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Shopping for My Boyfriend by Earl Sewell
When Jeremy, Anna's longtime crush, asks her to be his girlfriend, it's a yuletide surprise she never saw coming. And in order to get him the perfect gift, she will have to do a total 180 from shy girl to ...
Shopping for My Boyfriend by Earl Sewell
When Jeremy, Anna's longtime crush, asks her to be his girlfriend, it's a yuletide surprise she never saw coming. And in order to get him the perfect gift, she will have to do a total 180 from shy girl to outrageous reality-show contestant. But to discover what Jeremy truly desires for Christmas, Anna will have to get close and risk her heart .
My Only Wish by Caridad Ferrer
Claudia Abreu knew her family was doing more than hiding presents and heating up Cuban cider for her holiday homecoming. Just her luck—her childhood friend, who has been invited as her New Year's Eve party date, is athletic and popular pretty much everything she's not. But David Levy hopes he finally has the chance to show Claudia that they really do have enough in common to make both of their dreams come true together.
All I Want for Christmas Is You by Deidre Berry
Bree Calloway's holiday is off to one very un-merry start. First, her boyfriend, Lance, is keeping secrets. Second, getting the lead in The Nutcracker means facing off with a dance-diva-from-hell. And third, the chemistry between Bree and her know-it-all ballet partner, David, is sparking way too hot. Now Bree has one chance to straighten out this tangled tinsel—and make her Christmas truly bright.
"Come on, Anna. It's freezing out here." Lauren's breath formed cloudy white puffs of air that lingered like steam from a hot bowl of soup. I vigorously tugged on the door against the unforgiving pressure of the wind. Once I was able to pry it open wide enough, I pivoted my body, got on the other side and leaned into it with my shoulder.
"Go ahead," I said, feeling my eyes tearing. Once Lauren was in, I trailed behind her, smearing away the wetness on my cheeks with my mittens.
"I have never been in weather like this." Lauren's cheeks had turned crimson and her shoulders had risen up toward her earlobes.
"You can relax now. We're inside and you'll warm up in no time."
"Relax? Are you freaking kidding me? When we leave we've got to face that frigid air again. I can't believe how cold it is outside."
"Oh, it can get much colder than this." I smirked. "Wait until it drops below zero." This was Lauren's first experience with the Chicago winter weather. She was from South Carolina, where the temperature stayed relatively mild. She'd transferred into the school a few weeks ago and, like me, was in her second year of high school. She and I both modeled and had recently met through the agency we worked for. Lauren was tall, thin and wore a size four. She had a cute smile, beautiful white teeth and an infectious personality. She had also managed to catch the interest of Sheldon, one of the cutest guys in school. He was handsome and a little shy, but Lauren's outgoing personality balanced out his reserve. My romantic life was in the dump and the time had come for me to move past my most recent failure and give a new relationship a try.
"I don't know if I can take this weather. I feel like my bones have iced over." Lauren hugged herself in an attempt to heat back up her body.
"You'll get used to it," I assured her. I saw my reflection in the glass of a painting that hung on the wall and straightened the red-and-white Santa hat I had on. I wanted my look to perfectly complement the festive mood I was in. My hat matched well with my Christmas green turtle-neck and blue jeans. Lauren, whose favorite color was pink, had fashionably dressed up in a pair ofjeans from Delia's, a pink sweater and a matching pink-and-white Santa hat. She had on a garnet-colored toggle coat but she had forgotten her gloves.
"I can't believe how frozen my fingers are." Lauren cupped her hands and blew her warm breath into her palms.
"You shouldn't have left your gloves at home. Even though it's only a ten-minute walk from your house to here, it can feel a lot longer in this weather. You can get some hot chocolate from the concession stand. The heat from the cup should warm your fingers up quickly," I said.
"Well, let's go get some," she said as we continued down the corridor to a table where a volunteer was waiting to take our tickets.
"Did you remember the tickets, Anna?" Lauren asked.
"Of course." I snapped open the small purse I had carried with me. I presented our tickets and we were allowed to continue onward. We made our way over to the concession stand and Lauren ordered a hot chocolate with marsh-mallows like I had suggested. She took a quick sip of the warm liquid and I could tell by the way she sighed that it immediately made her feel better.
"I hope Jeremy comes like he said he would." I searched the hallway, which was becoming more crammed with concertgoers.
"Well, if he isn't, you can catch up with him next week."
"No. I need to catch him tonight. The school holiday dance party is just around the corner and I need to make sure he understands that he needs to ask me to go with him," I remarked as I scanned the area again.
"I hope Jeremy is nice and nothing like that Carlo dude you told me about."
