I'm in Love with a Stripper (a One Direction Fanfiction)

After the tragic loss of her parents, Leila Karim abandons her life in Bradford and sets her sights on London. Working as a stripper at Victory Strip Club under the stage name Bambi, ex-best friend and pop superstar Zayn Malik is the last person Leila expected to be sitting in the audience watching her undress. Will Leila find herself falling for Zayn all over again or will cheeky Harry Styles win her heart instead?

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15. A Royal Affair

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

A Royal Affair

 

Fiona’s P.O.V:

I was sitting patiently in the white and black furnished reception area of IMG Models, inspecting the flock of other girls waiting for their go-sees to take place. I did not bother to hide my distaste for the girl sitting directly across from me, scowling at her when her eyes met mine. She was striking, with wispy white blond hair, cool grey eyes, prominent cheekbones, and a turned up nose; an agent’s wet dream to be sure. My frown deepened when I saw the girl’s collarbones peeking out from beneath her white eyelet tunic, assuring me that she was paper-thin and that her thighs had most likely never touched before. I began to mutter under my breath, cursing Charlotte for convincing me to make an appearance at all. Charlotte knew that I was not at my ideal weight, what with all the binge eating I had been doing thanks to Zayn and that harlot Leila, but I hoped, prayed that she did not suspect that I was throwing up again. I wanted to tell her, confide in her as I had the first time, but pixie-like Charlotte who had not been bequeathed with birthing hips as I had been and who had just recently been referred to as the next Miranda Kerr on Perezhilton simply did not understand what it was like, to have to work so hard at looking this way.

 

Although Charlotte did not suspect anything, it was Harry who I was mainly worried about. Without a shadow of a doubt, I was certain that Harry had heard me throwing up in the loo before we had ventured out to discover what Leila had been hiding from him. I hoped that my excuse had been enough for Harry to write it off as nothing out of the ordinary, but I couldn’t help but notice him asking if I was hungry, or if I wanted to go for lunch to discuss our progress a little more often than was necessary.  I dismissed it as paranoia and anyway, it was highly unlikely that Harry was astute enough to figure it out. After all, without my help, Harry would still be in the dark in regards to Leila and Zayn and their past.

 

Letting out a frustrated sigh, I began to flip through my portfolio as I had done so countless times in the past hour, scrutinizing each photograph and still choosing to leave my favourite on top. Only after constant badgering by my school friend Georgia had I agreed to try out to be in her fashion designer cousin’s advert. Winning the role in the photograph was essentially what introduced me to modeling at the ripe age of sixteen. The photograph would be promoting the underground British designer Elliot Carrington’s first fragrance which he had deemed Meadow. Meadow was a blend of various English wildflowers, and so we fittingly had the photo shoot in a meadow just outside of Hertfordshire at the very beginning of springtime. Elliot had me lay in a bed of daisies stark naked, a few of them strategically covering up my intimates and a very minimal amount of makeup on my face. Elliot’s new line as well as his perfume began to create a buzz when Vogue’s Anna Wintour named him as one of fashion’s up-and-comers, which of course, resulted in my fifteen minutes of fame. At first, there was an outrage, the photograph treading on the grounds of child pornography, but since all my bits had been covered, all that resulted from my being in the advertisement were many opening doors in terms of modeling; that is, until I collapsed underneath all the pressure.

 

“Fiona Applebee?” A clipped Scottish accent interrupted my thoughts.

 

Looking up from my portfolio, I saw a slim woman with dyed pink hair staring at me from the doorway she was standing in, a clipboard clutched in her hand. The woman was in her late thirties and clad in a sleek black dress and black heels that were appropriate for the office. I was certain by her posture alone that if she wasn’t modeling now, she certainly had been when she was younger.

 

Shutting my portfolio closed, I leapt to my feet. “That’s me.” I said politely, giving the woman a warm smile. I could feel myself beginning to sweat profusely already, not entirely sure that I could handle another rejection and remain sane.

 

“Lovely!” The woman exclaimed, assumingly ticking me off as present on the long list of names on her clip board. “If you’ll follow me.” She said with a smile, disappearing into the glass walled room she had come out from.

 

“Good luck.” I heard someone utter tauntingly, her voice sweet and high but filled with loathing. Looking to my right, I saw that it was the girl with the cool grey eyes who had said it. “You’ll need it.” She provoked, an amused smile playing upon her full lips. Ignoring her, I promptly made my way towards the room into which the woman had entered, making sure to flip the bird over my shoulder as I went, certain that the evil bitch had seen it when I heard her erupt in a creative string of expletives.

 

Closing the door behind me, I swept my eyes around the office in momentary awe, taking in the high ceilings and the glass walls, littered with numerous photographs of the slew of top models represented by IMG Models; Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Chanel Iman, Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum, among others.

  

“Have a seat, Miss Applebee.” The woman told me kindly, motioning to the plush seat on the opposite side of her sleek black desk. “My name is Jane Ratherfield, and I’m a talent agent for IMG Models.” She told me, sweeping her fluorescent pink bangs out of her blue eyes and extending her hand to me.

 

So this was the ruthless Jane Ratherfield that I had heard so much about. By her pink hair and kind smiles, I would never have pegged her as the one to turn away thousands of aspiring models for the most arbitrary reasons. One girl’s eyes were too far apart; while another’s breasts were not perfectly equal in size were just a few of Jane’s reasons I could call to mind. I felt my stomach churn nervously, wondering what exactly Jane would reject me for.

 

I took Jane’s hand in mine, shaking it heartily. “It’s so nice to meet you Jane.” I told her guardedly, unsure of what to expect from this woman.

 

“Let’s have a look at your previous work, then.” Jane said with a quick smile, plucking my portfolio from in front of me, sliding it across the table to face her.

 

I sat in silence as Jane opened my portfolio, watching as she paused to observe Elliot Carrington’s advertisement for Meadow. “I remember this…” Jane began, looking up at me suddenly, impressed. “You caused quite a bit of a scandal didn’t you?” Jane said slowly, assessing me with an amused smile on her lips.

 

“You could say that.” I agreed sheepishly, my cheeks flushing to a brilliant red.

 

Jane licked her index finger, flipping over to the next page, my bare breasts staring back at her from the very same photograph that Harry had been observing with great interest just a few short days ago. “You’re not against being naked I take it?” Jane asked, her lips twitching upwards.

 

“No ma’am.” I confirmed, hoping that it was both a bold and intriguing move for a girl of my age. Many were either too scared or too shy to bare it all in the very beginning of their careers, but personally I felt that being comfortable stark naked helped me to feel more comfortable in front of the camera in general. 

 

Jane nodded in reply, quickly flipping through the rest of the photographs before snapping my portfolio shut. Resting her face on her hands for a moment, Jane began to survey me, beginning with my face and then making her way down, most likely picking out each and every one of my flaws. “I’m going to have you walk for me, Fiona.” Jane began, a serious expression on her face.

 

I followed Jane over to the far side of the room where she grasped me by the shoulders, turning me around. “Begin.” Jane commanded, giving me a slight nudge forward.

 

I began to walk, my right hand planted on my hip as I went. Furiously, I tried to remember everything I had been taught in terms of walking the runway; keep my chin up, land on the balls of my feet with each step, allow my hips to sway, push my shoulders back, puff my chest outwards, and finally look natural. I scoffed inwardly, wondering how anyone could walk naturally while having to remember such a long list of requirements. Reaching the end of the room, I spun around, facing Jane once again and began to head back in her direction. Jane’s arms were crossed, and she nodded along as she watched me approach her.

 

“You have a good walk.” Jane observed casually, reaching into her pocket to pull something round and yellow out -a coiled up measuring tape. “I’ll need you down to your underwear so I can measure you.” Jane told me, not bothering to turn away as I changed. There was no room for modesty or privacy for that matter in this industry.

 

Stepping out of my simple grey dress, I was down to my panties and bra. I had worn my only La Perla set in flaming red, knowing that I would be measured in this fashion as I had been in every other go-see I had attended. I shivered slightly as Jane wrapped the measuring tape over my chest. “Bust 34’,” Jane said, moving the measuring tape down to my waist. “Waist 24’,” Jane continued, finally moving the measuring tape down to my hips. “Hips…36’.” Jane’s voice lost its enthusiasm at this. I closed my eyes tightly, trying to maintain my composure. I had known fully well for months that I did not measure up to the highly coveted 34’, yet the disappointment cut into me deeply as if I had not known it from the beginning.

