Read CHAPTER ONE Illustrated | Rough Diamond 2: Deal &Close - Enders series #5 #RomanticSuspense
Rough Diamond 2: Deal & Close (Enders Book 5) is out tomorrow 26th April! Read the full first chapter below
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The black metal gate rattled as Sophie rapidly tapped her knuckles against it. Excitement fizzed through her veins, heightening her senses. A light breeze fluttered the hems of the multi-print Ankara pantsuit’s wide-leg trousers. She ignored the urge to tug the loose blouse to prevent it from clinging to her dampening skin—the downside of abandoning her air-conditioned vehicle on the street. She’d been in Lori Osa for six months and was still unused to the heavy humidity of its rainy season. On days like this, she missed the arid weather of hilly Opal City she’d called her home for the past decade.
Stepping back, her high-heeled sandal pushed a pebble. It rolled down the inclined concrete slab concealing the drains running along the outside of the duplexes surrounded by high brick fences in this middle-class residential neighbourhood. The road must have been resurfaced recently with its intact upper charcoal asphalt. Then again, the incumbent governor grew up in the area. The least he could do was give them good roads, even if he wasn’t doing much else for the state's citizens.
She lifted her dark sunshades and glanced up at the overcast sky. Rain was imminent. Still, the dull, grey weather, humid heat and ugly Nigerian politics wouldn’t dampen her energy. She’d been looking forward to this visit for weeks. Since she got the news from her mother that her younger sister had given birth.
The pedestrian gate creaked open, and a young man in a red t-shirt, jeans trousers and white trainers appeared. He held one white earpiece attached to a white cable disappearing behind him, probably in his back pocket and smartphone.
“Good afternoon. Who do you want to see?” he said, staring at her curiously. He was probably her sister’s neighbour’s son.
“Good afternoon. I’m here to visit Mr and Mrs Idowu,” Sophie replied, lifting the bags in her hands from the baby shop.
“Oh, okay. You can come in.” He stepped away from the entrance, making way for Sophie.
“Thank you,” She entered the paved courtyard surrounded by a brick fence leading to the modern two-storey pale-grey duplex but didn’t go further. She wasn’t sure which one of the two residences was her sister’s. “Are you their neighbour?”
“Yes.” He smiled, locking the pedestrian gate. Then he waved her towards the front entrance of the first house. “Auntie Bimpe is in 11B.”
“Thank you,” she replied and walked to the dark-grey door. She pressed the bell attached to the wall.
Two minutes later, she heard the metal locks disengaging before the door opened.
“Sister!” Bimpe gasped softly. She was dressed in a blue floral top and long flowing black skirt, her hair in braids packed into a bunch at the back. “We were not expecting you today.”
She looked flustered and not pleased to see Sophie.
Sophie’s belly knotted with regret. Perhaps she should have waited before coming to see her sister. Maybe she should have called ahead. Still, each time she’d called or messaged, Bimpe had given Sophie an excuse to not visit, making her suspect something was wrong.
“My niece is a month old, and I still haven’t seen her. I can’t be in the same city as you and only get to see her photos on social media,” Sophie replied. “Are you going to let me in, or are we going to do this visit at the door?”
“Sorry.” Bimpe fidgeted with her skirt, biting her lips. Then she stepped aside, her body posture rigid. “Come in.”
What was that about? Something was definitely off with her sister. Was it the stress of dealing with a new-born?
“Are you okay?” Sophie asked as she crossed the threshold into a small alcove.
The staircase to the next level up was right in front. The entrance to the right led to a kitchen. The open plan area to the left included a wall-mounted TV entertainment unit, low sofas and a six-seater wooden dining unit.
“Yes, I’m okay,” Bimpe replied quickly, waving at the sofa. “Please sit.”
She sounded defensive, but Sophie didn’t call her out on it. She didn’t want to add to whatever was troubling her sibling. Instead, she settled on an armchair. “How is David?”
“He’s fine. He’s upstairs and will be down in a minute. Let me get you something to drink. Is juice okay?”
“Yes, thank you.” She hadn’t been expecting to find David home today. Part of the reason she’d chosen to visit midweek instead of the weekend. She’d hoped to talk to Bimpe privately to get to the root of any problem.
