Book 2 in the Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs Series
The Montgomery Ink series continues with the so-called sensible sister and the one man she never should have fallen for.
For Thea Montgomery, baking isn’t only therapeutic, it’s also her dream job. She’s worked countless hours keeping her bakery afloat, and now that it’s where she wants it to be, she’s ready to expand and take the next step. When it comes to work and her family, she’s on top of her game. Her personal life, however, is a different story.
When Dimitri Carr isn’t teaching and hiding his ink under long sleeves to keep the bosses happy, he’s trying to be the best brother and friend he can be. After his divorce, he’d thought he would lose Thea from his life forever because she’s his ex-wife’s best friend. But now that he’s free, and the two of them realize they want to keep their friendship. Then he finally sees what he’s been missing all this time.
But there are more problems than the fact that Dimitri is Thea’s best friend’s ex. And when accidental touches and flirtations aren’t enough for either of them, and they’re finally ready to take the next step, they’ll find out exactly what that cost is for crossing that line. And will need to find the strength to face it.
Thea Montgomery flopped down on the bed and knew that tonight was the first and last time she’d sleep with Roger. She never should have slept with a man name Roger anyway. He was just as dull as his name suggested. She’d gone into date number six thinking that maybe he wasn’t as bad as he seemed and wondering if maybe her standards were set too high. After all, not every Roger could be Roger Federer—the king of Rogers and the court.
She’d liked this Roger, at least she’d assumed she did. She’d thought that if she worked harder, they’d have more than just their small attraction. And because she liked sex, and she thought she liked Roger, she’d slept with him.
He let out a pleased sigh beside her, and she held back a sigh of her own—of a very different kind.
This had been a mistake. But not her first, and probably not her last.
Damn it, Thea, get your act together.
Okay, that wasn’t fair. She was the sensible Montgomery. The one that joked about sex with her sisters but rarely had it. She’d been too busy starting her business and far too picky to jump into bed with just anyone. And since it had taken six dates with Roger to get to this stage, she figured she really wasn’t jumping. It was more like a gentle hop.
But there’d been nothing hopping in bed with Roger tonight, and now she hated that she sounded so callous about it. Even to herself. He was sweet. He was nice. And…he had no idea what he was doing with his hands or his tongue. And she had a feeling if she were to tell him something along those lines—even gently—and try to show him what she wanted, he’d be one of those guys that pushed back, blaming it on her.
It had happened once or twice.
Okay, four times, but seriously, some guys needed to watch a little less anal porn and a little more cunnilingus. It wasn’t that hard.
Roger turned over at that moment and reached out to pat her stomach. She winced since that wasn’t the most romantic thing in the world, but then again, nothing about what had just happened could be classified as romance. Ugh, now she felt bad, but there was nothing she could do with her feelings except feel them. Her family had taught her that.
And she really shouldn’t be thinking of family lessons while naked in bed with a man she wasn’t going to see again.
“Sure. It was great.” She could hear the false note in her tone, but she wasn’t sure he could. She hated herself just a bit that she hadn’t had any fun, but she’d thought that maybe if she tried hard enough, things would work out.
Apparently, there just wasn’t enough chemistry between them, and she probably should have figured that out before she got into bed with him, but she’d thought there’d been enough.
“I have an early day tomorrow, but I’ll walk you out.”
She barely held back a slow blink. Walk her out? Why didn’t she just leave money on the table on her way to the door?
She sat up, using the sheet to cover herself since she didn’t really feel like baring herself more than she already had and pasted a smile on her face. She’d wanted to leave anyway, but now she felt as though she had to. As if she weren’t good enough for him to even want to talk to beyond patting her on the stomach like a dog who’d learned a new trick and wanted some love.
Hell, she needed to get out of there before she got angry and said something she would regret. Because before this moment, Roger had been nice. Maybe too nice. Perhaps that niceness had covered up his bad sex and selfish ways.
Now, she really needed to get out of there. He sat in bed, looking pleased with himself as she put on her panties while still hiding under the sheet. She slid into her dress, not bothering with her bra since she couldn’t do that one-handed.
And even as she clumsily tried to dress behind the sheet, he lay there. Watching her.
Why had she thought he was nice?
Oh, because he had been. But not the kind of nice she needed in her life.
