The Reluctant Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons)

BOOK: The Reluctant Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons)
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The Reluctant Amazon
By Sandy James

The last thing Rebecca Massee expects on her wedding day is
to go from jilted kindergarten teacher to Amazonian Earth warrior. But when she
causes an earthquake after her groom says
I don’t,
she discovers that not only does she possess incredible powers, she is one of
four lost chosen sisters who must fight to keep humanity safe from rogue gods
and demons. Luckily she has help: ruggedly handsome Scottish warrior Artair
MacKay, her protector and teacher.

An immortal, Artair has trained countless warriors for more
than four hundred years. He understands Rebecca’s confusion at the new world
she’s been thrust into and worries she is too emotionally vulnerable, but that
doesn’t stop his growing feelings for the beautiful and fearless woman.

When an evil force threatens to destroy the Amazons, Rebecca
must claim her full powers—but they come at a cost. Can she sacrifice the man
she loves if it means saving the world?

96,000 words

Dear Reader,

I celebrate my wedding anniversary in September, and that’s
why I think of it as my month of romance. Even after eight years, the romance is
still alive in our relationship, I’m married to my best friend, and I’m living
my very own happily ever after.

That’s why I’m thrilled we’re kicking off Shannon Stacey’s
return to the hunky and delicious Kowalski men with the first of three
back-to-back Kowalski contemporary romances this September. It feels like my
very own celebration of romance! Meet Mitch Kowalski and enjoy the ride as he
finds
his
true love in Paige Sullivan, in
All He Ever Needed.
Look for Ryan’s and Josh’s stories
in October and November 2012.

September is truly a month of romance at Carina Press, with
all but one of our releases falling in this genre. If you find yourself wanting
to remain in the here and now, be sure to check out contemporary romance
Finally Home
by Helen Scott Taylor. Catch up with the
Men of Smithfield in L.B. Gregg’s contemporary male/male romance
Men of Smithfield: Max and Finn.
And take a chance on
Rebecca Rogers Maher’s
Fault Lines,
a moving and
emotional contemporary romance that had our team members calling it “amazing”
and “gripping” while extolling its virtues at our acquisitions meeting.

If you’re looking for adventure, intrigue and romance with a
fantasy flavor, this month we kick off Sandy James’s fantastic Alliance of the
Amazons series. Rebecca Massee discovers that not only does she possess
incredible powers, she is one of four lost chosen sisters who must fight to
keep humanity safe from rogue gods and demons. Can she sacrifice the man
she loves if it means saving the world? Find out more in
The Reluctant Amazon
by Sandy
James. Joining Sandy in the
realm of otherworldly releases, Annie Nicholas’s
Starved
for Love
is a delightful and thoroughly erotic tale of a succubus who
wants nothing more than to be loved, and an incubus who doesn’t believe in
anything but lust.

Look no further than Fae Sutherland’s male/male space opera
romance
Sky Riders
for a galactic adventure that
will leave you longing for the days of Nathan Fillion,
Serenity
and
Firefly.
And if
Sky Riders
isn’t enough of an escape from planet Earth
for you, then
Blue Nebula
by Diane Dooley will
surely please science-fiction romance fans.

Fans of comics, superheroes and
The
Avengers
should check out our two newest superhero releases. In
How to Date a Henchman
by Mari Fee, our hero proves
that it’s not always the superheroes who are the most heroic—sometimes it’s the
henchmen who save the day—and get the girl.
Yesterday’s
Heroes
by Heather Long poses the question of what might happen when
two superheroes have different goals. Drawn together by passion, and on a
collision course with fate, can Rory and Michael work together to change the
future? And though not a superhero romance, J.K. Coi’s steampunk romance
Broken Promises
, a follow-up to
Far From Broken
, brings back super-spy Jasper and his modified wife,
Callie, for a continuation of their romance as Callie joins Jasper in the world
of spies, danger and intrigue.

