The Little Ones was my first bestseller, achieving the title in the Horror Amazon category back in 2017. The book is being rereleased on Halloween 2023 with new extra content and a new ending. And, as I’m a confident believer in Try-Before-You-Buy: here’s the first chapter for you to sample.
Two Days Until Shadows’ Eve
Frosty roads, crunchy grass, and quiet streets – Lurid Glade in the early hours of the morning is a spookily, pleasant sight. A soft mist surrounding the village eases as the sun shines down upon the winding rows of thatched houses.
A moving van arrives at a previously vacant house, a pair of men climb out and make their way to the building. The older gent digs out a set of keys, unlocking and opening the front door before unpacking the van.
A few hours later, a car pulls into the driveway. A young couple climb out and approach the house, with a small boy following closely behind.
“We’ve put all the furniture in the designated rooms as you insisted,” the elder man tells the woman with a cheery smile.
She nods, takes out her purse and hands over a small wad of cash. “Here,” she says, her tone rude and accent indicating she’s not from the area – or country, for that matter.
The man takes the money and begins to walk away but stops in front of the small child. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Dale, Sir,” the boy says, his accent much like his mother’s.
“Well, Dale, Happy Shadows’ Eve; make sure to enjoy and have fun, alright? We don’t want anything bad to happen, now do we?” The man declares, staring down at Dale. A soft smile on his face, warm and inviting.
“What are you insinuating?” The woman asks, her arms tightly crossed over her chest.
The mover man raises his hands into the air as if in surrender. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s just the locals traditions,” Dale’s father says, putting his hand on her shoulder to calm her. Dale’s mother shakes her head disapprovingly, turns and disappears into the house. “Don’t worry about her; she just doesn’t understand.” Dale’s father pauses, turning to look at his son. “C’mon, wee fella’. Let’s go give your Mam a hand.”
Dale takes his father’s hand and smiles at the mover. “Goodbye,” he says sweetly.
“Goodbye, little man.”
As they enter the Kitchen, Dale’s mother sits at the breakfast bar. “Lorcan, can you help Dale unpack his stuff?”
Lorcan nods, still holding Dale’s hand. “Go on, fella’.” He nods towards the stairs. Dale lets go of Lorcan’s hand and heads upstairs, but stops at the top – just out of sight.
Lorcan approaches his wife. “Love, we need to let him be part of the festivities so he can meet the neighbourhood kids,” he says, his voice low and croaky.
She shakes her head and stands up. “No, I won’t let him go up and down the street begging. He’s not a pagan, or whatever these loons are,” she growls, walking past Lorcan and into the living room.
He follows her. “Sarah, this isn’t about begging. It’s a tradition of sharing candy, having fun, and just spending time with one another. It keeps the kids safe while they have a little fun. All he needs is a costume; he’ll be fine.”
Sarah spins around to look at Lorcan. “he’s my son. I say what he gets to do.” She growls before going back to unpacking a box of nicknacks.
Lorcan frowns, a sombre expression on his face. After being Dale’s father for six years, it always comes down to Dale being his stepson. Lorcan turns away, heads upstairs and finds Dale sitting on the landing, waiting for him. Lorcan smiles down at the small boy. “You okay, wee fella’?”
“Why does Mum keep saying you’re not my Dad?” He mumbles.
With a sigh, Lorcan sinks to the floor and wraps his arm around Dale. “I stepped in, and I think it annoys her. Maybe it’s not me she’s angry at, but your biological father for not stepping up and being there for you two.”
Dale sighs. “She’s mean to you.”
Lorcan chuckles, pulling Dale closer and kissing the boy’s head. “She’s just stressed. She’ll settle down after a few days.”
Dale frowns as he looks up at his Dad. “She’s been like this for ages…”
Lorcan sighs. “I know.”
As the night draws in, the bedrooms are completely unpacked, and the living room is almost finished.
The doorbell rings, and Sarah goes to grab the takeaway.
“Why are we having curry?” Dale asks in a confused tone.
“Because I didn’t feel like cooking,” Sarah snaps as she closes the door and heads into the kitchen with the food. Lorcan follows, grabbing bowls from the shelf above the sink and placing them on the breakfast bar – allowing Sarah to dish up. “If someone had helped me unpack the kitchen, we wouldn’t’ve needed to get a takeaway,” she growls under her breath.
The dig was at Lorcan, who’d done as she asked and helped Dale unpack his things and the rest of upstairs. Lorcan peers over at Dale and mouths it’s okay before turning to Sarah with a smile. “Sorry, love. I’ll give you the money back for the takeaway tomorrow,” he tells her calmly, trying to avoid confrontation in front of Dale. Better to appease for the sake of Dale’s peace.
Sarah shakes her head as she gives Dale his bowl. “That doesn’t cut it.” She pauses. “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight.”
Her comment leaves a foul taste in Lorcan’s mouth, but not enough for him to argue back. “Yes, love.” He takes his bowl and sits next to his boy, watching as she gets rid of the rubbish, comes around the bar and sits on the other side of Dale.
“Dale, hurry up with your food,” Sarah growls, impatient that he’s up past 10 PM.
“You’ve only just given it to me,” he mumbles, taking a bite of chicken.
“What did you say?” She roars before swiftly slapping the back of Dale’s head – causing him to hit his chin on the edge of his bowl.
“That’s enough!” Lorcan shouts. Sarah is speechless as she stares at Lorcan, like a deer caught in headlights. “Just let him eat. He’s not in school tomorrow; he can stay up a little later; it won’t harm him.”
His comment sparks a fire in Sarah’s eyes. “He’s my son,” she snarls.
“Then treat him like a son, instead of a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe, okay?” Lorcan asks calmly, raising his eyebrows and causing his forehead to crease. He looks down at Dale, a slight smile on his face. “Take your time with your food. Don’t rush it, okay?”
Dale nods and takes another bite of chicken.
Sarah takes a deep breath and exhales slowly as she begins to eat.
The conflict is on pause.
Lorcan sighs, knowing he’ll get an ear full after Dale goes to bed. He smiles to himself, holding onto the thought that it’s worth it – it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Thirty minutes later, Dale says goodnight, hugs Lorcan, and goes to bed without hugging his Mum.
As soon as Dale is out of sight, hell breaks loose.
Sarah begins to scream before Dale makes it to his bedroom. Shutting his door, he climbs into bed and covers his head with his pillow – dampening the yelling but not blocking it out.
Please stop. Please stop.
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