Chapter 19

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Niall slid through Camila's entryway on striped socks, eagerly taking in everything about his temporary new home. He flicked all the light switches and knocked his knuckles into every doorframe, and Lauren followed behind and rolled her eyes and attempted to trip him several times.

"Don't get your grubby hands on the walls," she said, pulling a face at the back of his head.

Niall spun and walked backwards through the living room, delighted with the size of the TV. "I'm clean, dude. I washed behind my ears and everything."

He held up his hands and waved his fingers around. "See, no sand. I can teach you how if you want."

Lauren leaned against the breakfast bar, eyebrow raised. "Step," she warned.

She watched with amusement as Niall stumbled backwards over the step up to the kitchen. Her smile faded quickly when he righted himself and went straight for the fridge, and she rushed around the bar and seized the back of his t-shirt to cut him off.

"Shit," he yelped, grabbing at his collar.

Lauren pushed him back a couple steps and he watched her with wide eyes.

"This is Camila's fridge." Lauren said, gripping the handle. Her gaze was sharp and serious, and Niall jammed his hands in his pockets and nodded like it was obvious.

"Yeah?"

"This is her home and this is her food."

"And yours," Niall said, smiling. He could see where this was going.

Lauren's cheeks reddened only slightly, and she looked away and took in the three dozen banana muffins Camila had baked the day before. It was ridiculous. Camila was ridiculous. Niall watched her attempt to rein in her smile.

He grinned and offered, "I promise I won't eat her food."

Lauren studied his face, doubtful. Niall was a wolf, a cow, an indiscriminate eater.

"I'll eat your food," he said, eyeing the donuts sitting out on the counter, the Pop-Tarts Lauren had been having for breakfast because Camila wasn't home to feed her.

"That's fine," she said shortly. She'd learned how to hide her goodies from Niall long ago. She walked back around the breakfast bar and gestured at the towering pile of banana muffins. "Camila made you those."

His face lit up and he eagerly pried open the Tupperware. Lauren watched, pleased, a little revolted at the sounds he made. She knew Camila would be proud of herself.

"I lub yo girfriend," Niall muttered, a muffin in each hand.

Lauren bit her cheek and broke her Pop-Tart into tiny little bits.

Niall swallowed and coughed and caught his breath. "How's the food here?" he asked in the gap before filling his mouth again.

Lauren smiled at him. "The sweet tea's awful."

"Aw, shid."

Lauren threw a paper towel in his direction. "But there's guacamole and burritos. Camila makes sweet potato fries."

Niall puffed up proudly, swallowing. "I taught her that."

"I know you did." Lauren got up and walked back around the breakfast bar, leaned up to wrap an arm around his neck. "Thanks, Niall."

"You have sand in your hair," he observed, hugging her tightly.

She whacked him on the chest and he squeezed her again before letting her go. She returned to her seat and propped her chin in her hand and watched him eat through Camila's muffin supply, trying not to think of residency applications and down payments and shipments and inventory.

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