Ink Exposed (Montgomery Ink #6) by Carrie Ann Ryan
Publication date: November 29th 2016
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.
Alex Montgomery didn’t need a drink. But he fucking craved one. This feeling wasn’t new, of course. The craving was always there. It burned in his gut, spiraled up his spine, and parched his throat. It clawed at him, seduced him, rammed into him like it couldn’t help itself. It was like an angry linebacker, screaming in one ear while a seductive temptress whispered sexy innuendos in the other, both of them telling him to just take one drink.
It would only be one drink, they taunted. Just one. Only it never ended at one drink. Because Alex was an alcoholic. He hadn’t had a drink soothe his parched throat, or tried to drown his demons in over a year. He still couldn’t quite believe it sometimes, and yet, other times it felt as if it had been so much longer. Sixteen months sober, but an addict nonetheless. No matter how many days passed and how many drinks he didn’t imbibe, he’d always be an alcoholic. That was something he’d learned to face over the past few months, but sometimes knowing it didn’t make trying to live a normal life any easier.
“You’re here early,” Marie Montgomery said as she made her way to his side. He’d been standing outside even in the cold Denver air, but his mother had found him anyway. He loved the scent of mountains and comfort that seemed to permeate his childhood home, and just looking at the woman who’d raised him made him feel that much closer to what he’d lost…and that much farther away from where he’d started.
His mother had aged well, he thought. To the point he wasn’t sure she’d aged at all. If her genes were what the family could go by when they got older, then most of his siblings were going to look just fine as they entered their fifties and sixties. Alex had probably pickled his liver during his depression so he figured it probably wouldn’t be quite the same for him. He’d more than likely end up harder-edged than his already edgy siblings. But that had been his choice at one point, and then out of his hands after he’d fallen too hard. Now, he’d face the consequences of his decisions. And it was about time he faced the aftermath according to his sponsor and therapist.
His mother wrapped her arms around his waist and held on tightly. He ignored the way his stomach tightened, and hugged her back, the action almost rusty. It hadn’t been easy these past few months to remember how affectionate his family had once been with him. He’d pushed them all away over time, and he was just now learning how to come back—if there were a way to come back. When he closed his eyes and inhaled the scent that had once calmed him, he prayed that one day he’d find himself tranquil again.
He used to drink to forget, and then, because he didn’t know anything else, he’d kept drinking. But now, he needed to remember, damn it.
He kissed the top of his mother’s head since she was so much smaller than he was and took a step back. She was a few inches shorter than all of her sons and even a couple of inches shorter than her three daughters. How Marie Montgomery had been able to raise eight kids as well as all of their friends who’d come to their home day after day was beyond him.
“I’m glad you’re here, though.” She patted his chest and looked up at him with worried eyes. She always held that worry now; and he knew it was his fault that it was there.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” he said honestly. His mother’s eyes softened, and he figured he’d said the right thing. “I know the family dinner starts in a couple hours, but I wanted to come early and see if I could help.” Though their family was considered huge in this day and age, the immediate family members all lived within thirty minutes of each other in the Denver suburbs. Some of them had moved away for a year or two for school or life, but they’d all come back to Denver in the end. Once he’d gotten out of rehab, he’d considered moving away and starting over, but he’d just be hurting those who had loved him through all his crap. They’d stayed with him, pushed him toward the decision he’d had to make for himself, and now, he was glad he’d stayed in the city.
At least, that’s how he felt in that moment. With the way his mind kept going in a thousand different directions, he could change his mind again soon.
Since his parents were ecstatic that all of their babies were so close, they held family dinners twice a month. Sometimes, they made it happen more often; sometimes, they could only get everybody together once, but all of Alex’s siblings tried to make it when they could. Add in the fact that the rest of his family had been having children at an alarming rate recently, and their family dinners were always loud, full, and exhausting.
Once again, he ignored the tightening in his stomach. I can do this, he told himself again. He’d been normal once. He could try to at least play at being normal again.
“Anyway, you could have come right into the house, Alex,” his mother continued. “You didn’t have to come in through the backyard. You could have just come right in through the front door. No need to even knock since you’re one of my babies. Since the chemo and radiation treatments are over, your father wasn’t taking a nap like he used to.”
Alex’s father, Harry, had battled prostate cancer the year before when Alex had been going through his own self-induced downward spiral. Alex hadn’t been in any shape to be the kind of son Harry needed when he’d faced death and won. Thankfully, Alex had four other brothers who were far stronger than he was, and three sisters who kicked ass at anything they did.
“I wanted to walk the long way before I made it inside.” He shrugged, and she gave him a curious look. He sighed and pointed to one of the picnic tables on the large patio his father and his brother Austin had built over a decade ago. Austin was a few years older than Alex and had always been good with his hands. Yet it had been the next two siblings in the line, Wes and Storm, who had joined Harry in his construction company. While Austin had opened his own tattoo shop with their sister, Maya.
“I brought my camera in case you wanted photos or something and figured I’d see if anything caught my eye out here.” He didn’t look in her direction as he said it, suddenly self-conscious. He was a photographer and photojournalist by trade, but he’d lost many of his contacts when he found himself at the bottom of a bottle. He’d spent the past year trying to atone for his sins, making new connections and repairing the ones he’d broken, but he wasn’t quite there yet.
His mother put her hand on his forearm, and he looked down at her again. “I think that would be wonderful. Nothing formal I suppose since we didn’t warn anyone, but I’d love some shots of the family being who they are and just enjoying themselves. You were always talented at capturing that.” Tears filled her eyes, and she blinked them away, though not fast enough for him not to feel like a heel for putting them there. “I look forward to seeing what you come up with. You’re so talented.”
He nodded, swallowing hard. Maybe one day he wouldn’t feel like a stranger in the home he’d grown up in, but today wouldn’t be that day. Hell, he felt like a stranger in his own skin, let alone allowing space for anyone else to see who he was.
He didn’t even know who he was anymore.
Alex turned at the sound of the soft voice behind him, his heart suddenly beating just a bit faster, though he didn’t know why.
Tabitha moved toward them, a hesitant smile on her face as she studied him and his mom. She wore her light auburn hair up high in a ponytail, but he was pretty sure at one point she’d been blonde. Though it might have just been a trick of the light. If he were honest with himself, he couldn’t quite remember much of the past couple of years. She was a little above average height and all legs—legs he’d checked out more than once in the past year.
But he’d always pushed those thoughts aside, just as he would now. He was in recovery, damn it, and though he was past the year mark that most people suggested addicts wait to start a relationship, he knew that Tabitha wouldn’t be the woman he started up with once he was ready.
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.