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|Resist Me(Men of Inked #5) by Chelle Bliss|
I shook my head, clearing James from my mind. The man had me all crazy and losing focus.
“What the f**k are you doing here?” Anthony hollered, standing from the couch and stalking toward me.
“Nice to see you too, brother.” I smiled, wrapping him in my arms and patting him on the back.
“You weren’t supposed to be back until tonight. What happened?” he asked, backing away and looking me up and down. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Anth. Really. Bike Week just wasn’t for me.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Joey and Mike striding toward us. Here we go. Let the inquisition begin.
“Hey, guys,” I said, turning toward them and holding out my arms.
“Don’t give us that bullshit, Izzy. What happened?” Mike growled, coming to halt and glaring at me.
“I just wanted to come home. I’m not built for that life.” I looked at Joey, trying to wrap him in a hug.
“I call bullshit, little sister. You better spill and spill quick before I track Flash’s ass down and beat him to a bloody pulp,” Joey snarled.
I pinched my nose between my fingers, trying to massage away the stress. “Honestly, I’m fine, guys. I made it home in one piece. I just missed you, is all.”
“Bullshit,” Anthony coughed, and looked at the floor.
Glaring at him, I sighed. “Listen, I’ll tell you all about it, but I want to say hi to Ma and Pop first.”
“You will spill, Izzy.” Joey crossed his arms over his chest and did his best to look intimidating. He wasn’t to me; I’d known him my entire life. I knew the man underneath the big, hard exterior.
“I know, I know.” I threw my hands up, walking away to find Ma, who was in the kitchen, pouring the sauce over the angel hair pasta.
“Hey, Ma,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her from behind. I loved her more than life itself. She was everything to me, even though she thought I favored my pop over her. I did at times, only because he was a pushover and I loved him for it.
“I’m so happy you’re here, baby girl. I thought I heard you walk in.”
“Probably heard the three stooges out there.”
She laughed, her body shaking in my grip. “They can be a pain in the ass, can’t they?” She giggled, turning in my arms.
“Ma, I haven’t heard you use that language in a long time.” I kissed her cheek, a small laugh escaping.
“Sorry. I’m just stressed. Dinner!” she yelled over my head and toward the four men, who were now sitting in the living room along with the other two females in my life, ones I adored like they were my sisters.
I flinched, covering my ears as she yelled. Years of raising five children had given her the lung capacity to not need a megaphone to be heard over the loud, obnoxious cackles of their voices.
“Jesus, Ma. Warn a girl before you yell in her ear. Will ya?”
She chuckled and grabbed the giant bowl of pasta from the counter. “I want to hear all about your weekend. Was it exciting?” she asked as I followed her to the dining room.
Everyone was already seated. They must’ve run when they’d heard her voice. No one kept her waiting—at least not if they liked their life too much. She wasn’t to be f**ked with.
“It wasn’t what I’d expected.” I sighed.
I sat down in my usual chair next to Joey, who sat at the head opposite my father. My mother always took the seat to his right; often, I’d catch them holding hands while they ate. Suzy sat next to Joey in the same manner my parents sat. Mia and Michael were across the table next to my mother, and Anthony sat on the other side of me. We all had our places, but there was always a void at the table—Thomas’s spot.
All eyes were on me. I felt them. They were waiting to hear why I’d returned early. The only ones not paying attention were my parents. My ma was speaking with my father and dishing him out a heaping helping of pasta.
“So, dear, tell us about your trip,” Pop said after Ma filled his plate.
Smiling, I began to speak. “Well, it was a train wreck of sorts.” I looked down at the table, grabbing my napkin and placing it across my lap. I rested my elbows on the table and caught Joey’s watchful eye. “Don’t say it,” I warned him, holding up my hand.
“Are you okay?” Ma asked, continuing to work her way around the table.
“I’m fine, Ma. I wasn’t hurt.”
“What the hell did Flash do?” Michael asked, cracking his knuckles as he glared at me. I knew that suspicious look; he’d used it on me many times as a child when pulling information out of me.
“He didn’t do a thing. That’s the problem.” I laughed, preferring to freak everyone out for a moment.
“Izzy,” Pop warned.
“Not like that, Pop. I saw James,” I croaked out for some unknown reason, hoping to take the heat off Flash.
“Oh my God,” Suzy screeched, with a giant smile.
“Who the hell is James?” Anthony asked, looking at me with knitted brows.
I opened my mouth to speak, but Suzy, in her excitement, answered for me. “He’s Thomas’s friend. He brought the card from Thomas to the wedding. Izzy met him there.”
I nodded to Suzy, not worried about anything else she’d say about James. No one, not even Suzy, knew that I’d slept with James the night of the wedding. That information I hadn’t shared with a soul. I knew when to keep a secret, and that was one I’d hold close to the vest.