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Hard as You Can

by Laura Kaye

Series: Hard Ink (2)

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15417128,516 (4.01)None
"Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he's shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister's sake, Crystal can't get too close. Until her job and Shane's mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed. Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn't want him to uncover. Too bad. He's exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can and never let go."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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Summary
When Crystal first meets Shane McCallan, he rambled in the dance club where she was working, gorgeous and charming, she got a glimpse of what it would be like to really be treated with respect and affection. But Crystal is in a bad spot and must be careful of her actions or her sister may pay the price. But when she sees Shane back with a few other men, to rescue their friend who has been tortured and held prisoner, she aids them. Crystal doesn't know why she risked herself like that, but she would do it again just to get a glance at those kind eyes. Crystal and Shane keep meeting up accidentally and the attraction between them builds. Shane along with his other teammates, need information on the Churches Gang and Crystal is the perfect way to get in, but there is more than one reason Shane is building a trust with Crystal. He admires her, and he knows that she is in a bad situation, and wants to help her get out of it. He knows that not everything is as it seems, and Crystal is the way in not only in destroying Church's evil ways and putting a stop to the drug runs and the selling of women, but also she is the way to opening his heart that has been closed off for years.
The Hero
Shane McCallan, is part of a special forces team, they have been ruined and betrayed and are searching for answers and a way to clear their names. Shane has always been protective of women, and if he hears or notices one being hurt by a man...he interceds, its automatic for him. Shane carries a huge burden of guilt from a mistake he made in the past when he was just a teenager. His sister was kidnapped, and he was babysitting at age thirteen, and he has blamed himself ever since. Shane is quite protective and caring and he wants to save Crystal. Shane is one of my favorites so far, just because of his protective instincts especially when it comes to women being abused. He takes action and doesn't hold back if he senses something wrong. And there is this scene (which I won't reveal too much about) that really won me over with this character. Where Shane battles with his inner demons, over what he can and can't do and almost put everyone he loves at risk for wanting to do the right thing. I admired his character so much mostly because has such a open heart, he is a fighter and can handle just about anything, but he has this kind and affectionate nature I couldn't get enough of.
The Heroine
Crystal McCallan, has been put in a bad situation not of her own making. When she was just a teenager, her father was branded a traitor among the club, sent to prison and Crystal was taken captive....raped, beaten and even whipped. She had a savior, and in return for her acting the girlfriend act, her younger sister is left alone. Crystal has only eight more months and then she and her sister can be free. She has never told her sister of what has really happened to her, and the price she has had to pay for their fathers mistakes. My heart ached for Crystal. At first you know that she is in a bad spot, but it isn't until certain truths are revealed, that you realize how much Crystal has suffered. She will do anything in her power to save her sister.

“I’m tired of being afraid,” she said, her breath hitching. Shane shook his head. “The definition of courage is action in the face of fear. By that definition, sweetness, you’re the bravest person I know.”

I loved her strength and courage, but also she has this loving nature and despite what has happened to her she is sweet and kind. I love that no matter how bad it got, it didn't break Crystal, it only made her stronger and a fighter.
Plot and Story Line
Hard As You Can is the second book in this fabulous Hard Ink Series. And what a fabulous book this was. I have had it on my Nook forever it seems, and when I was looking for a new book to read from my shelf, I decided to pick this one up. I have been in the mood for romantic suspense lately and this one just seemed perfect for me. From the first couple of pages I was pulled in and I got caught up in the story. I just couldn't put it down, it is the type of book that will keep you up late reading. What was most wonderful about this book was the emotional engagement. It really tugged at those heart strings, in an almost painful way at times. We get to see more interaction between the team members and loved the humor.

“Why were you so happy to see me? You know, besides my general awesomeness."

Marz pushed out of his chair, big grin on his face, and held out his hands. "I'm getting married!"

Shane sighed. The expressions on the other two said they'd already been down this road. "All right. I'll bite."

"I think the appropriate sentiment is 'congratulations'," Marz said, crossing his arms and feigning insult.

"Just spill the brilliance of whatever this is about," Shane said.

"Only because you acknowledged its brilliance." Marz sat excitement rolling off the guy. "I figured out how to solve the problem of getting us eyes and ears in the back of Confessions."

"By getting married?"

"By pretending to get married. And what does every pretend groom need?" Marz's grin was full of anticipation.

"A bride?" Shane said.

Marz rolled his eyes and waved his hands. "Okay, but what else?"

Shane looked between the three of them. And then the lightbulb went on. "A bachelor party," Shane said.

