Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. She thinks she’s losing her mind, but the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits– and the darkness is staring back.
Desperate to escape the demons, Ash accepts a place at a university in the small town of Blackstone, in the middle of nowhere – little knowing that it isn’t coincidence that led her there but the pull of the Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.
All-night parties, new friendships and a life without rules or limits are all part of the package of student life – but demons never give up, and their focus on Ash has attracted the attention of every sorcerer in the area. Ash is soon caught between her new life and a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld, who could offer the answers she’s looking for. The demons want something from her, and someone is determined to kill her before she can find out what it is.
In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be…
Read Chapter One.
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“Hey, Ash, you know there’s supposed to be a zombie apocalypse today?”
My best friend Cara gestured toward a clove of garlic she’d pinned to her jacket, out of her misguided belief that it would fend off any potential supernatural threats. I decided not to mention that it would only help with vampires, not zombies. Besides, I doubted a single clove of garlic would be much help in surviving the End of Days.
I had my own demons to contend with.
As people sloped into the assembly hall for the annual Careers’ Talk, I skimmed through my notes yet again, hoping in vain that something would stick. For me, the following day reserved the title of Doomsday, the day of my interview at my top-choice university. Hell would be a better fate.
“Come on, Cara,” said Alice. ‘How many times is the world supposed to have ended now?”
“I’m not taking any chances,” said Cara, indicating that she wore a headband threaded with garlic, too, perched on top of her purple-highlighted dark hair.
“You’ll have a nightmare getting the smell out,” I told her. “Aren’t you supposed to be going out tonight?”
“Some guys like the smell of garlic,” said Cara, although she looked doubtful. ‘I think. Hmm. Maybe it’s a bit much.”
“Well, it better not be Armageddon, seeing as it’s my interview tomorrow,” I said. “Not to mention we’re in a careers assembly.”
Cara laughed. “I don’t know why I bothered coming, anyway. I’ve heard all this before.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Besides, if we’re going to die, I’d rather not be in this hellhole when it happens.”
“You know, Ash,” said Cara, squinting at me―the fluorescent lights in the hall gleamed far too brightly for a Monday morning―”you look like a walking zombie. When did you last get a decent night’s sleep?”
“Define ‘decent’?” I said.
“More than an hour. And not in the middle of school.”
I blinked, looking at her concerned face. Her dark eyes―outlined in purple, in blatant defiance of the school’s no-makeup rule―saw past my carefully constructed mask. Her penetrating stare saw right through any deception―something most people found a bit unnerving.
“Um…a couple of days ago? I can’t sleep, or I forget everything I know about Milton.”
“Jesus, girl.” Cara shook her head. “Who gives a crap about Milton, really? You’re going way over the top about this.”
“Maybe.” But sleep didn’t come easy when the fate of the world depended on my ability to pass an interview. Well, more like the fate of the school’s reputation. Ever since they’d found out about the Oxford interview, they wanted to hold me up as a beacon to prospective students. I thought this rather unfair on people like Cara, who’d worked just as hard as I had to get into a top-ten university but didn’t have to deal with the indignity of walking around under a spotlight. The worst part? I didn’t think I could do it.
I tried not to think about my record, which included scores of disastrous interviews for part-time jobs. And a tendency to panic in unfamiliar situations. But this time, I couldn’t afford to screw up. This has to be worth it. Somehow.
“Ash, you’ll be fine. You’re a genius.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not.”
I felt more like an imposter. I might be able to memorise past papers, but that didn’t make me an intellectual. I’d rather play Mario Kart than read Wordsworth. Would I really fit in at Oxford?
Would I fit in anywhere?
Most of the time, I just felt scared. Scared and helpless, as if I teetered on the edge of a cliff and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop myself falling.
Mr Darton, our ever-clueless head of sixth form, began his customary mutter into the microphone―always the same speech. We had only one chance and this would affect the rest of our lives. The last thing I wanted to hear right now.
I tucked an errant curl of black hair behind my ear and tried to focus on the passage from Paradise Lost I wanted to memorise. It’ll serve them right if I just dropped out and ran away to Australia or something, I thought, and not for the first time, I imagined doing exactly that. I need to get out of here. I felt like a cage surrounded me on all sides, a glass case no one could see but me.
Focus, for God’s sake! snapped another voice in my head, jolting me back to reality.
The words jumped around the page, like they possessed a will of their own. I rubbed my temples, fighting the urge to groan in frustration. How would I ever remember any of this when staring down at a table of distinguished literary professors? I’d be lucky if I could remember my own name. In the mock interview with my personal tutor, I’d lost my head completely and babbled about a book I’d never even read for a good ten minutes. Panic obliterated all intelligent thought.
At that moment, the lights in the hall went out, as did the projector, plunging us into dusty darkness. Cara let out a shriek.
“It’s happening!” she wailed, clutching at her garlic clove which, not being securely fastened to her jacket, fell to the floor. With another shriek, she dived underneath her seat to retrieve it.
