Forever Ink - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Forever Ink

Book 1.5 in the Montgomery Ink Series

Callie Masters loves ink. After finally getting her own chair in Montgomery Ink, she’s ready to start being a full time artist, rather than only an apprentice. When Austin, her former boss, gives her one very broody man as her first client, she jumps at the chance to make him hers—in and out of the shop.

Morgan McAllister is old money, old connections, and recently has been feeling just old. When he goes in to get his full back piece done after years of putting it off, the bright-eyed woman with the sly smile catches his eye. Between her age, attitude, and views on life, he knows she’s all wrong for him, but that doesn’t mean she’ll keep out of his thoughts.

When life throws them together after a few close calls, Morgan and Callie will have to trust in themselves and what their relationship will mean. Between conniving family members, blondes with too much time on their hands, and their own misgivings, trust in the bedroom and out of it won’t come easy.

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Forever Ink is Book 1.5 in the Montgomery Ink series

Forever Ink Characters Profiles

Forever Ink


Chapter 1

Being bent over a table for long hours was only one of the perks in being Callie Masters. No, really…the ache that came from that position felt like nothing else. Since being bent over in just that way came from her inking a new client on her own with a brilliant—if she did say so herself—tattoo, she couldn’t wait for the ache again. In fact, if she was reading her boss right, she might just be in for more soon.

Today was going to be a kickass day. Callie did a little hip shake around the office, humming to herself. When her hands went up into the air, she closed her eyes, swaying to music only she could hear. She danced to the beat in her head, getting herself in the mindset to work. That wasn’t difficult since she freaking loved her job. I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing—and I get paid for it. How lucky is that? She was twenty-five and knew she was well on her way to actually having a career bringing art, happiness, and memories to those who asked for it.

Being an apprentice to Austin Montgomery, the co-owner of Montgomery Ink, was a dream come true for some tattoo artists, and she was the one who held the coveted spot.  Austin had only apprenticed one other before her, and that had been a few years before she’d come to the shop in search of a new life. She did another hip shake and turned on her heel twice. Her earrings tapped against her jaw as she wiggled around.

Yes, she’d had just a bit too much coffee. She couldn’t help it though since her favorite place, Taboo, had a side entrance to the shop. Plus, her friend Hailey owned and operated it. Callie felt it was her duty to support the local businesses.

She shook her butt again.

Maybe she should lay off the caffeine. Just a bit.

“Seriously? Dancing alone in the office without any music is weird. Even for you.”

Sloane, her friend and co-worker, said it with a smile, but Callie still blushed right up to the roots of her black and red hair. She blinked up at the big bald man who didn’t smile as often as he should. He towered over her but she knew he was a big softie.

Okay, so he could probably crush someone’s head with his bare hands, but he was like her big brother.

Still, he didn’t have to make fun of her.

“I was alone. I’m allowed to dance if I want to.”

Sloane snorted. “Sure you can, sweetie. And when I walk in on you, I’m going to call you crazy. But we still love you.”

She punched him in the stomach and winced at the pain in her hand. Did all the men in Montgomery Ink bulk up to work here? She felt so puny next to them. Most girls would love that, and she probably would too if she didn’t work day in and day out with them. They all treated her like she was their little sister. It didn’t bother her much considering she felt the same way relationship-wise, but it would be nice if a man gave her a passing glance once in a while.

Whoa. Where had that come from? Apparently, coming down from a caffeine high led one down the path of loneliness, self-doubt and self-pity. Best to head that off at the pass and get more caffeine.

Her body begged for the stuff and she grinned. Yep, coffee could fix anything.

“How’s your hand?” Sloane asked, bringing her out of her coffee fixation.

She waved it in the air, then stretched her fingers. “Fine, but next time at least try to make it look like I could hurt you. Okay?”

His lips twitched and he patted her on the head. See? There was no way she’d find him attractive, not when he made her feel like she was his baby sister. Not that there was anything wrong with that. She loved her Montgomery Ink family.

She just needed to get laid.

Well then, more caffeine and new avenues of thought were needed.

Stat.

“What is going on in that head of yours?” Sloane asked as he moved around her. He shuffled through a few blank notebooks before finding one that fit his tastes, then did the same with the pencils.

“Nothing.” She cursed. “I mean, nothing important. I think I just need a chai or something.” She shuffled her feet, not knowing what was wrong with her. She’d been antsy for a while now and she couldn’t figure it out. Yes, everything was going great—job, friends, and life in general— and she couldn’t complain, but for some reason, she felt as if she were on the precipice of something…waiting for something she couldn’t quite name. It was as if she were waiting on the sidelines for something to happen.

