Adoring Ink - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Adoring Ink

Book 6.5 in the Montgomery Ink Series

The Montgomery Ink series continues with the most unlikely of romances between the one that got away and the man who can show her the world.

Holly Rose fell in love with a Montgomery, but left him when he couldn’t love her back. She might have been the one to break the ties and ensure her ex’s happy ending, but now Holly’s afraid she’s missed out on more than a chance at forever. Though she’s always been the dependable good girl, she’s ready to take a leap of faith and embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Brody Deacon loves ink, women, fast cars, and living life like there’s no tomorrow. The thing is, he doesn’t know if he has a tomorrow at all. When he sees Holly, he’s not only intrigued, he also hears the warnings of danger in his head. She’s too sweet, too innocent, and way too special for him. But when Holly asks him to help her grab the bull by the horns, he can’t help but go all in.

As they explore Holly’s bucket list and their own desires, Brody will have to make sure he doesn’t fall too hard and too fast. Sometimes, people think happily ever afters don’t happen for everyone, and Brody will have to face his demons and tell Holly the truth of what it means to truly live life to the fullest…even when they’re both running out of time.

read an excerpt

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Adoring Ink is Book 6.5 in the Montgomery Ink series

Adoring Ink Characters Profiles

Adoring Ink


Holly Rose needed to come.

Badly.

And hopefully she would. The man above her moved with such heat that she knew she was blushing, but she didn’t care. She just needed him to work his magic so she could finally crest that peak and end up a boneless pile of limbs.

She clutched at his tattooed shoulders before sliding her hands down his chest, raking her nails over his thick muscles and the ink that covered his skin. He thrust deeply inside her, and she arched her back, taking more of him in.

Her breath came in pants, and her body shook, sweat-slick from hours of lovemaking with no pause.

Then she looked up and froze.

Once again, her Dream Man was just a blur. A thickly muscled male with ink but no face, no features showing her who he was. No eyes giving her a glimpse of the man deep inside.

She reached out to cup his face, hoping she was wrong.

But she wasn’t.

The alarm pulled her out of sleep in that instant, leaving her right on the edge once again, and confused as hell about the recurring dream that never made sense.

Holly let out a sigh and rolled over to press the button on her phone. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to hit snooze and go back to sleep, so she forced herself to sit up. Hitting snooze was one of her favorite pastimes since she had the most comfortable bed ever, but she had to be an adult and forego that. She was the kind of person that, once she sat up, she was awake and slightly functional, but it was the sitting up part that was the hardest. She loved sleeping in but couldn’t do it most days because of her job. Heck, she couldn’t even slumber on weekends most times thanks to the piles of grading she had. She might only teach first grade, but her kids had books and binders full of state-mandated homework and classwork to complete.

Holly’s head hurt just thinking about it.

She let out a breath and rocked herself to a standing position. Her bed was a little tall for her, so getting out was actually a bit of a chore, but she wasn’t about to get a new bed or even one of those little stools to help her get in and out. She wasn’t that short… Sort of.

As she zombie-walked toward the bathroom to take care of business, she blew out a breath, thinking of the dream that had made her all sweaty with no resolution. This had been the fourth time this week she’d had virtual sex with Dream Man, and yet she still had no clue who he was. All she knew was that he was sexy and inked—her taste, apparently.

The one thing she did know was that Dream Man was not her ex, Jake. The ink and body type were all wrong, and she was so freaking grateful her subconscious didn’t carry a torch for him. She’d be beyond embarrassed to see him and his husband and wife after dreaming of all the hot, sexy things she’d been doing in her dreams, things she hadn’t been able to do for real in so long.

Yes, her last serious boyfriend was now in a committed triad with not only his former best friend, Border, but also his other best friend, Maya. And they even had the most adorable baby ever, Noah. She would have been jealous of that if she weren’t the one who’d broken it off because she knew they weren’t right for each other. They hadn’t been in the right kind of love, and she’d seen the spark between Maya and Jake. It might have hurt her a little—okay, a lot—to do what she did, but she’d made sure her heart was wrapped as tightly as it could be when she’d walked out the door that last time.

Now, Jake wasn’t only a Gallagher, the family of big, bearded men he’d grown up with, he was also a Montgomery, the large family that had taken Holly into their fold.

And Holly was once again on the outside looking in. She was fine with that, though. Things hadn’t been any different before her relationship with Jake.

