Without me, p.4
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       Without Me, p.4
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         Part #5 of Men of Inked series by Chelle Bliss
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  never see him again.

  I couldn’t.

  3

  Fuck Karm

  I’d like to say that we had a smooth start, Max and I. But that was the furthest thing from the truth. Nita and Malia loved me. I spent the entire night buying them drinks and dancing with each of them. Max was my goal, but I knew that friends could be amazing allies.

  Max was the best dancer in the place. I took every opportunity to rub against her and touch her exposed skin. She needed to be reminded of the sizzle we had when we touched—the thing I’d never found before and wasn’t willing to let go of so easily. She tried to play it cool and act like it had no effect on her, but I knew she felt it too. Even three weeks later, it hadn’t waned. The sting from the invisible spark hit me every time.

  After a few more glasses of wine and liquor, we stood at the bar, winded.

  “So, what do you do, Anthony?” Nita asked, shifting between her feet. Her heels were at least five inches. I didn’t know how women danced in them.

  “I have two jobs,” I replied.

  “Oh no. He’s a broke motherfucker,” Malia blurted out as she swayed.

  I laughed and shook my head. “I’m not. I’m part owner in a tattoo shop and I sing in a band during my free time.”

  “Tattoos, eh?” Nita asked as she swept her fingers across the ink on my arm. “They’ve always intrigued me.”

  “I have more than you can see.” Just the bottom of my tattoos showed on each arm because my T-shirt hid the rest.

  She smiled at me as her fingers inched up my arm and pushed the T-shirt up. “They’re so colorful.” Running her nails across my skin, she ogled my tattoos. “I want to see them all,” she whispered.

  “Down girl,” Malia said, smacking Nita’s hand away from my body. “The man didn’t come here to get pawed by you.”

  “Better me than one of the boys,” she said as she tipped her head toward a group of men watching us intently across the bar. “You be quiet, Malia.” She pushed her hand away and turned her attention back to me. “Anthony, will you show them to me?” And a smile I could only describe as naughty stretched across her face.

  “I’d have to take off my shirt.” I didn’t care that it was a gay bar, but I wasn’t sure how Max would feel about me taking off my clothes.

  She rolled her eyes at me and raised her eyebrows. “Go ahead. Give the girls a show,” she said with a snarky tone.

  “You don’t care if I take off my shirt?”

  “Why would I? I’m sure the guys would enjoy the view too. It may be the only way you get a date tonight anyway.” She smiled and pursed her lips.

  “Kitty Cat,” I whispered as I reached up and brushed my fingers on her cheek. “I plan to leave here with you on my arm and spend the night in your bed.”

  “You better keep dreaming.” Her mouth stayed void of emotion.

  “I’ll show you what dreams are made of, Kitty Cat. Tonight, you’ll find out.” I stroked her lips with the pad of my thumb.

  “It’s not happening.” She shook her head, breaking the contact.

  “Anthony,” Nita whined as she tugged on my shirtsleeve. “Let’s see the ink, my man. Put up or shut up.”

  I winked at Max and took a step back as I grabbed the back of my shirt. As I pulled it over my head, I heard a gasp but couldn’t tell whose mouth it had come out of. I could’ve sworn it had slipped out of Max’s, though.

  After the material cleared my head, I made sure to flex my muscles. Immediately, two hands touched my skin and began to feel my tattoos.

  “Ladies,” I said, trying to hold in my laughter.

  “They’re so pretty,” Malia said as she slid her fingers up my arm.

  “Fuck,” Nita groaned as she touched my SOUL tattoo. “The color is so amazing.” Her fingers dug into my flesh. “Spectacular, in fact.” She groped my pecs, squeezing them repeatedly in her hands.

  I didn’t know if she was referring to my ink or my muscles. I flexed under her touch, watching her mouth turn up into a beautiful smile.

  “Ya like?” I asked, enjoying the attention of them both.

  She nodded, glancing over her shoulder at Max. She didn’t remove her hands. “Max, get your ass over here and feel this. Damn, this man is stacked.”

  I wanted to laugh. God, did I want to, but I grinned at Max and arched my eyebrow instead. She rolled her eyes as she took a drink of her beer.

  The woman had the emotional availability of a brick wall. She might have been the female version of me. The one time I found someone I wanted to at least get to know, she shut me the hell out. Figured.

  “I’m perfectly happy just watching you two fondle him.” She faced forward, cutting off all eye contact with me.

  “Did these hurt?” Malia asked, raking her nails across my back to my other shoulder.

