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|Uncover Me(Men of Inked #6) by Chelle Bliss|
“Are you here to stay, son?” Pop asked, still holding my ma.
“Yeah, Pop. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Thank Christ,” Ma mumbled, looking at the ceiling and cupping her hands in prayer—always the good Catholic girl.
“This calls for a celebration!” Pop hollered, fist pumping the air.
“Mike, go grab the good stuff from the cellar,” Ma said, shooing him with her hands.
“Why do I always have to do the shit work?” he grumbled, giving me the stink eye.
I shrugged, laughing as I looked around. Someone was missing. “Where’s Anthony?”
“Yo,” a voice called out from the family room.
I pushed through the crowd and entered the room his voice had come from. “Yo, douchebag. You don’t even get up to say hello?” I looked down at him, my hands on my hips as I blocked his view of the television.
“I figured you’d find me when everyone else was done pawing at you.”
This was exactly how my brother was and had always been. He was a cocky asshole who didn’t believe in public displays of affection. Underneath, he was as gushy as the others, but he very rarely let that side show. Only when he was extremely intoxicated did he get all “I love you, man” and let his Norah Jones side show.
“You better get your lazy ass up and hug me.” I kicked his feet, glaring at him.
“I’m older. I don’t have to do shit.” He smiled, challenging me, like the old days.
There was a time when he had been bigger and badder, but then I’d grown up and gotten more muscles. I could take him without any exertion. He still needed a reminder every once in a while, and it had been ages since I’d seen him.
“I can make you,” I said, raising one eyebrow at him, unable to hide my smile.
“Fuck,” he hissed as he looked me up and down. “You look like you could even take Mike. Bastard’s gone soft since he met Mia. He’s turned into a real pussy, but you—you look downright scary,” he said with a chuckle as he stood. Sticking his tongue out at Mike, he gave me a great bro hug, maintaining his manly personality but still showing me the love I knew he was trying hard to hide.
“You’re the pussy, Anth,” Mike teased as he entered the room holding two bottles of champagne. He placed them on the side table next to my dad before sitting on the floor beside Mia and holding her leg in his grip.
“Sit down, Tommy. We want to hear all about your time away.” Joe patted the spot next to him on the couch.
“Hey, that’s my spot,” Suzy whined as she walked in behind my mother.
“It was his first, sugar. Come sit on my lap.” He grinned at her as he rubbed his leg.
“Okay,” she whispered before padding across the carpet on quick feet, crawling into his lap, and putting her arm around his neck. Joey held her in one arm and rested his hand against her round belly, rubbing it in tiny circles.
Things had changed, yet they were still the same. Coming home after such a long absence was the strangest thing ever. I felt at home but out of place. New people added to the family, and the dynamics of the group had shifted.
Instead of the house being flooded with testosterone, the women had almost outnumbered the men. Anthony and I were the lone holdouts, but that was about to change for me. Soon, Roxy would be here with me.
I sat in my old spot, closing my eyes and reminding myself that she was Angel now and not Roxy. She’d be pissed if I slipped in front of my family. There would be a lot of questions if I did that. Gallos were quick and didn’t miss a goddamn thing.
Opening my eyes, I saw everyone staring at me. No one was chatting or watching the Cubs losing—they just stared. James sat behind Izzy, pulling her back to his front before she sagged against him. He whispered in her ear, slowly stroking her stomach with his hand. She giggled, her face turning red. Even though I was the dumbass who had given the thumbs-up to the situation, I still had an urge to punch him in the face.
“First, when do you have to go back?” Ma asked as she sat in her chair next to my father, fidgeting with her apron.
Their mouths hung open as I sat there, leaning back and watching their shock.
“What?” I asked.
“What do you mean you don’t?” Ma asked. “I don’t think I quite understand.”
“I quit. Plain and simple.”
“Hell yeah,” Joe said, slapping me on the shoulder. “You coming to work at the shop with us?”
I turned to him and blinked. I was shit at art. I certainly couldn’t poke holes in people’s bodies and call that art either. It wasn’t my thing.
“Nah, man.” I shook my head and looked at James. “Did you tell them?” I asked him.
“No, man. I didn’t.”
Izzy turned around and looked at him, wondering what I knew and what she had been left the fuck out on. Whoops.
“James quit too.”
Ma gasped while the rest of the family continued to gawk. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she said, sighing with relief.
I chuckled at their response. I didn’t think I’d ever seen the Gallos at a loss for words, especially Izzy. “I had enough of their shit. I gave them enough of my life, and they weren’t getting another damn day.”
“Me either,” James joined in, adjusting as Izzy turned in his arms and hugged him before whispering in his ear.
Had aliens come down and abducted my sister? Izzy and sweet weren’t two things that often went together. She was hardcore and could be downright scary sometimes. But with James, she melted in a puddle of goo, and I sure as fuck didn’t want to know why.