Ink Reunited - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Ink Reunited

Book 0.6 in the Montgomery Ink Series

From the streets of New Orleans and the heat of Midnight Ink, comes the happy ever after for a character whose story was begged to be told.

Sassy Bordeaux is the Midnight Ink receptionist, honorary godmother, best friend to many, and matchmaker expert. In the past two months, she’s watched eight couples fall in love, make mistakes, and find their happy endings. Though she might have had hand in each of those, she’s yet to find the peace she’s desired. When the men from her past come into Midnight Ink, she’s forced to face what she left behind and what could happen if she lets go of her pain and finds a future she deserves.

Rafe Chavez and Ian Steele remember their time with Sassy like it was yesterday, yet have worked hard to move on. Or at least try to. Now they’re both back in New Orleans for the woman they loved and for the connection they shared with each other. It will take more than the usual groveling, pleading and begging for these three to overcome their history, but once they take that step, the streets of New Orleans will never be the same.

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Ink Reunited is Book 0.6 in the Montgomery Ink series

Ink Reunited Characters Profiles

Ink Reunited


Chapter 1

“So, should I get a butterfly on my butt or a cobra on my hip?”

Sassy Bordeaux grinned at the just-turned-eighteen years old high school senior, and tapped her finger with a deliciously apple-red colored nail on her chin. The numerous bangles that adorned her wrists, covering yet still showing peeks of some of the tattoos she had on her forearms, jingled together with the movement. The sound mixed in with the echoes of motorized needles, laughter, music, and chatting within the shop.

The girl in front of her might have been eighteen, but she still had the baby face of a girl still growing. Normally, Sassy wouldn’t have stepped in and told anyone that they weren’t ready for a tattoo, but today she needed to step in.

Oh, who the hell was she kidding?

Sassy always stepped in and told it like it was. There was no use lying only to make a few bucks for the shop while the client ended up leaving with ink they really didn’t want—or ink that didn’t fit who they were—merely who they thought they should be.

She might have been the Midnight Ink receptionist and while most people on the outside thought her job was to make coffee and appointments, she and the crew knew better. She was the first line of defense for the artists’ work and the clients’ canvas.

It was a job she took seriously.

Even if she seemed like the crazy lady from the streets of New Orleans most days. That misperception by others led her to freedom.

Everyone underestimated Sassy.

Even Sassy underestimated herself sometimes.

Okay, totally the wrong direction for her thoughts.

Pushing away memories she’d rather not think about ever again, she placed her hand on top of the girl’s hand and shook her head.

“Honey, is this really what you want?” she asked, lowering her voice, already smooth as honey, to a near-whisper.

The girl blinked up at her. “Uh yeah? I mean. I’m here aren’t I?”

Sassy flipped her hair over her shoulder, the long brown waves tumbled down her back. Today, she had bright blue streaks in it thanks to the colored hair chalk she used. She liked changing it up daily and sometimes would change the color in the middle of the work day just to make people think twice.

The customers who didn’t know her—and some who did—thought she was a little too crazy for them so she fed the fantasy and did nothing to change their minds.

Plus, the colors freaking rocked.

“What’s your name, sugar?” she asked as she led the girl to one of the small couches they had in the guest area of Midnight Ink.

“Hannah. And you’re Sassy. I’ve heard about you.”

From the odd look on Hannah’s face, Sassy wasn’t sure she wanted to know exactly what the girl had heard. There were a lot of stories as to how she’d come to work at Midnight Ink. Between being a spy, a lost princess, and a former model who lost her way due to drugs, Sassy had heard just about everything.

It wasn’t her fault the stories kept circulating. Okay, maybe it was considering she hadn’t discredited any of them, nor had she told the truth as to where she’d come from.

No one needed to know that, and the fiction was more exciting than fact anyway.

Sassy sank into the cushions of the couch she’d picked out for the shop and held back a sigh. Damn, she loved this couch. It was so plush yet didn’t look it. It fit the look of Midnight Ink with its cream softness yet strong angles. The rest of the place had wood floors and dark black chairs, tables, and stools that gleamed under the warm lighting. The little reception area where Sassy could speak with clients, as well as have the artists relax was her zone and where her own magic happened.

At least that’s what she hoped would happen in this case.

“So, Hannah, you’ve heard a lot about me?” Sassy asked, her tone casual. She needed to get out of her head and into this girl’s. What the hell was wrong with her today?

Hannah rolled her eyes then bit her lip, as if she’d thought better of the action. “Well, you’re…The Sassy. Everyone knows about you and your connection to Midnight Ink.”

Sassy held back a snort at “The Sassy”. Apparently her name was a title as well as who she was. She was special like that.

“Well, I am The Sassy, but that’s not the important thing, is it, honey?” At Hannah’s blank stare Sassy had to hold herself back from using small words. Damn, this girl was young. “Why do you want that tattoo?”

“Because I’m eighteen and it’s my right as an adult.” Hannah stuck out her lip in a pout that clearly said her words were a lie—at least the latter half.

