It all started from a birthday party invitation to England’s countryside. Once I had Googled the place I was a lost case. Endless green fields, old dry-stone walls, mysterious woods, huge stone manors…Yes, I lost my heart to Burford long before I actually visited it and I knew the idea of young witches and demons would haunt me until I’d give in and put it on the paper.
I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Description of BLACK DIAMOND
After her mom’s sudden death, twelve-year-old Shannon McLean has to move from the US to the English countryside to live with her mysterious father, Connor McLean, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Soon she discovers that he doesn’t want her around and her moving into his huge manor, Greyman Hill, is nothing more to him than a compulsory deal. But if he does not exactly give her a warm welcome, his servant Robert is most likely an incarnation of evil. He runs the house with an iron touch and makes everyone who works there his little puppets.
Weird things start to happen and the whole place scares the crap out of Shannon. Her dad can control her just by looking at her. The walls are full of secret passages and apparently she has the talent to awaken the ghosts in them. Every day is worse than the day before and she wants badly to run away but discovers it’s impossible. If she wants to stay alive she has to do exactly as her dad says or else she will not only jeopardize her own life but also the lives of the people around her.
While Shannon struggles to find the magic inside her, Connor is slowly turning into a demon. One carelessly spoken word from her could either save or destroy them both. In the end she has to decide whether to save herself and her loved ones, or lose her dad to the darkness and evil that threaten to eat his soul.
Excerpt (Chapter Five):
“Shannon,” Connor said from the doorway. It looked like he had been waiting for her.
Shannon said nothing and tried to pass him.
He blocked her way but didn’t touch her. “Shannon,” he said again, but this time danger lurked in his voice.
She swallowed. Connor’s eyes were so dark and something horrible gleamed behind them. She froze. She could’ve tried to push past him, but his eyes warned her not to even try anything like that, so she lifted her head and met his eyes. “Connor,” she said, and was proud that her voice didn’t shake.
Connor sighed heavily. “Shannon, Shannon, Shannon. What am I going to do with you?”
“You could start by letting me go,” she suggested quietly.
Connor shook his head. “Can’t do that.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Shannon asked and felt the courage coming back to her body.
Connor was quiet. The air around him seemed so dark. Almost like he was a black hole that absorbed all the light around him. He was dressed all in black and looked more like a devil than a human.
Shannon could see Robert grinning wickedly behind him. Her mind was screaming that she should be deadly afraid of this man in front of her, but she wasn’t. She was more afraid of the man behind him and somehow Connor seemed to be the safer choice. There was nothing human in Robert. It was like he was waiting for Connor to strike her down and feast on her dead body. He stared at them with his small, cold, mean eyes and seemed to be encouraging Connor to harm her.
Connor did nothing. After a very uncomfortably long time he shooed Robert away with his hand. “Both,” he said and moved out of her way.
She had almost forgotten what she had asked, but when Connor moved, she moved as well, carefully, from the outside to the inside of the house. He followed. She was scared of him, but there was something so vulnerable in him just then that she couldn’t leave him alone. After all, he was her dad. Robert was gone, thank God, so she dared to speak to him more openly than she had thought possible. “What do you mean? This is your house and I’m your daughter. You can do whatever you want,” she said and hoped she hadn’t gone too far.
“I know. It’s just that I’m no good with little girls like you, and it’s been so long since I remembered what it feels like to be a—” He stopped and looked at her like he was suffering.
“To be what?” Shannon whispered, afraid to hear the answer.
Connor stared into her blue eyes and everything vulnerable was gone from him. He looked even scarier than before. The candles burned brightly around them and when he spoke, their flames flashed like someone had thrown something into them. “Never mind. Just stay away from me and obey my orders. If I tell you to eat, you’ll eat and so on, okay?”
“No! It’s not okay!” Shannon shouted. Tears burned behind her eyes. “You can’t tell me what to do! I’m not a baby anymore!”
“You’ll do what I tell you to do or you’ll be sorry for the day you were born!” Connor thundered and something touched Shannon’s hair. It felt like a spider web but it was really cold. It could’ve been somebody’s bony fingers as well, but whatever it was made her scream.
She ran upstairs, scared to death. If she had turned and looked behind she would’ve seen the pain in her father’s eyes and how beaten he looked, but she didn’t. She ran for her life, and when she reached her room she slammed the door behind her, turned the key in the lock, and hid in her bed. She pulled the blanket over her head and sat under it shaking and crying. What kind of place was this? And what was her dad? Not who but what!
“This is just a dream,” she whispered to herself. “Just a dream.”
