The Gallos: The BeginningChelle Bliss
Note to Readers
This is a short story giving readers an introduction
to the Gallo Family.
It is written from Sal & Maria’s POV (Mr. & Mrs. Gallo).
As a reader, it’s not necessary to have read
any of the Men of Inked Books.
I hope after reading The Gallos that you’ll fall in love
and want to get to know them a little more intimately.
To the Men of Inked Fans who wanted Sal & Maria,
I hope you enjoy their story.
The Gallos: The Beginning Copyright © 2014 Chelle Bliss
Published by Chelle Bliss
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
Published: Chelle Bliss December 31st 2014:
First Edition Copyright © 31st December 2014
Editor: Lisa A. Hollett
Cover Design © Chelle Bliss
Cover Photo: Dollar Photo Club
Formatted by: Chelle Bliss
This book is intended for a mature audience only.
Chapter 1 - Maria
Sitting on the couch, I watched my husband, Salvatore, as he spoke to our eldest son, Anthony. The holidays always made me feel happy, but I longed for the days when the kids were young. The yelling, giggles, and kisses that came with youth had passed, leaving me with five grown children with no one to call their own.
As they grew, I wished they’d find that special someone and settle down, starting a family of their own and bringing a grandchild or two into our lives. But not my children—no, they lived as if they had all the time in the world, enjoying life on their terms and making no apologies.
Part of me envied them. They were young, unattached, and following their dreams. It’s not that I was jealous of my children because I wasn’t. There wasn’t one moment in my life I would change, but I’d love to do it all again. Time passed so quickly that it was hard to savor the moments as they happened. I wanted to experience it again. Falling in love, having children, raising a family, and every moment in between happened in the blink of an eye. The years passed with greater speed each year, no matter how slow I tried to make it go.
As I looked down at the floor, Izzy was stretched out next to Anthony with her chin resting in her palms. She listened to Sal and Anth laughing and teasing each other, throwing in a crack or two herself. She was stunning with her long brown hair, big blue eyes, and high cheekbones. She was a knockout and single.
Izzy, my only daughter, was most like me. She was a free spirit who didn’t take shit from anyone, most of all men. I raised her to be strong, independent, and fierce. I wasn’t sure there was a man on the planet who could wrangle her and keep her attention. She was easily bored with the opposite sex or found them too demanding. Izzy did everything on her own terms. The quickest way to end a relationship with her was to lay down rules or have expectations.
Growing up with four older brothers made her rebel against any kind of restraints a man tried to place on her in adulthood. No one bossed her around, except for maybe Sal and me. She was a daddy’s girl and never wanted to disappoint him. Even now at the age of twenty-two, she’d do everything in her power to make him happy. I loved her for everything she was, seeing so much of myself in her.
Today was New Year’s Day, a day for new beginnings and fresh starts with new dreams for the upcoming year. If someone were to ask me what I wished for, I would answer for my children to find the one person who completes them, bringing them peace and love in the new year.
“Is it going to be the year the Cubs finally win the pennant, Pop?”
Anthony laughed as he spoke with Sal, seeming happier than he had in a while. By trade, he was a tattoo artist at Inked, a shop the kids owned together nearby. If you asked him, he’d say he was a musician. It was his true calling, his passion for as long as I could remember.
He hummed before he could talk, quickly learning to sing as soon as he was able to form words. I’d hear him in his crib, babbling to a beat until I’d grab him in the morning. He was content to lie there, signing to himself until I could drag myself from my bed. Music was his love, always had been. Preferring it to a real relationship, he told me that it was the one thing in life that never let him down. He had soured on women after high school, maintaining playboy behavior into his thirties.
Someone would capture his heart, but it would take that rare breed, a woman so spectacular that he’d fall in insta-love, and fall hard. I prayed she wouldn’t break his heart, turning him off to any possibility of a lasting relationship. His focus now, besides tattooing and music, was the groupies. I wasn’t a fool. I heard him talk with his brothers about the women who threw themselves at him. Manwhore is a term I’ve heard Izzy use, and Anthony seemed to fit the bill. My baby needed someone to knock him on his ass and steal his breath. He’d find her if he wasn’t too busy with the trash with whom he spent his nights.
