It ain't easy being clean.
Eight years after getting out of prison, Shea Stevens has her own business building custom motorcycles. But when her niece is kidnapped and an employee shot, Shea launches herself back into the criminal underworld of Arizona's high desert and joins forces with her father's old biker gang.
But not everything is as it appears. Shea finds herself torn between competing loyalties where the wrong move could cost her more than her freedom.
In her debut novel, Dharma Kelleher delivers a groundbreaking thriller that is equal parts Sons of Anarchy and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Iron Goddess takes readers on a gritty, high-speed adventure that will keep you turning pages late into the night.
Get your copy now.
About the Author
Dharma Kelleher is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. She is a pioneer in transgender crime fiction, writing gritty tales about outlaws, renegades, and misfits from a queer perspective.
She is a former journalist and a current member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She lives in Arizona with her wife and three feline overlords.
Read an Excerpt
Sparks exploded from the left footpeg of Shea Stevens’ motorcycle as it scraped against the pavement. She was going too fast through the curves that twisted up the south side of Sycamore Mountain. The road was dark—daybreak still an hour away. Getting up close and personal with an elk at sixty miles an hour would be disastrous. But Shea was in a hurry.
She tried to convince herself the call from the security company was another false alarm—a rat looking for a crumb, or maybe a glitch in the sensors. But she couldn’t shake the fear that someone had broken into the shop. If the three custom motorcycles they’d finished the night before were stolen, it would be a quarter-million-dollar loss.
Please, God, let it be another false alarm.
The cold air blasting through the vents in her jacket caused her teeth to chatter. In her rush to alleviate her paranoia, she’d thrown on her jeans and T-shirt from the night before. Didn’t bother with a bra. Her only precaution had been the .40-caliber Glock she’d slipped into a pancake holster at the small of her back.
Fifteen minutes later, her bike crested the hill and reached what the residents of Sycamore Springs, Arizona, call Olde Towne—a mile-long strip of locally owned shops including a café, a pharmacy, an antiques shop, and Iron Goddess Custom Cycles—her destination.
She screeched to a stop in front of the cycle shop, killed the engine, and ripped off her helmet. The pungent scent of creosote mixed with dead skunk made her nose crinkle. Moonlight reflected off the desert dust on the plate glass window, obscuring the Iron Goddess logo. Her gaze shifted left to the shop’s front door. Shards of glass clung to the doorframe like broken teeth.
“F***.” Her hands tightened into fists. She wanted to beat someone.
She climbed off the bike and scanned the street, hoping to spot the intruder skulking through Olde Towne. Fifty feet away at the Kokopelli Café, a Coca-Cola sign flickered on and off. Across the street, a security gate sliced the blue light of a fifties-era jukebox glowing from within the antiques shop. The rest of Olde Towne’s shops slumbered in darkness.
She dug a flashlight out of her tank bag and drew the Glock, turning her attention back to Iron Goddess. She crept onto the cement porch, paused outside the door, and listened for anyone who might be inside. Somewhere in the darkness, a pack of coyotes performed a predawn symphony of yips and high-pitched howls over a recent kill. Two delivery trucks roared past three minutes apart. But no voices or sounds of crunching glass came from inside Iron Goddess. If anyone was in there, they may have hunkered down when they heard her motorcycle. She had to find out for sure.
Drops of a dark liquid on the concrete caught her attention. Was it oil or blood? She brushed it with a finger, creating a crimson smear. Blood. Her pulse quickened.
She pulled on the door handle. It was unlocked. Thief must’ve reached in and unlocked it after breaking the glass. She scolded herself for not getting a double-cylinder lock.
After slipping in through the door, she scanned the place with her flashlight. Tiny bits of glass sparkled like jewels across the floor. A bowling ball–sized rock lay near the front sales counter. The familiar industrial smell of the showroom mixed with the organic tang of blood. Her fist tightened on the grip of the gun.
More drops of blood led off to the right. She considered turning on the lights, but didn’t want to blow what little stealth she had left. Broken glass crunched under her boots with each step. Moving slower didn’t make it any quieter.
She followed the trail of blood around the counter to where three custom-ordered bikes and several production bikes had been parked hours earlier; they were now gone.
Clothing racks for motorcycle jackets and pants had been cleared. Empty hangers lay scattered on the floor. Shelves that once displayed helmets, boots, and other gear had been stripped bare.
