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?


16. Niall

16 - Niall

"Fuck!" I say to myself as I connect my hand to the side of my car. Dammit. My fingers run through my hair frustratingly as I avoid looking at Cassie. I thought we were getting somewhere, I thought she was beginning to see that I was better for her than Zayn was, but I guess I was fucking wrong, as usual.

I opened up to her, and damn if it didn't feel good talking to her. She is such a wonderful person and every minute I spend with her is another minute that I am falling deeper for her. Even I didn't fall for Sam this quickly.

Of course, she caught my eye right away but it never happened like this. Zayn doesn't know her like I do; he doesn't care for her like I do. I know that what she told me about herself she didn't tell Zayn. It was rushed, like she was holding it back and I'm so glad it was me she told.

Why can't she see that I'm right here, I have been the whole time? Sometimes I just want to shake her and say, "Can't you see me? I care about you!" but it's my damn responsibility as Zayn's best mate not to ruin it for him. It's taking everything I have not to grab Cassie and kiss her right now, but that would ruin everything. I'm dying to kiss her, yes, but it wouldn't be worth it if she hated me afterwards.

I don't think I could stand that, Cassie hating me.

I care about her too much.


"You two are disgusting," Louis teases Cassie and Zayn, who are basically having sex on the couch, right in front of me. Okay, maybe they're not having sex, but they might as well. She's on top of him and they're making out like no one's watching. It's gross and heartbreaking...for me, at least. I am having trouble keeping my breakfast that I had not too long ago.

"Sorry," Cassie flushes and pecks Zayn's lips one more time before getting off him and sitting normally. Thank God, I mentally groan.

"I gotta go use the loo," Zayn says and kisses Cassie's cheek before leaving the room. I meet her eyes and she gives me a smile. I force one back at her.

She met me on the hilltop last week, and since then, we haven't talked that much, and I miss hearing her voice saying things I've never heard anyone say before. Her honesty is one of the many things I like about her. The list containing the things I adore about Cassie Barnett is embarrassingly long.

"How are you doing?" she asks me, bringing me back.

I clear my throat. "I'm alright. You?" I scratch the back of my neck uncomfortably.

"I'm great," she sighs happily and I mentally roll my eyes. I seriously doubt that. "Hey, did you want to go get some coffee?"

"What?" I ask. If you were to say I am surprised, that would be an understatement.

"I could really use a latte," Cassie smiles.

"Um, what about Zayn?" I stutter.

She dismisses my reply with a wave of her hand. "He told me he has an errand to run," she says and I hesitate. "So, what do you say? Coffee?"

"Yeah, of course," I answer. There is no way on this damn planet I am turning down some alone time with Cassie.

Just then, Zayn walks in. "Hey babe," Cassie says to him and my stomach tightens at her nickname for him, "Niall and I are going out for coffee. I'll see you later, okay?"

"Okay," Zayn smiles and kisses her quickly. I just take my keys and leave. I don't want to see them snogging.

I get in the car and only a few seconds later does Cassie come out. She jogs over to the passenger side and climbs in, buckling. "Where to?" I ask and start the car.

"Just a diner is fine," she smiles and rolls down her window.

I turn on the radio and I drive down the road. I'm starting to know my way around this place. It only takes a few minutes to get to a Denny's. "We have arrived," I say in a posh accent, making her laugh. I love her laugh so damn much. We get out and ask for a table for two. When we're seated, we just ask for coffee.

"I haven't seen much of you this past week," Cassie says, taking a mug from the waiter.

"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry." I don't know what I'm apologizing for, I really have been busy. "I can tell you and Zayn are good, yeah?"

She clears her throat and looks at her lap. "Yeah," she replies and then quickly changes the subject. "You mind if I take out my laptop?"

I blink. "No, not at all."

"I don't want to seem rude, I'm sorry," she grimaces and I roll my eyes.

"Cassie, it's fine. It's not a big deal."

"Really?" she says, a smile forming. "I just wanted to show you something really funny on YouTube."

"Well then, by all means, go for it." I grin.

"Okay," she says excitedly, and then starts typing something and a minute later, she gets a puzzled look on her face.

"What is it?" I ask. Cassie stays silent, and then I hear the first few seconds of Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" start playing from the computer. It's not too loud, so it won't attract attention to us. "What are you watching?" I chuckle.

"I.." she trails off and the curiosity is eating me alive.

"What, did you find the music video?" I wonder.

"No," she asks, beginning to laugh really hard. "I found something better."

