Shadows Under My Skin:

Chapter one.

I did life get this bad?

I must have been tapping my spoon- a subconscious habit of mine- rather loudly against my coffee cup; a fact I only paid tribute to due to the rather nasty glares I was on the receiving end of.

Immediately I stopped, feeling rather embarrassed. I was always caught up in my own world these days.

I looked around my surroundings carefully, as if to prove that I was really there. I could have been anywhere in the world for all I cared.

But of course I wasn't just anywhere, I was at The Moonlit Café situated right in the very centre of the infamous Cadence Hotel; I was in London, England.

A place I could never really call home, but home it was.

The Moonlit Café was sleek and elegant, a décor that all of The Cadence Hotel shared. It was run by the rich for the rich and I was probably the poorest person in the room. I was surprised they didn't all look at me like I was dirt.

From my perspective this café looked rather dull, depressing even with an awe inspiring view to make up for it, it seemed. Apparently this was fashionable.

The side two walls were of stonewash grey, with white trimming for balance. The very back wall was made of sheer glass, it was fabulously beautiful the way it allowed the moonlight to cascade across the room and make everything seem hollowly romantic.

And that's not to mention the view you can see from the window if you're actually sitting in front of it- which I'm not, I just know from coming here practically every night since god-knows-when. I can envision the waves crashing into the peninsula rhythmically and it makes me wish I had gotten a booth that overlooked it, instead of this one that faces the big wide screen TV on the wall.

Curiously I glance at it, only noticing for the first time since sitting down what was playing. It was an American show called Entertainment Tonight; how thrilling.

I sighed again; if only just to express how bored I truly was. I was on my break with nothing to do. Cadence never minded if I hung around the café. As long as I didn't take up the 'good seats', they were for the rich people (who were actually paying good money for even the trivial things like the view of the peninsula) I was simply just the maid; Hence the reason I'm sitting here watching Entertainment Tonight instead of that gorgeous view.

It was when these really beautiful harmonic soothing cords began to play that my attention strayed from the stone cold coffee and back up towards the TV screen.

A video clip was playing for a band called Cats on Fire. I screwed up my nose at the name, I'd never heard of them before. What sort of band calls themself Cats on Fire anyway? It was sadistic and wrong. They'd have animal rights people on them surely.

It was one of those arty film clips where the band members were symbolically blacked out as if to say that they were shadows or they were filled with darkness or something.

And then the song title came up on the screen: Shadows under My skin. Well, that one speaks for itself, really.

His voice was so heartbreakingly beautiful that it demanded every ounce of my attention. I found myself staring at the screen despite the fact that the clip was all shadowy and distorted.

And then there was the bridge of the song where darkness was being stripped ray by ray from their bodies and there faces were revealed.

I let out an audible gasp.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw some people give me strange looks.

'No, no it can't be… it has to be my imagination.'

He was looking at the camera now, both of his hands intertwined around the microphone-on-stand. I truly couldn't look away now.

'Just because he has dark hair and blue eyes, doesn't mean it's him' I scolded myself.

I laughed, 'I'm such an idiot it's not even him! It can't be he's a drummer not a singer.'

I sighed with relief and- disappointment?

The film clip ended and the host re-introduced the song as 'Shadows under My Skin'by Cats on Fire.

"We have a surprise for you all this evening!" he was saying, just a little overdramatically. "Tonight, here live in the studio, is the lead singer of the band you've all been talkin' about!" Honestly I felt like rolling my eyes. "That's right- it's Charlie Sherwood of Cats on Fire!" Wait- what? Did he just say-? "Please make him feel welcome ya'll!"

I think my heart stopped beating at that moment; and then, the thrill of a figure swiftly moving onto the set to vigorously shake the host's hand, jolted it into overdrive.

This was so surreal.

Were my eyes deceiving me? Was my mind playing tricks?

It had to be, it was too much to hope…

And logically, there had to be a thousand Charlie Sherwood's out there. And just as many would be stunning with their ebony hair and azure eyes…

He was sprawled out across the couch in that cool-calm-collected manner, next to the host. The host shared a joke with him to break the ice and he laughed along with it.

For a while the interview was relatively straightforward, they spoke about touring and fans and all that general stuff. It was the next couple of questions that really threw me.

"What was it like growing up in Australia's popular surf culture as a struggling musician?" The host enquired using a surprisingly professional voice considering his profession.

