"Will you keep the t shirt on?"
The majority of Harry's attention was devoted to the road, surveying the other vehicles rushing by, but I knew his query raised something that was troubling him, no matter how casual he appeared. And even more so when I countered his question with one of my own, his nonchalant demeanour cracking.
"Are you going to wear yours in the pool?"
"No." He scoffed.
His abrupt objection implied that my suggestion was absurd.
"Well, don't expect me to either." I popped another M&M in my mouth. "I'm sure you'll have lots of girls staring at you, but I'm not going to complain."
Not aloud anyway, I would just mentally curse them in a warning to stay away. My desire to allow anyone the privilege of witnessing Harry remove his clothes was none existent. I'd seen the way he'd drawn female attention before, there was no effort involved on his part. He could have been wearing a plastic bin-bag and had the same reaction. However, there were times when no-one would dare approach him, times when the harsh edge to his eyes couldn't lure in the keenest of females.
But I'd be there. Even when they were consumed with his past. I'd still be by his side.
"Fine." He grumbled, flicking to another song on the connected by the ipod.
"Good boy." I teasingly patted his head before offering him a plain M&M as a reward.
"I'm not a dog, Bo."
The acceptance of chocolate seemed to negate the challenge in his tone.
"No," I began "not a dog, your resemblance is swayed much more to puppy."
The cooing voice I used seemed to agitate him, withdrawing a hand from the wheel to swat me away as I tried to pinch his cheek that was becoming increasingly pink.
"Be nice!" I called, dropping a few coloured sweets to the seat. "I meant it in an affectionate way."
"Bo, not in the car." Harry scolded.
My venture to collect the escaping chocolate was accompanied by an eye roll. It was only the one time. One time I had spilt a bottle of coke in the passenger seat and now Harry was paranoid about allowing anything that could possibly be knocked over in the car. I was pretty sure that if we hadn't of needed to keep to a time schedule, Harry would have made me eat my chocolate outside before letting me settle next to him in his treasured vehicle.
"Bloody hell." I exclaimed.
My palms pressed to the window as Harry pulled into a gravel drive. It was safe to say I'd never seen a house like it, perhaps with the exception of something on TV. Harry had completely downplayed the size of the place, and the beauty.
"I know, right." Harry lightly laughed.
We pulled up onto the grass verge, a number of other cars, not all of them parked as neatly as Harry's, were lined up in all different colours. Although Harry's car was the only black one present.
Small stones crunched under my Vans as I walked around to the bonnet to meet Harry. My body fit closely to his, an arm securing me in place. His fingers splayed over my left shoulder, the action reaffirming his promise to keep me safe, always under his protection.
Our footsteps disturbed the gravel, the movement almost in time to the beat of heavy bass thumping through the otherwise silent countryside. My legs worked double speed, two steps to every long stride of Harry's as we neared the modern looking residence. It was a huge red brick building, music thundering against the window panes, pretty flower vines crawling up each side of the front door. Such a contrast. Thick hedges marked the boundaries running alongside the house and I wished I could revisit Hayley's home in the sun and without the disruptive music.
"Let's go around the back."
It was obvious he had been here before, guiding me to another entrance hidden from view on first approach. Harry's body moved in behind mine, encouraging me to the back door of the property.
"No point in knocking, just go in."
We were greeted with a huge smile, Hayley enveloping me in a hug before addressing Harry.
"I wondered when you two were getting here." She joked.
The blue of her summer dress complimented her darker skin tone, flaring her brown irises with a smile that reached her eyes.
"Thanks for inviting us."
"I'm glad you're here."
Hayley grabbed at my hand, guiding me through the mass of people to the other side of the kitchen. As always, Harry closely followed behind, his presence shadowing my movement. I had always imagined shadows to feel cold, blocking out the warmth of the sun and perhaps more sinisterly, condemning you to darkness. That was before I met Harry.
"Do you want a drink?" Hayley struggled to make her voice heard.
I nodded with a smile. A hand clamped to my shoulder as Harry leaned over me slightly to reach Hayley's ear. My endeavour to decipher the mouthed words was unsuccessful. But the significance of the hushed conversation dwindled as Harry parted seconds later.
"Of course not." She firmly replied.
I had a feeling Harry was educating her in my alcohol tolerance level, and from the small amount she poured into the glass it reaffirmed my suspicions. I didn't mind though, I had never been a massive drinker.
"Haz, there's beer over there."
"One won't hurt."
Mental agreement was made as Harry manoeuvred, a little carelessly, around the young people crowding the room. No-one appeared to mind being lightly bumped into, or maybe because they knew it was Harry. No individual would want to initiate an argument by telling him to "watch where you're going"; no good would come of it.
And thankfully nothing did. A boy Harry obviously knew removed the cap of the bottle, handing it to him with a playful punch to the shoulder; a punch that would have knocked me off balance. But Harry stood solidly returning the greeting and laughing. I scanned the faces, none of them recognisable. Harry sure had a lot of friends for someone supposedly scary as hell.
