Web Serial: Episode Four
Updated: Mar 2
A Dark Attachment
Warnings: Some violence
Genre: Paranormal fantasy, magical realism
Summary: Memphis and Tony learn more about Duncan before the demon attacks Memphis again. This time, in broad daylight.
When she woke, Memphis had the distinct impression that someone or something had held her in her sleep. Not the physical touch of a pair of strong arms, but the healing, calming presence of something made to soothe.
Her dreams were half remembered. All she could recall with any clarity were the dual sensations of being watched, of being touched in a way that was the opposite of healing.
The flesh of her arms and back dimpled as though she were caught in a cold draft. It ricocheted in her head, those two words, over and over. A prayer, a mantra, a chant that enticed her to come closer.
She lifted a hand, scrubbing it over her face to dispel the sleep still gathered there. Tony was no longer beside her, but with the sun spilling into the room, she did not feel so vulnerable. They liked the night, Memphis thought with a shiver. They always seemed to slide in with shadows, hidden in the spaces light could not reach.
As she sat up, Memphis spied something quite unusual.
The door leading out of her brother’s room sat propped against the wall, the hinges splintered. Several pieces of broken white wood lay at its base. It looked as though someone had broken it down with force.
“What the hell?” Memphis whispered, fear clutching at her heart.
“Tony?” She called out for her friend, swinging her legs from under the covers.
Her feet made little noise on the plush carpeting of the bedroom. Shuffling toward the door, Memphis tilted her head to the side, trying to listen for sounds of her beloved brother-in-law somewhere in the house.
The low murmur of voices came from the direction of the kitchen. Not the whispered endearment that had chased her since that night in Virginia, but the soft undertone curiously favored by people in the early morning.
Is someone here?
As Memphis ducked into the bathroom to make herself presentable, she shifted through those fractured memories from the night before. Had someone come into the room during her nightmare? Was it only a nightmare? She could recall, with some clarity, the sound of Tony shouting her name, something shaking beneath her, the touch of a phantom hand on her body.
No more nightmares, love. I promise.
Had she dreamt the deep Scottish brogue and warm blue eyes?
Instinct told her she had not.
Slipping from the bathroom with her hair detangled and her teeth brushed, Memphis tiptoed toward her own bedroom. The kitchen sat at an angle, away from the hallway, so she was able to slide through undetected.
Choosing a pair of soft blue leggings, sneakers, and a warm blue-black sweater, Memphis swept her long, dark hair into a ponytail and decided she was presentable.
Before leaving the room, Memphis grasped her phone from the charger. She had one new message, from Montana.
I know something’s wrong. We’re coming home early.
“Outstanding.” Memphis muttered with irritation. Not only was she not getting any sleep, her family was pulling the plug on an investigation because of her. Damn her empath of a brother.
Since Tony was surely to know that his husband was inbound, Memphis slid the phone into the legging pocket and half-jogged toward the kitchen.
She found her brother-in-law at the stove, doing his little happy dance as he fried potatoes and whipped eggs. He looked no worse for wear, thank goodness.
At the table, however, with his back to her, sat someone wholly unfamiliar.
“Morning.” Memphis said brightly. “Tony, do I need to tell Tana you’re making breakfast for another man?”
As she spoke, the dark, curly haired man turned, standing with elegance and grace that did not belie his size.
Memphis’ heart did a stutter, then fought to resume its normal beat.
Before her stood the most beautiful man she had ever had the chance to lay eyes on.
He was taller, towering over her much smaller frame. Broad of shoulder, lean at the hip, but with a cord of muscle roping his sun-kissed arms. His face was something she might have imagined from those soppy romances Tony so enjoyed. Chiseled and lean, with a dusting of light freckles over his nose and cheeks. His beard was cropped close, neatly edged and faded up into a tousle of dark curls that looked softer than cotton.
