My world was upside-down. Twenty-four hours ago I wouldn’t have believed any of this. I believed in right and wrong. I believed in redemption and grace, mercy and forgiveness. But this… this creature… was there forgiveness for a creature like him?
Can you forgive someone who kills so randomly and on such a massive scale? He was the ultimate serial killer, killing for decades, centuries or perhaps millennia. What do you do with someone like that? What is a just punishment for a monster like him?
(The Uprising, #1)
Publication date: March 31st 2018
Genres: Adult, Dystopian
The Uprising Series tells the story of three freedom fighters and their friends in high — and low — places that come together to overthrow a vainglorious Emperor and his militaristic Cabal to restore the city, and the way of life, they once knew and loved.
In The Gathering, Jamie Ryan has defected from the Cabal and has joined his former brothers-in-arms — Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura — to form a collective known as The Uprising. When an explosion leads to him crossing paths with Evanora Cunningham — a product of Jamie’s past — he discovers that The Uprising is bigger, and more important, than he thought.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be the center of attention.
I had it before. And I have it again, now.
But for entirely different reasons.
My name is James Randall Ryan IV.
My nearest and dearest call me Jamie.
My father, who is (well, now, was) not amongst my nearest and dearest, called me Jimmy. I hate that nickname, and when he died, I thanked every God in Heaven that I never had to hear it again. I wish I could say I otherwise missed the old man, but, unfortunately, I would be lying to you.
And I wouldn’t lie to you.
Not these days. And not about that.
But when I was onstage, I was known as Ivan Sapphire – glam rock god, sex symbol, pussy connoisseur, Dionysus in leather pants, Jesus Christ in sunglasses, High Priest of the Bacchanalia, Son of a Bitch of a Preacher Man.
I was all those things, and more.
I was the lead singer of a band called Faust.
We – myself, William Lynn on guitar, Jordan Barker on bass, and the Reverend Tom Newman (yes, he really was an ordained minister – granted, he got ordained online, but that’s just as valid of an ordainment as any other) on drums – played a balls-to-the-wall, blistering brand of rock’n’roll that earned us accolades, fans, fame, and a lot of money.
New York City was, at first, just our home. When Faust first started playing together, it became our playground. And by the time our careers were in full swing, New York City was ours for the taking.
Like any other band, we paid our dues in the beginning: playing Tuesday night open mics in dive bars with no name, getting tossed a $20 to split four ways at the end of the night, having to slog it out at a job the next day while nursing a Pabst Blue Ribbon-induced hangover – a job that we didn’t want to be in, in the first place, because we were on the fast track to rock stardom, even if only in our own minds.
I remember the night that all changed, though. I see it clearly in my mind, as though it all happened last night.
It was a Friday night at the legendary CBGB. We were opening for a pretentious, shoe-gazing hipster rock band. I wish I could remember their name…Ars Poetica, I think it was.
But it doesn’t really matter now.
At that time in New York City rock’n’roll history, our brand of music had gone out of fashion. Gone were the days of leather-clad lesser rock gods and their songs of hedonistic excess – in our place were unshaven, unkempt navel-gazers who sang music to slit your wrists by. This was the soundtrack to your Prozac-induced manic-depressive state, kids – 50% less pussy, 100% more bitching and moaning!
Brooklyn hipster pieces of shit.
We opened for Ars Poetica because Hilly – the legendary owner of CBGB – wanted to give us a fair shot, but knew that most people were there for Ars Poetica. He figured, with all things being equal, he’d be able to earn us a few extra fans if we had a chance to get in front of their crowd.
He told us that, of the hundreds that paid the $25, with a two-drink minimum, we’d be able to get a few new converts.
If we got lucky.
He kept insisting that we should remain optimistic, but realistic.
And if we did well, he promised, we would be able to have a headlining show on a Friday night; prime real estate for a New York City rock band to obtain, at that time.
And take home $100 to split between the four of us as a consolation prize.
May he forever rock’n’roll in the afterlife.
The night came, and we stood before the crowd – wall-to-wall people, as far as the eye could see. The faces all seemed to blend into one another – men and women, black and white and every shade of tan in between, long hair and short hair in every color of the rainbow.
It was the finest representation of the old New York that so many people had come to know and love. The great American melting pot. The rock’n’roll dream come true – the music serving as the great unifier of people from the world over, and our performance, a communion of souls. Take, and eat – for it is my body of work, and it will be given up for you.
