One of the first people I met when I started writing was Marlene Dotterer. Our friendship came about through the Online Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. (OWW) Her first novel, a time-travel story called Shipbuilder, was one of the first novels I read when I got my new Kobo. She’s expanded her library since then and I am pleased to bring you an excerpt from her new urban fantasy novel WORLDS APART.
She chose this excerpt because…
“One of my favorite things about Worlds Apart is the relationships between the various characters. For instance, there are three strong women in this story who like and respect each other. Worlds Apart is a romance, but watching the friendship grow between these women is as satisfying as the sex. The scene I’ve chosen for you is near the end, but hopefully won’t give away any spoilers. It’s a good scene to see all three women in action, each doing her job, arguing and compromising as needed. They are: Tina Cassidy, a human doctor, Shandari Urboron, an empathic healer, and Kasia Windblood, an elf, whose job is best described as a police captain.”
A guard stood at the entrance, blocking her way. His head brushed the nine-foot ceiling, and the arms he crossed over his chest were thin tree trunks. Tina detected a green cast to his face and hands, but it was his resolve that she noticed. No one was getting past.
“What the hell?” She pivoted to face Shandari. “Is the ogre here to protect me or to guard me?”
“Both.” Shandari managed to sound authoritative and apologetic all at once. “If you go out there, we may not be able to protect you. You’re safest in here.”
“Bullshit, Shandari! You’ve got a hundred witches and elves and whatever in a perimeter out there. Kasia’s out there. Hell, Will’s out there, and for all I know, so is Ringstrom. I’m not in any more danger than they are.”
“Yes, you are. You have a connection to Clive that the others don’t. It will draw him to you, and he will not be able to control himself.”
“I don’t care. He’s hurt.” Tina swung back to face the giant, thrusting a finger upward to poke as high as she could. She could just hit his chest, but she jabbed the finger hard. “I can feel it. Clive is hurt. He needs help, and you are going to move aside and let me out of here. If you want to come with me, fine. You can carry the damn car, for all I care. Now, move.”
His expression didn’t change, but he lifted an eyebrow at Shandari. Tina didn’t bother to look back, but Shandari must have given some signal, for the mountain shrugged once, and stepped aside. The double doors looked incongruously small next to him. Tina wondered how he had managed to get inside. Her panic gave her no time to question. She slammed against the doors, shooting through as they flew open with a force they weren’t made to withstand.
Outside, the night was clear and cold. Stars glittered over the town. Shadows of nearby buildings leaned toward her from the west, drawing Tina’s gaze to meet the glare of the full moon. She jammed her feet into the ground to stop her forward rush, shocked into paralysis by its unspoken message. Then the panic returned, and her attention came back to the empty parking lot. “Shit!” She turned in a circle, arms outstretched, until she came face-to-face with Shandari, watching from the porch. Somehow, the giant had emerged from the building. He stood behind Shandari, regarding Tina with deep disapproval.
She ignored him.
“I need a car,” she said. Shandari lifted her hands, as if to prove she did not have one. Tina slapped her hips, remembering too late that her cell phone was gone. Lips pressed tight, she took a step, firming her resolve to barrel past the giant again, to go back inside and use the phone. She’d call Sharon.
Before her next step, bouncing lights appeared around the corner of the clinic, accompanied by the crunch of running feet.
“Nobody move!” A man’s shout came from behind the leading flashlight, which stopped about twenty feet from Tina. In the light’s shadow, she saw a gun pointed at her. Behind the lead figure, the second light was performing a series of leaps as the person holding it scanned the area behind Tina, then around and behind all of them.
“It’s me,” Tina said, her voice small in the darkness. “Is that you, Eddie?”
“Yeah.” He lowered his gun, but didn’t holster it. “What the hell are you doing out here?”
“I’m trying to get to Clive. He’s hurt. He needs me.”
“That’s not going to happen, Dr. Cassidy.” The other man stepped next to Eddie. He seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place him. “You should not be out here at all. You need to…”
“I need to find a car and get out there,” Tina said. “Why can’t everyone understand that?”
He stepped closer to her, his glance taking in the scrubs and flimsy tennis shoes she wore, reminding her she wasn’t prepared to hike around the mountains.
“I do understand. I’m Riff Freeder. I was with Clive when he found you. I understand a great deal, Tina. Including the danger you would face out there.”
“The other werewolf is dead.” To her own ears, Tina sounded like she was begging him.
“The danger now is from Clive.”
“Clive will not hurt me.”
The giant guffawed, making the ground tremble under Tina’s feet. Even so, she heard Shandari’s sigh from the porch.
“Will you force Clive to live with the consequences if he did?” Riff asked.
“Listen, I don’t know how to explain this to you people. But I’ve got to be there.” She pointed with both hands at her chest and stomach, turning to catch the gazes of each Kaarmaneshian. “There’s something inside me that’s forcing me to go. Every minute you detain me makes it worse.” She focused on Shandari, whose face showed a trace of doubt. “It hurts, Shandari. If I don’t go, I think I’ll explode. And Clive will die.”
Shandari stared at her, then turned to Riff. Tina held her breath, wondering if they could communicate telepathically. Perhaps they could, because Riff nodded and held out a hand to Tina.