She tried to calm herself down. She remembered a horror movie she had once watched with her best friend. Mom hadn’t known, of course. This place and these people were just like it. Maybe worse. This was not a movie. This was real and she was trapped. She wondered why Connor had allowed her to come there. He obviously didn’t want her there and for some reason was stuck with her now. But one thing was sure. She was not safe and she needed to get away. If she stayed, something terrible would happen. She was sure of that. Something beyond her imagination, and she didn’t want to find out what it was.
She lowered the blanket a little. She was still alone. No one had followed her and her room looked as white as it had before. There was no threat in there and she felt stupid. Maybe it was just her mind playing tricks with her.
“Now you are being stupid,” she whispered. This was not a trick. This was true.
She got up and tried the doorknob. It was still locked. She sat on the bed and glanced at the clock. It was 2 p.m. What in the world was she supposed to do for the rest of the day? She let her hand slide over the pillars on her amazing canopy bed. The wood felt smooth under her hands. It was such a shame they had painted the old bed white. She was sure that it would’ve been stunning in its natural oak color. Her hand stopped. She had felt something. Some kind of mark or engraving. She looked closer, searching for the mark. There it was. An upward-pointing triangle. What did it mean? Was it some kind of ancient symbol, or had it been made by someone that had been held in this room as a prisoner? How exciting! She forgot her fears and searched the other pillars.
Each one of them had the same triangle. She scratched one with her nail. The triangle had originally been red and looked like a campfire. She tried to reveal more of it, but the paint was so thick that all she managed to do was break her nails. She scanned the room. There had to be something sharp. Scissors, maybe, or some cutlery. She found nothing.
She emptied her toilet case and found her nail file. It wasn’t as sharp as she had hoped, but it was better than nothing. She started to work on the paint. The triangle meant fire all right. Soon she had managed to reveal all four triangles, and there was no mistake that they could be pyramids or mathematical triangles. The wood was colored red and the edges of the triangle were rough so they looked like flames. They looked very old. Ancient, actually.
She decided to search the rest of the room. She hoped that she would find a clue to what these triangles meant. She didn’t. She found something much more interesting.
In the middle of the window was a pentagram. It was a weird-looking one but there was no mistake. It was a pentagram. And she found a triangle on the ceiling as well. She almost missed it, as it was tiny and didn’t look the same as the others. She was thrilled. This was better than treasure hunting! She moved the furniture and searched every inch of the room. She dug through all the drawers and closets. She crawled on the floor like a maniac, and that’s where Lily found her.
“Are you all right, Miss?” she asked in her quiet voice.
Shannon freaked out. “How did you get in? The door was locked! I’m sure of it!”
Lily shrugged and showed her the tattooed locks on her palms. Shannon stared at them, and when she finally understood what Lily meant, she was horrified. She wasn’t safe even in her room. It was just an illusion. Connor and his people could get through any door. It didn’t matter if it were locked or not.
Lily stared at the floor and Shannon could swear she saw some red in her cheeks. Good! She was supposed to feel embarrassed. “I don’t want you to come into my room like that. You could at least knock, you know,” she snapped.
Lily nodded and hid her hands behind her back. “I did knock, but Lord Connor’s order was to make sure that you’ll be downstairs at seven o’clock sharp. And it’s ten to seven.”
Shannon glanced at her watch. It really was almost seven. She had spent almost five hours triangle hunting. Her stomach rumbled. She hadn’t eaten anything but an apple all day and she was really hungry. She knew that Lily meant no harm, so she got up and prepared to follow her.
Lily looked at her in shock. “You can’t come to dinner like that,” she said in horror.
Shannon glanced at herself. She was a little bit dusty, she admitted, but so what? She wasn’t going to change her clothes for Connor.
Lily didn’t move. She looked like she could die any minute. Shannon felt sorry for her and shrugged. “Whatever. Give me two minutes and I’ll be ready,” she said.
Lily smiled and whispered, “A dress. You should wear a dress.”
Shannon winced and swallowed the nasty response she was tempted to give. Lily looked so miserable that she didn’t want to make it worse. In silence she changed into clean jeans and a new T-shirt that said ‘It’s better to be dead than a sissy’ on the front. Lily looked even more terrified, but Shannon didn’t care.
The dining room was set for three again. The candles burned and the table was full of delicious-looking food. This time, however, Shannon didn’t have the pleasure of eating alone. Connor sat at the head of the table and looked at her T-shirt in amusement.
He didn’t look as dangerous as earlier, but this time Shannon knew to be wary and didn’t want to irritate him. So she took all the food that the pale women put on her plate. She didn’t eat it, though. She threw it under the table every time Connor looked away, as she was convinced it was poisoned.
The third seat was still empty. Shannon wanted to ask who was supposed to sit there, but Connor looked so absent that she didn’t want to disturb him. It was weird to sit and pretend to be eating. Connor hadn’t said a word since she came into the room, and she didn’t want to draw his attention to her and the food she was throwing on the floor. Yes, she knew it was stupid and she would get caught in time, but at least she would be safe tonight.
