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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“You need to let me say my piece and then you can tell me to fuck off like you used to do.”
She sighed before a small smirk spread across her face and disappeared. “I just have to listen to you?”
“I’d prefer you to do as I say, but listening will work for now.” I smiled, knowing I’d find a way to get her to see the light.
Since she’d confessed, she’d become a different woman. The hardass girl I’d met in the bar had melted away. When she’d opened the door, pissed-off Max had returned.
“I’ll listen, but I’m not promising anything.” She opened the door more and waited for me.
As she closed it, I grabbed her and pulled her to my body. I’d missed her. We’d seen each other yesterday, but the time apart had moved slowly. Plus, I wanted her to feel my touch and remember the spark we’d had before she’d shut me out. That sizzle was what made us different.
I kissed her deeply as I ran my hands over her back. Her smell had intoxicated me from the moment I’d met her, and even now, it had that effect on me. I breathed her in, getting lost in her scent and the softness of her skin.
“Hey,” I murmured as I stared at her lips.
“Hi,” she mumbled before pulling her lips into her mouth and running her tongue along them.
I grabbed her hand, bringing her to the couch with me. I wouldn’t let her sit across the room. I needed closeness, and more importantly, she needed to feel our connection.
I wanted to drag her onto my lap, but instead, I let her sit and planted myself beside her. I needed to look into her eyes and for her to see my face. Grasping her hands in mine, I started to talk. “I know you said you don’t need the test to know you have ataxia, but what if maybe, just maybe, you’re wrong?” I asked, keeping my voice calm and level.
“Anthony.” She sighed like we’d gone over this a million times. “I don’t need a test to know what I have brewing inside my body. I can feel it. Every time I trip or drop something, I know it’s just the beginning.”
“Max, that’s ridiculous.” I regretted the words as soon as they’d left my lips. “I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes, you did,” she said as she closed her eyes and inhaled.
“Look at me,” I said as I squeezed her hands. As soon as she opened them, I spoke. “Some people are just clumsy. You can’t base your entire future on an assumption.”
“For the love of all that is holy,” I muttered through gritted teeth. Time to change tactics. “Do you have feelings for me?”
She blinked a couple of times but maintained eye contact. “Yes,” she said on a drawn-out breath.
“If I walked out the door right now and never came back, would you be upset?” I didn’t know exactly where I was going with this conversation.
“I don’t want to admit it, Anthony, but I’d be devastated.” She looked down at our hands and frowned.
“Really?” Dumb thing to say, but devastated wasn’t the word I’d expected to hear. Yeah, I knew she’d be sad, but devastated, not at all.
“Yes,” she replied, bringing her eyes to mine.
“What about the other times you threw me out? You didn’t care then?”
“I was upset, but I did everything in my power for you not to want me. I had to push you away. Now, you know everything and I can’t deny I have feelings for you.”
“Like ya love me?” I asked, jutting my chin out.
“Don’t say it. Not yet,” I blurted.
“Why? I’ve admitted it in front of my mother.” she whispered as her forehead crinkled.
“If you’re going to say those words again to me, you have to admit you’re willing to give something of yourself that I don’t think you’re ready to do just yet.”
“I’ve told you everything, Anthony. I’ve given more to you than I have to most people in this world.”
“Max, you immediately shut me down when I said I wanted you to be tested.”
“No buts. You did. If you ‘know’ you have the gene, what would it hurt to get the test?”
She sighed and blew out a breath, puffing out her cheeks. “Can’t you just believe that I already know?”
“I can’t.” I threw the line she’d muttered to me more times than I could count in her face, and the corner of her eye twitched. “I won’t accept it until you have the test.”
“Jesus,” she mumbled, and rolled her eyes.
“You’ve lived your life for too long based on the assumption that you’re going to have the same future as your father. What if you don’t have it? Imagine how different life could be.”
“I don’t know. The idea of getting the test is scary.”
She confused me. How could a test be scary when she was adamant that she had the gene necessary to cause ataxia?
“Because maybe…” She paused, closing her dark brown eyes for a moment as she bit her top lip. “There’s a small part of me that still holds on to the hope that I’m not doomed. Maybe I won’t be in a wheelchair. If I have the test and they say I have it, then there’s no hope.”
My confusion grew deeper. Women. How could she think knowing would be worse?
“Max, knowing gives you power. If they say you don’t have it, then you can live life without the giant ticking time bomb hanging over your head. If you do have it, then we can plan for the future and live every day like it may be our last.”