Iron Will releases on Monday, March 18 on Amazon!
Here’s a sneak peek just for you!
My knock on the half-open hospital room door is met with a pissed-off grunt.
“Whaddya want?” a voice inside growls.
Turning to Mal, I grin. “Sounds like Bear’s ready for visitors.”
Mal smirks back. “Our little ray of sunshine.”
I push the door open to find Bear sitting up in bed, looking angry as a grizzly. He’s dressed in a hospital gown and has the blanket pulled up to his waist. His white hair is in disarray on top of his head, yanked out of its usual ponytail.
“Nice dress, darlin’,” Mal comments, nodding at the gown as he steps into the room. “The blue really brings out the color of your eyes.”
“You can fuck right off, you asshole,” Bear mutters through his beard. “I ain’t gonna be in this bed forever, and I’m still strong enough to kick your ass.”
I can’t help but burst out laughing. That just makes Bear angrier. “Sorry, brother,” I say between chuckles. “I gotta go with Mal on this one. You look funny as hell in that get-up.”
“Fuckin’ assholes wouldn’t let me keep my street clothes on,” he grouses. “Said the blood on my shirt wasn’t sterile, or some shit.”
“How ya feelin’, anyway?” Mal asks, leaning against the wall. “You lost a fuck of a lot of blood, brother.”
“Eh, I’m okay.” Bear brushes off the question with a frown. He shifts in the bed, wincing as he does. “They got me on some pain meds. Doc said it’s gonna hurt like hell later.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I agree. “But at least you got the satisfaction of knowing the other guy’s probably in a lot more goddamn pain than you are.”
It’s true. The dumb fuck who made the mistake of putting his hands on Bear at the Viking Bar isn’t likely to forget today anytime soon. The beatdown he got as a result is gonna leave some permanent damage to that guy’s face. Not to mention, he’s gonna be walking with a limp for a long, long time. Hell, if that limp-dick hadn’t managed to pull a knife on Bear toward the end and stab him in the gut, they would have had to carry his ass out on a stretcher.
Bear shakes his head in disgust at the memory. “A fuckin’ bar fight takes me down,” he mutters. “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.”
“You’ll be up and fightin’ again in no time, old man,” Mal grins. “You still got it in ya. Granted,” he concedes, “that beer gut you’re sportin’ helped cushion the blow a little…”
“Did you bring this motherfucker here to cheer me up?” Bear shoots at me. “Because he ain’t cheerin’ me up.”
I don’t answer that. “Hey,” I say instead, “Axel says he’s gonna be by later. He had some business to attend to.”
“Ah…” Bear waves his giant, paw-like hand. “Tell the prez I’m fine. He doesn’t need to do that.” Bear is clearly embarrassed by all this attention. And by the fact that he’s even here in the first place.
I open my mouth to answer him, but a sudden commotion from across the hall interrupts me. A female voice, pitched high with what sounds like fear, reaches my ears.
“Sir, you can’t be here,” the voice says frantically. “You’re scaring her. Sir—”
“The fuck I can’t!” explodes an angry male in response. “She ain’t gotta be here. You already patched up her arm. Ain’t no way she needs to be in that hospital bed. You’re just tryin’ to milk money outta her family.”
I glance over at Mal with a frown. “Hold on a sec,” I grunt to my two brothers. “Gonna go check this out.”
The angry voices continue to ring out as I cross over to the room facing Bear’s and stick my head through the doorway. Inside, a short, compact nurse is trying to prevent a steroid-jacked, aggressive-looking guy with a dark ponytail from grabbing at a tiny figure sitting on the hospital bed.
It’s a little girl, who looks about six years old, with tangled hair and a cast on her arm. Her head is banged up, and her left eye’s got a shiner. The girl is shrinking back against her pillows, clearly sick, and obviously scared. As the man and the nurse continue to argue, she draws her knees up against her chest in a defensive posture, hugging her legs tight to her torso.
“Hey,” I bark out, causing all three of them to jump. “What’s goin’ on here?”
The nurse looks at me apprehensively. The guy arguing with her swivels toward me, his chest puffed out, chin jutting toward me. “You can fuck off, man. This ain’t about you.”
“You can keep that kinda language out of your mouth around the kid,” I say, taking a step inside. “And I can hear your yellin’ across the hall, which makes it my business.”
“Her arm’s just broke,” the man snarls, nodding toward the kid. “Why she gotta be in the hospital for that? She got a cast, don’t she?”
The nurse tries to speak calmly. “The child fell down a flight of stairs. She hit her head and has symptoms consistent with a moderate to severe concussion. We need to keep her here for observation, at least overnight.”
I look down at the little girl. One thing is clear: she does not want to go with this guy. Everything about the way she’s holding her body says she’s afraid of him. Whoever the fuck he is, this situation ain’t good.
“You her father?” I ask him.
He snorts. “Nah,” he says dismissively. “She’s my girlfriend’s.”
“Why ain’t the mom here?”
