Excerpt Saturday: Shattered Bonds by Lynda Aicher
Lynda Aicher’s Wicked Play series is a must-read for any erotic romance fan, and the final book is certainly no exception. Shattered Bonds returns readers to the Den, the most exclusive BDSM club in town, for what could be their greatest scandal yet. Shattered Bonds is on sale September 15, however you can find more information about the book and where to pre-order your copy by visiting Carina Press or by visiting the author’s website.
About Shattered Bonds:
When the lives and friendships of The Den owners are thrown into chaos, Noah Bakker steps in to deal with the fallout. He hasn’t had a sub or participated in a Scene since tragedy changed his life four years ago. But as an investor in the exclusive BDSM club, he can’t walk away from the lifestyle completely. As he works to keep the club running, he finds himself drawn to Liv Delcour, the seemingly naïve sister of one of the other owners.
Liv didn’t know about the naughty things her friends were up to behind closed doors, but when their secrets become headline news, she’s more curious than shocked. As she works with Noah to keep the media at bay, she finds that his dominant strength is more than a little arousing. Soon they’re exploring their mutual desires in the most wicked ways.
Liv isn’t sure if she can completely submit to Noah the way she thinks he wants her to–and Noah isn’t sure he can withstand the pain of falling in love…
New to the Den? Start at the beginning with Bonds of Trust.
“Back up. Let ’em through!”
The piercing ring of a siren squealed through the air to join the ongoing choir, and cut off the frantic calls before it faded into the distance. An abundance of blue and red lights peppered the cold night with their universal signal for trouble under the blinding spotlights erected around the crash site.
“I need the clamps!”
Chaos surged around Noah as he crouched next to a semiconscious Deklan, who was laid out on a backboard on the edge of the scene. The stench of blood, gas and coolant clouded the area and rode tandem with shouts from the firemen and the medical-filled jargon of the paramedics.
“What the fuck happened?”
He leaned in to catch the slurred words that tumbled from Deklan. Blood leaked through the cloth he held to the man’s head, where a good two-inch gash ran beneath his short hair. He made another scan of the accident and swallowed. His stomach cramped and heaved in a threat to empty itself.
There was too much blood. In the car, on the pavement, covering his friends.
“Stay still.” He braced his free hand on Deklan’s shoulder when the man tried to get up. The first responders had secured Deklan’s neck in a brace, did an injury assessment, then accepted Noah’s offer to stay with Deklan so they could get to the rest of the victims.
“Fuck you,” Deklan mumbled, grimaced and dropped back down. His face was bleach white, eyes hazy with pain and worry. “I need to get to Kendra.”
The desperate edge of panic in his friend’s voice had Noah clearing his throat. “I know.” Shit. He wiped a hand over his mouth and cringed. Too much blood.
“Okay,” a paramedic said as she kneeled on the other side of Deklan. “I can take it from here.” She caught Noah’s eye for a second before her focus went to Deklan.
Noah let go of the bandage he’d been holding and started to move away before Deklan grabbed him.
“Tell me what’s going on,” the man rasped, his voice surprisingly strong, like his hold on Noah’s forearm.
“Sir,” the paramedic barked. “I need you to stay calm.”
Noah ignored the glare from the paramedic and leaned toward his friend. The daze had faded from Deklan’s eyes, and Noah understood the ex-military man needed the facts—good and bad.
“Your car was hit,” he said, his voice even and direct. “It’s bad. Kendra and Tyler are on the way to the hospital. The others are waiting transport. Seth’s the only one who walked away.”
Understanding washed over Deklan’s face in a hard inhale and press of lips. His grip tightened on Noah before he swallowed. “Dead?” The question was whispered, the fear transparent.
“No.” Noah maintained eye contact until the man relaxed back and closed his eyes. Only then did Noah release the breath he’d been holding. Not yet, at least.
“Sir.” He looked up at the nudge against his shoulder to see another paramedic standing at his side. “I need to get in there.”
Noah moved away, heart pounding on a wave of adrenaline fueled by dread that hadn’t let up since he’d watched the horrific accident happen in accelerated detail. His hands shook, the jittering movement continuing despite the tight clench of his fists.
He jerked around to see another stretcher being lifted into the back of an ambulance. Jake. That was Jake. Shit. Where was Cali?
His gaze pinballed across the scene until he landed on the splash of blond hair between the bodies of more paramedics. Blood, shiny and dark, stood out in blaring wrongness in a mat of hair clumped around her temple.
Noah spun to his right as the ambulance siren blasted through the air. Another one off. That was five victims accounted for. Where were the last two? Dread turned sour in his mouth before he found Seth kneeling next to his girlfriend. Allie was in the same position he’d left Deklan in—prone on a backboard, neck in a brace with a paramedic on her other side.
“What?” he snarled, the irritation and stark panic he’d been holding back pouring out in that one clipped word. The man held still, and Noah focused in on the thick coat emblazoned with the Minneapolis Police Department logo. Shit. “Sorry,” he said to the officer.
He squeezed his eyes closed to gain some focus, only to picture the horrific sight he’d found when he’d first peered through the cracked windows of the SUV. His eyes flew open and he shook his head to clear away the image.
The officer held out a rag, and Noah stared at it for a moment before his gaze traveled to his own hands. More blood. He flexed his fingers, the stickiness registering in his brain in disconnected understanding. “Thank you.” His voice was hollow in his ears as he accepted the cloth.
Damn it. He swiped at the blood and blew out a few long breaths. There wasn’t time for him to freak out.