In a light blue sweater, the sleeves pushed to the elbow, and a pair of pressed, dark jeans, he was every inch the romance hero.
Memphis blinked at him, completely unable to speak.
You’re all right now.
“I think you have more to say about our guest than I do, Memph.” Tony’s tease brought her from her stupor.
Heat rushed her face, which must have resembled a ripe tomato. Memphis toyed with the sleeves of her sweater, noting the man looked somewhat sheepish at her long, silent observation of him.
“I’m so sorry.” Memphis murmured, moving forward to shake his hand. “My Mama would slap me silly for the lack of manners.”
“He’s disarming, and gorgeous.” Tony chimed in from the stove. “It happens.”
“Duncan Mitchell.” The beautiful man said as he shook her hand. “I’m sorry for intruding.”
She extended her hand in a symbol of welcome, pleased when he immediately grasped it with his own.
Her chest tightened at the familiarity of his hand, those long fingers, his calloused palm. She recalled, with sudden clarity, the feel of his hand entwined with hers as he promised she could sleep without dreams.
“Memphis Monroe.” She swallowed thickly, willed her voice not to squeak. “I feel like I owe you.”
“You do.” Tony again interrupted. “You scared the crap outta me with that seizure and here Mr. Gorgeous walks on in and scares whatever the hell it was away from us both.”
Memphis furrowed her brow, willing some of the blood to drain from her face. “Seizure?”
“Yes, a rather rough one.” Duncan swallowed hard. “Can I get you something? Coffee or tea?”
“Oh, no.” Memphis found her legs again and moved around the towering Scot. “My Mama would beat me again if I let a guest lift a finger round here. Take a seat while Tony drools into our breakfast.”
Pink rushed into his cheeks, making him twice as adorable. Memphis rushed to the coffee pot, relieved that Tony had already set out her massive I want to believe cup on the counter.
“Are you ok?” She asked her brother-in-law under her breath.
“I wasn’t til he walked in, honey.” Tony admitted, reaching out to squeeze her hand. Memphis squeezed back tightly. “Tana and your mama are on the way.”
“I know. Tana texted me.” Memphis sighed as she poured her coffee, added creamer and sugar to her liking. “I think I’m possessed, Tony.”
“It’s not possession, love,” came the thick burr from the man at the table. “You’ve got an attachment, a rather dark attachment.”
Memphis looked over her shoulder, lifting the hot coffee to her lips. Before responding, her skin tingling as he met her gaze with those sapphire eyes, she took a sip to get her neurons firing.
Unlike the last several days, at least she felt as though she had slept this time. The air in the house felt fresh, sanitized. Being around Duncan did that, Memphis thought. He radiated light, goodness, purity.
“An attachment? Of what?”
Tony shifted around her, obviously not trying to get between Duncan and Memphis. He did that, she thought with a swell of affection. When things were going on that he didn’t understand, Tony just did the little menial things around them, staying out of the way. A caretaker, Tana always said. Tony liked taking care.
Her brother-in-law scooped eggs and potatoes and bacon onto plates with the flair of an artist. Toast came out of the toaster to be slathered with that avocado-oil-butter-stuff that Tony swore tasted the same as butter without the cholesterol. None of them told him it did not taste like butter.
He slid the plates onto the table where Duncan sat, adding the two extra places for her mother and brother, covers on them to keep the meal warm. Obviously her family was going to be home any second.
“I found a file from the 1960’s in my grandfather’s things. Cecil Mitchell was at a house in Bishop, Texas when he suffered what appeared to be a stroke.” Duncan said as Tony and Memphis took their seats. “When he got to the hospital, though, there was no physical evidence of a stroke. He was in and out of consciousness for three days.”
Thinking of the file in her bedroom, Memphis gulped down more coffee.
“Two other investigators were attacked, weren’t they?” She asked, meeting that blazing blue gaze.
Duncan nodded once, his eyes never leaving hers. “Aye. Once they came out of it, they were shaken. They closed the investigation, advised the family to move, which they did.
