Excerpt for When Salmon Loved Raven; Contemporary Gay Romance by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

When Salmon Loved Raven

Contemporary Gay Romance

By Skye Eagleday


Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 Skye Eagleday

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When Salmon Loved Raven

Skye Eagleday



Chapter One



“Come here, Lake.” His grandfather smiled at him. The little boy’s face was streaked with tears and his pale gray eyes were red and puffy. The old man looked at him and gently hugged him. His wife watched them silently. Then she turned back to filleting a salmon. “Let me tell you a story,” he whispered into the boy’s ear as he held him protectively. He felt the child nod. “Do you know what your Kayah is doing?”

Lake looked up at his grandmother’s back. “Cutting a fish,” he whispered back.

A salmon. She’s fixing a salmon for our dinner. Why don’t I tell you a story about a salmon? Would you like that?” Lake nodded again and then sat back so he could watch his grandfather’s face. It was a very kind face. Brown and round. Heavily lined, with deep grooves around his eyes because his grandfather laughed so often. His hair had a lot of silver shining through the black. Lake unconsciously touched his own auburn hair. His mother’s hair was the same color.

Long and long ago, when the world was younger, the forms of things were not as fixed as they are today. One shape could become another.” The old man watched Lake’s reaction, choosing the words the boy could understand. “Like shadows.” He held up his hand in front of the light and made shadows on the wall by his grandson, bringing his hand back and forth to change the shadow’s size and shape. “Always changing.”

Lake laughed and moved his small hand the way he had seen his grandfather do. “Animals looked more like humans, and humans looked more like animals. The Salmon Man was quite beautiful in any form he wore. His long hair glistened red and he smiled easily.” The old man gently touched his grandson’s hair. “One day, Raven flew by and in the manner of ravens today, Salmon Man’s brightness caught his eye and he could not resist his desire. He landed lightly and took the shape of a man.”

Lake frowned. “Was he beautiful, too? “His grandfather was thoughtful.

Not like Salmon Man. The stories never say that Raven was beautiful. But he was very clever.” He took a deep breath. “But once you saw Raven, you would never forget what he looked like. That’s not the same as beautiful, but it can be very important.”

Now it was Lake’s turn to look thoughtful. His grandfather waited for his attention to return and began again. “Raven can be charming and he courted Salmons Man, who had long been alone and was flattered by this attention and the careful words. He offered Raven smoked salmon and he ate to his contentment. He admired Salmon Man’s wonderful hair. Just so, he dipped his sharp silvery fingers into the water of a basket and brushed Raven’s dark head.” As he spoke, he gently brushed Lake’s soft hair. “When his fingers combed through, Raven’s hair became as red as his own.”

Lake’s eyes grew round and he touched his own hair again. “Raven grew complacent…” he hesitated for a moment. “…he took for granted the easy food and grateful company. Raven would admire himself, proud of how striking he looked with his new fineness. He only needed to reach out and there would be smoked or roasted salmon. He ate as much as he wanted and he wanted much. One day he reached to take some smoked salmon and it fell down and into the ashes. Amidst such bounty--such richness-- he didn’t bother to even pick it up, but simply kicked it into the fire.” His grandfather stopped. “Do you know why that was a very bad thing to do?”

Lake nodded quickly and smiled. “Because food is sacred. We always have to respect food.”

Yes,” his grandfather said proudly. “That’s exactly right. But Raven didn’t do that. This lack of respect broke the Salmon Man’s heart. He turned and walked towards the Salish Sea, his own tears joining with the water so they became one. As he moved further into the Salish Sea, his salmon children returned to life and followed him. To Raven’s horror, he watched all of his food disappear and his scalp began to itch. His beautiful red hair fell out and only coarse black feathers remained. It is said the Salmon Man became Mist and he comes near the shore to see if human people treat his children with more respect than Raven.”