Also this month we’re rereleasing Christine d’Abo’s three
erotic contemporary novellas into one bargain-priced bundle. Get all three
novellas in the
Long Shots Bundle
for $6.99. BDSM,
ménage, love and hot, sexy, intense encounters—this bundle has it all. Buy it
now and find out what makes sex club owner Josh so appealing before he makes his
appearance in his own novel,
Calling the Shots,
in
October.

Last, though the month of September is filled with romance of
all designs, it also brings with it one rich, engrossing and compelling
historical mystery in
Tainted Innocence
by Joss
Alexander. Fan of authors such as Deanna Raybourn and C.S. Harris won’t want to
miss this engaging debut novel.

Celebrate my month of romance with me this September and try
one or two (or five or six) of our new releases. You’ll find new authors to love
and stories you can’t wait to share!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your
thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
.
You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter
stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my fantabulous agent, Maureen
Walters.

Thanks for believing in me.

Acknowledgements

First and foremost, I need to thank my editor, Mallory Braus.
Her support, encouragement and enthusiasm have been invaluable. She is truly
brilliant.

Jeff, as always, you’re my world. Thanks for everything you
do to help me chase this dream.

My children, Laura and Kevin, have always been my biggest
supporters. I couldn’t do any of this without their encouragement.

Katie Arathoon gave me the first feedback on this series, and
her wonderful suggestions made my Amazons all they can be.

If I didn’t have Leanna Kay, Cheryl Brooks, Nan Reinhardt and
Mellanie Szereto watching my back, my words would be gibberish. Thanks for being
such wonderful critique partners.

Chapter One

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I beg your pardon?” Rebecca cocked her head, staring at Rick
through the thin netting of her veil.

Having walked down the long aisle by herself, she now waited
for him to take the last step to stand by her side in front of the minister.

He didn’t budge. “I—I—don’t want to do this.” His gaze drifted
to the front pew where his mother sat.

“I don’t understand.” She kept her voice as quiet as she could
manage. “What’s wrong, honey?”

Rick stood a few steps away in his designer tuxedo and
fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other like a naughty child
caught coloring on a freshly painted wall. “I changed my mind.”

The weight of his words sank in. “Changed your mind? What do
you mean ‘changed your mind’?” Rebecca tried to ignore the echo of her cry
through the cavernous sanctuary.

She was drowning in all of the ruffles and ribbons and
crinoline she’d starved herself for almost a year to fit into. The heavy satin
dress and layer after layer of petticoats suddenly seemed to swallow her
whole.

She was an utter fool.

Aunt Kay sat in place of the parents Rebecca had never known.
When Rebecca locked eyes with her, her aunt stared back, sending an expression
full of sympathy. She’d tried several times to talk Rebecca out of marrying
Rick, claiming he wasn’t the right man for her. Aunt Kay had been right. As
usual.

The musky smell of the flowers strewn around the church swept
over Rebecca. It reminded her of a funeral, mourning the death of what should
have been her perfect wedding. The wedding that would see her married and able
to start a family. God, how she yearned for her own family. A mom. A dad. A
whole passel of kids. Rick always told her he wanted the same things, so she’d
ignored the warning bells that constantly nibbled at her. Especially his strange
attachment to his puffed-up, self-important, opinionated mommy. Now it had all
come home to roost.

The stunned crowd grew so quiet she could hear the nervous
breaths whistling through her fiancé’s flaring nostrils. A few heartbeats later,
the twittering sounds of the guests floated toward the altar.

She should have expected Rick’s cold feet. This last week, he’d
been withdrawn, not wanting to discuss the wedding plans or hear about the
annoying last-minute details she’d had to tackle alone. He’d spent more time
talking to his mother than with Rebecca.

She shifted her spray of red roses to her left hand, grabbed
her veil with her right and flipped it away from her face. Staring at him, she
slowly shook her head. “You don’t mean it, honey. You don’t really want to…” She
took a steadying breath. “You’re just—just—nervous, that’s all.”

A buzz of voices rose louder from the pews. She glanced up to
the minister, pleading with her gaze, hoping for some support and guidance. The
dark-robed man shifted his wide eyes from Rebecca to Rick and back again.

