Inked Temptation - Carrie Ann Ryan
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Inked Temptation

Book 5 in the Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins Series
Special Edition Cover

This Montgomery finds his match in this touching second chance romance from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

I thought I was moving on from my divorce, but now my ex is marrying someone else. I shouldn’t be this broken up, but it’s hard to put on a brave face when my family is basically an inked up Hallmark movie.

And I shouldn’t be brooding about what I don’t have, if it’s going to cause me to fall off a roof. Right into the grumpy neighbor’s burly arms.

He’d make a nice distraction, except he wants nothing to do with the burning attraction between us. Until one accidental kiss leads to more.

I’m not ready to risk my heart again, but Killian’s tortured eyes don’t seem to give me a choice. This thing between us is real.

But Killian is still trying to recover from a tragedy. And there are people who will do anything to make sure he never finds happiness again.

read an excerpt

Inked Temptation is Book 5 in the Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins series

Inked Temptation Characters Profiles

Inked Temptation

Finding yourself when you previously thought you knew who you were isn’t uncomplicated. Or perhaps it’s an instrumental challenge. Using the phrase “finding yourself” when all you wanted to do was look towards the future and pretend you hadn’t had a breakdown of some sort didn’t make much sense to me.

So, now I stood in front of a home that wasn’t mine, that could be, and wondered exactly how I had gotten myself into this situation.

“Thank you so much for going through everything with us, I know that this isn’t your normal expertise, but we’re excited.”

I looked over at Evelyn and Robert and grinned. “No problem. I’m going to enjoy doing this. It’s not often that I get to work wood with my hands.”

Neither one of them blinked, and I hadn’t actually meant for the innuendo, but now I had to keep from snorting like a teenage boy.

Or maybe just like a Montgomery.

Marc had always hated when I made inappropriate jokes. Never at inappropriate times. I wasn’t an idiot. I knew when I could snort to make dick jokes with my friends and family. This moment wasn’t the time for it, so I didn’t.

However, Marc had hated it at all times. He had never shamed me for it per se. But he had always looked down at me slightly for it. And cringed because that wasn’t how he was.

I wasn’t how he was.

We hadn’t fit, and I hadn’t realized it until it was too late.

And there was no going back to that time.

Marc was my ex-husband.

I didn’t get to go back to that time and try to stand up for myself more, or pretend that I hadn’t made one of the biggest mistakes of my life by not seeing each other for who we were.

“We’re glad that we’re hiring you. I know that we’re working with Montgomery Builders, and you’re coming out here as your side project, so your siblings are all welcome here as well as anyone you put on your staff. It’ll be wonderful to see what you do. Since our views align so well.”

I shook myself out of my reverie and looked back to Evelyn and Robert, who stood there, smiles on their faces and a slight sadness echoing in their eyes.

After all, they had lived in this cabin in the woods of the Rocky Mountains for years. They had raised their children here, had seen their first grandchildren here. Now, they wanted to move closer to Denver to be near those grandbabies. And with fires, weather, snow, ice, and the constant maintenance that came with a place like this, they wanted a change.

As I was living my change, I understood that all too well.

“Well, as you know, my sister is helping me with some of the designs, as she’s a brilliant architect. Us working together on this is going to be great.”

“I sure think so,” Robert put in. “We’re a good team, the three of us.”

Evelyn smiled. “And while we’re going to miss this place, we know that in the end, it’s going to look even better than when we had it and go to a wonderful family.”

My heart twinged at that because I wanted this house. It seemed kind of awkward, wanting a place that was out of my wheelhouse and not even up for sale yet. I needed to stop worrying about what I didn’t have, and focus on what I did.

A job, siblings, parents, and nieces and nephews who loved me. A beautiful place to work, and good health. I had all of that. I just needed to focus on it a bit more.

“Anyway, we’ll leave you to it. We have to head down to Denver now to go see our daughter.” She beamed. “She’ll be having our new grandson any day now, and we want to stay down there with her.”

My heart warmed at that, and I couldn’t stop grinning. “This is number four for you, then?” I asked, trying to remember.

