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Taken by the Beast

The Alcyran Chronicles : Book One

By: Anya Summers
Published By: S & G Books, LLC
Copyright: Published by S & G Books, LLC
55,428 words / 27 chapters
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Gemma’s life was nearly perfect. She’s just graduated from college and is heading off to graduate school in the fall. She and her best friends are taking a trip she’s always dreamed about. Only, nothing goes as planned. After being chased on the streets of Dublin by a freaking monster, they get sucked into a portal and wind up on another world. As in, not Earth. Now she can’t find her friends, but there is this really hot, naked guy who calls himself a king and is offering her aid. 

There’s only one teensy little problem: He says she’s his mate and is planning on keeping her—forever. Oh, and there’s one more thing: He’s a beast most of the time. And Gemma has to decide if she’s willing to give up everything for the one man she’s meant to be with in the universe. 

Chapter One

 

Gemma was in love—with a country.

Ireland was everything the travel brochures proclaimed, full of welcome and pubs, and green as far as she could see. Dublin, a city that had called to her for most of her existence, teemed with colorful, vivacious life. Gemma had cried when she’d glanced out the window as the plane touched down. Spying the rolling, emerald fields in hues so vibrant they nearly blinded her, she’d not been able to help herself. As someone who’d been orphaned at birth, or as near birth as the Sisters of the Perpetual Hope Orphanage had been able to surmise, setting foot on land that had called to her all her life had been rather dramatic.

Who wouldn’t get a little teary-eyed?

Gemma and her two best friends, Moira and Anna, were here for a two-week adventure. They had two days in Dublin before they headed south to Waterford and Cork, and then on to tour the rest of the island. This trip was everything to Gemma and her friends. A last hoorah before each of them went off to graduate school next month. Different graduate schools, with a continent between them. The three musketeers would be separated for the first time in eight years.

Any time she thought about the coming separation, her heart squeezed. Moira and Anna weren’t only her best friends, but the sisters of her heart, her family.

Tonight, they had done what any recent college graduates would do. After a dinner of fish and chips in their hotel restaurant, they had headed to the famous Temple Bar district to explore the nightlife. It was spirited. Full of people, locals and tourists alike, out for a good time. The area was lined with pubs. The three of them had walked through the district, getting more than their fair share of interested looks from cute guys.

Not that they weren’t used to it. Gemma didn’t like to toot her own horn, but she knew they were all attractive. Her strawberry-blonde hair was pulled up in a high ponytail and trailed down over her right shoulder. The blush-colored cami top that she’d paired with an ivory sweater made her golden-tanned skin glow. The short denim skirt that ended at midthigh showed off her tanned legs, what she considered her best feature. And instead of heels, Gemma had worn her gold leather gladiator-style sandals. They were easier for navigating the brick-paved streets in Temple Bar.

As they walked back to their hotel, a little buzzed and a lot happy, Moira, her flame-colored hair a riot of natural curls around her porcelain face, slung an arm around Gemma’s shoulders.

“What a way to begin our trip. I’d say the first night was a success.” Moira hiccupped.

Anna teetered on a pair of silver fuck-me pumps. She liked to wear heels because, as she said, otherwise everyone was a freaking giant around her. Since she barely topped five feet, she wasn’t wrong. “I second that motion,” Anna said, rebalancing on her heels with an innate catlike grace, despite the dubious amounts of Guinness they’d imbibed.

“All these streets look the same, don’t they?” Gemma asked, her gaze scanning the area. They reached an intersection with four different roads they could take. The buildings were murky, with signs for offices and businesses. The intersection was dimly lit with only one of the streetlamps illuminating the corner. How had they ended up so far away from the main hub? They must have taken a wrong turn. But where and when, she hadn’t a clue. Gemma tried to remember the way they’d walked to Temple Bar—except that was hours ago. But the haze of one too many pints of Guinness, compounded with their long flight, had turned her brain into molasses. Deciphering the way back to their hotel on the unfamiliar roads was problematic at best.

“I think it was this one we came down,” Moira said, flinging her arm toward one of the lanes on the right, and laughed rather drunkenly.

They’d entered a section of town that was deserted, the crowds dispersed. There were three of them, so Gemma wasn’t concerned with their safety. Much. It didn’t sit well with her that they were lost. Not to mention, it was ingrained in her not to walk willy-nilly down dark alleys.

Cue the horror music. She bit her bottom lip to contain her chuckle since she wouldn’t be able to hide her air of desperation. Gemma hated being lost.

