Blessed with an absence of his high-powered deputy-ambassador wife, the recent purchase of a vintage Jaguar convertible, and a reservation in the room Daphne du Maurier occupied while she was writing Rebecca, bisexual American novelist Collin Stevens taps his inner carefree nature to take a week’s vacation from settling in to a tour at the American embassy. He escapes to the venerable British colonial-period mountain hotel, the Forest Park, in Pano Platres, Cyprus. Upon meeting charismatic, sensual, and seductive Greek Cypriot actor, Nico Christou, at the hotel, Collin is quickly taken up—literally—in the arms of a group of talented and randy artists, musicians, and writers conclaved in Platres for a week of creativity, during which the *oung American novelist finds himself celebrated in both art and casual sex. Much as he subsequently tries to write the whirlwind week off as a last fling before dutifully settling down as an embassy spouse, Collin finds he cannot escape the intensity and arousal of either the conclave experience or Nico Christou.
I went to my hotel room and worked feverishly again on the manuscript until I felt exhausted—and profoundly thirsty. A room refrigerator was not likely to be something they would install at the Forest Park in the current century, so, still in my tux pants and pleated shirt, but minus tie and jacket and with the shirt comfortably open at the collar, I left the room again and went looking for the Olympus Bar, which the hotel brochure assured me was open until 3:00 AM. It was almost midnight now. Still feeling the solitude of the hotel—not that I objected to that—I took up the George Seferis poetry book and a biography of him with the subtitle “Waiting for the Angel,” and tucked them under my arm.
The handsome man was sitting at the bar, drinking a beer and talking with the barman as if they were longtime friends when I entered. I found a table far enough from the bar that I could read without hearing what they were discussing but at an angle where I could watch the other guest. He was powerfully built, and I thought him the best thing I’d seen in the hotel thus far. The barman came over and I ordered a brandy sour, which I’d learned was virtually the national drink of Cyprus after beer and wine, and, after he had served it up, he went back to the bar.
I was engrossed in a passage in the biography that I thought would give me a good hook for my own manuscript and thus didn’t see the handsome man approach and circle behind me.
“You cannot sleep in Platres for the nightingales. Shy nightingale, hidden among whispering leaves, you bring the echoing coolness of the forest to the sundered souls and bodies of those who know there can be no return.”
The voice was deep and rich and the poetry had been enunciated with mesmerizing cadence. What shocked me, though, was that I recognized the poem. It had been the source of the title of the manuscript I was working on—“Sleep for the Nightingale.”
“It’s from George Seferis’s ‘Eleni,’ and it was written about this hotel. Seferis is virtually the adopted poet laureate of Cyprus.”
“Yes, I know,” I answered.
“What of these tidbits of information do you know?” the man asked. I was looking up into his face as he came around to the side of me.
“All of it,” I answered.
“Ah, an educated man. Do you mind if I sit for a moment?”
“No, please do,” I answered, gesturing at the empty chair at the small table. “An interesting—and unique introduction,” I said as he sat. Like me, he had lost his suit jacket and tie and had unbuttoned his pleated tux shirt. Unlike me, though, he had unbuttoned his almost down to his navel and as he sat his shirt front opened to where I could see a well-muscled chest with a patch of curly black hair running under his pecs and meeting at his sternum and continuing down toward his belt buckle. He was well tanned and there was a silver ring through his right nipple. A man of mystery and surprises. He had me from that moment—if not before.