“Okay. I’m coming.” Bimpe walked towards the kitchen.
Sophie watched her disappear through the kitchen door, unable to shake the feeling that something wasn’t right with her sister.
She’d been nine years old when Bimpe arrived as a baby after their parents had tried for years to have more children. So, Sophie had always been the big sister looking after her baby sister. Then a few years later, after their father died from kidney disease, Sophie minded her sister while her mother ran her small shop. Still, they’d struggled without her father and his income as a bus driver.
When, as a young teen, she’d been sent to live with and work for a wealthy family, she’d conceded that her mother would have fewer mouths to feed at home. Therefore, her sister wouldn’t struggle.
And later, when Bomba introduced her to the business of selling her body for cash, she sent money to her mother for Bimpe’s school fees. All because she’d never wanted her sister to go through the difficult situations she’d been through. Hadn’t wanted her sister to prostitute for a roof over her head or food in her belly. Sex work wasn’t for everyone, and sheltered Bimpe wouldn’t have survived the harsh realities.
Sophie had been the one who’d paid for Bimpe’s university tuition and maintenance expenses. Now, her sister was a graduate and had gotten a job at a fintech firm through Sophie’s connections—one of her clients was the CEO. A year ago, Bimpe had gotten wed to David, who Sophie also helped through another client link. Now, they had a daughter who was about a month old. They lived a good life—the mod-cons in an expensive home in a middle-class city suburb attested to how well they lived. A far cry from the low-income housing project where Sophie and Bimpe had been raised in.
Sophie’s chest expanded fully with each deep, satisfied breath because she had contributed to her sister’s success. She loved that she’d attained a position of influence where she could positively affect the lives of her family and friends. She had given Bimpe the opportunities she’d never had. The opportunity to attend school without worrying if the school fees would be paid. Access to modern conveniences other young people her age were using—mobile phones and laptops. Even the expensive data bundles so Bimpe would have internet access for study and research.
Yes, Sophie had sacrificed a lot to make it happen. First, while she’d worked for Bomba. Then later as she made the transition to becoming a Yadili associate. Agreeing to work for Chief Odili, the Odili family's godfather and a prominent Yadili network member, had created opportunities and opened doors to success for her. But in return, she’d had to work hard to deliver on the contracts she’d been assigned.
As Madam, she was now in charge of the Odili bordellos in the southeast. But, since the Odili’s started expanding their empire into the southwest, she’d moved to Lori Osa to work on the project. Hence the reason for living in the same city as her sister for the first time in twenty years.
Bimpe returned with a carton of mango juice and a glass, placing them on the small table beside the armchair. She poured the yellow liquid into the tumbler before settling in the adjacent sofa.
Sophie shifted forward, pushing the shopping bags towards her sister. “These are for the baby. What’s her name?”
She hadn’t been invited to the naming ceremony. She hadn’t made a fuss then because she’d assumed her sister had her hands full with a new-born. Moreover, it wasn’t a big deal. Naming ceremonies were for the husband’s family. Plus, Sophie’s mother had been there.
“She is Amelia Jumoke.” Bimpe picked up the bags and glanced inside without taking out the items. “These are lovely. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. She has beautiful names. Where is she? Let me see my beautiful niece.” Excitement laced her words. She’d told everyone who cared to listen about her new niece and the anticipation of holding her for the first time.
Her maternal instincts were triggered when she saw the cute photos of her sister’s new-born on social media. Unfortunately, her job and lifestyle meant she would never birth a baby. Still, her mind had travelled to the one offer she’d had to bear a child. The one offer which could’ve changed the trajectory of her life. She’d thought getting to hold her new niece would clear her head and stop all the recent bittersweet emotions clouding her mind.
“She is sleeping.” A man came down the stairs—Bimpe’s husband, David. He was in his early thirties, and Sophie felt like a big sister to him, although he had siblings.
He must have been eavesdropping at the top of the stairs. His sudden appearance spiked Sophie’s suspicion, but she forced nonchalance into her tone. “David, hi. How are you?”
