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Split Decision: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 1)

Split Decision: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 1)

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Kira Brightwell never planned to become a private detective. Or a local hero, for that matter.

She only wants to hone her MMA skills. And focus on her own personal need for vengeance and closure. While listening to Nine Inch Nails.

But people call Kira a hero for a reason. She never walks away from trouble.

And between her wits and her fists, she can take down just about anything that gets thrown her way.

Meet Kira in action in this first novel in the Kira Brightwell mystery series. If you love a clever heroine who kicks ass, grab this book.

(Originally published under the pen name Kat Irwin.)

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Chapter One

A man sat alone in a large, well-appointed room. Rare books surrounded him on carved, wooden bookcases lining the walls. His broad frame filled the leather chair he was lounging in as he sipped a glass of red wine, admiring the view that lay beyond his domain. His home was nestled in a quiet, upscale cul-de-sac on the southeastern edge of the growing California town of La Valentia. In the distance, immaculate lawns and towering palm trees gave way to the barren, red rock of Valentia Canyon Park. The melancholy strains of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ drifted in the background, soothing him. He needed to be soothed.

For all the luxury that surrounded him, he was still a prisoner. He had come to this place to escape his past, but it had managed to follow him, like a foul stench he thought he had left behind. He resisted the urge to leap to his feet and pace the sun-warmed, wooden floor in frustration.

A leather-bound journal lay open on his rolltop desk just a few feet away, filled with photos and newspaper clippings. All the images were etched in his memory by now, but the journal’s presence comforted him. It was a tangible promise of things to come—the final reward for his long patience. His thoughts drifted, creating tantalizing fantasies... He had no doubt the prize would be worth the cost.

His phone rang, jarring him from his daydream. Ordinarily, he would have cursed whoever had interrupted him, but the pulsing ringtone was one that he had assigned to one caller only—the one man he trusted to help him achieve his goal. He fished his phone from his pocket to answer, his heart beating faster than normal.

“Yes?” he said without preamble.

“The wheels are in motion,” a familiar male voice said in a smooth tenor.

The man ran a nervous hand through his thinning, brown hair. “Are you certain?”

“It’s taken some time to arrange, but yes. Everything is in place. It’s best if you don’t know the details.”

“Agreed,” the man said. “And you’re sure nothing about your plan will lead back to me?”

The affronted silence on the other end of the line was palpable. “You know my track record. You will not be implicated.”

The man cleared his throat, searching for words to smooth over the awkward moment. The caller was not a man to be trifled with. “My apologies. When will the package arrive?”

“Do you have any business you need to attend to that would take you out of the city? Something out-of-state would be even better.”

The man hesitated, forcing his scattered thoughts to focus. “I—yes. I believe I can come up with something suitable.”

“Good. Make sure you are accompanied by someone at all times.”

“I understand.” The man’s lips twitched. At least the trip wouldn’t be a lonely one, although it likely wouldn’t involve the type of company he preferred. “When should I leave?”

“Tomorrow.”

The man gripped the arm of the chair, wondering whether he had heard incorrectly. He had waited so long, and now everything was happening so fast...

“Are you still there?” the voice asked with a hint of impatience.

“Yes. Tomorrow. I’ll be ready. I’ll set something up tonight and head out first thing.”

“I will contact you when it’s safe to return and make arrangements for delivery.” The voice became disconcertingly silky. “I trust my payment will be ready when I arrive.”

“Yes,” the man rushed to reply. “Yes, of course!”

“Good. I’ll be in touch.”

The line went silent as the caller hung up. The man ended the call, staring down at his phone in numb disbelief, wondering whether he had imagined the entire conversation. He scrolled to his call history with a few flicks of his finger. Sure enough, the familiar number was there. He had never dared call it. His instructions on that count had been clear. He also suspected if he bothered to try to track the number, it would only lead him to a random, prepaid phone—bought with cash, no doubt. As mysterious as it seemed, he knew it was better that way. These privacy measures would protect him as well.

The reality of the situation began to sink in.

It’s finally happening.

All his patience was about to pay off. In a few short days, he would no longer need the pictures and musings in his journal. To him, that was worth any price.

There were so many things to plan before he left, both for his trip, and his return. So many things to do... He scrolled through his list of contacts, his thoughts already in motion. Nervous excitement fluttered in the pit of his stomach. He selected the first name he needed—one of several—and leaned back in his chair, a smile plastered on his face.

Chapter Two

Kira sidestepped her attacker, dodging another blow. He had a few inches on her tall frame, but she was faster and more agile. Still, she knew she couldn’t keep ducking his punches forever. Eventually, she would get caught by his reach. She was running out of time. If she was going to turn things around, she needed to do it soon.

His fist grazed the air beside her left cheek. She aimed her knee toward his unprotected side while his arm was still extended, slamming it into his ribcage. She put all her pent-up rage and aggression into her attack, immediately following with a spinning backfist as her attacker instinctively lowered his guard to protect his abdomen. Her fist landed against the side of his head, and he began to wobble.

She struck with her foot next, hooking it around his ankle to sweep his legs out from under him—a technique that would never have worked if she hadn’t already managed to rock him. She followed him to the ground, fueled by adrenaline, and unwilling to lose her advantage.

They scrambled for several moments, grappling for supremacy. Her attacker was already recovering his wits. Somehow, he managed to get behind her—the last place she wanted him to be. A barrage of punches rained down on her ribcage as he pressed his chest against her back, hooking his legs around her to hold her in place. Kira resisted the urge to scream in frustration. She knew what would come next...

She did her best to block the incoming blows to her side with her right arm, trying to gauge the moment when her attacker would make his final strike. The punches were only a distraction. Still, that knowledge didn’t make them hurt any less. Each one made it more difficult to steady her breathing.

Dammit, stay focused! If you can’t breathe, you can’t escape.

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