Picture Imperfect (Niall Horan)

{Book 4} When Niall Horan falls, he falls hard. The moment he lays eyes on Cassie Barnett, he's in too deep. Past relationships —including the one with Amabel's ex best friend— have not gone as planned. Is he the reason for breakup after breakup? Cassie Barnett has eyes for Niall's best mate, Zayn. Niall's desperate attempts at getting her attention just might be enough for her to fall for him instead. Could she be just what he's been waiting for?


9. Cassie

9 – Cassie

I am freaking out.

I’m talking eating infrequently; taking hour long showers, which consists of me staring at the wall watching the water droplets roll down and into the tub and eventually down the drain; unable to rid myself of the bags under my eyes no matter how much sleep I get per night.

My photography project, the one that is worth 70 percent of my grade is due in two weeks and I haven’t found anything inspiring yet. However, it’s not like I have done no work whatsoever. I have made up and outline for how I am presenting this project, not wanting to stay up the night before it is due until I have consumed countless energy drinks, which disgust me to say the least.

On another note, that’s not the only thing that is making me fidget. The boys are coming back from the UK today. Butterflies erupt in my stomach when I think about seeing Zayn again. I really like him; I am hoping he’ll ask me out. I am a smart person I guess, so I know there is something between us, but for some reason, I feel like we shouldn’t be together. I don’t know what is, but something is telling me that the reason is right in front of my face, but I’m not seeing it. Well, that doesn’t matter. I like Zayn and I’m hoping he feels the same way.

Of course, I have talked to Marley about this. She said that she thinks that Zayn likes me, but something about the way she reacted when I told her I liked Zayn only added to the feeling that makes me think this is wrong. But how is it wrong? Zayn and I are alike in so many ways, we have so much in common and  guess that’s what makes us good together right? I suppose I am getting ahead of myself: he hasn’t asked me out… yet.

Some good news is that Lauren and I got our grade for that American History paper. We got an 86 percent. A solid B. That’s okay with me, although I think we worked really hard it. I’ve been keeping in touch with Lauren; going out for coffee, sitting next to her in class, giving her rides home or to gymnastics practice. She keeps asking about Brandon though, asking if he and Jen have ended things yet. Unfortunately, they haven’t.

"Why don’t you just break up with her?” I asked him one day last week as I brainstormed ideas for my project. I ended up with a blank piece of paper, mocking me.

“It’s complicated, Cassie,” he explained. “We have been dating a long time and even though that certain spark isn’t there anymore, I still care about her. When you’ve been dating someone for as long as we have, your feelings don’t go away overnight.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I feel bad for—um…”

“What? Who do you feel bad for?” he asked.

“No one,” I lied and played with my fingers. He and Lauren had only met three times, so I didn’t want to make things awkward.


I text Liam, who I had grown closest to next to Zayn, telling him that the five of them could come over as soon as they got in, if they were up to it, keeping their long flight into consideration. He answers back saying he’ll let me know when they’re on their way. Since it is only two in the afternoon on a Tuesday (I only had one class today), I decide to go for a run. Exercise isn’t really my thing, but I’m feeling extra nervous for some reason so I put on a sports bra and my contacts. (Glasses are really annoying to wear when your face is all sweaty anyways.)

I run—okay, more like jog—a mile and a half. Along the way, I nearly puke twice, twist my ankle, and get honked at by four cars full of boys. This is why I don’t exercise. But when I get home, red faced and out of breath, I actually feel great. I check my phone and see that I have I a text from Liam saying they’ll be over in fifteen minutes, and I received that text twelve minutes ago. Shit! I look like I just ran a marathon. My hair is matted against my forehead and my cheeks are bright red from my lack-of-shape. I still have to take a shower and get dressed! Zayn cannot see me like this.

The doorbell rings. Shit. Still wearing my white tank top and pink running shorts, I open the door and grimace. “I wouldn’t give me a hug if I were you,” I warn them as they come inside. Marley and Parker are here as well. “I did miss you guys though.”

But they give me a hug anyways. Zayn hardly meets my eyes and my heart sinks. He just gives me a wave and his hug is barley there. I guess he doesn’t like me. “You smell bloody awful,” Louis laughs.

“Thanks,” I smile. I notice Niall staring at me, and then his eyes flick to Zayn, and then back to me again. “Hi Niall,” I say and wave to him, even though he already said hello. He half smiles and stuffs his hands in his pockets. We go to sit down in the family room but I remain standing. I toss Harry the remote to the flat screen and I tell them, “Um… make yourselves at home, I guess. I have to go take a shower but I’ll be down soon.”

Everyone nods and I turn but someone catches my arm. Zayn. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asks, and I swear he seems nervous.

“Um, sure,” I say and walk upstairs, him following behind. When we enter my room I leave the door open just a crack. “What’s up?” I ask as I ruffle through my drawers, finding something to change into after my shower.

“So um, Cassie, I was wondering if…you know if maybe you wanted to—I don’t know…” he stuttered and I slowly began to smile.

“Today please,” I tease him.

“I was wondering if you wanted to go out some time? If you wanted to that is. I do—want to go out that is.”

He is just too cute. “Sure,” I smile. “I’d love that.”

