Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(13)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(13)
Author: Catherine Bybee

He cut her off halfway through the sundae with the lure of games and miniature golf.

Liam found himself receiving the attention of several women in the arcade who were entertaining their children. He was used to the attention whenever he was out with Cassandra alone. When he was with Michelle, he knew people assumed he and Michelle were a thing. Once he got over the yuck factor, he realized it was an easy assumption. But when alone, he was the poor single dad, or maybe the weekend dad . . . the results were the same. Women emerged, flirted.


Like the brunette smiling at him from across the room.

Nope, nope, nope . . . he was into blondes these days.

Liam leaned against the wall next to a row of Skee-Ball stations and tried not to make eye contact. Only the woman had caught his scent and was working her way to his side.

It was his shot with the ball, so he turned his back on her just as she approached. He purposely tossed the ball to the side and scored low.

“No, Uncle Liam. Throw it in the middle,” Cassandra instructed.

“Do you need some help with that?”

It was the brunette, and she was standing right behind him.

Cassandra, not catching on to a female on the prowl, shook her head and invited conversation. “He’s bad at this game.”

Liam saw the woman’s eyes light up. “I can show you a few pointers.”

“I’m sure you could, but I’m here with my niece tonight.”

She smiled at Cassandra for all of one second. “That’s sweet. Maybe another time.”

Her voice was hopeful, her eyelids fluttered.

Liam didn’t add to the conversation with the stranger. Instead he focused on Cassandra. “Show me how you do it again.”

The woman walked away and Liam sighed in relief.

At eight o’clock sharp, his phone rang. He answered without looking at the number. “Hello, Michelle. Before you start . . . yes, we’re still out, but I’ll have Cassandra home by nine . . . maybe nine thirty.” His sister always gave him the same rundown every time he had his niece.


Not Michelle.

The arcade made it difficult to hear.

“Who is this?”

“It’s not Michelle. And who is Cassandra? Or do you have a harem you want to add me to?”

Liam closed his eyes. “Avery.”

“Glad you could get the name right.”

Liam felt panic crawl up his spine. “It’s not what you think—”

“It’s okay. I get it. One kiss and an exchange of phone numbers . . . I don’t need to know who Michelle or Cassandra is. Obviously I’ve called at a bad time.”

She was going to hang up . . . he felt it. “Avery!”

Yup, the line went dead.

Cassandra tugged on his pants and looked up at him. “Who is Avery?”

Chapter Ten

Avery tapped her phone against her chest as the conversation from the previous night ran through her head. Liam had made it sound like he wanted to start something. Something that included predetermined dates and maybe the occasional plus-one event.

For one night and most of the day, Avery actually considered it. It wasn’t like she was doing anything else with her love life. Liam seemed harmless enough, even for the size of the man.

And damn, the man could kiss. She didn’t think her brain cells started circulating until after he was on the freeway headed home.

Even though her curiosity was piqued and her hormones were leveling up a notch, or ten, she’d picked up the phone tonight not to flirt . . . but to see if Liam could meet her at the Brentwood house and offer some advice. The flirting could continue while on the clock, so to speak.

“What’s the point?” she asked the empty room.

Two women’s names rolled off his tongue when he wasn’t paying attention. When you catch a man off guard, you learn his secrets . . . or at least the things he doesn’t want you to know.

Avery knew what she was talking about when she labeled men as players that never fessed up to their lifestyle.

She’d joined the rank of players long before she married Bernie as a temporary bride and took a year and a half off while playing wife. All that pent-up energy exploded once the divorce was final.

Avery looked down at the sweatpants and oversize T-shirt she wore with a frown. It was Saturday night and what was she doing? Standing in the middle of her living room, pining over a man.

“Screw this.”

She dropped her phone on her couch and walked into her master suite. She opened the double doors to her walk-in closet and switched on the chandelier.

Shoes first. Four-inch Pradas that laced over her feet like sexy gloves. Black.

Leopard print, low-cut top with shoestring sleeves. No bra needed. Tight black mini.


She spent ten minutes freshening her makeup and five pushing her hair into a messy bun.

One more layer of red on her lips and she made a kissing motion in the mirror before tossing the lipstick into her clutch.

On her way to the door, she picked up her cell phone off the couch. She found a voice mail from Liam. Her finger hovered over the button to hear what he had to say, and she stopped.

It didn’t matter what he had to say, she didn’t want to hear it.

Tonight was about reminding herself why she had the perfect life.

Young, single . . . rich. She could have anyone she wanted.

Leaving her phone behind, she set her alarm, grabbed her keys, and walked out the door.

The Basement was a club where the music was so deafening you couldn’t hear yourself think. It was the perfect place to get lost in the crowd, dance with complete strangers, and never have to hold a conversation.

The line outside waiting to get in was halfway around the block. Avery stepped out of the courtesy car her complex offered and headed straight to the bouncer.

“Hello, Freddy.” She leaned in and gave the familiar man a kiss on the cheek.

“Avery. I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“Is it just you tonight? Or do I need to add a name to my list?”

“Just me.”

He winked and unchained the red rope, letting her pass.

Those standing in the front of the line glared.

Sound blared and the thump of the bass pulsed deep in her chest.

She missed this. Why had she stayed away for so long?

The bar was three people deep, but a drink was needed before she joined the grinding on the dance floor. In a tactic she’d used many times in the past, she found what appeared to be a single man sitting in a far corner and wiggled her way between him and the person on his left.

She smiled at him briefly and lifted her hand to get the bartender’s attention.

With her chest eye level with the stranger, he’d have to be gay not to notice or appreciate it.

The way his gaze took her in said he didn’t play for the other team.

He was older, by a good ten years, and out of place in a room filled with college kids or those who were just turning thirty.


She smiled and leaned in so he could hear her. “Sorry, the bar is crazy over there. I hope you don’t mind me barging in.”

“Quite all right,” he shouted over the music.

Yeah, much older. No one in this crowd would say quite.

He said something she couldn’t hear, and she simply smiled and ignored the fact that he was staring at her chest. He wasn’t unattractive. Just not what she was looking for.

Her bar mate signaled for the bartender by reaching around the people on his right. “The lady would like a drink.”

“Vodka martini,” she shouted.

The bartender, much more her speed, didn’t look twice.

“Nice choice.”

She looked at his glass. “What are you drinking?”

He said something she didn’t catch. Avery didn’t ask that he repeat himself.

“Do you come here often?”

Could there be a worse line?

“I’ve been here a few times. You?”

“It’s a little loud.”

She nodded as the bartender slid her glass in front of her. As she reached for her purse, her admirer placed a hand on her arm. “I got it.”

With a toss of her chin over her shoulder that she’d learned in college, she smiled and leaned a little closer. “You’re too kind.”

“I’m Gary.”


She took a sip of her drink and felt some of the tension leave her shoulders.

“Did you come here alone?”

“How can anyone be alone in a room full of this many people?” Each time she spoke to him, she leaned in so he could hear. Which kept his eyes glued to her shirt—he was probably hoping that something would pop out.

The DJ changed the song to one she liked.

“I’m an engineer . . . What do you do?”

This was not a conversation she wanted at the club.

“What?” She pretended not to understand him, and he shouted the question again.

Avery looked over the crowd of people and waved across the room like she knew someone.

When Gary turned to follow her gaze, she put more room between the two of them.

“I see a friend. Thanks for the drink.” And she was gone, swallowed by the dance floor and everyone on it. She lifted her drink above her head and moved to the other side. If Gary was watching her, he’d lose sight of her before she reached the hall to the bathrooms.

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