An unedited, and subject to change, sneak peek at Colt 🙂
Maci squeezed her eyes shut, but that didn’t stop the entire bathroom from spinning. She wasn’t sure if it was the stench, or the horrible pain in the back of her head causing it, but she reached out to stabilize herself. It was no use. Her hands slipped down the walls, smacking into puddles of blood on the floor. No, no, no.
A low whine of frustration echoed off the walls. She was trapped, her head and neck crooked against the wall, her body pinned by the dead man’s weight. God, I didn’t mean for this to happen.
Forcing her eyes open against the blinding light, she blinked away the tears that burned, and tried to swallow down the panic. She didn’t know how long she’d been knocked out, or if the sun had come up since she’d stopped at the little country store, but she took a chance, inhaled the nauseating scent of the one-stall bathroom, and screamed, “Help,” as loud as she could.
The single word left her breathless, panting to refill her lungs. No one can hear me. Maci’s body felt like it was collapsing into itself. What if it wasn’t over? Images of the attack flashed in her mind, and she felt the darkness creeping up on her, again. No, I have to get out of here.
Instinct kicked in, sending adrenaline coursing through her. Using the wall as leverage, she took an empowering breath, shoved the man’s shoulders with all her might, and managed to wrangle her hips and thighs free.
Her chest heaving, her arms feeling like rubber, Maci regrouped, struggling to keep her eyes open against the sight surrounding her. Shit. Blood was everywhere: running down the wall in thick streaks, puddled on the floor. Jesus, it was splattered on the ceiling.
The space was tiny and the man’s body dominated the floor, but Maci managed to curl into the corner under the ancient porcelain sink, wrapping her arms around her legs, and hovering as far away from him as she could, refusing to look at him. I did this.
A sob exploded from her, stealing what little energy she had left. She rocked, panic seizing her senses. Her own terrifying thoughts repeating themselves over and over in her mind, so vivid she didn’t recognize the new sound at first. It came again. She froze, a fresh wave of panic throbbing inside her temples. Was she not alone, anymore?
Terrified to move, too scared to even breathe, Maci listened, too afraid to call for help. What if it was him?
The muffled sound came again, and somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Maci connected it. It was a phone, vibrating from somewhere in the pile of clothes, and blood, and tissue.
God, someone is looking for him. Hope surged through her. She could answer it. Get help. The thought was enough to motivate her to move. She lunged from the corner, prepared to search for the ringing salvation. That’s when she realized it. He’s one of them.
Rage and fear had her hovering over him, her eyes registering the damage and the details of the mutilated man, but filing them away before they shut her down, again.
I have to get out of here. Sheer terror drove her, but Maci managed to crawl over him on her hands and knees, slipping and falling into the congealing blood. It seeped into her clothes, smearing her body. She couldn’t think about that right now.
Escape. It was all that mattered. The phone. It was still ringing. They’d be looking for him and she needed to be long gone when they found him.
Maci crawled away, pushing through the door on all fours, gasping and crying, trying to stand, and collapsing back to the ground. She dragged herself across the rocks, not even feeling the sharp edges that dug into her flesh. She was numb to the pain.
A few feet from her car, she managed to stand, stumbling into the door. Her blood covered hand slipped from the handle, sheer terror flooding her system as she reached for it again, grabbing the handle with both hands. Nothing.
Desperate, she banged her fists on the window. Keys. She fumbled in the folds of her torn, blood-soaked uniform, the shredded rags so unrecognizable she couldn’t find the pocket. Gripping the material in her fingers, she shook the fabric, feeling the weight of the keys bounce against her legs.
Digging through the folds, she finally found them. With shaking hands, she fought to get the key in the hole, swinging the door wide open, and collapsing in the driver’s seat. She slammed the door shut behind her, punching the lock down, not bothering to catch her breath before she started the car and spun out of the parking lot.
It was less than two miles to her house and she barely remembered the drive. The next coherent thought she had was standing in the shower, still dressed in what was left of her clothes, letting the scalding water wash over her.
She peeled them off, dropping them on the shower floor. She didn’t remember turning the water main back on. That’s why she’d stopped at the store in the first place. She didn’t have water. Her tiny trailer would be flooded, again.
It didn’t matter. She grabbed the soap off the hanging rack and scrubbed every inch of skin, over and over, crying the whole time, her incoherent ramblings lost in the sound of the shower. She didn’t get out until well after the water ran cold and she was shivering with exhaustion.
Wrapping herself in her fluffy, pink robe, Maci glanced around her tiny bedroom, lost, slowly becoming aware of the water she was standing in. She slipped on her flip-flops, waded through the sloshy carpet to turn the water back off, and then curled up on her bed.
