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?


19. Cassie

19 - Cassie

We arrived in New York City yesterday, and to say I am enjoying myself would be an understatement.

It’s so beautiful here; all the people, all the buildings, all the food. It’s so much more than I expected. It is crowded, however. There are a lot of people everywhere we go, but I don’t care. I am just glad I’m here at all. Yesterday we visited The Statue of Liberty, and Niall and I had a lot of fun. Liam, Parker and Ed came along too. Personally, I am a huge Ed Sheeran fan so it was amazing that he was there too. I didn’t know that he was friends with Niall, so I was a little shocked when I saw him at the airport.

This whole thing with Zayn is a little distracting. Of course, he is always around—he’s in this group of friends—but I talk to him as little as possible. I don’t want him out of my life and I certainly don’t want him hating me, so I’m giving him time, time to realize that we were doomed from the start. All I know for sure is that Niall is there for me. I know Marley is too—she’s my best friend, of course she is—but Niall is just…amazing. He’s funny and sweet and as much as I hate to admit it, he’s so adorable. We’ve been spending so much time together and he distracts me from all the drama with Zayn.

Today, I think I heard Louis mention something about Central Park. I’ve seen pictures, but I really want to see it for myself. Niall’s birthday is tomorrow and I want to absorb all that I can of New York before we have to leave again. We are staying the day after Niall’s birthday as well, and taking a private plane back to Nashville. The one place I have always been dying to visit is Times Square. It just seems so—

“Cassie! Parker! Are you guys up yet?” Someone is pounding on the door, and I think it is Harry.

I get up out of bed and throw a pillow at Parker, who just rolls over and snores some more. When I open the door, I look up at Harry. Sometimes I forget how tall he is. “Hi Harry.”

“Hi,” he smiles. “Liam is looking for Parker, and I want to go to Central Park. You up for it?”

“Sure,” I say. “Come on in. Would you wake Parker up? She isn’t moving.”

“I got this,” he assures me and I laugh, walking into the bathroom to shower.

As soon as I turn on the water, I hear a cry coming from the other room. I run in and see what’s going on, only to burst out laughing at the sigh in front of me. Harry is on top of Parker, his hands tickling her like there’s no tomorrow. “Get of me!” she gasps for breath.

Harry’s laughter booms throughout the room and I just laugh, watching them. He eventually climbs off of his best friend, tumbling off the bed when Parker hits him with a pillow as hard as he can. “We’re leaving in fifteen,” Harry says casually, brushing off his pants. I just nod and close the door behind him once he leaves.

“He’s such an asshole,” Parker says, rolling her eyes, but I see her fighting a smile.

“You love him don’t you?” I tease her.

“I really do,” she nods. “He’s like an older brother. I already have one, but he…isn’t around anymore.” Something about her tone makes me believe her relationship with her older brother isn’t a good, so I don’t ask any more. “Harry makes me laugh. Of course, Liam does too, that’s why I fell in love with him. But Harry, he’s like a sibling to me, and I don’t think I could ever stay mad at him.”

I smile at the brunette girl. “I’m glad you found someone like Liam and Harry even. We all deserve to be happy.”

“Thanks, Cassie.” Parker stands up and gives me a hug. I want to know this girl better. I already consider her a friend, and obviously she is a great person if Liam loves her.

“So, Central Park, hu?” I raise an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” she sighs, walking into the bathroom, “Liam wants me to see every square inch of New York, I swear.”

“It’s sweet,” I say. I am leaning against the door frame of the bathroom while Parker is putting toothpaste on her toothbrush. “I wish I had something like that. What you and Liam have.”

“You will,” Parker promises me and starts to brush her teeth.  

I just nod and go over to the foot of my bed where my suitcase is. I put on white shorts and a loose and comfortable gray tank top. In my purse I put my phone, gum, chapstick and I sling my camera around my neck. Once my converse are tied, I brush my teeth too, and in eight minutes time, Parker and I are walking down to the lobby.

“Who all is coming along?” I ask her.

“Liam I think, and I know Harry wants to go,” she answers. I nod, looking around. I see Zayn walking around, texting someone. “Have you talked to him much?”

I shake my head. “No. I feel so bad. Should I go over there?”

“Yeah, I think you should. You’ll never get past this awkward stage if you don’t say anything to him.”

“You’re right,” I say, squaring my shoulders. “I’m going to talk to Zayn.”

I march over to him and I can tell he wasn’t expecting me to approach him from the shocked expression on his face. “C-Cassie. Um, hi.”

“Hi Zayn,” I say and stuff my hands in my back pockets. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” he replies, but doesn’t meet my eyes. “Are you liking New York?”

“Yeah,” I smile, feeling a little less out of place. “It’s so beautiful here.” We don’t say anything after that, so I change the subject, unable to bear the small talk. “Um, Liam, Parker, Harry and I are going to Central Park in a few minutes. Did you want to come?”

