Status: Very Active

Study of Life and Love

Champagne Tingles

The ballroom was bigger than I expected. I almost felt like a Disney princess walking through the doors a feeling I had never desire to experience until this point in my life.

“Whoa,” Nina murmured from next to me, her arm was entwined with Luke’s and I was sure that they were seconds away from being in a serious relationship.

My own arm was wrapped around Ripley Hart, second in command of Cromwell house. I had received many glares and confused looks from all houses tonight when he had arrived at the Grace door to greet me.

However, his eyes were too focused on one particular boy in Kings to ever let me feel like we were possibly having a date.

“How do we even behave at a party like this? What if I spill something on myself?” Nina worried, causing Luke to snort. I smiled at them and tugged on Ripley’s arms so his eyes didn’t keep searching the room.

“The point of tonight is for him to see you having fun, not constantly looking for him.” I elbowed Ripley’s side and he relaxed next to me. Throwing me a winning smile and not for the first time, I wished that Ripley was straight. He was a sweet boy. And most importantly he was safe, safe from heartbreak.

“Then we should definitely dance,” he said, eyeing the couples that were already filling the dance floor. I happily joined with him, allowing him to lead me around the floor, thankful for the ballroom lessons that Sidney had instructed us all to take.

I eyed the important people around us as Ripley twirled me and pulled me back into his arms. There were so many people that I didn’t know, but their aura of importance practically suffocated the room. And they all eyed us with interest and envy. Perhaps remembering their own days of being a part of these families.

Sidney had told us that we were here to make a good impression, to encourage people to continue to put both their time and money into our houses. If they wanted to talk to me I had to talk and I had to impress.

I hoped more than anything that no one would ever approach me. I didn’t feel like I was capable of making a good impression. The likelihood of me getting tongue-tied was a very high probability.

“So don’t freak out but my Uncle is here, with his partner,” Ripley told me as the song ended and he began to lead me off the floor. My attention was momentarily caught by a head of light brown hair before I realised it was the wrong head of hair.

“What?” I asked Ripley, tuning into the conversation again.

“My Uncle and his partner are here and currently waving us over. It’s okay they won’t ask much.”

I gaped at Ripley as he begun to tug me towards two men, one was indeed waving towards us. Waving quite wildly to the other one’s embarrassment.

“Ripley,” The waving man cheered and grabbed his nephew into a tight hug. It was scary how close they looked, like Ripley’s Uncle would more likely be his older brother than Uncle.

“This is Riley,” Ripley introduced, nudging me forward. I greeted both men, panic blooming inside of me. I hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone let along my partner’s family.

“And no offence Riley but I was expecting a young boy named Ash,” Ripley’s Uncle winked and I smirked as Ripley blew up like a tomato.

“Oh he’s here somewhere, I’m just being used to make him jealous.” I teased Ripley.

His Uncle’s partner shook his head and placed an arm on my shoulders. “How dare you use this beautiful young lady, now Miss Riley you must have someone much more charming available to you. Or better yet one that is actually interested in your gender.”

I laughed and shook my head. “I am just happy to help.”

“Well nephew I can honestly say you are your father’s son.”

I giggled as Ripley squared his jaw, defiant against his Uncles.

“I’m going to go mingle with a few people and let you all catch up.” I excused myself, wanting Ripley to spend time with his family.

I searched for Nina only to have her appear from behind me, without Luke.

“Did you really have to come to the ball with someone from Cromwell? And on top of that their actual second in command?” Nina asked instantly. Something she had been moaning about since Ripley had asked me.

“He asked me,” I shrugged. Ripley and I had met a couple of weeks back between mutual friends and we had gotten along great. I hadn’t felt the need to worry that he was from Cromwell and also their second in command. Right below Camden Vardell, Caydance’s shitty ex.

“You can say no.”

“Don’t be rude.”

