Seduced in Ink
Book 4 in the Montgomery Ink: Boulder Series
Montgomery Ink Book 15
The Montgomery Ink: Boulder series concludes with a fake relationship where the heat and emotional connection are anything but false.
The moment Madison McClard’s parents tell her that her ex is getting married, there’s no getting out of their latest scheme. One moment she’s trying to get out of their clutches. The next, they’re telling her exactly who she’ll marry to save the family name. The one thing her parents don’t count on, however: Aaron Montgomery.
Aaron Montgomery didn’t mean to lie. Still, as soon as he overheard Madison’s dilemma, the words fell out of his mouth. Now, he’s fake engaged to a woman he barely knows, who also happens to be his new brother-in-law’s cousin.
As the deception mounts, so does the attraction. They told themselves it was only a ruse, but as feelings ramp and dangers surge, this Montgomery may have just met his match.
He simply has to fight to keep her.
**There is a bonus epilogue exclusively in the audio and ebook editions!**
Seduced in Ink
Madison McClard desperately wanted cheese.
She wasn’t exactly sure why she craved cheese at the moment. It had never been her favorite thing before she started hanging out with her cousins-in-law.
However, because of their cheese obsession—and it was indeed an obsession—just the idea of not being able to eat cheese meant she wanted it even more.
While cheese surrounded her, little platters held by waiters in stiff white shirts and black pants with creases—almost as if they knew she wanted cheese—she could not indulge.
And she hated it.
She wasn’t lactose intolerant. And she wasn’t on a diet or afraid of the food. She loved dairy and had a cheese collection of her own, along with the boards and utensils to make a perfect spread.
However, she did not want to get into a fight with her family at her cousin Lincoln’s art show. That meant she would refrain from the lovely array of cheeses, crackers, and red wine that beckoned her to the dark side.
“You know you can just take a bite,” her friend Aaron said from her side. She shook her head.
“I’m not taking a bite,” she whispered, keeping a pleasant smile as people walked past, expectant looks on their faces. They knew she was family to the famous artist and wanted to know more about her. But she had no idea why. It wasn’t as if she had any talents when it came to art, though she could decorate a mean cupcake.
“Here, let me just get you some. There’s a little bit of honey on this brie, as well as an apple slice that makes the perfect crisp crunch when you bite into it.”
She turned her gaze towards Aaron and studied his face. He might be sexy as hell with that tousled brown hair, those blue eyes, and his chiseled jaw, but she wanted to smack him.
He was far too handsome and charming for his own good.
“I’m not indulging. And how did you even know I wanted cheese? You’re not a mind reader, are you?”
He smiled, flashing perfectly white teeth, a little dimple in his cheek poking out.
A dimple? How the hell had she not noticed that before?
Damn him and that stupid divot.
And that bitable jaw.
And lickable neck.
Where the heck had those thoughts come from?
“I saw you practically drooling over a platter, your hand outstretched for a bare instant before you let it drop casually as if no one would notice.”
She looked down askance at her hands, then back up at Aaron. “I did not.”
Aaron snorted. “Okay, the hand thing was an exaggeration. But you did gaze longingly.”
Madison winced. “I hope no one else saw me looking like that.” Namely, her mother.
“I don’t think so. But, for all I know, everybody knows your love of cheese.”
She resisted the urge to flip him off and then moved closer to him. The heat of him seared her side when someone brushed past, ironically holding a full plate of cheese.
“You’re drooling again,” Aaron said, wrapping his arm around her waist. He gave her hip a squeeze before moving back. It was a friendly touch, nothing flirty, just someone trying not to fall as they both moved out of the way.
It still made her heart race, and she had no idea why.
She did not have a crush on Aaron Montgomery. He was her cousin’s love’s brother, and things got far too complicated with all of those connections. Considering that her cousin was with Aaron’s brother Ethan, as well as Holland, things were a little complicated already, and she wanted no part of adding to that.
And it didn’t really matter because Aaron moved away, still smiling at her but in a friendly way, maybe even brotherly.
Just because he was handsome as hell didn’t mean she needed any part of that. She could look, but no way would she ever touch.
“What do you think of all this art?” Aaron asked.
“It’s stunning. And I’m not just saying that because Lincoln is family.”
Aaron nodded, looking around, his gaze that of an artist and not just an average viewer.
“Lincoln’s amazing. And while he might be my family now too, I can still go on and on about his talents. I’m a little jealous, honestly.”
Madison shook her head. “I’ve seen your art, as well.”
“I play with glass most days. Lincoln breathes life into his work.”
That made Madison snort, and she winced as one of her parents’ friends gave her an admonishing look before walking past. Great, her parents would find out about her lack of social decorum in about ten seconds.
