Sean Ian O’Meidhir & Connal Braginsky has a new queer paranormal book out, book one on the Crossing Nuwa series: Escape.
For sheltered Robbie, one week of freedom leads to sexual awakening and adventure… but when his world intersects with Theo’s, they’ll need all their wits and Theo’s magic to fight for their future.
Rare male weresnake Robbie has had his whole life decided for him down to his meals. But when the time comes for him to perform an unspeakable duty to his clan, he runs.
San Francisco Pride is in full swing when technomage Theo spots a scared-looking young man with brilliant emerald eyes. He’s only looking for a hookup, but before he knows why, he’s taking Robbie home and introducing him to champagne and enchiladas. He doesn’t have any intention of falling in love.
Robbie doesn’t want to return to his clan, at least not without trying to fit a lifetime of experiences into a week, but every day he stays puts Theo in more danger.
IT STARTED in the shower. Well, okay, my story didn’t actually start in the shower, but the part where I fell for Theo did. I look back now and realize how very naïve I was, but it doesn’t matter. I would have fallen for him anyway.
I’ll get to the shower in a minute…. Maybe it’s important to explain how I got to the shower. It’s still something that’s hard for me to believe….
I BREATHE. JUST breathe. Well past midnight, I sat on the edge of my bed—fully dressed. If I do this and they catch me they might kill me. But… how can I not? I can’t stay. I can’t do what they want…. Every time I thought about it, my stomach began to churn, and I felt light-headed. What other options were there?
“Come on,” I whispered, then laughed. Talking to myself? That’s what this had come to?
I stood on wobbly knees and opened my large walk-in closet. Over the last month I had been stowing things I would need in a backpack I hadn’t used since I was thirteen. An extra pair of pants, four shirts, seven pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, three half-full deodorants (having convinced Mrs. Matlock, our housekeeper, that I just go through them quickly), and two half-tubes of toothpaste earned with the same deception that caused spikes of guilt when I thought about it. No one had noticed these things slowly going missing, or if they had they didn’t say anything.
I stared at the backpack for a ridiculous amount of time. This is a bad idea. They’re going to kill me….
I snatched the backpack before I could think about anything else, rushed to the bathroom where I grabbed my electric razor and toothbrush and shoved them in. I slipped my e-reader from the bedside table into the front of my pack and surveyed the room. My room since I was born. My prison….
Of what few things were there, I could see no reason to take anything else. Opening the door slowly, I peeked out into the darkened hall. Shifting my eyes to my serpent’s, I double-checked the hall and sighed with relief that there were no heat signatures that would suggest anyone lurking. Except me. I was the only one who stayed in my wing unless there were guests, so the bath and two other bedrooms in the wing were usually empty.
What was I going to say if they found me? I rolled my eyes at myself. What could I say? “Yes, Mother, just out for an evening run. Oh, the backpack? Well, you know how smelly I can get, just thought I’d bring a change of clothes, or seven.” I snorted at the absurdity of the situation, and then at the fact that I had been hovering in my doorway for over a minute. A little voice in my head started the mantra, “Just go, go, go.”
I nodded and hurried out the door, down the hall, down the stairs, and paused.
The house was silent. Of course it was; no one was awake at this hour.
Food. What was I going to do for food? Good thinking…. I tiptoed around the corner and through the formal dining room, which led into the kitchen. Ms. Matlock retired to her cottage at 9:00 p.m. sharp every night. She did not return to the main house until 6:00 a.m. every morning, and Mother and Aunt Edna never came into the kitchen. Except for after midnight when there’s someone rummaging around in there, I chastised myself and worked harder to be quiet.
I held my breath and listened again.
I grabbed three pieces of fruit from the large bowl at the end of the counter. If I take more, they’ll notice. Heck, they’ll notice I’m gone at 7:00 a.m. when I’m not down here for breakfast, so what will it matter if they notice more fruit is gone? I groaned and stuffed four more apples into my bag. The rest of the food in the house wasn’t prepared into meals, and I didn’t know how to cook. The thought came to mind of trying to teach myself how to cook one of Mrs. Matlock’s meat loaves so I could take it with me. But the smell would probably carry, and how long did it take to cook a meat loaf? What about salad? I could probably put together a salad… but how would I carry it?
