Home > Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(2)

Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(2)
Author: Madeline Sheehan

“Baby… girl…”

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 emotions to stay in check, I forced myself to take a seat at the edge of Preacher’s bed. Our eyes locked. “Okay, Daddy. Let’s hear it.”

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.

Part One

“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

Chapter 1

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.

He’d come through those gates a fool.

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