Erin Monello is only seventeen when her parents expect her to settle down and get married, but that's not unusual in her society, where everyone must be married by the time they've reached twenty-one. But settling down is the last thing on Erin's mind, especially not when she's just beginning her life. Even so, her parents find a suitable husband for her, one who they believe will be able to provide for her in the years to come, named Zayn Malik. He shares her opinion on marriage at a young age, so they decide to be friends instead of lovers, even thought they're labeled as husband and wife. But how long will this act last before they realize just how much they care for each other?


2. Chapter Two

"Truth or dare, Erin!" called Perrie from across the room, cuddled up in the crook between Seth's arm and his torso. It hadn't taken her too long to establish herself with him, which was probably good, considering Seth would be flocked with girls if Perrie wasn't there to ward them off.

"Dare!" After watching several intense rounds of dares, with no truths to break them up, I wasn't about to be the first. I had no desire whatsoever to be that girl who chickened out and made up a fake truth instead of choosing dare.

Perrie smirked evilly, and it suddenly dawned on me how long she had been sitting on this idea, brooding over it. Whatever it was, it would be interesting. "Have at me, girl!" I laughed, the drunken words sliding off the tip of my tongue.

"Erin Monello," she drawled, dragging out the 'o' dramatically, "I dare you to switch one article of clothing with this strapping young man," she spoke her dainty hands gesturing towards Louis, who in turn puffed out his chest in pride.

"Shoes don't count!" added Meredith over the pounding of the bass. I shot her an accusing glare, which she returned with an innocent smirk.

The outfit of the night had consisted of a short black top that showed off my flat midriff (one of the few qualities of my body I had come to love), a short red circle skirt that flew up to my hips when I spun, various bits of jewelry, and, of course, a pair of black four-inch heels.

If Meredith had said no shoes, I was assuming she meant that the necklace was off limits as well, which was fine by me. What was the point of truth or dare if no one showed a bit of skin?

I reached down as my fingers reached the hem of my black lace top and slipped it over my head, earning several catcalls from the boys in the circle, as well as a few from the kitchen. Looking down, I realized what a terrible--or wonderful--bra choice I had made. My breasts were threatening to spill out of the lacy push-up I was wearing, and now I was practically showing them off to the world.

Louis gaped at me-- or rather, at my chest, and I felt a slow heat flush my cheeks. Sure, I wasn't necessarily a stranger to what happened when couples (or complete strangers) enter a bedroom alone and close the door, but I was still shy about my body.

"Well?" I asked Louis, mocking impatience. "What do you to trade for this?" I gestured to the thin lace top that dangled from my fingers like lingerie after sex.

He raised his eyebrows, impressed, and silently pulled his shirt over his head. Perrie made a sound a bit like a strangled animal across the circle-- which I guessed to come from his lack of excitement after my exciting display.

I took the blue cotton from his hands and slipped it over my neck, the smell of his cologne like a warm hug around my shoulders. "Oh, come on, Erin!" Laughed Niall, a cute blonde with eyes sparkling with lust. "Don't pull the curtains over such a wonderful view!"

I giggled at the unasked for (but not unwelcome) attention to my chest. "Just for that, Erin, I think he deserves a second glance," remarked Seth.

"How do we know you don't want another look yourself?" Teased Meredith at the same time I snapped, "oh, you be quiet!"

"Oh, Meredith, it's nothing I haven't seen before," he said sweetly, ignoring my comment. At his words I dipped my head to hide my flaming face.

A few other people started "ooh"-ing like second graders do when some gets called to the office. Meredith, however, paled and shut her mouth quickly, but only after shooting me a glare that meant "I'll torture you for details tomorrow."

Once my small top was looped around Louis' neck like an infinity scarf, we continued with our game, the dares becoming weirder and more extreme with each coming round. The truths were brutal--punishment for choosing such an uninteresting side. With each passing minute I felt my brain becoming more and more hazy as the alcohol made its way through my blood. Within an hour, after Seth and Perrie had already gotten to second base, Meredith had drank her weight in hard liquor, and Harry had to stand on the table and sing "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from the little mermaid (Ursula's voice included), I was getting bored. I wanted something to do, something ridiculous. Not like the dares Perrie and Meredith were handing out, but something I would remember in the morning, after all the alcohol had taken its toll.

"Erin, truth or dare?" challenged Meredith, a mischievous gleam dancing in her eyes.

"Neither," I spoke, shrugging.

"What do you mean?" She asked, confusion and humor playing across her face. Of course it wasn't that big of a deal, but she was the sort of person who liked to understand the reasons behind peoples's actions.

"I mean I don't really want to play anymore," I told her casually. "It's boring. The dares are funny and all, but if you haven't noticed, Harry's on his third Disney song now." To prove my point, I gestured to the curly-haired boy, who was climbing up the chairs to for the third time that night, to sing "The Circle of Life," from the Lion King, while holding up Perrie's cat for the added effect. "I think I'll just go find something else to do."

With that, I pushed myself up off the floor, staggering a bit from the alcohol. For someone who drank so much, I sure got tipsy easily. Hastily rearranging my skirt, I left the room to find the kitchen. From behind me, Meredith's voice was asking Niall whether he would rather take truth or dare.

By then the easy hours of the evening were long gone and the party had finally begun. To most people that would mean more opportunities, more fun, but I just saw it as more people.

I wasn't clinically claustrophobic, but that didn't mean I didn't feel uncomfortable surrounded by tons of sweaty, drunk bodies. All around me they moved in sync, twisting and bouncing to the beat of the music. My toes were aching from everyone stomping on them by the time I reached the (somewhat) less-crowded kitchen.

