Grim Morrigan, Guardian of the Ward and part-time private detective, polices the Folk, the clans of fairies who live in the foothills outside Denver. But his main job is concealing their true nature from the mortals around them.
Enter mortal Annie Duran, who hires him to look for her brother Richard, missing and presumed dead for ten years. Annie has seen Richard in the parking lot of the nightclub where she works. Now she wants answers, and Grim’s supposed to find them.
The quest for Richard ensnares both Grim and Annie in a sinister conspiracy involving kidnapped women and outlaw magic. But they also discover their own overwhelming attraction to each other.
When Annie herself disappears, Grim’s need for answers becomes even more urgent. With the help of a dissolute prince and a motley crew of unlikely fairies, Grim confronts a rebellion among the Folk.
And it may take more than just magic and luck to save both Annie and Grim this time.
A wall of darkness had appeared in the road, snuffing out the light. The illumination from their chemlights seemed to bounce back, unable to penetrate the gloom.
Behind her, Grim brought the car to a stop. “What is it?”
“Darkness,” Bertie said tersely. “All dark.”
A sound seemed to grow in front of them, a roaring grumble, like a distant waterfall. A distant waterfall that was somehow getting louder. Annie bit her lip, piercing the dark with her suddenly puny flare.
“It’s coming closer,” Bertie said softly.
Annie stared. The wall of darkness was moving, blanking out everything it touched. Annihilating the night around them.
The SUV door opened behind her.
“Annie,” Grim urged. “Get inside.”
“What about the light?”
“Screw the light! Get in the damn car.”
Bertie stepped in front of her, taking the flare from her hand. “Do what he says.” He moved into the middle of the road, extending his arms with a Cyalume in each hand.
Annie ducked into the car beside Grim, slamming the door behind her. The rumble seemed to be coming from the inky wall, like the sound of darkness advancing.
In front of them, Bertie extended his arms from his body in a V. The Cyalumes trembled. Grim opened the door again. “The flares don’t help. Get in, Bertie. Now.”
After another moment, Bertie opened the back door, bringing the lights with him. Their orange tinge glowed, ghostly inside the SUV.
“What is it?” Grim’s voice sounded tight.
“No idea. I’ve never seen anything like it before. What are you going to do?”
Grim pushed the SUV in gear. “Play chicken. With the armies of the night.”
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The Self-Aware Alpha
I’m not a big fan of traditional alpha heroes—the tormented tough guys who don’t much like women but are willing to make an exception in the heroine’s case. My problem with them stems from the only slightly latent misogyny in the concept and the fact that a lot of the alphas I’ve know in real life have been jerks. But I’m not particularly taken with the ill-defined “beta heroes” either. At best they seem to be alphas with a sense of humor. At worst, they’re just annoying.
So what am I looking for in a hero, anyway? It occurred to me the other day that what I really want is a self-aware alpha or SAA. Alphas do, in fact, have some positive characteristics. They’re usually honorable, loyal, and protective. To those positives, the SAA can add not just a sense of humor (which he usually has in spades), but a sense of the absurd—something the average alpha needs desperately.
Because when you think about it, the role of the alpha is basically sort of, well, silly. He’s encouraged to embrace ideas and attitudes that will probably get him a lot of bruises and possibly a life-threatening injury or two. Think of Rick in Casablanca, mocking the absurdity of his melodrama: “I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.” “I was misinformed.” His position is both heroic and faintly ridiculous, and he knows it only too well.
Moreover, if the heroine is worth the hero’s time, she’s likely to be unimpressed by his alphaness. The days of the heroine who swooned with gratitude at the big, strong man who came to rescue her are long gone. While the heroine frequently can’t entirely rescue herself, she’s at least going to give it a try. “This is some rescue,” Princess Leia snarls at Han Solo before she figures a way to get them out of the Empire’s prison.
For me, there’s a great deal of attractiveness in a man who can see the absurdity of the task he’s set for himself, and who can occasionally laugh over his own stumbles. Someone who takes himself, and his heroic role, with a very large grain of salt.
I’ve tried to make all my heroes SAAs, although some of them are more in that mold than others. My newest hero, Grim Morrigan in Away is definitely SAA. He’s a Guardian of the Ward, which is a fancy way of saying he’s a cop for the Folk, the groups of fairies who live in the foothills outside Denver. He’s also half-mortal, which leads to some put-downs from the full-blooded members of the Folk, but Grim can stand up for himself and he does so with humor and steel. One of the Palace Guard challenges him over a disagreement: “You want to match skills, halfling? A little demonstration of why you should keep out of things that aren’t your business?” To which Grim responds (with a dry smile): “Nah, I got over the compulsion to flash my wand at everybody a long time ago.”
Of course, when push comes to shove, Grim’s more than capable of fighting for justice and the safety of the heroine, Annie Duran. And Annie, being a modern heroine, responds by helping him win that fight.
Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her newest series, the Folk, is a paranormal trilogy set in Colorado. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box and Brewing Love trilogies are set in the Colorado Rockies (both are available from Entangled Publishing). Along with contemporary romance, Meg is also the author of the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/megbenjamin/), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.