She needed to go to the cops, to tell them she was there, explain what happened. The thought brought a fresh wave of uncontrollable tears. There’d be more of them than was at the store. Would they come after her? The police couldn’t keep her safe forever. She’d survived tonight, but next time she might not be so lucky. Was she willing to risk it?
Exhaustion took her from her thoughts just as the sun was coming up. She managed a fitful sleep till almost noon, her dreams plagued by images of the man murdered and laying in the bathroom floor, and she gave in to the same hopelessness that’d paralyzed her the night before.
Colt’s grip tightened on the phone. “What are you saying?”
His mom was not the emotional kind, but damn if he could understand a word she was saying. “Take a breath. Breathe and slow it down.”
Giving her a minute to do just that, Colt paced the length of the couch, trying not to let his thoughts get ahead of the conversation. Second by second, he could feel his muscles tensing, and the pain in his jaw reminded him he was clenching his teeth, and he had to force himself to relax.
His mother’s slow, shaky voice broke through her raspy breathing. “You make them pay. Every last one.”
“What?” A knock echoed through the apartment and Colt eyed his best friend, and teammate, Mikey, who was watching him from the edge of his seat. He knew something was wrong, too, but he shoved himself out of his chair and headed toward the door.
“Mom, what are you talking about?”
Mikey swung the door open, and Colt turned to see his father’s VP and his best friend filling the door way. It all made sense. His body went rigid, but the phone began shaking in his hand, his body reacting to what his mind couldn’t process. “What?”
“They killed him, Colt,” she cried, just before grief consumed her again.
“Who?” but Colt was eyeing the men who’d just arrived, and he knew. Deep down, the realization that his father was dead took hold.
Her response was an incoherent mess of emotions that flushed adrenaline through his body.
“Who?” he asked again, but this time his question was aimed at his father’s brothers. Tucker, the Demons of Destruction’s VP, gave a tight shake of his head, while Tex just grew angrier.
“I’m coming home,” Colt growled into the phone, before hanging it up. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
Tex shifted his weight, clenching and releasing his fists. “They found him yesterday morning in the bathroom at a store,” he ground out. “Fucked him up, Colt. I didn’t even recognize him.”
Colt’s blood ran cold. Tex had been his father’s best friend for as long as he could remember. What the hell had they done to him that his best friend didn’t know who he was?
Tex looked away. “If it weren’t for your mom’s name tattooed on his shoulder…” He shook his head, his voice trailing off. “She needs you.”
Stunned, Colt started to sit, then straightened, and spun back towards them, his mind racing. He needed to regroup, but at the same time, the urge to do something was crushing his ability to think of anything but what his mother had said. Making them pay. It was the only thing on his mind.
“I’ll be ready in ten minutes. Tell Hank I want to see him.”
He started down the hallway to his room, followed by Mikey, who had the good sense to wait until they were alone to say anything.
“You want me to go with you?”
Colt shook his head, already knowing his entire life was about to change. Colt knew from Mikey’s demeanor that he sensed it, too.
“I see where your mind is at, bro. You sure you want to do this?”
Colt was digging clothes from a drawer. He slammed it shut and cut his eyes to Mikey. The offensive guard stood between Colt and his bedroom door, feet apart, arms crossed. He was big as fuck, towering over Colt by more than a foot, and was just as big around, but Colt wasn’t afraid of him. “I’ll go through you,” he warned.
The giant threw his hands up. “I ain’t stopping you, man. I just don’t want you to go do something you can’t fix.”
Stuffing a few changes of clothes in his bag, Colt zipped it up, and ran his hands over his short, black hair. “They left him to die like a fucking dog, Mikey.”
His best friend stepped closer, throwing his thumb over his shoulder. “Dude, they aren’t going let this lie. Come on, they’ll handle it. And what about the cops?”
Colt grunted. “You think they give a shit about one less Demon riding around? Hell, they probably buried the file as soon as they stamped DOA across it.”
Mikey would never understand. His father didn’t die. He was taken from him. Murdered. There was no way he could walk back on the field knowing his dad wasn’t watching, that there’d be no post-game phone call. All of that had been replaced by a deeply-rooted desire to find the person responsible for taking that away from him.
“You don’t even know if they’re going to take you. Who wants some skinny-ass boy watching their six? Go home. Bury your old man, but come back here, with your team.”
Mikey moved to sit on the corner of Colt’s king size bed, changing tactics. “Draft is coming up. It’ll be gone long before your anger is,” he argued. “How you going to come back from that?” His best friend turned his palms to the ceiling. “That’s a lifetime of regret.”
“Nothing is official,” Colt argued. “The draft will be there next year and I can still play.”
“Not from prison,” Mikey hissed.
Colt loved football, and he knew this would have been his year. He had an unsigned agent in his ear, reminding him every day, but it meant nothing without his dad. He belonged with his family, and even though he didn’t wear the Demons’ colors, they were his family. “I won’t be coming back.”