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Inked Persuasion

Book 1 in the Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins Series

Montgomery Ink Book 16

The Montgomery Ink saga from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with a steamy new series.

Years ago, Annabelle Montgomery married not for love but for a promise of hope. When she lost him weeks later, she told herself she never needed those sentiments again. Only when she discovers years later that her new neighbor is her late husband’s brother, Annabelle finds she can’t quite shake the emotions she’s long since buried.

Jacob Queen vowed he’d never set eyes on Annabelle again. When they’re forced into each other’s lives once more, they realize that no matter how far they run, no distance can keep them apart forever. More than ghosts lay between them, and when they finally give in to temptation, walking away whole may no longer be an option.

**There is a bonus epilogue exclusively in the audio and ebook editions!**

read an excerpt

Inked Persuasion is Book 1 in the Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins series

Inked Persuasion Characters Profiles

Inked Persuasion

I was going to shake my hips, dance, and drink the night away. Okay, perhaps not the last thing, but I would drink a little.

I grinned over at my sister, Paige, who smiled widely back. I gave her a little wave. She leaned into her new boyfriend, Colton, joy evident in her expression. I didn’t know this Colton, but he was brave for coming to a Montgomery event so fresh into their relationship. Even at a bar on a weekend night—seemingly an innocent time. But when it came to the Montgomerys and how we circled our prey, no time was innocent.

“You are staring at Paige like you are ready to grill her new boyfriend.”

I looked up at my big brother, Beckett, and smiled. “Maybe I am. After all, this is the first time she’s brought him to a family event. It’s a big thing.”

Beckett shook his head and pushed his dark hair away from his face. He needed a haircut, so did his twin, Benjamin, but the two of them seemed to be going for a mountain man look. Soon, their beards would be annoyingly bushy, rather than what was on-trend these days. Of course, we were in Fort Collins, Colorado, not in Boulder or down in Denver with some of the other Montgomery cousins. We had standards when it came to facial hair. Not that I actually believed that, but I knew some of our friends did.

“Now you’re grinning. Are you thinking of something evil?” Beckett asked.

I leaned my head on his shoulder and sighed. “Just thinking about the cousins.”

“Which ones?” He sounded a little nervous, and I frowned, looking up at him. “We like all of our cousins. I can’t even say most because we actually do like them all. What’s with the tone?”

He shook his head, wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and pulled me closer to him. He smelled like sandalwood and soap. He must have showered before he came out to join us at Riggs’. He had been out on the grounds all day, all of us working hard to finish up the last bit of the leading project before we started on the new, larger one that had also been keeping me up at night.

“Dad was grumbling about something the other Montgomerys did, and I’m not in the mood to talk about it. We are here to drink, have fun, and grill not only this new Colton but our baby brother’s new beau, as well.”

“Did you say ‘beau?’” Benjamin asked, frowning as he walked toward us. Beckett flipped him off.

Benjamin was the mirror image of Beckett. Why my parents decided to give both sets of twins similar names, I would never know.

Beckett and Benjamin had been born first, and then Archer and I came next. If anything, they should have given the older brothers names starting with A, and then Archer and I should have gotten B names. But wanting to go alphabetical had not been in the cards, apparently.

Our baby sister Paige was the only one of us without a twin. And, sadly, she did not have a name that started with a C, much to her consternation. She’d even tried to go as a Chloe or Christine for a while when we were younger, but she always ended up as Paige.

When Beckett and I didn’t answer him in time, Benjamin cleared his throat. “What are you guys talking about?”

Beckett shrugged. “Nothing, just Dad being a jerk. And now I am getting ready to be by Annabelle’s side when we grill the two new people who’ve joined us tonight.”

Benjamin shook his head and raised his brow at his older brother. “You know, you said the word beau, and that’s not a word I think has ever left your mouth before.”

Beckett’s lips twitched, and I grinned. The two of them usually took turns being the broodiest. Generally, they had scowls under those beards and rarely smiled or laughed. I wasn’t sure why they were always so serious. Maybe they’d been a little less severe as babies. And then Archer and I had shown up and probably terrorized the twins. I might not be as wild as Archer, or as carefree—I couldn’t be, not after everything that had happened—but I still smiled a lot more than Benjamin and Beckett did.

Paige was a unique delight. Which was exactly how she liked and wanted it, even if she had said at one point that she wished she had a twin. She was the brightest one of us all, the happiest, and the sweetest. At least that’s what I thought. Paige called me sweet, though usually when she was making fun of me for being weird. Because I was weird. I couldn’t help it. I was a Montgomery.

“Okay, there’s Archer and his boyfriend, Marc. Now we have the two youngest and their new beaus,” Benjamin said, and Beckett flipped him off again.

“We’re not actually going to terrorize them, are we?” I asked. “Because I kind of want our siblings to be happy.”

Beckett raised a brow and shook his head. “Oh, they can be happy—once they pass our test.”

“We’re still learning how to do this whole big brother and sister thing when it comes to our siblings’ relationships,” Beckett explained and then held up three fingers, getting the bartender’s attention. Riggs gave Benjamin a wink before pouring three shots of tequila.

