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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18. Happy Birthday Louis I

A/N: Hey Stripperettes! OMG so I am absolutely AMAZED at the response I've gotten on here! I would like to thank each and every one of you for your amazing reviews and comments! If I could I would personally send you a Zayn/Harry sandwich (a naked one of course) ;) So since this chapter was taking so long I decided to break it into half so I could post what I had finished! I hope you enjoy and without further aideu...

I'm in Love with a Stripper:

Happy Birthday Louis (Part I)

Leila’s P.O.V:

I was sitting in the back of a sleek black town car, watching through the window as the dreary English countryside rushed by. The snow that Londoners had been able to enjoy was promptly swept away as soon as Christmas had ended, as had my time with Zayn. Closing my eyes, I longed for the sharp notes of evergreen in Bradford’s air, for the rich taste of my Grandmother’s masala chai, surprising even myself that the place I had sworn never to go back to again was the only place I wished to be.

But perhaps, I thought fighting a smile, my yearning for Bradford had nothing to do with Bradford itself, but everything to do with Zayn. With Zayn who had not only saved my childhood home but also survived a dinner with my Grandparents. With Zayn who did not love Bambi as I had feared, but loved Leila instead.

Clutching my locket between my fingers, I recalled the night prior to our departure for Bradford, Zayn stopping me as I attempted to strip for him and pleading that I not return to Victory. At this, I knew that I could at last say goodbye to the life that had been destroying me, that I could say goodbye to Bambi who although had been my friend, my protector, had almost suffocated Leila to the point where I was beginning to think she was simply a figment of my imagination.

Allowing myself to gaze out the window once more, I knew however that my dilemma was far from over, that it was no longer a question of my heart, or Zayn’s, but of Harry’s and if I could break it or not. Harry Styles had captivated me from the very first night I met him, with his sparkling green eyes and free spirit that Bambi had always yearned for. I had fought tirelessly to give Harry Styles my heart, to love him as he deserved to be loved. And perhaps in another life where Zayn had not crept so deep into my bones that even after three years he had never quite left, I could have been happy with Harry, could have let him in. But here I was instead just as Catherine Earnshaw had been in Wuthering Heights, so in love with one boy, and so unable to hurt another, leaving me to wonder if like Catherine, I too was doomed.

With a sigh, I glanced towards my lap, plucking up the aged brown envelope that had been slipped beneath the door of my London apartment yesterday morning in accompaniment with a flurry of loud knocking. Securing the letter in my hand, I had poked my head out into the hallway only to see that it was completely deserted, realizing that perhaps this had been what Eleanor meant when she warned me not to be too alarmed if something odd occurred the day after Christmas and that Louis had always had a flare for the eccentric when it came to celebrating his birthday.

Curiously, I ran my fingers over the front of the envelope where my name; Leila, had been engraved in neat Victorian cursive, spelt out in obsidian black ink. Turning the envelope around, I reached past the broken wax seal to retrieve the intricately bordered invitation from inside to read it for the umpteenth time.

Written by hand in deep red ink, the invitation read:

Leila Karim,

Louis Lunkenheimer requests the pleasure of your company for the occasion of his 21st birthday on Thursday, the twenty-seventh of December, 1930. Festivities will commence at six sharp. Transportation has been arranged on your behalf and will arrive at half eight in the morning.

Yours truly,

Louis Lunkenheimer

With this I returned the invitation to its aged envelope, tucking it safely into the pocket of my oxblood red trench coat, wondering what madness Louis had in store for us before falling at last, into a fitful and dreamless sleep.

*

The town car jerked to a halt, waking me from my slumber. Gazing sleepily out the window, my jaw dropped when I saw what we had parked in front of. In the distance was a sprawling brick and mortar country home, bordered by an array of potted plants and frost-bitten gardens that stretched out for miles. The breathtaking house had to be at least a century old and was large enough to room thirty if not forty people, and just as Eleanor had promised, Louis had certainly pulled out all the stops. Twenty-one was a milestone, after all.

“We’ve arrived at our destination, Miss.” The driver, who had been silent during the entire duration of the trip, informed me in a soft-spoken Scottish accent, his bright blue eyes finding mine in the rearview mirror.

“What is this place?” I asked the driver quietly, still in awe of its rustic beauty, wondering absentmindedly if the others were already inside.

The young man began to adjust his black hat, tucking away a lock of fiery red hair that had come astray. “Wrotham Manor in Hertfordshire, Miss,” He told me. “Master Louis’ residence.”

“Master Louis you say?” I told him, trying my best not to laugh but hardly surprised that Louis had chosen to be so authentic to the era he was portraying.

“Yes Miss,” The red-headed driver nodded vigorously. “And before you go, I’ll unfortunately be having to confiscate all of your twenty-first century electronics.” He told me with a smile. “By the order of Master Louis, of course.” He added hurriedly, insisting that it was no fault of his own.

“Not to worry.” I smiled, reaching into my pocket to unearth my sorry excuse for a mobile. “It’s not of much use anyways.” I told him grinning.

Just as I was handing over the barely functioning device to the driver, the car door was viciously ripped open. Gasping, I leaped a meter from my seat, ramming my head into the roof of the car.

Scowling at me through the car door was a thin middle-aged woman with sharp cheekbones and a pair of penetrating grey eyes. The woman was dressed in a black cotton dress with a stained white apron tied tightly around her slim waist, her wiry blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun.

“Miss Karim?” The woman addressed me shrilly, corking one of her blonde eyebrows upwards.

Rubbing the sore spot on my head I shot a fearful look to the red-headed driver who simply offered me an apologetic smile. “Yes, I’m Leila-” I squeaked in response, only to be cut off as the woman pulled me roughly from the vehicle and into the bitter December cold.

“Master Louis simply won’t have it if you’re late!” The woman tutted, furiously dusting off my coat with her hands. “Collin, bring Miss Karim’s things inside once you’ve brought the car round,” She told the driver sternly. “And do refrain yourself from poking your nose through her underthings like you did with the last one!” She added with an exasperated sigh.

