Chapter One – A Meeting of Consequence
The view was nothing short of magnificent. I had uninterrupted views across the city towards the ocean and coastline as I looked out the, floor to roof, windows that graced our apartment. Such beauty should make me in a better mood but it wasn't helping at all. I sighed and turned my head to quickly sweep my glance across the luxurious surroundings of the place we were currently calling home for a few weeks. Only the best for us and yet here I stood, feeling agitated and completely at odds with myself and my life in general. I felt a pang of guilt. How could I be so selfish? I had a life that most people would only dream about. A life full of fame, fortune and fun. Of course there was the hard work but no one else but us saw that; they just saw what they wanted – the lifestyle of the rich and famous and getting the kickbacks that naturally came with that role. Hard work wasn't my problem, however; it was the loneliness and lack of privacy that was really causing me the heartache. Besides a handful of people, including those who were currently in this room with me, and of course my parents, I could trust no one. Everyone had an ulterior motive in befriending me and although I was used to it by now, it didn't mean I had to like it. Lately I was feeling more and more like something was missing and I feared that I would never be able to fill that gap, that over the past few months had become a huge gaping chasm. Music was no longer filling it for me, even though it was a passion I could never let go of. I wanted more.
My eyes naturally found Emmett and Rosalie as they sprawled across the lounge together. Emmett was watching the big screen and Rose was flicking through car magazines while her head rested comfortably in his lap. Emmett was idly playing with her hair with one hand as he clenched his other fist in the air every time his team did something he was happy with. Rosalie would unthinkingly adjust her position every time he moved a little too excitedly about the game and he would flick his eyes towards her with a "Sorry Babe" and the wind up would start all over again. The two of them looked so comfortable and I felt the loneliness prick away at my consciousness once again. It was no different with Alice and Jasper. They sat at the far end of the room, heads bowed over their game of chess; eyes sparkling and small chuckles escaping their lips at infrequent intervals when one got the better of the other. They were at complete ease with one another and I turned away from them in self disgust that I could be jealous of what the people who I loved most in this world, were lucky enough to have, and faced out the window again.
"I have to get out of here," I murmured to myself but Emmett responded anyway.
"Are you ok, bro?"
"Sure. I think I might try and go for a run. The day is perfect for being outside. I could get rid of some of this excess energy." I answered him as I headed towards my room to change into appropriate running gear.
"Do you want me to come with you." Emmett questioned good naturedly but I shook my head in denial. I wasn't about to ruin their time of rest – god only knew that we didn't get enough of it while we were on the road.
Jasper looked up from his game to join in with the conversation. " I noticed that there is a way out the back, yesterday, when I was talking to the hotel manager. I think it's a staff entrance and exit. You might have a better chance of getting out undetected if you go out that way. It's worth a try anyway."
I reentered the room as he spoke, slipping a dark coloured t-shirt over my head. "Thanks Jazz. It would be kind of nice to go on a run without the world by my side." I grimaced at the very real chance that this would happen.
"Yeh, well good luck with that." Emmett chuckled and returned his attention to the TV. I said my goodbyes and headed towards the lift. I had a couple of hours up my sleeve before rehearsals and then tonight's performance. I was hoping that I could use those hours discreetly, not with the world breathing down my neck.
I stopped the lift on the second floor and chose to walk down the last couple of flights of stairs to improve my chances of being unnoticed. On the ground floor I spoke briefly to the manager who directed me to the staff exit that Jasper had mentioned. Jim had been fantastic in keeping the media and fans contained outside our hotel so that at least inside we had some semblance of normality. Outside, though, it was a completely different ballgame. I placed my cap on my head and walked quietly out the door, head down to ensure I made eye contact with no one. I was not in the mood for idle interaction with people who did not care about me. I just wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible and go for a run, free from scrutiny. A big ask …… but I was going to try anyway.
I took a breath and opened the door, before rushing through it blindly, only to collide with someone coming the other way. Books and papers were instantly flying through the air as I heard a small hiss of frustration. I swore under my breath – I did not need this right now. I bent down to retrieve some of the books that had landed on the ground around me and that is when the scent hit me – it was all lavender and something else I couldn't quite put my finger on, and it was intoxicating. I was obviously working on auto pilot because it wasn't until I looked up from my own hands on the books that I realized someone was down on their knees also and that person was talking to me without me registering a single word. When my eyes met hers I completely lost myself in the depths of the most incredibly beautiful chocolate pair of eyes that I had ever seen. I stared at the girl uncomprehendingly and she looked back at me oddly before blushing a rosy red. I inwardly shook myself out of my stupefied trance to try and take note of the words coming out of her mouth and realized that she was apologizing profusely for knocking into me.