"Please don't bring him up. I don't even remember what I saw in that guy. Falling in love with him nearly killed me, literally." The moment I tried to forget about Carlo, my conscience replayed the events in my mind, like a video that reminded me of the bad choice I had made. It began with the difficult time I had with the transition from junior high to high school. I had gone from being popular and the class valedictorian to the cute but nerdy freshman girl who no one noticed. I had trouble making friends and fitting in, and it didn't take long for depression to settle in. My grades started falling, which disappointed my parents and caused problems for me at home because I wasn't living up to their expectations. Then my cousin Viviana came to live with us, adding all types of new and unexpected tension in the house. In the middle of the chaos is when Carlo entered my life. He was an upperclassman and I felt fortunate to have an older guy take an interest in me. I didn't have a clue as to how relationships were supposed to work. Heck, I wasn't even supposed to be dating as a freshman. My parents said that I couldn't date until my second year of high school, so I knew very little about romance except what I saw on television. I didn't know what to say to guys or how to act around them. When Carlo came around, I felt clumsy, as if I talked too much. However, Carlo had a way of making me feel less awkward and before long I opened up to him about the issues I was having at home. He listened and I really enjoyed the attention that he was giving me. One day while I was visiting with him, I took some candy out of a dish when Carlo walked out the room. I ate it and suddenly felt ill. I went home and passed out on the floor. When I woke up, I was in the hospital and found out I had survived a drug overdose. What I didn't know was that Carlo was selling drugs that were packaged as candy. Thankfully I made a full recovery, but afterward, I placed distance between myself and Carlo.
I exhaled loudly because thinking about that previous chapter of my life always caused me a little bit of anxiety.
"I still can't believe that he had drugs in his house," Lauren said.
"Huh? What? Oh, neither could I," I said, realizing I had momentarily gotten swept away in my past and had tuned Lauren and everything else out like a dropped phone call.
"I mean, I would have totally freaked out if I had gone through what you had." Lauren held her cup with both hands and took another sip.
"Well, I'm thankful that episode is behind me now," I said, no longer wanting to relive the wasted history between myself and Carlo.
"So what's so special about Jeremy?"
"Well, for starters, I've known him since sixth grade," I said. I reached into my purse and removed a tissue to dab at a spot of moisture that had formed on my nose.
"Really? You didn't tell me that part."
"Are you sure? I thought I had."
"No, you didn't." Lauren appeared to be saddened that I had not shared more of my history with Jeremy with her.
"Come on. I'll tell you about it once we find a seat." The auditorium had three large seating sections—on the right, center and left side. The stage was shaped like a hexagon, which meant that no matter where we sat, the view would be excellent. Since seating arrangements were not assigned, we were free to sit wherever we wanted. We decided to sit in the center section in row fifteen, which was right in the middle of the section. We took off our coats and draped them over the backs of our seats. Once we were situated, I looked around again for Jeremy. I heard a chorus of conversations that hung in the air as more concertgoers entered the auditorium, but I did not spot Jeremy.
"Do you see him yet?" Lauren asked.
"No, not yet," I said, frowning.
"He'll show up." Lauren sensed that I had grown impatient as she settled into her seat.
"I hope so. I really want to get his attention. I really want him to notice me," I said, wondering if I was foolishly setting myself up for a big letdown.
"Sit down and finish telling me about how you guys met in sixth grade."
I sighed and then sat down. I uncoiled my scarf from around my neck and placed it across my lap. I recalled the many changes and interests that began to bloom like tulips in the spring when I was in junior high school.
"In sixth grade, I suddenly found boys to be fascinating. I found that I wanted to be around them and be treated like a girl instead of one of the guys. Jeremy was cute and he was a star on the basketball courts. Everybody loved him. He was funny, he dressed nicely and he didn't smell like funky sneakers." Lauren reached over and touched my hand, which caused me to pause.
"What?" I asked, feeling as if something was wrong.
"It's funny that you mentioned guys and smells. It brought back a memory for me. When I was in sixth grade, there was a boy who liked me. His name was Mark and he smelled like a skunk." Lauren's expression soured like milk that had curdled.
"Really? It was that bad?" I asked.
"Girl, every day he came to school smelling like he had peed on himself or someone had peed on him."
"Gross!" I raised my eyebrows into an expression of disbelief.
"I'm serious. Nobody wanted to sit next to him because his body odor was so foul. Anyway, he had the audacity to approach me one day on the school yard. When I saw him coming, I cringed at the sight of his square head, chapped lips and goldfish eyes. He also had bushy eyebrows that reminded me of Frankenstein. Creepy was his first name and Weird was his last."
"Gross!" I said again as a visual of what he looked like formed in my mind.
"What did he want?" I pried more than I really wanted to.
"Girl, to ask me if I thought he was cute."
"That boy didn't have any sense whatsoever," Lauren said. "What did you say to him?"
"I was really mean. I told him that I thought a dead animal on the highway was cuter than he was."
