Undeserving, page 1
Copyright © 2017 Madeline Sheehan
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Sneak Peek of Undying (Undeniable #6)
About The Author
Other Works by Madeline Sheehan
To the man in the faded photograph with the wide, handsome smile
and the little girl in your lap.
This one is for you both.
I stormed out of the elevator and into the fourth-floor hallway of Queens City Hospital in New York City, NY. Ignoring the glances I attracted from the staff standing behind and milling around the nurses’ station, I quickly spotted what I was looking for—a group of familiar men clustered together down the hall—and began marching toward them.
Behind me—quite a distance behind me, actually—my husband, Cole “Deuce” West, better known as “Prez” to his fellow bikers in the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club, was shuffling along slowly, obviously not in any hurry to catch up with me. Not that I could blame him. I’d done little else but yell, scream, and cry at him since finding out about my father’s rapidly declining health, something I’d come to discover Deuce had known about all along and had purposely hidden from me.
But my anger with Deuce stemmed from more than just that.
In all the years we’d been together, through the good and the bad, the thick and the thin, he’d still yet to figure out how to react to me when I was upset. He was a man through and through, and in my experience, men like Deuce, men like my father, they dealt with their own emotions by using their fists, emptying a bottle of whiskey, or losing themselves between the thighs of a willing woman. Forget dealing with the upsets of their own women; at that, these men were all utterly clueless.
As for this latest turn of events, “upset” was putting very, very mildly what my tumultuous emotions were doing, and Deuce’s cluelessness was only furthering my anger.
My father, my beloved father, was dying of cancer—cancer that had spread quickly throughout his entire body. On top of that, no one had told me—not my father himself nor my husband, nor either of my uncles, all of whom had known about his condition for quite some time now. Instead, a Silver Demons club whore, a woman half my age, had thankfully taken it upon herself to call me and give me the devastating news.
I was furious at them all. And on top of my fury, my heart was breaking.
I was losing my daddy. It didn’t matter that I was a grown woman with children of my own. He would always be my daddy, and the thought of losing him…
No. I wouldn’t think on that now. Not when my father was still here and I was spitting mad.
“Joe!” I yelled, pointing an accusatory finger at my uncle, forgoing the formality of calling him “Uncle Joe” as I usually did. I was just that pissed.
A shorter and stockier version of my father, Joe shrank beneath my angry stare, at least having the decency to look suitably guilty. Yet beneath his guilt, I could plainly see his pain, so much so that when I reached him, instead of slapping him across the face like I’d planned, I collapsed in his arms and burst into tears.
“How could you not tell me?” I demanded hoarsely, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt. Looking up at him, I squeezed the threadbare material between my fingers, twisting and bunching it until I could hear the fabric tearing. “How could you keep this from me?”
Tears forming in his eyes, Joe couldn’t seem to find the words to answer me. It was my other uncle, Max, also known as Dog, who spoke.
“He made us promise, Eva. You know how he is, didn’t want no one fussin’ over him.”
Of course he didn’t. Damon “Preacher” Fox was as self-sufficient as they came. He was one of a dying breed of men who only knew one way to live, headstrong to the point of stupidity, selfless to the point of selfishness, and so accustomed to taking care of everyone else around them, they usually forgot to take care of themselves. Or just plain didn’t give a damn what happened to themselves, as long as their loved ones were provided for.
“Eva.” A heavy arm came down over my shoulders, pulling me away from Joe and turning me. I glanced up at Douglas “Tiny” Williams, a Silver Demon and my father’s best friend since childhood. I noted the dark circles ringing his eyes, the way his mouth was turned down sorrowfully. Of course he was hurting. They were all hurting.
“Doctors say he ain’t got much time… maybe a few days,” Tiny said, his breaking voice heavy and breathless.
I swallowed hard, nodding, and as Tiny’s arm fell away, I took a tentative step toward my father’s door but stopped. I couldn’t go in there, not yet.
Glancing over my shoulder, I found Deuce and went still. I said nothing, and he said nothing. We just stared at each other, me silently apologizing for my earlier anger, and him holding me captive with those icy blue eyes of his.
Something struck me then. Deuce was only a handful of years younger than my father and had not all that long ago suffered a heart attack. True, I was vigilant, making sure he ate right, took his medication, didn’t smoke or drink excessively, and did cardio exercises instead of simply lifting his preferred weights, yet… never before had our eighteen-year age difference seemed so vast. After all, age was nothing but a number… until your number was closing in on its expiration date.
Knowing me better than anyone ever had, Deuce seemed to understand my unspoken fears. He stepped toward me, reaching for my hand. Threading his fingers through mine, he placed our joined hands on his chest, over his heart.
“Still beatin’ strong, darlin’,” he said quietly.
