Under Realm Assassins
Amanda J. Greene
Genre: paranormal romance
Date of Publication: 5/26/15
Number of pages: 117
Word Count: 33,500
Cover Artist: Kim Killion
A year after the tragic death of his close friend and fellow assassin, Ethan Halstead is ready to take up his sniper rifle once more. But his first assignment is nothing he ever expected. Ethan must hunt and retrieve a beautiful, spirited, alluring werewolf.
Knowing no other way to escape an arranged marriage, Fraya flees from her pack. As she contemplates slipping across the border and heading to South America, she is captured by a dangerously seductive vampire who plans on escorting her back to her family. Even as Fraya vows to make Ethan's mission as difficult as possible, she can't resist the riotous desire he sparks within her.
But Ethan isn't the only predator that peruses Fraya. A powerful rival pack's alpha wants to make her his mate. Will Ethan be able to keep Fraya safe and return her to her pack? Or will he surrender to temptation and claim Fraya as his own?
Lightning splintered the sky. Thunder shook the earth beneath his feet. Damp heat thickened the air. Any moment, the winds would kick up and the red hued clouds would release a torrent of rain.
Ethan loved summer storms and treasured Arizona for its monsoon season. It was only during the madness of the storm that he found peace. In those rare, precious moments, the world reflected the chaos that roiled inside him and he felt… as if he belonged.
Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath and savored the soothing scent of the desert. To his disappointment, he would not be able to appreciate the beauty of nature’s fury. Clearing his mind, Ethan unleashed his senses. His mark was close. He could feel her. Crossing the street, he headed for the quaint coffee shop he frequently sped past. She was here, which meant he could call an end to this pointless job.
Ethan was an assassin, not a damn babysitter. He was an expert tracker and sniper, yet the Under Realm Syndicate had him chasing after a spoiled little she-wolf. He had been tasked with fetching the runaway and returning her to her pack – a complete waste of his time and talents. He couldn’t believe he had let Cole talk him into this. The fact was this case should’ve never made the list. Why the Syndicate decided to get involved was beyond his understanding. This wasn’t a kidnapping or a hostage situation. The female wasn’t a criminal. She wasn’t a threat to the human world or Under Realm society.
His annoyed growl blended with the booming thunder. Cole had insisted Ethan accept this assignment, “You should be grateful the Syndicate is willing to give you a second chance. You’ve been out of practice.”
Who could argue with that logic? Ethan had been off the map for a year. Most within the Syndicate believed he had been killed on his last mission.
I should have been. Shaking his head, he dispelled the thought. He refused to take sober trips down memory lane. He needed to focus on his task.
The aroma of freshly ground coffee was overwhelming. Ethan reigned in his supernatural senses as he stepped inside the shop. The door closed and the torrential rain began to fall. He did a quick, nonchalant sweep of the café, careful not to meet anyone’s gaze. Eye contact encouraged conversation, and he was here on business not pleasure. He would grab the werewolf, take her back home, and detain her until he could make arrangements with her father. Simple.
Ethan walked to the counter. After the blonde and brunette baristas finished arguing over who would help him, he ordered and received a black coffee. The cup had both girl’s names and numbers written on it. He thanked them with a smile. They batted their lashes and insisted he stop by a college party later that night.
Ethan’s shoulders shook with a light laugh. Naïve mortals.
Turning, he headed up the winding iron staircase that led to the second floor loft area. The walls were made almost entirely of glass, providing a glorious view of the storm. Students sat at the tables working on their laptops while groups lounged on the sofas discussing the world of social media.
The delicate scent of wildflowers drifted through the air, drawing his sharp gaze to the far corner. There was nothing remarkable about her presence. She appeared to fit in perfectly with the scene, as if she were just another co-ed. She wore a pair of skinny jeans and a crimson sweatshirt. She sat with her feet tucked under her crisscrossed. Leaning over the table, her long dark brown hair tumbled forward, blocking his view of her face. Ethan noted the worn, tattered condition of the book she read. Her frame was small. She seemed fragile, but he knew better. She was strong, fast, and intelligent. His mark appeared to be ‘normal’ by human standards, but she was the wolf he was looking for.
Hoping everything would go smoothly, he advanced. This was a delicate situation. The female could freak out on him. She could cause a scene, and he loathed drama just as much as he loathed this particular job. It was not a search and rescue mission. No, it was a track-down-a-spoiled-brat-and-take-her-home mission. A simpleton could do it. Why it had to be done was beyond him. At twenty-four, she was an adult. She had a degree in biology and was a werewolf; she was more than capable of taking care of herself.
Who cares? Grab the girl and go.
Ethan quickly reminded himself of the two basic rules: never become personally involved with your mark and strike first, ask questions later – if you cared about asking question at all.
As he approached the woman, he felt a slight tremor in the air. A warning? A threat? Someone was watching them. He set his senses loose once more, scanning the café for the source of the violent energy, but it had vanished just as quickly as it had arrived.
The girl must have felt the glimmer of danger. Her gaze snapped up and met his. Her warm, honey colored eyes were round with surprise. Her tempting red lips parted with a silent gasp. Ethan froze. She was… more than beautiful.
She blinked up at him. Her gaze innocently seductive, her mouth violently tempting, and her wild flower scent was overwhelming. His body reacted instantly. It had been years since he’d felt such a strong, instant attraction.
He watched her lick her lips; lust shot through him like a lightning strike. Oh, yes. The wolf was alluring and, to his surprise, he was disappointed that she was his mark.