An adult? Jesus, they made them younger and younger these days. Okay, so Sassy was only thirty-two, a baby in some respects but she’d seen enough to qualify her as more of an adult than this squeaky-clean teen.

“Okay, yes, ink is your right now that you’re eighteen, honey. You need to remember, though, that ink is for life. It’s not something to take for granted. Yes, a cobra on your hip would look kick-ass, in fact, I’ve seen a few that wrap around so beautifully, it’s a work of art onto itself. Hannah, baby, if you get that though, it needs to mean something beyond wanting to prove you’re older than what others think of you.”

From the guilty look on Hannah’s face, Sassy had hit the true reason for the girl’s bout of rebellion.

No use stopping now since there wasn’t a chance in hell any of the artists would lay ink on this virgin skin today. Hannah clearly wasn’t ready and Midnight Ink cared about things like that. It’s what made them who they were.

“Honey, go home and think about if this is truly what you want.”

“But I want a tattoo,” Hannah mumbled.

Sassy nodded. “Yes, I believe that you do, and I think that anything we put on you will look brilliant. Our artists rock, sugar, and they’ll make sure you look fantastic, but right now? No, honey, that’s not something you need. Wait until you’re ready to get one for you and not what you think you need for them.”

The girl let out a breath and ran a hand over her face. “I guess it was pretty stupid coming in here without an idea.”

Sassy reached around and gave Hannah a one-armed hug. “No, honey. Actually, coming into Midnight Ink is the smartest thing you could have done. Somewhere else might not have listened to what you needed rather than what you said you wanted.”

Hannah grinned up at her, looking much younger than her eighteen years if that was possible. “I guess that’s why they call you The Sassy. You know all.”

Sassy threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, I only wish I did, but it’s fun pretending I do. Now let’s get you a card just in case you decide to come back with a clear picture. When you do, we’ll find you an artist, but I think Shep or Rosie would work for you.”

Hannah ducked her head and blushed. “Shep’s the really hot guy with the tattoos on his arms and shoulder in the corner right?”

Sassy held back a laugh and looked in the corner to where Shep was clearly holding back a laugh of his own. Apparently, he had ears like a freaking cat.

“Yes, darling, that’s Shep. He’s taken, but it’s still nice to look and dream.”

Caliph, the big bruiser of an artist and Shep’s best friend, belted out a laugh and Hannah blushed even harder. Sassy glared at the man who smiled unrepentant, then let Hannah outside with a clear conscience.

She glided over to Caliph’s station, the sway in her hips making her look like she was prowling even when she wasn’t and waved her finger in her friend’s face.

“I can’t believe you laughed at her! She’s just a teenage girl with a crush.”

Caliph bowed his head and had the decency to look a little ashamed. A little. “Sorry, Sass. It was the idea of you fantasizing about dear old Shep that got me laughing, not the little girl who needed more time to think about her ink.”

Sassy let out a breath then smacked his shoulder. “I would have thought since you found Jennifer you wouldn’t be such a clueless brute when it came to girls.”

“Hey, give him a break, Sass,” Shep put in as he sidled up to them both. “He didn’t mean anything by it and Hannah was smiling when she walked out of here. Why are you acting like it was bigger than it was?”

Sassy blinked and took a step back. Well, hell, she was blowing it out of proportion. All of Midnight Ink laughed and joked around. It was just what they did. They were a family and ribbed each other often. What the hell was wrong with her? And why had she asked that question more than once in such a short period of time?

Maybe she needed a break.

Or a man.

Nope. Not gonna think about that last one.

She patted Caliph’s cheek so he would bend down. When he did so, she placed a small kiss on each one then sighed. “I’m sorry, hon. I think I just need a nap.”

Or to get laid.

Stop it, Sassy.

Shep narrowed his eyes at her and she knew he didn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth, but she ignored it. Her friends, as much as she loved them, didn’t need to know everything about her.

“You should go home, Sass,” Shep put in. “We aren’t that busy and if you’re saying you need the rest, then take it.” He pulled her into a hug and she inhaled his spicy scent that did nothing for her other than remind her that he was family. “We love you, babe. You’ve taken care of us so now it’s time to take care of yourself.”

Sassy pulled back and pasted a smile on her face. Damn it. She knew that, yet the whole idea of taking care of herself was the reason she was in this rut.

Okay, so that was what was wrong with her.

“Shep, sugar, you don’t need to worry about Sassy.”

He grinned, his eyes dancing at her use of third person—exactly what she’d hoped for.

“Every time you talk about yourself in third person you freak me out. You know that right?”

Sassy nodded, her hair falling over her shoulders again. She never could make it do what she wanted most days. It seemed to like being even more free than she did. “That’s why I do it, Shep dear. Now get to work on that stencil of yours. And you, Caliph, you left someone sleeping on your bench. How they could fall asleep getting a tattoo, I’ll never know.”

The big man grinned, then leaned down to kiss her cheek. “My hands are just that talented.” He wiggled his brows and Shep made gagging sounds from beside her.

Boys.

They never grew up, even when one of them was rapidly approaching the big four-oh.

“You are a menace, but I’m glad Jennifer has you. Now get back to work. Shep? Don’t forget that you need to bring in Shea for her next tattoo.”

