Without me, p.2
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       Without Me, p.2
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         Part #5 of Men of Inked series by Chelle Bliss
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  “I’m not done with you.” It wasn’t the best line I’d ever given, but I had been thrown by the unexpected zing I’d felt when touching her.

  “Well, I’m done with you.”

  But the funny thing is, she didn’t pull away. When a woman was truly not interested, they’d try to get away or slap me in the face. It had happened once. Only one time in my life had a woman turned me down. I chalked it up to the fact that she was probably into pussy more than cock. Why else would she have said no?

  “No, you’re not.” I brought my lips within an inch of hers. “You know you’re not. Don’t you feel it?”

  “You’re delusional as well as an asshole.” Her eyes sparkled. The hint of possibility wasn’t lost on me.

  I tightened my grip, but not enough to hurt her. Then I pulled her close enough that I could feel her breath on my face. “Tell me you don’t feel it?”

  “I don’t.” She glared at me and lied through her fucking teeth.

  “Why aren’t you pulling away then, Kitty?” I asked, knowing she felt it every bit as much as I did. I didn’t want to be with another human being on this planet, and I’d bet neither did she.

  As soon as I asked, she tried to tug her arm away, but I kept my hold on her. She didn’t make me believe she meant it.

  “I don’t know how you’ll react if I do.”

  “Liar,” I teased, releasing her wrist but keeping my body close. “Let me buy you one more drink, and if you still think I’m an asshole, I’ll leave you alone forever.”

  She didn’t answer right away, looking between the door and me. When her eyes locked on to mine, she finally answered, “Okay. If that’s what it takes to get you to leave me alone forever.” Then she shrugged, set her purse back on the bar, and sat down on the stool. Raising her hand, she motioned to the bartender, holding up two fingers.

  She wasn’t going to make it easy on me. I’d have to work for it. My mother always told me that the best things in life needed to be earned and not given.

  “So, what do you do, Kitty?” I asked, genuinely interested in more than her body. I wanted to know the woman. What made her tick? More importantly, why was she so damn pissy when it came to me?

  “I’m a personal stylist,” she replied, keeping her eyes focused on the bartender.

  “So, like, you pick out clothes for other people?” I asked, surprised at her answer. It wasn’t that she didn’t look the part, but jeans and a T-shirt weren’t the attire I’d think a stylist would be caught dead in.

  “Yes. I help with their entire look.”

  As the drinks were set in front of us, I slid a twenty across the bar and settled the bill. “You shop for a living?”

  “Yes,” she answered as she lifted her drink.

  I’d hoped for more than curt answers, but felt that nothing would be easy. Maybe the more liquor I got into her system, the easier it would all become.

  I must’ve looked surprised, because she asked, “Shocked?”

  I tilted my head and studied her. “Not entirely. You have the look of a fashionista, but I wouldn’t expect you to be caught dead in jeans.”

  “Fashionista? I hate that word.” She raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re not gay, Tony?”

  I closed my eyes, and inhaled before opening them. I wouldn’t let her get me worked up. She was baiting me, and if I weren’t careful, she’d accomplish her goal.

  “Honey, if you give me the chance, I’ll prove how wrong that question is.”

  She chuckled. A full-on laugh bubbled out of her as she tipped her head back. The sound was magical. When she let her guard down and showed happiness, she was even more beautiful.

  “In your dreams.”

  “I think you’re the one who’s gay, Kitty Cat. Maybe you prefer the purr over a good prick any day.”

  “You couldn’t be more wrong. I love a beautiful cock more than most women, but I don’t like the ones that are attached to an asshole.”

  “You wound me,” I said, laying my hand across my chest. “You don’t even know me.”

  “I’ve known many guys like you. You think you’re entitled to everything. You get what you want. Girls fall at your feet. You’ve spent your life drowning in pussy and throwing women away like trash.”

  I took a heavy gulp of my Grand Marnier and thought about her response. In all honesty, she wasn’t wrong. Would I admit that to her? Fuck no!

