Her Aussie Holiday - Stefanie London

Chapter One

Cora Cabot knew three important things about Australia:

1. The men were hotter Down Under (Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, the other Hemsworth…)

2. It was hot. Period.

3. Pretty much every animal could kill you.

Okay, so maybe not every animal could kill you. But a country that prided itself on having the deadliest snakes in the world was not a country to be trifled with. Add to that spiders—of the hairy and poisonous variety—sharks, stingrays (RIP Steve Irwin), all kinds of creepy crawlies, and Cora knew she would have to be on high alert at all times.

But standing outside a slightly run-down yet utterly charming house surrounded by huge, swaying trees whose leaves rustled in the dry, sea-salted air made Cora instantly understand why Aussies put up with their infamous critters. It was truly beautiful here.

She walked up the unfinished driveway, careful to avoid the dozens of small, podlike things littering the ground. Her suitcase bumped behind her, wheels rattling and lock jangling with each step.

So what was a dyed-in-the-wool city girl—a New Yorker, no less—doing thousands of miles from the nearest Saks?


It sounded a little melodramatic, sure. But Cora wasn’t exactly opposed to a little melodrama. After all, one did not grow up with a mother famous for her daytime television relationship therapy segments without developing a passing interest in the theatrical and over the top. But right now, Cora needed to get as far away from that stuff as possible. A whole hemisphere away, in fact.

Pausing at the front door, she sucked in a breath. Finally, after what felt like an eternity of airports and immigration lines and endless road, she was here. Alone. The sound of nature enveloped her—birds and leaves and wind and the ocean creating a soothing cacophony that melted into her bones.

This was exactly what she needed.

Cora slipped a carefully folded piece of paper out of her bag and flipped it open.

Dear Cora,

I am so excited for our house swap! Seriously, thank you. You’ve saved my butt. I had no idea how I was going to afford to rent a place in Manhattan for a month without going totally broke. Anyway, my little place isn’t anywhere near as fancy or glamorous as yours, but I hope you find it comfortable. A few things:

The bathroom pipes rattle terribly. Give them a second to run and the noise will eventually stop. If they’re too annoying, let me know and I’ll have my brother come by to work on them.

There’s a cockatoo (noisy white bird with a gold crest) who likes to pop in. I call him Joe and keep some bird feed by the back door. He’s very friendly!

Print this email out because reception is terrible, and you’ll need the access code to get the key. There’s a little box under a red pot. The code is: 2513.

Now get to work on your novel! When you become a famous author, I’m going to rent this place out as a tourist attraction and charge people a fortune to visit the creative retreat of the great Cora Cabot, literary genius.

Love, Liv.

Cora cringed. Why had she even told Liv she was working on a novel?

Maybe it was a moment of giddy excitement at typing those fabled words: The End. But clearly she should have curbed her enthusiasm long enough for her literary agent father to cut down any delusions of grandeur. He’d called her book unpublishable, her lead character unsympathetic.

And then he’d declined to represent her.

Of course the feedback wasn’t intended to hurt her feelings—she knew that. Her father had a black belt in tough love, and his criticism was meant to help her grow and improve. To make her a better writer. And she absolutely intended to rise to that challenge.

But right now, she had more pressing concerns…like liberating the front door key from its hiding place.

“Please, please, please don’t be hiding anything more than a key,” she said as she crouched down, reaching for the pot described in Liv’s email.

Cora felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Only instead of lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! it was more like snakes, and bugs, and poisonous, hairy, eight-legged freaks of nature waiting to suck your blood like B-movie vampires.

Too squeamish to pick up the pot, she nudged it over and hoped nothing would scuttle or slither out. Thankfully, the only thing underneath was a plastic box containing the key. The simple gold thing didn’t look secure enough to protect much. Cora’s New York apartment had a twenty-four-seven doorman,