And she hated waiting.

Callie preferred action. If she hadn’t gone for what she wanted in the first place, she wouldn’t be where she was today.

It wasn’t like she could control that emotion though, so she needed to push it aside and actually get to work.

“What are you going to draw today?” she asked Sloane when he didn’t comment on her drink preference. He knew she was a caffeine addict and there was no changing her.

Sloane looked at her briefly out of the corner of his eye before running his hand over the blank page. She loved watching her artists work. They had a system, a way that was unique to each of them. And yes, she did consider themher artists. One day, she might even have a chair and a station of her own. One day.

“There’s a guy coming in tomorrow for a consult, ex-military.” An odd expression passed over his face, and she held back the urge to comfort him. She knew Sloane was also ex-military, but he never talked about it and she never pushed him. She knew better than that. “He said over the phone he wanted a hawk on his back so I’m going to get him a few samples.”

Callie nodded, her throat closing up. “And you want this one to be special,” she said quietly.

Sloane gave her a brief nod, then got back to work, his attention on the pad in front of him—or maybe in the past she and her friends could never quite reach.

She backed out of the office quietly, grabbing her own notepad, pencil, and wallet on the way. She loved her brothers- and sister-in-ink so much sometimes that it hurt. She wanted to fix all of them but it wasn’t her place.

“Hey, you going to Hailey’s?” Austin asked from his stool. He had one hand on a beefy dude in front of him and a tattoo gun in the other. Curious, she walked over to them to admire his work.

She held back a happy sigh at the look of the iguana wrapping itself around the man’s upper arm. Austin was a genius when it came to shading and coloring. He was working on the different shades of green, blending them in so well it looked like a photo, rather than ink on skin.

“Callie?”

“What? Oh yeah, I’m going to Hailey’s. You want something?”

“A small iced coffee would be great. I need a boost.” He glanced at his client. “You want a smoothie or juice from there? We have some things in the fridge, but if Callie is going next door, might as well get something better.”

His client gave Callie his order—a large strawberry smoothie—and she left the two of them to it. When she got back, she’d either sit with Austin and watch him work, or maybe take a walk. She was at the point where Austin and his sister Maya let her work on small tattoos with their supervision. Anything that took less than an hour was fair game and she loved it. She also knew she was ready for the next step, at least she felt like it, and she hoped Austin felt the same way.

Callie walked through the side door into Taboo, Hailey’s café and inhaled the rich aroma of soup, fresh coffee, and baked goods. Her mouth watered and she figured she should probably get a small snack while she was there. Caffeine only did so much.

Hailey stood behind the counter, talking to one of her regulars. Her friend’s bleach blonde bob shined under the lights, not a hair out of place. Callie didn’t know how the other woman did it. She looked perfect even after a long day of working with food, humidity, and customers who had long days as well.

Callie ran a hand through her black and red hair, knowing it probably looked like she’d just rolled out of bed. She’d used the flat iron over it that morning, but Denver was oddly humid that day. Considering the city air usually sucked the moisture right out of her skin most days, that was saying something.

“Stop playing with your hair. You look beautiful. As always. Lucky bitch.” Hailey winked, then came over to Callie. “Sit down and tell me what you need.”

“A man?” she blurted, then shut her eyes. Damn. Totally not what she meant to say.

Hailey threw her head back and laughed. “It’s about time you said that, although I don’t know if you need a man so much as to get laid.”

The other customer at the counter sputtered his coffee and Callie laughed, turning to him. “She meant that I don’t need a man in my life, just an orgasm. I’m not a lesbian. Well, I made out with a couple girls when I was, like, nineteen, but that was just experimenting. It’s good to make sure you’re sure about what you want, you know?”

The man blushed hard, put money on the counter, and scurried away.

Hailey laughed beside her. “If I didn’t know that man has probably heard worse coming in here and listening to Maya talk, I’d get angry with you for scaring away business.”

Callie rolled her eyes. “What? He was listening in to you talking about me getting laid. I just wanted to clarify.”

“You’re a dork, but I love you. Now, tell me what you want caffeine and food wise since I can’t help you with the getting laid thing.”

“Shame,” Callie teased.

Hailey tapped her fingers on the counter. “You know I’m swoon-worthy, but I’m not what you need. Nor are you what I want.” Her eyes drifted over to Montgomery Ink and Callie held back a retort. There were secrets friends kept for one another. Longing, unrequited love, and lust were just parts of it.