 

I opened my eyes to Jane’s blue ones studying me, her expression unreadable. Quickly I began to dress, slipping back into my grey dress, my face flushing in embarrassment, mortification. “I completely understand,” I began shakily, zipping up the side of my dress. “I just need a little more time to get rid of these last two inches…” I trailed off, averting my eyes and wondering why I had even bothered to show up at all.

 

“And if you are able to lose those two inches as well as some weight,” Jane said, her hands clasped behind her back. “IMG Models would be happy to represent you.” She concluded, an almost genuine smile appearing on her lips.

 

I snapped my head upwards, wondering if I had heard Jane correctly or if I had finally gone raving mad. “I beg your pardon?” I asked exasperatedly, my voice cracking in disbelief. IMG Models, one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in all of North America and Europe wanted me?

 

Jane began to laugh once she saw the expression on my face. “You heard correctly, Fiona.” Jane assured me. “You have far too much potential for me to willingly let you walk out that door.” She explained. “Your innocence, your over all look, well it’s endearing really.” Jane concluded, tucking her pink hair behind her ear. “You’re special, Fiona.” She added with conviction.

 

I felt dizzy with excitement, swaying from left to right and scarcely able to breathe let alone speak. “You’re serious?” I asked, my heart thumping erratically. After so many slamming doors, at last, one had finally opened.

 

“Completely.” Jane nodded, her eyebrows raised in earnest. “As long as you lose those two inches and keep off the weight.” She emphasized this part of the condition, finally extending her hand out to me. “Congratulations and welcome to IMG Models, Fiona.” Jane concluded. “Your career and your future begin today.”

 

I pulled Jane into a crushing hug, not caring if she found it strange. “I won’t disappoint you.” I promised her, vowing to myself that I could easily make my way down to 34’ with hard work and dedication, also sure that I would no longer be eating from all the stress over Zayn since Harry and my plan had been going swimmingly. Soon enough all the pieces to my scattered life would come together. I would have it all, the perfect body, the perfect career, and the perfect boy, all because I was special and I had known it all along.

 

 

*

 

I returned home to my apartment, finding myself staring into the fridge in agony, my stomach growling at the site of all the foods I had just recently purchased from the organic marketplace just down the street. Letting out a miserable sigh, I slowly began to toss the meats and cheeses into the bin, also choosing to toss the boxed pastas as well as the bread away, not that I would’ve kept any of it down for long to begin with. After working steadily for about fifteen minutes, my entire kitchen had been rid of any foods that would take away from my goal of losing weight and remaining on the roster of IMG Models. Peeking into my fridge, all that remained was a bunch of red grapes as well as a single unpeeled carrot. If I rationed these properly, they would last me about two days. Plucking five grapes from the bunch, I placed them in a bowl, leaving them on the table when I heard a knock at the front door. It must be Charlotte I thought, smiling as I remembered the frantic message I had left her regarding my successful go-see with IMG Models. Rushing to the door, I thrust it open, only to come face to face with not Charlotte, but Harry Styles.

 

“Harry!” I exclaimed in surprise, recalling that we had arranged to meet later on in the evening. I began to worry, thinking that his meeting with Leila had perhaps not gone as well as I thought it would.

 

“Can I come in?” Harry asked, his tone rather melancholy and his pink lips turned downwards in a notable grimace. Harry was clad in a pair of cream coloured Chinos and a black Ramones t-shirt, his brown curls tucked neatly into a grey beanie, looking as handsome and charming as ever. It was easy to see why so many girls found themselves madly in love with Harry Styles I thought to myself fleetingly, Harry’s bright green eyes still on mine as he awaited my answer.

 

“Of course.” I told him, allowing him to breeze pass me and into the warmth of my apartment. “How did everything with Leila go?” I asked, pulling my heavy cardigan around me tightly and following Harry into the living room.

 

“It was a complete disaster but not because the plan didn’t work.” Harry said, collapsing onto my pink sunken in sofa and kicking his feet up onto my coffee table, placing his arms behind his head, deep in thought.

 

I joined him on the sofa, furrowing my eyebrows in confusion. “What happened then?” I asked carefully, pleasantly surprised that Harry had managed to not botch the whole thing, but wondering what possibly could have gone wrong.

 

“Zayn showed up as Leila was leaving.” Harry revealed darkly, suddenly reaching over to pluck my bowl of grapes off of the sleek black table, popping all of them into his mouth at once. I watched emotionlessly as he chewed my day’s portion in one go, thinking that perhaps it was for the best that I did not eat at all. Harry’s emerald gaze was suddenly on me so quickly I averted my eyes, not wanting him to suspect anything.

 

“You didn’t let on that you know anything, did you Harry?” I asked Harry slowly, slightly miffed that he had eaten my meal, but having the potential to be furious if he ruined my chances with Zayn which had just recently improved. I had won IMG Models over and soon enough, I would be winning Zayn Malik over as well.

 

“Not exactly…” Harry told me in his abnormally slow manner, averting his green orbs from mine. “Basically, I kissed Leila in front of Zayn and gave her a nice pat on the bum too,” Harry explained. “The look on Zayn’s face was priceless!” Harry exclaimed, a satisfied smirk appearing on his lips and his eyes lighting up with mischief. “…I also sort of asked if he’d been having fun in Bradford…” Harry’s lips quivered, on the verge of a laugh.

 

This however was short lived and within moments I was lividly punching him in the arm. “YOU COULD HAVE BLOWN THE WHOLE OPERATION YOU IDIOT!” I screamed in horror, pinching his cheek between my fingers.

 

That hurts!” Harry whined childishly, and in an effort to save himself, he began to smack me with one of the fluffy pink cushions that littered my sofa, momentarily blinding me and sending a tuft of fuzz flying through the air, Harry laughing hysterically as he did it. I cried out in horror, shoving my foot in Harry’s face, planting it against his cheek and trying to shove him away.

 

With a sound of disgust, Harry pushed my foot from his face, poking and prodding me in the stomach with his fingers, causing me to burst into a fit of laughter, Harry knowing that this was my weakness. “What’s so funny, Fi?” Harry asked tauntingly, continuing to tickle me without mercy, an evil grin on his lips as he leaned over me, pinning me beneath him.

 

I had burst into tears, still laughing uncontrollably. “You bastard!” I exclaimed in agony. “For the love of God, stop!” I screamed, and at last Harry ceased his torture, his hands still on my waist, and me still at his mercy, trapped beneath his weight. Both Harry and I were breathing heavily, his green eyes on mine but his expression unreadable. Suddenly and without warning, my faced flushed deeply as I began to recall the one and only occasion in which we had slept together; Harry’s expertise and confidence providing me with pleasure I never knew had been possible. Sensing that the air was thick with tension, I quickly wriggled out from beneath him, Harry clearing his throat awkwardly and adjusting his beanie which had slid off during our wrestling match.

 

“I almost forgot why I came here in the first place!” Harry exclaimed suddenly, hopefully trying to refocus our conversation towards the real issue, which was securing Leila for himself and Zayn for me. We could not afford anymore distractions, and I suppose I simply would have to deal with the fact that Harry was a very attractive boy, but that in my heart I wanted to be with Zayn and Zayn only.

 

I nodded carefully, reaching for the half-drunken glass of red wine that I had abandoned on the table before leaving for my go-see this morning, downing the remaining dregs.

 

“I managed to get you an invite to the Queen’s Charity Ball.” Harry continued, his green eyes flickering to me suddenly and a smile appearing on his lips.

 

Really?” I replied scandalously, leaning my head back against one of the soft pink cushions, a devious smile appearing on my lips, my eyes still on Harry’s. “Any idea who I should ask to be my date?” I inquired in mock bewilderment, both Harry and I grinning evilly at each other, knowing exactly who I had in mind.