I shook my head. “I swear, everywhere you go, everyone loves you.”

Benjamin didn’t smile, but he did snort. “No, that would be Archer. I just learned how to give that come-hither look to bartenders from our baby brother.”

Beckett and I burst out laughing.

“And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I will hunt you down,” Benjamin warned.

I shook my head, picked up my shot, and downed it. I closed my eyes and winced but didn’t reach for salt or lime. Doing a tequila shot with the type of tequila Benjamin liked did not usually require salt or lime. And the twins would make fun of me if I asked for them. Of course, it was all out of love. But still, I wasn’t about to open myself for teasing.

I looked across the crowd at the bar to our two siblings and their significant others. “I think we should start with Paige and Colton. They seem to be more serious.”

Beckett nodded. “I agree. They’ve also had at least three weeks longer than Archer and Marc.”

Benjamin sighed. “I swear we should have started taking notes or something so we knew exactly how to interrogate them to make sure they’re good enough for our baby siblings.”

I smiled and listened as my brothers went through their plans. I might be Archer’s twin, but I always felt a little more protective of him, a little older than the five minutes that separated us. Though he likely thought the same of me.

“You think that’s too much?” Benjamin asked, frowning.

Beckett shook his head. “No, we need to get this right. After all, we’ve never had to deal with serious relationships before. While the rest of the Montgomerys got married, we’ve all stayed single. We need to get ready for the first marriage, you know?”

Both of the twins froze and risked glances at me.

I gave them a soft smile and shook my head. “Exactly,” I said, not daring to broach that subject. “We need to get ready and interrogate these two new people who dared to step out with our siblings.”

“Okay, now I’m a little afraid of what you guys are talking about,” my twin said as he came towards us. He leaned down and kissed my cheek, his hand holding Marc’s.

Archer looked like a slightly smaller version of Beckett and Benjamin. He wasn’t as wide, and he didn’t have a beard at the moment. But he had the same startling blue eyes and wicked grin. Not that the older twins showed those grins often, but when they did, they looked just like Archer.

I looked like him, too—after all, we were twins. But I was a little softer around the edges, though my jaw was slightly more pointed than Paige’s. We all looked like Montgomerys—both sides of the family.

My mother’s maiden name was also Montgomery. She was the youngest sister of the Colorado Montgomerys, a completely different line than my father’s. It made things a little weird for my dad. But having those connections meant we had dozens of cousins around the country, even more than my cousins, who lived close by.

“I feel like I should be scared,” Marc said, grinning.

He was blond-haired, brown-eyed, and beautiful. Shockingly beautiful if I were honest. He was slender, wore well-cut pants, and a button-up shirt tucked in. At some point, he had rolled up his sleeves so his forearms showed, and I noticed he had a small tattoo peeking out. I wondered if one of our cousins had inked him, even though it was a vast country and world, and anybody could have done it. Still, I liked the idea that a Montgomery may have inked his skin.

“You should be scared,” I said, leaning forward as Marc kissed my other cheek.

“I’ll try to be. However, I think I overheard that you’re going to take care of Paige’s new guy first. This is great. I can watch how it happens and study the dynamics.” Marc grinned, then wrapped his arm around Archer’s waist. My twin beamed.

I loved that it looked as if Archer were falling in love. He appeared so happy. And if Marc hurt him, I would find a way to make the man scream in pain and agony while the other siblings took care of him.

Because nobody hurt my twin.

“You’re looking a little vicious over there,” Archer whispered, and I grimaced.

“Sorry, just thinking of weird things. And, Marc? You should still be wary. Because while we may practice certain techniques on Paige’s new guy, you have your own set of rules.”

Beckett nodded. “She’s right. We have lists.”

Benjamin nodded, his gaze on Marc, and Marc looked between all of us before he rocked back on his heels.

“You guys are a little scary when you’re all together.”

I looked at my brothers, and we all burst out laughing. “We’re not that bad. I promise.”

“They will not be that bad,” Archer warned, and I didn’t know if the warning was for Marc or us.

Finally, Paige tugged her boyfriend off the dance floor and skipped over to us, the smile on her face radiant. “Well, hello. Are you all talking about how you’re going to maim and torture poor Colton and Marc for daring to come near your baby siblings?” she asked in a singsong. She leaned into Colton, and the big redheaded man rolled his eyes.

“You need to let them think they’re all secretive with their glowering, darling,” Colton said, kissing the top of her head.

“Oops,” Paige said, giggling.

Everybody looked so damn happy, and I couldn’t help but be content as well. I might not have the same type of connections they did with another human being right now, but I didn’t need that. I’d nearly had a chance before, and I wasn’t about to do that again. However, I could still have fun. And we were all happy, healthy, and here.

That was all that mattered.

“Okay, one more shot as a family, and then I’m dancing.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Archer said before meeting the bartender’s gaze over my head.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes as Archer gave that same look Benjamin had stolen. Riggs poured a round of shots for everybody, and immediately after, the family was on the dance floor.