“I’m so hungover,” Mike groaned, throwing his arm over his face as he stretched out on the love seat.
“You never knew how to pace yourself, man,” Joe replied, leaning back, his foot resting on his knee as he kicked back on the couch.
“I watched how much I drank for the first few hours, but then it all turned into a blur. Fuck!” Mike spat, clutching his head.
“Want me to make you something to help with it?” Joe asked, grabbing Mike’s foot.
“I don’t pollute my body this way. I just need time to adjust, Joe.”
Mike was my fighter—more prone to violence ever since the day Anthony punched him in the gut when he was three. From that day forward, Mike wanted to learn to protect himself and usually tested out the moves on his siblings. More shit had a red hue in our home, caused by the blood that was often lost during a fight. Having four boys hadn’t allowed for peace and tranquility.
Mike had beefed up since high school. Working out during his free time, training for a championship bout, and piercing at Inked left him little time to fall in love and settle down.
He was a man driven with a purpose. He wanted a championship, proving that he was the biggest, baddest Gallo brother. He’d deny it, but I knew it was about him showing his superiority over the others. It was an internal drive, set at a young age, and combined with the unhealthy competition that developed between the siblings over the years.
Mike needed someone like his sister. One who could put him in his place and love him at the same time. It wasn’t going to be easy, but a mother could dream.
Joe was in a league of his own. He was a no-nonsense guy, so much like his father in looks and attitude that he held a special place in my heart. I’d never admit to having a favorite child, but being so much like Sal, the love of my life, often got him brownie points. He was tough but kind. His heart was bigger than any of my other boys, but he d
idn’t take shit from anyone. He was always quick to rescue someone in need, chip in when required, and loved his family with a protectiveness that made a mama proud.
The only thing about Joe I didn’t like was his love of motorcycles. When he was a teenager, his friends started with dirt bikes, riding through the woods and doing things I never want to know. I probably would’ve had a heart attack if I had witnessed most of it, and I am thankful to this day that he survived in one piece.
He hung around with rowdy guys, preferring the company of the bikers at the Neon Cowboy above any other crowd. I worried that they’d lure him into the biker world, turning my son into a hellion and criminal. Joe assured me they were good guys and many of them repeat customers at Inked. Over the years, I learned to let go of my fear, seeing as my son stayed out of the world of the Hells Angels and other MCs in the area.
Although Mike was the fighter, Joe probably came home with torn clothes and bloodied fists more often than any of my sons. It was the protective nature engrained in him, unable to walk away when provoked or rescuing a damsel in distress. No matter how many times I told him violence wasn’t the way, he’d assure me “it was my only option, Ma. I don’t look for fights.”
I was proud of the man he became—tough, independent, rugged, and caring. Even though he was a bruiser, he’d do anything to help a friend. If he loved you, he loved you intensely and with his entire being. Joe didn’t give up on people, trying to bring out their good sides and rescue them, even if it meant saving them from themselves.
He was so much like Sal. I could see the passion he felt toward his family at an early age. He chased away every boy who tried to kiss his sister. Lord help anyone who wanted to date her.
Although the four of them were a handful when it came to Izzy, Joe was the most overprotective. I never had to worry about something bad happening to Izzy. Every male in the city knew she was a Gallo and that touching her meant risking your life. Even today, I smiled when I see Joe get in the face of her boyfriends. I had to remind him that she was grown and could make her own decisions.
“Thomas called me this morning, Ma,” Izzy said, pulling my attention away from Mike and Joe.
I smiled, thinking about my other son. Thomas wasn’t with us today and made my heart ache with the loss. “Me too, baby.”
“He sounded good.” She smiled, pushing herself into a sitting position and pulling her knees against her chest.
“He did. I don’t like not hearing from him every day. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next couple of years.”
