IRON FIST: Lords of Carnage MC releases on December 29

CHAPTER 1

EDEN

It’s the most terrifying sound I’ve ever heard. 

The explosion comes from behind me. Crunching metal shrieks as my body is hurled forward by the impact, straining the seatbelt taut. My neck snaps forward as well, my forehead smacking against the windshield. 

There’s a piercing scream, which it takes me a moment to realize is coming from my own throat. 

The force of the impact sends my car skidding forward into the intersection. The air bag deploys as tires squeal around me. I glance left through my window just in time to see a pickup barreling toward me. I scream again. Instinctively my head swivels toward the car seat in the back, even though Bryson isn’t in it.

Somehow, the truck manages to stop himself in the nick of time, coming to a halt inches from my driver’s side door. I gasp in a sharp breath, every muscle in my body rigid. 

For a few eternal seconds, I can’t get myself to move, frozen in the millisecond before the impact that never comes. 

Shouts of alarm start to penetrate the fog of my brain. A male voice yells something unintelligible. My driver’s side door is yanked open. Hands grab at me, grasping and pulling at my arm. Dully, I realize they’re trying to help. 

I have the absurd thought that I don’t want to keep them waiting. 

My brain barely registers my movements as I push at the airbag and struggle to exit the car. I get to my feet, shaking, and blink at the cluster of strangers that are starting to surround me. More words are said to me, and after a moment they start to arrange themselves into something coherent. I realize I’m being asked if I’m okay. I nod and say yes. It’s a reflex more than anything, because I don’t know if I’m okay. All I know is that I appear to be alive. 

The same hands that pulled me out of the car start to lead me away toward the curb. I look back and see that the entire back end of the vehicle is crushed. The backseat has been pushed forward at an angle. I shudder as I see the car seat where my son might have been. Tears spring to my eyes, and I let out a sob of belated panic. 

“It’s okay,” a woman’s voice croons. I blink and look toward her. She’s maybe ten years older than me. Shortish light-brown hair, and a makeup-free, no-nonsense face. Efficient looking. “You’re okay. The police have been called. The guy who hit you is over there. We got him; he’s not going anywhere.” 

My eyes follow where she’s pointing, to see a large man in a gray and white ball cap. He’s being yelled at by two other men who are gesturing toward me. I squeeze my eyes shut. 

Two policemen arrive in a squad car. One is black and middle-aged, with just the beginnings of salt and pepper at his temples. The other is younger, and looks a little like Matt Dillon. Their names are Officers Jackson and Burke. They ask me what happened. The man who hit me is brought over, and they ask the same questions of him. He seems half-sorry, half-defensive. Witnesses pipe in, telling the cops what they saw. 

A tow truck is called. Someone goes to my car and gets my purse and phone for me. The man in the truck doesn’t have insurance. The police tell him he’s likely to have his license suspended. He starts to argue with them, but I tune them out, unable to focus on any of it. I’m too overwhelmed by everything that has just happened. 

My car is totaled, no question. I know my own insurance won’t pay for a replacement, because all I could afford is liability. And God knows, I don’t have the money for another car. The money I managed to scrape together to move down here to Jacksonville, Florida from Tanner Springs, Ohio is nearly gone. 

As the police are getting the rest of the information they need from the driver of the truck, my phone pings in my purse. It’s a text from my sister Alix, wondering why I haven’t responded to her last message. 

Distractedly, I type back: Sorry, was just in a car accident 

Oh my god! R u ok? she immediately responds. 

Shit. She is going to freak out if I tell her any more. I’m the older sister by two years, but you wouldn’t know it by the dynamic between us. Somehow Alix always seems to take on the role of the worried older sibling. I suppose that’s not surprising, given my past.  

It’s not that I don’t love my sister. I do. But I moved here to Jacksonville to finally make it on my own. I wanted to live my life without leaning on her for once. And without leaning on the motorcycle club that helped save me from the mistakes of my past. The same MC that gave me the man I fell in love with — my son’s father — and then took him away from me.

With a small sigh of regret, I text back what I tell myself is a white lie. 

No worries, it was just a little fender bender. I’ll call you later. 

I hate lying to my sister. But I hate the thought of her feeling like she has to come to my rescue once again even more. 

Paramedics arrive. They insist on looking me over. They want to take me to the hospital, but I refuse. There’s no way I can afford a bill for that. Not to mention that I was supposed to pick Bryson up from the neighbor who’s watching him by now. I assure them I’m completely fine, and ignore the twinge in my neck that I’m pretty sure is going to get worse before it gets better. 

While I’m arguing with them about the hospital, I see the tow truck guy pulling out the chains to attach to my car. 

“Wait!” I cry. I hurry over and tell him I need to get Bryson’s car seat from the back. He waits, not so patiently, as I detach the base and pull it out. I don’t care. These things are expensive. 

The Matt Dillon cop — Officer Burke — has been increasingly friendly to me through all of this. As the tow truck drives away, he offers to drive me home. “Or anywhere else you need to go. We’ve got you covered.” He flashes me an easy, confident grin. I imagine him as the star quarterback on his high school football team. 

But the thought of being in the back of a cop car creeps me out. Even if I’m not being arrested. 

“Thanks anyway, but I can walk. It’s only a couple of blocks away,” I lie, gesturing in the direction of my apartment complex. “It’s really not worth you going out of your way.”

“It’s no trouble at all. Right, Jackson?” he says, nodding at his partner. Officer Jackson grunts noncommittally.

“Really,” I insist, “I’d rather walk. It will help me decompress after all of this. But thank you anyway. Are we all done here?”

They give me the case number. Officer Burke gives me his card, asking me one more time if I’m sure I don’t want a ride. I say no and thank them both, then walk away before they can try to convince me again. 

I take the first side street into the neighborhood, so I can disappear from view as soon as possible. 

Then I start the mile-long walk back home, lugging a car seat for the car I no longer have. 

And wondering what the hell I’m going to do.

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