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Throttled, p.2

Throttled, page 2

 part  #1.5 of  Men of Inked Series


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  “Me too,” Izzy said from across the table. “Maybe we can have the boys do the dishes for once.” She grinned looking around the table.

  “Oh, hell no,” Anthony said. “That’s women’s work.” He shook his head, shoveling another forkful of stuffing in his mouth.

  Clinking from all the ladies dropping their forks on the table made me laugh. That wasn’t the thing to say at this table.

  “No shock why your ass is still single,” Michael said, slapping Anthony on the back of the head.

  “When have we ever done dishes on Thanksgiving? I’m just saying. It’s our job to eat and watch football and the ladies cook and clean. It’s the Italian way.” He smirked and his body jerked. “What the hell was that for?” He looked at Izzy.

  “Being a dumbass,” Izzy said as she rolled her eyes.

  “Anthony, you boys can handle it this year. The ladies have wedding plans to finalize,” Mrs. G said.

  “But Ma,” Anthony replied with wide eyes.

  “No buts, mister. There are enough of you that you’ll get it done quickly. Joseph and Suzy’s wedding is more important than football this week.” Her mouth was set in a firm line. Mrs. G was sweet as apple pie, but no one, and I mean no one, challenged her.

  “Fine, Ma.” He covered his mouth with his napkin and mumbled.

  I bit my lips, stifling my giggle. “We never went around the room sharing what we’re most thankful for.”

  “You’re right, Suzy. The boys were so hungry, I didn’t even think about it. Forks down,” Mrs. G said, placing her fork and knife next to her plate.

  A collective groans filled the room. The boys didn’t like anyone getting between them and their food, or their women, for that matter. The two things were non-negotiable.

  “I’ll start,” she said. “I’m thankful for my children and loving husband. I’m thankful for the new additions to the table and new members of the family, Suzy and Mia. I’m thankful that Thomas is safe even though he’s missed another holiday. I’ve been blessed with each and every one of you being a part of my life.” She smiled, wiping her eyes.

  Mr. Gallo stood and cleared his throat. “I’m thankful to live another year to hopefully see the Cubs win the World Series.” He laughed. “I’m thankful that I can be proud of each of my children, Mia and Suzy included. When I met and married your mother, I never dreamed that she would give me such wonderful children and a life filled with such joy. I can honestly say I have no regrets and for that I thank my lucky stars each day.” He tipped his head and winked at Mrs. G before sitting.

  She blushed and blew him a kiss. I wanted that life. I wanted that love. The life-enduring happiness that seemed out of reach for most.

  “I’m thankful for my uncomplicated single life. No offense.” Anthony looked at his mother. “I’m thankful for this meal and having you all part of my life. That’s enough sappy shit for me to say in one day.” He blew out a breath and smiled.

  “Aw, you’re so sweet, Anthony, you almost made my teeth hurt,” Izzy said sarcastically. “I’m thankful for having two wonderful parents. I’m thankful for having more women around the table. Being outnumbered sucks.” She looked at Flash and he shook his head before he turned to Michael.

  Michael glared at him. “Fine, I’ll go, you pansy ass.” He cracked his knuckles and put his arm around Mia. “I’m thankful for all of you, but most of all for the woman at my side. I haven’t been the same since the day I knocked her on her ass. I love ya, Mia, baby.” He leaned forward, holding her chin, and kissed her gently.

  All the love around the table made my eyes water. This family had become everything to me. City was the icing on the cake, but they were the silky smooth filling.

  “Pussy whipped,” Anthony choked.

  “Shut the fuck up.” Michael slapped Anthony on the head without looking, as his lips lingered over Mia’s mouth.

  City stood, looking down at me with a smile that made my stomach flutter. “On that note, I’ll get the mushy shit out of the way. I’m thankful that Suzy has agreed to be my wife. I couldn’t ask for a better person to share the rest of my life with. We had a rough beginning, but I knew I had her the moment I kissed her. I’m thankful to Mia to helping save my life after the accident.” He smiled at Mia and she blushed. “I’m thankful for my family…well, maybe not Anthony, but everyone else.”

  He wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me forward before he kissed me. His lips were warm and sweet from the wine. My nose tickled from the facial hair he’s become so fond of. As he pulled away, I moved with him, wanting more of his mouth. He winked, giving me the cocky grin that always set my body on fire.

  I swallowed, trying to regain my composure. “I’m thankful that City is still with me after all we’ve been through. I’m thankful that he survived and is healthier than ever. I’m thankful for each and every one of you for being around this table, even Anthony.” I laughed as Anthony smiled, winking.

  All the Gallo men were to die for—they were the panty dropping variety. Women couldn’t say no to them; that’s how City stole my heart. Everyone dug back into their meal, scooping up the stuffing and dreaded green bean casserole, and chatter filled the large dining room. I set my napkin down, sitting back in my chair, and let the joy I felt seep inside me.

