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Protecting The Heiress

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Lia Rodriquez lives a fairytale life. A loving husband, the dream family, and boundless happiness. She couldn't have asked for more. But her world shatters with a single brutal twist. Her husband's betrayal. It rips away her trust and joy. Grief piles upon grief at the sudden death of her beloved father. Thrust into the dark threads of family obligations, Lia finds herself an unwilling inheritor of the Rodriquez Empire. Obligations come with enemies and danger but she is determined to uphold her father's legacy and get to the root of his mysterious death. Nicholas Graham, a stoic broker who is haunted by ghosts and the burden of his dying sister. When a tantalizing offer crashes into his life, he grabs it, oblivious to the danger that awaits him. Soon he's entangled in a lethal game of inheritance where not only his life but his heart is at stake. As Lia dismantles the mystery behind her father's death, Nicholas confronts his demons. Can they navigate the dangerous play of power and betrayal while trying to keep their feelings in check or will they become pawns in the deadly game where the price of truth is etched in blood?

Chapter 1

The weight of the cake and vodka in my hand feels satisfying as I tuck it onto the passenger seat with a smile. Today's my husband's birthday, and I'm three days early from my week-long trip, I told him I wouldn't be here for his birthday, but that was just me messing with him.

Pulling into the road, I steal a glance at the box.

My stomach flips as I remember my husband's grumbled response on the phone when I told him I wouldn't be around for his birthday. How could he believe I'd miss his birthday for a trip? For him to believe that was beyond me. I chuckle to myself.

My life has never been more perfect than it is right now. I feel happy, content, and fulfilled.

Truly, money can't buy happiness.

I have lived with having tons of money all my life but I hadn't been this happy. Especially after everything that happened following my mother's death. The secrets that came out destroyed the relationship between my father and me and for a while, I forgot what it felt like to be happy until I met Karl, the love of my life. He filled me with happiness again and made me find a reason to want to live to my fullness again.

Tears well in my eyes and I quickly wipe them away as I revved my small sedan car into our home garage. Today is a day of joy. I don’t want to make it about me.

Exhaling deeply, I kill the car's engine.

Truly, there is no place like home.

Stepping out with the cake and his favorite vodka, a sense of peace washes over me. My bones and muscles ease out as the homey feeling envelopes me. I can never get tired of the joy that fills my heart whenever I’m home with the love of my life.

My steps falter as I catch a glimpse of a familiar red car parked outside. I recognize it but, I can't figure out where or how.

Curiosity prickles down my spine as I rack my brain.

I shrug it off and continue inside. It’s probably someone from Karl's work. Besides, today is his birthday, and guests are expected. The same fragrance that hit me in the driveway envelops me once again when my leg meets the floor of my matrimonial home.

A smile grazes my lips. Good to see that the house I left four days ago is in the same state. Karl isn’t much of a cleaner so I’m pleasantly surprised.

I don’t deserve Karl. He is so good to me. He takes care of me. He loves me. He cherishes me so much. He was even against me working which didn't matter to me. I wasn't much on the corporate side of the world. My dream was to have a big family and support my husband.

His family was against getting married, especially his mother. That woman despises me. She wanted him to get married to someone else but Karl protected me and stood his ground that it was me he loves and is willing to spend the rest of his life with.

My mouth opens to announce myself but I think against it. A mischievous grin spreads across my face. Announcing myself won't be nearly as seeing the shock on his face when I walk in. I picture his jaw dropping when he sees me.

He mentioned needing a day off, and his car's in the driveway, so catching him off guard is a sure thing.

My tiptoes navigate the ground floor, checking his usual places: the pool, the game room, the living room. Each space fuels my anticipation, the excitement climbing with each rising stair. After four days away, the thought of seeing him sends a flutter through my chest. I must admit, I miss him more than I let on.

My steps quicken as I approach our bedroom, anticipation turning my insides into a ball of jelly. My smile stretches so wide, that I fear it might tear my face in two.

Suddenly, a burst of feminine laughter pierces the air, making me freeze in my tracks. My blood runs cold. Did... did I hear that right?

Every muscle in me strains as I press my ear against the wall, desperate for another sound.

It comes, clearer this time, laced with the unmistakable baritone of Karl's laugh.

Icy daggers replace the warmth in my veins as a thousand possibilities twist my mind.

Why is a burst of feminine laughter coming from my matrimonial bedroom? A room I shared with my husband.

My heart hammers against my ribs. I lean against the wall as my breath comes in ragged gasps.

Is it...

No. Impossible.

A capital N-O.

I shake my head frantically.

How could I think of such a heinous thing? Is this how little I trust Karl? He will be so disappointed in me when he finally clears this misunderstanding.

He will never do this to me. It's probably one of his colleagues here for his birthday. Another shake, this time at my delusion.

Calming myself, I take a step forward, then another, deliberately slow to avoid the noise of the click-clack of my shoes. My ears strain to pick up the muffled voices over the deafening roar of my heart.

When the incessant sound of my shoes continues, I slip out of them, before inching closer to the bedroom door. Silence stretches, heavy and suffocating. Just as the voices fade, I release a shaky breath and prepare to enter. But then, the laughter erupts again, piercing the quiet. I freeze, backpedaling slowly, desperately silent.

My back scrapes the wall, rasping out a hiss. I held my breath, waiting for something to happen. But it seems they didn't hear me because the voices continue in their muffled words.

My heart has lunged into my throat at this moment.

"God, she's such a fool," the woman's voice sneers.

My heart plummets. I recognize this voice. It's...It's Pen, Karl's secretary and someone who I have grown fond of over the years. Someone I call my friend.

Panic claws its way up my throat as a male voice, laced with disdain, replies "I know." Blood drains from my face. It was his voice, Karl's. "Lia is the biggest fool I know."

The world tilts on its axis, threatening to collapse as my heart shatters into a million pieces.

Chapter 2

Tendrils of agony twists my gut, and my vision blurs with tears but I force myself to remain quiet and listen to them. My husband and Pen.

"How could she not see it?" Pen's voice drips with annoyance, laced with a hint of irritation. “I practically shoved it into her face that there is something between us, yet she isn’t one bit suspicious.”

My heart breaks, scattering like marbles on the cold floor, and sending a wave of visceral pain crashing through me.

They're talking about me. No. They are berating me.

“She is foolish. It is one of her charms.” This time, it is the husband that I love so much that chuckles, his voice devoid of warmth. The words scrapes against my soul, coming from the man I love and thinks loves me the same if not more. He just reduced me to a ‘foolish woman' in front of his secretary whom I considered to be a friend.

A sob threatens to rip from my throat, but I clamp my palm over my mouth, muffling th

Heroes

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