Slapping my hand over my mouth in an attempt to cease the laughter that threatened to spill from my lips, a look of mortification appeared on Collin’s face, a hot blush creeping up his freckled cheeks shortly after. “Enjoy your stay, Miss-!” Collin interjected in desperation before the woman slammed the car door shut, cutting him off mid-sentence. With this, Collin shot off into the distance, leaving me to be dragged towards Wrotham Manor by what appeared to be a madwoman.

“Ma’am,” I began after a minute of walking, unsure of how to address the woman pulling me along. “Where exactly are you taking me?” I asked her in bewilderment, trying my best not to trip over my feet as we ascended the front steps of the Manor and approached the enormous front doors.

The woman shot me a menacing look. “That will be Ms. Croft to you.” She told me, letting my wrist free as she pried open the heavy and ornately decorated wooden doors, ushering me into the warmth of the house with a prompt shove. Stumbling into the den of Wrotham Manor, I began to spin in a circle, surveying my grandiose surroundings in awe. The floors were made from aged black and white tile while the walls were carved from a deep cherrywood while directly in front of me was the red carpeted grand staircase, lined by what looked to be dated water colour paintings. Above, I saw that secured to the high ceiling was a dimly-lit crystal chandelier, casting shadows upon the frightening gargoyles perched in the four highest corners of the room.

Ms. Croft took hold of my wrist once more; a candlelit torch clutched tightly in her other hand. “No time for dawdling!” She snapped, pulling me swiftly to the left and down a darkened brick hallway. “Once you are dressed, you will join the others and start preparing dinner.” Ms. Croft told me matter-of-factly, her face eerily illuminated by the torch.

“Prepare dinner?” I asked aloud in confusion, Ms. Croft pulling me down a cool flight of stairs. “There must be some mistake, I’m here as a guest of Master Louis!” I protested, attempting to wriggle out of Ms. Croft’s iron-clad grip.

Ms. Croft let out a hearty laugh. “Dear girl, they told me you were naïve, but now you’re sounding outright delusional!” She told me, steering me around the corner and into the warmth of a well lit hallway bustling with various young men and women dashing to and from their rooms, dressed in the attire of maids and butlers.

The white bedroom door to my left swung open, and out walked a handsome young man with ash blonde hair slicked away from his face and warm brown eyes, dressed in a crisp white shirt, black vest and fitted black pants.

“Ah, new blood.” The young man announced jovially, leaning against the door and allowing his eyes to sweep over my body, absentmindedly twiddling his bowtie. “You failed to tell me we were getting a new addition to the family, Croftie.” He teased the housekeeper.  

 Ms. Croft shot him an icy stare, her face turning beet red in anger. “Watch your tongue, McCrae.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “And get whatever sordid idea that is currently planting itself in your good for nothing head, out of it!” She hissed when she saw that his gaze had not left me.

The young man continued to grin widely at me, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I’m Charlie.” He told me, completely ignoring Ms. Croft and offering his hand to me.

Hesitantly, I placed my hand in his, thinking that if I was to survive whatever charade Louis had planned for us, I would certainly be needing friends. “Leila.” I told him warmly, and to my chagrin Charlie bent down, grazing his warm lips across the top of my hand.

“Leila.” Charlie repeated softly, a small smile appearing on his lips. “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” He said quoting William Shakespeare quietly, his eyes still on mine as he returned to his full height.

My face flushed in spite of myself, Ms. Croft shaking her head in disgust at our exchange.

“I would love to stay and chat but unfortunately duty calls.” Charlie told me with a sigh, starting to make his way past me, but stopping to whisper lowly in my ear. “Do be sure to let me know if I can ever be of service to you Miss Leila.” He paused, a devious smirk appearing on his pink lips. “For anything at all.” He emphasized, and with a departing wink, Charlie made his way down the hallway and was out of sight.

“Do not believe a word that boy tells you!” Ms. Croft announced gruffly, continuing to drag me towards our destination. “…The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all…” I heard her mutter angrily under her breath, more to herself than to me.

Ms. Croft led me further down the hall and to a bedroom door identical to the one Charlie had stepped out of just a moment before. “These are your quarters.” She informed me, pausing to glance at her pocket watch. “Get changed and then report to the kitchens straightaway!” And with that she was off, pausing briefly at the end of the hallway to scold one of the butlers with an untucked shirt before vanishing around the corner.

Looking helplessly around the hallway, two of the maids departing from the bedroom across from mine paused to stare at me before erupting into a bout of whispering. Giving them a rude scowl, unsure of what else to do other than follow Ms. Croft’s instructions, I reached for the brass door knob of my temporary bedroom door, only to jump back as Collin, the red-headed driver of the town car emerged from it, almost running straight into me.

“M-miss Leila!” He stammered in surprise, a furious blush appearing on his cheeks, his blue eyes wide with surprise. “I’ve just put your things in your room.” He explained, quickly tucking his hands into his pockets and averting his gaze.

“Thank-you, Collin!” I told him with a warm smile, peeking past him to see the two brown suitcases I had brought along with me neatly placed in the center of the room. “I hope it wasn’t too much trouble?”

 

“None at all Miss Leila!” He answered with a swift smile, cutting our conversation short and scurrying past me down the hallway, my jaw dropping at what was unmistakably my favourite pair of lacey red underwear dangling haphazardly from his pocket.

“Bloody pervert!” I exclaimed in disgust, making my way into my room and shutting the door closed behind me. Leaning against the door, I allowed my gaze to drift, taking in the tiny and bland room. The room was painted an off-white, its only furniture being a vacated wardrobe, tiny bedside table, and single bed on which a maid’s uniform was laid across, accompanied by a second aged envelope once again reading ‘Leila’.

Making my way over to the small bed, I trailed my fingers over the short black and white dress, paired with a black cross-tie, silk nylons, and a frilled white bonnet. Reaching over, I plucked up the envelope that had been placed in the very center of my pillow. Breaking open the red wax seal as I had done with the last one, I unearthed the heavy parchment from inside.

It read in the same red ink as before:

Leila Karim,

Welcome to Wrotham Manor. During your stay, you will be portraying the role of household maid to the Lunkenheimer estate. You will conduct the duties of a twentieth century maid such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and waiting on the wealthy in attendance of Louis Lunkenheimer’s twenty-first birthday celebration. As you do this, you are encouraged to communicate and familiarize yourself with those inhabiting Wrotham Manor while staying in character at all times. Why you ask? Because someone is going to be murdered, and it is up to you to find the killer.

