Danny Garland is so out of Holly’s league. And her family is only back in North Pole, Minnesota, long enough to sell Grandma’s house and say “Merry Christmas.” So telling her basketball-star, too-hot-to-be-real long-time crush that she’d like to kiss him under the mistletoe just isn’t going to happen.
And now he’s asked out her cousin, Elda. Elda is a mess at flirting, so when she begs Holly to intervene, she does. Holly helps her flirt with him over text. And then again. And again. Now she’s stuck texting him as her cousin, and Elda is the one going on the date. Holly thought she could settle for just conversation with Danny, but talking with him is some kind of magic. He’s got the perfect comebacks, she makes him laugh, they text until everyone is asleep.
She just can’t ever tell him it’s her he’s really texting.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book has hot texts, gingerbread wars, and a slow-burn romance that could melt a Minnesota winter.
Books in the North Pole, Minnesota series
Any Boy but You
About the Author
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Thursday, December 7
The reporter from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune had been following Danny Garland around since the moment he pulled into the North Pole High School parking lot for basketball practice. The guy trailed Danny into the school, then into the locker room and out to the bench. Now he hovered next to Danny on the sidelines while he double knotted his shoes. "What's it like living in North Pole?" the reporter asked, his stale tobacco breath filling Danny's nose. "Do you eat fruitcake all day? Do you know the perfect recipe for eggnog?"
Danny knotted his laces, ignoring the phone the reporter used as a recording device. "No North Pole questions," he'd said back in the parking lot. Danny's hometown was all this dude wanted to talk about.
"What did you ask Santa for this year? Have you been a good boy?"
Danny tapped the top of his shoe and stood from his crouch. He had a game to prepare for. All this interest in North Pole was a distraction he didn't need. The reporter, a dumpy middle-aged man with a scraggly neck beard, scrambled to keep up with Danny's long legs as he made his way onto the court for warm-ups. Danny rolled his eyes at his brother Brian, who was hanging out on the sidelines. This reporter nonsense was his fault. Brian fancied himself Danny's "manager" and was the one who'd set up this interview without Danny's okay.
"No disrespect." The reporter slid a few feet on the freshly waxed gym floor. Several of Danny's teammates, who were already out on the court, chuckled. They were laughing at Danny as much as at the reporter. They thought Danny had picked this day on purpose for his interview — an afternoon when the poms were practicing as well as the basketball team. It totally looked like Danny was begging for attention.
"I'm just curious. North Pole High has never been in contention for the state tournament before, and, frankly, until Stan Stashiuk joined the NHL, the sports world had no idea this place existed."
"Well, it does." Brian stepped onto the court and tossed his little brother a fresh water bottle. "Stash put us on the map, and Danny is going to keep us there."
After taking a sip, Danny handed the water back to his brother. Then he grabbed a ball from the rack, dribbled twice, and banked a shot from just beyond the three-point arc. He'd leave Brian to handle this reporter from the cities, who cared more about playing up the small town angle than focusing on Danny's, and his team's, actual talent. They were fresh off a big win against the reigning state champions that had shocked the entire Minnesota sports world. Now the North Pole Reindeer was a team to be reckoned with, due in no small part to Danny's contribution at power forward.
"I do want to play up the North Pole angle, just a bit." The reporter followed Brian, the chattier Garland, back to the bench, and Danny pretended not to notice. He glanced toward the corner of the gym and caught sight of his long-time girlfriend, Star, leading the red and green-clad poms squad in warm ups. He gave her a quick wave, which she didn't return. Danny normally wouldn't have noticed the slight. The two of them had been dating since junior high — six years. Their relationship had evolved past worrying about perceived snubs. They were solid. At least they used to be.
Lately he couldn't tell.
However, now was not the time for girlfriend-related paranoia. Staying focused on tonight's game was the important thing. Maintaining his image as the captain of the basketball team, boyfriend to the head cheerleader, and North Pole's current golden boy was the only way he'd ever escape this town. He was not some Podunk hick who bought into all of North Pole's Christmas garbage. The Minneapolis Star Tribune would not make that his narrative, not when he was heading into the most important season of his life, and not when, thanks to the team's early success, colleges were actually traveling to North Pole to check him out. All of this stuff bonded him and Star. They were the golden couple. They were going to get out. He was not going to be stuck here for his entire life like his big brother.
"Danny used to win the gingerbread contest every single year." Brian spoke right into the reporter's phone.
The hell? Glaring at his mouthy brother, Danny hurled the ball at him.
Smiling sheepishly, Brian tossed the ball back. "Sorry, Dan. I forgot. We're not supposed to talk about that."
No, they weren't supposed to talk about that. That was another lifetime. That was a part of Danny that no longer existed. He was not going to be seen as the cutesy little basketball player from a Christmas village who held the record for most consecutive gingerbread competition wins. He was here to play basketball and kick ass. Full stop.
The reporter shuffled over to Danny, careful not to slide around in his loafers. "Okay, so you don't want to talk about your gingerbread skills. Can we discuss your basketball bonafides instead?"
