Grace is a bounty hunter who wants to be taken seriously, but her boss refuses to believe that a woman can bring down a dangerous criminal. She finally gets a chance to prove herself when she's given the case of a lifetime: capture Raide Knox and bring him to justice.
Raide is a dangerous fugitive on the run...and the sexiest man Grace has ever met. Catching Raide won't be easy. He's not the kind of man to go down without a fight. Raide is more intense and frustrating than any man she's ever had to deal with, and the instantaneous attraction that sparks between them is undeniable. One thing is for sure...it's going to be a case they will never forget.
**Hard To Fight is a full-length standalone romance with a HEA**
"Funny, sassy and sexy, with an anti-hero you won't soon forget!" - New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Chantal Fernando
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Bella Jewel is a fun-loving Australian who lives in sunny Queensland with her two playful daughters. She’s been writing since she was fifteen and has authored a broad range of stories with wild characters ranging from bikers to pirates. When she’s not writing, Bella can be found kicking about on dirt bikers or riding horses. Bella has many more books planned for the future. She is the author of 72 Hours and The Watcher.
Read an Excerpt
Hard to Fight
By Bella Jewel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Bella Jewel
All rights reserved.
"It's not funny," I say, throwing my bag down onto my desk.
My colleague and fellow Bounty Hunter, Vance, laughs. He crosses his large arms over his chest and tilts his head to the side, studying me with a smirk. I glare at him, flopping onto my seat and throwing my booted feet onto the desk. Then I proceed to cross my arms, making sure my body language clearly states how pissed off I am.
"Heard good 'ol Cole was fun for you, Gracie."
"He made me brush his hair," I growl, spinning on my chair to face him. I lean forward, putting my elbows to my knees. "Brush. His. Hair. It was the only way I could keep him freaking calm long enough to get him into the car. Do you have any idea what that was like? He doesn't even have enough hair to brush!"
Vance laughs again, throwing his head back. His long blonde hair flickers about and when his blue eyes meet mine again, they are positively dancing. "You don't know what I would have done to be there and see that."
"I have old man hair in my brush!" I cry, throwing my hands up.
"Aw, come on Gracie, it was funny."
"It wasn't funny," I mutter, shoving away from the desk and standing, tucking my laptop under my armpit. "Ya'll will never take me seriously."
Vance stops laughing and reaches out, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Of course we do. We can't help that you had to bring in a crazy."
"You knew he was crazy!" I point out, shrugging his hand off my shoulder and walking towards my boss' door. "I don't know what you guys think is so funny about it all."
"But you're damned cute out there on the job, Gracie Lou."
"You've only seen me a handful of times," I argue.
"And you're cute," he smirks.
I grit my teeth, flip him the bird and knock on Don's door.
"Yeah?" he calls out.
I swing the door open and step in, staring at my boss. He's sitting behind his desk, typing on a computer. He looks up when I enter, staring at me over the top of his glasses. He's middle aged, with salt and pepper hair and dark grey eyes. He's a great boss, he gave me a chance when no one else would, but he's also hard to convince that I can handle bigger jobs than men like Cole.
"How did it go with Cole?" he asks.
Did his lips just twitch?
My heart clenches. I'm tired of being made into a joke. He might have taken me on, given me a chance when no one else would, but I don't believe he truly believes I can be a successful Bounty Hunter.
"You're never going to take me seriously, are you Don?"
My voice comes out softer than I'd like, sounding tired and generally worn down. Don's eyes flash, and he looks as though he doesn't understand why I'd be so upset. Is he really that blind?
"Gracie," he begins, but I cut him off with a wave of my hand.
"Don't bother. I've been here five years, and I've worked my ass off trying to prove to you that I'm worth the effort. But you're never going to believe I'm good enough." I place the laptop down, then continue. "I'm always going to be the joke, aren't I?"
Without giving him a chance to answer, I turn and leave the office.
* * *
The liquid burns my throat as it slides down, hitting my stomach with brutal force and causing my world to spin even more than it already is. I close my eyes, inhaling through my mouth, because I'm fairly sure I've got no nose hairs left after breathing in the burning alcohol I've been shooting down for the last three hours.
"Another!" My best friend, Kady, yells.
The bartender looks at me, then to her, and shrugs.
"I can't believe they made me go after a dude that wanted me to brush his freaking nonexistent hair," I hiccup.
Kady turns to me, flashing that award-winning smile as she leans in close, curling her fingers around my arm. "Well, for what it's worth, I think you're bad ass."
