The guitarist had been playing flamenco rhythms when I joined Ralph Peters, Sean Madden, and Holland Howard at one of the back tables in the Kennedy Center's small KC Jazz Club hall in Washington, D.C. I'd had a few stops to make after our practice of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington at its P Street rehearsal hall just west of Dupont Circle. Ralph, who was a State Department cultural affairs officer--and a second tenor in the chorus--had invited us to come by to listen to a cultural exchange musician from Lugo, in Spain, he was herding around the country.

The tickets were free, I needed to stop in someplace warm anyway to get out of this damn interminable snowy winter on the East Coast, and I wasn't anxious to be at home this evening with Sean because we were in a rolling fight that I'd come to believe would lead to a termination of our relationship. I suddenly was glad that we hadn't tied the knot the first chance we'd gotten. I was willing; he less so. I guess he knew better than I did what real commitment required.

Sean was my last real tie to Washington--beyond the men's chorus, of course. And the young and twinky blond was that rare commodity, a first tenor, in the chorus. I was a much more plentiful baritone, so if one of us had to give that up to avoid the other, it really should be me. There wasn't much other reason to hang on. When I'd retired from the law practice early, at fifty-four, I'd said I wanted to travel the world footloose and free. But I hadn't taken my shoes from under the bed Sean and I shared yet. I suspect he had been looking forward to me traveling the world, so that he could put a variety of other shoes under my bed.

I was greeted at the Kennedy Center venue with relief by the second tenor, Ralph, who had the job of trying to make the room look like it was a sell-out crowd. I was waved in with obvious affection by Holland, who had been my colleague and mentor at the international law firm and who rounded out our little men's chorus quartet as a bass. And I was met frostily by Sean, who wanted me to know he was still in a snit, but who didn't want to push it too hard because I was the one keeping him in a luxury apartment just steps away, at the Watergate, and in food and clothes.

It took me some time to unravel all of the layers of clothing I had on in response to the snowfall outside that had continued into March, and I had only started to complain about the weather when both Ralph and Howard held up their hands to stave off my now overly familiar complaint. I made no bones about preferring at least semitropical--or Mediterranean--climates. And yet I continued to live in the Mid-Atlantic states even past retirement and with a financial grounding that could permit me to live anywhere. When I attempted the complaint, Sean just rolled his eyes and gave me a glassy stare.

The atmosphere with Sean became even more icy as the guitarist on stage segued into ballads and, for the first time, drew my attention. He was a handsome man, although perhaps with more character in his face than truly handsome. His features were rugged, dark, and brooding--almost sultry, I would say. His complexion was swarthy, with a two-day growth of beard that he probably kept at that length. I gauged him to be in his late twenties or early thirties. His raven-black hair was wavy and worn long, shoulder length. He was slim, nearly to the point of being gaunt, but he also was muscular. I knew from the program provided that he was Spanish, from Galicia, the northwest quadrant of the country, famous for its vineyards, and I could see him spending as much time working in the vineyard as at his musical craft. He was a strange mix of refinement and roughness, and I was drawn to him by more than his music.

That wasn't to say that he wasn't proficient enough at his musical craft to be sponsored for a trip to the States and small-venue concerts in rooms like this one at the Kennedy Center. The spotlight was on the strong, calloused hands, with the long, sensuous fingers, that he was using to play his guitar, and it was as much that as the beauty I found in him and the sweet ballad music he was playing that captivated my attention--and, yes, my arousal.

The Galicia region of Spain, I thought. I hadn't considered going there. I had considered Portugal, though, which also was on the Atlantic coast just south of Galicia. I decided I would consider that part of Spain now, especially after I'd leaned over to Ralph and said, "Are all the men in Galicia that sexy?"

"All of them under forty," Ralph had answered, with a laugh.

I looked over at Sean, who was pouting, which, of course, on his Byronesque blond visage, looked cute, and I realized that it was, indeed, over with him. I no longer was that interested in "cute"--and certainly not in brooding.

I had retired in a pique. It wasn't Howard who had asked me if my coming out would hurt the business of the law firm, but it might as well have been him. He knew I was gay. He had initiated me--years and years ago when I was clerking for him. But he wasn't surfacing this question among the other senior partners of the firm. He was too powerful. They only brought it up when I paraded Sean out and joined the gay men's chorus. Howard hadn't come out; I had. And it wasn't Howard who took the consequences.

So, I retired early; took my assets, which were considerable, out of the firm; and started a new, carefree life. But had I really? I was still here in Washington, still with Sean in my bed--but not enjoying that nearly as much as I had when it was all hush hush.