“It is. Fourth grandson, sixth grandchild altogether. We can’t wait.” She looked up at her husband and as he smiled down at her, love shining in his eyes that I knew was just as intense if not more as it had been in the decades that they’d been together, I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit of melancholy.

I would have that again. Or I wouldn’t. I would be the best guncle there was out there.

“Are you staying with your daughter?” I asked, interested. I liked this couple and enjoyed the family stories.

They shook their heads in unison. “No, we’re staying with our son. He lives nearby. We will be moving into our home in the neighborhood, one that your cousins built,” she added with a wink.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Montgomery Inc., down in Denver, was our sister company. It was always funny to me that both sets of cousins opened up construction companies and contracting.

We worked in the Fort Collins and Boulder areas, and they worked down in Denver and Colorado Springs.

I liked what they did; they were terrific. And, after many years of my father hating them, it was nice that everyone was getting along again. We could hand over recommendations to anyone outside of our usual space.

“Are you moving in soon?” I asked.

“Next month. Most of our things are in storage now, but we stay here occasionally. But I do believe we have now spent our last night in this home.” She looked up at the place, slid her hand into her husband’s, and both of them leaned into each other, sighing.

I stood in silence, giving them some space. I didn’t want to encroach, but I liked the fact that I could at least be on the periphery of this, to see the love and family that came after time. I was good at that, living on the fringe. But, it wasn’t a place that I was entirely used to.

After a while, we said our goodbyes, and I went to my notes, looking through everything that I had to do.

I was the master plumber for Montgomery Builders. I had a full team that helped me with all of the plumbing for every new build or restoration that we did. We worked on neighborhoods, corporate buildings, and unique pieces. We didn’t do full restorations of cabins like this often, only when something special came along. And this one was special.

They wanted to restore it to its former glory, as well as adding a few modern touches, and it just so happened that every single thing that they wanted in it for the sale was exactly what I would have done.

I wanted this house, but it didn’t make much sense. I had a beautiful apartment that I loved in Fort Collins, over an hour away. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to have a place here, too. And yet, this place called to me.

That was probably another reason I was working on it alone rather than asking my family to help. After all, my family consisted of architects, actual builders, electricians—everything that you could ever imagine.

And I was the plumber.

I knew how to do nearly everything that my siblings could do, and what I couldn’t for this project, they would help in an instant. We all had our own individual projects; we didn’t work on every single thing together. It made for a healthy family and business.

I wanted to make my mark on this place, even if I wasn’t the one that was going to end up living here.

A car pulled up after Evelyn and Robert left, and I turned to see my twin sister driving, and a familiar face in the passenger’s seat.

I knew that my twin Annabelle was here because this was a Montgomery project, and she had every right to be here. After all, she had helped me with all the designs since she was a brilliant architect. But she was also here to check on me. Yes, everybody was worried about Archer. That wasn’t something I was necessarily used to, yet I couldn’t walk away from it.

“Oh good, you’re here.”

I rolled my eyes. “You knew I was going to be here.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re still here. You don’t have cell service right now.”

I cringed and looked down at my phone. “It seems not. One of the mudslides from last week knocked out a tower, and everything’s a little spotty right now.”

“I don’t know how you people can stand being so rural out here. I’m attached to my phone at all times.”

“Well, you’re a businesswoman, a mother of two, and constantly addicted to the internet. It only makes sense.”

I held out my arms, and my twin wrapped her arms around my waist and hugged me tightly. I did the same to her, shuddering a bit despite wanting to be strong.

My sister looked like me, with deep blue eyes, with her long flowing brown hair tied up behind her today. My hair was getting a little long, though hers had always had a slight wave to it. Maybe if I let my hair grow out, that wave would show up.

We were twins and looked enough alike that most people knew we were siblings right away. That was the case with all of our siblings.

