Love, Honor, and Ink - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Love, Honor, and Ink

Book 6.6 in the Montgomery Ink Series

In a bonus Montgomery Ink novella, it seems that falling for your best friend isn’t as easy as fiction says and friends of the Montgomerys might finally find their happy ever after.

Wedding planner Arianna King had everything planned out down to the last detail until her father’s ultimatum changed everything. Now she’s alone, trying to open her own business, and seemingly failing at every corner. Just when things start to look even bleaker, she’ll find out just how much she can rely on her best friend—and herself.

Being in love with your best friend isn’t always easy as Harper Rosso knows. He’s been by her side since the beginning, but now that she finally has time to breath, he might just be able to show her what he could be for her. Only he’ll have to make sure he’s ready to take that chance and perhaps lose her forever.

Sparks fly between the two of them once they finally take their relationship to the next level. Only the burning temptation than fills them might not be enough in the face of what they left behind and what threatens their future.

Love, Honor, and Ink was originally found in the Once Upon a Valentine Anthology. 

read an excerpt

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Love, Honor, and Ink is Book 6.6 in the Montgomery Ink series

Love, Honor, and Ink Characters Profiles

Love, Honor, and Ink

Chapter One

The sharp staccato of high-heeled shoes hitting the marble floors of the opulent hallway filled Arianna King’s ears as she tried to slow her pace. She nodded at a man in a business suit leaving the office she on was her way to and tried not to look too eager. It didn’t help that her heartbeat was in tune with her footsteps.

Funny, she hadn’t thought she’d be so happy to walk into this particular office, but today wasn’t an ordinary day. No, this was the day her dreams came true. Complete with sparkly dresses and the occasional tiara.

Too bad there wouldn’t be a dashing prince on a white horse for her, but everything else was finally falling into place. Freaking finally.

Okay, so she really didn’t need a dashing prince on a white horse. She could save herself and ride her own horse, but little girl dreams sometimes reared their heads at the most peculiar moments.

Arianna smiled as she passed a couple that was walking out of one of the other wedding advisor’s rooms. She was just too happy and excited about what was to come to try to maintain much of her professional image. After all, she was a wedding planner, she had to be happy; and right then, she had nothing to hide.

And soon, she’d be able to do cartwheels down the hallway and dance a little jig before pumping her fists in the air like Rocky.

Okay, so that last part might have been a little overboard, but come on, she’d been waiting years for this moment. Years of sweat, pain, tears, and the occasional cut and scrape where she’d had to buck up and deal with it. Countless sleepless nights, and that ulcer that occasionally threatened to come back would finally be worth it.

They were in the middle of their busiest time of the year, as Valentine’s Day was rapidly approaching. Her to do lists were a mile long, and her planners were filled to the brim, but she loved it—even if no one outside the walls of the company knew she was the one actually doing the work.

Now she’d finally have a position and title she deserved. She might share a name with the company, but she never been part of the whole, never had the recognition and value she’d deserved. Well, that sounded haughty, but damn it, it was about time she started acting like she was more than just the little assistant.

With what was about to come out of her next meeting, she had a feeling everything would fall into place.

“Ari!”

Arianna paused her triumphant jaunt and turned on her heel at the sound of her fellow wedding planner’s shout.

“Is there a reason you’re yelling across the hallway as if hellhounds are on your tail?” she said coolly. Arianna raised a single brow then burst into laughter along with Colleen. “I really can’t pull off lady of the manor can I?”

Colleen snorted and shook her head. “Oh, you can act prissy and the ice princess when you’re talking to your father because that’s how he expects you to act, but with me? Nope. Not so much.”

Colleen was one of her best friends and coworkers, so it made sense that she knew Arianna so well. And the dark-haired woman wasn’t wrong about how Arianna had to act around her father. She raised her chin, trying to prepare herself. She’d been so excited to go see him, knowing her life was about to change for the better—at last—but in order to do that, she had to meet with him.

