Without me, p.7
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       Without Me, p.7
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         Part #5 of Men of Inked series by Chelle Bliss
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  I viewed Malia’s profile page, but it was private. I pressed every button, hoping to find Max, but everything was blocked. The only choice I had was to send her a message and hope she didn’t ignore me.

  The cursor blinked at me as the screen read Type a message while I thought about what I wanted to type. If she ignored me, I didn’t know what I’d fucking do. My mind was already fucked up, and every minute had been consumed by thoughts of Max.

  Very slowly, I started to type the message. Then I kept erasing the dumb shit I had written. My words sounded like I was desperate. After another message and a quick erase, I set my phone down and stared out the sliding glass door into my parents’ lanai. I needed to stop being a pussy and just send something or I’d kick myself later.

  Malia, it’s Anthony, Max’s friend. Well, she wouldn’t call me that, but since I fucked her, I thought it fit.

  I erased the message again. Then I shook my head and felt like an idiot. I mean, what the hell do you say when you’re trying to track someone down through another person?

  Malia, hey. I looked for you ladies last weekend in Ybor but couldn’t find you. How are you?

  Just when I started to erase the message, Izzy walked in.

  “Hey!” she yelled.

  I jumped, hitting send by accident. Oh no. No. No. No.

  That wasn’t the message I’d wanted to send. I sounded like an idiot.

  “Fuck!” I hissed as I shot a glare at Izzy. “Why the fuck did you have to scare me to death? Shit!”

  “What’s your problem today?” She sat down on the floor in front of me. She crossed her legs, sat Indian-style, and stared. “Tell me,” she demanded.

  I blew out a long breath of air and silently debated if I should tell her. Maybe she’d be able to give me some insight. More than likely, I’d get some shitty comments before she finally had some real advice.

  “Are they almost done in there?” I asked, glancing toward the dining room.

  She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Nope. Suzy’s still eating and everyone is talking.” She exhaled, blowing her bangs in the air.

  “James?”

  “Him too. He’s talking to Joe about some shit.”

  “Fine. I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell anyone, Izzy. Not a soul. Understand?”

  She rubbed her hands together and said, “Ooooh, okay,” as she grinned.

  “Seriously, Iz. No one.”

  She nodded and set her lips in a firm line. “Lips are sealed.” She ran her fingers across her lips, pretending to zip them, and tossed the imaginary key over her shoulder.

  “I met someone,” I said, closing my eyes as I felt my face flush.

  “Oh my God,” she whispered, scooting across the carpet to sit at my feet.

  I hung my head. “It’s not what you think.”

  “I’m not thinking anything,” she replied as she touched my leg. “What happened?”

  I raised my head enough to look her in the eyes. “I met this amazing girl. We had sex and she kicked me out the next morning.”

  She burst out laughing. “I’m sorry.” She waved her hands in the air and fell backward. “Wait.” Her laughter grew loud. “Someone treated you the way you have treated women for years.” Her hands slapped the carpet with a dull thud.

  “Izzy. Be serious.”

  “I am. Oh God.” She kicked her legs, stomping them on the floor. “Anth, look at it from my perspective. That’s some funny shit.”

  I gritted my teeth, not finding the humor in the situation. “Fuck you. I knew you couldn’t listen without being a jackass.”

  Her body stilled as she tried to catch her breath. Wiping the tears of laughter from her face, she sat up. “I’m sorry,” she said, trying to stop the giggle that was at the tip of her tongue from escaping. “I never thought I’d hear you complain about being treated poorly.”

  “Izzy, don’t give me your Nora Roberts bullshit. I know how you treated men. They were a piece of meat to you too. Flash ring a bell?” I asked with a “choke on that” smirk.

  “Shhh,” she whispered, putting her index finger up to her mouth. Her eyes slid to the dining room. “Don’t mention him when James is here. The man goes apeshit.”

  “See what I mean?” I asked, leaning back in my chair and shaking my leg.

  “Fine. I’m really sorry.” The smile that had been on her face moments ago vanished. “Tell me what happened?”

