Montgomery Ink Series – Book 7
By Carrie Ann Ryan
Release Date: June 6, 2017
The Montgomery Ink Series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with the brother who keeps his secret and the one woman he shouldn’t want.
Everly Law married the love of her life and on the eve of giving birth to their twins, lost him in a tragic accident. Now she’s a single mother working overtime at her bookstore trying to make sure her boys have the life they deserve. Her life is busy enough without her adding dating a Montgomery. As past secrets come to light, she’ll need Storm more than ever—even if she doesn’t realize it.
Storm Montgomery has spent his life atoning for sins that only few know he’s committed. When he lost his best friend, he promised his widow that he’d always be there for her—even when she wanted nothing to do with him. But when a single touch ignites passions they’ve both buried deep inside, he’ll have to remember exactly who is in his arms and that taking chances might be far more dangerous than they bargained for.
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Read the First Chapter of INKED EXPRESSIONS
The babies kicked, sending a shockwave through Everly Law’s bladder. She winced, rubbed the large swell of her stomach, and tried to remember the last time she’d seen her feet.
“Storm?” she called out, now running a hand down her back since that ached, as well. Being eight months pregnant with twins wasn’t an easy task. “Yeah?” her husband’s best friend called out from the back of the house. “You need me?”
That man, she thought with a smile. He always put everyone else first no matter what. Here he was on his evening off, hanging out at her house making sure things were ready for the new babies and finishing up the back deck that Jackson had never gotten around to. She honestly didn’t know why the man was single. Some woman should have snatched him up years ago.
“I just need you to tell me if my shoes match,” she yelled back.
He chuckled as he made his way into the living room where she stood, sorting through the mail. “Your shoes match, Ev. I would have told you if they didn’t.”
She rolled her eyes. “You say that, but I still remember the time you let Jackson walk around campus with toilet paper tucked into the back of his pants.”
While she was a few years younger than both Jackson and Storm, she’d been an undergraduate at the University of Denver while both men were in graduate school finishing up their degrees— Storm his Master’s in Architecture, Jackson his Ph.D. in Anthropology. From the moment she’d begun dating Jackson over a decade ago, Storm had been a part of their lives. The men had been childhood friends, and as such, she’d formed a friendship with Storm also, though it was nothing like what the two men shared.
Storm ran a hand over her belly— the only person other than Jackson she’d ever allow to do that— and smiled. “Jackson deserved that. He pissed me off that morning.” He shrugged, his dark hair falling over his forehead. The man needed a haircut, but he seemed to like it longer on the top than the sides anyway. “I don’t even remember what he did, but I remember that not telling him about what he missed was decent revenge. I’d never do something like that to you.” He winked, those blue eyes of his sparkling. “Not because I’m a nice guy, but because I’m pretty sure you could take me.”
She waved her fist at him, her fingers so swollen she couldn’t even wear her wedding ring. “And don’t you forget it, Storm Montgomery.”
He let out a breath and rubbed her belly again. The babies rolled, enjoying Uncle Storm’s touch, apparently, since they weren’t kicking her bladder again at the moment. “Your shoes match, and you even have pants on, but how about you relieve my stress and sit down on the couch while you look at the mail. You’re like days from your due date and starting to freak me out.”
She let him lead her to the couch since he’d just annoy her if she didn’t— though her ankles had swollen up like her hands, so maybe he wasn’t all that wrong about her needing to sit down.
“I’m a couple of weeks away, Storm, not days,” she countered once he’d settled her on the couch with a couple of throw pillows at her sides.
“You’re having twins, and they don’t usually like to take their time. Believe me, I know. I am a twin.” He winked again, and she snorted.
“Your poor mother,” Everly teased. “Not only twins with you and Wes, but eight children altogether. I have no idea how she did it.” She rubbed her belly, that familiar tension sliding through her. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”
Storm frowned and sat down on the table in front of her. “You’re going to be a great mom, Ev. You already take care of Jackson and me. What’s one more set of boys?”
She laughed, despite the worry in her veins. Something was off tonight, she could feel it, but she hoped it was just nerves from the upcoming labor and delivery— and then the whole raising twin boys thing.
