My short story, “Whispers of Old Winds,” appeared in the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar. I started expanding the story almost immediately after it was published, filling in the obviously missing details about the main characters, Sam Daly and his husband Michael Bellomo—something that a few reviews took me to task for. Though the original story is included in the first few chapters of the novel, the ensuing narrative goes back to Sam’s and Michael’s first meeting, their decision to move to the Colorado mountains, and the secrets the mountain community of Pine County reveal—skinwalkers, the mysticism of Native Americans, and the age-old magic that exists but cannot be explained.
Title: Whispers of Old Winds by George Seaton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mythology, Paranormal, M/M, Romance
Length: 286 pages/Word Count: 97,986
Sheriff Sam Daly, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his husband, Michael Bellomo, have made a life for themselves in sparsely populated Pine County in the Colorado mountains. Sam oversees the small sheriff’s department, and Michael sells his paintings and tourist items out of his shop, Needful Things. From the beginning, Sam has known Michael possessed gifts: the ability to see and hear things Sam cannot.
When a report of a body in a massive snow-filled depression up a mountainside sends Sam and his deputy, Digger, to investigate, Sam struggles to reconcile the existence of skinwalkers in Pine County with the world he’s familiar with. Michael, though, deals with this reality through his art, and through the mysticism he’s been gifted. Sam’s effort to discover what is happening causes him to examine his life with Michael from the time they first met. The inevitable conclusion might be that he’ll never understand the mysteries of the mountains, but for the sake of Michael and their love, he’ll have to embrace them.
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2015.
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On our way home from the mall, we passed a Christmas tree lot that had very few trees left. “Oh,” Michael said. “Let’s stop. We haven’t gotten our tree yet.”
He’d known since the first Christmas we’d been together that I wasn’t really into Christmas trees and all the work it takes to adorn them and the eventual mess they create.
“Christmas isn’t the happiest time for me,” I’d told him and repeated that sentiment as we drove past the lot.
“But that was before me. And you enjoyed it last year.”
“I guess I did to a point.”
“So go around the block and let’s pick one out.”
We did go into that lot, saw the slim pickings, but Michael would not be dissuaded. “This is the perfect one,” he said, standing before a pitiful spruce that was beginning to droop.
“Michael, it’s almost dead, just like the one we had last year.”
“Yes, it is. That’s why we have to take it. It’s dying, Sam,” he said, turning his face to me.
“This sounds familiar.” I looked at him, his eyes, and knew that what I’d come to know about him over the past year was who he was, a young man uncompromised by rational arguments when it came to what he believed was important. At that moment, that pitiful excuse for a Christmas tree, just like our first Christmas, had become his raison d’être, his sole purpose on earth for living at that particular moment, and I could not, no, I would not refuse him that.
“Okay,” I said. “But I don’t know where we put the ornaments.”
“I know where they are, and we’ll make some more if we don’t have enough,” he said as he picked up the tree.
After we’d decorated the tree, not putting the heavier ornaments on the limbs because the tree was so fatigued, sadly drooping, we exchanged gifts, sitting on the floor in front of the tree. I gave him a picture book of scenes from the Colorado mountains. He gave me a small box with a tiny replica of an adobe house inside.
“Thank you, dear,” I said. “Did you make this?”
“Yes, I did. It means something too.”
I waited for him to go on, but he didn’t. “And what does it mean?”
“We’re going to Taos next month to get married. That’s what the B&B looks like where we’re going to stay.”
I wasn’t expecting this, of course, and stared at him for a moment without saying anything. Well, I thought, yes, why not? “Okay.”
He smiled. “I don’t even have to ask you if you’ll marry me?”
“You already know the answer.”
“I do. And the book is lovely,” he said, picking it up from the floor. He flipped through it, then closed it and rested it in his lap. “When are we going to move to the mountains?”
“When we find a place we like.”
“Best Christmas ever, Michael Bellomo.”
“I agree, Sam Daly.”
At the end of January, we drove to Taos, spent three days exploring the area, and on the fourth day, we married in the great room of a B&B not far from Arroyo Seco with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains framed in the great room’s tall windows.
And it was there, the night before we married, that Michael told me something of his childhood and his family. It wasn’t much, but it did explain a lot. That first year had been revelatory, not only exposing what was for me the essential epiphany of just how much one person can love another but also revealing that Michael was a soulful man caught in a spiritual darkness that at times defied any sense I could make of it. Defied too the amazing brightness of his presence in my life.
We spent many weekends of our second year together traveling the immense spread of the Colorado Rockies, stopping in small towns, exploring the valleys, hiking the trails, all of it done with the thought we’d know where we wanted to live when we saw it. And we did eventually see it on one Sunday morning in July. The countryside spread out from Gunderson Junction in Pine County beckoned us both as a loving mother, her arms spread, her smile effusive.
“Come,” she said. “Come, and stay awhile,” she whispered.
I would, though, later have occasion to pause and wonder if that loving mother had forsaken us, as if she’d put us to bed, turned off the light, and closed the door without ridding our closet of monsters.
George Seaton’s short stories, novellas, and novels capture contemporary life mostly set in the American west—Colorado and Wyoming in particular. He and his husband, David, along with their Alaskan malamute, Kuma, live in the Colorado foothills just southwest of Denver.