I was stalling. This was stalling. I shook my head and hurried back through the dining room toward the front door and stopped. Mother’s purse. She stored it in the entryway cupboard, but today it was sitting on the counter. I stopped breathing. Taking small gasps of air, I stood still.
She was behind me. I could feel her. Her eyes boring into the back of my skull. Her breath tickling my ear.
I whipped around to find the hall empty and shuddered with relief. A visceral thing.
Gasping for breath, I bent over and rested my hands on my knees. I’m going to vomit. Deep breath. In through the nose.
When I could focus and my stomach had stopped churning, I looked at the purse again. Why was her purse out? Did she often leave it out? I didn’t know. I glanced inside. What was I doing? I had already stolen food from the house. Was I really thinking about doing this? This was wrong… but then, leaving was wrong.
With trembling fingers I separated the leather. Her wallet sat right on top. I can’t…. The magnetic clasp easily parted, and inside I found several bills. I’d need money.
Not giving myself any more time to think, I grabbed all the bills and stuffed them in my pocket before shoving the wallet back into the purse and stepping away.
I felt dirty.
Don’t think. Go. Go, go, go! I passed by the coat closet and paused. It was autumn…. I pulled out a coat that Mrs. Matlock had purchased for me. Something I’d never worn because I didn’t go out, but that she had made sure was available and in my size if I ever needed it. I pushed it into the pack and secured the zipper before hoisting it over both shoulders.
Go! I shook my head. It was now or never. Either go, or….
I opened the front door and surveyed the dark, quiet estate. Then just started running. There were no trees or shrubs or anything to hide my flight between the house and the gate, and I was certain that lights would suddenly come on as I tore down the long drive. But nothing happened. All was still dark when I arrived at the tall iron gate that was way too high for me to climb. Even though I had never opened the gate on my own, I remembered the code from five years earlier when my aunt had escorted us to the park. The last time I had set foot outside the estate.
Cringing, I expected a loud creaking, but was pleasantly surprised when the gate swung inward, blessedly silent. It didn’t keep me from checking over my shoulder a dozen times, convinced someone would be standing in the shadows, watching.
When no one stopped me, I began to run… and run. I had no idea where I was going, and the sleeping streets of the neighborhood on the edge of Sacramento remained passive, making me feel somnambulant. The whole escape was like something out of a nightmare, and if my heart hadn’t been thundering in my ears I might have been convinced that I was actually going to wake up at any minute.
But after a few hours, I found myself on a highway. I figured they would not find out I was missing until the morning, so the farther I could get that night, the better. I thought about taking on my snake form, for certainly I could travel faster that way. But then I’d be naked somewhere without my backpack. So I settled for walking… for miles.
I don’t know how long I journeyed in the darkness, passed by several vehicles that swept by me at alarming speeds, but I was grateful for the reprieve at what turned out to be a rest stop. It was a beacon on the highway and was abandoned except for a single huge hauling truck in the parking lot. I found toilets and sinks where I was able to get a drink of water. I had never used a public restroom. The wall was lined with strange-looking porcelain buckets with drains in them, but at least there were actual toilets too.
Mother had “homeschooled” me, a thing that I only learned later was unique; most other children went to an actual school with each other. When I asked Mother, she explained it was because of who I was. I had to be protected. It was much, much later that I learned why.
When I exited, there was an older woman with silver-white hair wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt. I wasn’t sure how to react. She was the first person outside of my family I had ever encountered, and it was obvious she was coming to talk to me. My heart rate spiked, and if I had recently eaten I was sure I would have been sick, as my stomach knotted.
“Hey, did I pass you on the highway a few miles back?” She sounded friendly, but why was she talking to me? Did she know Mother? Had they already realized I was gone?
