tagGay MaleRavens Roost Ch. 03

Ravens Roost Ch. 03

bysr71plt©

Lucky

I was blind that fall to anything but the murals I was painting at the Castleton winery. I tackled the bathrooms first and then the bar surround in the party room and only then, after I had let the design germinate and perfect in my mind, I started on the wall behind the long bar in the tasting room. By the week before Christmas, I had all but the lower right portion, where bunches of grapes cascaded to the floor at the open side of the bar, painted, and that was sketched out and ready to fill in.

I was living alone now and crossing the mountains over the gap at Afton several times a week, fitting in working on the vineyard murals with other jobs I'd picked up. Dab—Dabney Belcastle—had told me I could take my time with his work, as the winery wouldn't be opened to the public until the following summer.

Hank's move out was about as amicable as it could be with someone that domineering and sensitive. We still saw each other on the days when we were both working, and Hank still took his breaks by surprising me and hauling me out between the rows of grapevines and fucking me roughly—which I continued to play like it was an annoyance when, truth be told, I was keyed up on the days we weren't there together—and even on the days we were, I began to fidget and lose concentration on the painting when he waited too long to do me.

Hank had told me he'd found a cabin up at Afton, where he could easily drop down to either the Piedmont or the valley for his work. And Hank was a hunter and I knew this put him closer a group of guys who hunted up in that area. I'd asked him where he'd gotten the money from, but that had made him angry and all I got out of that was a good fucking. He really did have the cabin though, which, at first I'd doubted, and sometimes he'd take me there and do me on the floor or the table—never on the bed, though, which I found both curious and exciting.

Hank finished the work on the walls by Thanksgiving, but then he stayed around Castleton, doing odd jobs and helping to get the winery facilities finished off—and he told me that Belcastle had asked him to work part time there helping with the wine tasting after they opened.

Belcastle hadn't made any such suggestion to me.

All of this had gone right over my head, so December 21st came as a real eye-opener to me. I'd finished the painting from Ravens Roost that I'd been working on when I first met Dab, and, as he promised, he'd offered me top dollar for it. I hadn't said I'd sell it to him, though. I was holding back, because I'd decided to give it to him for Christmas in appreciation for his patronage on the winery murals. I'd meant to bring it with me on the day all of the workers were being released for Christmas, but I'd forgotten it.

When I got home, I fixed myself something to eat, but the painting was bugging me, so I wrapped it up, taped a Christmas card to it, and went out again in a light snowfall to cross the mountain and drive down to Castleton.

I drove straight to the manor house, which was decorated with miles of light strands, all in white, and a profusion of red velvet bows. The windows on the first floor were ablaze with lights, and all of the drapes were drawn open. I saw them in the living room, through the French doors out onto the portico, before I had a chance to ring the doorbell.

They were on a white Flokati sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace. Dab was on his chest, raised on his knees with his hips in the air, and Hank was crouched over him from behind, covering him and fucking him hard. I just stood there, dumbfounded for several minutes, calling myself all forms of stupid. And then I was drawn into the fuck and watching it for pleasure—and growing increasingly angry with myself for doing so.

At length, I gave a sigh of resignation and walked over and placed the wrapped canvas beside the front door and walked out of both Hank and Dab's lives.

I didn't return to finish the mural behind the tasting bar, and I didn't answer Belcastle's calls until he just stopped trying. I'd been paid in increments for the mural work, so I was only out the last installment of payment. Belcastle, in turn, had a not-quite-finished mural behind his bar—unless, of course, he'd found someone else to try to finish it. I doubted that he'd be able to find anyone who could match my work enough to make the difference unnoticeable, and in my angrier moments I hoped that Hank had tried to do so. As good as Hank was with wall work, he was no fine artist—and I'd put paint mixes and technique into that mural that no one else could duplicate. I'd put my all into that work, and I carried the grudge of betrayal for a good long time.

Hank hadn't even bothered to try to see me or call me after that night. It was like I'd never been anything to him but a meal ticket and an entry to someone richer.

In time, I'd forgotten both of them. And I swore off men altogether. I didn't go over to Sandy's anymore, because, as far as I knew, Hank held sway over there still. There were several new restaurants opening up in Staunton and an old resort hotel up there was being refurbished and reopened and they all latched into my services and I spent most of my time a half hour north of Waynesboro for the next year.

I'd had my suspicions at first about all that work coming my way at once and from a new source, and I asked several of my new patrons who had referred me, but none would acknowledge that anyone had. After a while, I just dropped that question, because the more I worked up there, the more work I got, and soon my referrals obviously were from earlier patrons.

I was making more than enough to live on now, and I was finding time to add to my own portfolio. So, in the spring more than a year after I had left Dabney and Hank at Castleton on the December night, I returned to the Blue Ridge parkway to resume my landscapes.