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

I shivered slightly as the cool December breeze infiltrated the warmth of my apartment, however it was so refreshing that I did not mind. I had left the window propped open for Zayn knowing that he would be returning from his meeting with Simon and the others soon, my ears pricking at the familiar words of We Wish You a Merry Christmas as a slew of Christmas Carolers belted out a verse from the beloved carol, their voices fading in the distance as they walked onwards. Christmas was just over two weeks away, leaving my stomach churning nervously at what else could possibly happen before then. In just a week, my relationship with Zayn had gone from non-existent and loathing to real and loving so very fast, the both of us declaring our love to each other verbally as well as physically in Bradford, both events still striking me as figments of my imagination. My time with Zayn in Bradford, the ability we had to be ourselves once more as the Zayn and Leila who were best friends and had maybe always loved each other was short lived, London Calling us back as well as our other lives, Zayn’s life as a celebrity and member of One Direction and mine as the girlfriend of Harry Styles.

 

What could I have done but agree to Harry’s request when he had been suffering so? Depression was not something to be taken lightly, knowing from experience what it was, to feel suffocated by life, to feel guilty for living when my parents were not. I had come through it alive and now whole thanks to Zayn, but never would I wish the same fate onto Harry who was only ever sweet and loving to me. To think of Harry’s reaction to Zayn and I knowing each other let alone loving each other was simply unimaginable, at least at this point. Zayn and I would simply have to be careful, would have to keep with appearances and continue to act as if we had never known each other and had no interest in getting to know each other. With luck, we had managed to keep everyone in the dark so far, but it left me wondering how long we could really keep up this charade, and more importantly, without anyone getting hurt?

 

My furious train of thoughts was suddenly broke by the shrill ring of the telephone. Stretching over the arm of the sofa, I dived for the phone, securing it in my hand and bringing it to my ear swiftly. “Hullo?” I sing-songed, returning to my spot on the sofa.

 

“Leila,” The familiar voice of my Grandmother chimed. “You left without saying goodbye.” She was not scolding me but perhaps trying to make me feel guilty. Or maybe I was feeling guilty all on my own, my stomach churning with regret at the falling out that we had, me storming out of the house after I found out about my childhood home being put up for sale. I clenched my chest fleetingly, wondering if it was gone now, becoming a home to someone else’s memories.

 

“Nanni,” I began, unsure of what to say, haphazardly running my fingers through my dark hair. “I’m sorry for my…behavior the last time I saw you.” I struggled for words to describe exactly what had embodied me; a psychotic break or temporary insanity perhaps. “I was just taken by surprise.” I concluded, hoping that my Grandmother would know that my apology was genuine. She was all I had in the world aside from my Grandfather, and I could not take that for granted ever again.

 

“I understand Leila,” My Nanni paused, also choosing her words carefully, not wanting to set me off again. “I called to tell you some good news.” My Nanni told me, her tone sounding much more pleasant.

 

“Oh?” I inquired, curious to know what good news she could possibly have for me. “What is it?” I asked, twiddling the bottoms of my hair around my fingers, taking a quick peek at the window to see that Zayn had still not arrived.

 

 “We managed to find the money to keep the house.” My Grandmother told me with a sigh, not sounding as thrilled as she should have sounded. Her indifference however, was lost on me as I let out a delighted scream at her news, relief washing over me. My home was still my home, I thought, my heart swelling.

 

I let my head fall back against the cushions, my mind racing. “But where did you get it from?” I exclaimed suddenly, confusion washing over me. “The money.” I clarified, my eyes narrowing in suspicion. Where on Earth would my Grandparent’s have gotten enough money to keep the house?

 

“Ask your Nanabapa!” My Grandmother snapped, her tone softening then. “Come and visit again soon, alright beti? Maybe closer to Christmas.” She suggested.

 

I smiled in spite of myself, remembering all the good times that I had had with my Grandparents before I chose to abandon Bradford and start fresh in London. They were angry that I had chosen to leave, and it was my responsibility, obligation as their Granddaughter to visit them more, to keep them an active part of my life. “I will.” I promised her softly, thinking that perhaps I could return to Bradford with Zayn if he was able to. “I love you, Nanni.” I whispered, my eyes watering. “Give Bapa my love, will you?” I added as an afterthought, not sure if the man who I always thought hated me would even care. The next time I saw him however, I would be finding out how he managed to pay for the house and if he would, allow me to pay him back.

 

“Of course Leila.” My Nanni replied quietly, bidding me farewell and hanging up.

 

“Goodbye.” I whispered, the phone still pressed to the side of my cheek and the dial tone sounding in my ear. Replacing the sleek black phone onto its base, I turned towards the window, letting out a surprised gasp as I saw Zayn leaning against the wall beside it.

 

“Didn’t mean to scare you.” Zayn said, his dark eyes observing me curiously as he bit his lower lip. Zayn looked sickeningly beautiful as always, clad in a pair of dark grey jeans and a black Nirvana sweater, adorned with a yellow smiley face, his black hair spiked up in his famous quiff and a hint of stubble growing on his cheeks. Slung over Zayn’s right arm was a black garment bag which he hung gently on the back of a chair as he came to approach me.

 

Leaning over, Zayn pressed a gentle kiss onto my welcoming lips. “Well,” I began emphatically once he pulled away. “It’s not every day that an international pop star appears in your living room,” I whispered playfully, running my fingers over the stubble on his cheeks. “I missed you.” I told him, my cheeks warming under his satisfied dark gaze. “How was the meeting?” I asked, pulling Zayn down onto the couch beside me, his Gucci by Gucci cologne sending my head into a dizzying spin. Zayn and the others had gone to meet with Simon so that he could give them a lesson on royal etiquette.

 

A crooked grin appeared on Zayn’s face as he pulled me into his lap, his arms snaking their way around my waist. “Terrible.” Zayn told me with a grin. “Imagine listening to Simon Cowell prattle on about curtseying for two hours.” Zayn told me jokingly.

 

“That does sound rather traumatizing.” I told him with a laugh certain that Zayn had meant bowing, but still picturing Simon attempting to curtsey in his skin tight blue jeans and signature black turtleneck.

 

Zayn’s expression fell suddenly, his gaze meeting mine. “What time is Harry supposed to get here at?” Zayn asked quietly, trying to pass off his tone as nonchalant, but it was quite obvious that he was uncomfortable with the idea of Harry and I spending time alone together.

 

“Not for a little while.” I told him, giving him a comforting smile. “So what’s this surprise you were telling me about?” I inquired, corking one of my eyebrows upwards, suspecting that it had something to do with the garment bag that Zayn had arrived with.

 

“Why don’t you go have a look?” Zayn suggested with a coy smile, nodding in the direction of the sleek black bag. Momentarily caught off guard by how visible the green in his eyes were today, I carefully slid off of his lap and approached the garment bag. Plucking it up off the back of the chair he had laid it over, I began to unzip it slowly, noticing that the bag had been emblazoned with the worlds Alexander McQueen. Vaguely, I recalled the fact that Alexander McQueen had designed Kate Middleton’s wedding gown, one of the most highly anticipated and coveted dresses of the century.

 

Allowing the garment bag to float to the floor, I could not help but sigh in awe. What I held in my hands was by far the most beautiful dress I had ever laid my eyes on. The delicate peach coloured dress was floor length, made from chiffon and adorned with intricate lace flowers, pearlescent beads woven throughout its expanse. The dress would rest from halfway down my neck; however cutouts for my arms would reveal just enough to deem the piece as both feminine as well as appropriate for a royal occasion.

 

I was in awe, thinking that there was no way that I could pull off such a gown without feeling wrong, inadequate. “Oh Zayn, it’s absolutely breath-taking.” I whispered in astonishment. “But it’s too much! There’s no way I could actually pull it off!” I exclaimed, turning to Zayn who had materialized beside me.

 

“Actually,” Zayn told me matter-of-factly, his brown eyes boring into mine. “I can’t think of anyone who could wear it better.” He countered, shooting me a seductive wink.

 

My face flushed automatically at Zayn’s comment, leaving me a flustered mess as I normally was in his presence. “And Alexander McQueen?!” I yelped, realizing that the designer gown had probably cost Zayn far more than I could ever dream of paying him back. “This must have cost you a fortune!” I exclaimed, wildly throwing my hands into the air.

