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The Holiday Kiss

The Holiday Kiss

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An uptight nerd is forced to spend her holiday vacation with the cocky swim team captain—and Christmas at the beach has never been so hot.

With early acceptance to Harvard under her belt and graduation just months away, life is good for Maya Rivero. She's ready to celebrate Christmas in Mexico with her mother, like every year, leaving behind the Briarwood classmates who've never understood her.

She can't wait to say adios to Luke Perona, in particular. Archnemesis, captain of the swim team, and all-around arrogant jerk, he's become more of a nuisance than ever now that her mom has befriended Luke's newly divorced mother. They've become such good friends, in fact, that her mom feels compelled to invite the entire Perona family to join them on vacation. Including Luke.

Awesome. Now her vacation is ruined. But when these two polar opposites are forced to spend time together outside the confines of Briarwood High, the truth becomes startlingly clear. These long-time rivals might even like each other. And it only takes one major holiday, two meddling mothers, and an epic holiday kiss to make them see it.

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Vacation Romance
  • Forced Proximity

Intro Into Chapter 1

My best friend Taylor stopped pacing the hallway when I stormed out of my meeting with the school committee. 

“So?” she asked, falling into step beside me. “How’d it go?”

I let out a long, slow exhale and kept my lips pressed tightly together, too irritated to speak. It wasn’t until we reached my locker a few feet away that I took a deep inhale and turned to face her. Her wince told me I wasn’t doing a very good job of disguising my anger.

“Not well, I take it?”

I shook my head, gripping the clipboard in my hands so tightly my knuckles turned white. “Not well.”

“What happened?” Taylor’s blonde hair fell into her eyes and she tossed it back with annoyance. “This should be an easy sell. Briarwood needs a STEM academics club if it’s going to stay competitive with the other private schools in our state.”

I nodded. Taylor was preaching to the choir here. Everything she said, I’d just told the committee. We’d worked on the speech together so she knew that. “You don’t have to sell me.” I nodded toward the now closed doors. “They’re the ones who are being obtuse.”

“But—but—” Her stammering came to a stop. My best friend was speechless.

Taylor was taller than me but even from my lowly vantage point I could see her crestfallen expression. She looked tragic in a pretty, willowy blonde kind of way, like she was a princess from a Disney movie waiting to be saved.

We were exact opposites in that sense—in the physical sense, I mean. Where she was tall and fair, I was short and curvy. My long dark hair was always pulled back, usually in a bun. 

But that was beside the point because hair was the least of our worries. And whether Taylor looked like some fairytale princess or not, she was stunned.

I couldn’t blame her. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around what had just happened and I’d been there. The fact of the matter was, the grant money should have been ours. I’d done the research into local competition, into college recruitment assessments. I’d even provided quotes from ivy league recruiters as to the importance of STEM-focused programs, specifically ones that were designed to include female students. 

Like me. Like Taylor. It would have been a coup for our school and an added bonus to my high school resume to be the one who’d instituted the program.

Granted, I’d already been accepted into Harvard early admission so I no longer needed it to woo them, but that was beside the point. This was a matter of principle. Of pride.

“So they said no?” Taylor finally asked. She sounded heartbroken and I couldn’t exactly blame her. She hadn’t applied early admission and was still waiting desperately to see if she’d gotten into her school of choice or one of her safety schools.

I pitied her, I really did. I’d barely survived the waiting period and mine had been a fairly quick process. If I were still waiting to find out, I’d be going nuts right now. As it was, I was just going to lose my mind with frustration. “They didn’t say no,” I said. “Not yet. They said they’d think about it.”

Taylor brightened. “So maybe they just need some time to think it over.”

I nodded for her sake. “Maybe.”

“Why do you still look so angry?” Taylor asked.

“Because I wasn’t the only one there petitioning for the grant money,” I said.

“Really?” Her voice shot up two octaves, but it was no wonder Taylor was surprised. We’d gotten the inside track on the grant money from our friend Charles, whose mother works in the principal’s office. Aside from that, most students weren’t too interested in instituting new programs at Briarwood. Most were too focused on the mundane, mindless task of being a high schooler. I.e., going to football games and keggers and talking about who was dating whom. 

They were more interested in sports or theater or their own everyday drama to think about what we were actually doing here. There were only a handful of us who were actually focused on our educations, and who were thinking ahead to how we could be the best once we arrived at the college of our dreams.

“Who?” Taylor asked with a shake of her head. “Why? I mean, what did they need the money for?”

“Updating the locker rooms by the pool.” I skipped over the first part because I couldn’t trust myself to say his name without letting loose a stream of profanities that would get me suspended if anyone overheard. And they would, because I would be screaming my freakin’ head off. 

And yeah, maybe I was being a bit of a coward by putting off the inevitable, because if I told her who my rival had been in that committee meeting, I’d have to explain how, exactly, he’d learned about the school’s new grant.

Before Taylor could ask any more questions, the doors I’d just walked through swung open again and there he was. The arch nemesis in question. Luke Perona. Tall and lean, with short dirty blond hair, he strode into the hallway like he owned this place. And in some ways, I supposed he did.

Taylor gasped beside me. “Luke?” she asked. “Luke is our competition?”

I gave a half shrug as I corrected her. “Well, he was speaking on behalf of the entire swim team, but yes.”

I could feel her stare but I hadn’t looked away from Luke. If looks could kill I would have slayed him ten different ways by now. Each bloodier and more gratifyingly painful than the next. 

“Maya, Luke is the swim team.”

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