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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“Child, life isn’t fair. You’re going to have to get over yourself and figure out what you want in life.”
“I know life isn’t fair. I’m the one living with this shit!” Max yelled as she jumped to her feet. “I’m the one who will never have happiness. Not you, Mama. Me!”
It felt like I had turned a movie on in the middle, having missed something important that clued me the fuck in on what they were talking about.
“Sit,” Ruth commanded. “Do not raise your voice at me. My patience is hanging by a thread right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Max mumbled as she plopped down.
“What?” I asked, still in the dark. “I’m lost.”
Max shook her head, shooting a glare at her mother. “Don’t.”
“Maxine,” her mother said. “You need to stop lying to everyone in your life. Someday, you’re going to look back and regret every minute you wasted with your foolishness.”
“I’m waiting,” I said, taking another drink of Crown. I gripped the glass tighter, feeling my hands begin to shake. The virtual train wreck I’d expected and taken secret joy in watching as it played out was derailing before my eyes.
“I can’t.” Max shook her head, placing her face in her palms.
The one phrase I had always hated to hear her say should’ve been her personal motto. If I never heard the two words again in my life, I’d be a happy man.
“Bullshit,” I muttered into the glass.
“Maxine, look at me,” Ruth said. When Max’s eyes drifted to hers, she began to speak. “Do you love this man?”
Even from across the room, I could see the tears that had collected in her eyes. “I ca—”
“Stop!” Ruth yelled, causing us to jump. “Do. You. Love. Him? It’s real simple, Max. Yes or no.”
She’d told me many times that she loved me. Never had she admitted it to another person. Even when we were with her friends, she’d gloss over the topic and change course.
I didn’t know what I wanted her answer to be. Hearing her tell another soul that she loved me would bring me warmth and joy. The way our relationship had played out—and was in the process of crashing and burning in spectacular fashion—made me want to hear her say no. Could I leave her in the dust if she professed her feelings for me to her own mother?
“Yes,” she confessed through gritted teeth as tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
My stomach dropped, filling with butterflies. Renewed hope and the warmth I had sought flooded me. Even though I wanted to stomp on her heart and show her how painful love could be, I felt happy at her confession.
“Does he love you?” Ruth asked Max like I wasn’t in the room.
“Then I don’t see what the problem is besides you and your lies.”
“You know what the problem is,” Max bit out as her nostrils flared.
I had had enough. I couldn’t stand by and listen to the two of them bicker in code. “Can someone clue me the fuck in on what’s going on here?” I growled as I pushed off the wall and headed toward Max. “Excuse my language, Ruth,” I added.
“It’s okay, baby. Sometimes it’s the only way to emphasize what we need to say. Tell him, Max, or I will.”
I looked down at Max and saw her trembling. I waited for her to speak.
“I can’t,” she whispered without looking at me. “I can’t be with you anymore, Anthony. I love you, but it’s not right.”
“I think I should be the judge of what’s right for me, Max. Not you. I want to hear that truth.”
“No,” she said. “I won’t.” She gave me a steely glare. Even as the tears streamed down her face, she refused to break.
“That’s it? Everything I’ve been through with you. All the abuse I’ve taken from you and you won’t even tell me what the fuck is going on.”
She shook her head.
“I’m done, Max. I’ve had enough of your bullshit. Believe it or not, I do have feelings.” I turned to face her mother. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can’t either.” I stalked over, grabbing my shirt from the floor as I slipped my sandals on.
She jumped to her feet and walked toward me. “Son, wait. You need to know—”
“No, I don’t need to know anything. It doesn’t matter how much I love your daughter. She still shuts me out. I can’t do this anymore.”
Without a second thought or a backward glance, I walked out, leaving her and Ruth to talk. I’d done my part, begged enough for her to share the thing that kept her at arm’s length, but she’d refused. I couldn’t be her pawn in whatever wicked game she was playing.
My time with Max was over.
I stared up at the starry sky as I walked to my car. Everything came crashing down and ended in spectacular fashion.
“Fuck you, Karma!” I yelled as I watched the distant stars twinkle. “You win!”
I headed home, making a vow not to let her have another go at my heart. Max had trampled it to bits, and there was nothing left.
I’d chased her, stalked her as my prey, until she’d caved in and become my trophy.
What happened next would cause my head to spin and have me cursing the gods.
When I found something so pure and real it would be complicated and heartbreaking.
I would be swallowed up, spit out like a mouthful of cum by a two-bit hooker looking for a fix, and left feeling numb.