I remember feeling so nervous. I remember standing up on that stage – that filthy, piss-ridden stage that felt like it would collapse under my feet any minute – with Willie, Jordan, and Tom – my three brothers-in-arms – and looking out into the crowd to find a friendly face.
Although it didn’t happen often, if I ever got onstage and found myself feeling nervous at the prospect of performing for a maddening crowd, I would often look out into the audience and find a friendly face to sing to for most of the night. Sometimes it worked – just as many times, it didn’t – but either way, it would end with me ending up with Mrs. Right Now, with her pretty little skirt – often two sizes too tight – torn off and tossed in the back of our van and her shirt around her ears, followed by proclamations of eternal (or, at least until one or both of us got off) love, heavy panting and sweating, and various bodily fluids splattered to the walls, the floor, the seat cushions…anything that was within arm’s reach, really.
Paradise by the dashboard light, as the old song goes.
That poor, stinking van.
It wasn’t that I was a man-whore, so much that I was ready and amenable to whatever was nearby that was equally ready and amenable.
And who wouldn’t be, really, in the same circumstances? You mean to tell me that any straight, red-blooded American man who has been granted access to every size, shape, and flavor of pussy on the island of Manhattan will think of being a monk?
I think not.
And if there’s one universal truth about musicians in general – and lead singers in particular – it’s that we get into the business of music for one reason: pussy. The fame is nice, if you can get it – the money is definitely nice, if you can get it – but we get it all because, at the end of the day, we want prime-cut tenderloin pussy, and that, you can definitely get.
But that night, the friendly face I locked onto would rock my world in a way no one had ever done before.
I knew, from the minute I laid eyes on her, that I would never want anyone else ever again.
And I never did.
Seeing her inspired me to play like I’d never played before.
Oh, we were never terrible – in fact, left to our own devices, we were incendiary – but that night, we played as though the world was burning down around us. We sang the soundtrack to the apocalypse, caterwauling and squealing and throbbing and pounding our way through the lyrics and music as if it was our last night on Earth.
New York City was a big, beautiful bitch, and she was ours for the fucking.
And we fucked her but good – hard, long, slow, all night long, and we were all left panting and sweating thereafter.
We tried to set the night on fire.
And we succeeded by orders of magnitude.
And by the end of our set, we not only had the audience leaving CBGB with us – leaving barely anyone behind for Ars Poetica, those poor, navel-gazing, wrist-slitting fucking Brooklyn hipster pieces of shit – but I had Angelique’s number in my phone.
Hilly gave us the Friday night headlining slot the following week.
Angelique gave me her virginity after that show.
And thus, began our rocket ride to the top.
The press started to come out in droves to our shows after that first fateful headlining show. Article after article, and photo after photo, came out to tell all of New York City about us. We played every envied stage on the island of Manhattan: CBGB, The Continental, Arlene Grocery, The Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, Joe’s Pub, and The Bitter End.
Once, twice, three times around the island, and back again for more.
The Pirates of Happenstance. The High Priests of Chaos. The Lords of Misrule.
We sold our souls to rock’n’roll, and our bodies to the New York City rock scene.
It was amazing.
They lavished us with every accolade they could imagine, and even some we’d never heard before: Willie and I were the New Millennial Glimmer Twins – Batman and Robin with Les Pauls – Genghis Khans on a savage panty raid. As a collective, we were known as the four horsemen of the rock apocalypse, effectively rendering every other genre of music in New York City completely redundant. We were the best rock band in captivity – the buck-skinned prophets of a dying brand of cock-rock, fueled by illegal drugs and cheap beer and late nights and early mornings and starving ourselves for days on end (sometimes because we weren’t hungry, other times because there was nothing to eat, and still other times because illicit drugs are a hell of an appetite suppressant…).
We were equal parts savages, sinners, saviors and saints.
We were all those things, and more.
It was all said, written, blogged about and photographed, documented for all of prosperity and placed in a time capsule for history to be the judge.
Let history be the judge of us, and condemn us to a life of Hell, because we experienced Heaven on Earth.
The whole thing started with rock’n’roll, and then it was all out of control.
And it was all true.
With an impressive list of credentials earned over the course of two decades, Bernadette R. Giacomazzo is a multi-hyphenate in the truest sense of the word: an editor, writer, photographer, publicist, and digital marketing specialist who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to thrive in each industry with equal aplomb. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and many, many more. She served as the news editor of Go! NYC Magazine for nearly a decade, the executive editor of LatinTRENDS Magazine for five years, the eye candy editor of XXL Magazine for two years, and the editor-at-large at iOne/Zona de Sabor for two years. As a publicist, she has worked with the likes of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and his G-Unit record label, rapper Kool G. Rap, and various photographers, artists, and models. As a digital marketing specialist, Bernadette is Google Adwords certified, has an advanced knowledge of SEO, PPC, link-building, and other digital marketing techniques, and has worked for a variety of clients in the legal, medical, and real estate industries.