 

“Well if you insist on knowing,” Zayn shrugged, a crooked grin appearing on his face at my shock. “It cost twenty thou-” Zayn began playfully, his statement cut off as I smacked my hand over his mouth.

 

I raised my eyebrows. “Don’t finish that sentence, Malik.” I warned him, allowing my hand to fall from Zayn’s gloriously warm lips.

 

 “What?” Zayn inquired slyly, a grin appearing on his face. “I’m not allowed to spoil my girlfriend?” He told me, leaning in so close that I could feel his warm breath on my cheeks and see the jade flecks of green in his eyes.

 

I moved in closer to Zayn, swallowing hard, my heart thumping wildly in my chest as I peered up at him. “Your girlfriend?” I asked breathily, trying to keep myself composed. Zayn Malik, the boy who I thought with great certainty I would never see again let alone love me in return had just asked me to be his girlfriend. I was blinking at him in utter astonishment, my cheeks flushed.

 

Zayn placed his hands on my waist, the warmth of his fingertips burning through the sheer cream fabric of my cashmere top. “If you’ll have me.” Zayn offered earnestly, his soft pink lips twitching upwards and a storm brewing in his dark brown eyes. “As your boyfriend.” Zayn clarified with a whisper, a cheeky smile appearing on his lips.

 

Without warning, I was planting a flurry of kisses onto Zayn’s lips, Zayn laughing as I did it, wrapping his arms around me. I pulled him closer, inhaling his familiar and comforting scent. After all this time, the pieces had finally fallen into place, the pain that my heart had endured for years almost seeming worth it. I wondered fleetingly what would have become of me if things had been different, if Zayn hadn’t walked into Victory that day. Where would I be then? And more importantly, would I have finally succumbed to the darkness that had been overpowering me?

 

After a little while, Zayn finally pulled back from me, his cheeks adorably flushed. “I reckon I’ll take that as a yes then?” He asked sheepishly, breathing heavily and an ear to ear grin on his face.

 

Definitely.” I told him with conviction, leaning in for another kiss. I moaned against Zayn’s soft lips as his tongue entered my mouth, his hands venturing further down my waist, cupping my behind. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I pressed myself against Zayn, pulling him over to the sofa and pushing him onto it with one swift shove, desperate to have him. These feelings were so different to the ones I had in Bradford; frantic and overpowering. Within a moment, I was straddling Zayn, Zayn helping me out of my thin shirt, our lips still colliding fiercely and my blood hotly coursing through my veins.

 

Zayn’s brown eyes flowed over my chest “Looks like Christmas came early.” Zayn told me with a breathless grin, watching as I struggled to unzip his jeans.

 

“Shut up and help me!” I told him trying to stifle a laugh. Finally getting Zayn’s zipper free, I froze in place when a loud knock sounded at the door. Both Zayn and I whipped our heads towards the door, the both of us holding our breath once the knocking stopped. My eyes were wide as I watched the door, listening for departing footsteps.

 

Instead, the loud knocking resumed, followed by the familiar voice of Harry Styles. “Leila!” Harry called jovially, “Open up!”

 

“Oh my God it’s Harry!” I uttered in horror, flying off of Zayn’s lap, Zayn letting out a defeated sigh, his head falling against the sofa. “This can’t be real.” He muttered to himself, running his fingers through his thick dark hair.

 

“Leila?” Harry yelled past the door again, his tone bordering confusion.

 

“Coming!” I yelled in reply, my voice unnaturally high. “Oh Zayn, I’m so sorry.” I whispered as I dived for my shirt, shoving my head through it as well as my arms, watching as he slowly got to his feet, strategically doing up his fly, the both of us gravitating towards the open window.

 

“We’ll get through this.” Zayn reassured me quietly, a comforting smile appearing on his lips as he pulled me to him once more, planting a soft kiss on my lips. “I’ll see you later, yeah?” He offered, stroking my cheek softly.

 

I nodded in reply, my eyes falling to the ground as they began to fill with tears. It was as if the world simply did not want Zayn and I to be together, that everything possible would stand in the way of our happiness.

 

“I love you.” Zayn whispered earnestly, tipping my chin upwards so that his dark eyes were on mine. I observed Zayn timidly, deciding that I had to have faith, confidence that eventually it would all work out.

 

“I love you too.” I whispered in reply, a smile appearing on Zayn’s lips once I said it. And as quickly and silently as Zayn had entered, he departed through the window and into the bitter London cold, scaling his way down the fire escape, the taste of his lips still fresh in my mind.

 

Smoothing out my hair and clothes, I quickly made my way over to the front door. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to compose myself, I swung open the door, only to be met with a grinning Harry, a mischievous glint in his sea green eyes as he surveyed me. Harry was clad in a pair of cream coloured chinos and a blue woolen sweater, looking as charming and as handsome as the first day I had seen him.

 

“Harry!” I greeted him with fervor, putting on my most genuine smile, fleetingly thanking the stars that I had always been quite good at acting, and lying for that matter. “You’re early!” I continued to smile, trying to mask my uneasiness.  

 

 “What took you so long?” Harry asked me casually, leaning against the door frame, his grin wavering for a split second as he observed me, his green eyes narrowing by a fraction.

 

My face flushed in response as I recalled my heated session with Zayn just moments ago. “Oh!” I stuttered, thinking that perhaps I wasn’t such a good actress after all. “I was in the loo.” I told him with a sheepish grin. My eyes then drifted to the white take-out bag clutched in Harry’s hand, the savory scent of grilled chicken rushing up my nostrils. Apparently Zayn had caused me to work up quite an appetite. “Is that takeout?” I asked with a grin, my eyes returning to Harry’s. “I’m starved!” I stated emphatically, letting out a nervous giggle.

 

Harry observed me, an unreadable expression on his face, his eyes softening then. “Yeah.” Harry offered with a shy grin, shrugging. “I brought Nando’s.” He said in the slow and endearing manner that I used to adore. “No mushrooms, just how you like it.” He added, still smiling.

 

Harry remembered, I thought, my stomach plummeting as I recalled the night of my very first date with Harry Styles. After coffee, Harry had brought me to Nando’s to meet the other members of One Direction, one of them who I had happened to know for a long time. And after all these months, Harry had still remembered the fact that I was allergic to mushrooms, such a small trivial detail, but still he remembered.

 

“Come in.” I told Harry with a smile, Harry leaning in to press a soft kiss on my cheek before he entered, breezing past me and leaving me thinking how although I did not love him as I loved Zayn, that I could not possibly see myself hurting him.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

Slamming the door shut behind me, I trudged over to my sofa and collapsed onto it with a frustrated groan. My mind drifted, and soon I was wondering what Leila and Harry were up to that very moment, leaving me in a seething state of jealousy. Reaching for an abandoned pack of fags, I put one between my lips and lit it with my Zippo, sighing in relief as I took a fulfilling drag. Although I knew that this situation with Harry was not real by any means, I could not help but feel envious that Harry could publicly spend time with Leila whereas I could not. Taking another puff, I absentmindedly reached for a half-drank beer that I had abandoned a few nights ago. Taking a gulp from it I felt much calmer, thinking that it didn’t make a difference if Harry spent time with Leila because in the end I loved Leila and she loved me in return, and that’s all that really mattered.

 

A loud knock at the door interrupted my train of thought. Clonking the now empty beer bottle down onto the coffee table, I hopped to my feet, making my way over to the door thinking that it was most likely Niall. I had not had a private moment yet to tell Niall what had happened with Leila, telling him to come over to my place when he had a moment alone. To be honest, I was nervous to tell Niall about the events that had transpired in Bradford, thinking that he most likely would no longer support me and Leila together.

 

Thrusting open the door, standing primly on the welcome mat was not Niall Horan, but an unexpected blonde by the name of Fiona Applebee. My cigarette almost fell from my lips as I stared at Fiona in shock. I had not seen Fiona since departing from New York for Bradford, the last conversation we had shared being on the rooftop of the Waldorf-Astoria where I in not so many words told her that I simply did not feel the same way about her as she did about me.

 

“Fiona!” I exclaimed in surprise, securing my cigarette between my fingers. “What are you doing here?” I asked confusedly, corking one of my eyebrows upwards, nervously running my hand through my thick hair as I wondered what she could possibly want from me.

