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Unbeautifully

By´╝ÜMadeline Sheehan

Prologue


No sooner met but they looked,

no sooner looked but they loved,

no sooner loved but they sighed,

no sooner sighed but they

asked one another the reason,

no sooner knew the reason

but they sought the remedy . . .

—William Shakespeare



I don’t believe in fate. I firmly believe that life is what you make of it, that life will react to your actions, and that your final destination has nothing to do with destiny but instead everything to do with the choices you make along the way.

With one exception.

Love.

There are no rules when it comes to love.

Love is not a reaction or an action; it is not a destiny or a choice.

Love is a feeling, a real, raw, and unscripted emotion so sensationally pure, unable to dull even under the strain of a world against it, strong enough to heal the broken and warm even the coldest of hearts.

Innate.

Unavoidable.

Undeniable.

And sometimes, love is unconventional and it breaks all the rules and blurs all the lines and basks in its glory, shining as bright as the sun, unapologetically glowing even under the narrowed stares of society and its screaming, self-righteous morals, berating and judging that which it doesn’t understand.

The first time I fell in love, it was with a pair of blue eyes and a wide, dimpled grin.

“Your old man loves ya, Danny girl,” he whispered. “You never, ever forget that, yeah?”

I never did. And I never thought I could ever love any man as much as I loved my father. But as we grow, we change, we begin to make our own decisions and thus become independent and self-sufficient, and start turning away from our parents and turning to others. We begin experiencing life outside of the bubble we grew up in and form friendships, strong bonds, and unbreakable ties.

And we fall in love . . . a second time.

The second time I fell in love it was with a badly scarred face, the stuff of nightmares, the sort of disfigurement that mothers steer their children away from. Ugly, jagged slashes marred the skin from the top of his skull, down over his right eye, an eye that had been dug out of his face with a serrated blade. The scars continued across his cheek, over his lips, and down his neck, ending at the top of his shoulder. His chest was a hundred times worse, scar tissue as far as the eye could see.

“Baby,” he said gruffly. “Man like me got no business with a girl like you. You’re nothin’ but fuckin’ beauty and I’m a whole lot of fuckin’ ugly who’s already halfway to hell.”

But he was wrong.

Everything has beauty. Even the ugly. Especially the ugly.

Because without ugly, there would be no beauty.

Because without beauty, we would not survive our pain, our sorrow, and our suffering.

And in the world I lived in, the world he lived in, a secret world within the world, a world of constant crime and cruelty, a cold world full of despair and death, there was almost nothing but suffering.

“You may not be beautiful the way you were before,” I whispered, cupping his ruined cheek. “But you’re still beautiful. To me.”

Ours was the furthest thing from a picture-perfect romance; it was more of a car crash, a metal-bending, blood-splattered disaster that left no survivors, only bad memories and heartache.

But it was ours.

And because it was ours . . . I wouldn’t change a thing.





Chapter 1


Slipping on a pair of sunglasses, I stepped out of the clubhouse into the bright midday Montana sun and surveyed the backyard where my family, both related by blood and not, were enjoying a Saturday afternoon cookout. If the sun was shining and the weather decent, this was how the Miles City, Montana, chapter of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club, or MC, unwound.

The voices of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson were belting the lyrics of “Highwayman” through the speakers, the sizzling scents of cooking meat floated tantalizingly along the warm breeze, and children were running back and forth playing with inflatable beach balls and water guns.

My father, Deuce, the Horsemen’s president, stood off to the side of the party, drinking beer with his father-in-law, Damon “Preacher” Fox, president of the notorious Silver Demons Motorcycle Club run out of New York City. Across the yard, my stepmother Eva, her friends Kami and Dorothy, and a few bikers and their old ladies were deep in conversation.

I headed for my father.

“Hey, darlin’,” he said, swinging a thick, heavy arm across my shoulders and pulling me into a hug, crushing my face against his leather cut, the vest worn from age and use.

The scent of bike fumes, sweat-stained leather, and cigarette smoke filled my nostrils and I inhaled deeply. I loved that smell. It was the smell of my childhood, the smell of safety and home.

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