She was just nice and pleasant Holly Rose, and there was nothing wrong with that.

With a sigh, she slipped into the shower and started her morning routine, her mind still a fog and her brain craving caffeine. She’d had to force herself to wait for coffee on weekends because if she didn’t shower first and drink second, she’d end up in her loungewear or leggings all day and not accomplish a single thing.

Though, honestly, that kind of day sounded amazing.

Because that was just an example of who Holly was—a dreamer who loved comfy clothes and not leaving the house.

Not exactly the wanton woman who got the sexy, inked man from her dreams.

God, she could remember the looks on other people’s faces when they’d first caught sight of her on Jake’s arm. He was all rugged sexiness, and she was…the nice girl they glanced over.

She wore cardigans because she loved them, and even pearls on special occasions. She liked her hair one color and cut in one layer because it was easier to work with at school. She liked her shoes plain and her clothes plainer because standing out at school could bring her issues with the principal, who she had a feeling didn’t like women outside the home.

There was nothing wrong with her, and she actually liked herself despite what her thoughts kept alluding to. However, one day, it might be nice to throw caution to the wind and surprise everyone.

Even herself.

Shaking those thoughts from her mind because they weren’t doing any good, she got out of the shower and ran a towel through her hair. Thankfully, she was one of those blessed people who only had to brush their hair a bit with some product, and it would dry the way she wanted. A unicorn, the Internet called her, and she’d take it because that meant she could sleep an extra thirty minutes most days, and even sneak in a second cup of coffee.

Speaking of coffee, it was high time she had her first cup. She’d been awake for over twenty minutes and hadn’t had a sip of the fuel that kept her alive and functioning.

Humming to herself for some reason, she slid on a pair of black leggings and a peach-colored flowy tank with a knit shrug over it. She didn’t have to work today and was in the mood to be a little freer with her choice of wardrobe.

As soon as she entered the kitchen, she started her single-cup maker and slid two pieces of wheat-germ bread into the toaster. She missed normal bread, but she hated working out, and since she wasn’t even having sex anymore to burn calories, she was careful with what she ate. When everything was ready, she poured some vanilla creamer into her coffee and stood at her counter while making plans for the day in her head. She would have sat down, but she figured standing was better for her, and since she really didn’t want to work out later, she’d take any activity she could get.

Since it was summer vacation for her school, the students were out, and she had time off as well. Well…not really time off since she still had packets of things to go over for the next year, as well as a few continuing education classes to take to keep certified and updated. She just didn’t get paid for those hours since teachers had “summers off.” She snorted before taking a sip of her coffee. What a lie that was. Students were spending longer in the classroom nowadays because of snow days and delays throughout the year, and teachers even longer. Between the classes she had to take, the paperwork and notebooks she had to go through, and getting her classroom ready for the next year, she was lucky to get a full week off to actually vacation during her unpaid summer.

This happened to be that week. But because she scheduled herself as precisely as she could, she also had weekends off for the next five weeks. What she was going to do with that time other than lounge around in her new cotton dresses she’d bought on sale, she wasn’t sure.

Today, however, she had a little bit of a plan. She was having lunch with her friend Arianna at their favorite café, Taboo. The fact that Taboo shared a wall and a door with Montgomery Ink, the family tattoo shop run by Jake’s wife, Maya, and her brother Austin, didn’t even worry her. She wasn’t in love with Jake, and somehow, she’d even become friends with Maya. Maya was her complete opposite, and that only made Holly happier with herself. Because Maya loved herself and who she was, and Holly wasn’t going to let that put a shadow on her own self-confidence because that wasn’t who either of them were.

Of course, being a little more…well, just more would be nice.

She let out a sigh and cleaned up her breakfast dishes, annoyed with herself once again. She hated when self-doubt reared its ugly head, and it annoyed her to no end when she let it affect her. So she wasn’t a sexy temptress or even a kick-butt woman in leather. She was herself, and that was just fine with her.

She liked her clothes. Liked the fact that she was nice. Considering how she’d grown up, it surprised her she hadn’t become a jaded husk of a woman. Instead, she tried to be helpful, smiled because she liked smiling and not because someone told her to, and was just…Holly.

That had been good enough for her for years. Yet, now, she kind of wanted something more.

Holly blew out a breath and grabbed her keys. She slid on her ballet flats and put her purse over her arm as she left her house and got into her car. There was nothing wrong with her.