Eventually, Connor finished his dinner and got up. He nodded at Shannon, looking pleased, and she blushed. How pleased would he be when he found out what she had done? She got up as well. She would’ve thanked the women, but they were nowhere to be seen, so she decided to go to her room and continue her search for triangles. However, this time she moved a heavy bureau in front of the door and hoped it would slow down whoever tried to come into her room without an invitation.
She stared at the pentagram on the window. She traced its lines with a finger and glanced out absentmindedly. She froze. Someone was moving in the forest. She gasped. A faint light flashed between the trees and then faded. The forest was as black as it had been a minute ago. Was it Connor? Or some of his servants? Whoever it was obviously didn’t want to be seen. She kept staring and there it was again. It looked like a flashlight and now she was sure that someone was walking in the forest.
“Run, you idiot,” she whispered. She knew she couldn’t warn that person but wished she could. Who would be so stupid to go into the forest like that in the middle of the night? Well, almost the middle of the night. It was nine o’clock, so it wasn’t technically the middle, but it was so dark that it could’ve been. She wished she had a telescope. The light seemed to follow some kind of path, maybe the same as she had walked earlier. And then it stopped in the middle of the forest. Other lights joined it and for a second there was a bright flash that lit the trees and the sky above them, and then it was all black.
She stared at the forest for a long time but there was no more light. Not even a dim one. Oh my God, she thought. Maybe they were hikers and had been captured by Connor or Robert, or even by some more horrifying person. She felt hot tears burning her eyes. She wanted to run into the forest and help them, but what could she do? She would only get herself hurt or worse and she had no idea how to help those poor people.
“I’ll go there tomorrow,” she whispered. “I promise. Just hang on in there.” She heard a quiet voice behind her door and froze. “Who is it?”
“Lily,” a quiet voice whispered. “Please, let me in.”
Shannon moved the bureau away and opened the door. Lily stood there holding a bag in her hands. She slipped into the room and glanced around. When she decided it was safe she opened the bag and showed its contents to Shannon. The bag was full of food. Not nicely packed food but messy food that looked similar to what had been served at dinner.
Shannon gasped. “Ew! You cleaned my food! Why did you do it?”
Lily shrugged. “I don’t want him to hurt you.”
“Who? Who would hurt me? Connor? Robert?” Shannon asked, stunned.
Lily looked out of the window and shivered. She couldn’t answer and Shannon didn’t want to press her.
“Thank you,” Shannon said and smiled.
Lily smiled, too. Shyly. “You can’t throw it away. They’ll know and they’ll make you eat it.”
“But it’s poisoned!” Shannon yelled.
“No, it’s not.” Lily took some of the food out of the bag. Slowly, she put it in her mouth and ate it. “You see. It’s not poisoned. It’s just food, and if you don’t eat you’ll lose your strength.”
“So?” Shannon didn’t care anymore.
“Then they’ll get you, too.” Lily was obviously scared that she had said too much.
Shannon touched Lily’s narrow shoulders. “Is that what happened to you?”
Lily shook her head and sniffed. “No. I came here of my own free will. Whatever happens to me is my own fault.”
“I came here willingly, too.”
“Yes. But you didn’t know. I did and I still came.” Lily looked at Shannon’s wide eyes. “None of this is your fault. He shouldn’t have allowed you to come. He shouldn’t.”
Shannon was confused. She had no idea what Lily was talking about but it made her more scared than ever. This place was seriously bad and these people, including her dad, were wacky. And that was putting it nicely. And yet somehow she felt sorry for them. Well, not for Robert, but for Lily and Simon, and maybe a little bit for Connor, too. She wanted to run away. To leave and never come back, but she knew she couldn’t. She literally couldn’t, and if she ever found a way to escape she wasn’t sure that she would. There had to be a way to help them. There had to!
She took Lily’s hands in hers. “I’ll help you. Whatever it takes, I’ll help you. You have my word.”
“No! You don’t understand! There’s no way to help me or the others. We’re in this because we wanted to be! Help yourself and run!” Lily said desperately.
“No, you’re not. Maybe you were at first, but you can’t seriously say that this is what you want. Can you?”
Lily looked at her sadly and shook her head. “No. But I’m in too deep. Nothing can save me. Trust me.”
She showed her palms and Shannon saw the locks move again. She touched one of them and in that second it changed into a black diamond.
Lily gasped sharply. They both stared at her palms. Lily’s eyes got wider. “Oh no! You’re the one! Your life is in danger here! You need to run away. Now, before he finds out about this!”
“What do you mean? I’m not going anywhere!” said Shannon stubbornly.
The black diamond seemed to spin round, and the lock on the other hand seemed to change shape into a black skull.
Lily screamed. And then came the wind.