  “I’ve never thrown a woman away like a piece of trash.”

  “Uh huh,” she snorted as she crossed her legs.

  Out of nowhere, I heard a voice call my name. Fuck. Now wasn’t the time for Candy to have found me. Candy wasn’t the best example of how I treated women. She had never been my girlfriend, but I had fucked her a couple of times over the last year. I’d say that it was a lack of judgment or maybe too much alcohol, but the girl sucked a mean dick.

  “Anthony,” she sang as she sauntered up to us.

  I closed my eyes, praying that I had imagined her. When I felt her fingers tangle in my hair, I froze.

  “Anthony, I’ve been looking for you. Where ya been?” Her finger traced my ear.

  As I opened my eyes, I saw the cocky “I was so fucking right about you” look on Kitty’s face.

  I pulled Candy’s hand away from my face and pushed her backward. “Candy, I’m busy right now.”

  “But baby,” she whined, as she zeroed in on Kitty, “I thought we were going to spend the night together.”

  I shook my head and let go of my grip on her. “No, Candy. We’re not. I told you that last time. You need to move on.”

  “But,” she repeated as her mouth gaped open.

  “Move along, Candy. I’m sure one of the other guys would love to spend some time with you,” I said, trying to get her to leave me the fuck alone and find a new victim.

  “I don’t want them, though. They’re not as much fun as you.” She pouted, clutching her hands in front of her as she stared at the ground.

  “Candy, I said no. I’m busy here with Kitty. Can you please excuse us?” Hey, I had tried to be nice, but I thought I’d just gotten a check mark for being a total dick.

  When I glanced at Kitty, she was grinning and giving me the “I told ya so” look. For fuck’s sake, Candy had ruined any headway I’d made.

  “You’re a total asshole, Anthony Gallo. Your voice sounded like shit tonight. I’m going to find someone with a dick bigger than a hot dog. You suck,” she hissed before she stormed off.

  At that point, Kitty broke into hysterics. She covered her face with her hands and laughed and laughed.

  “Hardy, har, har, Kitty,” I said, joining in on the laughter.

  It was my curse in life that shit happened at the most inopportune time. Candy was the perfect case in point.

  “She proved my point perfectly. You are an asshole.” She chuckled harder, enjoying herself and my misery.

  “You’re wrong about me. I’ve been a jerk, but if I were a true asshole, I would’ve gone with Candy and left you here at the bar.”

  Her laughter faltered at my response. In the old days, or maybe yesterday, I would’ve walked off with Candy. I would’ve taken her backstage, let her suck me off, and walked away a happy man.

  “Well, you should’ve gone with her. She seems like a sure thing. I’m just trying to get through the next ten minutes and then I’m out. Forever.” She smiled, wiping the tears that had formed in her eyes.

  “You’ll change your mind, Kitty Cat.” I smiled, moving the stool closer to her and sitting. “So, tell me why you’re so cold?”

  “I’m not cold,” she said as she squared her shoulders in a defensive posture.

  “Yes, you are. Why do you hate me so much?”

  “I told you already. I’ve known too many men like you.”

  “Maybe I’m different. Maybe I want to know you. You may be the one who changes my view on women.”

  “That’s never going to happen. I’m not the one.” She shook her head and let her bo
dy relax.

  “Kitty, throw me a bone here, woman. I’ve never had to try so hard before. Really, why do you hate me?”

  “I don’t hate you. I just don’t have time for you, Tony.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean? You’re too busy with your career to fit me in?”

  “I don’t have time in my life in general to fit you in. I don’t need the complication in my life. I have enough shit to deal with to listen to your bullshit for more than ten minutes. Life is too short to waste on relationships and men.”

  “Whoa. Wait a minute. I never said anything about a relationship. Maybe we can be friends?”

  “Not going to happen.”

  “Why not?” I asked. I mean, what the fuck? Why couldn’t we be friends? In my version of friendship, I’d have her out of her panties, which I was sure were lace, in less than thirty minutes.

  “I have enough friends. I don’t need more.”

