Title: Wrong Way Home – Criminal Delights: Taken
Author: K.A. Merikan
Release Date: April 15th 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary, Dark romance
Page Count: 241
Reviewed by: Ele
— One wrong turn. One right man. —
Colin. Rule-follower. Future doctor. Witness to murder. Captive.
Taron. Survivalist. Mute. Murderer. Captor.
Like every other weekend, Colin is on his way home from university, but he’s taunted by the notion that he never takes risks in life and always follows the beaten path. On impulse, he decides to take a different route. Just this one time. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s the last time he has a choice.
He ends up taking a detour into the darkest pit of horror, abducted by a silent, imposing man with a blood-stained axe. But what seems like his worst nightmare might just prove to be a path to the kind of freedom Colin never knew existed.
Taron has lived alone for years. His land, his rules. He’d given up on company long ago. After all, attachment is a liability. He deals with his problems on his own, but the night he needs to dispose of an enemy, he ends up with a witness to his crime.
The last thing Taron needs is a nuisance of a captive. Colin doesn’t deserve death for setting foot on Taron’s land, but keeping him isn’t optimal either. It’s only when he finds out the city boy is gay that an altogether different option arises. One that isn’t right, yet tempts him every time Colin’s pretty eyes glare at him from the cage.
“When Taron looped the heavy metal collar around the slender neck and closed the padlock, his body throbbed with the excitement of knowing he owned this boy.
Was it wrong? Yes, yes it was.
Was it so, so good? Definitely.”
Themes: prepping, alternative lifestyles, disability, crime, loneliness, enemies to lovers, forced proximity, fish out of water, opposites attract, abduction, Stockholm syndrome, family issues
Genre: Dark, thriller M/M romance
Erotic content: Scorching hot, emotional, explicit scenes
Length: ~ 70,000 words (Standalone)
This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and will contain a dark M/M romance.
Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.
This story contains scenes of explicit violence, offensive language, morally ambiguous characters.
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The greenery around him seemed to thicken more, with long fern stems reaching out of the darkness like phantom fingers, and the farther away he was from the asphalt, the more plants invaded the single-track road. Colin took a deep breath and followed it with a slow exhale. He needed to be clear-headed about this thing. So what that there could be anything hiding in those woods? For all he knew, Satan himself could be tracking his car, and there was no way of knowing until it was too late.
But this was not a horror movie. Perhaps he’d conditioned himself to fear the dark because people had such free access to light nowadays? Nothing to worry about. He just needed to breathe slowly to trigger a biofeedback response and trick his mind into feeling relaxed.
There was plenty of research on that kind of stuff. Problem was, all of said research has been conducted in peaceful environments, not in the middle of nowhere, West Virginia, in a car filled with the sound of dirt crunching under the wheels and the scratching of branches against metal.
Research was definitely too far from real life to be relevant, goddamnit!
Colin groaned when faced with a huge red sign with the picture of a shotgun and Private Property written in bold letters below.
So there had been one at the start of this road, but it hadn’t been as adrenaline-inducing. What use was that warning now when the track was way too narrow to turn around. And since he’d been driving for at least fifteen minutes, there was no way he could make it back on reverse—not on a road invaded by plants, not in the dark.
Jesus fuck. All he could do was continue and hope he didn’t end up with bullet holes in his rear window. If worse came to worst, he would turn back where we was told to by the owner and be late for dinner, even if that meant having Dad rant at him about it all weekend.
A scream tore through the soothing voice coming from the speakers, and Colin jumped in his seat, looking around in panic, but he was quick to scold himself. It had to have been a fox. Their voices were weird like that sometimes. He turned the player off just in case, to be more aware of his surroundings, but the silence only made him focus on the tune of his rapidly beating heart.
Maybe driving back in reverse was still an option? There was no traffic here, no other cars he’d be a problem for, no matter how slow he went.
Colin glanced into the rear view mirror, biting his lip. His mind was playing tricks on him, because the red glow of his stop lights suggested shapes crawling on the road behind the car. His vehicle seemed to be the only source of light for miles.
The sudden sound of feet crunching sticks and dried leaves tore his eyes away from the rear view mirror. Before Colin could as much as scream, two open palms banged on the side window, leaving red streaks on the glass. The man’s face was a horrific mask, with one eye so swollen Colin couldn’t even tell if it was still there. Blood shone all over him and darkened his blue shirt, but as he moved to stand right in front of the vehicle and banged his fists on the hood, Colin remained frozen, staring ahead while his brain told him this was just one of those dumb pranks that catapulted cruel jokesters to internet stardom.
