Argus is a master Dom who’s lost his sense of purpose. Dori is a spiritual seeker who’s never quite found his way. When the two meet at a pagan festival, the heat is undeniable -- Dori even offers a solution to Argus’ disillusionment: ordeal path spirituality! But how can BDSM amateur Dori and novice pagan Argus chart a new path together if Dori keeps disappearing? Will he find his way to commit to Argus in time for a Christmas Eve appearance at Broad Horizons?

CARDINAL POINTS appears in the BOUND WITH A BOW anthology that spans the entire spectrum of GLBT BDSM and includes stories by Beth Wylde, Mychael Black, Sascha Illyvich, and EM Lynley! Read more...
 
(BOUND WITH A BOW is the follow-up to BROADLY BOUND.)
 
Read an excerpt below
REVIEW
Gabrielle at You Gotta Read Reviews describes Dori and Argus as, "Two men seeking and never finding the right path until they meet each other and understand just what it is that they are searching for." Read the whole review. 
 
Here is how CARDINAL POINTS begins:
 
“Buncha faeries,” I mutter as Carl and I sidestep a clot of happy creatures on our way to the mead hall.  Why I ever agreed to come to a pagan gathering escapes me. It’s all so…silly. Like a RenFaire with religious pretensions. I know it’s not true – there’s serious stuff going on too, and a community here, a subculture perhaps as misunderstood as my own.

“Smartass.  Come on, bro,” Carl wheedles.  My brother thinks being a craft brewer gives him some kind of fraternity with the folks here.  “Don’t be so judgmental.  You’re supposed to be getting over…what was his name?”

Carl knows perfectly well what ‘his’ name was, so I flick him on the ear and stamp towards the booze tent.  Mead hall, beer garden, Valhalla, whatever.

Rubbing his ear, Carl catches up with me and resumes the ogling that got us tripped up with the faerie ring dancers in the first place.  He’s on the prowl for an easy, eager lay with a tantrika or something.  I’ve told him we can check out the ‘sex magick’ workshops later, after I have a beer.  Or three.

“So you’ve been dumped, so what,” he’s pattering along beside me, smiling broadly at every buxom young thing that flits by. 

I resist the urge to flick his other ear. “I was not dumped.  I was Erik’s trainer. Not his Dom.  His year contract with me was up, and he was ready to move on.”

“Yeah,” Carl snickers, “he was ready, but you were attached.”  I hate it when he’s sarcastic.  I hate it even more when he’s right. I haven’t been with anyone since Erik left six months ago. I know I’m no joy to be around these days, and that Carl is trying to cheer me up with a change of scenery, but man, he’s a brat sometimes.

I also know there’s no point in explaining anything to him.  My little brother is as vanilla as they come.  Soft-serve vanilla at that.  BDSM might as well be the dark side of the moon, for all he’ll ever understand about it.  Long time ago, we agreed I wouldn’t subject him to the details of my sex life and he would lay off extolling the joys of abundant boobies and welcoming snatch. Most days that works out just fine.

Not today, though. Today, Carl’s little-brother loyalty has been triggered.  And I have to admit, even though Erik had completed his training with me, and I always knew he’d never stay on as my sub, I’m broken up.

The beer garden is dark and cool after the heat of the midsummer noon outside.  We head for Carl’s booth -- festivals like this one are his bread and butter whether they’re pagan gatherings or local music festivals, or even farmer’s markets.  I don’t go with him often, but once in a while it’s interesting to see how the mundane make a buck.

I’m waiting for Carl’s barback to pump the keg on the Berserker Brew I like best – all dark and malty with a nice head and earthy sediment.  My brother really is a master in his world, just like I am in mine.  It’s been a while, so I take a deep, appreciative whiff before raising my complimentary “PaganPalooza” plastic half pint tankard.

The pleasure of Carl’s craft is not to be mine this afternoon, for as soon as I open my mouth to draw the cold brew in, someone barrels into me from behind.  I’ve spent enough time in crowded clubs to know how to avoid a really bad spill, but there’s still a mess for Carl’s little barback to clean up.  I leave it to him with an apologetic shrug-smile and spin to confront whatever idiot had the staggeringly poor judgment to separate a grumpy Top from his well-earned refreshment.

“Unhand my balls, knave!”

The guy who bumped me must have backed into me because he’s facing away and hollering at a big guy in a star-covered muumuu.  The muumuu guy is glowering and holding a trio of striped wooden balls out of reach of the smaller guy.

I’ve spent enough time in leather bars that I can spot a bully at five paces, no matter what he’s wearing.

The guy who jostled me is smaller, with wild, fair hair and a leather jerkin over tights striped to match the balls in Muumuu’s hands.  This is so not a leather bar, but I wade in anyway. Something about the little guy has my Top-sense jangling.

“Listen, dude,” I say to Muumuu. “No harm, no foul.  Now why don’t you give…” I pause and wait for a name.

“Dori,” says the stripy guy.

“Why don’t you give Dori back his balls and move along.”

“He’s undercutting my business, luring customers away from my booth.”

“’Cause you’re a poseur and a charlatan!” the little guy shouts.  My Top-sense hones in on the lack of self-preservation in Dori’s voice.

“And you’re a no-account punk who has no business here!” Muumuu’s jowls sway as he leans forward into Dori’s personal space.