“You literally breathe life into your art,” she said, going back to the conversation. “You’re a glassblower.”
He stared at her then as if looking at her for the first time. Or maybe she was seeing things. “Maybe, but I still have a ways to go until I’m happy with what I do.”
“You and Lincoln should do a show together someday. And then have Bristol play her cello while in the room. Ethan can organize it all and make it a thing.”
“I’m pretty sure I cannot afford my sister’s prices,” Aaron said with a wink before taking a sip of his champagne.
Madison held a glass of water, in a very fancy flute, but it was still only water.
After all, she didn’t want to add any more ammunition to her parents’ barbs, and she already knew those would be coming.
She hated that she never stood up to them. She might do her best most days, but nine times out of ten, she tried not to draw attention to herself so she could avoid the inevitable fight.
Lincoln wasn’t a fan of the way she dealt with her parents, but he was lucky. While his parents might not always be in the picture these days because they had moved away, they weren’t passively-aggressively evil like hers.
“At least you have some form of talent,” Madison said wryly.
“Some form, huh? Well, at least I know where I stand.”
She rolled her eyes. “I was just telling you that you’re brilliant, and now that I’m trying to downplay it because you got all blushy, you think I’m making fun of you.”
“I did not get all blushy,” Aaron said, practically gasping.
“You could be clutching your pearls right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“You’re a cruel, cruel woman, Madison McClard.”
“So I hear,” she mumbled.
Aaron frowned. “So you hear what? Who do I need to beat up for you?”
Madison waved him off. “It’s nothing. Just a long day at work.”
“Fair enough. Now, if you want to talk about art, let’s talk about those gingerbread cappuccino cupcakes you make.” Aaron made an audible groaning sound that a couple of people definitely noticed while walking past.
“Stop,” she whispered, “I don’t like attention being on me, okay?”
“You just don’t have the right kind of attention,” Aaron said with a wink. “But back to your cupcakes. Seriously? Can I have them? I would love them.”
“Whatever,” Madison whispered. “And my cupcakes aren’t the best thing I make.”
“Now I’m drooling again.”
She didn’t know what he meant by that, so she moved on. “I could use a cupcake right now. Or cheese. I’m starving,” she whispered.
“First off, why didn’t you eat a cupcake or something while you were at your café?”
“Because I was working. And when I’m baking, I don’t tend to eat.”
“I would probably shove my face into frosting if I worked with cupcakes all the time.”
“You get used to the fact that you can’t because of health reasons. And when it’s work, it’s not really the same. I could indulge in cupcakes, but I’d rather wait until I’m not standing in my industrial kitchen to do so.”
“Fair enough. You have to build your own art first.”
“It’s not art,” Madison said with a shake of her head.
“We can agree to disagree on that.”
“Now, back to cheese.”
“We’re not going back to cheese.”
“I think we do need to go back to cheese.”
“Stop saying ‘cheese.’”
He grinned. “There is a platter right there. I will make you a perfect plate. Just take a bite.”
“Said the serpent to Eve.”
“I did offer you an apple on brie, didn’t I?” Aaron said with a wink.
“Stop tempting me with dairy. I’ll have some when I get home.”
“Why won’t you have any here?” he asked, his voice soft.
She shook her head, not wanting to go there. “It’s not a big deal. Now, go mingle with other people. I’m going to go check on Lincoln.”
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“There’s nothing to tell,” she lied, then reached out and squeezed his arm, noticing the muscle. She blushed and moved back.
He noticed her blush and gave her a wicked grin. “Have a good day, Madison McClard.”
“It’s night,” she corrected.
“Well then, have a good night.” He practically purred the words before he walked away, and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes again since her mother’s friends were watching. Then, she went over to find Lincoln.
Her cousin stood amongst the crowd, looking suave and professional, but she knew that this wasn’t his favorite part of the job.
His new agent had built this show for him after Lincoln took a break from doing them for a bit. While she knew it was going well, amazingly well from the comments she’d overheard and the sold tags on some of the pieces, she knew that Lincoln would rather be at home painting or cuddling with the two loves of his life.
However, this was part of his job, and he did it well.
The fact that his new agent seemed to understand that and never made him do what he didn’t want to, made everything better.
She resisted the urge to curl her fingers into fists at her sides or growl at the thought of his old agent.
Nobody needed to think about him.
“Madison,” Holland said, her smile wide as she came up and kissed Madison’s cheek, hugging her tightly.
She sank into Lincoln’s girlfriend and closed her eyes, inhaling the woman’s sweet scent.
Madison loved Holland.
