Hard Hats: Book Two
When they were teens, Castor McCormick was the bane of Blake Kowalski’s existence. Their mutual animosity led to summers filled with rivalry. Now, nearly two decades later, Cas is moving back into the neighborhood to live in his grandmother’s old house. Blake tells himself he isn’t interested in seeing how snarky little Cas grew up, but when his mother dupes him into visiting his former nemesis, he finds out “pretty” can evolve into “sexy as hell” on the right man.
Cas didn’t think he wanted to see Blake again. No one has ever pushed his buttons like the arrogant boy he remembers from their youth. Turns out, the adult version of Blake still gets him hot under the collar—and everywhere else. With Blake on leave from work to nurse an injured leg and Cas taking time to move and unpack, they form a tentative friendship that turns into a sexual affair neither man can deny. But when Cas’s job sends him out of state to deal with a difficult client, their new relationship will be tested, and if they fail, Blake’s broken leg might not be the only thing to end up scarred.
“DID I tell you Castor McCormick is moving in to Dee’s old place now that she’s down in Boca Raton? You remember Castor, don’t you?”
Blake only half-heard his mother’s questions as he tried to find a better position on her ancient floral-patterned couch. A spring kept poking him in the ass, and no matter what he did, he couldn’t get comfortable. It might’ve been easier if Mila, his mother’s black-and-white domestic shorthair, would deign to move from her position on the center of his chest, but the stupid cat didn’t so much as stir while he shifted around.
“Personal space, Mila,” he muttered, stretching out his right leg. The motion caused his cast to bump against the hard arm of the couch. He hissed in a pained breath. Just over a week since the surgery, and his leg still ached like hell. Not to mention the itching. Damn, that prickly, crawly sensation drove him nuts. He would’ve used a ruler or something to try to get in there and scratch if he hadn’t been worried about damaging his stitches. The doc had said they might start to dissolve in as soon as a week, but could possibly take months to break down completely. With the fiberglass cast in the way, he couldn’t see them, and the very last thing he wanted was to risk accidentally tearing one out.
Blake shuddered a little at the thought.
Maybe it served him right for believing he was anywhere near young enough to be playing drunken street hockey, especially with a klutz like Marty Cazuko on the opposing team. Blake wished he could wipe the sickening crunch of his tibia snapping between the curb and Marty’s three hundred pounds of weight from his brain, erase the white-hot agony of bone rending flesh. Hands down, it was his worst break yet. And now, instead of being in Wisconsin helping his best friend, Aaron, with renovations, he was laid up in his mother’s Villa Park bungalow for at least another month because he couldn’t navigate the narrow stairs to his fourth-floor apartment on crutches. No summer loving for him. All he had to look forward to was his prescription of Tylenol with codeine and a chaser of physical therapy to help him get used to the fact that his tibia was being held in place by screws and rods.
Fuck his life. Fuck him, too, for assuming he could do the same things at thirty-seven as he could at eighteen. He wasn’t over the hill by any stretch, but forty loomed pretty damn close these days, and it was a proven fact that younger bones healed faster than older ones. No way would he be back on his feet as quickly as he might have been ten, fifteen years ago. He couldn’t even work until the cast came off. What use was a contractor on crutches? Good thing Costa Construction—Aaron’s company—offered all its employees paid medical leave. Otherwise, his recovery time would’ve cost him a helluva lot more than just the loss of his vacation.
“Are you listening, Blejkus?”
Blake shifted again, unable to find comfort on a couch that was simply too small to accommodate his six-foot-two frame. Mila shot him an annoyed look and leaped gracefully onto the floor—but not before digging her claws into his chest in a show of feline displeasure. Blake winced and resisted the urge to toss a pillow at her. Damn cat would probably dodge it anyway. “What, Ma?”
“I asked if you remember Cas from across the street.”
Oh, that. Blake grunted. “Course I do.” How could he forget the little shit who’d made his summers miserable between eighth grade and senior year? Bane of his existence, that kid.
“Well, he’s moving in this weekend.” Karina walked over and adjusted the cushion behind his back. Her apron was flour stained, and she smelled like onions and sauerkraut from the pierogi she’d been making. The sharp, sour scent might not have been pleasant to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the fermented cabbage, but to Blake, it reminded him of his grandmother and their yearly trips to the Taste of Polonia Festival in Jefferson Park. Of home. “It would be nice if you went over and said hello,” she added.
“Ma, I haven’t seen the kid in, what, nineteen years?” Not since the summer after his senior year, when his grandmother passed away from a massive coronary just a week before he and Aaron went into trade school. Had that really been almost two decades ago? He still missed her. “We don’t even know each other anymore.”
Karina smacked him lightly upside the head. “So get to know him again. It’s never easy moving in to a new neighborhood. Most of the kids who grew up around here are long gone. And your babcia liked him, bless her soul. She always thought he was a good boy.”
