Sawyer Black is a professional fact-gatherer for best-selling, true crime author E.M. Rutt. He loves to travel all over the world to collect details concerning the bloodiest crimes. When E.M. sends Sawyer to Bitter, Pennsylvania, for six months to gather details of the mysterious disappearance of Jase Carmichael, Sawyer learns the peaceful lakeside town has a caldron full of very dark secrets.
With the help of sexy local pub owner Harry Tindermost, Sawyer uncovers the town's spells and the Mali, a warlock coven. He also discovers details of Wilhelm Ravenrock, the strange man who lives in the haunted Brothshire Woods. And he unearths the secrets of Jase Carmichael's disappearance, which may be connected to the Mali warlocks and the bizarre Ravenrock.
As the facts continue to build, Sawyer becomes Harry's attraction. Will he still be Harry's sexual interest after the dark secrets of Bitter are disclosed?
I knew so little about the man at the pub, but enjoyed his company over food and beverages during my shorts visits in the past three months. Our friendship grew quickly, almost irrevocably. I knew two certain things about the pub owner: one, he was sweet to look at; and two, he did not currently have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or someone of romantic interest in his life.
There were other vague things I knew about the pub-keep, such small details about his life, but important ones nonetheless. He lived upstarts the pub in a one-bedroom apartment. He didn't like Second Bitter Cemetery behind the pub, which his tiny living room overlooked. His favorite color was orange, and the pub's onion rings that he made were the best in the tri-state area; something he bragged about.
"You look like shit," Harry said to me, sliding the bowl of hot, chicken soup in front of me. "Have you seen a ghost?"
The soup smelled like my mother's; God rest her soul wherever she was after her death some ten years before. "I think I had the flu. I was sick in bed for thirteen hours. I'm not sure, though."
He nodded, removed the bar towel from his left shoulder, and started wiping the maple wood around me, keeping out of my way. "It's the end of summer flu. Everyone's been catching it. You should be glad it's out of your system."
I took a spoonful of soup, blew on it, and slid the spoon and its warm contents inside my mouth. Deliciousness. Pure blissfulness. As I consumed a few more spoonfuls of soup he waited on patrons. Pastor Murdox of the Messiah Baptist Church on Woodland Street wanted his third beer. Attorney Wayne Dixon and his client (some said they were boyfriends), Billy Hole, talked over shots of afternoon whiskey. Professor Poison from West End College.
Eventually Harry made his way back to me. Winked. Smiled. So pleasant all the time. Likable. "You alright?"
"The soup is stupendous. And the rye bread isn't so bad."
"Good to know. Melinda, my cousin, cook, sidekick, assistant manager, and all the other useful shit does around here, makes both. She's amazing. A fine woman. I'll pass it on to her."
I stopped eating, already feeling better. Because there were no patrons close to me, distanced from my left and right sides, I leaned over the bar and asked, "Harry, I have two uncivilized questions for you. May I ask them?"
He raised an eyebrow, grinning. His fingers and palms played in the bar towel. "Of course. Ask me anything." He smiled like a ginger prince: broad lips, shining and twinkling teeth. Sometimes a man's liking for another man has no conditions or boundaries; this is what I believed occurred inside Harry's head, and his heart. He saw me as someone who could do no wrong. Someone he wanted to be with. A future boyfriend. A lover. Someone of importance in his life. More than just a friend. "What's your questions, Sawyer?"
Again, I looked to my left and right. No one sat around us, which provided me the time and space to ask him, "Do you believe in warlocks?"
A man who is confident of his response chuckles, I've always believed. That is exactly what Harry did. "There are many warlocks and witches in these parts. It is said that those who abandoned Salem, Massachusetts between February of 1692 and May of 1693, because of the witch trials and burnings, immigrated to Bitter. Although the warlocks and witches were not relatives of the Iroquois Indians, who owned the land we currently walk on, the three groups shared very close relations. In fact, some warlocks and witches have Indian blood."
"Which brings me to my next question," I told him.
He consumed my blond hair and blue eyes, treating me like a model, craving my handsomeness. "I'm listening, Sawyer. Speak or forever hold your peace."
"Do you believe that warlocks and witches are among us today? Here and now in Bitter, Templeton, and Erie."
Confidently he nodded, blushed. "But of course. And they still put spells on mortal men like you and me. In fact, the gentleman you had lunch with the other afternoon here at the pub has the reputation of being a warlock."
"Do you mean Wilhelm Ravenrock?"
"Yes. The Ravenrocks were one of the founding families of Bitter, centuries ago. Wilhelm has a tiny cottage in Brothshire Woods; the original homestead of his believed family. After being forced to leave Salem because of warlockcraft, his family moved to Bitter and built the cottage in Brothshire Woods. The woods are haunted, of course, which keeps people away. I've never visited there, but I know the place has one single room, a door, two windows, and a fireplace, or so the charcoal drawings of the late Ethan Meterthahl show in the Bitter Library. The sketches still hang there today, which you will have to admire. Most believe Ethan himself was a warlock, and an on-and-off-again lover of Lord Archibald Ravenrock in 1902."
"One of the chancellors of the original Bitter warlocks?"
Harry nodded. "And Wilhelm's great-great-grandfather." He paused, looked me square in the eyes, became mesmerized with me yet again, and winked. "You're making quite the amount of progress in your research, Mr. Black. I'm glad I could be of some help."
I scratched the corner of my mouth, staring at him. "There is another way you can help, if you'd like, Harry."
"How so?" he asked, willing to go to the ends of the depleting earth to assist me, braving new places and wanting to accomplish heart-clenching tasks with me ... just to please me, far too attracted to me. His right eyebrow rose, interested.
"Wilhelm Ravenrock. How do I reach out to him?"
"Easy," he whispered, probably wanting to lean over the bar and kiss me. "I'll have Melinda watch the pub for a few hours and I can drive you to his cottage in the woods. It's not close, but the trip with you will be worth it."
"Thank you," I replied and watched him phone his cousin, preparing for our immediate departure and late in the afternoon fieldtrip.