Witchin Warlock by Charity Parkerson

Chapter One

warlock, psychic, medium, or whatever a person chose to identify as knew New Orleans was the place to be to showcase the best powers. However, there were a few issues with that way of thinking. For one, New Orleans was hot. It smelled funny, and every witch, wizard, warlock, psychic, and medium knew it was the place to be to freely showcase their magic. That meant competition out the wazoo. So, when Caspian’s great aunt—the one and only Magical Margo—died and left Caspian her Tarot and Medium shoppe, Caspian immediately sold out and headed north.

Even real spell casters needed a shtick if they hoped to drum up clientele. Margo had talked to ghosts. People had come from far and wide to talk to their children, parents, and spouses on the other side. Margo hadn’t been a real medium. She had been a real witch, and she had taught Caspian that with the right spell, anything was possible. Unfortunately, Caspian didn’t have what it took to comfort grieving family members. What Caspian could do was predict the future with flair, and—unfortunately—he could also catch the eye of the Ohio branch office of the F.B.I.

That was why Special Agent Brock Wray currently stared a hole in the side of Caspian’s head while Caspian finished with his client, Clara. Clara came to him each week. All she really wanted was a friend to chat with. Despite that, she had paid to be there. Brock had not, so Brock could just wait with his fancy hair and too tight suit. Goddamn. It was getting kind of hot inside his shop.

“I know you said my soulmate has dark brown hair, but Chad has blond hair, and I really think he’s the one.”

“No one named Chad is ever the one,” Caspian said, barely hanging on to his temper, with Brock still staring at him.

Brock chuckled and then tried covering the sound with a cough.

Caspian had been in Elvenwood, Ohio for almost a year and had a good clientele. He loved Clara dearly. She paid him good money for these weekly chats, but she was also dumb as a box of rocks. He could tell her the first and last name of her soulmate. Hell, with the right spell work, Caspian could give her the guy’s social security number. What he couldn’t do was make her quit falling for every loser along the way.

Clara’s brown eyes narrowed. She rubbed her chin. “You know, I have thought it was a little weird that Chad doesn’t answer his phone past a certain time each night. He says his wife left him last year, and he has his small kids, so he doesn’t want the phone waking them, but it’s weird. Like all he has to do is turn off his ringer and check it occasionally. It’s not fucking rocket science. There’s no need to disappear from the planet all because the kids are asleep.”

Brock sat forward, as if really getting into the conversation. “You’re not talking about Chad Bowman, are you?”

Clara twisted in her seat. “Yeah. Do you know him?”

Brock nodded. “I picked him up on Grindr six months ago. His wife didn’t leave him. She’s pregnant with his fourth kid. He tried to pull that same shit on me, but I investigate everyone I date.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? That rat bastard.”

That was the thing about a small town. It was hard to get away with anything. Too many people knew each other.

Clara looked Caspian’s way. Her shoulders fell. “I guess you’re right. It’s not him.”

Caspian nodded. “Dark hair. Look out for dark hair. He also has blue eyes, if that helps. I sense you’ve already met, but you’ve been too preoccupied to notice. Make sure you open your mind. You’ll find him. He’s already noticed you.”

Clara brightened. “Really? Well, I guess I’d better go. I have to dump Chad before my shift starts at the store. Next week, same time?”

“I’ve got you on my calendar,” Caspian assured her as he stood and walked her to the door. They hugged and said their final goodbyes before Caspian turned his attention Brock’s way. “So you picked up Chad on Grindr? Special Agent Wray, I never would have guessed.”

Brock’s dark blue eyes flashed with humor. “In my defense, who hasn’t thought someone named Chad was the one?”

“Fair,” Caspian said, clearing away his tarot cards. They were useless to him. He only used them for show. Every snippet Caspian saw of the future came from a potion he drank before each appointment. “What brings you my way, agent?”

Brock’s mouth lifted in one corner in a sexy smirk. Caspian hated that he noticed. His entire life, Margo had drilled into his head a mistrust of authorities. He had a gift. Normal people would use him for it. People like Brock would have him committed. After all, it was the authorities that used to drown witches in these parts.

“You don’t like me, do you?” Brock said, as if reading Caspian’s mind.

Caspian pasted on a bright smile, refusing to admit any such thing. “What an odd thing to say. You didn’t answer my question.”

Brock shook his head and sighed. “We have a missing person. A local bus driver didn’t show up for his route. Sheriff Kennedy went to his house. The door was open, but there didn’t seem to be anything missing. There was no sign of the guy. His bus and personal vehicle were still in the driveway. His wallet was on the dresser and his shoes were by the door. It’s like he simply vanished. After a search of the local area, Lonnie called me.”

A smile snapped to Caspian’s lips without his permission. “It must be a slow day at the F.B.I. if I was the first person you thought to visit.”

Brock held his stare. Caspian’s skin tingled with awareness of the other man’s large presence in his tiny shop. “I’m not here on behalf of the bureau. I’m just a concerned citizen today, looking for a neighbor.”