“You handle yourself just fine, and Jackson’s not that bad.” She rolled her eyes as she said it, and Storm grinned. “I’m serious,” she said with a laugh as Storm shook his head. “Jackson is always in his head, thinking and working, but he’s not immature or anything. I just like to make sure he’s taken care of because he sometimes forgets daily things.”
Storm narrowed his eyes. “And who is taking care of you?”
She blinked at that thought and firmly put it away. “Jackson takes care of me, as well. And now we’ll both take care of these babies.”
Storm nodded. “And I take it he won’t be going on as many trips as he has been lately? I mean, this is like the fifth or sixth conference he’s flown to since you found out about the twins. I hope he’s just getting it all out of his system before he comes home and stays here for a bit.”
There was an edge to his tone that Everly couldn’t place, but she was far too tired to deal with it. The babies had kept her up all night, and she frankly hated having half of the bed empty without Jackson there to warm it.
“He said it won’t be as bad when the babies come.” Though Jackson hadn’t sounded all that happy at the time about not being able to do as many guest lectures and conferences, and that did tend to worry her a little. Everly loved the fact that he was so passionate about his work, but she was also happy that he was going to stay at home for longer periods of time to help with their babies. While she knew she was strong and capable, raising twins on her own was not something she desired to do.
“I hope so,” Storm grumbled. “A man needs to take care of his family.”
Everly sighed. “And a woman needs to do the same. We’re fine, Storm, stop fretting. It’s going to turn that beautiful mane gray one of these days.”
His cheeks reddened, and he let out a curse. “You’re just mean, Ev. Plain mean.”
“I’ve had to be if I wanted to keep up with you and Jackson.” She frowned and looked down at her watch. “Speaking of Jackson, he was supposed to have landed already and he hasn’t texted. I hope his flight isn’t delayed.”
Storm stood up and rubbed his back. “He probably just forgot. You know Jackson.”
She did, sadly, so him not texting or calling wasn’t all that surprising. He just got so in his head with his work, he forgot those around him some days. Another thing she hoped would change with the arrival of the twins. He seemed so excited about them, so she figured they would at least keep him out of his head for longer periods of time than he was now. “
Thanks for taking care of me, Storm,” Everly said after a moment. “And taking care of the back deck tonight, though I know you’re not really in the mood.”
He shrugged. “It needed to be fixed since that bottom step rotted out. Jackson’s not exactly handy, and I do happen to own half a construction business. It’s sort of my thing.” He rubbed his back again, and Everly frowned.
“What’s wrong? Did you hurt yourself?” She tried to lever herself up, but he held up a hand.
“I’m fine, Ev. Don’t get up and jostle the babies. I’m just a little sore, is all. Nothing a few stretches won’t fix.”
“Are you sure you should be working on the deck tonight, then?” she asked, worried. “You’re the architect of Montgomery Inc., not the contractor, so I don’t know how much pressure you usually put on your back if you’re this sore. I don’t want you hurting yourself.”
He fisted his hands for a moment before stuffing them into his pockets. “I’m fine, Ev. Stop fretting. Just sit there and relax and before you know it, Jackson will be home, and your deck will be ready for you to actually stand on.”
She huffed a breath. “If that’s some kind of fat joke, I’ll hoist myself off this couch and kick your ass right now. Don’t think I won’t.”
He pulled his hands out of his pockets and held them up in mock surrender. “Dear God, woman. I would never make a fat joke about a lady, let alone a pregnant one. I have three sisters and a mother who can kick my ass just like you can. I know better.”
She smiled sweetly. “I’m glad they taught you a few things.”
He muttered under his breath as he walked away, and Everly grinned, feeling a little better than she had before, though she wasn’t about to tell him that her sitting down had helped. There was only so much ego stroking she could handle.
The doorbell rang a few minutes later, and she frowned. She wasn’t sure who it could be, but Jackson’s parents did live a few miles away and liked to show up unannounced. Just thinking about that set her teeth on edge, so she ignored it and somehow levered herself off the couch. She wasn’t sure Storm could hear the doorbell from outside, and since it was her house, after all, she might as well answer it.
Everly waddled over and opened the door, blinking hard at the sight in front of her. The two officers gave her a sad smile, their chests broad as they took deep breaths. Her hands shook as she gripped the doorknob with one, the frame with the other. “Can I help you?”