Shep smiled the smile that told everyone within a three block radius that he was in total love with the blue eyed woman who needed more ink. “I will, don’t worry. She can’t have anything on her arms or lower legs because of work—at least for now—but she’s thinking of something for her other hip.”

Shea met Shep within Midnight Ink when she had wanted a tattoo, and because fate was awesome like that, the two had fallen for each other in the process.

In fact, it seemed like love was in the air at Midnight Ink. It had only been a month or so since the last of the love birds had found their match. All in all, eight couples—well, a triad in Eli’s case—had fallen in love since the beginning of the year.

Sassy liked to think she had a hand in each of those.

Well, if she was counting, then yes, she’d helped each couple stagger through the murky waters of falling in love. After all, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. The best kind of love and happiness came after the parts where the couple had to work for it and find their way. Each of the couples who found love at Midnight Ink had been through their own unique forms of torture and now looked forward to bright futures and happy endings.

It didn’t mean that Sassy would get hers though.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose.

No, she wouldn’t think about that.

Wouldn’t think about them.

She hadn’t thought about her past and those she’d left behind for so long that it was now just a distant memory. Sure, the taste of bitterness and regret still settled on her tongue once in a while, but it didn’t rule her life, didn’t rule her choices.

At least that’s what she told herself.

With a shake of her head, she went to her station and made coffee. Sassy didn’t make the usual coffee. Oh, no. She had a gift with it and those at Midnight Ink knew it. In a city filled with the most decadent coffees, Sassy could brew with the best of them.

See? That was something light and airy to think about. What else could she think of that had nothing to do with pain and regret?

Maybe she needed more ink.

She looked down at the spirals and flowers that covered her arms and smiled. Yes. More ink was definitely the way to go. She had a few pieces on her back and sides as well, and knew she had plenty of places for more.

Who would ink her though?

It had been her goal to get each of the Midnight Ink crew to lay ink on her and so far, she’d gotten everyone at least once. Rosie had done a couple sessions with her. As the woman was her best friend, it only made sense.

Maybe she’d get Shep to work on her hip. The man knew exactly what to do with curves when it came to ink. She grinned as she thought of Shea. Okay, so maybe the man knew what to do with curves in other ways too, but that wasn’t something she needed to think about.

Ever.

The shop’s phone rang and Sassy moved to answer it. “You’ve reached Sassy at Midnight Ink. You desire it, we ink it.”

The caller snorted and Sassy smiled. “Desire? Dear lord, Sass, you are milking it.”

“Odalia!” Sassy squealed at her friend and Midnight Ink’s client. “I’m so glad you called. Are you coming in for another session with that sexy, bad boy of yours?” Odalia and Jacques had been one of the couples she’d helped pair up recently and she couldn’t be more happy for the cop and the bounty hunter.

“Since I’m planning on having Rosie finish up a couple pieces and I’ll have to get partially naked to do it, yeah, Jacques will be there.” Sassy could practically see the grin on the other woman’s face through the phone. “You know how he likes to get me down to my skin.”

“I’m sure you like to do the same, sugar. Now let me look through my appointment book to see when Rosie is available. You have any specific time you’re thinking?”

They set up the time and Sassy penciled it in for Rosie who would make the final call. “Are you coming to the party we’re holding in a couple weeks?” Sassy asked, speaking of Midnight Ink’s Valentine’s Day party.

The shop liked to hold parties of their own on certain holidays. Since the whole crew seemed to be in love, this party was only appropriate. It wouldn’t actually be on Valentine’s Day as most of the crew would want to be with their significant others, but it was near enough to it they could eat and drink, and for those who were sober, get inked.

“We’ll be there. You know we love the shop and you, honey.”

Sassy opened her mouth to speak but suddenly came up short.

“Sassy.” She heard the deep, achingly familiar voice coming from in front of her.

She blinked in complete disbelief at what she saw.

“Rafe.”

“Nothing for me then?” Another voice, just as familiar, came from just beside Rafe, and Sassy swallowed hard.

“Ian.” She shook her head. “What…what are you two doing here?”

She could have sworn everyone in the shop had stopped moving, stopped breathing. It was if they knew something was terribly wrong, and yet had no idea what to do about it.

She didn’t know what to do about it.

“We’re here for a tattoo,” Rafe answered.

“And you,” Ian put in.

With that, the phone dropped out her hand and her mind went completely blank.

Her past was back and standing right in front of her in all their sexy glory and determined faces. No matter what she did, she had a feeling she wouldn’t be able to wish Ian and Rafe away.

It hadn’t worked before.

It wouldn’t work this time either.

Oh shit.

end of excerpt

Ink Reunited

is available in the following formats:

Jan 27, 2014

ISBN-10: 162322117X

ISBN-13: 978-1623221171

Reviews of Ink Reunited

“...a very quick and spicy read!”

Books N Kisses

“She has the talent to write a range of genres as proven in this one.”

Denise's Book Reviews

“This story is filled with depth of love for each of the main characters and is the perfect cherry on Sassy’s story.”

Love Romance Tales