Best of luck,

Louis.

*

 

Furiously plaiting my black hair into a braid, I made my way towards the kitchens; certain that Ms. Croft would have my head for being late. At last reaching the kitchens, I peered around the damp brick wall and glanced into the bustling early twentieth-century kitchen, my mouth salivating as the scent of freshly baked bread made its way up my nostrils. In the very center of the kitchen, two kitchen maids that appeared to be twins were furiously kneading dough on the scuffed up wooden counter, another strategically chopping up vegetables and dumping them into a large pot of stew simmering on the stove top. A tiny stout man, who I presumed to be the head cook, had a glazed pig with a red delicious apple stuffed into its mouth strategically balanced on a tray. The little man slowly made his way over to the blazing cast iron oven on the far side of the room, carefully sliding the pig into the flames and letting out a sigh of relief once he shut the oven door closed.

“You best get started on dessert Phillip, or you’ll end up burning it to a crisp like the last time!” Ms. Croft, who was standing off to the side in order to oversee the operation snapped rudely.

With a curt nod of his head, the cook made his way over to a fresh pile of apples and began to chop them up, furiously muttering what I presumed were less than kind words about the housekeeper under his breath.

Glancing towards the door, Ms. Croft’s grey eyes suddenly fell on me. “Ah, Miss Karim. Thank you for gracing us with your presence at last.” She said with a cruel smile, her hands folded neatly behind her back.

My face flushed as if on cue. “S-sorry ma’am,” I stammered, stepping out from my hiding place and adjusting the white lace bonnet I had been given over my hair. “It won’t happen again.” I assured her as I scurried into the kitchen, the other workers pausing to gaze at me curiously once I entered.

“Everyone, please give Leila a warm welcome.” Ms. Croft announced in mock enthusiasm, continuing to examine me with her penetrating eyes. “Help Lucy with the potatoes,” Ms. Croft me, motioning to the girl closest to me. “And once you’re done with that, start on the dishes.” She spat, nodding to the sink overflowing with dirty dishes.

Trying my best not to scowl, I made my way over to the three kitchen maids; a set of blonde curly-haired twins and a red-headed girl who I presumed to be Lucy. Lucy, who was dressed in the exact same uniform as I was looked to be about my age, her face covered in a splash of brown freckles. Picking up a spare knife, Lucy handed me an enormous potato with an amused smile. Grinning back at her, I took the potato and began to peel it as Ms. Croft had demanded.

“I’m off to see how the others are faring with the decorations.” Ms. Croft said after watching us vigilantly for a few minutes, slowly making her way towards the door. “Knowing McRae, he’s already fucked it up.” She said with an irritated sigh, giving us all a petrifying look that dared us to misbehave while she was gone, sweeping out of the kitchen at last.

“Oh thank God!” Lucy gushed, dropping her knife onto the countertop. “I thought the old wench was never going to leave!” She exclaimed, leading me to believe that I wasn’t the only one who seemed to have a bad impression of Ms. Croft.

One of the blonde twins halted her furious kneading. “Croft must think we’re daft if she thinks we don’t know she’s shagging McCrae!” She squeaked, her strawberry blonde curls bouncing. “It’s a despicable thing for someone of her age to do!”

Her twin sister let out an irritated scoff, also halting her kneading. “Oh please, Virginia.” She rolled her eyes heavily. “You’re just jealous McCrae’s not shagging you!”

A wide grin appeared on Virginia’s face. “Which means you have no chance either, Victoria since you look exactly like I do!” Virginia guffawed.

At this, Victoria reached her arm into the open bag of flour perched on the counter, thrusting a handful of it in Virginia’s face. Grabbing my hand, Lucy pulled me out of the line of fire as the twins began to shriek and pull at one another’s hair, the both of us busting out into a fit of giggles as Phillip wriggled between the twins in an attempt to pry them apart.

“I take it these two are always like this?” I whispered to Lucy, a scandalous grin appearing on my lips. As Louis had advised, I would be doing my very best to find out as much as I could about the inhabitants of Wrotham Manor, and it seemed that befriending Lucy was my best bet.

“More or less!” Lucy laughed, brushing a stray red hair from her eyes. “They’re always bickering over one of the butlers that work here, Charlie McCrae.” She informed me with a whisper.

“Oh yes,” I replied, shaking my head. “I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him earlier.” I added sarcastically, Lucy letting out a hearty laugh at this. “And how about Ms. Croft?” I added quickly, finding myself rather curious about the woman. “What crawled up her arse and died?”

Lucy’s brown eyes widened her little pink mouth opening and closing hesitantly. “I really shouldn’t be telling you this,” she sighed after a moment, shifting her gaze over to Victoria and Virginia who were now being scolded by Phillip. “About a week ago,” Lucy began with a whisper. “I was heading to the study to bring Master Louis his evening brandy when I heard shouting coming from inside. About a minute later Ms. Croft came out in tears!” Lucy paused her furious whispering, a worried look appearing on her face. “And when I asked her what was the matter, her face turned as white as a ghost’s and she ran off.” Lucy told me.

“I wonder what they were yelling about?” I asked her, my eyebrows knitted together in confusion. What had transpired between Louis and Ms. Croft in his study was something that was most definitely in need of further investigation

“Back to work you two!” Phillip snapped, startling Lucy and I from our gossiping. “Those potatoes aren’t going to peel themselves!” He informed us ostentatiously, corking an eyebrow upwards and shifting a disappointed gaze to the disheveled, flour-covered twins who he had stationed on opposite sides of the kitchen.

Returning to my task with a sigh, I continued to peel and chop the potatoes, wondering what surprises dinner would likely hold.

*

 

Due to the cold weather, Louis had requested for the first course to consist of a rich beef stew, and so once we had finished preparing it, Lucy and I clambered up the stairs and made our way towards the dining room, trying our very best not to topple it over onto ourselves. Making our way down the same hallway Ms. Croft had dragged me through a few hours before, we made our way past the grand staircase and quietly entered Louis’ illustrious dining room.

