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  • Without Me(Men of Inked #7)(59) by Chelle Bliss
  • “Max. I’m not going anywhere. No matter what the doctor says, I’m here to stay.”

    “Anthony—”

    “Max.” I grabbed her by the shoulders and stared at her. “You don’t understand the depth of my feelings for you. There will never be another woman I’ll ever love.”

    “Oh, that’s horseshit.”

    I shook my head. “It’s not. I’ve never found another person who makes me feel alive like you do. Touching you, kissing your lips is like that shock you get from touching something when the air’s too dry.”

    “Never say never, Anthony.”

    “I would never let you go through this without me,” I stated, holding her stare.

    “Let’s talk about this after the results.” She wiped the tears that had fallen down her face on my shirt.

    Without even thinking, I dropped to one knee. It hadn’t been planned. Fuck, I would’ve been more nervous than I already was if I had come up with the idea ahead of time. I knew what I wanted, and she was in front of me. There was no way I’d let her get away. I wouldn’t let her excuse me or give me an out.

    Her eyes widened as she noticed that I was balanced on one knee. Grabbing her hand, I stroked the top with my thumb. The only shitty part of not having planned this was that I didn’t have a ring.

    “Max,” I said before clearing my throat. My voice was shaky, but I was more nervous about the results than asking her to marry me. “I love you more than anyone in the world. No matter the results, I want to go on the journey with you. It’s taken me my entire life to meet someone who makes me a better person, and I want you to be mine forever. Will you marry me?”

    She covered her mouth, the tears falling faster than they had before. “No,” she whispered.

    “No?” I asked, the punch in my stomach feeling more like the slice of a knife as it cut up into my chest.

    “Yes,” she said. “Anthony. I just didn’t dream of this being where I’d be proposed to someday.”

    “Thank Christ,” I mumbled. “I don’t care where we are, as long as you say yes.”

    “Anthony, I think I should wait to give you an answer until after we talk to the doctor. Let the information seep in before you ask me again. You may not feel the same once the enormity of the situation settles in your gut.”

    “It’s settled. I’ve never told anyone before that I loved them. No one. Only you. It’ll only ever be you.”

    “Hello,” the doctor said as she walked in and then noticed that I was down on one knee. “Oh, I’m so sorry I interrupted.”

    “You didn’t.” She pulled her hand from my grip.

    As the doctor rounded the desk to sit, Max sat down. I pushed myself off the ground, feeling a bit wounded and even more nervous. I held on to the chair as I sat, making sure I didn’t miss the seat.

    Fuck. Everything about the day could fuck off.

    “Sorry you had to wait so long,” the doctor said as she opened a folder on her desk and began to study the contents.

    I sucked in a breath, unable to release it. There wasn’t a time in my life that I could recall where I’d felt more scared. Not when Angel had been kidnapped or when Thomas had been undercover. I felt completely helpless in this situation. When it came to brute force or kicking ass, I knew how to do it.

    This was up to fate and genetics.

    “It’s okay,” Max said with a fake smile as she looked at me.

    I held her hand, gripping it tight. No matter what the doctor said, I wouldn’t let her down. I needed to be her brace. I needed to be the man she could lean on. I needed to be her rock—the one thing to keep her steady and sane through this time in her life. Fuck, through this time in our lives.

    “Well, let’s get to it,” the doctor said, flipping a page and skimming over it.

    I swallowed hard, sucking in another breath and holding it in my lungs.

    “Based on the results of your test,” She flipped the page, moving over the words with her finger, “it states negative for ataxia, but as you know, there are some forms that can’t be found through testing.”

    “So Max won’t get it,” I blurted out, giving her hand a squeeze.

    “I can’t say for certain, sir. Her brother tested negative, but her father was never tested before he died. We’re unsure of what type of ataxia he had, therefore it makes the test results sketchy.”

    “Sketchy? That’s not very helpful.”

    “Anthony,” Max said, as she stroked my arm. “Doctor, so there’s no real way to know if I’ll get it or not.”

    The doctor shook her head as her brow furrowed. “I’m afraid not. It’s a waiting game from here on out.”

    I thought I’d be happy to hear that she was negative, but all it did was make everything so uncertain.

    I blew out the breath I’d been holding and gulped. I felt like my throat had closed, and even the simple act of breathing was difficult. I thought I had prepared myself for the worst, but knowing that it could still happen made my chest ache.

    “How long?” I blurted out without thinking.

    “Until the onset of symptoms if she’ll develop it?” the doctor asked.

    I blinked a couple of times, trying to focus. “Yes,” I replied, and held Max’s hand tighter.

    “It’s hard to say. Symptoms can begin at any time.” She gave a half-smile that wasn’t reassuring at all. “Max, how old was your father when he started to experience onset of symptoms?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire