For #bookqw – a WIP excerpt

The book quote Wed. keyword is “Dread,” so here’s something finished I’m sitting on. I’ve been working on this novel on and off for 15 years; it was done at about 60K words 2 years ago, but I will be shopping it as part of a duology and the second part is not ready yet. There’s a bit of the romantic subplot in this section. Enjoy!

…Then Fort got to the heart of the matter. “About the police investigation, then. I think you’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve managed to get the detective on the case to work with one of the inventors of the Netts, Dr. Don Lawrence, to see if that was a cause of the recent tragedy.”

“Good idea. Riparian has already run through things with our experts, of course, but Lawrence would also be a logical chap to help him.”

“Right.” Their experts? March Enterprises’ and Kempcon’s experts? And that Alliance detective had had the audacity to complain to Fort about a MimeCo having possible conflict of interest?

Collin was reaching to this turn off his link. “And remember, Mr. Stark, the police are telling everyone that I’m dead. They hope that if the killer thinks I am out of the way he or she will make some other move than another attempt on me. Please, for my safety, don’t let it slip that I am still alive, especially to the press.”

“You bet.” Fort broke the link.

“The police think Collin was the target?” Alix hadn’t been out of earshot, she’d merely been out of Collin sight. She yawned. Fort got out of his chair and gestured for her to sit down. She sat bonelessly on his sofa. And then she yawned again. “Sorry. It’s just that I worked at the hospital last night. And I’d heard about a possible Sanding death, but not about March falling ill. They must’ve really kept a lid on that.”

He stood before her, wishing he was better with women. “Do you want me to fly you home?” Say no. Please stay a while.

“Maybe I should go.”

“Do you want something to eat first? I have some Mrookri and a cactus salad. Not much of a breakfast, but Claire made them.”

She nodded and sat a little straighter. “If you don’t mind. I’m starved.”

He grinned and turned on his heel, heading for the kitchenette and some of the food he’d brought back from Darryl’s. From around the corner he asked, “Iced tea with that?”

“No, I’m fine.”

A few minutes later he was seated next to her on the office couch and they both dug into their impromptu breakfast. It was remarkable that they could even have a conversation in the middle of all this. At least it took his mind off the disaster.

The food gone, she leaned back into the cushions of the sofa and, not coincidentally, against his arm. “You…” she said, shyly, “we’ll get through this.”

Well, that was encouraging. As she rested her head on his shoulder he held still, resisting a desire to pull her close. He’d let her set the pace. She snuggled a bit closer. After a few peaceful moments she looked up and found him watching her. She didn’t look away. He found himself sinking toward her lips-

Metal screeched outside and they both started at the noise. They heard a strange rumbling. Then silence.

After that, footsteps. They stood. Fort went to the door while Alix went to look through the adjacent window. A knock at the door was followed by a Netted head poking in.

“Good, you’re awake.”

 Alix blushed and stood still. Dr. Gasparelli paused in the doorway, obviously not expecting to see her there. Then he shrugged, stepped inside, and began speaking before they could ask him about the strange sounds that had heralded his arrival.

“You aren’t going to be surprised, I suppose, that MedGalaxy is using this as a reason to leave Mime?” Fort nodded and Alix reached for the doctor’s windbreaker, but Gasparelli hung it on Fort’s one empty door-hook, not seeing her hand extended. “Here’s your surprise then, Fort. It’s wrong, but they feel they can get away with it, legally.” The doctor unhooked his Nett and shook out his speckled hair with one hand. His jaw was clenched.

Fort’s dread grew. “Legally,” he repeated.

I just heard about the emergency administrative meeting last night, after it was over. MedGalaxy has decided to pull out, yet they are still charging MimeCo for the three-year balance of their contract. I checked for myself; on a technicality, they actually can. Unbelievable.”

What?” The rough monetary figure they’d be demanding spat itself out of Fort’s unwilling mind. It would more than ruin him, and destroy the planetary economy. Could his lawyer forestall it?

Gasparelli was grimly sympathetic. “I know, Fort, I know. Their position is blatantly unfair, and perhaps that’s partially my fault. The faction that opposes my work is in power now, and they suggested it. They’re after me, not you. I’m not sure what I can do to help, but I need to stop them if I’m to continue my research with the Sands. So. I suggest we work together.”

from THE SANDS OF MIME – Wendy S. Delmater