Chapter 26 – The Double Booking

Part IV – New York State of Mind
December 2018

“So you’re just going to ditch me?” Brittany asked incredulously as she looked up at Nick.

“It’s not ditching,” he said, raising his eyebrow. “I just have other stuff I need to do. My own stuff. I can’t go with you.”

Brittany glanced around to make sure no one in the busy LA restaurant was watching them. No one was. Everyone was busy with their own business and couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the two of them. That was the nice thing about LA – no one paid her any attention. She might have been a celebrity – but in LA she was just one of many.

“But Nick,” she protested, leaning over the table and giving him a look. “You promised.”

“Yeah I know,” Nick sighed, taking a sip of his water. “But I’m telling you now that I can’t go. You’ll just have to go do it alone.”

“I don’t want to,” she muttered.

“Well we don’t always get what we want, do we?” he asked with annoyance. He’d known she was going to be upset when he’d found out he’d double booked himself, but he figured she could live with going to New York alone for two days.

“I usually do actually,” she said with a slight smirk.

“Well you don’t this time,” he said plainly, and she pouted again. “It’s two days. You’ll perform some lame Christmas song at Radio City and you’ll be back. I promise you can do it without me.”

Brittany slouched down in her seat. She really wasn’t looking forward to any of this. The only reason she’d agreed to sing at the concert was because she was sure Nick was going to go on the trip with her.

“Sorry,” he said with a shrug. He wasn’t overly sorry, but he still felt a little guilty. That, and he had his own problems to worry about. He knew Brittany hated New York, but that wasn’t his top concern at the moment.

“Whatever,” she said, shrugging her shoulders a little. “It’ll be fine.”

Nick nodded to himself and took a sip of his water. “Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “It’ll be fine.”

Brittany was silent for a couple of minutes while she picked at the food in front of her. She didn’t understand how Nick didn’t know he wouldn’t have been able to go with her to New York until literally the day before, but she didn’t press it. She could tell he was already annoyed, and she didn’t want to piss him off further. “But… we’re still going to have Christmas at your place, right?” she asked cautiously, wanting to make sure that whatever he was doing wasn’t going to impact their holiday tradition.

“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “Of course. I’ll be at the house in Malibu before you will. Just head over there when you’re back and we’ll do the usual.”

“Okay,” she said, still eyeing him. That made her even more curious as to what he was up to. She really wanted to ask, but he wasn’t volunteering the information, and usually when he was secretive about something he liked to keep it that way.

He was such a closed off person, and it bothered her sometimes. She was very much the same way, but Nick was far more than she ever had been. It was easy to pry information out of her, but getting him to talk about something he didn’t want to? Impossible.

For that reason, she was glad they’d never ended up dating. It would have driven her crazy to never know what he was thinking.

“So did you get me a Christmas present?” she asked him, changing the subject to lighter fare.

“No,” Nick said as though it were obvious. “Do I ever buy you a Christmas present? I can’t even remember the last time I bought one for anyone,” he laughed.

“I got you a present,” she said with a smirk.

“No you didn’t,” Nick said knowingly. He and Brittany had never exchanged gifts. If they were ever going to, the time would have been when they were head over heels for each other – not now that they’d established they were better off as friends.

“I actually did,” she said with a nod.

“I’m still not getting you one,” he shrugged, not caring to get stuck in whatever game Brittany was playing with him to distract herself from how much she didn’t want to go to New York on her own.

Brittany just laughed to herself as she pulled out her phone to answer a text message. Nick watched as she looked down at the screen, annoyance apparent on her face.

“Who’s bugging you now? Tell him that he’s gotta go through me to get to you.”

Brittany just rolled her eyes as she continued to text. “No one’s bugging me. I’m just texting Danielle, and telling her that no, my best friend isn’t coming with me to New York, because he’s got stuff to do.”

“I do,” Nick said, giving her a look. “Important stuff.”

“Right,” Brittany nodded. “And maybe that important stuff will include buying me a Christmas present?”

“I doubt it,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Especially since you’re giving me that little attitude.”

“Wow,” Brittany replied, looking up from her phone. “Someone’s snippy today.”

“I am not,” Nick responded, shaking his head and concentrating on his food again. “Anyway, in three days we’ll be at my place doing our Christmas thing and we won’t have to worry about all this stuff.”

