Chasing Shadows (First Wives #3)- Catherine Bybee

Chapter One

Left, right, cross . . .

Avery met each punch with a counter and waited until the fourth strike to move in.

Two hits in, Avery shoved her assailant’s nose into her knee and then fell to the left when a second attacker swooped in from nowhere.

Next thing Avery knew, she was on her back.

She froze.

Her head flew to the right.

The left.

“Stop.”

Her breath came in short, quick pants.

A boot to the face.

The pain . . .

She shot up to a sitting position. “I’m good.”

Brenda pushed in and knelt down on the mat. “Your hands were down. Your legs were free . . . you froze.”

“I didn’t.” The denial was quick on her lips.

“The sooner you realize you’re wrong, the faster you’re going to end this fear.” Brenda’s German accent cut through Avery’s muddy brain.

She pushed Brenda out of the way, pulled her headgear off, and threw it onto the mat.

Leslie, her opponent, had been studying krav maga for three years. Avery had a measly ten months under her belt.

The fact that Brenda was correct in her observation of Avery’s freeze only added to her anger.

At herself.

At the world.

At the dead asshole who made her freeze.

Emotion welled up inside and forced her feet to move. She pushed past her instructor and beelined to the locker room.

“Is she okay?” Avery heard Leslie ask.

“She’s fine.”

Avery let the door slam behind her.

Alone, she moved to the sink and turned the water on cold. She splashed her face, attempting to cool the hot anger swimming inside, and looked in the mirror.

Her flushed features were evidence that she’d exerted herself. The bloodshot eyes were a combination of lack of sleep and frustration. “Get a grip,” she cautioned herself.

A sharp knock on the door spiked her blood pressure.

“Are we doing this or not?” Brenda yelled from the other side.

Avery glared at herself in the mirror and shoved away.

“Yeah.”

An hour later she stood under the hot stream of the shower, nursing a stinging shoulder and a bruised ego.

Leslie had efficiently handed Avery her ass. Brenda had obviously coached Leslie to get her on the mat repeatedly. Twice Avery had started to freeze, and twice Brenda had yelled something in German that Avery knew was both offensive and condescending. And when their session ended, Brenda’s praise was nothing but a half-baked smile that lasted all of a second. If Avery had blinked, she would have missed it.

“You were slow, and your legs should be used for more than screwing.”

It was as close to a compliment as Avery could expect. Most of the time Brenda had a never-ending diatribe of faults that Avery needed to work on. To only have two roll off Brenda’s tongue was a rarity.

Leslie turned off the water in a neighboring shower, reminding Avery that she’d been standing in the hot water for ten minutes. She quickly rinsed the soap from her hair, turned the water off, and grabbed a towel from the peg outside the stall.

She padded into the locker room and kept herself from looking at the naked woman running a hand through her wet hair.

“Thanks for the workout.”

“I’m not sure how much of a sweat you managed, knocking my ass into the ground every five minutes.”

“Every opponent brings a new challenge.” Leslie reached for her underwear. “How come you don’t come to the group classes?”

“And let several people witness my humiliation?”

Leslie cocked her head to the side, her short hair falling in her face. “Brenda told me that you didn’t think you were any good.”

“Did she?” Avery tossed her towel to the side and turned her back. “What else did Brenda say?”

“That you were good.”

Avery