We're a week away until the release of INK EXPOSED by Carrie Ann Ryan (!!!), but we couldn't wait. So we're revealing the first chapter of Carrie Ann Ryan over three days! Find out more about INK EXPOSED and read more of the first chapter below!
About INK EXPOSED
The Montgomery Ink series continues with the brother that deserves a second chance, and the woman who has always loved him.
Alex Montgomery lost his first love and then proceeded to leave himself in the bottle. Only he and his ex-wife truly know why he fell so hard and so fast down a path he never thought he’d take. Now he’s clean, out of rehab, and learning how to be a Montgomery once again—a task that isn’t quite as easy as some of his family assumes.
Tabby Collins is an honorary Montgomery and the organizational mastermind behind Montgomery Inc., the family’s construction company. She loves her planners, friends, and a certain dark-haired man who’s never given her a second glance.
Alex is slowly re-immersing himself back into the world, but the demons he faced before aren’t out of the picture, and he’ll have to learn to rely on others to make it out whole. When Alex discovers that Tabby’s life is in danger, he not only finds a way to help her but also learns the true woman behind the soft smiles he’s always seen. Their romance won’t be an easy one, but nothing this passionate and heart-pounding ever is.
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INK EXPOSED releases November 29th - preorder now!
Read the Second Part of Chapter One:
She worked with his brothers, Storm and Wes, at Montgomery Inc. She was the administrative assistant for the construction company his parents had started before he was born, and he was pretty sure she ran the company with utmost efficiency. Wes might be super organized and diligent, but Alex knew Wes and Storm wouldn’t be able to function without Tabitha.
“Tabby!” His mother moved forward and brought the other woman into her arms.
Tabitha smiled fondly, this time not as hesitantly, and hugged his mother back. “Hi, Mrs. Montgomery. I thought I’d come a bit early and see if you needed help cooking today. Mr. Montgomery let me in and I saw you guys out here through the window.”
Alex stuffed his hands into his pockets and watched the way his mother fawned over Tabitha. He couldn’t really blame her either. There wasn’t a bad bone in Tabitha’s body, and every time he saw her, she was always put together and helping someone. He didn’t know if she had anyone at home waiting for her or family around here, but he knew the Montgomerys had taken her in anyway. They tended to do that to anyone they liked and admired who came near enough to their web.
“How many times have I asked you to call me Marie, Tabby?” Marie held Tabitha’s hands and shook her head, though he could tell his mother was smiling.
“Every time I see you. But I have a bad habit I can’t seem to shake.” Tabitha looked up and over at Alex and smiled, though it wasn’t the same smile she’d given his mother, and he couldn’t quite read it. “Hi, Alexander.”
“Hi.” He always found it weird that they were the only ones who called each other by their full names but it had been one of those things that had stuck years ago, and he didn’t know how to change it. And frankly, he didn’t want to.
“Anyway, it’s Storm’s turn to help me in the kitchen if you want to join me,” Marie put in. “The rest of the kids and their babies will be here a bit later.” She looked over her shoulder. “Alex, honey, grab your camera and come inside. If you’re bored, you can help us start cooking.”
His stomach did that tightening thing again at the thought of being included, but this time, it didn’t hurt. No, it was more a warmth he couldn’t quite place. He kind of liked it.
“I can do that,” he said softly then went back to get his camera. He jogged to the picnic table and picked up his bag. His hands shook, and he forced himself to take a deep breath and count to ten.
“Are you okay?”
He turned on his heel, his eyes widening. He hadn’t heard Tabitha came up behind him, and he swallowed hard, his heart racing. “Yeah, just picking up my camera.”
She tilted her head, studying his face. “Okay. Your mom went into the kitchen to get her lists. Storm will be here in a few minutes, apparently. I hope you don’t mind that I came early to help out. I didn’t know you’d be here ahead of time, as well, and I didn’t mean to break up whatever you and your mom were planning.”
He quickly shook his head as he placed the strap of his bag on his shoulder. He kept fiddling with it since, for some reason, he wanted to reach out and touch her in order to reassure her. He didn’t need to be touching Tabitha in any way.
“You didn’t interrupt anything.” He gave a dry laugh, and she gave him a curious look. “You’re part of the family now, you know. If anything, I bet you’re more of a Montgomery than I am these days.” He hadn’t meant to say the latter, and could have kicked himself once the words were out. He hadn’t meant to open up like that.
She didn’t give him a pitying look, however. Instead, she narrowed her eyes. “You’re a Montgomery, even if you don’t think of it that way right now. You’ve always been a Montgomery and not just in name.” She let out a breath, and the two of them stood in an awkward silence. “Anyway, we should get going so we can help out.” She turned on her heel, and he let out a breath of his own before he followed her.
He didn’t know what it was about Tabitha Collins that had made him open up even that little bit just then, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out anytime soon.
When they got inside, Storm was just walking in through the front door, a large smile on his face. Storm and Wes were fraternal twins so they didn’t look exactly alike, but out of all the Montgomerys, they looked the most alike. All of them had dark hair and blue eyes, and most of them had ink and piercings, as well. Considering a couple of his siblings owned and operated a tattoo shop, it only made sense. They made for an eclectic bunch, but they were Montgomerys so that’s all that mattered.
Or, at least, that’s all that should have mattered until Alex kicked all of that to the curb.
He shook off those thoughts and went to greet Storm. The two of them did that man hug thing he never truly understood but did anyway before they headed into the kitchen. Storm hugged Tabitha close before kissing her on the top of the head and getting to work.
“Is that how you treat your staff at work, dear?” Marie asked with a twinkle in her eyes. Alex was pretty sure Marie wanted Tabitha married into the Montgomery clan, and figured either Wes or Storm would do.
Alex didn’t count, after all.
Storm winked and kissed his mother’s cheek. “Only outside of work, Mom. Don’t worry.”
Tabitha blushed and waved them off. “If they tried it at the office, I’d kick their butts. Don’t worry.”
“It’s true,” Storm said as he searched through the fridge. “She could take all of us.”
Alex raised a brow. “Good to know.”
If it were possible, Tabitha blushed even harder before going back to work. Alex held back a frown at the reaction and set down his camera case before his mother put him to work, as well. As long as he wasn’t at home sitting alone and trying to think of something to do, he’d take whatever came next.
It took a couple of hours, but they eventually had the meal ready to go. His mom had wanted to go Italian tonight so they had a couple of pans of lasagna, an Alfredo dish, as well as pasta with meatballs for the kids. They’d even made salads, side dishes, and antipasto. Since there were eight siblings, and most of them had significant others, as well as children and people like Tabitha who had been practically adopted in, that added up. There were a lot of mouths to feed. But the Montgomerys sure knew how to take care of each other even if they were only talking about their stomachs this time.
His mother had been in charge of desserts so he knew there would be tons of sweet goodness after the main meal, as well. He rubbed a hand over his stomach and sighed. He wasn’t sure he’d have room for dessert in the end, and he didn’t want to overindulge. He’d done that enough in his life.
As the rest of the family began to arrive, he pulled out his camera. This wasn’t his first family meal since he’d gotten out of rehab, but he still wasn’t up to the full strength needed to deal with the entire lot of them at once.
His family loved him. He knew that. They were the ones who’d forced him to look at himself and had been there to pick up the pieces when he’d fallen apart. He hadn’t been strong enough to do it alone, and while he didn’t resent them for it, he did resent himself.
It was easier to be behind the lens and take photos of his family interacting than it was to actually be part of it. While he was still there, he could step away and be an observer.