Annabelle was shorter than me by a few inches, but I didn’t tower over her too much. Probably because while my shoulders were broad, I was on the slender side. Annabelle was a little curvier, and our brothers were far more muscular. Our little sister, Paige, was smaller than Annabelle but full of way more energy. The fact that Paige was now a mom, and our brothers Benjamin and Beckett were parents as well, meant that I rarely got to see them as much as I used to. Even our board meetings had to be digital these days unless something was super important and we had to meet in person. We were on individual projects or working from home. Montgomery Builders had put in an entire childcare facility in our expansion. That way, anybody that worked for us could have childcare without having to have an additional expense or worry about it in the slightest. But sometimes, they wanted to work from home or bring the kids with them to the job sites. At least when it was safe to do so.

Everybody was growing up and moving on, and I loved them for it. I loved the expansion of our family and how our business was booming, to the point where we had to turn down jobs or change the way we were doing things with our larger teams.

Only, it still felt like I was holding on to this one project far harder than I should because I needed it to be mine.

“Well, I’m glad I’m here because this project of yours is going to be amazing.” She kissed my chin and moved back, so Leif could step forward.

My nephew surprised me because he did not look like he could be our nephew. The kid wasn’t a kid anymore—he was now in his twenties and in art school. His nearly black hair was pulled back in a small ponytail, his eyes blue and piercing, and he grinned at us, looking like a man instead of the little kid that I had once known.

He had some ink on him, and I knew one day, if he followed in his father’s footsteps, he might just end up doing more ink on his own.

Technically, he wasn’t my nephew. He was my cousin, Austin Montgomery’s, son. Leif was the oldest of his cousins, like his father, Austin. I was on the younger end of all the cousins. All of my siblings were just now having babies, and Leif was out here, an adult in his own right, taking over the world.

I just shook my head, looking at the kid that was no longer a kid.

“I didn’t know you were going to be here.” I held up my arms again. Leif gave me a hard hug, then moved back. That’s what I loved about the Montgomerys. We always hugged. No matter what. Because we were family, it didn’t matter who was watching.

“I’m shadowing Annabelle today. She’s a brilliant artist, though she just calls it math and architecture.” Leif rolled his eyes.

I grinned. “Are you going to shadow me soon then?”

I wasn’t expecting an answer, but Leif grinned, nodding quickly.

“I will. Paige is next week because I want to learn the ins and outs there, but I’m having fun shadowing as many people as I can. I’m learning as much as I can, all while in art school.”

“So you can figure out what you want to be when you grow up,” Annabelle added as she put her arm around his waist. He towered over her, looking like an actual adult, and it still startled me.

“I am a grown-up now. Watch out.” He grinned as he said it, the ring in his brow shining in the light.

I remember when I had had an eyebrow ring, had been about his age. Maybe I should do it again. I wasn’t that old. Hell, I was closer to Leif’s age than I was to Austin’s. I wasn’t hitting my dotage yet.

“Anyway, we’re out here because we wanted to see if you needed anything and because I wanted to check on you.”

I snorted at my twin. “Not subtle at all, are you?”

“I don’t have to be subtle. I’m Annabelle Montgomery-Queen. I can just be blunt.”

I snorted. “I get it. So, what are you checking on me for?” I asked, far more cautiously than I used to. Annabelle must have heard it in my voice but just smiled at me.

“Honestly, because I couldn’t get ahold of you, I wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

“I’m fine. You knew I was going to be out here.”

“And since there was no service, I worried. Sue me.” I leaned forward, kissed her on the top of the head, and Leif just shook his head.

“I know she also wants to go over architecture things for you, but she has another thing to say.”

Annabelle glared up at him. “Narc.”

Leif raised a brow. “You should just get it over with.”

Dread settled over me. “What is it? Is it the kids?”

“The kids are fine,” she whispered quickly. “Hailey and Jack are just hanging out with Mom and Dad today. They wanted grandparent day.”

I smiled at the thought of my niece and nephew. They were adorable. Little twin terrors, but then again, Annabelle and I had been the same way. We were our parents’ second set of twins. Beckett and Benjamin are older than us. Paige is the baby of the family and had always wanted to be a twin, though I don’t know what my family would have done if we’d had a third set of twins. Annabelle was the only one of us kids with twins so far, but there was always time.

