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Black and Blue: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 2)

Black and Blue: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 2)

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Kira Brightwell hates to lose—in the MMA cage or outside of it. But her failure to capture the serial abductor known as the Procurer rankles most of all.

Four months. Four months spent obsessing over the last time he slipped through her fingers with nothing to show for it.

Time to move on—at least for the moment. (For her own sanity, if nothing else.)

...Easier said than done.

This fast-paced, suspenseful novel pushes Kira deeper into uncharted territory as a problem solver for hire, with dangerous consequences. Follow the path of a clever heroine’s obsession in this second book from the Kira Brightwell mystery series.

(Originally published under the pen name Kat Irwin.)


Chapter One

A shadowy figure slipped into the darkened bedroom from the hallway. Raindrops tapped against the curtained windows on the far side of the room. The muted sounds of overlapping conversations punctuated by notes of music drifted from the party downstairs. How long before anyone noticed someone was missing?

The figure padded across the room on silent feet toward the wall beside the bed. The careful removal of a pastoral oil painting revealed the cool metal surface of a safe door. The dial turned with ease, a soft click announcing the fall of a tumbler as each correct number was selected. Moments later, the door swung open on silent hinges, a light flickering to life inside to illuminate the contents with a pale glow.

This was the moment. All the planning and preparation... It had all come down to this. After tonight was over, the wheels would be set in motion. Everything would change.

The prickling sense of being watched made the figure turn.

Is someone else here?

Eyes swept the darkened contours of the large bed, dressers, and wing chairs in the sitting area of the room. Nothing moved.

I’m being paranoid.

Precious minutes were ticking by. There was no time to waste jumping at shadows. The figure turned back toward the safe to continue with the task at hand. Within moments, the job was done. Time to get back to the party and mingle.

The night was still young, and there was so much left to do.

Chapter Two

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.

“Good match.”

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...

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