Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(15)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(15)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“I’m sorry,” she said one last time.

“Apology accepted.”

She sighed into the phone. “Really?”


“That’s it?”

“Yeah. Next time give me a chance to explain.”

“Really? You’re not going to drill me about it? Make me eat my words?”

Whiskey had unearthed a ball and now stood in front of Liam, slobbering all over his knees.

“You forced your own words down your throat. You don’t need me to add to them. But if you want to make it up to me . . .”

“There’s a catch.”

“Only if you want to make it up to me.”

His comment was met with silence.

“Okay, what?”

“A plus-one.”


“Your choice . . . make me your plus-one to whatever you want. Dinner with friends, cocktail party. Work event . . . a distant relative’s wedding. I don’t care what.”


He liked the idea as it formed in his head. If he added her to a plus-one event, she would likely be uncomfortable and unhappy. If she added him, it placed the control in her court. Besides, his plus-one would consist of a family dinner, and he knew she didn’t want that.

“Anything. Uptown, downtown . . . don’t care.”

“I should bring you to high tea with my mother. That would take away your desire to be added to a guest list.”

“Mothers love me.”

“My mother doesn’t love anyone but maybe her hairdresser . . . or the doctor injecting Botox.”

“So your mother’s doing the Botox doctor, huh?”

“I wish. That would take the spike out of her ass.”

He laughed. “Dads love me, too.”

“My father hardly knows I’m alive, except to parrot my mother’s complaints about how I’m wasting my life. Trust me . . . a plus-one with my parents is like watching children’s television filled with repeating chants of life lessons I never wanted to learn.”

“No parent dinners, then. You choose the event.”

“You’re not letting this go.”

No, he wasn’t. “We have a deal?”

“You’re pushing me out of my comfort zone,” she told him.

“I know.” He pulled the ball from his dog’s mouth and tossed it across the yard. “Now that we’ve covered that, was there a reason you were calling yesterday, or did you just miss hearing my voice?”

“You’re full of yourself.”

“I’m self-assured. As are you.”

He liked her laugh.

“I was calling to ask you a favor.”



“To the favor. The answer is yes.”

The dog returned and dropped the ball.

“What if I wanted to seek revenge on an old boyfriend?”

“You don’t collect boyfriends. So I think I’m safe.”

“Rob a bank?” she asked.

“That’s how you make your money, I knew it.” He was laughing along with her.

“I wanted your opinion on a house I’m working on in Brentwood.”

“Working on how?”

“I help people with estate sales. Mainly with the wealthy and most often after the death of a parent or a spouse.”

Liam winced. “Sounds morbid.”

“I’m not a director of a funeral home. I deal with stuff. Dead people’s stuff, but just things. Most of the time my clients are either living out of the state or the country and need to make sure Grandma’s antique watch that’s worth a hundred grand isn’t being sold at a garage sale on the two-dollar table.”

“That happens?”

“All the time. Anyway. My client is selling the house but wants to get a ballpark of what it would cost to bring it into this century. You’re probably way too busy for a project like this, but if you could offer your expert opinion, and maybe toss a few phone numbers my way of contractors that would be interested in the job, that would be great.”

“The answer is still yes.”

“Two weeks.”

Safe to say Trina was excited about tying the knot . . . again.

Avery set her phone on speaker and continued to talk while she did her morning stretches. “Yes, I know. I have my countdown list, and it does say you’re collecting a ball and chain in two weeks.”

“He’s a very sexy ball.”

“You’re killing me.”

“Diane and Andrea are definitely coming to the bachelorette party, so we need to add two to the guest list.”

Avery made a mental note. “Got it. You sure you don’t want to take that party to Vegas?”

“Nothing good happens in Vegas at a strip club.”

Avery could tell her otherwise. “I’m guessing the club in Houston will be just as hot.” And since Avery was the one in charge of said party, she was making damn sure it was a night Trina would remember for the rest of her married life.

