Written in Ink - Carrie Ann Ryan
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Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Written in Ink

Book 4 in the Montgomery Ink Series
Special Edition

NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues her Montgomery Ink series with the quiet Montgomery, as he finds his match in the woman with a fiery passion and a past full of secrets.

Autumn Minor is light on her feet and a bare memory for most people she meets. She does her best to blend in everywhere she lives, even if it’s only for a short period of time. Making sure no one truly notices her is the only way she’s survived this long. When she meets Griffin Montgomery, she’s afraid she won’t be able to let go when it’s time to run.

He’s her boss for only a few weeks, yet they know the attraction between them is wrong. Neither of them are made for the long haul when it comes to love and romance. When the demons from Autumn’s past find her and put both their lives at risk, Griffin will stop at nothing to protect her—even if he might lose her in the end, no matter what.

read an excerpt

Written in Ink Characters Profiles

Written in Ink

Chapter 1

Sometimes there was nothing better than a well-worn pair of jeans. Okay, perhaps it would be more accurate to say there was nothing better than a well-worn pair of jeans encasing a very tight butt. Especially as the owner of said butt worked around a construction site.

Autumn Minor leaned against the side of the truck and crossed her arms over her chest, appreciating the view before she had to start work. At least five different men worked around her, bending over and lifting heavy things, using their large thighs and flexing nice butts. It was as if she’d entered the mecca of sexy men in jeans.

She really needed to stop by the Montgomery Inc. construction sites more often. Maybe standing back and drooling over men was a bit sexist, but she’d also seen the appreciative glances from who she assumed were the single and willing men on the site. She didn’t whistle or holler at them, so really, as far as she was concerned, she was one step ahead of the game when it came to checking out construction workers.

“Are you checking out my fiancé’s very fine butt?” Meghan Montgomery-Warren, soon to be Montgomery-Dodd, asked as she leaned against the truck next to Autumn, her long legs crossed one in front of the other, muddy boots looking well worn but cared for.

Autumn stretched from the truck, her back a little tight, and pulled her long auburn hair back into a ponytail. “Pretty much. Got a problem with that?” She winked over her shoulder at her friend, and Meghan rolled her eyes.

“No problem at all. As long as all you’re doing is looking and not touching.” Meghan’s teeth bit into her lip as she tilted her head, presumably checking out Luc’s…assets. “Damn, I love that man’s butt. Well, I just love him in general.”

Autumn grinned; ignoring that little ache inside that she hoped wasn’t jealousy. Not over Luc, of course, but of the idea that someone could love another with that much emotion and not be scared by it. The depth of heart and soul displayed on her friend’s face surprised her, though it shouldn’t have. Meghan looked so freaking in love that Autumn’s teeth hurt with the sweetness of it. The look in Meghan’s eyes when she thought Luc wasn’t looking made any amount of discomfort worth it, though. Her friend was well and truly loved. And after Meghan’s first abusive and disastrous marriage, she deserved all of that and more.

“You two are perfect together,” Autumn said. She put her hands in her pockets, trying to warm up in Denver’s winter weather. It hadn’t snowed in a couple of days, so of course the foot of white powder and ice they’d gotten during the last storm had already melted thanks to Colorado’s lovely weather patterns. But it still wasn’t warm enough for her. She preferred more temperate weather. Maybe the next place she lived wouldn’t have such cold winters.

She held in a sigh. Thinking about the next stop in her never-ending nomadic life didn’t tend to put a smile on her face.

Enough of those thoughts.

She liked Denver, even if the weather never made sense or stayed the same throughout the day. She’d learned to dress in layers—and lots of them. She also liked the Montgomerys. She didn’t know how it had happened, but somehow, she’d been invited into the fold and became, if not one of them, at least part of their periphery crew.

Meghan brushed her shoulder against Autumn’s and smiled. The two of them were around the same height, so thankfully, Autumn didn’t have to look up like she did with so many others at the site. It wasn’t that she was short—she was average—but the men on the site were all gigantic specimens of sexy men. Hence the firm butts in tight jeans and their need for appreciation.