Arianna let out a breath, determined to not let her father ruin this for her. Again. He tended to do that often. “What was it you needed?”

Colleen shook her head then looked at her tablet in her hand. “I need help with this flower order for the Johnson-Callery wedding.”

While Arianna was one of the two lead wedding planners—well, the only one, really but she wasn’t going get into all of that right then—Colleen was a junior planner at King’s Weddings. Her friend knew what she was doing and only asked for help if she truly needed it. Arianna looked down the hallway toward where her destiny lay and nodded.

That door could wait two minutes.

Then she could finish her jig.

“What’s wrong?” she asked and spent the next fifteen minutes, rather than the two she thought she could give up, going over an order so unusual, so completely out of the realm of normal, Arianna thought she’d need an antacid after. No wonder Colleen had issues.

“The couple does realize brown and orange for a wedding screams seventies, right?” Arianna asked, picturing tulle and god-awful ruffles with burnt orange trim. The shudder racking her body wasn’t an exaggeration.

Tulle was, after all, the Devil’s textile.

“Don’t even get me started,” Colleen mumbled. “They want it to match their sports team. They fell in love while at a game so it actually means something to them. If it didn’t, I would have found a way around it.”

Arianna scrunched her face then nodded. “Okay, so here is what you’re going to do. Find the tamest of these colors that match and work in other designs. They can be muted. It doesn’t have to be the whole thing, make it be almost a salute to their team without forgetting about them. Compromise.”

She helped Colleen a few more moments then checked the time on her phone, holding back a curse. “I need to go.”

“Good luck,” Colleen whispered, the same eagerness and fear in her eyes that Arianna had in her heart.

Arianna nodded at her friend, afraid to say anything else and jinx it. She loved her job, really, but she wanted to actually be able to love it and…sleep. As it was, being one of the head wedding planners for King’s Weddings meant she had more work to do than most, and very little time to do it in. However, she loved it with every smile, tear, and gasp for breath during the ceremony, reception, and everything that came before it.

The fact that they all thought her father was the one who did everything rather than stand on the sidelines and pretend to do things is what made her want to scream.

But that would be no more.

After this meeting, she’d finally have her vindication. She wouldn’t be the one behind the man, doing all the work while her father got all the credit. Honestly, despite the title behind her father’s name, Arianna wasn’t sure when the man had last planned a wedding.

In fact, if Arianna thought too hard about it—which she tried not to do since she had way too much on her plate as it was—she wasn’t sure her father had ever planned a wedding.

Dear Lord.

Nope, she wasn’t going to think about that. Not when she’d heard through the grapevine—meaning from her father’s big-breasted, doe-eyed secretary—that her father was retiring.

Retiring.

Arianna wouldn’t be doing her jig yet, but holy crap, she couldn’t wait. Once her father, the man she’d learned to live with at a young age because she’d been forced to, was out of the proverbial picture, Arianna would be free. Free to do what she needed to keep King’s Weddings as one of the leading planning firms in Denver, as well as manage it to the point where everyone could sleep at night and not get ulcers.

When she turned the corner and entered the lobby to her father’s office, she raised her chin and let the cool mask she’d perfected all those years ago slide into place. To Xavier King, one did not clap, smile, laugh, or act the common peasant. One had to remain stoic, proud, and professional at all times.

Her second skin may have been ice, but she’d learned to take the pressure and emotional beatings until nothing could crack it.

To say she’d been waiting for this day her entire life was an understatement.

She could have left before, could have found a new way to make her life, but she loved what she did, and it was her family’s name on the walls. It was her family’s legacy that she needed to be a part of.

Her phone buzzed right then, and she held back a curse. Her phone was always buzzing with her numerous clients needing things. It was a wonder she ever found sleep at all. When she checked the screen, she smiled. This time, it wasn’t a client; it was her friend, Holly.

Good luck.

Arianna smiled and texted back. Holly had perfect timing, apparently.

Thanks! I’ll call you when I know more.

Kick butt!