"That was mean, but funny," I said.
"I'm sorry. I threw you off track. Finish telling me about Jeremy," Lauren apologized.
"Well, he was nothing like Mark, that's for sure. Jeremy sat next to me in class. One day he asked for permission to go to the bathroom. Once he'd stepped away I wrote him a note, folded it up and placed it on his seat."
"What did your note say?" Lauren leaned close to me so that she wouldn't miss a word I said.
"It said, 'Do you think Anna Rogers is cute? If so, fake a cough when you read this,'" I explained.
"Did he cough after he read the note?"
"Like he smoked cigarettes every day," I said proudly. "Anyway, after school I lingered around to see if he would approach me."
"Did he?" Lauren asked. I could tell that she was analyzing everything I was telling her.
"Yes," I answered.
"What did he say?" Lauren hung on my every word.
"He asked if I had left the note on his seat. I told him yes, and he then asked if I thought he was cute."
"Duh! That's why you left the note." Lauren added her own commentary to the moment.
"I will admit that was a dumb question for him to ask, but I didn't give him a hard time about it. Then I asked him if he would like to kiss me."
"You had to ask? He didn't just do it?" Lauren asked.
"No. He wasn't that kind of boy. He had to be coached. I liked that about him," I said.
"Anyway, he said that he wanted to kiss, but not out in the open where everyone would see us. So we walked behind the school, out of sight from the teachers and other students. I will admit that I didn't know much about kissing. The only information I had in my head was what I had seen on television. I couldn't wait until I got my first kiss from a boy who wasn't my father or grandfather. They always kissed me on the cheek or forehead. Anyway, when the big moment came I improvised. I tried to act like a mature girl, but not like a girl who did this sort of thing all the time. I pressed my back against one of the rear doors of the school and clutched my books to my chest. I didn't want him to get carried away and attempt to feel my breasts, which was something boys were notorious for at my school. I shut my eyes tightly, puckered my lips and waited. He pressed his lips against mine and moved away so quickly I wasn't even sure if I'd been kissed. The kiss felt like the padding of a fingertip pressing against my lips. When I opened my eyes, he had a strange expression on his face as if he was trying to figure out a difficult math problem. I don't know what I expected when I opened my eyes, but I'm certain it wasn't the confused expression that I saw."
"What happened after that?" Lauren asked.
"The bewildered look on his face freaked me out. I thought something was wrong with me. I pushed him away and ran."
"Wow," Lauren said.
"It was a really weird moment."
"Didn't you see him again at school?" Lauren asked.
"Yes," I said. "What did he say?"
"He said that it was the first time he had ever kissed a girl who wasn't his mom and that he thought he'd done something wrong because I closed my eyes tight like I was expecting a punch. He said that he thought once our lips met, my eyes were supposed to open, and when they didn't he thought he'd messed up the kiss. He asked for another chance but it was too late by that point. I told him to forget the kiss ever happened. When I rejected him I knew that I'd hurt his feelings, although I could tell he was trying not to let it show. Anyway, by eighth grade, enough time had come to pass since the kiss and he and I became friends. We hung out a few times and even went to a school dance together, only as friends, though. When he had questions about girls, I gladly answered them and even told him which girls I thought would be perfect for him," I said.
"Did you still like him during that time?" Lauren asked as she took a sip from her cup.
"I still liked him, but more like a good friend."
"So why do you want him after all this time?"
"Because he is the only real guy friend I've ever had. We can talk about anything and he makes me laugh. I like a guy with a sense of humor. When I got sick from the accidental overdose, he brought flowers to my house and talked to me nearly every day. It was at that point that I began to realize how much he meant to me. I know that I'm the perfect girl for him. He even told me I was."
"So why didn't you go for him then?" Lauren asked.
"Because I felt stupid about chasing after Carlo and didn't have the nerve to confess my true feelings. Jeremy and I both know that we're good for each other. Now is the time for me to be a little bolder and encourage him to ask me out on a serious date. We're meant to be together because I like the way he smiles at me, and I like the way he's always been there to wipe away my tears when things don't go right. I like the way he makes me laugh. Hell, I like how good-looking and popular he's become. He knows me and I know him. I never really stopped liking him as more than a friend. I put him in the friend lane and lied to myself about how I truly felt about him. Am I making sense or am I babbling?"
"You make perfect sense to me. You've always cared for him but you were afraid to let him know. Now you've found the courage to fight for his heart."
"Yes, and once I have it, I'll give him my heart as well, and we can stop pretending that our feelings are only on the friendship level."
"Okay. So what's your plan?" Lauren set her empty cup in the cup holder and shifted in her seat.
"I'm going to invite him out for a bite to eat after the concert. While we're eating, I'll drop him some serious hints. I also want you to keep saying, whenever you can, that we make a cute couple."