It was as if we had literally stumbled into the 1930s, the sheer white room consisting of a long dining table at which Louis, Eleanor, Liam, Charlotte, Danielle, Harry and Fiona were seated and jovially chatting away, the lot of them dressed according to the era. Louis, clad in a sharp black tuxedo was seated at the head of the table and already indulging in a pre-dinner brandy. Beside Louis was Eleanor, draped in a black sequined floor length down, her lips painted a vampy red and her hair cascading down her back in loose tendrils. Shooting me a quick grin, Eleanor once again immersed herself into character, primly adjusting her silk shawl across her shoulders.

Seated next to Eleanor was Danielle, oblivious to my entrance while she ogled Liam from across the table who was seated beside Charlotte. Danielle wore a bright red floor length gown, her lips painted a matching red and her curly hair slicked back into a French twist. Next to Danielle sat Harry, whose bright green eyes found mine almost instantly, a sweet smile appearing on his lips. Harry’s usual mop of curly hair was slicked back and parted on the side; leaving me stunned at how easily Harry could portray an A-lister celebrity one day, and a Victorian gentleman the next. Returning his smile with an upwards twitch of my lips, my eyes drifted to Harry’s left where Fiona Applebee, otherwise known as the bane of my existence sat in all her entitled glory, a smug look etched onto her the sharp features of her face.

Avoiding Fiona’s burning gaze, I allowed my gaze to sweep the room again to for confirmation; that Zayn indeed was not there. Fleetingly wondering where Louis could have possibly stationed Zayn in Wrotham Manor, Lucy and I made our way over to the far side of the room where Charlie stood, clutching a chilled bottle of wine, smirking as he watched us approach.

“That looks heavy.” Charlie assessed playfully, his gaze holding mine. Stupid good looking prat! I blushed in spite of myself, annoyed at how easy it was for McCrae to get under my skin.

“It happens to be very heavy!” I snapped. “So get on with it!” I nodded to the bottle of fine wine in his hands.

“Alright, alright, don’t get your knickers in a twist!” Charlie let out an irritated sigh. “Watch and learn.” He said with a wink, sauntering over to the head of the dining table where Louis was seated.

Uncorking the bottle of what was assuredly a very expensive aged wine, Charlie bent over, speaking quietly so as not to disrupt the others.  “Wine sir?” Charlie offered in the most polite manner he could muster, offering Louis a winning smile.

Louis’ turquoise gaze shifted to Charlie, an annoyed smirk appearing on his face. “Since when have I ever said no to a glass of wine, McCrae?” He snapped sarcastically, motioning to the crystal glass on his left. “Pour it!”

Charlie’s smile wavered. “Very good, sir.” He recovered after a moment, tilting the bottle and pouring the thick red wine into Louis’ glass.

“You’ll find that Master Louis can be a bastard on occasion,” Lucy whispered in my ear, causing me to choke back a giggle. “His younger brother Liam however, is much more pleasant.” She added as an afterthought, motioning to Liam who sat stoically on Louis’ right.

His brother? I pondered for a moment, the use of the last name Lunkenheimer suddenly clicking in my mind. It appeared that in this game, Louis and Liam would be portraying brothers, a fact that I was sure was of some importance and so I took mental note of it.

Once the deep red liquid had reached just below the rim of Louis’ crystal wine glass, Charlie began to make his way over to Eleanor. Seeing this, Louis with what looked like a deliberate swing of his arm knocked over his just poured glass, its contents splattering onto the hardwood floor and the crystal glass shattering.

The conversation halted at once, everyone turning to gape at Louis and Charlie in shock. Mortified, the pallor of Charlie’s face grew pale, Louis staring up at him in a mix of fury and disgust.

“You blundering fool!” Louis boomed, to my shock completely blaming the incident on Charlie.

Charlie’s eyes widened. “M-my apologies sir!” He sputtered, looking as if he was going to be sick. “I didn’t mean-”

“Did you hear me asking for an explanation?!” Louis exclaimed incredulously, tossing his napkin down onto his plate. “Clean it up you daft bastard!” He yelled, Charlie’s eyes widening in fear.

Charlie began to nod vigorously, his face flushing. “Right away, Master Louis!” He said, getting on all fours and beginning to clean up the spill.

In an attempt to diminish Charlie’s humiliation even by a little bit, I stepped out and made my way over to the dining table, Lucy’s eyes widening a fraction before she followed me. Approaching Louis first, I began to spoon beef stew into his empty bowl, my stomach growling at its scent. About to move on to Liam, the unmistakable sight of a letter sticking out of Louis’ suit jacket caught my eye and without thinking, I carefully slid it from his jacket, praying that no one had noticed. Quickly slipping in into the large pocket of my apron, Lucy and I then shuffled over to Liam, my arms screaming under the weight of the cast iron pot.

“Now where were we,” Louis began, his blue-green eyes twinkling. “Oh yes, Miss Peazer, I hear that you are a prima-ballerina?” Louis said, lustfully eyeing Danielle.

“I am.” Danielle replied, a seductive smile appearing on her painted red lips. “In fact, I’ve just finished touring with the Imperial Russian Ballet.” She informed him with a simpering smile.

“How impressive.”  Louis assessed with a smirk, his gaze remaining on Danielle. “I’d love to see you dance sometime.”

Sitting beside Louis, Eleanor let out a loud scoff. “You couldn’t be more discreet, could you?” She spat at Louis.

“Mr. Lunkenheimer,” Charlotte interjected, twirling a deep red tendril around her finger. “As rumor has it, the Lunkenheimer fortune has been dwindling since your father passed away, is that true?” Charlotte inquired, corking an eyebrow upwards.

“Balderdash!” Louis exclaimed, letting out a laugh. “Lunkenheimer oil has never been more profitable than it is today, tell her Liam!” Louis added, turning to clap Liam on the back. Pursing his lips, Liam remained silent, taking a bite of his dinner roll instead.

In fact,” Louis slurred, his drunkenness becoming apparent. “We’re even looking to invest in Mr. Styles’ upcoming Hollywood blockbuster, aren’t we Styles?” Louis yelled jovially to Harry across the table.

At this point, Lucy and I had finally made our way round to Harry. Averting my eyes from his, I bent over and carefully began to scoop stew into his bowl.

“That’s right Mr. Lunkenheimer.” Harry replied cheekily, flashing Louis a confident grin.