"And what do you think of our Spanish guitarist? I mean his music, not his sultry beauty," Ralph whispered to me while the musician was taking a short break. Ralph was the nervous type, and for some reason he always wanted to know what I thought about one of his State Department cultural projects. Maybe he kept asking because I was always honest with him and he often made adjustments from my suggestions.

"He's beautiful," I answered. "I'd like to take him home with me."

"I meant the music, I said," Ralph shot back, with a laugh. "You're always ready to take a good-looking man home."

I heard a huff from the other side of the table. I thought that Ralph and I were conversing at low enough volume, but perhaps not. That was at the base of our rolling fight. Sean had dragged me to an art gallery opening--he was a curator at the Smithsonian--and had left me to flutter around with a group of his friends, so I'd taken one of the artists home for the night. Sean somehow had expected me to just stand around and be his presentable meal ticket, I guess. But if he thought I was going to let him control me like that simply because I was moving up in age, he was sadly mistaken.

Besides, I'd taken the artist home because I sensed that Sean was going to go off with one of his friends. And, indeed, he didn't return home that night. I had done what I did, I now thought, to bring the roundabout arguing we'd been doing to a boil.

"The music is beautiful too," I said. "I very much like how his hands were spotlighted. I suggest you keep that in future concerts."

"Will do. Thanks. I'm glad you liked that. I'm taking him to Vinoteca for a late dinner, and he's agreed to play a few sets in their upstairs lounge. Would you like to go with us?"

"Yes," I shot back immediately.

"And would Sean--?"

"No. We drove separately, and I know Sean has an exhibit to put together and needs to be at work early tomorrow. We'll just not mention Vinoteca."

Vinoteca was a small, exclusive restaurant in northwest D.C. that included trendy jazz and specialty music in its upstairs lounge. Ralph often took the exchange musicians there for more intimate gigs.

It was in the upstairs lounge at Vinoteca that I learned that the Spanish guitarist, who Ralph introduced me to as Xavier Franco and who had a firm handshake and a divine, speculative smile, also had a heavenly tenor voice and I became totally smitten with the man.

And if I had to guess, I would have said he was smitten with me too. We sat near him at a table, and all the time he was playing and singing, he seemed to be playing just for me--to me. When he'd asked how I liked his concert at the Kennedy Center, I had been honest--that the flamenco music very good, but what really caught my interest were the ballads. And here, at Vinoteca, he played mostly ballads. He played them and he sang them to me.

He started off one by explaining that it was an Irish Celtic song but that his region of Spain had once been Celtic too and retained the influence of the Celts in its music. Thus, he was going to sing "Star of County Down," which I joined in applauding as I knew that ballad well--we'd sung it in the gay men's chorus--but he was going to alternate the verses in the languages of his home--Galego, Castilian, and the musical-heritage Celtic language. He would sing the chorus in English.

Somehow Ralph must have told him I sang too and knew that ballad, because when he came to the first singing of the chorus, he paused and motioned to me.

"From Bantry Bay up to Derry quay and from Galway to Dublin town . . ." he sang in a clear, high tenor. On the next line, "No maid I've seen like the brown colleen that I met in the County Down," I tentatively came in under him in a baritone harmony with the melody he was singing.

I came in stronger on the next chorus, after he'd sung verse two: "As she onward sped . . ." in Castilian Spanish, and here, as he guided me, I took over the melody of the chorus, with him soaring above me in a tenor harmony.

I was smitten, and the decibel rating of the applause indicated that others had been smitten too.

A beaming Ralph put his hand on my forearm amid the hearty applause and said, "I have Xavier booked into the Georgetown Suites Harbor Hotel, which should be on your way home to the Watergate. It's getting very late and I have to check in at State before I go home--and Randy's been complaining a lot lately on how late I've been getting home. Would you mind terribly . . . ?"

No, I wouldn't mind at all.

* * * *

I'm sure we both knew we were going to fuck when Xavier took my car keys from me, handed them over to the valet, and invited me up to his hotel room. But it was still a surprise to me that, when I came up to his room from the bar downstairs with the bottle of whiskey he wanted and two glasses, I found him stripped down to his briefs and sitting on the side of the bed, strumming his guitar.

He spoke better English than I spoke Spanish, so that's what we spoke. I was impressed that although he had all of the rugged looks of a farm laborer--belied as they were by the sensitive way he stroked his guitar strings--he spoke so many languages, as he had demonstrated by singing in Spanish and Galician as well as Celtic and English. And I was nonplused that we did talk, sitting there side by side on the hotel bed, sipping whiskey, and talking about Spain and music and his impressions of the States, when we both knew what we were working up to, especially since he settled that off the top.

