Moondancer drake

Author of Multicultural LGBTQ Speculative Fiction

Worlds Collide

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Excerpt #1

 

Chapter One (pre Publisher's edits)

 

THE STRONG SCENT of blood and death that followed the two men crossing the street drew Rune’s attention. She waited for them to pass through a set of buildings and out of view, before she stepped into the doorway of the closed shop. She crouched down on all fours and breathed slowly. The blood rushed through her body, the sound roaring in her ears. Her long mahogany fingers widened into paws as they disappeared beneath long strands of red fur. The clothes and school bag slung over her shoulder simply melded into the body of the wolf as if they’d never existed at all.


The change wasn’t painful, but the deep sensation of it affected her every nerve with a heavy vibration. As a child, assuming the primal form required a great deal of focus to call upon the animal and concentration to maintain that shape. Now, it was as natural as breathing. She followed the scent of the two men, her wolf feet padding across the alleyway. Her prey talked quietly, unaware that they had become the hunted.


“How much further, Jimmy?” The smaller, brown-haired man with the bulbous nose simpered. The way he bent his head and shoulders as he walked beside the other man was a sure cue to the taller man’s position of dominance. “I’m hungry.”


“Pete, stop calling me Jimmy.” He tossed his hair and lifted his chin proudly. “It’s Jumala now. You know Lord Cu Uladh gave it to me at the last moon gathering. You were there, you moron.”


“Oh yeah, I forgot.” Pete snickered in a nasal way; the wet sound of his laughter turned Rune’s stomach. “So, how much further, Jumala?”


“We’ll get there when we get there.” Jumala glanced back, and Rune slipped behind a dumpster. Apparently satisfied they were alone, he turned his gaze forward and straightened the upturned collar of his tan coat. “Now try not to say anything stupid or embarrassing once we get there. Galan and Farrell throw the best parties, and I’m not gonna be blacklisted cause you can’t use your head.”


“Okay, Jimmy.” Pete grinned up at his companion who only grumbled and shook his head in response.


She dodged a sea of white and red as students moved in mass down Johnson Street from the direction of Camp Randall Stadium. Badger game days were always chaotic, but evening games were exceptionally rowdy. The humans regarded the red wolf as one might a stray, either with mild interest, or revulsion and nervousness. They were completely unaware of the other predators that pushed through their midst’s, but Rune knew the true nature of the parasites. The two vampires turned down Broom Street to avoid the chattering crowds, Rune in careful pursuit.


This wasn’t how she’d planned to spend her evening. She’d looked forward all day to heading home to start the modifications on the 1970 Barracuda she was restoring. When Rune eventually finished veterinary school, working with exotic animals at a zoo or a wildlife preserve would be her job. Rebuilding old cars and motorcycles was her passion.


However, her duty to protect her pack’s territory came first so Rune followed the men for nearly fifteen minutes before they stopped at a red brick duplex. The place was devoid of light and movement, but Rune got a strong scent of blood from the area. Past the old building music blared, and the men turned down the walkway toward the sound. Rune followed cautiously at a distance. She hadn’t scheduled crashing a vamp party into her evening plans, but she was always up for cleaning the parasites out of her pack’s territory.


At the back of the property was a two-story garage. On the second floor, lights and music crept out into the night, disturbing the stillness of the neighborhood. The two vampires Rune was trailing knocked at the side door of the garage. The door opened, and Jumala leaned forward to whisper something to the dark-skinned man on the other side of the door. Even with her sensitive hearing, Rune couldn’t catch a word of it.


Pete and Jumala disappeared inside, and she looked around for a way to see into the upper floor balcony. The roof of the garage seemed the best option, but she’d have to shift back to be able to reach it.


She looked around to make sure she hadn’t been seen, and then Rune tossed her gym bag behind the building, out of the way. She tucked her black shirt into the waist of her BDUs and walked quietly around the garage. When she reached the west side of the structure, she laughed. There at its base, partially covered by the overgrown grass, was a wooden ladder. A few rungs were damaged, but most of it still looked useable. She whispered a prayer of thanks to the goddess Tyche for the lucky find and gently pulled at the plants that surrounded it until the ladder was freed.


Once she was in place on the garage roof, Rune let go of the ladder and watched it fall back to the grass with a low thud. She wouldn’t need it to get down and didn’t want to draw attention to her presence on the roof.