  There was something about a man that can cook. I hadn’t gone hungry or worried about which brand of Ragu jarred sauce to use since I met City. He had so many skills and every first impression I had about him was wrong. He was cocky, I hadn’t been wrong about that, but City wasn’t the overbearing brute I thought he was when we first met.

  City’s an artist, a romantic, a loving partner, a cook, and an amazing person. The most diverse and well-rounded person I know. His artistry when it came to tattooing was beyond amazing, colorful and intricate; he spent hours in his studio upstairs creating designs for clients.

  He wasn’t easy or simple, but he was mine.

  “Sugar, you okay?” City brushed the back of his knuckles against my cheek.

  I turned to him, smiling, tears welling in my eyes. “Yeah, babe. I’m great.” I wiped the corner of my eye, turning to him and taking in his rugged beauty.

  “Why the tears?” he whispered in my ear, rubbing my cheek with the rough pad of his thumb.

  “I’m just happy.” I touched his hand, moving into his touch, and leaned to the side to kiss him.

  He smiled, moving toward me, and enveloping my lips in a loving kiss. “I can’t wait to call you my wife.” He searched my eyes, a small smile on his face. “You’ll be mine legally.”

  “I’ve always been yours, City.” I smiled, warmth flowing through my body. He’d never let me think otherwise. He laid claim to me early in the relationship and never let me too far out of reach. No matter how scared I was or how hard I tried to fight him, the pull he had over me was too great.

  The cocky grin I could no longer live without spread across his face as he grunted. “There’s no going back now, sugar.” He crushed his lips to mine, stealing my breath, the familiar dull ache returned between my legs.

  “You two are kinda nauseating,” Anthony said, pretending to gag.

  We both turned to glare at Anthony. City cleared his throat. “Someday you’ll understand, brother.”

  “Not going to happen,” he said, grimacing before stuffing a piece of bread in his mouth. “I have too much to offer to be tied to just one woman,” he said with a muffled voice and small pieces of bread falling from his mouth.

  “Yeah, I can see that. Who couldn’t resist such a specimen of a man?” I said, breaking out into laughter.

  Mrs. G pushed back her chair to stand; the sound of the wooden chair scraping against the slate flooring sent a chill through my body, reminding me of fingernails on a chalkboard. “Alright boys, the ladies are done and we’re going to work on the wedding plans. Get this place cleaned up.” She raised an eyebrow and looked around the table. The boys, including Mr. G, nodded at her but grumbled under their breath.
Come on ladies, we have work to do. We have eight days to make it perfect.”

  Mia, Izzy, and I rose from our chairs and followed Mrs. G out of the dining room. “I can’t believe I’m going to have a sister,” Izzy said, throwing her arms around me. “Finally, the tables are turning. We’re so close to equalizing the cock in this family,” she whispered in my ear, a small giggle escaping her lips.

  “That’s not possible,” Mia said as she walked behind us. “All the vaginas in the world couldn’t outnumber those boys. They’re too…” Her voice trailed off.

  “Full of themselves,” Mrs. G chimed in, turning to face us. All of us laughed as we walked up the stairs. Gallo men were unique, and we knew it. “It’s my fault. I made them who they are, but never fear ladies; we control everything, even though they think otherwise.”

  We sobered, hanging on her every word. “You control them, Ma. We sure as hell don’t.” Izzy rested her body against the wall outside the wedding war room I’d created.

  “I’ll share my secrets when we’re inside and out of the boys’ earshot. They don’t need to know who really holds the power. It may bruise their male egos,” she said, her body shaking with laughter.

  “Come on, ladies. Be prepared, its organized chaos inside.” I smiled as I opened the door, standing back to let them walk in first.

  “Wow,” Mia said as she stepped inside and looked around with her mouth agape.

  “Holy shit,” Izzy said, stepping into the room with wide eyes as she spun around.

  “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, dear,” Mrs. G said as she put her arm around me and gave me a tight squeeze as we entered the bedroom.

  I smiled at her, blushing. “We haven’t made it into a bedroom yet. We’re using it for the wedding only right now. It is pretty damn cool, isn’t it?”

  “Will it be a nursery?” Mrs. G looked at me with hopeful eyes.

  “Maybe someday.” I smiled, my stomach in knots.

  We weren’t ready for a baby, not just yet. I had too much City left to enjoy.

  “No worries. I have all the faith in you, my sweet Suzy.” She released me and walked toward the gown.

  My body warmed from her sincerity and love as I took in the most important women in my life, all in one spot and without our testosterone other halves.

  “This is stunning,” Mrs. G said, running her fingers across the lace skirt of my wedding gown.

