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“Ryder my dear sweet boy. It has been far too long since I last laid eyes on you. Time to stop avoiding us. I expect a visit from you and my dear sweet granddaughter-in-law this Friday by noon without fail.”

Love Gram Gram.

He had officially been summoned.

Ryder had long ago learned when to resist the Iron Maidens and when it was safer to fall in line. Lady Konstantina sent for guests only when she deemed it to be unavoidable and there was no acceptable response other than to visit with her to learn the nature of her call.

He was already aware of the early morning visit between his grandmother and his wife. To her credit, Lydia kept nothing from him... ever. He learned that Lydia gave his Gram Gram her undivided attention. As a result of follow-up reports he’d received from his security team, his wife was now Lady Konstantina’s new favorite person.

She was untouchable as far as the elderly woman was concerned and that juicy tidbit of information had actually been verified by Michael himself.

This was a fact that confirmed how lucky he was to have such an astounding woman like Lydia in his life.

Often, he contemplated how well they worked together. Even their decision to get married was agreed upon with the knowledge that each of them had considerable axes to grind with others. They joined forces with ease expecting nothing more than the tying up of loose ends. Ryder would never have predicted that their relationship would morph into a friendship-love so strong his heart would overflow with the joy of simply thinking about his wife.

He was thoroughly consumed by the desire to be no more than a breath away from the woman he once only saw as a means to an end. Of course, his original plan focused on denying his sworn enemy access to Lydia’s inheritance. Ryder eagerly assisted her to untangle herself from Kemi along with all who were complicit with the torture she endured.

Not once had it occurred to him that she would have such a profound impact on his life.

After two years and three months of what was previously a contract marriage, Ryder found himself hopelessly in love with his wife. Besides the crush he had in junior high, he was hard-pressed to recall any woman who successfully captured his soul, the way Lydia had.

Ryder carried around memories of the moments he spent enjoying his woman that were often so vivid, they left him unsteady like a pool of jello. As he recalled the sight of her glistening ebony skin pressed between his lumbering form and the bed, frequently, he wavered with the effort that was required to control his reaction to the mere vision of her tongue as it made contact with his skin.

The oxygen in his lungs thinned itself out leaving Ryder temporarily dazed as he paused to steady himself from the effects he sustained after a flash of their tantric lovemaking raced across his mind.

Though Ryder once dabbled with the freedom to play around in the upper echelons, no woman ever secured his heart. Not one of them had the impact on his mind... his loins... his soul in any way to match the command Lydia had over him.

Ryder loved Lydia more so because she never tried to control or manipulate him. His wife’s humility made him love her more. And since there was no doubt in his mind of her love for him, he was prepared to do whatever he must to secure her happiness.

He was always reminded of how he found her. Never would he have met a more extraordinary woman if he hadn’t found her on that fateful day.

As he considered his good fortune, he accepted it was time to stop dodging his family. Lydia wasn’t going anywhere. No one in his family had the power to take her away from him without a fight.

Ryder was nowhere near foolish enough to discount his mother and grandmother’s power or influence. They hadn’t lasted as long in the business world by always playing nice. He would never before challenge either of them, but where his wife was concerned, he would wrestle the devil himself.


In certain circles, Michael trafficked valuable intelligence to stay ahead of any actions which might bring harm to the Thornton family. His head of security learned that the Iron Maidens put the word out that any and all contracts concerning Mrs. Lydia Kinsington-Thorton were to be abandoned and reported as soon as they came across the wire. A ten million dollar protection agreement was instituted on behalf of the doctor, supported by the Lady herself.

Michael also reported that information came across the wire of a contract on the individuals who were responsible for the attempted kidnapping of Dr. Kensington-Thonton. When Ryder requested the details of the contracts, his head of security stated that the information was under a clearance that was much higher than the one he possessed. This meant the person who owned the contracts was wealthy beyond measure.

A briefing such as the one Michael shared wasn’t the exhilarating feedback he’d expected. Ownership of those contracts was a problem as long as he was unaware of the person or people behind the money.

Before he left his grandmother’s home, he insisted that the facts surrounding that contract be presented to him before they sat down for supper. Ryder offered to purchase the contracts along with all Intel surrounding them.

He and his wife boarded his private helicopter as Michael worked to figure out all the facts of the triangle of deception and lies.