“It’s about lunchtime. I know some of the guys wanted to head to the café near here,” Meghan said. “You want to join us, or did you bring your lunch?”

Autumn shook her head then winced. Shaking her head where there was more than one question involved usually led to misunderstandings. Considering she spent her life studying situations and people, she was usually better at that. There was just something about Denver—or maybe it was the Montgomerys—that made her feel…off-kilter.

“I didn’t bring my lunch, and I’d love to join you if you have room.” She shivered a bit, bouncing from one foot to the other. “Don’t the guys usually bring their meals so they don’t have to take so much time off the site?”

Meghan folded her arms over her chest, presumably to stay warm. “Yeah, but there’s a cold front coming in with the possibility of a storm, so we’re bringing things in early.”

“I knew there was a reason I’m cold down to my bones.” She swore her teeth chattered, but it wasn’t that cold.

Meghan rolled her eyes. “I think that has more to do with you being a Denver newbie. Anyway, it’s hard for the guys in the winter. Of course, it’s hard in the heat of the summer, too. But since they don’t want to get caught up in a foot of snow, we’re packing up.”

Autumn lowered her brows. “I still don’t know why you need my help, or even why you’re working outside in the winter. You work with landscapes.”

The Montgomery family had their hands in many pots when it came to professions, but a large part of them worked at either Montgomery Inc.—the construction company—or Montgomery Ink—the tattoo shop. The latter, ironically, was where she’d met the Montgomerys in the first place. Now, Autumn worked with the other arm of the family business. Meghan hadn’t always been part of the construction branch of the family, but once she’d divorced and found her way, she joined and dug elbows deep in dirt and plants.

“I don’t do as much in the winter when it comes to actual planting since the ground is usually too wet or too frozen. But there is always planning, upkeep, and other things I can do. And I need help because I’m learning to not do everything on my own.” She winked. “Luc doesn’t want me to wear myself out.”

He probably wanted to wear his fiancée out on his own, but Autumn wasn’t about to say that. From the heated look in Meghan’s eyes when she looked in Luc’s direction, her friend’s mind had already gone there anyway.

As if she’d conjured him from her look alone, Luc glanced over his shoulder and smiled. He nodded at two of the other guys he had been working with and strolled over to Meghan and Autumn.

“I felt your eyes on me. That mean you’re ready for lunch?” He lifted a dark brow, and Meghan laughed. She held out a hand, and Luc took it before tugging and bringing her to his chest.

Autumn held in a little sigh at the sight.

“I was just admiring your form,” Meghan said softly before kissing his chin.

Luc lowered his mouth to hers and gently brushed a kiss across her lips. “I can bend over again if you’d like a better look.”

“Maybe later,” Meghan murmured, sinking into her man’s hold.

This time, Autumn didn’t bother holding in her sigh.

“Those two are so sickeningly sweet, my teeth ache,” Wes Montgomery said as he came to Autumn’s side.

“You just don’t like seeing your sister making out with your electrician,” Tabby Collins said as she made her way to the group with Decker and Storm on her heels.

“True enough,” Storm Montgomery said as he tilted his chin toward Autumn. The man was built, bearded, and did that sexy chin tilt thing just right. She might have wanted to explore that sexy edge about him, but since she worked with himand she didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to let him see her naked, she didn’t act on it.

Of course, all the Montgomerys were damn sexy. She’d been Meghan’s neighbor before working with them, so she’d met most of them at one point or another. And she hadn’t found an ugly one in the bunch. There were eight siblings, though, so it wasn’t easy to keep them all straight. Maybe she should number them or something. Wes and Storm were twins, and two of the eldest Montgomerys. They owned and operated Montgomery Inc.—with Wes being the lead foreman for all projects and Storm being the lead architect.

Apparently, they even hired sexy. Tabby was their head receptionist, and in Autumn’s opinion, the glue that held them all together. Though she wasn’t sure the other woman knew that. When Autumn had first started hanging out with them, she thought Tabby and Wes might have had a thing going on, but now that she knew them better, she rethought that.

Decker, their lead contractor, tilted his head at the loving couple in front of them. “I thought you weren’t going to let them make out at the job site anymore.”

