Wrapped in Ink
Book 1 in the Montgomery Ink: Boulder Series
The Montgomery Ink saga continues with a new series set in Boulder, where a family secret might just change everything.
One mistake at a friend’s wedding rocks Liam Montgomery’s entire world, and everything he thought was true turns out to be a lie. But when an accident lands him in the ER, Liam meets someone that might just be the distraction he needs.
Arden Brady has spent her life in and out of hospitals. But according to the world, she doesn’t look sick. She’s lost jobs and friends because they don’t see beneath the surface, but she’s learned to rely on her family and herself to keep going. And then she meets Liam.
With two sets of overprotective siblings and a puppy that can’t help but get into everything, Liam and Arden might just fall harder than either one ever expected.
**There is a bonus epilogue exclusively in the audio and ebook editions!**
Wrapped in Ink
Liam Montgomery leaned against the wall and did his best to stay out of the way. It wasn’t easy since, like the rest of his family, he was broad and tall and tended to stand out amongst the crowd—that is, unless the crowd was full of Montgomerys. Then, he blended in.
Today, however, only a fraction of the Montgomerys were here—his immediate family—and not what felt like tens of thousands of cousins, uncles, and aunts that lived in the state.
Liam looked over the crush of wedding goers as they milled around with their pre-ceremony drinks and tried to spot his family. The Boulder Montgomerys had been invited to his friends’ wedding and had all shown up, which was nice, considering that though they all lived in the same city, they were rarely in the same place unless there was a family dinner.
Those didn’t come often these days since they were all busier than usual, but Liam had a feeling that once his mom saw all her ducklings in one place, there would be an edict for a dinner sometime soon.
Liam sipped the last of his beer and then looked around for a tray to set it down on since he was finished. He nodded at an attendant as they took his bottle and then leaned back against the wall. He never really understood why someone needed a drink before a wedding unless you were the one getting married, but he didn’t really mind that he could have a beer while waiting for everything to start.
“Why are you over here sulking?” Bristol asked as she came to his side and leaned into him. Liam wrapped his arms around his little sister’s shoulders and kissed the top of her head. She let out a strangled noise, and he knew that she was rolling her eyes at him even though he couldn’t see her face just then.
“Really? Really?” She sounded so annoyed that Liam couldn’t help but grin.
He turned to face her. “What? You’re my baby sister. I’m allowed to do things like that.” He reached out to mess with her hair again, and she pulled away, huffing.
“I’m in my thirties. You don’t have to coddle me and kiss me on the top of the head like I’m still wearing braids.”
Liam narrowed his eyes and then traced his finger along one of the tiny braids in her updo. “Um, I beg to differ with the whole braids thing.”
She glared at him and then flipped him off. “It’s two tiny little braids in my updo that the hairstylist had fun with. I’m not actually in pigtails. Stop treating me like a baby.”
“I’m always going to treat you like a baby. Because you’re my baby sister.”
“You don’t treat Aaron like you do me, and he’s younger than I am.”
“He might be, and I do treat him like a baby brother. But you’re still the wee little girl.”
She flipped him off and then winced as their parents’ voices hit them. “Did I just see you flipping off your brother at a very fancy event?” Francine Montgomery asked as she came up to stand by them, tapping her daughter on the nose.
“Surely, we did not,” Timothy Montgomery asserted, holding back a grin.
Considering that both of Liam’s parents flipped each other off constantly, as did the rest of the Montgomery family, Liam knew that it was all bluster. But mothering Bristol or any of them was sort of what their mom did. And he knew she loved it.
“Liam started it,” Bristol said, and Liam burst out laughing.
“Oh, yes, that’s the mature sister I know and love,” he added as Bristol punched him in the gut.
He let out an oof and rubbed his stomach.
“You’re packing a punch there, baby sister,” he muttered.
Bristol coughed and used her hands to cover up the middle finger she used to flip him off with again.
“I still saw that, young lady. And you shouldn’t hit your brother like that,” their mother added. Liam just shook his head.
He loved his family, he really did. But, sometimes, it felt like they were in their own little comedy show outside of the world, a place where nothing mattered but them. And he was fine with that. They had always been there for him. They were the true friends and close relatives he’d had all his life.
Liam was a Montgomery, just like the rest of them. They had connections and ties that never died, no matter how much they made fun of each other or flipped each other off. Because they were family, and that’s what mattered most.
As his brothers came walking in, grinning at him and Bristol, Liam leaned back against the wall and looked at them all.
Ethan was only a couple of years younger than Liam and brilliant. He didn’t understand half the things that Ethan talked about when he spoke about his job, but that didn’t matter. His brother was just that damn good at everything.
And Aaron? Aaron was brilliant in his own way. He might not be science and math smart like Ethan, but the art that he created was breathtaking, and Liam knew it would last into the ages.
Just like Bristol’s music would.
