A Perfect Stranger

When Lara meets a mysterious stranger in the park, they get to talking and she feels drawn to him. What happens when she finds out who he really is?

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2. Introductions

“You don’t know you’re beautiful.”

 

I had never been more shocked in my entire existence. I stood in front of him, a politely disbelieving expression plastered on my face. I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out, so I closed it again.  I scratched the side of my head in thought, and then let my hand drop limply back down to my side. I tried opening my mouth again, and this time it worked. I nodded, as if this was the most normal experience in the world, “Okay, I can deal with this. I think. Tricky, but still. The name’s Lara by the way.”

A dry chuckle, “Well Lara. My offer still stands and remember what I said. I am just a normal person. By the look on your face you know who I am, so there really is no need for introductions on my part, is there?”

“Oh, I know who you are, alright. But that doesn’t change anything for me either, promise.  Just makes life a little more interesting, my dear Louis.”

“Thank you.” I smiled back at him and hesitantly stepped forwards, wrapping my arms around his tall frame and leant my head against his chest. It was a tentative action, as if part of me was worried that this was a dream that would slip away from between my fingers like smoke on the breeze. But it was not a dream, and Louis stayed hearteningly solid. I sighed contentedly as I felt his arms encircle me in response and his chin come to rest on top of my head.  In that moment, the world narrowed down to just the two of us in our own little bubble. Louis was everything, his scent filled me from head to foot, the sound of is steady breathing and thud of his heart all I could hear.  At that moment, it was as if nothing outside the protective circle of Louis arms existed. After a while, as if by some mutual agreement we separated, although Louis kept an arm around my shoulder. He smiled a sweet smile down at me that made my heart melt. “Ready to go?” he asked me, with an open expression. I nodded and snuggled deeper into his side as he lead me out of the park and down the sidewalk. We passed two white haired old ladies who gave us curious, aren’t-they-cute looks. I smiled at them shyly as we continued on walking. With a start I realised that most people would recognise Louis, but when I looked up at him I saw that a pair of stylish 80s sunglasses covered his eyes, along with a light charcoal beanie. Satisfied, I returned my attention to where I was walking and, on an impulse, snaked my arm around Louis’s waist.

 

***

All too soon, Louis pulled me to a stop in front of one of the numerous fancy hotels in the area. Before we entered the lobby he swung round to face me, “Are you okay? You still want to do this?”

I smiled reassuringly up at him. “I’m fine, I promise. Nervous, sure, but I’ve had worse.”

“Okay, let’s go then.” He led me through the lobby and into a waiting elevator, and pressed the button that read “Penthouse”. Of course, where else would you find One Direction? I shook my head at the incredibility of this all. Louis looked at me curiously, “What?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking about how unbelievable all this is. It just doesn’t seem possible.”

Louis took a step towards me until only inches separated us, and placed his hands on my hips. “Believe it, Lara. It is possible, I’m no different to any other guy you’ve dated.”

I let loose a slightly hysterical laugh, “That’s just the thing Lou, I haven’t dated any other guys! I’ve never been so much as seriously complemented by a guy, let alone asked on a date.” Louis stared at me in a way that made clear that he didn’t know whether I was joking or not. I pulled away, facing into the corner, face flushed with embarrassment. “Great job. You’re just rolling out the awesome now!” I thought to myself. I felt strong hands spin me back around, but I couldn’t make myself look up at Louis. I had never felt so humiliated in my entire life. “Hey, hey, look at me. It’s okay, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You just haven’t met any guys that were good enough for such an amazing girl like you.”

“Thankyou Louis. That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Louis opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the ding of the elevator doors opening. Taking me by the hand he led me through the doors and into an empty hallway, with only one door, outside of which sat to burly looking men playing cards and listening to a small portable radio. They looked up as they heard us approach, shooting me a curious glance before nodding at Lou. One reached out and absently opened the door for us before we got there, attention already back on the cards in his hand. As we walked past, he looked back up and gave me a friendly wink and a grin. I smiled back and then followed Louis through the door.