  “Not very much,” I said, smiling down at them before returning my attention to Max.

  Another night, this would have been the beginning of foreplay. I wouldn’t have had to work too hard to get them back to my place. But they weren’t my targets. She was ignoring me, acting unimpressed with my physique.

  Nita moved her face closer to my chest. I could feel her warm breath as it skidded across my skin.

  “Fuck,” she moaned as she felt me.

  “You said that already, Nita. He’s not that impressive,” Max shot over her shoulder.

  “Max, shut up. You haven’t felt him. He fucking is!” Nita yelled into my chest. “Hey,” she said, getting my attention. “Don’t listen to her. She hasn’t been fucked since Obama became president.”

  Nita and Malia both started to laugh.

  My eyes shot back to Max. It couldn’t be. There was no way a creature as beautiful as her hadn’t been touched in years. No fucking way. Everybody needs that connection eventually.

  Max swiveled on her stool and glared at the girls. Fuck. If looks could kill, they’d both be dead. Yikes, she gave a scary damn look. Scarier than any face I’d ever seen Izzy give me.

  “You two bitches need to shut the fuck up. You know that shit isn’t true.”

  I kept my eyes pinned to her, but she didn’t look at me. “It can’t be true,” I whispered.

  “It is,” Nita whispered. She gave me sad eyes when she spoke. Even if she was yanking Max’s chain, I could see she felt bad for her.

  Nothing made sense. I couldn’t see anything wrong with her. What the hell had I missed? In all honesty, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. And hell, my eyes had seen their fair share. Her body was smoking, with curvy hips, a lavish ass, tits that were more than a handful, flawless mocha skin, and straight black hair that grazed her ass when she walked.

  I knew I was a superficial fuckwad, but I did have a dick. Looks were the first thing I noticed on a woman.

  Maybe she had some nasty habit or was secretly a freak, and not the good kind. Either that or she was a nun in disguise. There was no way she wasn’t getting banged or at least being offered to be fucked all the time. I couldn’t have been the only one who wanted to taste her. God, did I fucking want to taste her.

  “Sir,” a male voice said, interrupting my thoughts as I stared at Max.

  I shook my head, breaking myself from the trance. A tall and very burly man walked between Max and me and stood behind Nita.

  “You’re going to have to put your shirt back on. We have a strict nudity policy, and it’s becoming a disturbance.”

  I knew my face was something like “what the fuck” as I started to scan the room. Sets of eyes throughout the club were on me, watching as I gave two out of the three females a skin show. I wasn’t nude, but gay or not, I’d end up hurting tomorrow if I fought the guy over a shirt.

  “Not a problem. I’m sorry, man,” I said as I began to lift the shirt over my head. Then I caught a glimpse of Max laughing behind the bouncer and sighed. It hadn’t gone exactly as I had planned when I’d decided to bare my body to her.

  The one thing about me, thou
gh, was that I never gave up.

  “You’re such a buzzkill, Donovan. I swear. Finally, a hot straight man is in this place and you want him to put his clothes on,” Malia whined as she walked passed me and bumped into Donovan.

  He stood stock-still, unaffected by the contact. “Sorry, darling. Rules are rules.” He shrugged.

  As I slid my T-shirt on, I heard a series of groans and boos in the club. Malia and Nita weren’t the only ones upset that I was asked to cover up. I bowed and blew kisses to the crowd. Fuck, I’d take any catcall—even those from other men.

  “You’re a hit, Anthony,” Malia declared as she clapped her hands.

  As I stood beside Max, I said, “I wonder what they’d do if I showed them my most impressive asset?”

  Instead, she gawked at me. I thrust my crotch in her direction, which caught her attention before her mouth snapped closed.

  “You’re an asshole and a pig,” Max muttered as she ran her hands down her face.

  “I caught ya lookin’. You know you want to see it too.” I gave her my “I want to fuck you” smirk, knowing my dimple most likely was showing. It was my lady-killer, and it had caused more squeals over the years than a slice of chocolate cake.

  “I do. I do,” Nita interrupted as she raised her hand and waved it in the air.

  “Nita, really. Can’t you see the way he looks at Max?” Malia elbowed Nita in the side.

  I kept staring at Max. I heard Nita and Malia as they spoke, but paid them no attention. She eyeballed me as I continued to smirk at her while running my tongue along my lips. If I hadn’t known better, I’d swear a corner of her mouth twitched.

  “Another drink?” I asked, figuring the only way I’d get into her bed, besides with my charm, was with lots of liquor. It needed to be enough to get her to drop her guard—or to at least find a kink in her armor.