Just because she was having dreams about an unknown man that she didn’t have in her life, didn’t mean she couldn’t get a man like him. She’d gotten Jake—at least for a little while—hadn’t she? And she wasn’t about to change herself for a man.

But adding a little spice might be nice.

Being bored with herself even if she liked who she was wasn’t the best way to live.

She let out a little growl and made her way to downtown Denver, annoyed all over again. Her mind had been going on this familiar loop recently, and she hated it. She’d spent so many years figuring out how to rise from the ashes and become the woman she was now, that she despised the fact that she might not be exactly happy with how everything had turned out.

And that was enough of that.

She flipped her sound system on and, instead of listening to the latest book from her favorite romance author, she changed it to a local radio station. With a shake of her head and her grip tight on her steering wheel, she sang at the top of her lungs, completely off-key, making a general mess of herself. But she didn’t care. Even when she was at a stoplight, and there were cars around her, she kept at it. Of course, that was before she looked over at the guy on the motorcycle next to her.

She froze, her mouth going dry at the grin on the man’s face. He wore a helmet but no visor so she could see every plane and hard edge of his jaw and the beauty of his eyes that seemed to bore into her. The humor in them made her want to crawl into her back seat and hide.

“Why did you stop?” he called out, and she blinked.

Why could she hear him even over the music?

Oh. My. God.

She looked up at the open sunroof she hadn’t even remembered opening. She’d been on autopilot, and now she really wanted to crawl away—anywhere so she wouldn’t be there.

Wait. She didn’t know this guy and wouldn’t be seeing him again.

So she did something very un-Holly-like and turned up the music before singing loudly along with it again, leaving the freaking sunroof open like a loon.

He threw his head back and laughed, and though she couldn’t hear it, she knew it had to be one of those deep-chested sounds she loved. For some reason, she knew this guy wasn’t laughing at her, but with her. She shook her head, laughing along with him while still trying to sing.

When he waved at her before pulling away, she shook herself out of whatever had just come over her and lifted her foot off the brake.

Well, it seemed she’d done at least one surprising thing today. That had to count for something.

When she pulled into the back lot behind the tattoo shop, she quickly grabbed her things before heading around the building toward Taboo. The parking lot was for Montgomery Ink friends and family only, with a few spots for clients as well, and they had strict towing signs everywhere. Somehow, she’d become one of the select few who was allowed to park there whenever they wanted. She only did it when she was going to Taboo or the shop, not when she just needed to come downtown for other reasons. Maya and Austin might have told her it was okay, but she still didn’t feel quite comfortable.

Her friend Arianna was already at a small table near the window when Holly arrived at the café. Holly waved toward the counter where her other friend, the owner of Taboo, was making an espresso. Hailey waved back, her platinum-blonde bob shifting around her face as she did a little dance to the music playing overhead. Hailey was seriously one of the sexiest women Holly had ever met, and if she were honest with herself, she might be a little jealous of that. The woman was talented, smart, and owned her own business, in addition to being gorgeous. No wonder the big, inked tattoo artist Sloane had married her.

Holly turned back to Arianna and grinned before taking a seat. “Sorry I’m late.”

Arianna shook her head, her golden waves cascading around her shoulders. “I was early.” She looked down at her phone and frowned before typing back so quickly, Holly could barely see her fingers clearly. “Sorry. Work issue.”

With Arianna, there always seemed to be a work issue. But her friend was a wedding planner and constantly working. At least Holly sometimes had weekends off, unlike Arianna.

“It’s okay. I know you’re busy. I’m just glad you could meet for lunch.”

Arianna looked up and smiled before setting her phone down on the table. “Me, too. Though I might have to look at my phone a hundred times before we’re done.”

Holly snorted and glanced over the menu. She’d been there at least a hundred times but still liked to look it over. “And that would be different from any other day, how?”

The other woman rolled her eyes. “Shut it. Anyway, you have a little bounce in your step. Anything interesting happen? Find a sexy guy to sweep you off your feet?”

“If only.”

“What do you mean ‘if only?’” Hailey said as she walked toward them. She set down a peach iced tea in front of Holly and a glass of strawberry-infused water in front of Arianna. The other woman always knew their drink orders before they did. It was kind of creepy in an endearing way.

Holly smiled. “You scare me sometimes. It’s like you’re psychic. And the ‘if only’ was because I don’t have a guy right now. But that’s okay, you know.”