“This of course would have nothing to do with trying to make Liam jealous at all? By going out with Ripley the next leader of Cromwell and therefore rival to Liam.” Nina hinted, while taking a glass of champagne for the both of us from the closest waiter.

I stopped looking for the boy in question and rolled my eyes at Nina. “Ripley is gay.” I said plainly, unsure how I was supposed to make Liam jealous with a boy who didn’t even like people of my gender.

“Yes that we know of, I highly doubt anyone that isn’t friends with him would even know that little detail.”

“Look he’s here to make Ash from Kings jealous and I’m just helping out.” I defended the both of us. My eyes pulling away from where Liam stood with a group of people. I was guiltily happy that Toran was nowhere in sight. I had no idea why he had come with her. There was nothing in common that I could imagine either one of them would have.

“Argh, there is so many issues going on with the partners in this ball. I mean did you see Louis came with Eleanor. I mean Thea and Olly are at least cute together if only I wasn’t shipping Thea and Louis to be together.”

I nodded, I had seen them together and I was as shocked as seeing Liam and Toran together. I didn’t even think they talked.

“Did you just say shipping,” Luke arrived by our sides, his eyes scanning between the both of us.

“Yes shipping. I mean how can you not ship Louis and Thea together. They would be the perfect couple.” I defended Nina and myself. Thea was one of the sweetest people I had ever met and I wanted her to happy in her life. And Louis made her happy. Anyone with eyes could see that.

“Holy shit,” Luke cursed, causing both Nina and I to shush him. “No, look. I think Louis and Alston are going to get into a fight.”

I turned in shock to see Luke point to where I had just seen Liam. My heart sped up when I noticed Liam in the middle of the tense filled crowd that was surrounding Daniel Alston and Louis. I watched as Ripley arrived near the group, hovering just behind Camden.

The group was obviously having an argument that I felt the people around me begin to notice. And unease swept through the room and I breathed a sigh of relief when Sidney pushed her way between the boys. There was a smile on her face but fire in her eyes as both boys firmly shook hands a little too tightly before the group began to split up.

“What do you think just happened?” Nina asked.

My eyes tracked Liam as he followed Louis across the ballroom and towards a balcony. I followed unconsciously, ignoring Nina’s calls and found myself just steps behind Eleanor Calder.

I paused at the doorway as Louis disappeared into the night and Liam cursed. Eleanor seemed to freeze on the balcony as she realised that Louis had left with a second thought of her.

“He doesn’t love me, does he?” I heard her ask Liam. He turned to look at her, surprise written across his face before he shook it.

“You broke his heart,” he said plainly and understood there was more to the story of Louis and Eleanor than I had known. I wandered if there was more that what Thea even knew.

“I never had it to be able to break it.” Eleanor defended before turning on her heel and marching back through the door, barely sparing me a glance. Her retreat, however, left me out in the open with a confused Liam.

“Did you follow me?” He asked.

I decided to step out onto the balcony and shut the door behind me. I was pulled to Liam and despite knowing that nothing should happen between us I was willing to take these moments where it was only the two of us.

“I was worried about what happened back there,” I said slowly, unable to pull my eyes away from Liam.

“So you’re being nosy,” Liam snapped. I took a step back in surprise, my face flushing I planned to just run back through the door and forget that this happened.

“Wait no, sorry.” Liam’s voice made me pause and I turned back to look at him. He was leaning against the railing, hunched and seemed almost helpless.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I offered, slowly walking forward. Unsure how close I was able to get to Liam, ignoring how my fingers ached to reach out, to just touch.

“To talk about how my best mate tried to start a fight in front of the Dean and almost got us all kicked out. How my best mate is really hurting right now and yet keeps talking to the girl that freaking cheated on him.”

“Eleanor cheated on him?” I asked in surprise, reaching Liam’s side and causally leaning against the railing next to him.

He looked so much warmer this close, his eyes, his skin and his entire being was like warmth, calling me to get closer, to snuggle in and to be happy here. Like I could be forever happy within his arms.