Caspian’s eyebrows rose. “And you came to me? I don’t know any bus drivers.”

“You know things, Caspian. Don’t pretend you don’t. You’ve helped out law enforcement in the past. No one knows the things you do. Hell, I’m willing to bet money you know the name of Clara’s soulmate, but you’re not saying so you can milk her for every dime.”

“A man has to eat,” Caspian shot back, unashamed.

A slow smile spread across Brock’s lips, making it a little harder for Caspian to breathe. He really fucking hated that he found Brock so hot. “Who is it?”

“Scott.” Damn it. He could kick himself. It was like Brock had some magical hold on Caspian’s dumb brain.

A bark of laughter burst from Brock. “The manager at the grocery store?”

Caspian nodded. “He’s her boss, so he doesn’t want to make a move, and she’s too busy with the Chads of the world to notice he’s sickeningly in love with her.”

Brock’s bright smile slipped away. “Help me, Caspian. I won’t tell anyone how you do it.”

A sigh gathered in Caspian’s throat. Caspian swallowed it down. He was such a sucker for blue eyes and nice shoulders. “Fine. I need something of his.” His spell was wearing off from his visit with Clara. He hadn’t expected to do two readings today without a recharge.

Brock visibly tried hiding his triumph as he passed a set of keys with a fake rabbit’s foot attached Caspian’s way.

Caspian’s fingers wrapped around the keys. He took a breath and closed his eyes. Immediately, the vision of a yellow school bus speeding past waiting children filled Caspian’s head. Then it was gone. He didn’t get more. The effects of his earlier potion were gone. Still, that was odd.

Caspian tilted his head to one side and considered what he had seen. “I thought you said his bus was still in the driveway.”

“It is. Why?”

“Huh.” Caspian shook his head. “I need more time. My visions aren’t making sense. I’ll need to commune with the dead.” He wanted Brock to think he was strange. Caspian didn’t know why. He just enjoyed seeing how much bullshit Brock would swallow to get his next lead.

To Caspian’s surprise, Brock smiled. “Fine. Keep the keys. I’ll pick you up around… seven?”

Caspian blinked. “For what?”

“Our date,” Brock said, as if they had discussed the matter a dozen times. “The fall festival starts at five, but I’d rather let things die down a bit. I don’t want to fight a crowd of kids.”

“Um…”

“See you at seven,” Brock said as he headed for the door.

Caspian stared at the front door of his shop for five minutes after Brock left. His mind grappled with the idea of dating an F.B.I. agent. No good could come of that. That ass, though. Brock’s did look firm. What the fuck was he supposed to do now?

A smile pulled at the corners of Brock’s mouth, making his cheeks ache as he left Caspian’s shop, Futures Untold. He loved the disgruntled way Caspian always tolerated his presence. It always put a little extra pep in his step, keeping Caspian off guard. All the gay men for three towns around had their sights set on the brown-eyed beauty. Caspian had the body of a Greek god and a smile so wicked, he nearly made Brock pant the first time they met. Brock couldn’t explain why he enjoyed Caspian’s irritation so much, but he always felt closer to winning him when Caspian growled at him. He knew he shouldn’t claim they had a date until he actually had Caspian outside his shop, but they had a date. He couldn’t wait. Elvenwood’s annual Halloween Fall Festival was the best around, and this was Brock’s favorite season. He loved everything about Halloween. The air had a certain scent. He wasn’t a fan of kids, but he remembered the excitement of dressing up and getting candy from strangers. Brock loved staying up, eating junk, and watching scary movies. There was an excitement in the air. He should probably feel a little guilty for using Frank Steeler’s disappearance as a reason to see Caspian, but that was part and parcel with his profession. Everything was doom and gloom. At least, this way, some good came from the everyday wretchedness. He was dying to know what happened to Frank, though. The guy had lived in this town his whole life. He had been a bus driver for forty years without missing a day. It made no sense for him to vanish without a trace.

“Hey there, Agent Wray. Can we expect to see you tonight at the festival?”

Brock slid into his usual booth at Clark’s diner. “I’ll be there.”

His waitress, Debbie, had been asking him the same question every day at lunch for a week. His answer never changed. He knew she hoped for more, but he never gave in. Brock very decidedly swung the other way.

“Would you like your regular?”

He flashed the buxom blonde a smile. “Please and thank you.” He knew he was a little boring and could probably save money by packing the same thing for lunch every day rather than ordering it, but he liked the atmosphere at Clark’s. Not to mention, Brock lived alone and spent a good eighty percent of his time by himself. It was nice to have some interaction with other people.

Debbie brought him his usual tea and veggie sandwich. “I heard Mr. Steeler has gone missing. Do you have any leads?”

Even though Brock technically shouldn’t talk about any cases outside the office, in this case, there was nothing to tell. “Not yet.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t learn anything from Caspian. That boy, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear he really is psychic.”