Appropriately keeping my eyes averted when speaking with a woman, I responded, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Ma’am?” The lady laughed. “I’m Sheryl. Where are you headed?”
Where was I headed? If she was sent by Mother, wouldn’t she have just told me to come with her? “I’m not sure, ma’am.”
The woman gave a warm laugh. “Well, I’ve got a load going to Frisco if you want to tag along. Could use the company.”
Did she mean San Francisco? I had read all about the city in my books. I knew it was close to Sacramento, and I had only been traveling a few hours on foot. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you. I would very much appreciate that.”
“Okay, well, I’m going to use the restroom and then we can take off. Sound good?” she asked in a tone that I hadn’t heard before: kind.
“Yes, ma’am.” Women are my superiors, and it is imperative to always be respectful. But I didn’t know this woman.
I waited until I was sure she wasn’t going to turn around and shifted my tongue and Jacobson’s organ—really my whole vomeronasal system. My forked tongue shot from my human lips to taste the air. To sense her. Human…. Definitely not sent by Mother. Calm. Unthreatening. Healthy. The relief that flooded me made me realize I had been trembling. It was my first time meeting a human woman.
I stayed rooted to the spot, lost in my own thoughts, and jumped when she returned and said, “Okay, we’re off!”
Sheryl handed a bottle of water to me. It took me a moment to realize she had given it to me to drink and not to carry for her. Before I could properly thank her, we were walking back toward her truck and she was talking about “late night hauls,” and how she used to ride with her husband, trading shifts, but he had died a few years prior. Sheryl turned out to be jovial and happy. Despite being alone on the road, she admitted to picking up a lot of hitchhikers to keep her company. She was unlike Mother or any of my aunts, who were always so stoic. Were all human women like this? Sheryl spent the next couple of hours regaling me with stories of trips she had taken and various parts of the world. I listened politely, partially happy for the distraction from my own thoughts and partially watching the road.
“Quiet one, aren’t ya?” she observed.
I thought about the question. Boys are to be seen and not heard. But… I hadn’t always been quiet. I recalled being much more talkative as a child when I was with my cousins. It was my first conversation with anyone for almost five years. “I’m sorry,” I quickly responded, not knowing how to tell her anything.
“It’s okay. We all have our stories. Nothing wrong with being the strong, silent, sexy type.” She laughed and began telling me about her third husband.
I admit it was rude, but I only half listened to her, struck by her calling me strong and sexy. I wasn’t strong at all. Men are weak. I had been told that my whole life. And sexy?
After a while I could see the lights of San Francisco, and Sheryl pointed out all the small cities we were passing through that seemed piled atop one another. I could not figure out anything to distinguish one city from the next except the road signs. After we crossed over another large bridge and went through Treasure Island, Sheryl explained that we were in “the city.” I thanked her when she stopped to let me off and returned her well-wishes.
It was still dark, and the unexpected bite of the bay breeze chilled me, so I was glad I brought my coat. I pulled it around myself and looked out at the darkened, choppy water that smelled slightly fishy, not altogether unpleasant. The welcoming sounds of the waves lulled me. Though there were a few cars going by on the streets, it was still as if I had the city all to myself, which resulted in an interesting feeling of safety. Even though I hadn’t been running for the last couple of hours, as I had expected, I had been tense for the entire ride with Sheryl. Now that I was alone, exhaustion threatened to overwhelm. A park on the edge of the water beckoned, and I settled onto a bench, intent on reading one of the school books that Mother had allowed on my electronic reader until the sun came up. I didn’t want to go to sleep, but when I dropped the reader for the third time, I stashed it in my bag, curled up on the cold bench, and used my backpack as a pillow.
