A red-hot, pulse-pounding thrill ride by USA Today bestselling author Bella Jewel!
It’s all part of his sick game. A game he’s been planning for an entire decade. Now everything is perfect: One woman and one man have been selected. They used to be a coupleand they can no longer stand one another. They are the perfect victims. He doesn’t intend for the game to be easy. He wants to push them to the brink of insanity, to make his hunt real. . .
Lara and Noah have been captured and dumped into a massive wooded area. There’s only one rule in this fatal game: They will have 72 hours to find a way out before a sadistic serial killer begins his hunt . . .But what he never could have expected was the explosive passion that ignites between the two ex-loversone that makes them strong. Fierce. And determined to do whatever it takes to escapeand to survive.
72 Hours by Bella Jewel is a sexy, page-turning thrill ride!
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)|
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By Bella Jewel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Bella Jewel
All rights reserved.
"So, I've been dating a new guy."
I blink at my best friend, Rachel, and then shake my head. "And you didn't tell me?"
She flushes. "Well, it's only one date, but he seems really sweet. He's so cute, too."
"Details." I grin, shifting on my bar stool and sipping my drink.
"Well, he's an environmentalist."
My brows shoot up. "Like he looks after trees and stuff?"
She giggles. "I think so. Anyway, it was kind of weird because we just sort of bumped into each other and he started talking to me. He was so charming. Next thing I knew I was going out with him. He was so interested in my life, you know? Asking me about my family and friends. It was nice to be heard."
"He sounds like a keeper." I smile. "When do you see him again?"
"Soon, I hope. I didn't get his number, but he said he'd call me."
"He'll totally call you. How could he not, you're smoking!"
She laughs, but something over my shoulder catches her eye.
"Don't look now, Lara."
I glance at my best friend, who is staring over my shoulder with a tight expression on her face. I begin turning only to have her hand lash out and catch my shoulder, spinning me back around. I scowl at her, narrowing my eyes with confusion. She can be so dramatic at times.
"Seriously," she says. "Don't look. It'll only make you mad."
"What're you talking about?" I ask, pulling my shoulder free from her grip.
"Noah just walked in."
I freeze midturn, and my heart pounds so loud I can feel it in my ears. Noah. A man I haven't seen in three months, a man who has tortured my mind and owned my heart for so many years. A man who broke my heart. The very idea that I'm about to see him again sends blind terror coursing through my body. I'm not ready. Not even close.
"I didn't know he was back in town," I whisper, my voice shaky. "Where? I can't see him, Rach!"
"He is and he's not alone," Rachel says, her face sympathetic.
It comes out as a squeak, a broken, pathetic squeak. He's not alone? He's moved on already? That hurts, more than I'm willing to admit. We didn't part on good terms, sure, but he loved me. At least, he said he did. I know I haven't been able to talk to him yet, but how could he move on so quickly? Pain explodes in my chest, and I lift my drink and take a long sip to cover it from my best friend, who is glaring in his general direction.
Deep down, I know the answer to my question. Ladies' man. That's what my friends told me when I started dating him. Not to be trusted. I should have listened.
"Do you want to go?" she asks, turning back to me. "Or do you want to talk to him?"
I glare at her.
She puts her hands up. "Sorry, I just think maybe if you two talked then things will clear up and —"
"Why should I to talk to him? How would that help?" I whisper, hurt.
Her eyes get soft. "Because I love you and you're hurting. It's been months now. I think if you talk to him, you'll be able to move on."
"He hurt me."
"I know. But you —"
"I just want to go, okay?"
She smiles sadly, accepting my decision. "Okay."
I finish my drink and start toward the back exit with Rachel by my side.
I jerk at the sound of his deep, masculine voice. God, I've missed his voice, almost as much as I've missed him. I swallow the lump forming in my throat and slowly turn to see Noah standing behind me, looking down, eyes locking on mine. I shiver at the intensity in his gaze. He always had that power over me. He was the dark to my light, the hard to my soft. I might have been different when we first met, but he had this way about him that could control me like a puppet with just one look. And he's giving me that look right now.
"Noah," I say, my voice small.
His eyes flicker over my face before settling back on mine. "It's been a while."
Three months, two days, to be exact. Not like I was counting.
He tilts his head to the side and studies me again. I shift uncomfortably, avoiding his eyes. He looks amazing tonight, not that I'm surprised by that. He's always towered over my tiny five-foot frame. His big body is easily six feet tall, and he's built like a statue. Muscles on every part of his perfect body. His eyes are as intense as they always were, a steel gray that pierces straight into my soul. His hair is longer than I remember, but the dark-brown locks seem even more rebellious now as they fall over his face.
