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“The world doesn’t have room enough for all the ghosts of evil men–if that’s what you think he is.” He shook his head. “If he comes for you, my lady, you won’t know until he has you. And once he has you, there’s no hope for help.”THE TAKING
A girl on the cusp of womanhood, Amarys of Rensweald wants to live without limits. Three generations have passed since the knight LeMerle carved out his realm, but legends of his atrocities during the Norman Conquest have only grown in the years between. When the castle he built becomes her home, Amarys is terrorized by increasingly violent dreams and begins to sense she is changing. Her guardian, Leoric, encourages her to pursue her emerging desires while her tutor, Treowyn, instructs her to follow the rigid moral code he has set for himself. Amarys struggles to make the right choices, but when love gnashes her, she only wants revenge. Now she must face the monster she has released.
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So long my life has been a lie. The girl I was seems a ghost–apart from me. The seasons were shifting, bringing storms, the night her slow demise began. The dream I remember with more clarity than the life before it.
Nose to nose Death bent over me, the sharpness of his features showing bone beneath his skin as clearly as if that skin had been transparent. Too wide open, his eyes rolled in their sockets–whites glowing, pupils broad and black, as he examined me up and down. His mouth hung open, and his breath hit my face with the stench of rotten eggs. He chewed his lower lip–sucking it and drawing it across his teeth.
Though he didn’t touch me, the air itself crushed me so I couldn’t move at all. I struggled to yell for Mama, but I could only make a strangled noise that sounded like it came from someone else.
“But not tonight,” Death whispered.
My arm jerked as my eyes flashed open. On each side of me lay my sisters, breathing deep and slow, but I heard the darkness around us. Its quiet pulse throbbed with mine. I rolled onto my side, scrunching as close to my older sister Deidre as I could, but she elbowed me away.
Little Anne didn’t complain when I turned the other way and wrapped my arm over her. Her warmth alone was comfort. All day I’d ached with woman’s cramps. My back. My belly. I’d sneaked off and spent the noon sunning on the rocks of Cregnycrock to soothe myself.
Even then I’d felt anxious. Mama said sometimes the bleeding makes a woman prickly-hearted and nervous, like a stranger to herself, but I hadn’t felt like a stranger. I’d felt watched. The radiant rock had melted my pain, but the sense of being spied on was so strong I kept sitting up to check the grove’s edge.
If being a woman caused such uneasiness and agony, I’d rather have been born a boy or never grown to womanhood. The pain had kept me turning when I first tried to sleep that night. Waking afraid, I hadn’t a hope of rest.
I heard Mama sigh. I sat up slowly and strained to see across the room, where she rose, fumbling in the dimness to stir the hearth’s embers to life. Adding a fistful of dry grass, she sank onto the bench and held her bare feet in the orange warmth.
Mama looked beautiful in the firelight. Beautiful and worn. Time had whittled lines around her eyes and creases around her smile. Her light brown hair seemed duller each month, with streaks of gray creeping into the waves framing her face.
She sighed again as she took Father’s net onto her lap; then stopped and pressed her hand against the roundness of her belly. Closing her eyes, she leaned back with a smile.I tiptoed across the smooth dirt floor and whispered, “Is he kicking, Mama?”
She opened her eyes, her smile spreading as she placed my hand under hers to feel the baby squirming within her. For a moment he was still. Then he pressed against my hand–a long, steady push as if he hoped to caress me through the wall of flesh separating us. I leaned over and kissed the spot just as his touch faded. Before winter’s end I’d be able to hold him, but the months between stretched like years against my impatience.
Mama’s last baby was dead before a single breath. Clutching him close, she’d studied his tiny fingers and toes as though she could will them to wiggle with life. When the midwife took him, Mama cried but stopped right off when my father came in. None of us cried then.
I didn’t want to remember that day.
“You’ve barely caught a dream tonight, Amarys,” Mama said as I sat beside her and grabbed an edge of the net. “I can manage this alone.”
“I’ve dreamt enough.” I shivered, and, noticing, Mama added tinder to the fire.
When she handed me our other needle, I threaded it nimbly with hands as dainty as hers. She always joked our hands were made for fine pursuits like embroidery, not digging turnips and plucking hens. Sewing or mending Father’s nets whenever I could, I’d imagine I was a clean-handed lady, ever-busy stitching useless beauty.
“He moves a lot, doesn’t he?” I nodded toward her belly. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Not when I’d like to be sleeping.” Mama chuckled.
“Does it hurt?”
“Sometimes it’s . . .” Mama’s eyes shifted as she sought the right word. “Uncomfortable, you could say . . . You were a restless one, but you did all your dancing in the daylight, so I didn’t mind. You were a good baby, Amarys–fat and happy . . . I remember–”
Our cottage’s door rattled against its frame. The reminiscence dead on her tongue, Mama rose slowly, laying the net and needle on the bench. She met my eyes, hesitating, as the door shook again from the rap of a heavy fist.
The scent of sea air and coming storm whistled through the cracks around the door, and then he spoke. He might have said anything. I only recall the tone–needful yet strong–a voice made for commanding lowered to request. Humbled and a little lost. You can’t leave a man with such a voice out in the downpour.
WHAT FANS ARE SAYING
“The plot will keep you guessing to the end where it comes to a climactic conclusion”
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“Intelligent writing with layers of complex emotion and unpredictable plot twists”
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“Capivates the reader and leaves you hungry for more”
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“Dark and mysterious”
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“I couldn’t put this book down!”
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“Kept me reading through the night”
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“The Taking is horror at its best”
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“Throughout the book nothing is as it seems”
Courage doesn’t exist without fear. So seeming nothing more than ordinary, I was constantly courageous; always afraid. I built walls and towers in my mind stronger than LeMerle’s damned donjon, and when I raced for their safety, no one could reach me. No one but Leoric. He always searched out the crack in the mortar, the open window, the gate unguarded.THE TAKING
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Characters Of The Taking
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Q Amarys’ character seems very real, is she based off of someone you know?
Q The city of Merldoun and Rensweald castle are nestled amongst some recognizable locales. Did they really exist in history?
Q What scene was the most enjoyable to write?
Q Were there any elements of your story that you grudgingly cut out?
Q LeMerle is a very frightful character. Will you feature him in any future novels?
Music That Inspires
Do you have questions about The Taking? If so, just ask and I’d be happy to answer!
I’ve put a great deal of time and energy creating a product you’ll love.
But, if you find a misspelling or grammatical error please contact me so that I can make the necessary correction to improve enjoyability for future readers.
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