Not that I have anything against ridiculous over-the-top TV presenters, or anything

"Well…" Charlie stalled, "I'm not done growing up yet!"

The host laughed and hit Charlie's arm, as if to say 'you-kidder-you!' or something along those lines.

"No. seriously, it was alright." Charlie chuckled amiably, "Long Beach, where I grew up, was very impassive sometimes but it was also amazing; I had some of the best and worst moments in my life there." He sounded wistful as he said the last part.

But I wasn't paying attention to this. No, I was in too much shock. Because when my brain comprehended what he had just said; the only thing I could think of was, how many Charlie Sherwood's out there are model-gorgeous, musically gifted and-coincidently-come from the same town as the one that you used to live?


That's right; even I'm not naïve enough to think that this was all one unmistakable coincidence.

The playback was all in slow motion from here on as I watched him seemingly for the first time.

I didn't even hear what the host said in response. The next thing I knew another question was barrelling out of the host's mouth, "How did your previous experience as a drummer in a band that literally fell apart due to an intense tragedy, affect you as a musician?"

Another question that hit close to home, what was with this guy?

I saw Charlie's face tighten at the implications of the question; it was certainly a personal one.

"Well," He began bravely, "of course it's affected me musically; as a singer and as a song writer. I don't see how something like that couldn't change me as a person and obviously that transitions into my music."

At least he was vague, he basically dodged the question. None of that personal stuff revealed.

I turned my head to the soft pitter-patter sound of footsteps coming closer towards me and saw Denise.

She was dressed in the Hotel Café uniform and she looked particularly stressed, "Hey Amber, listen I know you're on your break and everything; but Brooke is having a panic attack she's got this massive line-up and-"

"Yeah okay, I'll do it." I interjected just to shut her up. Denise had a tendency to ramble.

I slowly put my things together and vacated the table I was seated at somewhat reluctantly. I looked back towards the TV screen one last time before leaving the room, familiarising myself with the remnants of the past…

Brooke's blonde head was just poking out from underneath the counter when I got to the Reception desk.

Tiredly, I glanced around the reception area. It was the same as always really, only the queue was much longer this time.

But apart from that, the walls were still champagne, the carpet was still navy, there was still potted plants littering the room and an overly large chandler hanging from the ceiling. And of course, there was still those annoying large electronically activated glass doors buzzing open and shut every few minutes.

Just before I got to the staff door leading to behind the desks, I tucked my long, rainbow-streaked hair into my hotel uniform hat.

I could tell that the other girls wanted to kill me for the introduction of the 'uniform hat'; because somehow, coincidently, the uniform hat came about the same time my rainbow coloured hair did.

Apparently my hair was too controversial to the upper-class of England and gave off a cheap impression to hotel customers.

The girls resented me because any other person would have been sent walking for partaking in such a stunt. But no, for me, introduction of the hotel staff hat.

Yeah, they're real thrilled about that one.

Brooke looked up from the record book she was struggling through and sighed with relief. "Amber! Oh, thank god, I need help with these books. Someone's mixed them up again." She said desperately in that chipper voice of hers.

I tried not to roll my eyes at that one. Don't get me wrong, Brooke's probably the coolest girl here, but usually that 'someone' that mixes up the books is herself.

I glanced at the impatient man in front of Brooke waiting to be checked in. He looked pissed right off, to say the least.

"Sorry sir," I said, smiling apologetically at him as I quickly took the Books from Brooke. "Is there somewhere you urgently need to be?" I asked as I began scanning times and dates.

He frowned. "I have some really important business to attend to. Now could you please stop wasting my time and get your manager?"

I blinked, he had no right to talk to me like that, Important business or otherwise.

I glance at the long queue forming behind the man and gesture for Brooke to get onto Cadence for me.

Brooke took the hint and immediately ran to the phone to page Cadence.

Whilst this was going on, I finally found the book with today's bookings in it. "What was your name again, sir?" I asked distractedly.

"Rob Baltmore." He supplied tersely, as if he were the most important person on the planet.

A few moments later I looked to see Cadence coming towards us.

If I were to describe Cadence, I would say that he's about 24 years of age (a full two years older than me); he's taller than me at 6"2; has a polite smile; very nondescript at first (you know the type, average eyes, average hair and average build…) he was neither drop-dead-gorgeous nor butt-ugly, but he had a sort of inner grace, something that if you knew him, drew you to him.