The old man carefully studied Lake’s face. “And then one day he saw a human man who was kind-hearted who respected the salmon and taught others that food is sacred. Although Mist was frightened of being hurt again, he rose from the water and became Salmon Man once more. He spoke to the human man, and gradually they became of one heart.” He looked up and found his wife staring at him, her face empty. “We don’t always find the right person the first time we go looking.” He smiled. “I had to look a long time to find your grandmother.” She smiled very slightly and then her face flattened out again. He kissed Lake and told him to go outside and play.

The door closed and she watched their grandson chasing the old tom cat that would sometimes come by. “That’s not how the story goes, Old Man. You know it was Salmon Woman, not Salmon Man. You know the story just ends with Raven breaking her heart. She never returns to land, but stays Mist Woman.”

He nodded. “That’s the story I was told.” He put his arm around her and joined her in watching Lake. “But I told him the story he needed to hear. You know he’s a Wackla. A Two-Spirit. It won’t always be an easy life for him the way the world is now. The world is changing and it will be a better place when he’s ready to look for someone to share his heart. But the story may help him remember how beautiful he is when the world tells him he isn’t. Tells him he’s less than.”

“Besides,” she said, putting the salmon in the oven, “you didn’t find me, I was the one who found you.”

He kissed her. “So next time, you tell the story.”

Lake wiped his hands on a red towel and showed the new delivery man where to put the boxes of fresh produce. This was his favorite time of year and he had carefully planned his menu from the lush wealth of the local farmers. He was looking forward to using the candy cane beets. He loved their red and white concentric circles when he sliced them lengthwise. He started to sort through his treasures before the last crate was brought in. “Anything else, Mr. Toyesh?” The tall man wiped his forehead with his sleeve. His face was open and friendly.

“No,” he smiled. “Now I have the pleasure of putting things away.” He signed for the order and admired the heirloom tomatoes. He would be ready for a special guest tonight. An old friend of his at the Seattle Times had sent him a text that their new reviewer, Corbin, would be in tonight, and had thoughtfully sent him a photo. Corbin (apparently a one name type like Madonna or Cher) was dark and handsome. Lake looked more closely. Ethnic looking without being obviously a specific ethnicity. One of those chameleon types who could blend in with almost any non-Nordic groups he encountered. Lake had the almond-shaped eyes of his grandparents but the coloring of his red-headed mother. He was the sort who didn’t tan, but pinked. Fortunately, sunburn was rarely a danger while living around the Puget Sound, or as he preferred to call it, the Salish Sea. That was the name he had chosen for his restaurant.

He glanced at the framed reviews on the wall. Nothing short of stellar, and most spent as much time describing the attractiveness of the chef as they did on the quality and presentation of the courses and the environment. He came from a long line of restaurateurs, and was proud of what he had managed to accomplish. He had a theme of local Native American culture with magnificent northwest coast art he had commissioned from a number of tribal carvers. The centerpiece was a cedar salmon his own grandfather had created a year before he died. The floor was covered in small, dark rounded river pebbles he found far more intriguing than carpeting or wooden flooring. He had even had a local Medicine Man come in to do a blessing when he opened two years ago.

Jerri, his sous chef, came in and apologized for being late. They spent the next twenty minutes reviewing the menu before they started in on the prep work. “How’s the new girlfriend working out?” Lake asked when they took a break.

“While I’ll admit when we try to dance we look like a frog in a blender, she’s constantly making me laugh and oh, my goddess—when I first saw her I was so aroused I got dehydrated!”

“TMI,” Lake drawled. “I look forward to meeting her. Listen, tonight the new food critic from the Times is going to be here.”

“How do you know? I thought they made a big deal out of showing up all incognito and stuff.”

“He’s one of the new breed—celebrity critics the way these days we have celebrity chefs.”

Jerri picked up a towel and wiped her fingers. “I don’t like it. When you never know which customer might be a critic, you treat them all like critics. Keeps you on your toes.”

Lake nodded. “As my grandfather used to say, ‘Well, it is as it is.’ We’ll do our best and hope he enjoys his time with us.”