I laugh and fist bump the air. "Bad ass!"
We fall into a fit of laughter, and Kady wraps an arm around my shoulder, pulling me close. Her voice drops low and she whispers, "I know it's hard, honey, but one day, you're going to prove them wrong."
I lose my smile and even through my drunken haze, there's an ache in my heart I can't shake. There's nothing crueler then when the people you love don't believe in you. I not only get it at work, but at home too. My mother and two sisters are beauty queens. So to say they've never supported my need to 'be in a male profession' is an understatement. My mother is waiting for the day I turn around, throw in the towel and declare my undying love for parades, bikinis and world peace.
My dad, however, is my rock. He believes in me and it wouldn't matter if I decided cleaning toilets was what I wanted to do. He's just that kind of dad. The kind of dad all dads should be. The kind that is there for me no matter what and with no questions asked. Without him, I would have never fought so hard to train and get to where I am. He used to sit up with me for hours after every case, letting me talk for as long as I needed to, then, before he kissed me goodnight, he always told me how proud he was. After I moved out of home and rented my own place, I missed those moments.
He always understood my need for it. After all, it was because of him that I chose to become a Bounty Hunter. He was one, and used to spend hours telling me about his job. It was our thing, our bond, when my mother and sisters were out, my dad and I would laugh and chat, and it was then he would tell me stories. I loved it. It wasn't just that it was different; it was that he was also doing something good. Something amazing. Keeping criminals off the streets. I knew it was what I wanted to do.
I also knew how hard it would be for me to get into. I had to train, I had to pass tests, I had to be Don's sidekick for eighteen months before I even got a chance to go on the job alone. It wasn't easy. I spent years proving myself. Still, I fought until I made my dream come true.
"Thank you, Kady," I smile, hugging my best friend.
Kady and I have known each other since high school, and had an instant connection. She's as loud and sassy as me, and there are times it feels as though we were separated at birth. We even look similar, with our long raven hair and piercing green eyes. The only real difference is Kady is taller and leaner, and I was struck with the curves.
"I really have to pee," she says suddenly, and then her grin appears once more.
"Me too," I admit.
Hooking arms, we leave the bar after shooting the last order of alcohol. We weave through the dancing, grinding bodies until we hit the long halls that lead to the toilet. There are women standing in line, waiting for the bathroom. Kady groans and tugs my arm, yelling in my ear, "Let's go out back. I used to work here."
She pulls me down the hall, past the people and through a large metal door at the end. It opens onto a parking lot and sure enough, there are bathrooms nestled in the large brick building running alongside the club. Kady pulls me over and we use the facilities and fix up our make up before stepping back out.
We're about to enter the club again, when I hear a soft whimper. Narrowing my eyes, I turn and scan the car park. I can't see anyone, but there's a distinct sobbing sound coming from somewhere. "Do you hear that?" I ask Kady.
We investigate, and find a girl crouched around the side of the building. She hears our approach and pulls her knees closer to her chest. She's gorgeous, blonde and looks up at us with mascara-stained cheeks.
"Are you okay?" I ask, kneeling down in front of her.
"I'm fine," she sobs, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.
"Are you sure?" I push. "You look upset."
Way to point out the obvious, Grace.
She stares at the both of us, and then begins sobbing again. "My boyfriend dumped me!"
"This calls for alcohol," Kady announces. "I'll be back."
She turns and rushes off, and I keep kneeling in front of the girl. "Did this just happen?"
She shakes her head. "Not exactly. We, well, we were sleeping together and he told me to meet him tonight. He never showed up, said he had something pressing to take care of and that maybe I should go and enjoy myself. When I replied, saying I'd wait, he very clearly told me that wasn't a good idea and he didn't think it would work between us."
I curl my lip in disgust. "Pig!"
She nods. "Right?"
"It sounds to me," I say, placing a hand on her shoulder, "like he isn't worth it."
"But he was so ..." she trails off on another sob. "Wonderful!"
Wonderful? Yeah, so great he left her sitting in a dark alley because he was too lazy to break it off to her face.
"Men like that aren't wonderful, honey," I say firmly. "Men like that are weak, pathetic and not worth five seconds of your time."
"You don't understand, he was so amazing ... you know ..." she leans in close, "in bed. The best I've ever had. I thought ... I thought it was because we had something special."
I shake my head, sad for her. "So the man knows how to use his bits. It doesn't make him prince charming."
