Book 0.5 in the Montgomery Ink Series
The moment Shea Little walks into his shop, Shep Montgomery knows he’ll do anything to win her heart…and get into her bed. Too bad the icy shield she puts up freezes any man who comes near. Shea has her reasons, and she’s not telling anyone, not even to a man who makes her want to swoon—something she’s never done before.
One touch can change everything; for these two, it’s only the beginning.
Ink Inspired is Book 0.5 in the Montgomery Ink series
- Book 0.5: Ink Inspired
- Book 0.6: Ink Reunited
- Book 1: Delicate Ink
- Book 1.5: Forever Ink
- Book 2: Tempting Boundaries
- Book 3: Harder than Words
- Book 3.5: Finally Found You
- Book 4: Written in Ink
- Book 4.5: Hidden Ink
- Book 5: Ink Enduring
- Book 6: Ink Exposed
- Book 6.5: Adoring Ink
- Book 6.6: Love, Honor, and Ink
- Book 7: Inked Expressions
- Book 7.3: Dropout
- Book 7.5: Executive Ink
- Book 8: Inked Memories
- Book 8.5: Inked Nights
- Book 8.7: Second Chance Ink
- Book 8.9: Montgomery Midnight Kisses
- Book 9: Montgomery Ink Bites Cookbook
- Book 9.2: Inked Kingdom
- Boxed Set: Montgomery Ink Box Set 1
- Boxed Set: Montgomery Ink Box Set 2
The full series reading order is as follows:
“Can you make her boobs bigger?”
Shepard Montgomery raised a brow but didn’t say anything. Honestly, there really wasn’t anything he could say at the moment without laughing.
Or knocking the dude out cold.
“No, really. I want her boobs, like, enormous. Way bigger than Justin’s.”
“Justin’s?” he drawled, his voice gruff. Seriously, this kid was going to kill him.
The client snorted. “Oh, you know what I mean. Justin. My friend? The chick he has inked on his back has big boobs. I want mine bigger.”
Shep closed his eyes, trying to think of a delicate way to put the fact that, no, he did not want to ink this virgin with a big-breasted woman just because the dude wanted to show up his bro. Oh, and the other dude was totally a bro in every sense of the word. These two noobs had to be the most ignorant college pricks to ever walk in this shop demanding Shep ink them with whatever shit they wanted. Sure, he hadn’t inked Justin, but still…they didn’t even care that they would have to live the rest of their lives with shit ink—not that Shep gave shit ink—because they were fucking idiots.
He should just tell this prick to fuck himself, but this was his job. He probably shouldn’t be so honest.
No, wait, he didn’t actually care what this dude thought of him.
It wasn’t as if he was trying to be the best customer service rep in the biz.
Oh no, he didn’t give a fuck.
“No, kid, I’m not inking you with a big-breasted woman just because you want to show up your bro.”
The kid’s eyes widened then narrowed in that annoying rich-kid-on-daddy’s-dime sort of way.
“Hey, I pay for it. You do it, bro. I don’t see the fucking problem. I just want a chick with big tits on my back. Bigger tits than Justin’s bitch.”
Shep slowly put down the pen he’d been about to take notes with and scooted his stool back. His six-five frame didn’t make it comfortable, but he didn’t give a shit at the moment.
“Okay, bro, this is how it’s gonna go. You ain’t getting a tat here. Not now. Maybe not ever. You think money gives you the right to come into the best shop in New Orleans and boss us around like you fucking own the place?”
“It’s your job,” the little prick spat.
“No. It’s my job to ink art on canvas. That canvas just happens to be skin. Today, though? No fucking way. Not on you. You’re welcome to come back when you got a fucking clue what you want to ink on yourself, but fuck right now, dude. You want some strange woman’s face, some generic shit on your back? It’s not even a sexy old-school pinup. No. That’s not how it’s done. You want bigger tits on the woman because you want to one-up your bro? Dude, if you ain’t got the bigger dick, that ink ain’t gonna help.”
The kid blinked, the slow crawl of crimson staining his cheeks either from anger or embarrassment—probably a mix of both—making him look even younger than nineteen.
“You should get a tat that means something to you, or at least isn’t a fucking joke. You don’t come in here waving your dick and ordering me around.”
“Oh, and another thing. You ever, ever, fucking call a woman—any woman—a bitch again, I’ll knock that little smirk right off your fucking face. Get out of my chair. You’re done.”
“Fuck you! I’ll go get my tat from a place that actually treats their customers like they’re supposed to. Not from some washed-out, has-been artist who doesn’t know shit.”
The kid stomped out, every eye on the place following him.
Shep closed his eyes and prayed for peace.
He was thirty-eight years old, and this was what his life had come to.
Douchebag college boys who wanted big boobs.