"Ralph told me he knows you from some sort of gay men's choir--that you both go with men."

"That's right," I answered. "Does that make you uncomfortable?"

"No, not in the least. I find you very attractive. Ralph tells me that you are very well equipped, as well."

"Does he now?"

"He says you are a top."

"Mostly. I have gone both ways, but, yes, I prefer to top. I hope that--"

"Is convenient? Yes it is. I knew as soon as I saw you that we were going to fuck. I do like to have some form of release after playing concerts as tonight. That cultural palace on the river is quite intimidating to someone who comes from rural Galicia."

"Cultural palace on the river? Oh, you mean the Kennedy Center. Yes, it's imposing, I suppose, but we have arts centers like that in most of our big cities. I thought the jazz club setting was just right for your performance. It was very intimate--sensual even--and I thought it suited you. You're a very sexy young man, you know."

I was confused. I was used to working up to it. He had initially been very direct--and matter of fact. It was as if having established we would fuck--and, indeed, I could see that he was as hard inside his briefs as I knew I was--he now wanted to revert to some cultural form of foreplay.

We had spoken of getting it on--making sure we were a fit, which, I was pleased to learn, we were. But he now was talking of his experiences on his tour. I almost laughed. I was sitting beside him, still fully clothed, the two of us nursing a bottle of whiskey, and nearly nude he had approached getting down to the sex I assumed we would have--we both knew I could tell he was hard; I certainly was--and were now having a civil conversation on his impressions of his musical program.

"I have played in Madrid and Barcelona, of course. They are more festive than here. They chatter through the music, but somehow still absorb it completely. The audiences I've played to here so far are so serious. I wonder if they really like--"

"Your audiences at both the Kennedy Center and the restaurant this evening were mesmerized by your playing, Xavier. You understand what mesmerized means?"

Xavier nodded that he did. I continued. "They listened so silently out of respect and because they didn't want to miss a single chord of what you were playing or lose the tune of what you were singing. You didn't like this reaction?"

"No, I did like that I wasn't just background music. But it put so much responsibility on me--I felt like I had to work so much harder to make it sound right. I'm afraid I made many mistakes. In Spain, I play at the outdoor restaurants at night and just sit in the shadows, giving a foundation to the dinner conversation."

"You made no mistakes that I or, I'm sure, anyone else heard, Xavier. Your playing was divine. And you know what else is divine?"

"No, what?"

"Your body is divine. The curve of your hard cock that I'm tracing inside your briefs is divine. And the whiskey bottle is empty. And it's getting late. I want to make love to you now."

"No, I wish to make love to your body first," he said, as he laid his guitar aside, sank to his knees in front of me, gently parted my knees to put my legs into a wide-open stance, unzipped my trousers, fished my cock out, and opened his lips over it. As I sighed and leaned back, burying my elbows into the surface of the bedspread behind me, he moved a hand up my belly to my chest, opening buttons on my shirt and spreading the shirt open as he moved.

The abruptness and baldness with which he went about it embarrassed me and actually made me start to go soft, so I pulled him up to beside me on the bed, embraced him with one arm, and my hand went to his dick through the material of his briefs as his hand encased my cock. I moved us back to panting foreplay. That helped return me to getting hard and I was able to get him going in that direction too. I tried to kiss him on the lips, but he turned his face from me. It was obvious he wasn't interested in that sort of intimacy. He did, however allow me to kiss him elsewhere on the face, in the hollow of his neck, and down to his nipples.

He came quickly with just that much attention. I had managed to move my hand under the waistband of his briefs and grasp and stroke his cock a few times before he came, but not much more. It was as if he hadn't really done this before and had no control over building up his arousal.

After he came, he pushed me off him, stood and stripped his briefs off, mounted the bed, and immediately went on all fours, with his legs spread and his tail turned to me. He was signaling that he wanted to get on with it--that he was offering his ass for me.

It was a very nice ass. His thighs and buttocks were covered with a curly black down and even his asshole was rimmed with black fuzz. Aroused by his lean, sinewy body, much more of the man of the outdoors and hard work than I was used to encountering in the cultural circles I traveled in, I moved behind him, working my tongue over the down on his thighs and buttocks and then smoothing down that encircling his rim before moving my tongue inside him. I grasped his cock, pulled it back between his legs, and divided my efforts and attention between his asshole and his cock and balls.

He moaned, trembled, and moved languidly under my embrace. It took time for me to open him to the point that I thought he could take me and then more time, with him grunting and groaning but holding in place like a bitch dog wanting it, before I could finally work my thickness inside. But then he just stoically took it until I had pumped him to an ejaculation.