"How have you been?"
I finally get the courage to look him in the eye. "Good, great."
I'm a liar.
He knows it.
"You look good, Lara."
I used to love how it sounded when he said my name, the way it rolled off his tongue. The way his husky voice coiled around it and made it his.
I hate it now.
"Thanks," I say, my voice barely above a whisper.
"I've missed you. I've been meaning to get in touch since I got back. I was hoping we could talk."
Noah told me he fell in love with me because I was sweet, sassy, and gorgeous — a rare mixture that was hard to find. He said I was the kind of woman that made a man's heart melt, that made him want to protect her and love her for as long as he possibly could, yet at the same time wasn't afraid to stand up for herself and speak her mind. At least that was how I used to be. Until I learned very quickly that doing that, being that kind of woman, would only lead to people getting hurt, or worse. There are times when I miss that version of myself. Maybe I should talk to him. Maybe I'm ready to hear him out. Maybe ...
A gorgeous blond woman sidles up beside him and I look away, unable to witness him with another girl. Even the glance I got of her has my heart ripping to shreds. The exact opposite of me. Tall, blond, confident. Seeing her makes me realize I'm still not ready to talk to him.
"Come on," Rachel says, tugging my arm and giving Noah a look. "You don't deserve this."
Noah glares at her. "This isn't any of your business, Rachel."
"She's my friend, it's my business."
"Ah," the blonde says. "Do we know you?"
"No, you don't know me," Rachel throws in her direction. "I wouldn't bother with the likes of you. Come on, Lara. Let's go."
She takes my hand and pulls me toward the crowd that we have to make our way through to get to the door. Noah steps forward and reaches out, grabbing my arm and stopping me before we manage even five steps. Electricity runs through my body at his touch, and I want to scream, hating that it still affects me so heavily. He steps up close and I can feel him, smell him; my entire body becomes alert with his presence.
"Can't avoid me forever," he says, his voice low.
"Let me go," I plead, pulling my arm from his. "Just leave me alone, Noah."
"If you would've answered my calls and heard me out, I might've been able to leave you alone, but considering you didn't, I can't."
I spin around and finally, really, look at him. Seeing him knocks the breath from my lungs. I forgot how utterly breathtaking he is. "That's probably because I don't want to hear your excuses. I just need you to leave me alone. You're clearly busy."
"No, Noah. Just stop."
"Who is the woman?" I say, my voice wavering. "You want to talk to me, but it looks like you've already moved on."
"We're here meeting a friend. She's not my date," he snaps.
"You actually expect me to believe that?"
"I expect you to give me the chance to speak to you. After everything that happened with Nanna —"
His mention of Nanna reminds me of the moment I changed from being a loudmouthed, confident girl to this quiet, damaged woman I am now. Just a few years ago, I was overly confident. I was loud, boisterous, and occasionally a little too much, but I still had a good heart. Noah loved me for me, but my nanna always told me that my mouth would get me into trouble — and she was right. Except it was she who paid the price for my in-your-face attitude. After that day, I slowly lost who I was, my confidence especially. I'm no longer the woman Noah remembers.
Thinking about that night has my heart clenching.
"Maybe we should go the other way," Nanna says, clutching my hand.
I stare at the group of teenagers laughing and kicking over trash cans up ahead. I scoff and squeeze her hand. "No way. They're just acting like idiots. We shouldn't have to move. We'll just walk past, it'll be fine."
"Lara, I have a bad feeling about this. Let's go the other way," she pleads.
Nanna always worries. If we turn around, we're looking at adding another twenty minutes to our trip. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to walk past this group of kids without problems. I won't let anything happen to her.
"We'll be fine. They're just a bunch of kids, Nanna."
We walk toward them, paying them no attention, her hesitantly, me not so much. When they notice us, a brown-haired, scruffy teen steps forward. He looks like he's maybe seventeen, possibly a little older. His face is covered in pimples and his hair is falling over his face. He's skinny and tall, hardly threatening, but clearly cocky.
"What have we got here? Evening, ladies."
I ignore them and keep moving.
"What?" the teenager scoffs. "We're not good enough to say hello to?"
I turn and stare at him. "I wouldn't say hello to you if you were the last person on the planet and I needed to talk to you to save humanity," I say, studying him. "Now go home to bed and stop kicking trash cans around like a bunch of idiots."
"Be careful," he warns, stepping forward and in my way. "I'm not a very nice person and I don't like smart-mouthed chicks like you."
God, who does this dude think he is? I wave a hand in his face casually. "Run along and play with your toys — it's past your bedtime."