Zayn steps closer and I have to look up to meet his brown eyes. “I like you, Cassie,” he tells me and my eyes widen. My heart skips a beat and I cannot believe I am hearing these words. Not just from Zayn Malik, but from anyone in general. No one has told me they liked me, ever. Not even my boyfriend of two years. He didn’t ask me out like this, he just sort of kissed me and I thought that was the equivalent of saying I love you. Apparently it’s wasn’t.

“I…I don’t know what to say,” I smile. I do like him, but I am too stunned to say anything else. This whole experience is new to me.

“Say yes.”

“Yes,” I say and we both grin.


When I return back downstairs, with my wet hair in a bun and dressed in a mint green see through button down shirt with a white tank top underneath with jean shorts, I am pulled into the kitchen, and when I see who it is, I am relieved to find out that it’s only Marley and Parker.

"What are you doing?” I ask them.

“Did Zayn ask you out?” Parker asks, beating around the bush.

“Um,” I say.

“He came down here smiling like a creep,” Marley says. “It was weird.”

“Yeah,” I admit. “He did ask me out.”

“Please tell me you said yes!” exclaims Parker.

I smile and feel my cheeks heat. “I did.”

They both squeal and Liam pokes his head in. “What’s going on?” he asks, confused.

“Nothing babe,” Parker says. “Just girl stuff. Nothing to worry about, I promise.” She blows him a kiss and he catches it, winking at her. “So are you like, dating now or whatever?”

“I don’t know.” I shrug. “I mean I like him, and I think he likes me, so—”

“Oh, he likes you,” Marley interrupts.

“Anyways,” I giggle, “he just asked me out. There’s nothing more to say. Not yet.”

Parker sigs deeply. “Well, it’s about time.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“It’s been a long time since he’s had a serious girlfriend,” the brown haired girl whispers and my blonde friend nods in agreement.

“How long?” I gape.

They look at each other. “Years,” Marley answers. “Does that bother you?”

I think about it, and decide, “No, it doesn’t. It’s been years since I’ve had a boyfriend, too, so that’s another thing we have in common.”

“It seems like you have a lot in common with him,” Marley points out.

“So? Isn’t that a good thing?”

Parker shrugs. “I guess, I mean, what’s that saying? Opposites attract?”

"So what are you saying?” I ask.

“You and Zayn are the opposites of opposites.”


“Um, Niall?” I ask my blonde friend as I browse through my camera roll.

“Yeah?” he perks up, and then starts laughing when he sees me holding my phone with a puzzled expression on my face.

“What did you do?” I demand, even though it’s pretty obvious. He took—not exaggerating here—172 selfies, all with different facial expressions. How did he come up with 172 different faces to make? I start to select the pictures to delete them but Niall snatches my phone from my hand and runs to the den. Everyone snickers and I shake my head. I groan and roll my eyes when I hear him laughing. “You are deleting those Niall Horan!” I shout.

“No, I’m not. And neither are you.”

I enter the den. Niall is sitting in a brown leather chair doing God-knows-what on that God damned device. “Niall,” I say sternly, standing in front of him and holding my phone out, hoping he’ll place it in my hand. “Niall. Horan,” I say again when he ignores me. “Please?” I pout and jut out my bottom lip.

He looks up and me and our eyes hold contact for a good thirty seconds before he says, “Damn it, Barnett, you’re good, but not that good.”

“Niall. Delete those pictures now!” I command.

“Why? You know you love them,” he grins.

I roll my eyes and walk over to him. I grab him by his t-shirt and push him to the floor. “If you don’t give me my phone right now, I am going to have to kill you,” I say.

Niall scoffs. “Yeah right.”

I grin and climb on top of him, my legs on each side of him. Niall looks surprised at first, so I take advantage of his state and grab my phone from his hand. “Ha.” I sigh. “I win.” Our eyes lock and one of Niall’s hands rests on my hip. We’re both breathing heavily, and I tear my eyes away from his blue ones and stand to my feet. I offer a hand to him and he takes it, pulling himself up and standing very close to me. We haven’t said anything in a solid minute, so I whack his chest, which is surprisingly hard, and say, “You’re so annoying,” and smile at him.

“Guilty,” he says and raises his hands in defeat. We both laugh and leave the den. Niall walks ahead of me and doesn’t notice when I bump into Zayn, who came from the kitchen.

“There you are!” he smiles. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you in this castle, my princess.” He bows and I laugh.

I don’t know whether it’s his smile, his eyes or just the feeling I get inside when he looks at me, but I say before I can stop myself, “How about we go get coffee?”

Zayn looks taken aback, and then he smiles. “You want to?”

“Yeah,” I smile. “I want to take you up on that offer you mentioned before.”

Zayn steps closer. “The date? That offer?”

I nod and look up at him from under my eyelashes. “Yup. That one.”

He slings an arm over my shoulder. “Then let’s go.” We walk over to where everyone else is scattered around the room and I put my shoes on, slipping my phone in the back pocket of my shorts.

“Headed somewhere?” Liam asks.

“Yeah,” I answer and smile at Zayn. “We’re going out.”

“Like on a date?” Parker asks.

“Yeah,” Zayn shrugs.

“Like a date,” I finish.

“What?!” Niall shouts and stands to his feet. Marley grabs his arm and makes him sit down again.

“See you guys later!” I call and then shut the door, the last thing I see is Niall’s blue eyes looking for mine.

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