Kiss King by Mickey Miller



“Maya, here’s the thing about us men. We’re stupid. We’re dimwitted. So, if you like this Grant guy, you’ve got to spell it out for him. When did you see him last?” Tom asks.

Nothing like a pre-coffee phone chat with your big brother giving you romantic advice.

“Tom, I don’t have a crush on him,” I scoff. “Plus, I want to study abroad in Italy next year during fall term, so why would I get involved with someone right now?”

The early morning March sun shines on my face as I head toward the campus café.

“Really? You don’t have a crush on him? Well, why couldn’t you stop talking about him at Thanksgiving?”

This is the blessing and the curse of having an older brother who lives in London.

Pro: he’s able to chat even when it’s barely seven a.m. in the Midwest.

Con: his mind is already humming while mine is just waking up.

Tom goes on. “So, you’re not even going to try to go on a single date with him during all ten weeks of spring term, Maya?”

I swing the door of the Gizmo open and furrow my brow as I scan the room.

“He’s a friend. He lives close by. And by the way, as my older brother, shouldn’t you be discouraging me from dating guys? You’re supposed to be all protective.”

“Nah. That’s Paul’s role,” he jokes. “He’s the brother who threatens your boyfriends if they’re mean to you. I’m a realist. It’s college, you’re a wonderful young woman and you’re going to date. So, I’d rather you do it safely, with a guy you truly like rather than with some asshole.”

My heart warms. I pause my conversation with Tom and order a mocha latte.

As I wait at the counter, Tom goes on, “I didn’t know you were a ‘mocha on a Thursday’ type of girl now.”

I groan. “I’m twelve grand in the hole for this term alone. What’s another four dollars?”

“That’s not a fiscally responsible attitude, sis.”

I sigh. “I know. But I need to think through how exactly I’m going to pay for tuition this term now that Mom and Dad have pulled the plug. Stupid divorce.”

“They still love you. We all still love you. All families have transitions. But we’ll get through it together. All right?”

I nod. “Yes. I know.”

“And, Maya, one more thing.”

Tom keeps talking, but suddenly I have tunnel vision.

I watch my plan for a morning of quiet reflection being thwarted in slow motion as I wait for my coffee by guess who?

Grant Gray Eyes Taylor.

He’s standing next to a table in the seating area, sipping a coffee. His expression is stoic and thoughtful, like a CEO who is about to crush the world for twelve hours straight and is taking the only calm five minutes he has of the day for himself.

I’m the opposite of put together right now. I’ve got my glasses on, yoga pants and a white T-shirt. My backpack straps are pulled tight from the mile walk to campus from my rundown apartment on the wrong side of town. Yeah, I look like I’m in fifth grade. Ugh. I barely did my makeup this morning because I figured I wouldn’t run into anyone this early.

Him? From the looks of it, he just woke up, but also seems as though he could step onto a GQ cover model photoshoot and have that natural look. Boy haircuts are so unfair.

Grant notices me, then gives me a light wave and nods.

I hear my brother on the phone. “Uh, sis? You still there?”

“Tom, gotta go.”

“Okay. Love you, sis. Talk soon.”

I hang up just in time for Grant to saunter my way.

“Well, hello there, you.” His eyes sear into me.

You? We’re still on you terms?

Granted, we were terrific friends during the fall, but I had to sit out winter term while I tried to figure out my finances to come back to Greene State University. Now it’s March and spring term is starting and…

My body tingles.

Why is he so unfairly sexy?

“Uh, hi,” I choke out, remembering that I haven’t greeted him yet. I can be so awkward sometimes. Did my voice just crack? Taking last term off is really throwing me. Why can’t we just be on fall and spring semesters like a normal school, as opposed to ten weeks of fall, winter, and spring trimesters?

“It’s Grant,” he says, running a hand through his thick brown hair. “New hairstyle.”