Chapter Two

“How late do you think you’ll be?” Corbin asked impatiently. The intern looked up from his computer and watched the critic’s face run through several shades of anger. In the six weeks they had both been at the Times, he had learned to watch out for the older man’s moods. He was a good match for the Seattle weather. A lot of dark clouds and a rare blast of sunshine. When Corbin was happy he was a joy to be around—funny and charming. Most of the time he was cloudy. The intern’s attention went back to his display screen. He heard the phone slam down. Cloudy with flashes of lightning.

“Stacy!” he yelled.

“Tracy,” the intern automatically corrected.

“Whatever. What are you doing tonight?”

“My girlfriend and I are going to download a movie we missed when it first came out and have some wine and…”

“Wrong answer. You’re coming with me to dinner at the Salish Sea. Cameron won’t be able to make it and I need a companion to order a larger variety from the menu.”

“Can I bring my…”

“No!” He straightened up to stare down at the intern. “Get your priorities straight, Stacy.”

“Tracy…”

“Whatever. Your job description reads and other such duties as assigned. Now you know what you’ve been assigned.” He leaned back into his seat. “Think of it as a perk. You’ll have a gourmet meal at the Times’ expense and you might learn something about being a food critic. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Well, I majored in sports journalism, and I …”

“Way wrong answer, kid.” He looked at the intern as if really seeing him for the first time. “Do you have any decent clothes to wear?”

“The suit I wore for my interview.”

“What color is it?”

“Navy blue.”

Corbin stared at him. “I guess that will have to do. You’re a millennial. That means you don’t even have a driver’s license, right?”

Tracy didn’t say anything but nodded his head.

“Meet me here at seven and try to clean yourself up as much as possible. I don’t want people thinking I’d be out with someone who looks like you do now.” He turned back to his desk. “I have standards to maintain.” He turned off his computer. “You have no idea how much I’m missing Chicago, where people know how to dress. Now I’m stuck in Lumberjack City where half the population is wearing Columbia Sportswear and the other half is in Eddie Bauer.”

Tracy tried to keep his face blank, knowing there was an Eddie Bauer jacket hanging on the coat stand his aunt had given him as a graduation gift. “God,” Corbin muttered, “it’s going to look like I’m robbing the skateboard. Try to look more grown-up.”

Tracy knew he was looking like a raccoon in the headlights. He wanted to bolt and he had no idea how to look more adult. He was sure that wasn’t in his job description and he suspected HR wouldn’t be thrilled at him having to pretend being the gay critic’s date. He wrote “Seven” on a post-it and put it next to several others on the side of his monitor.

“Are you even old enough to drink?”

Tracy nodded again. He had turned 21 two weeks ago. Corbin had apparently forgotten the cake that some of the other staff had brought out with “21!”in the center, outlined in white icing.

“Gotta go—have an appointment to get my hair trimmed. Be here on time, kid.” Corbin was gone. Tracey sighed and called his girlfriend.

Chapter Three

“Everybody ready?” Lake watched as the staff produced a collective grin. He grew up with his grandfather’s advice of always hiring for friendly and then training in the technical. Every review had mentioned the enthusiasm of all the employees. He passed around his Iphone so they’d all know what Corbin looked like. “Hunky,” the hostess purred.

“His Wikipedia page lists him as openly gay, so try not to embarrass yourself,” Jerri smiled. The hostess rolled her eyes.

“I swear to God,” she muttered. “All the good men are either married or gay. If you want someone decent you have to steal him from someone else!”