“Open the car!” the man cried, his eyes darting wildly to where he’d just came from. His chest worked rapidly, fueling his large body with the power to bang his hands against the steel once again. “Are you deaf? He’s coming! We don’t have time!”
The next thump finally tore Colin out of his stupor, and he opened his door, unlocking his car and stalking outside on wobbly legs. He could sense it now—the familiar odor of fresh blood, of damp leaves, of ferns. But even as he took a step toward the injured man, he felt that he’d made the gravest mistake of his life, and instead of retreating—was diving further into the swamp. Then again, he was a future doctor. He couldn’t just leave.
“I don’t have time to explain! Get in the car!” The man tried to push past Colin, but he was limping, and groaned in pain.
“What? But—” Colin’s mind got hung up on the thought that the guy’s blood would soak into the seats. He did have some plastic sheets in the trunk, but getting them out seemed like a trivial thing to consider in this situation, so he stood there, unable to make up his mind as the intruder packed his body into the driver’s seat Colin had just vacated.
Should Colin… fight him for the car?
The multitude of decisions formed a thorny collar, which tightened around his throat with each heartbeat, and left him so confused he didn’t understand why his unexpected passenger frantically glanced between the trees.
A panting figure darted out of the darkness. He went straight for the man in the car, shoving Colin into the bushes. Branchlets scratched his exposed skin, but his flesh was numbed by the adrenaline pumping through his veins. The assailant wore black, but while tall, broad, and muscular like a grizzly, it wasn’t claws that shone in the glow of the headlights, but a huge axe.
Colin should have never turned onto this road. He’d entered a horror movie set, and there would be no way out.
The predator went after his victim as if he wanted to tear all muscles from his bones. With the door still open, the bloodied man stomped on the gas pedal, reversing so hastily the car flashed in front of Colin’s eyes before it hit a tree with a dull crunch of metal.
The man darted to the passenger door, trying to crawl over the gearshift, but the axe-wielding demon grabbed his leg and yanked him out of the car in one swift move, as if he were pulling on a cat’s tail. The victim rolled over and dashed toward the front of the vehicle in a desperate bid to run off, but there was no escape from the angry forest ghost, and what happened next would be forever burned at the back of Colin’s eyelids.
At a speed that shouldn’t have been attainable by a human being, the predator caught up with his prey and, in the cold light streaming from the headlights of Colin’s car, swung the axe behind his back before bringing it down on the helpless man. The last cry, cut short when the blade split the victim’s skull as if it were a pomegranate, didn’t even sound human. Just like that, in a moment of primal fear, a person had become an animal.
Time and time again, the murder replayed in Colin’s mind—the axe going down and biting into the head so deeply the skull cracked with a nasty crack and teeth spilled onto the road.
Colin sensed a sticky dampness on his face, and when he realized what it was, food rose in his gullet. But the need to run forced down the nausea when the dirt-stained face of the stranger turned his way, terrifying like a ritual mask that hailed imminent death.
The bearded beast heaved over his prey while Colin sat on the edge of the road, paralyzed by the hope of all of this just going away if he remained still enough. Was this how a deer felt after seeing her sister mauled to death by a wolf? Frozen and hoping that one kill was enough? He wasn’t sure if it was the sound of his breathing that gave him away, or the crack of a branch under his ass, or just the fact that the axeman had seen him stumble off the road, but when the blade eased out of the skull, further bloodlust was aimed straight at him.
He sensed it in his bones. It was run or be mauled, so he darted into the path and ran so fast his brain could barely catch up with the movement of his body. His joints were stiff yet efficient, as if there was a puppeteer somewhere above forcing Colin’s muscles to work way beyond their normal capacity. He flew into the darkness, urged by the panting of the predator chasing him.
In the split second before Colin’s eyes became all but useless so far away from the car, it occurred to him that one should never ever run from a bear. But there was no room for any more decisions when his toes hit something, and the force he’d amassed through his speed sent him face-first into the dirt. Pebbles scraped his knees and bare hands, but he was unable to break his fall and hit the side of his face so hard his brain mushed from the shaking.
The sand tasted of kale.
He held his breath, keeping still as if he were one of the pebbles on the road. Maybe in this darkness, he stood a chance. The axeman’s footsteps did slow. Was this wild man able to sniff out Colin’s fear? The notion was ridiculous, but nothing about the world was logical anymore.