She turns the laptop so it's facing me and I start laughing when I realize it's the video of us fooling around to "Talk Dirty." We played it on 1D Day, and it seems like Cassie has come across it. She turns the screen so we can both see it and it's the part where I am in my boxers. She raises her eyebrows at me and I wink.

"Like what you see?" I tease her and she flushes, which it just the reaction I was hoping for. I am almost glad she found this.

"You guys are idiots," she laughs, and then closes it once it's done. "Why did you make that?"

I shrug. "I don't know, just having fun I guess." I pause. "But you did enjoy watching that, didn't you?" I give her a suggestive look and she whacks my arm.

"Shut up," she grins and that just makes me laugh harder.


"So are you ever gonna show me that video you were going to play before?" I ask Cassie as we walk back to the car.

"Nope, not anymore. I thought that video was funny, but then I saw the 'Talk Dirty' one," she grins and climbs into the passenger seat the same time I slip into the driver's.

"You're never going to let that go, are you?" I chuckle and back out, and then pull onto the main road. It's only about noon now, and we have an interview in a few hours.

"No, I'm not," Cassie laughs and I just shake my head. "Thanks for the coffee, by the way, Niall."

"You're welcome," I say and turn on the radio.

"Oh my God!" Cassie shrieks, scaring the living shit out of me.

"What?" I gape at her, reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road.

"The music store! It's finally open!" she cries and I'm just more confused.

"Music store?"

"Yes! There has been a music store that has been getting built for months, and it's finally open! Niall, we have to go," she begs me and I roll my eyes, pretending to be annoyed, but I'm not at all. I'm actually glad to be spending more time with her. Her grin grows wider when I pull into the lot and she throws her arms around me over the middle console in the car between the driver and the passenger. "Thank you!"

We walk inside and a bell chimes, announcing our entrance. A salesclerk, who is a girl around eighteen walks up to us. "Hi, and welcome to-oh my God. Are...are you Niall Horan?" she gapes at me and I nod, smiling and taking off my black Ray Bans.

"Yeah, it's nice to meet you," I reply and she smiles widely at me.

"Could...Could I have a picture with you?" she asks enthusiastically.

"Of course," I say. "Cassie, do you mind?"

Cassie looks up at us. "No, not all all." She takes the camera from the girl-who introduced herself as Alexis-and takes the photo.

"Thanks so much," says Alexis. "Let me know if you need anything."

"We will, thanks." I give her a smile and Cassie and I walk around, flipping through old records and CDs.

"Does it get annoying?" Cassie asks out of the blue.

"Does what get annoying?"

"Fans. It seems like everywhere you go someone is always asking for a picture." She is keeping her voice down so Alexis won't hear us.

"It seems like that because it's true," I reply honestly. "And, no, not really. Sometimes we just want to be left alone, when we're at home, or something. But like that"-I motion to the door where we met Alexis-"I don't mind that. It was just one person and she wasn't screaming and crying."

Cassie laughs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "So, do you see anything you like?"

I sigh, about to tell her I haven't, but then I see something. "Oh shit," I laugh in disbelief. "Look at this." I hold up a record and gently run my fingers over it.

"What is it?" she asks.

"It's I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. I love this song," I explain. "This is so sick." I still cannot believe I am holding this.

"Why don't you get it then?" she asks.

I shrug. "I don't have a record player."

"Oh," she looks down, and then smiles at me while we continue looking around. Alexis is over at the counter doing her work-whatever that may be-and I catch her looking over at us. I wave and she blushes. "Looks like they were wrong," Cassie mumbles.

"What?" I ask. "Who was wrong?"

"You know how people say Harry is the flirt of the band?" she asks and I nod. "Well they're wrong. You seem to be working your charm on her." She nods to Alexis.

"What?" I repeat. "No I'm not. I'm just being nice." The last thing I want her to think is that I like someone else. I just want her.

"Sure Niall," she winks at me. "Whatever you say."

"Seriously, Cassie. I'm just being nice. She's obviously a fan."

Cassie just rolls her eyes and flips through some CDs. She laughs when she picks one up. I look at her, silently asking her what the CD is. "The Backstreet Boys," she answers. "I grew up listening to them and 'NSYNC."

"I love 'NSYNC," I say.

"Me too. I grew up listening to boy bands, so it's kind of obvious that I love boy bands now." She puts it back. Hopefully my band is among those that she likes, not just for me, or for Zayn, but for our music. I love that she is telling me little things about her. They might not seem like a big deal to her, but to me, it's just another piece to the puzzle. And she's the beautiful picture.


