Hi, and welcome to the Bane blog tour!
Rhys Cooper’s unique immunity to all three strains of the virus that nearly annihilated humanity has brought him the unwanted attention of Clean Zone scientists. They’ve summoned him for testing—ostensibly in the hopes of finding a vaccine—but Rhys’s partner, Darius Murrell, has good reason not to trust any government. He and his comrades in Delta Company were unwitting test subjects for Project Juggernaut, the military experiment that gave them superhuman abilities and unleashed the pandemic. Doubting the government’s intentions, Delta Company refuses to let Rhys go alone.
Fear of infection has kept Zach Houtman and his lover Nico Fernández apart for a decade. They meet rarely, just long enough to coordinate their spying on the head of the government’s virus research division. Secretary Littlewood is a vicious predator, and they suspect he’s trying to acquire the strain of the virus that would make him superhuman. To stop him, they need the perfect bait: Rhys.
For Rhys, helping them might cost him his relationship with Darius—or his life. For Zach and Nico, even if their plan succeeds, they still face the ultimate question: can infected and uninfected people ever live together safely?
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A note from the Author...
I don’t think it’s any secret that a lot of readers, in the wake of reading Strain, wanted more of Darius and Rhys. Already by that point I was brainstorming the pre- and peri-apocalyptic story that would become Juggernaut, but the further along I got on that, the more I realized the situation Zach and Nico were in couldn’t be resolved in the timeframe of Juggernaut. They needed developments that would only make sense to happen after the events of Strain. The plot also required Rhys to have matured a great deal since the end of Strain. Altogether, it gave me a beautiful opportunity to bring closure and an HEA ending (or at least as close to one as you get at the end of the world) for both sets of protagonists.
Thus we have Bane.
Over the course of the Bane blog tour, I’ll be sharing a free post-Bane short story, Refuge. How far post-Bane? Well, you’ll have to read and see. Some developments that happen in Bane are referenced, but not in any great detail, which means the reader should only encounter a few very broad, non-specific spoilers. Obviously, though, it will be best enjoyed if you’ve read Bane already (and Bane, of course, is best enjoyed after Juggernaut and Strain.)
Refuge introduces us to three new characters, Kal, Billie, and perhaps my favorite, Zeus. It’s a completely sex-free story, so you’re safe reading it at work. If my nebulous thoughts on how to continue the Strain universe ever take shape, it’s very possible a lot of material in this short story will be folded into a larger plot with Kal and Billie as the protagonists, and if that happens, you’ll find the smut there.
Each day, at least one stop on the blog tour will contain a section of the story. These segments may end or begin a little abruptly or clumsily at times, as I tried to split them in such a way that no one section would be to long and cumbersome for a single stop on the blog tour. In its linear form, it would simply be a five chapter story. By the end of the tour, all the sections will have been posted. If you need to catch up, you can check out the blog tour page (linked above), or my website, or the “Extras” tab on the Bane product page at Riptide for sequential links to all the posts.
Bane is the grand finale of the Strain series. The two worlds that were created in Strain and Juggernaut collide with one common goal... to take out Littlewood and McClosky and save one of their own from their twisted machinations. The clean zone scientists have learned that Rhys is immune to all three strains of the virus. What's worse is that the sexual predator and deviant, Littlewood controls the clean zone, and Rhys is exactly the type of victim Littlewood longs for. Rhys and Darius along with their team of Jugs team up with Zach and Nico and devise a trap for Littlewood, using Rhys as bait. But when it backfires they have to scramble to try and uncover the location of Littlewoods lab before Rhys becomes his next victim.
I have really enjoyed all the books in this series. Gormley created a pretty sick and twisted world in the wake of the Juggernaut virus that wiped out the majority of humanity. The survivors have to learn to live together, work together and trust one another or they may wind up dead, or worse, suffering from the Rot. Rhys is probably my favorite character of this series, he's very young and naive when the series starts, and his innocence is shattered in an attempt to save his life. An odd sort of love story bloomed from the violence that ensued in that first book. In Bane, readers will get to see a different side of Rhys, a stronger side, a man that is willing to do anything to save his misfit family and the man he loves. Being so young and innocent and forced to submit to some pretty horific things, Rhys was sort of shy and withdrawn. As time progressed he started to beg for the pain, thinking that that pain made him human. Now his love for Darius has come full circle, for Darius as well, and Rhys learns that what he needs is just Darius.
Nico and Zach have been through the ringer as well, though their journey was not quite as disturbing as Rhys and Darius'. In an effort to protect Zach from what he is, Nico has basically left Zach alone for a decade. Chance meetings and stolen moments over the years are all these two have. Nico is willing to walk away from Zach and their love if it will keep Zach safe and alive. Unfortunately, the decision is taken from them when Zach is exposed.
It was interesting to see how the two different groups had to learn to work together and trust each other if they hoped to find Rhys and then to save Zach. Bonds were formed, friendships and trust grew stronger, but none of those things are enough to combat the Rot. I also really liked the way Gormley wrote each relationship completely different. Rhys and Darius, and Zach and Nico. Each couple is a human/Jug pairing and each couple is vastly different from the other. The one thing they had in common was their passionate, unwavering love for one another.
Definitely a must read in my opinion, but I will warn you, it's a dark dangerous world in the Strain universe. The characters are devious and disturbed at times, the plots are strange and twisted, and the sex is down right raunchy, but addictive!
