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“No, I think you should go ahead, take the trip, and do the article on your great-grandfather’s winery, Edward. It will probably do you good to get out of New York for a few days.”
Dr. Peterson and Edward Cordona had finished with the consultation and had risen from their seats to go to the door of Peterson’s consulting room.
“But the hallucinations—what if—?”
“Do as we learned you are able to do. Go limp, your breath imperceptible, as in death. Let your mind float into nothingness. It’s a talent you have that you can use to your advantage here. Retreat beyond the world and the hallucination will be starved for attention. The hallucinations should subside over time, Edward. You’ve been through a rough patch. A change of scenery and a project to work on should help you fully recover.”
“You think so?” Edward didn’t really want to go to California—to the Napa Valley—to do a “one hundred years later” article for the Wine Spectator magazine on a winery that was still going that his father and three other Italians had established there. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, clutching a bottle of Valium and let the world pass him by. That he’d gone through a bad patch was an understatement. There had been Phil, with his partying and the drugs and the alcohol and then hitting bottom when Phil left him and the exchanging of dependence on Phil, drugs, and liquor for dependence on Valium and a dark, isolated room, with vivid visions racing before his eyes. If only the hallucinations weren’t so real and blended into reality so seamlessly.
It had, indeed, gotten better since he’d started coming to Dr. Peterson, but Edward was scared. He was scared to leave his apartment and leave New York and fly out to California, even for only a few days. The hallucinations were decreasing, certainly. But wasn’t that because he had withdrawn and not taken any chances? That stood to reason. But Dr. Peterson was saying otherwise.
Peterson left him at the door between his consulting room and the waiting room. Three sets of eyes looked up at him from the waiting room. Ever so briefly what his eyes saw were three different breeds of cats—just their heads, the rest of them being in human form and human dress. It was just a fleeting vision, but it was enough to cause him to panic. He turned back to the consulting room, to plead with Dr. Peterson to put him back on Valium. But the door was closed. Dr. Peterson had given him his marching orders; he was definite about weaning Edward off the drugs.
* * * *
The man was strong, holding Edward in his embrace, both of them naked, Edward in the man’s lap, facing away from him. Turned and held close as he was, Edward couldn’t see the man, but he knew it was Phil. Edward’s eyes went to the empty bourbon bottle on the nightstand. Had he drunk all of this? Or most of it? Or any of it? Was Phil, dark, swarthy, hirsute, and overpowering, as high as Edward was, his head swimming and bright, colored lights exploding in his brain. It had to be more than liquor. Phil would have brought drugs too. Edward squirmed around in Phil’s lap, knowing Phil’s dick was inside him—but Edward couldn’t feel anything. He had no sense of touch at all.
A baby cried back in tourist class, and Edward returned to the reality of being on a flight from New York to San Francisco. He momentarily was panicked at the thought that he had had an hallucination, but, no, it was just that he had been sent into a reverie by the droning of the airplane engines and the monotony of the cloud cover viewed from the plane’s window. Sessions like that with Phil had been all too real.
It wasn’t an hallucination. Those were much wilder than this had been.
As he became fully conscious of his surroundings, he almost wished he were having some sort of dream. Across the aisle from him sat a mother and small girl. For what seemed to be the eightieth time since they had taken off, the mother was reading the passage from the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale in which a witch’s curse had sent a princess into a hundred-year’s sleep, broken only by a kiss from a prince. It wasn’t the repeated reading that irritated Edward as much as a perverted version he had read once in a horror story in which the kiss woke, not a beautiful princess, but the ugly witch who had put the princess into the trance and who, awakened, sliced at the prince’s face with sharp claws.
And the mention of a hundred years brought the writing assignment he was flying into to his mind each time it came up again. He was a freelance magazine article writer. He’d written essays for the Wine Spectator before, and the editor he worked with there had remembered him mentioning that his great-grandfather, Eduardo, had been one of the founders of the long-established Quattro Amici Winery in Napa Valley, named that because it had been started by four Italian friends. The editor had remembered the winery’s founding date, 1916. She’d also remembered that there was a mystery involved with the winery. The four friends hadn’t stayed together long Küçükköy Escort in the winery business. Three of them had left in October of 1916. Two had returned to Italy and, she had learned from Edward, his great-grandfather, Eduardo, had left the winery and come back to New York City to open a restaurant.