Arianna cleared her throat. “Daisy, I’m here for my father.”

Daisy looked up from her phone and smiled, the confusion on her face a usual occurrence. Arianna might have tried to like her if the woman weren’t so bitchy most days. She wouldn’t last long as her father’s latest conquest, but at least Daisy looked like she was having fun.

And on that revolting thought, Arianna raised a brow. Be ice, she reminded herself. Be ice.

“Oh, go on in,” Daisy said breathlessly. “Xavier, I mean, Mr. King is waiting for you.”

Arianna nodded before turning toward the door, letting thoughts of Daisy leave her mind, and the future behind that thick piece of oak taking their place. She gave a quick knock and then walked in. If her father were waiting for her, then he expected her to come right in and not waste time. Wasting time was not for Kings.

Her father sat behind his gleaming wooden desk, his hair just now becoming more salt than pepper, and the perpetual scowl he wore when he wasn’t near clients on his face.

“You’re late.”

Arianna didn’t let the bite of his words sting, not when she’d heard far worse. Today meant something more than callous words and being ignored. Today meant change. She had to believe that.

“I’m sorry, last-minute wedding detail,” she explained. Not that her father would know anything about those kids of things, but whatever.

Her father waved a hand, already moving on to another topic in his head. “Take a seat next to Justin and let’s get started.”

Arianna blinked and looked down at the man she hadn’t noticed sitting in front of her father’s desk. Odd, because she always tried to notice when Justin Rosso was around. Not that she panted after him, but because she wanted to stay clear of the greasy creep.

What the hell was he doing in her meeting? The meeting where years of hard work would finally be completely worth it.

That familiar feeling of dread and disappointment threatened to claw at her belly, but she shook it off. Justin was her father’s lackey, so she supposed it made sense in a weird sort of way that he would be there for this.

Sort of.

She sank into the leather seat and nodded toward Justin, not bothering to say hello. If she could get through his meeting without speaking to him at all, she’d be happy.

Maybe not happy, but at least not wanting to dig her eyes out with a spoon. That was always a plus.

“Arianna, the King family has owned and operated King’s Weddings since its inception over fifty years ago,” her father began.

A history lesson. Great.

Apparently, Xavier was going to take the long way to get to his point.

“Yes, of course,” she said, not knowing if he actually wanted her to speak. From the way his eyes narrowed, she figured she’d made the wrong choice.

Crap.

“As I was saying, the King family has spearheaded this wedding planning establishment. While my mother, your grandmother, started with a vision of dainty weddings that fit the feel of couples and small venues, since I became president, we’ve grown into the billion-dollar company we are today. We provide services to the top-tier community and the cream of the crop. We handle hundreds of A-list weddings a year, and we only have room to grow. We’ve become the destination for high-end clientele around the globe, who want to come to Colorado and know our unique beauty.”

Arianna stayed silent during her father’s speech. It wasn’t like she hadn’t had a hand in every piece of what he’d explained. Since her mother had died when Arianna was three, her father had done his best to make King’s Weddings exclusive. Her father’s only responsibility—beyond taking credit—was ensuring that King’s Weddings didn’t “stoop” to provide services to those…less fortunate.

That would be one thing she changed right away.

But first things first. She couldn’t get ahead of herself like she had been doing all morning.

“As you’ve no doubt heard, I’ve decided to step back from the company. I’ve done this for long enough that it’s my turn to find new avenues.”

She held her breath, trying to not make any sudden moves.

“With what I’ve said before in mind, it’s only natural that in my absence, I worry about how the company will take root before continuing down the path I’ve paved and provided.”

What the hell?

Arianna frowned before forcing a neutral expression on her face. She hadn’t been able to hide it fast enough, though, because her father caught it.

“Don’t frown, Arianna, it’s not becoming. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I don’t trust you. You might have thought you did your best in the years you’ve worked here, but you’ve slacked. You’re not as good as you think you are. I want the top. I want diamonds, while you are tainted glass. I want spun gold while you provide me with rust. I don’t trust you to follow the precise path I’ve laid out for you. You are my daughter, and you will listen to me. If I don’t believe that will happen, well, then I must take matters into my own hands.”