“Has the studio selected your leady lady yet?” Danielle inquired from across the table.

A notable smirk appeared on Harry’s pink lips. “Oh, I think I have someone in mind.” He teased, catching me by surprise when he pinched my behind, the spoonful of stew meant for Harry’s bowl landing squarely onto Fiona’s lap.

Screeching, Fiona leapt to her feet, the thick beef stew beginning to slide down her mint green dress, the entire room erupting into laughter, Harry laughing the loudest.

“YOU INCOMPETANT SWINE!” Fiona screamed, her blue eyes blazing.

I slapped my hand over my mouth in shock, trying my hardest not to join the rest of the room in laughter. Letting out a furious growl, Fiona snatched up her napkin and began to rub at the stain on her silk dress.

“It’s too bad Fiona; the stew really is to die for!” Louis guffawed from the other side of the table, knocking back the rest of his wine.

Fiona’s eyes found mine again. “I hate you!” She spat at me through clenched teeth with such vigor that I could not help but believe her.

“I’m so sorry ma’am…” I told her sincerely, feeling rather bad about the whole thing when suddenly a thick trickle of blood made its way down from Fiona’s nostrils. I dropped my jaw in shock, staring at Fiona in horror.

“What are you gaping?” Fiona snapped, her eyes too widening in realization when she felt the blood make its way down to her chin. Reaching up, Fiona touched her fingers to the blood. Drawing back her hand, her blue eyes widened in terror.

Fiona?!” Harry exclaimed from behind me, jumping to his feet in a panic when he saw that she was bleeding. The room suddenly fell silent.

Fiona’s eyes shot wildly throughout the dining room, her lower lip trembling. Throwing the soiled napkin down onto the floor suddenly, Fiona broke into a run, Harry’s worried gaze following her as she fled from the room in a blur of blonde and green.

In a complete state of shock, I failed to notice as Lucy steered me towards the back of the dining room, its inhabitants launching into frantic chatter. Lifting up one of the tapestries adorning the wall, Lucy shoved me forwards and into a dark hallway, the light from the dining room disappearing as she slipped in as well.

“The servant’s exit.” Lucy’s voice sounded in the darkness. Hurriedly grabbing my hand, Lucy began to lead me down the hallway, my eyes adjusting to the darkness as we walked on.

“I’m going to be sacked!” I announced to Lucy in a panic, so immersed in my role that I almost forgot it was all one of Louis’ games. “Fiona will make sure of it!” I whispered to Lucy in desperation.

Lucy tutted, her hand grasping mine more tightly. “Don’t be silly,” Lucy told me, attempting to comfort me. “Everyone’s first day goes badly.” She paused. “Although not quite as badly as yours has.” She concluded grimly, dragging me onwards.

Following Lucy down the damp brick hallway in a stupor, I furiously muddled over the events of the past few minutes; Louis going out of his way to humiliate Charlie, me humiliating Fiona by accident and surprisingly feeling quite terrible about it, remembering finally that stowed away in the pocket of my apron was the letter I had pinched from Louis, and the secrets that it held just waiting to be revealed.

Fiona’s P.O.V:

The sound of my heels echoed across the empty corridor as I ran, blood continuing to trail down from my nostrils and onto the floor. Taking a sharp right, I had finally reached the door of my bedroom. Thrusting the door open violently, I slammed it shut behind me and fell against it, attempting to catch my breath. Furiously pawing at my neck, I yanked the gold chain I had just recently picked up from the flea market, an intricate gold plated cross dangling from it. Smirking deviously, I began to twist the top off, revealing an inner hollow chamber filled to the brim with the purest cocaine that money could buy.

Spilling out a fine line across the top of my hand, I inhaled the powder deeply, instant relief coursing through my veins. A cross had been perfectly inconspicuous to use as a stash necklace, and the fact that I was not entirely religious made it all the more hysterical.

Screwing the top of the cross back on, I made my way over to the lamp, switching it on to illuminate my surroundings. Louis had selected me to portray one of the wealthy attendees of his birthday celebration, and so I had been assigned a room consisting of all the stops, a four poster bed draped in blue silk sheets, Victorian styled vanity, as well as a personal lavatory. The whole thing was absurd anyhow, I thought, letting out a scoff.  The only reason for me attending at all had been Harry; Harry who had been staring at Leila the moment she had walked through the dining room door in her atrocious maid getup. What exactly did that self-righteous tramp have that I didn’t? How was it that she of all people had two of the world’s most eligible men wrapped around her little finger?

I could feel my cheeks redden, wondering when Harry paying attention to Leila had ever bothered me before. After all, the only reason I had given Harry Styles the time of day in the first place was because I was in it for Zayn, and I was still in it for Zayn wasn’t I? All of my scheming, all of my planning had been in order to win Zayn’s heart, hadn’t it? But after some time, it became less about Zayn and more about spending time with Harry and actually…enjoying it. Harry could keep up with me, even challenge me at times, but what was most captivating about the boy with bright green eyes was that I could trust him, something that I couldn’t do easily.

Taking a deep breath, I made my way over to the loo in order to clean the blood off my face, hoping that everyone assumed my nosebleed was due to anger and had nothing to do with my penchant for designer drugs. The nosebleeds had come on once I started snorting more often throughout the day. It had all been worth it since I finally reached my goal as Evie promised, Jane formally welcoming me to IMG Models at last. Retrieving a cloth from near the sink, I began to wipe away the dried blood from my face, imagining myself painted across billboards in Times Square, sprawled across Vogue, and eventually walking for the world’s most prestigious designers.

Standing in front of my full length mirror a few minutes later, I slipped into the silk white gown I had been saving for the following night; my flurry of thoughts suddenly interrupted by a bout of soft knocking at the door.

Who is it?!” I snapped viciously, not wanting to be bothered by Louis or any of his dreadful friends.

“It’s Harry.” Harry’s familiar voice emerged from beyond the door, sounding rather concerned.

Shutting my eyes closed for a moment, I took a deep breath, attempting to compose myself. “Come in.” I murmured quietly, reaching for my lipstick to reapply it.

