Home > Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(2)

Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)(2)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“True story. What do you do?”

Avery played with the condensation on her beer and was happy to be able to say she actually had a way of earning a living. “Estate sales.”

“Yard sales for rich people?”

She laughed. “It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially.”

“We probably never would have met in the real world.”

“I’ve met a lot of good friends that way.”

Leslie lifted her beer to Avery. “To new friends.”

Liam kept himself ducked in a back corner of the bar, his eyes trained on the one woman in the place who didn’t belong. He’d been staring at her so hard for twenty minutes, it was surprising she didn’t feel the heat of his eyes.

Blonde wasn’t normally his thing, but he could see making an exception for her. He couldn’t see the color of her eyes, but he did notice how much they took in everything around her. Guarded or observant? She leaned against the cocktail table, listening to the woman she was seated by, and while she looked at home tilting the beer back, he found himself watching small details others wouldn’t catch. Like how she picked up the bar napkin and wiped the edge of the table before leaning against it. Or how she kept her foot on the strap of her bag, which sat at her feet. She wore designer jeans, and the watch on her wrist glittered in a way that said it wasn’t cheap. High cheekbones and a body that wasn’t shy on curves.

Liam wondered just how fast he could make her smile.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d picked up a woman in a bar, but maybe he needed to try his hand and see where it led.

The blonde’s companion stood and motioned toward the bathroom and then waved toward the bar, which was now packed with customers vying for the bartender’s attention.

As the friend left toward the toilets, the blonde walked three steps in the direction of the bar while keeping an eye on the bags left at their table.

Liam watched as the bees started to swarm.

He wasn’t the only one in the room attracted. He wondered if he should cut the others off before anyone stepped in before him. Before the thought managed to leave his brain, competition was already sliding in.

The blonde turned toward a customer who opened a conversation. Even though Liam couldn’t hear it, he could read the woman’s thoughts by how she eyed the man up and down and shook her head before looking back toward the bartender.

As Liam started to push his chair back, a second man pushed right up against her and said something close to her ear. Liam glanced at the lack of personal space between them and noticed her flex her hands. She took a small step back, and the admirer said something over her shoulder to the first guy she’d turned away. With her somewhat caged between the two men, Liam thought it was as good a time as any to step in and make the men stand down. He could see the stiffness of her jaw from two yards away.

Then, without warning, the man on her right slid his hand onto her hip. In a blur, the woman wrapped his unwanted arm in hers, came up over his shoulder, and effectively buried his head in the bar.

All conversation stopped.

“If I wanted your hand on my ass, I would have asked for it.” She pulled up higher on his arm. The man moaned. “Got it?”

“Got it, lady.”

“You okay, Avery?” the bartender asked.

She shoved the man away.

Several men at the bar started to chuckle.

“I’m fine. Just looking for another round.”

Liam stood rooted in place. She could have easily broken the man’s arm, even though he was a full head taller and had at least fifty pounds on her.

This was a woman he wanted to know.

She glanced around the audience she’d attracted by defending her space. Her hazel eyes landed on him and paused.

His fingers tingled.

She stared.

She blinked and turned back to her table. There, she grabbed her bag from underneath and pulled what looked like a fifty-dollar bill from her purse. She went back to the bar, dropped the money, and hiked her bag onto her shoulder. “Tell Leslie I had to go.”

It took less than ten seconds for the man she’d humiliated, and what appeared to be his friend, to get up and follow her.

Liam stepped in. “Can I help you?”

They eyed him as men do. As expected, they stood back. “Just getting some air,” said Contestant Number One.

He took a step as if walking around.

Liam lifted a hand to the other man’s chest, stopping him. “Well then, you can just wait a few minutes, can’t you?”

Mr. Humiliation eyed the door and drew in a deep breath.


“I think you two should go back to the bar and have another drink. That fresh air will be there later.”

The men looked at each other and receded.

By the time the room calmed, the blonde ninja was gone.

Her friend returned from the bathroom a few minutes later and eyed their table. “Hey, Keith, where did Avery go?”

Keith wiped his hands with a bar towel before tossing it over his shoulder. “Said she had to go, right after she just about broke this joker’s arm for hitting on her.”

The smile on the other woman’s face had Keith chuckling.

Liam felt laughter growing in his gut.

“Never underestimate a woman.”

“Yeah, it was classic.”

“What do I owe ya?”

“She took care of it.”

The short-haired woman lifted a hand in acknowledgment and grabbed her bag. As she walked out, Liam noted the graphic on what looked like a gym bag. Power Up Krav Maga.

He laughed.

All the pieces fell into place.

Chapter Two

Adrenaline built like a charged circuit just waiting to fry something.

She gripped the steering wheel of her Aston Martin and turned onto the interstate instead of taking the route that would bring her home.

Driving fast was the recipe she needed to calm her nerves, and since it was close to ten, the highway cooperated. She put the car in sport mode and pressed down on the gas.

Slowly, a smile crept onto her lips. The image of shock on the face of the jerk that had grabbed her ass would live with her for a long time. She flexed her hand as if repeating the move she’d learned in class and started to laugh.

She hit the wheel. “Hell, yeah!”

God, she felt good.

Better than she had in quite a while.

It wasn’t until she kissed the coast that she started to come down.

She pulled over in an empty parking lot and stepped out of the car to lean against the hood.

Wind blew toward the ocean. The air was warmer than normal, another by-product of the Santa Ana winds.

She pulled her hair back and looked up at the starlit sky.

A tiny twinge of pain hit the bridge of her nose. A barometer of sorts since it had been brutally broken. The weather was shifting. She didn’t need an overtanned meteorologist to tell her that.

She closed her eyes and recalled the bar as it had gone silent. Although she’d had a rush that had filled her ears with a roar, the bar had gone quiet.

Then he stood there.

He was as tall as he was broad. Amusement swam in his piercing eyes.

Her body responded to the stranger in the split second they held eye contact.

He wasn’t her type.

Too big.

Too hard.

Much too difficult to take down.

So why was she thinking about the stranger now?

The muscles deep inside her started to wave frantically. Oh, yeah . . . she was thinking about the well-cut stranger because it was the first time her body had heated in nearly a year.

She let the image of him fade. “Guess it’s good to know I’m not dead inside,” she said to herself.

Her phone buzzed in her purse.

A reminder she’d set for herself.

Go To BED! Appointment in the morning. 8 AM.

With a heavy sigh, Avery pushed away from her car and opened the door.

Adulting really did have its drawbacks.

“We can’t have the First Wives meeting next month. I’ll be swamped with last-minute wedding preparations. The bachelorette party doesn’t count, cuz that’s all about me,” Trina whined on the phone. “And we missed last quarter for Lori and Reed’s wedding.”

Avery tapped the pen she was holding against her open calendar. “It isn’t like we don’t all see each other, with everyone getting married every five minutes.” At least that’s what it felt like with two out of the four women in the club tying the knot within the same season. It was ironic, considering the basis of their club hinged on the fact they were all previously married and either divorced or, in Trina’s case, widowed.

“Oh, wait a minute. What are you doing next Thursday?” Trina asked.

Avery glanced at her schedule. “Nothing. I fly out Friday to Seattle to meet a client.”

“Perfect. I know Lori is in town. We just need to catch Shannon.”

“You’re coming to LA?”

“Yeah, Wade and I need to sign the prenup.”

Avery leaned back in her chair. “How does Wade feel about that?”

“He insisted. And it’s just smart. Not that there is any question that I’m not marrying him for his money or vice versa. It’s just too much money to leave in question should something happen to one of us.”

“Sounds like you’re drawing up a will instead of an agreement before you get married.”

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