For the Love of Dixie (Kings of Chaos #3) by Shyla Colt
I press my foot on the gas and open up the engine of my Chevy Camaro. Black Betty growls. I weave through the cars on the highway; hell bent on reaching my hometown. Thoughts of my father swim in my mind. Is he still alive? Will he survive this?
The years spent pulling all-nighters, partying hard, and taking on too much stress have finally gotten to him. They wheeled him into Mount St. Joseph hospital two hours ago.
I made the drive from Santa Monica in under an hour, breaking laws and driving with the aggressive skills honed on the busy highways of California. The familiar landscape is nothing more than a blur. I’m going too fast, and my ability to focus is shot. All that matters is reaching San Mateo. I know how their hospital is going to play it. They’ll bust the club’s balls and tell them they can only let in and release information to the next of kin emergency contact.
Despite the AC blowing from the vents, a fine sheen of sweat coats my body. My father is everything to me. Mother, Father, sister, brother, and extended family. I never knew my mother, and unlike many single fathers in our lifestyle, he never pawned me off on someone else. His philosophy is…we’re in it together. That means it was him and me against the world.
And then I left.
Guilt shreds me from the inside like poison tipped claws, releasing toxins into my bloodstream. I hit the brakes and skid into the parking lot, steering the car precariously into an open spot. I fumble with the seatbelt with clumsy fingers and shaky hands. I manage to remove the strap, stumble from the car and take a shaky breath. This wild-eyed, panicked persona won’t win me any points with the Kings, or help him.
Knock it the fuck off, Dunn. Time to woman up.
My heels clack against the blacktop as I walk through the rows of cars. I spot a line of parked motorcycles up front. My stomach drops, and I feel as if I’ve started the decent down a large hill. I run out of steam a few feet from the Harleys, faltering at the thought of facing their knowing eyes and censure. Everyone has an opinion about me and the way I handled things. I’m used to the malicious stares peppered in. It’s the silent accusations that kill me. At least I have the Grans. Grandpa and Grandma Dunn had accepted me and loved me with the single-minded-all-consuming-love that only grandparents are capable of.
As I stare at the double doors, my past rushes up and consumes me. The loneliness, shame, self-loathing, are the bile creeping up the back of my throat. God hates me. I’ve suspected it from the minute I was old enough to realize how fucked up my living situation was. I didn’t let that stop me. I’m a part of Chaos. We don’t bitch and whine. We change what doesn’t work and keep it moving. It doesn’t matter if we’re dying inside. Maybe that’s why so many of us have a wicked vice of going a little mad. All that holding in emotions and pretending to be okay. Never mind the dirt, blood, and secrets that cover each and every one of us. We can pretend it’s a motorcycle club that loves to ride, but in the back of our minds, the reality is always there starring us in the face. It’s a fucked up thing when you see shit on the news and know the people you love caused it. The club has an ugly side and a hefty price tag.
I didn’t want to pay the toll, so I left. There was no gain for me. Not when I was treated like a pariah. It wasn’t everyone, just a few. It was one too many. I know I shouldn’t’ have let it stop me. Nothing changes the fact that I ought to have been around more for Pops.
Maybe this is my punishment for being a shitty daughter.
A month after I broke my rule about mixing with the club, I’ve returned with no immediate exit strategy in sight. I’ve avoided this place like the plague for over ten years, and now I can’t get away. I’d do anything for my father. The man loved me and fought for me from the minute he knew I existed. It wasn’t easy being a single father in the club. When you add the fact that I represented everything some of the patch members were against, its miraculous I came out as well as I did. I think I was drawn to psychology because what I wanted most when I left San Mateo was answers. About myself, about the world I grew up in, and about people who blindly hate.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, but the one thing I could never figure out was how to come home without feeling like I was compromising myself and undoing all the work I’d done. I grew up in the club, but I never felt like I belonged. It put a strain between me and my father. I regret my choices now, as I pray the cardiac arrest he went into doesn’t steal him from this world. I let it go too long. I knew better. No one understands better than I and my family, how fleeting life can be. My mind goes back to Psycho’s fucked up assassination, because truly that’s what it was. A senseless snuffing out of life.
I give advice to people all day long, but I’m too chicken shit to face my demons. It’s ironic really. Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t function in a non-dysfunctional manor, become psychologists. Or at least I had. It made me feel like a fraud. Tired of being help captive by the bonds of the past, I square my shoulders like a soldier going into battle, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I gave them the finger once and road off into the sunset with a full ride to college and plans for a good life. I won’t revert to the cowardice preteen now.
With my spine rediscovered, I enter via the double doors with my head held high. The sight of all their cuts boasting the crowned kings makes me queasy.
“Dixie Rose,” a voice booms.
I glance up and spot Stone.
“Where you been, girl? Get your ass over here, so we can find out how your daddy is doing,” Stone says. His voice is husky and his eyes are bloodshot.
I scurry over. When this man says something, you immediately comply. “I’m sorry, I got here as soon as I could,” I say, glad to have my task clearly labeled. “What happened?”
“One minute he was fine and the next, he was clutching his chest, and collapsing. His lips started turning blue. We managed to get an aspirin in him. I don’t know how much good it did.” Stone shakes his head.
“Are the Grans here?”
“No, they were out at the cabins. They’ll be pulling in soon.”
I grip Stone’s arm and let him lead me to the nurse’s station. I cannot lose my dad. “He has to be fine, he’s too damn ornery to let this take him out,” I whisper.
“His next of kin is here,” Stone says to the nurse at the desk.
“I’d like to see some identification,” the dark haired nurse with the sever bun and dour facial expression says.
I grit my teeth, used to the disbelief that comes from having dark skin, and a Caucasian father. I dig into the purse hanging at my side, pull out my Driver’s License and glare as she looks from my picture to the information they have on my father. “I see you are his emergency contact. You’re father suffered a cardiac arrest.” She nods her head. “Okay, Ms. Dunn. I’ll call the doctor in to speak with you.”
“No, you need to tell me something, now,” I say.
“Ma’am, that’s against policy.” She glances over at Stone nervously.
“No. You don’t look at him. You look at me. I’m the one you need to be worried about right now.” I lean over the desk. “These men are my family. Don’t let this face and these work clothes fool you. I want to know if my father is alive and I’m not going to wait for you to track down the doctor who’ll take his sweet time getting up here to tell me.”
She clears her throat and shifts in her chair. “He is alive and stabilized, that’s all I can say.”
“There…was that so hard?” I ask.
She shakes her head. Her hazel eyes are full of disdain, anger and fear.
I want to feel bad, but I don’t have it in me. From the minute I walked up, she judged me and gave me shit at the worst possible time. There were things I missed about this life, like getting straight to the point. There was no need for fake niceties. “You get all that, Stone?” I ask.
“Yeah, I got it, baby girl. Let me go tell the others,” Stone replies.
The mention of the others thrusts me back into icy waters. A chill rushes down my spine, and I can’t help but follow his journey with my gaze. I scan the crowd, searching for the one person I want to see the most, and the least at the same time.
Leaning against the wall, he looks like a mythical being. The golden strands of his hair fall around his shoulders, and his muscles flex in his forearms. All he needs is a hammer, and he’d be Thor.
His bright blue gaze collides with mine, and I’m lost. My heart bangs against my ribs like a prisoner rallying for freedom. Unable to move, I remain rooted like a tree grown up from the white and green tile floor.