I woke up with a start, the warmth of the sun’s rays a welcome pressure on my cheek. Vacillating between the tingling elation of freedom and the paralyzing confusion that chased away any real ability to plan or focus, I swung my legs over and took in my surroundings. Many more cars on the streets, but the small park itself was abandoned except for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always woken up at 5:00 a.m. regardless. It was disorienting much later. The last I had looked at the time on my reader, it was almost 3:00 a.m. and the rumbling in my stomach was a surprise. At this time in the morning, I would be heading downstairs to have oatmeal that Ms. Matlock had prepared. Usually I was alone for breakfast, but once in a while Mother would join me. I wondered briefly what I would do for food in the long run and decided to ration the fruit I had stolen. With shame heating the back of my neck, I dug out the money I had taken from Mother’s wallet. It had been on impulse, but at the time I had reasoned I would likely need money. Eighty-seven dollars. I counted it again to be sure.
“Hey, spare some change?” A gravelly voice came out of seemingly nowhere.
My head whipped up to see an old dark-skinned man with a wide rotten-toothed grin. His ivory hair stuck out in what would have been a comical way if the smell he emitted didn’t betray that he hadn’t bathed in a long time. He was hidden under a huge stained comforter that dragged behind him like an oversized cape.
“I….” I looked down at what I had just counted and peeled off the two one-dollar bills and handed them to him.
“Thank you.” The man bustled forward and snatched the money before hobbling off with an obvious limp. I wondered for a moment why he wasn’t wearing shoes and then remembered that I still had money in my hand and carefully folded it and put it back in my pocket.
Glancing around, I noticed the streets had gotten busier, with people dressed for business, joggers, and others walking briskly with their dogs. Their movement faded to the background as I came back to the reality of my situation.
Hungry. Tired. Alone.
Sean Ian O’Meidhir
Sean is a shrink who has worked with murders and sex offenders, who routinely goes into prisons, jails, and courts, and when there is spare time, loves to write romantic fiction. Having taken Da’s advice that “A writer writes,” Sean could be seen carrying a notebook as a child and jotting down really bad poetry (which no, will never see the light of day.) Having grown up in small town, USA, Sean saw ignorance and intolerance firsthand and escaped to a small Liberal Arts college at 16 where more bad poetry was produced. An avid old-school gamer, Sean learned the likes of AD&D and WoD and the passion for writing flourished with a focus on developing hundreds of characters and living many lifetimes.
Flash forward a hundred and ten years: Sean now lives, works, and plays in San Francisco, teaches, and believes in unconditional love. Sean’s partner is a technomage (read: knows how to fix computers that Sean breaks), and they pay homage to their three cats. Sean adores a bell curve of rock music from heavy to pop, from techno to metal. Also, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sean can embrace a love for food.
In 2017, Sean and Connal began writing together and for the first time Sean felt the breath of creativity encompass and propel forward to a daily obsession. With the desire to perpetuate many ideals that people sometimes lose sight of, including tolerance, acceptance, and love, Sean’s greatest desire is to help spread joy to the world, to all the boys and girls, to all the little fishes in the deep blue sea….
To read more about Sean’s adventures, please visit www.dreamersworkshop.com.
Connal Braginsky is a tech nerd who has taken a leap of faith and took a chance on writing. Born to Russian immigrants, he came out as gay at nineteen, and was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome).
He loves to read, and learn about technology and other esoteric subjects, and considers himself a transhumanist (the Russian Cosmism variety). His other pastimes revolve around philosophy which includes Panpsychism, Process Philosophy, Taoism, Buddhism and Gnosticism. He is also interested in various scientific fields, including Quantum Physics, Quantum Biology, Neurology, Psychology, and Sociology.
He works as a Senior DevOps/System Engineer for a gaming company, and plays MMORPG’s when he can, including World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and a few others. Also plays D&D with Sean and his game group. He is a fan of Lucille Ball, Alan Watts, as well as Carl G. Jung and his contemporaries; and recently, Peter Kingsley, who is a scholar of ancient Greece and a Mystic. He lives with his partner in San Diego with their two cats, but spends a lot of his time sequestered in his study, surrounded by books and thoughts of mostly dead (authors) people.