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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
I immediately regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. I shifted in my seat, thinking of a way to stop the hurt I knew my sentence had caused. She didn’t want to have children, and here I was, like a dumbass, saying that it was all my mother cared about. My stomach was in knots and no longer craved the pasta that was about to be dished out.
“Anthony,” Max said as she placed her hand on top of mine.
I couldn’t look her in the eyes. “What?” I whispered before trying to swallow past the lump in my throat.
“It’s okay, baby. I know what you meant. We’re going to have to talk about kids someday. We need to have that conversation before we get any deeper.”
Before we get deeper? I was in as deep as I could be. There was no lifeline or turning back. I was sunk, with her as my anchor.
“Max, I want whatever you want. If you don’t want to have kids, that’s fine with me. I’m kind of old to even think about having a child. I’d be almost sixty by the time they’d graduate from high school. Now, if you said you wanted to have a baby, I’d make sure to give ya one to make you happy too.”
“You’d have a baby to make me happy?” she asked as her eyebrows knitted together.
“I’d do anything to make you happy. Including a baby.” I nodded, but I didn’t know if I was trying to convince her or myself.
“You know it’s not like a purse, right? I mean, you can’t decide a baby doesn’t suit you anymore or clashes with your lifestyle and get rid of it. There’s no refund once the bundle of joy arrives,” she replied, giving my hand a squeeze. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to talk me out of it or trying to make sure it was something I wanted.
“Max,” I said as the corners of my lips twitched. I wanted to kiss her and mess up that lipstick more than anything in that moment. “I know, Kitty Cat. It’s not something I want, but I want whatever will make you happy.”
“You make me happy, Anthony,” she said before she bent down and planted a light kiss on my lips.
“I love you, Max,” I whispered into her mouth as we sat in my car, parked in my parents’ driveway.
“You’re going to make me mess up my makeup,” she whispered back. “I love you too, Anthony.” She gave me a quick peck before blotting her eyes with her fingertips.
I smiled as I watched her dry her eyes without making a mess of her perfectly applied makeup. “Ready?” I asked as I glanced at the clock and realized we were five minutes early. “Or you wanna make out for a little bit?” I wiggled my eyebrows.
She slapped me on the shoulder. “We’re going in before you ruin everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
“Max, you’re even more stunning without makeup.”
“You’re a complete liar, Anthony Gallo, but thank you,” she said as she grinned and swiped her thumb across my lips. “Let’s go before I chicken out.”
“Well, we’re the first ones here, so it’s probably good to go in now. They won’t pile into the foyer to stare at you like you’re a zoo animal.”
“Oh, God,” she muttered as she grabbed her face.
“You got this, beautiful. Let’s go meet the Gallos,” I said as I climbed out of the car.
Before I could get to her side, she opened the door and stood.
“Hey,” I said. “I was going to get that for you.”
“I got it, Anthony. I’m a big girl.”
“I know,” I said, nodding. “But my mother may be watching.” I looked toward the house, trying to see if I could spot her face in the windows.
“You’re really scared of her, aren’t you?” she asked before laughing softly as she placed her hand in mine.
“No. I’m not scared of Ma. I just never want to disappoint her, Max.”
She stopped walking, pulling me back by our connected hands. “Anthony, you’re making it really hard today for me to see that asshole I met in the bar.”
I grinned as I looked down at her. “I don’t ever want to be that man again, Max.”
“I like him. He’s frisky. Bring him out every once in a while for me. He’s a freak in the sheets, and I adore the hell out of him.”
“I can do that,” I responded before brushing my thumb along her jaw line.
“Lipstick,” she reminded me.
I blew out a breath and looked toward the sky. Today would be an exercise in self-control, and I could already feel it slipping.
I reached for the door handle as Max said, “You can’t just go inside.”
I looked at her, confused. “Yeah, I can. We do it all the time. I grew up in this house. Trust me. Everyone is beyond knocking at this point.”
“Okay.” She smiled at me and gave my hand a quick squeeze.
“Here we go,” I said as I opened the door and took a step inside. “Ma! Pop!” I yelled in the foyer, and waited for them to come to us.
“Should I take my shoes off?” Max whispered as she glanced down at her feet.
“Nah. You’re a guest.”
“Anthony!” Pop called out before I heard the squeak of the recliner being righted.
Ma walked out of the kitchen, entering the foyer with her arms outstretched. “Baby,” she said, motioning for us to come to her with her fingers.
As I reached for her, she grabbed Max and wrapped her into a giant hug. I stood there watching it as it happened. I no longer was the center of attention when I walked in the door. I now had another half, one who captured my parents’ attention more than I did.