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Just One Kiss

Just One Kiss

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Who knew one kiss could cause so much trouble? Now these lifelong enemies have to work together to set the story straight—and try not to kill each other while they’re at it.

Just one Kiss. That's all it's supposed to be. A dare is issued, a challenge accepted, and now these rivals have to kiss. No biggie, right? Except it becomes a big deal when Mara's crush finds out and now she needs Ryan's help to make things right.

But Ryan has issues of his own. And those issues? They require the help of a girl. Preferably Mara. After all, everyone already believes they've kissed. Why not let them think she's his girlfriend too?

✔ Enemies to More

✔ First Kiss

✔ Fake Dating

★★★★★ "Just read Just One Kiss. Loved Mara and Ryan's chemistry. Great job!" — Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

★★★★★ "Absolutely loved this book. My favorite Maggie Dallen ever! It was different from any other that I have read by her before in all the best ways. I actually power read this, I couldn't put it down." —

★★★★★ "Maggie Dallen is a YA queen. For real. Read her books." — bookandcupofcocoa.

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to More
  • Fake Dating
  • First Kiss

Intro Into Chapter 1

Is it super petty to hold a grudge for a decade? 


Okay, probably.

But in my defense, I’m nothing if not constant. I can be depended on to hold a grudge—and to be on time for my shift.

I shield my eyes from the sun’s glare as I glance up at the giant clock hanging over the entrance to the Lakeview Country Club’s main office. 

He’s late. Again.

Just as the minute hand hits five after the hour, Ryan comes strolling out from the clubhouse wearing sunglasses, with his dark hair slightly mussed like he’s just rolled out of bed. I blow my whistle to get his attention and he smiles. The idiot smiles, like I’m greeting him with that whistle and not publicly reprimanding him for being late. 

He’s already in his swim trunks and ready to go, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s late. It also doesn’t change the fact that the mere sight of my lifelong nemesis automatically makes my blood pressure skyrocket. When he strides straight toward me with that cocky grin every muscle in my body tenses.

Ryan Hunter, ladies and gentlemen. The guy who’s been annoying the crap out of me since kindergarten. 

I point to an imaginary watch on my arm, but he doesn’t make a single attempt to pick up the pace. He’s ambling over toward me, taking the long way around the giant pool like he’s having a casual stroll on a Sunday afternoon.

I blow the whistle again, mainly because it’s stress relief. It’s the only outlet I have for this boiling rage that I’ve never been able to shake. 

He gives me a smile and a salute, and I wish I could give him the finger in response. But considering there are currently five children under the age of ten in my shallow area of the pool, I refrain.

“You’re late,” I say instead as he walks toward me.

“By five minutes,” he says.

“Late is late.”

He stops short when he reaches the lifeguard stand. “You’re so hot when you nag.”

“It’s not nagging if I’m your boss.” I climb down off the stand. “It’s your manager reminding you of the rules for the millionth time this summer.”

Before he can respond, the little girls in the pool are shouting for Ryan’s attention. “Watch me, Ryan, I can do a backflip!” That comes from Evie May, a girl whose mom is on the country club board.

“Nice work,” Ryan says, squatting down by the pool’s edge to give her a fist bump. 

Evie grins like she’s just won the lottery, because even grade school girls have a crush on Ryan. I can’t entirely blame them since they don’t know his personality. All they see is the tall, tanned lifeguard with a chiseled jaw, broad shoulders, a six-pack, and bright blue eyes. 

So you know, I get that they have a crush. It’s my fellow female staff members’ crushes that make me wonder about their sanity. Because they’ve met the guy.

I sigh, hands on hips as I wait for him to stand up, turn around, and at least acknowledge the fact that he’s wrong. Just once, I’d love to hear the words, you’re right, I’m wrong coming from his smug, smirky mouth. It’ll never happen. But a girl can dream, right? 

I’d sell my soul for an I’m sorry from this guy, but after ten years of waiting for an apology, I’m not holding my breath.

