It was twenty degrees outside, but the temperature in Jordan’s car fell somewhere below zero. “You’re mad.”
“No, I’m fine.” Iris’s voice was tight with emotion.
Jordan straightened into his seat and shifted the car to drive. Ever since the kiss, everything had changed. It was like he lost his best friend, and Iris had morphed into what he didn’t want in a relationship.
Before the kiss, things were light and natural.
Now she was keeping things from him.
“We’re supposed to be best friends. Can you at least tell me why you kept the secret from me?” Jordan gripped the steering wheel to make the turn. He loosened his hold to steady the energy pulsing through him.
“The whole point of doing random acts of kindness is to do something kind that doesn’t garner too much attention.” In the dark, he couldn’t see Iris’s face, only hear her voice. She sounded like she was sure in her reasoning. It was almost too sure.
“Well, you were doing it wrong,” Jordan politely pointed out. “Because you got my attention.”
“That was an accident,” Iris admitted. “You just happened to be there the last time I did it.”
“Which is why you should have just told me.” The secret had struck the missing shard in his armor.
“Then you wouldn’t have been surprised,” Iris countered. “The fun is seeing the surprise in everyone’s face. When someone does something kind for one person, the change is palatable.” She kept her gaze averted to the road. The lack of energy in her voice told him she was trying to maintain her status quo bubbly personality. “Everyone around them starts to believe in good things happening.”
Jordan loved her heart. Iris had such a beautiful heart. She was the only person who hadn’t held his faults against him or anyone else. She trudged through the problems, coming out the other side a little dented, but still positive about the experience that brought her hardship. Jordan was trying to be more like Iris, so he would be worthy of being a more active participant in her world. But for some reason, she wouldn’t let him.
He also knew if he pressed, she’d tell him what he was lacking. If Iris were in his shoes, that’s what she would have done. “If I helped you, we could do so much more for people. It would become part of our town’s identity.”
“You have really thought it through,” Iris marveled.
Iris was sweet and successful, but it was almost like it was an accident. That was how they became friends. She was kind in ways Jordan hadn’t expected. At first, it made him uncomfortable, like she was looking for the opportunity to take advantage of his friendship. But she never did. Which was crazy, because Jordan would have done anything for Iris. She only needed to ask. “It happens when you hang out with influential people, Iris. They open your eyes to a bigger picture.”
He pulled into the driveway and shifted the car in park. Jordan tilted his body to face Iris when he talked. “Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to start the project?”
“When I was in college, someone sent me care packages, and they always came at the perfect time.”
It was me. Jordan wanted to tell her. He was her inspiration. Which was another valid reason for including him. But Iris was so resistant to accepting his help, Jordan was unsure about how she’d receive the truth.
“How long have you been doing this?”
Iris twisted her lips, adjusting them from the right to the left side of her face. “I’d say fifteen years.” Iris squirmed. “It was little things back then. Cookies on someone’s porch. A kind note in someone’s mailbox.” She frowned. “Maybe you’re right. I need to think about it.”
Sweet Iris proved him right. With good intentions, he pushed. Iris saw he meant well and relented. The wall between them was torn down, and they were back to being a team, kind of like Mr. And Mrs. Claus.
“I’ll let you know in the morning.” Iris pushed into the door and opened it to leave. The cold air and her sudden departure shocked Jordan. He fumbled to turn off the ignition and follow after her.
Jordan opened the door to his car and called out, “Iris, wait, and I’ll walk you to the door.”
Jordan caught a glimpse of Simon at the end of the sidewalk, walking toward the house. This was not how it was supposed to end, Jordan ran his hand through his hair, and he shook his head. When had Iris mastered the art of creative dodging, and why was she using it on him. She said she loved him. He loved her. It should have been as simple as one plus one equals two.
Then Jordan froze. He loved Iris Sinclair, and it was more than just good friends. Everything in him screamed, run to her and straighten things out. Then her uncle glared at Jordan and turned to go up the walkway.
Jordan huffed his resignation. Instead of talking, he’d somehow prove to Iris that they would be a good team.
Iris Sinclair looks forward to the day after Thanksgiving. It’s the day her Holiday Kisses season begins, and she leaves little presents to brighten people’s days.
Things change when Iris’s best friend, Jordan, notices something special behind her quirky personality. The change couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. Iris’s nemesis has recruited him to enlist Iris in a partnership she would never agree to without his influence.
The Paradise Hills promise of a magical happily ever after is tested when the best friends are forced to choose between their blossoming love or the secret.