No help there
.

Rebecca focused instead on her reticent fiancé. “Rick, calm
down. Look at me.” His gaze settled on her, his brown eyes as dull as they
usually were when he—

She sniffed the air.

He’d been drinking. Working up his false courage. He’d gotten
plastered to go through with this marriage. Her anger rose, but she focused on
consoling him. “It’s going to be fine.”

Rick shook his head and backed away from the altar, moving down
one of the four steps that led to the dais.

Feeling a sickening mix of humiliation and anger, she fervently
hoped she wouldn’t throw up in front of everyone and add to her shame.

“I don’t want to do this,” he insisted in a louder voice as he
backed down another step.

“Perhaps we can go into the anteroom and talk about this,” the
minister said, clutching his black Bible to his chest.

So
now
he was offering to help. She
narrowed her eyes at him.

Faced with utter humiliation at Rick’s hands, she had trouble
recalling a single reason she wanted to marry the man. Leveling a grim frown at
him, she let her growing rage displace her mortification. He was really going to
do this—he was really going to walk away from her in front of everyone. His
haughty mother would no doubt be thrilled.

Anger swelled in Rebecca’s chest. “You’re leaving me at the
altar? You’re really leaving me at the altar?”

He nodded, standing there wide-eyed and appearing as frightened
as a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi. As if he deserved such a
swift, merciful end.

Each heartbeat echoed in her ears. She handed her bouquet to
her maid of honor. Oddly, all of the red roses had suddenly shriveled and died.
She lifted her skirts and stepped down two steps to stand toe to toe with Rick.
“Fine. You’re off the hook.”

“Re—really?” His look of relief hit her like a slap across the
face.

“Really,” she said with a decisive nod. Dropping her heavy
skirts, she took a deep breath. “One more thing, though. I’ve got something for
you.”

He looked suspicious. She couldn’t blame him. If he had the
brains God gave a goat, he’d run.

“Do you want it now?”

“No. I—I—” Rick glanced to his mother again.

If only he hadn’t done that, she might have been able to stop
herself.

Fisting her right hand, she pulled it back and punched him in
the nose with every ounce of anger she could channel. She felt bone driving into
her knuckles, his nose fractured in her hand’s wake.

He jerked away, his hands covering his injured face, blood
pouring from his nostrils.

Small bits of plaster fell from the high ceilings and the gold
chalice shimmied across the altar. The sudden roar and the shimmy of the lights
were followed by the toppling of several candelabras. The enormous Bible on the
pulpit fell to the floor as the gold chalice rolled off the side table.

People swayed with the unexpected movement of the ground
beneath them, crying out in surprise and fear. An earthquake.
In New York?
The day just kept on giving.

The crowd panicked, grabbing on to pews and each other as the
strong tremor continued to rock the sanctuary.

Rebecca didn’t care, hardly noticing the shaking of the earth
or the vases of flowers that clattered to the terrazzo floor. She snatched the
veil from her head, threw it at Rick’s feet, gathered her satin skirt in her
hands and left
him
at the altar.

Undeterred by the sway of the ground and the frightened squeals
of her wedding guests, she strode up the aisle, head down, muttering to herself
all the way. “What was I thinking? Damn. Damn. Damn. How could I have settled
for
him?
Son of a—”

She ran into a solid wall of muscle.

The earthquake abruptly ended.

Rebecca caught her balance with the help of the man grasping
her upper arms. She rubbed the sore spot on her forehead with her aching right
hand and stared up at him.

He had to be at least half a foot taller than Rick. She’d get a
crick in her neck if she continued to look up at him for too awfully long. His
hands gave her arms a quick squeeze then fell away as he took a step back.

“I came for ye, Becca.” His deep, demanding baritone voice told
her this was a man who didn’t take no for an answer. His Scottish brogue flowed
over her, warming her from the inside like a shot of good tequila. “’Tis
time.”

