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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
Looking back on it, I understood where her thoughts had been in the situation. If I had a future I felt was hopeless, would I willingly invite love into my life?
I knew I was a selfish motherfucker. I’d always been, but there was selfish and then there was cruel. If I were in her shoes, I probably would’ve lived my life much the same way I had—refusing attachment and fucking my way through life.
The problem had happened when we’d both realized how special the spark truly was. Neither of us had felt it before, and it kept bringing us back together, calling us to one another like the song of a siren and luring us to each other.
I wished things had been different. I wished we hadn’t had the rocky start, but there was nothing I could do to change the past. Maybe it would help us become a stronger couple moving forward, but I knew I’d always have a sliver of fear inside me. Scared that she’d run away in a moment of panic if she were told that she was carrying the gene and would someday meet the same destiny her father had.
My heart ached at the thought. There was no way Max had the gene. I could feel it. She was too graceful, too beautiful, and too full of life to be robbed of her life by something so crippling as ataxia.
“Hey,” she said as the door flew open. She had a sexy smile on her face.
I returned the smile and let my eyes wander down her body and take in her beauty. She had on a skintight pencil skirt and a crisp white dress shirt tucked into the waist. Black sling-back heels cradled her feet. I knew I shouldn’t have known the term, but having Izzy as a sister made it impossible.
My eyes crept back up her body and settled on her face. “You look stunning,” I said as I reached out and held her face.
“Thanks. I want to make a good impression,” she replied, as her smile grew larger.
“You could’ve done that in jeans and a T-shirt.” I bowed, needing to kiss her lipstick-stained lips.
“Watch the makeup,” she whispered, keeping her eyes locked on mine. “I don’t want to have to go back upstairs and fix it.”
“I’ll be careful,” I said above her lips before gently bringing mine down on her mouth. As I released her, I said, “Let’s go. We’re going to be late, and then you might as well have had a paper bag on. Maria Gallo doesn’t do late.”
She slammed the door and started to stomp away. “What are we waiting for, then? Oh my God, she’s going to hate me already.”
I laughed at her reaction. She already had the fear of Maria in her and she hadn’t even met the woman yet.
“We have plenty of time,” I replied as I followed her down the sidewalk.
“No, no,” she called over her shoulder. “I want to be early. Brownie points always help.”
“Suck-up. I’m never early,” I said as I looked at my watch, and she laughed in response.
I’d picked her up a little early, hoping to make out a little before we headed to my parents’ house. One look at her and I knew it wasn’t going to happen. She looked too perfect to mess up. Once dinner was over, all bets were off.
I held open the car door for her, closing it behind her after she was situated. My parents had always taught me manners. I’d just chosen not to use any of them my entire life. It would have thrown off too many wrong vibes if I had.
We had a thirty-minute drive to my parents’ house. I didn’t know if I’d sat this close to Max alone and not had it lead to sex. I set my hand on her leg, needing to be connected to her as we drove. We talked about work and family. She and I were alike in that way.
Work and family were the two most important things in our lives. They took precedence over everything else. When my family asked me to do something, I dropped everything and helped. I was still the big brother, even though, at times, it didn’t seem like it. They’d all grown, found their other halves, but only Joe had started a family. Sometimes, I acted like the youngest, unwilling to give up my freedom and totally join adulthood.
The drive flew by as we chatted about everything. She grew more talkative the closer we were to my parents’. I could tell she was nervous as she picked at her skirt, smoothing it over her legs, and fidgeted.
“Max,” I said as I put the car in park and turned it off. “It’s going to be okay.” I’d never brought anyone to dinner, but I knew how everyone had embraced Suzy, Mia, James, and Angel. She wouldn’t be any different.
She blew out a puff of air and closed her eyes before dragging in a breath through her nose. “Okay. I shouldn’t be nervous. Got it.”
I brushed the hair off her shoulder and ran my fingers up her neck. “It’s okay to be nervous, but I promise they will love you.”
“I’m sure your white family was over the moon when they found out you’re dating a black girl.”
“Max, they were over the moon when they found out I’m in love with a woman. Color’s inconsequential in the eyes of my family.”
“Uh huh,” she mumbled, and rolled her eyes.
“I’m creeping up on forty and have never brought a woman home to meet my family. I haven’t had a girlfriend since high school by choice. You’re different not because of your color, but because your heart. Shiiit,” I drawled with a small laugh. “They’re happy to know I’m not gay.”
She giggled. “No!” she yelled, covering her mouth. “They didn’t?”
“My siblings knew how I was. They’d seen the endless parade of women I’d been with, but not my parents. My mother secretly thought I was gay. It’s not that they wouldn’t have loved me, but I know she would’ve mourned for the children I’d probably never have with a partner.”