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  • Without Me(Men of Inked #7)(53) by Chelle Bliss
  • By the way their clothes were rumpled, I’d say they got busy in the car on the way over here. “I can see that,” I said, pointing to his unzipped fly.

    “Shit,” he whispered as he zipped it up.

    Angel blushed, smoothing out her hair. “Where’s your girl?” she asked as she scanned the room.

    “The women are in the kitchen, where they belong,” I said with a grin.

    “You’re lucky Izzy didn’t hear you say that,” Angel said to me as a corner of her mouth twitched.

    “I know.” I stuck my tongue out at her before giving her a quick wink.

    Thomas smacked Angel on the ass. “Go help out the ladies, babe.”

    “Sure,” she said as she stood on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss.

    “Lucky bastard,” I muttered as she walked out of the room.

    “What did you say?” Thomas asked as he sat down in an empty chair.

    “If I would’ve done that to Max or James to Izzy, we’d get a knee to the balls.”

    “Maybe you should’ve been more selective with your choice,” Thomas replied as he rested his foot on the opposite knee.

    “Shut it,” I shot back at him, and stared at the television.

    “How is she?” Mike asked.

    I zoned out as I watched Jason Statham kicking some bad guy’s ass.

    “Yo! Earth to Anthony.”

    I glanced over at Mike and realized he was talking to me. “Sorry. I’m out of it.”

    “Clearly,” he replied. “How’s Max doing?”

    “She seems okay. The waiting is making me crazy. I can’t imagine how she feels.”

    “Yeah, Mia said it takes a while. That’s tough, bro.”

    “Harder than anything I’ve ever done in my life.” I tried to smile, but I didn’t feel it. I took a deep breath and let out a silent exhale.

    I felt a bit worn on the inside. Even though it wasn’t my health at stake, I felt the heaviness of the situation. Max had been put on this earth to be with me, and to think that she could be ripped from my life at an early age just pissed me off. I wish I had met her earlier. We both had wasted so many years with bullshit.

    “Dinner!” Izzy yelled from the dining room.

    “Thank God. I’m starving,” Suzy said as she tried to get off the couch again. Joe helped her up with a push on the back of her ass. “Thank you,” she said as she tried to steady herself on her feet.

    Weeble wobble.

    She looked like a Weeble as she tried to stand and then stay upright. Her weight displacement was off, just like those damn toys I played with as a kid.

    I walked into the dining room and saw Max holding the bowl of meatballs. She had a smile on her face. One that burned brighter than I’d seen in a long time. It had to be my mother, or maybe just being with the girls. They seemed to be a support system for each other.

    I stared at her with a matching smile. Knowing that she was here with me and things were finally calm between us brought me a sense of peace. Maybe, just maybe, things would work out in our favor.

    “You look sexy in that apron,” I said as she placed the bowl down on the table next to me.

    “Don’t get used to it, buddy. I’m not a chef. I prefer to eat out.”

    “Lucky for you,” I said with a sly smile, “so do I.” I winked at her before pulling her to me and giving her a kiss.

    For the first Sunday in a long time, I felt completely happy.

    14

    Into the Fire

    “Stop being such a baby,” Max said as we approached her mother’s house.

    I’d never had to do this before. Meeting the family signified a relationship, and I hadn’t been in one of those since high school.

    “Last time I met your brother he was a total dick.”

    “You’d act the same if some asshole was bothering Izzy. Let’s just try and move beyond that night. Denzel is a nice guy, and he knows that I like you.”

    She liked me? I had been hoping for a little more than that as a description of how she felt about me.

    “You just like me?

    “You know how I feel about you, Anthony. Do we really need to get into this right now?” she asked as she knocked on the front door and glanced at me over her shoulder.

    “Fine.”

    “Hey, sis,” Denzel said as he opened the door. His smile faded when he saw me. “Hey,” he said as he tipped his chin to me.

    After Max walked past him, I held out my hand and hoped to make peace with Denzel.

    “Hi, Denzel.” My stomach dropped when he looked down at my hand before his eyes returned to mine.

    “What’s up?” he replied before taking my hand. “Scare ya for a minute?” He laughed, bending at the waist and slapping his leg.

    “Hell yes, you did. Are we okay?” I asked. I wanted to be okay. I wanted everything to be smooth.

    “Shit for real with my sister?” He gripped my hand tighter, trying to crush my fingers.

    I knew the script. I’d done it more times than I could remember with men who’d wanted to be with my sister.

    “I love your sister,” I replied, still standing outside as he blocked the doorway.

    “You love her?”

    “I do.”

    “I’ve been trying to get her to take that damn test forever, man. She always refused, but for you, she did it. That’s saying something.”

    I hadn’t thought about how her family felt. Hell, I’d forgotten that Denzel could have it too.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire