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Undeserving

By´╝ÜMadeline 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.

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