“Louis is not the type of guy to forgive cheating and yet tonight he shows up with her instead of just asking Thea like he wants to. Do you know how frustrating that is?” Liam ran an annoyed hand through his hair and turned around to face out to the garden, his hands tightened around the railing until his knuckles went white.

I couldn’t help but reach out and try to calm the pressure he was exerting. My fingers tingled as they touched his skin, the tension under my hand relaxed immediately and I could feel the eyes he practically burned into the side of my face.

“And then there’s you,” Liam murmured.

“Me,” I squeaked out, inwardly cursing how high my voice went, despite the fact that Liam’s breath could now be felt across my cheek.

“You, who I’ve somehow led to believe that I would sleep with them for a bet, like I would sleep with anyone else while helplessly in love with you.”

I gaped, turning in surprise only to find my nose brushing against Liam’s, before lips found mine. They pressed insistently against mine, bruising them straight away as Liam slowly rolled my bottom lip into his mouth, coaxing my own mouth open. I gasped as a warm hand slid down my lower back and I was pulled flush against Liam. My hand automatically twining itself within his hair.

I barely heard the throat being cleared behind me until Liam pulled away. I gasped and follow the way his eyes glared at whoever showed up behind me.

I turned, barely leaving Liam’s arms and blushed when I noticed Ripley smirking at the both of us.

“I’m gay, Payne.” Ripley called out. “You can stop with the glaring. I don’t want your girl.”

I felt my chest fill with warmth at being called Liam’s girls before I hastily pulled myself away from him. He barely let me go, his eyes moving between Ripley and I.

“Oh that’s great. Because Ash is seriously gone on you man. He’s constantly talking about you but he didn’t think you were gay.” Liam supplied and I watched, in delight, as Ripley’s smile grew to the widest I had ever seen.

I laughed and grabbed onto his hand.

“We should probably head inside, I’m sure Toran is looking for you Liam.” I said pointedly, ignoring the tingling off my lips. I felt like they would never feel the same ever again.

“Riley,” Liam objected, taking a step closer to us.

“We’ll talk later, promise.” I offered weakly, before turning to head back into the ballroom. The warmth and music rushed over me and I realised how cold and quiet being outside actually was. Being with Liam made everything else merely unnoticeable.

“There you are,” Nina greeted as I gabbed a glass of champagne. “Why did you just walk off after Liam like that? What happened out there?”

I ignored Ripley smirking next to me and skulled my glass of champagne hoping that the burn of the alcohol would take away the tingles radiating through my body, with a high concentration of it surrounding my lips.

“So apparently Eleanor cheated on Louis,” I burst out, desperate for another glass.

Nina fell for my distraction, her eyes growing wide. I nudged Ripley to keep him quiet.

“Shouldn’t you go and find Ash,” I said pointedly before finding another glass of champagne.

Ripley just shrugged and headed off, the smirk not leaving his lips. Nina eyed my glass oddly. “Are you okay? Did anything else happen out there?”

“Nope, nope not at all,” I said quickly, raising the glass to my lips before Nina stopped me.


“I kissed Liam, well he kissed me. We kissed anyway.” I blurted before taking her surprise as a chance to take another long drink.

“Is that why he’s coming towards us right now,” Nina laughed, delight flooding her features as Liam did in fact move through the crowds of people quickly, his eyes focused solely on me.

“What do I do?” I asked, eyes wide and panicked.

“Drink that and do whatever he wants. Trust me any girl in here would be willing to do whatever he wants,” She smiled lewdly and pushed the glass towards my lips.

I obediently swallowed the drink, allowing my head to slowly be clouded. Not to the point that I could barely walk but enough that my heart rate slowed and my hands stopped shaking.

“Riles,” Liam stopped in front of us, barley sparing Nina a glance. She disappeared from my side with the empty glass in hand. I felt open and vulnerable in the crowded ballroom.