“Not good,” he said rudely. “Didn’t your sister tell you? This is not a good time for a visit. Amelia is sleeping, and Bimpe should be taking a nap and resting. You should have called before coming.”
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, unable to look her in the eyes.
Sophie's incredulous gaze bounced from David to Bimpe, and her spine stiffened. Shocked at how the man had just spoken to her, it took her a few seconds to find the right words.
What the hell was his problem? Surely her sister could spare her a few minutes. It wasn’t like she visited them frequently to warrant this attitude.
She didn’t even have to pick up the sleeping baby. Just see her.
“What is really going on?” She stood, unable to bite her tongue. “When did I start needing to book appointments before seeing my sister or my niece, for that matter? Bimpe, I’m sorry that I disturbed your nap, oh. But seriously, what is going on here?” When her sister opened her mouth, she raised her hand. “And don’t tell me it’s nothing because this shit right here is so wrong.”
Her sister wouldn’t meet her gaze.
David flinched and bristled. “How dare you shout at me in my house?”
Sophie narrowed her eyes, tilting her head. “Bimpe, David, this is me, oh. Big sister Sophie. What is going on?”
“If you must know, you are not allowed in this house,” David said, bracing his hips.
“Why? What’s wrong with me?” Sophie asked as her spine iced over, filling her with dread.
“I’ve said my own.” David hissed and stomped up the stairs.
Sophie turned to her sister and sat on the sofa next to her. “Bimpe, what did I do wrong? Why am I not allowed in your house? Talk to me.”
She was a rational person. She just needed an explanation because this was new.
“I’m sorry, sister. But David doesn’t want you coming to the house because of your job.” Bimpe clenched her jaw and turned away.
“Wait, oh. My job?” Her body tensed, and heat flushed through her. “You mean the job that I worked my bones weary to put you through school, to make sure you lacked for nothing.” She jumped off the sofa again. “The same job that gave me the connections to help your husband secure his job. That job was good when you needed my money. Now, you both are doing well and all of a sudden, it’s not good enough for you.”
“Sis, it’s not just your job. It’s the fact that you’re forty and not married. His family think you will be a bad influence on me. That I will start following men and cheat on David.”
“His family, what? So, this is the reason you won’t let me see the baby. The reason you didn’t invite me to the naming ceremony. What about Mama? Is she a bad influence too? Wasn’t she supposed to be here helping you with the baby?”
“David’s mother will be here by the weekend. Mum couldn’t leave her business for too long. So, she came for two weeks.”
Sophie suspected it was just another excuse. David’s family probably didn’t want Bimpe’s family hanging around for too long.
Sophie shook her head. “I can’t lie to you, Bimpe. I’m disappointed in David. I thought … Anyway, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re happy.” She walked to the armchair and grabbed her purse. “I’m going, and you won’t see me here again.”
“Sis, I’m sorry,” Bimpe called out.
Sophie ignored her, refusing to acknowledge her apology or show Bimpe how much she hurt. She’d handled many disappointments in life. This was just another one.
She’d sacrificed so much for Bimpe, and the woman couldn’t let her see her niece. So, what if the husband’s family was being troublesome. To hell with them. Her sister should stand up for her. Just like Sophie had always stood by Bimpe.
But it was her sister’s life, and if she didn’t want Sophie in it, so be it.
This was the reason she kept most people at a distance. People always disappointed her and rejected her. The only working relationships she indulged in were transactional.
She swallowed the lump in her throat, unbolted the side exit and sashayed out of the premises.
Her assistant, Ziga, was leaning against the SUV. With her natural locs pulled into a bunch with a hairband, she wore her trademark attire—black cargo trousers, a black T-shirt under the dark unzipped jersey hoodie and chunky military-style black boots. She straightened, opened and held the back door. “How did it go?”
So much had changed in Sophie’s life. She was no longer the girl who’d struggled to scrape together enough money for transportation to escape her pimp. Now, she was her own boss and a big enough babe in the business to warrant a personal assistant-slash-bodyguard.
Sophie shook her head as she climbed in. “It’s fucked up. That’s how it went.”
Ziga came around, climbed into the driver’s seat and met Sophie’s gaze in the rear-view mirror, eyebrows drawing together. “Is there something I can do?”
