Book 2 in the Kira Brightwell series is out today! Those of you who pre-ordered it should now be able to download it in full. The paperback version will be available on Amazon within the next week or so, with other retailers to follow.
People think it pays to have friends in high places. Kira would rather fly under the radar, especially when those connections come with a certain Trevor Wright attached. But four months have passed since the Procurer last slipped away without a trace, and a phone call from Trevor’s father with the promise of a potential case could be just the distraction Kira needs–provided she can live to solve it.
This 63,000 word fast-paced thriller novel is Book 2 in the Kira Brightwell Series, and the sequel to Split Decision.
Excerpt **Contains spoilers for Split Decision**
Kira dodged a punch and circled, her bare feet skimming the mat of the cage. Her dark ponytail swished in the air behind her. The man facing her was roughly her weight and height—five foot ten with lean muscle—but he lacked experience. Still, she was glad to add some variety to her training partners. When she had first started her MMA training, most of the guys had been hesitant to roll with a woman. But things were different now. More and more people had come to learn of her past since she had solved an abduction case four months ago and rescued her friend, Stephanie Wright. The media had been quick to link the story with Kira’s own abduction escape and rescue of seven other girls three years before. Most of the guys who approached her at the gym now were just curious, but she made sure they all walked away knowing she was every bit as tough as her reputation.
And they still underestimate me.
The man currently facing her—Ryan—took another swing. Kira blocked and struck his unprotected side with her knee. She was a decent striker, but she knew she needed to take the fight to the ground if she wanted to increase her chances of winning. She picked away at her opponent strategically with knees and jabs, keeping dark memories of her past firmly in check. She had come to accept that those experiences were a part of her. Not only that, but they were what had made her the fighter she had become. Even though Kira had no interest in becoming a professional fighter, it didn’t mean she didn’t take her training or fights seriously. The reason she fought with more intensity than any of her opponents was because she had been forced to fight outside the cage to save her own skin. Nothing could replace that kind of experience.
She threw another knee and came in for the clinch, throwing Ryan to the ground with a head and arm hip toss. She made sure she landed with Ryan on his back in a headlock beneath her to her left side. Before he could react, she posted off her right foot and hopped her legs over his body to land on his right side to prevent him from slipping out and attacking from behind. Kira used the underhook she had gained from her new position to pull herself into a mount, straddling Ryan’s hips and raining down punches from above. This was only a practice bout. Her padded gloves against his headgear meant her blows weren’t full-force, but they weren’t love taps either.
Ryan flipped over beneath her in an effort to escape, which was exactly what Kira wanted. Now she had his back. She used the weight of her lower body to flatten him out against the mat and let her hands go, hitting the sides of his head while he desperately tried to block her. She kept up her relentless attack until their trainer stopped the bout, calling it a TKO. Kira rolled off Ryan’s back and rose to her feet with a satisfied nod. She was barely winded. Ryan smiled at her around his mouthguard as he stood and she gave him an encouraging pat on the back before exiting the cage.
Jeff was waiting for her outside with her water bottle. She eased out her mouthguard and took a long drink.
“Thanks,” she said with a smile.
Even though Jeff said the words, Kira felt as if they were more habit than anything else. Things had started off well between them. She had felt a connection when they had first met at the gym. At first, Jeff had been the only guy who would roll with her. Then he had helped her solve Stephanie’s case, which had only brought them closer together. But somewhere in the months since then, their chemistry had faded. The sex had been… decent, but he seemed increasingly distracted lately, his thoughts elsewhere.
What’s going on with him? Is it that I’m training with other guys now? Because that’s all business. He should know that.
Kira had spent the past few weeks wondering how she should approach him. Even though she was a fighter, she wasn’t the confrontational type when it came to the rest of her life. She wanted to give Jeff the chance to talk to her about whatever was on his mind when he was ready, but she was running out of patience.
“Do you want to get some coffee?” she asked. “After a shower, I mean.”
Even though her bout hadn’t lasted long, both of them had been training for a couple of hours already. His T-shirt was dark with sweat and his dark hair had come loose from its ponytail to rest around his shoulders. Kira knew she must be in comparable shape. A few tendrils of hair had escaped her own ponytail to stick to the sweat on her face.
Jeff shrugged. “Sure.”
Kira suppressed a sigh at his seeming disinterest. Yes, it was definitely time to have a talk. She couldn’t keep leaving things alone and hoping they would somehow get better.