I tap my bare foot on the water-drenched edge of the pool. We have to do this whole lifeguard checklist routine when he takes over for his shift. I’m not off-duty entirely—I still have work to do in the office. Part of the glories of being assistant manager means I get to do loads of paperwork. But I’ve been out here baking in the sun for the past four hours. I’m hot and I’m hungry and...yeah, okay, maybe I’m a little hangry because my irritation is way more extreme than it should be. 

But still. Ryan knows I’ve been waiting for relief and he’s taking his sweet time about it on purpose just to annoy me, I know it.

My foot’s splashing in a little puddle, making an obnoxious slapping sound that he can’t miss. He knows I’m standing right there. He knows I’m waiting. He knows this, and yet he takes his sweet time talking to Evie and her friends like he’s got nothing better to do.

Which, by extension, is basically saying that I’ve got nothing better to do than wait around for him to pay attention to me. 

“How’s your backstroke coming along?” he asks Evie’s friend. “Have you been practicing?”

That’s it. I’m done playing nice. I lift the whistle that’s hanging around my neck and blow as hard as I can right behind him.


The girls in the pool wince at the loud, long whistle blast. But Ryan? He doesn’t even flinch.

He stands up slowly. Too slowly. And turns to face me with that smirk I despise. “If you want my attention, Sunshine, all you have to do is ask.”

The girls in the pool giggle at his low, too-cool-for-school drawl.

Me? I sneer at the mention of my childhood nickname. Not for the first time, I wish pink had been my favorite color as a kid. Or purple. Or blue. Basically, any other color of the rainbow because then I wouldn’t have gotten stuck with the Sunshine nickname.

Not that anyone calls me that anymore. I am so not a Sunshine kind of girl. I’m a whistle-blowing, clipboard-carrying, straight-A student, senior-class-president kind of girl. But that’s why it’s even worse when Ryan calls me that. It’s clearly a joke at my expense.

Those are the only kinds of jokes Ryan knows how to make. 

“So.” He flashes me a grin that I despise. “Did you want to go through the checklist or did you just want to hang out with me for a while?”

I mutter under my breath as I snatch up the clipboard and go through the list, each of us signing off. I walk away as quickly as I can. 

As if it’s not bad enough that Ryan and I are in all the same classes, having to work together every day of the summer has been torture. But the summer’s almost over, and the pool will be closing for the season in a week, and after one last year of high school together, he’ll be out of my hair for good.

I slow my pace as I reach the lifeguard station and try to imagine a world in which I don’t see Ryan every single day. A world where I’m not constantly competing with him.

Sounds like heaven. 

In reality, it’s college. But college requires money, which means hustling my butt off this year and going after every scholarship opportunity I can find. Which means…

I sigh as I sink down into the faded old office chair behind the desk. Which means, keeping my head in the game. Now is not the time to take my eyes off the prize. 

Hours pass by in a blur of boring admin work, answering the phone and doing the requisite inventory for the safety equipment and first-aid kits. I’m just about done with my shift’s paperwork and have long since devoured the lunch I brought from home when my phone buzzes with a text. It’s my best friend Celia, who’s a member of this club, along with most of our classmates.

Celia: Heads up. Crush alert.

I straighten in my seat, my heart leaping with excitement. Ben is here? Like me, Ben is not a member here. He, like me, only goes to Lakeview High thanks to scholarships and hard work. He’s my people. 

He’s also my crush. He just doesn’t know it. 

Me: Where? How? Why?

I hit send before I can add any more questions. She knows what I mean. Ben’s not a member, so of all the fellow Lakeview High students I’d been seeing hanging out at the club over the summer—he was not one.

Celia: He’s here with Elijah.

Ah. See? Now that makes sense. Elijah’s parents are loaded and I’ve seen him hanging out at this club over the summer enough to know that he doesn’t have a summer job. 

A lot of Lakeview High students don’t. Of those who do, most seem to be in it for college application reasons or because their parents insist on developing a work ethic. Like Ryan, for instance. It’s obvious he doesn’t actually need the money. If he did, he wouldn’t slack off all the time.