She had no idea what to say to him, hadn’t honestly
comprehended what he was saying to her. She was too busy gawking. “Time?”

God, he was handsome. He stood with his hands fisted against
his hips, his legs spread in a cocky stance.

No. Not just handsome. Drop-dead gorgeous. His shoulder-length
hair was chestnut. Brown with streaks of red, so bright that she had to fight
the urge to reach out and touch it. His jaw, strong and chiseled, was covered
with a day’s growth of reddish-brown whiskers. Glowing green eyes hypnotized
her, commanding her to do his bidding.

The sleeves of his white cotton shirt were rolled up to his
elbows. She sighed just looking at his muscular arms. Lord, she would be nothing
but putty in the hands of a man with such strong arms. As her gaze wandered
lower, she blinked at the image, not trusting her eyes.

He wore a kilt—an honest-to-God kilt. Navy blue and forest
green intermixed with slices of purple.

Only real men wear purple
.

A sword was belted at his side. “Aye, lass. ’Tis time.” He
lifted a large, calloused hand to her.

The voices of the guests droned on in the background, and
Rebecca turned to look at the people who had gathered for her wedding. Her
almost-wedding. They were all scrambling around trying to deal with the damage
of the quake. Those who let their gazes settle on her made her sick to her
stomach. Each and every glance told her the same thing. They pitied her.

Perhaps this was fate—this juicy hunk of a man was a gift to
give her a graceful exit. If only he wasn’t a figment of her overactive
imagination. No man so good-looking would be here for her. Hell no, he wasn’t
real.

At least she didn’t
think
he was
real.

Rebecca brushed aside his hand, reached out and laid her palm
against the woolen plaid that was draped from behind his left shoulder over his
chest. The warmth of him radiated through the soft cloth.

He certainly felt real. “Who are you?”

“Artair MacKay.” He dropped his chin to his chest and glared
down at her. “Becca, we must be going.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I just do, lass. We must go. Now.”

She’d lost her mind, was as mad as a hatter to even think about
leaving with him. Positively certifiable.

Rebecca Massee never did anything wild or daring. She’d always
been the most predictable and dependable person in the whole world. She taught
kindergarten, seldom missing a day with her students. She volunteered to run the
community garden that gave food to the elderly and indigent. She paid every
single one of her bills on time.

Heavens above, how she hated her banal and boring life!

Rebecca Massee would never take the hand of a strange man
standing tall and proud in a kilt and let him whisk her away.

She turned to see Rick embracing his mother and whispering in
the woman’s ear. Was he comforting her from the quake or the fact that he’d
almost left her for another woman? Rebecca shuddered. What in the hell had she
been thinking? Was she really that desperate?

Screw that
.

She threw a glance at her Aunt Kay and arched an eyebrow. Her
aunt smiled and nodded in response.

“Artair MacKay?”

“Yes, lass?”

“Let’s rock and roll.”

* * *

Artair could barely believe it when Rebecca took his
hand and started leading him out of the church. It was never this easy. With the
exception of impetuous Fire Amazons, the women usually resisted when he came for
them. Some even went on the attack, which was why, wedding or no wedding, he
came prepared to carry her away. Artair had been poised to step in, his mouth
already open when her would-be groom brought the ceremony to an abrupt halt.

Rebecca Massee couldn’t marry. It simply wasn’t possible.

Yet she’d given in so easily, as if knowing he would take her
to her destiny. They reached the church doors before Artair allowed himself to
accept her reaction.

His own response took him by surprise. He wanted her. Plain and
simple. He’d never reacted that way to an Amazon before. She was exquisite.
Blonde. Shapely. And powerful—more than he’d anticipated if her first earthquake
served as any indication.

He buried his unwanted desire deep inside, because if she knew
of it, she wouldn’t respect his role in her new world.

Rebecca could never know how he felt.

“Are you coming?” she asked over her shoulder.

“Aye, lass. Aye.” He swept past her, grabbed her hand and
walked out of the church.

BOOK: The Reluctant Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons)
5.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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