She was sweet, strong, and took no bullshit from anyone—even if she had a smile on her face when she cut back.
She had dealt with family issues of her own—something Madison was still learning to do—but had come out on top, with not one man, but two.
Considering that one was her cousin, Madison didn’t want to say that they were both sexy as fuck. But Ethan was sexy as fuck.
However, he wasn’t the sexiest Montgomery in Madison’s mind. Then again… She pushed those thoughts from her head since it didn’t really matter or need to be in her mind at all.
“Everything looks wonderful,” Madison told Holland as Lincoln and Ethan moved forward. Lincoln had his arm around Ethan’s waist. When he moved to put his other arm around Holland, Madison noticed a few narrow-eyed glances from people who didn’t understand. However, this was an art show, and most artists didn’t really care.
The triad in front of her wasn’t the only one in their family, so most of the people attending the event in support understood Lincoln’s relationship.
Her parents were not among them. But they didn’t matter in the end.
Something she had to repeatedly tell herself.
“Looks to be going pretty well,” Lincoln said, looking around.
Ethan snorted. “You’re doing fantastic, baby. Stop feeling like you aren’t.” He kissed Lincoln’s cheek, and Madison warmed at the affection. The three of them looked at each other like they were the only people in the world, warmth and perfection surrounding them.
She was only a little bit jealous. Madison wanted a serious relationship, wanted marriage and babies and everything that came with that. She was a baker, a homemaker, and a businesswoman all in one. She wanted a traditional life, even if some of her life wasn’t at all conventional.
However, that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon, considering that she didn’t have time to date, and the men that she did go out with were not up to par.
The last one she had dated had droned on and on about his butterfly collection to the point that it had worried her that he might have dead carcasses all over his house. She had been right. They had been everywhere. Staring at her, pinned to the walls, just waiting to gouge out her eyes in her nightmares or something.
While she appreciated hobbies, he had just gotten creepier and creepier over time. After three dates, she called it off.
Much to her parents’ disappointment. They had liked the man.
“I’m so proud of you,” Madison repeated.
“Thanks for coming, cousin. I know it’s not easy for you to take time off since you’re the owner of Sin in a Cup.”
“We only stay open until eight. And my staff is taking care of things. I just feel like I sometimes need to be there from open to close, no matter what.”
“Delegating is the hardest part of owning a business,” Holland said, and Madison knew that she understood. Holland owned a small boutique shop in downtown Boulder and did pretty well for herself.
“Anyway, I’m taking up far too much of your time already,” Madison said, taking a step back. Lincoln frowned. “Why would you say that?”
Madison shook her head. “You can see me anytime. Go sell some art. Become even more famous.” Madison and Holland rolled their eyes, knowing that Lincoln would stay near and not mingle despite his fame.
Lincoln snorted. “Whatever you say.”
“I am proud of you. Later, we will celebrate this amazing show.”
“With cupcakes?” Ethan asked, his voice sounding as giddy as Aaron’s had earlier.
“With cupcakes. I baked you a special batch for your afterparty.”
“Yay, something to look forward to,” Ethan said.
“I assumed we already had something to look forward to,” Lincoln said, his voice low.
Madison blushed to the tips of her ears. “On that note, I’m going to walk away.”
Holland laughed, blushing just as hard as Madison.
She made her way through the throngs of people, enjoying the warmth and happiness emanating from the room. So many people loved her cousin’s art, and it made her ecstatic. He worked so hard. He might have an immeasurable amount of talent, but he also worked hours and hours for his business and put his blood, sweat, and tears into his art.
And now, people were here to purchase it and talk about it in reverent tones.
She was so damned proud of him.
“Madison,” a sharp voice said from behind her. “What do you think you are wearing?”
Madison turned on her heels, steeling herself. Goosebumps pebbled her flesh, and she cursed her natural instincts to run and hide. She was not afraid of the woman in front of her. She couldn’t be. And yet, fear coated her.
“What is that atrocity on you? It is hugging your hips and makes you look even wider than you are. Than you could possibly be. The number of cupcakes you eat makes you wide enough. You don’t need to accentuate it.”
They were in a corner with Madison’s father blocking the two of them. Nobody could really overhear, but she was still embarrassed.
“This isn’t the place, Mother.”
“Don’t you dare talk back to me. And how dare you force Lincoln to invite us when you should have been the one to invite us?”
“What? This isn’t even my event. Of course, Lincoln should have invited you. This is his night.”
“We are family,” Mother snapped. “That is not how things work. You are our daughter. You were the one that was supposed to get us here. Instead, your cousin had to take time out of his precious day with his deviants in order to invite us when we should have already been on the guest list.”
