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?


10. Niall

10 - Niall

I leave the den with Cassie behind me, my heart still racing and my cheeks still flushed from when she climbed on top of me. If she knew what I was thinking about in that moment, she would have never spoken to me again, that's for damn sure.

"Did she kill you?" Parker asks when I return. Cassie isn't behind me like I thought she was. I know because she isn't in the room now. Where's Zayn?

"Almost," I chuckle, and pretend like I wasn't just thinking about kissing Cassie a few minutes ago. I wanted to, real bad, but I know that she likes Zayn and shit. Whatever.

Just then Cassie and Zayn come into the room, making a bee line for the door. Oh no. "Headed somewhere?" Liam asks.

"Yeah," Cassie says. "We're going out."

"Like on a date?" Parker asks.

"Yeah," Zayn answers.

Cassie smiles. "Like a date."

"What?!" I shout, my mind hardly processing what I just heard. Marley grabs my arm and struggles to make me sit down again.

"Calm down," she whispers in my ear. How the fuck can I calm down? My best friend is going on a date with the girl of my dreams!

"See you guys later!" Cassie calls and I desperately try to meet her eyes. I make eye contact for a millisecond before the door slams shut.

I sink down into the cushion and bury my head in my hand. This cannot be happening. That is supposed to be me! Parker rubs my back but it's not making me feel better. A part of me wants to chase after them and tell Cassie how I really feel about her, but I don't want to ruin her happiness, or Zayn's. I couldn't do that to my best friend. I thought we had a moment together in the den, but apparently, nothing's changed in her mind. Fuck!

"Are you okay, mate?" Louis asks. I shake my head back and forth. I am most certainly not okay.

"I'm really sorry, Niall. I know how much you like her." Marley offers me comfort but I don't want to talk to her right now.

I want to talk to Cassie.


The next day, my heart still hasn't but its million shattered pieces back into place. As much as I want to drive over there to her house and scream at her for putting me through this new kind of pain, this unbearable kind pain, but I can't do that because I know it's not her fault, it's no one's fault. But fuck if it doesn't hurt.

Today everyone is busy but me, and they told me they wanted to go out and do their own thing, but I am too bummed to go anywhere. A million times I have almost called Cassie to see if she wanted to come to the bus and watch a movie with me, but for some reason I feel like I'm crossing a line with Zayn. But the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems. I'm not doing anything wrong; I just want to be around the girl that I can't stop thinking about. There's nothing wrong with that, right?

So, that being said, I text Cassie asking if she's busy. I literally jump up when she says she's not, and that I can come over if I want. In ten short minutes I am knocking on her front door. She answers, clearly surprised. "That was quick," she says and opens the door wider so I can come inside. "So where is everyone today?"

"Not sure," I say and stuff my hands in the pockets of my cargo shorts. "I was really bored."

"I was too," she smiles. "Who knows? Maybe today will be the day that you finally get to use the pool in the basement."

My hand snaps up. "We should totally do that!" I exclaim. "Let's go!" I make a run for the stairs and I hear Cassie behind me.

When I am through the double doors and staring at the small waves lapping at the sides, Cassie says, "I guess I'll go change then."

It's then that I realize that I will be seeing Cassie in a swim suit. Just the two of us. In a pool. Alone. Holy shit. "Okay," I choke out. She disappears and I take a deep breath. She is basically Zayn's girlfriend and here I am picturing her in a bikini.

A few minutes later she returns. Well, I don't have to picture her in a bikini anymore. She's wearing a white swim suit with pink polka dots on it, and I can't stop staring at her. When she takes her hair out of her ponytail and lets it fall over her shoulders in a way that nearly makes me lose my balance, I swear a little drool drips from my mouth. "What?" she asks. "Do I have something on my face?" She starts wiping her cheek with her hand and I laugh.

"No," I say nervously. "There's nothing on your face."

"Good," she laughs. "That would have been really embarrassing." She's just so damn adorable I don't know what to say. "Well, let's go!" She jumps in and the water splashes over the sides, but doesn't quite reach where I'm standing. "Are you coming in or what?" she calls from the water.

"I'm coming," I tell her and take off my shirt, and my shorts follow. When I'm just in my boxers and walking over the edge, I see her staring at me and I fight a smile.

"I didn't know you had dimples," Cassie says, looking at me.

I shrug. "You can hardly tell they're there."

"It's cute, actually."

My cheeks flush and I choose this moment to jump in the water so she won't see how much that affected me. The water is warm and she bobbing up and down about five feet from me. I wipe my hair from my face and I can't help but stare at the way the water droplets cling to her long eye lashes, and the way her wet hair sticks to her tan skin.


"So...you and Zayn, hu?" I ask, trying to keep my cool.

She smiles and looks down. "Yeah, me and Zayn."

"You like him, then?"

Cassie pauses before saying, "Yeah. Yeah, I think I do."

"That's great," I force out.

"Thanks. So what about you, hmm?"

"What about me?" I ask.

"Anyone you like? Any girl you've been watching out for?"

I laugh nervously. "Um... I guess so. But I don't wanna talk about her. I want to get to know you, so tell me."