  “Joey is not allowed in this room anymore. I can’t risk him seeing my dress.” I shook my head. He begged me to wear it for him, he wanted to dirty it—his words not mine—before I walked down the aisle. That wasn’t going to happen.

  “Good idea,” Mrs. G said, smiling at me.

  I watched them as they looked at every detail I laid out across the expansive space. I had a seating chart that looked more like an invasion plan for a war, tables and sticky notes everywhere in different colors to represent our two sides. Izzy eyed the party favors while Mia grabbed my wedding shoes and studied them.

  “These shoes are amazing. Everything is going to be beautiful, almost magical.” Mia placed the shoe back in the box. “You’re so organized. I thought I was anal, but babe, you have me beat by a mile,” she said with a small laugh.

  “What needs to be done?” Mrs. G asked, staring at the seating chart.

  I stood next to her, looking over my work. “I just need to make sure I have everyone seated correctly. I don’t know most of the people on here. Joey said this person couldn’t sit near that person. I’m so confused and don’t want to mess it up.”

  She touched my hand, looking at me with a smile. “I’ll inspect it, but from what I see so far it’s perfect.”

  “Thanks, Mrs. G.”

  She looked at me, her mouth set in a firm line.

  I gulped, realizing my mistake. “Mom. Thanks, Mom,” I quickly corrected.

  She smiled, her face growing soft as she turned back to the poster board.

  “Let’s talk about the bachelorette party while Ma is busy.” Izzy grabbed my arm, pulling me toward the small table on the other side of the room.

  “Maybe she wants to come,” I said, looking at Mrs. G.

  “Nope, she’s staying home with Daddy. I have everything planned out.”

  “Izzy,” I warned, my eyes snapping to her face.

  She smiled, looking overly pleased with herself. “Don’t worry. I have it all under control,” she said, winking at me.

  “That’s what I’m worried about.” I said, leveling her with my stare.

  “As a bridesmaid it’s my duty to give you a kick ass bachelorette party. Whatever happens, just blame it on me. I can take care of those boys.”

  “Give us the run down,” Mia said, not letting me respond to Izzy.

  “Okay, well, we have a party bus picking up all the girls here on Friday night and the boys will have their own. We’ll be spending the evening at Shepard’s Beach Resort. I reserved the top floor where the suites are located and we’ll party our asses off. They have a dance club set up at night and we can drink till we puke and crawl to our rooms.” She bounced up and down in her chair. “This shit is going to be so kick ass.”

  I looked down, twisting my fingers in my hands. “No stripper, Izzy.” I wasn’t asking. I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t want any half-naked men touching me.

  “Don’t worry,” she said, her smile growing wider as my stomach turned over.

  “Izzy, I’m serious.” I stared at her, holding her with my gaze.

  “Relax, Suz.”

  “I’m looking forward to a girls’ night out,” Mia said, squeezing my arm. “Michael doesn’t let me out of his sight much. Well, really he doesn’t let me out of his bed.” She laughed, her face turning red.

  Izzy winced. “My ears are going to bleed or my brain will explode with that image. Do not mention my brothers and sex. Ever. Ick,” she said, sticking out her tongue like she was going to throw up.

  “What about Flash?” Mia asked, smirking.

  “He’s just a friend.” Izzy frowned, looking to her mother.

  “He looks like he wants to be more than friends,” I added. “You’ve never brought anyone around for family dinners let alone a holiday, Izzy.”

  “Eh, he was in town and he doesn’t have any family in the area. We hangout sometimes but it’s nothing more than that.” She drew in a breath. “He’s not right for me and the guys, well, they’d never allow him to be part of this family.”

  “What are you girls talking about?” Mrs. G asked as she sat down with us.

  “The monsters that you’ve created,” Izzy said quickly, changing the subject.

  “Ah,” she said, turning to me. “Suzy, everything looks perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing on that seating chart.”

  I smiled, happy that I hadn’t messed it up. “So Ma,” I said, the words still foreign on my tongue. “You were going to share your pearls of wisdom with us about how to handle our boys.”

  She laughed, her eyes twinkling. “Well, it’s taken me many years to hone my skills and learn how to get what I want. It’s a fine line though, ladies. You can’t let them know you’re the one silently controlling the strings from the background. They like to think they’re the puppet master when in reality we hold all the strings.”

  “Still not giving me details,” Mia said, shaking her head.

  “Michael and Joseph are tough boys and Izzy, any man that steals your heart will be just as tough as your brothers, if not more. This information will be for all of you to file away and use when necessary.”

  We leaned forward, waiting to hear her next words.

  “Always remember to make them think they’re in charge.” She smiled and laughed. “That’s the key. Don’t ever make them think otherwise. Love them hard, ladies. Smother them with your love. Be fierce when necessary and never back down. Once you give in, they’ll expect it always. When they won’t give you what you want, well, that’s when you deny them the thing they want most.” She pause
d, wiggling her eyebrows.

