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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.

"Thank you so much, Jesse. I'll see you when you're back on tour," she purrs.

Not if I can help it. "We're going back out next month. Hope you can make it to the show."

Ruben nods and urges me on.

"I gotta go."

She nods but pouts again. I swear she's gonna cry.

"Let's get the fuck out of here before she starts clinging," I mutter  and the guys pick up the pace with me. We pause when we get waylaid by a  bunch of young girls wanting autographs. This, this I can handle just  fine.         

     



 

"I love your music," one girl says.

"Falling Down kicks ass," the other adds.

"Thanks ladies. I appreciate that and so do the guys." I keep signing and when I'm done I hand them their pen back.

"Thanks so much!" the first girl murmurs, and looks at me like I'm some sort of god.

"This is so awesome. Thanks Jesse. See you when the tour makes it to  Chicago," the second girl tells me. Die hard fans. I love them. They're  usually the ones who've been with us from the beginning and those are  the fans that kick ass.

"See you there," I answer, and we're just turning when someone calls out my name.

"Jesse!" a gorgeous brunette calls out.

"Damn," John mutters under his breath.

I smirk. Yeah, this one's a looker, but it's the chick she's pulling  along behind her that's grabbed my attention. Long, curly brown hair.  Eyes the color of chocolate. Tiny nose and extremely kissable lips. This  one's definitely beautiful.

"Ladies. How are you today?"

"Good, we're good," the first girl says as she smacks the other one's  arm. My girl is quiet, nervous, and when she tries to smile, it's so  obviously forced I can't help but grin.

She mutters, "Unh," and her eyes wander over my face, lingering longer  over my piercings. I've got a hoop in my eyebrow and another through my  bottom lip. This pretty girl could tug on it with her lips and I'd die a  happy man. Hell, it'd be worth the jail time if these girls are  underage. Her eyes slide down my body slowly, like a caress, then slowly  back up. When she sees me grinning at her, she freezes up again, and I  can't hold back the chuckle. Damn she's fucking adorable.

The first girl rolls her eyes at my girl. "You're traveling alone?"

I nod. "The band is in L.A."

She pouts, probably a fan of one of the other guys.

"My friend, Lucy, would like to get your autograph." My girl, Lucy, stands there frozen.

"Is that so, Lucy?" I ask with a smile.

Nothing. I'm more than amused. This doesn't happen much. Mostly the fans are aggressive, but not little Lucy.

I reach out to take the pen from my girl's hand and I can't resist the  temptation. I want to know what she smells like so I lean in and  whisper, "It's okay, Lucy. I won't bite. Well, unless you want me to, of  course." I hear her breath catch in the back of her throat and I can't  fight the full-on grin that pulls across my face.

I sign the paper, personalizing it for my girl, Lucy. "Lucy, Gorgeous  girl, thank you for helping make Falling Down number one. As always,  Jesse." I had the urge to sign it "always yours". What the fuck?

I put the cap back on the pen. I reach out for Lucy's hand, putting the  pen and paper into her hand, enjoying the softness of her skin, before  closing it so she doesn't drop them. I can't let go. Her gaze flicks  over to where I'm still holding her hand. I reluctantly let go. Shit. If  she's of age, it isn't by much and that makes her untouchable for me. I  won't fuck an innocent. Hell, with the way she's blushing, I wouldn't  doubt she's a virgin. She wouldn't be the first who wanted me to take  that from her, but something about her …  it makes her more than just  another cherry to me.

"Are you going to be all right, Lucy?" I ask, curious to hear her voice.

"Um … " she murmurs and I grin again.

Her sister? Well, she looks like her sister, sighs in exasperation.  "She'll be fine. She's just had the biggest crush on you for forever."

My girl blushes a pretty red from head to toe. I'd give my right nut to  see that blush over her naked body spread out before me. Fuck.

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. She's been following your career since you went national your junior year in high school."

"Wow," I say, grinning some more. "That's a long time."

"Yeah, it is. She ran around screaming when your first album debuted and when your video came out she threw a party."

"That's dedication," I tell her with raised eyebrows. Hell, that's fucking awesome. She believed in us before anyone else did.

I can't stop smiling when I notice her staring at my lips. Oh, little  Lucy, what I'd give to taste your pretty lips right now. No can do. If I  start with her, I won't be able to stop. Not with this one. She's got  me fired up and she hasn't said a word. When her teeth sink into her  lower lip I bite back a groan.

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