Brittany eyed him, wondering exactly what he meant by “All this stuff,” but she didn’t say anything. “Yeah,” she mumbled, putting her phone back into her purse and picking up her fork to finish off her lunch. “You’re right.”

***

Niall had exited a Starbucks near Times Square when he felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket. He glanced around, buttoning up his coat and transferring his paper coffee cup to his other hand before stopping to find out who was texting him.

Danielle Peazer: are you in nyc yet?

He raised his eyebrow. He was sure he’d told Danielle and Liam that he’d be gone to New York for a little while to visit his family who lived there. He wondered if Danielle wanted to make plans with him or something of the sort before Christmas rolled around, but as it was December 21st it was a little late for that.

Niall Horan: yea i got here yesterday. I’ll be back in London on the 30th. Why?

He put his phone back in his pocket and crossed the street, intending to just ignore the rest of her texts until he got back to his hotel. Instead, his phone vibrated multiple times, indicating he an incoming call.

Ducking out of the way of the passerbys on the street, he leaned up against a wall and pulled his phone out of his pocket again. He shook his head a bit, wondering what was so pressing that Danielle was calling him.

“Yeah?” he said, pressing the answer button and holding the phone to his ear. He took a sip of his coffee as he glanced around the busy intersection. There were lit up billboards everywhere, and everything was covered with Christmas decorations.

Despite the lack of snow, it was obvious that it was late December.

“What hotel are you staying at?” Danielle asked, not even bothering to greet him.

“Uh, Greenwhich,” he said awkwardly. Why Danielle needed this information, he had no idea. “That’s where I usually stay.”

“Right,” Danielle said quickly, as if she was trying to get to something important. “You know who else usually stays there? Who’s going to be there when you are?”

Niall rolled his eyes. So that was the reason she was calling. “Yeah, if you’re going to say Brittany, I already knew that. I’m looking at a Billboard with her on it right now.”

“Yeah,” Danielle said quickly. “But if you two are staying in the same place, maybe you should ask her if she wants to go for coffee. She’s in a real crap mood about having to go there alone…”

Niall sighed. He hadn’t seen Brittany at all since she’d been in London for Danielle and Liam’s wedding, and he’d been trying his best not to think about her. “What makes you think that’d be a good idea?”

Danielle huffed. “Because I’m sure it’d be nice for her to see someone familiar. You know she hates it there, and she’s really upset about having to go alone.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Niall said, looking up at the ever-changing billboard advertising the concert Brittany was going to be performing in. It grated on his nerves a little that she was so much more famous than he was. Especially when he was the reason her career had taken off in the first place.

“Yes, I’m sure she’ll be fine too, but I think it’d be nice for you to just go say hello. What’s the harm in that? The last time you two saw each other, you left it on a good note, didn’t you?”

“What, at your wedding?” Niall asked in disbelief.

“Yeah!”

“Danielle,” Niall said seriously, lowering his voice a little. It was a force of habit, not that anyone who was walking by even noticed who he was or cared to listen in on his conversation. “Do you not remember what happened that night? I got drunk and told her off, then I went up to her room to beg for forgiveness and for her to take me back.”

“Well, yeah,” Danielle said with annoyance. “But that was years ago. Besides, she doesn’t know you went to try and get her back. I never told her that. She told me afterwards that it had been nice to see you again.”

Niall scoffed. “Yeah, I’m sure she said that.”

“She did! I mean, she told me that you had words, but that it was alright the next morning. If she was still annoyed with you, she would have told me. Believe me, she would have. She doesn’t hate you or anything. I don’t think there’s any harm in asking her for coffee while she’s there. Besides, if you’re staying in the same place, you might run into each other anyway.”

Niall contemplated that for a moment. Danielle was right – they had left London on a good note, and he sort of did want to see her again. She had a point – it was possible they were going to run into each other in the hotel anyway.

“Yeah, maybe,” Niall said finally. “If we run into each other, I’ll say hello, but that’s it.”

“Oh, you’re so stubborn,” Danielle said with a laugh. “It’s not a big deal. Just go out for coffee or drinks as old friends do. It always cheers me up to see an old friend.”

“Yeah,” Niall replied, glancing up at the billboard again. Maybe after seeing Brittany he would feel differently, but lately whenever he thought about her he felt anything but cheered up.

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