Here’s the first chapter of Raveneye, which will introduce you to the three main characters and their interactions, as well as a peek into Teo’s unusual beliefs and practices. Enjoy! And feel free to comment. I welcome your input, and ask only that you be polite, even if you have something unpleasant to say.
“Hey, Teo, your 2 o’clock’s here, and dayyum.”
“Gracias, chica.” Teo grinned at the lanky blonde standing at the doorway to the candlelit massage room. “I’m ready.”
“Uh, no, Teo, I don’t think you are. Wait till you see this one.”
“Just show…” Teo glanced at the appointment sheet, “…Mr. Sokolov in, Edie.”
“That won’t be necessary,” a deep voice sounded from behind Edie. “I’m already in.” The man eased his way past her.
Edie was right. This guy merited a ‘dayyum.’ Not a body-builder, but his fitness was obvious in the long lean lines of his torso, tapering from invitingly broad shoulders to slender hips. High cheekbones, different than Teo’s own, but still pronounced. The man’s eyes were a deep tawny brown, with flecks of gold scattered through the irises, and Teo was sure they could read him as if he were a—not even a book. Maybe a children’s book. Few words, but lots of simple lines and interesting shapes and colors.
“Dusan Sokolov. They didn’t tell me your name when I made the arrangements.” His accent was subtle, but it was there. Even without the name, the voice would have confirmed one of the Eastern Bloc nations as his home. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of the man’s wide mouth. His grip as they shook hands was firm, his hand an odd mix of soft and rough, as if he worked with his hands, but also took pains to care for them.
“I apologize, Mr. Sokolov. I’m Mateo Velasco, but everyone calls me ‘Teo’, sir.”
“Teo. Where do I undress?”
“Here is fine, Mr. Sokolov. I’ll step out to give you some privacy. I’ll knock after a few minutes.” Teo headed for the door.
Teo closed the door behind him and leaned heavily against it. Edie looked over at him from the reception area and winked. “Told you,” she mouthed.
“Where’s his jacket?” Teo pushed away from the door and looked around for the file folder that should have been on the reception counter.
“Well, that’s the thing. There’s not one. Management said not to worry about it.” Edie shrugged. “Some important person on the down-low, I figure. Can’t be his real name, so I didn’t google him.”
Teo nodded. “It’s not that unusual. Many of our guests don’t want it known they’re gay, after all.”
Edie grinned. “You’ve kneaded some famous backsides, all right. And some whose congregations would give a lot to know about it.”
“I don’t like that look, Edie.”
“Teo, you know I’m not going to jeopardize these cushy digs. Living at a resort? Not gonna risk losing that. It’s just that little devil in me, enjoying thinking about it.”
“Is that the bit that hasn’t had the surgery yet?” Others might gossip about where she was in the transition process, but Teo saw no point in changing the way they interacted simply because Edie was no longer Ed.
“You’re into fur?”
Edie grinned and pantomimed throwing a pen at him. “If I didn’t think you’d be busy later…”
“Too much woman for me, girl.”
“What’s a lady have to do to find something to stick her dick in around here?”
“Not a question I’ve ever needed the answer to.” He brought his mental shutters down. Edie was a friend, a work-friend, but he needed the solitude inside his own head to get himself under control before working on Sokolov, or he’d be too close to a line he would not cross. Massage wasn’t about sex. It never had been, and never would be. Not for Teo. If that’s what his clients wanted, they left with blue balls. What happened in the massage room was sacred, and he wouldn’t profane it with the sweaty slapping of flesh on flesh. If they were attractive, and offered, he might meet them later. But never in the room, and never, ever for money. I’m not a whore, he repeated to himself. I’m not. But Raveneye, my friend, sometimes I wish I were.
In the space between his ears, a raven croaked. An avian chuckle, perhaps. It could be hard to know, unless they were—
The door opened. “Teo.”
Edie peered around him, but Teo carefully blocked her view. Not that there was one. When he stepped into the room, his client was already sitting on the table, draw sheet across his lap. Sokolov moved fast. Maybe there was more than his obvious attractiveness about this client that would require careful handling.
Teo led Sokolov through the pre-massage questions about temperature, lighting and music preferences, about areas that needed particular work. They were questions he asked every client. Comfort and relaxation were key, after all, and while he was especially gifted at detecting trouble areas before touching the client, it was good practice to know where they thought the problems were, even if they were wildly wrong. How anyone could fail to recognize the body as a whole that works as a whole was beyond Teo. It was obvious, just as it was obvious the spirit world is a whole and works as a whole. But many couldn’t see that either.
The last question was always, “What do you hope to gain from massage?” Sometimes the client would mention sex at this point, or sometimes that would come later as he worked certain areas. Most often, sex wasn’t mentioned at all.
Sokolov’s answers had been terse. Not rude, simply direct. Like Teo’s own nature, though he had learned early to wear what he called his ‘robe of sociable’ at work. The answer to this question wasn’t exactly terse.
“You need to know something, Teo. I’m straight. I have no interest in sex with a man. None. And that’s not going to change.”
