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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“You will. If you don’t, Max, I’ll find that boy and tell him exactly what’s going on.”
“You wouldn’t!” I yelled as I closed my eyes. One thing I know about my mother is that she doesn’t speak hollow words.
“I will. Try me, child. Get yourself together and go beg for his forgiveness.”
There wasn’t a point in arguing with her. I knew she’d tell him if I didn’t. No matter how hard it would be to tell him my secret, it had to come from my mouth. I needed to look into his eyes when the realization and enormity of it sank in.
Loud pounding on the door woke me from my sleep. After half a bottle of tequila, I’d crawled in bed and nodded off watching Dual Survival.
I grabbed my pillow, smashing my face into the material. If I ignored the door, maybe they’d go away. As I sighed and didn’t hear a second knock, I spread out and started to drift back to sleep.
Another knock had my eyes flying open. This time, the pounding was more forceful, and it made my heart jump. I looked at the clock and wondered who in the fuck would be pounding on my damn door after midnight.
Anything was possible at this point, but most likely, it was one of my brothers popping by with some bullshit. Without looking at my phone, I grabbed a pair of shorts and put them on as I walked down the steps.
The pounding continued, growing louder the closer I moved toward the door.
Finally, I swung it open and yelled, “What?”
Max stood before me with her face covered in tears and her fist in midair. “Anthony,” she said.
I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at her. The tequila and the banging on the door had started to give me a headache. Seeing her on my doorstep made my blood whoosh through my veins so fast that my head began to pound harder than her fists had been hitting the door.
“What, Max?” I replied in a scathing voice. “I don’t have time for your shit, and I sure as fuck don’t need any pussy.”
“Oh,” she replied, and looked over my shoulder.
“No one is here. I just refuse to let you stomp all over me again. I will not be that man. I’m not weak, Max. I don’t need you in my life.”
“Anthony, please let me talk.” She looked beautiful with her hair shining in the moonlight and taking on a bluish tone in the darkness.
I held my hand out. “There’s nothing you can say to me. We want different things in life. I asked for a chance to get to know you so I wouldn’t have a regret. I’ve changed my fucking mind. I regret the day I met you. I’m through. Go home. There’s nothing or no one here for you.”
Some of it I meant. There was nothing more I wanted to do than hold her and feel her body on mine. I couldn’t give in. Standing my ground would be the only way she and I could ever have a future together.
“I don’t care how many tears you’ve cried. Save them for someone who means something to you.”
“Stop!” she yelled as tears streamed down her face. “I’m sick, Anthony. Sick! My father died and his condition was genetic.” The sob that broke free caused her entire body to tremble.
Every ounce of air inside my lungs had left me in one quick exhale. I stood there not believing what she’d said. Max had lied before, so this had to be another one of her tales.
“You heard me,” she cried as her shoulders sagged. “I’ll never have a future. You need to find someone else to give you a happy life and a big family. I’m not that girl. I can never be her. No matter how badly I want it, I just can’t be.” She looked at the ground, breaking eye contact.
The knots that had formed in my stomach had changed, turning into a solid punch in the gut. There wasn’t a blow I’d taken from my brothers that had caused as much pain as her words had. Sick. She was sick. The strong woman standing before me had something that affected her and made her feel unworthy.
I lifted her chin, needing to look into her dark eyes and understand the depths of her pain. “Max,” I whispered. “I don’t understand. You don’t seem sick.”
Her lip trembled as she spoke. “I’m not sick now, but I will be. I know my fate. I never have to wonder what I’ll be like in my old age, Anthony. I know that I’ll be wheelchair-bound and unable to live on my own, just like my father.”
It couldn’t be.
Max was vibrant, full of life, and too fierce to let anything stop her. She couldn’t resign herself to such a fate. I wouldn’t allow her to. All the anger I had been holding inside had vanished and was replaced by a worry so profound that I wanted to move heaven and earth to make her existence different.
“Max, we can go see the best doctors in the world. I have money. I’ll help you find a way to change your fate.” I wouldn’t accept the word of a single doctor.
“It’s hopeless, Anthony,” she replied as the tears fell onto my fingertips. “I’ve been to the top doctors in the country. There’s no cure. No treatment. I had accepted my future until I met you.” She blew out a shaky breath and continued, “Meeting you made me curse the gods and question my faith, Anthony.”
“I didn’t do anything to you, but love you.”
“I tried to push you away,” she whispered as her bottom lip quivered. “You wouldn’t let me. You chased me, making me give in. God, how I want to change everything, Anthony, but I can’t. I don’t want the future I’ve been dealt. I had accepted it, but you fucked everything up.”