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|Uncover Me(Men of Inked #6) by Chelle Bliss|
“Anth, I feel that what happened to Angel is God’s way of punishing me.” I felt the anxiety clawing at my insides. “There are things I can never tell you. Things that happened that only James knows about, and we both live with the guilt each day. I’m not the same happy guy who walked out the door over a year ago. Some of my joy has been replaced by darkness, the sins of my past unable to be extinguished by my deeds of the future.”
He wrinkled his nose and snarled. “That’s such a crock of shit. No one defines you but yourself. Your deeds of the past do not weigh on who you are as a man. Fuck what other people think of you. The only people who matter in your life are your family and friends. I know you’d jump in front of a bullet for any of us, and we’d do the same for you. That’s the measure of a man, not the shit they did to stay alive.”
I stared at my brother as he reached for the whiskey bottle and topped off his drink. “When did you get so wise?”
“I’m just old. Fuck. I’m older than I care to admit. Forty is creepin’ up on my ass, and it scares the hell out of me.” He blew out a breath and pulled the glass to his lips before taking a slow sip.
“You still have years until you hit forty,” I scoffed.
“Whatever. I know who you are, Thomas, and so does the rest of the family. You’re a good man. Case closed.”
I sighed, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to make him understand.
No one ever would.
The only people who knew my dirty deeds were James and Flash, and in many ways, they were just as culpable as I was. James put the bullet in Rebel’s head, but we buried the body and covered up the crime.
I’d helped the Sun Devils take out members of rival clubs.
I’d helped secure drug shipments and create distribution channels.
I’d been there for every shady deal and criminal act.
I wasn’t innocent.
I’d spend the rest of my life repenting for my sins and trying to reverse the bad I had done.
“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” he asked, setting the glass on the table and resting his head against the wall.
“I’ll know more around ten. I’ll get details at noon, and we’ll move from there.”
“You want us here at ten?”
“You can stay here if you want. I probably won’t sleep, but the guest room is yours.” I rolled my glass between my fingers, watching the liquid move inside.
“I’ll stay here in case you need me, Thomas.” He crossed his arms over his chest as he yawned.
“Thanks, Anth. I know you have your own shit going on.”
“Family first,” he replied, his mouth set in a firm line.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, reaching for the whiskey.
He placed his hand on mine. “No more for tonight. You need your head clear tomorrow.”
I glared at him. “Fine,” I blurted, a little irritated, even though he was right.
I couldn’t allow my momentary panic to risk the lives of Angel and the rest of my family tomorrow. That would be something I’d never be able to live with—the darkness would swallow me whole.
“What’s been on your mind? What’s going on with that woman you’re so hung up on?” I needed to change the subject, even if only for a moment.
“Fuck,” he groaned, a heavy sigh escaping him. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“We have time to kill.” I gave him a small smile, trying to give my mind a break from the possibilities that kept creeping inside. I couldn’t get the image of Angel suffering to stop playing through my brain.
“She hides me,” he said, closing his eyes as he spoke. “Her family hates me, and for that, she keeps me in the shadows.”
“Why would she do that?” I asked, gawking at him.
He slowly opened his eyes and stared at me. “It’s complicated. We come from very different worlds. I’m not accepted by her brothers and her parents.”
“I take it Ma and Pop haven’t met her?”
He shook his head and reached for his glass, wincing as he swallowed. “Nope. I’m not bringing her around the family unless there’s a future with her.”
“So, you’re not sold on her?”
“That’s the fucking problem. I am. I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want her. I’ve never given myself so completely to someone like I have with her. I’ve never been faithful, but it’s only her. I fuckin’ can’t win. She shuts me out and disappears. Just when I think I’m over her and ready to move on, she comes back and my walls come crashing down.”
“She has you by the balls, Anth.”
“I refuse to let it continue. Either she fights for us and moves beyond what her family thinks or I need to put an end to it. Women like her are the reason I’ve sworn off love.”
“Brother, you’ve sworn off love because of the plethora of pussy falling at your feet,” I said, forgetting my panic for just a second before I sobered.
“That too,” he replied, a laugh rising from his chest as his body began to shake. “It still falls at my feet, but I step over it now and steer clear.”
“Yeah. I find that hard to believe.”
“I swear it’s some fuckin’ sick cosmic joke, Thomas. The first woman I want to be with treats me like shit. She yanks me around by my dick, pulling me in and then tossing me out. She fuckin’ makes my head spin.”