All the other boys laugh.
His face burns bright and I know I've embarrassed him. Well, that's what you get when you pick on people walking home minding their own business.
"Just stop," Nanna pleads, tugging my hand. "Just ignore them, Lara. They're not worth it. Let's go the other way."
"I don't like being spoken to like that," he says, stepping closer, puffing his chest out. No doubt for the benefit of his friends.
I let Nanna's hand go and step in front of her, crossing my arms. "Neither do I. Now, we're walking home and doing nothing, and you're causing problems where problems don't exist. Why don't you move the hell out of the way?"
"Or what?" he challenges. He's high as a kite, his eyes bloodshot. How did I not notice that before?
"Or I'll make you," I snap.
"Lara, please," Nanna begs.
"Don't upset your grannie, Lara. I can only imagine what could happen to her out here."
I bristle. "If you so much as touch a hair on her head I'll make you wish you didn't. Now fucking move."
"I really, really don't like your mouth," he growls.
God, this guy just can't take a hint.
"And I really don't like pimply-faced, limp-dicked little teenagers who think they're cool because they can run around smoking pot and kicking trash cans over. Do you feel tough? I can almost guarantee you don't get laid and so this is the best you can do for yourself."
"Lara!" Nanna cries. "Come on."
The boy's eyes flare and he nods to his friends, who all step closer to me. Fear courses down my spine as I realize I'm surrounded. I keep my head held high and hold the boy's eyes. I won't back down for a bunch of teenagers trying to scare me.
"Please," Nanna says. "Don't hurt her. We're on our way. I have cash, if you want. Just leave us alone."
She tries to step closer but one of the boys turns and shoves her. In slow motion she falls to the ground and a loud crack radiates through the still night. Blood pours out onto the pavement around her head. "No," I scream. "Nanna!"
"Holy shit, you stupid fucker," the boy yells. "Run."
They disappear into the night and I'm already on my hands and knees, crawling toward Nanna, the skin on my knees tearing as I get closer. "Nan?" I cry, reaching her. She's covered in blood. She's not moving. Oh God, what have I done? What the hell have I done? I take her face in my hands, shaking her gently.
"Nanna, please wake up."
So much blood. I try to find where she hit her head, but there is so much blood I can't find anything.
A car slows and a man jumps out, I barely notice him. "I saw it all. Are you okay?"
"There were these boys," I sob. "One of them pushed my nanna and she's hurt. Please."
"I'm going to call nine-one-one."
"Nanna," I sob, tears running down my cheeks. "God, I'm so sorry."
This is all my fault. All my fault. I should have listened to her and turned around or kept walking and just been polite to them. She told me my mouth would get me into trouble one day, and she was right. What have I done? Oh God, what have I done?
"Nanna," I sob. "Please wake up."
Please. I'm so sorry.
I snap myself out of the memory that haunts me daily and look back to Noah, who is studying me. His eyes have softened, as though he can read my mind.
"Fine," I say. "I'm going to go now."
"Were you thinking about her?"
I flinch. His eyes grow softer. He liked my nan. She was one of few people who believed he was good enough for me and wouldn't hurt me. She saw the good in Noah, and he adored her for it.
"I'm sorry, I can't do this. I have to go."
I rush out before he has the chance to say any more.
Mostly because I can't bear to hear it.
My eyes follow Lara as she rushes out of the club. Her face is scrunched in pain and her tiny form shoves through the people with a weakness that excites me. She's timid, pathetic even. I move my eyes to Noah, watching her go. He's a good mix of angry and desperate. Exactly what I want. He's looking at her like he wants to protect her while at the same time wanting to beat her.
She frustrates him. She's fragile and weak. He's strong and determined.
The perfect combination for my game.
The quiet little mouse and the man who will stop at nothing to protect her.
I've been watching them long enough, setting up my game, to know I have found the perfect pieces. They have no idea. Not a single clue how many times I've infiltrated their lives without their ever knowing it. Stupid. I can't wait to see their faces when they find out just how close I've been all this time.
They're going to wish they never met me by the time I'm done with them.CHAPTER 2
"Lara, can you please put my mug under the coffee machine and press START before you go for your run?" Rachel calls out.
"Already done," I call softly, leaning down to lace up my shoes.
Rachel took me in after Noah and I broke up and I moved out. I do as much as I can to help her out, including making sure she's got hot coffee every morning before I go out. She saved my ass. It's the least I can do.
"You're a gem."
So I've been told.
"I'll be back in an hour."