With this, my bedroom door creaked open and in sauntered Harry Styles, rendering me speechless for the second time tonight with his ridiculous perfection. The black tuxedo he wore fit like a glove, hugging his broad shoulders and suggesting at a lean and toned physique, one that I knew to exist. Harry observed me in silence for a moment, his green eyes lackluster with worry.  

“Are you alright?” Harry began, approaching me after a moment. He looked like such a gentleman in his tuxedo that it made me sick, or perhaps to my horror, the odd fluttering feeling my stomach was in fact…butterflies. Even Zayn Malik, the supposed object of my affection hadn’t managed to leave me in such a state. And here was Harry Styles, leaving me in a completely catatonic state with only a few words.

I rolled my eyes, at once banishing my deranged thoughts. “I’m fine, Harry.” I reassured him, trying my best to avert my eyes from his green ones.

“If you’re fine, then please do me a favour and explain what exactly happened just now!” Harry exclaimed, his green eyes furiously searching mine, a stray brown curl falling from his slicked back hair and across his forehead.

I forcefully tore my eyes from his, continuing to fix my lipstick. “Your daft girlfriend spilled stew all over my vintage Valentino, that’s what happened, Styles.” I told him, my voice drenched in sarcasm.

“Fiona.” Harry warned, narrowing his eyes at me. “Be serious.” He told me, his tone sincere.

I hesitated before speaking, debating telling Harry about my cocaine use but almost instantly deciding against it. He would be disgusted with me! More than he already is, I thought to myself.

“I gave myself a nosebleed Harry, that’s all.” I told him after a moment, unpinning my blonde hair in order to restyle it.

Harry stared at me for a moment, finally letting out a sigh and muttering a quiet “Just wanted to be sure…” before sauntering over to my bed and collapsing on it, not thinking twice about wrinkling his 2000£ Hugo Boss tuxedo. I tried not to acknowledge Harry’s presence on my bed and continued to diligently work on my hair, rolling my blonde bangs away from my forehead and into a victory roll, securing it in place.

So,” Harry smirked, returning to his usually cheeky self. “Who do you reckon is going to get murdered?” He inquired, emphatically folding his arms behind his head.

“I’m not entirely sure,” I told him, with a cruel smile. “But at this very moment, I’m hoping it’s you.” I said with a smirk, thinking that perfect little Leila Karim was the only person who I wished to be murdered tonight, and in a painful manner at that.

Ignoring me, Harry began to count on his fingers, muttering to himself. “We’ve seen Louis, Charlotte, Danielle, Liam, Eleanor, and now Leila…” He said trailing off. “Now all that’s left are Niall and Zayn.” Harry concluded, uttering Zayn’s name in a less than favorable manner.

“Right, Zayn…” I trailed off, reaching behind my back in an attempt to zip up my dress, thinking that Harry would be completely mortified if he truly knew what was going through my head, that it was him in my every waking thought and not at all Zayn. “Could you possibly lend a hand?” I asked Harry, clenching my teeth as I continued to struggle with the wretched zipper of my dress.

In a flash, Harry had appeared directly behind me, towering over me even at my statuesque height. Taking a step forward, Harry was standing so close that I could feel the heat radiating from his body, his green orbs met with mine in the mirror. Like a fool, I held his gaze, blinking at him stupidly. My breath hitched unexpectedly as Harry’s warm fingers met with the bare skin of my back, taking hold of the zip and pulling it upwards at a tantalizingly slow speed, his gaze still holding mine. My heart began to thud erratically, my skin buzzing with electricity as my eyes fell to his pink lips. And still he did not look away.

“Fiona…” Harry trailed off, his green eyes still boring into mine, his warm breath grazing my neck.

I took in a shallow breath, urging my voice not to tremble. “Yes?” I asked in a small voice, sounding so unlike myself, so vulnerable that it disgusted me.

Suddenly taking me by the shoulders, Harry spun me around to face him, his mischievous green eyes surveying me with interest, our faces just inches apart. I began to breathe quickly, my skin prickling like live-wires where his palms rested on my bare shoulders. Just what was Styles playing at? And more importantly, why couldn’t I bring myself to stop him?

A sheepish grin appeared on Harry’s pink lips. “I never thanked you properly,” He began, his eyes searching mine. “For helping me with Leila.” He explained, running a hand over his slicked back hair.

My stomach plummeted through the floor in spite of myself, yet somehow I managed a smile, praying that it didn’t look as twisted as it felt. “You don’t have to thank me, Harry.” I informed him coldly, averting my eyes in fear that they would betray how I truly felt –confused, desperate, shattered. “Now if you’ll excuse me.” I told announced, brushing past him.

Without a backwards glance, I made my way towards the door, feeling Harry’s gaze on me still. Stepping out into the hallway, I let out the frantic breath I had been holding in; breezing down the hallway as quickly as I could in hopes that Harry would not follow me. In desperate need of a fag, I decided that some fresh air would do me good, and so I headed towards the balcony with hopes that the bitter December cold would return the sanity that it had clearly scattered to the winds.

Leila’s P.O.V:

After repeatedly assuring Ms. Croft that Lucy and I had met all the needs of Louis and his guests, she informed us that the staff would at last be allowed to sit down for their own supper in the cramped dining room adjacent to the kitchens. Having worked up quite the appetite, my stomach growled happily at the news, Lucy gathering up the silverware and placing it into the fold of my apron so that we could set the table. Hobbling over to the dining room with my apron secured in my hands, I allowed my eyes to sweep over the place in which we would be supping.

The dining room was cold and damp, its barren grey walls illuminated by a dimly lit brass chandelier. In brief astonishment, I realized that my sleeping quarters looked rather luxurious in comparison. Splaying the cutlery out onto the table top, Lucy and I scrambled to lay the table as members of the staff slowly began to trickle into the room, Victoria barreling in first followed by her sister Virginia, the pair of them once again in the midst of an argument.

“You better hope Master Louis doesn’t notice you’ve torn a hole in his favourite hunting trousers!” Victoria spat at her sister, her arms flailing about.

Me?” Virginia yelped incredulously, crossing her arms across her chest. “You were the one who tore them!” She countered.