And as his heart continued beating steadily, mine skipped a beat. Even advancing in years, he was still the most fearsomely beautiful man I’d ever laid eyes upon. His shoulder-length hair, blond and heavily graying, and his beard, also gray and trimmed short and neat, framed a face full of innately masculine, ruggedly cut features that one both feared and yet was inexplicably drawn to.
Ours had been a connection that defied the laws of man, a bond that formed for me at the tender age of five and Deuce at twenty-three. Kindred spirits, a timeless friendship that, as the years continued to pass, had turned into something so much more. And now here we were, nearly half a lifetime later, with two children and still together. Still going strong.
And it was that very strength I needed now to face the pain of losing my father.
“I love you,” I whispered.
Deuce didn’t answer—he’d never been one to verbalize his feelings publicly—but he didn’t have to. His eyes said it all. Icy blue, piercing in their intensity, they
With a deep breath and a full-body shiver, I reluctantly pulled away from Deuce. Then I looked over the men in the hallway, pausing to look at each of them before turning toward the door.
I found my father lying asleep in a railed bed, IV stands and machines surrounding him, periodically beeping and flashing. I didn’t know what any of it was for, only that the sight of it scared me, chilled me straight through to my bones.
Slowly approaching the bed, I nearly gasped in shock at the sight of him. It hadn’t been that long since I’d last seen him, maybe a year, and yet he looked like a shriveled-up shell of his former self. His gray hair, what was left of it, had turned white. His skin, a mass of wrinkles, seemed to be barely hanging on to his body, a body that had lost nearly all its muscle and fat.
It was the first time in my life that my father actually seemed “old.” Never before would I have ever described the once handsome, tall and lanky, yet packed-with-muscle president of the Silver Demons Motorcycle Club as fragile. Not when this particular man had headed a worldwide criminal organization comprised of men who made a living by making other men shit themselves.
But that was exactly what he appeared to be—fragile and breaking. Just like my heart.
“Daddy,” I whispered, reaching out to place my hand over his. Resting on his stomach, his hands felt small beneath mine.
Holding my breath, I watched as my hand rose and fell with the rise and fall of his stomach, and my eyes filled with fresh tears.
It didn’t matter that I was a grown woman with children of my own. It didn’t matter that I had strands of gray in my brown hair and fine lines around my gray eyes. This man was my father, my daddy, and no matter his age or mine, losing him made me feel like a child all over again. A child who was losing the only parent she’d ever had.
Even as accustomed to tragedy as I was, as anyone who lived in the world I’d grown up in was, I couldn’t imagine ever being truly prepared for this loss. My father was my rock, my foundation, and everyone else’s. And if he were gone… well, it would feel like my once unbreakable house came crumbling down around me.
My head jerked up, and I immediately wiped away my tears. Sniffling, I tried to smile. “Daddy,” I whispered, squeezing his hand. “You are such an incredible asshole.”
The corner of Preacher’s mouth turned up, his brown eyes shining with adoration. He’d never looked at me with anything but love, even when I’d disappointed him.
He loved me regardless of my mistakes and transgressions, and in return, I gave him the same unconditional love. No matter what my father had done, and I knew his sins were many, he would always be the first man I’d ever loved, and the man I still measured every other man against.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I whispered, my expression crumbling. How could I be strong when I was losing him? How could I be strong when he had always been the strong one?
“Why should I?” Preacher asked, sounding indignant and more like himself than he looked. “You’ve got a life out there in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere.” He made a face. “And you got people dependin’ on you, babies you’re raisin’. Didn’t need you rushin’ home only to sit around and watch me die.”
I released his hand with a gasp and straightened to my full height. Glaring down at him, I snapped, “That’s my damn decision, Daddy! And my babies aren’t babies anymore!”
Again, he attempted a smile. “They’ll always be your babies.”
A sob and a sigh fled my lips simultaneously, and I turned away, squeezing my eyes tightly shut. Damn him. Damn him, damn him, damn him.
“Lived a long enough life, Eva,” he continued, sounding exasperated, “and ain’t nobody lives forever.”
I knew that, of course I knew that, and I knew I had no choice but to accept it. But that didn’t mean I had to like it.
“Enough of this shit,” he said. “Come give your old man a goddamn hug.”
Blowing out a breath, I turned back to face him. Mindful of the bedrail and careful of his IV lines, I bent down and laid my cheek on his chest, noticing right away that he didn’t smell like himself. There was no aroma of cigarettes, no hint of motor oil and exhaust fumes. Instead, he smelled like clean, warm skin and something else sharp and bitter.
Preacher wrapped his arm around my back and gave me as much of a squeeze as he could muster, which was weak at best. Feeling his lack of strength and hearing his lungs rattle and wheeze, I felt my eyes fill again.