  “I can’t find her.”

  “You didn’t even get her number?” she asked.

  “No.” It was so unlike me, too. It wasn’t that I wanted to see the women again, but it was always good to have a way to contact them. You know, in case they had that deep-throat, never-choke quality I looked for in a woman.

  She sat up on her knees and reached toward my head. “Are you sick?” she asked as she pressed her palm to my forehead.

  I knocked her hand away. “I’m fine. Stop with your shit.”

  “So, what did I just interrupt if you don’t have her number?” She raised an eyebrow as she pursed her lips.

  The last thing I wanted to admit was that I had been cyber-stalking the girl.

  “I found one of her friends on Facebook and sent her a message.”

  “You didn’t.” Izzy’s hands covered her face as she shook her head back and forth. “Say it isn’t so. You did not stoop to that level. Not Anthony Gallo.”

  “He didn’t what?” James asked as he walked in the room.

  I shot her a look, pleading with her not to tell him.

  “Nothing, James.” She smiled up at him.

  From the look on his face, I’d say he didn’t buy it.

  “It sounded pretty juicy.”

  “What sounded juicy?” Joe asked from behind James.

  “Nothing,” I grumbled before dragging in a breath. If I made it through the rest of the day without blowing a gasket, it would be a freaking miracle.

  “What’s the score?” Pop asked as he sat down.

  “I don’t know. I haven’t been paying attention,” I replied as I grabbed my phone, hoping to see a reply from Malia.

  Nothing. She hadn’t even seen my message. Most likely, it had landed in her other folder since we weren’t friends. She’d probably never see it. It would sit there in message purgatory for eternity while I hopelessly searched for Max.

  Everyone fell into the usual routine. They bullshitted about life and cursed at the Cubs. I sat there with my messages open and stared, waiting for it to say read. I tried to pay attention to the game, but I couldn’t. I wanted to find Max more than I cared if the loser Cubs won a single game during the current losing season.

  When I left my parents that night, Malia still hadn’t responded. The first song I heard was “I Won’t Give Up,” and I slammed my palm down on the steering wheel.

  I hit number two on the radio, looking for relief from the mushy song shit. Just my fucking luck that “Stolen Dance” filled the car. For the love of God, even Karma couldn’t be this cruel. Instead of trying a third radio station, I turned it off and headed home in silence.

  If Malia didn’t message me by the morning, I’d send her another message. One that was smoother and sounded more like me. The one I’d sent by accident was none of the above. If I needed to, maybe I could track Malia down by her profile. I bet she was the type to list her place of work or at least check in at the places she frequented. Either way, I wouldn’t give up until I found one of her friends who would lead me to her.

  “What the fuck is wrong with me?” I said to myself as I pulled in the driveway. “She’s just another pussy. Nothing more.”

  I tried like hell to convince myself that I meant those words.

  “Yeah, and a bitch at that.” I nodded as I turned off the car. “You don’t need her,” I whispered as I unlocked the door and walked inside.

  Maybe I just needed to fuck someone else to get her out of my system. It had been a month and I hadn’t screwed anyone besides her. I’d never gone this long
without pussy.

  Never.

  It wasn’t my style. I had a large sexual appetite, but over the last couple of weeks, my hand had gotten a lot of use.

  “Fuck it!” I yelled, and did the only thing I felt would be right. I picked up my phone and texted Candy.

  Me: Want a piece?

  I’d never treated her like a lady. Candy liked being treated like a dirty slut. I liked it that way too. We both got something out of it.

  Candy: YES! OMG. When?!?!

  Candy was uncomplicated. I smiled as I looked at my watch. It was only seven, so the night was young. Maybe if I banged her for a couple of hours, I could rid my system of Max.

  Me: Now. I’ll come to you.

  I’d never had her to my house. It was my sanctuary. I wasn’t saying that I’d never brought a woman home, but Candy was crazy. There was good crazy and bad crazy. She landed somewhere in the middle. Definitely not the type you’d want to give your address to, because there was a high probability she’d show up at your door uninvited late at night.