"Bo, do you want ice?"
I swivelled around to find Hayley holding out my glass with an oblivious smile. The clear alcohol had been topped up with fizzy lemonade, the tiny bubbles flittering to the top. My name was called again and it was only then I become acutely aware of where my eyes had wandered. The unassuming tray of ice cubes on the worktop that had just been retrieved from the freezer.
I held little control as my body reacted to the visual trigger. My skin prickled with the thought, frozen trails across my stomach, my back, my thighs. Contrasting heat flushed to my cheeks, mindlessly scolding myself as sinful images bombarded my imagination of the night before. The proposition of exploring something different; Harry with an ice-cube between his teeth. Enticing hands were kept at bay, refusing to make contact aside from the occasional unavoidable brush of cool lips. Chilling paths traced down my neck and the curve of my chest as I lay helplessly beneath him. Once melted with the tempting heat of Harry's mouth and my body, he took a new cube, continuing to torture me with patterns of iced shivers.
"You got a bit hot last time, let's see if we can cool you down."
Harry's dangerous words haunted me as I regretfully travelled back to what I had experienced in his bed. And he knew, presently stood leaning against the worktop, a bottle in hand. The cheeky glint sparkled and I knew Harry was fully aware of my blushing state and what exactly had initiated it. Mouth ends mischievously curved up, knowing what was being offered to me.
My desperate visuals were diverted, heart pounding. I squeezed my eyes closed, only to be greeted with the memory of Harry carefully encouraging an ice cube beyond my lips. I'd held it in fervour of my mouth until he kissed me and negotiated its release and transfer to his. It was safe to say I'd never experienced anything like it before, never been so incredibly hot and cold at the same time. My tunnelled vision had watched unbelievingly as the now smaller ice cube was placed into my belly button.
"When it's completely melted I get to kiss you again."
I had willed my body temperature to dramatically rise in those seconds, consumed with the thought of his lips on mine, willing to do anything for the solid ice to be reduced to water.
An easy touch broke me from the wandering mind, Hayley's friendly eyes slightly concerned at my temporary absence from the present moment.
"No, that's fine thanks." I politely refused.
My fingers wrapped around the glass, shifting towards to kitchen door and trying to conceal my embarrassment from the amused boy. Liquid lapped over the rim as a firm force lightly knocked into me. A recognisable hand skimmed my stomach before holding me to him.
"Are you sure you don't want ice?"
"Shut up." I muttered.
His enjoyment was muffled into my neck, puffing sniggers at my expense. I had no desire in informing everyone of our activities.
"You quite liked it last time though."
"Harry, if you don't shut up, I'm going shove the entire contents of that ice-cube tray down your pants." I threatened through gritted teeth.
"Mmm, maybe we could give that a go somewhere more private."
My free arm jolted back to elbow him in the stomach.
"Whoa, steady on, Love."
My head snapped up to be greeted by a boy in a white t-shirt, a smile beaming at the both of us. Brown hair, blue eyes and an undeniable happy aura. He too, had a bottle in his hand, most likely not his first by the way he leant on the doorframe for support. The shimmer of his eyes looked slightly glassy.
"Louis, this is Bo."
It gave me joy to detect the pride in Harry's voice as he introduced us, lightly squeezing my shoulder.
"It's nice to meet you, Louis."
I grasped the hand offered to me, his features instantly lighting up.
"For such a small person you've got a firm handshake," he laughed "bet you benefit from that, mate."
It didn't take me long to twig onto what was being suggested. I pulled my hand away, rolling my eyes at the immature humour. Not a great start on his part.
"You better shut your face before my foot connects with your arse."
The threat in Harry's voice was somewhat lacking, suggesting that this sort of behaviour wasn't uncommon when in the presence of a group of boys. Not that I expected anything else. I appreciated his acknowledgement though.
"What the hell have you been saying?"
Another male approached to the right of Louis, his dark hair quiffed up in a similar style. Tattoos littered his skin, but I didn't stare too long, not sure if he liked the attention the art drew. I didn't want to appear obnoxious.
"Zayn." He informed me.
"It's nice to meet you, I'm Bo."
We united for a second, repeating the action I had with Louis, only lightening my grip. I shook my head with a smile as Harry's friend let out a knowing laugh. I let them catch up for a few minutes, sipping on my drink as I listened in to the conversation. It was pretty evident that they'd known each other for a long time, maybe even from school as their chatter bounced from one to the other. I hung onto Harry's arm, moving further into his personal space when a stumbling body brushed by.
"Do you guys want to come and sit by the pool?" Hayley suggested.
I nodded, eager to explore more of her house. We became linked, a necessary attachment as we once again struggled through the dense groups. Upon travelling down the hall, I could make out a total of five rooms leading off, most of which were occupied.
