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  • Without Me(Men of Inked #7)(69) by Chelle Bliss
  • After their conversation, I didn’t see her face again the rest of the night. I didn’t know until afterward that he offered her three hundred bucks to get lost for the night or else he’d unleash his sister on her ass. Candy was at least smart enough to take the offer and tell her boss she was too sick to finish her shift.

    As I looked around the table, I realized that much of our wedding party sat around us. The only two people who were missing were a couple of the guys from the band who were going to partner with Nita and Malia. I’d paired them with men who would be able to handle their type of aggression. When they saw pictures of the guys, Nita and Malia both thanked Max. I guess they figured they’d be able to paw a tattooed man and maybe get lucky in the process.

    I sat back, listening to everyone chat as their voices faded. I was the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet. There was so much love at this table that I felt like my heart would burst.

    No longer was I an asshole, but I had drowned in love so deep that I couldn’t remember what life was like without Max by my side.

    In a few short weeks she’d be mine for eternity.


    When Opposites Attract

    “Ma, this is Mrs. Washington,” I said as I held out my hand to Ruth.

    “Ruth,” she said with a small grin.

    “Ruth, this is my ma, Maria.”

    The two women smiled at each other.

    “Ruth?” Ma asked, her eyebrows knitting together.

    “Maria,” Ruth replied as she held out her arms to my ma.

    I looked at Max and she shrugged. Good thing I wasn’t the only one lost.

    “You look so good, Ruthie. I haven’t seen you in what?”

    “Five years,” Ruth replied as she squeezed Ma.

    “Anyone want to share?” Max said.

    “Oh, child,” Ruth said as she let my mother go.

    “Well, Ruth and I used to be part of a ladies’ group. I joined when we moved here years ago. Sal thought it would be a great way for me to make new friends. We’d meet for lunch once a week and sometimes have drinks when we needed to lean on one another.”

    “So you two, like, know each other?” I asked as I tried to hide my shock.

    “We do,” they answered together.

    “Maria and I would talk often, but when your father started to get sick I didn’t have as much free time. We’d lost contact.”

    “I’m so sorry to hear about your husband, Ruth. I can’t imagine.”

    “Thank you, Maria,” Ruth replied with a small smile. “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

    “Ruth?” Pop asked as he approached. “What are you doing here?” He kissed her on the cheek.

    “Max is my daughter, Sal.”

    Pops eyes grew wide as a giant smile crept across his face. “What a small world. I never put two and two together.”

    “We’re going to be related,” Ma added as she clapped her hands.

    “Who would’ve known, Maria? Those times when we shared pictures of our kids and bitched about them that they’d end up together.”

    “You bitched about us?” Max asked as her body stiffened.

    “You two were a handful, if I remember correctly. Don’t even get me started on the other kids.” Ma laughed and was quickly joined by Ruth.

    “I’m sorry I never called, Maria. Time got away from me after he passed and I barely made it through most days.”

    “All is forgiven, Ruth. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you through that time in your life.”

    “Let’s make sure to get back to lunch and drinks. We’re going to have so much fun planning this wedding.”

    “Right?” Ma agreed. “I’m not letting you out of my life again. We’re going to be family. I can’t wait to have more grandbabies.”

    “Can we get married first?” I asked as I watched the two grow excited at the thought of more little ones.

    “Phew,” Earl called out as he walked into the private room at Morton’s Steakhouse and stared at my mother. “That right there is a fine specimen.”

    Clara gave him a crack in the back of the head. “Behave, Earl.”

    “Clara, I was talking about the steak,” he said as he pointed at the display sitting behind where my mother stood.

    “You’re a horrible liar.”

    “I’m Earl,” he said as he held out his hand to Ma.

    “Maria,” she replied as she slid her hand into his.

    “I’m Sal, Maria’s husband,” Pop interjected before Earl had a chance to kiss Ma’s hand.

    “Lucky bastard,” he whispered against Ma’s hand. “That’s mine,” he said as he tipped his head backward. “Clara.”

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Clara.” Pop wrapped her into a hug and kissed her cheek.

    Clara slid her hands up and down my father’s back as he embraced her. The entire time, a giant smile clung to her face. “There’s entirely too many good-looking men in this room,” Clara added as she glanced around and zoomed in on my brothers.

    “We’re Gallos,” I added, being my cocky asshole self.

    “You sure do grow them right,” she said as she cleared her throat.

    “What did you say?” Earl asked as he stared at her and then followed her line of sight.

    “I said I don’t wanna fight.”

    “What would we fight about?” he asked as he glared at her.

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