 

“Hello, Zayn.” Fiona said with a smile, fluttering her eyelashes at me. “Don’t you look handsome?” She added, twirling her blonde locks between her fingers. Fiona was clad in a ridiculously short designer dress, her face slathered in more make-up than was really necessary.

 

I narrowed my eyes at Fiona, certain that she had not taken what I had told her in New York to heart, that there was somebody else, that there had been for a very long time. “Maybe I should have put my last statement differently,” I told her, leaning against the doorframe. “What do you want?” I asked her emphatically, tapping the ash from my cigarette.

 

Fiona scoffed, her blue eyes twinkling. “Well I suppose I’ll cut to the chase then,” Fiona said, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “You don’t have a date for the Charity Ball tomorrow night, do you?” Fiona told me, a smile playing upon her lips.

 

As it so happened, Leila was my date for Charity Ball; however I couldn’t exactly publicize that fact to Fiona or anyone else for that matter. I narrowed my eyes at Fiona, observing her guardedly, thinking that my first impression of her had been completely wrong. I had thought the girl to be dim and even ignorant at times; however it seemed that she was rather coy, calculating even in terms of getting what she wanted which at the moment was apparently me. “No.” I told her dryly. “I suppose I don’t.” I added, taking a drag from my cigarette.

 

“Hm.” Fiona began pleasantly, nodding. “Well Niall is going with Charlotte; Louis with Eleanor, Liam with Danielle, and Harry with Leila…” Fiona trailed off in thought, her eyebrows furrowing. “So I suppose it would make sense if the two of us went together, wouldn’t it?” Fiona suggested tactically, a kind smile still on her lips.

 

A notable grimace appeared on my face, unsure of what excuse I could offer Fiona. “Because like you said, you don’t have a date.” She regurgitated my previous words with certainty, her smile transforming into a smirk.

 

I exhaled a bout of smoke from my lungs, thinking that to my misfortune, Fiona had me exactly where she wanted me; trapped. “Right.” I told her with indifference, taking another drag and cursing Niall for ever having set me up with Fiona in the first place. But most of all I cursed myself, for not making the right decision in the very beginning with Leila. If I hadn’t been such a coward, if I had just been honest with myself, this whole mess would have been avoided.

 

“Splendid!” Fiona told me with a grin, catching me off guard and planting a quick kiss on my cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, Zayn. I’m sure we’ll have loads of fun together.” Fiona whispered huskily into my ear, causing me to cringe deeply. Departing with a wink, Fiona click-clacked her way down my steps and out of sight.

 

Fuck.” I muttered to myself as I watched Fiona round the corner, venturing back into my flat and slamming the door shut behind me. Heading straight for my bedroom, I climbed into my bed, certain that tomorrow night was bound to be a disaster and that I’d also have to think about investing in some recreational drugs since cigarettes and booze just weren’t cutting it anymore.

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

“Please be joking.” I begged of Eleanor, praying that what she said was not true. Eleanor and Danielle had just arrived to my apartment, setting their bags; likely filled with every item of make-up they owned onto the hardwood floor with a thud. The three of us had planned to get ready for the Royal Charity Ball together, deciding that my apartment was the most accommodating. As it turned out however, we were expecting more company; Fiona and Charlotte. I felt my eye twitch as I recalled the fact that Fiona had been perusing Zayn at one point.

 

“I had no part in it, Leila.” Danielle assured me, eyeing Eleanor with one eyebrow corked upwards as she let her wild hair loose from its elastic. “I for one am not a fan of Charlotte and especially not Fiona.”

 

“But you hardly know them, Dani!” Eleanor protested as she set down her garment bag emblazoned with the name Elie Saab onto the sofa, smoothing it out to prevent wrinkles from forming on the gown inside.

 

Danielle shot Eleanor a skeptical look. “And I’d like to keep it that way!” Danielle sing-songed, laying out her matching garment bag beside Eleanor’s.

 

Eleanor rolled her eyes heavily, turning her brown gaze onto me instead. “Give them a chance, Leila,” Eleanor offered with a small smile. “They do grow on you after some time.” She assured me.

 

I let out a heavy sigh, unsure of what else I could do but attempt to play nice with Charlotte, but not entirely sure that I could tolerate Fiona for long, the only memory I had of her being her dancing on a table at Simon’s party for the boys. “Fine.” I gave in sadly, letting out a groan when a sharp knock sounded at the door. “You’re getting it.” I told Eleanor pointedly, refusing to be the one to let them into my house willingly.

 

“Here,” Danielle hissed quietly, pouring me a glass of the Cristal champagne that we had all pitched in for the occasion. “You’re going to need it.” She told me, handing me the champagne flute.

 

“Thanks.” I said with a grateful; smile, accepting the glass and taking a more than generous sip from it, Danielle nodding enthusiastically as she watched me down most of its contents. The both of us watched wearily as Eleanor excitedly bounced over to the front door. Thrusting it open, we were met with the most blood curdling cries imaginable.

 

“ELLIE!” Charlotte screeched, clambering into the apartment and dropping her things onto the floor, thrusting her arms around Eleanor.

 

Aside from Charlotte’s good looks; sporting startling green eyes and a fiery mop of red hair, it was hard to imagine what Niall could possibly see in her. “It’s been too long!” Charlotte exclaimed shrilly, pulling Eleanor into another tight hug.

 

Far too long!” Eleanor agreed jovially, her brown eyes alight. “I saw you walking for Chanel at Fashion Week in Paris and you looked absolutely stunning.” She emphasized. I could not help but smirk as Danielle stuck a finger down her throat, letting out a grotesque gagging sound only loud enough for me to hear.

 

“You’re too much, Eleanor.” Charlotte replied bashfully a sheepish grin on her lips when suddenly she turned her gaze onto Danielle and I. “Danielle and Leila, right?” Charlotte stated, making her way over to us, looking more and more perfect with each step.

 

“That’s my name.” Danielle replied sarcastically, a tight smile on her lips. I almost let out a snort of laughter when Eleanor shot Danielle a deadly glare, rivaling the look Niall got when someone attempted to pick off his plate.

 

“Fiona and I have been dying to meet you two properly!” Charlotte continued with a wide smile, essentially cueing the entrance of Fiona Applebee herself.

 

Putting one black stiletto through the door, Fiona carefully entered the apartment, twitching her pink lips as she surveyed her surroundings, tossing her long blonde hair behind one shoulder. I could feel my blood begin to boil as I studied her, being fiercely reminded of Tracey; the infuriating twat who had managed to capture Zayn’s heart during college. Fiona was clad in a short black dress that likely cost more than a month of my rent, her long pale legs emerging from beneath it and a black garment bag slung casually over her arm.

 

“Eleanor.” Fiona offered coldly in greeting, her voice emotionless as she nodded at Eleanor, her cool blue gaze flickering towards me. Fiona’s lips twitched upwards, a smirk appearing on her glossy pink lips. Staring back at her, I did not budge, my fists clenched against my sides. From the corner of my eye, I could see Danielle cross her arms over her chest, examining Fiona from top to bottom with a notable grimace on her face.

 

Charlotte’s green eyes darted between Fiona, Danielle, and I, looking to Eleanor who simply shrugged in response, unsure of what she could do to help the situation. “Fi,” Charlotte laughed nervously, walking over to Fiona and dragging the blonde over to Danielle and I until the two of them were standing directly in front of us. “These are our new friends!” Charlotte offered kindly, gesturing to Danielle and I.

 

With pursed pink lips, Fiona surveyed Danielle, finally sticking out her hand to greet her. “Danielle, was it?” Fiona said, sticking out her dainty hand to Danielle, a false smile playing about her lips. “Liam’s girlfriend?” 

 

Without a beat, Danielle accepted Fiona’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Fiona!” Danielle said, her voice coated in minor sarcasm. “I’ve heard so much about you!” She added with a fake smile.

 

Fiona smiled in response, completely aware of Danielle’s aversion to her. “I’m sure you have.” She replied with indifference, then turning her blue gaze onto me, taking me in from top to bottom. “And you are?” Fiona asked, her tone drastically colder, a twisted smile on her lips.