Luc and Meghan each held a hand out, flipping the group off even as they kept their eyes on each other.

“Considering you make out with our sister whenever she visits, you don’t have much room to speak,” Wes said dryly. Decker had recently married the youngest Montgomery, Miranda. He’d been a part of the family long before that, however; though Autumn wasn’t sure of the exact specifics.

“And I will keep on making out with her as long as I damn well please,” Decker said before running his hand over his beard. His ink flexed over his muscles as he did, and Autumn couldn’t help but admire the work. Each of the Montgomerys and their loved ones had ink—some more than others—and Autumn was pretty sure the two tattoo artists in the family, Austin and Maya, were the ones who had done it. As if either of those two would let anyone else touch their family’s skin. In fact, Autumn was going to find it hard to have anyone else do her ink once she moved away. But it wasn’t as if she could afford to come back just for Maya’s or Austin’s talent. As much as she loved their work, it wasn’t worth their safety.

She forced that thought out of her mind. This wasn’t the time or the place to worry about things like that. Though, in all honesty, she was always worried about that.

“Anyway, once the couple is done, we’re going to lunch,” Tabby said with a smile. “Are you planning on joining us? I know you don’t work with Meghan full-time, so you probably have other plans.”

Autumn shrugged. “I get work where I can,” she said vaguely. Always vaguely. “I’m hungry. Food sounds good.” She shivered again. “And if we could eat indoors with a nice heater and maybe a roaring fire, I’d be even happier.”

“It’s not that cold, cupcake,” Storm said dryly.

“Don’t call me cupcake.” She raised a brow at him, but he didn’t even bother to look repentant. Damn Montgomery men.

She looked back over at Meghan, who had her hand lightly resting on Luc’s shoulder with a sad look in her eyes. Autumn held back another shiver, this one having nothing to do with the cold. She remembered the first time she’d met Luc, though she knew he didn’t. He’d been on the floor, covered in his own blood, Meghan’s hand on his shoulder then, as well. But that time, his fiancée had been trying to keep him alive.

He’d been shot, and Autumn couldn’t do anything to help him but try to keep Meghan calm. Others said that had been enough, but she wasn’t sure. She could still remember the screams…though she wasn’t sure if they were Meghan’s or her own.

She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat and tried to shake off the memories that were best forgotten.

“You weren’t lifting anything, right?” Meghan asked, worry in her tone.

“He better not have been,” Wes snapped.

Luc shook his head. “I only bent over to point something out to another person earlier. I’m just observing, and I’m not even working full days yet.” He cupped Meghan’s face. “I promise.”

“Good.” Meghan rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him again. This time it was Tabby who sighed.

“I know, right?” Autumn said to the other woman.

Tabby snorted. “You should see it when Austin has Sierra, Shep is with Shea, Morgan gets with Callie, Decker has Miranda, and now…Luc with Meghan. It’s like love and heat and romance all rolled up in ink and shivers.”

Autumn smiled at the thought. “I don’t think I’ve met a few of those you mentioned, but I can guess how all of that in one place could almost be too much.”

Tabby shrugged. “I think once the rest of the Montgomerys settle down, Harry and Marie will be in grandbaby and new family heaven.” She winced as she said that, but Wes rubbed her shoulder. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Wes said. “Dad’s getting better.” From the way he’d ground that out, it was as if it were a forced hope, not an actual fact. But Autumn wasn’t about to comment on that. “No use tiptoeing around it.”

Ah, that was right. Harry Montgomery was going through chemo and radiation for cancer. The mention of the heaven of such a perfect future, or even just the word heaven like that might bother some of them. Sometimes just the casual word here and there could hurt more than intended.

“Okay, enough of the making out,” Storm muttered. “Let’s haul it in and head to Taboo.”

Autumn smiled. She loved Taboo. Their friend Hailey ran the small café that was located right off the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. Plus, a side door to Montgomery Ink connected it with the café so the family could walk back and forth between the two places easily. Since the job site was in Edgewater, they were only fifteen minutes away. And,Montgomery Ink had parking in the back lot. Not an easy thing to come by.