Finally, she dropped the sheet since she now wore her panties and dress. She quickly stuffed her bra into her tiny purse, the straps hanging out, slid her feet into her heels, and wrapped her jacket around herself. She’d dressed up for this date and had thought it might lead to something more.
Boy had she been wrong.
“Don’t bother locking the door on your way out. I’ll get up and do it soon. Wore me out, you know?” He winked, and Thea knew she needed a shower—and maybe a bath, too.
A hot one that would take off the first layer of her skin because she was never going to get the feeling of him off her.
What had she been thinking? Roger?
Jesus, she needed to take a hard look at her life and maybe never go on another date with a man because she’d seriously never felt this humiliated. It didn’t matter that she’d taken her time, done her research on him, and had wanted to make sure she liked him before she went to bed with him. It hadn’t been enough.
Men were slime, and Roger was the slimiest.
“Yeah. Sure. Bye.”
“Thanks for tonight, babe. I’ll call you.”
“Don’t bother,” she whispered as she walked away, her middle finger in the air. It was possible he couldn’t see it, but it was still warranted.
“Don’t be that way, babe,” he yelled from the bedroom where he still hadn’t moved, but she ignored him, closing the front door softly behind her. As much as she wanted to slam it, she wouldn’t give him the pleasure of her showing any emotion beyond coldness.
Because she was Thea, the ice bitch who played with icing in her bakery. She knew what her exes had said before, and now Roger would just be another of those who thought her cold or something along those lines.
Whatever, she was done with men.
She got into her car, threw her purse onto the passenger seat, and made her way to the grocery store. She was so freaking mad, she didn’t even want to bake. That’s when she knew that something was wrong, and if she didn’t get some sugar soon, she would break—and that wasn’t something Roger deserved. And because she didn’t want to do something she loved, she knew she was right at the level where she’d start crying in her car, and she refused to do that.
So, she’d go to the store, pick up some ice cream, then eat the whole pint before she went to bed. Alone. Because, of course, she would be alone. Why wouldn’t she be?
“Ugh,” Thea whispered to herself, annoyed at her train of thought. She hated self-pity, but being tossed out after a particularly bad bout of sex had kind of sent her over the edge into the land of meh.
As soon as she parked, she leapt from the car, purse in hand, and made her way into the twenty-four-hour market. Hopefully, she’d be in and out quickly, and no one she knew would see her do her version of a sugar-loaded walk of shame.
Of course, that’s when her heel broke.
Because…of course, it did.
Nothing good ever came from lack of orgasms.
Fuck this night.
Fuck it hard.
Fuck it harder than she’d been fucked.
Though that wouldn’t be hard, because…Roger.
She picked up the broken part of her heel and limped her way to the frozen food section. She’d be damned if she left without her sugar. Now, though, she’d buy five pints because it was just that kind of night.
Thea was just deciding between the low-calorie fake ice cream and the good old-fashioned heavy cream version when a familiar voice called her name.
Why not tonight? Seriously. Why wouldn’t this man be right by her after everything that had happened already? Seemed about right.
She rolled her shoulders back and turned to Dimitri, her best friend’s ex-husband and Thea’s friend, as well. If she were going to meet anyone in a grocery store after what had turned out to be a horrible date while wearing a broken heel, her version of the walk of shame outfit, and messy bedhead hair that tumbled down her shoulders in dark waves, it might as well be him.
Dimitri. The man had once been in her life just as much as Molly had. Thea had been friends with both of them and had even known the two separately before they started dating. She’d also refused to take sides during the separation and then after the divorce. Of course, it had always been Molly who wanted Thea to take a side. Dimitri stayed quiet, clearly hurting from the breakup at the time and the changes in his life. He’d tried to keep his friendship with Thea soon after the papers had been signed and even a few months following that, but Thea had always felt awkward because of Molly. Now, she had a feeling she’d made the wrong choice because Dimitri was her friend too, and she’d lost him.
She looked over the line of his jaw, the bend on his nose from where he’d broken it in a bar fight in college—a scuffle that had been about protecting a friend and not because of too many drinks. He wore a cotton shirt under his leather jacket that clung to his wide chest, and jeans that molded to his thighs—not that she was looking at his legs. She knew he had a large tattoo on one quad that was part of his family history, words in Cyrillic that she’d never been able to decipher. He also had a grouping of trees on his forearm and wrist that made a half-sleeve that he’d said reminded him of his family’s home. He was a fourth-generation American and had never been to the place his family hailed from, even his last name wasn’t Russian, but he’d always loved his ink.