 

As we entered he squeezed my hand reassuringly, while I looked nervously around the beautiful, spacious apartment. The kitchen sat to my left, with a breakfast bar and what I imagined was a well-stocked fridge. To my right was a hallway that must have led to the bedrooms and bathrooms. In front of me was the living room, with two large lounges, a furry floor rug a massive beanbag, which was occupied by a tousled haired blonde boy clutching a Play-Station remote and staring intently at the massive widescreen TV. Over the back of the lounge I saw the backs of the other three boys, all also focused on the game of Mario Kart they seemed to be playing. I swallowed nervously and stepped a little closer into Louis side. They hadn’t noticed us yet, but soon enough Niall leapt up into the air yelling triumphantly as he passed the finish line in first place. As he spun round to face the groaning boys on the couch he saw us standing over by the door. He looked confused for a second when he saw me, but in the blink of an eye he was smiling again as if some random girl turning up in his hotel room with his best friend who had been gone for four hours was the most normal thing ever.  “Oh, hiya. You the one who kidnapped Lou then?” Niall asked me in his strong, lilting Irish accent. I pulled together the shreds of courage that had not yet fled and replied. “Guilty as charged, sorry Niall,” I said, and was surprised to hear the humour in my voice. I hadn’t thought I was calm enough to be making jokes like I usually did. I was relieved that my nerves didn’t seem to be showing. At the sound of my voice the other boys had spun round to see who was talking and now sat, staring in confusion. Each had a very unique expression of shock on their faces. While Niall stood there grinning at me openly, Harry looked dumbstruck, he had given me one puzzled glance and started mouthing “Who is she?” at Louis and pulling confused faces. Liam was studying the scene carefully, giving me a gentle but genuine smile when I looked at him. Zayn’s eyes flickered between Louis, me and our entwined hands before smirking at me and winking. I raised an eyebrow at him and poked my tongue out at him. He burst out laughing, “Got yourself a feisty one there Lou!” He chuckled, shaking his head at Zayn. “Haha, yeah you better watch yourself Zayn. Guys, this is Lara,” he said, pulling up our intertwined hands into the air, making them clearly visible to all the band, as if challenging anyone to say something. I looked awkwardly around the room, making sure I focused anywhere but on them. A sudden pale flash in the corner of my eye was the only warning I had before I found myself spinning around in the air in a massive bear hug with my arms pinned to my side. Round and round I went until I squealed in protest, “Put me DOWN!” My attacker complied, and I quickly found my feet back on the ground. I stumbled dizzily, and tried to walk over to the closest lounge to sit down but went sideways, tripped on the rug and went careening into none other than Harry Styles. Niall and Lou both lunged to catch me, while Liam and Zayn tried to steady Harry, but all only succeeded in getting in each other’s way. The result was that we all ended up in a jumbled pile on the floor. There was a brief silence, before I spoke, “Well, that was fun.” Harry’s voice replied from somewhere near my right elbow with, “Mmm,” just as Liam’s voice sounded from around my feet, “Define fun for me.” There was another pause, before we all burst into spontaneous laughter. Between laughs I reprimanded my attacker. “Niall,” I gasped, “This is all your fault, you know.”

“Says the one who used poor Harry as a bowling pin! All I did was give you a hug. How was I to know that you had such terrible balance?”

“My balance is fine. You try getting spun round and round and then being viciously attacked by a carpet!”

“Hey, don’t blame the carpet!,” Zayn piped in, “It can’t exactly defend itself.” Our laughter resumed as we slowly untangled ourselves and stood. I turned to Harry, feeling a bit guilty. “Sorry about that. Are you okay?” I asked.

He grinned at me. “Don’t worry, I get worse on a daily basis from this lot,” he said, gesturing at the four boys grouped loosely around us. Louis pouted as he slung his arm around me once more, “Hazza, how could you say that about me?”

“Easily.”

He pretended to sulk and shot back at Harry, “Fine, I have Lara anyway! I don’t need you, she loves me enough.” He turned to me, pulling the most irresistible puppy dog face I had ever seen. My heart lurched at the sight, as well as the moment my brain finally registered and accepted the use of the word ‘love’ in that sentence. Using up every last ounce of my self-discipline not to spontaneously combust from an indescribable mix of emotions, I looked up at him and nodded, patting him on the arm like a five year old, “ Of course I do Lou.”

He shot me a cheeky wink and turned back to Harry, “See? I told you so.”

 

“So what now?” Liam inquired.

Louis looked around at all the boys before he voiced his suggestion, “Well, I thought we could catch a movie and then just chill here.” He turned to me, apologetic, “Not much else we can do really. It’ll be fun though.”

I nodded, “That would be awesome. It’ll be more fun here with you guys than anywhere else. My original plan for tonight was to mope around at home by myself. This takes the cake without even trying.”

“Yeah, we’re just that awesome,” Harry proclaimed proudly, smirking.

I reached out and swatted him on the shoulder, grinning, “Hey, no need to get cocky!”