“I want an iced chai, Austin wants a small iced coffee, his client wants a large strawberry smoothie, and I think I’ll take a fruit salad too since I need sustenance.”

Hailey nodded, then turned back to start working on Callie’s order. “What about Sloane?” Hailey asked casually. Too casually.

Callie sighed. She couldn’t fix her friends’ problems even if she desperately wanted to. “He’s working on a project that’s probably going to take a lot out of him. I didn’t want to bother him by asking for his drink order when he was so focused.”

Hailey shook her head, mumbling to herself. “I’ll get him his energy shake and make him a cup of soup.” She looked over her shoulder. “Make sure he eats it. Okay?”

Callie nodded, knowing Hailey wanted to take care of Sloane even if she couldn’t do it personally. There was only so much she could do, and since Callie was sure she didn’t know the whole of it, she wouldn’t interfere. It wasn’t her place.

Hailey put the food in a bag, and the cups in a container when she was finished. “You need help getting everything over there?”

Callie shook her head. “No, I’ve got this. If there was another drink order, then I’d need help, but Maya is off today so we’re good.”

“She out with Jake again?”

Callie snorted. “Yep. It’s her day off so she’s off doing something with Jake. They’re just friends though, Hailey. I’m pretty sure they’ve never slept together since I don’t get those vibes.”

“You can’t just be friends with a man like that.”

“Maybe, maybe not. I’m friends with him. In fact, I’m friends with the whole crew, and I haven’t slept with any of them.”

Hailey sighed. “Yeah, but you work with them and they treat you like a sister. Jake doesn’t treat Maya like a sister.”

“No, he treats her like one of the guys. I honestly think they’re good as friends. Plus she gets enough shit about it that I don’t want to tease her.”

Hailey threw her head back and laughed. “Honey, you tease her about sleeping with him all the time. You even call her out on it in public and joke about it. She jokes right back, so it’s just the way the two of you work.”

Callie blushed. That was true. Maya scared most people since she was brash, had more ink than some deemed lady-like, and spoke her mind. She used to intimidate Callie too, but then Callie had seen beneath the gruff exterior into the woman that cared for those she loved with all her heart. Now the two of them joked around and Jake was just more fodder. If Callie had ever caught a glimpse of pain in the other woman’s eyes, she’d never do it, but Maya took it in stride and teased right back.

“I’ll see you later, hon. Don’t work too hard.”

“I never do,” Hailey lied.

Callie rolled her eyes, then made her way back into the shop. She dropped off Sloane’s soup and drink in the office. He didn’t acknowledge her, his focus on the drawing in front of him. She didn’t sneak a peek though, since she didn’t want to pry, but she wanted to.

“Eat this or I’ll sic Hailey on you,” she said softly.

Sloane froze and slowly looked over to the soup. “Thanks,” he said gruffly, then went back to work.

Shit. Maybe mentioning Hailey’s name while he was in the zone wasn’t the best thing to do, but she couldn’t take it back now. She went back out into the shop and handed Austin his drink while setting his client’s smoothie in front of him.

“So how goes things?” she asked, taking a sip of her chai. Yummy cinnamon goodness.

The client mumbled something and she snuck a look at Austin.

“We’re almost done, Geoff is just in the zone.” Austin stopped and looked over at his client’s face. “You still good, bro?”

“Yeah, it doesn’t hurt, but the vibrating is getting to me.”

Austin nodded and got back to work. The buzz of the needle calmed Callie at the same time as it excited her. The paradox was what made her a tattoo artist. She loved the idea of creating something new while knowing the act itself was something she could dive deep into.

“Getting close. I’m just shading the last bit now then we’ll cover you up. I know after a while the sound can be too much.”

“Thanks,” Geoff mumbled, his eyes closed.

“Anything you want me to do?” Callie asked as Austin worked.

Austin tilted his head toward the front of the shop. “We have a walk in sitting in the chairs looking at the books. Then later we have a consult that I want you to be part of. From what the girl said she wanted, you should be able to handle it yourself.”

Callie beamed, her fingers tapping along her thigh. She couldn’t wait to get started, but doing another dance probably wouldn’t show off the calm, cool, and collected persona most badass tattoo artists radiated.

“What’s the consult?” she asked, eager to start working on the girl’s tattoo even though she knew she should get all the information first.

“A friend of mine from while back. You’ll see. I think you’ll be intrigued.”

