By Allison Lay
Every detail needed to be perfect for brunch this morning. I thrifted some vintage serving trays and a solid, black oak charcuterie board. I almost left without the expensive board, but it had called to me. It was a few inches thick, and there were some imperfections on one side, notably three shallow gashes. They sort of reminded me of claw marks. That side would face down on the counter though, so it didn’t matter.
As I arranged the various meats and cheeses on the wooden board, I thought about my friends. Our group was close knit but highly competitive. Honestly, it was exhausting always questioning where I stood with them or if my accomplishments were enough. I never felt that I truly belonged, but I was terrified of being alone. I thrifted so many items to impress them; vintage minimalism was the aesthetic for my insanely expensive two bedroom apartment. In reality, I could barely afford the place, let alone to fully furnish it.
While lost in thought, I started to smell something putrid. It was subtle at first, but it soon overwhelmed the kitchen. Was it rotten eggs? I made soft boiled eggs for avocado toast, but maybe one of them was bad. I rummaged around the fridge for the source of the smell. There was a growing heat on my back, and was that smoke? Horrified, I turned to see what was going wrong in my new apartment. I didn’t have time for this. Brunch started in thirty minutes.
I let out a blood curdling screech.
Standing behind my kitchen island was a creature of some sort. A portal showing a black marble throne and fire and ash in the distance closed behind him with a flash of purplish light. He was tall and broad, made to look even more so by the dark wings sprouting from his back. His skin was the color of ash with striking veins of crimson. His eyes glowed like amber gems, and gnarled horns curled up from his temples.
“Human, you have summoned the great Desderium, ruler of the Second Circle. What do you desire?” Fire coursed through my veins at his voice, the timbre low, smooth, and utterly seductive. I went to open my mouth, but this Desderium guy continued with less vibrato. “Please don’t scream. I mean you no harm. I have come to-”
Strangely, I believed him when he said he meant me no harm. That realization snapped me into action. Time was running out, I wasn’t in danger, and I still had so much to do. Kate was notoriously early; she’d be here any second.
“You need to go back to where you came from, Desdude. I do not have time for this.” I moved towards the creature. Flames danced in his amber irises, emitting a hypnotizing glow.
“Woman, I cannot leave until my duties have been fulfilled. None before have called me, though many have tried.” He smirked and moved towards me, his voice like molasses coated me with a dark stickiness. His finger and thumb gently encircled my wrist before his palm pressed against my flesh. Heat radiated from him as his eyes continued to glow and he began to chant. “Teneor tibi in desiderio interiori. Amor accendit omnia vincit.”
He repeated those phrases three times. Each time, his grip on my wrist grew tighter and his palm seared my flesh. When his incantation concluded, tendrils of red smoke circled our entwined arms. In a display of tenderness contradictory to his stature, Desderium placed a gentle kiss on my forehead. “Semper tibi voveo.”
The heat on my forearm subsided as he removed his hands. I longed for his touch to return. Before I could process the meaning of his words or my reaction to his touch, a knock sounded at the door. Shit. I shook the lustful haze from my head. Brunch. That was probably Kate, nearly twenty minutes early as expected.
“Cami,” her nasally voice called out, “my hands are full. Be a doll and get the door.”
I stared at the creature before me and then at the half completed brunch spread on the kitchen island. The gray slab was barely visible under the spread of pastries, fruits, cheeses, and breakfast meats. I still had veggies to chop and arrange. Four metal barstools with wicker seats stood off to the side of the kitchen, needing to be placed around the island.
“You seriously need to leave. Kate is here, and I still need to finish setting everything up.” I pulled waffles out of the oven and placed the platter next to the different containers of fruit and maple syrup. The vegetables would just have to wait. I started moving the stools. By the time I moved the second stool, Des had grabbed the third and fourth. Each stool weighed thirty pounds and was cumbersome to carry. He maneuvered the two stools as if they were feathers.
“Uh, thank you.” His helpfulness contrasted with his appearance. Des was imposing, somewhat frightening, and down right devilish. Everything clicked into place. The sulfur, the fiery scene through the portal, the wings and horns… “Holy shit. You’re a…a demon.” I summoned a fucking demon before brunch.
“Cami? These bags are getting heavy. I can hear you moving around in there,” Kate’s voice called out again from behind the door. I shouted to let her know I’d be there in a minute before turning back to Desderium.
“Des, I don’t know how or why you’re here, but you need to hide until brunch is over. Come on.” I grabbed his muscular forearm and pulled him towards my bedroom at the back of the apartment. I knew my friends would demand a tour, but surely he’d be safe in my closet. Out of sight, out of mind, right? The place where our skin touched burned with heat and desire flooded my system. The demon didn’t put up a fight as he followed me through the apartment.
Other than the bed, piled high with blankets and pillows, no furniture was in my room. I blushed at the thought of having this powerful creature in my room, and what fun we could have on my bed. Focus, Camille, I chided myself. I slid open the bifold door and shoved him in between the clothes, his wings filling the small space. My hand went to his chest, to where his heart should be. Did demons even have hearts?
“Stay in here until my friends leave. Please. I’ll deal with your duty or whatever afterwards.” His eyes twinkled and amusement toyed at the corners of his mouth.
“Is this what you desire? Is this what you want?”
“I don’t know what I want! What I need is to get through this brunch so I can figure out how the hell I summoned a demon.” Kate knocked on the door again. I groaned. “Stay,” I said, sliding the door closed as best I could before heading to the door to let Kate in.
“So, Cami, you have to tell us how you found this place. It’s so…eclectic.” We were twenty minutes into brunch; Sarah and Lora arrived about ten minutes after I finally let Kate in. Of course Kate was the first to mention my apartment. She was the most judgemental of our group.