  Her face remained impartial as she replied, “Sure.”

  Victory was mine.

  I felt it, and I sure as fuck wanted to taste it—taste her—tonight.

  “I’ll be right back.” I headed down to the other end of the bar, unwilling to wait for the bartender. “Hey,” I said to him as he reached into the beer cooler and glanced up at me.

  “What can I get you, man?” He smiled as his eyes raked over my body.

  “Another round for the ladies and me, please.” I reached into my back pocket and slid thirty dollars across the bar.

  “Coming right up.” Giving me a quick nod, he pulled the money toward him.

  I stood there for a moment, watching the girls as they chatted. They kept glancing at me as Nita and Malia stood in front of Max. It looked like they were lecturing her. Hands and arms waved between Max and me as they talked. Ready to rescue Max, I raced to her side.

  “Ladies, drinks are on their way,” I interrupted, peering down at Max. “Want to dance?” I’d have used any excuse to get close to her, to feel her on me, even if it was only on the dance floor.

  “Yes,” she sighed as she rose to her feet and snarled at Nita and Malia.

  “That looked a little intense.” I reached out, grabbing her hand in a tight grip as she tried to lurch away. “I’m just walking you to the dance floor. Don’t make a big deal out of everything, Max.”

  “I don’t like it,” she replied, trying to jerk her hand from mine.

  “What’s with you and the bullshit?”

  Her mouth dropped open as the words left my lips. “I don’t—”

  “We’re done talking,” I said as I gripped her waist and pulled her toward me. She felt so fucking amazing.

  Her mouth formed an O as my hands slid down her back and gripped her ass. Her body tensed in my arms as she stared up at me.

  “Anthony.”

  “No,” I said with firmness. I wasn’t going to let her ruin this moment.

  She needed to stop thinking and just feel. The electricity from earlier had returned. It hadn’t been lost entirely, still crackling between us throughout the night. Touching her brought it to the front, reminding me of the reason I had been drawn to her in the first place. Pussy always had my attention, at least for a short time. Max had that unknown quality, the mystery drawing me in and consuming my thoughts.

  I thought that, if I had her at least once, the feeling would wane. I just needed a taste to discharge the electric current that passed between us and then I’d be cured. She was a phase, just like the other women in my life.

  As my body rubbed against her, the skin of our arms touching, the spark ignited. Our bodies moved together, finding the rhythm of the music, and slowly, her body wilted in my arms. She snaked her arms behind my neck as I drew her closer to my body. Without an inch between us, I brought my lips to hers.

  “Tell me you don’t want me, Max,” I said, knowing she couldn’t deny whatever this was between us.

  Her lips parted as she stared into my eyes.

  “Tell me you don’t feel that.” I brushed my lips across hers before pulling away.

  “What?” she asked with an airy voice.

  “Your body betrays you,” I said on her mouth. “I can feel your heart pounding in your chest.”

  “You don’t,” she said as she dug her fingers into the back of my hair.

  I drew her bottom lip into my mouth. She tasted better than I remembered. There wasn’t an inch of her body I didn’t want to sample. As I backed away, I released her lip.

  “I do,” I growled.

  She stopped arguing and let her body move with mine. I nuzzled my face into her neck; I breathed her in, memorizing the scent.

  Nothing else mattered in this moment.

  The world melted away as I held her in my arms.

  We swayed and stared into each other’s eyes. Her face softened, giving me a glimmer of hope. I finally felt like I had a chance with her. All I wanted was for her to give me a shot, and in that moment, I knew it could happen.

  “Max,” I whispered as I pressed my lips to her ear.

  My hands wandered from her ass to her back. With one hand on the small of her back and the other cradling her spine, I dipped her. With her neck fully exposed, I dragged my lips down her skin. The softness of her flesh and the hint of perfume drove me mad as I pressed my mouth to her skin to feel her pulse. It thundered beneath my lips, keeping time with the music. Her heart beat in perfect cadence with the rhythm, matching the flutter of mine.

  I’d like to say that my dick ached to be inside her, but it was more than that. As I started to fall down the slippery slope of evaluating what in the fuck was happening to my mind, she grabbed my shoulders and pulled herself up. When her lips connected with mine, the thoughts that had started to creep in vanished.

  As I held her to me, I returned her kiss with greater ferocity than I had before. Maybe I’d had too many drinks, and quite possibly, so had she, but the sizzle we’d had weeks ago now felt like a volcano ready to erupt.

