3.5 stars. Emotional high school/college romance. Spoiled, rich bad boy meets a smart, poor girl. A few years later, they have a second chance at love. It can be nice read when it catch your market.
The Hard Way is about young – twenty, twenty-one – college kids. However the plot takes place during the summer. It’s a second chance romance with return to the past moments, to the beginning of Avery and Cade love in high school. After three years, they meet again and have a another chance at love. But not so easy. Cade has a bit of redemption to do, and the way for the two of them will not be easy.
Cade Hall is a spoiled rich kid. He doesn’t appreciate what he has and expects his father to always gets him out of trouble. But this time because of a dumb prank, he is in such trouble that nothing will help him. He has to spend the whole summer to work at the shelter for risk teenagers. Where, it turns out, is working a girl, who he once really hurt and who will do best to make his life miserable.
I liked the moments when Avery bust Cade balls. It was funny and well-deserved. But the best part was the topic about the shelter. It was where are happening several heavily touching moments and where our heroes grow up. It had to happen some drama and grief that Cade could mature into adulthood and reclaim his beloved girl.
Sadly, there isn’t much sports in this book, although the main character is an athlete, if you are looking for a typical sports romance, you will not find it here. But my rating of 3 stars is mainly due to the fact that it was a little too immature for me. I think, it’s for someone younger, who enjoys a high school romance. I would prefer more mature feelings, even though the characters developed into a very nice young couple.
“We’d experienced some of life’s lessons the hard way, and now we had nowhere else to go but up.”
Fuuuuuuuuuck! This seriously was not happening. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, apparently the universe didn’t just hate me. It fucking despised me. Not only was I stuck working forty hours a week at this shithole, but now I had the worst blast from my past standing before me. Avery Fucking Prescott.
In every “manwhore with seemingly no soul’s” world, there is one girl he regrets. One girl he thinks about from time to time. One girl he measures all the other ones against. One girl he even cries about when he’s shitfaced.
Mine was Avery Fucking Prescott.
I couldn’t help noticing that the Avery standing in front of me didn’t seem the same. Sure, she still had the same long, dark hair that she swept back in one of those ponytail things. Gone were the glasses, which made it a lot easier to see her green eyes that had flecks of gold in them. Of course, today there was pure and unadulterated hate burning in them directed at me where back in the day, there had been love.
But I had managed to kill that love by being a prick. Yeah, I’m sure you’re thinking that isn’t all too shocking based on the pure stupidity you’ve seen me exhibit so far. The thing is that Avery brought out the good that was buried deep down inside me. The good that you needed a fucking bulldozer to unearth.
While there were slight differences in her appearance, her entire personality seemed different, and no, I don’t mean just about how she hated me with a fiery passion. She wasn’t the wide-eyed, innocent farm girl who seemed so out of place at Harlington Prep. It was like she’d had a personality transplant. It reminded of me of what happened to my older sister, Catherine, the summer she turned fifteen, and my mother sent her off to some glamour school shit to detox the awkward out of her. When she came back a month later, it was like she had become a Stepford Kid. Catherine no longer took the time to play with me. She had “more important” things to do like contouring her brows or preparing for cotillions. Things were never the same between us after that.
My ego couldn’t help wondering if what had happened between us had caused the seismic shift in Avery. Like I’d broken the Old Avery with my actions, and this was what had been rebuilt in its place. But another voice rationalized that unlike me, Avery had probably gotten her shit together in the last three years. College had matured her.
After a few moments of a silent standoff, Avery said, “Hello again, Cade.” Her words might have been polite, but her voice was strained. I could tell it was taking everything within her not to go off on me.
“Oh, you two know each other?” Tammy or Theresa, or whatever the hell her name was, questioned.
Do we know each other? Oh yeah, we know each other. Like in the biblical sense. I can even tell you about the heart-shaped birthmark on the inside of her right thigh.
But I knew I would mortify the hell out of Avery if I said anything like that in front of her boss. So instead, I cocked my brows at Avery for her to take the lead on how she wanted us to respond to that question.
“A little. We went to high school together,” she replied diplomatically. The wounded look that momentarily flashed in her eyes told an entirely different story—the story where I played the villain.
But Tammy didn’t seem to pick up on it. “Well, isn’t it a small world?” she mused.
“Yeah,” Avery and I said in unison.
Tammy smiled at me. “I was just about to sing all of Avery’s praises to you, but since you know her, I don’t need to waste my breath, right?”
“Right,” I muttered.
“Well, then. I’ll leave you two alone to catch up, and for Avery to show you the ropes.”
“Thank you, Tamar,” Avery said politely.
Oh it was Tamar. Shit, I needed to remember that. “Yeah, thanks, Tamar.”
Tamar started out of the door and then stopped. She threw a grin over her shoulder. “Now, Avery, just because you know Cade, you can’t go easy on him. He has a debt to pay to Georgia Tech’s athletic department.”