Marz clapped his hands. "Ding ding ding. Give the man a cigar."

Yup. The idea was, in fact, brilliant. Really brilliant.”

It was such fun to see the team again, and I love all the characters and reading this book was a reminder on how much I adore Laura Kaye. She is fabulous and one of my favorites when it comes to this genre. She really balances a love story with a suspenseful plot real well. They flow so smoothly with one another, and I loved the way the story develops. The romance between Shane and Crystal is poignant and powerful. They have a spark, but they also want more than just sex....you see them bonding on a emotional level quite early in the story and it really sets the stage for the rest of the story to progress.

He leaned down and cupped her face in his hand. “Every one of the men on my team has scars. And you know what those scars are?” Heaving a shaky breath, she shook her head. “They’re proof of survival. They’re badges of honor. They’re marks of strength.” Shane swallowed hard. “You don’t have to show me, Crystal. But you do need to know there’s nothing on your body I won’t love and respect. Because it’s you.” The words reached into her chest and soothed her heart.

I think one of the other things that I couldn't get enough of was the supporting side characters...they rocked the house in this one. We have Shane's team and brothers and I loved the feeling of family you get from them. They tease and mock each other, but they also are at each other's back 100%. There were a couple of others, the bartender at the club...he was friends with Crystal's father and tries to protect and shield her when he can. Then we have Crystal's younger sister, Jane. She was superb, and she is like her sister in many ways, but she fights for Crystal just as Shane is trying to do. I really admired how Jane stands up to Crystal, and that Crystal needs to fight for freedom and get away from the abuse that Jane senses is happening. I really loved her character because only a sister can see what is truly happening and fights to save her. This story was fantastic, and I just gobbled up every delicious moment.
The Cover
I love the pose here, its so sensual and moving. And love the back with the tattoo....gorgeous!! I love the artwork.
Overall View
Hard As You Can is a stimulating read that will have you at the edge of your seat in anticipation....thrilling, edgy and captivating!! You are not going to want to miss out on this one.

I want you. I want you so bad I can hardly breathe. ( )
  addictofromance | Mar 23, 2019 |
This book was great! I loved reading Shane and Sara's story. Loving this series can't wait to read the rest! ( )
  TiffanyCutshall | Dec 28, 2017 |
4.5 Stars. I can't wait to read more of this series. The only think that held back half a star was the instant love. I wanted more.

I listened to the audiobook and it was really well done. ( )
  tiffsaddictiontobook | Jul 18, 2017 |
This is a good second entry in the Hard Ink series. As in the first book, however, the main characters fall in love much too quickly. Also, some of the dialogue is not believable. Otherwise this is a good story continuing the mystery of the SEALS who have seemingly endured betrayal at the hands of their commander. However, things may not be as they seemed in the beginning. Some of the emotions don't ring true in this story, but overall this is a good book. ( )
  Mrslabraden | Jun 28, 2017 |
This book starts off a bit towards the end of the first book and as with that book the action and suspense pick right back up in the continuing mission to bring down Church and find out more clues about the Commander.

Crystal Dean is the waitress that helped them escape with Charlie from the strip club. We find out her story and it is not a pretty one. She is basically trapped working in Confessions to pay off her father’s debt and beholden to the owner as he saved her from the torture she went through as a prisoner in the basement, but it was just trading one hell to another. Her life’s goal is to take care of her college aged sister who suffers from epilepsy and to protect her from the world that she is forced to endure.

Shane McCallan has never gotten over the loss of his sister and the guilt over that means he cant stand to see a woman be abused or suffering in any way. He knew from the short time he’d met Crystal that she needed saving and he couldn’t get her out of his mind. He also knows she could be a source of information on the stopping some of Church’s shipments that range from drugs, guns and human trafficking.

Even though each book is a different couple they take place over just a matter of days and the endings while not like a serial book ending they are cliffhanger-ish as the author seems to be writing this as one long continuous story. Both books are well written and with starting this one from a scene in the first book but from Crystal and Shane’s POV helped to get you right back into the story without missing a beat. I am thoroughly enjoying this series and cannot wait till the next chapter..
( )
  CindySnS | Oct 26, 2016 |
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Dedication
To the Fearsome Foursome, for so many reasons.
To AB, for all the margin smilies and aquees.
to JRW, for making me cry in a public place
and giving me one of the best moments of my life.
To Brian, for making it possible once again.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
First words
Crystal Dean hurried out of the private party room and let the fake smile drop off her face.
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(page 295)

RAVEN RIDERS
MARYLAND
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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