“Steal on your own time,” Lake laughed. “Meanwhile, hit your stations. Waitstaff, follow me into the kitchen to grab a taste of tonight’s specials so you’ll know how to answer any questions our guests might have.” Everything was going smoothly. He hoped it would be an easy night. He wondered what sort of person Corbin might be. Corbin’s name wasn’t on the reservation list, so he was either using a nom de food, or he was listed under a companion’s name. He hadn’t realized Corbin was gay until Jerri had brought it up. Now Lake was even more curious. He had dated a guy in college, but then he was busy getting ready to open Salish Sea and Ted headed off to graduate school on the other side of the country. The texts and snapchat shares started dwindling until Ted finally evaporated. Lake poured himself into his work and tried not to think of how many nights he felt alone. He had gone out a few times to some of Seattle’s bars and clubs, but it felt like everyone just wanted him for a one-night stand.

“Heads up, Lake,” Jerri said. “I’ll be busy with the sauce.”

“Oh, sorry—my mind wanders so much it sometimes brings back souvenirs.”

“Oh, Lake!” he heard a woman’s voice calling from the doorway.

“Welcome, Mrs. Bullitt! And happiest of anniversaries! We have a special night planned for you and your husband. Betty will get you seated and then I’ll be over to let you know what to expect. In the meantime, start off with some champagne, compliments of Salish Sea.’ The middle-aged woman looked immaculate in a fitted dark gray dress and matching dark pearls. Her husband looked brown and mousey by comparison. They dined at his place once a month and he had never heard the husband utter a word.

He returned to their table a few minutes later and passed them a hand-printed menu that showed their names and indicated their choice of entrees and desserts. “I swear,” Mrs. Bullitt said with an enormous smile. “You always make us feel so special.”

“My grandparents always taught me this is our home and we always honor our guests who grace our home.” He nodded at the choices she made for the both of them, then topped off their champagne glasses and returned to the kitchen.

Guests started filling up the restaurants. It wasn’t sold out tonight, but just needed one more table for that to happen. There were a number of regulars who called out to him. He floated easily back and forth, touching base with his guests and making certain the kitchen was on track. He was in the zone and time sped by.

“Don’t you have a different tie?” Corbin asked.

“What’s wrong with this one?”

“It’s too you,” Corbin said. He pulled into Nordstrom’s and dragged Tracey to the Men’s Department and picked out one more to his liking. “Better,” he announced. “Merry Christmas.” Then they were back in Corbin’s black BMW and on their way to the Salish Sea. Tracey self-consciously touched the thick raw silk of the new tie and tried not to think of how much it cost. Tracy had heard of the Salish Sea, but had never been. On his budget, going to Denny’s was a special treat. It was after seven, but it was still light out. The Salish Sea was near the Edgewater Hotel, matching it in upscale trendiness. Tracey didn’t know anything about architecture, but he recognized it looked as impressive as hell. A valet attendant waved at them. He had a Nigerian accent and handed Corbin a ticket as he took the keys. They walked in, Tracey gawking at the carved figures covering the large door and its frame. It was big enough where they could have driven the BMW through it.

“Focus,” Corbin hissed to Tracy. “You look like you just walked into your first titty bar. Stick your eyeballs back in your head and try not to embarrass me.” He turned and frowned at the intern. “And for God’s sake, stop looking like I’m going to hit you at any minute. If I were going to beat you I’d do it back at the office, and not in public.”

“Welcome,” the hostess smiled. “My name is Betty. May I have your name so I can seat you?” She was openly admiring him. The photo on Lake’s phone hadn’t done him justice.

“It’s under Cameron,” he said in irritation. Cameron had done nothing but whine since they moved from Chicago. He’s one argument away from my being single again. Betty escorted them to one of the tables with an incredible view of the water. A large ferry was sailing by.

“Can I start you two handsome men with something to drink?” Corbin asked to see the wine list and she pulled it from the small stack of menus she was holding. She smiled once more and returned to greet a couple who had just walked in.

“Well, she’s even more perky than her tits,” Corbin said.

“Are you sure you’re gay?”

“Hey—just because I prefer a sausage to fish doesn’t mean I’m blind, kid.” He handed Tracy the wine list. “What can you tell me about this? What do you think is the best one?”