Afterward, we stretched out against each other on the bed, naked, and he let me embrace him and slow stroke his cock as we both dozed off. I made another move to kiss him on the lips, but this obviously wasn't something he liked, so I desisted. He still left me with the impression--even though there was no holding back from him in letting me fuck him--that he hadn't been with that many men before.

When I woke sometime in the middle of the night, it was with an aching pain in the arm that I had under him, encasing his waist at this point. His back was propped up on pillows against the headboard, and he was smoking a cigarette, a little frown on his face, his face highlighted by the only illumination in the room, the lamp on the nightstand.

"Do you regret--?" I started to say, but he didn't let me finish the sentence.

"No, of course not."

I moved my left arm from under him while moving my right arm over his belly and turning toward him. I lowered my mouth to his right nipple and licked and sucked it. He was breathing more heavily than when I woke and I could feel his dick start to harden under the attentions of my right hand. But his cigarette apparently was important enough to him not to respond otherwise.

"I don't think you're supposed to be smoking in this hotel," I murmured, "especially not in bed."

"If they want to chase me down for it, they'll have to follow me to Spain," he said, his voice a low growl--not angry, more disinterested in what anyone thought about him smoking.

"So, even from what you've seen in the States, you want to go back to Spain?" It was a pertinent question. He looked like he came from rough, somewhat primitive circumstances in Spain--although I'll have to admit that this was a large part of his turn-on factor for me--and from what I heard from Ralph on these cultural exchange programs, it was a problem often to return musicians like him to their home circumstances after they'd gotten a taste of the amenities and appreciative paying audiences in the States. The program was meant to seed pro-American sentiment in countries abroad, not to skim off the cultural cream of other societies, but often the effect was the latter.

"I can't wait to go home. I am enjoying this tour, yes, but I would wither and die if I was away from Galicia for long. That is heaven on earth."

He spent considerable time then, as I was working his nipple with my mouth and his cock with my hand telling me of how much a paradise that region of Spain was. And, though I was concentrating in preparing him for sex again, I was listening to him too, and he had me convinced of the glories of the region he came from.

My preparation had a surprising end though--one I didn't take into consideration and never would have thought I would enjoy, but that made me lost to him. His cigarette and sales job on Galicia finished, he stubbed the butt out on the corner of the nightstand--which I'm sure was viewed with alarm the next day by the hotel maid--reversed himself on me and stretched over me. We sixty-nined for several minutes until--and past the time that--I was craving release, Xavier refusing to stop working me when I said I was ready to come.

When I did come, spouting off on his throat and chest, and was then in a moment of weakness and vulnerability, he quickly moved off me, reversed his body again, and turned me belly to bed. Slipping his arms under my arm pits, he put me in a full Nelson, arched my torso off the surface of the bed, and, as I screamed bloody loud in surprise and initial pain, he skewered me to great with his long, thin, hard cock, and pumped me hard and fast to his own ejaculation. Only as he came, did I realize he wasn't sheathed. I had been fucked before but not for some time--and certainly bareback. He wasn't thick, but he was long and a total surprise--not only that he'd do it but also that he'd do it with such cruel, powerful thrusts. Shocking as it was, it totally aroused me, and I came again before he did.

Without a word, he rolled off me, turned out the light on the nightstand, and was snoring within minutes. I took that as a signal that we were to sleep then. It might have been a signal for me to leave him and go home, but I found I didn't want to. He was such a change for me, had such an arousing body, gave me something I hadn't had for some time--excitement, surprise, and variety.

He also had fucked me; I had forgotten that I once could be satisfactorily completed with a man inside me. And what a man he was.

I was disconcerted and slightly unfulfilled by his complete noninterest in kissing or exploring each other's bodies with hands and tongues. I never quite reached satisfactory intimacy with him either that night or later. But it occurred to me that this was part of the heightened arousal with him--continually wanting more--and that perhaps what took me to higher levels of arousal and prolonged the mystery of having sex with him rather than Sean, who was all touchy feely, was the raw lust he evoked, stripped of any attempts at affection.

I was awakened by the sound of the telephone ringing on the nightstand next to Xavier. Drapes were pulled over the window, but the sunlight that was fighting to get into the room at the edges of the window and at the slit where the drapes were pulled together told me that it was way past dawn. Still early for me. Since I'd retired, I'd gotten up when I woke up--which was usually a lot closer to noon than to dawn.

Xavier was laying beside me, on his back, propped up against the headboard, and smoking another cigarette. He picked up the phone and then handed it over to me. "It's for you," he said.