Anna shook her head and pointed toward a different road on their left. “No, this is the one we walked down. Don’t you remember? We took a right out of the hotel lobby, walked to the corner intersection where Saint Stephen’s Green is located, and took a left. Then did another right to head into Temple Bar. That street took us past the Molly Malone statue.”

Anna was the least directionally challenged out of the group. But still, the street she pointed to didn’t look familiar—not one bit. Not that that was saying much, because none of the streets were familiar. Maybe they should have sprung for a cab back to the hotel instead of walking. But Gemma hated to waste money on something so trivial when they had legs and were only a mile away. She’d budgeted for this trip, heavily, she might add, and would rather spend her money on experiences, not taxis.

“Are you sure?” Gemma asked, not convinced. The uncertainty in her voice caused her to wince. She was the unanointed leader of their trio; if she wigged out, the other two wouldn’t be far behind.

Anna tilted her head, studying the four options in front of them. Then, with a nod, her raven hair shifting like a waterfall of inky black waves, she said, “I’m certain. That’s the one.”

“Then let’s head that way,” Gemma said, hoping that it was the right street and their hotel was just on the other side of the block. The edges of fatigue were descending, her brain sluggish and her body acting with stilted movements like it had been trampled. Their flight had arrived this morning, and instead of taking a much-needed siesta, they had deposited their luggage at their hotel and gone exploring. Then they’d checked into their room, changed into their club wear, and had dinner before venturing forth into the exotic nightlife. The high of visiting a foreign country for the first time had been too exciting for them to be able to relax.

Except now she’d had a few beers. And the weight of the long night of traveling combined with the alcohol made for a potent combination.

Their footsteps clicked against the pavement. Gemma wasn’t normally overly dramatic or prone to hysterics, but the deserted lane had her riding the edge of panic. Her senses were on high alert, and she was hyperaware of every sound. She was ready to call a halt and get an Uber.

As they meandered farther down the unfamiliar lane that made her think they had entered a Charles Dickens novel, with the cobbled streets and turn-of-the-century architecture, Gemma fretted that they had taken the wrong street. And there was something in the air. It was quiet. Too quiet. Not even crickets hummed.

It was then that she heard it. A great swooshing noise. The va-woop-woop-woop made her think of helicopter blades, but there was no engine motor thrumming with it.

“Do you guys hear that?” Gemma asked, glancing behind them, trying to discern where the unnatural sound was coming from.

“I thought that was just me,” Moira said. “What do you suppose it is?”

“I don’t hear anything,” Anna said, looking up and down the street, her brow furrowed in concentration. “Clearly, this is not the way to the hotel. Sorry, guys. Maybe we should take that street coming up on the right. It should take us in the general direction of the hotel.” Then she raised her head, peering up at the darkness beyond the streetlamps.

At Anna’s bloodcurdling scream, Gemma jerked and followed her gaze up to the black, starry sky above. Gemma shook her head as she stared, trying to clear it. What had been in that Guinness? Had someone slipped a drug into her beer and roofied her? Her mind was playing tricks on her. Or it was the light and an overactive imagination.

Moira’s scream joined Anna’s. It wasn’t a hallucination. It was a fucking monster, its wingspan wider than the street as it hovered above their heads. Great charcoal leathery wings flapped, generating enough wind to power a turbine. Its body was large, at least seven feet tall, its chest wider than a doorframe and completely bare. Its arms were muscular and thickly formed; she could imagine the thing benching tractor trailers as if they were toy cars. Its legs were hewn like tree trunks and covered by some sort of black material. But it was its hands that drew her attention. They were huge and tipped with claws. Its face appeared hard as granite, with two black horns curling at its temples. The thing’s eyes flashed with an inhuman silver.

It wasn’t human.

Well, duh? Score one point for the scientist.

It took every ounce of self-preservation inside Gemma not to upchuck. The Guinness still swimming in her veins, which had been warming her from the inside out, turned to frost. She shook. Fear unlike anything she had ever known settled over her. What the fuck was this thing? Why was it hovering over their heads?

“Run,” Gemma cried. She grabbed Moira’s and Anna’s hands when they didn’t move, too frightened by what they saw. Not that she blamed them. Gemma was terrified. Wanted to pee in her pants, she was so scared. But her survival instinct kicked into overdrive.

Perhaps it was the fact that Gemma had always been on her own. As an orphan, she’d had to rely on herself for the first half of her life. If Anna’s parents hadn’t fostered her and brought her into their home her freshman year of high school, she wouldn’t have known what a real family was supposed to be like.

She gripped her friends’ hands, tugging them with her. Their cries shuddered on weak gasps as they followed. Gemma took the right turn Anna had suggested moments before, hoping it would lead them in the direction of their hotel and safety.

