Part IV – Gathering Survivors
by G.B. Gordon
Hi everyone, I’m thrilled to be here and especially thrilled about the reason I’m here: Bengt and Alex are back with The Other Side of Winter. Some of you wanted to know a bit more about what happens between the two books, so I’m taking the opportunity to give you some glimpses into that year the guys spent apart from each other in a series of intermezzos over the course of this booktour.
SPOILER ALERT! A warning for those of you who’ve NOT yet read Santuario: since thesescenes are set after the first book, there will, of course, be spoilers.
Thank you for having me,
Read on at your own discretion.
IV. Gathering Survivors
Alex found a jumble of tree trunks and branches that gave him a perch off the sodden ground, where he could lean back and doze off without falling. He slept like the liebre, the jackrabbit of the brush lands: minutes at a time. In between those scant rests he listened into the darkness and tried to think of nothing.
As the first light trickled down to the forest floor, he drank some water and refilled his canteen from the numerous mini pools in leaves and flowers, then gingerly picked his way back. When he could smell the remnants of the fire he stopped to listen, then, as quietly as he could, he started to walk around the camp or whatever was left of it in a slowly tightening spiral, stopping ever so often to listen, unfocusing his eyes to look through the canopy instead of at it. He much preferred the more open palm forests he’d grown up around. He tried to tell himself that the cover worked both ways, but still felt exposed and claustrophobic at the same time.
He didn’t step into the clearing when he came to it, again circling around at the edge of the vegetation. All that was left of the bunkhouse and the attached cooking station was a heap of ashes and charred beams. The rain had extinguished the flames before they could spread. Or maybe the jungle was too wet to burn anyway. Alex had braced himself for a heap of bodies, but didn’t see a single one. Nor any turned soil. Odd. While the securitas had a reputation for cleaning up after themselves, he didn’t see them lugging a pile of bodies over this kind of terrain.
His shoulder blade pricking with imagined eyes he took a step forward. Like walking through glue. When nothing happened, he took another step. And another. Searching the debris, for what, he didn’t even know. There was nothing left here. He should scram.
The shock when he recognized the first skull in the ashes hit his body like a physical blow that brought him to his knees. Once seen, they were hard to miss—skulls, ribcages; the fire hadn’t burned hot or long enough to consume the bones.
Don’t think. He’d known every one of these people. Not closely, maybe. He hadn’t been here long enough for that. Don’t. Fucking. Think.
The soft metallic snick whipped his head up. Gun slide. And he was kneeling in the fucking middle of the fucking clearing like a sacrifice.
“Hands behind your head.”
That voice. He did as he was told, but he knew that voice. “Simón?”
Stunned silence answered him, followed by, “Caray. Alex?”
Simón Mendez walked around him and held out his hand to help him up. Alex took it. He hadn’t seen the man in months, and never out of uniform. He was glad to see to see him alive, but there wasn’t much room for happiness in this place, so it just felt strange, skewed to meet him like this. “What are you doing here?”
“We got word of the raid, and tried to get here in time to warn everyone.” He stared into the charred ruins and swallowed the obvious.
Simón raised his arm, and Alex turned to watch a dozen more men step out into the open. Three of them he recognized as bunkmates. So he hadn’t been the only one to make it out alive. Four out of sixteen.
“How did they find us?”
Simón shrugged. “My guess? Some poor sod breaking under torture. I just hope it earned him a quick bullet.” He spit into the ashes.
Alex ran his hands through damp hair. The taste of ashes clogged his throat. He swallowed the bile and concentrated every bit of willpower he possessed on blanking out his thoughts. “I lost my fucking hat in there,” he said.
About The Other Side of Winter
Not all wounds are visible.
Skanian investigator Bengt fell in love with fellow policeman Alex Rukow in a week. But that was a year ago, and they’ve been apart ever since. Then Alex escapes the corrupt and destitute island nation of Santuario and comes to live with Bengt. Happy ever after . . .?
Alex’s lifelong dream of leaving Santuario has come true at last. But he finds himself adrift in a society he doesn’t understand. Worse, past nightmares come back to haunt him, and after so many years of suspicion and self-reliance, it’s harder than he imagined to trust someone else.
Bengt just wants Alex to share his comfortable life. But the more he tries to give, the more Alex pulls away. Their physical connection couldn’t be better, but Bengt can’t seem to get through to his difficult, taciturn lover outside the bedroom. Meanwhile, he has his own demons to confront—not to mention a serial killer on the loose.
Bengt and Alex must dig deep for the courage to face their pasts, but it may be too late to save their relationship or their lives.
Available at: Riptide Publishing
About G.B. Gordon
G.B.Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.
Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands. Santuario is G.B. Gordon’s first published work, but many more stories are just waiting to hit the keyboard.
Find out more on G.B.’s Website, Twitter or Goodreads.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a draw for a $15 Riptide gift card. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 27. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so we can contact you if you win!