That much Thea remembered about him, even though she hadn’t set eyes on him in a month—though it felt like far longer.
His brow rose as he studied her, his gaze traveling down her dress to her broken heel. It wasn’t like she could hide anything.
“Are you okay?” He didn’t smile as he said it. In fact, he looked angry, really angry. “Do you want me to take you somewhere? To talk?”
She blinked, confused. “What are you talking about? I’m fine.” Well, she would be fine once she had her ice cream and a long bath, but she didn’t need to tell him the details.
Dimitri moved closer and lowered his head so he could whisper in her ear. She ignored the heat of his breath on her neck. Apparently, she was having an off night if she were even thinking about that at all.
“Your dress is on inside out underneath your coat, you have a broken heel, your hair looks tangled, and your bra is in your purse. Are you sure you’re okay? Did someone attack you? I’ll take you out of here right now and do whatever you need. Just let me help.”
There had to be a better word than mortification for what slid through her right then. If there were a hole opening up anywhere around her, she’d freely jump into it. She’d forgotten about her damn bra and could now clearly remember the straps dangling from her purse. And because she’d been trying to keep the sheet over herself, she’d put on her dress incorrectly, and hadn’t noticed because she just wanted out of Roger’s place.
Could this night get any worse?
She shouldn’t even tempt the fates with that question. She just hoped they hadn’t heard her think it.
She wrapped her jacket tighter around her body, willing herself not to cry from sheer mortification.
Thea closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m fine, Dimitri. Embarrassed as hell, but I’m okay.” She cleared her throat. “I was on a date.”
Dimitri leaned back, eyes wide for an instant before he smiled. “Okay, then.”
“Not really okay since he was an asshole and I regret it, hence the ice cream. But I’ll be fine. He didn’t hurt me or anything. Just bruised my pride.”
“I can still beat him up for your pride.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m sure Shep would do that for me, too.”
“You tell your brother about your sex life?”
Thea winced and looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was around to overhear. Thankfully, at this time of night, they were alone. That was when she noticed the basket by Dimitri’s side full of meats and veggies. Not the typical bachelor fare since she knew he liked to cook and eat healthily. And considering the way he looked, that food did him well.
Okay, enough of that.
“That’s just wrong, but on that note, I’m going to get my ice cream, the full-fat kind because fuck this night, and head home. Thanks for checking on me, though, Dimitri. It was sweet.”
“Sweet.” Dimitri shook his head. “Thanks for that. You know guys hate that word.”
“Some guys do, but you don’t because you’re not a misogynist prick like some men who won’t be named. Anyway, ‘night, Dimitri.”
He gave her a look, but she waved like a lunatic and grabbed the first two pints of ice cream she saw once she opened the door. Thankfully, both had chocolate in them, so she was good. She left him standing there and felt a little bad about it, but things were awkward between them now thanks to Molly, and Thea was already feeling weird as hell with the whole dress, bra, and shoe thing.
As she limped to the self-checkout—since she’d be damned if she let some night clerk get a good look at her outfit—she prayed that no one else she knew walked into the store. It was enough that she apparently looked as if she’d been assaulted. Though it was nice to know there were good people out there like Dimitri, who actually cared enough to ask if she was okay.
That had to count for something.
By the time she had her ice cream in a bag, and she was limping out the sliding glass doors, her body hurt from walking in a broken heel, and she just wanted to get home. But, apparently, the fates had heard her thoughts earlier, because when she got to her car, she let out a watery curse.
“Fuck this,” she whispered. “Fuck all of this.”
The front driver’s side tire was completely flat, and since she didn’t see any obvious slashes or holes, that meant it had to be a slow leak. She was exhausted, her ice cream was melting even though it was fucking cold outside, and all she wanted to do was go home. But, apparently, that wasn’t going to happen.
She had two options: change it herself since she knew how to do it and had before, or call her brother-in-law, Carter to come and help. He was a mechanic, and since he’d married her sister, Roxie, he had basically put himself on call for any Montgomery vehicle needs. She really didn’t want to bother him, though, since he and Roxie were working so many hours these days, so that meant, broken heel and all, she was going to have to change her damn tire herself.
This fucking night.