"For me?" Who the fuck knew I was here, in Xavier's hotel room? I hadn't even known I'd be here this morning. It was Ralph Peters.

"Paul," I heard him say. "I trust you had an interesting night."

"You could say so," I answered. "How the fuck did you--?"

"I hope Xavier was satisfactory."

"One hell of a surprise," I answered. "But how the fuck did--?"

"Listen, I'm in a bind, and you're retired. And if you are hitting it off with Xavier and all, I was wondering . . . and you have been saying that you were antsy in retirement and were looking for a little excitement. Well, I was wondering. Xavier's on a three-week tour. Chicago from here and then San Francisco and L.A. Back to Austin and then Atlanta before going back to Spain. I'm really swamped here. I'm wondering if you'll travel with him. Be his handler for State. I know I can get it approved. All expenses paid."

"Me, travel around the country with Xavier? I don't know how I can . . . or if he'd want to . . ."

I had to take a breath. Xavier had smiled and wagged his head to signal he was happy with that and then had leaned over my body and taken my cock in his mouth to seal his approval.

"You don't have that many responsibilities here," Ralph said. "We both know that. And I know you're writing gay novels now, but you can do that anywhere--and I think that Xavier could give you a plotline to purse anyway. Besides, it's been a hard winter here in D.C. and you've made it harder by continuously complaining of the cold and the snow. Granted Chicago will be colder, but the rest of the trip will be in warmer climes, and it will almost be spring by the time you return to D.C."

I couldn't argue with that. And so I didn't, arranging to visit him in State later in the afternoon to start the process of taking over from him as Xavier's handler on this tour.

Handler. Which was rather funny, because Xavier was working on giving me a blow job and was handling my ass with a finger stroking my prostate when I placed the receiver back on the telephone.

"I'm glad you will be my guide," Xavier said, with a deep growl in his voice. "Now I want to fuck. But who takes who first?" I opted to side-split him languidly for starters and I ended up with my shoulders bearing my weight on the hotel room carpet next to the bed and him standing and holding my legs spread wide in the air as he jack hammered down into my ass.

There was more of the same as we traveled around the States. As he practiced in the afternoons, I wrote to a novel draft inspired by our arrangement. The novel was finished and snarfed up by my publisher before we reached Atlanta. I would accompany him to his concerts in the evenings, doing all of the managerial work, and then we'd flip-flop fuck much of the night away in hotel rooms--leaving a swath of first-class hotels with burn marks on the corners of the nightstands all across the country. Most of the mornings were for sleeping to recover from exhaustion and more sex to recover a modicum of exhaustion.

By the time we reached Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta and I was waving him toward the departure ramp, I was smitten, totally adjusted to an exciting new life that I knew now would be cut off in an instant, and was ruminating over what I could do to keep the wet dream from ending.

The stake of this was driven through my heart and I was spurred to unthinking action when I arrived back in Washington, D.C., to find that Sean had cleared out of my apartment in the Watergate and was now living with Ralph Peters, displacing the last man he had in his bed, Randy, apparently. It was like musical beds in Ralph's place.

I didn't discover they were now a pair until I went to the next practice of the gay men's chorus and found them wrapped up in each other. It took Howard to explain the obvious to me. Ralph had used the time that I was floating around the States doing his job to take Sean from me. It didn't matter that before I left I was trying to think of ways to pry Sean out of my bed. I certainly didn't want it to be a matter of someone taking him away from me.

My ego bruised, and seeing myself as a laughingstock, I skipped the next men's chorus practice, not wanting to come face to face with the pair. The day after I'd done that, I realized that there really wasn't anything keeping me tied to my current location and life at all. And I was finding myself dreaming of Xavier and missing his shocking and surprising ways.

Focused, off kilter, and completely frustrated, I went on the Internet and began researching houses in the Lugo region of Spain's Galicia--where Xavier was from. Xavier hadn't given me his address--in truth he hadn't given me any means of contacting him, although, as I now remembered it, I'd tried to get that from him--until I realized he didn't have to tell me. All of his contact information in Spain was in the paperwork I held as we traveled around the States on his cultural tour.

He came from a village called Guntin to the southwest of the larger town of Lugo. Within forty-eight hours of looking, I'd contracted and sent a deposit on a partially renovated nineteenth-century stone country villa outside of the village of Friol, twenty-two kilometers northwest of Lugo.

I had tasted the surprise and variety of Xavier--and of the flip-flop, which I'd had no idea would send me so far up into the clouds of arousal and completion. There was nothing to hold me in Washington, D.C.--or in the States, for that matter. I was going off for an adventure in retirement and for rejuvenation in rural Spain.



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