Rune hung her torso over the gable of the garage and peered into the window below. One man walked across the room beyond the glass, his armed wrapped around a busty blonde woman. Past him, Rune could pick out five more women and another ten men moving about the flat. They all looked normal enough. That was the trouble with vampires; as long as they fed well, the leeches looked like everyone else. It was their scent; a rancid mixture of sweat and old blood, that made them stand out to a hunter like herself. Vampires didn’t sweat because they had no need to; neither heat nor cold affected them in any but the rarest of cases. The sweat she smelled was from the humans they feasted upon.


Laughter from the back of the room caught her attention. A group of four vampires were gathered in a corner of the room. Rune could pick out above the din of the music the sound of a woman’s voice behind them. A vampire roared with amusement, taking a step forward and Rune realized it was his laughter that had first drawn her attention. That was when she heard the woman scream.

 

Excerpt #2

 

(pre publisher's edits)

 

...her brother sat waiting in a red velvet and mahogany chair near the hearth. Upon her arrival, his hand left the carved knob at the end of the chair arm and motioned for her to sit on the padded papasan next to him. A table stood between them, laden with fresh fruit, meats, cheese, a loaf of round bread, and a bottle of wine. “You look drained, sister. Have you fed today?”


Nara motioned towards the door. “I did. So, what did you learn tonight?”
She poured herself and Oyon glasses of wine. He told her the tale of the massacre at the Bane party and the shifter he saw. She listened intently, tension creeping across her like bands of iron. Anything could have happened while he foolishly followed the shifter. What had he been thinking?


“Do you wish to meet your death at the hands of one of the Clan, my brother?” Nara placed a slice of mango on her tongue and closed her mouth, chewing on the sweet fruit lazily. “If so, that is certainly the right way to go about it.”
Oyon took the knife from his belt and sliced off a slab of meat and cheese, placing them on a torn off hunk of the bread. “That wasn’t my intention. She was fascinating. Not a classical dark beauty like yourself, but no less exotic and transfixing.”


“Is that before or after she became covered in fur?” Nara laughed and drank deep from her goblet.


“The Bane activity is getting worse since the new school year started,” Oyon muttered evasively. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I bet Cu Uladh is behind it.”


Nara placed her cup on the table and pulled her dangling feet into the soft nest of the papasan. She crossed her legs and leaned forward. “We’ll have to find out what he’s up to the hard way. His mystics block my scryings, and I haven’t found a way past their interference.”


“What do you suggest?”


She intertwined her fingers and pressed her thumbs together. “I think we should send out some of the Cerberus to scout the area of the attack. We have a couple already working undercover in Cu Uladh’s court. They will have to step up their investigations.”


“What about the shifter?” He avoided her gaze. “Shouldn’t we try to contact her?”


“No, Oyon. We’ll tell the Cerberus to avoid confrontations with the shifter if that’s what you want. That’s for the best.” Nara was afraid if her brother got anywhere near that shifter again, he’d not make it back alive. Oyon was a brilliant leader, but when it came to love, he became a fool. But then, as far as she was concerned love made everyone a pathetic fool. “The Cerberus should be focusing on what the Bane are doing and how many of the local students have been corrupted by Cu Uladh and his followers.”


Oyon nodded and lifted his glass of wine, running his finger absently around the rim. “They can search the campus during the day. The Cerberus will be weaker then, but so will the Bane. It will be easier to spot them and any students they might have marked for transformation.”


“So.” Nara looked over at Oyon with a wide grin. She’d never miss a chance to tease her brother. “You going to chase after the beauty and see if you can get yourself a piece of the beast too? I hear shifters have amazing endurance. I bet a strong woman like that could go for hours.”


The dirty look Oyon gave her sent Nara into a fit of giggles. When her laughter subsided, she refilled his glass of wine, her tone taking on a more serious air. “All kidding aside, I think it’s a bad idea to get close to a shifter. Nothing but trouble.”


Oyon stared into the fire and let loose a long sigh. “You’re right, I know, but there’s something about her I’m drawn to. I can’t help it.”


Fear gripped Nara’s heart, and she squeezed her hands together to stop them from shaking. “Promise me, Oyon. Promise me you won’t go looking for her.”


He was silent for a long time, sipping on his wine and focusing on the flames. After a long silence, he set the goblet aside and closed his eyes. “All right, little sunflower, I promise.”