“Mrs. Law?” the older of the two officers said softly. “May we come in?” Everly’s throat went dry, and she tried to keep the sense of foreboding from rushing into her, but she couldn’t quite manage it— or think.
“What’s going on, officers?” Storm asked from behind her. He put his hand on her shoulder, steadying her. Everly’s knees went weak, and she leaned into him, knowing she couldn’t stand on her own.
Both men looked up at Storm, frowns on their faces. “We need to speak to Mrs. Law. May we come in?”
“That way, she’s not on her feet,” the younger one added softly, and Everly’s heart raced.
She moved back, pushing Storm out of the way softly. “Come in,” she whispered, her voice hollow.
The two officers could have been there for any number of reasons, and yet Everly knew. She knew that no matter what happened next, her life would forever be altered.
As soon as they sat down, the officers spoke, and Storm gripped Everly’s hands, but she couldn’t hear anyone clearly. It was as if she were in a vacuum and everything was taking longer to reach her ears than normal.
Her husband was dead.
Gone before she could take her next breath.
The commuter plane that Jackson had been on had crashed outside of Boston. There were no survivors. No hope of finding her husband alive and whole, or even his body to put to rest.
The babies kicked at her bladder again, and she pressed her hand against her stomach, numb yet knowing she had no right to be that way. She couldn’t sit here and listen to them talk of grief councilors and who would be in touch with her shortly. Storm spoke for her, and she couldn’t care. She’d deal with everything later.
Right now, she needed to protect her children.
Babies he’d never see. Never hold. Never know.
She stood up then, only just aware that she’d interrupted whatever the men in the room had been saying. “I have to pee,” she blurted. The officers gave her an odd look, but Storm kept his grip on her hand.
“Everly.” His voice was deep, soothing, and a little bit worried. Yet she couldn’t focus on that.
“I need to take care of the babies,” she rasped. “I’ll… I’ll be right back. Can you…” She swallowed hard. “Can you take care of… just take care of it?”
He nodded before letting her hand go, and she waddled away from the living room, not looking at the officers who sat on her soft loveseat. Storm would take care of them and tell her what she needed to do. She couldn’t focus on anything else just then, only her babies.
They were the most important things.
Tears slid down her cheeks as she locked herself in the hall powder room, her legs shaking. The numbness settled in once more, and she looked at herself in the mirror, wondering who stared back at her, because that wasn’t the Everly she knew.
Jackson is gone, she reminded herself.
And when the pinch inside her echoed throughout her body and liquid pooled around her feet, she once again knew nothing would ever be the same.
The babies were coming, but Jackson wasn’t.
He never would be.
And Everly wept.
“I need you to breathe in, baby,” Everly said softly as she held Nathan to her chest. Her three-year-old wheezed into the nebulizer, and she tried not to let herself go numb again. She refused to allow that sensation to take hold as it had once before. She didn’t have time to ignore the panic running through her veins, but she could take that panic and turn it into the focus she needed.
Nathan looked up at her, his big eyes full of fear, an emotion that made her want to cry right along with him. James, her other sweet baby boy, held onto her shirt from where he stood beside the bed, tears running down his face.
We’ve all been here before, she thought, though tonight seemed like a far worse asthma attack than usual. She held back a curse and bundled Nathan in a blanket in her arms.
“Okay, Nathan honey, we’re going to go to the doctor just to make sure you’re okay.” She kissed his little face, a thousand things going through her mind as to what needed to be done.
“Uncle Storm,” James said from her side. “I want Uncle Storm.”
Everly looked down at James before looking at Nathan, who nodded beneath the mask. She honestly didn’t want to call Storm because that’s all she’d been doing for the past three years, at least until a month ago, but tonight wasn’t about her. It was about her boys and the fact that, frankly, she needed help.
“I’ll call from the car, now come on, babies. Let’s go.” She bundled them up quickly and got them into the car within five minutes. The fact that she’d gotten into such a routine because of her two boys’ health issues made her heart hurt, but she ignored it. The twins came first.
And that meant if she had to call Storm for help once again, she would.
Even if it pained her to do so.
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About Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.