ESCAPING FREE (BOOK ONE)

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Chapter 23

EVIE POV

As I laid in bed scrolling through my emails, a light knock echoed through the room. I sat up, hoping that it was Dusty so we could talk, but Careen popped her head in and smiled. Disappointment filled me as I returned her smile.


“Axel’s here. Your mom’s funeral is today.”


I had forgotten how long I had been in the hospital and didn’t realize that day was here already. I wasn’t ready for something this dark, but I knew that my dad needed me today. I nodded at Careen and got up from the bed, hoping I had something in here that would be appropriate enough for a funeral.


Club funerals weren’t like traditional ones. As long as the members showed up in their leather cuts, it didn’t matter what you wore underneath it.


Careen shut the door as I rummaged through the bag of clothes someone brought over from my apartment. I didn’t have much to choose from so I grabbed my normal attire: skinny jeans, a white v-cut tee, my boots, and of course, my leather cut. My face was a mess, but I hoped to be able to cover up a bit of the bruising with some makeup.


And to no avail, I did a pretty good job. The shadowing from the bruises were still there, but it was all I could do without caking more makeup on. I brushed through my blonde locks before I left the room and headed into the bar. Danny was at the bar when I slid onto my normal stool right next to him.


He seemed to flinch when he saw me, and I remembered last night. The poor guy must be freaked out.


“Hey, I’m really sorry about last night. I don’t know what happened.” And I honestly didn’t. One minute I was fine and the next, I was screaming and crying, and everyone looked like Jimmy.


A nightmare I was afraid I’d live with for the rest of my life, unfortunately.


“Hey, don’t worry about it, kid. We all have them.” He sipped from his beer as I scanned my eyes down the bar, locking gazes with Dusty who sat at the other end. “Are you ready for today?”


Danny’s question brought my back to the present as I peeled my eyes from Dusty’s. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I’m afraid.”


Nodding, Danny stood from his stool and held his arms open to me. I fell into him and embraced his grandfatherly love.


“You riding with me?” Dusty asked, breaking up our moment.


I pulled away from Danny and looked into Dusty’s eyes. “Yeah, I guess so.”


Dusty slid a pack of cigarettes from inside his cut and pulled out a smoke. His gaze never left mine as he lit his cig. “We should probably start heading down to the cemetery then.” He turned and left the clubhouse when I realized he had new cuts on his face.


My gaze fell on Danny’s as he shrugged and smirked. “Don’t worry about him, Kid. You know how he can be.”


I knew exactly how he could be. Stubborn as a fucking mule. Difficult, and irritating as hell, but I knew he had a good heart deep inside that iron chest of his. I just wished he’d let people see it more often.


I headed outside to find Dusty standing by his bike. Smokey, Gearhead, and Aaron were all standing by their own bikes, giving me a slight nod as I walked by.


“Keep it easy, will you?” I asked Dusty as my brows furrowed. I was still feeling some pain and didn’t want to push myself.


He looked down at my stomach as his hard-ass expression softened for a moment. Then he looked back up at me and nodded his acknowledgment before he slid onto his bike.


I reached up and touched his face. “What happened, Dusty?”


He pulled his face away as annoyance filled his gaze. “Nothing, don’t worry about it.”


“Dusty.”


“Get on the fucking bike, Evie.” He looked straight ahead, clenching his jaw. “Before I change my mind.”


I wasn’t sure if my pregnancy hormones were still racing through my body, or if the accident softened me, but I couldn’t help but feel the sting of his words as a single tear slid down my cheek. I crossed my arms over my chest and looked away, feeling stubborn myself.


Dusty turned to look at me as his expression softened. He reached out and grabbed my arm. “Hey, I’m sorry. I’m just in a horseshit mood. Will you please get on the bike?”


I finally looked at him, tears still coming from my eyes as I wiped at them angrily. I really wished he would just be nicer sometimes and drop this hard-ass persona he always had.


