Home > Undeserving (Undeniable #5)

Undeserving (Undeniable #5)
Author: Madeline Sheehan

Prologue

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 stared back at me, right through to my very core. Protecting me. Loving me. Always.

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.

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