Suddenly someone bumped their hip into me, jostling my drunken self and spilling the contents of my red solo cup all over my--Louis' t-shirt. "Fuck," I cursed. Dropping the empty cup, I pulled off my shirt for the second time that night, only this time no one really noticed.

"Hey! Erin!" I heard Louis shout. I twisted around to see him pushing his way through the mass of bodies to reach me. "What happened to your shirt?"

I wrinkled my nose. "It's all alcohol-y," I told him, lifting it up for him to see. "Thanks to this bitch right here."

He raised his eyebrows skeptically, smirking. "I see. Do you want yours back?"

"Only if you're done wearing it as an infinity scarf," I teased.

"Oh, then you'll have to wait. It's just fabulous, Erin, you've been wearing this wrong your whole life!" He laughed, playing with the lace as he spoke.

"Oh, just shut up and give me my clothes so I don't have to be half-naked all night." I smiled playfully and tore it from around his neck as he mocked humility.

"Girl, you did not just steal my scarf!"

"You're an idiot, Louis, you know that, right?" I joked as I pulled my own shirt over my head. The sticky whiskey still clung to my bra and chest, but I couldn't care less.

"Not until now."

I rolled my eyes playfully at him, to which he responded with a wide grin. 
"Admit it Erin, you like me," he said smugly.

"Do I have to?" I whined, dropping my arms like a child.

"You don't have a choice anymore, miss Erin Monello. We are now, officially, best friends," he laughed, swinging his arm around my shoulders casually.

Normally I would feel awkward with such a simple gesture. I was used to lust, not love. I had never really had a boyfriend, only boys to play with for one night and forget about in the morning. I had no problem with it, except for when times like these popped up and I had no idea how to respond to it. Louis wants to be my friend, nothing more. Something about that is just so refreshing, and yet so foreign. Other than Seth, I've never really had a good guy friend, and even then we fooled around a bit before we actually became friends.

Even after all that, the warm weight of Louis's arm wasn't uncomfortable, as I had originally suspected. Something about it made me feel safe, like I was curled up in my dad's arms on the couch at home instead of in some stranger's arms at a crazy party.

"Ooh, hey, gimme your phone," Louis told me as we collapsed on an empty couch. Neither of us hesitated to make ourselves comfortable, the result being my legs draped perpendicular over his, with my back pressed against the armrest.

"What for?" I asked, pulling it out of my pocket.

"You need my number. Obviously."

I passed him my phone and watched as he unlocked it and a slow grin spread across his face. "What?" I asked, my the color draining from my face. Had Meredith put something embarrassing up there, knowing some guy would try to give me his number?

"Peter Pan?" He laughed, tilting the screen to show me what he was laughing about.

All at once the color came rushing back to my cheeks leaving me with a slight blush. "It's my favorite story!" I cried, defending myself.

"Erin, you're what--seventeen?" I nodded. "--and you have a Peter Pan wallpaper on your phone?"

"Oh, shut up, Louis! Have you ever actually read the book?" I defended myself, playfully swatting his arm.

"No, Erin, don't get me wrong. This is fucking awesome!" I giggled, finally feeling proud of my childish obsession. "Do you know how many girls I've met that appreciate that novel? One. And she's sitting right in front of me. Well--on me."

"Score one for Erin. What's your wallpaper?" I challenged.

He dug his phone out from his pocket and passed it to me. I pressed the power button and a picture of Great Dane sitting next to a tidier version of Louis. "Nice," I complemented. "It's not nearly as douchey as most guys I tend to meet at these crazy parties."

Louis nodded graciously, still focusing on adding his contact to my phone. "I think I'll take that as a complement."

"What's his--her?--name?" I asked, still looking at the dog.

"Her name is Gracie. You should come by tomorrow and meet her," he remarked, earning a smile from me.

"I'd like that," I replied, smiling. "Are there any other pets you'd like me to meet?" I teased, knowing full well that it was just an excuse to see me again.

Maybe this was why I couldn't score long-term relationships. No one could invite me anywhere without me thinking it was all about me.

It's not like it matters, anyway. I don't see any reason to humble myself just to entertain a boyfriend. If they like the bitch, they can have her. If not, they probably made the right choice.

"I do have a bird," Louis tells me, his eyebrows perking up, revealing a dazzling pair of blue eyes. "Well--it's my sister's bird."

"Fuck! I'm so jealous!" I squeal, almost spilling my drink I'm my excitement.

"Really?" He asks incredulously. "It's so annoying. Every single time we open the door, he's--she's right there screeching at us."

"Wait--you don't know if it's male or female?" I joke.

Why the fuck am I sitting here talking about the genders of birds in the middle of this ridiculous party?

I'm drunk, that's why.

"Well, it's actually a pretty funny story."

"That's what they all say," I slur.

He chuckles quietly before continuing. "For about three years we all thought it was a boy, we named it Bosco and everything, and Lotte, my sister, had all these nicknames that were very clearly male nicknames. Then one day we come home and there's an egg in the middle of the cage."

"Shoulda used protection!" I giggle.

I'm too drunk for this.

The rest of the night is spent with Louis, giggling drunkenly at all his stories. A few times I zoned out completely, entranced by his icy blue eyes and floppy hair. Every now and then he'd ask me about myself, and I responded with short answers, eager to hear more about him.

It would have been perfect, if not for all the interruptions. More than once I was grabbed by someone and had to slap their hands away, just as several girls seductively approached Louis, trailing their fingers across his shoulder slowly. He would always smile politely, but push their hands away firmly.

Seth and Meredith had practically disappeared, but I'm sure if I had gone to find them, they would've been with Perrie and Harry, respectively.

I didn't mind their absence. I knew them well enough to know that they wouldn't do anything crazier than hooking up with someone. In fact, I was more worried about what they thought had happened to me.

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