Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(10)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(10)
Author: Catherine Bybee

Shannon had planted the seed of her professional photography business to Mrs. Ellendale and her friend. Both of them had daughters in their midtwenties who were in serious relationships.

They worked their way to a sky view restaurant in the heart of LA, where they ordered a proper bottle of wine, intending to drink it.

“How many of those things are out there?” Avery asked once they ordered and were sipping wine.

“More than you can imagine. Paul dragged me to most of the political ones. The problem with those was there weren’t very many spouses that had any form of a job outside of being a wife.”

“None of them had kids?”

“They had kids, they just didn’t raise them. There were very few new mothers that showed a picture of their children, and the older moms spoke only of which school their children were attending or what college they’d been accepted to. It’s a cold group. Not all of them, but most. I plan on raising my children.”

Avery paused. “You want to have more than one?”

“You’re an only child. How did that work out?”

Shannon had a point.

“You have a younger sister, right?”


“You never talk about her.”

“I never see her. She joined the Peace Corps after two years at Stanford. My parents were furious.”

“She didn’t finish school?”

“She did, only while she was in Spain. My parents cut off her funding, but that didn’t stop her from going after what she wanted. It takes a lot of guts to go from how we grew up to living in places that most people avoid. Last I heard she was educating women and tutoring English somewhere in some remote town in Brazil.”

Avery leaned back. “And our rebellion was divorce from what our parents assumed was a perfect life.”

“That’s because our parents were the kind that married for status and stayed that way, happy or not. I think in my head I thought they’d let loose once Paul and I split.”

Avery understood that. “My mother is worse. It’s all about what I’m doing to find a replacement or how I can get Bernie back.”

“I never understood why money makes so many people assholes.”

Avery buttered a piece of bread and savored it. “And unhappy. I wonder if it’s true what they say about people without anything being the happiest.”

Shannon shrugged. “I’m not willing to flush my money away to find out.”

“Me either.”

“You’re late,” Liam announced when Avery showed up ten minutes past the hour. Wearing a pencil skirt and high heels, she tapped across the gym floor and straight to the locker room.

“Yeah, sorry. Give me five minutes.”

He admired her hips as she ran by and sighed in relief. For ten minutes he’d wondered if she’d show up at all.

Their after session drink the previous week had ended with a smile and a see you next week. But he hadn’t managed to get her phone number or get her to see him outside of the studio.

Truth was, he didn’t ask for either.

She wasn’t ready to give them to him.

Avery was wrapping her hair into a ponytail when she emerged from the locker room. She glanced at the warm-up on the whiteboard and sat down on the mat and proceeded to tie her shoes.

“I thought I’d scared you away.”

She grinned. “Last minute meeting that went late.” She folded over her legs in a stretch.

“What do you do for a living?”

She opened her mouth only to be cut off.

“Less talking, more working.” Brenda emerged from her office and pointed at Liam. “You . . . I’m sure you can squeeze out another twenty push-ups with those guns.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After ten he glanced up and noticed Avery dart her gaze away.

At least she wasn’t completely oblivious to him.

There were a lot of basics Liam had yet to learn in the krav world. So far, he’d been asked to hold Avery down, grab her from behind, and attempt to choke her. All with direction. Each time he filled the place of Brenda, he celebrated the fact that he could get close to Avery. That party didn’t last long. She worked hard to get away, and most of the time she did. Today’s session, Brenda wanted him to be more aggressive.

“Hitting women goes against every cell in my body.”

Brenda’s deadpan stare told him to get over it.

“You won’t actually hit me. Just come at me.”

“Slowly at first. We’ll pick up the pace once you get the feel for it.”

Yeah, right. His mother would kill him.

Still, Liam did as asked and oftentimes found he was the one at a loss for moves.

Avery would wrap his arm and come up short with what would be a punch to his face or an elbow to the back of his neck.

On her third shot of wrapping his arm, he managed to get away by bear-hugging her waist.

She lifted her knee and stopped short of his groin. He bucked out of the way, and she squirmed again, her elbow tapping his neck. With his arms still holding her, he lifted her off her feet.

“Ahhh!” She started to laugh.

Liam set her down.

“No way you’d be able to do that after I smashed your balls.”

Brenda stood with her arms folded over her chest. “Probably not. But someone high on drugs . . . maybe. We’ll start next week where we left off and work on counters.”

Avery looked at the time.

“We’re done?”

Brenda didn’t blink. “I have plans.”

Silent, Avery peered closer. “You’re wearing mascara. Oh my God, you have a date.”

Liam hadn’t noticed any makeup.

Brenda didn’t smile or nod or anything . . . but she did blush.

Avery’s jaw dropped. “Give it up, sista. Who is it?”

Brenda turned toward her office. “See you on Tuesday.”

Avery glanced at Liam, a sneaky smile on her face. “C’mon, Brenda. I won’t tell anyone.”

“You don’t know him.” Brenda slammed her office door.

Avery turned to Liam. “Him?” she said in a rough whisper.

Yeah, Liam wasn’t all that sure of Brenda’s sexual orientation either.

“I’m going to want details on Tuesday!” Avery yelled out.

Brenda met her comment with silence.

“You’re never going to get details out of that one.”

Avery looked at him like he was an idiot. “Don’t underestimate me.”

They parted at the locker rooms.

“Meet you outside in ten?” was all he asked. Hoping to make a habit out of an after session drink.

She narrowed her eyes. “Okay, but it isn’t a date.”

“Of course not.” Yes it is . . . kinda.

She walked out of the gym wearing the clothes she’d run in with.

Liam looked at what he was wearing. Jeans and a pullover shirt.

“I think Pug’s is a bad idea in this,” she said, indicating her dress.

Liam knew he wouldn’t be the only one admiring her curves if she walked into the dingy bar.

“Do you have another suggestion?”

“A few blocks away.”

He looked at her feet. “I can drive.”

She smiled. “I was born in heels. C’mon.”

“I thought Brenda was a lesbian,” Avery started with once they’d rounded the first corner outside.

Liam thought about that for a few seconds. “She scares me.”

Avery laughed. “Yeah, I get that. She knows her shit, though.”

“Total respect.”

They stopped at an intersection and waited for the light. “It would take a strong man to take her on. Can you imagine their sex life?”

Liam squeezed his eyes shut. “I really don’t want to think about her that way.”

“Headlocks and takedowns.”

He took hold of Avery’s elbow when the light changed and conveniently didn’t let it go. “Brenda’s sex life is not the image I want in my head, thank you very much.”

“No, really. What kinda guy is into someone like her? He either has to be a total sub to her dom or so completely badass she can just be a girl.”

Liam knew Avery hadn’t clued in that he was wrapped around her arm as they walked down the street. And like a teenage boy who felt he was getting away with something, he just grinned and didn’t let on. “You’ve given this a lot of thought.”

“Not until tonight. Brenda’s gettin’ lucky.” Avery did a little dance.

“You’re really excited about this.”

“I am.” They walked another block. “And if you think I haven’t noticed that you’re holding my arm, you’d be wrong.”

Liam nearly stumbled.

“But I’m a little cold, so I’m going with it.”

He kept silent and kept walking.

Chapter Eight

Avery took him to Bailey’s. It wasn’t upscale or a dive. It was just a neighborhood place that the locals knew about that wasn’t frequented by tourists or bums. For a bonus, they could get food. Since she’d missed dinner, a meal was necessary.

She led Liam into the bar and sat at an empty table in the middle of the room.

She dropped her gym bag under her feet and Liam followed suit. “Unlike Pug’s, it’s safe to order a drink here.”

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