  “Max,” I moaned into her mouth, overcome by the need I felt for her. It wasn’t like I’d never felt need before, but not to the extent I did with her.

  Our first kiss had consumed me. Never had I chased anyone before. Ybor City wasn’t my usual stomping ground except for when I played gigs, yet I’d found myself there numerous times over the last few weeks.

  I hadn’t dared tell anyone. I spent years making fun of my siblings for being pussy-whipped. The one thing they had achieved that I hadn’t was sampling the goods before having their thoughts dominated by another human being.

  I’d only had a taste. One simple kiss had sent me into a tizzy.

  As I devoured her mouth, tangling my tongue with hers, I had two options. I could excuse myself and fuck the first piece of ass I could find tonight. There was a possibility that it could cure me. It would be the coward’s way of dealing with the feelings that lurked in my subconscious. Or I could do what I had come here for—conquer Max and put her out of my system forever.

  When the music stopped, our bodies slowly came to a stop. As we stilled, the kiss g
rew deeper. My mind had been made. I’d dive right in and fuck her brains out. Based on what her friends had said, she needed me as badly as I needed her.

  “Let me take you home,” I murmured as I lingered over her lips.

  Her harsh breathing skidded across my face as she contemplated my words. She blinked twice before she replied. “Okay,” she whispered as her body swayed in my arms.

  I wouldn’t give her the chance to change her mind. I released her from my hold, touching her on the small of her back, and headed toward Nita and Malia. As we approached, I could see the giant grins on their faces. They beamed with excitement as I winked at them.

  “Ladies,” I said as we reached them, my arm still behind Max. “I’m going to walk Max home.”

  “Yes!” Malia squealed, bouncing a little bit on her stool. “You do that. She needs to be ‘taken’ home.” She made air quotes.

  “Have fun,” Nita said, elbowing Malia in the ribs.

  The entire time, Max stood silent, giving her friends a sloppy grin.

  “I think she’s drunk,” I said, wondering if I was an asshole. Tomorrow, would she think I had taken advantage of her in her inebriated state? I didn’t want to be that guy. I’d never had to be, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to start now.

  “Anthony,” Malia said, beckoning me with her index finger.

  I moved in close, placing my ear next to her mouth.

  “She’s not as drunk as you’d think. Max can out-drink most people on this planet. Let her think you think she’s drunk. If she’s willing to let you take her home, don’t let her change her mind. She needs what you’re offering.”

  I laughed, backing away as I caught Nita and Max whispering back and forth as they glanced at me.

  “Got it,” I said, nodding at Malia. “Ready?” I asked as I turned toward Max, grabbing her waist. I wasn’t going to let her escape.

  “Yeah,” she answered with glassy eyes and a smirk on her face.

  I let Max lead the way, following her movements as we strolled down Seventh Avenue. We walked in silence, nodding at the passersby, focused on our final destination.

  When we arrived, I stayed behind her as she unlocked the door. The neighborhood was quiet and only blocks from the center of Ybor. She hadn’t lied: the night I met her at the Ritz she said it was the closest bar to her house. I didn’t know if it was fate or God’s way of fucking with me. He liked to do that from time to time. The fact that she hadn’t gone next door to the King Corona that night could’ve been a cruel joke if I hadn’t found her again.

  As she entered the house, she held the door open for me to join her. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked as she turned the light on and sagged into the front door.

  I shook my head. The only thing I wanted in my mouth was her. Every inch of her body needed to be sampled, dirtied, and devoured. I couldn’t wait another minute to touch her. Fuck, if I waited too long, she could change her mind.

  I charged, pushing her body into the door. As I molded to her, I rubbed my denim-covered dick into her abdomen. Smothering her lips, I couldn’t resist her any longer. The walk had been torture, but standing in her home made me impatient. I had always been the type to take what I wanted without waiting. Some would think it was a weakness, but it had always worked in my favor.

  Her hands drifted underneath my T-shirt. As they glided up my sides, leaving a burning sensation in their wake, I hissed, feeling the sizzle as our flesh connected. She panted as she dug her fingernails into my skin. Her touch branded me. Even when her fingers had moved, the feel of her still lingered, creating a smoldering trail.

  I placed my hand on her ribs, feeling the heat emanating from her body, matching my own. The thin fabric of her top did nothing to mask the need that seeped from her body.

  “Do you like this shirt?” I asked. I didn’t want to take the time to slowly undress her. If I gave her a chance to think too much, she might change her mind.

  “Eh,” she mumbled into my mouth.

 
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