Based in New York City, Bernadette is the co-author of Swimming with Sharks: A Real World, How-To Guide to Success (and Failure) in the Business of Music (for the 21st Century), and the author of the forthcoming dystopian fiction series, The Uprising. She also contributed a story to the upcoming Beyonce Knowles tribute anthology, The King Bey Bible, which will be available in bookstores nationwide in the summer of 2018.
I was having a bad day.
The ugly thug facing me readied himself for the next swing. “What did you say, bastard?” His red-splattered knuckles were ready for the next round; my body wasn’t.
“I’m haffin a fah fay,” I managed to repeat through a mouthful of saliva and blood.
That made Julian Ragazzo, former welterweight boxing champ and top bodyguard to the city’s prime Italian Mafia family, smile. His wet beard glistened with sweat beads around stained teeth. Glad one of us was happy.
I took stock of the damage Ragazzo had already done. Broken nose, check. Split lip, check. Swollen eye, check. Broken rib, double check, and the list went on and on. It could have been worse. The injuries, though painful, weren’t enough to put me in the hospital. Sure, I’d hurt for a week or four, but I’d live to tell the tale outside of a body cast. I knew that, and Ragazzo did, too. This was a game we’d both played before … not that I’d gotten any better at it.
I caught a reflection of myself in the glossy surface of a cabinet door. My messy mop of brown locks was matted with blood on one side and the five o’clock shadow had a hard time concealing a fast-bruising chin. One eye was swollen shut and the other had a pale blue, haunted orb dancing amidst a sea of red veins. I was a mess, and not a hot one.
I closed my good eye and waited for the next blow. The bodyguard didn’t disappoint. A second later, he delivered a power punch and I saw stars. It didn’t help that I was tied to a chair and my already sore shoulders screamed in protest at the added strain. In a noise that only I could hear, my body cried out, ‘How in all the hells was this part of the plan?’ Fair question—it wasn’t.
In truth, there may have been a few glitches here and there. Like those two extra guards at the office building’s back entrance, plus that wrong turn I took on the fourteenth floor. Yeah, okay … the plan was just as screwed as I was.
Ragazzo followed up his haymaker with another kick in the guts. It would have ripped a scream out of me if I’d had any breath left for it. Instead, my lungs just took in short, choppy gasps I couldn’t control.
“Well, well, well … look what the cat dragged in,” taunted an Italian-lilted voice.
I recognized the lazy drawl and opened my good eye to confirm my suspicions. Sure enough, Alonzo Vitorini, Cold City’s resident wannabe kingpin, stood near the entrance in a dark-green pinstriped suit. Shit, looking at his ugly get-up hurt worse than any of Ragazzo’s blows.
Vitorini sauntered into the room, smiling as he noticed my stare. “Like the suit?” he asked, doing a little pirouette to show off this walking insult to fashion.
I wasn’t going to reply, but the second my eye caught sight of the finishing touch, a pair of black-and-white spectator shoes, my mouth kicked into gear on its own.
“Al Capone called,” I wheezed out. “He wants his brogues back.”
Vitorini laughed, the corners of his muddy-green eyes wrinkling. Not sure if he was laughing at the crack or the fact that he was going to kill me for it in another minute or two.
I’d just got out of the shower when she showed up. Same entrance as usual. One second she wasn’t there; the next, she sprawled languidly on my bed. That always gave me the creeps. And how in all the hells could she always have such perfect timing? But I knew better than to question how she appeared from nowhere, disappeared without a trace, or knew the things she knew.
We were old acquaintances and she had seen into my soul and beyond. I had no problem with her seeing my nakedness. And even if I did, I was too worn down to care anyway. I flicked the bedside table lamp on, walked past her, ass-naked, and reached for a shirt and a pair of sweatpants. Someone else may have tried to educate her on social behavior, but I’d long ago given up on the hope that she would ever come to grips with a concept as trifling as privacy.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight,” I said as I shrugged the clothes on. My sore shoulder protested and I winced.
“Why would you?” she replied with a slight accent that was impossible to place.
I glanced at her for clues. Her hair was loose and dark brown again. She had a little makeup on, looked to be anywhere between twenty-five and forty. Her feet were bare and she wore a long and oh-so-thin black dress.