Thomas was the one who wasn’t content with the family business and declared he had other plans. He was always my little rebel, not going with the program, and declaring himself boss. Oftentimes it led to his getting a punch to the gut, but he never wavered from his self-imposed authority above the others.
A few months ago, he finished his training at the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, and was prepping to work undercover. Right before Christmas he was given his assignment, the details of which we weren’t privy to, and he made it clear that contact would be minimal. He couldn’t tell us for how long he’d be gone or where he’d be, just that he’d check in when he could.
I spoke with each of my children a couple times a week, stopping in to the shop sometimes just to see their beautiful faces. I wouldn’t have that luxury with Thomas. Not knowing if he was okay would tear at my heart, slowing taking away a chunk until I’d be able to touch him again.
I always thought Thomas would be an actor. The classic looks of James Dean with blue eyes and a strong jawbone. He made the girls swoon at an early age, giving me hope that he’d settle down first and start a family.
Once again, I was wrong, although I’d never admit it. He’d kissed us goodbye, leaving home and dedicating his life to putting away the bad guys, making the world a better place. That was my son. He was always the enforcer, the one trying to keep everyone in line when even I had given up. To say I was proud of him for joining the DEA would be an understatement, but I was worried and mourned for my son who was still alive.
Seeing someone often and then having him disappear felt like a death. Even though my mind knew he was still walking the earth, my heart didn’t understand it. I wanted him with me, sitting here today with the rest of the family, but my wish won’t come true—not today at least.
“I’m sure he’ll call as often as he can, Ma,” Joe interrupted, standing from the couch and heading toward the kitchen. “Thomas always calls,” he said over his shoulder as he disappeared.
Sal turned toward me, a small smile on his face. “Maria, he’ll be fine. Stop worrying about the man.”
“I know, sweetheart. It’s my job as his mother to worry.” My nose tingled as my eyes started to fill with water. Damn it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get choked up today, but talking about him was just too much. Wiping away my tears lingering at the corner of my eyes, I smiled at Sal, shrugging my shoulders.
“Aww, love. Don’t cry,” he said as he stood, crouching down next to me as he wrapped his arms around me. “Thomas is a strong man. He has a good head on his shoulders. He’ll be fine.”
I drew in a shaky breath, trying to stop the onslaught of tears that were ready to break loose. “I want to believe that, Sal.” I rested my head on his shoulder, letting myself feel the protection and safety I always felt in his arms.
“I love you, Mar,” he whispered in my ear, brushing his lips against my skin, causing a shiver to slide down my spine.
Even at our age, he still did it for me. I didn’t see a man in his fifties, but the muscular, sexy man I met over thirty years ago.
He swept me off my feet during my senior year in high school. I hadn’t caught his eye until he left for college and returned on Christmas break the following year. During that time, my chest filled out and my body took a more womanly form. We ran into each other at a party and spent the night dancing and laughing. From then on, we were inseparable. The Christmas break had flown by in a flash before he returned to college.
We didn’t see each other again until summer rolled around and I was officially done with high school. I had a world of opportunities at my feet; living in Chicago in the early eighties, the world was my oyster. Spending time with Sal left me wanting more time with him. Unable to say goodbye in fall, I applied and was accepted to Notre Dame University, where he attended.
It wasn’t like we had a fairy-tale romance. There were moments when our relationship was on the verge of collapse. His overprotective and jealous ways nearly had me running back to the city, looking for a reprieve. Every time I started to pull away, he sucked me back in. I saw that side of him in each of our boys, knowing now that it wasn’t something he could control.
He wasn’t the type of jealous that scared me, but he always reminded me that I was his. He was right, too. From the moment he put his lips on mine and wrapped me in his arms, I only had eyes for him. No other men existed for me. Sal Gallo had me hook, line, and sinker. Listening to him tell the story of us, people would think it was the other way around.
“Love you too, Sal,” I whispered back, turning my face and kissing his cheek.
