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?


2. Niall


"Bloody fuck! What the hell was that?!"

I groan and roll over in my tiny bunk, trying to block out the noise of Louis-most likely-getting way too into his FIFA game.

The time on my phone says it's a quarter past eleven in the morning. I stumble out of bed and look below me. Yep, Zayn's still sleeping. It's alright though; we aren't due to pull into Nashville for another forty-five minutes I believe. We are constantly on a tight schedule, and with so many people reminding you of it, it's difficult to forget.

In the kitchen I pass Parker and Harry. When I get into the front room I see Liam and Marley on the couch. Liam is on his phone and Marley is laughing at Louis, who is indeed playing FIFA. It's a bit of an addiction that we have. There is pretty much nothing to do on this bus so video games are our go to. Harry is sulking-big time. Amabel went home for school at Kingston University and Harry hasn't seen her in two weeks. It might as well have been two years from the way he's acting. But I don't blame him, though. He loves her.

"Hey Niall, have you seen my laptop?" Marley asks me.

"Right there," I point to the chair next to her.

"Oh, thanks," she smiles. "I am going to Skype Cassie. Last night she texted me and I wanted to talk with her."

"Cassie?" Louis asks.

When we first met Cassie Barnett, Marley's best friend, she was going on a date with Louis. Nothing happened between them, though. They are good friends now and I would want to be close with her too but we only met her that once. It's a shame too, she's absolutely stunning. As soon as I saw her I was falling for her. I don't think we talked to one another besides saying hello. I hardly know her but I'll admit when we were introduced all I could was stare at her. She's so beautiful and I am getting nervous just thinking of her.

Marley turns her computer on and a few minutes later she is smiling. "Hey Cassie!"

I hear Cassie's voice say, "Hi Marley! I miss you!"

"I miss you too. Niall! Come over here!" Marley beckons me to sit next to her.

I plaster a fake smile on my face. What if she thinks I'm annoying? "Hi there, Cassie," I wave to the brunette on the screen. Even over video chat she looks amazing.

"How is school going?" Marley asks.

"Well today was only my second day, so ask me again in a month," she answers. Does she know we're in Nashville?

Marley claps her hands excitedly. "I have great news!"

"What's that?"

"We're in Nashville!"

"What?!" Cassie shrieks and I laugh. "Seriously? Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

Marley answers her friend, "Well I wasn't going to, but I couldn't help it, I had to right now!"

"That what she said," I snicker and Louis and I laugh.

Marley rolls her eyes. "You're gross."

"But you love it, it's okay babe," Louis winks.

"I don't love your perverted comments, I love you," Marley smiles and kisses Louis' cheek.

I roll my eyes too. "So Cassie, you're going to University of Tennessee right?" I want to know her, and badly.

"Correct," she smiles. She has a wonderful smile. I am so glad things didn't work out between her and Louis. That would have left Marley heartbroken (she liked Louis then) and me pretty bummed out. But things worked out for Louis and Marley. They almost broke up, even though they weren't officially together because Louis did something bloody stupid, but things ended up alright between them. They're as happy as they could be and it's a little nasty sometimes. You have no idea how many times I've walked in on them basically having sex. It's almost becoming a problem.

"That's great," I congratulate her.

"Are you free today? We should be getting into the city in about twenty minutes." Marley sits back down next to me and Louis takes a seat in a chair.

"Yeah, I have some time. Just shoot me a text when you get here and I'll meet you some place." Cassie says.

"Alright, we have so much catching up to do!" Marley smiles, and then hangs up. They just talked a few weeks ago, what could they possibly have to tell each other? They're girls, who knows what they talk about for hours?

Almost exactly twenty minutes later we arrive in Nashville. It seems so long ago that we were here. Marley is more excited than any of us and I notice the way Louis adoringly stares at her. When the bus parks in the empty back parking lot of a hotel Parker comes and sits next to me with her laptop.

"How are the applications coming along?" I ask her. She is applying to some schools online. She moved out of her parent's place and stayed with Liam. Parker's story is a long and complicated one, but we've moved on from it and now we're just trying to get her on the right track. From what Liam has told us, she has a pretty unfortunate childhood, so something he mentioned to her was an education. She finished high school but never went to college. No one really questions her because Liam is so protective.