The intern squinted. His wine choice was based on what was on sale. “Hmm—Opus 1?” Corbin looked at him.

“What makes you say that?”

“It’s the most expensive one.”

“Jesus, you’ll make someone a fine wife someday. Let me give you a quick course in reds.” Then he went on for a few minutes while his observations leaked out of Tracy’s head, knowing he’d never be in a place like this again, and Denny’s didn’t carry a wine list.

“I’m honored to have you here,” Corbin heard behind him. He turned and froze for a moment, struck by the appearance of the man who was approaching them. He made a practice not to read the reviews others had written on a restaurant he hadn’t experienced. He wanted to see everything with fresh eyes, but he hadn’t been prepared for an executive chef who looked like someone who fell off the cover for a high-end gay porn magazine. The man was at least six feet, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, emphasized by the white apron. His long red hair was pulled back, emphasizing the sharpness of his cheekbones. His eyes were slightly slanted and pale gray. The eyelashes were obscenely long, and such a darker hue than his hair, Corbin wondered which might be dyed. He stared openly. If the red wasn’t provided by premium DNA, then Seattle had a world-class coloring salon hidden away somewhere. “My name is Lake. Welcome to the Salish Sea. I recognize you as Corbin, but I don’t yet know the name of your companion.”

“Stacy,” Corbin said softly, not taking his eyes off the man in front of him.

Tracy opened up his mouth and shut it again. The fact Corbin had told him he’d only hit him back at the office was not really a guarantee he was safe. He kept watching Corbin, who was acting like his girlfriend when they went to see her favorite band. Or like his little brother when he saw a chocolate cake. It was some sort of primal hunger. He kept watching Corbin watching the man in the white apron. There was something else—a sense of possession. He looked back at the man who continued to speak. The more he looked, the better he understood Corbin’s attraction. If he were gay, his own tongue would be hanging out. All male, but some sort of odd feminine energy. Tracy had grown up with guys his own age declaring that they were gender or sexually fluid, but this was the first time he really understood what that was supposed to mean. Tracy realized being sexually fluid could be an option with the man in the apron.

“How do you know who I am?” Corbin was starting to pull himself back together, blinking his eyes as if trying to clear his head.

“It’s part of my business to know,” Lake smiled. “You have one of those faces no one will ever forget. I also know you moved here from Chicago. How’s the adjustment going?”

“There’s a lot I miss about the Windy City,” he hesitated, “but I’m starting to see the Emerald City has certain charms of its own.” Tracy tried not to roll his eyes.

Corbin pulled the wine list back from Tracy.” Are you from Seattle?”

“Born and raised, but I spent a lot of time with my grandparents just north of the city on a reservation called Tulalip.”

Tracy cocked his head. The red hair and light skin didn’t exactly scream Native American but he wasn’t exactly an expert. His family had moved to Seattle his senior year of high school, so he was still discovering the area.

“How long have you two known each other?”

Corbin shook his head, “Oh, we’re not a twosome. Stacy’s an intern at the paper. He’s just filling in for someone else. Single. That’s me. And screw you, Cameron. Three strikes and you’re out. “How about you?”

Tracy took a sip out of his water glass. “Jeez,” he thought, “why do I feel so insulted that he’s not even pretending anymore that I’m his date? At least I got a new tie out it.”

“I think I’m just married to my restaurant. So yeah—definitely single.”

“Hard to cuddle up with a building when you’ve had a hard night.” He lifted one eyebrow, “Or a night of being hard.” Tracy stifled a laugh and Corbin kicked him under the table.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately,” Lake said softly. “I don’t get out very often.”

“I think I can help you out,” Corbin said, pulling out a business card. He wrote his personal cell number on the back. “As a favor I’m going to be filling in for the entertainment critic while she’d on vacation. Why don’t we talk about you coming with me to check out some shows? I’m going to go out on a limb and suspect you’re the type who does a working vacation, so let’s block that by having me be the one who’s on the job, so you can just sit back and relax.”


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