Me: I have a new book coming out on October 2.

You: Didn’t you, like, just release a new book this summer?

Why, yes. Yes, I did. But this is the third novel in the North Pole, MN trilogy. It’s a stand-alone story, so you won’t be missing anything if you haven’t read the other two.

APPROXIMATELY YOURS is a Cyrano-type tale about unrequited love set during the December holidays. Here’s the skinny:

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.

And here’s the first chapter:

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.

You can pre-order my new book, APPROXIMATELY YOURS, here.

And check out my other three novels, including the prequels to APPROXIMATELY YOURS, right here.

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