Just One Kiss by J. Saman

Chapter One


“Dad, just stop. It can’t be helped,” I groan, leaning back in the seat of my two-door Boxster, heading up I-91 North through Vermont on the way to my parents’ winter home through what appears to be the beginnings of a storm. “The Weather Channel mentioned some snow. Like three-to-six inches max. I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”

“When was the last time you checked that?”

I have to think about this for a second. It’s been a long couple of days. “I don’t know. Friday?”

“It’s Monday, London,” he not so kindly points out, his tone growing shrill and agitated. “Monday. Weather changes in this part of the country on a daily basis. We’re supposed to get eighteen-to-twenty-four inches at a minimum, and it’s expected to come down fast and hard with the added bonus of some ice mixing in. Hence why your mother and I have both been calling you non-stop for the last two days. The last two days that you’ve been ignoring us.”

I bluster out a frustrated breath. “I was on deadline.”

“I know. You told us that on Friday. At the exact same time we told you that you can work from anywhere.”

I roll my eyes like the petulant child he’s making me feel like. “Stop it with that. I can’t write in a house full of people screaming and watching old movies and shouting at me about decorating the tree or which color of tinsel works best.”

“Or making out like two horny teenagers,” I hear my sister grouse in the background, the ick in her voice unmistakable and loud, since my father always has to have me on speakerphone. Why? Who the fuck knows! That’s just how he rolls.

“Your mother and I have not been making out like two horny teenagers.”

“Liar,” she coughs. “They’re worse than me and Maverick.” Maverick is my eldest sister, Charleston’s—or Charlie as we call her—fiancé. That’s obviously not his real name, but since my sister’s favorite movie is Meet The Parents (Not Top Gun, as you would think) everyone calls him Maverick since she’s his Iceman. I don’t question the logic behind it, since technically it was Goose to his Maverick and Goose dies, but it’s really not worth the effort.

“You wanna talk about horny people going at it all the time, go pop in on Savannah and Royce. They’ve been like bunnies in heat since she got pregnant.” That’s my mother chiming in, and I can’t help but growl into the phone.

“How do you think they got pregnant in the first place?” Charlie cackles.

“You know what?” I interject, my nose scrunched up. “Maybe I’ll turn back around. You’re right, the weather is getting bad.”

Being the only single in a house full of over-love and over-sharing can get to be a bit much.

Especially this time of year.

My mother laughs, knowing I’m kidding. As much as I know my family is crazy, I love them to pieces and then a bunch more. And it’s Christmas. The universal time to be with family, crazy or otherwise.

At least that’s how we do it.

No matter what’s going on in our lives, we stop and get together as a family. It’s tradition. Evidently I’m a little late to the party.

“If you had tried to write from here, you’d already be here, safe and sound,” my father cuts in, hating my mother’s over-sharing as much as I do. “But instead you’re driving into an area with blizzard warnings in a car that does not have front-wheel drive, let alone all-wheel drive. You could have stopped at the house and picked up one of the SUVs, London. I swear, sometimes you just love screwing with my sanity and blood pressure.” He sighs and I fall silent. “Where are you?” he asks, his tone softening. “Maybe you should just turn back or find a place to stay that’s safe. As much as I need you here to help me balance out your sisters and your mother, I’m worried about you driving in this.”

I glance over at my navigation screen and then quickly back to the road. The snow is falling so thickly, I can hardly see the road ahead of me that is so terribly plowed, it’s ridiculous. This is ski country after all, is it not? Isn’t plowing snow what these people live for up here?

“It looks like I’m close to I-89.” I think. It’s nearly impossible to tell, even on the navigation screen because every few seconds, it cycles like it’s lost. Not all that reassuring.