Sophie’s relationship with her assistant was more than just employer-employee. They worked well together. Ziga understood her vision for Haven and supported her in establishing a safe campus for sex workers. They’d become good friends over the eight years since they met.
Sophie had been excited about meeting her niece but unsure of what to buy. Ziga had driven her to the shopping mall and had suggested gift ideas because she had an adoptive daughter from her partner’s previous relationship. The girl was now six years old, and Ziga had been in her life since she was about a year old.
“Short of knocking some sense into David. Can you imagine he doesn’t want me to see my niece? In fact, he said I wasn’t welcome in the house.” Sophie couldn’t hide her disbelief, her stomach clenching.
“Ah ah. The same David of yesterday? Is he on drugs?” Ziga’s mouth gaped as she blinked rapidly. She’d known David for the same duration as Sophie, meeting him on the same day for the first time when Sophie visited her sister at university about four years ago.
“I don’t know, oh.”
“And what did he say was his problem with you?”
“Ah, my job, oh. Apparently, I’m a bad influence on Bimpe and will lead her astray.”
Ziga barked out laughter and turned in her seat to face Sophie. “You’re serious.”
“I’m serious. David … David told me to my face that I’m not allowed in his house. Because at over forty and without a husband, I’m a bad influence. Okay, oh.” She puffed out a heavy breath as tears smarted her eyes.
“Boss, you know all you have to do is say the word, and I will arrange him for you. Just say the word,” Ziga spoke quietly and with confidence.
A smile broke on Sophie’s face. She had no doubt Ziga could inflict terror on David on her command. Still…
“Abeg, leave him. If you touch him and he dies, my sister will never forgive me. Let’s leave them. Hopefully, they will come to their senses soon.”
“Okay, Boss. But the offer is still there whenever you need it.”
“Thank you. Just take me to the apartment. I just want to forget it all.”
Ziga nodded, settled in her seat and started the engine. She drove away from the kerb and down the street a few seconds later.
Sophie relaxed into the seat, pulled out her phone and checked for her next engagement. There wasn’t must else to do until this evening.
She’d only been in Lori Osa a few months and resided in one of the properties belonging to the Odili family, another job perk.
She’d spent the time recruiting and training the escorts working in the Lori Osa bordellos. When Duke Odili had first approached her about setting up a high-class escort service about ten years ago, she’d jumped at the chance to be her own boss and not answer to the likes of Bomba. The deal meant the Odilis would fund it and provide protection, and Duke would provide oversight. However, running the operation would be Sophie’s remit and responsibility. The catch? She would pay Duke a fixed amount every quarter as a return on his investment in her venture.
There had been a few hiccups along the way. However, considering how she'd become involved in the business, she hadn’t regretted joining the Odili outfit.
Never mind her roller-coaster forty-eight-hour experience with the Madukas ten years ago. In the intervening years, Duke had been promoted from capo—the same level as the Maduka brothers—to underboss. Instead of the capos reporting directly to Chief Odili, they now accounted to Duke.
Sophie agreed with the promotion. Of the four Odili proteges—Duke, Maddox, Rocha and Mason—Duke most embodied the qualities of a great leader. He had empathy, was open in communication and was an excellent teacher. Duke could be stern and uncompromising, but he was fair and approachable, hence very popular amongst associates and employees.
As for the rest of the F4, or Fierce Four as they were known. Maddox was too hostile. Rocha was too malicious. And Mason? He was too damned merciless.
As an Odili associate, Sophie worked with them since she directly reported to Duke too. On the upside, she hadn’t seen the Maduka brothers since her move to Lori Osa recently. Mason was in Opal City, responsible for the casinos. Rocha was in Iguocha in charge of the imports and exports. However, Maddox was the Odili enforcer and had relocated to Lori Osa with Duke.
About a year ago, Duke had gotten involved with Carla Owo, the daughter of the Lori Osa kingpin, John Bull Owo. A cartel war had broken out between the families, leading to the death of Carla’s father and only sibling, Marlon. Hence, Duke’s relocation to Lori Osa. However, setting up the Odili operations in the megacity was dangerous and challenging. Duke needed Maddox’s unrelenting military expertise.