Rolling my eyes, I continued to neatly lay down the cutlery, my mind drifting to the scene that had just occurred in the dining room between Louis and Charlie, Louis knocking over his glass of wine purposely and then blaming it on Charlie. Why had Louis gone out of his way to humiliate McCrae? McCrae was insufferable and obnoxious even, but for Louis to purposely target him? There had to be more to it, and I had a feeling that the letter I had stolen from Louis to tell me just what had happened and why.

As if on cue, Charlie breezed silently into the dining room, his brown eyes cast downwards and his hands tucked into the pockets of his black trousers, a notable grimace on his lips. Victoria and Virginia at once fell silent; the both of them casting each other with a telling look, making it quite obvious that they had already heard about the incident between Louis and Charlie at dinner. It appeared that gossip was something which traveled quickly at Wrotham Manor, I noted.

“I doubt we have anything to worry about Virginia,” Victoria began with a teasing smile. “Master Louis is far more cross with McCrae anyway.” She concluded, the pair of them erupting into a fit of cruel giggling.

I let the knife and fork I had been holding fall to the table with a clatter. “Could you two do us all a bloody favour and shut up?!” I found myself yelling at them, refusing Charlie to be taunted any further in my presence.

Lucy halted her work at once while Charlie’s blonde head shot upwards, his ochre eyes observing me in shock.

Victoria narrowed her eyes at me, her face turning a brilliant red. “Fine!She exclaimed indignantly, turning on her heels. “Come Virginia it’s clear we’re not wanted here.” She added over her shoulder.

Giving us an apologetic smile, Virginia followed her sister out of the room, her blond curls disappearing around the corner.

Shocked at myself, I hesitantly glanced over to Charlie who was surveying me with great interest, his blonde mop of hair illuminated in the dim light. “You really didn’t have to do that.” Charlie told me after a moment, his tone not playful or flirtatious for once.

I blinked at him dumbly, unsure exactly of how to respond until Lucy gave me a hard elbow to the ribs. “It’s fine, really!” I announced, hiding my discomfort with a laugh. “No one likes a bully after all.” I continued, looking askance to Lucy for support.

Lucy nodded her frizzy head furiously. “Virginia was completely out of line!” Lucy squeaked,

Charlie continued to stare at me as if I had gone mad, his resilient smirk returning once more. “If I didn’t know any better Lucy, I’d say Miss Leila was beginning to fancy me.” Charlie raised his eyebrows playfully at Lucy, his gaze shifting back towards me, a wide grin on his face. “What with coming to my rescue and all.” He continued, making his way over to the dining table. Dragging a chair away from the table, Charlie collapsed onto it lazily. Kicking his feet up onto the table, Charlie placed his arms behind his head, the light reflecting off his freshly shined shoes.

Averting my eyes from his, I directed my gaze back onto the dining table, continuing with my work “Don’t flatter yourself McCrae.” I muttered through clenched teeth, thinking that this might be my only chance to prod McCrae further about what had occurred during dinner. “It’s just,” I began, glancing back up to Charlie. “Master Louis knocked the wine over himself, didn’t he?” I announced, corking an eyebrow upwards at Charlie.

A look of surprise appeared on Charlie’s face which he quickly replaced with his usual arrogant countenance. “You saw that, hm?” He told me, assessing me with his eyes once more, planting his feet back onto the ground. “I thought I was imagining it but Master Louis, has been a right prick to me for the past few days,” Charlie began emphatically. “Not that I care.” He added.

“But why?” I found myself asking. Louis had every opportunity to pick on the other members of his staff, but only chose McCrae. What aside from the obvious, was so especially irritating about him?

“Beats me.” Charlie shrugged, his eyes twinkling after a moment. “I figure it might have something to do with me making eyes at his wife.” He let out a barking laugh, enjoying his own joke far too much.

I turned to Lucy who was shaking her head at me, fighting off a grin.

Charlie looked at me and then Lucy. “You two bore me.” Charlie announced, jumping to his feet and stretching his arms above his head. “I’m off to see where Croftie’s at with dinner.” He said, making his way towards the door. “The old wench can’t cook a decent meal to save her life!” And with that Charlie departed from the room, leaving us to our thoughts. Lucy and I continued to work in silence as the rest of the staff piled into the dining room, and still I could not shake the feeling that there was much, much more to Charlie McCrae than I had originally thought, and that none of it could be good.

 

*

 

“And she said, ‘Do you reckon I’ll just lean back and think of England then?’,” Mr. Finnegan, Wrotham Manor’s fat gardener began, pausing to take a thirsty sip of his beer. “So I told her, ‘No, I reckon you’ll think of Ireland’!” He announced in a slurred Irish accent, busting into a fit of booming laughter and knocking back the rest of his beer. The rest of the room joined him in laughter, Filip guffawing drunkenly from the far end of the dining table.

I could not help but grin at the sight before me, admiring that the staff of Wrotham Manor managed to have so much fun regardless of the constant abuse and mistreatment they received by Louis and his guests.

“Leila,” A light grip appeared on my shoulder. Looking up, my eyes met with Ms. Croft’s slate gaze. “Our chauffer has returned from running his errands.” She informed me crisply. “Go out back and take him a plate of supper.”

Confused, I looked across the table at Collin who was chewing awkwardly on his leg of lamb. “But Collin is right there ma’am?” I informed her, thinking that it would not be unusual to overlook him.

Ms. Croft let out an annoyed sigh. “We have a second chauffer, Miss Karim.” She said, offering me a glowering look. “And for future reference, it would do you well not to question your orders.” She told me, corking an eyebrow upwards.

“Sorry ma’am.” I told her, my face momentarily flushing with embarrassment. “I didn’t know.”

With a roll of her eyes, Ms. Croft turned on her heel, returning to her seat on the other side of the room.

Hopping to my feet, I assured Lucy who was in the midst of flirting with one of the stable boys that I would be back soon. Reaching for an empty plate, I heaped generous proportions of lamb, roasted potatoes, and two buttered buns onto it, thinking that the chauffer would be quite hungry by now. And with this I made my way from the staff dining room, noticing Charlie’s eyes on me as I departed from it.