Blake snorted. His grandmother had thought that about everyone. He couldn’t even recollect the number of times he’d been blamed for something that “good boy” had done. Dozens, probably. Kid had the face of an angel back then and a Cupid’s bow mouth to match. Got him out of all kinds of trouble.
“What?” Karina asked. “Don’t tell me you’re still holding a grudge over that silly baseball thing? That was ages ago.”
“No, not a grudge, but you know we were never really friends.”
Karina patted his head and moved away toward the kitchen. “Well, you’re not teenagers anymore. You can be friends now.”
“We’ll see,” Blake said to placate her, but he had no intention of playing head of the neighborhood welcoming committee. He’d leave that to the women on the block.
From their very first meeting as teenagers, he and Castor had clashed. Back then, Cas’s mother had sent him to spend summers with his grandparents in Villa Park, much as Blake’s own parents had done with him. They’d meant the action as a preemptive measure to keep the boys from running wild through the streets of Chicago all day long. In that, the effort had been only partially successful—Blake and Cas had both fallen into all sorts of misbehavior anyway, regardless of the change in location.
But despite being forced into the sort of reluctant camaraderie that came from boredom and a dearth of other similarly aged kids nearby, true friendship had never existed between them—only rivalry and constant one-upmanship. Now that Blake had his own place and his own circle of friends, he didn’t need to play nice for the benefit of not being shunned by the locals. He doubted Castor had changed all that much from the smart-mouthed know-it-all of their misspent youth. Why bother trying to find out if he might be wrong? As soon as the cast came off, Blake was headed back to his apartment in Wrigleyville. Besides, Cas probably didn’t hold memories of Blake in fond regard either. The animosity between them had never been anything but mutual.
Blake tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling. His mother really needed to let him replace that popcorn paintjob soon. He couldn’t stand the sight of the stuff, and it wasn’t difficult to remove—just tedious and time-consuming. Much like his healing process would be.
“Cas, Cas, pain in my ass,” he murmured, then chuckled to himself. He hadn’t thought of that old taunt in years. Castor always hated it. Blake remembered the way he would flush, his pale Irish skin going ruddy, clearly broadcasting the depth of his irritation. Blake had enjoyed riling him up back then. Pretty kid. Too bad about the attitude. They could’ve had a lot of fun those summers, if Castor batted for the same team Blake did—which Blake suspected was the case—instead of doing their best to piss each other off. For a moment Blake wondered how that lithe, adolescent prettiness had translated to adulthood. Not that he cared enough to want to find out.
I'm a recent convert to this 'Hard Hats' series, so I was excited to jump into book two, 'Hook, Line, &Sinker'. "Convert" might not be the best word. I mean, it's not as if someone had to convince me to read anything by Piper Vaughn. I adored book one, and I was eager to delve into this one, mainly because I knew the writing would keep me interested, and the short introduction I had to Blake in the previous book let me see a guy I was fairly certain I was going to really like. Win-win, right?
What's the saying about there being a thin line between love and hate? As teenagers, Blake and Cas, despised each other, although a lot of that hid their newfound knowledge of wanting the other. Meeting again, after almost twenty years, the lust is off the charts, which comes as no surprise to either of them. The fact that they become friends, and then delve into a relationship with ties to deeper emotions, does surprise them. Doesn't stop them, though. *grins* It's amazing how quickly your "frenemy" from childhood can become your lover. And yeah, the two of them together are enough to practically start fires. Of course, the true test will be if they can handle Cas being out of state for two months, on a job, and only coming home on the weekends. Do they have what it takes to make this a forever thing?
A wonderful book, which I enjoyed even more than the previous. I'm really hoping there will be more in this series, especially, since I can see book three about Gavin and Riley. You know, just a suggestion. I loved Blake and Cas! Thank you, Piper, it's incredible.
NOTE: This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews.
I give this book 4.5 stars.
This book, while part of a series, is standalone. You do not need to read the first one to read this one. It was a fun read.
The story revolves around two men who have not seen each other since high school. Blake is stuck staying with his mother while recuperating from a nasty leg fracture. Castor has just moved into his grandmother's house across the street. These two both thought the other was hot in high school, but the competed as rivals and got each other into trouble instead.
Castor has been traveling a lot for his job the last decade and wants to settle down. Blake just wants to heal up and get back to his work as a contractor. He's going nuts at his mother's house with nothing to do, on top of not being able to drive himself anywhere.
Castor's grandmother and Blake's mom conspire to get Blake and Castor together. They are both on their better behavior and start to get along. Their road to a relationship was rocky though, as Blake makes some bad assumptions here and there and let's his green-eyed monster lose. They have to work at the relationship part. The sex part is easy for them and it's very hot.
