Holly Moreau and Nick Zernigan aren’t friends at school – or anywhere else. Especially since Holly blames Nick for her broken nose after a freak accident. But when they find themselves unexpectedly dropped with older relatives at a retirement complex over Christmas break, they must make peace. They have to. It’s the only way to survive karaoke night and a senior citizen Christmas dance.
Holly thinks Nick is a careless loser. Nick thinks Holly is a too-serious choir nerd. Can one party and a crime spree change their minds about each other? And can Nick and Holly remember the miracle of Christmas and find the answers to some of their hidden questions?
I blink hard because it can’t possibly be true. I must have my contacts in backwards, but how could I possibly tell? My face is swollen, my eyes are turning black, and the bandage on my nose obscures most important obstacles in front of me. “What are you doing here?”
“Holly...” he says all embarrassed-like and clearly as surprised as me.
“Forget it,” I say and attempt to drag my bright purple rolling suitcase up the last two snow-covered steps. “It’s the cherry on top of my Christmas vacay to find you here. Yay me.” I keep tugging, but the stubborn wheels won’t slide over the last slippery step. “This is insane! This is a senior complex. How do they expect the decrepit people to get up these stairs?”
Nick clears his throat. This causes me to look at him again which in turn hurts my face. He’s pointing to the center’s accessible ramp, and I can’t believe I haven’t passed out from the embarrassment.
“Let me help,” he says.
The snow crunches beneath his brown winter boots. My smashed nose barely works, but I can’t miss the scent of cigarette smoke and intense something-or-other men’s body spray he’s been squirting to cover up his habit.
“Stay away from me, Nick Zernigan. I’ve had enough of your help.”
I lunge forward with such force I lose my balance and fall to one knee. Nick’s boots are crunching snow again and I practically lie all the way down with my broken face to the icy porch boards to avoid his outstretched hand.
“I’ve got it,” I say and struggle to stand up, my gloves and jeans now saturated with wet, heavy snow. “Stay back.”
“Whatever,” he says and turns.
“Wait a minute. Why are you here? Your house is twenty miles away on the other side of the lake.”
“What are you, my probation officer?”
“Why? Do you have one of those?”
“No.” His breath swirls in front of him in the frosty air as he adjusts his hat over his stringy black hair. I swear his teeth are chattering. “My great-aunt and uncle live here. Well, my aunt does. My uncle died a couple weeks ago. My dad thought I should spend some time here while he... Never mind.” He nods toward my bag and stuffs his hands in the pockets of his coat. “Why are you here?”
“Sorry about your uncle.” The cold stings the inside of my sore nose. “My granny’s here,” I rush to add and finish the conversation. My anger bubbles again and I refuse to share with Nick Zernigan how my mother’s boyfriend has whisked her away to somewhere tropical while I’ve been banished to the old folks’ home to rot over Christmas. The situation is so unfair I know my teeth will crack if I keep gritting them about it. “Anyway.” I tug my coat closed. “I can’t believe we both have family here.”
“It’s no great mystery, Holly. Black Diamond West Virginia isn’t all that big.”
He must think I’m stupid. “Yes, I know. We have a mountain and a lake. The best of skiing for two seasons. Almost Heaven West Virginia and all that. I’ve been on this God-forsaken mountain my whole life too, you know.”
“Yeah, well, see you around.”
I do, too, but try to avoid his coal black gaze. The length of his lashes defies the laws of nature. He looks like a catalog model, and I look like I’ve been hit by a bus—all because of him.
“I’m sorry again about the... You know.” He waves his finger in front of his face and then points it my way.
My glare is as cold as my swollen face will allow. “Forget it.”
He opens the door for me. “Merry Christmas, Holly.”
Humph. Christmas is wrecked.
“Merry stinkin’ Christmas, Nick.”