HARD AS YOU CAN - Laura Kaye
A Hard Ink Novel , Book 2
Avon Books
ISBN: 978-0-06-226790-0
March 2014
Romantic Suspense

Baltimore, Maryland - Present Day

Crystal Dean does whatever it takes to stay alive, and that includes keeping her mouth shut about the things she knows are going on at the strip club where she's a waitress.  She's aware that something big is happening in the club tonight, and when she sees an injured man led to the basement, she figures he'll never be seen again.  When she literally runs into a man who says he's a little lost, she directs “Pretty Boy” to the private party in the basement.  But when Crystal sees Pretty Boy carrying the injured man out of the basement, she makes a split second decision that will change her life.  Ignoring the escape would endanger her life, so she has to scream for help, but first she gives Pretty Boy advice on how to escape the club.

Shane McCallan figures out pretty quickly that the pretty waitress is in trouble, but he's in the middle of a mission and shouldn't let his focus be divided.  He and his friends have rescued Charlie, the son of Colonel Frank Merritt, the man who was once his commander––until he betrayed Shane and his team?and now they need to figure out what a Baltimore street gang has to do with Colonel Merritt's dirty deals.  Yet he can't stop thinking about Crystal, and when he follows her home and finds her tending to her ill sister, another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

The Hard Ink series follows Shane McCallan, Nick Rixey, Edward Cantrell, Beckett Murda, and Derek “Marz” DiMarzio, the remaining members of a Special Forces team. Colonel Frank Merritt had been their commanding officer, and his illegal dealings caused the deaths of the rest of the team, as well as the less-than honorable discharges of the men who survived.  Now, a year after their discharges, the Church gang out of Baltimore has abducted Charlie Merritt and attempted to abduct Becca Merritt, and the team is trying to help as well as find the evidence that will clear their names.  The first book features Becca and Nick, and HARD AS YOU CAN is Shane and Crystal's story.  The betrayal of their commander was difficult enough to deal with, but then the team fell apart, losing contact with one another, and he's not quite over the fact that the people he saw as family cut him out for a year.  For Crystal, working at the strip club and being the girlfriend of one of the gang's higher ranking members is necessary for survival, but she's hoping to be free of it all within a year.  Shane is completely different from any man she's ever known, yet getting involved with him, in any way, can't be good for her.

Though this is the second book in the series, it follows close on the heels of the first, and stands pretty well on its own.  The attraction between Crystal and Shane is both obvious and dangerous, but ultimately too strong to ignore.  In the middle of Shane's mission, he keeps coming back to Crystal, and his need to protect her becomes very personal.  A captivating tale full of suspense and very interesting characters, don't miss HARD AS YOU CAN.

Jennifer Bishop