My name is A.J., and I love beta heroes.
I know, I know. Paranormal romance is all about alphas. Alphas males and alpha females. And I get it. In a genre where the hero and heroine have to kill vampires and demons to get their HEA, there’s not a lot of room for “soft power.”
Then again, maybe there is.
Paranormal worlds are usually violent and scary places. Sometimes, I want my fictional escape to show me what it’s like when the good guys win by beating the bad guys at their own game. But every now and then, I want to believe in a world where we can win with sacrifice, with gentle persuasion, or even with humor.
When I wrote Anchored, part of what I wanted to do was imagine a woman who’s used to violence falling in love with a man who’s not afraid to show his softer side. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good alpha, and I love a good fictional fight. My heroine does her fair share of beheadings, but I think that’s why she needed a partner who’s never beheaded anything bigger than a flea.
When Susannah meets Jason for the first time, she does what she’s been trained to do: attack. An alpha might have gotten the upper hand right away, but Jason’s real strength is in winning his *ahem* targets over slowly.
Here’s an excerpt of the scene where my guardian angel heroine first encounters her less-than-angelic hero. A hurricane has just passed through her town, and she’s at her diner, making sure it came through unscathed. The last thing she’s expecting is a scruffy supernatural healer to come in and disturb her post-storm peace:
It was still raining outside—I could hear it drumming on the roof and the boarded windows. I opened the back door to watch the wind push the water around in low spots in the street. The flooding wasn’t bad. I was sure the news crews were out making the worst of it, but I’d seen much worse. My connection to the city was muddy and fragile, but I could tell there hadn’t been any deaths. A relief.
I ate my eggs and toast in my dining room and listened to the radio reports. Trees down, a few places flooded farther inland. People would be needing help. That was the rest of my job. A guardian draws strength from her city, and the healthier it is, the more vibrant, the stronger the guardian. Every day, secondaries like Max brought stories of people who needed help. Short-term loans, new coats. Food. Revenge. After this, there would be more petitions than usual. I pondered the balance of my bank account and wondered how many I could satisfy.
I was still thinking about it when I heard the click of my back door closing.
I was on my feet in an instant, flaring my wings and listening. Someone moving around. Human, male from the smell of him. A looter? I wasn’t picking up the telltale tingle of threat in my wingtips, but that could have been due to the storm. I heard his fingers drumming on the stainless-steel prep counter. Had I forgotten to lock the door? I pulled my glamour over me like a coat and moved silently to the doorway between the service counter and the grill.
I saw him. Next to the deep-fry station. One well-muscled, tan arm and a ratty Converse sneaker. He hadn’t seen me. Yet.
I launched myself at him.
He put his arms up in a defensive posture seconds before I tackled him, and we went down in a tangle of limbs and muffled grunts. We ended up on the floor with my forearm pressed into his throat and my thighs pinning him to the tile.
“What are you doing here?” I snarled.
He made a thick, wheezing sound and pointed at his throat. I let up a fraction.
“You must be the guardian,” he said.
I was surprised enough to lean back. “Who the hell are you?”
He levered himself up on his arms. “Jason Delacourt. Hank should’ve told you I’d be coming.”
I narrowed my eyes. That bastard.
“You think you could, ah, let me up?” He shifted his eyes to where my hips were still pinning his legs. He must be a runner—his thighs were like granite. I didn’t move.
“How did you get in?”
“It’s raining pretty hard out there,” he said, as if this answered my question. “Hank didn’t tell me—”
“Not to break into private property?”
“That you’re a woman. Well …” He flicked his eyes to my wings, which were still flared out defensively. “… a female, anyway.”
I snapped them shut. “How can you see them? You shouldn’t be able to see them.”
“That thing you do …” He twirled his finger in the direction of my head. “It doesn’t work on me. Sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter.” I stood, releasing him.
“They’re pretty. Like a heron.” He smiled. It was a light-up-your-face, movie-star smile. A smile to make women go weak. I focused on his nose.
“What are you doing here?”
He looked at me like I might be not quite right in the head. “I’m the healer. Hank said you needed me.”
He stood and leaned against the wall. He was wearing khaki cargo shorts and a wrinkled button-up shirt, and his light-brown hair was shaggy and untrimmed. His sneakers were soaked through. By his feet was a faded red backpack covered in patches that said “100 DIVES,” “Dive Belize” and “Let’s Get Wet.” That last one included a cartoon of a large-breasted mermaid. I was going to kill Hank.
“Oh yes, I know Hank sent you, and I know you’re a healer. What I want to know is what you’re doing here now, in the middle of a hurricane, when I specifically told Hank I didn’t want to see you until the storm was over.”
“Listen, lady.” His eyes flicked to my wings again. “Or whatever you are. Three weeks ago I had no idea creatures like you existed. This guy with wings the color of a fucking Falcons jersey tells me I can use my gift to help out my hometown, and would I mind just dropping by to see what I think of the resident guardian angel? So here I am. You don’t want me, no problem. I’ll just catch the next bus out of town.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at me.
This was just like Hank. Send this healer, this overly attractive, immature, fumbling boy, and expect me to just take him in.
“Fine,” I said. “Fine.”
“All right, then.” He picked up his bag. “Where am I staying?”
“I have a motel across the road. I’ll get you a room.”
I picked up my keys with my good hand and started for the door. As I passed him, he saw the bandage on my other hand and stopped me.
“Whoa, let me take care of that for you.” He took a step forward and, before I could move away, picked up my hand.
His skin was warm. It shocked me. Guardians have higher body temperatures than humans, so I wasn’t used to feeling warmth from anyone’s touch. I wasn’t used to feeling anyone’s touch, period. I nearly jerked back, but he was handling my hand so lightly, like it was a hollow egg, I found it hard to pull away.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Nothing of importance. I’m fine.”
He quirked his mouth. “Sure you are. But let me take care of it anyway.” He paused. “I can tell it hurts.”
I didn’t have an answer for that. He was right.
He didn’t wait for my permission. His other hand hovered over my knuckles and, in seconds, the angry red flesh faded to pink. My skin felt warm and tingly. I shook out my fingers.
“That wasn’t necessary.”
He laughed. “You mean you weren’t going to bleed to death? Huh.”
I gave him a look that would’ve made any of my wait staff run instantly to the back and find side work to do. It would’ve made my egotistical head chef stop ranting at the line cooks. It would’ve made Max disappear for at least three hours. Jason only laughed again. I did my best to betray no emotion whatsoever.
“You must be tired,” I said. “It’s the only explanation.” I walked out into the rain without waiting to see if he’d follow.
If you want a little more beta in your life, you can pick up a copy of Anchored on Amazon for only $0.99. And in the meantime, I want to know: Who’s your favorite paranormal beta hero?