With a sigh, she opened her car door, tossed her purse and ice cream onto the passenger seat, and went to the trunk to open the back so she could get the spare and everything she’d need to change the tire. It wasn’t going to be easy in her dress, but she’d get it done.
“Tonight is just not your night, is it?”
She whirled around, tire iron in hand, then let out a shaky breath when she realized it was Dimitri standing behind her. She hadn’t even realized he was parked two spaces away since she hadn’t been looking for his car.
“You scared the crap out of me.” She put her hand to her chest and slowly lowered the tire iron.
“Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. But I’m glad you were ready to hit me if I wasn’t me since you’re alone out here at this time of night.”
She sighed. “It’s not that late, and I can take care of myself.” Of course, now that she was thinking about it, she’d left the front door of the vehicle unlocked and had her purse visible, so she wasn’t making the wisest choices.
“Let me help,” Dimitri said quickly. “I’ll put these bags in my car and help you with your tire. It’s not going to be easy with a broken shoe and in a dress.”
She shook her head. “You have perishables. I can handle it.”
“I’m sure you can, but you can also let me help. It’s supposed to snow tonight so getting home would be a good thing.”
She sighed. “I haven’t checked the weather since this morning. Snow again?”
“It’s Colorado Springs, of course there’s a chance of snow at random times even if they didn’t mention it twelve hours ago. Seriously, Thea. Let me help, and then you can get home safely and out of that dress.”
He cleared his throat after he said that, and it was all she could do not to roll her eyes. It was either that or pant at the thought of taking off her dress in front of him.
Where the hell had those thoughts come from? She didn’t need to think of Dimitri like that. He was her friend. Kind of. But, seriously, just friends.
“I’d appreciate the help,” she said after a moment because, honestly, it was silly to do it all herself when she was wearing what she was, and there was someone who could assist. “But don’t make me wait to the side or something. I’ll actually help.”
“You got it.”
He rushed off to his car, practically threw his bags into the back of the SUV, then headed back toward her in less time than it took for her to move things out of the way to reach for the tire.
“Let’s see what we can do.” He helped her get the spare out of the back, then the two of them got to work. Dimitri did most of the heavy lifting since it wasn’t easy in her dress and, frankly, he was stronger than she was. Thea didn’t want to stand in his way and make things take more time as the temperature dropped either.
When he bent over, her gaze dropped to his very sexy butt, and she pulled her eyes away. Jesus, what was wrong with her? This was her best friend’s ex. There were rules.
Rules that kept her away from a very sexy butt and an impressive set of forearms.
No, she was not looking at his forearms. Or his ink. Or the way he held that long piece of metal. Nope.
Why is that tire iron so sexy? Why did she think it phallic?
She’d just seen a penis. It wasn’t a nice one, but she’d seen it. She knew what one looked like.
Why was she thinking of Dimitri’s penis?
Oh, God, she should have just baked a cake. Or cookies. Or anything that would have kept her out of the damn store.
And then he turned and winked, and she knew she was going to hell. A special hell, with only gluten-free products, spoiled eggs, and no yeast.
“Thank you so much,” she said, hoping her voice wasn’t hoarse because her mind was in a weird place. Namely, the gutter.
“Let me help you clean up.” He went to do as he said before she could even answer, so she bent over and picked up a few random things to help out.
When he was done, he gave her a look, then hugged her close before laying a soft kiss on her temple. They both froze.
She couldn’t think.
She took an awkward step back, and he cleared his throat.
“Uh, thanks for your help.” She didn’t know what else to say. What else was there to say?
He let out a breath. “It was good to see you.” He paused. “I’ve missed you, you know. I know Molly said we could still be friends, you and me. But we didn’t do that. I showed up a few times to hang out with you, but you always kept me at arm’s-length. I thought we were friends and could be in the same room. I didn’t—still don’t—think there was anything wrong with us being friends. You were my friend before, and I’d like to try that again. So, why don’t we?”
She was quiet for so long, she was afraid he’d just leave without waiting for an answer.
He held up his hand. “No, don’t say anything. Just think about it. I’ll be in touch. Because, Thea? I miss you.”
And with that, he walked away, but also kept an eye on her as she got into her car. She knew he was keeping her safe, and she was grateful for that, even as it confused her.
Why didn’t they try?
The memory of the brush of his lips along her skin filled her mind, and she swallowed hard.
Oh, yeah, that’s why.