“Come on, then,” Wes said, wrapping his arm around Tabby’s shoulders. She rolled her eyes and took a step back, poking him in the ribs as she did so.

“I’ll drive myself, thank you very much. I need to head home instead of back to the office after lunch.”

Wes and Storm both frowned, looking very much like the twins they were. “Why?” they asked in unison.

Tabby raised a brow. “I have my own reasons, and I told you both last week that I plan on working from home in the afternoons. Now let’s go to lunch. I’m starved.” With that very cryptic statement, Tabby bounced away, her hand moving frantically over her tablet as she did so. How the woman didn’t trip while multitasking like that, Autumn would never know.

“Oh, stop being pains in the asses,” Decker muttered. “Tabby works her ass off. You don’t need to know everything she does.”

“But what if she needs help?” Wes asked, his gaze on Tabby. Again, Autumn would have thought that look meant something more at one point, but now she saw the same type of brotherly worry there he had for Meghan, Maya, and Miranda.

“Then she’ll ask for it,” Autumn said simply. Just because she didn’t know how to ask for help, didn’t mean that was the case for most people. “Tabby seems like she trusts you guys enough to ask for help if she needs it. Now I’m freaking freezing. Can we please go? Or are we going to stand here and look like sad puppies while the lovebirds make out some more and Tabby ends up alone and warm at Taboo eating all the food?”

The twins huffed then did that chin tilt thing once again before heading off to their vehicles. Since Autumn had ridden in with Meghan, she jumped in the back seat of the truck, knowing Luc would rather sit up front. He wasn’t quite cleared to drive yet since his shoulder was still technically healing, and Autumn knew that bugged him to no end. Hence why she didn’t tease him. She wasn’t sure she would ever be able to get the image of him lying pale on the ground in a pool of his own blood out of her brain; no matter how hard she tried.

Though perhaps that was a good thing.

It was a stark reminder that no matter how hard someone tried, their past could return with a vengeance and hurt those around them. That’s why it was a good idea to never get too close.

She pressed her lips together as Meghan drove them to Taboo. It would do Autumn well to remember not to get too close. Or at least not get closer than she already had. She knew the others wondered about her and had probably figured out that she was always vague when she talked about what she did and why she was in Denver. It wasn’t as if she could actually tell them, but it was starting to wear on her that she couldn’t say anything.

They pulled into the parking lot and headed into Taboo without much fuss thankfully. And since it was technically after the lunch rush, the place wasn’t too busy. Hailey stood behind the counter, talking to one of her customers. Her thick blond bob shifted from side to side as she shook her head. Her blunt bangs and bright red lips made her look like she should have come from the age of starlets and bombshells, instead of working at a Denver café in the twenty-first century.

Hailey’s eyes lit up when she saw them, and Autumn gave a little wave before sitting down at the long table in the corner. She took the seat closest to the end and kept her back to the wall and her eyes on the door. It was instinct to sit like that, and she hoped no one would notice that she tried to sit there—or in places like it—every time.

She ended up sitting by Tabby, who also sat next to Meghan. The boys took up the other side of the table, with Luc sitting at the head next to his fiancée. That left one more chair next to Autumn, but since they weren’t expecting anyone else to join them, it seemed she’d have some space.

Hailey came over with a smile and a roll of her eyes. She handed out waters to each of them, balancing her heavy tray like it weighed nothing. “Couldn’t keep away from me?”

“You know it, sugar,” Storm drawled, and Hailey snorted.

“The usual coffees for everyone?” Hailey asked.

“Yes, please,” they all said in unison. Kind of creepy, but Autumn liked feeling part of a unit. Plus, Hailey knew exactlyhow to make each of their lattes, cappuccinos, and chicory coffees. That was just one of the many reasons they all came here so much. Hailey smiled then bounced away to get their drinks.

“Don’t say things like that around Sloane, or you’re likely to end up with a black eye,” Wes muttered.

“Like what?” Storm asked before taking a drink of his water. “I was just being polite.”

“And don’t mention Sloane around Hailey,” Tabby said softly. “You know that’s a sore subject.”