Callie’s brow raised at that cryptic comment, then sucked back more of her chai. “Okay, then. Where do you want me to work?” Since she wasn’t a full time tattoo artist, she didn’t have a station of her own. She had her own kit and tools that she’s acquired over time, but unlike the others, she didn’t have a chair and area of her own. She bounced around from station to station, usually sharing space so she could learn and be watched over as she did so. It didn’t bother her since most people had to work that way when they first started and she honestly learned a lot from just having someone there to help her if needed.

Austin looked up from Geoff’s arm. “Go take the empty one near Sloane. You should be done with what the girl wants by the time Morgan gets here.”

Her body stiffened at the mention of an empty station. That was new.

“Morgan?” she asked, trying to sound casual about what his other words meant.

“My friend with the consult.” Austin grinned. “And yeah, Callie. Take the extra station. We cleared it out for you last night.”

Callie froze, her eyes filling. “What?”

Austin, cursed, then patted Geoff’s back. “Give me a sec.”

“Sure thing. If you’re about do to what I think you’re about to do, then I’m glad I’m here to witness it.”

Callie swallowed hard, her gaze going from Austin, to Geoff, to the empty station, then back to Austin. “What do you mean?”

“You’re ready for your own space, hon,” Austin said softly. “You’ve been ready for awhile, but Maya and I wanted to be sure the shop was ready too. Since Tommy moved away when his wife got stationed in Texas last week, we’ve opened up a space. So it’s yours. We’ll talk business and what it all means when Maya gets back, but welcome to the family. You’re one of us.”

Callie threw her arms around Austin’s neck, crying softly. “Oh thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Austin patted her back and set her down. “You’re good at what you do. So go work on the star for that girl over there and then we can work with Morgan together.”

She nodded, a bit dazed, then kissed Austin on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“Putting moves on my man?” Sierra teased as she walked in.

Callie blushed then stepped back from Austin. “He just told me I get my own station, so I was just saying thanks. He’s all yours.”

Sierra beamed and hugged her tight. Callie closed her eyes, letting her family in everything but blood celebrate with her. “I’m so proud of you.” She looked over at Austin. “Maya’s going to be pissed you didn’t wait for her.”

Austin shrugged. “Whatever. I want Callie to work with Morgan and Maya isn’t here. She’ll get over it.”

Callie winced. “I so don’t want to be here when you’re telling her that.”

“Whatever,” Austin mumbled, his attention on his work.

“It’s good to see you,” Callie said to Sierra.

“You too, honey. I’m just stopping in to say hi on my way out to see another boutique in the area.”

Callie raised a brow. “Problems?” Sierra owned Eden, a new boutique across the street. That’s how she and Austin had met.

“Problems? Oh no. Not at all. I just like to know what the other shops are selling. It’s good to know your rivals.”

Callie grinned. “Oh, good. Have fun and let me know how it goes.”

“Will do and congratulations, honey.”

“Thank you!” Callie bounced her way to the girl sitting in the waiting room, trying to act causal and totally failing. Whatever, she was a full-fledged tattoo artist now. With a station and everything. She could act perky and her age if she wanted.

“Hi, I’m Callie and I’ll be your artist today.” Yay. “Come on over to my station and we’ll talk stars.” Her station. Yay again.

The girl smiled at her. “I’m Jessica. It’s nice to meet you.”

Callie led Jessica over to her new station and talked stars and placement. Austin was right; this would be a super easy first tattoo on her own. The girl wanted it on the inside of her wrist, no bigger than a fingernail. Plus she only wanted the outline and no fill.

“Let me get my things and then we can get started,” Callie said then headed back to the office to get her kit.

By the time she got everything ready and started sketching in front of Jessica, she was jazzed and ready to start inking. She stenciled the star on the girl’s wrist, got approval, and started tattooing. The buzz went straight to her bones and she grinned.

God, she loved her job.

Jessica didn’t flinch as Callie worked. It really depended on the person and location if someone was going to move around a lot during a session. This girl didn’t seem too bothered by the needle and Callie counted herself grateful. A perfect client and tattoo for her first job all on her own. Sure, she’d done tattoos before, but never on her own. Never in a station she could make hers. Austin, Sloane, Maya and the others would be there if she needed them, but right then, she was all on her own.

And oh my, didn’t that sound amazing?

By the time she finished up the paperwork and said goodbye to Jessica, Austin was already done with another consult after Geoff had left. Sloane was at his station, working on a leg piece that she’d want to get a look at later and they had a nice flow to the room. Not too busy, yet enough people to make her feel like she was in the right place.

The hairs on the back of her neck tingled and she shivered. She turned toward the door and blinked once. Twice.