Zayn laughed and nudged a taken aback Harry with an elbow, while Louis and Niall doubled over at clutching their sides and Liam watched the entire situation with an amused, almost fatherly look. “You look shocked Harry. I said she was feisty,” Zayn reminded Harry.

“Yeah, I’m just, I, I mean-“

“Your just surprised that I’m not a screaming, raving fan girl,” I supplied ruefully.

Harry had the decency to look abashed, “Uh, yeah.”

“It’s okay. I’m a little overwhelmed, but you guys must get sick of that after a while. You’re just normal people, and that’s how I’ll treat you.”

“Enough of all the seriousness already people. To the important issues now. What are we gonna watch?” Niall declared impatiently. We all looked at each other and I shrugged. I racked my brains for an idea, “What do you have?”

“Everything. Literally.”

“Well that helps.”

 

Eventually we decided on Sherlock Holmes, A Game Of Shadows. Louis decided to carry me the three metres to the couch because apparently I could not be trusted to walk there. No matter how much I protested that I was perfectly capable to walk. Not that I minded being slung over his shoulder, and the nice view it provided of certain things that were suddenly in my direct line of sight… By the time Lou had plunked me down in the corner of the lounge the other boys had taken up the majority of the room. He took a brief glance and shrugged, plonking himself in the small gap between Harry and I,  putting his legs across the laps of the lads and resting his head on my lap. I smiled down at him, feeling  giddy at the situation. I propped my legs up on the ottoman in front of me, knowing that otherwise my legs would fall asleep. Liam fiddled with a few remotes briefly, and I was awed when the lights dimmed, including the windows, which were suddenly covered by blinds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The movie began and I absentmindedly began playing with the soft chocolate locks in my lap. More than slightly horrified when I realised what I was doing I froze, hoping Louis hadn’t noticed. I heard a quite grumble from him and cursed silently. He had noticed, and I’d pissed him off. “Sorry,” I whispered.

“What?” he whispered back. “Why did you stop? That felt nice.”

“Oh. Okay,” I murmured, resuming fiddling with his hair and rubbing his scalp gently. A contented moan told me I was doing the right thing. I focused my attention back on the screen, a small smile playing across my lips.

 

What seemed an unmeasurable time later the movie was over and the lights came back on slowly. I objected internally, I had been on the verge of dozing off. To my right Liam was trying to shake Zayn awake and Niall was stretching and yawning. Harry looked a bit dazed as he mussed his hair back into place. I looked down as I felt Louis shift in my lap. He smiled sleepily up at me. “I should probably head home now before it gets too late,” I told him reluctantly. He shook his head at me and smiled in a very self-satisfied way, “No.”

“What do you mean, no?”

“I mean, no. You’re staying here tonight.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes. It’s too late for you to be going home on your own.”

I was too tired to argue. “Okay,” I agreed, “But only on one conditions.”

“And they would be?”

“One, no one gets evicted onto a couch or the floor because of me.”

“Hmm, we’ll see.”

“It’s either that or I walk,” I threatened.

“Okay, okay!” Louis got up from the couch and stretched dramatically, before turning to the others. “Hazza, you mind bunking with Zayn tonight?”

I interrupted Harry before he had the chance to agree. “No, I’ll sleep on the couch.  I told you, I’m not going to evict anyone from their normal spot. Deal with it Lou,” I said, in a tone that left little room for argument, I felt bad enough as it was, no way was I going to be the reason Harry Styles got kicked out of his room. No freaking way. I smiled a little as I heard Zayn, who had finally woken up, sigh, “Fine, at least let me get you something to change into.” I agreed, realising that my current clothes, as comfortable as they were, would not survive a night as pyjamas. I waited as he disappeared down the hall and came back a few seconds later with a pair of tracksuit pants and a  white tee-shirt with thin black stripes I would have recognised anywhere. He passed them to me and took me by the hand. “Come on, I’ll show you to one of the bathrooms,” Lou said. I followed him sleepily, delighting in the feel of my hand in his, ever conscious of the weight of the stares from the other boys on my back. I quickly got changed and swilled some mouthwash through my mouth, despairing at the lack of a toothbrush. I really didn’t want to have bad breath in the current company. As was my habit, I eventually found myself leaning against the sink, staring at myself in the mirror. Reaching behind my head, I pulled my hair, down to my mid back and a sandy golden blonde, out of the constraining ponytail and ran my hands through it, working out some of the worse knots that ensnared my fingers. Sweeping my side fringe behind my left ear, I took the time to study myself carefully. An ever present smile lingered on my lips, becoming more and more pronounced as I went through today’s events. My hands began to roam my face, running over my forehead, my eyebrows and around my eyes, down my nose, across my cheeks and over my grinning lips. On they went, over my chin and down my neck, and when they reached the shirt that still smelt faintly of Lou they began to pluck and pull in different places, fixing and adding, positioning the shirt until it looked less like a sack and more like the girls you always saw in the movies. Fortunately it was long, because try as I might, the pants fell off me after any more than two steps. A sudden panicked thought crossed my mind and I looked down at my bare legs, sighing in relief when I saw that they were clean shaven. That would have been to humiliating to imagine. Taking one last bracing breath, I took the traitorous pants in hand and opened the door, stepping out into the hallway.