“Calm down! It’s just a power cut.” I furrowed my brow, trying to read my notes. Everyone talked amongst themselves as Mr Darton struggled to turn the projector back on. I couldn’t see any lights outside in the corridor, either. A whole school power-cut. Great. And why did I feel so cold?
A stream of faint winter sunlight shone through gaps in the blinds that covered the windows, lighting the myriad dust motes in the air. I sighed and tilted my head back, rubbing my eyes to stop them from closing. I could feel a headache building behind my temples.
Then a pair of eyes appeared amongst the rafters, and stared right into mine.
They gleamed violet, with vertically slit pupils like a cat’s. They blinked, looking down at the confusion below. Then they locked onto me.
Once, when I’d cut my finger on a kitchen knife, I’d gone into shock and nearly passed out. My vision turned blue around the edges, and everything acquired an odd, blurred quality. Right now, looking into those sinister, alien eyes, I felt exactly the same.
I’m going mad. It’s not real. Cara’s superstitions have made me start seeing things.
That, or the lack of sleep. I realised I’d stopped breathing. I could feel sweat on my forehead, but at the same time I felt cold all over, cold as the frigid December air outside. As if fresh snow covered me, slowly seeping into my skin through my hoody and jeans. But at the same time, it felt more like the kind of paralysing chill I associated with that moment in horror stories when someone saw a ghost.
Was it a ghost? I’d always thought ghosts would look…human. If I believed in them, which up until now, I thought I didn’t.
All around me, I could hear the other students chatting, laughing. No one screamed, cried, or ran for the doors. It was as though my own private bubble of horror enclosed me like the cage I’d envisioned earlier. Trapped.
Then I heard a faint whisper, almost like a breath.
I would have screamed if I’d been capable of making a sound. I knew beyond doubt that those eyes, that voice, belonged to something which wasn’t human.
The eyes blinked again, becoming part of the shadow once more, as the hall lights came back on. For a moment, a swathe of blackness remained in the rafters, like a single patch of mist left behind after a fog has lifted. Not a single speck of dust disturbed the area around it.
Then it vanished.
I still couldn’t breathe. Those cold eyes remained imprinted on the insides of my eyelids, light purple, glowing and staring.
Staring at me.
I blacked out for a minute. When I came to, I heard Mr Darton’s low mutter into the microphone-not that anyone listened. Whispers filled the air, ordinary conversations. People talked about their plans for the weekend, not about monsters with violet eyes or piercing, unnatural coldness. The more studious skimmed through revision notes. I looked down and saw mine scattered all over the floor. I didn’t remember dropping them. I didn’t remember anything but those awful eyes.
I’ve cracked. Did staring violet eyes fall under the category of stress-induced hallucinations?
Cara tried to laugh off her moment of panic.
“I didn’t really think it was the end of the world,” she insisted.
The end of the world. Maybe that was what I’d seen. A sign.
Reviews of DARKNESS WATCHING:
“Emma is an amazing writer. She has become one of my favorites. I couldn’t put Darkness Watching down.” – Diane at A Creative Mind
“Darkness Watching provides an original world that is fully complete and from a teens POV. It was dark and entertaining and sometimes teen books don’t go full out, this one did. The world building was truly strong in this novel.” – Lexi at Book Bliss
“Like good books should, Darkness Watching left me pondering the story after I’d finished reading AND left me wanting more. Adams built a strong world for readers to be immersed. But the regular world retained full realism. Normal every day teen situations felt completely believable.” – Erin at Erin Albert Books
I have to say, I didn’t see the ending coming! … the final showdown left me speechless (You will have to read it!)” – Julia at Never Judge a Book by its Movie
“This was entertaining from the start…I didn’t want to put it down, and fans of urban fantasies I think will enjoy this. Darkness Watching was definitely worth the read.” – Jenea at Books Live Forever
“This book is unique, fun and interesting. I kept wondering what was going to happen next…I felt that this book was well written and It was hard to put this book down once I started. ” -Jessica at Eat Sleep Read
Emma spent her childhood creating imaginary worlds to compensate for a disappointingly average reality, so it was probably inevitable that she ended up writing fantasy and paranormal for young adults. She was born in Birmingham, UK, which she fled at the first opportunity to study English Literature at Lancaster University. In her three years at Lancaster, she hiked up mountains, skydived in Australia, and endured a traumatic episode involving a swarm of bees in the Costa Rican jungle. She also wrote various novels and short stories. These included her first publication, a rather bleak dystopian piece, and a disturbing story about a homicidal duck (which she hopes will never see the light of day).
Now a reluctant graduate, she can usually be found in front of her writing desk, creating weird and wonderful alternative worlds. Her debut novel The Puppet Spell, published in January 2013 by Rowanvale Books, is a fantasy tale for young adults and the young at heart, inspired by her lifelong love of the fantastical, mythology, and video games. Emma also writes supernatural fantasy novels for older teens and adults. Her next book, Darkness Watching, is the first in the upper-YA/New Adult Darkworld series, and was published in October 2013 by Curiosity Quills Press.
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