"What seems to be the problem?" he asked when he reached us.

"We can't seem to find this man's room reservation." I say, gesturing to Mr. Baltmore.

"Oh, I see." Cadence says turning to Mr. Baltmore. "I'm very sorry Mr. Baltmore for the inconvenience. Normally our computer system holds all that data," Cadence explained. "But the system is down at the moment. I understand you have some meetings to attend to?"

I blinked. How the hell had Cadence known about Mr. Baltmore?

"Yes, as you know I have a lot of publicising to set up for the Cats on Fire tour, I expect Chris told you all about it?"

I ran my finger down the list, scanning furiously as they spoke.

Cadence nodded a smile playing on his lips. "He sure did. I'm sorry to have troubled you sir. I assure you, you will get an extra discount for this inconvenience."

I finally found Mr. Baltmore's name on the list. "Got it," I said as formally as I could muster. "You're in room 214 A. Enjoy your stay."

"Thank you Amber," Cadence said smiling at me slightly. "I'll see to it personally at carrying your luggage up with the help of Miss Saunders here."

I glanced at the long line up again rather anxiously, was it really wise to leave Brooke by herself with this?

Cadence was looking at me expectantly, so I nodded in agreement.

Mr. Baltmore seemed satisfied with this. "Thank you, Mr. Cadence."

Cadence looked humble. "Please, call me Jasper."

Mr. Baltmore grunted something in response.

I mouthed 'sorry' to Brooke and made sure she knew where the book was before leaving.

There were four suitcases, we took two each and headed for the stairs, it was two floors up but we were taking the long route one purpose.

"How you doin'?" He asked all mock-gangster like, with a warm smile, when he thought we were alone.

"I'm alright," I said smiling back, "I've been working most of the day."

He laughed heartily, "Amber!" He cried in mock-outrage. "You're not supposed to tell your boss that you've been slacking off."

"Well, what about my boyfriend, can I tell him?" I asked winking.

He abruptly stops marching up the stairs. "Something tells me, your boyfriend doesn't want to hear your crap either." He says it with such a straight face that I'm tempted to hit him over the head with one suitcase, then the other.

But then I hear his laughter.

"You take that back BOYFRIEND!" I shout in a very unprofessional manner, some customers using the stairwell glare at us.

He looks decidedly uncomfortable; he's always had a stich against people- namely customers- knowing about 'us'.

I wait until we're alone again before speaking. "Seriously, I'm exhausted, I've been working all day and then on my break they call me back."

"Aw, my poor lil' worker." He coos at me. "But you know you don't have to do all this for me, I appreciate you just being here. I didn't ask you to move in to be my slave."

I groan, "We've been through this before. If I lived here and did nothing all day, not only would I be bored outta my mind, I'd feel like crap." And just to ease the mood a little bit I add, "And besides, doesn't that slave thing sound kinda kinky?"

Now it's his turn to groan, "You did not just say that." He says sounding baffled. "And don't try the, 'I-need-to-pull-my-weight' argument either because you don't weigh all that much."

By this point we'd already reached room 214 A, so he pulled out his master key and unlocked the door, I had a similar key for cleaning purposes.

We placed the suitcases neatly in the room and Cadence wrote a note with his condolences.

After he was done he took my hand. He sighed, "It was Brooke wasn't it?"

I knew if I took the slack he'd still keep me, but Brooke… She was already walking on a tightrope.

I shook my head, "no, it was me I-"

"Amber," He interjected, "I know you're being noble and everything, but she's really costing me, our name means everything, if one person has a bad experience they'll tell someone else and that person will tell someone else and so forth."

I sigh, I could see where he was coming from, but Brooke was a good person, she just made mistakes.

"Look, I'll give her one last chance, that's it." He said firmly.

I smiled innocuously. He really wasn't a bad guy; I wished I could be a better girl for him, someone who deserved him.

A.N: I can't help but feel this doesn't cut it. You don't know how much that kills me; I keep procrastinating and fretting over this, but it won't go away. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is: I could really do with feedback, if you see something you don't like- no matter how basic- let me know, it would mean a lot to me.

Credit:'My World' is a great song by a band known as Sick Puppies.

Many thanks to those who read/reviewed and so forth, in particular- ChelseaDawn and CrazyJaney- I'm glad you liked it and I hope this doesn't disappoint too much!