“She’s at work. Someone at the motel we’re stayin’ at told me the kid got hurt.” His lip curls as he speaks. “I came down here to get her. Her mom don’t need to get money taken outta her paycheck just ‘cause her fuckin’ kid’s clumsy.”
“I warned you about that language,” I say, narrowing my eyes.
“If you aren’t a relative of the girl’s, you can’t take her from the hospital without a parent or guardian’s consent,” the nurse insists.
“You heard the lady,” I say, stepping between him and the bed. “You ain’t got authorization. You need to leave.”
“I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” he retorts, his eyes flashing.
“I’m pretty sure you are.”
The shit for brains takes a step toward me, not realizing that Mal has entered the room behind him. Mal grabs the fucker from behind just as I lean in and give him a solid punch to the gut. He buckles in half and as he does, my other fist meets his jaw in an uppercut. A resounding crack tells me the punch landed the way I wanted it to. His eyes roll back in his head as he slides to the ground.
That’s all she wrote.
Placidly, Mal starts to drag him away. “Dump him in an elevator,” I suggest. “Press the button for the first floor.” I turn to the nurse. “You wanna call security to go get him?”
Mutely, she nods and rushes out of the room.
I don’t bother to watch as Mal disappears with the now-unconscious asshole. Instead, I turn to the little girl, who is still sitting in the bed with her knees up protectively in front of her. Her face is pale beneath the bruises around her eye and forehead. She looks exhausted. Her forehead is all scrunched up, like she’s in pain.
There’s something in her eyes, and her scrawny frame, that sends a sharp pierce of regret through my chest. A memory surfaces, from long ago.
A memory of my sister. How she used to look, back in the day. Before I could protect her.
My teeth clench. I wonder how much of why she’s in this hospital bed is because of the piece of trash Mal just hauled out of here.
“That guy ain’t very nice, is he?” I ask, trying hard as I can not to telegraph my anger through my voice.
The girl shakes her head, eyes wide as saucers.
I don’t really know what else to say at this point, but one thing’s for sure: I’m not about to leave her alone.
“So, what did you do to that arm?” I nod at the cast.
She swallows, and looks like she’s trying to find her words. “I fell down the stairs,” she finally says, her voice tiny and soft. “I was trying to take my clothes to the washing machine.”
Huh. At first, I don’t believe her. I fell is a pretty classic line that abused kids say. I should know. I used it myself, back in the day. But something in the way she says it makes me think she’s telling the truth. At least about that part.
“Aren’t you a little young to be doing laundry?”
“I’m seven,” she pipes up, with just a degree of feistiness. Shit. She looks pretty small for a seven year-old.
“Oh,” I say seriously. “My apologies.”
“Is my mom gonna come soon?”
“Yeah. I’m sure she is.”
I notice the girl seems to be untensing a little bit, so I move toward the foot of the bed and take a seat, far enough away from her that she’ll have plenty of personal space. “So, what’s your name?”
“Paisley,” she mumbles, looking down at her cast.
“I’m Rourke. Pleased to meet you.”
The way she says it, like she’s just remembering her manners, makes me chuckle.
“That guy’s your mom’s boyfriend, huh?” I ask her.
Paisley’s eyes immediately grow dark and sad. “Yeah. His name is Mickey.”
“You don’t like him much, huh?”
Paisley risks a look at me. Her face looks like she’s trying to figure out whether to say something. Finally, she does: “My mom says it’s not okay to hit people.”
“Your mom’s right,” I agree. “But…” I lean closer. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Hitting him was fun.”
Then, before my eyes, her face transforms. A tiny grin appears, which she lifts up her good hand to hide. She starts to giggle. Which makes me start to chuckle. Which makes her start full-on laughing.
It makes me happy as hell to hear her laugh, even though I can kind of tell it hurts her head to do it. Seems to me she probably hasn’t done much laughing today.
I’m trying to think of something else I can do to cheer her up. Maybe the old “make a quarter appear behind her ear” trick or something. I’m casually reaching for my pocket to fish out a coin when a female voice behind me — different from the nurse’s — rings out in the room.
I frown at Paisley and shift on the foot of the bed to look toward the door.
A hot as hell woman with dark hair and flashing eyes stands in the doorway, fists on her hips. She’s dressed like she runs this place, in professional-looking navy-blue pants and a cream colored blouse that’s unbuttoned to reveal the soft skin of her throat. The fabric swells to the curve of her breasts, which are rising and falling rapidly as she stares at me now, her brows arched in an unspoken challenge. Her lips are parted, plump, stained a berry-red that looks good enough to eat.
Or to wrap around my cock.
For a second, I forget everything about the situation and just kinda stare at her. Holy hell.
“Excuse me,” she repeats — interrupting my budding fantasy of findin’ an empty hospital bed somewhere to fuck her brains out. She glares at me, and then shoots a quick glance at Paisley before locking her eyes on me again. “Will you please tell me exactly what it is you’re doing in this room?”
Only three more days until Iron Will!
Get ready for Rourke and Laney!