“I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO
Ranveer Seecharran hailed from a family where a woman’s respectability came from the way she dressed and carried herself as well as her family lineage. The more clothing a woman wore, the more respectable she was considered to be. Conversely, the less clothing a woman wore, the more likely she would be labeled a w***e.
From the time he was twelve, his mother started drilling into his head that he would marry a respectable East Indian (Indo-Guyanese) woman when the time was right. She would birth him respectable East Indian (Indo-Guyanese) children and they would live a respectable life maintaining the Seecharran family name.
Ranveer found it ironic, however, that his family placed so much emphasis on respectability, since theirs was only on the surface… only skin deep.
On the surface level, his parents were lauded as brilliant philanthropic entrepreneurs who came from humble backgrounds.
However, only a privileged few knew the truth.
His parents were the leaders of the illegal drug trade in The Co-operative Republic of Guyana, South America. The whole world thought Columbia was the greatest offender of drug trafficking in that hemisphere. But they were wrong. Guyana was. His parents just had a tight handle on their business operations and were excellent at flying under the radar of law enforcers.
It was easy.
No one expected that a tiny little East Indian woman and her equally short and skinny East Indian husband would have the balls, let alone the smarts, to run such an international empire.
His parents were the proverbial unassuming couple. His father rode his Bens bicycle to the community center where he played cricket with his friends every afternoon, and his mother went to the temple to pray every week. On weekdays, she could be found dressed in her sari in her outdoor kitchen clapping roti for her family. They lived such a simple life that no one would ever guess they secretly had billions of dollars in untraceable offshore accounts.
They’d started out moving m*******a in their little backward village of Gangaram in East Canje Berbice, selling it to the disadvantaged wayward youths. That grew into selling to other villages until his mother got the idea to start controlling their supply and demand. After she pulled the planters under her wings, it took little maneuvering after that to control the entire country. Eventually, his mother got bored with the scope of the business and they graduated to smuggling cocaine internally and internationally.
While his parents managed several legitimate business ventures, they’d had their financial start moving drugs and still had a tight hold on the trafficking ring to this day.
With drug trafficking, they had branched off into illegal arms dealing – guns and ammunition, mostly. His family was directly and indirectly responsible for the high crime rate in the country. Who they hadn’t personally executed to keep control of the family business, they had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of others by flooding the streets with untraceable weapons.
So it was indeed ironic his mother went on and on about respectability, when, if you looked beneath the surface, his family was far from respectable.
It was all an image carefully cultivated by his mother to protect their interests.
Ranveer had never verbalized his agreement with her vision of his future. However, he never disagreed either. That is, until he met Monique Atwater.
In his opinion, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen was currently sitting on the king-sized bed in the three-bedroom apartment his parents had rented for him while he was attending the University of Guyana.
Monique Atwater was not East Indian nor would she be considered respectable by Ranveer's traditional parents.
She was an Afro-Guyanese student currently pursuing a double major in Social Work and Early Childhood Education. She was loud, vivacious, opinionated and determined. She was everything he hadn’t known he wanted in a woman, and everything his parents, especially his mother, would hate. That was the main reason he had yet to introduce her to them.
Besides, despite the fact he’d been groomed to take over, he had no plans to run his family’s illegal businesses. He just hadn’t told them yet and he knew they would want to blame his decision on Monique. But while being with Monique had played a role in his decision to walk away from his family’s life of crime, it wasn’t the main or only reason he wanted to do so.
He was tired of always looking over his shoulder.
Tired of living on the edge; tired of the killings – the blood, the gore, and the constant nightmares.
He was twenty-five years old and had spent the past ten years doing his family’s dirty work. He was their enforcer, their personal assassin and their all-around fixer. His parents wanted him to get a feel for all aspects of the family business. That meant getting his hands dirty, as he was taught the only people to trust were those in his family. It wasn’t a bad premise; they were all loyal to each other. However, it did mean that they had to conduct their own executions rather than outsource. His hands were covered in so much blood he would never be able to wash them clean.
That was the main reason why he cherished his relationship with Monique. Monique was the only bright light in his otherwise dark existence.
Once he graduated, he’d be free to make the necessary life changes he envisioned for himself. In the meantime, he’d keep his plans very close to his vest and keep his girlfriend very far from his family.
Referring to her as his girlfriend, had him grinning like an i***t.
When he came out of the bathroom that morning, Ranveer found Monique in nothing but her favorite (and his) pink boy shorts. She was topless – her perky C-cup breasts were gleaming with perspiration. She was leaned backwards, her elbows supporting her weight. Her head was tilted back as she enjoyed the cool breeze emanating from the overhead fan. She also had the two stand fans he’d recently purchased spinning on opposite sides of the bed.