Rockstar 04 Interlude

By: Anne Mercier

Chapter One





Cage


Thirteen years into the past…




The first time I saw her was the day her parents were murdered. Serafina Manzini was a pretty little girl whose heart was breaking, and what's worse than that is her spirit broke that day as well. I watched as she gave into the grips of grief and despair, letting herself fall, letting reality fall away, and I couldn't blame her. No child should go through what she's going through right now and no child should ever see the horror of what she's seen.

The Russos are good to her, trying to engage her as I speak with Ernesto and Giovanni across the patio from where Anthony rested her on a chaise in the sun, hoping against hope that she'd snap out of it, but I know better. She isn't ready to be found yet. No, that little girl needs to be lost a little while longer, just until she finds her anger and fight. Then, and only then, will she be ready for the battle ahead. I know what road she'll take. I can see it in her eyes, bleak as they might be—I still see the fire of vengeance burning in them and I admire it. That's why I vow right here and now to help her—whatever she needs.





Two weeks later my pretty little girl still isn't ready. I see who she's going to become and I know one day she'll be mine. With eight years between us, me at eighteen and her at ten, I know it's going to be a long time before that day will come—but it will come. I see a kindred spirit in her and when she's around, I don't feel quite so alone.

I walk over to where she's lying on the sofa and sit down on the coffee table to face her. I rest my elbows on my knees and will her to meet my gaze. She doesn't. I tilt her chin gently with my fingertips then run them down her cheek.

"Little Serafina, it'll all be okay. One day we'll make things right. I promise you." It's probably just wishful thinking, but I swear I see her lips move just the slightest bit. I can only hope she hears me.

"Nickels," Giovanni calls and I nod.

"Until next time, little one."





Chapter Two





Jesse


Six years into the past…





The flight's delayed. After eating a burger with the security detail, I head through the airport. The four days at Comic Con were kick ass. I'm pretty fucking proud of our artists. When we were approached last year about a five-part comic book series featuring Falling Down we were skeptical. We've been learning quickly not to trust people until they've earned it. These artists have totally fucking earned it.

The crowd at the event was fucking awesome. Very cool and welcoming to the artists, not only focusing on me, which was a huge relief. I'm really the only one in the band who gives a shit about this stuff and the guys razz me, calling me a nerd. I like comic books. Sue me.

As we head through the concourse of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, I get stopped sporadically for autographs. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. We've been at this for four years now and it still feels weird having people scream when they see me. I'm just a dude who likes to sing. It's not really me they're all hyped up on, it's the music and the image I represent. I won't lie and say I haven’t taken advantage of it, because I have, probably more than I should.

Christ this airport is packed.

"Jesse!" a blonde with fake tits calls out. I can spot a pair of fake tits a mile away now. I prefer the real thing, but what do I care when I'm fucking a chick after a show and sending her on her way? If they're too unrealistic, I'll just bang her from behind.

"Hey," I greet her with a smile.

"Can I have your autograph?" she asks. This one isn't shy at all as she presses those fake tits against my arm.

"Sure can. You got a pen?"

She hands me a Sharpie and it clicks. This chick followed me around at Comic Con and I look over at Ruben, who looks to John and Kal, alerting them to the possible stalker. I don't acknowledge I recognize her. I learned the hard way that giving them that will have them thinking they're more to you than just a fan. Yeah, no fucking thank you.

"Sign my shirt?"

I nod. "Sure thing. Who do you want this made out to?"

She pouts, not happy with the blow off. "Sandra."

I nod and sign her shirt with a generic, "To Sandra, Thanks for taking the plunge and Falling Down. Jesse." I cap the marker and hand it back to her.

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