Hi, and welcome to the Juggernaut blog tour!
Almost before I was done writing Strain, my mind began trying to fill in the blanks of the world we saw in Strain, trying to piece together what had led up to that point. I decided I wanted to write a story chronicling the apocalyptic pandemic, both the events leading up to it and the immediate aftermath. The result, of course, was Juggernaut.
On the Juggernaut blog tour, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the world of Juggernaut/Strain/Bane, including several cut scenes from Juggernaut which I felt contained important world-building details that in the end just didn’t fit the flow of the story. I’ll also be sharing a couple sneak previews of the third book in the Strain universe, Bane (coming September 21 from Riptide Publishing) as well as giving away three e-copies of Bane before it hits the shelves!
To enter to win, leave a comment on this post including a way to contact you (email, Twitter, or Facebook.) Each stop along the blog tour that you visit offers you another chance to enter. Be sure to check the Riptide blog tour schedule for a complete list of other stops. The contest will close Saturday, August 15th, 2015 and the winner will be contacted no later than Monday, August 17th. Any entries made without a way to contact the winner will be invalidated, so please don’t forget to provide your email, or your Twitter or Facebook address. Contest is NOT limited to US entries.
Good luck, and enjoy the tour!
Obviously, one of the most important elements in Bane is that it provides closure to Zach and Nico’s story, which was left in a decidedly unhappy stalemate at the end of Juggernaut. It was something of a quandary, as I really needed to let quite some time pass to resolve the impassible barriers to Zach and Nico’s HEA ending, but I would never have concluded Juggernaut on such a cliffhanger if I hadn’t been able to release the next book quite soon thereafter.
Nonetheless, when we see Zach and Nico together for the first time since the end of Juggernaut, it’s obvious the problems that plagued them then are still with them now, despite the passage of over ten years.
Zach ached from trying to match the Jugs’ pace all day as they came as close as they could to double-timing. Even on the bicycle he’d been using since his days of riding from the Clean Zone to the Jug enclave outside the quarantine ring, before the overthrow, it had been a challenge to keep up.
Darius and his people would have left Zach behind if not for Nico, who had threatened to leave them to find Rhys by their own devices if Zach didn’t come along.
“Thanks for that,” Zach said now, approaching Nico’s watch post from the campfire. The sun had set over the red rocks and scrub brush, leaving a chill in the air reminiscent of the first months they had known each other, when spring had finally started after that fateful blizzard.
“Just try to keep a distance from all of us, okay?” Nico gave him a muted smile. There was a tension in his posture that said if Zach took another step closer, Nico would retreat. That tension had been there since Nico had left Sierra Company and returned to live outside Colorado Springs. “You’ve spent the last six years working to stop Littlewood. I’m not going to let them leave you behind when it’s finally time to act.”
“I appreciate the thought, but what can I truly do to help?” Zach shook his head, sighing. “Maybe they’re right and I should stay behind.”
“No!” Nico’s refusal was so sharp that Zach felt a suspicious frown drawing down the corners of his mouth.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing.” Nico sighed. “It’s just . . . now that they have Rhys, they’re going to figure out pretty quickly that you messed with his test results. And they’re going to know why, realize that you’re onto them. Maybe they’ll even realize we’re coming after them. I don’t want you somewhere they can get to you when that happens, especially with no one to have your back.”
Zach hung his head. “I hadn’t thought of that.” Silence fell until he looked up again, smiling fondly. “You know I’d rather be outside the Clean Zone with you, anyway.”
“How long can we keep doing this, Nico?” His eyes burned, and he refused to hide it. “It’s been six years since you returned. How long do I have to keep pretending that it isn’t killing me not to be able to be with you the way we’re meant to be together?”
Nico’s chin came up. “You tell me. Are you willing to accept the Alpha strain?”
“You ask that like I didn’t beg you to infect me years ago when you came back,” Zach said angrily. “Don’t forget you’re the one who decided it was more important for me to be able to return to the Clean Zone and infiltrate the DPRP.”
“Maybe I knew you didn’t mean it, that you weren’t thinking rationally at the time.” Nico’s reply was rough and bitter. “Except for that one incident, you’ve always been adamantly opposed to accepting the Alpha strain. Have you changed your mind?”
He wanted to say yes, but he couldn’t. “No,” Zach whispered reluctantly.
“Well, there you have it.” Nico’s smile looked forced and bleak. “One close call was enough. I won’t risk your life.”