A beam from a flashlight shattered Colin’s hope. It blinded him for half a second, and he squeezed into a ball, unable to choose between running and begging for his life.
“I… I didn’t see your face. Just let me go. I won’t tell anyone,” he whimpered, too stunned to move from the dip in the ground that now felt like a safe haven.
All he got in answer was a grunt, as if the man was a real beast. They both knew Colin was lying. He’d seen the man’s face and would never forget it. A bushy black beard was its most prominent feature, and its wild, unkempt strands were like a warning that the stranger was feral. From the dark eyes, to the long tangled hair that partially obscured them, the axeman’s appearance screamed that he was not to be approached under any circumstances.
Still, he was human. He had to be. So how was Colin to act? Show weakness and submission, or fight tooth and nail?
Colin’s entire body shook under the weight of the man’s sharp stare, even though he could feel it rather than see. The upcoming doom was inevitable, and he still couldn’t decide whether he should beg or run.
“I… I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have used this road, I know, but I got lost. I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy,” he sobbed, struggling for air while his throat clenched, as if the invisible collar was not only still there but also growing tighter.
The man stepped closer, letting out a low snarl. Was he planning where to strike with the axe? Would he torture Colin first? Chop off his legs? Maybe trying to run would have been Colin’s best bet after all?
“I’m s—” his words turned into a yelp when the stranger sank to his knees and spun Colin around, twisting both of his arms back.
Fear held Colin rigid, with his cheek pressed against gravel, but the man paid him little attention, efficiently tying his wrists with rope.
So he wasn’t to die just yet. There was still a chance, though the little flame of hope in Colin’s heart dwindled when the man grabbed his ankles and tied them loosely to the wrists.
What the fuck was to happen to him?
“Please, my parents are waiting for me at home. They will be so angry if I’m late,” he babbled, with sweat beading on his forehead.
The axeman paid little attention to Colin’s pleading, and picked him up without effort. The heat of the man’s body came as a shock. He had to be burning up under the sweater, because he was like a furnace. Was he that excited about his kill? Or about his new prey?
Colin’s mouth kept working, but none of his wheezing apologies would alter his fate once it was sealed. The bear had him now, and once he was no longer sated from his last kill, Colin would be there to satisfy his bloodlust. The man was on his own turf and didn’t even bother to gag Colin, because he knew no one would hear Colin’s screams. The world was a mess of black and white around him, his senses aware of nothing but the smell of blood and male sweat.
So the man was human after all.
By the time the stranger pushed Colin into the passenger seat and, out of all things, buckled the seatbelt around him, the raw fear was losing its impact, and Colin went numb from the shock. He was able to breathe semi-normally again and watched the axeman circle the car in the bright white light. The stranger really was a giant, and when he hauled up the remains of his victim next, it was with very little effort.
The bloodstained body was limp, easy to reimagine as a mannequin to use on some movie set. Maybe there still was a chance that this was some sick prank?
Colin licked his lips, but the metallic taste left no doubts. Real blood.
When the axeman opened the back door and threw the body onto the seat, something in Colin snapped. His scream didn’t even sound like his own voice, and no logic informed the way he writhed in the bindings. The seatbelt wasn’t for his protection, but yet another way to keep him bound.
He couldn’t breathe.
This couldn’t be happening to him.
The victim’s head was missing a huge chunk of flesh and bone.
The murderer slammed the back door and got behind the wheel. Instead of starting the car, he slapped Colin with his meaty hand so hard the back of his head hit the seat. Colin stopped wailing in an instant, but still let out a muffled sob.
The man huffed as if this was all inconvenient for him, and put his finger against his lips in a universal sign for ‘stay quiet’. With the way his dark eyes pierced through Colin and kept him pinned to the seat, it looked more like a threat. If the body on the backseat was anything to go by, it wasn’t empty one either.
After a moment of tense silence, the man started the motor, and the narrator’s came through the speakers again, his lies making Colin’s entire body itch.
The phone he’d left on the dashboard buzzed, creating a vibration that resonated in his bones and made him sob again. He wouldn’t be home in time for dinner. He might never be home again.
The man grabbed the cell and turned it off, before glaring Colin’s way and snapping it in two as if it were a twig.
There was no such thing as harmlessly switching things up.
He’d taken the wrong way home.
K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.
They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.