Avery glared at me before flashing a fake smile at Tamar. “Oh, I promise to make him earn his keep.”
Apparently Tamar wasn’t picking up on the heavy tension between us. “Unfuckingbeliveable,” I muttered under my breath.
“Excuse me?” Avery demanded.
I held up my hands. “Nothing.”
Avery crossed her arms over her chest. “I never thought I’d have to see you again.” She shook her head at me, which caused her ponytail to swish back and forth like a whip. “Yet here you are standing before me. I guess, I must’ve done something epic to piss the universe off this much to put you back in my path.”
Whoa, that was sure as hell not what I was expecting. “I could say the same.”
Her green eyes narrowed to fury-filled slits. “Excuse me? You have some nerve to stand here in front of me and say that considering what you did.”
She was right. Only an epic tool would not immediately apologize for what I did to her. It should have been the first words out of my mouth. And not just to make things run smoothly here at The Ark, but because it was the right thing to do. After all, she had truly been an innocent in the whole fucked up situation of me being an emotionally crippled bastard. I’d let her be tortured by a psychotic chick who thought she belonged to me. I’d humiliated her with my deceptive words and cruel actions. But the greatest of my crimes was I had broken her heart.
But in this instance, I was being King Epic Tool because I couldn’t get those words to come out of my mouth. It wasn’t something I struggled with today. I’d had three years to stay those two words. Hell, I’d started off a hundred texts, but I’d never sent them. I’d even done a few stalkerish drives by her house to say how sorry I was in person, but being an emotional pansy ass, I had never gotten out of the car.
So instead of taking the emotional high road, I went slumming. “It’s been three years, Prescott. You really need to get over that.”
“Is this one of those old-timey record players?”
“A Victrola,” I answered as I joined him.
Cade snapped his fingers. “That’s right. There was one of these at my grandparents’ house.” He eyed the contraption curiously. “Does it work?”
“Sure.” I set my cup down before winding up the crank. Then I placed the needle on the record, and a slow instrumental tune came out of the Victrola’s horn. At Cade’s groan, I grinned. “Not a fan of classical music?”
“No. It’s more about the fact that it’s one of Strauss’s waltzes.”
Cocking my brows at him, I asked, “You know Strauss?”
With a snort, Cade said, “Don’t look so surprised, and no, I didn’t learn about him in Harlington’s music appreciation class either.”
I held up my hands. “I wasn’t alluding to anything.”
“Yes, you were alluding, as you say, to the stereotype of me being an uncivilized jock,” Cade teased in a snooty-sounding voice.
“I’m sorry. I’ve got to stop doing that. You really are so much more than a jock.”
He swept his hand to his heart. “Why, thank you.”
“So tell me how you know Strauss.”
“I have waltzed at ten cotillions and three debutante balls.”
“Wow. That’s quite impressive.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve never been to a cotillion or deb ball.”
“No, I mean, haven’t you ever waltzed before?”
I laughed. “Oh yeah, I often practice my dance skills out in the corn.”
“Every lady should know how to dance.”
“But I’m not a lady.”
Cade smiled. “Yeah. You are.” When I started to protest, he said, “Money and position aren’t what make a lady. It’s what’s inside you that counts.”
His words and his tone caused the breath to wheeze out of my lungs. Just when I thought he couldn’t surprise me any more with the things he said, he went and said something like that. “Thank you,” I finally mumbled.
“You’re welcome.” The world seemed to slow to a crawl around us as we stood there staring at each other. The sound of Cade clapping his hands together caused me to jump. “Okay. One waltz lesson coming up.”
“I’m going to warn you that you’re probably going to regret this. I’m the worst dancer ever.”
“How can anyone who plays the piano suck at dancing?”
“I’m not sure how it’s possible, but trust me, it is.”
Cade laughed. “We’ll see.”
A tingling jolt of electricity shot through me when Cade took one of my hands in his. After he put his other hand on the small of my back, he drew me closer to him. Even with all the times I had sat next to him while we worked on our project, I hadn’t been this close.
“Now you put your other hand on my shoulder.”
“Step back with your left foot and then bring your right to the side.” After I followed Cade’s lead, he said, “Now bring your left foot to your right, and then step forward with your right.”
My mind spun as I frantically tried processing Cade’s instructions. Somehow it managed to click together, and I followed his lead. “Hey, you’ve got it,” he remarked with a smile.
“It’s not because of me—it must be the teacher.” I glanced up at him and smiled. “Sports, brains, and dancing; you’re really a true triple threat.”
“You forgot devastating good looks and charm.”
I grinned. “Does that make you a quintuple threat?”
“Make it a sextuple threat if you throw in the money.”
“I should have known you’d find a way to have ‘sex’ in your title.”
Cade threw his head back and laughed. “Always busting my balls, Prescott.”