Both characters have to learn to accept what they want and learn to communicate better. It was fun to watch them sort out their feelings now from 20 years ago and move past them. They work really well together. The conflict at the end was harsh. Neither of them reacted very well to the situation. I wanted to smack Blake and then as time went on Castor needed that smack even more than Blake.The resolution and forgiveness seemed a little fast considering the time scale, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. I'll be rereading this book.
*I received an ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for a honest, unbiased review.*
4.5 out of 5 stars
Hook, Line, and Sinker is the second book in the Hard Hats series but can be read as a standalone; although you’d miss bits and pieces of Blake, and also sexy Aaron, and Malachi if you skip Wood, Screw, and Nails.
What do you do when your mom’s pushing you toward your childhood arch-nemesis? Well, if you are Blake, who happens to be stuck at his mom’s, recovering, you give in? This is what lands him next door to ‘help’ Castor McCormick after he moves into his grandmother’s home. Blake and Cas had a love/hate relationship growing up. They were rivals who loved to get under the other’s skin. What neither of them knew was that their rivalry hid a growing attraction that both weren’t willing or ready to admit. So they buried it by ‘hating’ each other. They grew and each moved on with their lives, until life brings them full circle back to their grandparents’ homes.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Cas and Blake, so much so that I didn’t like one main character over the other. The frenemies to lovers to couple stories are one of my favorite types of romance. It’s always intriguing to see how the author will work around the characters’ hatred/loathing/disdain for each other in order to move into a relationship. Sometimes that change is explosive, and sometimes it’s smooth and easy. Blake and Cas straddled the line between the two, quite well I might add. Their first time having sex was so explosive I was waiting for my Kindle to burn my fingers. Holy hot dirty talking, Blake is beyond sexy, and Cas, with those sweet expressive eyes and that tousled hair… I had to tell myself a few times, they’re just characters, not real.
Piper Vaughn has always had the ability to make me fall in love with her characters; no matter what book, what setting, or back-story they have, her skills slay me dead. Every. Single. Time. This book was absolutely no different. The further I got into the story, the more I was cheering Blake and Cas on, the more I wanted to see them overcome their issues and make it for the long run. Then, of course, we have a few secondary characters that slipped in, and I wanted more of them, too. Riley and Gavin kind of snuck in, and I’m hoping to see them get a story, either together or separately, in the near future.
All in all Hook, Line, &Sinker is one of those well written comfort reads that I’ll pull out again and again because the characters are so perfect for the story. I’d highly recommend this book to those who love a dirty talking, sexy, willing to admit he’s wrong alpha. Also, for those who love a good, solid frenemies to lovers story.
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this book for review prior to it's release, and I can honestly say I enjoyed it.
The story revolves around 2 mc's Blake and Castor (Cas). They have known each other all their lives and were sworn enemies.
The story picks up, with them both in their thirties and Cas has moved into his grandmothers old house, making him one of Blake's mothers neighbours. It just so happens that Blake is living at his mums temporarily due to a broken leg.
After lots of not so subtle, but still endearing, match making, Blake and Cas get together.
Blake and Cas' relationship starts off as hot as hell fucking, but it soon grows to mean a lot more to each man. Blake's domination of Cas, particularly in the early scenes, even made me want to switch places with Cas lol.
Inevitably, in the final chapters, I grew frustrated with both MCs as their lack of proper communication nearly prevented them from staying together. But in true Piper Vaughn style she gave me what I wanted.
I have only just discovered that this is book 2 in the series- this is certainly not an issue as it can be read as a stand alone book. I will definitely be looking up book 1 though and catching up on my missing read.
Would I recommend this book? HELL YES!
I'd recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a simple not too brain taxing, hot as heck read.
I won an ARC of this book from Piper Vaughn on fb, and it just happened to be my birthday (Happy birthday to me!).
Piper Vaughn does it again, not that I should be surprised at this point as I don't think I've ever read anything by her that I didn't enjoy. I don't know how she does it, but I always connect with her characters no matter how long or short the story, and this one was no different.
I was sucked into this story from the beginning and didn't want to put it down. I'm such a sucker for enemies and friends to lovers tropes, and this one is a little of both. Cas and Blake hated each other as teens and did everything to annoy each other, but now all grown up and living across the street from each other (temporarily), they become friends and eventually lovers, despite the fact that they both assume they'll continue to dislike each other.
I do have to say that I was mad at both MCs near the end, and I do think Cas should have apologized as well, but other than that one small issue, I loved this book. I enjoyed watching Cas and Blake's feelings, and eventual relationship, grow. And of course their chemistry was off the charts and the sex was ungodly hot. Would you expect any less from a Piper Vaughn book?
I think the title of this book is completely appropriate for the story.
Blake and Castor couldn't find a way to be friends while growing up, but as adults they were perfect for each other.
Blake needed someone who will be there for him and Castor found the person who could be a match for his desires.
Oh ! Let me tell you ... Blake's mom and Castor's grandmother interference ... Priceless !
Recommend you to read this book.
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