The sexiest man she’d ever seen in her life stood in the doorway.

No, stood wasn’t a good word, not with the way his presence filled the shop. Dear Lord, was she panting? His broad shoulders were encased in a suit that had to cost more than her rent, but she didn’t care about that. His thick chest tapered into a trim waist and strong thighs. Just the thought of those thighs made her clench her own. He had his hands fisted at his sides, and oh God, those hands. Large, thick, and they looked so out of place compared to his classy suit. It looked as if he actually used his hands rather than merely sitting behind a desk as his attire suggested.

She let her gaze rake over his body and settle on his face. His attention was focused in front of him so she got his profile. He’d clenched his jaw, but damn, he looked amazing. He had to be in his late thirties or early forties. He had one of the expensive haircuts that made his dark brown strands look like they were perfectly manicured. With the way his hair had gone silver on his sideburns, it made him look even more dangerous.

He might be older her than her, but her hormones didn’t care. No, they screamed ‘fuck yeah, let’s ride’. Her nipples tightened and she thanked God she’d worn a bra that morning. Talk about embarrassing if that was the first thing he’d see.

He turned toward her and she sucked in a breath. Piercing blue eyes stared back at her, studying her like they would something they didn’t quite understand.

Not something she was unfamiliar with.

She wanted this man. Now. Later. More than once.

“Morgan, glad you made it,” Austin said as he walked up to the man with the sexy eyes. He held out a hand and Morgan clasped it.

“Thanks for sparing the time for me,” Morgan said, his voice low, gruff. So deep that it vibrated straight to her pussy.

Damn. This was Morgan. The man Austin wanted her to ink. It wouldn’t do well for her to lust after him. Sure, Austin had ended up engaged to Sierra after a consult, but sleeping with clients wasn’t the best way to start a career.

Her libido cursed at her and she pushed it aside. She’d just look from afar…even as she put her hands on him in a professional sense.

“Callie.”

She shook her head and looked up at the men again. It seemed they’d been trying to get her attention and she’d been off in her own dirty thoughts.

“Sorry, I was woolgathering.”

Austin gave her a curious look then motioned for her to come over. “Morgan, this is Callie Masters. Callie, this is one of my old friends, Morgan McAllister. From what you said you wanted Morgan, I really think Callie is going to do a great job on your ink.”

Morgan frowned. “Has she been tattooing long? I thought I’d come in and get you to work on me, not a new student.”

Callie bit back the frustration at the fact he talked about her like she wasn’t even there. “I’m experienced, Mr. McAllister. Don’t worry, I won’t screw up your tattoo.”

“Yeah, Morgan. She’s an amazing artist and exquisite with color. You’re going to be in good hands.”

Morgan narrowed his eyes. “If you say so.”

“He does,” Callie bit back. Normally she was a little more gracious when it came to clients. It wasn’t as if she’d been immune to people thinking she couldn’t cut it before. But he’d heated her up quickly then just as fast, cooled her down.

She might want to fuck him, or at least might have wanted—past tense—but now she wanted to prove to him she was good enough. He was way too rigid for her and that ‘student’ comment told her he thought she was too young.

Austin looked between the two of them then met her gaze. She nodded, telling him with her eyes that she could handle it. Later, when Morgan wasn’t there, she’d tell Austin how she felt. He seemed to understand, then took a step back.

“Okay then. I’ll let the two of you work together.” He squeezed Morgan’s shoulder. “I wouldn’t put you into hands I didn’t trust with all my heart. Got me?”

Morgan nodded, but didn’t lose the frown. Whatever, she’d prove to him—and herself—she could do this.

She led him to her new station and gestured for him to sit down. He did so, but didn’t lose the suit jacket, that rigidness never leaving his body.

“What is it you wanted?” she asked, trying to keep her voice warm. She wouldn’t let this guy rock her. She’d been through worse; she could do this.

“A full back piece that goes down the back of my arms, but also is easily covered up in a suit.”

Well damn. That was big. Really big.

“What do you want it of?”

He met her eyes. “A phoenix.”

A symbol for rebirth. For change.

She could do this. Her fingers itched to start sketching. Oh damn, she couldn’t wait to ink this on his body.

She smiled then. “That’s something we can do, Mr. McAllister. Don’t you worry, you’re in good hands.”

He raised a brow, but she didn’t blush. She’d give him the best tattoo of her life and then she’d let him walk away. Morgan McAllister and all his sexiness weren’t for her, but she’d show him what she could do with her ink.

She was Callie Masters. Kickass tattoo artist.

end of excerpt