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Clincher (DS Fight Club Book 6) by Josie Kerr (1)

Bridget waved to the gym manager, Nanda DiGiacomo, as she hurried through the entrance of DS Fight Club.

“Any news?”

Nanda shook her head. “No. She needs to hurry up.”

“Patience is a virtue.”

“Having virtue is overrated, especially when it comes to getting my mitts on a new baby,” she said, rubbing her hands together in glee. “Thanks for filling in at the last minute. Your guy just got here. I told him you’d be filling in for C.”

“He okay with it?”

Nanda grinned. “Yeah, he’s fine.” Nanda leaned over the high countertop, looking toward the locker room, and then motioned for Bridget to come closer.

“I wouldn’t normally say anything, but this guy? He’s a little different than the usual gym rats who want C as a personal trainer. Maybe go a little easier on him than you usually would.”

Bridget snorted. Great. God save her from snowflakes, though if this guy had survived Colin Carmichael, he most likely was tougher than Nanda gave him credit for. Colin, as the principal owner of DS Fight Club, while an excellent trainer and fighter, was not known for his tact or charm. That’s probably why he and Bridget got along.

“Don’t worry, Nanda. I’ll use my Southie charm on him.”

Bridget walked away, laughing, as Nanda yelled, “For God’s sake, be nice, Bridget!” behind her. It’s not like Bridget was mean or disrespectful. She was just blunt and had a tendency to say what everyone else was thinking but didn’t have the balls to give voice to—which, you know, might have caused her some grief in the past. But this was a new fight club, with a new team and new clients. Hell, she had a whole new life in Atlanta, and she was going to make the most of her new start.

Bridget had an epiphany as she pulled some kettlebells off the storage rack: that envelope contained a tangible proof of the end of an old life, and her avoidance of it hampered her fresh start. So she took a deep breath and vowed that when she got home, she would open the envelope, read the dreaded letter, and be done with it.

“Miss Doherty?”

The use of her maiden name—no, just her last name—coupled with that particular salutation immediately directed Bridget’s attention to the man who stood in front of her.  She was about as much of a “miss” as she was a virgin, an idea which caused her to snort unattractively. The man’s uncomfortable smile morphed to a discernable grimace at the snort. He dropped his outstretched hand, wiping it on his shorts before tentatively repeating her name.

She stuck out her hand and grinned. “Call me Bridget. You must be Nolan.” She breathed a sigh of relief when the shy smile returned to his face and he nodded.

“Yes, ma’am, I am. Mister Carmichael left me a message that you’d be doing my session today due to the imminent arrival of a new little one.”

Bridget blinked. “Wow,” she blurted. “You’re . . . really Southern, aren’t you?”

“I suppose I am.”

Bridget could see a flush of red creeping up Nolan’s neck and immediately regretted her words. Great start, Birdie. Thirty seconds in to her first private session, and she’d already embarrassed her boss’s client.

“I’m one to talk, right?” She shrugged, hoping to smooth over his embarrassment and pull her foot out of her mouth. “So, uh, you ready to get started?”

Another shy smile, and he nodded.

Two hours later, Bridget burst into the small refurbished Craftsman she called home and made a beeline for the entryway table where the envelope sat festering for two weeks. She snatched up the flat white envelope and made quick work of opening it, using her house key as a makeshift letter opener.

She pulled the letter from its wrapper, took a deep breath, and unfolded the paper. Her eyes roamed over the document, not registering the words, just taking in the general shape of them. When she finally acknowledged the message, she huffed a laugh at how paralyzed she’d been. She felt ridiculous, completely, utterly ridiculous. That piece of paper wasn’t scary at all. No, that wasn’t true. The piece of paper was scary as shit, but in more of a “door to Narnia” way rather than a panic room sort of way.

Bridget leaned her back against the wall and slowly slid to the floor, the letter still clutched in her hand. She tentatively touched the paper, as if afraid the words “divorce decree” would scorch her fingers. She huffed another small laugh. She’d been waiting five years for this day—five long years. She should probably be . . . something. Celebrating? Mourning? Both?

Knock, knock, knock.

Bridget stood up, and still holding the letter, answered the door.

“Hey, Bridget, would . . . honey, what’s wrong?” Annie Hedges, the shy woman next door, peered at Bridget. “May I come in?”

Bridget moved aside and motioned her neighbor inside. Annie stepped across the threshold and laid her hands on Bridget’s shoulders. “What’s going on, Bridget?”

“I’m divorced.” A semi-hysterical laugh bubbled up and out of Bridget’s mouth. “I’m, uh, officially single. Not married anymore.”

“Oh, honey.” Annie pulled Bridget into a tight hug. “I didn’t realize. Oh, I wish you’d told us.”

Bridget gave Annie a squeeze and then stepped back, wiggling out of the embrace. “We’d been separated for a long time. It was more paperwork than anything, but . . .”

Annie nodded her blonde head knowingly. “It’s still a shock, no matter how expected it is. I was able to get everything done in a little over a month, and I still threw up when I got that piece of paper.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I mean, I’m not glad you threw up, but . . .” Bridget wiped her face with her hands, surprised when her fingers came away damp. “It’s kind of weird, huh?”

Annie nodded. “Yeah.”

“Um, I’m assuming you didn’t come over for me to blather at you about the end of a marriage that you didn’t know existed.” Bridget sucked in a breath and then exhaled noisily. “So, what’s up?”

“The baby’s here! Nora Ann!”

Thankful for the distraction, Bridget listened to Annie babble on about the highly anticipated newest member of the DS Fight Club family.

“She weighed almost ten pounds! I mean, Colin is a big guy, but Bailey’s pretty small. No wonder she was waddling—that’s a lot of baby to be carrying around.” Annie shook her head in wonder. “But that’s the news. Nanda got the call right after you left after your personal training session.”

“Yeah, I needed to get home to . . . yeah.”

Annie reached over and gave Bridget’s arm a squeeze. “I understand, Bridget. I really do. What can I do for you? Anything?”

“Thank you, but I don’t need anything. I’m fine.” Bridget exhaled again. “Do you know when Bailey and baby Nora are coming home?”

“Oh, I think the day after tomorrow? Maybe the day after that?”

Bridget nodded. She’d most likely be doing at least one more training session with Nolan Harper, then, but she’d wait for a phone call from Colin. That was good—something to keep her occupied for the time being.

Annie excused herself, and with one final hug, left the house. Bridget sat on the couch, alone, and contemplated her future. Now that she was really free to live her life as she pleased, without having to run anything by anyone, Bridget planned to take full advantage of the situation.