It still startled me to think about everybody being parents now, while I was a divorced gay man working my ass off on projects that I should probably ask for help with more.

But there was no going back. And I needed to remember that.

“What is it then?” I asked, wondering why she was here.

“If you’re willing, I want to set you up on a blind date.”

I froze, alarm hitting me. “Annabelle, no.”

“It’s been a year, Archer. Let us have fun. You’ll like him. He’s a social media consultant that I know.”

I rolled my eyes. “I do not need to date a social media consultant. I know you love the internet, but as you can see, I’m doing just fine out here with no service.”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “You’re the one that taught us all about doing videos dancing for social media. And all the different trends. And now you’re saying you don’t want to know a social media consultant?”

“I’m saying that I don’t need to be set up on a blind date. I could go on a date if I wanted to. I’m not a decrepit old man hiding in the shadows.”

No, I was just a feeble man hiding in the shadows. One that felt old. But I didn’t say that part out loud.

“I’m not doing the blind date thing.”

“You should,” Leif said.

I narrowed my eyes at the kid. “Excuse me?”

“What? If you don’t want the social media operator, then I know a few people. Models.” He raised his brows, and I groaned.

“When did you get old enough to have model friends?”

“I’m just saying they’re pretty hot.”

“And have you slept with any of them?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.

Annabelle coughed. “You can’t ask that.”

“Hey, I don’t want anyone that my younger second-cousin has slept with.”

“We’re nearly the same age. It might just happen.”

“I don’t know. That’s not something that I need to worry about.”

“What? We’re both bisexual. It might just happen if we hang out in the same places.” Leif just grinned, and I pinched the bridge of my nose.

“I hate you. I’m not going to go on a blind date. I love you both. I love all of my family. But I’m not going to go on blind dates.”

“Then you should find a date for yourself,” Annabelle said softly.

“I don’t know. If it happens, it happens. But I’m busy. Hell, you are too. I’m surprised you had time to come out here.”

“I always have time for you.” She leaned forward, kissed me on the cheek, hugged me tightly, and when she and Leif left, after going over a few things for the project, I stood at the home that I wanted to be mine but knew it made no sense, and got to work.

The plumbing would have to be rehauled entirely to get up to the new codes, and we wanted to add more environmentally friendly aspects to the place. It would sell as soon as it went on the market. It was a great location and very sought after, and I knew that Evelyn and Robert already had a few people biting.

It was sad that I kind of wanted it to be me.

First, though, I had to go onto the roof and check a few things. I pulled out the ladder, rolled my shoulders back, and climbed up.

Today was a nice day, the sun shining through the Rockies and the giant trees around us. It hadn’t rained in over two months, and that was slightly worrying, but hopefully it would soon. We did live in a desert, even though we were against the Rockies. It just didn’t feel like that all the time, not with the green foliage.

I walked across the flat part of the roof, taking mental notes of things I would need to update or go through. The roof didn’t need to be completely redone, but there were some places I wanted to double-check.

Something moved out of the corner of my eye, and I turned to see a man in flannel, worn jeans, and dirty-blond hair walking along a path. I knew there was another house back there, from what Evelyn and Robert had said, but I hadn’t seen him before.

I couldn’t see his face, but his muscular build, broad shoulders, and very tight ass in those jeans had me swallowing hard.

Well, hell. I hadn’t had that kind of interest in a while.

I shook my head and then got back to work.

* * *

By the time I was done, all thoughts of the sexy blond man were out of my head, and the sheer immensity of things on my to-do list, let alone everything that I had to do for Montgomery Builders, was starting to weigh on me.

I took a step down onto the ladder, not looking, and reached out for the edge of the awning as the ladder twisted, somehow sliding off the rocks below.

I shouted, my pulse racing, as I reached for the gutter, and as it snapped under my hands, fragments of my life flashing before my eyes as I hoped to hell that whatever I fell on below wouldn’t kill me right away.

The ground came up far too quickly, and I screamed.

end of excerpt

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Content Warning:

Death, spousal death (historical), child death (historical), emotional abuse (not MCs), grief, divorce, assault. (All not by MCs to each other.)