 

My face flushed angrily, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that Fiona knew exactly who I was and that she clearly disliked me as much as I disliked her, which for the record, I was completely fine with. “Leila.” I told her through semi clenched teeth, masked by a small smile. “Harry’s girlfriend.” I reminded her, in case her stupid blonde brain had forgotten somehow.  

 

Fiona’s smile widened, “Oh yes, the stripper.” She replied in amusement, reaching for a glass of champagne, Charlotte staring at her in horror as Fiona took a delicate sip from it.

 

I felt myself unconsciously take a step forward, ready to rip Fiona’s blonde hair right from her head when Danielle interrupted. “So Fiona, I heard you’re the only one without a date for the ball!” Danielle announced scandalously, trying her best to put Fiona in her place.

 

Ha, that showed her! In smug satisfaction, I brought my glass to my lips, taking another hearty sip of the delicious champagne.

 

Fiona raised her eyebrows. “Oh! Well it seems that you heard wrong.” Fiona shot back incredulously. “I’m actually going with Zayn.” Fiona stated matter-of-factly, an enormous grin appearing on her face.

 

Choking on my sip of champagne, I burst into a fit of intense coughing, Danielle giving me a solid thump on the back. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I glared at Fiona, thinking that perhaps she was going to be an even bigger problem than I had originally thought. “Shall we all start getting ready, then?” I said my voice an octave higher than usual. The girls save for Fiona nodded enthusiastically in reply, and as I trudged off towards my bedroom, I found myself thinking that Zayn had quite a bit of explaining to do.

 

*

 

Just under two hours later, I was staring at myself in the mirror, astounded that Zayn had chosen such a perfect dress for me; right down to its size. The peach coloured gown accentuated my curves perfectly, hinting at them but not excessively so. To compliment the classic look of the dress and its lace embroidery, I had piled my black hair high on top of my head into a sleek bun, thinking that this style would suit a royal occasion. I was relatively jewelry free save for a pair of pearl earrings and of course my heart shaped locket, which I had tucked safely beneath the high neckline of the gown. I had kept my makeup simple as well, deciding to wear a nude lipstick in favor of a red one, my eyelids covered in a sheer peach coloured shadow and my nails painted in a startling black Caviar manicure which Eleanor had skillfully applied for me.

 

Placing one nude coloured heel outside of the loo, I peeked around the corner to see Eleanor, Danielle, and Charlotte chattering away, a bored expression on Fiona’s face as she listened to the other three girls talk. With a deep breath, I made my way over to the four of them, all of their jaws dropping once they saw me.

 

“Leila!” Eleanor gasped, “Your dress is breath-taking!” She stammered, her eyes flowing over me.

 

“Have you seen yourself? Your dress is just fantastic!” I exclaimed incredulously, thinking that I had never seen Eleanor looking more beautiful before. Eleanor was clad in a gorgeous Elie Saab creation that Louis had purchased for her. The gown was a cherry blossom pink, littered with hundreds of delicate pink flowers and extending gloriously from Eleanor’s small waist outwards, cut delicately across her shoulders. “All of you look wonderful!” I continued, sweeping my eyes over the other girls, even having to admit that Fiona also looked quite well put together although I’d never admit it out loud.

 

Danielle, Eleanor, and Fiona were all clad in Elie Saab designs, save for Charlotte who was wearing Givenchy. Danielle wore a pastel coloured lavender gown, an intricate pattern of lavender coloured crystals resting across her shoulders and travelling down to clench at her waist. In a way, the gown reminded me of a toga, and fittingly, Danielle had braided her curly locks into an intricate braid which rested on her right shoulder. Charlotte was adorned in a floor length white Givenchy piece that only a model would dare to don at a Royal Ball, a tuft of feathers as well as flowers sewn casually onto the front of the gown. Like my dress, the neckline of Charlotte’s was high as well, resting at the base of her neck. Charlotte had chosen to wear her startling red hair in loose curls, her lips painted in a blood red. And last but not least, Fiona, true to her unpleasant nature was clad in a sheer black gown that cut in a delicate deep v, shiny black sequins sewn throughout the expanse of it. Fiona’s makeup was rather vampy, her eyelids covered in dewy black shadow, her lips painted in a deep red purple while her hair fell in loose 20’s inspired waves.

 

Fiona was glaring at me, her eyes bulging out of her head. “How could you possibly afford Alexander McQueen?” She spat through clenched teeth, her blue eyes wide.

 

My eyes widened by a fraction, inwardly smacking myself for not having thought this through earlier. I stammered for a moment before finally exclaiming, “Harry!” I said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Harry bought it for me of course.” I told Fiona matter-of-factly, letting out the breath I had been holding in.

 

“Really?” Fiona smirked, her eyebrows raising. “How thoughtful of him.” She narrowed her icy blue eyes at me.

 

Averting my eyes from Fiona’s, I glanced down at the clock on my wall, seeing that it was already half five. “Look at the time!” I exclaimed to the others, not liking the way Fiona was regarding me one bit, almost suspiciously. “The boys are probably downstairs already!” I told them, flying out into the hallway, wondering why I could not shake the nagging feeling that Fiona knew more than she was letting on.

 

 

*

 

 

I was silent throughout the entire limo ride, squeezed between Harry and Louis, Harry’s arm slung across my shoulders. Zayn too was quiet, seated next to Fiona who had inched so close to Zayn that with one more inch she would practically be in his lap. Clad in a fitted black tuxedo, Zayn looked flawless. Having shaved off the stubble that usually littered his face, Zayn instead remained his usual edgy self by keeping in his diamond piercing, his hair styled up into his gravity-defying quiff as usual. Zayn wore a bored expression as Fiona babbled away in his ear, Zayn nodding along and giving her delayed one-word responses, his gaze occasionally catching mine. Quickly I would shift my eyes to my hands, or lean over to whisper something to Eleanor who was sitting on the other side of Louis. At one point during the drive, it felt physically impossible to stop myself from starring at Zayn, seething as Fiona began to trace her finger over his knee, giving him a seductive smile.  

 

Suddenly, I felt Harry’s emerald gaze on me, a warm smile on his lips as he observed me thoughtfully. “You alright?” Harry asked slowly, his smile not fading.

 

My face flushed, wondering if Harry had noticed me watching Fiona fawn over Zayn. “I’m fine, Harry.” I reassured him, returning a smile. “Just a bit nervous to meet all the Royals, that’s all!” I told him, letting out a nervous giggle, resisting the urge to look in Zayn’s direction again.

 

Harry’s green eyes flashed suddenly, his eyes returning to their warm and mischievous state after a moment. “You look far too beautiful to be nervous.” Harry reassured me with a grin. “I’ll be swatting your potential suitors away all night.” He said with a telling smile, planting a chaste kiss on my cheek, turning to smack Liam who had been poking at his curls.

 

“Oh Zayn, you’re such a laugh!” Fiona exclaimed, hitting a silent Zayn on the arm and throwing her head back in laughter, my attention drawn back to them. At this, Zayn reached for the open bottle of champagne, chugging whatever was left of it. Letting out a sigh, my eye caught Danielle’s who was regarding me with interest, giving me a warm smile. Returning it, I found myself wondering what the night would hold and highly doubting that I’d be able to get Zayn alone for even a second.

 

 

*

 

 

Danielle, Eleanor, and I stood in awe, watching as Britain’s elite casually mulled about in the high-ceilinged ballroom of Buckingham palace, various tables lining the walls filled with thousands of colourful desserts, punch, and boxes for patrons to drop off their donations towards the Queen’s choice of charity, thus far totaling at 300,000 Euros. From where we stood, we could see Jude Law chatting amiably with one of the cater waiters while just a meter away, Cheryl Cole and Kate Moss were comparing heels over flutes of pink champagne. The three of us burst into a fit of giggles, Eleanor suddenly gasping and pointing towards the entrance of the ballroom.

 

“Good lord.” I sighed in disbelief, watching as David and Victoria Beckham strolled in, right away launching into conversation with a foreign dignitary dressed in a sheer green sari.

 

Eleanor began to fan herself, lifting her brown curls off of her neck. “The despicable things I would do to that man.” She breathed, ogling Becks from afar.