Hailey smiled softly. “I know. But we all just want to see you happy.”

All.

Meaning the Montgomerys and everyone that had been taken into their web of friends. She loved the Montgomerys and their inner circle, but sometimes they were a bit much for her. The well-meaning looks a tad overwhelming.

Holly bit her lip and tried to keep her eyes on her menu, but it didn’t work. Arianna put her hand over Holly’s and squeezed.

“You’re not going to turn into your parents, you know,” Arianna whispered. “You don’t have to let them define you.”

Holly looked up and narrowed her eyes. “I can say the same for you.”

Arianna pulled away with a nod. “So why the new pep, then?” she asked, not backing down.

“Fine. So this morning, I realized I needed a little more…yeah, pep is a good word, in my life. I want to be a little more adventurous but not crazy. I like who I am, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t want to change that. I don’t want to change how I dress or act, but it might be nice to add a some crazy into my life, a bit more adventure. I don’t need to become a daredevil or anything, but it would be nice to see if I can do something.” She paused as the other two women stared at her, small smiles on their faces. “And on my way here, I was singing loudly and off-key, and hadn’t realized my sunroof was open. A hot guy on his bike next to me noticed and laughed. But it wasn’t a mean laugh, more like one that encouraged me to continue.” A pause. “So I did.”

“You weren’t that off-key, just saying.”

Holly whirled around, nearly knocking over her tea in the process. The guy from the bike reached around her quickly to keep the glass upright. The movement put the heat of him dangerously close to her skin.

“Wha… How did you know I was going to be here?” She swallowed hard. She hated coincidences, and this one felt a little too weird.

“It was you?” Hailey asked with a smile. “I should have known the guy on the bike telling people to sing and be amazing was you. Holly, this is Brody. Brody, this is Holly. He’s a regular over at the shop and a friend of the Montgomerys. I’m surprised you two haven’t met before.”

“I’m surprised, too,” he murmured.

Holly just sat there, confused.

“Anyway, I liked that you sang as if no one was watching,” Brody drawled. Damn it. The man drawled. Not only did he have a very nice face with perfect lips and a perfect jaw but he also had that hair that was longer on top than it was in the back or on the sides. So when he moved his arm up to push his hair from his eyes, it made his biceps bulge in just the right way.

This man was dangerous.

And, yes…Holly had just said she wanted a little danger.

“Thanks. I think?”

He studied her face for a moment before sticking his hands in his pockets. “I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. Sorry if I did.”

Holly was aware that Hailey and Arianna were watching with rapt attention, but she ignored the other two women.

“You didn’t make me feel bad. Just the opposite, in fact.”

Brody smiled then, and her heart did that little fast beat thing she thought was just in movies. While Brody was handsome in general, the smile just pushed it to the next level.

Holy hell. The man was sex on a stick.

“That’s good to know,” he said smoothly, his voice going deeper. “And if you’d ever like to test out that adventure on the back of my bike, since I saw the way you were looking at it, just let me know.” He grinned this time. “I’ll be right over at the shop if you’re interested after you finish your meal. It’s nice to meet you, Holly.” He nodded toward the others. “Ladies.”

And with that, he strolled away, back toward Montgomery Ink. Holly’s eyes were glued to his very firm butt encased in perfect-fitting jeans.

What the heck just happened?

One minute, she was thinking of an adventure. The next, this man drops out of nowhere and practically lands in her lap.

“Oh, boy,” Hailey said with a sigh. “It seems Brody has his eyes on you.”

Holly turned toward the other women. “No, he doesn’t. He was just being nice.”

Arianna snorted. “There was nothing nice about that. He was all sex lathered up in smooth caramel. I say if you’re looking for adventure, this Brody might be the one to help you out.”

“And in case you’re worried about him, don’t be,” Hailey put in. “He’s a good guy, and not one of those creeps who is good at pretending to be good.” She paused. “But if you’re serious about finding something new and fun, Brody might be the perfect guy for that.”

Holly stared at her friends, confused and a little worried. When she’d talked about adventure and being different if only for a moment, she hadn’t been thinking of a man.

But for some reason, she couldn’t get Brody out of her head.

And that could be dangerous.

 

 

 

end of excerpt

Reviews of Adoring Ink

“Man, I loved this sexy sweet story.  I’m a sucker for an opposites attract love story and this was such a great example of that! This will definitely be a novella I add to my re-read shelf.”

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