  I grabbed my keys, headed for the door, and went for a piece of ass. Candy would do the trick. She’d feed my sugar fix and wipe Max from my mind.

  Right?

  5

  What the Fuck Did I Do?

  As soon as I opened my eyes, I thought, I didn’t. Right in front of me was Candy, sprawled out and naked. I wish I could say that alcohol had made me do it and I weren’t responsible for my actions.

  That would have been the easy way out and a complete and total lie.

  I covered my eyes, hoping that, when I looked again, she’d be gone and I’d be in my own bed. Slowly, I peeked through my fingers, but it hadn’t worked.

  “Fuck,” I mumbled, trying to slide out of the bed without waking her.

  “Please,” she muttered into the pillow.

  This was where my luck was headed. First, I met someone I actually wanted to get to know, but she threw me the fuck out. Then I fucked someone I didn’t want to know, but she didn’t want me to leave.

  “I gotta go,” I said as I rolled off the bed, barely landing on my feet.

  “Why are you in such a hurry? It’s early,” she said in a sleepy voice as she rubbed her eyes.

  “I have a business meeting,” I lied as I plucked my pants off the floor next to the bed and slid them on. “Thanks for last night, Candy. It was great.”

  “That’s all I get. No kiss goodbye? When can I see you again, Anthony?” She stretched out, giving me a full view of her pussy.

  I turned, trying to avoid seeing her body. Last night, I’d seen it all. Hell, I’d touched and tasted it too.

  The one thing I’d wanted out of last night was to forget Max. My plan hadn’t worked. She’d found her way into my dreams, haunting me after I’d fucked Candy.

  “I’m late,” I said as I grabbed my shirt.

  “I want to see you again,” she begged.

  “I’ll call you. Don’t call me,” I replied as I walked out the door.

  “You’re a fucker, Anthony!” she yelled before something hit the wall with a loud clatter and shattered upon impact.

  What the fuck ever. We all had our roles, and she knew what hers was. For a moment, guilt crept in. I knew what it felt like to want more and be denied now.

  I showered, brushed my teeth, and collapsed in bed thirty minutes after leaving Candy’s place. I tried to rid my system of any memory of her. It was only eight in the morning, not a time of day I normally found myself awake.

  I hadn’t checked my phone in hours. All I’d cared about was getting home and washing up. As I lay in bed, staring at my ceiling, I wondered if Malia had read my message. I wanted to know. Then again, if she hadn’t, I’d make myself crazy.

  Temptation got the better of me and I checked my messages. To my total shock, there was a reply from her. My heart started to pound in my chest as excitement coursed through my system. I couldn’t see but a few words of her response.

  My finger hovered over the message and I froze. If she had told me to fuck off, I’d be livid. Even if she didn’t want to tell me about Max, I wouldn’t give up. I sucked in air, holding it in my lungs as I pressed the screen and opened her response.

  Malia: Hey handsome. We didn’t go out last weekend. Max didn’t feel like it and we didn’t push her.

  She had replied an hour ago. If I hadn’t spent the night drowning my sorrows in a pussy I didn’t want, I would’ve seen it sooner.

  I wasted no time in replying.

  Me: Is she sick?

  There was something about her message that didn’t feel right. Before I closed the app, the message changed to read and she started to reply.

  I sighed, feeling relieved. Maybe things were looking up.

  Malia: No. She just wasn’t in the mood.

  I stared at the screen and wondered if I’d had anything to do with how she’d felt. Could she feel like I did even though she had thrown me out of her house?

  Me: Oh.

  A moment of joy surged through me. It probably wasn’t the right emotion to feel, but thinking of her in as much misery as I felt brought me a bit of relief.

  Me: So I was wondering…

  I didn’t finish the message, but I hit send anyway. I felt like a stalker and wondered how Malia would respond.

