Snippet: I will protect my woman from any and all threats. Period.

Hey y’all. Lado is making headway with Sophie, with his smug self. He’s moved into the house, even got her with him at work. When the bastard ex makes an unexpected, violent appearance, he is bound and determined his progress with his intended will NOT be derailed. I hope you enjoy this unedited snippet. Lemme know what you think…

…His first call was to his good friend Patrice Agnetti. He needed a detective to spy on one ex-girlfriend beating asshole, and old Patty likely had an excellent one on speed dial. He did indeed. After Lado told him everything he knew, his friend promised a preliminary report by the end of the week, if not

Perfect. He’d see what was what, then make plans. He was thinking offense. Defense left too much to chance, and dear old shitty Robert had already shown himself to be dangerously unstable, violent, as well as having a character as weak as cheap, poorly steeped tea. Whatever the bloke’s issue was, he could not be allowed near Sophie again. If he had to reach out and touch the bastard to ensure that happened, so be it. She was doing exceedingly well, and he would not have her derailed, her newly recovered peace disturbed.

His darling was still fragile, and it had nothing to do with her battered little body, the love. He suspected she hadn’t had much self-confidence even before she lost all her money and fell prey to that fatal bout of writer’s block. Her mother dying likely hadn’t helped.

Since they moved in together she’d spoken of that lady often. She’d been a beauty, looking like an old-fashioned version of Sophie in the pictures he saw, only plumper. He could tell they’d had a wonderful relationship.

After her death, Sophie had probably been starved for affection. It was probably what took her so long to get rid of Robert in the first place. He, at least, was familiar, and after her mother was gone, she’d probably been quite lonely and more than a little lost without that loving anchor in her life.

He had to press and push and prod, but eventually she told him more about her relationship with the ex. Lado had never shaken his head so much in his life, nor snorted so often in disgust, but it was either that or roll his eyes, and they’d probably have got stuck he did it so often.

What a complete fucking loser. Manipulative, lazy, with a sorry as job and no ambition. Good grief. Women. Talk shit to them, they were yours for the taking. It seemed so out of character for Sophie. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, a determined almost willful ignorance. He just couldn’t see the woman he knew acting so blindly.

Then he realized something. The woman he knew wouldn’t act that way. She’d changed. Tragedy and adversity had brought forth aspects of her character that success and her mother’s spoiling had temporarily buried. Hardship had forced her to face life head on, and in spite of the long face, some economic handicaps and a few skittish, ostrich-like tendencies, she’d risen to the challenge like a champ.

The roughing her up, that was new, and Lado was determined that the first time would absolutely be the last. He’d never understood men who beat women. If someone makes you angry enough that you’re compelled to commit physical violence, common sense dictates that you get the hell away from them. He’d been raised to treat women delicately, to spoil and take care of them. He thought of his mother. She looked at him like he’d stabbed her in the heart if he didn’t hold the doors open for her. God knows what she’d do if she ever found out about this fucking shit show.

He could hear her now: “Can’t you do something, darling?” Emphasis on the do.

She knew Lado was very much a “do” kind of man. Not that Sophie needed much. Look at her. She’d just needed a little help to get herself together. She’d only been working for a few weeks, and already she’d lost that angry, slighted stooped posture. Her eyes and face were brighter, she wasn’t as tired, and her small smile was much quicker to make an appearance and to stay on her sweet mouth longer.

He’d suspected she was quite charming underneath all that angst, and now that her piddling money worries had been satisfactorily dealt with, her natural intelligence and wit had risen quickly back to the surface. He quite enjoyed matching wits with her in the evening. He looked forward to it.

Now that he’d made his presence felt, financially and otherwise, she was less stressed. She was also quicker to challenge him. But this wasn’t that automatic female defensiveness, this was more thoughtful, a strong intelligent woman, pointing out to her man when he was being shortsighted, or an ass. Then, after they crossed verbal swords, they’d cry paux and make love.

The article had come out a few weeks back, and in an instance of extreme cheek, he’d had it framed and shown it to her, refusing to let her hold it. “You might drop it, and this bit of paper will soon be hanging in pride of place in my office.”

Sophie just rolled her eyes.

And never in a million years would anyone guess that she wasn’t a career admin. There was no ‘I’m an artist’ grumbling. She was a total professional, always on time, thorough, conscientious and pleasant. He’d gotten nothing but good reports on her work. He passed along each compliment with a smug smirk, as though he had something to do with her success. Well, he had, hadn’t he?

He liked watching her tap figures into her budget. But he cautioned her, as diplomatically as possible not to get too comfortable. This, he’d said just once, is just temporary for you.

“I know.”

He nodded. He knew she thought he meant because soon she’d be writing full time. He did. But he also meant that soon she’d be his wife, and he would support her.

Still, she was practical. She’d even asked him not to mention that she used to write books because “I don’t want anyone to question my level of commitment. I’m gonna work this job until my writing is back on track, and then I’m going to leave on good terms,” she told him. He supported that plan 100 percent.

Of course, he’d support her 100 percent without a job if she’d let him, but he kind of liked that she wouldn’t. He respected that she wanted to get herself back on her feet, even if he had no intention of indulging this independent streak for long.

For now she accepted his “half-sies” contribution with aclarity, saying, “Well, you do live here now,” and he’d quickly agreed.

She asked if he was planning to give up his apartment. No fool, he said that he was. It was only a slight misdirection. There was no reason to tell her that he owned the building, his first real estate purchase as a young man, a gentle lead from his father when his son showed a marked liking for the city. A lead that had paid off the initial investment many, many times over.

All in all, things were going very well. Sophie’d even picked up a much needed pound or two, and now he’d got Tommy and crew on her clothes, she was as she should be. Perhaps better – he thought smugly – than she looked in the old pictures Tommy had shown him one night over drinks.

He’d stared at the pictures of a laughing Sophie, eyeing the asshole Robert closely when he appeared in the shots, before looking back at his little love and swearing to himself that he’d put that smile back on her face permanently.

The only thing left to work out now was her writing career, and he was pissed he couldn’t do more there. Fortunately, she was working doggedly away at it. She swore she hadn’t a clue if what she was creating was any good, but Lado had every finger and toe crossed that it was. That’s all she needed, the icing on the cake as it were, to be able to publish again.

She was great at her job with his company, but Sophie should be at home, on her laptop, or going on book tours, and whatever else a bestselling author did these days. And she would, if he had to twist the arm of some people in the publishing industry to give her another shot. But he had a feeling that wouldn’t be necessary.

He’d snuck a peek at her story while she was in the loo one night, and found the few paragraphs he read before she came back incredibly compelling. The story of a little girl in love with a doll that talked to her and only her was so clever. She wrote for children, but the adults who read these stories would read between the lines and be entertained as well. She didn’t write down. She wrote to encourage the small minds and imaginations to stretch and reach.

He couldn’t wait to read the finished tale, and she insisted that he not until it was done. To which he said simply, “Hurry up.”


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