The only similarities I could find were the kind of attack and that phrase.”
She didn’t want to say it. It reverberated through her head on a loop so often that it made her sick.
“My darling.” Tony piped up, his mouth full of potatoes.
Memphis swallowed hard. Duncan’s throat bobbed as he did the same. Their gazes remained locked over the table, both lost to their thoughts. What did Duncan have to do with this? How had he even found her?
Softly, Duncan began explaining. Memphis ate slowly, because she didn’t want Tony to worry more than actually tasting the food. The Scot explained having dreams of her face, the feeling of impending doom, hearing her name in his mind. He put the pieces together when he saw an old photograph of her grandfather, figured she must have been related in some way.
Since her name was uncommon, it wasn’t too hard to track her down once he got Stateside.
“When I pulled up outside, I knew it was late, but I could feel something was wrong.” Duncan finished. “The front door was unlocked and I heard the screaming.”
“How did you make it stop?” Memphis asked, scalding her tongue on a slice of bacon.
“I’ve always had a way, or so my mother says.” Duncan admitted. “Any kind of darkness, or evil intent, I can sniff it out, fight it back. Sometimes, if I work at it, I can banish the energy altogether.”
“You’re a spirit healer.” Tony pointed at the man with his fork.
“Aye.” Duncan’s cheeks flushed again. “I don’t know why I’ve been sent here or lured here, what have you, I just knew that if I didn’t get here, something bad was bound to happen.”
Aware that the something bad might have happened last night with only Tony there to help her, Memphis offered her savior a small smile.
“Thank you.” The words were a near whisper. “Not a lot of people would have bothered.”
Duncan accepted her thanks with a nod. “You’re welcome, Memphis. I’m glad I could help.”
The way he said her name, with that thick accent, sent an involuntary shiver down her spine.
Before anyone else could speak, the front door slammed open. Duncan whirled, dropping his fork, as though they were under attack. Memphis reached out to grasp his hand, again astonished at the familiarity of it, to stop him from rushing out of the kitchen.
“It’s Tana and my mom.” She explained. “Montana doesn’t know how to operate quietly.”
Duncan accepted this, lowering himself back into the chair, though he did not turn away from the door.
Montana slung his bags onto the floor in the foyer, turning to grasp his mother’s.
“Kitchen!” Tony and Memphis called out, though if her brother had looked up he would have seen them.
Marisol Monroe came around her towering son with a clipping of heeled shoes on the hardwood. She was on the taller side, with beautiful curves, a wave of thick hair, and eyes so dark they were almost black. Memphis often thought her mother to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
She was definitely the fiercest.
“And why in the name of hell did you not call us when this started, Memphis Maria Mercedes Monroe? You scared the ever-loving hell out of your brother!”
Bracing herself for Hurricane Marisol as her mother’s Mexican accent thickened with ire, Memphis slid her coffee toward Tony and stood. Her brother-in-law was doing a terrible job trying not to laugh. Duncan appeared absolutely terrified.
Memphis stood still as Marisol came toward her, those familiar dark eyes darting over her body as though to ensure her youngest child was in proper health. Accepting her mothering because she adored her mother, Memphis offered a sheepish smile.
“I’m all right, Mama.” The youngest Monroe insisted.
Marisol grasped her daughter by the arms, leaning down a little to press their foreheads together, as she’d done so often when Memphis and Montana were children. Drinking in the scent of her mother –coconut with Chanel No.5 – Memphis closed her eyes.
There were times nothing would soothe her but the presence of her mother.
“We’re going to figure this out.” Marisol promised.
“Wow.” Montana’s voice broke in. “I can see the aura. It’s literally covering you, Memph.”
“What color is it?” The thick brogue of their guest chimed in.
Turning from her mother, Memphis chanced a look at her brother. Montana had his husband already tucked under one arm, but his golden gaze was locked on Memphis, his empath’s eyes cataloguing information.
