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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“Jesus,” I muttered, trying to put myself in her shoes. I couldn’t. It would be too painful to watch something like that happen to someone I loved. “Did he have cancer?”
“No.” She vigorously shook her head. “He had an incurable disease that’s very rare.”
“I just can’t…” The words got stuck in my throat. “I can’t imagine what you went through, Max.” I reached across the table and swept my fingers over the top of her hand. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
Her eyes dipped to where our bodies touched. “It’s over with now,” she said as she wiped the tears away. “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s kind of a mood killer, Anthony.” She gave me a small smile that didn’t match her eyes.
“Okay,” I sighed. I was ready for a new topic. It seemed that whichever way we went, there were landmines waiting to explode.
“Tell me about your family. Give me something happy.”
“Well, I’m about to be an uncle for the first time.”
“Oh, that’s exciting. When?” She smiled.
I’d been waiting for her to move her hand from mine, but she kept it there, letting me stroke it with my thumb.
“This fall sometime. First baby in the family, so it should be interesting.”
“Babies always bring joy.”
“Yeah, I’d agree if the pregnant woman didn’t devour every drop of food at Sunday dinner every week. I swear I’ve never seen anything like it.”
She giggled, and her eyes transformed as her smile kissed the edges of her lips. “I know, right? A few of my friends have had babies, and I wonder the same thing. God, if I look at food, I swear I gain five pounds.”
She’d look beautiful with a little more weight. Her body was already lush and soft when I touched her, but I wouldn’t complain if she had more to hold.
“Max, you’d look beautiful no matter how much you weighed.” I smiled at her, and an image of her with a round belly while she stuffed her face full of pasta made my insides warm. It scared the crap out of me. I knew she didn’t want children.
“You’re just saying that because you’re trying to ply me with cheese, oil, and chocolate tonight.”
I shook my head and grinned. “You’re beautiful.”
“Thanks.” She blinked. Then she glanced down at our hands again and had a small grin on her lips. “Tell me more.”
I moved closer, making sure no one else could hear. “I love the softness of your thighs when I have my head—”
“No. No. Not that,” she whispered. “I meant about your family. Not sex, Anthony.” She shifted in her seat before looking at me again.
Knowing that the thought of sex with me turned her on brought me happiness. If nothing else, she couldn’t resist me simply because of the number of orgasms I’d brought her.
“Okay. I work with my siblings at the tattoo shop.”
“God, I couldn’t imagine working with Denzel. I think I’d kill him.”
The waitress arrived, placing the pot of oil and a plate of cut-up meats and vegetables besides it. “Do you two need anything else?” she asked.
I looked to Max, and she shook her head. “No. We’re fine, ma’am.”
She walked away, giving us the privacy I had craved.
“We have a lot of fun. We’re all part owners, and sometimes, it gets a little sticky, but for the most part, it’s been great.”
“You’re lucky. Seems like you have a close family, then.”
“I do, but one of my brothers is working undercover and I haven’t seen him in ages.”
“Wow. That’s honorable. When will you see him again?”
“Hopefully soon. I think his investigation is just about over. It’s like a piece of me is missing when he’s gone.”
“I know how that feels,” she grumbled as she grabbed a long poker and stabbed at a piece of steak. “At least you know he’s coming back.”
“True,” I replied, feeling like a complete tool.
Thomas would come home if everything worked out, but her father? He’d never return to her. I grew silent, cursing myself as I placed a few pieces of food in the pot.
She repeated the process and stared at me over the table. “It’s okay, Anthony. You don’t need to watch what you say. I like to hear about something other than my family.”
The butterflies that had started to flutter inside my stomach began to calm with her words. “If you say so,” I mumbled, still feeling like a complete asshole.
“Did you say you have Sunday dinner? Like, every Sunday?” she asked as she twirled the sticks and turned the meat.
“Yeah. My mom cooks dinner every week, and we’re required to be there.”
“What’s she going to do if you don’t go? Ground you?” she shot back, and laughed. “You are a grown-ass man.”
I chuckled too, knowing that it sounded insane. “You don’t understand my ma. She’s one woman you don’t want to piss off. If you can’t make it, you better call.”
“You’re scared of your mother?” she asked as she pulled her sticks out of the oil, tapping them on top of her dish.
“I wouldn’t say scared. I’d say I respect her.”
“Uh huh.” She placed the first bite of steak in her mouth. “You’re scared,” she said after she swallowed the food.