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Kissing Max Holden
Author/Writer of Book/Novel:
1250111161 (ISBN13: 9781250111166)
Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…
After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
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THE POUNDING AT MY WINDOW COMES LATE, and it scares me shitless.
A second knock quickly follows, rattling the glass in its pane and my heart in my chest. There’s such force behind the rapping, I’m half expecting a bloodied, glass-encrusted fist to poke through my curtains.
Our house is silent and inky dark. The last of the trick-or-treaters have called it a night. My parents have stowed the leftover Snickers bars and checked the locks; they’ve been asleep for hours.
Another knock. More subdued, but still resolute. There’s comfort in its persistence. Someone with deviant motives would be sneakier, more cunning. Fear gives way as curiosity blooms, and my stuttering heart resumes a steadier beat.
This knock, his knock, is familiar.
It’s been years since Max visited me at night. Years since I let him crawl through my window and sprawl out on my carpet and talk himself gruff until early morning. It’s been ages since we’ve talked at all, really, but I can’t ignore him. It’s not in his DNA to give up—he’ll keep knocking and eventually he’ll make enough noise to wake my dad, who’ll come to investigate. Max is little more than a peripheral figure in my life these days, but Dad’ll be pissed if he finds the neighbor boy lurking outside my window like a creeper.
I flip on a lamp and slip out of bed, straightening my skewed pajama pants as I pad across the carpet. I catch a glimpse of my disheveled reflection in the mirrored closet door and pause to adjust my tank top and smooth my ponytail. I jump when he knocks again, an agitated pummeling of the glass, like he’s sensed my ill-timed vanity.
He’s there as I draw the curtains back, peering up at me from the poorly lit side yard. The sad slope of his shoulders and the hard set of his jaw do terrible things to my heart.
Max Holden used to be equal parts zesty and sweet, like lemon meringue pie. Bright and jovial, so brilliant I once had to squint when I looked at him. Now, his dazzle has dulled, flattened like a biscuit that refuses to rise. Still, I can’t help but hope for his once-trademark grin, the one that says, I knew you’d come.
Of course I’ll come. He’s Max and I’m Jillian, and that’s how it’s always been.
But he doesn’t smile—he barely makes eye contact. He looks tired, defeated, and deeply unhappy.
I unlock the window and push it up. I don’t officially invite him in, but he braces his hands on the sill and hurdles through the opening like a cat burglar. He stretches to his full height—several inches taller than my five-seven—and I look him over, one eyebrow lifted in unconcealed shock: I’ve never seen him so eccentrically unkempt.
His feet are shoved into tattered moccasin-style slippers—castoffs of his father’s, probably—and he’s thrown on faded McAlder High sweats, ratty things he wears to wash his truck, another hand-me-down from Bill. His torso is draped in a blousy white shirt with a black, jagged-edged vest over it, a skull and crossbones embroidered over his heart. His dark hair is spiked in every direction, like he recently ditched a too-tight hat. He runs a hand through it when he notices my scrutiny. And his eyes, a gray-blue so deep they’re capable of drowning the unsuspecting, are rimmed in liner, thick and black and smudged.
Max isn’t a makeup kind of guy.
I stare, perplexed. I look away. Then, because I can’t help myself, I peek again.
“What?” he asks.
“Um. You’re wearing makeup.”
He shrugs. “And you’re not.”
“It’s the middle of the night, Max. What are you doing here?”
He sinks wearily—and without answer—to the floor. He leans against my bed, unfolding his long legs across the eggshell carpet my stepmother, Meredith, had installed a few years ago. His eyes fall shut. His breathing is shallow, disturbingly irregular.
I stand over him. Now that his eyes are closed, I regard him again, turning over the facts I’ve collected. He’s likely drunk. He went to Linebacker Leo’s Halloween party, like the rest of our school’s population, and from what I heard, his girlfriend, Becky McMahon, accompanied him. Who could blame him if he drained a keg to tolerate her presence?
A draft eddies in from my open window. It doesn’t appear to bother Max, but I’m cold in my thin pajamas. I’m also self-conscious in my thin pajamas, which is absurd. It’s not as if he hasn’t seen me dressed for bed. We’ve been neighbors for ten years and our parents are close. When I was thirteen, I spent a week with the Holdens while my dad and Meredith honeymooned in Maui. But this—this—is different. We’re seventeen, and we’re alone.
The air suddenly seems gelatinous. Does he sense it? Probably not. He’s slouched against my bed, eyes still shut, features pinched in a scowl. He looks seconds from sleep in his wacky getup.