“Bit judgmental for the sweetness and light crowd, aren’t you?” I say to Muumuu, stepping around Dori to get a look and effectively cutting off Muumuu’s forward motion.

I see what Muumuu means.  Dori’s got an edge to him: facial piercings and the tips of at least three tattoos peeking around the placket of his poet’s blouse.  Add black guyliner and a scowl fit for a Dropkick Murphys album cover, and that’s who I’d ended up defending.

Dark brown eyes meet mine for a brief second before zapping back to Muumuu, and I’m lost in a buzz of lust.  What a pretty kid.

Muumuu shifts his piggy eyes between me and Dori.  I’m no Drummer dream-guy, but I’m broad and hard and dressed like Skins down on River Street is my next stop. The hand holding Dori’s balls lowers a bit and I know Muumuu’s about to break.

“Just not one of us,” he grumbles and tosses the balls into the trampled dirt at our feet.

He’s certainly not out of ear shot when Dori mutters after him, “Thank everybody’s gods for that!”

Those deep eyes find mine again and I find myself smiling. I’m told I have a certain boyish charm when I smile.  Must be the blue eyes and dimples.  Dori doesn’t answer my look, though, instead aiming that scowl up at me through spiky fringes of hair and heavy smears of black makeup.

“Can fight my own battles, you know.” He bends to retrieve the balls -- he’s graceful -- and sets them spinning through the air between us.

“I don’t doubt it,” I offer by way of peace-making.  “I just can’t abide bullies. And I did lose my beer.  I was a stakeholder, too.”

That earns me a grudging quirk of lips and another mumble: “I’ll get you another.”

And that’s when I surprise myself. “Only if you join me,” I hear myself saying.

Dori shrugs and deftly catches all three balls in one hand before secreting them in a satchel at his hip.

Behind Carl’s makeshift bar, the little barback comps us two beers.  “My brother’s brewery,” I explain to Dori. 

“Where’s Carl?” I ask the barback.

He points with his chin over to a competitor’s booth where my brother is chatting up the St. Pauli Girl. 

“Fuck!”

For the first time, Dori smiles.  “Jealous?”

Nothing could be further from the truth, which I hope I’m conveying with my eyes and a long look at Dori’s spandex-covered crotch.  “Nah, he’s my ride home, is all.”

We find a place to sit on a bench where we can watch one of the smaller music stages where two perfectly respectable looking lesbians are butchering some latter-day folk anthem.

“So what did that guy mean, you don’t belong here?” Maybe it’s stupid to bring it up, but Muumuu’s words seemed to bother Dori, and I’m curious.

“He meant I’m not part of any church or kingdom. I’m a solo practitioner.”

“Must be plenty of folks here like that,” I venture. This is a pretty cool city, but it’s not like we’re New Age central or Pagan Paradise or anything.  Most of the people here have come from out of town for the festival. Maybe Dori has, too.

Dori shakes his head, as if there’s something fundamental I’m not getting. The movement leaves his hair caught on his eyelashes, and I grip my plastic tankard tightly to avoid brushing it away for him.  He blows upward, with his bottom lip over his top, and gets the job done, with the side effect that now I’m imagining a different kind of job that flexible mouth might perform.

“I don’t follow a prescribed path,” Dori tells me.  I’ve been all over the world, seeking, you know?”

“But you haven’t found what you need?” Seems like the right thing to say.

He shakes his head again.  “And in the process I’ve rejected a lot of what everyone else believes. Problem is, I’m not shy about saying so, and saying why.  That moron is the worst sort of huckster. Tarot and platitudes and suckering sincere folks out of their money. Served him right my balls and patter kept people from getting suckered.”

“Well, they are very pretty balls.” Teasing may have been a misstep, ‘cause I get a glare almost as contemptuous as the one he gave Muumuu.

“Just trying to help. I hate these assholes taking advantage of people’s salvation anxiety,” he says.  “And it’s not like I’m a real threat, like ideological or anything.  All I do is juggle for tips, sometimes sit in with a band or two. Lots of folks know me, but…”

“They just tolerate you?” I ask. Dori nods.  “You make them uncomfortable.” I have no idea why he’s confiding in me like this, and he’s making me uncomfortable in a decidedly earthbound way, but I’m enjoying this conversation more than any I’ve had all summer.

“So, what’s your path? And hey, what’s your name?”

“Argus McGowan,” I say and wait for the guffaw that doesn’t come. So I answer his other question.  “My path? Nothing spiritual - I’m a mundane, I suppose, except for my job.” I wait a beat for Dori to register his interest with a look.  “I’m a lifestyle Dominant. I train submissives for a living.”

To my surprise, Dori nods as if he’s heard something like this a hundred times: heck, from the look of him maybe he has.  “You’re a holy man,” he says.

My beer goes down the wrong way.  “What? Not me.” I splutter. I mean, I know there’s a transcendence in what I do. It’s the high that every sub craves and every Top strives to deliver so he can skim a little bit off his sub’s experience. But holy? Not so much. Dori’s words rattle me, and when I’m rattled I tend to cover with humor.  “Unless you mean glory holes.” There, all the important tidbits are out there now.  I settle back to see what Dori does with all that.

To my everlasting surprise, he calls me a liar.  “Have you never heard of the Ordeal Path?” he asks.

Lee Benoit