Taken is a dark love story set in the 1500’s of Hungary. It’s one that begins with terror and cruelty. Mikhal the Merciless is pure evil, a dark anti-hero who will fill you with loathing long before he catches your heart. The road to love for Alliana and Mikhal is a rocky one; and any roses that bloom, also pierce with thorns. You may well be wishing for Mikhal’s demise before you cheer them on to love, but you will cheer them on to love.
Stolen from her family and very way of life, a young Gypsy girl finds herself trapped among evil. She is to be kept and bred by the dark lord who has taken her from all she knew and thrust her into his world of terror. Mikhal is the known and feared Mikhal the Merciless, a rich and heartless Lord, who has a taste for blood and cruelty. Many suspect his true origins. Alliana is a poor Gypsy girl, but her family has much magic. It is rumored that Alliana will bring those around her great wealth and power when she comes of age. She is their treasured golden child. When Mikhal happens upon her one night on his land, he decides he must have her for his own. With the magical help of Marishka, his sister, he plans to create a son with the wild Gypsy, one who will help him rule the earth as he lives out his life of eternity. Will Alliana’s innocence shatter the fierceness of Mikhal’s heart and drive the cruelty from him, or will he cast her aside once she gives him what he seeks?
Run! The one frantic word pounded through Alliana’s head in time with the beating of her racing heart. She could hear him behind her, closer and closer, Mikhal the Merciless, he who had no soul. The one she had been warned about over and over since her clan had moved into the area. The very reason she had been ordered to stay close to the caravan. One leather clad foot slipped on the icy grass, making her stumble, arms pin wheeling, but she regained her balance and raced onward, pursued by the devil himself.
The clouds in the night sky parted, allowing the moon to shine down through the semi leafless trees, making the ice that clung to their black branches glisten and light up the night. A freak early storm had coated everything, giving it a crystallized sheen, turning the world dazzling and wondrous, if not for the fact that it made the ground beneath her slick and treacherous.
Her breath came out in frosty plumes as she ran, her golden hair flying behind her. Once again her foot slid, the thin soles of her well-worn boots giving her no traction on the hazardous terrain, but she righted herself, terror giving her the power to go on.
Branches tore at her hair, pulling the tattered shawl from her shoulders, scratching at her arms and face. Then, the worst happened. A branch tore the large pocket of her faded skirt, spilling the apples secreted there. They tripped her up as they tumbled before her, making her fall to her knees. Her hands skimmed over the frost-covered grass, and though her fingers tried desperately to find purchase, she was unable to stop her fall.
She landed hard; half-frozen apples trapped beneath her body, bruising her ribs, a multitude of petticoats twisting around her legs. Alliana yelped, then shook off the pain, and quickly managed to right herself, grasping frantically at the branches around her for stability. She launched herself forward once again, fleeing in a blind panic. The fall had cost her precious time.
Pounding hooves, gaining ever quicker, rang in her ears, along with her gasps for air and frantic whimpers of terror. He was going to catch her. He was gaining. It would only be a matter of time now. Mere seconds and then her life would be over. Alliana thought again of her maman and her papa and their dire warning about coming onto the devil’s land. She whispered a fervent plea for forgiveness, even as she felt herself being lifted off the ground and pulled onto the horse of the one who had hunted her down.
She felt a rumble of laughter in his chest as he pulled her close. Alliana twisted, kicking, clawing, trying to scratch at his eyes, fighting for her life, but her strength was no match for his. He stopped his mount, wrapping up her struggling body and flailing limbs, with arms like bands of iron, crushing her to his chest as he stared down into her terrified eyes, the moon illuminating his features, thick curly hair, sharp cheek bones, sensuous lips, and harsh dark eyes, gazing at her with amusement and contempt.
She screamed and fought, turning from his piercing gaze, refusing to look the devil in the eye. He was one with the dark magicks, a vampire, one without a soul. Alliana had heard the elders talking. His serfs were terrified of him. Children, even babies, were said to have gone missing, young girls defiled, blood rituals held in the dead of night, torture and screams from the castle. Why oh why had she come here? For the apples that now lay scattered in the wake of her flight? The hunger gnawing at her belly was nothing compared to the terror filling her soul.
“Stop it. Be still, girl.” He squeezed her face in his hand painfully and forced her to look into his eyes. “You’re nothing but a Gypsy thief. I could hang you from that tree this instant.”
He said the words, but his eyes told her he had no intention of doing just that. Though they were cruel, they appraised her features as he turned her head left, then right, smiling a sardonic grin of approval. He then raked them down over her body, staring at her with undisguised lust, eyes glowing, tongue curled behind his teeth, nostrils flaring as he scented the increase in fear his desire caused. She was young, not more than sixteen or seventeen, but she knew what a man did with a woman.
“That’s right, little one. You should be afraid.”