“Smooth, dude. Why don’t you just kick the puppy next time? Make it easier,” Sassy, Midnight Ink’s receptionist and all-around crazy person, sing-songed as she walked past him.
“Shut up, Sass, please. I’m not in the mood.”
“You never are anymore, baby. That’s the problem. Though, honestly, I have no idea why you said yes to that little prick for a consultation in the first place. You could tell from just looking at him he’d be a B-back.”
A B-back was a dude who said they’d be right back after they went to the ATM or gave some other lame excuse, saying they’d ‘be back’ only they’d chicken out and never come back.
Yeah, the kid looked like he’d be one, though if he’d wanted to impress his friends enough, maybe not.
“Sass, really? I’m not in the mood,” he grumbled as he cleaned his station. He hadn’t had a client yet that morning, but he wanted no trace of that bro near his place.
“You should have let Caliph take it,” Sass said, an annoyingly bright grin on her face.
Midnight Ink, their shop right on Canal Street, had several artists who worked in shifts. They didn’t have to come in every day, only if they wanted to get paid. Since everyone working there needed money to pay for shit, they all came in. Most worked on walk-ins around their scheduled clients, but a few took on only clients they’d hand-picked off the waiting lists. Those guys also only did ink with certain elements because they were the shit at it.
Shep did a bit of everything, so, even though his shading was fucking awesome, he didn’t specialize too much. His best friend, Caliph, was the same way.
Shep would have given his left nut to see his brick house of a best friend take on that college kid.
“What’s this I hear about me taking on a bro?” Caliph asked, stomping through the room to his station.
Shep was big.
Caliph was bigger.
“Had a perfect kid for you,” Shep yelled across the shop, causing a few of the customers to turn toward him. “Wanted big tits like his bro.”
Caliph snorted, then flipped him off. “Fuck off, Shep.”
Ah, a decade of friendship never lost its shine.
Shep shook his head then gave Sassy and Caliph a chin nod to say he was going out for a coffee. Sassy might make some of the best brew right in their shop, but he didn’t want to sit there too long. He needed space.
He needed to think, and the muggy air of New Orleans always did it for him. Sure, it wasn’t the crisp, clean air of the Rocky Mountains where he’d grown up, but he liked it. His family—who all still lived up near Denver—thought he was fucking nuts for moving down to New Orleans to set up shop, or at least find a shop he could fit into, but he loved it.
Well, at least he used to.
Fuck, he needed to get his head out of his ass and figure out what was wrong with his mood. He was thirty-eight, not some young kid, but sure as hell not on his way out. Maybe he needed a change.
He just had no idea what kind of change.
Shep turned the corner to make his way to the coffee shop then cursed as a little bit of a thing ran straight into him.
He sucked in a breath as she looked up at him—way up at him.
Damn, her eyes were something else. A pale, pale blue that looked almost like crystals in water on a sunny day.
Those had to be fucking contacts because no way were those eyes real.
“I’m so sorry, sir. I wasn’t watching where I was going. Excuse me.” The little blonde thing walked around him after she mumbled her apologies heading the other direction.
Well, hell. That was weird. He hadn’t even had a chance to say anything—something like “fucking sexy eyes” or anything along those lines that could have made her want join him for coffee.
Shep shook his head. Fuck, he needed that coffee. In the long scheme of things, what he didn’t need was a wide-eyed woman who probably thought he looked like some ex-con with his full sleeves and the scar on his brow, not to mention the other piercings and tats hidden from view.
No, he didn’t need that shit.
What he did need? Well, that was the problem.
He didn’t know.
He ordered a coffee from the girl at the counter, who fluttered her lashes at him. Shep held back a groan—and not the good kind. This kid had to be in her early twenties, if that. There was no way Shep would cross that boundary, even if she was hot as hell, which she was.
He walked to one of the tables outside the café and sat down with his cup, not ready to go back to work yet. Fuck, if he was thinking some twenty-something was hot, maybe he just needed to get laid. That might be the answer to all his problems, though even a long night of against-the-wall sex might not be enough to get him out of his funk. The fact that he’d blown up at a silly kid just now told him something was far from good.
He needed to figure out what the hell was going on with him, find his path, find his inspiration.
Shep took a deep breath of humid New Orleans air then a sip of his coffee. Damn, he loved the coffee down here. Nothing bitter or over-brewed about it. Sure, when he went up north to Denver to visit his folks he didn’t mind the little cafés, but to Shep, nothing was better than New Orleans coffee.
Since they were in the Deep South, it didn’t really feel as though they’d just hit the start of January. The holidays seemed like something in the distant past, and the New Year’s parties—something New Orleans did fucking right every time—were a fading memory.
Nope. The fact that he’d told himself this year would be different wasn’t lost on him. He’d resolved to find his inspiration and actually do art that meant something to both him and the client rather than just walk-in after walk-in.
