Her Aussie Holiday - Stefanie London Page 0,1

a concierge, swipe key, and two physical keys to get inside.

But maybe around these parts, people trusted one another. What a thought.

Cora unlocked the front door and dragged her suitcase inside. The house was in the middle of renovations, as Liv had previously warned. On one side there was a kitchen, gleaming and modern with white subway tiles and a soft-white granite countertop with pretty silver and charcoal veining. The family room, on the other hand, was older-looking and well-loved with a heaving bookshelf and big couch in faded blue.

There was a section of floral wallpaper. It looked vintage, but not in a good way. More like in a “grandma was a pack-a-day smoker” kind of way.

But her friend Liv had thrown her own joie de vivre onto the weary canvas, with a collection of colorful mismatched cushions on the couch, quirky wall hangings and photos of her family dotting several surfaces. This was a house with love embedded in the walls and floors and shining in through the windows.

A real home.

Liv had been worried it might not be up to Cora’s standards, but frankly, luxury furniture and expensive art handpicked by New York’s best interior designer hadn’t made her happy. And it had become painfully obvious that the fancy handbags and red-soled shoes her mother had taught her to covet were a poor substitute for the things that actually mattered in life. Cora would trade it all in for the real deal: a loving husband, a family who supported one another, a career that made her soul sing.

“Oh, bloody hell!”

Cora jumped and whirled around, pressing her palm to her heart. “Who’s there?”

“Bugger off!”

The noise was coming from the kitchen, where a window facing the back of the property was totally open. Gee, they really didn’t worry about security here. A white bird sat on the windowsill, staring at her. Its golden crest fanned out above its head, demanding her attention.

“You must be Joe,” Cora said, narrowing her eyes. So much for friendly. She was pretty sure being told to bugger off wasn’t a nice thing in this country. But she also understood that it was easy to say something you didn’t mean if you were “hangry.” It happened to her all the time. “You want something to eat, little guy?”

The bird squawked, as if offended at being called little. But then he bobbed his head in this strange boppy dance, and Cora couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

It took her a few minutes to locate a sack of bird seed, which had a note taped to it: 1 x small handful. He’ll eat from your hand, or scatter into the backyard.

Cora looked at the bird’s curved, pointed-tipped talons—the damn things looked sharp enough to carve a Thanksgiving turkey. So that was a hard pass on the hand feeding. Joe chattered away, clicking and chirping and making all kinds of funny noises while he waited for his lunch.

“All right, mate! Who’s a pretty boy?”

In spite of her trepidation and emotional exhaustion, Cora found herself feeling lighter than she had in weeks. Hell, maybe in months.

Don’t fool yourself—it’s been years. You don’t get this messed up without a solid foundation of BS from way back.

Her snarky inner voice was cut off when Joe whistled at her in a way that sounded a whole lot like a catcall. Now who had taught him to do that?

“Sorry, little guy, this vacation does not include a fling. I’ve only got eyes for fictional men right now. Book boyfriends all the way.”

She tossed the seed through the window, and it scattered across the grassy area behind the house. Joe immediately flapped his wings, swooping down to collect the bounty and trying to intimidate a couple of smaller birds looking to join the meal. He puffed his chest out and stomped around, claiming the territory.

“You guys are all the same, only after a free lunch,” she said, shaking her head.

Being wealthy wasn’t uncommon in Manhattan, not by a long stretch. Coming from a famous family wasn’t, either. But that didn’t stop the opportunists and users from piling up.

Warning: Traffic conditions in Cora Cabot’s life are dire. A collision containing one ex-fiancé and one narcissistic mother have created untenable conditions in New York City. Watch out for the ego spill on Fifth Avenue. Get out while you can.

For the next month, Cora would forget all about her fame-hungry mother, her string of failed relationships, and her unfulfilling job. She was going to enjoy being