Once I was far enough away from the dining room, I gently set the chauffer’s plate of dinner onto the cool cement floor, at last having a chance to read Louis’ letter. Plucking it from the front pocket of my apron, I examined the crisp white envelope addressed to Louis William Lunkenheimer, the sender stated as Barclay, Bevan, and Bening Bank and Holdings, located on Lombard Street in Central London.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” An unmistakable voice drawled from behind me. Quickly hiding Louis’ letter behind my back, I whirled around to face none other than Charlie McCrae. Proceeding to lean against the brick wall, Charlie examined me, a simpering smile on his lips. Charlie McCrae was beginning to put a wrench in almost every aspect of my investigation, and that simply would not do.

I gave him an annoyed smile. “Do you always resort to stalking girls that don’t return your interest, McCrae?”

Kicking off the brick wall, Charlie began to approach me, his smirk morphing into a grin. Darting my eyes around the deserted hallway, I realized just how alone we were. Charlie was inches away from me then, towering over me with his great height, his blonde hair no longer slicked back but falling carelessly across his forehead.

“Only if they’re pretty enough.” He retorted, smiling still. “You know I was joking earlier right? About making eyes at Eleanor?” He told me, reaching out to tuck a strand of black hair that had come loose from my bonnet behind my ear. “Right now I only have eyes for you.” He continued huskily, ever so slightly licking his lips.

My eyes widened at this, my heart launching into a violent bout of thumping. Where in the bloody hell was Zayn when I needed him? “Well that’s extremely flattering McCrae but-” I began with a nervous laugh, stepping backwards in an attempt to distance myself from him.

“You want it, I want it.” Charlie cooed seductively, edging so close to me that I could smell the scent of his spicy aftershave. “Why fight it?” His voice thick with lust as he planted his arm above my head.

“Have you gone completely mad?!” I hissed, taking another step backwards, realizing that I would have no choice but to punch him square in the jaw.

Stop it!” A frantic voice interjected from behind us. Looking past Charlie, I could see a red faced Collin watching our exchange with a scowl, his red hair sticking out in all directions.

At this Charlie jumped away from me, backing up against the wall and his face turning beet red with embarrassment. “Piss off you little freak!” Charlie spat at Collin, pushing his blonde hair out of his eyes in frustration. “Can’t you see we’re busy?!” 

“Collin!” I exclaimed in relief, a huge grin appearing on my face at the sight of my red-headed savior.

“You’re making Miss Leila uncomfortable!” Collin went on, surprisingly not cowering in the presence of the much larger McCrae.

Charlie let out a scornful laugh. “Says the panty sniffer!” He shot back, proceeding to tower over Collin whose eyes shot wide open at Charlie’s accusation.

Using the opportunity of Collin’s timely distraction, I plucked up the chauffer’s dinner up off the floor and quietly crept away, Charlie and Collin continuing to bicker as I did so. Taking a sharp right at the end of the hallway, I could hear Charlie exclaim in defeat “Well done you stupid carrot; she’s escaped!” Snorting with laughter, I quickened my pace, hoping that the chauffer’s dinner had not gone too cold.

 

*

My body shivered violently as I descended into the sprawling back courtyard of Wrotham Manor. In the very center of the cobblestoned roundabout was a massive fountain spurting water high up into the air, while to the left of it was parked a glossy black town car identical to the one I had arrived at Wrotham Manor in. Hesitantly, I approached the car, attempting to peer past the tinted glass in order to see if anyone was inside.

“Hello, sir?” I called out apprehensively, knocking on the glass with my free hand. “I’ve brought your dinner for you!” I said, when suddenly a low-whistle sounded from behind me.

Spinning on my heels, I saw that standing no further than a meter away from me was Zayn Malik, looking as perfect as I had left him in London, but this time clad in a fitted black suit, crisp white shirt and tie, his ensemble completed with a signature black-rimmed chauffeur hat.

 

Zayn!” I gasped in surprise, almost dropping his dinner altogether.

Zayn’s warm brown eyes took me in appreciatively. “I’m going to have to thank Louis later for having you run around in that.” Zayn grinned his beautiful crooked grin, illustriously motioning to my maid costume.

My face flushed as if on cue. “Oh!” I exclaimed, letting out a nervous giggle and looking down to observe my outfit. “It’s nothing really.” I told him with a nervous wave of my hand, in awe as always of Zayn’s ability to render me completely mad.

“Is that for me?” Zayn asked in amusement, nodding his head towards the plate of food that I had completely forgotten I was carrying.

I swallowed hard, glancing down at Zayn’s dinner in disappointment and nodding. “It’s a bit cold though.” I told him with an apologetic smile, holding it out to him.

“I ate already actually,” Zayn told me with a mischievous smirk, leaning heavily onto the frame of the town car, his brown eyes twinkling. “Louis had me driving around for ages delivering packages to nearby villages, so I thought I deserved a reward.” And with that, Zayn opened the door of his town car, revealing crumpled up McDonald’s cheeseburger wrappers and an empty carton of French fries discarded in the passenger seat.

“You are absolutely devious!” I hissed at Zayn, a playful smile playing on my lips. “Louis would be devastated if he knew!”

Observing me again for a moment, Zayn then plucked the chauffeur hat from his head, revealing his thick mop of black hair, somehow still managing to flick upwards into a quiff. “Since I’m in a bit of a rebellious mood,” Zayn began, returning to his full height, a storm brewing in his brown eyes. “What would you say to going on a little adventure?” He offered with a smirk, raising his dark eyebrows upwards as he stepped closer to me.

I smiled in reply, not looking twice as I tossed Zayn’s cold dinner into the fountain behind me, its contents landing in the water with a splash as I closed the distance between us. “I would say, yes.” I told him with a whisper, allowing myself at last to meet my lips with his.

A/N: So that concluded Part I of Happy Birthday Louis! This chapter takes place over the span of two days, so the next night is when the murder will take place. This definitely wasn't the most traditional chapter, but nonetheless I hope you all enjoyed it!

For those of you curious as to who I sort of imagined Charlie to look like, I based him on Alex Pettyfer in Beastly while Collin has been modelled after *drum roll* Ed Sheeran, the ginger king himself!

Once again, thank you all for reading and be sure to check out the acompanying blog featuring outfits, music, fanart, sneak previews and more! (without spaces) im in love with a stripper fan fiction . t.u.m.b.l.r.c.o.m (without periods)

xoxo

- Jamdirection

 

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