I grab my water bottle and move to the front door, checking that I've got my phone before heading out. The weather is warm in Orlando today, a soft breeze trickling through the trees. After pulling my long chestnut hair into a ponytail, I step out onto the path in front of my apartment and put my earbuds in, starting my usual morning jog. I move down two blocks and then cross a road to a local park. It has a path running beside it that goes into some thick forest before coming out close to downtown.
My one hour of peace each day.
I sing softly to the music, pounding harder and faster as my body warms up. Crossing the road, I move past the park and into the trees. The weather instantly cools without the warmth of the sun breaking through, and it dries up some of the sweat forming on my brow. I think about Noah and how much it hurt to see him at the bar last night, let alone with another woman.
Will it ever stop hurting?
A hand taps my shoulder and I scream, spinning around to see Noah standing behind me, sweat running down and soaking the front of his tank. I press a hand to my heart, studying him, then pull out my earbuds. Only he would find a way to be on his run at the same time I'm on mine. Can't this man just leave me alone? "What are you doing here, Noah?" "I recently moved into an apartment in the area and was jogging when I saw you. I see you still enjoy running?"
"Why did you move into this area?"
He shrugs. "I liked it."
This is too much. "Why now?"
"For a while I was traveling for work. I volunteered to train some other recruits. Considering you wouldn't talk to me, I needed a distraction." He shrugs again. "Now I have a little time on my hands and it felt like time to relocate."
I take a step back, my mind reeling. "I want to finish my run," I say. "And you're going to leave me alone."
"Lara, come on," he sighs. "Let's talk about this."
I take a drink from my bottle, ignoring his pleading. My eyes focus on anything but him.
Excerpted from 72 Hours by Bella Jewel. Copyright © 2017 Bella Jewel. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really liked the book. I stopped reading it for a few minutes, because of the suspense. It is like taking a deep breath before jumping in to the unknown..
I love love love this book. The romance mixed with the absolutely amazing thrill. It's amazing.
Lara is not the same person she was a few months ago. The bright self-assured, confident, take no prisoners Lara has been reduced to a quiet mouse following the death of her Nana, for which Lara blames herself. On top of that, she walks in on the man she loves and has lived with for 2 years, and sees a beautiful woman sitting on Noah's lap kissing him. Feeling that she wasn't good enough for him, she runs.... Months later she bumps into him but she's still refusing to take his calls, declining to walk to him at all. Noah is feeling pretty frustrated and angry that she won't let him explain. Meanwhile, they don't know they are being stalked by a vicious serial killer... and he decides that Lara and Noah are the perfect victims for him. He wants them to play a game with him. Noah and Lara find themselves drugged, captured, and left in a huge wooded area. The killer tells them there is only one rule ..... they have 72 hours to run, hide, find a way out before he starts hunting them. What follows is a harrowing, terrorizing cat and mouse game. Lara is going to have to find the 'old' Lara to survive. And she and Noah are going to have to bury their old feelings and work together if they want to survive. CAUTION: LANGUAGE, EXPLICIT SEX I have found that Romantic Suspense is sometimes a hit/miss endeavor. The author balanced the two sides of the coin very well. Both characters have issues and have been damaged in one way or another. Noah is not a super hero by any means, but he is caring and extremely protective of Lara. Suffering from PSTD, he has to learn to lean on her. And Lara has to step up to the plate in order to help Noah. The human hunting kept me on edge and rapidly turning pages to see what would happen next. I look forward to the next stand-alone book in this series ... THE WATCHER. Many thanks to the author / St. Martin's Press / Netgalley for the digital copy. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
Bella Jewel flawlessly combines romance and suspense to create a thrilling story that will have you swooning and biting your nails all at once. Nick is a strong sexy firefighter who is fighting to protect the woman he loves. Lara is broken and struggling to survive in the aftermath of loss. Nick was easy for me to love because I believed there was more to their breakup than we were originally told and I admired the way he fought for Lara. Lara took some warming up to because her tendency to run instead of fight annoyed me. In the end, I loved both characters and could not get enough of their story. After 72 Hours, I have already downloaded more of Bella Jewel's works to read. I voluntarily received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was a deliciously suspenseful read that was part psychological thriller and part second chance romance. Two former lovers find each other again under the most horrid of circumstances. A crazy serial killer’s quest to kidnap, manipulate and HUNT a couple he sees as weak has begun. Lara crippled by self-doubt and Noah by frustration. "I know every inch of this forest. Every. Single. Inch They won’t escape me. Tomorrow, I hunt." 72 Hours is standalone told primarily from the heroine, Lara’s, POV. It is Bella Jewels first foray into romantic suspense and she does a great job. Better known for her badass alpha centric contemporary new adult/ adult fiction; her approach to this story is different and appealing. A significant event happens to Lara that lead to her withdrawing from herself and her relationship with her ex-lover Noah. She became a shadow of her former self as she’s plagued by guilt and when she finds Noah in a compromising situation Lara turns her back on the life they had built. Noah, however, is devastated and becomes increasingly angry at Lara for refusing to hear him out. Soon things will come to a head… There is someone waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself to take a seemingly broken couple and begin the hunt. They’ll be thrown into a maze of the serial killers making and forced to face their demons or die. I liked the setting and the concept of the hunt with the serial killer constantly toying with them. It created a tense atmosphere that kept me eagerly waiting for each encounter between the couple and killer. Unfortunately, I had difficultly connecting with Lara. I couldn’t quite reconcile her extreme self-doubt and the event that caused it. It felt like it was a huge over reaction. As a result I didn’t find Lara’s behaviour totally believable. I was also a bit frustrated at times with her treatment of Noah. Noah has the general characteristics of the alpha you’d expect to see from Bella Jewel but I felt there was an underlying vulnerability that I loved. I found his reactions much more authentic. Regardless, the overall story was super entertaining and I would recommend it to anyone. It’s a fast paced, quick read that’ll keep you glued to your seat until the last page is turned! I think this genre suits the author and can’t wait to read more from her!
