to gain from the years of torture that were inflicted on Lydia, it was easy to stage the office scene to solicit a negative response from Kemi.

The conspirators failed to understand the values embodied in the woman now carrying the name Mrs. Lydia Thornton.

Since Kemi had been trying for months to reach Lydia through her office, his communications were intentionally ignored and turned down until Ryder explained it was time to make him understand he had no chance of winning back the woman he so carelessly let slip through his fingers. The asshole was denied access until they were ready to take him down.

Before she agreed to meet him, Ryder encouraged Michael to teach Lydia basic self-defense. This was to assure her that she would be fine in the event something went awry. Not to mention, a security team would be in place at all times. They worked with Lydia to build up her courage and gave her clues on the best ways to respond to him should he get out of line.

The ultimate goal was accomplished when the security team captured the threats made to Lydia during the meeting. Recording the interaction was the best way to place this scumbag in the purview of the law.

By the time Lydia was prepared for the meeting, she was well-aware of the inheritance that was left to her. Ryder had spent some time going over the details and explaining why Kemi fought to break her and bend her to his will. When she came to the conclusion that her parents and her ex-fiancé were in collusion with one another, Lydia was finally done with them once and for all.

To learn why they insisted on tormenting her, the woman who never had a bad thought about anyone was filled to the brim with rage for those who were responsible for every bit of torture she endured day after day. She was prepared to repay their kindness back to them multiplied. She had no desire to take anyone’s life... no... no. That would be too easy for them.

Lydia decided to pit the lying deceitful vipers against each other and watch them tear one another apart.

The craziest part of the whole thing was that she knew all of the players and she would have gladly given them enough to ensure a better life.

But... never again. Not after she learned what they had in store for her. NEVER AGAIN!


With a gleam in her eyes, Lydia was on her tiptoes kissing all over his face before she could control the exuberance swelling in her soul.

“Thank you so much for everything you have done for me.” She continued to express her sincere appreciation for the man who renewed her spirit.

Tears welled in her eyes as she envisioned the day when he explained everything to her. They never expected themselves to become more than just partners in crime... so to speak, but he made everyone believe he loved her more than life itself.

Ryder watched her as she wiped her tears away. He was amazed at how different she was now from the person he found on that cold winter morning. At one time, she was completely hollow, but now, she was so happy she glowed.

Lydia hugged him every time she came close to him, and he wished he could say he was simply happy to be there for her. Somehow, during the madness of everything they plotted, his heart started to desire more than just a need to be her knight in shining armor.

The caramel cream cotton dress clung to her form as she grabbed some paperwork from his desk. Ryder fought to hide his interest in her as she sauntered around with the most adorable smile on her face. The striking sheen of her dark brown skin only served to distract him beyond control as he considered what it would be like to slide the spaghetti straps down from her shoulders and steal a taste.

He was sure she must taste just like chocolate. Every day he struggled to rip his eyes away from her. Lydia grew more alluring as he watched her transform from the scared little dove who tugged at his heart in a way no woman ever had.

She had spent the last few hours trying to read through the stack of documents sent to her from her grandfather’s lawyer, but her mind was so taken by their accomplishments it was impossible to seriously focus on anything.

In Lydia’s zeal to join Ryder on the gigantic sofa in his personal den, all of the hubbub to complete the paperwork disappeared. He had already retired in favor of enjoying a movie and she second his decision.

Their synergy was truly uncommon as they snuggled up to one another enjoying their platonic relationship. Ryder reached out and rubbed her hand appreciating the closeness of the woman who stole his attention long ago. She settled next to him in a way that would confound anyone who viewed them.

Lydia enjoyed the warmth and security she found with Ryder. Never had he imagined he would meet a woman who genuinely desired to be with him and not just his money.

She wasn’t concerned about his wealth. The only thing she cared about was spending time next to him, and he felt that in her every move.

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