“And yet you’re staying at Aguajero Azul, a gay resort.”
“This is a good area to withdraw and recharge, so it makes no difference. I’m straight. Do you understand that?”
“Certainly. It’s unusual, but I have no trouble understanding either the need to recharge or that you don’t want sex with me.”
“There is a line with this massage, Teo. If you cross it, you will regret it.”
“Never, Mr. Sokolov. I’ve never crossed that line in this holy place—the massage room.”
“Holy place? Did you say holy place?”
Teo cursed himself. He rarely used profanity and almost never in a holy place. He could see the affect of the words after all, and once someone had seen that, they were much more careful about how they spoke in anger or frustration, especially in the sacred places. Sokolov refused to look away from Teo’s eyes. There would be no bull—no evasion with this one.
“This is just a room with candles and incense and music. What makes it a holy place?”
Teo sighed. “It’s not what a place looks like that makes it holy, Mr. Sokolov, or what’s in it, or not in it. It’s what happens in a place.“
Sokolov nodded slowly. “And what happens in this room that makes it holy?” He seemed intent on pressing for an explanation.
“My work, sir.”
“Rubbing backs is holy?”
“Massage is more than that. At least it is to me. Sir, could I explain this to you as I work? I don’t mean to be rude, but I have a 3:30 scheduled and—“
Sokolov grunted and swung his legs onto the table.
“I’ll work on your back first, please, sir.”
As Sokolov turned and lay down on his belly, Teo continued. “The body is only one aspect of a person. It’s connected with a person’s spirit in ways that many people don’t understand. What I do with a body, I also do with the tensions and injuries of the spirit. Because of that, massages are… perhaps sacred is a better word than holy.”
“And you believe that, do you?”
“I don’t have to believe it, sir. I know it. There’s a difference.”
Sokolov snorted softly. “That’s woo-woo nonsense, surely.”
Teo bristled. He didn’t discuss his spiritual practices for that very reason. They were sacred. He knew some religious figure his mother had tried to tell him about, probably Jesus, said a thing about tossing pearls before swine. It fit. Though Sokolov was hardly a pig. Teo pulled his hands away from the man’s neck.
“Why are you stopping?”
“Because you have insulted me and though you may be a client, there is nothing in my job description that says I have to touch a man who insults me.”
“I have paid you for an hour massage.”
“No, sir, you haven’t. I’ll see you’re not charged for it.”
Sokolov raised his head and turned to look at Teo. “You mean that.”
“Yes, sir. I don’t speak untruths in my holy place. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave so you can dress.”
Sokolov grabbed his wrist as he passed the table. His grip was surprising, what some would call an iron grip, but Teo’s father had called it the talons of the eagle, and shown him how it could be used to control a man who had a desire to harm him. Does this man wish me harm, Raveneye?
“No. Don’t leave.”
“Let me go.” The skreigh of a raptor fluttered through Teo’s command. There were barbs in it.
Sokolov loosed his grip. “Don’t leave. Please.” He pushed up to a sitting position, letting the sheet slide away. “I apologize. I should not have spoken so harshly of something I do not understand. Please, stay. Finish the massage, and tell me more about how you know with such surety. Tell me about your people. Where do they come from? What are their beliefs?”
Teo raised an eyebrow. His wrist ached, but he’d not give the man the satisfaction of rubbing it in his presence. “Why?”
“Why should you stay, or why do I ask?”
“They are the same, truly. Because I am genuinely interested in what other people believe and where belief itself comes from.”
Teo studied the man’s eyes, the soul-lookers. It was there, the thing he said, wanting to know about things of the spirit. Raveneye, my friend, my companion, guide me in this speaking, that I may honor life, and preserve what is sacred.
“What you ask is complex. It cannot be spoken all at once. It’s a journey, and journeys are made of steps.”
“Then tell me the first step.”
“You aren’t ready. I’ll show you that I know, that I do see into both worlds. If you wish after that, I’ll complete the massage. If you want to take that first step, seek me out. When you’re ready. Then… we’ll see.”
“You make me no promises.”
“No, I don’t. You’re a stranger. We’re very careful with strangers.”
“Native Americans. I’m Navajo as well as Latino.”
“I see.” Sokolov was silent for a moment. “I understand that. I spent my early years in Transylvania.”
Teo smiled. “I get Tonto, you get Dracula.”
“Here’s how you will know that I know.” Teo closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath. When he felt the raven within, he re-opened his eyes. Then he opened his other eyes, the ones that see what is, and not what appears to be. He ran his gaze over Sokolov seeing rather than his well-muscled and unblemished body, the flow of his energy.
He laid a hand on Sokolov’s shoulder. “Here, you have a knot of tension. Not unusual.”
Next, he touched his lower back, just above the pelvis, on the right side. “Here, a nearly recovered pulled muscle. You were reaching for something. Something you wore on your back. It was out of place, just beyond your reach. You stretched badly.”
Sokolov drew in a breath.
“Here, a bruise. Eighth rib, not ninth. Not from the same incident. You slipped, likely on something damp on your kitchen floor, and stopped your fall when you caught the corner of the counter.”