"Gladly." Danny sank another three-pointer from near the baseline while the rest of the team warmed up around him.
"You shoot like Steph Curry, you rebound like Rodman in his prime, and you look like freaking Christian Laettner." The reporter caught his breath. "Is there anything you can't do?"
I can't get my girlfriend to wave to me. "Of course," Danny said.
"Care to elaborate?" The reporter held his phone toward Danny's lips.
"He can't dunk," Brian shouted from the sidelines.
Danny stopped dribbling, tucked the ball under his arm, and glared at his brother. "I can dunk."
Brian shook his head. "Since when?"
"Since forever." Danny rolled his eyes again. Brian was more of a liability than an asset at this point. They were going to have to talk about some things before the next game.
"Please. I've never seen you." Brian was totally playing him right now. He'd seen Danny dunk millions of times. Heck, Danny had dunked over Brian when they were shooting hoops in the driveway just last week.
Danny's shoulders dropped. "Dude. Yes, you have."
Brian stared into the middle distance as if his mind were running through every time he'd ever watched Danny on a basketball court. Danny could have strangled him. Brian was trying to get him to showboat in front of this reporter, his teammates, and Star. "I've literally never seen you dunk."
"You know how you could clear this up." The reporter cocked his head toward the basket.
Sighing, Danny made his way to the free throw line. He wasn't a show- off, but he wasn't one to back down from a challenge, either. At least this dunking drama had distracted the reporter from the North Pole questions. Danny dribbled the ball a few times, psyching himself up while glancing over at two of his teammates, Kevin and Marcus, who were playing a little one-on-one just off to his right.
He tuned out the noises in the gym — the shouts, the cheers, the band warming up in the corner — and focused with tunnel vision on the basket. Giving up on any pretense of playing by the rules, Danny cradled the ball, ran toward the basket, and leaped into the air. Upon takeoff, his foot slipped on the freshly waxed floor, but he kept going — up, up, up. He grasped the rim with one hand, chucked the ball through the net with the other, and lost his grip. His hands fought for purchase, but for nothing. Danny was falling, and Kevin, who'd managed to get around Marcus, barreled right at him. Danny bent his knees to land gracefully, but the slippery floor sent his legs flying, and Kevin landed squarely on his right shin.
The last thing Danny remembered was the sickening crack as his tibia broke in two.
Friday, December 15
"I mean, how can you not love this place?" Holly and her cousin Elda had just walked past a gun store called "And to All a Good Night." A nativity scene decorated the front window with the wise men holding assault rifles instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This town was kitschy perfection.
"I know, right?" Elda bit into the warm chocolate croissant she'd initially called a "calorie bomb" when they'd picked up a few at Sugarplum Sweets a few minutes ago. Holly hadn't hesitated for a second. Chocolate croissants were tradition, and tradition equaled negative calories. The next two weeks of her life would be full of tradition.
When she was a kid, Holly used to believe this small town in Minnesota was the actual North Pole. All the shops were Christmas themed. The clothing boutique was called Mrs. Claus's Closet. The gas station went by Reindeer Fueling Station. People from all across the country made the pilgrimage here year after year like it was a religious experience, like Christmas didn't exist unless it came with snowman cookies from the bakery, eggnog from the local pub, and a photo with Santa in the town square.
This place had felt like magic back then, and, if Holly was being honest, it still did. Maybe it was because she hadn't been back here since she was ten. All her memories were good ones, preserved in her mind under a red and green glow.
Speaking of ... She scanned the people they passed on the sidewalk, hunting for one person in particular, one boy she hoped to run into. Danny Garland. He'd be wearing a cast right now. Yeah, she'd done the stalkery thing and googled him. And, yeah, she felt completely pathetic about it.
"It kind of feels like Grandma's still here, doesn't it?" Elda asked. "This place smells like her." Elda breathed in deeply.
"Or she smelled like it." Cinnamon and cloves. The scent transported Holly to the couch in her grandmother's den, where the two of them used to cuddle together and plot out their gingerbread contest plans. The scent of North Pole was pure, unadulterated nostalgia.
Holly hadn't been back in eight years, but being here now, it was like she'd never left. Her family had stopped coming to North Pole for Christmas once the kids got older and everyone got too busy. With sports and school functions and the cost of it all, it became harder and harder for Holly's family to make the trip from Illinois to Minnesota, and for her aunt's and uncle's crews to make their trips from Vermont and California. Holly's dad and his siblings started paying to fly Grandma around the country for the holidays. She'd spend Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, Christmas in Chicago, and New Year's in Vermont. It had made life easier for the adults, but it had kept Holly and her cousins away from each other.
She and Elda had seen each other for the first time since they were in middle school a month ago at their Grandma's funeral in California, where she'd passed away. Back when they were kids, Holly had known Elda as "Esme," but she'd changed her nickname because "everyone goes by Esme now. It's so bougie. Thanks, Twilight."
To which Holly had responded, "Twilight ruins everything." Holly was mostly neutral on the existence of Twilight, but she jumped at the chance to bond with her cousin. The two girls hit it off marvelously, spending the next few weeks chatting and texting, reminiscing about their childhood memories, and making big plans for what to do in North Pole over the holidays when their families would make one last pilgrimage here to clean out Grandma's home and prepare to sell it.
