Emery Mason hates the holidays. She’s so over tinsel, secret santas, and excessive cheer. To make matter worse, her parents are forcing her to work—as an elf!—in their Santa photo booth at the mall. Then she meets Alejandro Perez, who works at the hot cocoa shop next door. He’s so annoyingly full of the holiday spirit he should be the one wearing elf get-up!
But the more time Emery spends with Alex, the more she realizes she might not be the Grinch she thinks she is. When a Secret Santa surprise turns her world upside down, will Emery finally embrace the magic of the season? Or will she miss her chance to kiss the perfect boy under the mistletoe?
“Hello,” I said to him, playing up the annoyance in my voice for all it was worth. It was no use. He was still smiling, completely immune.
“Can I just say, I love that I bring out the grouch in you.” His eyes glinted teasingly. “Here.” He handed me the hot chocolate. “I call this one the Cocoa of Christmas Past.”
“Clever,” I quipped. “But if you expect me to take a sip and start sobbing over the year I didn’t get that vampire doll I wanted, you’ll be disappointed.”
For the last two evenings that I’d worked at the North Pole Wonderland with my parents, Alex had been dauntlessly trying to sway me with different hot cocoa flavors. Tuesday, it was Cinna-more Hot Chocolate, yesterday Pumpkin Perfection, and now this.
“Strange. I would’ve pegged you for a zombie type,” he said, unfazed. Zombies were actually way cooler than vampires, but I wasn’t about to admit he’d guessed right.
It was strange, the way we’d fallen into this easy banter, especially since we were such complete opposites. I’d actually amped up my snarkiness at first, thinking it would scare him off. If anything, though, it seemed to make him more persistent, which was surprising, a little annoying, but also, I had to grudgingly admit, entertaining.
I sat down at one of the café tables, took a sip of his latest concoction, and shook my head as syrupy, bittersweet chocolate coated my tongue. “Sorry.” I handed the cup back to him. “Too chocolatey.”
“Now I know there’s something deeply wrong with you,” Alex said. “How can anything be too chocolatey?”
“Está bien, Alejandro,” a deep, rusticated voice called from behind the store counter, and I saw Alex’s grandfather smiling at us. “Not everyone likes so much sweetness all at once,” he said. “Maybe Emery likes more of a challenge for her taste buds.”
“Thanks, Señor Perez,” I said, then gave Alex a look of triumph. “See? Even your grandpa knows it’s pointless.”
“He didn’t say ‘pointless.’” Alex set my cup behind the counter, then sat down across from me. “He said ‘challenge.’ And I’m up for it.” His eyes stayed on mine longer than I expected, and I felt a confusing flutter in my stomach and dropped my eyes.
Hot Cocoa Hearts is a companion Book to Cake Pop Crush, You’re Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight.