Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(12)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(12)
Author: Catherine Bybee

He started to do just that before she cut him off.

“And don’t judge when I deliver answers you might not want to hear.”

He set his knife down. “Now I’m really curious.”

She chewed her food and didn’t add anything.

“Okay, Avery . . . tell me about your dating life.”

She sipped her drink and said, “I don’t.”


“Yeah, I don’t date.”

“You don’t seem like the hermit type.”

She placed a hand on the table. “Dating is holding hands and long walks on the beach, fancy dinners and midnight phone calls that may or may not include dirty pictures. Dating is attempting to go somewhere.” She lifted her fork and dug back in. “I don’t do that. I meet guys, flirt, have a good time, and move on.”

He wasn’t expecting that. “Sounds like a man.”

She shook her head. “No. Men don’t admit that they are players to the women they hook up with. Me? I’m honest about it. Makes it a whole lot easier to avoid that plus-one thing.”

“And if the guy wants more?”

Avery smirked. “I haven’t met him.”

Liam was silent until she looked up.

“Yes, you have.”

Chapter Nine

Her skin itched, like it was a suit she wasn’t used to wearing or it was made of wool and she was poolside in Palm Springs.

Liam had taken the power away with one sentence and one look. And when she couldn’t come up with anything to force the ball back into her court, he started a conversation about his work. He was a contractor. Legit, with a crew of twenty guys he kept employed most of the time. While he spelled out a day at work, Avery gave up eating her dinner and proceeded to order a third cocktail. She was more than a little tipsy, which became evident when it was time to leave the bar. “I’ll pay.” She reached for the bill.

Liam managed to grab it before she could. “Not in this lifetime.”

“Oh, please. You’re not one of those guys.”

“What kind of guy is that?”

“The kind that think a woman isn’t capable of paying a bill.”

“If you live in this neighborhood, I’m pretty sure you can pay the bill. But you’re not buying my meals.”

She reached for it again. “Then we split.”

“Avery, stop. I got it. Let me be the guy my mother raised.”

She wondered what kind of mother that was.

“The stubborn one?”

“Him, too,” he said, laughing. He handed his credit card to Nikki, who processed it quickly.

Liam hoisted his gym bag and hers over his shoulder once they were outside.

She chilled instantly and wobbled on her high heels.

He used his free arm to steady her and didn’t let go.

“We’re not holding hands,” she told him.

“No. I’m holding your elbow. Which way?”

She pointed at her building.

They crossed the street and walked up one block.

The doorman opened the door before Liam could do it for them.

“Good evening, Ms. Grant.”

“Hi, James. This is my friend Liam.”

“Of course, Ms. Grant.”

Avery pulled on Liam’s arm until they were in the elevator.

He was strangely quiet for the first time all night.

Outside her door, she opened her purse and removed her keys and cell phone to disarm the alarm system.

Liam stopped her before she could squeeze the key into the hole.


She turned and found him staring. His eyes were hungry and his body close.

“I’m not going in. I wanted to make sure you made it home safely.”

She knew that was coming. This would be the time she’d normally show the guy exactly what he would be missing if he didn’t walk through her door.

But she was out of practice and she’d have to see Liam again. If he turned her down, the humiliation wouldn’t be something she’d want to revisit every time they sparred in krav.

Avery responded with the only weapon she had. “I don’t think I asked you in.”

There it was . . . Liam’s smirk. The smile in his eyes, the tiny lift of his lips.

He placed their gym bags on the floor and brought his hand up to her chin. “I do, however, think that our first date deserves an exclamation point.”

“It wasn’t a date.”

“We did have dinner.” He traced the back of his hand down her arm.

“But no long walks on the beach . . . or hand-holding.”

“There was a little hand-holding.”

Yeah, there had been.

He gently tugged her phone out of her hand.

“What are you doing?”

A smile was his answer. He pressed in a few numbers, and she heard his phone buzz in his pocket. “In case you want to send a flirty text after midnight.”

“We’re not dating.”

He placed her phone back in her hand.

“You don’t want to date me, Liam. I’m a bad bet.”

He took a step closer. Lifted both hands to her face and touched her neck with the backs of his fingertips.

She shivered from head to toe.

“I’m not a gambler.”

Her mouth went dry, her breath caught in her chest.

“Your mother will hate me.”

Her lips parted while she watched him move closer.


It was getting really hot in the hallway.


“Stop talking.”

His soft lips took hers in the slowest, most exquisite kiss she’d ever had the pleasure of swallowing. There was nothing rushed in Liam’s body. Avery felt the door at her back when Liam leaned her into it. His hands on her face moved her where he wanted to deepen this meeting of lips.

Her eyes fluttered closed, and she opened her lips to his, tempting him with the tip of her tongue. He gave in for a few swipes against hers and then held back and continued to kiss her slowly. By the time he pulled away, Avery had clenched his shirt in her hands, and her cell phone and keys had found their way to the floor. She was heated, charged . . . and more than ready to see what else Liam could do with his lips.

“I’m going now,” he whispered.

She was pretty sure her face told him he didn’t have to.

When his hands left her, she cooled instantly.

He bent down and gathered her keys and her phone. He turned the key in the lock and opened her door.

“Good night, Avery.”

She watched as he retreated down the hallway and disappeared into the elevator.

“Good night,” she said to the empty corridor.

“Someone is awfully happy out here.”

Michelle walked out the back door and onto his deck. Liam turned around and lowered the volume on his speaker. He put aside the drill and dusted off his hands.

“I’m always happy when I’m working with my hands.” He didn’t do it often enough once he earned his contractor’s license and started employing other people.

“Yeah, but you were singing and dancing.”

He looked at the sky. “The sun is shining, the music is loud. Good day to break out in song. Life is a musical.”

They shared a memory of something their mother always said when they were growing up.

Michelle shook her head. “Uh-huh . . . okay, give it up. Who is she?”

“She who?” Whiskey barked at his feet as if adding her two cents.

“The she who put that grin on your face. The house isn’t that big. I heard you come home late last night.”

“It wasn’t after midnight.”

“But still late for you. Nice diversion. Does she have a name?”

Liam picked up the two-by-four he’d predrilled holes into for his screws. “She does, and I’ll tell it to you when I’m ready.”

“I knew it.” She giggled like a schoolgirl. “Are we going to meet her?”

“It’s new. I don’t know.” Yes. He wanted to say yes. Introducing Avery to his sister he could deal with, but not Cassandra. She wouldn’t understand if it didn’t work out.

“You should bring her to Sunday dinner.”

“Michelle!” Her name was a warning.

His sister turned back around to go inside. “You’re still okay with watching Cassie tonight?”

Two Saturdays a month, he watched his niece so Michelle could do an all-nighter on the crisis hotline.

“Of course. We have a date planned.”

“Please don’t stuff her with sugar. She was a pill the last time.”

He saluted his sister and revved his drill bit.


“Don’t worry, sis. I got it figured out.”

“That hot fudge sundae is bigger than you.”

Liam sat across from his niece in the restaurant portion of the arcade, where they’d finished their cheeseburgers and fries . . . or at least he had polished off the fast food–type meal while Cassandra saved room for desert.

Whipped cream and fudge were stuck to the corners of her mouth.

“Your mom’s going to kill me.”

His niece giggled.

The kid had him wrapped around her little finger. He didn’t know how to say no to her.

“We won’t tell her,” Cassandra pretended to whisper.

Liam reached over, dipped his clean napkin in her water, and wiped fudge off her pink shirt. “I think she’ll figure it out.”

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