Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I stared, with barely contain horror, at the subway sign above the stairs that led underground. The sign informed me that it was passing through the West Side of Manhattan, which is where Fay and I were headed this morning.

We must have looked like authentic New Yorkers because we were carrying coffees in one hand and we were dressed a little too flashy for my taste. But we were supposed to make a good impression on Fay's performing arts college, so I had to suck it up and dress it up.

"Hannah, you do realize that I will drag you onto the subway if you don't get down here in the next two seconds," Fay said, standing a few steps down, staring at me.

"No, I do not realize this," I said defensively. This was one of the few things I dreaded about coming to New York. The subway. Underground trains. The idea made me shudder.

"I knew I should've made Aiden come along. You never fight him. If he asked you to walk off a cliff with him, you'd do it," Fay informed me.

I flushed. "Not a cliff." But she'd made a point, which I hated.

Sighing, I went towards the stairs. I stopped until my toes were at the edge and I frowned again. Fay sighed loudly and looked at the ceiling as if to say Why me?

"First time riding the subway?" a young woman asked, coming to a stop beside me. She was smiling.

I nodded. "I come from a small town in Maryland. Trains underground seem like a recipe for disaster."

"Honestly, it's not that terrible," she told me. "Just remind yourself it's just a train. You don't have anxiety attacks, do you?"

"Not usually but I might if I get on the subway," I said and Fay snorted.

"Just think of it as a train, just a train, and you should be okay. After a few times, it won't bother you anymore." She smiled again. "I swear."

I nodded and offered her a thin smile. "Thanks."

Watching her head down the steps, I sucked in my last breath of fresh air and followed after her, Fay coming to hook her arm through mine, which I appreciated.

"You aren't nervous to ride this thing?" I asked her as we got on.

"I'm too excited to register for classes to feel anything else," she admitted. "But I feel your pain, amore mio. Honestly."

We found an empty seat and sat down. I felt stiff and nervous, so I was grateful that Fay's arm was still attached to mine because I clung to it for dear life for the duration of the ride.

I could understand why people from New York used the subway. The traffic in the city was deplorable; not to mention that the city never sleeps, so it's still a little congested even at midnight and later. The subway really is a good choice. I would have much preferred a taxi, though.

We climbed the stairs again at our stop and I inhaled the fresh air, beaming. "That wasn't so bad," I said gleefully, mostly because I was just happy to be off.

"Tell that to my arm," Fay muttered and then we j-walked across the street.

I let Fay enter the school building herself, deciding to humor my curiosity and look around outside. The school was definitely a performing arts thing. There was a group of students standing in the quad, holding scripts, probably rehearsing for a play. Sheesh, whatever happened to spring and fall semesters? But, I guessed, there were no breaks in show business.

"So are you looking to come here in the fall?" a voice asked from nearby.

I turned and saw a boy sitting under a tree, an acoustic guitar in his lap. It reminded me of Aiden. This boy, though, he wasn't sore to look at, that's for sure. He definitely wasn't my type, though, with his blonde hair and his blue eyes. I was tired of that, which is why I much preferred Aiden's dark hair and eyes.

"Actually, I'm here with my best friend. She's a dancer," I told Guitar Boy.

"I see," Guitar Boy said thoughtfully. "I'm Blake, by the way.

"Hannah," I offered and shook his hand. I sat down across from him. "So how long have you been playing the guitar?"

"Long." He grinned. "Do you play?"

I shook my head. "Not well. My boyfriend plays guitar in a band. We're here partially because my best friend got in this school and partially for my friends to get signed to a record company."

Something like hope fell in his eyes and I instantly felt bad for not being up front about having a boyfriend. I didn't mean to get his hopes up that he was going to score a date with me or something. But that was giving myself way too much credit. Maybe he was just being a nice guy.

"That's really cool. It must be nerve-wracking to the girlfriend of a potential rockstar," Blake said, glancing down as he strummed carelessly.

I shrugged. "It would be, but Aiden and I have been dating since Christmas Day. I trust him completely." I gave a thoughtful look. "Besides, they aren't even signed yet. I don't have too much to worry about."

Blake smiled. "That's good. You should trust your significant other. Without trust, your whole relationship kinda falls to shit." He smiled again. "And your friend is coming this way."

I turned and smiled myself when I saw Fay trotting through the quad towards us. "Hi, Hannah," she said and then looked at Blake. "I'm Felicita, but everyone calls me Fay."

Blake smiled. "Nice to meet you, Fay. I'm Blake, and I've been keeping Hannah here company."

Fay rolled her eyes. "I think she unconsciously gravitates to guys that play guitar now."

I blushed. "Don't we have to be somewhere, Fay?"

"You're right. We do," Fay agreed and then helped me out of the grass. "It was really nice meeting you, Blake. Hopefully we'll have some classes together."

"Oh, yeah. Definitely. It was nice meeting you both," Blake said and then went back to his playing.

Fay hooked my arm and dragged me away. I could hear her rolling her eyes. "So did you go up to him or did he come up to you?" she asked, once we were far enough away to gossip without having to whisper.

"Neither," I said honestly. "I was just looking around and I must not have noticed him sitting under that tree. He asked if I was looking to go to the school and then we just started talking."

"Aw, New York is making you bold!" Fay teased and pinched my cheek. "Bold little Hannah!"

"Knock it off, Fay!" I said, swatting her hand away, laughing. "Now then, we definitely need to–"

I was interrupted however by a singing cell phone, and Fay unhooked her arm from mine to answer it.

"Hello? Oh, hey, you." I rolled my eyes. "Actually, we were just about to pop in on you guys." Ah, it was Derek. Figures. "Oh, really? What an interesting turn of events… Sure, we'll bring you guys lunch. How does take-out sound? …Okay, sure. We'll be up in twenty minutes or so. See you soon."