“Thank you for always taking care of me, Daddy,” I said hoarsely. “For doing the best you could. For stepping up even when she ran off.”
The “she” I was referring to was my mother. Deborah “Darling” Reynolds had been a sixteen-year-old runaway and a junkie my father had met on a run. She’d taken off shortly after giving birth and was never seen or heard from again.
My parents’ relationship had been a whirlwind, short but chock-full of emotion, and Preacher had never quite gotten over the loss of Deborah, never taken any interest in another woman other than for momentary pleasure. He rarely spoke of her, but on the rare occasions that she was mentioned, I’d seen in his eyes and heard in his words how much he cared for her. Even after what she’d done to him, done to us both.
“Eva.” Preacher’s voice was strained. I lifted my head, meeting his eyes, finding them bloodshot and full of tears.
“Daddy?” I stood up, reaching for the call button at his bedside. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain?”
Taking my hand, Preacher brought it back to his chest. “No,” he said softly. “No, baby girl. No pain.”
“Are you thirsty?” I asked. “Tired?”
He shook his head. “No, no, I’m just… I’m proud of you, baby girl. So damn proud of you. She woulda been proud of you, too.”
I blinked. “Who?”
Preacher looked to the windows as a tear slid down his cheek. “Your mother.”
My regret was instantaneous. I shouldn’t have brought her up. My only intention had been to stress to my father how grateful I was for him and what an amazing job he’d done, especially having to do it all as a single parent. But now, seeing him still crying over a girl who’d been too immature to take responsibility for her own actions, I hated her even more.
“Daddy, no,” I said. “Don’t get upset. Let’s talk about something else.”
Preacher’s sorrow-filled eyes found mine. “I lied to you,” he whispered.
I squinted at him. “I don’t understand. You lied to me about what?”
His eyes closed for a moment, and when they reopened—full of regret, full of guilt—my heart began to pound. All at once, I knew what he’d lied about, whom he’d lied about.
“Your mother,” he croaked. “I lied about your mother. She wasn’t no junkie. Her name wasn’t Deborah… and she loved the hell outta you. Loved us both…”
I pulled my hand out from under his and took a small step backward, suddenly breathless. “What?” I whispered, my voice shaking.
“I didn’t lie about everything,” Preacher said. “She was a runaway. That much was true.”
He turned away, his gaze on the window once again. As he stared, looking off into the distance, more tears rolled down his cheeks. And as the minutes continued to tick by, I could only assume the worst.
“Did she die?” I heard myself ask.
He turned back to me, his expression conflicted.
“I gotta start at the beginning. Lemme start at the beginning, baby girl. Lemme tell you the whole damn story.”
Wrapping my arms around my middle, I glanced wildly around the room, not really looking at anything and unsure if I wanted to hear this or not. Yet I couldn’t deny the hundreds of questions that I found myself wanting to ask, or the sudden desperate need to know the truth about my mother. Starting with, why the hell had my father lied to me?
Blowing out a breath, willing my e
Closing his eyes, he let out a hoarse sigh. “I’d gotten locked up at twenty-two, did two years for possession. I’d only been out a couple of months when I met her…” He chuckled softly. “When she tried to steal my wallet,” he added.
“Pretty little thing,” he continued. “Long brown hair and damn big eyes.” His eyes opened and focused on me. “Lookin’ just like your eyes, Eva, ’cept hers were brown. Fact, you got a lot of her in you, only you got some of your grandma, too.”
As he continued describing her, I found my own eyes closing as I tried to picture her. Trying to picture… my God… my mother.
“I’ve never particularly liked the idea of looking back;
I’d rather look forward.”
- Jane Asher
“At the end, we should all go back to the beginning,
if only to remind ourselves that we once lived.”
- Damon “Preacher” Fox
Back to the beginning
It was his last day.
Two long years he’d spent reading more books than he could count, pacing in his six by eight cell, wearing the same gray shirt-and-pants uniform, day in and day out.
Two years of eating shit food, having his every move monitored, forced to defend his right to simply exist.
Two years of his life… fucking wasted.
He’d never thought it would happen. Being behind bars has a way of making an hour feel more like a month, but it had finally come to pass.
He’d come through those gates a twenty-two-year-old cocky son of a bitch, the heir to a highly profitable criminal organization, the Silver Demons Motorcycle Club, thinking his lawyer would have him out in six months, maybe less.
And he’d thought he would rule this place—that his fellow inmates would hear the name Damon “Preacher” Fox and drop to their knees in respect. He’d come through those gates thinking nobody and nothing could touch him, that he was above them all, a force to be reckoned with. He’d come through those gates thinking he was a god.
Other author's books:
- The Holy Trinity TrilogyThe Lost Souls
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