My brothers did their best to block me in, stopping anybody from daring to come near. I slowly moved away, rolling my eyes.

“You know, if you keep letting them pin you in, you’ll never get to dance with a guy,” Paige said, taking my hand. “What about the bartender? Riggs?” She gestured over to the man with his honey eyes and wicked grin.

“I’m pretty sure he only has eyes for Benjamin. And maybe Archer. Not so much for me.”

“His eyes were on your butt. I’m pretty sure he swings for any Montgomery,” Paige corrected.

“Well, my gaze doesn’t swing that way—at least not tonight. I want to have fun and not deal with men or egos or penises or anything of the sort.”

Colton’s eyes widened as he came up from behind Paige and slowly raised his hands before backing away.

I winced. “You are going to have to explain to Colton that I didn’t mean to just blurt out the word penis like that.” I blinked. “Or now. Again.”

Paige put her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. “Annabelle,” she mock-whispered.

“I’m sorry. Go. Fix it. I’m not crazy. I promise.”

“You know, that’s what they all say,” Paige said solemnly before grinning again. She kissed my cheek and moved off to her boyfriend.

I danced with two of my brothers and then between another group of women who had come in for a good night. I felt free. I might not have a boyfriend or anybody on the horizon, but that was fine. Honestly, I didn’t need that in my life. I had my family, a job I loved, and a massive project coming up that I needed to focus on.

I didn’t need any more complications.

By the time the night wound down, my feet ached, and I regretted my shoes. But they made my butt look great, and I felt sexy in them. Sometimes, a girl just needed to feel good. I sat in the passenger seat as Benjamin drove me home. He’d only had one drink for the night, and I’d had three. It only made sense.

“Thanks for being the DD tonight,” I said softly.

“Thank you for not taking off your shoes in my car because I know you want to,” he said wryly. “You know I hate feet.”

He didn’t, but he liked making fun of me. I stuck out my tongue at him. “Weirdo,” I teased.

“Maybe. But as I’m the one who is driving, and it’s my car, you get to follow my rules. And I’ll do you the courtesy of not taking off my shoes in your car when my feet hurt.”

I grinned and shook my head. We pulled into my driveway, and Benjamin looked over at the house to my right. “Looks like your new neighbor moved in.”

I nodded. “These houses get gobbled up fast, even in this housing market.”

“It’s a boom right now, hence why I have a job,” my brother, the landscape architect, said. “But I’m sad your previous neighbor had to move away.”

“Me, too. I liked her. Hopefully, this new person is just as quiet, doesn’t have forty kids that will be in my yard, and is a happy person.”

“You know we’re going to end up becoming those crotchety old people who hold brooms and tell kids to get off their lawns.”

“Well, if they would stop playing in my yard and play in theirs, it wouldn’t be a problem,” I said, laughing.

“You’re talking to a man who works on landscapes for a living, I understand.” He kissed the top of my head before I got out of the car.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Be careful,” Benjamin added, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

My brothers acted like I could be snatched off the street in front of my home while they watched. But I was careful. I put my key in the lock, walked inside, and then turned and waved as Benjamin drove off. I let out a breath and then frowned as I looked over at the phonebook on my driveway. I hadn’t noticed it being delivered earlier, and I didn’t want it outside all night. I sighed and went to pick it up.

“Hey.”

I whirled, dropped my keys, and tripped over my heels. I fell on my ass, the pavement digging into my palms. I looked up at the man silhouetted against the moonlight.

“Crap. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you or freak you out. I was just letting you know that I was out here, headed into my house. But I accidentally scared you anyway.” He held up a hand, and I looked at him, not wanting to go near him. “Seriously, let me help you up. I promise I’ll stand here, and you can go back inside. Only wanted to say hello. I’m your new neighbor.”

I frowned, feeling like I knew that voice, but I didn’t know from where. Or how.

He could be a serial killer. If I kept sitting there, he could still try to kill me. I knew I should at least act like I knew what I was doing and not appear scared. I’d probably be able to fight him off better if I were standing. Maybe. I slid my hand into his and let him help me up. I dusted off my butt and then moved back a few steps, needing space.

My heart thudded, and my ankle hurt more as if I had twisted it.

“I am sorry,” the man repeated. “Anyway, as I said, I’m your new neighbor. Jacob. Jacob Queen.”

Ice slid over me as he stepped into the beam from my porch light. I did the same, my past coming at me full force. I swallowed hard, trying to catch my breath.

No, it couldn’t be this. Not in the house I had built. Not in my family’s neighborhood, the one we’d put our blood, sweat, and tears into.

This couldn’t be Jacob. He couldn’t be back.

But as he looked at me, his face suddenly devoid of color, I knew he recognized me. I knew this was the same Jacob.

“You,” he whispered.

“You,” I echoed.

And then he glowered at me, turned on his heel, and stomped away.

I couldn’t help but look at the back of the man who had grown up with my late husband. His brother. And the one man in the whole world I knew hated me more with each and every breath.

end of excerpt

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