Sokolov’s eyes rounded. “You… you cannot know that.”
“But I do. Lie down. I’ll finish your massage.”
“You said you could see wounds to the spirit.”
“I can, but there are rituals necessary that I won’t perform here, certainly not with another client due in little more than an hour. Lie down. Let my truth as well as my hands speak to you. When you know enough to put words to your questions, I will answer.”
Sokolov huffed, but settled onto the table again. The remainder of the allotted time passed in silence, as Teo worked his client’s tensions away with his hands and with his own energy flow. He watched with both sets of eyes as he worked down from his back, then up from his calves. Rather than tensing when Teo drew his hands lightly over the smooth globes of Sokolov’s ass, the man took a deep breath and held it, longer than most people untrained in yogic breathing could manage.
This man knows things most do not. And he is pleasing to my eyes, warm and yielding to my hands. He would be salt-sweet to my tongue. I want him, Raveneye. Shame at profaning the sacred work with his lust tightened the sinews of his arms.
Sokolov’s head came up and he rolled over. Teo jerked his hands away and stepped back, making sounds of regret and apology as Sokolov levered himself to sit on the edge of the table. Teo saw the path of his eyes, followed his gaze down his own torso.
“I… I’ll leave,” he stammered.
“Why? Because you are aroused, or because I know that you are aroused?”
“I am not—”
“You have told me you do not speak untruth in your holy place. Will you now make yourself a liar?” Sokolov’s voice was flint, and yet spoken as softly as the feathers that line a nest.
Teo’s shook his head. “No. My saying was that I am not clear within myself which it is. You see my desire. I feel shame.” He held up a hand. “Perhaps because I am aroused in my holy place, or perhaps because I cannot control that I am aroused.”
“Why is that shameful? You have surely been aroused by clients before.”
“No. Not like this.”
Sokolov lifted a brow toward the ceiling, even as he allowed his eyes to drop to Teo’s tented pants again. Teo squirmed under the pressure of this desirable man’s scrutiny, as his traitor cock stiffened into an even more pronounced tent pole. Finally Sokolov lifted his eyes to Teo’s and said, “I see no reason for you to feel shame. You find me attractive. Though I’ve told you I have no interest in sex with you, that does not mean I’m repulsed by your desire. I find it flattering. As you can see,” he looked down at his own motionless groin, pulling Teo’s gaze with him, “I don’t find it arousing, but I assure you, I am not repulsed by it. Stay. Finish the massage. You have already eased much of the tension, and yes, the pain also. Complete the work. Please.”
Perhaps I could speak about it more clearly, Teo thought, but I won’t try. Especially not after seeing… He cut off his thoughts abruptly. Dwelling on the thick dark curls nestling an uncut cock and tempting balls would serve neither man’s best interests. He gestured for his client to lie down once more. “No, Mr. Sokolov, lie on your back, please.” Help me, Raveneye, to put aside this desire. It is time to test my resolve.
Sokolov permitted a small smile and a twinkle in his eye. He laid back and made no move to cover his genitals with the sheet.
Is he tormenting me? Teo moved to the head of the table and began, as always, with his client’s scalp and facial muscles, working his way downward, working first one arm and then the other. He forced his thoughts toward only the energy flow and the alternately knotted and relaxed muscles he worked, until his erection was all but non-existent. It remained that way as he began on Sokolov’s chest, his fingers gliding easily over the dusting of dark hair that marked the beginning of a trail downward. He had reached his client’s abs when the talons of the eagle once again made themselves felt as Sokolov grabbed his wrist.
“Cover me,” he spoke gruffly.
Teo reached for the sheet and drew it across the man’s groin. He kept the smile to himself as he noted that Sokolov’s cock wasn’t quite as uninterested as it had been previously. The tightness around his client’s eyes and mouth made it clear that there had been nothing to see, that if Teo thought he had seen something, he had been mistaken. Fine, Mr. Sokolov. Not telling lies does not mean that everything must be spoken.
When the massage was complete, Teo slipped out quietly to prepare himself for his next client. Edie knew better than to speak to him as he shed the energies of one client in order to be fresh for the next.
When the door to his room opened, Teo looked away. Clients were often uncomfortable meeting his eyes after a session. Much is written on the pages of the body and some of the phrases aren’t pleasant. Sokolov walked up to him and stood, waiting silently for him to make eye contact.
“I want more,” he said after a moment.
“Edie will—” Teo looked up.
“Not just of that. The other, too. But not today. You were correct. I am not ready. Where can I reach you?”
‘The other, too?’ What other? Your disguised arousal? “When you are ready, close your eyes. Be still in your mind. Look for me with the eyes of your spirit. They will see me. Follow them.”
“When you are ready, come. I will be waiting.”
Sokolov drew back. “An hour ago, I would have said that was psychic bullshit. Now, I am no longer certain. You are an unusual man.”
“As you yourself are, Mr. Sokolov.”
“Dusan. Call me Dusan, Teo.”
With that he was gone.