Autumn frowned but didn’t voice the questions she wanted to ask. Everyone had been friends for much longer than she’d been in town, so it wasn’t as if she knew everything that was going on. But sometimes it was as if she were on the outside looking in with her nose pressed up against the glass.

Of course, wasn’t that what she wanted?

It was the safest place to be.

It had to be.

“How’s Alex doing?” Tabby asked in a whisper as the guys talked amongst themselves.

Autumn leaned into Tabby as she spoke to Meghan about one of the other Montgomery brothers. Alex was in rehab after having a breakdown at Decker and Miranda’s wedding. Her heart hurt for the man and his troubles, but at least he was most likely getting help now.

Meghan met Autumn’s eyes, then Tabby’s. “He’s okay. I think.” She worried her lip, and Luc reached out and gripped her hand without her even having to look at him.

“He won’t let us see him,” Wes said, letting them know he was indeed paying attention to the other side of the table.

“He will, though,” Meghan said firmly. “We’re family.”

“Damn straight,” Storm added.

Autumn leaned back in her chair and pressed her lips together. Damn, she missed her family. Missed the way things used to be, though she knew they would never be that way again. Change and circumstances had seen fit to make that happen.

“Why the long faces?” a voice said from her side.

She looked up—way up—at the sexiest man she’d ever seen. And considering the hot as hell at her table right then, that was saying something. He had a day’s growth of beard on his firm jaw, and cheekbones that looked like they could cut glass. He was seriously pretty in a ruggedly handsome, I’m-in-a-bad-mood-so-don’t-fuck-with-me sort of way. His hair was dark brown like the rest of the Montgomerys, and he’d cut it shorter on the sides but kept it long and spiked on top. From the way it went every which way, it also looked like he ran his fingers through it often. His dark blue eyes were also a Montgomery trait, but for some reason, she couldn’t help but feel like there was something…more to them than merely blue. Though she wasn’t sure what just then.

He looked like he’d rushed to put on a white button up shirt, but didn’t bother to button the bottom one or tuck it in. He’d also rolled up his sleeves, showing his tan skin and intricate ink. She wanted to lick up every inch of him, and from the way he looked at her, he knew it.

She cleared her throat as Tabby nudged her.

“Autumn? You okay?” Decker asked, giving her a knowing look. She’d have flipped him off, but she didn’t want to deal with any more questions about her reaction to the man in front of her.

He was a Montgomery, and since she’d met the rest of them except for Alex, who was in rehab, this had to be Griffin. The writer. The mysterious one, who had so far evaded her. Even in the hospital when she’d visited Meghan and Luc she hadn’t met him; and she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

This reaction was surely not good for her.

“I’m fine.” She took a quick sip of her water since her voice sounded a bit too throaty for her. “What’s up?”

Storm winked. “Well, cupcake, we were just introducing you to Griffin, but you seemed lost in space.”

“Don’t call me cupcake,” she said absently, then turned back to Griffin and held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Griffin.”

He clenched his jaw then gripped her hand in his own. She refused to think about the heat of his palm or the shock of flesh against flesh. It was nothing. Just a momentary lapse in judgment when it came to her thoughts.

“Cupcake?” he asked as he pulled away and took the last seat at the table—the seat closest to her, of course.

“Storm is a dead man who happens to think he’s funny,” she said dryly, pulling her eyes from his too handsome face.

“I’m sure—” Griffin whispered.

Hailey came at that exact moment and handed them their drinks and took their orders, saving Autumn from having to deal with whatever the fuck had just happened. She’d met sexy men before, so it wasn’t like this was new. But she sure hadn’t had that reaction before. Maybe she was just hungry and lost in her own thoughts.

Because there was no way she would get with a Montgomery. Not when they were the only ones to hold her close when she walked through the shadows of her life. And she would be leaving soon anyway. Looking too closely at a man who made her brain and body act as if she’d been plugged into an electrical socket wouldn’t help.

“Nice to meet you, Autumn,” Griffin whispered in her ear. She held back a shiver at the feel of his breath on her neck.

This could be a problem.

“Or maybe I should call you Fall.”

She blinked at him, her jaw dropping at the lame joke.

Or maybe it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

end of excerpt
Written in Ink

Written in Ink

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