The editor had thought that an article on the winery upon its hundred-year anniversary, with a hint of the winery’s mystery, written by a descendant of one of the founders would make a killer article. Edward hadn’t been enthused, but he also was in a fallow work period.
So, here Edward was in a airplane, in a delicate mental state of coming out of a sexual partner breakup and recovering not only from the threat of dependence on alcohol and drugs but also recovering from the cure of the “almost” addictions.
“Having fought his way through the brambles that had grown over the palace in the last 100 years, the handsome prince found the briar upon which the beautiful princess lay, sleeping. She was so beautiful he could not resist leaning down to kiss her. And when she did . . .” The mother across the aisle had reached the crucial passage again.
“. . . the princess turned into a wicked witch, who screamed ‘Murderer’ in the prince’s face, slashing him cruelly with her sharp claws, gouging his eyes out.” Once again, not being able to help himself, Edward had provided his own, disturbing, ending to the story. He shuddered and turned his face to the window, trying to shut the rest of the world out, welcoming a somewhat trance state for the rest of the flight.
* * * *
Edward snorted as he pulled into the front gates of the Quattro Amici Winery in his rental car and saw the scarecrow propped up on stakes behind bales of hay and pumpkins. October 31st—Halloween—was the next day, certainly, and the weather in New York, which he’d flown out of that morning, was experiencing the nippiness of the season, but the Napa Valley wasn’t. He’d been surprised before he’d arrived here that grapes were still being harvested at the winery, but now that he was here he could appreciate that it was warm enough for the late harvest wine and ice wine grapes still be on the vine. Halloween had been taken from the pagan festival of Samhain, marking the onset of winter in much of the country and of the Celtic New Year, but it was hard to believe in California’s sunny climate in the Samhain concepts of this being a time when the separation of the living and dead was the thinnest it would be in the year and that it marked a time when the dead—especially those restive from unnatural death—rose and roamed the earth. The Napa Valley climate on the last day of October just didn’t seem to go with all that.
Still, and he shuddered, the next day was the anniversary—the hundredth anniversary—of the breakup of the four friends who had founded this winery to split up under uncertain circumstances. Two of them, Horace Doniletti and Bruno Abruzzi, reportedly suddenly decided to enlist to go back to Italy to fight in the wake of Italy’s entering World War One on the side of the Allies, and the third, Edward’s own grandfather, Eduardo Cordona, moved east, to New York, to go into the restaurant business. Only the fourth of the original friends, Alonso Morrisette, had remained with the winery. The Morrisettes still operated the business, which had become quite successful and lucrative.
Edward normally wouldn’t have picked this anniversary to come here to do a Wine Spectator article. In truth, having reservations of ever coming to the Napa Valley that he couldn’t justify other than aversion to California that had come down through his family, he wasn’t keen on doing the article at all. But the sudden breakup of those who had established a successful business that lasted for a hundred years on a day like Halloween had intrigued the magazine’s editor—especially when she learned that Edward was a direct descendant of one of the four original owners. It was only the offer of extra money that had brought Edward here even now, though. There wasn’t just the unaccountable aversion to come; Edward also was in weakened health, both physically and emotionally. But he also had financial needs. Phil had paid most of the bills when they’d been together.
Despite the beauty of the rolling hills of grape vines he rode through as he approached the sprawling Tuscan-style winery complex, with its tasting room, restaurant, party venues, and attached owner’s mansion, Edward couldn’t shake a feeling of dread. He wanted nothing so much as to turn around and head back to San Francisco and the airport. Best take his photos, collect enough background to fill out his article, and be on his way as quickly as possible. With luck, he could be gone by tomorrow. Why, he wondered, did he feel that wasn’t soon enough?
