“Do you think everyone knows?” Charlotte inquired, her gaze shifting to the horde of students murmuring to one another in the courtyard.
“The world is full of teen moms and Kardashians who are dying to steal your thunder. It’ll blow over soon.” Mason Beaumont, the blade-faced quarterback, always knew what to say to Charlotte and the best way to say it. He always talked himself and his gang of rowdy frat boys out of trouble with a devilish little grin and a hint of mischief in his gentle brown eyes.
“Will it?” She breathed out deeply.
He smiled at her and brushed a lock of her deep brown hair behind her ear. “Jackson won the girlfriend lottery, and he fucked up. It’s hard to ignore.”
She looked down awkwardly, blushing, and Mason took his from her face. He looked away and began to walk towards the street. “So, where’s lunch today?”
“I can’t say you’re invited, but Jean Georges.” They walked side-by-side near a group of taxis.
“Ouch.” He took Charlotte by her elbow and towed her to his stretch limo. He opened the door for her and instructed his driver, Marcel.
Charlotte shook her head. “Actually Mason, I think I’m just going to walk a while.”
He dug his hands into his coat pockets. “Do you want company?”
“No....I just want to be alone.” Her soft lips parted, and everything in Mason’s body screamed at him to kiss her: to capture her sweet mouth with his and pull her closer. The idea sent bolts of pain through him, sharp enough to cut his lust.
“Alright then.” He adjusted her beanie, insuring her ears were tucked away and passed her his gloves. “Stay warm, kid.”
She beamed, kissed his cheek, and headed for the crosswalk. He watched as she plugged in her headphones, probably selecting one of Jay Z’s hits or her favorite Eminem song of the week. The light flicked green, and she walked with the air of independence he so admired.
Charlotte walked quickly, but not fast enough to ignore the throngs of people, tourists and natives alike walking through the city she had fallen madly and deeply in love with. Some walked with a purpose, while others wandered aimlessly, taking it all in. For the first time in a long time, she had time to be by herself, consumed by her thoughts.
It was 11:57am, and she was supposed to meet Ivy and Eleanor at the restaurant in 3 minutes. She headed towards a nearby busy street corner to catch a cab. But the hand on Charlotte’s shoulder stopped her.
She inhaled, panicking, and instinctively swung her arm back, her fist slamming into her assailant’s groin. Only it wasn’t an assailant, but sweet, kindhearted Liam Payne. She turned to face him and screeched out sorrowfully, “Liam! Oh my god!”
He was doubled over in pain, his hands covering his crotch. “You pack quite a punch,” he gasped out. She took Liam by his elbow, pulling him to his feet.
The two made eye contact, Liam’s eyes full of pain and Charlotte’s stricken with guilt, and they began to laugh. “Next time I’ll think twice before surprising you,” Liam chuckled out.
“I would too.” Charlotte tried – and failed miserably – to catch her breath. “I’m really sorry, Liam.”
“So am I.” Liam cleared his throat, unable to wipe the ridiculous grin from his lips. “And to think I was going to offer you a ride.”
“Bummer, ‘cause I would’ve accepted.” Charlotte sighed. He led her to the edge of the sidewalk and opened the door of a black Range Rover.
“Lucky for you, my offer still stands.” Charlotte rolled her eyes at Liam and seated herself inside.
“For the record, I’m only accepting because I’m late for lunch,” she declared, poking her head outside and pulling the seatbelt around her waist.
Liam laughed, “Whatever you say Charlotte.”