Panic gripped her. The street they’d taken, that she had dragged her best friends down, wasn’t an escape. It was a trap. The big beast followed them from above. Its great wings stirred air currents and created a wind tunnel in the alley. Dust and rocks pelted them. She searched for an escape, a doorway or a window they could climb through to safety. But the windows were too high up for them to reach. Their footsteps slowed as they reached the gray brick wall. A dead end. Their dead end.

“What are we going to do?” Moira gasped, frantically searching for a way out of their situation.

Anna whimpered. “I’m not seeing this. We’re not here. We just had something put in our drinks, and we’re back at the hotel. This is just a nightmare.”

Gemma glanced down the alley, attempting to divine their odds of making it back out the way they’d run. And then the thing, for she couldn’t call it anything else, landed in the alley and blocked off their escape route. They were fucked.

They flattened themselves against the brick wall. Gemma searched for a way out, a way to survive.

Moira and Anna flanked her. She wished she could cry like they were doing. Anna was hysterical, telling herself to wake up. Moira was whimpering, her fearful moans guttural, sounding more like they were coming from a wounded animal than a human. But for Gemma, the night had taken on a surreal bent.

The creature approached. Its booted feet crunched over the pavement. What kind of monster wore leather boots? Her scientific brain tried to make sense of the tableau. The thing appeared to be male, judging by the lines of its chest on down to its groin. His large wings, even at rest behind him as he crept toward them, spanned the width of the alley and cut off any chance of escape. The pointed tips of his wings dragged along the brick, scraping the stone. The sound was like nails down a chalkboard.

That’s when things got really weird.

As if their entire night hadn’t become completely FUBAR. They awaited their fate. Pressed against brick. Gemma had always wondered how she would feel at the end of her days, and now she knew. Thoroughly livid. She was incensed that this thing thought to screw up her well-laid plans.

His glowing silver, otherworldly gaze stoked her fury. Anna and Moira were devolving into fear. Their choked sobs filled her with dread. She was the one who had suggested this trip to celebrate their graduation. Her best friends, her sisters of the heart—their deaths would be on her. Anna had wanted to go to the Bahamas. But Gemma had swayed them, persuaded them to go to Ireland instead.

Before she could apologize and tell them she loved them, the wall they were backed up against, awaiting their fates and most likely their final moments, dissolved. Although, maybe that was too simple a term. It melted. The bricks liquefied into nothingness. Instead of stone at their backs, a swirling black mass that reminded Gemma of clouds spiraling inside a tornado, took the brick wall’s place.

The monster was close. Too close now. And he—it—picked up its pace to capture them. She didn’t want to know what the creature had in store for them. 

“Go,” Gemma cried, urging her friends to step into the swirling black mist. Anna and Moira looked at her, their faces streaked with tears stained with their mascara. Then, with a nod, one by one they stepped inside the black hole.

She screeched as she fell. At least, she thought she was falling, tumbling through air with nothing to stop her. Gemma thought she heard Moira and Anna’s high-pitched screams nearby, but their hands had been wrenched from hers. She felt like she was inside a pinball machine as she spun in a ricochet inside the pitch-black mass. She couldn’t see anything, at least not long enough to determine what was happening to them. A loud booming rush filled her ears and stole the breath from her lungs.

Gemma hit the ground with a hard thud. Pain walloped the air from her lungs and radiated throughout her entire being. There was grass beneath her body, the ground firm beneath her palms. The cloying scent of damp soil infused her nostrils. Where the hell were they? What the hell had happened? Bruised and battered from head to toe, not really certain what had just transpired and praying she didn’t puke, she lifted her shoulders and head off the ground to take a look around for Moira and Anna—and screamed.

Gemma screamed until her voice gave out and her brain and body began to shut down. She’d always thought she was a fighter. That when the time came to meet her maker, she’d be brave. But now she knew the truth. She was a powder puff.

All she’d done was trade one monster for another, this one infinitely more menacing. Enormous, the furred beast sat on its haunches. Eyes glittered like sapphires amidst a wealth of chestnut fur as it glared at her. Although, it was the thing’s mouth—lips raised in a snarl, exposing a wicked-looking line of ivory canines—that caused the fear gnawing inside her chest to override any common sense. She lay frozen. Rigid with terror. It growled. She whimpered. The loud rumble pushed her exhausted, frantic brain over the edge.

Gemma did something she’d never done before. She fainted dead away. As darkness dragged her down, she could have sworn she heard a ferocious howl.

 

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