They were all so damn talented and amazing. And while he sometimes felt a little left behind, he knew he shouldn’t. Because he liked his job, and he was damn good at it. He’d even liked it when he was a model back in the day, even though everyone had made fun of him for it.
But it had made him enough money to get him through college. With some left over to help the rest of his family so nobody ended up in debt.
If he had to deal with being called “pretty boy” and made fun of for his looks? He’d take it.
And he’d flip off his family as he did.
“What are we doing over here?” Aaron asked, frowning. “Is there some kind of Montgomery reunion I wasn’t aware of?”
“I’m just so happy that all of our family is together in one place,” Francine said, sliding in between Liam’s two brothers and wrapping her arms around their waists. “Y’all are getting so big.”
Liam snorted. “Um, Mom? I think we’ve all gone way past the whole growing up stage. We’re pretty much as big as we’re gonna get.”
“I don’t know, Liam, I think Bristol might one day actually grow up and reach normal height at some point.” Ethan winked and patted Bristol on the head.
Their baby sister narrowed her eyes and used both fingers this time, raising them high into the air. She quickly lowered them as Francine and Timothy glared at her.
“At least try to act like we’re not all heathens,” Timothy said, although he laughed as he did. “We’re supposed to be the nice family at a beautiful wedding, not people flipping each other off just because we can. It gets kind of old after a while.”
“That is true,” Liam added. He was surprised that Bristol didn’t flip him off again.
“If everyone would stop touching my hair, though, that would be amazing,” Bristol added.
“Your hair does look lovely, dear,” Francine said, studying her daughter. “Did Zia do it?”
Liam met his brothers’ gazes and held back a grin.
It didn’t matter how long Zia and Bristol had been broken up, their mother wanted marriages for her children. And babies. And so, the fact that Bristol and her ex-girlfriend were still friends always gave Francine hope.
Besides, it took the attention off the rest of them so they weren’t constantly being asked when they were going to settle down and find a nice boy or girl to marry. Liam wasn’t ready for that, and after he had witnessed all the trouble and heartache that his cousins had gone through in their marriages, he was okay waiting that out for a little while. He had time. Lots of time.
The fact that he was thinking all of this at his friends’ wedding wasn’t lost on him. Craig and Cain had been through their own hells, but were now going to say their vows to each other and then head off into the sunset, happily married. Maybe they’d eventually adopt a baby because they were on the right path for that.
Liam was fine on his own road, thank you very much.
“Zia didn’t do my hair, Mom,” Bristol said, and Liam knew she was holding back a sigh. “She’s not even in town.”
“But did she help you with the style or something? She’s just so amazing with all her techniques and things. I follow her on Instagram, you know? She’s getting her own makeup line and everything. Did you know that, Bristol?”
Zia was an Instagram beauty blogger who was getting her own product line or something like that. Liam was the one who had introduced her to Bristol since he used to model with her back in the day. It was still a little weird to think that his baby sister had exes in her life. He tried not to think of Bristol as someone who could actually have a relationship. But Zia had been good. Not right for Bristol, but good.
“I know, Mom. Zia and her boyfriend are out of town on vacation, though.” Bristol emphasized the word boyfriend, and their mother’s face fell.
“Oh, I didn’t know she was seeing someone.”
“Has been for a few months now. I think I hear wedding bells.”
“Speaking of wedding bells,” Ethan put in. “We should probably find our seats, or Craig and Cain will beat the crap out of us for ruining their wedding.”
“Yeah, we can’t ruin another one,” Aaron put in and then laughed.
“What wedding have we ruined?”
“I’m sure we ruined a few,” Aaron put in, waving his hand.
Liam laughed and put his arms around Bristol’s shoulders as they all walked into the seating area. “I’m sure our mere presence does that. They can’t help but be intimidated by us. We are the Montgomerys, after all.”
“They’re probably just intimidated by you, pretty boy,” Ethan said, ducking out of the way as Liam tried to punch him.
“Boys,” their mom said in that voice that had been the same since they were little. One word and they all stopped.
Even Bristol froze.
“Sorry,” they all mumbled under their breaths and then looked at each other, grinning.
No, they weren’t kids anymore, nowhere close, actually, but sometimes, it was good to be near family. Liam took a seat at the end of the bench with Bristol sitting next to him, and then Ethan, Aaron, and their parents. Liam had met Cain back in his modeling days, and the two of them had struck up a friendship that had lasted through the years.
Yeah, Liam had been a teenage model, and it continued into his twenties. He’d made a shit ton of money but then left that life as quickly as he could. Somehow, he hadn’t found his way into drugs or too much drinking or getting a disease from all the women he could have slept with over that time. A few of his friends back in the day had succumbed to exactly that. It didn’t matter what decade you were in, it felt like the craze of wanting to do something bad and be in that circle just kept coming at you.