I recognized the look. It was the one I’d dubbed “the Mediterranean” and I knew what it meant. She sat up and her gaze darkened to a coal shade as she took a good, long look at me.
“I’m not in the mood,” I said as I finished pulling down my shirt. I tried hard not to notice the movements her dress made against her feminine curves. But I was a man and no straight man in his right mind could resist giving the attention demanded by that oh-so-perfect cleavage.
“You do not get to choose, mon Bel-Ami,” she said.
Hearing her use my name like that did things to me that no human being could have ignored.
“Or have you forgotten how this works?” she added.
“I haven’t, but no amount of French-silver-tonguing will make me like it,” I retorted. It was a weak protest and we both knew it.
She laughed, a deep, throaty, sultry sound that did things to me I wish it didn’t. Then she moved again, seeming to undulate as she stood to her feet. In two steps she was in front of me, ripe for the taking, temptation personified. She was beautiful, every man’s dream, and she knew it.
“What do you want?” I asked, throat dry.
“A man died tonight,” she murmured. “I want you to investigate.”
The change of topic helped me get my mind off … other things. “For God’s sake, why? Certainly, you would know what happened.”
She remained stock still. It was as if I hadn’t said anything, and maybe I hadn’t as far as she was concerned. She sure had a tendency to only hear what interested her.
I glanced at the clock and saw that it was just past three a.m. “Look,” I told her, “I’ve had a lousy day that doesn’t seem to want to end. I’m more banged up than a crash test dummy right now. So why don’t you and I make an appointment for next Thursday, when I’ll—”
That would be the part she heard clearly. She was on me in a second, swift as a viper. Her cold fingers laced themselves around my throat, pushing me backward until my back hit the wall. The pain of the injuries, which I kept finding new ways to aggravate, registered this time. Must have had something to do with how I felt my feet lift off the ground as she kept me there, pinned like an insect.
“You signed a contract with me, Bellamy Vale,” she hissed. “Your life for a favor. It was granted to you, thus I get your life.”
Her gaze bore into me and her vice-like grip did not relax. I tried to struggle, but she was as immobile as a statue.
“You are mine,” she said. The sexy accent was long gone, replaced by something darker and deadlier. “I see the tapestry of life and I hold your string in one hand and the scissors in the other.”
I’d have swallowed if I could. Instead, I started to suffocate, spots clouding my vision as my heartbeat took up a staccato rhythm. In spite of all that, her arm remained rigid.
“I will cut it when it pleases me,” she continued. “Until then, you are mine and you will do as I command.”
Blood thumped in my ears and I could feel my heart slowing down. I nodded; it was all I could do.
This is my stop during the blog tour for Everything Under the Sun by Jessica Redmerski. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 30 July till 12 August. See the tour schedule here.
Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.
Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?
You can find Everything Under the Sun on Goodreads
You can buy Everything Under the Sun here on Amazon
“One more night,” I said, not looking at her. “Give me one more night and I’ll get you out of this city.” All I could see in front of me was the scenario: I’d wait until very late, after most of the city was sleeping, and then I’d dress her in my military clothes, make her pin up her hair underneath a cap, strap a rifle to her shoulder, a backpack full of goods on her back, and set her atop the mare waiting at the stables.
“But there’s nothing for me anymore,” Thais said, wiping away the lingering tears on her cheeks. “There’s nowhere for me to go, and no one waiting for me there if by some miracle I make it alive. My mother and father are dead. My sister”—she looked up at me, and although I didn’t meet her gaze, I could feel her eyes on me—“my whole family is dead, and this world is dead and my soul is dead and everything that was once good and beautiful and right, is dead.”
I looked at her then, her words stirring me.
“That’s not true,” I said, and got up from the chair and crouched in front of her. “You may be the only good thing left in this world, and I’ll be goddamned if I let your light fade.”
Tears tumbled down Thais’ cheeks.
I took the gun that had fallen from her hand, tucked it into the back of my pants.
“Promise me you won’t try anything,” I said as I went toward the door. “Promise me on your sister’s soul, that you’ll stay in this room and wait for me.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get your supplies.” I placed my hand on the doorknob. “Don’t open this door for anyone.” I opened it to blackness; the candles that had been lit in the hallway had burned down.
“Wait,” Thais called out, and I stopped.
She stood up on wobbly legs.
“You said to get my supplies—are you sending me away alone?”
I thought on it for a moment. I’d never had any intention of going with her. I couldn’t. Not if I was going to keep others from following her.