For what seemed like a matter of minutes, Lydia gave herself away to mindless chatter. he learned long ago that whenever she was nervous, she would engage him in a conversation about numerous random facts.

As the helicopter descended at his grandmother’s estate, Ryder felt undeniable tension build in his companion as her hands stopped moving and all which had been up for discussion quietly came to a stop.

This was the first time he would come face-to-face with his mother since the last conversation he had with her a few months after Vegas. On that day, his mother insisted he was a derelict who had no respect for his elders. Of course, she over-exaggerated. He hadn’t heard so much as a peep from her, but that was his beloved mother’s way.

If she couldn’t get her way, she would cut you off completely.


“Did you pick her up already?” She asked feeling a little bit apprehensive.

Earlier that day, she received a call that Cornelius was found murdered in his car and his house had been burned to the ground. She called the rest of the guys and told them to meet in her office first thing that morning. Since placing the calls, she was left with a bad feeling when Clyde didn’t show up a few hours later cussing and threatening to kick anyone’s ass who got in his way.

She glanced over at the time on her laptop and confirmed it was twelve minutes after two in the afternoon. Someone should have seen the old buzzard by now, but word on the street was nobody had seen him since the guys got together for a few rounds of pool down at The Hot Spot the night before.

“We were there to pick her up, but she didn’t get off the plane.” The man responded to her question.

“What the fuck do you mean she didn’t get off the plane? How the hell is that even possible?” She screeched at the man thinking surely he must be pulling her leg. Nelda was in no mood for the shit he was explaining to her.

“We checked with a contact at the airport and it looks like her flight stopped over in Houston, Texas. An instrument reading caused the pilots to divert the flight for a safety inspection. By the time the jet reached Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport, not one single person could explain what happened to her. She couldn’t be found anywhere.” The phone dropped on her desk.

After all the time and planning, somehow, they had been found out. If she didn’t gain control of this train wreck with a quickness, everything thing she had been working on for nearly half her life would go up in flames. She wasn’t prepared to allow any of those bastards to beat her out of what was rightfully hers. Just thinking about it made her blood boil.

If she had to kill each and every one of her enemies, she was prepared to do just that. Not one motherfucker would take what belonged to her. NOT ONE!

As hellfire seared her soul, Nelda willed herself to act. It was time to show the people who always doubted her that she was the one bitch they would regret ever crossing.

“Send some of your guys to bring that ugly, fat, black bitch to me... NOW! I don’t care who you have to kill to get her, but you better move heaven and earth to bring her here or I will make sure everybody you love is ripped to shreds and sprinkled in the nearest desert.” She ground out the words in a low sinister voice.

“Consider it done.” The man replied and terminated the call.

Nelda sat behind the massive wood desk in her high-back leather chair. For all intents and purposes, it was her throne. She was a queen in her own right and she would show those idiots her powers.

Clyde was now MIA. She knew it was possible he had gone to the other side. The thought of him sharing their every moves with her enemies pissed Nelda off so bad, she took out her 9mm. She placed three clips on the desk next to her zip ties, mace, and a pair of brass knuckles she always kept somewhere on her.

Processing everything that transpired in the last forty-eight hours sent her into a manic state as she realized everything was crumbling all around her. Nelda was compelled to place the ball of emotions raging in her head on hold as Kemi burst through the closed door.

“They killed him!" He screamed as he slammed the door and rushed to lock it behind him.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Nelda asked as she trained her eyes on her young accomplice.

Taking in his appearance made a knot clinch in her stomach.

If this bastard wasn’t anything else, he was completely stuck on himself. It was his compulsive insecurities that always prevented him from leaving the house looking like a mess. The conceited jerk stood before her shivering and sweating as if the hounds of hell were on his back. It wasn’t lost on her the way he scurried into the office fast enough to knock down anyone who may have been unfortunate enough to be standing on the other side of that door. His eyes jetted back and forward as he scanned the room wildly.

“He was sitting on a lounging chair in his backyard by the jacuzzi when they found him. Somebody had shoved a power drill bit in his arm and left him there to bleed out,” he shared how Clyde was found.

In all the years since she met Kemi, Nelda believed him to be a self-absorbed dickhead who was incapable of expressing fear or remorse. As he stood before her frantically recounting the gory scene he had witnessed, the look of absolute terror struck her that they might actually be in over their heads.

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