The Hard Way by Katie Ashley
Release Date: August 31, 2016
Sports + Bad Boy + Second Chance
Cade Hall has always been the golden boy of the gridiron. Because of his talent at football, coupled with his father’s wealth, he’s always gotten his way. But when a night of drunken debauchery lands him in hot water with the college athletic board, neither his influential father nor his charming grin can save him. Cade finds it a total buzz kill when he is sentenced to community service with troubled youth at an inner-city shelter. But his nightmare is only beginning when his greatest high school regret is the very one in charge of the program, and she has him by the balls in more ways than one.
For Avery Prescott, senior year was a nightmare of epic proportions, and Cade Hall played the lead villain. After she fled her small town for college in the bright lights of Atlanta, she thought she had escaped the painful memories of her past. She never could have imagined Cade would waltz through the door of the outreach program she presided over. But Avery has news for Cade—she isn’t the same shy, doormat of a girl she was in high school. Since she holds Cade’s football future in her hands, she’s more than ready to make payback a real bitch.
Will they stay in the defensive zone or discover that sometimes life’s greatest lessons are learned the hard way?
“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, and her two very spoiled dogs. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Supernatural, 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 11 1/2 years educating the Youth of America aka teaching MS and HS English until she left to write full time in December 2012.
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