She giggles softly and looks up at me. I smile down at her, and continue. "You know, men like him are cruel, heartless players because they don't know how to connect with another human being, except physically. It's somewhat of a disorder. Perhaps he was dropped on his head as a young child, or perhaps his penis is severely undersized and he was forced to get a penis enhancement due to many sexual let downs ..."
I stop rambling, because the girl has stopped talking and her face has turned red. She's looking over my shoulder and I grit my teeth.
"He's right behind me, isn't he?"
She nods slowly, and I turn, standing.
I actually lose my footing when I set my sights on the man who broke her heart. Holy mother of God! He's breathtaking. I make a little squeaking sound, steadying my footing as I take in Hercules in front of me. I don't say this lightly, the man is massive. He's six foot of solid, thick muscle. His face is that of a dark devil and he's got these eyes, these amber eyes that are absolutely mind-blowing.
His dark hair looks as though he's done no more than run his fingers through it. It curls down around the base of his neck in waves, and parts of it flop over his forehead. He's extremely masculine, the beautiful kind. He's got a jagged scar on his left cheek, but it only seems to add to his edge. His lips are full, his nose just slightly bent as if he's been in one too many fights. He's also got this dangerous five o'clock shadow lining his perfectly sculpted jaw and cheeks.
Once again, none of this takes away from his perfection.
I'd be crying if this man dumped me, too.
"Ah," I say, smiling sheepishly.
"I wasn't dropped on my head," he says in a low, husky tone. Oh boy, he's got a light accent, I don't know what it is, but it's hot.
"Ah," I try again, but he keeps going.
"And I haven't," he rasps, leaning in close. "Had a penis enlargement."
"It's that big all on its own."
My mouth drops open and my eyes widen with shock. Did he just? No, surely I didn't hear him say that, to a complete stranger? Well, so much for being a gorgeous man. He just went from sexy to jerk in about three point five seconds. Okay, he's still sexy.
"And for your information, lady," he growls, so low and throaty I have to force myself to stay upright. "I know how to use it."
It takes me a moment to find my sass, because really, it's just crawled into its shell and hidden from this handsome destructive male in front of me. It comes back though, like it always does.
"What makes you so sure of that? I mean, if you used it well then I'd see no reason for this poor girl behind me to be on the floor sobbing because her vagina is in despair."
His lips twitch.
"Or," he says, stepping forward into my space. "It could be because she's so devastated she'll never get another taste."
Oh wow, up close he's even better. His skin slightly rougher, his hair a touch messier. Yum.
"What makes you so sure she wants another taste?" I challenge.
"Because they all do."
His lip twitches again and in the corner of my eye, I see the blonde girl stand, straightening herself out. "I'm sorry. I didn't say anything and–"
"Inside, Bethany," he orders, not taking his eyes from me.
"But, she just came up and ... I swear ... I don't even like her–"
I gasp. She just stomped on girl code. You don't backstab someone trying to help you. I hope she gets crabs.
"Bethany, inside," he orders again.
Crossing her arms and pouting, she disappears inside.
"Now that," I say, waving my hand casually at the door. "Wasn't a very nice girl. I can see why you dumped her."
He snorts and I turn back to him, studying his hard features.
"You know," he murmurs, low. "You should be more careful who you mouth off to."
"Why?" I snap, putting a hand on my hip. "Are you going to attack me with your sword?"
I nod at his crotch and his face lightens just slightly. He's got a hard face; I imagine even if he smiled, he would never look carefree. This man has demons, all men with faces like his do.
"Why is it," he says in a dangerous tone, pulling out a cigarette, lighting it and pressing it to his lips. "That all of you," he looks me over as he takes a puff, "women, assume it's the man's fault when things go bad?"
"Isn't it?" I say, crossing my arms.
"Women cheat," he murmurs.
"And break hearts."
"I don't doubt it."
"Then why," he asks again. "Is it assumed the man is always the jackass?"
"Because men have a very powerful tool between their legs, and that tool can cause, well, slight stalker tendencies in women."
"Stalker tendencies?" he repeats, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, stalker tendencies. This is how it goes, listen carefully. Woman meets man. Man is hot, somewhat like you." His lips twitch but I ignore it and keep going. "Man takes woman to bed, blows her mind and when she wakes the next day, he's gone. This leaves woman desperate, and woman then proceeds to turn into what we so fondly call, well, to put it nicely, eccentric."
He stares at me like I'm off my rocker. "All of this because they want," his voice drops low. "The dick?"
He sighs, taking a long, deep puff of smoke. "Bethany fits that role, I suppose."
