Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(11)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(11)
Author: Catherine Bybee

It wasn’t long before the waitress walked up to the table. “Hey, Avery.”

“Hi, Nikki.”

“I haven’t seen you in a while.”

Avery looked at Liam. “I’ve been busy.”

Nikki took Liam in . . . from head to toe. “I can see why.”

Smiling, Avery shook her head. “Vodka martini, Grey Goose.”

Nikki winked. “And for you?”

“Maker’s Mark.”

“Neat or on ice?”


“You got it.”

Liam turned to Avery. “You know the waitress?”

“I live close by.” As in one block over and one block up. If she looked hard enough, she could see her condo from the street.

“I didn’t realize you lived in the city.”

She lifted her hand in the air. “Central to everything, lots of restaurants.”


“That, too.”

“How long have you lived here?”

“About a year and a half. What about you? Are you in the city?”

He shook his head. “Atwater Village. Still central but far enough away.”

Low-key, nothing too fancy. Not seedy. Funny how savvy Avery had become since she’d joined the working world.

“And you’re a handyman?”

Liam paused. “Kinda.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll do side jobs, like the ones that Brenda needed, for extra cash.”

“So what’s your day job?”

He didn’t answer right away. “I’m a contractor. Currently working on a loft space here in the city.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Why would I kid you on that?”

“You’re a licensed contractor?”


So why was she wasting her time at mixers when the man who was tossing her around on a mat did the very thing she needed advice on?

“Do you work on single-family homes?”

“That’s where I started. Still do on occasion . . . why?”

She rested her head in her hands.


Her head shot up at the sound of a female voice calling her name.


Oh, damn . . .

Avery leaned close to Liam’s ear. “She doesn’t know about krav. I’ll explain later.”

She scooted closer and painted on a smile.

When Lori was at their table, Avery detached from Liam’s side and stood for a hug. “What are you doing here? Where’s Reed?”

Lori eyed Liam while she answered the questions. “Reed’s on his way down. We’re going out to dinner. Wanted a drink first.”

What were the chances of Lori excusing herself before Avery was forced to make an introduction?

Lori reached out a hand toward Liam. “I’m Lori.”

Liam stood; a broad smile matched his broad chest. “Liam Holt.” Once he released Lori’s hand, he pulled out a barstool. “Sit, we just ordered drinks.”

Avery wanted to elbow his ribs.

Instead, she smiled.

Liam signaled for Nikki.

“Liam, huh? Avery hasn’t mentioned you.”

He pulled Avery’s chair closer to his and waited for her to sit. “We haven’t known each other long.”

Lori sent a questioning look to Avery. Instead of adding to Liam’s explanation, she sat beside him and acted like they had a more personal relationship than partners in a krav class. Lori would expect nothing less and ask fewer questions than if Avery and Liam appeared to be just friends.

“I’ve known Lori for a few years. We live in the same building.”

“What do you do, Liam?”

Small talk . . . Is that what this was going to be?

Lori signaled Reed when he walked in the door. “This is my husband.”

Avery laughed. “You love saying that, don’t you?”

Lori nodded.

“They’re newlyweds,” Avery explained.

Once again Liam stood when Reed approached the table.

“Look who I found,” Lori said.

Reed kissed Avery’s cheek. “I haven’t seen you here in a while.”

“That’s because you two never come up for air,” Avery teased.

“This is Liam . . . Avery’s friend.” Yeah, Lori wanted more details.

The men shook hands.

“Have I ever met one of your friends?” he asked.

Avery glared. “Smooth, Reed . . . really smooth.”

Lori nudged her husband’s arm. “Stop teasing.” She turned her focus on Liam. “Avery keeps her private life private.”

Avery tried not to flinch when Liam placed a hand over hers. “I’ve figured that out recently.”

“How did you two meet?” Reed asked.

Avery said “The gym” at the same time Liam said “A bar.”

Lori’s lawyer radar spiked. Avery saw it in her eyes. “Those two things are worlds apart.”

She caught Liam’s hand and squeezed.

“The first time I saw you was at Pug’s. I approached you at the gym.”

“I knew it. That was you at Pug’s. How did you figure out where I worked out?” She’d been asking herself that question for over a week.

“That wasn’t hard. Leslie had a gym bag.”

“Who’s Leslie?” Lori asked.

Avery didn’t look away from Liam. “A friend. So your job at the gym wasn’t on accident?”

“I might have approached Brenda about a side job so I could meet you.”

Avery’s jaw dropped.

“Who’s Brenda?” Reed asked.

“The owner of the gym,” Avery and Liam said at the same time. “How did you know I was there on Tuesday and Friday nights?” She wasn’t sure if his actions were exciting or scary.

“Appointment book. Brenda’s office is always open.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Lori placed a hand between the two of theirs. “You see Avery in a bar. You search out the location of her gym, follow her to it, get a job there, and now you’re both here having drinks?”

Liam offered a brief, unapologetic nod.

Lori grabbed Avery’s hand. “How well do you know this guy?”

Avery liked the gleam in Liam’s eyes. “He’s safe.”

“What he just described is a little too close to stalking for my taste.”

Reed placed a hand on Lori’s shoulder. “Simmer down, Counselor. If Liam had an ulterior motive, he wouldn’t have told us all that.”

“I wanted to meet you,” Liam said.

“Yeah, well, you’ve met her.” Lori wasn’t happy.

Nikki showed up with Avery’s and Liam’s drinks.

“My usual, Nikki,” Lori told her.

“Hon, our reservations are in thirty minutes. Maybe we should go.”

Lori looked at Reed like he was crazy. “We aren’t leaving him with her. He could be a sociopath.”

Liam smiled, his eyes crinkling with amusement. “I’m not.”

“That’s what they all say.”

Avery put a free hand in the air. “Chill, Lori.”

Avery realized that her other hand had somehow ended up back in Liam’s. His thumb stroked the underside of her wrist in a strangely calming way.

“Do you want a drink, Reed?” Nikki was still standing there, watching the four of them.

“No, thank you. We’re leaving.”

Lori pushed back her chair. “We’re going to talk about this later,” she warned Avery. “And you . . . just so you know, I’m an attorney, and my big, burly husband here is in private security. He has even bigger friends.”

Liam reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. From it, he pulled out what looked like a business card. “I have nothing to hide.”

Lori glanced at it briefly before Reed snatched it from her fingertips. “C’mon. Let’s leave them to their date.”

Liam stood again and shook Reed’s hand before he ushered Lori out of the bar.

“That was intense.”

“My friends are protective.”


“You really went through all that just to meet me?”

Liam picked up his drink for the first time. “Worked, didn’t it?”

Avery let loose his hand and lifted her glass to his. “Yes, it did.”

Avery had moved a little farther away after her friends left. But her rapt attention told him she was interested.

“So you don’t introduce your dates to your friends?” Liam picked a few things out of their conversation with Lori and Reed.

“My dates, as you call them, aren’t usually around long enough to meet the important people in my life.”

He’d ordered a steak and she’d ordered fish. He cut into his dinner while he spoke. “Should I be flattered?”

She paused, her fork halfway to her mouth. “We were ambushed tonight. It isn’t like I brought you to a plus-one event.”

“A plus-one what?”

“You know, an invitation that leaves it open for you to add a person . . . plus-one.”

“Do you ever take someone to a plus-one?”

She considered him for a second. “If you want to know about my dating life, just ask.”

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