  “Oh my God, Ma. I don’t even want to think about you and Pop having sex.” Izzy stuck her finger in her mouth, pretending to gag.

  Mia and I broke into a fit of laughter.

  Mrs. G shook her head. “Deny them food, Izzy.” She laughed. “Your mind is always in the gutter, child.”

  I couldn’t control myself. I sagged into the chair, hysterical with tears streaming down my face. Izzy glared at her mother, unconvinced by her pearls of wisdom. Mia put her head down on the table, her body shaking from the giggles we’d all developed.

  I sobered, sitting up in my chair and leaned my elbows on the table. “That won’t work for me, Ma. I don’t do the cooking. It’s hard to deny a man food when he does all the cooking.”

  “Well then you only have one other weapon.” She smiled, patting Izzy on the leg.

  “For the love of God, Ma. Really. My ears are going to explode and I’ll never be able to have sex again if you keep talking.” Izzy closed her eyes, rubbing her fingers roughly against her skin. “No more. I can’t listen.”

  “Izzy, dear. I was going to say that Suzy shouldn’t snuggle with Joey. Snuggle, Izzy.”

  “Snuggle?” Izzy looked at her Ma with wide eyes. “Really? Who the hell snuggles?”

  My laughter returned worse than before. Izzy and Mrs. G were the cutest two people I knew. I could listen to them talk all day.

  “All Gallo men snuggle, Izzy.” Mrs. G stated calmly and matter of fact.

  “Bullshit,” Izzy coughed. “Suzy?” She looked at me for confirmation.

  “I’m sorry to blow the image you have of your brother, but he loves to snuggle. He’ll never use those words, but there’s not a night that goes by that I’m not required to fall asleep in his arms.”

  “You’ve ruined the image I have of my brother being the big bad wolf.” She shook her head, turning her attention to Mia. “Michael too?”

  Mia nodded. “Yep, but there’s no place I’d rather be. I feel so safe in his arms. He’s like an overgrown security blanket. I don’t think we’ve ever fallen asleep without our bodies being entangled.”

  Izzy rubbed her forehead, looking to the floor. “My mind is blown. Jesus. I know there’s no way in hell Anthony is a snuggler. No God damn way.” She shook her head and looked at her Ma. “You did this to these men, Ma.”

  “I snuggled them since the moment they were born, just like I did you. Even as little babies, their fingers would tangle in my hair, playing with the strands.”

  “I’m not a snuggler,” Izzy interrupted, holding up her hand. “Never have been and never will be.”

  “You will, my dear. When you find the right man.” Mrs. G swept her fingers across Izzy cheek, tilting her head and smiling. There was so much love between the two women, it radiated off of them.

  “Nope. I like my space. I’ll never give in. Who knew I was really the one with the penis after all these years?” Izzy laughed, hitting the table.

  “Don’t let the boys hear you say that,” I said, grinning at her.

  “What are they going to do? Cuddle me to death?” she asked through her laughter, her body slipping from the chair in hysterics.

  Chapter 4 ~ Fair Warning

  “Get your ass up and help, Sam. We aren’t done. You may think you’re a guest¸ but you help like the rest of us. Earn your meal, friend,” I bit out, trying to hide the obvious dislike of the man.

  He sat at the table like a king, watching us as we cleared the table and started to clean up dinner. “Really? Izzy said I was a guest.”

  I walked over; leaning over the table so only he could hear. “I don’t give a fuck what Izzy said. This is my house and you ate my food. Get your fuckin’ ass up and help.”

  “I knew you were a prick,” Sam said as he stood, grinning. “I don’t remember your mother treating a guest like this in her home.”

  “I’m not my mother and I don’t like you. Never have and sure as fuck never will.” I leaned farther across the table, coming eye to eye with him.

  “What the fuck did I ever do to you?” Sam glared, not breaking eye contact.

  “I don’t like you being with my sister. It’s that simple.”

  “Izzy and I aren’t together.” He crossed his arms.

  “I don’t give a shit what you say. I don’t like her even being near you. You’re trouble, Sam.”

  “I’m not trouble, Joe. You know me. I’ve never done shit wrong.” He walked around the table, coming to face me without a barrier.

  “I know you’re prospecting with the Sun Devils. They don’t play games, Sam. They’re the real deal. I don’t want my sister involved in their bullshit.” I snarled, fisting my hands at my side.

  “They’re good guys, Joe. I never take your sister around them. She and I spend time together when I come to town to see my parents or go on a run. Nothing more than that.” His eyes softened as he stared at me, the glare had vanished. “I’d never hurt your sister. We’ve been friends since we were little kids. She’d kick my ass anyway. I mean seriously, Joe, your sister doesn’t take anyone’s shit.”

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