“No,” I finally said. “You’re not going alone. I’ll go with you, at least until I can get you somewhere safe.”
“Is there anywhere safe, Atticus?” Her voice was soft, hopeless, and hearing her say my name like that did something to my heart. “Do you know where you’re taking me?”
I sighed. And I looked at the wall.
“Yes,” I lied, and then stepped out into the hallway.
Just before I closed the door I added, “Promise me.”
“I promise,” she said. “I’ll wait for you.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to travel with him until he got me out of Lexington City and then I was to make a run for it, kill him if I had to—but I didn’t. I was supposed to stay with these people and leave Atticus to do what he wanted, go where he wanted, without me—but I couldn’t. I was supposed to be afraid of him not only because of the terrible man he was when I first laid eyes on him, but also because he was a man—but I wasn’t. I wasn’t afraid of him.
I was afraid for him.
I was afraid of being without him…
I looked up; my bottom lip quivered.
“I will wait for you,” I said, trying to be strong. I wiped my tears, swallowed hard and nodded.
Atticus dashed outside, pushing the barn door out of his way. Seconds later he came back with the horse. He tossed the quilt we’d slept on the night in the barn, over the horse’s back. Then he went over to the backpacks, stepping around Rachel’s unconscious body, and shoved everything back inside. He helped my arms into the straps of the larger backpack.
Fitting his hands on my hips, Atticus hoisted me up and set me on the horse; I grabbed a hold of the horse’s reins.
“Stay out of sight of the house,” he said as he fitted the smaller backpack and his jacket between my legs. “And cut through the woods there”—he pointed toward the back of the barn—“that’s west; just keep as straight as you can in that direction, but don’t leave the woods.”
He walked with me outside the barn, stopped to look out at the flat land beyond the highway where those who were coming for us would likely be, and then led me around the barn. The deep woods beckoned me out ahead; I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by them, as if they were some kind of final leg of our journey—or the beginning of my journey alone.
Steadying my breath, I looked down at Atticus once more, transfixed on his intense blue eyes, the sculpted shape and rough texture of his handsome face, and I couldn’t imagine at this point never seeing it again.
“I’ll come for you,” he promised.
Tearing my gaze from his, I faced forward and tightened my grip of the reins.
“Why are you so angry, Atticus?” My voice was soft and concerned now.
He blinked, but offered no response.
“I’ve seen men fight before,” I went on, “but I’ve never seen a man as angry at the world as you are. The way you beat that man in your room”—I shook my head with despondency—“the one just now; Atticus, you’re just so full of rage and hate. Why?”
He snorted, as if he’d found my question ridiculous.
“Why?” he mocked incredulously, holding out his hands, palms up. “I’ll tell you why, Thais: at every turn someone wants to rob or maim or kill us; we can’t sleep, night or day, without the thought in our heads as we close our fucking eyes that we might not wake up.” He gestured his arms wildly, his features constricted with indignation. “We’re covering our shit up like animals, sleeping in ditches, watching over our shoulder every second of every day for the chaos to grab us by the ankles and pull us down with it—and you ask why?”
I sat against my quilt, unable to stand to hear this truth. And as if his movements depended on mine, Atticus fell into a crouch in front of me, bouncing on the toes of his boots. I never looked away from the pull of his gaze, trapped by the intensity of it.
“I haven’t slept since you arrived in Lexington City,” he went on. “When I saw you that day, clutching your sister as she was ripped away from you; when you lay on the sidewalk, begging me to help you—it did two things to me, Thais”—he held up two fingers, and then dropped them between his legs—“it fucking killed me; the things I had to do, the part I had to play in not only your fate, but the fate of every girl in those ropes—it fucking killed me! It killed what little was left of my humanity!” His voice had risen with his heated words, his memories, but then he paused to calm himself, lowering his head but for a moment.
I remained motionless, speechless, but my heart began to ache and fill up at the same time. I listened raptly to every word, my heart breaking as he spoke them.
“It killed me,” he repeated. “But then something reached into Hell, grabbed me by the throat and pulled me back. I died that day in the street, Thais Fenwick; I died and then there I was, looking down at you with the eyes of the man I used to be, and I wanted to help you. I still fought with myself after that, but I wasn’t going to let you die or be raped or forced to marry a man you didn’t love—I didn’t know what to do, but I was going to do something, goddammit.”
I sighed. I wanted to hold him, but all I could do was sigh.
About the Author:
Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of THE EDGE OF NEVER, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.
She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.
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