Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.
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.
This is the second book in the Hard Ink series, and it follows the same group of ex-military men as they race to save a friend and find answers about the betrayal from which they all suffered in the military by their commanding officer.
In this installment, we get to know Shane McCallan. In pursuit of Becca’s brother Charlie, he literally runs into Crystal Dean at the club she works in. Little does he know at the time that Crystal is not exactly an employee there by her own free will. At first, he tries to find a way in with her so that he can gather information about the men she works for, but what he ultimately finds is a horrible world of human trafficking and abuse. Can he meet his objective to solve the larger mystery surrounding him and his cohort’s betrayal, and at the same time save Crystal from the world in which she an unwilling participant?
I almost always enjoy Laura Kaye’s books, and this was really no exception. It’s an exciting story, albeit a bit shocking and sad (as human trafficking tends to be). I guess I just had a difficult time
connecting with Shane in this book. I didn’t fully understand his motivations towards Crystal or his intense feelings towards her so early on. What it boils down to for me is that Shane may be a bit too perfect in this book. He does all the right things, says all the right things. He’s a hero for sure, but he wasn’t very real for me. I did, however, like Crystal (aka Sara). She was a rich character that had a lot of complicated history. Her story is heartbreaking, yet she manages to hold it all together because she has an end game. She’s smart and underneath it all she has managed through horrible circumstances to keep herself together and not lose who she truly is inside. She plays a part and is just biding her time. I liked her a lot, and she really carried the story for me.
As always, the writing in this book is superb. Laura knows how to write a complicated story that keeps you engaged and intrigued throughout. Not to mention, girlfriend knows how to write a sex scene that is both touching and erotic. The sex in this book is awesome and sweet; Laura knows how to win an audience on sex alone, methinks! I honestly cannot wait for the next book in this series. Even though this may not be my favorite book so far, I still think it’s a solid 4 star read.
In the second book of the Hard Ink series by Laura Kaye we get to learn Shane and Crystal’s stories. Shane is one of the men who helped Nicholas with the situation in book one, Hard As It Gets and also his best friend. He had met Crystal briefly in the previously book and this one starts off with that meeting.
Crystal is one of the gang member’s girlfriend and has serious debts to pay off as well as caring for her sister who is epileptic. She was forced into this lifestyle and believes she has no other choices. Shane has his own demons to conquer and feels drawn to Crystal and also obligated in some sense.
“Crystal chanced a glance at him and instantly regretted it. Because his expression was filled with pure earnest desire to help her. To help them.”
For being a tough military guy, Shane is so sweet and wonderful in this book. If I were to meet a man like him in real life, I am sure I would fall hard and fast also. That being said, it was one of the issues I had with this book. For the second time in two books, there was almost instant love. I understand that this is fictional but Laura has such a way with details it did get me thinking. Maybe being in these types of high stress situations causes feelings to develop faster? Perhaps the feelings are adrenaline fueled and maybe aren’t even true or as strong as they may think they are? If this were a
true story, I would definitely worry about the longevity of this relationship. But since it is not, I will say, once again, very well done Laura Kaye. The writing style was immaculate. Her eye for detail continues to amaze me. Another thing I love about these books is that while there is obviously some sex, the author doesn’t go into a ton of detail. While they are steamy, she leaves a lot to the imagination. I guess what I am trying to say is her stories have enough plot that she does not need to fill the holes with prolonged sex scenes to take up some space in her story. And while the situations are highly tense, every once in awhile she will throw in a line that tickles my funny bone.
“And even though her rational mind knew she was comparing apples to machine guns, the thought wound its way around her brain until it rooted deep.”
As we learn more about these characters I am falling more and more for them. This series has me hooked. As long as the plot and the story line remain this strong, I will definitely be looking forward to them as they come out. She has also impressed me so much that I will be checking out her other series and singles as well. The only reason this one scored a 4 and not a 5 for me is that I felt like the ending was a bit rushed. I was at 97% and preparing for a major cliffhanger because I thought there was no way she could tie the ending up but she did. I just felt sort of let down after all the build up that it ended so quickly I suppose. While the book absolutely does not have a cliffhanger, there are some loose ends from book one that are still not tied up. Also, I believe this one could be read as a stand alone however it may leave you with some questions regarding the bigger mystery that is going on throughout. I would definitely recommend reading them soon and reading them in order.
“I didn’t mean to criticize you, Crystal. I just cannot abide violence against women. Period. Especially not someone I know.” A long pause. “And definitely not someone I like.” After everything that had happened to her, the words were a balm for her psyche.
Footsteps came up behind her, slowly, cautiously, like she was a wild animal who would bolt in an instant. And she supposed there was some truth to that analogy.
Torn between returning to the danger she knew or staying with the one she didn’t, Crystal debated. Her heart told her Shane might well be the most dangerous man she’d ever met because he made her want, wish, maybe even dream.
Not at all sure it was a good idea, Crystal slowly turned.
Shane was right in front of her. A rock in the middle of a raging sea, a refuge she might claim if she had the strength and the will and the nerve to fight for it. To believe she deserved it. She hugged herself.
“Hey,” he said, cupping her face in his big hands. His fingers slid behind her neck and gently massaged.
She shook her head and glanced toward the treetops in an effort to pinch off the sting building behind her eyes. Why did she have to meet him now? She’d had a plan, and all she’d needed to do was follow it for a few more months. “You don’t even know me.”
“No. Not everything. But I know more than a little. And that much I like enough to want to know more.” His fingers rubbed her neck, gently, soothingly.
And his words, well, his words were perfect. Maybe even too much so. Too good to be true, she thought. “I already told you I’d share what I’d learned. You don’t have to play me.”
His eyes narrowed, and he frowned. “You listen hard and you listen good, sweetness,” he said, the words firm but the tone urgent, almost desperate, and laced with his southern accent. “I’m not perfect, and God knows I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. But I would never play with a woman’s emotions to get information out of her. That kind of manipulation doesn’t hold with me. Ever.”
Sweetness. She’d heard everything he’d said. The passion with which he’d said it. The sincerity that burned from his gaze as the words had poured from his lips. But it was the term of endearment that reached into her chest and gripped her heart. For a long moment, they stood there, bodies touching, faces inches apart, his hands holding her in that firm-but-gentle way he had.
Thunder rumbled again, closer this time, and her heart was a drum beat double-timing inside her chest. If his hands didn’t feel it racing, he’d have to hear it, because the sound was a loud rush rush in her ears. Beneath the sports bra and tank, her nipples went hard. If his gaze dropped, she knew he’d see, but she couldn’t bring herself to feel self-conscious about it. Not when he was looking at her
like he wanted to devour her.
His gaze dropped to her lips.
She shuddered, everything inside her but the smallest voice of reason crying out for him to do it. Just once.
“Tell me not to,” he said, his voice a raw scrape.
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.