“Red.” Tana said softly. “And shadow. Its curling around her, like its holding her.”
“Like a lover.” Duncan spoke again.
Fine hairs all over her body slid to attention, goosebumps chasing along the sensation. For a moment, she thought she could feel it. A lover’s hands in her hair, along her neck. Strong arms wrapped around her middle, warm breath huffed onto her ear. Bile churned in her belly, along with Tony’s breakfast. Memphis fought to keep her food in her stomach.
Loud scraping jerked her out of that vile train of thought. Duncan had stood, meeting Memphis’ eyes as Marisol moved back. The Monroe Matron looked from the tall, unfamiliar man in her kitchen to her daughter, her eyebrows hitching up with interest.
He slid toward her, eyes locked on hers. A wave of light, of healing seemed to creep closer as Duncan did. Sensations of warmth, of cleanliness shifted to her, as though fighting back that oily, vile aura of darkness.
Unable to help herself, drawn to that feeling of clean, of home, Memphis reached for Duncan’s hand.
Only to be yanked back by the waist.
It felt like an arm, an arm made of pure iron. Memphis yelped as she was pulled forcibly from Duncan and her family. Something she could not see or touch tossed her bodily onto the kitchen floor. Voices lifted in fear, mingled so tightly, she could not decipher who was yelling.
My darling. Fear slithered into her veins, chasing the wild beating of her heart.
It was Duncan moving closer as the thing taking over her pushed Memphis’ body against the cabinets. Phantom fingers grasped the back of her neck, lifting her as though to pull her into a kiss.
I want to see. Memphis ordered it. Let me see. Show yourself. Coward.
A blink. When she opened her eyes, Memphis could see the demon holding her captive.
Not the squat, terrifying creature that had jumped her in Virginia. Memphis fought for breath as she beheld the beautiful, ethereal thing that was attempting to keep her from her family.
Tall, willowy with long, dark hair made of shadow and fierce green eyes. A face that might have been sculpted by angels, all lean angles and sharp planes. Memphis could not breathe as it shifted closer, as though it wanted to claw its way into her soul, to claim her for itself.
Her family’s cries for help, of her name fell on deaf ears. He wanted her, to be within her, to keep her all to himself. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to keep him from his darling.
Memphis wanted to scream as it filled her mind, attempting to enrapture her consciousness. Part of her craved giving in to the pull. It wanted her with such ferocity, such hunger. If she gave in, gave herself, would she protect her family from what it was trying to do? Or would it devour her and turn its attention on to her brother or mother?
Through the visage of her attacker, Duncan appeared. His familiar hands grasped her biceps, that wave of white light erupting from within him. Something in her sight had changed, she could see the healing power within the handsome Scot. He heaved it toward the darkness, making the demon shriek with rage. It thrust Duncan back, but he did not release his grip on her body, filling her with that cleansing aura that shunted the darkness away.
Within moments, it released her. Memphis arched her back, taking a great lungful of air. She hadn’t realized how close she’d been to losing the battle, to falling into whatever stupor the demon wanted.
Duncan’s arms were warm as he drew her into his chest. Breath sobbed from Memphis’ throat as he gathered her into his lap, falling into a seated position with her in his arms. She clung to him, her fingers fisting in the soft material of his sweater as Duncan trembled around her.
“Thank you.” Memphis whispered.
“I’m sorry it took so long.” Duncan returned softly.
“What does it want with me?” She asked, tears finally spilling down her cheeks. The wetness dropped onto his sweater, leaving little spots where they landed.
“I don’t know, love.” Duncan admitted, his hand stroking her back. “But we’ll figure it out. I promise.”
The second vow he’d made to her in less than a day. Memphis buried her face in his sweater, holding on as the memory of the demon whipped back through her.
For all his promises, Memphis had the overwhelming sense of impending doom.