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  • Without Me(Men of Inked #7)(20) by Chelle Bliss
  • “Suzy,” Ma said as she placed the giant bowl of angel hair pasta on the table. “You get the first serving.”

    Suzy licked her lips and rubbed her hands together. She’d grown huge over the last so many months. How in the hell a woman as small as she was had expanded so fast was beyond me. Everyone clamored to feel the baby when it moved, but I didn’t. That shit was creepy. Straight out of the movie Alien. I thought for sure it would break through her skin and try to kill us all. The one thing I knew for sure was that Suzy now ate more than any person at the table.

    “I’m starving, Ma,” Suzy whined as she rubbed her belly.

    “Aren’t you always,” I mumbled as I laid the napkin across my lap. When I looked up, Joe was staring at me.

    “What the hell is your problem today, Anth?” he asked, resting his arms on the table.

    “I don’t have one. I’m hungry too, but no one’s offering me the first serving,” I grumbled as I stared back at him, placing my elbows on the edge of the table.

    “Get pregnant and then you’ll get served first,” Suzy teased as she stuck her tongue out at me.

    I opened my mouth, about to say something, but when I glanced at Joe, I changed my mind. I had pissed every one of my siblings off at some point since I’d arrived. I needed to eat and get back to my cyber-stalking.

    Out of spite, Ma came to me last with the bowl of pasta. “Want some, sweetie?” she asked as she stood beside me, holding the spoon.

    “Please.” I gave her my best “I’m an angel” smile.

    She and Pop were the only two I hadn’t pissed off yet. I’d do everything in my power to keep it that way. But I still caught the slightest glare aimed at me as she dug the spoon into the pasta.

    She placed two heaping spoonfuls of angel hair on my plate before she set it on the table and took her place next to my father.

    “How’s Thomas doing?” Pop asked James as he picked up his fork.

    Pop never started to eat, even if his food became cold, until my mother had sat down unless she told him otherwise. I’d always thought he was pussy-whipped too, but now that I was older, I thought it was a sign of respect. It was the one thing that stuck out the most when I looked at them.

    After I dug into the pasta, bringing it to my mouth, I stopped. I literally froze with my mouth gaping open and my fork hanging in midair. Suddenly, I realized that my thinking process had been altered. Out of nowhere, I’d started to think like my family.

    Max.

    She had given me more than pussy. She’d changed my thought process. When I’d fucked her, it had to scramble my brains. I never thought like this. Now, my mind was a cluttered mess of pussy bullshit. I almost reached down and grabbed my dick to make sure I hadn’t left that behind when she’d kicked my ass to the curb.

    “What’s wrong?” Joe asked.

    I blinked, clearing my eyes of the “what the fuck” haze I’d fallen into. “Nothing. I just remembered something,” I replied, stuffing the pasta in my mouth.

    “You looked like you saw a ghost,” Izzy added as she gave me a dirty look.

    “Just thought I left my house unlocked,” I said, my mouth full of food.

    “Surrrrre,” she heckled me before turning her attention back to her plate.

    “What did you say about Thomas, James?” I asked after swallowing. I’d missed his response when I’d zoned out.

    My brother had been gone for what had felt like forever. We were all anxious to see him again. James was our only link to him. Without James, we wouldn’t have had any information. He wasn’t able to tell us much, since the DEA forbade information sharing, especially with family.

    “He’s doing well,” James replied after he choked down a mouthful of food. “We’re both hoping for it all to be over soon.”

    “That would be fantastic,” Ma blurted out as she put her hands together in prayer. “God willing.”

    “He misses you all terribly.”

    “I can’t imagine what he’s going through,” Pop said as he wiped his mouth.

    “It’s hell, but he’s getting through it,” James replied.

    I didn’t know much about working undercover. Just the small things Thomas had shared with me before he’d left. He’d promised he would come back home, but even if he were a superhero, he couldn’t make that promise become reality.

    The dinner table and every holiday had felt empty since he’d left. I’d never admit it, but I wanted my brother home. We had always been a fivesome, and being a foursome didn’t feel right. We spent out youth trying to pick up women together.

    He didn’t get as much pussy as I did, but hell, I was a pushy bastard. Being in a band and having my voice alone could make the ladies drop their panties and bend over. It was the one thing Thomas didn’t have. He might have been able to flex his giant muscles, but he wasn’t as hung as I was and he didn’t have my ability to sing.

    I ate the rest of my meal in silence. There wasn’t much to say. I had Max on the brain and the rest of the family had happy shit to talk about. Most of the conversation revolved about Suzy and the baby. Ma could only be described as giddy about the upcoming birth. I didn’t remember her being as excited as she was now even when Izzy was born.

    There hadn’t been a baby in the family in well over twenty years. The only thing I could think of was all the crying. They’re cute, but they shit themselves continuously, they always cried for food, or they were asleep. Babies didn’t have many uses. You couldn’t play with them. You just had to hold them and wait until the next time they cried for attention.

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