Pulling away, he smiled, the small wrinkles around his blue eyes growing more visible. His jet-black hair was combed back, showing off his masculine good looks. The man had grown better looking with age, as was often the case. He looked like a man of the world, rugged and sexy, ready to take on anything that came his way
“You two are making my head hurt more,” Mike chimed in, peeking underneath his arm with a smile. “Aren’t you too old for that type of behavior yet?”
Sal turned, stalking toward Mike and slapping him on the arm. “Son, when you find the right woman, age will never matter. She’ll always be the one you fell in love with.”
“What’s the secret, Pop?” Anthony asked, turning his attention away from the television. “After one night with someone, I can’t stand to be in the same room with them.”
Sal laughed at Anthony, rolling his eyes as he often did when Anthony spoke about his groupies. “You haven’t met the right one, Anthony. When you do, she’s going to knock you on your ass…hard.”
“I can’t wait to see that,” I added, the small smile on my face growing into a giant grin.
“Doesn’t it get old? Being with the same person for over thirty years?” Anthony asked, ignoring my statement.
“Never. I love your mother more each day. I never thought a love like that was possible. Do you know the best part of my day?” Sal asked, looking at our children, including Joe, who had returned to his spot on the couch.
“Waking up?” Mike asked, trying to hold in his laughter. “Being old and all.”
“Smartass,” Sal said, whacking Mike on the head again.
“Ouch! Damn, stop that.” Mike held his head, rubbing his temples with his thumbs.
“Stop being a jagoff. The best part of my day is when your mother and I crawl in bed and—”
“Don’t you dare say it!” Izzy yelled, covering her ears and squeezing her eyes shut.
Sal laughed, tossing his head back as he held his stomach. The sound of his laughter, even after all these years, made my heart leap. “As I was saying, the best part of my day is when your mother crawls in bed with me and curls into my body. When she rests her head against my chest and I dig my fingers in her hair, I feel at peace.”
“Way too much information, Pop,” Joe stated, shaking his head and covering his eyes with one hand.
“When you find that—the one person who makes your day complete—that’s the one you hold on to. Life can never be boring when you find your soul mate, like I found my Maria.” He walked toward me, bent over, and placed a kiss on my lips.
The man still made my insides mushy. Butterflies would fill my stomach when he walked in a room. That’s not to say we didn’t have our fights, but they always ended the same—making love until everything was forgiven.
“So not happening for me. I hate anyone sleeping in my bed. I want to smack them if they even think about holding me. Makes my skin crawl.” Izzy collapsed onto her back as she stared up at the ceiling, resting her hands across her stomach. “Never happening,” she whispered.
“I’m with Izzy on this.” Joe kicked his feet up on the coffee table, placing his hands behind his head. “I’ve never been one to want to hold someone. I like my space when I sleep. I get too hot to have someone else throwing off heat at me.”
“Pfft,” Sal stated, shaking his head. “You just wait. Shit is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. Find the one you want to hold at night, the person you have to touch, even in your sleep, and they’re the one you can’t live without.”
My husband sounded like the world’s biggest romantic. An outsider would never believe the soft side of my husband. He was much like Joe, steely exterior with a go-fuck-yourself attitude. But when it came to me, he was like putty in my hands. I liked to believe it was my softness and love that changed him, but I think that side of him was always buried inside, waiting for the right woman to make it blossom.
“Ma, what’s for dessert?” Anthony asked, altering the course of the conversation. The boy had an insatiable appetite. How he stayed so thin without spending time in the gym was beyond me. He wasn’t as big as his brothers; his body was lean and toned, and he was built more like my side of the family.
“Cassata cake.” I pushed myself up from my chair, knowing that everyone would want a piece.
“I’ll help, Ma,” Izzy said, climbing to her feet and following me into the kitchen.
Chapter 2 - Maria
As I reached in the fridge to pull out the cake, Izzy asked, “Do you think I’ll find someone like Pop was talking about?”
I smiled with my face still hidden by the door. That was my hard-ass daughter, waiting until I was partially distracted and she was out of earshot of her brothers to ask a question like that.