Finally, for the first time in this conversation, he meets my eyes, biting his lip. “Uh, no thanks. Ed and I were going to get a tattoo or something.” He tries to give me a genuine smile but it doesn’t work.

“Oh, okay. Well, have fun.” I wave and then walk away, just barely catching the small wave he returned. Parker is where I left her and I put my head in my hands as I approach her.

“How did it go?” she grimaces.

“Not good. I invited him to Central Park with us but he said he was going to get a tattoo with Ed or something,” I answer. Parker just shrugs.

“Oh, here comes Niall. Niall!” Parker waves.

I look to where she’s looking and smile when I see the blonde guy jogging over to us. “Hi Niall,” I say.

“Hey Cass,” he says, looking into my eyes. His are so, so blue. Wow. “I decided to tag along with you guys to Central Park. Is that cool?”

“Yes,” I say immediately. I clear my throat. “Um, I mean. Sure.”

Niall just smiles and slips on his Ray Bans. “Let’s go. I think Liam and Harry are waiting outside.”


“I. Am. Exhausted.” Parker throws her purse behind her, not even looking where she is throwing it, and then collapses in her bed, her shoes still on her feet.

“You can say that again,” I sigh and untie my shoes, slipping them off and then laying in bed myself. We spent four hours in Central Park, walking around, sitting, talking, and eating. It was a beautiful place and I got so many pictures. I don’t even know what half of the pictures are of. I haven’t looked at them yet.

“So you and Niall seem pretty close,” Parker says, rolling onto her stomach and kicking her legs up into the air behind her, looking at me.

I am laying like a starfish on my back, and turn to meet her eyes. “Yeah. I like him a lot. He’s a great friend.”

“Friend?” she raises a perfect eyebrow.

“Yeah, friend,” I shrug. “Nothing else is going on between us.”

“Didn’t look like it,” Parker says, fighting a grin. “You hardly talked to anyone else but him. And vice versa. It seemed like you were a couple.”

“Well we’re not,” I say and jump up, changing into comfy shorts and a big t-shirt. I tie my hair into a messy bun and go to the bathroom to remove my makeup.

“Sure looks like it!” Parker calls from outside the bathroom. Even though she can’t see me, I roll my eyes. Niall and I are not a couple, and we probably never will be, but I’m just glad Zayn wasn’t there to see us getting so close.


Oh my God, am I a horrible person? Am I a horrible person for becoming so close with my ex’s best friend and rubbing it in his face? If I were Zayn, I would hate me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. What I am doing is so insensitive! It’s like I never even took his feelings into consideration. I don’t know how he is handling this, I have no idea how he is feeling. And from what he is seeing, he probably thinks I am moving on from him…with his best friend!

I reenter the bedroom portion of the room and just sit at the foot of the bed, thinking.

“So!” Parker perks up loudly, making me jump. “Are you excited for tomorrow night? It’s going to be so awesome.”

I momentarily forget about Zayn. “Yes! I’ve only been to a club a few times. Doesn’t seem like too much fun.” I try to wipe the grimace off my face, but I fail epically.

“Oh, you’ll be fine! You’re young, hot and single, don’t worry. You won’t be going home alone.”

My jaw drops. “Parker!” I throw a pillow at her, but she just dodges it and laughs. “And what do you plan on doing there, Miss Boyfriend?”

“Oh, you know, the usual,” she shrugs. “Get drunk, come back here with Liam and…ya know.” She wiggles her eyebrows in a suggestive manner and I pretend to gag.

“Just not on my bed please,” I whine.


Before I know it, I am slipping into the dress I brought just for tonight.  Parker is in the bathroom curling her hair, and she’s been in there for a good hour and a half. “Are you almost done in there?” I ask, knocking on the door.

“I’m sorry!” she calls. “I have a lot of hair, it’s not my fault!”

I just chuckle and make my way to the full-body mirror on the wall. The strapless, little black dress fits me snugly, and I mentally thank Parker for pushing me to choose this one. The top is white silk with black lace over it, and the rest is just plain black. It’s one of my favorites. My phone buzzes from the dresser, and when I look at it, it’s a text from Marley.

*Meet in the lobby in twenty minutes.*

“Twenty minutes, Parker!” I call to my friend.

“Done,” she says, stepping out. She looks so beautiful, her long brown hair curled to perfection and her bangs swept to the side.

“You look great!” I praise her. She smiles and flushes slightly. “I just have to straighten my hair.” My makeup is already done, so once I am finished with my hair, we can leave.

Once the flat iron is hot enough, I begin to straighten my hair. My thoughts drift to this morning, when I wished Niall a happy birthday…

“Niall! Are you up?” I pound on his door and I hope he’s already awake. He answers the door with a smile on his face. I don’t want a second before throwing my arms around his neck, his arms wrapping themselves around my waist. “Happy Birthday!”

“Thanks, Cassie.” He pulls away and meet my eyes, and his gaze holds mine, forcing me to keep eye contact with him.

