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I feel a lump grow in my throat. If only it wasn’t all a lie.

“Don’t cry, Daddy,” Kitty orders, and Daddy nods and pulls her into his arms for a hug.

“Can you do me a favor, Kitty?” he says.

“What?”

“Can you stay this age forever?”

Automatically Kitty replies, “I can if you give me a puppy.”

My dad roars with laughter, and Kitty laughs too.

I really admire my little sister sometimes. She knows exactly what she wants, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it. She’s shameless that way.

I’m going to talk to Daddy and help her cause. The two of us will wear him down. There’ll be a puppy under our tree Christmas morning. I’d bet money on it.

49

THE NEXT NIGHT PETER AND I study at Starbucks for a few hours—well, I study, and he keeps getting up and talking to people from school. On the way home he asks, “Did you sign up for the ski trip?”

“No. I’m a terrible skier.” Only cool people like Peter and his friends go on the ski trip. I could try to twist Chris’s arm into going, but she’d probably laugh in my face. She’s not going on any school trip.

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“You don’t have to ski. You can snowboard. That’s what I’m doing.”

I give him a look. “Can you picture me snowboarding?”

“I’ll teach you. Come on, it’ll be fun.” Peter grabs my hand and says, “Please please please, Lara Jean? Come on, be a sport. It’ll be fun, I promise.”

He catches me by surprise with this. The ski trip isn’t until winter break. So he wants to keep this, us, up until then. For some reason I feel relieved.

“If you don’t want to snowboard,” he continues, “the lodge has a big stone fireplace and big comfy chairs. You can sit and read for hours. And they sell the best hot chocolate. I’ll buy you one.” He squeezes my hand.

My heart does a little zing, and I say, “All right, I’ll go. But the hot chocolate had better be as good as you say.”

“I’ll buy you as many as you want.”

“Then you better bring a lot of singles,” I say, and Peter snorts. “What?”

“Nothing.”

When we get to my house, I climb out and he drives away before it occurs to me I left my bag on the floor of his car, and Daddy and Kitty aren’t home. They’re at Kitty’s school for parent-teacher conferences.

I fumble around blindly under the deck, feeling around in the dark for the spare keys we keep hidden under the wheelbarrow. Then I remember that the spare keys are in the junk drawer, in the house, because I forgot to put them back the last time I got locked out. I have no keys, no phone, no way of getting into the house.

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Josh! Josh has a spare key. He’s watered my dad’s plants for him a few times when we went away on vacation.

I find a rock in the driveway and I cross the lawn and stand underneath Josh’s window. I throw the rock at it and I miss. I find another one, and it pings off the glass, barely making a sound. I try again, with a bigger rock. This one hits.

Josh opens the window and leans his head out. “Hey. Did Kavinsky leave already?”

Surprised, I say, “Yeah. I left my bag in his car. Can you throw down the spare keys?”

Josh sighs, like I’m asking for something huge. “Hold on.” Then he disappears.

I stand there and wait for him to come back to the window, but he doesn’t. He comes outside the front door instead. He’s wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. It’s Margot’s favorite hoodie. When they first got together, she used to wear it all the time, like it was a letterman’s jacket or something.

I hold my hand out for the keys and Josh drops them in my hand. “Thanks, Joshy.”

I turn to leave, but he says, “Wait. I’m worried about you.”

“What? Why?”

He sighs heavily and adjusts his glasses. He only wears his glasses at night. “This thing with Kavinsky . . .”

“Not that again. Josh—”

“He’s a player. He’s not good enough for you. You’re . . . innocent. You’re not like other girls. He’s a typical guy. You can’t trust him.”

“I think I know him a lot better than you do.”

“I’m just looking out for you.” Josh clears his throat. “You’re like my little sister.”

I want to hit him for saying that. “No I’m not,” I say.

An uneasy look crosses over Josh’s face. I know what he’s thinking, because we’re both thinking it.

Then, headlights are beaming down our street. It’s Peter’s car. He’s come back. I hand Josh his set of keys and run over to my driveway. Over my shoulder I call out, “Thanks, Joshy!”

I come around the front to the driver’s side. Peter’s window is down. “You forgot your bag,” he says, glancing over toward Josh’s house.

“I know,” I say breathlessly. “Thanks for coming back.”

“Is he out there?”

“I don’t know. He was a minute ago.”

“Then just in case,” Peter says, and he leans his head out and kisses me on the lips, open-mouthed and sure.

I’m stunned.

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When he pulls away, Peter’s smiling. “Night, Lara Jean.”

He drives off into the night and I’m still standing there with my fingers to my lips. Peter Kavinsky just kissed me. He kissed me, and I liked it. I’m pretty sure I liked it. I’m pretty sure I like him.

The next morning I’m at my locker, putting my books away, when I see Peter walking down the hallway. My heart thumps in my chest so loud I can hear it echo in my ears. He hasn’t seen me yet. I duck my head into my locker and start arranging my books into a pile.

From behind the locker door he says, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I say back.

“I just want to set your mind at ease, Covey. I’m not going to kiss you again, so don’t worry about it.”

Oh.

So that’s that. It doesn’t matter if I like him or not, because he doesn’t like me back. It’s kind of silly to feel so disappointed about something you only just realized you wanted, isn’t it?

Don’t let him see that you’re disappointed.

I face him. “I wasn’t worrying about it.”

“Yes you were. Look at you: your face is all pinched together like a clam.” Peter laughs, and I try to unpinch my face, to look serene. “It’s not going to happen again. It was all for Sanderson’s benefit.”

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