  “Everybody could use more friends.”

  “I’m sure Candy could use one right now,” she sneered.

  “Fuck Candy.”

  “You have.” She burst into laughter again.

  “Smartass,” I growled.

  I brushed my fingertips down the top of her arm. Her skin did feel like silk. My eyes hadn’t betrayed me. Now that my hands were satisfied, I wanted to run my tongue along it and see if it tasted as I had imagined. It had to. It fucking had to.

  “What are you doing?” she asked as she looked down at my hand, which was still touching hers as goose bumps covered her skin.

  “Confirming something.”

  “And that would be?”

  “Seeing if you felt it too.”

  “I don’t know what you mean.”

  As my hand moved back up her arm, I grazed her breast. She sucked in a breath. I had her. She could deny it all she wanted, but she wanted me. All the sass and bullshit coming out of her mouth was just talk. Her body couldn’t hide what she truly felt.

  “Kitty,” I whispered, moving my face closer to hers. “Tell me you don’t feel it.”

  “I don’t,” she replied, her eyes growing wider the closer I got.

  “You don’t?” I asked as I hovered over her lips.

  “I don’t.”

  I gave her a quick kiss.

  “And this?” I asked as I gave her another peck. “Or that?”

  The third time I placed my lips on hers, I kept them there. Her breathing changed as her mouth molded to mine. After sliding my hand up her arm, I held her neck and swiped my thumb along her jaw line.

  The taste of the alcohol on her lips mixed with her gloss made my mouth water. Maybe it was all in my head, but I wanted her more than I had ever wanted another thing in my life. I licked at the seam of her lips as she kissed me, begging for entrance. Surprisingly, she accepted, parting her lips and allowing entry.

  The tiny victory made me happy. Out of all of my previous conquests, none of them had given me a greater sense of satisfaction than that moment with Kitty.

  When she finally touched me, resting her hand on my forearm, I felt the spark ignite something inside me. The kiss had sizzled, but another connection, her reciprocating my touch, caused a detonation of tiny shocks across my entire body.

  I had to have her.

  I wouldn’t accept no for an answer.

  Nothing would make me stop until I had her at least once.

  As she squeezed my arm, my cock roared to life. The ache grew unbearable with each swipe of my tongue and her grip on my arm. When I finally pulled my mouth away from hers, she whispered, “Fuck.”

  My work here was done. Even though she thought I was an asshole, she felt it too. She couldn’t deny it any longer. Her mouth could move, but she’d be feeding me lines of bullshit.

  “You felt it.” I smiled, keeping my hand on her neck.

  She didn’t try to detach herself from me as her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me—really looked at me. For the first time tonight, her eyes were soft.

  “I can’t,” she replied, and averted her eyes.

  “Kitty, you can’t say that after what you just felt, what I just felt.” I shook my head, tightening my grip on her neck. “I’ve never experienced that before with anyone. You can’t shut me out.”

  Her hand moved away from my arm like I had just burned her. “I just can’t.” She pushed on my chest with both hands, trying to put distance between us.

  “Why not?” I asked, ready to argue the point. I wasn’t going to allow her to give up that easily.

  “Let me go,” she demanded, shoving me away.

  “Kitty,” I begged, trying to keep our connection. “Please.”

  “Get your hands off my damn sister!” a deep voice yelled from behind her.

  I froze and peered over her shoulder. Fuck. Just what I didn’t need. A brother. A big brother. A brother brother. Not like “hey, man, this is my brother,” but “hey, this is my big-ass brother and he’s going to kick your white-boy ass.”

  Goddamn it.

  “I’m not going to say it again. Get your hands off Maxine. She asked you nicely to let her go, but I’m not going to be so damn kind.”

  “Maxine?” I asked, finally learning her name, although it wasn’t the way I had wanted to hear it.

  “Please let me go,” she insisted with tears in her eyes.

  I stared at her, not liking that I had caused her distress. “Okay, man, but only because she asked and not you.” I released my hand, letting her move away.

  She scurried out of my reach.

