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“Kemi was in love with my sister Heaven. Most people found themselves awestricken by her exotic warm neutral beige skin with hints of bronze, elongated upturned eyes, and a curvy body that made men stop in their tracks. Most people became powerless the moment she graced them with a smile. When we were out, onlookers would ask her what was her nationality because they thought she was mixed but she wasn’t. Everyone adored her. So... when she died in a head-on collision, Kemi kind of lost his mind because she had accepted his marriage proposal only two weeks earlier. Because our families were supposedly destined to be united, I was urged to take her place.” Lydia’s mind was lost in the past as she recalled how she ended up shackled to a man who hated the very air she breathed.

“Why would your family insist you marry him if he was opposed to marrying you?” The question gave away the fact that her words seemed confusing.

“I really don’t know the answer to that question. I just know my family has been aware of his abusive side with me for some time, yet they overlooked it and told me to be happy that a good-looking man even thought of marrying me. They always insisted I wasn’t good enough for him in the first place, so I should be thankful for the opportunity to be his wife.” Answering his questions provided her with the first opportunity to really question the arranged marriage between the two families.

Lydia finally admitted the intricate facts of why she was forced into the arrangement with her tormenter. No one else was aware of the arrangement except his family and hers.

“So, you mean to tell me he punished you like that because you weren’t your sister?” The disbelief on his face was visible. For three years, her family behaved as if nothing was wrong with it. Ryder was the only person to express genuine outrage.

“Exactly,” Lydia responded to him as she dropped her head feeling the weight of the confession lift up and disappear into the atmosphere. She could have kept it all to herself, but he saved her life. Ryder made sure she was nursed back to health, so Lydia had nothing to lose by sharing the whole sordid mess with the one person who actually cared about her well-being.


As Ryder listened to Lydia’s explanation regarding what went wrong in her life, his brain began to turn. A plan materialized that was sure to piss that stupid asshole off and make him suffer like he never had in his god-forsaken life. Ryder had already discovered who Lydia was and she confirmed what he’d previously suspected about her relationship with Kemi.

Because she was talented and successful, it highlighted just how mediocre her tormentors were. Their insecurities were projected onto their victim. They tried to extinguish the light that once radiated from her and they came so close to success until Ryder intervened.

Lydia Kensington was the granddaughter of one of the wealthiest medical families in the state of Arkansas. Her late grandfather created a trust fund for his two granddaughters to inherit once they were married.

The only reason that sick creep wanted to marry her was to get his hands on her inheritance.

Listening to her, he wanted to ask the really tough questions about the bruises and black eye when he found her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was sure she suffered enough without having to relive the extensive abuse Dr. Hubert shared with him without going into extreme detail.

The old man’s face was ash white as he completed his examination. He was so shaken, he asked Ryder for something he was seldom caught with. As soon as his assistant met them in the hall just outside her door, she handed the elderly man a glass of Scotch. Ryder took note of the way his age-withered hands shook as the doctor accepted the drink.

“In the fifty or so years that I have been practicing, this was the first time I’ve ever seen anything that extensive.” He divulged as he stared off into the distance.

“It’s that bad?” Ryder questioned.

“Son... it’s worse than that. Because I am bound by the law to keep what I saw private, I can only say the man she has been with up until now is the worst kind of beast. The things he did to her...” Tears welled in his eyes as his voice trailed off.

Ryder had no previous experiences to prepare him for what he was witnessing. The man who was there for all of his follies and fractures held his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle himself from crying. An action that garnered him no success.

“Please, do me a favor.” Dr. Hubert requested.

“Sure. I’ll do anything.” Ryder responded.

“Please, take care of her for me. No one deserves the hell she has survived through.” The old man promised to call with instructions for her care. Declaring he needed to get some air and a little rest, he walked away draining the full glass of liquor as he walked back the way he had entered the house when he first arrived.

As Lydia shared the information with Ryder, he came to the conclusion that the only way to protect Lydia, while metaphorically piercing Kemi Eustace through his pridefully sick and twisted heart, would be to deny the fiend the one thing he desired more than anything else. Ryder would take his enemy’s chance to access her inheritance.