“Yep. Just consider me your Little Ball Buster like Judith in Walking Dead was called Little Ass Kicker.”
Cade’s brows rose in surprise. “You watch Walking Dead?”
“Sure I do.”
“That surprises me.”
“I guess I just figured you only watched pretentious stuff like Downton Abbey.”
“Downton Abbey is not pretentious.”
Cade grinned. “I’ll take that as a yes that you watch it.”
“I certainly do.”
“At least I’m 1 and 1 on picking the TV shows you like.”
“While you know me pretty well, you have a lot more to learn, Mr. Hall,” I teased.
“I look forward to you educating me.”
As I stared into his face, Cade’s expression grew serious. The idea of educating him suddenly seemed to take on a deeper meaning—one of both mental and physical knowledge.
Cade dipped his head to where our mouths were just inches apart. His breath fanned across my cheek, causing me to shiver. I stared into his eyes, silently pleading with him to go ahead and kiss me. We’d already been down this road before. Since Thanksgiving night, I’d wanted nothing more than to feel his lips on mine again.
When he finally kissed me, it sent energy humming all over my body. I’d kissed other boys, but it had never felt the way it did with Cade. It was all-consuming of my mind, body, and spirit.
Considering his experience, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that Cade was a good kisser. What surprised me the most was the emotion behind his kiss. It ran so much deeper than just a physical act, as if he was putting his heart and soul into kissing me.
Cade deepened the kiss by plunging his tongue into my mouth. It tangled along with mine in a waltz of its own composing. My hand snaked up his back to capture the hair at the base of his neck, and I ran my fingers through the silky strands, marveling at how much softer it was than I had imagined.
The Victrola ran out of steam, and the only sound filling the room was heavy breathing. At the loss of music, Cade stopped leading me around the floor, and his hands slid underneath my buttocks. He gripped the globes of my ass before hoisting me up to wrap my legs around his, and I molded myself tighter against him. I couldn’t seem to get enough of him—the way his strong arms felt around me, his thick waist against my legs, his broad, muscular back underneath my hands. Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I wanted all of him.
When we crashed into a chest of drawers, Cade momentarily released my lips to breathlessly ask, “Are you okay?”
“Mmhmm.” I gazed into his hooded eyes. “Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”
I rubbed myself against the ridge in Cade’s pants, causing him to groan against my throat. “Jesus, Prescott, if you keep doing that, I won’t be able to stop.” When I did it again, my action was rewarded with a growl.
Cade’s wild eyes glanced around the room before leading us over to the wide red settee in the back corner. We collapsed onto the smooth velvet material. I widened my legs to allow Cade’s hips between them and his mouth sought out mine in a frantic kiss.
As our tongues battled against each other, Cade’s hand came to my breast. He kneaded and cupped it over the fabric of my uniform, my nipples hardening under his touch. When he began undoing the buttons of my dress, he broke the kiss to glance at me as if asking my permission. At my nod, he practically ripped the remaining buttons open.
He gave me a sheepish grin as he pulled me into a sitting position. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay,” I said as I slid my arms out of the sleeves.
My breath hitched when Cade’s arms snaked around my back to undo my bra. Once it was unhooked, I couldn’t help bringing my arms to cover my chest and keep the bra in place. I hated that in this moment I couldn’t seem to get past my modesty, or my fear that my average-sized chest would turn him off.
Cade tilted my chin with his fingers, forcing me to look him in the eye. “You sure you’re okay with this, Prescott?”
“I am, I promise.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I’m just a little scared,” I whispered.
“That I’ll hurt you?” Cade questioned with a wounded look.
I gave a quick jerk of my head. “That you won’t like what you see.”
“You’ve been with so many other girls. I’m afraid I won’t measure up.”
His expression darkened. “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”
I ducked my head. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help the way I feel.”
Cade cupped my face in his hands. “There’s only right here and right now, and there’s no one else but you and me. None of the past, just us and this moment.”
My heartbeat thrummed wildly at his sentiment. “Okay,” I murmured as I stared deeply into his eyes.
“And you could never not be beautiful to me. I like everything about you, both inside and out.” At what must’ve been my incredulous look, Cade grinned. “And I’m not just saying that so you’ll let me in your pants.”
“I know you wouldn’t.” Deep down, I knew it to be the truth. If Cade had really wanted to just screw me, he would have attempted it over the past two months.
“I wouldn’t be here tonight if I didn’t want to be with you for the long haul.”
Once again, my heart began to beat so erratically that I felt a little dizzy. “Really?”
He nodded. “You’re all I need, Avery.”
About the Author
Katie Ashley is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Selling author. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her daughter, Olivia. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Designing Women, and Scooby-Doo.
With a BA in English, a BS in Secondary English Education, and a Masters in Adolescent English Education, she spent eleven years teaching both middle and high school English. As of January 2013, she became a full-time writer in December 2012.