  “Let’s get you home, Max,” he said to her.

  Max. She had a tough name. It fit her perfectly. This couldn’t be the end. I didn’t want it to be. There was no way in hell I’d let her out of here without at least getting her phone number.

  “Max,” I said, holding out my hand to her. “See me again?”

  Before she could answer, her brother stepped between us. He was at least six inches taller than I was. He was a beast. He’d give any of my brothers a run for their money, but I’d never been a pussy. I never backed down from a fight. Hell, I’d thrown punches over small shit. Max was worth the risk.

  “She doesn’t want anything to do with you,” he stated as he stared down at me.

  “I think she can answer for herself,” I replied, moving into his personal space.

  “Denzel,” she said, placing her hand on his arm. “Let’s just go.”

  “Wait!” I yelled, not ready to say goodbye.

  “Come on, Max. This fool isn’t worth your time and I don’t feel like spending the night in jail again for assault.”

  Fuck me.

  If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was a Gallo. Although I wanted to fight him just to show that I was worthy, I knew it wasn’t the way. If some dickhead was fucking with Izzy, getting in a fistfight with any of my brothers wasn’t the way to win her heart. I couldn’t let my temper and need for her cloud my judgment.

  “I’m ready,” she said as she reached for her purse.

  I clenched my hands at my sides, and it took everything in me not to reach out to her.

  Without another word, Max and Denzel turned and headed for the door.

  “Turn and look at me,” I repeated over and over as I watched her stroll toward the exit. I held my breath, waiting for it.

  Before she disappeared through the doorway, she turned and gave me one quick glance before vanishing in the shadow of her brother.

  I sucked in a breath, feeling like I’d been hit by a ton of bricks. Never in my life had I experienced something so powerful. To have it ripped away from me so fast and without any warning hurt like hell.

  This wasn’t the end.

  It couldn’t be.

  I wouldn’t give up on finding her again.

  I needed to know her.

  I craved her.

  The feel of her skin, the way her mouth tasted—they’d left me wanting more. And I never gave up on something I wanted. Not without a fight.

/>   2

  Evade and Capture

  I spent the next two Friday nights at the Ritz hoping to run into Max. Instead, I ran into Candy.

  Again, I explained to her that I wasn’t interested. If Maxine walked in and saw me with Candy, everything would be shot to hell. Candy was a persistent little thing, but I did my best to rid myself of her.

  On the third Friday night, I finished my drink and headed for the door. It was another night wasted, ending in failure. Tucking my hands in my pockets, I walked down the sidewalk toward the parking garage. Ybor City was busier than normal tonight. People lined the streets, filling the tiny café tables outside. The lights over the street twinkled, and there was energy to the area I’d often missed after a night of playing a gig. Usually, by the time I walked out of the Ritz, the only thing I cared about was getting home. I didn’t stop to take in my surroundings.

  As I walked by the Corona King, something made me stop. When I turned toward the tables, I saw her.

  Maxine was sitting toward the back, near the doors, nursing a beer. She didn’t see me as she was typing on her phone, oblivious to the world.

  Staying out of her line of sight, I walked the outside edge of the tables and headed straight for her. It might have been my only chance to talk to her again. I wasn’t going to let it slip past me.

  She didn’t notice my approach or that I stood behind her, watching her movements. Tonight, she wasn’t wearing a T-shirt—she had opted for jeans, heels, and a white off-the-shoulder top with lace sleeves. Her black, pin-straight hair was pulled back into a low ponytail that trailed down her back. She simply looked stunning, more beautiful than I remembered.

  “Is this seat taken?”

  Her body stilled, the furious typing on her screen ceasing. “It’s taken,” she replied without even a glance.

  “What about the other two chairs at the table?” I wouldn’t give up that easily. I knew stubborn women, and eventually, I could wear away their steely veneer.

  “Those are too.” She started to type on her phone again, pretending I wasn’t there.

  “When your friends get here, I’ll get up,” I said as I pulled out the chair and made myself comfortable.

 
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