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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“Anthony,” she pleaded as she touched my hand.
“No, Max. I won’t let you ruin our chance at happiness. You’ve been calling all the shots, and that shit’s about to change,” I said as I brushed a tear off her cheek.
“No. I’m not leaving your side. We’re going to figure this out together. Medicine changes every day. They could find a cure before you start experiencing symptoms. Never give up hope. The one thing I now believe is to never give up hope.”
“I’m scared to let myself be happy,” she whispered.
“Because it’ll make it more painful when I start getting sick, Anthony. I’ll know everything I’ll miss out on once I’m unable to walk.” Tears streamed down her face, dropping on my shirt.
“Like dancing with you.”
“Max, I can hold you in my arms and dance. I have the strength for the both of us.”
“I won’t be able to make love to you the way I do now.”
“How many years are we talking about before you start getting sick?”
“I don’t know. It could be tomorrow, next week, or in twenty years!”
“If I can still get it up when I’m sixty, we’ll figure something out.” I laughed.
“Don’t be silly.” She shook her head, but a tiny smile crawled across her face.
“I’m not. Let’s be honest about our future. I can do it all night now, but in twenty years, who knows. I may not even live that long, Max. Most people don’t know their future and wander through life holding on to any happiness they can grasp. You think you know what your future will be, but we could both die tomorrow. Why not hold on to the happiness we’ve found and face whatever comes next together?” I sounded so grown up that I almost shocked myself. I felt like I was channeling the words of wisdom my mother would say, but for once, I was okay with it.
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I am. Let’s take it day by day. Can we agree on that?” I asked. “If I’m being an asshole, then call me out, but never try to get rid of me because you’re scared. When it becomes overwhelming, I’ll be there for you.”
“I don’t deserve you,” she whispered.
“I know.” I laughed and watched her face break out into the most beautiful, heart-stopping smile.
“You’re an asshole.”
“I know that too, but that’s why you like me.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed.
“So, your family doesn’t hate me?” I had to bring it up. It was something that needed to be discussed.
“No,” she confessed, and grimaced.
“It was wrong of you to use the color of our skin to keep us apart.”
“I know. It’s the only thing I could think of.”
“That was a huge lie, Kitty Cat. A hurtful untruth.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“If your mother hadn’t shown up and spilled the truth, would you have ever told me about being sick?”
“I don’t know.” She glanced down and exhaled. “I’d like to think that I would. I wanted to tell you, but I just couldn’t bring myself to.”
I raised her face and stared at her, taking in her beauty. “No more lies, Max. We won’t survive this if you do.”
“Okay, Anthony. I promise.”
The one thing I needed was to feel connected to her. Gripping her hair in my hands, I lost myself in her kiss.
“I need to make love to you,” I murmured on her lips.
“Yes,” she panted.
I lifted her, carrying her to my bedroom without breaking the passionate kiss. Everything we felt but didn’t say poured out through our lips as we silently conveyed the emotion of the moment.
Max and I were back, and nothing would tear us apart.
Karma could fuck off.
“What are you so damn happy about?” Mike asked from across the table as I stole a glance at my cell phone.
“I’m not happy. I’m always like this.”
I knew that it was bullshit. I usually was a cranky fucker. Typically, I had a headache or not enough sleep and my siblings would make me crazy. At the shop, I could busy myself with something to keep my mind occupied, but sitting at my parents’ made it impossible to ignore them.
Max had softened since she’d told me about her illness, and things were smoother. She hadn’t thrown me out, either. We talked whenever we had a chance and texted throughout the day. We took turns sleeping at the other’s house at least every couple of days. When Sunday had finally arrived, I’d begged her to come to my family’s house for dinner, but she’d said that she couldn’t make it.
“You’re happy. You keep smiling every time you look in your lap. Find something down there finally?”
“Shut up, Mikey.” I glared at him, but I didn’t feel the anger behind the look. Things were too good right now to be pissed off about anything.
“Get the shit straightened out with the girl?” Thomas asked as he grabbed a piece of garlic bread.
“I think so,” I replied, hoping that everyone had been too busy eating to hear what he’d asked.
“A girl?” Ma asked as she stopped eating.
There went the hope that no one had heard. Ma had girlfriend radar, with her overeagerness to be a grandmother many times over. Thanks to Thomas, I was now on it after having remained free and clear for years.