Shep ran a hand over his five-day-old beard and sighed.
When the fuck had he turned into some emo teen?
His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out of his jeans. When he saw his cousin Austin’s name on the screen, he smiled. If anyone could get him out of his funk, it was Austin.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Nothing,” Austin said, his voice even deeper than Shep’s. “Just got done with a whole back piece that took six sittings. Now I’m trying to get my head out of phoenix feathers and into dragon scales.”
“Did you take a pic?”
“Sure as fuck did.” Austin laughed. “I’ll text it to you in a bit. Fine piece of work if I do say so myself. I was bored and didn’t feel like walking anywhere to grab a bite. Figured I’d call and see how you’re doing. We didn’t get to talk much when you were up for Christmas.”
Almost the entire Montgomery clan lived up in the Denver area. Shep was one of the few who had ventured out. Though he and Austin were the closest and the same age, when Shep had gone up for the holidays, he didn’t have that much time for his favorite cousin. Oh no. Between Austin’s seven siblings, Shep’s three siblings, the other Montgomery cousins, plus all the aunts, uncles, and parents, the holidays were a bitch, giving him no time to breathe.
“Yeah, it sucked that we couldn’t get together much when I was up there. You should come down here for a visit. Come see the color and culture. Put it in your ink.”
Austin and his sister Maya owned Montgomery Ink, a shop in Denver and were hella good at what they did. The three of them frequently went around the country to see what inspiration they could find and what they could translate into their work.
Maybe he needed to do that again and find that thing he was looking for.
Whatever the hell that thing was.
“Maybe,” Austin hedged, causing Shep to frown. “We’ll see.”
“What’s up, man?”
“Nothing. Just getting old.”
Shep snorted. “Tell me about it. We’re the same age, remember? What’s going on?”
Austin sighed. “Fuck it. I’ll come down there. Leave Maya alone with the shop for a bit. God knows she likes to be by herself with the place most days.”
Shep smiled at Austin’s description of Maya. Fuck knew Austin was right.
“I’m here when you come down. You know I have the guest room you can bunk in. We’re not kids anymore where you have to find a futon or couch.”
“Thank God for that. Thanks, man.”
Shep smiled. “You’re welcome. I think we’re just hitting the age where we’re too old to figure out what the hell we want but know we need to find it someway.”
“Maybe, Shep. Maybe.”
They said their goodbyes, and Shep ended the call, feeling a bit better that his cousin was coming down soon. They’d finalize plans later since Austin would have to talk to Maya before traveling. There was no way they’d cross that woman and her sharp tongue.
Shep finished his coffee and headed back to Midnight Ink. He needed to get some work done. He might not have an appointment that day—something rare for him, thankfully—but there were bound to be walk-ins.
As soon as he stepped inside, he spotted her.
That sexy fairy who’d walked into him on the street.
Her blonde hair was even lighter than he’d thought considering they’d been out in the sunlight before. No, that hadn’t been the sun making her look gorgeous.
That was all her.
She wore a light gray pencil skirt with a light pink top and gray jacket. Her heels were demure, but fuck, they made her legs look sexy.
She looked like someone’s assistant or an accountant.
Totally out of place in a tattoo shop, at least in most shops.
Midnight Ink didn’t discriminate. They knew some people had to hide their ink because of work so they made sure it looked hella good underneath their clothes.
This woman though?
Totally out of place.
He could totally help her with that.
Sassy stood by the woman, her brow raised. “Honey, you sure you want this one? I know you were looking at something else a minute ago.”
The woman turned and bit her lip, forcing Shep to hold back a groan.
Holy fuck. He was acting like some teenager with a hard-on, rather than a not-so-young man with a hard-on.
Sassy spotted him and waved him over. “Here’s Shep, honey. He’ll be the one to ink you since he has time and you said it didn’t matter who did it. Shep, this is Shea. She’s all yours.” Sassy raised that brow again and Shep smiled.
Oh, yes. He wanted to get his hands on this woman in every way possible.
Ink would be just the first step.
The woman turned toward him, and Shep bit back a curse.
That wasn’t just indecision in her eyes. That was pure fear mixed with something else. Something like determination.
The kind of determination that led to inked regrets.
Sassy walked away, leaving Shep and Shea alone in the corner, a stack of albums between them.
“So, uh, Shep,” she started, her voice just as smooth and sexy as it had been outside. “Sorry again for walking into you earlier.”
“Like I said, it’s no problem.”
“So, uh, I guess you’ll be giving me my tattoo? I think I want this little daisy. Or maybe this butterfly. Can you do that?”
Shep looked down her body, her out-of-place clothes, the fear sliding right off her, and her weight shifting from foot to foot. He raised his gaze and met her eyes.
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Attempted assault, emotionally abusive parents