“Are you excited for tonight?” I ask as he steps out into the hallway with me and closes the door behind him.

“Yeah,” he says and crosses his arms over his chest, grinning. “Are you?”

I nod. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”

“So have I. I’m glad you’re here, Cassie. Really. Thanks for coming.”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” I assure him. “I’m glad to be here.” Our eyes meet again before I give him another hug before I walk back to my room. I give him a wave and close the door behind me, my skin still tingling from where he touched me.

“Are my earrings in here?” Parker snaps me out of my flashback.

“Um, yeah,” I stutter, handing her the silver hoops.

“Thanks,” she smiles and puts them in.

“I love your dress,” I say for the millionth time. She thanks me again, but I cannot get over her simple black dress. It is completely plain with two thick straps, but the black is almost completely open. “Liam is going to go insane seeing you like that.”

My hair is finally done and after a few sprays of hairspray, a few things thrown into my clutch, and my heels strapped on my feet, we’re ready to go. As soon as we step out into the hallway, Marley and Niall also join us.

“Look at you!” Marley says, looking at my appearance and Niall’s head snaps up. His eyes widening and his tongue licking his lips doesn’t go unnoticed.

“How’s the birthday boy?” I ask as he approaches me, still looking at me. I hook my arm with his  and notice that he looks great in his outfit too: black skinny jeans, white converse, his famous Ray Bands, and gray simple t-shirt. It’s not much but he looks great nonetheless.

“I’m…um great, thanks,” he gulps. The four of us—Marley, Parker, Niall and I—are silent for a while as we get in the elevator. “You look stunning,” he whispers in my ear as we exit and enter the lobby.

My cheeks heat up immediately. “Thank you,” I reply quietly and give his arm a squeeze before letting it go. I notice that everyone else is waiting for us when we arrive, and Zayn’s eyes meet mine right away.

“You look great,” he says to me, not meeting my eyes and stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“Thanks, Zayn. So do you.” I’m not lying. He does look handsome in his black jeans, white t-shirt and leather jacket. But no matter how great he looks, breaking up was the right thing to do.

“There’s a limo waiting outside,” Liam says and we all go outside, climbing inside of it.

I climb in with Niall behind me, and every nerve in my body screams when his hands rests on my waist, helping me in, and I cannot ignore the fact that he kept it there longer than he needed to.


“Are you sure it’s okay that I’m here?” I ask to no one in particular as we enter the club. I’m not twenty-one yet, but I’ll bet half of the people in here aren’t either. Lights flash and a bar wraps around three quarters of the place, stools in front of it.

“Yeah, it’s fine. I'm not twenty-one either,” Harry answers me, looking handsome as well in a black button up. His hair is messy and I notice how long it’s getting. “It’s one of the perks of being friends with One Direction.” He flashes me a dimpled smile and I just nod.

The music makes it kind of hard to hear and the lighting is the best I’ve seen, but I suppose that’s the point. “This place is great,” I basically shout to Niall, who already has a beer in his hand.

“Marley told me how awesome this place is. Have you been here before?” His hand motions for me to take a seat, and I do, right next to him.

“No, never.”

He smiles. “Can I get you a drink?”

My eyes roam the place and land on Zayn, who is talking to this gorgeous girl with redish brown hair. Her lips are flaming red and they’re both smiling. I smile, too. Maybe he’ll find his girl tonight. “Um, just a shot of vodka.”

Niall raises an eyebrow. “Vodka, hu? Wow.”

I just wink at him and down it, welcoming the warmth that spreads through my veins. “What are you doing here?” I ask him, and then realize how rude that sounded. “I mean, what are doing here, sitting here, when you could be dancing with a pretty girl and maybe even getting birthday sex?”

He laughs out loud and I just shrug as if to say, It’s true. “Um…I don’t know really.”

“Well I say just go out and have fun. It’s not every day that you turn twenty-one, either.”

“You’re something else,” he shakes his head.

“Yeah, and that something else is fun,” I laugh. I hardly ever drink, and I’m not used to alcohol. “Go!” I push him in the direction of the dance floor, which is full of young, drunk people having a good time.

“Come with me,” he says, holding onto my hands before I can retract them. “Come dance with me.” Normally, I would think he is kidding, but all I can do is stare into his blue eyes. I down another shot and then answer him.

“Oh...okay,” I say quietly and my stomach screams when he interlocks our fingers. Parker and Marley stare at us with wide eyes from their places at the bar. I just give them an Oh my God kind of look and turn away.

The song is fast and Niall turns me around, wrapping his arms around my waist. I move my hips to the rhythm and shiver when Niall brushes his nose against my cheek. I’ve never been this close to him, especially like this. The two shots of vodka I consumed are clouding my thoughts and I can’t even think about if this is right or wrong.

Suddenly, the song ends and it’s a slow song. Couples all around us begin to slow dance and I freeze. Niall’s grip on my hips tightens and he turns me around. I gulp, meet his eyes, and wrap my arms around his neck.

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