“We have a vehicle in back. I’ll take you. But you’ll still have to convince Kasia.”
Everyone around her moved, streaking off in various directions. Tina could not track them all, so she concentrated on her hand in Riff’s as he pulled her around the clinic at a fast trot. The beam of his flashlight passed over Eddie’s black Dodge Ram. She scrambled into the back seat, while Riff stood guard. A few minutes later, Shandari and Eddie rounded the building. Shandari climbed in and tossed a bundle of clothing into Tina’s lap.
“Your jacket,” she said. “And hiking boots. Your nurse brought them over from your house this afternoon.”
Bless Sharon and her uncanny insight.
No one talked during Eddie’s wild drive to Kasia’s reconnaissance camp. Tina struggled into the boots, fighting both the seat belt and her lack of balance with the curvy mountain road. Eddie’s speed matched her own urgent yearnings, so she didn’t ask him to slow down.
Just as they screeched to a stop behind Ringstom’s police car on the side of the road, Shandari reached a hand to grip Tina’s fingers. “Center the panic you feel,” she said. “Control it, Tina. You’ll need it to convince Kasia.”
The truth of this statement became evident as soon as Tina stepped out of the truck. Two tall and very strong figures blinked into existence on both sides of her, grabbed her arms and lifted her off her feet, putting her right back in. The door shut on her nose and they turned their backs to her, blocking her way out. When she turned to the other door, she saw figures surrounding the truck, as still and immovable as rocks.
Behind the steering wheel, Eddie sputtered. “What the hell?”
Shandari did not repress a snort of laughter.
Tina slapped the window. “Goddammit, Kasia!” She didn’t quite shout, certain that Kasia would hear her even if she whispered. She concentrated on the panic in her middle and envisioned sending it out with her words, to smack the elf upside her head. “I know this is dangerous, but I also know I have to go out there. Don’t waste any more time, please. Clive is still alive. But he won’t be much longer if we don’t help him now.”
The panic reached a high pitch and Tina winced. Placing her hands on the window, she directed the panic into a push, trying to break through the glass and the backs of her guards. A sharp pain pierced her head, but she kept pushing.
In a swift move, the guards stepped away. One of them reached back to open the door. Tina fell into strong arms that forced her upright to meet Kasia’s furious glare. “Stop doing that before you hurt yourself,” she snapped.
“I wouldn’t have to do anything if people would stop fighting me about it. I’m not a child, Kasia. I decide for myself what risks I will take.”
“Do you see those people?” Kasia asked, indicating everyone who was surrounding the area, far more than just the few who stood by Eddie’s truck. “Every one of them is standing there for the express purpose of protecting you. Every one of them is willing to die or risk the werewolf’s curse, if it will keep that werewolf away from you. They understand the risk they’re taking. You do not.”
“You’re right,” Tina said, anger still coloring her words. “I don’t understand everything. I don’t get how this magic works. I just know what it’s telling me to do. I don’t have any way of turning it off, Kasia. I’m going out there.”
A touch of doubt moved across Kasia’s face. Her glance went past Tina to stare at a point behind her. “What do you See, Shandari?”
Shandari’s voice was soft, but everyone could hear her. “I can tell you that Tina and Clive have worked a spell between them. I can’t see it all, but she’s telling the truth about its compulsion. I think…” and here, she paused, as if not trusting her own words, “…I think there is protection in the spell.”
Kasia’s chin came up, and Shandari spoke with more urgency, faster and louder. “No. I cannot guarantee that. If Clive should bite her, there is no help for it. I do not think he will attack her. The spell will hold him back.”
Kasia’s gaze came back to Tina, her chin moving with suppressed tension. “All right. I’ll take you myself. Just you and I, so bring whatever equipment you’ll need with you.”
Tina breathed again, her mind in sudden turmoil. What would she find up there?
Will pushed through the guards, holding a backpack out. “Take this. I’ve had it ready for several hours. Antibiotics, soap, water, morphine, saline solution and IV, bandages, scissors, tape… it will work for either wolf or man.”
The first-aid list cleared Tina’s mind, allowing her knowledge and skill to return in full force. She grabbed the bag, shoving it onto a shoulder. “Thank you.”
“Here, put this on,” Kasia said, tossing a piece of white fabric to Tina. “It’s protective clothing.” She demonstrated by shaking hers out and stepping into it. It somehow formed itself around her.
“Like a hazmat suit,” Will murmured, as he helped Tina into hers. The fabric shaped into legs, torso, and arms, then hood and facemask. Tina felt a moment of panic, but the stuff on her face vanished as soon as it had formed. She knew it was still there, but it didn’t interfere with breathing or speaking.
The panic had not left her belly. She hiked the backpack to her shoulder and stepped toward the outer circle. “Let’s go.”
Kasia took her arm. “We’ll go the fast way.” She tapped her strap and threw something into the air in front of her. A portal appeared and Tina at last felt a bit of relief. She’d be there soon.
Kasia tapped her forehead and that part of her suit lit up with a directional light. She shouldered a rifle-type weapon and jerked her chin at Tina. “Stay right behind me.”
She stepped through, and Tina followed.
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Where to find Marlene online:
Website and blog: https://marlenedotterer.wordpress.com/