I met with Harry the following day after the brawl that occurred the previous night. We bumped into each other completely by accident as I walked along the deck after escaping from my dormitory and from the sometimes overbearing clutches of my mother and our maids.
“Oi!” Harry called out as I walked along the railing of the ship.
Hearing the familiar voice, I turned in the general direction from where I heard it and walked down the deck as soon as I recognized the tamed curls floundering about in the cool ocean breeze.
“So it’s Louis, yeah?” he hollered as we closed the distance between each other.
“Yes, yes it is,” I replied.
“Pleasure to finally meet your acquaintance, gov’nor,” he said cheekily, curtsying in a vain attempt to appear polite.
“Men don’t curtsy, Harry,” I remarked as he took his hand in mine and repeatedly kissed it. I pulled my hand away from his and smirked.
“But they do for women.”
As the words clicked in my brain, I realized that he called me a woman. In a teasing way, of course, else he'd be on the floor successfully castrated. Once he noticed the shock appear across my face, he burst out into guffaws of laughter and while I repeatedly smacked him across his arm.
“I am not a woman, Mr. Styles!” I exclaimed indignantly, receiving a few curious stares from nearby onlookers.
“Whoa, whoa, hey . . . Loosen your corset, love, have a drink,” he said in mock assurance.
“Corsets are for women, Harry,” I corrected, keeping my arms folded across my chest.
I groaned in irritation while Harry laughed his arse off even more, looking like a drunken goose with curly feathers. Although he was laughing at me and at the teasing he dolled out, I couldn’t help but find it . . . adorable? Was that the right word?
I felt someone very close to me, and that alone gave me reason to break my train of thought. As I realized how close Harry was to me, I leaped away in shock and attempted to put some distance between us before someone spotted it and would’ve possibly reported it, too. However, Harry had other plans in mind.
Holding my shoulders between two large palms, he focused his gaze on me intently and watched me helplessly squirm underneath his grasp. Turning frightened eyes to him, my breath was stolen as I took notice as to how absolutely vivid those two green orbs were. I had never seen such a lush green before—not even the native grass that grew in Doncaster was such a shade of emerald green!
“You’re my woman,” he rasped, coming within centimeters of my body.
For some reason, the way he said that sounded so caring and protective that I almost wanted to fall asleep in his arms. I was reminded of how I used to fall asleep comfortably in my father’s arms when I was a child, and how nothing in the world was able to snatch me from his grip. The only thing that I found “off” was how he referred to me as his—
I snapped my eyes open and hastily pushed my way past Harry to be coolly greeted by my mother and her small group of fancy females. They chatted endlessly about men, the latest fashions in Paris, how the Americans were handling themselves, and all that useless gossip that bored me.
“Mother! Whatever brings you here?” I greeted cheerfully.
“Are you keeping that Styles boy company, by any chance?” she asked suspiciously.