Arianna blinked, unable to comprehend his words as hurt cascaded through her body, the crashing waves of torment and pain she hadn’t thought she’d feel at his callousness overwhelming.

“What are you talking about?” she asked, her throat too tight to say much more. She would not cry in front of this man.

Not ever again.

“You’re not a King, Arianna. Oh, I might have made a mistake with your mother long ago, but you’re not of my blood. Not in all the ways that matter. You may have the look of my mother with that blonde hair of yours and her green eyes, but you’re nothing. I’ve decided to sell King’s Weddings to Honor’s Designs with the caveat that they keep our name and ditch theirs. Honor isn’t a suitable name. Who the hell cares about Honor?”

Arianna sprang to her feet, her hands clenched into tight fists at her sides. “Our rival? You’re selling us to our rival?”

“Not us. They won’t be taking you with them. They want nothing to do with you. Seems like there’s a theme,” he said. He didn’t sneer, but it was close. God forbid the man show any emotion.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I put my life into this company. I’ve done more for King’s than you ever did, and we both know it.”

Her father narrowed his eyes again. “Sit down, Arianna. There is a second option that you haven’t let me voice. It seems your impetuous nature is just the tip of the iceberg of where they went wrong with you.”

They.

Not him. He hadn’t raised her.

Arianna sat down, her body shaking. She wasn’t sure her legs would be able to carry her at all at this point. This monster in front of her couldn’t be her father.

She’d seen signs of the way he was acting now—his cruelty, his disgust—her whole life, but she hadn’t thought it could get this bad. How on earth had she missed this?

“The second option is sitting right next to you.”

Arianna froze and then slowly turned toward Justin, who had leaned back in his chair, his hands calmly resting on his stomach.

“What?” she asked through clenched teeth.

“I’ll let you keep your position—thereby becoming president and owner—if you marry Justin.”

Arianna blinked, unable to come up with words.

Marry. Justin.

Her father had to be fucking kidding her.

“I’m not marrying Justin.”

“No offense, right?” Justin sneered.

“Fuck you, Justin. All offense intended,” she snarled then turned to her father. “No. I’m not marrying your precious puppet. What do you think you’re doing? This is the twenty-first century. You can’t just marry me off to the highest bidder.”

This couldn’t be legal. Could it?

She’d sue. She’d do something, but she wouldn’t marry that jackass.

Xavier raised a brow. “Can’t I? Marry Justin or lose your precious company. I don’t really care as long as you do as you’re told. It’s about time you act the dutiful daughter and not the ungrateful bitch in front of me.”

Arianna stood up quickly, almost knocking into her chair. Jesus, what the hell was happening? She’d walked into this room thinking she’d finally be free, and now her father wanted to shackle her even tighter.

What was she going to do? She couldn’t let the company fall into their rival’s hands, it wouldn’t be fair. But if it happened, she’d be out of a job. And there was no way in hell that she would marry the prick beside her.

She had a little savings, but she couldn’t afford the type of lawyer she’d need to fight her father.

She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry.

There really was only one option.

“I quit.”

Her father blinked—a sign of emotion he more than likely didn’t even know he was showing—then stood up, his mouth opening to say something probably even more vulgar than usual.

Arianna raised her hand, silencing him with a look. Rage made her limbs want to shake, but she stayed firm. She would not show weakness. Not now. Not ever. Never to this man again. “I’m done. Take your precious Justin and your precious plans and leave me out of it.”

Surprised she’d been able to speak at all, she turned on her heel and walked out of the office. Her father and Justin may have spoken behind her, but she didn’t hear.

She could barely think, let alone do anything else.

With one conversation, she’d lost it all. Her dreams hadn’t come true. There were no such things as happily ever afters.

Fate fucking sucked.

end of excerpt

Love, Honor, and Ink

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