One thing she liked about working with the Odilis, they all progressed together. When one person succeeded, they encouraged everyone else to grow. However, two tenets should never be disregarded: loyalty and respect.
She’d abided by those tenets and had succeeded in her business venture. She had earned money and connections, loyal employees and respect among associates. Everything she wanted.
Is it all you want? A tiny voice nagged, and she shifted uncomfortably.
What else could she possibly want?
She shivered and tugged the Pashmina shawl she kept in the car for this purpose around her shoulder. She needed the AC to stay cool. However, the frosty air reminded her of Mason. Of what happened a decade ago.
Feeling conflicted, Sophie remembered the conversation with Duke Odili on the night she agreed to work with him.
“We value loyalty above all else,” Duke said as they sat in his apartment lounge in Iguocha. “I know about your affair with Mason, and I respect you for your resilience. You stayed true to Mason and rejected Rocha’s advances even when it seemed the only way out of a tormenting predicament. To be honest, it’s the reason you survived the tussle between two brothers.”
Shocked, Sophie gasped, her body flashing hot and cold. “You know about that.”
She’d accepted the news about her forty-eight-hour affair with Mason would spread amongst his friends and the Yadili men at his family residence then. However, she hadn’t expected Duke to know the intimate details of what went down in Mason’s bedroom involving Rocha or his mother.
“Of course. Chief had to arbitrate the issue between the brothers. There cannot be bad blood between members of the Yadili brotherhood, certainly not amongst the Odili family. We all swore to watch out for each other. If you’d gone with Rocha after Mason marked you, he would have been obligated to kill you because you would have been untrustworthy.”
“What?” The bombshells came thick and fast. She struggled to process his words. She’d suspected Rocha would kill and dispose of her if she’d gone with him, purely because of his maliciousness towards Mason. However, this implied Mason could have killed her for sleeping with his brother. “Are you saying I can’t have sex with anyone else because Mason branded me?”
He chuckled light-heartedly. “Of course not. When the scar heals and disappears, you’re free to choose other lovers. But it cannot be someone in the Odili family unless it’s Mason.”
She shook her head, dismissing the idea, knowing Mason wouldn’t touch her. She’d spent forty-eight hours with him and hadn’t seen him naked. There had only been two sexual encounters, none involving his genitalia. The first time she’d climaxed. The second ended with no satisfaction for either of them.
A decade later, Sophie still wasn’t getting any satisfaction sexually. Oh, she was having sex. But it was nowhere as fulfilling as the orgasms she’d experienced in Mason’s car when he’d driven her insane with pain and pleasure until she’d climaxed to exhaustion.
No, nothing had come close since. Never would, it seemed.
The buzzing phone caught her attention, and she reached for the item beside her on the upholstered seat. The caller ID indicated it was Chiamaka, who she’d put in charge of the Opal City operations while she was away. Unfortunately, the woman rarely called her, although they had a weekly video catchup.
So, Sophie’s spine stiffened as she answered the phone. “Hello, Chiamaka.”
“Madam, we have a problem,” the woman replied without preamble.
Rough Diamond 2: Deal & Close
Enders series #5
Frenemies and desire, a lethal cocktail.
Mason is a Yadili fixer. Like his name implies, there’s never been a challenge he couldn’t cut, dress, and lay to rest. Those close to him fondly call him Mace—a heavy club with a spiked metal head—for a reason. He will rip the heart out of anyone who crosses him. However, when the treacherously seductive Sophie comes to him for a favour, the grudge he’s suppressed for a decade threatens to spiral out of control.
Sophie holds her own in the ruthless Yadili world. She set up the Haven Project to provide safety for her workers. Still, someone is intent on destroying her. So she has little option but to ask the dangerously desirable Mason for help. He offers her a deal she can’t refuse. But making a bargain with Mason is akin to dealing with the devil. Still, better the devil she knows, especially one she’s resented for ten years.
Together, Mason and Sophie must battle to survive all manner of betrayals. That’s if their thinly veiled animosity for each other doesn’t consume them first.
Out April 26th 2023
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Start the duology from the beginning. Read Rough Diamond: The Origin.