I pull up Ben’s names in my texts and start to text him that he should swing by the lifeguard station. This is not me hitting on my crush. We legitimately have business to discuss. We’re both on student council and we have a lot of planning to do before school starts up in a few weeks. 

“Don’t bother.” My BFF’s voice comes from the open doorway and I let out a little squeak at the unexpected interruption.

Celia’s grin is unapologetic, and she looks cuter than cute as she leans against the doorframe in her tennis garb, her long light-brown brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail with a few strands falling around her face, that only help to accentuate her heart-shaped face and wide, dark eyes. 

If she wasn’t so petite, she’d look like a supermodel with her toned thighs and the adorable little sporty outfit. 

She nods toward my phone. “I told Ben you’re in here. He’s gonna swing by when you’re getting off your shift.”

I sink back into my seat. “You are the best.”

Her gaze is roaming over me and her brows hitch up. “You might want to freshen up.”

“You think?” I’m covered in sweat and greasy sunscreen, my blonde hair pulled back in a tight bun. I didn’t exactly dress to impress this morning. Mainly I dressed to survive the heat. Which means I’m sporting a one-piece swimsuit and some short-shorts. 

“I’d take a shower,” she says as she continues her assessment. “But keep the outfit.”

I laugh. “You think this pilly old swimsuit is that hot, huh?”

“Sweetie, we need him to see that you’re female, so yeah. A swimsuit will do it.”

She laughs and ducks when I toss a pen in her direction. “You’re insane,” I say. She’s also all talk. She’s outgoing and sweet as can be, but when it comes to her crush?

Let’s just say, she’s not exactly strutting her stuff. 

She heads toward me and shoos me out of the chair. “Go. Rinse off. I can man the fort here for a little while.”

I arch my brows. Not that I don’t think she can handle answering the phone or slapping a Band-Aid on the occasional injured child—the lifeguard station also doubles as the First-Aid Station—but because she doesn’t actually work here.

A fact she never seems to remember.

“I’ll get in trouble,” I say.

She scoffs, already sliding into the seat I’d vacated. “Please. No one is going to bust me for sitting here.”

She doesn’t specifically mention the fact that her parents are wealthy and influential, and that they basically own this club. She doesn’t have to. We both know it.

I’m already backing up toward the door, grabbing my gym back with extra clothes while I’m at it. “If you’re sure…”

“I can handle a few boo boos,” she says.

Her tone is so sure, so dismissive… I can’t help myself. I lean back into the room, and ask, “What if Heath is the one with a boo boo?”

It’s a low blow, and I know it.

She purses her lips in a scowl that makes me laugh as I run away before she can throw something at me. 

My bestie is adorable and outgoing and bubbly and kind and pretty. But when the guy she’s been crushing on since second grade comes within two feet of her? 

She’s incapable of speech. Or flirting. Or really anything other than blushing. The other day, Heath came to the pool to give Ryan a ride, and Celia dove into the men’s locker room to avoid him.

I shouldn’t use this against her, but sometimes it’s just too easy.

One shower later, and I’m feeling like a human again. I’m mentally tallying all the topics I’d like to discuss with Ben—including, but not limited to, how I’d like him to be my boyfriend.

Kidding, kidding. I’m not gonna bring that up. But I am hoping now that we’re working so closely together he’ll start to see what a good fit we are on his own.

I glance down at the sundress, running fingers through my still-damp hair. 

It’s not like he hasn’t seen me before—we had several classes together last year, and we even ate lunch together occasionally—so I don’t know what I’m hoping will be different this year. But it’s got to help that we’ll be working together, right? We’ll have plenty of opportunities to be alone together. In enclosed spaces, just the two of us.

I catch a glimpse of him through the open window of the lifeguard station and smile. Like right now. Senior year business is the perfect excuse for us to be alone—

I stop short in the doorway.

I just barely hold back a groan as I realize that Ben is waiting for me.

But so is Ryan.

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