"Then you should learn from your mistake, and next time perhaps try breaking it off with a little more decency."
He opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.
"Or better yet, keep your sword sheathed and be a decent human being."
His eyes flash and I grin at him. I don't know this man. He could be anyone and I'm out here, alone mind you, baiting him. Still, he doesn't seem like the silent killer type, just a very attractive man who knows, and gets, exactly what he wants.
"I imagine it would be very different, if it was you receivin' my ... sword."
I gape at him. Then I throw my hands on my hips and toss back, "You're wrong about that, buddy. I'm not that girl."
He takes a step closer. I take a step back. This doesn't stop him; he drops his cigarette and continues this dance until my back is pressed against the cold brick wall. My bare skin tingles against it, and my legs go wobbly when he leans down while both of his hands go up and press against the wall beside my head, effectively trapping me. This close, I can smell him, and he's a mixture of cigarette and cologne. It works for him. In a big way.
"Girls like you with sassy mouths are usually the first to crumble. I bet you're thinkin' about it right now? I bet you're imaginin' how good I'd feel deep, fuckin' deep inside you."
God, his voice is so thick and husky.
"What I'm thinking about," I breathe, "is which part of your body I'm going to kick first."
He chuckles, low in his throat and it's a heavenly sound.
"I like the ones who play hard to get."
"You need help," I point out. "And I'm not playing anything. I'm not interested. I don't beg, I don't chase and I don't like men who behave like you."
His eyes scan my face, and damned if they aren't lusty. "I could make you beg."
I just bet he could.
We hold each other's gazes, both of us clearly as stubborn as the other. Our intense glares are only broken when I hear Kady squeak, "Jesus, you're not slow, are you, Gracie? I was only inside five minutes and you've already scored yourself a man."
I turn my face towards her and say in a casual tone, "Oh him? No, I was about to make him, well, unable to reproduce."
Excerpted from Hard to Fight by Bella Jewel. Copyright © 2015 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 love Bella Jewel, I have read her Motorcycle Club Romance series and really enjoyed it, so when I saw she had another genre of contemporary romance about to come out I jumped on Netgalley and requested it! Lucky me the publishers gave me a copy in exchange for an honest review! Thanks! This is a very different read from the MC novels not as gritty or edgy but picks up the slack there with snark, humor and attitude. The premise of the novel is that Grace is a woman in a man's world and trying hard to prove herself. She is following in her Dad's footprints and is a bounty hunter. She is struggling to be taken seriously and treated as an equal to her male colleagues. Raide is accused of a crime he did not commit and jumped bail to get revenge on the true criminal. Yes, she is the one who gets the job of tracking him down. That is all I'm going to say on the story, you really need to read it and see how the two interact. I'm reading the novel and for some reason Charley Davidson by Darynda Jones kept popping into my head and I finally realized that were many similarities to the the two....I actually think Bella Jewel must have been channelling Darynda as she wrote this novel. The female characters had a lot of similar traits and the plot lines and characters as well seemed to have a parallel going on . This is all good for me since I enjoy the Charley Davidson series. Just one of those things that make you wonder. I did enjoy the characters they are fully rounded and easily relate-able. The secondary characters were essential to the progression of the story line and in some cases used as a vehicle to move the story ahead. The plot is well thought out and kept me pinned to the book well past my bedtime. I loved that I laughed out loud in some places and smiled in others. The story moves quickly and there were no places where it dragged. Overall I would say it was a fun, quick read that will have me coming back to read more in the series. Just a couple things that kept the book from being a 5 star....repetition....several times it was pointed out how sassy Grace was....we got it already we are reading the book...and whining...I found Grace a bit whiny and that for me is a bit of a turn off and I thought the behaviour seemed out of character. Over all these are minor issues for a really enjoyable novel. 4 bright stars for this first book in a new series...Can't wait for the next one!!!