  Malia: She’s talked about you

  I blinked a couple of times, staring at the screen. A rush of adrenaline coursed through my veins. She had talked about me. I knew that women talked, but I hadn’t thought Max was the type to share the details of what happened.

  But maybe the things she’d said weren’t good. I closed my eyes and sucked in a breath. I had to ask. I needed to know more.

  Me: And? Good or bad?

  I waited and waited as she typed. I expected a super-long message with the amount of time that passed before I received the response. Instead, she sent this:

  Malia: Mixed.

  It doesn’t take that long to type five letters. I knew she’d had something else to say and changed her mind. I’d done it myself a time or two, and the fucking Messenger app gave the illusion of typing even when someone was erasing shit.

  Me: Did she tell you what happened?

  While I waited for her response, I climbed out of bed and began to pace. The stress of not knowing what had been said was making me restless and a bit edgy.

  I ran my hand through my hair, yanking on the ends. Candy hadn’t rid me of the angst I felt over the entire Max situation. I didn’t know what bothered me more: the way she had thrown me out like trash or that I cared how she had gotten rid of me and wanted more.

  Malia: Maybe

  When I read the message, I looked up at the ceiling and cursed. The woman was being cagey with her answers. Maybe she was chatting with Max at the same time and telling her that my dumb ass had contacted her.

  I couldn’t take it anymore. The suspense and not knowing would kill me.

  Me: Malia, I like Max. I like her a lot. I want to see her again, but I don’t have any way to contact her. Please, please, please tell me she wants to see me again.

  The message showed that she’d seen it, but she didn’t respond immediately. My nerves were unraveling as I waited. After a few minutes with no response, I needed a drink. I headed to the kitchen and grabbed the tequila and a glass before I started to really beg.

  As I climbed the steps, my phone beeped. Although patience was never something I’d been able to deal with, I waited until I sat down on the bed to open her message.

  Malia: Sorry, I was in the shower.

  I wanted to scream at her response. Curse her out for making me wait and not telling me that she would be missing in action for a short time. I seriously started to panic. Shit like that wasn’t cool.

  Malia: Max wouldn’t want me to give you her number, but… I know she likes you. You know where she lives. Why don’t you just go to her house?

  My hand began to shake at the possibility that I had a chance with her. Maybe it wasn’t re
ally the end like I had thought.

  Me: I don’t want to seem like a creep. I can’t just knock on her door. I need another way. So, how do I see her again if you won’t give me her number?

  Women could be impossible. I knew that. I’d watched Izzy for years. I’d seen the misery she’d caused in her wake.

  Malia: You could show up at her work.

  I stared at the screen as my mouth hung open.

  Me: How? Do tell.

  Malia: Well, she’s a stylist. She owns her own business. Make an appointment, dummy.

  I laughed at her insult. How had I not thought of that? Why hadn’t I Googled her? I was sure that, with enough searching, I would’ve found her.

  Me: Genius. I’ll have to use a fake name. Hmmm

  Malia: Richard Hung lmfao

  I couldn’t hide my excitement. From the name Malia had picked, I’d say that Max had shared a lot about me—including the best stuff.

  Me: Can I schedule it on a website?

  Malia: Yes. She has a store. Make an appointment and then get to it, Anthony. Don’t let her get rid of you so easily.

  Her words were true. I’d never let anyone treat me the way she had. In all actuality, I’d never given them the chance, always kicking them out of my bed. Maybe she had the same MO as I did. “Hit it and quit it” was a popular phrase when I had been younger, but it had almost become my personal motto. Suddenly, I wasn’t as proud of that fact as I used to be.

  Me: Does she do that shit often?

  Malia: Max? Fuck no. It’s been years since she’s been with someone. She doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.

  I read her message repeatedly and was totally confused.

  Me: What do you mean?

  Malia: I’ve said too much. Just look her up. Her website is…

  With that, we said our goodbyes and I went to her website. I set up an appointment for Wednesday night at seven p.m. I figured I’d be her last of the night.

  I’d have her again.

  Taste and feel her all over me.

  Mark her as mine without letting her escape a second time.

 
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