I looked at Fay expectantly as we continued our way towards the Subway entrance.

"Their booking agent flew in this morning and Derek called to tell me that the guys wanted us to come up and meet her with them," Fay explained as we got on the subway. I was still a little nervous, but not paralyzed with fear like before.

I blinked. "'Her'?"

Fay smirked. "That's exactly what I was thinking."

I sat back. "She's probably rich."

"And gorgeous," Fay added.

"We're definitely going up," I decided and Fay agreed.

It didn't take us too long to head up to Times Square area and we got off, spotting the first take-out place and attacking it. Aiden's dad had given the boys a credit card from his record company, one for each of them that was on the same account, to use to buy stuff they needed. When they started making money, Aiden's dad would hand over the account to whatever record label signed them to pay for the stuff.

Regardless of Aiden's dislike of his father, I thought the credit card thing was pretty nice.

So we got a bunch of stuff from the menu, not really sure how much to get or what, and we walked the three bags of take-out across the street and into the very serious-looking corporate building that housed Rejection Records.

The floors were as glossy as they had been the day we arrived a month ago, the foyer big and open with its large windows and wide-open spaces. It looked like a glorified lawyer firm, with everyone walking around in suits with a cell phone to their ear.

Fay and I headed to the elevators. They were very clever. The outside doors weren't metal like you were used to seeing, they were the same color as the glossy tile on the walls, so it looked like the walls were opening to invite you into the elevator.

Or perhaps I just read too much.

Either way, we made it to the third floor and ambled into Mr. Pierce's suite, finding the boys all just sort of hanging out. It was bigger inside than it looked from the outside.

The suite was pretty much cut in two, with Mr. Pierce's office on the right side and a mini recording studio to the left. I figured this was where the boys were working on their demo from. I noticed that the booking agent hadn't shown up yet. We'd beaten her here, then. Good.

"Hey, girls!" Chris shrieked. "And they brought food! Yay!"

I grinned as Chris took all three bags of food off our hands and went back to his seat beside Roxas to dig in. He was so cute. I shuffled over to where Aiden was sitting cross-legged and barefoot, playing his guitar.

"Hey," I said cheerfully, leaning over to kiss him.

He grinned. "Hey, yourself." Ack, he was so cute! "Did you have a nice time in the West End?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it was cool. Fay's school is really legit."

"I'm glad you had fun," he said, looking like he sincerely meant that. "Hey, why don't you and I got out for dinner tonight? Just us."

"You don't have to work tonight?" I asked, surprised.

He shook his head, which made his hair fall down into his eyes. It was with much restraint that I didn't fix it for him. "My dad is giving us the night off. After we meet the booking agent's daughter, we're free. And I've been itching to get a night off so I can take you to this cute place I found."

It was becoming our 'thing' in New York that we'd take turns finding interesting, new places to eat at during our dates. Granted, we'd only had a few lunch and dinner dates but it was still fun. Aiden was driven very forcefully to help me have the whole New York experience and it was made all the more attractive that I got to have this adventure with my boyfriend and my friends.

"So can I take you out?" Aiden asked hopefully, though his eyes were deviously playful.

"Totally. I can't wait to see this new place," I told him and received my kiss from him gratefully.

"Hey, lover boy!" Chris shouted, though he was opposite Aiden a few feet away. "Want an egg roll?"

"Hell yeah." Aiden handed me his guitar and then grinned at Chris. "Go."

Chris maneuvered around slightly and then tossed the egg roll at Aiden's open mouth. Oh, yes. They were very mature little rockstars. I stifled a laugh when the egg roll bounced off of Aiden's forehead and fell in his lap.

"You did that on purpose!" Aiden shouted and then went across the coffee table at Chris, who squealed like a captured pig.

Rox and Derek sort of just shrugged at each other and then jumped into the fray as well. Oh, my Gods. Really? What were they, six?

"Boys, let's be mature about this," Fay tried as the boys wrestled each other to the ground. I couldn't help it; I burst out laughing.

"Not the hair! Not the hair!" Chris was shouting.

"Excuse me," a feminine voice called.

The boys stopped wrestling and looked up at the young woman standing in the doorway. I frowned slightly. She was everything I wasn't, all legs and volumes of chestnut hair, pinned expertly around her flawless face. Of course she was their booking agent. Of course.

"I'm Leslie Kelly. My father couldn't catch a flight back here from London on such short notice to meet you himself," she explained.

The boys all clamored to their feet to shake her hand.

"Wait a second," Aiden said, peering at her. "Kelly? As in… Nathan Kelly?"

I didn't understand the significance of this name and apparently neither did anyone else.

Leslie beamed. "Yeah. That's my dad."

"Get outta here!" Aiden exclaimed and then looked back at us. "Nathan Kelly is one of the most influential people in, like, the universe. He can get us booked with anyone. Literally anyone."

I knew what that meant. With the boys opening up for big name stars and bands, that meant more exposure, which meant overnight super-stardom. I was jazzed beyond belief that this man and his daughter were going to represent our boys.

What I didn't like, however, was the way Leslie looked at Aiden. Now, mind you, I am not the jealous type. I trust Aiden more than I could ever explain. He would never cheat on me in any sense of the word. And I knew he was good-looking, and he really was. I just didn't like other girls noticing that.

I needed to get a handle on this issue. The fan-girls I could handle. There would be thousands of them, all faceless zombies screaming after the band. They wouldn't be a threat. But people like Leslie - that worked around the guys - they would be a threat.

And I didn't like feeling threatened.

Ugh, sorry this took forever, so I made an extra long chapter. It shouldn't be as long for the next chapter. I promise. 3

- Angel 11.05.11