“Babe, come on.”


Biting my tongue, I slid on the back of his bike and wrapped my arms around his stomach, placing my hands flat on his stomach. I could feel every bulge and curve of his muscles, and he was so warm and welcoming that I found myself laying my head on his back. Then he surprised me by placing a hand over mine before he squeezed tightly. I smiled into his back and knew I had won this round.


Dusty started his bike and put the kickstand back as he slowly drove us out of the lot.


DUSTY POV

There was no better feeling than having Evie on the back of my bike with her hands on me. I had my bike between my legs and my girl at my back. I smiled as I drove down the highway toward the cemetery, silently cheering for this small feat.


Today we were putting her mother to rest, and even though Evie was never close with Sally, I knew it was going to be a hard day. She was not only saying goodbye to her mother, but she was reliving the memories from that fateful day.


When I pulled into the lot next to the cemetery, I noticed there were a ton of people already here. One of them caught my attention. Axel stood by his truck, smoking a cigarette and looking solemn.


Evie must not have seen him because she slid off my bike and headed toward the grave-site where most of the chapter members stood.


I wasn’t about to let my President stand alone, so I shut my bike off and walked over to him with a cigarette in my mouth.


“Hey, Pres.”


Axel half smiled and nodded at me. “Thanks for bringing Evie out here. I didn’t know if she was going to make it or not.”


“Yeah, she’s here. I didn’t believe it either until I saw her come out of the room in her cut.”


Taking a drag from my smoke, I scanned the crowd until my eyes landed on Evie. God, she was gorgeous. Her blonde hair was blowing in the light wind and it was doing things to my dick. My eyes slid down her body and landed on her perfect ass in those skinny jeans. I had to clear my throat and tear my gaze away before I pitched a tent in my jeans right here in front of her dad.


“Well, let’s get this shit-show on the road, shall we?” Axel stomped out his cigarette and pushed away from the truck as he headed toward the crowd.


I stood away from Evie and Axel, watching as a single tear slid down her cheek as the priest spoke a few words over her mother’s casket. I couldn’t help but notice how sad and lost she looked as she stared at the casket, unblinking.


The priest finished his speech and stepped back as Axel stepped forward.


“Thank you all for being here,” Axel started and paused. “We all know how much Sally loved to party.” Some of the members hollered and raised their beers in the air as Axel pulled a small baggie of white stuff from his pocket and dumped it on her casket. “Now you can party in heaven, my sweet angel.” He cracked open a beer and poured a bit in before he downed the rest himself.


My eyes moved back to Evie who still stared at the casket. Her tears had dried up, and now she looked downright angry. Knowing her, she didn’t like what Axel had just done.


Then I saw someone walk through the crowd with an acoustic guitar before they handed it to Axel. I didn’t know Axel played. But when he turned and handed the guitar to Evie, I really became confused. Out of all the years I had been with her, I never saw her with a guitar. As far as I was concerned, she wasn’t that big of a fan of music.


She shook her head and stepped back, but Axel pushed the guitar into her hands.


“Evie, please.”


After several seconds of hesitation, Evie finally took the guitar from him and pulled the strap over her head. She looked through the crowd before her eyes locked on mine and made my heart pound. She stared at me for a long moment before she looked back down at the guitar.


“You guys should all know this one.” She smiled as she began to play.


I immediately recognized the song and smiled. She played the beginning guitar part of “Wish You Were Here,” by Pink Floyd. The members all cheered and some of them even began singing the song. Evie smiled up at them as she kept playing, switching over to the main guitar part of the song.


I couldn’t help but sing along with everyone else but noticed that Evie’s mouth was set in a frown. She looked back up at me with an unreadable expression and it made me uncomfortable.


“What?” I mouthed at her.


She shook her head and looked back down at the guitar, strumming her fingers off as Pink Floyd’s tune floated through the air, the crowd, and now a giant cloud of smoke as we said our goodbyes to Sally Kidd.

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