I was so engrossed in watching the ravens and hawks reeling on the updrafts overhead at the Raven's Roost Outlook one spring afternoon that I didn't hear the automobile pull into the parking apron.

"Still trying to capture those birds on canvas, are you?" The voice was a well-modulated, cultured baritone, the accent slightly English. I knew who it was and didn't look up.

"You still have the magic touch," Dabney said. "I would like to bid on that one when you've completed it. I see you've made progress in capturing those birds in flight."

"What do you want, Mr. Belcastle?" I asked. I tried to keep the hurt and snottiness out of my voice, and I think I managed that about as well as he could expect. "If it's about the incomplete mural—"

"It's not, the mural as it is is rather a hit. All of the customers remark on it and are intrigued. And they stay around and buy more wine. The winery is a bit of a success, I'm happy to say."

"How nice for you," I said as I loaded my paint brush again, quite obviously signaling to him that I didn't intend to stop doing what I was doing to converse with him. I raised the brush, but I didn't bring it anywhere close to the canvas. My hand wasn't steady enough to do any painting. "You and Hank must be very happy."

"Hank's gone, Lucky. He was gone the following spring, before we opened. He followed what he said was a good employment offer in Richmond. That July, he was arrested for prostitution and drug peddling. He's in the Coffeewood prison now—or so I'm told—serving a couple of more years."

I didn't say anything, but my hand was steadier now, so I tried some strokes with the brush that I knew even while I was applying them that I'd have to paint over later. It was good I was working with acrylics that day.

"I'm sorry, Lucky. But I think you're better—"

"Is there a reason you've sought me out now, Mr. Belcastle? After all this time?" I'd given up on the brush work and put the brush down on the palette and turned to him now. He had aged, and not in a good way. He'd lost weight and muscle tone, and there were bags under his eyes. His hair was stringy and lifeless now, where before it had been a luminescent gray and perfectly coffered.

If both of us had suffered, there was no question that he had gotten the worst of it.

"Yes, there's a reason, Lucky. I have a major favor to ask of you. With just a touch, I hope, of atonement."

* * * *

Dabney

I think I shocked Hank when I accepted his asking price for his body so readily. If so, it was probably the only time I managed to have him off guard. I owned much of the land up at Afton, near the summit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it meant little to me to give him a piece of that with a log cabin on it.

He fucked me quickly and expertly that afternoon in the winery's cooling room, on a dusty, rough-wood preparation table, while Lucky was still in the tasting room planning out his wall mural. Hank was always detached in his fucking of me. In that regard, he was a disappointment to me. I had seen him expend more emotion in the backroom of Sandy's fucking some businessman for an hourly fee than he ever expended on me. No, it wasn't that he was emotionless. It's more like he felt like he had to master me completely and to give as little of himself to me as possible in the process. As if I personally had committed some grievous wrong against him.

When Hank asked me, I was honest with him—that, yes, my invitation to have Lucky and him paint the winery interiors was largely my scheme to get possession of Hank. Largely, but not wholly. I, indeed, was impressed with Lucky's artwork, and I was sure that both of them would do a bang-up job of the painting.

Hank hadn't liked to hear that. Neither did he like to hear my proposal that he move into the rooms above the garage at Castleton so that he could be closer to me when I wanted him. That had set him off in a rage that I didn't understand for the longest time—not until the day of our final altercation and his storming out of my life.

Hank was such an angry young man. And his love making was angry too. I found it almost unbearable, and if I hadn't become a slave to the feel of the big black cock of his working deep inside me, I could not have borne his anger and his resistance to being civilized and to at least pretend some level of affection for me.

And I couldn't figure out myself in all of this either—what my emotional attachment was to Hank, and why I wanted so hard for him to bend to me, to love me—to join me in my bed at Castleton, which he relentlessly refused to do, insisting that we have sex only outside the house, in the service areas of the estate. All I knew was that I did, in fact, have some sort of attachment to Hank that I could neither understand nor turn my back to.

I tried to clothe him better and to show him how to appreciate and use the finer things in life, but he resisted everything I did for him except lay on my back in the most primitive of conditions and open my legs to him and beg him to give me what I was paying for. He always made me beg for it. And it always made him laugh.

Eventually, I tried some reverse psychology. There was an arrogant young assistant professor at the University, Stuart Pendleton, who I had played tennis with at Farmington. He was a beautiful young man, but he was much too much full of himself. I reasoned that if I added a conquest to Hank's collection of men, perhaps he would be less angry and less forceful and demeaning to me sexually. But, although I managed to put the two together, there was little change in Hank.

He wouldn't leave me, but he took every opportunity he could to embarrass me and to put me in what he perceived as my place. I was fully prepared to accept Hank as an equal—but he clearly wanted more. If only he hadn't been so enticing and didn't have such a lovely big, black cock . . .

I had written Stuart off as a lost attempt to manipulate Hank, but, to my surprise, Stuart redeemed himself by bringing Paul into my life.

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