“Well, Katherine, the former tenant was my Tinder date a few months ago. He mentioned he was moving so I stalked the complex’s website. When I didn’t see anything and Jeremy was long gone, I called. The building manager is a lovely woman named Madge. She thought I was darling, so she rushed the turn over process and here I am.”
Kate sneered at me. She hated being called Katherine almost as much as I hated being called Cami, preferring my full name Camille. The stick up her ass today was extra large. Pettiness practically oozed from her every pore, reminding me I’d never truly belong where she was concerned.
“Was Jeremy the fregan who took you dumpster diving?” Sara asked, changing the subject like a champ.
“No, I thought that was Chris. Jeremy was the one who wore his fedora during sex,” Lora corrected.
I groaned at the reminders of my notoriously terrible luck with men, and they all laughed. I stretched my arm across the island to grab another waffle. Kate gasped and clasped my wrist, turning it so my forearm faced up.
“New place and a tattoo? Where has our simple and wholesome Cami gone?” Confused, I looked at my arm where Desderdium had placed his palm earlier. Seven circles intertwined in a line of black ink across my pale skin. Except the second circle, I noticed, was actually a heart. I traced the heart with my finger. Heat pooled in my belly, my face flushed. I heard a low, growl-like pur in my ear and a word that was shockingly close to mine.
“What does it mean?” Lora’s question interrupted my swirling thoughts.
“Uh, I’m not sure. I guess I just liked the way it looked?” I was going to kill Des, I thought. What else did his chanting do?
Satisfied with my half-assed answer, the subject changed yet again. We talked about Kate’s promotion at work, Sara’s boyfriend asking her to move in with him, and Lora’s plan to take a six month “self-discovery” vacation in Thailand. The spread of food before us was picked over, including the two veggie trays that Kate brought. It hadn’t mattered that I didn’t get around to cutting the produce in my fridge after all. At two o’clock, we moved to the entryway for our goodbyes. They all had errands to run before work tomorrow, and I had the small matter of the demon hiding in my closet. I closed the door behind them and sighed, resting my forehead on the cool metal.
My tattoo warmed. I somehow knew Des was in the room. Sure enough, when I turned around, he was a few feet away. I had so many questions I needed answered before I figured out how to send him back to where he came from.
“Who are you, what do you want, and how did you get here? And don’t say I summoned you because all I did was put some damn cheese on a wooden board.” He grinned at me then gently grasped my hand. He guided me back to the island counter. Brushing away the remaining bits of meat and cheese, he flipped the wooden board over. The claw marks were gone. In their place were faint letters, one word still legible at the top center: Ouija.
I rolled my eyes and groaned. It was just my luck to have summoned a demon with cheese. How did that even work? He was looking at the board as if it answered all of my questions. I raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for him to speak.
“I am Desderium, ruler of the Second Circle of Hellonos, king of lust and carnal desires. Long have I waited for a soul to be created that matched mine. Your soul is bound to mine. Your flesh is what I crave. Your rejection would be immortal agony.” The amber in his eyes intensified as he spoke. My body went haywire with desire and power at his words. I knew that I was both his undoing and his greatest strength.
“What is this mark that appeared after those words earlier?”
“I vowed my fidelity to always be yours. Should you accept me, our passion and desire will be an impenetrable force of nature. You wear my mark and I hope to one day proudly wear yours.”
I slumped onto a stool. Without my knowledge, I had not only summoned a demon but allowed him to essentially marry me. Desderium inspired longing like no human man had ever come close to. I wanted to learn more about the connection I felt building between us. Even more, I craved his touch with such intensity it was becoming difficult to focus. But could he be trusted? He did marry me without my consent.
“The moment your soul was created a spark ignited within me. I knew you’d never find happiness without me, so I patiently waited for the opportunity to reach you. Travel between realms is complicated. While it is easy to return to Hellonos, leaving is an entirely different story. Much has changed since my last venture to Terra, or Earth as you now call it. Your realm is dying, and all the kings of Hellonos and Heavania must be mated to save it. I am the last to experience the soul call. The ouija board was an object powerful enough to establish a portal.”
His arms wrapped around me, his dark wings encircling us. I felt safe, loved even, as if our hearts beat as one. His touch seemed to hold words he did not say. The love between us would ring true, good, and was more powerful than any source on Earth. In fact, our love would save this world. Desderium was mine to have and hold… but something was missing.
“Des, you’re the last of the kings to find your mate, right?” I continued at his nod. “Well, now that you’ve found me, why hasn’t anything happened?” Worry furrowed my brow and I bit my lip. He caressed my cheek.
“Meus amor, I made my vow to you. You must also vow to me completely. I wanted to give you time to decide your fate, knowing mine should you refuse.”
I wanted to ask his fate, but his voice entered my mind. His telepathetic words told me that the choice was mine alone to make. He did not want his fate to sway my answer anymore than the information he’d already shared.
“Des, you have touched my soul, my heart, in a matter of simple words. I already feel whole just standing in your arms. I could never imagine not choosing you. I am ready to be yours, completely.” A golden tear formed in his eyes and I touched his warm ashen skin, wiping it away. I still had much to learn about demons, but I knew Desderium would guide my soul in the right direction.
He led me through the incantation he’d done earlier, though my hand was placed on his energy source, the equivalent of his heart. My palm burned on his skin, red smoke formed, and when the vow was complete the mark on my wrist reflected on his chest.
“Nothing’s happening,” I whispered a few moments later.
“Camille,” he breathed my name with a sensual tenderness. “We must seal our love with a kiss.” He gingerly moved a stray hair behind my ear, his fingers grazing my cheek. Slowly, his lips met mine and our bodies entwined. Heat and desire exploded around us as we were consumed by a celestial light, our souls uniting to usher in a new world.
Category: Featured, Fiction, SNHU Student