“So you’re flying in Friday night, right?”

“Yes.” She made another mental note to tell Brenda that she was going to miss Friday . . . actually, two Fridays in a row.

“Are you sure you can’t just stay until the wedding?”

Avery shifted her legs and bent into a stretch over her right knee. “I’m a working woman these days. The old Avery would happily blow off her new client. The adulting Avery has to show up on Monday. But don’t worry, I’ll be on the charter on Wednesday with Lori, Reed, and Shannon.”

“I’m getting nervous.”

“Nerves are good. Second thoughts, not so much.”

“Not a chance. I’m not letting Wade get away.”

“I didn’t think so. Just enjoy the whole thing. When you’re back from your honeymoon and need some air, we’ll book a girls’ trip to Paris. I could use some new shoes.”

“Speaking of shoes . . . who is Liam?”

Avery stopped her stretch. “What do shoes and Liam have in common?”

“Nothing, but I couldn’t think of a smoother way to ask about the guy in your life.”

“He’s not the guy in my life,” she said.

“Lori said she met him. That he’s a stalker and she’s worried about you.”

Avery gave up on her stretches, grabbed her phone off the floor, and moved to sit on her bed. “He’s not a stalker. I think I’d know it if he were. He’s just a guy I met. No big deal.”

Trina paused. “Just a guy?”

“Yeah. You know I collect them.”

“How’s the sex?”

“We haven’t gone there.”

“Whoa, back up the truck. You’re saying he is just a guy and no big deal. And you haven’t slept with him?”

Avery deserved that.

“I don’t sleep with every guy I’m attracted to.”

“Since when?”

“Jesus, Trina, I’m not a slut.”

“Calm down. I’m not calling you anything and you know it. But Avery Grant prides herself on her prowess. You telling me he is part of the collection and yet you haven’t gotten naked with him tells me he is more than a number.”

“Yet. I haven’t slept with him yet. I’m sure we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”


“Don’t analyze this, Trina. I don’t date. You know that.”

“Have you had dinner with him?”

“Once,” Avery admitted.

“That’s a date.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Were you with a group of people or just the two of you?”

Trina was backing her into a verbal corner.

“There were other people there.”

“In the restaurant or at the table?”

Avery shook her head. “This is a ridiculous conversation.”

Trina wasn’t fooled. “I wanna meet him.”

“No.” Avery stood from the bed and started to pace the room.

“Bring him to the wedding.”

“Absolutely not. Your wedding is about you, not me flirting with a guy.” The conversation was making her angry.

There was silence on the line.

“You’re my best friend, Avery. You know that, right?”

She smiled through her annoyance. “Yes. I love you, too.”

“Remember when I was in Venice last year and you told me you were worried about me?”

“Yeah.” Trina had been in Italy, escaping the anniversary of her first husband’s death and trying to power through on her own.

“Well, it’s my turn to tell you I’m worried about you.”

“Why? I’m actually working and self-sufficient for the first time in my life. I’m more capable of taking care of myself now than ever before.” When you added the krav she’d been studying, it made her even more adept at dealing with whatever life threw at her.

“Because you’ve closed yourself off. You don’t laugh as much or joke as often. Now there is a guy who, from what Lori says, worked hard to get you to go out with him. Maybe he isn’t the one, but how will you know if you never give a guy a chance?”

Avery closed her eyes. “Can you accept the fact that you’re in a heightened state of I do and happily ever after and not everyone wants that in their life? I love you, Trina, but you’re wrong on this one. If my lack of joking or laughing is bothering you, then try and understand that I’m trying really hard to grow up here. I spent the first twenty-eight years of my life being a spoiled brat with crappy parents, the next three playing pretend wife and new divorcée with a shit ton of money. It’s only been since New York that I’m finding me . . . the real me. Admittedly, I’m picking up the pieces of my personal mess, but I’m doing it. And that doesn’t include me finding a man to break my stride. I’m finally doing well on my own and want to keep it that way.”

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