Elda had actually brought up Danny Garland in a text conversation a few weeks ago. She'd sent Holly a picture from one of their trips to North Pole with the message, "Remember this dorky kid?"
Holly played it off like she hadn't. "Yeah, total dork," she'd said.
Thinking about Danny Garland had been the only thing keeping her from utter despair over losing her grandma. She'd spent the past few weeks leading up to her family's trip to North Pole imagining all the ways she might run into Danny — she'd know him right away, of course, but he'd know her, too, the girl who used to enter the gingerbread contest with her grandmother, the girl who came in second place to him three years running, the girl he'd smiled at sheepishly from across the room after their last competition. That smile was etched on her brain.
"I'm sad there's no snow, though." Elda held up a hand as if to catch a non-existent snowflake.
It was the middle of December in Minnesota, and Holly wasn't even wearing a coat. She'd pulled a chunky sweater over the powder blue A-line dress she'd paired with green low-top Chuck Taylors, but that was it. Chicago had been the same before she left — too warm. Holly wanted snow. She wanted Christmas. This wasn't Christmas. "Global warming is almost as bad as Twilight," she said, calling back to their earlier conversation.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" Elda stopped in her tracks.
"What?" Holly craned her neck over her cousin's shoulder to see what Elda was so excited about. Elda crouched down, and the grizzly scene revealed itself — a dead, mangled squirrel. Holly backed up on instinct. "Ew."
"Not 'ew.'" Elda examined it. "The intestines look like blooming roses."
Well, that was one way to look at it. Holly grabbed Elda's arm and dragged her up. "Whatever you say, my friend. Let's grab some coffee." Holly crossed the threshold into Santabucks, where she immediately halted in her tracks.
"You okay?" Elda skirted around Holly, leaving her standing in the doorway alone.
Holly managed to choke out a "fine" as she stared at the ghost from her past. She'd let her guard down for a minute to think about global warming and a dead squirrel, and now here he was.
Danny Garland was wiping down the counter. The Danny Garland. Holly had seen his recent photos online, so she was prepared for the hotness. Modern day Danny was perfection. The dorkiness was a faint memory. He no longer wore glasses. His sandy brown hair was perfectly tousled, and his arrow-like, angular nose pointed straight down to plump, pouty lips.
Danny hadn't noticed Holly at all, at least not really. He'd glanced at her for a second, then fixed his eyes on Elda.
Holly's world crumbled around her. The ideal scenario she'd imagined, where Danny caught sight of her, remembered their connection as kids, and fell madly and deeply in love with her, was utter fiction. Holly was the dumbass who'd failed to see the obvious. She and Elda had looked like twins when they were younger (tall, skinny girls with brown hair and brown eyes), but puberty had been much kinder to Elda. Holly's cousin had blemish-free olive skin and medium brown hair that was so shiny it defied scientific explanation. She was the girl next door of every boy's dreams. Holly was the girl next door who actually lived next door. Of course he was checking out Elda. Anyone with eyes would have done the same.
Holly hunched her shoulders. She'd been a fool to expect him to recognize her. She was no one. And she was not the girl she'd been at ten. Back then, she'd been a bean pole with long, brown pigtails. Now she was curvy — okay, "plus-size" — with red statement glasses and dyed jet-black hair, which she'd had chopped into a bowl cut after getting ill-advised bangs that parted in the middle and swooped out to the side like little wings no matter what she did. Her tongue touched the tiny scar that bisected her upper lip. It was a nervous reaction, something she did all the time without thinking.
"What can I get you?" Danny stared right into Elda's eyes, clearly under her spell. "And you." He nodded slightly toward Holly, but he didn't take his eyes off Elda. That was about right. Holly's daydreams had led predictably to disappointment. Again.
"Half skim, half two percent, half caf, no foam latte with one Splenda and one Sugar in the Raw. Extra hot." Elda blushed a bit on the word "hot."
"Got it." Danny typed the order into the computer. Then he turned to Holly and waited expectantly for her order.
Holly searched for a hint of recognition, but nope. It was official. Danny Garland, the guy she'd been dreaming about — off and on, she wasn't that pathetic — for the past eight years, had no idea who she was. "Iced cinnamon latte," Holly said. "Two percent. With whipped." She'd drown her disappointment in sugar and milk fat. Maybe that, too, counted as negative calories. Eating one's feelings was a tradition of sorts.
Elda leaned against the counter in a way that Holly assumed was supposed to be casual. "So, North Pole, am I right?" She said it like a bad actress in a bad movie trying to read her lines, moving her body deliberately, as if she'd forgotten how to control the muscles in her arms and face.
Danny didn't watch her display, which was probably a lucky thing for Elda. He seemed too busy focusing on his task at hand — navigating the tiny space behind the espresso machine while on crutches. "North Pole," he said in agreement.
Excerpted from "Approximately Yours"
Copyright © 2017 Julie Hammerle.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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