The air in the garden was a welcome atmosphere, music continued to blast but with the freedom of the outdoors. The boys followed out behind us, lightly shoving each other in playful banter.
"And this is the pool." Hayley gestured.
"Wow. Everything is so big." I laughed.
The swimming pool was of a decent size, ringed with paving slabs and grass beyond. A cluster of people were already making splashes, dive-bombing into the clear water.
"It's not much fun on your own though."
It was hard not to detect the underlying tone of unhappiness, not just her words but in her body language. And I couldn't help but feel pity for her, no wonder she spent so much time around her friends' houses. I wouldn't want to be here on my own either.
"My uncle is away a lot."
The conversation came to a close when I was introduced to a small group sat around on stripy garden furniture. I came to learn that they were girlfriends of the males I had met earlier. (Goodness knows how Louis had gotten a girlfriend.) Harry kept close by, occasionally drifting between clusters of people still with a beer in hand.
"I think it's all the cute little things that make a difference." Nicole spoke.
Why had she never told me this? My collection of brownie points could have been stacked way higher if I'd have known about this earlier.
"Really?" I asked.
There was a universal agreement among the girls as multiple heads nodded. Hmm, this was proving to be of valuable information. I cursed myself for not bringing a pen and paper with me. I wonder if I could get away with typing vital points down onto my phone. The idea was brushed aside as the attention soon turned to Bo, having stayed a little quiet during the conversation. This would be interesting.
"Bo, what do you and Harry do?"
It didn't matter which one of the girls had asked. I sniggered, knowing Harry wasn't really into the whole cute relationship stuff.
"That's not really Haz's area of expertise."
The girls gave me a disapproving look before waiting for the dark-haired female to speak.
"Umm." She looked a little hesitant to start off with, picking at the nail polish on her fingers. "We like to hold hands, Harry likes having his hair played with," Bo bit the inside of her cheek, peering over to where Harry stood with a group. "He gives me butterfly kisses and sometimes we stay up and just talk under the covers."
The chorus of "awws" caught Harry's awareness, turning to smile and walk over. He took a seat on the arm next to Bo and I noticed just how comfortable they looked with each other.
"What are butterfly kisses?"
Yet another thing I had never heard of. I guessed girls just made stuff up, surely it couldn't be a real thing. An image of a butterfly with lips floated into my mind.
"It's when you flutter your lashes against someone's skin. It's really cute." Hayley spoke up.
"That's not Harry's thing." I defended.
I could sense my friend's anxiousness rise as eyes turned to him. Bo tugged at his hand for him to sit down on the cushions closely to her right. Her whispers were undistinguishable to the rest of the group, Harry and Bo having their own little private conversation as she spoke secrets into his ear.
"Are you trying to ruin my reputation?" He frowned.
I knew he wasn't into it and this knowledge had me feeling a bit smug.
"No," she reassured.
A finger was tapped to her pleading lips in order to reduce the size of them. Bo's eyes drifted to mine for a second.
"Please. Louis doesn't believe me."
My friend released a defeated sigh. I witnessed, in somewhat surprise as Harry leant forward. Bo cupped the side of his face before he blinked his eyelids upon her cheek. She giggled, turning so their eyes could meet. Bo had transformed Harry into some soppy idiot. He'd have never have done that to any girl before. What the hell was going on?
"Why don't you ever do that with me?" Ruby huffed at Zayn.
I blocked out her whining to stare at the couple in disbelief. Bo and Harry held hands, his thumb rubbing back and forth over her knuckles. There were obvious size comparisons to be made, Harry towered above most people. That became more apparent when an arm was casually slung over her shoulders. She was small in height, a characteristic I'd taken note of when we were first introduced, but she certainly wasn't all that skinny. Not that that was a bad thing. Harry had never been particularly picky, as long as they were hot, he'd take them home. I bet after few drinks he'd spill, tell me how much he loved her. And then after a couple more beers it would get bit dirtier. I was bound to be privileged with the information concerning their romantic moments and just how well Bo's thighs were equipped for wrapping around Harry's hea...
"Haz, you're becoming a dork," Zayn jokingly pointed out.
I had to agree with him. The Harry I knew would have smashed your face in for knocking his elbow at the bar. Well, maybe not quite to that extreme.
"Well, I don't think you're a dork." Bo reassured, squeezing his hand.
She remained hugged against him, her arm now curled around his back.
"Bo, you have no standing in this discussion."
"Why?" She countered.
Wasn't it obvious?
"Because you're obviously going to think Harry is amazing regardless. You're biased because you're shagging him."
I expected her to retreat further into Harry, my comment embarrassing her. But it surprised me when I only got a slight speckle of pink. Instead she clasped her hand to Harry's thigh, squeezing the top of his leg. It was beyond weird to see him as someone's boyfriend.
"He's a pretty good shag as well." She replied quietly, eyes intently fixed on his face.
"Oi, oi!" Niall shouted