"They're okay, I guess," she sighs and pulls her hair back into a ponytail. "I'm trying to get into this one school that offers some online courses but I am so stressed right now it's hard to focus." She rubs her hands over her face and I can't help but feel bad for her. Liam comes up behind her and rubs her shoulders.

"It's okay, babe. I'll help you." He takes the laptop from her and sits on the floor. Parker scoots closer and rests her head on my shoulder.

"Tired?" I chuckle.

"Mmhmmm," she mumbles and I scoop her up. How is she this light? Parker has always been thin but I never knew that she was this light.

"Here ya go." I place her in Liam's bunk and pull the curtain closed, letting her sleep.

"Thanks mate," Liam says, clapping a hand on my shoulder when I sit back down.

"Cassie will be here in ten," Marley tells us and I rush to the bathroom. If I am going to see her again I don't want to look like shit, right? There isn't much I can do to make the pounding in my chest go away but before I know it, I hear her voice.

"Niall! Where are you?" Someone shouts and I come out.

Everyone is waiting in the front room and when Harry steps aside, there she is. Her beautiful face is enough to knock me to my knees. She is even more gorgeous than I remember. She smiles at me and before I know what is happening, her arms are around me.

"It's good to see you again Niall," she grins at me.

"You too," I offer back.

We all take our seats around the room and Cassie tells us about school. I want to know what she is majoring in and normally I would just ask her but right now I am mute. She is so funny and smart and pretty and amazing. I hardly know her-just her name, really-but I don't care. I want to know what she dreams about and what her favorite foods and movies and artists are.

"Is there anything to drink around here?" Cassie asks.

"I'll get it for you," I volunteer, almost too quickly.

"Thanks Niall," she smiles. "Just water is okay."

In the tiny kitchen I fill up a glass for her. I close my eyes and feel a hand on my shoulder. It's Marley. "What is up with you?" Her harsh tone is softened by the smile on her lips.

"What do you mean?" I stupidly ask. I don't want her knowing that I fancy Cassie.

"You are totally into her!" Marley whispers.

"I do not." I stand my ground.

"Whatever you say, it's okay though, you two have my blessing. She could use someone like you, Niall."

"Thanks," I mumble and stare at the water in the glass as she walks away. How did she see that I like Cassie? The two of us haven't had a private conversation. When I hand her the glass she smiles at me...again. I love it when she smiles. She smiles a lot, I'm glad for that. I could just watch her smile all day long.

I hear Liam ask, "How is your roommate?"

"I don't have a roommate. I am living from home but I pay my dad a monthly amount for letting me stay," she answers, brushing her hair from her face. She has beautiful hair. I know I am saying she has beautiful everything but she just seems so incredible.

"Is it just you and your dad?" I ask.

"No, there's Angie, too. She's my stepmom."

I search her eyes for some sort of emotion that would let me know why her birth mother isn't living with them but I can't find anything. "Do you have any siblings?"

Then her smile fades. "Yes, I have an older sister. She lives in Arizona with her husband so she is only home for Christmas, usually."

Twenty minutes later Liam and Parker go to the bunks and Harry sulks away. He can't stay happy for longer than five minutes since Amabel is back in the UK. It's only four in the afternoon but everyone seems exhausted.

"What's up with Harry?" Cassie asks, noticing Harry's mood.

"His girlfriend Amabel is back in England for school, but he has to stay here for now." Zayn answers.

"That's sad," Cassie frowns. "Aren't you going home soon? So he can see her?"

"Yeah, we are releasing our fourth album in the UK in a week's time," Louis tells her.

"A week? Marley why didn't you tell me you were leaving?" Cassie turns to her friend.

"I'm not going with them," Marley says.

"You're not?"

"No, they are only going to be gone for ten days and I want to stay here with Violet."

I don't know much about Marley's personal life, but we're best friends and she has shared some information with us about her. All I know is that her sister is eight months pregnant and there is some history or something. None of us pus her about it and I know she and Louis appreciate it.

An hour later we say goodbye to Cassie. Right after she walks out the bus doors, I look forward to seeing her again. I might only fancy her now but it's good to know we have Marley's "blessing." What did she mean by Cassie could "use someone like me"? Did she go through a bad breakup or something? I want to know, I need to know. I'll find out, I'll make sure I get to know her.

I look forward to it, actually.


Niall is too freaking cute. I hope you're enjoying this so far! 

Also, if you don't know much about Marley or Parker I suggest you read Humane and/or Feel Again. They explain everything. :)

Alli, x

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