 

I heard a sharp intake of breath from Louis as he tried to avoid looking at my legs. I blushed madly. My friends had always told me I had nice legs, long and slender to make up for my comparatively short torso. The shirt was big, sure, but still only came down to just past my bum. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t have cared, but this situation was, well, this. I held the pants out to Louis awkwardly, “Um, these didn’t, ah, fit.”

“You don’t say.”

I hadn’t thought it possible, but I blushed even harder, absolutely mortified. Louis must have noticed because he schooled his face into a friendly mask and took me by the hand again. At the same time he grabbed a small pillow and folded blanket in the other, clamping them under his other arm as we headed back to the living room. I pointedly looked at the floor as we entered, trying desperately to pretend that the rest of One Direction wasn’t about to see me as good as half naked. It didn’t help when Harry wolf whistled loudly. “Shut up Styles,” I muttered, grateful for the curtain of hair that chose that exact moment to fall forward and hide my face. He just laughed, “Hey, no need to get your knickers in a knot. Just stating the obvious.” He turned to Lou. “She’s a keeper. Night all,” he chuckled as he wander off down the hall. Liam smiled at me as he walked over. “Ignore him. He’s always like that. You get used to it. Sleep well,” he said, before giving me a warm hug and following Harry’s example. “You too,” I called after him, “And thanks.” Liam’s reply was lost to me as I was enveloped I another bear hug.  “No snoring now, do y’hear!”

“I promise Ni. See you in the morning. Now put me down.”

“Say please.”

“Niall…”

“Say it!”

“Fine. Ni, PLEASE put me down.”

I felt my feet reunite with solid ground as Niall’s arms loosened their death grip. He clapped Lou on the shoulder before heading off down the hall too. Zayn gave me a bleary eyed smile and a wave as he shuffled off down the hall close behind Niall. I couldn’t help but giggle at him. It was quickly turned into a squeal as I found myself hanging over Lou’s shoulder for the second time that day. Quite suddenly I found myself lying on my back on the couch,  with his upside down face smiling at me. I smiled back coyly, suddenly shy. Louis briefly disappeared from view and there was the rustling of fabric, before I found myself covered in the now unfolded blanket. As I was trying to pull it off from over my face, I felt hands lift my head and place the pillow beneath it. Having finally found the edge of the fabric, I pulled the blanket away. “You sure you’re comfortable there?” Louis asked. I nodded. “It’s fine, I doubly triply promise. Now go to bed. You look pooped,” I told him. He pouted and I laughed, “What?”

“Are you that desperate for me to go?”

“No! Of course not. I just don’t want to be a pain.”

“You? A pain? Never.”

I shuffled over on the couch, making a small amount of space on the edge. “There. See, I don’t want you to go. Happy?”

The prings squeaked comically as he lay down next to me. I turned to face him and shivered happily as his arms snaked under the covers, one over my waist and the other finding my hand and entwining our fingers. Putting aside my roiling nerves, I snuggled closer. “Promise me you won’t sleep here. You’ll end up falling off and I don’t want you to hurt yourself, okay?”

“Okay,” he responded, and I could hear the mischief in his voice.

“Lou, PROMISE me.”

“Fine,” he huffed, “I promise.”

“Good. Night then.” I looked up at him expecting him to go.

“I’m staying until you fall asleep.”

My brain, tired and oversaturated from this hectic and unforgettable day, couldn’t come up with an argument for that. Snuggling back up, all I remember before I fell asleep was my own disembodied voice echoing in my ears, “I think…I think your him.”

 

Hey guys! Thanks for reading, please! please! PLEASE!! leave your thoughts etc. <3 and xxx’s

 

            -Serendipity

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