"Me? Why me? I'm sure you have a lot more exciting stories to tell about your life." We begin to swim to the shallower end so we can talk without having to tread water. She lifts herself from the water and sits on the edge while I try not to stare at her wet body. I follow her actions and we both kick the water, creating white bubbles at our feet.

I finally answer her question when I say, "The thing is, I'm always talking about me. For the cameras I'm always telling them about my family, and what I do, it kind of gets boring after the millionth time."

"I understand," she says.

"So tell me about you. Did you know your birth mother?"

Cassie looks over at me with raised eyebrows. "What?"

Oops. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, it's alright," she stops me. "My parents split when I was nine. I have memories of her, but they fade away each day. All I know for sure is that she was beautiful, and I loved her. Sometimes I think about her just holding me, telling me things that mothers usually tell their daughters when they're little." I doesn't say anything, I just kicks the water and keeps holding eye contact. "I don't know the real reason why they divorced, but my dad told me that they just grew apart, wanted different things. I first asked him why my mom wasn't around when I was eleven, a little before he met Angie."

"She seems wonderful," I say.

"She is. She really is," she smiles slightly. "I know this might make me a horrible person for saying this, but sometimes I feel like Angie is more of a mother than my birth mother is. I mean, my real mom changed my diapers and taught me how to walk, but Angie was there for me when I was a teenager, you know, the typical teenage girl problems. Angie was there for me for my first everything, I won't give you the details on that one." She laughs and I join her. "It's just that Angie was there for me for the parts I remember, you know? I have a more real connection with her than I will ever have with my real mom." I don't say anything. "Does that make me a horrible person, Niall?" Her brown eyes meet mine.

I shake my head. "Of course not," I reassure her. "I don't think you could ever be a horrible person."

"Thanks," she says, nudging her knee with mine.

"Hey." I bump shoulders with her when I notice her looking upset. "Let's move on to something more simple okay? Like...what's your favorite color?"

"Pink," she says. "What's yours?"

"I like blue," I smile. "Favorite subject, food, book, song? Tell me everything."

"Alright," she giggles. "My favorite subject is Photography; food, it's got to be ice cream; book, by far, is The Fault in Our Stars-it's such a wonderful story; song, I actually can't pick one."

"See? This isn't so bad, right?" I ask and she nods. "When is your birthday?"

"December 11th," she answers. "When's yours?"

"You don't know my birthday?" I joke. "Aren't all mega fans supposed to know when my birthday is?"

"Who says I'm a fan?" she laughs.

"Well, you do have all of our albums," I point out.

"And whose fault is that?" she asks, splashing me. I laugh and push her in. "You are so paying for that!" she shouts and gets out. I jump to my feet and run around, trying to escape her. But since she's so cute and I want to make her smile, I stop and smile when I see her running to me, an evil grin on her face. My body freezes when her arms wrap around my body, but then she tackles me into the water. We fall in and when we surface, her hands are still holding onto my arms, keeping her close. She wipes the water from her eyes and I brush the hair from my face.

I know I'm smiling and I fall even more for Cassie when her brown eyes meet mine, her smile matching mine. I notice how close we actually are, her hands holding my biceps and one of my hands resting on her waist. Her body is enough to make me lose my mind; she is so fit and beautiful. Water droplets roll down her nose and trickle down her beautiful curves. The smile fades from both our faces and I'm just about to lean in and kiss her. I want to more than anything, with her wet and warm body holding onto mine.

Just as I am leaning in, she sighs and backs away, dropping her hands from me. I feel the loss of her contact immediately. I decide to pretend nothing happened, that my heart is not beating one million times per minute. "I can't believe you did that," I tease her.

"You deserved it," she giggles and I splash her lightly.

"Come on, Cass," I say, and her head snaps up to look at me. "Sorry," I apologize, I don't know why I just called her that.

"No, it's okay," she assures me. "No one has ever called me Cass before." I am about to say sorry again, but she stops me. "I like it. It's okay, Niall."

I nod but don't say anything. "Is Cassie your full name?" I can't believe I don't know this. I just never thought about it, I guess.

"No," she says.

"Then what is it?" The water is becoming cold and I can see the goose bumps on Cassie's skin.

"I'm not telling you!" she cries.

"Why not?" I ask.

"I hate my full name. Most people don't even know Cassie is short for something."

"Please?" I pull out the puppy eyes. "You can tell me, right?"

She looks at me and I can she is about to cave, but she doesn't. "You almost got me, Horan. Almost."

I jump and sit on the edge of the pool, and she comes and stands in front of me. "You'll tell me, Cass." There I go again. "You will tell me your full name. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but you will."

"Don't hold your breath," she laughs.

I stand and reach out a hand for her. "Come on, it's getting cold in there."

Cass puts both her hands in mine. I easily lift her from the water. When she stands, her feet slip on the tile and I react, catching her so she won't fall. Once again, she is holding my arms and this time she bursts out laughing. "I'm sorry, I'm so clumsy."

"That's alright," I chuckle and help her regain her balance. "Just be careful, please. We don't want you hurting that pretty little head." Shit, what did I just say?

She looks at me like I'm a little crazy but doesn't say anything more. She just turns and walks out, looking behind her right before the door closes behind her. "You coming or what?"

"Yeah, yeah I'm coming," I stutter and follow the girl that I know I'm falling for.

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