Home > Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(6)

Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(6)
Author: Madeline Sheehan

His father wasn’t the sort of man you could have a heart to heart with. You did what you were told, end of story, or you got a fist to the face. The Judge only understood three things—the club, loyalty, and family, and in that particular order. The club was his whole world, built from the ground up after he’d served in World War II. In the beginning, it had consisted of only Gerald and a few of his war buddies, drinking beer and fixing up bikes, but after dipping their feet into the sleazier side of life, they had since become a fairly profitable business.

The Judge didn’t look at what the club did as criminal. In his mind, their illegal dealings were a way of keeping money in the pockets of war veterans—men who’d put their lives on the line for an ungrateful country and gotten nothing in return.

A criminal with a steady moral compass. That was The Judge.

Whatever Preacher was, it wasn’t that.

Blowing out a frustrated breath, Preacher approached the pay phones. He dialed his parents’ line first, and when no one answered, he called the club phone. A familiar voice picked up on the fourth ring. “Yelllowwww.”

“Hightower,” Preacher muttered. “What’s doin’?”

There was a moment of silence and then, “Preacher?”

Hearing the combined joy and relief in Hightower’s voice caused guilt to well in the pit of Preacher’s stomach. “Yeah man… it’s me.”

“Brother, shit, we’ve been wonderin’ about you! We thought—fuck, we didn’t know what to think! Where are you? You comin’ home?”

Unsure of what to say, Preacher said nothing at all.

“Preacher, you still there?”

Swallowing, Preacher eyed the night sky. “Yeah man, I’m still here… hey, I know it’s late, but is my mom around?”

“Naw, brother, everyone left this mornin’. You forget the date? They’re all headed to Four Points.”

Preacher’s brow shot up. Four Points? Jesus, he had completely lost track of time out here.

Held in upstate New York, the Four Points Motorcycle Rally was a two-week-long excuse for bikers from all over to get together and show off their rides, and The Judge never missed an excuse to tout his choppers or his high standing in the motorcycle community. Back before he’d been locked up, neither had Preacher.

“What about Tiny?” Preacher asked, knowing how much his friend hated camping. “Frank?”

“Yeah man, Tiny went with ‘em. He’s been on a tear lately ‘bout how he don’t ever get laid in the city, so he might as well try the country. Frank, no. Frank went… to Philly…”

Hightower trailed off, his implication clear. If Frank was in Philadelphia, that meant The Judge had sent him there on club business.

“Tiny can’t get laid anywhere,” Preacher said with a hint of a smile. Tiny was as big as a house and usually sweating profusely, even on a cool day. Finding a woman to take an interest in him had never been an easy task. It usually required a hell of a lot of alcohol and a lot of cash up front.

Feeling a sliver of homesickness, the first he’d felt since he’d been on the road, Preacher asked, “How’s everyone doin’? Things good?”

“Things are good, brother, real good…” There was a pause. “… and we’re all wondering when the hell you’re comin’ home. You’re comin’ home, right?”

Unsure of what to say, Preacher remained silent.


A robotic feminine voice took over the line, asking for another twenty cents. Reaching into his pocket, Preacher fingered the change inside. The voice asked a second time and Preacher pulled his hand from his pocket. Taking the phone from his ear, he looked down at the receiver and… hung up.

Blowing out a heavy breath, his gaze fell on the diner, and Preacher absentmindedly scanned the mix of bodies inside. While the food at truck stops left a lot to be desired, lately he much preferred the company of truckers over everyone else.

Two years up the river doesn’t seem like a whole heck of a lot of time until you find yourself back on the streets among people who aren’t half mad. Suddenly surrounded by normalcy, and feeling out of place in a world in which he’d once thrived, had been a brutal shock to Preacher’s system. It was easier for him in places like this, around those who lived on the fringes, who barely gave you a first glance, let alone a second.

The diner door opened, the bells on the door jingling, and a dark figure stepped outside. The man’s lowered head lifted and his gaze connected with Preacher’s. Recognition was instantaneous.

“Dickie,” Preacher greeted him as they briefly clasped hands. “How the fuck have you been?”

“I’m cookin’, cat, I’m cookin’.” Dickie snapped his fingers together and pointed at Preacher. “I heard you were doin’ time. You break out? Am I dealin’ with an honest to God fugitive right now?”

Richard “Dickie” Darvis was a longtime friend of Preacher’s father and the club. Tall and wiry, his jeans cuffed at the ankles, his dark hair slicked into a jelly roll, the self-proclaimed lone rider still looked every bit the 1950s greaser he’d been in his youth.

Preacher attempted a laugh. “I maxed out a few months back. Been out on the road.” He shrugged. “Needed to clear my head.”

The joy in Dickie’s expression vanished. “Don’t gotta tell me, cat. Been behind bars more times than I care to remember. You get enough miles behind you, and soon you’ll be poppin’ that clutch, gettin’ back to it.”

An ache in Preacher’s neck flared to life, and he reached up to rub it. “Yeah well, it is what it is, right? Anyway, whatcha doin’ on the east coast? Last I heard you were headed out west to play cowboys and Indians.”

Dickie barked out a rough, grating laugh, a painful-sounding testament to the two packs a day he smoked. “Was as bored as a blind man at a peep show out there. Just got back this way, was actually thinkin’ about heading to the city and dropping in on Gerry.”

Preacher shook his head. “He ain’t there. He’s at Four Points. You know he wouldn’t miss the chance to show off his favorite girls.”

Dickie’s eyes lit up. “Yeah? Don’t blame him, cat. Don’t blame him one bit. Those are some rare beauties he’s put together. Speakin’ of… what are you riding these days?” Dickie’s eyes scanned around the lot.

Preacher closed his eyes briefly. “She’s not here.” And when Dickie cocked an eyebrow in question, Preacher shook his head. “Don’t ask. It’s been the day from hell.”

The wrinkles around Dickie’s eyes deepened, his dark eyes shining with amusement. “First rule of the road, cat, you never try and outrun the rain.”

Preacher sighed noisily. He’d been so lost in his own miserable thoughts, he hadn’t even realized there’d been rain clouds looming. Lost. Amazing how one four-letter word could sum up his entire life.

“You joinin’ Gerry upstate?” Dickie asked.

The pain in Preacher’s neck doubled. He shrugged. “Maybe… haven’t made up my mind yet.”

“Maybe I’ll see you there.” Dickie waggled his thick, salt-and-pepper eyebrows. “… after I check in on a couple of my dollies up in Buffalo.”

Preacher snorted. “A couple of ‘em, huh? Still breakin’ hearts across the country, Darvis?”

Winking, Dickie reached out and gave Preacher another hearty clap on the arm. “Is there any other way to live?”

Another grin, another slap on the arm, and Dickie was striding across the parking lot. Several minutes later, still standing in the same spot, Preacher watched as his friend’s glowing taillight disappeared into the darkness.

That’s when he felt it: an unnatural shift in the air around him; the presence of someone else. One of the many things prison had taught him was the necessity of awareness—awareness of the space around you—so that no one could catch you off guard.

Preacher spun and grabbed, snatching hold of a slender arm. Slim fingers, nails bitten to the quick—they held his wallet captive.

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