Some of it may have been the tone of the letters that came back from the winery. The owner, Antonio Morrisette, seemed hot and cold on the article. At first he had had heartily welcomed the coverage by the Wine Küçükköy Escort Bayan Spectator and had also sorts of ideas of approaches that could be made. When the editor had said she was interested in the hundred-year-anniversary aspect of the story and of the four original friends who had both started the winery and broken up that year, his letters had shown some opposition and coolness. They had turned cold when the editor had written who the author of the article would be and what his relationship to the winery was. At first, Morrisette had said that Edward couldn’t be a relative of Eduardo, but then, acknowledging that he could be, he had dragged his feet on setting a visit up before eventually capitulating. Being covered by the Wine Spectator obviously was just too big a plum to pass up.
Edward had no idea what sort of reception he would receive. He did notice that all he saw as he rode through the vineyard and walked past the tasting room and restaurant to the owner’s mansion were men—muscular men in the fields and young, handsome men working the entertainment areas. They all were dark, of Mediterranean looks, like him, possibly all of Italian heritage. He wondered if that was a feature of the winery—that it had remained totally Italian through the years.
A young houseboy, dark and more pretty than handsome, met him at the heavy, carved oak double front doors to the mansion, ushered him into a two-story, tiled floor foyer, and padded off to find his host. Antonio Morrisette entered the foyer, all smiles, and masculine virility, bare-chested and in riding britches as if he’d just come in from riding his horse on the property, as perhaps he had.
Several issues assaulted Edward’s perception and senses at once, overloading his system and making him have to fight not to hyperventilate and, he was afraid, hallucinate. First, Antonio not only had all of the visual attributes that Phil had had that made Edward succumb to Phil’s domination, but he also was giving Edward the possessive, knowing look that a gay dominator gives a gay submissive to establish control and access. Even if what came with the handshake later hadn’t occurred, Edward would have known that he was of sexual interest to Morrisette, and that, if Morrisette demanded to have him, Edward would let him have his way. Morrisette was strong in domination and Edward was weak in submission.
As he approached and Edward tried to look away from the undressing gaze he was being given, he saw the four portraits on the wall. These obviously were the four original friends. Antonio was the spitting image of the one who had to be Alonzo Morrisette, and Edward couldn’t help but recognize that he himself was a double of the one who must be Eduardo Cordona. The eyes of all four of the men seemed to be boring into him.
“Welcome home,” said Antonio Morrisette, as he held out his hand, taking Edward’s hand in his and folding in his middle finger to rub against Edward’s palm as they shook hands, the gesture being a dominator’s signal of interest in a submissive. “At first I couldn’t believe that a descendant of Eduardo’s existed. The story in my family was that all three of the other founders enlisted to serve in Italy and were never heard from anymore. So, you’ll forgive me, but I put an investigator on your editor’s claim, and, surprise, surprise, your relationship proved out.”
“I hadn’t known much on why my great-grandfather left here either,” Edward said in a stammering voice. He was confused and off center, as Antonio was still gripping his hand and rubbing his palm with a finger.
“Yes, my investigator learned quite a bit about you, Edward. He even sent photographs and I saw the resemblance between you and the portrait of Eduardo on the wall here. He’s a strikingly handsome man, isn’t he?” If Edward was expected to answer, though, Morrisette didn’t give him a chance, no doubt aware that Edward was discombobulated by a welcome far more welcoming that he had anticipated. “Yes, I was told much about you. My home is your home. Pepe here will take your bag up to a bedroom with a marvelous view of the vineyard. But if you like,” and here he pulled his mouth close to Edward’s ear, “my bed can also be your bed.”
“Well, umm, I’m not here long. I best get busy collecting material for the article,” Edward answered.
“There’s time for everything,” Antonio said, cheerily, changing gears as if he hadn’t made a direct sexual pass. “I’ll show you up to your bedroom. Your collection can start there.”
Antonio had a hand on the small of Edward’s back, guiding him into a guest room on the ground floor in a section of the house that had lower ceilings and rougher-texture walls than the part of the house Edward had entered. Edward was trembling, wondering if Antonio would make a move on him immediately—and half hoping he did. But once inside the room, Antonio turned Edward to where he was facing the wall opposite the large, four-poster bed.
“Isn’t it magnificent?” Antonio asked. “The mural is why I have Escort Küçükköy given you this room. This is the oldest section of the house—the first building on the property after the processing sheds were put in. All four men lived in this original house. This was the only bedroom. Alonzo was an artist. He painted this. He did the labels for the wine too—they have remained the same for the past hundred years. This is the vineyard view you’d see if the wall wasn’t there.”