“We should talk, now.” Liam grabbed my hand and I panicked because I didn’t know what I wanted and I needed longer than just a few minutes to process Liam.

“We should dance,” I countered, tugging him to the dance floor. Despite not knowing what I wanted from him, I knew that I didn’t want to leave his side any time soon.

I fell against Liam’s chest, a little too easily. But he wrapped his large hands around my waist without waiting to be asked.

“You look beautiful by the way, I’ve been dying to tell you that all night.”

I flushed and looked down at my dress as we began to move with the music. “Thea helped pick it out, she was adamant that I wear this colour,” I remembered her insistence that I choose the light blue instead of the dark blue dress that I had originally wanted.

Liam laughed, loudly and I looked up in confusion.

“It’s my favourite colour, which Thea knows.” He informed me, the twinkle in his eyes even more evident as he smiled down at me.

I flushed and pushed my head into his shoulders. I would not have expected Thea to be planning this.

“I love you,” Liam whispered, his voice so close to my ear that I shivered from his warm breath. “I’m not asking you to say it back, I’m just asking you to trust that I do.”

He spun me out of his arms before I could reply, before pulling me back in, grabbing my left hand and intertwining his fingers with mine.

Liam paused in his movement when Caydance pulled on my hand that was holding onto his. “Hey, we’re all leaving.”

I stepped away from Liam understanding that I too needed to head back with all the girls.

“Riley,” Liam reached out, his eyebrows drawing together in frustration. Caydance tugged on my hand again.

“They’re my sisters Liam, just like they’re your brothers.” I gestured around and I knew Liam would understand.

He sighed frustrated and shot Caydance a glare before he waved me off, accepting the defeat.

“He’s going to make me pay for taking you away isn’t he?” Caydance asked over her shoulder as I let her pull me through the doors.

“Why are we leaving? It’s only eleven.” I whined.

“Sorry Cinderella, had to cut your night an hour short, but the Dean seemed quite happy to rap things up early after the Louis and Daniel incident before.” Caydance explained as we continued through the crowds of people. “And we don’t want to be stuck here at the end in case he rips into us, so Sidney insisted we head home.”

“Nice dress by the way. Seemed to have worked a treat,” she added on when we ended up outside where all the cars were waiting again. I shot her a glare.

“You and Thea both knew what you were doing with this dress didn’t you,” I accused her. She smiled wide, her eyes sparkling with amusement before dropping me off next to Nina.

“How was your dance?” She asked.

“Cut short,” I grumbled. More people were filing out of the building behind us and I saw Liam with Zayn and Indiana. Zayn and him were laughing. “He told me he loved me, twice.”

“What?” Nina gaped.

I watched as Liam and Zayn walked over to Sidney and Caydance before leaving Indiana with us. She looked happy. Flushed and tired but extremely happy.

“What did you say?”

“I never got a chance to reply to either times,” I turned back to Nina. “But he barely knows me, how can he actually love me.”

“Sometimes love is just love. It’s not difficult and it’s not exactly thought provoking. Sometimes you can love someone from the moment you meet them. You don’t have to know everything about them first.” Nina guided me into one of the cars. Other Grace girls followed as they all talked excitedly about the night.

“What do you want with Liam, do you want a serious relationship?” Nina took a seat beside me and the car grew loud as the door was shut and everyone’s chatter filled the small space.

Before I could answer Nina the entire car was pulled into the conversation of what happened tonight. People wondering why Louis left so suddenly and if there was really going to be a fight if Sidney didn’t stop it.

“Isn’t she badass?” One of the girls voiced. Receiving a chorus of agreement from all the girls.

My mind was firmly stuck on Liam. Some things hadn’t changed. My grades were important and he was only going to be another distraction. And there was a nagging doubt in my mind that Liam was telling me he loved me too soon. What if he moved on just as quickly or what if it was just a way to get me into his bed.

I sighed and slumped down in my seat. Either way I thought about it I knew I couldn’t resist wanting to kiss him again.