What she was set to inherit was nothing to sneeze at, but it paled in comparison to his family’s assets. Her inheritance was of no concern to him. Because he had no need to touch what belonged to her, he believed he was the perfect person to execute this little bit of revenge against Kemi. Ryder wanted nothing more than the honor of keeping that vulture from seeing one red penny of her money. Besides, he figured if things didn’t work out between the two of them, she could always go her own way and live her life any way she saw fit without dealing with an animal who would probably try to get rid of her as soon as she acquired the trust fund.

As he considered the moves he’d be required to make, Ryder realized there were two people who would do everything in their power to stop him in his tracks. Even though his actions would benefit the family immensely, they were destined to disapprove of Lydia because she wasn’t some tall leggy blonde, or dazzling red-head from a wealthy family in their social circle.

For once, he would bite the bullet and deal with the backlash of the two iron maidens when the time came. Ryder already had trusty people making moves on his behalf. There was only one final step to execute in order to successfully bring his gameplan to fruition.

“Lydia, I need you to know that your mother and your ex-fiancé were wrong. I don’t think I’ve met anyone like you before. The first time your eyes met mine, I was starstruck. You are strikingly beautiful. So much so that you took my breath away. You don’t deserve what they did to you.” He helped her to sit up as he eased her to the edge of the bed. After he supported her and encouraged her to stand up in front of him once more, Ryder pulled the chair close to her legs to allow them to face each other eye to eye.

That wasn’t the first time he really examined the color of her eyes. At first, he figured much like anyone who met her that she was wearing the most brilliant shade of blue contacts he had ever seen. It wasn’t until he did a thorough background check on Lydia that he found out she had a condition responsible for the anomaly electrifying his soul.

Not only were her eyes a brilliant clear blue, but they were also different because one eye had a few flakes of dark brown attached to the limbal ring, or the dark ring around the iris. The other eye was as clear as light blue spring water. After further conversations with Dr. Hubert, he came to learn that she had an extremely rare condition know as Waardenburg Syndrome.

Apparently, it was a mutation that changes the pigment in the person’s eyes, skin, and hair. The doctor explained that she had the Type 2 variation which also made her deaf in her right ear. With so much knowledge about Lydia, it was impossible for Ryder to stay away from her. Lydia was indeed a rare gem.

With eyes like hers, they were her most uniquely alarming feature because of their undeniable contrast next to her flawless rich mahogany brown skin. Comparing herself to society’s standard of beauty was absolutely impossible. Other women fit into a category that would never suit Lydia.

His research also confirmed that she had spent many years enduring an onslaught of attacks because others refused to give her credit for the natural goddess she was blessed to be. The color of her eyes was offensive to those who found it hard to understand God’s love of variety. Because of their own inadequacies, they tortured the little black girl with eyes so blue they scared those who were superstitious and enraged others who were simply jealous.

As he stared into the clear sky blue orbs, Ryder figured out why the people who were controlling her life tried to damage such an amazing woman. They hated Lydia because she was nothing like them. She wasn’t consumed by greed nor was she a schemer. It never occurred in her mind to use her looks to her advantage.

Lydia’s heart was pure and she was a bombshell.

The only way for them to maintain their hold on her was to break down her ability to love and value herself.

She wasn’t merely pleasing in onlooker’s eyes, she was an unconventionally breathtaking natural wonder and appeared to have no idea of that fact at all.

Lydia reminded him of something he truly loved. Ever since he was a small boy, he and his grandfather would often sneak off to the elderly man’s study and eat the sweet yet bitter candy despite warnings issued by his grandmother. The more he took in her flawlessly smooth complexion, Ryder actually felt a slight fluttering in the pit of his stomach.

Just like the forbidden treat he and his grandfather enjoyed so much, Ryder needed to know more about the dark chocolate dove fate obviously thrust into his life.

Next to her, he felt like a giant. True, he wanted to make Kemi pay for the stress caused by his dirty dealings, but the more he learned about Lydia, Ryder was intrigued by the woman.

After careful investigation, he found that Lydia was the exact opposite of the women he normally encountered. She gave herself into the service of her patients. She was well respected in the modest town of Ansley, Arkansas, where she practiced. When he questioned different business owners about her, he was surprised by the high regard people held for her.

Lydia maintained a respectable medical practice and she was known as a shrewd businesswoman. His research produced glowing accounts of her interactions within the community.

It baffled his mind how silly a person must be to have such a woman in their life only to mistreat her.

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