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|Uncover Me(Men of Inked #6) by Chelle Bliss|
James burst out laughing. I was sure that, over the last few months, he’d been welcomed in and made to feel at home. Someday, he’d get the full Gallo treatment. I knew their asses didn’t behave with him around. No one knew what that word even meant in my family.
Watching everyone chat and laugh made me feel warm, and a calm settled over me. This was where I belonged, but I didn’t know what was happening in each of their lives. They spent each day with each other at work, but I was totally out of touch. I plastered a fake smile on my face, trying not to think of all the moments I’d missed, as I watched my ma dole out the food.
“When’s the baby due, bro?”
“Early September.” He smiled, grabbing the plate Ma had put in front of him.
“I can’t believe I’m going to be an uncle and I missed it all.”
“Don’t be silly,” Suzy said, her voice garbled by a mouthful of lasagna. “You’ll be here for the birth and that’s all that matters. She’s going to have four cool uncles and two killer aunts.”
“Four uncles?” Mike interrupted before I could ask the same damn question.
“Yes. You, Thomas, Anthony, and James.”
That was interesting. Suzy had already integrated James into the family. I turned to him, seeing his face break out into a giant smile as Izzy almost fell off her chair.
“Hold up,” Izzy blurted out, facing Suzy with her hand up and her palm flat. “James is not a Gallo. He’s here, but not a Gallo.”
“Yet,” James retorted, pushing down Izzy’s arm.
She turned and glared at him, her eyes growing wide and saying a million fucking things. I knew that look well, having been on the receiving end a million times when I was growing up. The girl never made shit easy. When she couldn’t speak, she’d let you know exactly how you felt.
“See? Four,” Suzy said with a giggle. “What baby could be so lucky?”
“Sugar, what about your sister?” Joe asked, turning in his chair and titling his head.
“Baby, she’s not a part of this family. I barely see her and she’s kind of a bitch.” She stabbed her lasagna and didn’t look at Joe as she replied.
The entire table burst into laughter. What the hell was I missing?
“What the hell is so funny?” I asked before placing a sliver of the piping-hot lasagna in my mouth. Fuck, it’s better than I remembered.
I let it sit on my tongue, closing my eyes while the cheese slowly oozed across my tongue. It was like heaven. There’s nothing like home cooking. The food at the club had been mediocre at best. The cook wasn’t a chef, but he knew how to reheat shit when we got hungry. The dive bars we’d spent our nights at didn’t provide a gourmet sampling. It was shitty bar food that left a funky oil aftertaste in my mouth.
“Suzy doesn’t swear very much,” Joe answered, because everyone else was either laughing or eating.
I still had my eyes closed, savoring the taste of my ma’s cooking. Opening them slowly, I looked at him and smiled. Then I swallowed it, ready to dive into another chunk, and asked, “How the hell did she end up with you?”
We all swore. It must be genetic. I swear Izzy’s first word was fuck. I thought having four older brothers who used it like common language didn’t help. I also thought it served my ma right for having had us keep our eyes on her when we were little. Joe often had the dirtiest mouth.
“Pure luck. She swears when it’s necessary.” He smiled at Suzy, winking as her cheeks turned red.
“When would that be?” Anthony asked, putting his fork down and looking at Suzy, waiting for an answer.
“Eat your fuckin’ food and don’t worry about when that would be, jerkoff.” Joe was usually easygoing, but he seemed on edge.
“You PMSing or something, man?” Anthony asked before picking up his fork and shoveling in a chunk of sausage.
“My leg has been killing me. The goddamn rain always gets me. I just wish the shit was fully healed.”
“It’ll go away, Joe. Give it time. Take some Naproxen and you should feel better. It won’t always be like this,” Mia offered.
“Yeah. It’ll get worse,” Mike chimed in, chuckling. “Your ass is getting old, and you’re going to be chasing around a baby soon.”
“I don’t see you getting any younger, fluff ’n’ stuff,” Joe teased, laughing at his own joke. “When are you getting married and making an honest woman out of Mia?”
The veins on the side of Mike’s neck bulged out. He’d never liked the terms “soft” or “fluffy.” He was all about being hardcore and tough as an ox. Plus, from what I could tell, he didn’t like being put on the spot about his future with Mia.
Rubbing the back of his neck, he looked down and then stared straight at Joe. “Mia and I are taking things slow.”
“Bullshit,” Mia coughed, hiding a smile behind her hand. “Excuse me.”
“That’s my girl,” Izzy chimed in.
The house had shifted. It was no longer ruled by cocks and jocks, but by babes. We were all truly fucked at this point. There was no going back. Maybe it was my absence that had led everything astray. Or maybe it was bound to happen in time. The family would inevitably change once we’d decided to settle down.
“Marry the poor girl already,” Ma blurted out.
“It’s a huge step, people,” Mike whined, his shoulders tensing as he tried to hide his discomfort with the topic.