First off, this town never ceased to amaze him. He had just left Caspian’s shop, and everyone already knew where he had been. Second, it was hilarious to him to hear Debbie call Caspian a boy when they were likely the same age. Last, she wasn’t wrong. More than once, Brock had mused over Caspian’s abilities. They were uncanny. But at the end of the day, Brock didn’t really believe in all that nonsense.

“He’s definitely highly intuitive. In this case, though, I think it’ll take him some time to wade through the intricacies of the case.”

Debbie nodded. Her ponytail bobbed along with her head. She didn’t leave him alone to eat. His discomfort grew. “Speaking of tonight’s festival…”

Fuck.

“I was thinking…”

Goddamn it.

The bell above the door jingled as it was shoved open harder than necessary. All heads turned that way. An aggravated-looking Caspian glanced over his shoulder at the bell like it was to blame for his over-the-top entrance. Brock hid a smile. He found everything about Caspian adorable.

Caspian scanned the diner. His gaze landed on Brock, and he barreled Brock’s way. Debbie took a step back as Caspian plopped down across from Brock and slapped Frank’s keys down on the table. “He’s dead.”

Debbie gasped.

Caspian tossed her a quick glance. “Oh. Hey, Deb. Could I get a Coke?”

“Of course.” She raced away, obviously way more excited to tell her bit of gossip than she was about grabbing Caspian a drink.

Brock didn’t bother retrieving the keys. “That didn’t take long.”

Caspian shrugged and stole a chip from Brock’s plate. “When you handed me the keys earlier, I saw a yellow bus speeding past groups of kids waiting at their stops. That struck me as odd since you said he didn’t show up for work and his bus was in the driveway. When you left, I drank some tonic.”

“Tonic?”

Caspian shook his head. “Coffee.”

“You said tonic.”

“Well, I meant coffee,” Caspian said, sounding irritated over Brock’s interruptions. “Anyhow, I drank some coffee, and everything cleared in my head. When he got on the bus this morning, there was someone waiting inside, and they ambushed him. After they… did the deed, they drove him out to the old, abandoned sawmill, dumped his body, and then drove the bus back to his place.”

Damn, that was… detailed. “Where were you around that time this morning?”

Caspian didn’t as much as flinch, even though he had to know it was suspicious for him to know that much detail. “Jogging, as always. I ran into Susan Tolbert and spent thirty minutes listening to her bitch about her cheating husband. I’m sure she’d be glad to vouch for as much.”

Brock’s shoulders relaxed. “Yeah. Geoff’s been cheating with Naomi down at the store for a few months now. To be fair, though, Susan has been sleeping with Naomi down at the store for months now too. I’m glad you have an alibi and I hope you understand why I had to ask.”

Caspian shrugged and stole another chip. “I know too much. I get it. It’s been like this my whole life.” He popped the chip in his mouth and chewed while staring off into the distance. When he met Brock’s stare again, Brock fought a sigh. He was truly beautiful, even though he looked sad. “For the record, if you plan to accuse me of something every time you ask for my help, I’d rather you not ask again. In small town terms, I haven’t lived here all that long. If people start to think there’s something wrong with me, my business will suffer. I don’t want to have to move.”

Guilt hit harder than Brock expected. In his line of work, he saw all the bad in people. This one time, he didn’t want to be that guy. It wasn’t fair for him to ask for Caspian’s help and then crucify him for it. Brock definitely didn’t want Caspian’s business to suffer or for Caspian to move. He pushed his plate to the center of the table so Caspian could share. “Sorry about that. I always appreciate your help and I wouldn’t come to you if I thought there was anything wrong with you. In fact, I like you a lot.”

Debbie appeared with Caspian’s Coke. “Can I get you anything else?”

Caspian didn’t look away from Brock. “No, thank you.”

Debbie left them alone, and they continued staring at each other.

“So, you really have visions, huh?”

Caspian nodded. “Yep.”

“Who’s your soulmate, then?”

Caspian didn’t smile as Brock hoped. He shrugged. “I never look at my future.”

“You should.”

“Why? Do you think it’s you?”

Brock nodded. “Yep.”

They went back to staring at each other in silence.

Brock nudged his plate even closer. “Do you want half of my sandwich?”

“I’m a vegetarian.”

“It’s a veggie sandwich.”

“I don’t think I can eat after the things I saw.”

They dropped their gazes to Brock’s plate. Half his chips were gone. Brock didn’t call Caspian on it, and Caspian didn’t look guilty. They went back to staring at each other.

“I guess we should go find this body.”

“Better bring a shovel.”

Brock winced. “That bad, huh?”

Caspian nodded.

“Well.” Brock dug out his wallet and dropped a twenty on the table. “I still say we should get to it. The quicker we get back, the faster I can get to fucking you.”

“Okay.”

Damn. Brock had never been more excited to dig up a body in his life.