Taken Hard (The Hard Boys Book 2) by Sam Crescent



“What are you doing here so early?” Jane, his mother, asked.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Son, you look like you need to sleep for a damn week. What’s going on?” Jane poured herself a mug of coffee, no cream, no sugar. Just neat. For years, she claimed it was the miracle cure for living with four Hard men.

There were times their names sounded like a porno. Where his brothers had shaken that reputation, he’d embraced being known as the guy with a tiny brain and big dick. He liked people to believe that. He was just a dumb mechanic, but they were all wrong. He excelled in high school, had considered college, and had even gotten into the ones he’d applied for. He’d decided against it.

Life in a corporation or chasing whatever dream college degrees got people didn’t appeal to him. He liked the small-town life. Being near his family. Chasing memories more than dreams.

Everyone believed he was a player, and he was. No one could force him to settle down, but the truth was, his tiny little secret was he wanted the same relationship his parents had. Married for over thirty years and still as in love now as they were back then. He wanted that. He didn’t want to regret marrying a woman he couldn’t stand.

“Nothing.”

Jane frowned at him, then went to the fridge, gathering the Sunday morning’s breakfast.

James and Eliza would be arriving soon with baby Darla. Maybe even Aunt Betty. They had been a constant feature the past few months.

Lilly never arrived.

“Do you know much about Lilly Jewel?” Caleb asked.

Jane handed him the eggs and a bowl. She always did a combination of fried and scrambled.

Caleb was used to this part. Whenever he needed to have a private chat, there was always a job to do in the kitchen. His payment for the sound advice of his mother.

“I know of Lilly. Sweet girl from what I can gather. Mother, not so much. She’s a player. Treats men like they’re some kind of token in a game. She’s ruined a lot of relationships. I always wondered about Lilly, though. I hear she works two jobs?”

“That’s right.” He hadn’t had the guts yet to visit her in the library.

“I know people talk crap about the girl.” Jane shrugged. “Why?”

“She doesn’t celebrate her birthday.”

Jane put a pan down on the stove. “Caleb Hard, are you trying to ask me how you can get this girl to date you?”

Caleb frowned and continued to crack eggs.

“Caleb!”

“I don’t want to date her.”

“Now you sound like you’re twelve again and I just discovered your stash of porn under your bed.”

He groaned. “Please, don’t bring that up again.”

Jane sighed and moved toward the table. “I can’t help you when you’re being vague. You know this.”

Caleb looked behind him.

“No one is around. Your dad will sleep until I put the bacon on. Now, talk to me.”

Uncomfortable, he ran fingers through his hair. His mother was the person he came to in all matters of the heart. His dad when it came to sex, cars, and just about everything else.

“I like her. I don’t mean just a little either.”

“The mother?”

“No, Lilly.” He glared at his mother, who held up her hands.

“Sorry, just clarifying.”

“I like her, a lot. She’s sweet and kind. I … when I’m around her, I don’t care about anything else. Women hit on me, and I just want to shove them away.”

Jane clicked her tongue. “I did warn you, son, that your reputation would bite you in the ass. I’ve seen Lilly around. She’s a beautiful woman.”

“I don’t think she even realizes that I like her,” Caleb said. He’d made every single excuse to go to the bar. Last night was the first time he’d gotten the courage to walk with her. With all the eggs cracked, he took the whisk his mother gave him and fluffed them up a little.

“Look, I don’t really know this woman. I’ve seen her, but you can’t judge someone by looking at them. Would you like for us to throw a birthday party for her? The family. I know Eliza adores her and so does Aunt Betty. We can bring it up. That way I can meet the woman who has my son’s heart in a spin.”

Caleb put his hands flat to the counter. “You won’t tell anyone?”

“That you’re falling in love?”

“Mom.”