This was such an entertaining book! I picked this book planning to read just a bit to get a feel for the story. Before I even knew what I happened, I had finished the entire book in a single afternoon. The whole concept behind this story is incredibly exciting and everything came together very well. I am so glad that I decided to give Bella Jewel's writing a try. Lara and Noah used to be a couple but now they can't seem to even be able to talk to each other. Noah wants to talk and tries to get Lara to listen to him but she doesn't want anything to do with him. I have to admit that at the start of the book, I didn't really care for Noah or really Lara all that much. Lara's backstory was interesting so I was curious about her but Noah really was quite stalkerish at the start of the story. Lara and Noah wake up and find themselves in the woods and learn that they have 72 hours before they are hunted. They finally have their talk and all as forgiven between each other and they work together to try to escape the wooded area they have found themselves in. They soon find a fence and decide that they need to prepare for their attacker. Once they are in the woods, this is a pretty fast paced book. They are either planning in order to survive or actively working to evade the man who is trying to kill them. It was fun watching them work together to outsmart the killer and even when things calmed a bit there was always a bit of tension because you never knew when he would return. This book was incredibly entertaining but there were some things that were very far fetched. This pair both seemed to be able to do some pretty amazing things despite some pretty serious injuries. In reality, they would not have stood any kind of chance against a man with weapons and years to plan. I understood this but to be honest, it didn't make me like the book any less. I keep thinking that every action movie that I have ever watched has some of these same unrealistic tendencies. I would highly recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense looking for an action filled and fast paced story. I look forward to Bella Jewel's next romantic suspense novel. I received an advance reader edition of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.
I was a First Read Winner of this book, and boy was it intense. It had me at the edge of my seat and I could not wait to see how it would all end. Ok I might have peaked at the ending of the book, did I say it was intense, but that did not take away from it at all. I liked Lara and Noah, and the villain was super creepy, the story moved along at a good pace with plenty of action and suspense. This was my first book by Bella Jewel but it won't be my last, nicely done.
72 Hours by Bella Jewel Three days in which to find a way out of their predicament or die horribly – that is what ex-lovers Noah and Lara are faced with when they are captured by a psychopathic murderer. They must deal with their past relational issues as well as manage to survive in an enclosed Florida forest. There is pain, hunger, and the need to find a way to thwart their abductor if they are to survive. This book was told in first person and predominately from Lara’s viewpoint. There were scattered thoughts of the villain and once or twice Noah’s point of view was shared. Both Noah and Lara were strong characters that did not give up. I enjoyed this action-packed story and found it entertaining but would have liked to have had more backstory about the villain and perhaps more about Lara and Noah, as well. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC – this is my honest review. 3 Stars
72 Hours is a romantic thriller. I’ve read Bella Jewel before and this was a new direction for her. While I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t my favorite of hers. The plot is detailed but moves pretty quick which is understandable being that this thrilling story spans 72 hours. I would have liked to see more of Noah and Lara from the past to build their relationship for the reader, what little bit that is in the book wasn’t enough for me to grasp the feelings these two share for each other. I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that I could not figure out who the villain was. That part was done well. There were a few moments that I was like, “Oh!”. Those are the moments I enjoyed and expect in a thriller. As far as this being Bella’s first print book, I think it was very well done and see more good work to come from her in this genre.