"Ready to go?" I ask Cassie about an hour later, all of which was spent flipping through old CDs and records. This place was great, I can see why she was so excited about it opening.

"Yeah, let's go," she says and puts a record back its case and back on the shelf. She leaves the shop and I'm right on her tail. Right before I leave, I turn around to say goodbye to Alexis. She was very nice and helpful when we were looking for something.

"Goodbye, Alexis. It was nice to meet you," I say and she walks over to me.

"Bye, Niall. Thank you so much for taking a picture with me. I still can't believe I am talking to you right now. It was so nice to meet you, too. Thanks again," she says in a rush and I wave before leaving. When I reach my car Cassie is leaning up against the passenger door with her arms crossed, waiting for me to unlock the car. "What?" I ask when I see her staring at me.

"You are unbelievable," she shakes her head and climbs in after the beep of the doors unlocking is heard.

"What do you mean?" I ask and start the car, peeling out of the parking space and driving onto the main road.

"I mean you were so nice to Alexis."

"Yeah so?" I am having trouble seeing her point.

"You just met her. No one is that nice, Niall."

I scoff. "So what are you saying?" I ask, pretending to have my feelings hurt.

"You're too nice. It's annoying how nice you are." She is trying to keep her voice firm but I can tell she is holding back laughter.

"You're just annoying," I tease and poke her side. She screams and swats my hand away, making me double over in laughter.

"You are so mean," she giggles.

"Really? Because I thought I was way too nice."

"I take it back," she snaps playfully.

"Now you're the one being mean." I frown. She is silent and I see her doing something out of the corner of my eye, but I can't see what it is exactly, for I have to keep my eyes on the road. When we stop at a red light something hard hits my arm, and it hurts. "Oi! What the bloody hell-is...is that a shoe? Did you just throw your shoe at me?" I gape at her, meeting her brown eyes for a second before looking back out the windshield. Cassie laughs evilly. "Now you're the unbelievable one. Who throws their shoe at someone?" By the time I finish my sentence we're both gasping for breath because we are laughing so hard.

Once we're calmed down, Cassie sighs, "This is nice."

I look over at her. "Why? Do you not do this with Zayn?"

She blinks a few times, seemingly shocked by my question. "No. No I-I do," she stutters and looks down.


"It's just nice spending time with you, I mean," she admits quietly and my eyes widen but I quickly recover and look at her with a smile on my face.

"I like spending time with you, too." More than you know.

After a minute of silence-awkward silence-Cassie speaks up again. "So what are you doing this week? I know you guys have a busy schedule."

I make a lane change and answer, "We're flying to New York for my birthday."

Cassie's jaw drops. "It's your birthday this week? Why didn't you tell me?"

I shrug. "I don't know. I had assumed Zayn told you we were leaving."

"No," she says quietly. "He didn't mention it."

"Oh," I say awkwardly. "Well, I would love it if you could come with us." I meet her eyes and she gives me a small smile.

"We'll see. I have school, but hopefully I can take like two or three days off."

"That'd be great," I say honestly.

"So what day is your birthday? How old are you turning?" she wonders.

"The thirteenth. I'll be twenty-one," I reply and she nods.

When we get back to the bus I walk in first and Zayn is on the couch, playing FIFA. When he sees us he stands and walks to Cassie's side immediately, pressing a quick kiss to her lips. Lucky bastard. "I missed you," he smiles down at her.

"I missed you too," she gives him a smile, but it seems forced. I meet her eyes, silently asking her what's wrong, but she shakes her head only so I can notice. Zayn leans her away and into a different room, and I sigh, falling onto the couch. Cassie turns around and says, "Thanks for today, Niall. I had a nice time."

I return the smile she's giving me and say, "You're welcome. See you later, Cass."

My lips form a hard, solid line as I see Cassie and Zayn go into the back room together. I know what you're thinking. They aren't going to have sex with everyone here.

Honestly, I hope they don't sleep together at all. The thought alone makes me want to be sick.

"I'm sorry, mate," Liam says, coming into the room.

I just groan and rest my head in my hands and fall back onto the couch, hoping one day Cassie will see what's right in front of her.


asdfghjkl they're so cute i can't even <3333 Anyway, please vote and comment! :) This chapter is 2.8K+ words, I think that's the longest one I've written so far, but next chapter is even longer lol!

Alli, x

PS- Alexis was inspired by my best friend Alexis (go figure lol) so heyyy girl ilysm :D

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