"I am so sorry. I am such a klutz and I didn't realise anyone was coming out the door. I should have been looking where I was going."
At this point I should have responded with my own apology, especially considering I hadn't been looking where I was going either, but I couldn't speak. All I could do was look at her dumbly before offering her books back to her silently. She accepted them with a slight smile. "Um, thanks…. study, you know how it is. Trying to cram some last minute study in, once work has finished. I am really sorry. I hope I didn't hurt you or anything…." Her voice trailed off and I was sorry that it did. There was something alluring and musical about the sound of her voice that was almost irresistible to me. I pulled myself up short. I was really losing it if I was having these kinds of thoughts about a girl's scent and the sound of her voice when I had only just met her, and hadn't even spoken to her yet. Get a grip boy.
"No, not hurt at all. More just shocked and I am also so……"
I stopped as I heard voices in the distance calling out and knew instantly that my escape was about to become public. "Shane" said the disembodied voice, clearly coming closer. "Lindsay said she saw him in the foyer and then he just disappeared the opposite way. Maybe he came out a back way. Come this way…."
My eyes sought the door in a panic. I needed to get back inside quickly before I was found out here with this poor innocent girl. The media would have a field day with that one. I groaned when I realized that the only way back in was by key. The girl who was standing in front of me, with the confused look on her face, would have to have one but when I glanced at her hands they were just filled with books and no keys were in sight. Damn – there was no time.
"The key, do you have the key?" My voice was filled with urgency and she quickly reacted to it. She put her books down next to the bin and started to rummage through the tote she had over her shoulder. There was no time. I didn't think; I just acted and before I knew it I had grabbed the girl by the wrist and pulled her towards a hiding spot between the wall and the large bins.
"Hey what the hell do you think you are doing?" she asked in a frightened voice. I placed two fingers against her lips to stop her from speaking.
"Trust me please. I'm not going to hurt you." She must have read the pleading look in my eyes because she relaxed slightly and I was all of a sudden way too aware of her body pressed against mine and the feel of her soft lips against my fingers. Her heart was pounding in her chest way too quickly and I swore at myself for frightening her so much to bring about that reaction. I removed my fingers and we both listened as footsteps and voices came towards us. Her face was looking up at me wide eyed and I had the sudden urge to bend down and kiss her forehead to let her know that it would be fine. Of course I couldn't do that. The fact that I could even think it was ridiculous. Instead I just shook my head slightly to encourage her to remain silent.
If we were caught like this it would be so much worse than if I'd just remained outside the door and accepted that I'd have to face the world, and that I'd suddenly be linked with some innocent bystander in all the gossip magazines. The girl standing next to me, due to no choice of her own, did not deserve any of this. I cursed yet again in my mind. My lack of thinking coherently had put us in a potentially destructive situation. Ways of getting out of it ran through my head but none of them were satisfactory. I would be happy to accept whatever the media wrote about me; most of what came out as news about me were lies anyway; but I wasn't willing to expose this girl to the scrutiny. I wondered briefly at this sudden surge of protectiveness towards a brown eyed girl without a name. I sealed the question into the recesses of my mind to look at later.
I had about given up hope that we'd get out of this unscathed when I realized that the footsteps had stopped heading our way and the voice's conversation had changed.
"Jasper and Alice are heading towards the front door. Quick or we'll miss them" Their retreating footsteps were like music to my ears. Alice – I could always rely on her uncanny ability to know when I needed help. I had no doubt their sudden show was all about me and would only last a few minutes before the two of them would retreat back to the haven of our room. I owed her big time.
Upon giving my attention back to the girl I noticed the confusion had not left her face and she was silently waiting for some cue as to what she should do next. I gingerly removed myself from her side and we were soon standing in the relative openness of the laneway again.
My embarrassment was immense so my response to the girl's exclamation of " Well….that was bizarre" was harsher than needed.
"Welcome to my life." I winced at the coldness in my own voice and tried to bite back my next words but they were out before I could take them back. "It's what you all dream about isn't it. You've got a story to tell now. I hope they make it worth your while." The sound of my footsteps almost drowned out her words as I began to jog away from her.
She was clearly bemused by the whole situation and I wasn't helping. "Ok…..I am not so sure that I've ever dreamt of being dragged behind a dumpster by a total stranger but if you say so….." She trailed off, obviously aware that she'd get no explanation from me as she watched me move away from her. I'd never felt so rude in my life…….. or so confused. I began to run faster, putting distance between us and as I went for my solitary run I wondered why a pair of chocolate brown eyes were still foremost in my mind.