It wasn’t the vineyard scape that caught Edward’s eyes. What arrested his attention were the four men in the painting, recognizable from the portraits in the foyer as the four friends who founded the winery. Three of the men were kneeling in front of a vine fence, the grapes in full fruit. Alonzo Morrisette was standing behind them on the other side of the fence. The figures were finely drawn and, as Edward moved down the wall, staring at the mural, their eyes seemed to follow him. There was something about the expressions of the three kneeling figures that seemed anxious, as if they were trying to communicate something to Edward. The standing figure had more of a haughty smirk on his face, although his eyes too seemed to follow Edward around the room.
“I left some papers—background on how the men came from the same village in Italy together, each with knowledge of different aspects of wine making and distribution, or, in the case of your ancestor, paring wine with food and running a restaurant. I thought this would help you with background for your article.”
“Yes, thank you,” Edward said, not being able to take his eyes off the mural, which fascinated him—which he felt was trying to speak to him. “I’ll go through these, but perhaps now . . .”
“Yes. I know it was a long flight and drive. I’ll leave you and you can shower and rest up. Dinner is at 8:00 in the restaurant. Since we have a restaurant here, I rarely eat at the house. I hope—”
“Yes, thank you, that will be fine.”
When Antonio left him, Edward sat on the end of the bed and gazed at the mural for several minutes. He couldn’t get over the sensation that the three kneeling men were trying to convey something to him—and the standing man, as well, for that matter. The Alonzo of the wall painting was giving Edward the same knowing and possessive look that Antonio did in the foyer. Edward turned his attention to the written material Antonio had given him. It seemed to be a pretty detailed account, with anecdotes of the last hundred years of the winery’s operation. There even was a summary in a glossy brochure that must be given out in the tasting room. But what was missing was any explanation for why the four men had broken up their partnership this day day—Halloween, October 31st—a century ago.
Showered and dressed only in a red silk robe he’d found hanging in the room’s closet, Edward drifted off into a nap.
The clinking of wine glasses against a wine bottle woke him. Antonio was standing in the doorway, wearing a silken robe identical to the one Edward wore—and as obviously naked underneath as Edward was, who was stretched out on the bed, robe open and, he realized, his hand on his erect cock. The room was dim, but through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the wall beside the bed, the rays of a glorious sunset were shining through, reaching into the room, illuminating sections of the mural on the wall in neon-like splendor.
“I thought you would like to try some of the Quattro Amici vintage Cabernet Franc before we went to dinner,” Antonio said. He then put the wine bottle and glasses down on a small table beside the door and brushed open his robe, to show a magnificently muscular body and a well-hung erection. “But perhaps we can drink the wine later,” he said, a knowing smile floating across his face.
Edward looked away, but he didn’t try to cover up the evidence of his erection or what he’d been doing with his hand when he’d noticed Antonio standing in the doorway.
“You will submit to me, will you not?” Antonio asked, his voice calm in command.
Edward didn’t answer verbally, but he turned his face back to the more powerful man and lowered his eyes.
“I thought so,” Antonio said, and laughed. “My investigator was quite graphic about what you would take—what you liked.”
Antonio fucked Edward missionary style on the bed, Edward on his back, his pelvis raised to Antonio, with Antonio’s knees pressed under his buttocks. Edward’s legs were spread and bent, and his feet buried into the surface of the mattress, used as leverage to rhythmically thrust his pelvis up as Antonio thrust down inside him. Antonio’s hands were gripping the headboard above Edward’s head, and Edward had his fingernails dug into Antonio’s shoulder blades. Edward had put up a weak semblance of resistance when Antonio had slapped his legs apart and come done on top of him and covered him. But Edward was small and Antonio was large and muscular. Edward didn’t have a chance against the other man even if he had wanted to resist—and Edward didn’t really want to resist. It had been too long since Phil had been inside him. Once Antonio was inside him, deep and thick, Edward became docile, yielding, and was fully into the fuck. He realized that he’d gone to sleep earlier with the image of Antonio inside him and pumping, just as he was now.
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