“First, you’re not making any sense. You’re contradicting yourself. Second? Don’t use that word.”
“What? Deviants? We are talking about his proclivities,” her mother snipped. “I don’t understand why people are so accepting.”
“It’s not your place to understand. It is not your place to talk about it.”
“What did I say about talking back to me? You’re lucky we’re in public, or I would wipe that smile right off your face.”
Madison let out a sigh. She stood up to her mother often, but Mother didn’t care. She had only gotten worse the older she got, and as Madison remained unmarried.
“Anyway, since you’re here and you won’t bother to come over for dinner so we can talk to you, we’re just going to have to deal with this now.”
“I’ve been busy. It’s a very busy time for my store.”
“Yes, your precious little store. Where you just have to indulge in everything you bake.”
“Stop it,” Madison snapped.
“Whatever.” Her mother waved her hand again before she snapped her fingers. “Guy.”
Guy? What? Who the hell was she talking about? A guy?
A man wearing a custom-cut suit and a winning smile came over, his bright green eyes flashing. He had perfectly coiffed hair. A single strand delicately flopped over his forehead before he whipped it back, a careless gesture that could have been sexy in any other case.
All Madison felt was meh.
Meh because she had a horrible feeling about this.
“What’s going on?” Madison asked, worried.
“This is Guy. Guy, this is the daughter we were telling you about. I wish she had worn the dress I sent over, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. This is going to be the woman you’ll marry.”
Guy smiled, and Madison just blinked, grateful that she wasn’t drinking anything or she would have likely choked.
“Excuse me?” Madison asked, confused, angry, and really fucking worried.
“Honey, you’re fat. No one is going to love you. Or even want you. And while I understand that that is a curse on our family now, we have found a way to get you to the next stage of your life. As I said, this is Guy. He comes from good, respected family stock, has a great job, and will take you in hand. He is going to be the man you marry.”
Madison just blinked, confused, horror sliding over her. Her mother had called her those things before. But marriage?
What. The. Fuck?
“What?” Madison gasped.
“Don’t worry. It happens all the time. There are still arranged marriages these days. We found you the perfect match because, apparently, you’ve been spending too much time on whatever you’ve been baking,”—baking being code for eating, no doubt. After all, her mother was never subtle—“to find yourself a man.”
“No. You can’t just tell me who I’m going to marry.”
“Do not embarrass me,” her mother whispered.
“You’re the one who’s embarrassing me.”
“You will do this. For once in your life, you will do what I tell you and make us proud. Do not be such a disappointment.”
Before Madison could say anything, before she could truly understand what was happening, an arm slid around her waist and squeezed her hip. She froze, knowing that touch.
Remembering that touch.
“Madison, baby, there you are.” And then Aaron Montgomery kissed the side of her temple and grinned down at her.
Madison blinked up at him, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.
“Excuse me,” her mother snapped. “This is a private conversation.”
Madison looked up as Aaron raised a single brow. “Not too private, considering I could overhear you,” he growled. Although his voice sounded completely pleasant, Madison heard the warning there.
“Aaron,” she whispered.
“No, no, Madison. I think it’s time we stop holding our secrets back.”
Confused, she just looked up at him.
“Secret?” her mother snapped. Like always, her father simply stood there, quiet.
Madison felt like she should hate them both. But they were her parents. She had tried for so long to be good for them. To understand why they hated her so much.
But it was a lost cause.
“I wanted to talk to you both first,” Aaron began. “But I asked, and she said yes. Madison and I are getting married.”
Madison blinked, her brain going blank. Her mother gasped, and her father looked nonplussed.
“Married?” her mother whispered, her tone incredulous.
“Married.” Aaron looked down at Madison and grinned.
He was such a good actor. Madison saw the warmth in his eyes, even slightly doused by the anger that was also there. “I’m going to marry your daughter, Mrs. McClard. And that means that guy over there? He’s not needed.”
“Madison, this can’t be true.”
Madison heard the anger in her mother’s tone. Knew her mom thought that Aaron could never want a girl like Madison. She braced for the words.
“Yes, yes we are.”
The lie came out of nowhere, and yet it felt right. And also like a horrible mistake. But she kept her gaze steady.
“That can’t be true,” her mother continued. “Who would want a girl like you?”
And there it was. Aaron’s jaw tightened at those words, and Madison looked over to her mother and raised her chin. “Aaron did. And, yes, he’s my fiancé.”
And on that note, with that lie, she knew for certain it had been a horrible mistake. However, the look of pure astonishment and hatred in her mother’s eyes made it all worth it.
At least she hoped to hell it had been a lie.
Seduced in Ink
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