Liam had then met Craig in his new job. Liam had been at his agency in New York, meeting his representative for a new book deal when Craig had come out, muttering about authors and lattes and something else. Craig had been an intern at the time and was now a full-time editor at Liam’s publishing house—not his editor since Maisie would never let him go. Liam had struck up a conversation with Craig when they were both waiting for a meeting.
Then he’d introduced Craig to Cain, and the two of them had hit it off.
They’d also come to visit Liam enough times in Colorado that they had finally bought another home in the Rockies.
And so, they’d decided to get married and have their ceremony in the mountains of Boulder, rather than in the city on the east coast.
Liam figured that the couple would probably have another party out in New York, but that was fine with him. He might just hop on a plane and fly out there for that, too. He liked the two grooms, and they deserved this and much more.
However, the way his mother kept looking around at all the wedding decorations and everything else, he had a feeling that this was simply one more nail in the coffin of his bachelorhood.
Not that he was actively against getting married, he just hadn’t found the right person yet. None of the Montgomerys in this city had.
But his mother was determined to have her way and make sure that the wedding bells never ceased.
A Montgomery wedding was what she wanted. And, apparently, it was what she was going to get, no matter the cost.
At least that’s what she had said at their last family dinner, causing his siblings and him to burst out laughing.
It was like she was waging war, and weddings and babies were the only way to end it.
Well, she’d have to wait a bit longer. Because today was about Craig and Cain, not the Montgomerys. Even if it felt like they were the center of their own world sometimes.
The music started, and Liam just leaned back onto the bench and looked around. They were outdoors, the sun shining, and the mountains gleaming against the blue sky. Didn’t matter what season it was, even if it was freezing outside, the sky could still be blue. And then he figured that a snowstorm or a thunderstorm would likely come out of nowhere and drench everyone, but they had these few precious moments. And they were going to take them.
Craig and Cain looked hot as hell in their matching tuxes and grins. Liam shook his head when Cain dipped Craig into a very intense, very not-wedding-like kiss.
There were hoots and hollers, mostly by him and his brothers, and Bristol wiped her tears, laughed, and looked on with the rest of the crowd as the two men began the next phase of their lives together.
“That was so beautiful,” Francine said, wiping her face. “I just can’t wait to see what happens at your weddings.”
“Mom,” Liam sighed.
“What? I have four beautiful children, and none of them want to be married. None of you are actually in relationships. What have I done wrong?”
“Do you ever feel like she was born in the wrong century?” Bristol asked, tapping her chin.
“You mean that she’s like a Regency momma, watching her little ducklings not able to find their duke or their lord at a ballroom?” Ethan asked.
“Yes, I think we’re all wallflowers here,” Bristol said, sounding so serious that he almost thought she meant it. Then he looked in her eyes and saw the laughter.
“There’s nothing wallflower about you, Bristol.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet. Seriously. But again, I don’t really want to get married right now. You know, I would kind of need a boyfriend or a girlfriend to make that happen.”
“Well, don’t say that too loudly, or you know Mom will just fly someone out to find you.” Ethan shook his head and grinned. “I swear she’s going to start setting us up on blind dates or bringing people to family dinners if we don’t start pairing off soon.”
“That may be true, but Bristol would be first, right?” Liam asked quickly.
“Oh, no. I’m not going first. You’re the eldest. You’re the one who gets to get married.”
“No, don’t the dukes and the sons of dukes get to wait until their little baby sister is presented for her opening and pushed out into the real world without a net?” Liam asked and then paused. “Is the word opening? What is the word?”
“Debut,” Aaron said, and everybody looked at him. “What? I happen to know a few women who read historical romance.”
They all kept looking.
“Okay, just because Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite authors does not mean I lose my man card.”
They all started laughing, and Bristol hugged Aaron hard.
“I think that makes you the best. Because her Wallflower series is seriously one of my favorites ever.”
“I know, right?” Aaron asked. Liam just looked at Ethan before they both cracked up laughing.
It was good to be with the family. Good to be smiling and acting as if they all weren’t sometimes stressed with their jobs or the fact that their mom really wanted them to settle down. It was good not to think about anything but being with the people that mattered the most. His family.
The four of them stood off to the side near the outside of the building where there was some restoration work being done, trying to stay out of the way. They tended to be loud, and this was about Craig and Cain and their day, so none of them really wanted to be the center of attention.
Nor did they want to be near the group when ties and garters were being thrown in place of bouquets.
Liam knew that his mother was probably hunting for them since the time for the toss was almost upon them, so they were hiding.
Liam looked up when he heard a scratching sound and frowned. “What was that?” he said, his voice soft.
“What was what?” Bristol asked, and then her eyes widened. “Liam!”
Liam looked to the right and then threw himself over his little sister as the scaffolding that had been right beside them fell. There was a sharp pain, and a deafening crunch as he heard his little sister scream, his brothers shout to him, and then he heard no more.
There was only darkness.
Wrapped in Ink
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