Undeniable - 2
“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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
My very first memory was of being three years old, metal and Harley Davidson wings gleaming in the sunlight, the thick, acrid smell of exhaust fumes, clouds of cigarette smoke, stale sweat stained yellow on white T-shirts, the bitter sting of alcohol filling my nostrils, worn and cracked leather soft against my cheek, grease-stained hands lifting me up into the air, accompanied by loud, raucous laughter.
I smiled up at my father. “Love you, Daddy.”
Grinning, he planted a big, wet kiss on my forehead.
Even at fifty-three, my father was a great-looking guy. He was tall and broad, thickly muscled, with a pair of sparkling ice blue eyes identical to my own. His graying hair was long and blond, usually pulled back, and a short beard framed his face. But it was his grin that got him into trouble. My father grinned and women swooned.
Honestly, I didn’t have a clue how Eva put up with all the female attention he got around the club. Whenever I asked, she’d always shrug and say, “It’s typical.”
Eva and I were both biker brats, but whereas Preacher raised her inside his clubhouse alongside his boys, I was raised at home. I frequented the clubhouse on occasion but hadn’t become an integral part of “the life” until my father brought Eva home with him, pregnant with my little sister, Ivy, about five years back. And everything changed.
Because of Eva, I’d been able to start spending more time at the club, finally getting a chance to know the men I’d known all my life but had never gotten the chance to really, truly know until now. I’d formed relationships with all of them—Tap, Bucket, ZZ, Marsh, Hawk, Mick, Freebird, Cox, Blue, Chip, Worm, Dimebag, Dirty, and Jase. And also Danny D. and Danny L. who, because they had the same first name as me, I ended up calling them DoubleD and DL, which they loved, and eventually the names stuck.
They were all so different, young and old, their appearances varying as much as their ages, but they all had one thing in common.
It was everything to them; they would take a bullet for one another as soon as take their next breath. And my father, their president, in return for their loyalty took care of them and their families. It was a never-ending cycle of allegiance and respect and…love.
Even so, I knew this life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Being the daughter of a hardened criminal, I knew sunshine and roses for what they really were. Few and far between. Especially in my family.
When I was seven my father attended a parent/teacher conference with my mother. It was his first and his last. My second grade teacher had made the mistake of informing my parents I was falling behind in class and would probably need to repeat second grade. Needless to say, my father took this as a slam against me and a personal insult to his parenting. Mr. Steinberg never did return to teaching after he’d recovered from his injuries.
When I was twelve my brother took on four boys who were picking on me and in turn got his ass kicked. As he limped away, he spit out a tooth and grinned at me. “They’ll think twice next time, little sister,” he said, slinging his arm over my shoulders. “No one’s gonna mess with a girl who’s got a brother crazy enough to take on four guys at once.”
And I thought…that’s what love is.
To some, the idea of violence being interpreted as love is ludicrous, but to me, it was my reality. It is my reality.
“Hiya, Danny girl,” Preacher said, holding out his arms.
My father let me go and I wrapped my arms around Preacher’s middle and squeezed.
“Lookin’ gorgeous as always, sweetheart,” he said in his gruff, raspy voice. He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and released me.
Grabbing a beer from a cooler, I crossed the lawn headed for Eva. Talking with Kami, Eva paused to shoot me a quick smile. Eva and Kami were polar opposites in every way. Married with two kids with Cox, my father’s super sexy tattooed and pierced road chief, Kami was blue-eyed and blonde, tall and runway-model thin, whereas Eva had smoky gray eyes, long dark hair, and curves. But they were kindred spirits, had been friends for thirty years now, and I often found myself jealous of what they shared, their ability to tell each other anything and everything, to be there for each other no matter what.
I’d never had that. With anyone.
And I wanted it. Desperately.