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  • Without Me(Men of Inked #7)(70) by Chelle Bliss
  • “Everything.”

    Watching the two of them made my head hurt. I wondered if they ever had a serious conversation.

    He slapped her on the ass as her body jolted forward. “Get me a drink, woman.”

    “That right there,” she said as she looked down at his arm, “will make you never wake up from your sleep again.”

    “You keep promising, but I always wake up to your sparkling personality.”

    “Why don’t we find our seats,” I said as I held out my arm, hoping to get everyone moving. They followed my cue and headed toward the tables.

    “Thank you,” Max whispered as she slid her arm around mine.

    “Can you believe our mothers know each other?”

    “It’s so weird. How did we not know about each other and how did they not notice us when we met them?” I asked, thinking about how funny life could be.

    “I’ve seen the pictures of you when you were younger, Anthony. You weren’t quite as handsome as you are now.”

    “Puhlease. I’ve always been a lady-killer.” I pinched her ass as she yelped.

    “Keep telling yourself that. It’s a good thing teenage girls don’t have such high standards.”

    “Yeah, ’cause you were hot with your mouth filled with metal and your dorky oversized glasses.”

    “I was in style even then.”

    “Max, baby. You’re a beautiful woman today, but then, I would’ve run away from you,” I teased as I pulled out her chair.

    “Keep believing that, Anthony.”

    I was lying through my teeth. Even in the pictures where she looked like a gawky teenager, she was still stunning. Her features were so pronounced and exotic that not even giant glasses could hide her beauty.

    I moved my chair closer to hers as we faced the room full of our closest friends and family.

    Pop stood, tapping a knife against his wineglass. “I’d like to propose a toast.” The room grew silent as all eyes focused on him. “I want to thank each and every one of you for coming tonight to celebrate the joining of our two families. Until tonight Maria and I hadn’t realized that we’d known Max for many years. Ruth and Maria had been close friends who had lost touch. This is not only a joining of Max and Anthony, but a reunion of families. We couldn’t be happier to be gaining a daughter as beautiful and loving as Max to our oldest son, Anthony.” He raised his glass and finished with a “salute.”

    Max grabbed my thigh under the table and gave it a hard squeeze as we sipped our champagne.

    “Kiss,” Nita said, clanking her silverware against the glass.

    Without hesitation, I grabbed Max by the back of the neck before she had a chance to set the glass down on the table and crushed my lips to hers.

    “Babies,” Ma called out from down the table.

    I laughed, pulling away from Max. “And so it begins,” I whispered, and looked into the eyes of my future.

    20

    Life Changes When We Least Expect It

    The Reception

    “Jesus. I was so nervous,” I said as Max and I took a moment to ourselves in my parents’ bedroom. I had been more than nervous. I had sweated through my dress shirt as my heart hammered in my chest. I had been worried it would burst before I heard her say “I do.”

    Throwing Max under the proverbial bus with my mother had worked. After the day at the hospital, we started to plan the wedding. Actually, I left the planning up to the women in my life, including Max’s mother.

    They decided we’d marry on my parents’ property in their backyard. Max wanted a nighttime wedding and dancing under the stars.

    Who was I to say no?

    The fact that she had agreed to be my wife was enough for me to cave into anything she ever wanted.

    I was wearing a suit instead of a tuxedo. Her choice, not mine, but I couldn’t have been happier. I loosened my tie and stared at my wife. My wife. She was now my wife. There was a Mrs. Anthony Gallo in the world.

    She had on a strapless Stella York gown with jewels decorating the waist. It showed off her curves and accentuated her breasts. The bottom of the dress puffed out with layers of material. The ivory color made her skin look more radiant. She was simply stunning. She had said that the dress was timeless and wanted it to be something she could hand down to our future daughter someday.

    No, we weren’t pregnant yet, but I took every opportunity to make it happen.

    “We did it,” I said as I pulled her to me. “You’re mine forever.”

    “No, baby. You’re mine.” She kissed my cheek without having to stand on her tiptoes for once. The heels she had on made her only a couple of inches shorter than I was, but they had to be painful.

    I smiled down at her, feeling content. The only other time in my life that I’d felt that way was when I was on stage. I felt everything else melt away and it was just my music and me. No one had ever given me that feeling before I’d met her.

    She had torn me down, making me a better man than I used to be. I hadn’t known I had been missing something in my life until I’d found her and then she’d gotten rid of me.

    The pain she’d caused me had been necessary. It had made me love her more, cherish our time together, and altered how I looked at life and love.

    “Thank you,” she whispered into my neck as she squeezed me.

    “For what?” I asked as I squeezed her tight and toyed with the ends of her hair that had cascaded down her back.

    “For saving me, Anthony.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire