BY: MARISSA BAUDER
Sable Mosley is what the government calls Diseased—she starts fires with her mind—and their assassins hunt her relentlessly…
When Sable and her friends, who also have supernatural abilities, find themselves shipwrecked, it seems like all there is left to do is to wait for the Diseased Affairs and Operations to find and kill them. Then a ghost from the past comes to their aid. However, Sable and her friends don’t stay safe for long. The DAO captures them, demanding to know what the Bond is. Sable thinks it has something to do with her and Brandon, but she doesn’t know exactly what. Can she find the answers and save her friends and herself? Or will the DAO destroy them all?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Catalyst by Marissa Bauder, Sable and her friends are back and still running from the Diseased Affairs and Operations, DAO. Sable, Brandon her boyfriend, and their friends are rescued for a while but the DAO is never far behind. And soon the group is back in danger. When part of the group is captured, Sable and Brandon have to come up with some way to pull off a rescue without getting what’s left of the group killed or captured.
The story has a strong and complicated plot with plenty of action and suspense that will leave you screaming for the next book in the series.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Catalyst by Marissa Bauder is the second book in Bauder’s Diseased series and, like the first one, Sable and her friends, all with paranormal abilities, are classified by the government as diseased and hunted like rabid dogs. The government wants to either use these people as weapons, or else they want to eliminate them all. But these special kids don’t want to be used as weapons. They just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace. Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to let that happen.
Like Bauder’s first book, The Diseased, The Catalyst is fast-paced with a solid plot and plenty of surprises to keep you enthralled from the first page to the last.
The crash of waves against the shore slithered into my consciousness. Behind my closed eyelids, the sun shone red. My boyfriend Brandon’s chest rose and fell steadily beneath my cheek, his warm breaths hitting the top of my head in lazy puffs. It was like we were on the deck of the Kandis Amelia, sleeping in each other’s arms until the sun completely made its way over the horizon. The sharp stinging pain in my ribs reminded me where we really were–stranded on the coast of an uncharted island in the Pacific.
We had been steadily putting distance between us and the Diseased Affairs and Operations’ speed boat. A nasty storm rolled in, the wind whipping my chocolate brown curls out wildly in all directions. Rain had poured down from the sky in sheets, and hit my skin like tiny needles of ice. I couldn’t believe the size of the swells. Even the bravest of surfers would never attempt them. When I was younger, I’d seen footage of this type of weather from Florida. Hurricanes looked terrifying, and I never wanted to be in one. I had the feeling this storm was part of a hurricane.
Shaw, our renegade band’s leader of sorts, made the decision to abandon ship. Three lifeboats were aboard the Kandis Amelia. The nine of us all fit in one with some room to spare. I hoped the crewmen on the Kandis Amelia would fit into the other two. I never did see if they escaped. We watched in horrified awe as the ocean claimed her. It seemed like someone should’ve played Taps or something, but no one made a sound. I imagined the noise of glass being shattered, representing our broken hearts. The only home we had in the world was gone.
The tiny lifeboat capsized over and over again. During one of the upheavals, the oar lock jammed into my side, bruising my ribs. Somehow, we managed to keep ahold of the boat, whether we sat in it or floated on it while it was upside down. After what seemed like days, the battered boat banked on the shore of the island we occupied now. Our only hope of rescue was if the DAO came looking for us, or our corpses. I wasn’t sure which one they’d be looking for or which one I wanted them to find.
Tentatively, I opened my eyes to see what our surroundings looked like in the calm. The rising sun created romantic oranges, pinks, and purples in the sky. A steady breeze whipped the water toward the shore and bent the trees away from it. White sand and shiny seashells comprised the floor on which we slept. In another circumstance, this setting would be quite pleasant. Now it seemed like its loveliness mocked our dire situation.
I craned my head up to see where everyone else was. Ophelia, my best friend, was curled up next to my self-adopted brother, Fang. Brandon’s sister Chloe and her best friend Kelly slept side by side. Leilani, our newest edition, slept near them. Gareth, another recent addition, slept near Ophelia and Fang. Shaw slept closest to the shore.
As I leaned forward to sit up, a sharp stabbing pain lanced through my side. My breath hissed out from between my clenched teeth. I cradled my ribs gingerly, not wanting to inflict more agony.
“Sable?” Brandon’s voice was harsh from his being exposed to the elements. I looked down at his face and offered him a weak smile. His electric icy blue eyes locked on my emerald ones before darting to my hand that still clutched my ribs. His brow furrowed and his jaw clenched, a silent show of concern.
“I’ve had worse.” That was true. Just three weeks ago, I’d been shot in the hip.
“Doesn’t matter.” He sat up and gently lifted me onto his lap. It never ceased to amaze me how strong and yet so gentle his arms were at the same time. “As much as I hate to admit it, it would be nice to have Roger skulking around right about now.”
Roger was Diseased, a person who was born with special psychic abilities, like us. His particular Gift was of healing, which is how my prior gunshot wound was mended. The thing with Roger was that he played both sides, mostly aiding the DAO but throwing us little lifelines here and there. I nodded in agreement.
The others remained asleep, and Brandon and I sat silently together, watching the sun rise. As I gingerly curled my body into his chest, I took another sweeping glance over my companions. We were all definitely worse for the wear.
I’d seen Fang and Ophelia look worse when we were imprisoned in an insane asylum together. That’s how we’d met. Everyone else looking so ragged shocked me, though.
Fleetingly, images of a sitcom where a random group of strangers were stranded on a deserted island flashed through my mind. The idea made me giggle aloud, which instantly had me wincing. Note to self: never injure your ribs again.
Brandon’s hand twitched against my thigh. I knew he was badgering himself about being powerless to heal me. I didn’t blame him, but telling him so would do no good. If there was one thing I’d learned about Brandon, it was that he fiercely protected those he cared for. Being unable to do so tortured him. I placed a soft kiss on hinge of his jaw.
“Good God, we’re shipwrecked and all you can think about is making out?” Chloe’s words dripped with their usual disdain whenever she referenced Brandon and me as a couple. He settled me onto the sand next to him and smiled. Then he stood and walked over to where his sister sat.
“Ah, damn! I got sand in my eyes!” This declaration came from Gareth. It wasn’t long before everyone was awake and assessing our surroundings and each other.
Fang plodded over to me. He limped slightly, and I frowned.
“What’s the trouble, Miss Sable?” Fang always called me “miss.” It was part of his Southern gentlemanly charm.
“Ah, it ain’t that bad. I’ll walk it off in a day or two. How are you?”
“My ribs are banged up, but otherwise I’m good.” Really, I was surprised I made it through the shipwreck and the storm with my spider bite lip piercings intact.
Fang’s brow crumpled at the mention of my ribs. “I don’t envy you that, Miss Sable. They’ll heal with time, but it ain’t an easy fix, I’m afraid.”
I smiled. “Don’t worry, I’m tough as nails.”
Fang chuckled, the sound deep like rolling thunder.
“Everyone, gather around.” This command came from Shaw. Fang helped me to my feet. As I stood erect, I hissed in a breath and wrapped my arms around my waist, clutching at my ribs.
“Take it easy,” Fang soothed as we made our way toward Shaw.
When everyone was settled in front of him, Shaw looked each of us over with laser sharp precision, his blue-gray eyes cool and calculating. “All right, how many of you are wounded?”
Fang, Leilani, Gareth, Kelly, and I raised our hands. Shaw cursed under his breath.
“All right, what’s the damage?”
“I sprained my wrist,” Kelly reported.
“I twisted my ankle,” Fang supplied.
“I got a bump on the head, but it’s nothing serious,” Leilani stated.
I sighed. “My ribs are bruised, or maybe broken, I don’t know.”
“I have sand in my eyes,” Gareth moaned.
Shaw’s glare froze on Gareth and a muscle ticked in his jaw. Gareth was generally the one making wise cracks in the group, but his timing wasn’t always appropriate. He offered a sheepish smile to Shaw.
“So only a few major injuries. More than I would like, but better than all of us getting hurt,” Shaw concluded.
“So what do we do now, just wait for the DAO to come find us?” I asked.
“Ophelia, have you seen anything recently?” Shaw inquired. Ophelia’s Gift was the ability to see the future. She shook her head.
“Until I can come up with a plan, go gather firewood and search the beach and the water for any food sources. Sable, you sit this one out. Fang, don’t strain yourself. Kelly, use your telekinesis to move things.”
I felt useless as I watched everyone else depart to complete their assigned tasks.
The sun burned bright in the sky as I walked along the shoreline. The surf spilled over and rushed back across my feet with the recession of the tide. Tide pools revealed a colorful array of seashells, some with hermit crabs inside. Every once and a while, my gaze would stray over to Shaw, who paced impatiently in the sand. I’d seen him use this practice on the Kandis Amelia many times. All he was missing now was a mug of coffee in his hand.
Slowly but surely, everyone began returning to our desolate camp. Ophelia, Brandon, and Fang carried large palm leaves and thick branches. Chloe and Leilani carried berries and nuts, using the lower half of their shirts as baskets. A cloud of sticks surrounded Kelly as he emerged from the tree line, and Gareth followed behind him with firewood stacked neatly in his arms. Without any instructions from Shaw, the seven of them began making lean-to shelters, shelling nuts, and organizing the firewood into an arrangement fit for a funeral pyre.
In a desperate need to contribute something, I sat down with Chloe and Leilani and removed the meat from the shells of the nuts. We worked together in silence. Chloe cracked the shells with the knife she perpetually kept strapped to her waist on her gun holster, and Leilani and I removed the meat. Every once in a while, I would catch Leilani gazing longingly at Chloe. I wondered if Chloe ever noticed, but decided it wasn’t my place to point it out to her.
The same day I was shot, I learned that Chloe had romantic feelings toward me. It still conjured up a whirlwind of emotions every time I thought about it. It wasn’t that I had an issue with her sexual preference, but the fact that I was dating her brother made me feel uneasy about her unrequited affections. It must be awful to watch someone you’re infatuated with be all romantic with someone else, especially someone close to you like your sibling. I made a mental note to try not to show so many public displays of affection in front of her. Had Brandon ever thought about that?
“Hello, Earth to star gazer!” Chloe snapped her fingers in my face, pulling me out of my musings.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Shaw wants you to light up the firewood so Brandon can cook the fish Fang caught,” Leilani explained apologetically.
“Sure, yeah.” That was my contribution to our little band of freaks. I started fires with my mind. I closed my eyes and visualized the pile of dried wood smoking, with flames licking at the sticks on the bottom of the heap. When the crackling of flame consuming wood sounded in my ears, I opened up my eyes. “Why star gazer?”
“You’re the one with stars tattooed on the side of your eye, aren’t you?” Chloe snapped.
As irritating as her perpetual hostility was, I had to admit her nickname was clever.
Just as we finished shelling all the nuts, Brandon–our resident chef–finished with the fish. He must’ve had a blade strapped to him somewhere to be able to clean them. Did everyone still have a weapon but me? Flat stones Ophelia found served as our plates. A chunk of fleshy white fish and a handful of the berries and nuts were served to each of us. I wondered how it was that none of our meal managed to be poisonous, but between Fang’s vast knowledge base gained in the Navy and Brandon’s culinary prowess, I was fairly confident none of us would keel over and die from the meal.
After dinner, everyone was exhausted from the events of the day. Fang, Brandon, and Gareth built five stick and leaf tents. Shaw took one for himself, which left two to a tent for the rest of us. Ophelia pulled Gareth into one with her. Kelly and Chloe took another. Fang offered Leilani his and said he’d sleep outside, but she said he didn’t have to, so he joined her inside. That left the last one for Brandon and me.
We’d only ever slept in the same bed once before, when we were on a rescue mission to get Kelly and Chloe back from the DAO and ended up bringing Leilani back with us as well. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, which were quickly batted away by the sharp pain in my side when I sat.
Brandon kissed me on the cheek. He lay down next to me and eased my head onto his chest. “There.”
I smiled. “This would almost be romantic if we weren’t here with seven other people and I wasn’t banged up.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for our honeymoon one day.”
“Honeymoon? You just assume I’m going to marry you, Brandon Harper?”
“It’s never a good idea to assume, but I have it on good authority that you’re wildly attracted to me, Sable Mosley.”
“Love and attraction are two entirely different things,” I objected.
A small smile played on his lips until he caught me staring. Then a full on grin took over before he kissed me.
A breathy sigh escaped me as I melted into him the way I always did when we kissed. Before I could get too involved in him, he pulled away from me and shook his head.
“Not until you’re well.”
“That could be weeks!” I protested.
He groaned. “I know.”
“So what do we do now?”
“How utterly boring.”
He chuckled as he eased me down so that my head rested on his chest and I was nestled into the crook of his arm.
After a few minutes in silence, the rise and fall of his chest slowed and evened out. I looked up at his face, but I couldn’t see much at the angle I was at. I traced my fingers along his jaw. A little stubble was growing there. I’d never seen him with facial hair. What would that look like if he grew it out? I tried to picture it, but I was never good at visualizing stuff like that. After all, I wasn’t an artist.
Brandon stirred at my touch, so I gingerly removed my fingers. His breathing evened back out. So, I hadn’t woken him up after all. Since it was completely dark now and there was nothing else to do, I fell asleep, too.
© 2016 by Marissa Bauder