His gaze went to the sheet that was now thrown over what was left of the front window of the pickup. With the truck’s nose crumpled almost clear to the cab, it’d only taken one glance at the crushed chest cavity and mangled face to guess the driver’s outcome. Rock had stepped up to the gruesome task of confirming that assumption before the first responders had arrived.
At least none of his friends had been pronounced dead at the scene.
“Sir,” the officer prompted again.
Noah snapped his chin up, control in place before he met the man’s eyes. “What can I do for you?”
The officer pulled out a notepad and pencil, his expression of concern flattening into a professional shield across his broad face. “Did you witness the accident?”
“Yes. I did.” Unfortunately.
“Then I have some questions.”
Noah made one more scan of the scene, noting the location of everyone he knew. Rock was walking next to Deklan’s stretcher as he was wheeled toward another ambulance. Rock’s partner, Carter, was on the side, talking to a police officer. Cali, Seth and Allie were in the same spots, which left Liv unaccounted for.
“Can we do this at the hospital?” he asked the officer, not waiting for an answer. He stepped away, spine straightening to gain the extra height to scan the crowd. The worry he’d tried to bank was back, gnawing at his reserves.
Where in the hell did Liv go? His throat was so dry that swallowing hurt. He didn’t have room to stress about another person. Yet his pulse sped to the thundering pace it’d been at when he’d sprinted to the accident.
He weaved through the crush of people to a man shouting orders, radio in one hand, the other gesturing at the crowd of gawkers that continued to press closer. “Get them back.” His loud bellow cut through the air with a tone of authority and people jumped to do his bidding.
Noah needed information and he had to find Liv. Damn it. He patted down his pockets as he approached the incident commander. Where was his phone? Everything since the crash had bled into a run of reaction-based events. He’d called 911, then Rock needed help opening Seth’s door, then…
“Excuse me,” Noah interjected as soon as the commander ended his discussion on the two-way radio.
“Who are you?” the man barked. He gave Noah a quick assessment before his focus swung back to the accident scene. “You should be behind the barriers.”
Noah choked back his frustration and settled into the stony demeanor that projected his confidence. “I’m their lawyer and friend. I need to know which hospital they’re at so I can let their families know.”
That got the man’s attention. He gave Noah a narrow-eyed appraisal that he met head-on. He might be without his business suit, his clothes smudged with blood, but that didn’t undermine his own authority or determination.
“Right,” the commander finally consented. He looked away, a flash of compassion lining his gruff face before he picked up a clipboard from the hood of the fire truck. He glanced down a document. “The first three went to HCMC. The rest are slotted for U of M, West Bank.”
Of course. There were too many to send to one ER. Noah nodded his thanks and, still tracking the crowd for any sight of Liv, headed over to Rock. The shriek of another ambulance siren sent a shiver through Noah as he watched it pull away. Deklan. That was four. Four out, seven still alive.
As far as he knew.
The cold air swooped in to chill the sweat on his nape but did nothing to cool his heated flesh. He caught Rock by the arm as the man swung away from the retreating ambulance. His features were set hard, like his name. The man’s military experience had never been more glaring to Noah. Rock’s calm composure and fast reactions had kept the panic from overtaking everyone before the emergency crews had arrived.
“Hey,” he said, his voice cracking for the first time that night. He cleared his throat and dug even deeper for the control he had to have. “We need a plan.”
Rock gave one nod, a twitch of the old scar that cut from his brow to his cheek his only show of emotion. “Agreed.”
When nothing else followed, Noah sighed. Every muscle in his body felt like leaded weights pulling him down. What time was it anyway?
“This sucks,” Rock grumbled.
“Agreed.” Noah mimicked Rock’s earlier reply out of a sheer inability to say more. The fallout from one careless driver was going to impact dozens of lives. “We need to split up and call the others. Family, too.”
Rock scrubbed a hand over his face. “Fuck.”
The small break in the man’s composure was somewhat rewarding to see. At least Noah wasn’t alone on barely holding it together. It was an irrational response, but he didn’t have the energy to admonish himself at the moment.
Rock dropped his hand and leaned in, speaking low. “I can’t confirm, but I believe the driver of the truck was that bastard Harcourt.”
Noah flinched, the implications too tangled to comprehend. He shook his head, lips pursed. “No.” He leveled a glare at Rock to ensure the man understood exactly what he was saying. “We can’t deal in hypotheticals. Not now.”
Rock glared right back, his eyes narrowed to slits. “We need to be prepared if it is.”
With the way the pickup had plowed through the intersection without braking, if the once-esteemed but now-disgraced city council member was the driver, they were in for a whole lot of shit none of them needed. He had to listen to Rock, even if his mind rejected the thought. Denial only delayed the inevitable.
“Jake, Kendra and Tyler went to HCMC.” Noah fisted his shaking hands, noticing for the first time that his fingers were freezing. “The others are slotted for U of M, West Bank.”
Rock blew out a breath, and the solid wall of control fell back into place on his features. He drew his shoulders back and lifted his chin, nostrils flaring on his inhale. “Go. Get to HCMC. Carter and I will go to U of M.”
Noah sucked in a gush of cold air and mentally clicked through the details that needed to be taken care of as he scanned the crowd for the still-unaccounted-for Liv. That missing thread was unraveling the tight weave he held on his emotions. He checked his pockets for his phone, once again coming up empty. “Damn it. I can’t find my phone or Liv.”
“Liv’s got your phone,” Rock said. “She called V and Marcus and is moving our cars now.”
Noah stared at Rock, both relieved and annoyed the other man knew that and he didn’t. “And?”
“V’s waiting on hospital info. Marcus is heading to the club to let the staff know and grab emergency contact numbers for everyone.”
Smart. That was smart. He should’ve thought of that. “Right.”