“Good. I’ll meet you in ten minutes.”
She left for the women’s changeroom, feeling both baffled and annoyed. Although there were a few more girls coming to the gym lately, Kira had the showers to herself. She went through the motions, her mind on other things as she lathered her long hair. All she could think about was the upcoming conversation with Jeff. Her stomach tightened and she had to force her tired muscles to relax under the heat of the water.
What the hell am I going to say to him? I have to say something…
Her thoughts continued to circle as she dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans and her favorite Nine Inch Nails T-shirt. She left her hair out of its usual ponytail for the moment. She didn’t like tying it back when it was still wet. She gave herself a cursory inspection in the mirror. A pair of green eyes stared back from a face that was free of makeup.
Maybe he wants someone… more feminine.
She knew that was what her mother would say. Kira had always been too much of a tomboy for her tastes. But she couldn’t imagine trying to be something else, and she had always been under the impression that Jeff liked her just the way she was. She shook her head.
I guess it’s time to find out.
She met Jeff outside, and they walked together to the nearest coffee place. It had rained heavily the night before. The sidewalks of La Valentia smelled of damp concrete, even though the morning California sun shone brightly overhead. Kira and Jeff walked in silence, both of them lost in their own thoughts.
The coffee shop was busy. It was still early, and people were stopping in on their way to work. Kira and Jeff placed their order and found a quiet corner away from the door. Jeff gazed out the window and for a moment, Kira stared at her drink, trying to muster the courage to say something other than the totally cliché ‘We need to talk.’ She took a deep breath.
“So what’s going on with you lately?” she said, trying hard to keep her tone light. “You’ve seemed kind of distracted.”
Jeff’s hazel gaze swung toward her, his eyes flickering in startlement at her direct approach.
“Um, yeah. I guess I have been.” His expression turned guilty. “Sorry, I didn’t think you’d noticed.”
Kira stifled a snarky retort. Did he really think he had been hiding it?
“Don’t apologize. Just tell me what’s bothering you.” She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
Jeff looked away. “It’s kind of awkward.”
Kira forced a nervous chuckle. “It’s not like we haven’t had to deal with awkward before. Remember our first date?”
They had been interrupted by Trevor Wright, Stephanie’s brother and Kira’s high school nemesis. He had hijacked their date without remorse, insisting that Kira talk to him. It wasn’t until after Kira and Jeff had given up on the meal as unsalvageable that Trevor had revealed his younger sister had been abducted. Even though Trevor was a pompous ass, and he was constantly brushing Jeff off as too much of a wuss for her, the search for Stephanie had brought Jeff and Kira closer together.
Jeff’s lips twitched. “I thought Trevor was some jilted lover from your past.”
Kira’s expression twisted in disgust. “Ugh. As if that would ever happen.” Now that the tension had been broken, she gave him an earnest look. “So are you going to tell me or not?”
He took a deep breath, visibly steeling himself. “I really like you Kira. You’re an awesome girl.”
She felt her stomach clench at the word she knew must be coming. Her fingers went cold.
Jeff bit his lip for a moment. He gave her a pleading look. “But there’s someone else.”
Kira yanked her hands away. “What?”
This was the last thing she had been expecting. She felt as if she had been punched in the gut.
How could I have been such an idiot?
The signs had been there, she just hadn’t wanted to see them. How was it she could solve a crime and not see something like this coming? She felt like a fool. She was an intensely private person, keeping most people at arm’s length. Jeff had been one of the few she had let in.
I should have known better.
“I’m sorry.” Jeff’s expression turned anguished. “I didn’t know how to tell you. Nothing’s come of it yet. I haven’t cheated, I swear.” He reached toward her hands, but she gripped the edge of the table.
“For weeks, I’ve been wasting my time wondering what I’ve done to push you away.” Kira pinned him with her gaze, her voice low and even, despite its intensity. “And now you tell me you’ve been eyeing someone else all this time?”
“It’s complicated,” he said. “Look, just let me explain—”
“I think I’ve heard everything I need to.” Kira pushed back her chair and stood. “I only wish I had the guts to ask you sooner, since it’s clear you were never going to tell me.”
Jeff reached an arm toward her. “Kira, wait—”
“You know, Trevor Wright might be an ass, but it looks like he was right about one thing,” Kira said, her voice still low and hard. “You are a coward.”
She stormed out of the coffee shop without looking back.