“Hi,” she said with a nervous lilt to her voice.
Ethan mentally shook himself and crossed over to stand at the chair opposite her. “Hi,” he replied.
Thunder rumbled; the force shook the glass walls. The girl flinched and her gaze fell from his. For a soundless moment, she sat with her hands clasped in her lap, her head tilted down. The mortals gasped and laughed as another boom shook the windows.
“You may sit,” she said, her voice low, barely audible.
Ethan could smell the fear that sparked within her. Was she frightened of the storm, or what possibly lurked outside? An overwhelming sense of protectiveness settled over him and he frowned. He didn’t like it. He wasn’t the protective type. He was a killer not a savior.
Focus and get this over with.
“Not a fan of thunderstorms?” he asked as he claimed the chair.
She straightened and fixed her gaze on him once more. Her expression was bland, her cute stubborn chin titled up, her shoulders back. She looked regal and refined. Every bit the aristocrat she was.
“I’m accustomed to snow storms.”
“Really? Where are you from?”
“Minnesota,” she answered with a hint of hesitation.
He smiled and was shocked he didn’t have to fake it. “You’re a long way from home.”
She shrugged and returned her attention to her book.
Ethan took a sip of the surprisingly good coffee and relaxed in his seat. He picked up a golf magazine, which rested on the table beside them, and began flipping through the pages. He wasn’t at all interested in golf. Being a vampire, he preferred keeping out of the sun. Although, contrary to popular lore, he wouldn’t burst into flame or turn to ash. He could work on his tan, he just preferred not to.
He casually glanced over at the werewolf and inwardly groaned. She was reading a list of the top ten hot spots in Chile. It appeared she was interested in sunbathing and he couldn’t stop the image of her in a bikini from cropping up in his mind even if he’d wanted to. And he certainly did not want to erase the image.
She sighed, closed the book, and tucked it away in her backpack, which hung off the back of her chair. She took up her latte and settled her gaze on him. Her lips turned up with a sweet smile.
“You don’t strike me as the golfing type.”
He raised a brow and tossed the magazine down on the table between them. “No?”
She shook her head, her long dark curls waving around her shoulders. “Not at all. You look like you’d rather go to a shooting range than work on your golf swing.”
Ethan couldn’t argue with that. He’d had his basement converted into an indoor gun range.
“Very observant,” he said. “What about you? What’s your hobby?”
She bit her bottom lip as she contemplated. Ethan wanted to bite it for her. “Traveling. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. You know, see the world, and experience different cultures.”
“Is that what your trip to Arizona is all about?” he asked.
“More or less,” she answered with a shrug.
“Well, South America is beautiful.”
Her eyes grew wide. She leaned forward, placing her hands on the table. Excitement laced her voice, “You’ve been?”
Ethan shifted closer and reached for her hand. The air trembled with another flicker of danger just before the lights went out. Darkness flooded the café.
His mark shoved away from the table, snatched her backpack, and darted toward the stairs. Ethan was right behind her. The mortals grumbled complaints, some laughed, while others stumbled through the dark.
She was about to reach the exit when the door flew open, crashing against the wall. Humans screamed and shouted in alarm. The girl froze, and Ethan cursed. Clearly, he hadn’t been the only one searching for her. He could sense the alpha’s presence and, judging by his target’s reaction, so could she.
Ethan grabbed her wrist. She swung around. Her fist raised, her honey colored eyes glowed, and her fangs bared. Shadows of a wolf’s fierce visage flickered over the fine features of her face. Her fierce growl vibrated her entire body. Ethan ignored the warning and tugged on her arm, pulling her toward the emergency exit at the back of the coffee shop.
He pushed the door open. His mark tried to twist free of his hold, but he held her firm.
“Let go of me,” she demanded, her voice roughened by her partial transformation.
“Not a chance, sweetheart.”
She growled and fought harder. He wasn’t surprised by her strength and knew she was still holding back. So was he.
Pushing her now soaked and tangled hair from her face, she snarled, “What’s going on?”
“I thought it was obvious,” he said.
“That you’re attempting to kidnap me?”
Ethan shook his head. “No. That you have an alpha hunting your ass.”
Her stare was one of confusion, awe, and horror. She stopped, and he paused. Literally dragging her across the street would draw unwanted attention. He reluctantly released her wrist. She was soft and warm while he was hard and cold. A frown creased his brow when the sharp sense of loss pricked his long dead heart. On some level, he’d enjoyed the feel of her.
She blinked up at him. Her large, honey eyes sparkled with fear. “W-what did you say?”
His chest rose and fell with a heavy sigh. “I’ll explain. For now, come with me.”
She shook her head.
Ethan glanced over his shoulder, scanning the parking lot for any sign of the alpha. He could sense the wolf was close.
“We don’t have much time. We need to go.”
The woman fell back a step and Ethan’s body tensed. His instincts flared. She retreated another step. Would she run? A part of him wished she would. He loved the chase. The hunt. His heart began to pound, his pupils dilated, and his fangs began to sharpen, all in anticipation.
Amanda J. Greene is a paranormal romance author. When she is not writing, she can be found playing the role of a university student who also works full time. She lives in Southern California with her very supportive husband and their two dogs. Doing all the above and being a military wife is not easy, but rewarding! Of course, she accomplishes everything with a strong cup of coffee in her hand.
Amanda is also an associate reviewer on The Book Nympho blog.