Shea felt sucker-punched. Her mind kept telling her it was a dream.
Her heart leapt into her throat when someone coughed and moaned. She ducked down until she heard it again.
Her finger slipped onto the trigger. She swung the flashlight around and found a man lying on the floor in the motor oil aisle. She approached cautiously, ignoring the pulse pounding in her ears.
With the light on the man’s face, she recognized him as Derek Williams, one of her employees.
She slapped on the overhead lights. Derek was a scrawny guy, just shy of his twentieth birthday. His stubbly face was pale and clammy. Blood covered his shirt, pooling on the floor around his chest.
“Aw shit, Derek!” She holstered her gun and knelt down next to him.
He opened his eyes for a moment. “They made me,” he wheezed before coughing up blood.
“Who? Who did this to you?”
His eyes lost focus and closed.
She checked his pulse. Her own heart beat so fast she couldn’t tell if he had a pulse or not. She pulled out her phone.
“Cortes County 911—what’s your emergency?”
“I need an ambulance at Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, 8234 South Sycamore Highway. My friend is bleeding.”
“How is he injured, ma’am?”
“I . . . I don’t know. I just found him. He’s got blood all over his chest. I think someone shot him.”
“Is he breathing?”
“Uh . . . let me check.” She put her ear to his mouth and could hear shallow, gurgling breaths. “He’s breathing, but barely.”
“We’ve dispatched an ambulance. It’ll be there momentarily.”
Shea hung up the phone and checked his pulse again. It was there, but weak. Then it stopped. She struggled to remember the lessons from a CPR course two years earlier. She clasped her hands and compressed in the center of his chest. Blood gushed from his wounds. That wasn’t in the course.
She lifted up his shirt. His chest was smeared with blood. She wiped away as much as she could. Dark liquid oozed from two dime-sized wounds, one right above his heart, the other closer to his left shoulder.
His shirt was soaked. Wouldn’t work to stop the blood, even if she could get it off him. Shea looked for something else to use. The nearby shelves were stocked with bottles of motor oil, industrial cleaners, and cans of chain lube. No shop cloths or clothing.
She scrambled out of her jacket, pulled off her shirt, and twisted it into a tight wad. She pressed it over the wounds and compressed his chest again. The T-shirt kept the bleeding to a minimum. She continued pumping his chest. “Come on, Derek. Gimme a heartbeat.”
After fifty compressions, she checked again. Still no pulse. She continued pounding on his chest, desperately trying to minimize the bleeding and hoping the EMTs would arrive before she ran out of energy.
Her back was beginning to cramp up when the silver bell on the front door jingled.
“Over here!” she yelled.
Two deputies rushed in, guns pointed at her.
“Sheriff’s Office! Get on the floor. Hands behind your head.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fun premise and interesting story in a hometown venue that founders with weak and cliche characters.
I loved this book... well developed, fascinating characters along with a well paced plot.
Despite using every cliché and stereotype about biker gangs, this is a great book. The people in play are fashioned in depth, and the reader finds themselves rooting for people they probably wouldn't like in person. The story-telling is done so well that the characters become endearing and the plot develops in a way that holds the reader's interest. Many bad things happen, starting from the very beginning when Shea finds a young employee shot and bleeding in her motorcycle building shop. Kelleher has the unique ability to create flawed people, put them in extreme situations, and make you like them. If you want something off-beat but engrossing, this is the book for you.
Review can be found at Ian Wood's Novellum
This is a fast paced thriller in which Shea, and ex-con, is working hard at making an honest living at making custom motorcycles for women. I had never actually thought about the need for women to need bikes sized differently, so I found this part of the novel interesting. Unfortunately for Shea, her shop is robbed of a group of very high profile bikes. Their loss could destroy her business, so she reaches out to her old contacts to try and recover them. What follows is a very fast paced tale that drags her back into the criminal world of motorcycle clubs. This is not a cleaned up sexy MC story, but a very gritty and harsh novel that shows the horrors that can occur. At a point in the novel, the violence and murders were almost unending - for me, it was almost too much. I really liked how Shea has "adopted strays" - people that have complicated pasts and that don't fit neatly into society. Additionally, while Shea is in a monogamous relationship with her girlfriend, the affection scenes were written with a light touch that I appreciated. I am looking forward to future works by this author and think she is an author to watch.