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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
Celebrate Good Times
“We’re so sad you couldn’t make it to girls’ night out last week,” Izzy told Max as we slid into the booth along the back wall.
Max smiled at Izzy. “Yeah?”
“It wasn’t the same without you,” Suzy added, sitting in a chair across from Izzy.
After Max couldn’t make it to girls’ night out because of some work event, which I found a way to skip, we decided to get together as a group. Everyone came. Max’s brother brought Brenda and all the Gallos, including James. My parents agreed to watch Gigi for the night so we could have a celebration.
On one side of the table sat Izzy, James, Denzel, Brenda, Max, and myself. In the chairs across from us were Mike, Mia, Thomas, Angel, Suzy, and Joe. Malia and Nita took opposite ends of the table for “maximum view,” as they liked to call it.
“I’m just glad Suzy could make it out again,” Max said as she brushed Suzy’s long blond hair away from her shoulder.
Max had grown close to the girls over the last months or so. They rallied around her through text messages, phone calls, and lunch while we were waiting for her results and even afterward. I could never thank them enough for everything they did to make her feel welcome and like a member of the family, especially after the results were given to us.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I swear that baby is going to be the death of me.”
“Sugar, you’re the best mother in the world,” Joe said before giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Enough of me whining, we’re here to celebrate. Champagne?” Suzy asked with raised eyebrows.
“Yes!” I said as I slammed my open palm down on the table. “Wait. Can you drink while breastfeeding?”
She laughed and shook her head. “Technically no, but I have a stock pile of breast milk saved for occasions just like this.”
“Really?” Mike asked as he blanched. “That’s just so…”
“Responsible,” Mia added before he could finish his statement.
“How does that work exactly?” I asked, trying to visualize how the milk goes from breast to bottle. “I mean, do you milk yourself by hand?”
“Oh, Jesus,” Mia said, slapping her forehead as everyone groaned.
“You are not that dense.” Thomas shook his head.
“Yo!” I yelled, pointing at myself. “I know nothing about babies. Women, yes. Breasts, yes. Milking, um, no.”
“It’s okay, Anthony.” Suzy laughed, reaching across Max to touch my hand. “There’s a machine that pumps the milk out.”
I scratched my chin, trying to picture it. “Does it look like the breast pumps I can get at Todd Couples Superstore? You know those ones you can use,” I said as I pretended to attach them to my chest, “to get your kink on while you’re eating—” A hard slap to the back of my head stopped me. I glared at Joe, knowing exactly where that hand came from.
“You’ve turned into a prude fucker, Joe,” I spat.
“Yep, they’re almost exactly like that,” Suzy replied as she swatted Joe’s arm. “Be nice to him.”
“Why?” he growled, peering down at her. “He says dumb shit.”
“He’s curious, baby.” Suzy patted his arm before looking over at me. “They aren’t as fun as the ones you’re talking about, though, Anthony. Your brother can attest to that.” Suzy broke into laughter.
“I don’t want to know, Suzy,” I said as I blanched. “I like to think of you as an angel.” I smiled as she blushed.
“What a crock of horseshit,” Izzy declared. “Suzy is one of the dirtiest bitches out there.”
“Am not,” Suzy said.
“Are too,” Mia agreed, and threw a sugar packet at Suzy.
“Izzy, shall we discuss your necklace?” Suzy asked as she raised one eyebrow and gave Izzy a cocky grin.
“No!” Izzy snapped with wide eyes.
“What’s she talking about?” Thomas asked, looking between James and Izzy.
“Nothing,” Izzy said without giving James a chance to respond.
“I’m not stupid. I know James too well,” Thomas said as he mouthed “we’re going to talk later” to James, who gave him a nod.
“Why do I always think I’m missing something?” I asked Max.
“It’s okay, babe. I’ll tell you about it later,” she whispered, and kissed my lips.
“So,” Izzy drawled, “where’s the waitress so we can get some champagne?”
Just then a woman popped up out of nowhere as if she was summoned. “What can I get y’all?” she asked as she stared at me.
I closed my eyes. It was Candy—the Candy whom I slept with more than once and regretted with every fiber of my being. She was a train wreck and I couldn’t shake her. I had to remember to scratch this place off my list.
“Anthony,” she said. “Long time no see.”
“Candy,” I replied, avoiding eye contact.
“Candy,” Max snarled, and squeezed my leg, digging her nails into my skin.
“Are we celebrating?” Candy asked.
“Yeah,” I said, and raised my eyes to meet hers. “We’re celebrating my engagement.” I smiled at her, not feeling an ounce of guilt.
Her face fell as she narrowed her eyes at me. “Well hell, just a few months ago we were—”