Teaser Tuesday: An excerpt from Juggernaut – Waiting Out the Plague

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I got off track posting snippets and excerpts for a few weeks, but now I’m back! I bring you part of a scene from Juggernaut today!

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.

Juggernaut will be released August 10 and is available now for pre-order through Riptide Publishing.

I’m going to put it behind a cut for spoilers.

After the implementation of home quarantine and the enforcement of martial law, Nico is stuck spending the winter with his one-time friend and mentor, General Logan McClosky, who was behind the research and development of the Bane virus which is now obliterating the world’s population.

Nico spent the deep winter months haunting McClosky’s study, listening in on the feeds the general received from various bases across the country and in other parts of the world. Those reports were torture, penance, killing another piece of him as the death toll mounted. Thousands became millions, which when added onto the global tally became billions.

And he’d helped it happen. He made himself eavesdrop on the reports as a form of self-flagellation for his prior obliviousness. He’d thought he was so clever, so informed, with his voyeuristic fixation on the news feeds. What a fucking ignorant, self-congratulatory dolt he’d been, not to question what his actions were putting into motion.

McClosky tried a number of times to explain what had led them to this point, but Nico refused to let him. The reasons and rationalizations for what they had wrought didn’t matter. The reports he overheard, therefore, were disjointed and without greater context. The virus, he gathered, was codenamed Bane. It had something to do with troops who had been serving over in Russia, who seemed to be the test subjects of Project Juggernaut. The Rot was some sort of mutation, but it wasn’t the only one.

The first reports of the plague mutating into a third strain were confused and disorganized, in large part because the sources from whom McClosky received his data feeds seemed to be dropping off one by one. Ill, probably dead, Nico figured. He sat out of sight of the video pickups while McClosky conferred with a virologist named Thanh, the same doctor McClosky had asked him to contact when in the hospital. The general said she was the most knowledgeable person in the world about the pandemic, but she was apparently stuck in a bunker somewhere, so all their information was secondhand, garnered from troops on the ground.

Almost all the hospitals had gone silent, which Nico interpreted to mean that there was no longer anyone alive within. The first report of a new mutation came from the guards outside one of the last “live” hospitals. A patient had emerged from the building covered in blood. When the troops on the other side of the barricade had instructed him over the loudspeaker to go back inside or face the use of deadly force, he had snarled at them—“like an animal,” or so the report said—and charged. He’d moved so quickly the troops had been caught flat-footed. His speed had been described as “inhuman,” and the first bullets to hit him barely slowed him down. He’d reached one of the guards and tore through the woman’s suit, ripping at her throat with his teeth before a bullet to the head finally stopped him. The guard would have survived her injuries, but the odds of her being infected were one hundred percent, so she’d put a gun to her head before they could quarantine her for observation.

Since then, other reports had detailed similar events. People who were thought to be infected with the Beta strain were going mad, turning into feral, cannibalistic beings with incredible strength and speed. Some jackass had started calling them “revenants,” making a joke about pandemic victims rising from the dead like zombies. Whoever that dubious wit was, Nico hoped he was now rotting away inside his own body.

Those reports had come in nearly a month ago. Now, there was nothing.

Nico hardly spoke to McClosky. Stuck together in the cabin, they were in a world by themselves.

And it was a cold world. As much as he despised McClosky for what he had done, what he had made Nico a party to, the general was all Nico had.

Which was why, as a fifth consecutive ice storm pummeled the cabin, Nico found himself in nothing but the underwear he slept in, standing in the doorway to McClosky’s bedroom.

The general’s eyes glittered in the almost nonexistent light, letting Nico know he wasn’t asleep. He watched silently as Nico padded, barefoot and shivering, across the bedroom. Nico couldn’t be sure why now, after nearly two months of giving McClosky the cold shoulder, he was seeking his bed, except that it felt like the world was dying outside and he desperately needed to touch someone, to remind himself that he was alive. How long that would remain the case, he wasn’t certain. As soon as the weather permitted, he would attempt to get back to his mother’s house, and he had no idea whether he’d survive that, either.

McClosky had been his first client; it was fitting, in a way, that he would be the last.

Nico pushed his underwear off his hips, his half-erect cock bobbing free, and crawled onto the bed. “I never knew I could hate anyone as much as I hate you,” he hissed, and grabbed McClosky, crushing his mouth against his.

For all that McClosky had waited patiently and passively until Nico reached for him, those words brought the general to life. He was older, yes, but he was large where Nico was lithe. He gripped Nico with brutal force and tried to push him back on the bed, all the while launching a determined offensive with lips and teeth and tongue. But Nico wasn’t in the mood to be accommodating. He fought, twisting one wrist free to punch McClosky in the face before diving in for another hate-filled, blood-flavored kiss.

The general grappled with Nico in return, trying to get him onto his back, using his weight to pin him to the bed. Nico made him pay for every inch of ground he gained. He made McClosky force him down, made him overpower him, and struggled to inflict as much pain as possible along the way.

And whatever McClosky’s guilt, it didn’t hold him back. He wrestled Nico onto the mattress and fought his way between Nico’s struggling thighs as though he hated Nico every bit as much as Nico hated him. But even as they battered each other, Nico knew that wasn’t true. Nico was just a stand-in for the true object of McClosky’s loathing.

Himself.

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