He wasn’t being melodramatic, either. Nico’s struggle was written on his face and in his body every time Zach left the Clean Zone to meet with him, always from a careful distance of at least twenty feet. It brought a surge of shame to Zach’s heart, to know that this man, whom God had made such a sensual creature, a man built for pleasure and touch, had been without human contact for six years. Maybe even longer. He’d never asked what Nico had done those four years he’d been away with Sierra Company, and Nico had never volunteered.
“I’m sorry,” Zach whispered. “I wish . . . I wish I could, but I know in my heart and soul that it would be wrong for me to accept the Alpha strain. I know, without any shadow of any doubt, that it’s not God’s will for me to become a Jug. Maybe He knows I’m too weak, too fallible. Maybe He knows if I succumbed to that temptation, I’d fall prey to the corruption that could so easily come of having access to that sort of power.”
Nico shook his head firmly. “Not you, Zach. If any of us could withstand it, it’s you.”
“Then why do I go cold every time I consider accepting? You think I haven’t wanted to?” Zach plucked some twigs out of a cluster of brush and threw them away in disgust. “Every time I see you, every time I think of how much I want you, how much I love you, how lonely you must be, I want to give in. But then something inside my chest freezes. And I know—I know—that it’s God telling me, ‘This is not for you.’”
“I’m aware of your reasons. We’ve talked about them plenty,” Nico sneered. “But I don’t share your faith, and I’m inclined to call that ‘cold’ feeling just plain old being afraid. So, does your God expect you to spend the rest of your life celibate, Saint Zacharias? Or will you settle down and start a family in the Clean Zone when you can’t stand to be alone anymore?”
“You know I wouldn’t do that. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been married to you for twelve years. Do you think I could be with anyone else, knowing you’re out there all alone?” Zach slumped in weary resignation. They’d had this argument at least twice a year since Nico had come back to Colorado Springs. “And it’s not like you to mock my beliefs, Nico.”
“No, it isn’t. I’m sorry.” Nico sighed. “Maybe . . . maybe when all this is done, when Littlewood isn’t a threat anymore, I’ll go back to the Jugs. If we can’t be together, then maybe we should just not see each other anymore.”
“Damn it, Nico! No! You’re not running away again! We can be together. Just like we were before the overthrow. I was safe then, and as long as we’re careful, I can be safe now.” He took an unintentional step forward, and it felt like a knife in the heart when Nico quickly stepped back. “Let me make love to you like we used to.”
Nico swallowed, and the yearning on his face was so powerful it nearly buckled Zach’s knees. But he shook his head. “I can’t. When that building fell down around me and I was bleeding, I heard you yelling for me, coming toward me, and I wanted to die, cariño. I mean that literally. I was going to go jump into Royal Gorge if you got sick. I won’t risk it again. Unless you promise that you’ll accept the Alpha strain if there’s an accident, I can’t.”
Zach closed his eyes, wanting with everything inside him to agree. He couldn’t, though. That icy feeling in his chest grew, holding him back. That was how Zach knew Nico was wrong. It was the opposite of the warm feeling Zach got when he knew he was doing what God wanted him to do, a gentle warning that he was contemplating the wrong choice.
He shook his head, and the ice dissipated, replaced with the glow of the Lord’s approval. Whatever plan God had for him in all this, becoming a Jug wasn’t part of it.
If only every other part of him were as convinced. “I’m sorry, Nico. I can’t make that promise.”
Nico looked so anguished that Zach wanted to weep. What did Nico’s own internal struggle feel like? Did he ever feel the same surety when he knew he was making the right choice? Nico didn’t believe in God, but that didn’t mean God didn’t still guide him, subtly urging him this way or that, if only he would listen to those quiet impulses.
He didn’t look very peaceful right now as he took another step backward, and another after that, eventually turning his back on Zach. He looked like everything within him was screaming that maintaining the distance between them was wrong. Which tracked with all Zach’s impulses, as well. As surely as Zach knew the Lord didn’t want him to accept the Alpha strain, he also knew that he and Nico being apart wasn’t right, either. But the only alternative was to convince Nico to risk Zach’s safety, and Nico would never do that.
Was it a test of faith? Maybe Nico was supposed to put his trust in God to keep Zach healthy if they were together.
Right. Zach’s chances of convincing Nico of that had rounded bad and were careening toward abysmal.
“Go get some sleep, Zach,” Nico said over his shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes again. His voice was rough and raspy. “We’ve got a long march ahead of us.”
Aching and conflicted, Zach went.
They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.
For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.
Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.
When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive.
About the Author
Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.