 

Suddenly, a stillness washed over the room as the Queen guided through the doors, flanked by various royal officials and followed by Prince William and Kate Middleton, now respectively called the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Behind the Duke and Duchess followed Prince Harry and Pippa who wore a pastel yellow floor length dress that complimented her highly coveted figure; however it was Kate’s gown that everyone seemed to be admiring. Danielle, Eleanor, and I all glanced at each other excitedly, quietly nodding in approval at Kate’s glorious gown; a mint coloured floor length dress, a string of white jewels strapped around its waist. I had always admired Kate and her ability to be both calm and collected in the spotlight, while also managing to hold the title of Britain’s style icon of the century with ease.

 

Upon the Queen’s request, the orchestra began to play; beginning with Lakmé’s the Flower Duet, William and Kate heading to the middle of the dance floor where they began to waltz gracefully, starting off the night’s dancing. We watched in awe, other couples eventually joining them, Victoria and David Beckham smiling sheepishly at each other as they swayed.

 

I stole a quick peek at Zayn who was conversing amiably with Josh, One Direction’s drummer while not far off; Harry was laughing with Ed Sheeran, giving him a hearty pat on the back and pulling him into a bear hug. Within moments, Eleanor and Danielle were ushered off to the dance floor by Louis and Liam, both of them smiling apologetically and promising they’d return soon. I sighed dreamily, taking it all in and wondering how a stripper had found her way into the company of not only the most popular boy band of the century, but somehow royalty as well.

 

“Would the lady care for a dance?” A kind Irish accent interrupted my thoughts. Turning to my left, I saw that Niall Horan had his hand extended to me, a wide smile on his face and his blue eyes twinkling.

 

“Of course, Niall!” I told him with a grin, accepting his hand. “Thank you for saving me from standing here alone like a complete loser.” I told him with a laugh as we made our way to the dance floor, my peach coloured gown billowing around me as we walked.

 

“I’m sure Harry will come fetch you soon enough.” Niall said with a wink as we began to dance slowly in time to the music.

 

I grew flustered at this, my eyes falling to watch our feet as we moved. “Right.” I said with a smile, wishing that I could dance with Zayn, regardless of how terrible he was at it and the fact that I was currently livid at him for coming with Fiona. “So how are things with Charlotte?” I asked Niall, genuinely curious to learn more about how they were as a couple.

 

“She’s great, honestly.” Niall said, staring off into the distance dreamily. “Once you get to know her of course.” He added with a laugh, running his hand through his mop of blonde hair and returning it to my waist.

 

Niall began to observe me curiously for a moment, a small smile appearing on his lips and his eyes sparkling. “So how are things with Zayn?” Niall repeated my question, his all knowing gaze still on mine.

 

My eyes widened, my heart pounding against the walls of my chest. Had Niall just referred to Zayn instead of Harry? I sputtered as I stared into Niall’s blue eyes, at a complete loss for words. “I have no idea what’re talking about.” I said with a nervous laugh, unable to hide my sheer horror at Niall’s question.

 

Niall gave me a comforting smile. “I know everything, Leila.” He whispered into my ear softly, my eyes clenching shut at his revelation. “Zayn told me months ago, before you two actually got together.” Niall added as the orchestra began to play another song.

 

I swallowed hard, figuring that Niall must know about everything that had occurred during my time in Bradford with Zayn. “I see.” I whispered quietly, feeling slightly faint as we swept across the dance floor.

 

“I know it’s hard, Leila.” Niall began, his clear blue eyes searching mine. “But you have to make your choice.” He whispered in earnest. “You have to choose.”

 

I let out a sigh, thinking that my decision had been made long ago and that after everything, it had never really changed. “I have.” I told Niall weakly, my voice thick with emotion. “I love Zayn.” I revealed, my voice shaking with conviction as I said it. “I have since I can remember.” I added quietly, still expecting Niall to be outraged.

 

Niall nodded thoughtfully. “But that doesn’t make it alright to hurt Harry.” He pointed out. “Sort it out Leila, and soon.” Niall took my hand, spinning me around once so that I could see Harry making his way towards us through the crowd. All the surrounding females turned to watch Harry approach me, launching into quiet chatter as they ogled him, looking so handsome and dapper in his grey tuxedo.

 

Harry grinned at me, his green eyes sparkling, turning to Niall. “May I cut in?” He asked amusedly, Niall departing with a wink, patting Harry on the back. “I’ve always wanted to say that.” Harry admitted with a sheepish smile, pulling me close to him. Harry and I began to glide across the dance floor slowly. Harry gave me a quick turn, and although the room was spinning, I had still seen Zayn helplessly watching me from afar, a storm brewing in his eyes as always.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

Returning my stainless steel flask into the inner pocket of my suit jacket, I took a large gulp from my cup of punch, marveling at how much better it tasted with rum mixed into it. I found myself glancing at Harry and Leila dancing happily on the dance floor, Leila’s gaze meeting with mine apologetically just moments ago. Knocking the punch back, I was unsure of how much longer I could stomach watching Harry with his hands on Leila, already having had to avert my eyes from them the entire limo ride. Patting my pockets, I cursed under my breath, realizing that I had forgotten my cigarettes at the flat. Forgoing the punch completely, I filled my cup with the remaining rum in my flask, sipping on it but still unable to tear my eyes away from Leila and Harry.

 

“I’ve seen that look.” A posh voice interrupted my thoughts. Turning slowly to my right, standing just half a meter away from me was the Duke of Cambridge himself, clad in his military garb of red and blue, various medals spread throughout the expanse of his jacket. I stared at him in astonishment, my mouth hanging agape momentarily and my cup of rum almost slipping from my hands.

 

“Your highness.” I stammered, frantically wondering if that was even the correct way to address him.

 

The Duke gave me an amused smile. “Call me Will,” He offered kindly, filling up a cup of punch for himself, taking a gulp from it. “Everyone does.” He added.

 

“Will.” I said, offering my spare hand to him, Will taking it and giving it a hearty shake. “My name’s Zayn Malik. It’s an honour to meet you, really.” I told him, still awestruck. “My sisters would faint if they knew.” I added as an afterthought, grinning as I imagined the way Doniya, Waliyha, and Saffa would look when I told them.

 

“From the band One Direction.” Will recalled. “Your music’s not bad actually!” He added with a grin. “So about that look,” Will went on taking another sip of the berry punch. “It was in my third year of university when I saw Kate model a dress at the annual fashion show,” He paused, remembering it as he spoke. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her, and I see that in you.” He concluded, turning his knowing blue gaze onto me, a smile still playing on his lips.

 

I nodded my head sheepishly, in awe that I had just been found out by a prince of all people. “I guess I was stupid to think no one would notice.” I told him with a shrug, my eyes momentarily drifting over to Leila again.

 

“So how come you’re here with that other girl?” Will said, strategically gesturing towards Fiona who was fawning over Naomi Campbell just a few meters away.

 

I shook my head, downing the rest of my rum in one gulp, wondering if I was mad for confiding in the Duke of Cambridge. “It’s complicated.” I told him, thinking that was the only way I could sum it up without having to tell him my entire history with Leila which either way, would take hours.

 

Will nodded, a knowing smile on his lips. “Isn’t it always?” He agreed, setting his empty glass onto the mahogany table. “But don’t let that come between you.” He told me in earnest, turning to look at a smiling Kate, his wife of just over a year who was deep in conversation with the British Prime Minster. “It’ll be worth it.” He said with a departing smile, patting me on the side and making his way through the crowd, towards Kate.

 

“Zayn!” Fiona exclaimed, causing me to jump as she materialized in front of me, her blue eyes gleaming. “Let’s dance!” She said with a laugh, grabbing me hand and pulling me towards the dance floor, heading directly towards Harry and Leila who were still swaying back and forth slowly, talking to each other quietly.

 

“No, Fiona!” I protested, gritting my teeth in anger as I tried to pull back from her surprisingly strong grip, almost tripping on the train of her long black dress in the process. “I can’t dance, I hate it!” I told her, thinking that the only girl I’d ever dance with was already dancing with someone else.