Read my full Review here : http://jeri-ryan.wix.com/jerisbookattic#!Hard-to-Fight-by-Bella-Jewel/cu6k/559be0bd0cf21636d2f80d18 For more Reviews check out/like my Blog & FB Page http://jeri-ryan.wix.com/jerisbookattic https://www.facebook.com/JerisBookAttic
Loved it...it was a great read...wonderful characters and a great story line...full of laughs...can't wait for the next one
When Raide's character was first introduced a few books back, I was very intrigued by him, first by his mysterious background, I mean why was he a fugitive in the first place and apparently one in plain sight..lol and then what was it about him that every woman, taken or not, fell head over heels in lust with! Every woman he came across became tongue tied at his looks and I just found that so hilarious! So when his book came out I was very excited to finally found out what his story was, only his book wasn't really about him, it was more about Gracie and her life. The entire book was from Gracie's POV, with the exception of one chapter that was from York's POV and that comes towards the end of the book. Plus he's not even a main character so his thoughts aren't really essential to the story. Raide was turned into a secondary character and that was so very disappointing because he was built up so much throughout all the other books only to be pushed back in his own book! Gracie was good for a female lead, she was strong, confident, funny and despite not believing in herself at times she was very good at her job. She knew how to take care of herself even if she let her emotions get in her way at times. The way she defended herself against her mother and sister proved it. I just wished the book focused more on Raide and his story than it did on Gracie and her issues, I feel it would have been so much better that way, instead Raide's life and quest was still kept pretty much a mystery. Until after the fact... SR
Hard to Fight was a really great story of misunderstandings, second chances and forgiveness. Female bounty hunter meets her match when she is giving the biggest bounty of her career. Raide Knox won’t go down without a fight and nothing will stop him from running, not even her. This series is perfectly titled. The first installment in the Alpha’s Heart Series was a great start. Raide is just that…Alpha. I really love Raide. I love the misunderstood, brooding, arrogant alpha and he fits this perfectly. My heart really broke for him and his past. Loving the bad guy has never felt so right. Grace was funny, sassy and could take down a grown man without flinching. I want to be her when I grow up. She is my favorite type of heroine. I really like how Bella wrote this character. Just when I thought that I had worked out this story in my head I had to think again. Bella kept me guessing. I held my breath at moments, laughed a lot at others and cried a few times. I really didn’t know what to expect after reading the synopsis, and I’m so glad I read this one. Can’t wait for the next installment in this series.
Bella put great humor into this. Gracie has such sass. Raide flitted through 2 previous books and the wait for his story was worth it. I have preordered the next two in the alpa hearts series and can't wait!
I have read a few of Ms. Jewel’s book, but this one is the best by far!!! I have a new book boyfriend! Raide Knox. He’s just scrumptious! I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down and read it straight through. Even snuck in a few chapters at work. That’s how good Hard to Fight is! Raide has jumped bail. He is accused of killing his sister and beating her boyfriend to a pulp. Grace is a bounty hunter, but always gets the small jobs. When they finally hand her the big job, it’s bringing in Raide. She decides since she can’t bring down such a big hunk of a guy, she decides to seduce him. She follows him for a month, trying to get him to notice her. But as often as they run into each other he finally thinks she has no luck. He finally figures she is stalking him, and tell her to get lost. What follows, is them beginning to know each other. They begin to fall in love. You know he’s going to find out she’s a bounty hunter, and when he does his reaction is ballistic. As I said I couldn’t put the book down. I hope the next book is about Vance (Vance is in love with Gracie) or Benny, they were so hot and scrumptious too! I was given an ARC of this book by NetGalley for honest review.
Chasing down an accused murderer on the run, the Bounty Hunter is getting closer to overpowering their prey with…their charms? Alpha bad boy, Raide claims to be innocent, but then again, they all do, don’t they? There is no way he will turn himself in until the real murderer is caught. Bounty Hunter, Grace, trying to be taken seriously in a predominantly male profession has her first big case and is planning on using her secret weapon to bring her man in, her body and her powers of seduction. But even the best plans can go awry and it looks like the hunter is about to be captured by the game in Hard to Fight by Bella Jewel. Welcome to a tale filled with scorching heat, one over-the-top alpha male and one snarky and determined female with a love of guns, a hardcore sense of right and wrong and hormones that are screaming to stand away from the heat. This game of catch me if you can is filled with pitfalls, humor and dialogue that will stop you in your tracks, as your eyeballs begin to blister. Will this bounty hunter get her man? Is he the murderer? A great start to a hot series filled with drama, humor and heat! I received an ARC edition from St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest review.
Hard To Fight by Bella Jewel 4 out of 5 stars I've never read a Bella Jewel book that I didn't like. The main character in this book, Raide, had come up in a previous Bella Jewel book, but now it's his turn to shine. He is a hot, sexy, bail jumper, and it's up to Grace, the beautiful bounty hunter to bring him in. Of course he didn't commit the crime he is accused of, and once Grace falls for his charm and sexy ways it's up to her to help clear his name. So, if you like a good romance with a hot alpha male and a woman with a good heart, then this is the book for you!