*Author’s Note: Refuge is completely unedited and un-proofed. What you’re seeing here is essentially a first draft, and like any first draft, it often may be clumsy to read or contain extraneous world-building and info-dumping that would be trimmed and streamlined during the editing process. Actually, I kind of like sharing it with you this way, if for no other reason than to allow readers to see just how much world-building happens behind the scenes and in my head, but doesn’t ever actually make it onto the page.
And of course, there will be typos. Oh so many typos.
Refuge short story day 14...
CHAPTER 5, PART 3
It was the happiest day Billie could remember spending in her life. It was the way she’d hoped to feel, when she’d fled the Clean Zone. Free and full of joy, unafraid of how anyone would treat her.
The weather had turned warm again, which was encouraging if they hoped to make it across the Rockies and Cascades before they were impassible. In the late afternoon, they found a small lake to camp by, which meant they could bathe better than they had sponging off the night before. She observed Kal covertly as he swam, apparently immune to the chill of the water. Or at least, she tried to be covert, which was stupid because he still managed to catch her at it.
“Go ahead!” he called, flinging his arms wide and turning in a circle in the waist-deep water. “I don’t blame you. I am, after all, a fine specimen.”
That was the point at which she inhaled a mouthful of water and spent the rest of the evening vowing dire recompense if she drowned.
After dark fell, she sat throwing pine needles into the fire while he laid out their blankets.
“Honestly, though,” she asked, her face aching from spending so much of the day smiling. “Are you always this chatty or is this some scheme to lull me into complacency until you deliver me to whatever horrible fate lies in store for me on Wapato Island.”
He chuckled. “No, this is pretty much me all the time. If I didn’t spend half the year off on my own to give them a break, they’d probably exile me.” He dropped down beside her, joining in the game of sacrificing pine needles to the fire gods. “Mom says I take after my namesake. Which is weird, because he died, like, five years before I was born.”
“Who was he?”
“Mom’s husband. He was another Jug, and he died on the same mission where they rescued Mama.” A shadow crossed his face. “Apparently it messed Mom up for a long time. Mama almost left her, she was so bitter, but she’s better now. Having me helped, and so did having the Refuge as a home. Something to work for. It felt better than always being angry.”
“What about you? Any potential wives waiting for you to stop wandering?”
He smiled and shook his head, gazing into the fire. “Of the prospective candidates, half of them aren’t okay with my being gone for months at a time, and the other half wouldn’t be able to tolerate my talking endlessly for the months I was around.”
She swallowed, looking at him from beneath her lashes. Her heart was thudding at her own boldness as she murmured, “I don’t mind your talking.”
Kal turned his head to give her an assessing look. He traced her lightly stubbled cheek with the back of his knuckles and smiled softly. “That’s some pretty soft peach fuzz there. How old are you?” he asked.
“I just turned seventeen.”
He sucked on his teeth, shaking his head. “That’s pretty young, by Refuge standards.”
“I’m getting to be too old, as far as the Clean Zone is concerned.”
“You’re not in the Clean Zone anymore,” he said carefully. “You’re at loose ends right now, you’ve got more freedom than you know what to do with, and you’ve had a hell of a few days for you. Where you’re going, there’s not going to be any rush while you figure out how much of what you’re offering is due to those factors, and how much is really what you want.”
Her cheeks burned at the rejection, however gentle. She stared into the fire, muttering. “Maybe I don’t mind a bit of a rush.”
“Then rush with someone who’s not ten years older than you.” His voice was as affectionate as his smile was kind, and he bussed her temple with a kiss. “Come on. Let’s get some sleep.”
She swallowed again against the tightness in her throat. She couldn’t even say why his words made her eyes sting. Was it because it hurt that he didn’t want her, despite his claim that he wasn’t picky about the anatomical trappings of the woman he would eventually settle down with? Or was she just afraid that he was right, and she wouldn’t feel this way once she had her feet under her?
After a long moment, she realized he was still standing behind her shoulder. She looked up to see his hand was extended to help her off the ground.
Sighing in resignation, she took it. And when she did, he hauled her to her feet and placed a light, chaste kiss on her mouth.
“Give it a few years,” he urged quietly. “Then we’ll see if you still don’t mind my chatter.”
Her lips tingling and her eyes wide with surprise, she nodded, and followed him to the warm blankets.
Amelia C. Gormley published her first short story in the school newspaper in the 4thgrade, and since then has suffered the persistent delusion that enabling other people to hear the voices in her head might be a worthwhile endeavor. She’s even convinced her hapless spouse that it could be a lucrative one as well, especially when coupled with her real-life interest in angst, kink, social justice issues, and pretty men.
When her husband and son aren’t interacting with the back of her head as she stares at the computer, they rely on her to feed them, maintain their domicile, and keep some semblance of order in their lives (all very, very bad ideas—they really should know better by now.) She can also be found playing video games and ranting on Tumblr, seeing as how she’s one of those horrid social justice warriors out to destroy free speech, gaming, geek culture, and everything else that’s fun everywhere.
You can find her self-published Impulse trilogy almost anywhere ebooks are sold, and check out her catalog of Riptide Publishing releases at their website.
Anyone who follows along on the tour will qualify to win store credit at Riptide. To enter the drawing, 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 9/26/15. 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.
Good luck, and enjoy Refuge!