 

Fiona gave me a backwards glance, scoffing heavily. “Don’t be stupid, I’m sure you’re marvelous.” Fiona told me, whipping her blonde hair in my face, the both of us now in sight of Harry and Leila who looked up as they saw us approaching. Leila’s brown eyes fell by a fraction, her face flushing in anger once she saw Fiona and I. I gave her a pleading look, wanting so badly to explain everything that had happened, but quickly Leila turned her head, averting her eyes to the other side of the dance floor.

 

Harry was grinning at the two of us, nodding in approval as he pulled Leila closer to him. “Well done, Fiona.” Harry said, an amused smile still on his lips. “Until now, no girl has been able to get Zayn onto the dance floor willingly.” He continued, wagging his eyebrows up and down suggestively, Leila tensing up as Harry said this, burying her face into his chest.

 

I clenched my fists, badly wanting to push Harry away from Leila and wanting Fiona to disappear altogether. With a smirk, Fiona took my hands, placing them on her waist, resting hers on my shoulders. “I guess that makes me special, doesn’t it Zayn?” Fiona told me flirtatiously, leaning her head onto my chest. I remained in a tortured silence, stealing glances at Leila and thinking that it was all my fault that the two of us were in the arms of the completely wrong people.  

 

 

*

 

 

I stood in the shadows of an empty corridor, watching as numerous women emerged from the loo, chattering away about their favourite dresses of the night and most especially the ones they detested. At last, I saw the familiar form of Leila emerge from the washroom, marveling momentarily at how beautiful she looked in the peach coloured gown I had selected for her. The dress complimented her figure, hugging her hips and exposing the smooth tanned skin of her arms. Leila had luckily travelled to the washroom alone, a fresh coat of lipstick on her full lips and her hair still slicked back in a sleek bun. Reaching out quickly from the dark corridor, I grabbed Leila’s arm, pulling her into the shadows. Leila gasped as I pressed her against the wall, placing my hand over her mouth in case she screamed.

 

“It’s me.” I breathed quietly, Leila’s body relaxing when she heard my voice.

 

Leila removed my hand from her mouth roughly. “You told Niall?” She hissed, smacking me lightly on the arm, her eyes blazing.

 

I let out a frustrated sigh, rubbing my face. I had filled in Niall on what had occurred in Bradford, of course leaving out Leila and my intimate details, but conveying to him that Leila had felt the same way about me and that we intended on telling Harry as soon as we were able to. “We can trust him, Leila. I promise.” I told her quietly. “He was there for me when no one else was.” I explained, brushing my hand over her cheek, Leila turning away from my touch.

 

“You’re sure?” She clarified with a whisper and I nodded in response. “And how do you plan on explaining Fiona as your date?” Leila spat, her anger returning and the light from the hallway reflecting in her brown eyes.

 

“She ambushed me!” I explained to Leila desperately, placing my arm above her head. “She popped up at my house and basically roped me into going with her.” I continued, suddenly noticing Leila’s signature vanilla perfume floating off her skin. “And do you think I exactly enjoyed watching Harry put his hands all over you the past few hours?” I added pointedly, Leila’s eyes flickering to mine once I said this, softening.

 

Leila sighed. “I suppose not.” She told me, smiling in the darkness in spite of herself.

 

I leaned in closer so that our lips were only inches from each other, my breathing growing heavy. “Did I mention how beautiful you look tonight?” I whispered, a cheeky smile appearing on my lips.

 

Leila let out a soft musical laugh. “No, you didn’t get the chance to.” She told me haughtily, placing her hands on my chest. “The dress fits like a glove, by the way.” Leila told me with a grin, raising her eyebrows suggestively as she began to fiddle with my bowtie.

 

“Does it?” I grinned, leaning in so close to Leila’s lips that she thought I was going to kiss her, whispering quietly into her ear instead. “I think it might look even better off.” I said softly; at last placing my lips on hers. Leila’s arms found their way around my neck, my hands gathering her dress beneath them as they explored the expanse of her body.

 

A minute later we broke apart for air, grinning at each other and our lips swollen. “Was that our first fight?” Leila asked incredulously, running her soft hand over my cheek.

 

“If it was, we should probably fight more often.” I told Leila with a laugh, Leila giggling as I placed my lips on hers once again, thinking that we’d find a way to be together, regardless of who stood in our way.

 

Harry’s POV:

 

“I have to find her.” I said as I dragged Fiona behind me, scanning my eyes throughout the dance floor, searching wildly for Leila. I had been catching up with Cher Lloyd for a few minutes and when I turned around, Leila was no longer standing with Eleanor where I had left her, Zayn also noticeably having disappeared from next to Niall and into thin air. I grew uneasy, a nagging feeling in the back of my mind telling me that without a shadow of a doubt that they were somewhere together.

 

Got a secret, can you keep it?

 Swear this one you'll save

 Better lock it in your pocket

 Taking this one to the grave

 

I was clenching my teeth angrily as we breezed out of the ballroom, even more upset than I had been earlier, Zayn thinking that his constant gawking at Leila went unnoticed by me. First in the limo and then throughout the entire ball; the urge to punch him in the gob was growing and exponentially so. What had hurt me the most was when I would catch Leila returning Zayn’s looks, stealing glances his way even when he wasn’t looking in her direction. Leila was seething with jealousy as she watched Fiona flirt with Zayn and as time went on I was finding it harder and harder to act as if I knew nothing, as if the both of them hadn’t betrayed me completely.

 

If I show you then I know you

Won't tell what I said

'Cause two can keep a secret

If one of them is dead

 

I still wanted to be with Leila, still felt the urge to be near her, but I could not help but enjoy torturing her and especially Zayn, wanting to hurt them as much as they hurt me. I would do what I had to, to win Leila’s heart back, and if it took playing somewhat dirty and agreeing to Fiona’s outrageous plans, then so be it.

 

Why do you smile

Like you've been told a secret?

Now you're telling lies

'Cause you have sworn to keep it

 

 “Just when things were going so well.” Fiona sighed, pulling me down a hallway, a slew of women in colourful gowns making their way out of the loo and back towards the ballroom. I waited patiently as Fiona went into the women’s room, searching for Leila while I had done the same in the men’s, Zayn being nowhere in sight. My ears pricked suddenly, Leila’s familiar musical laugh reaching my ears. Following the sounds of her giggles, I found myself peeking around the corner and down a dark passage, the unmistakable forms of Zayn and Leila embracing lovingly, Leila letting out a soft moan as Zayn kissed her.

 

Got a secret, can you keep it?

Swear this one you'll save

Better lock it in your pocket

Taking this one to the grave

 

I felt myself begin to shake, Fiona materializing next to me a moment later, her face falling when she saw what I had, Leila giggling as Zayn planted a flurry of kisses down her neck. I felt myself step forward into the light for a moment, Fiona pulling me back roughly before I exposed myself to Leila and Zayn.

 

If I show you then I know you

Won't tell what I said

'Cause two can keep a secret

If one of them is dead

 

 “Looks like we might have to raise the stakes a bit, Harry.” Fiona told me gently, her blue eyes flickering back to Zayn and Leila who continued to kiss, unaware of us watching them from just a few meters away. “I have an idea, but it’s a little crazy.” Fiona began, her gaze meeting mine, the distinct appearance of hurt masked behind her confidence. “Even for me.” She added quietly, the expression in her blue eyes unreadable. I nodded in agreement, for once not needing Fiona to convince me to follow whatever plan she was hatching, thinking that if I couldn’t have Leila, then Zayn certainly couldn’t either.

 

Yes, two can keep a secret

If one of them is dead

Yes two can keep a secret

If one of us is dead

 

A/N: Thanks for reading and please review! xo

 

Check out the accompanying tumblr for I'm in Love with a Stripper and check out music, outfits, sneak peeks, fanart, and more! iminlovewithastripperfanfiction.tumblr.com

 

Music:

Secret – The Pierces

Outfits:

Leila’s outfit - http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7qr5cCiH41rtkp5ro1_500.jpg

Fiona’s outfit - http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6gtzhvvLg1rtkp5ro5_500.jpg

Danielle’s outfit - http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6gvbzmfQo1rtkp5ro1_400.jpg

Eleanor’s outfit - http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6gtzhvvLg1rtkp5ro1_500.jpg

Charlotte’s outfit - http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7rc9tEtD31rtkp5ro1_500.jpg

 

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