Holiday Hoax (Audiobook)
Holiday Hoax (Audiobook)
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Little Miss Sunshine will make the perfect fake bride to take home for the holidays… who cares if I’m her boss?
She’s going to drive me nuts.
Nevertheless, her perky everything, endless legs, and innocent eyes will come in handy.
It’ll stop my family from pushing every country girl turned wanna-be Dallas socialite on me.
The town gossips will be disappointed she’s not another one of my fiancées that’ll never make it down the aisle. And they’ll be jealous when every man falls in love with her.
I’ll ignore everyone and work… except when she’s fueling my warped needs.
Although she did surprise me and negotiated a higher prenup for her silly cupcake bakery.
Too bad for her, I’m not a reckless billionaire—my attorney will find the loophole.
Once January 2nd arrives, I’m divorcing her.
Except the more we’re together, the more she’s infiltrating my heart… in ways that have me second guessing our secret arrangement…
Holiday Hoax-Chapter One
Holiday Hoax-Chapter One
"Excuse me," a deep voice states in annoyance. A hard frame pushes past me.
"Whoa!" I cry out. My right heel skids on the slick floor, and the four boxes of cupcakes I'm carrying wobble. I grab his arm to catch my balance, barely saving the treats I baked for my new co-workers from falling to the ground.
He spins, tilts his head down, and pins his blue eyes on me. He clenches his chiseled jaw, further exhibiting his irritation.
Praline and a hint of citrus mixes with sandalwood, stirring something deep in my core. His broad shoulders fill out the designer, probably custom-made suit jacket. Biceps you'd only get with hours in the gym, but not over the top, sculpt the sleeves. Thick, wavy chestnut hair, that's still slightly damp, perfectly frames the features of his face, and matches his short-trimmed goatee and mustache.
"You good now?" he asks.
I gape at him.
What a jerk!
Why does he look like he's having a dying duck fit so early in the morning?
Kill them with kindness, my grammy says in my head.
I force a smile, doing my best to make it not look fake. In my most cheerful voice, I reply, "Got my balance back."
"Great." He narrows his eyes.
Confused why he looks angrier, I ask, "Do you want a cupcake?"
His head jerks back a bit before he catches himself. He squares his shoulders and cocks an eyebrow. "Cupcake?"
I nod toward the boxes. "Yes. I baked them. It's my grammy's secret recipe. It's my first day at my internship. I wanted to do something nice for my new co-workers and boss."
He scoffs. "Well, it can't be a secret if you have it, now can it?"
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
His eyes drift to my yellow sundress and matching button-down sweater. Heat fills me as he slowly moves his leering gaze up, as if he's imagining what I look like naked. He lingers on my breasts, then gives me a challenging stare, uttering, "Well, aren't you, Little Miss Sunshine?"
I don't think I've ever encountered anyone so boldly nasty upon first meeting yet so sinfully seductive at the same time. My insides quiver, and I lift my chin, willing the fire to leave my cheeks. I reply as cheerfully as possible, "Bless your heart for noticing."
He grunts, then glances at my hand still digging into his forearm. "If you can stand on your own two feet, I've got important things to do."
Horrified, I release him. I smirk, "Balance is good now. Have a great day."
He gives me a final disproving look, shoves his security card through the scanner, and pushes through the metal bar. I ogle his toned ass even after he steps into the elevator, then reprimand myself. He spins, catches me, and his smug expression reignites the zings flying through my core. Neither of us breaks our gaze until the doors are completely shut.
What an arrogant, miserable man.
I can't let him ruin my first day.
I take several deep breaths, continue through the gate, and go up to the top floor. The doors open and I step out of the elevator. A woman with curly red hair, emerald eyes, a form-fitting navy dress, and a matching jacket smiles at me. "Can I help you?"
"I'm Georgia, the new intern," I answer.
Her face brightens. "Ah, yes! I'm Victoria, Mr. Cartwright's director of operations. You'll be working with me."
"You're so young to be a director," I blurt out in awe. Then I cringe for my outburst. "Sorry."
She laughs. "No apologies necessary. You're right. I'm thirty, but Mr. Cartwright prefers to promote employees within the corporation. I started as an intern like you. So work hard, and the sky's the limit." She winks.
I won't be here that long. Only a few years of saving and I can open my bakery.
Best to keep my thoughts to myself on the first day.
I hold the boxes out to her and say, "That's great to hear. I baked some cupcakes for everyone. Is there somewhere I can put these?"
"Oh, that was sweet of you. What kind?" She eyes the boxes.
"A variety." I take four steps, set the boxes on the receptionist's counter, and open one lid. Motioning to each row, I continue, "These are chocolate raspberry, caramel coffee swirl, vanilla madagascar, and strawberries and cream. Do you want to pick one before the others choose?"
She snatches a chocolate-raspberry one. "They all look delicious, but this one is calling my name."
Joy fills me. It's what my grammy always claimed she felt whenever anyone ate hers. I beam. "Guess it's yours, then. Where should I put them?"
"Let me show you where the break room is, and you can leave them there," she replies and leads me through the office.
I set the cupcakes on the table, then follow her on the tour. My interview was with human resources personnel and on a different floor. And it's night and day different.
Everything about this area screams an exclusive vibe. Almost as if you're lucky just to be permitted to step foot in it. Plus, it's quieter. There are several private offices and way more men in suits, whereas the human resources floor had mostly cubicles and women.
Victoria introduces me to everyone as we make our way around the different work suites. Even though the spaces are enclosed, each is visible through the glass except for one. She stops in front of the closed door and asks, "Ready to meet the big boss?"
Tinted glass covers the entire room, so you can't see inside. A gold-plated sign reads "Mr. Sebastian Cartwright, Vice President."
My stomach flips. I don't know why I'm suddenly intimidated. Everyone I met on the tour has been friendly. Maybe it's because of the stark contrast between his office and the others. Perhaps it's just first-day jitters reappearing. Regardless, I hesitate.
Victoria must sense my nerves. She offers, "He's always really busy, so if he doesn't have a lot of time, don't take any offense, okay?"
I square my shoulders and nod. "Sure."
"And he's really a big teddy bear underneath his persona," she adds.
Her statement only makes my butterflies flutter harder.
Why would she need to say that?
A muffled, "Come in," hits my ears.
She opens the door and announces, "I wanted to introduce you to our new intern who'll be working closely with us." She steps inside.
I follow and freeze. My heart pounds harder. Goose bumps pop out on my skin while I squeeze my thighs closer together.
No, no, no!
The Dallas skyline makes a breathtaking backdrop, competing with the exquisite eye candy sitting in front of it. Unfortunately, it's the rude man from the lobby.
He looks up from his desk. Shock fills his expression, mirroring my own. He quickly catches himself, hardening his features and grinding his molars. A beam of sunlight streams through the window. It hits his chestnut hair and outlines his chiseled body as if he's somehow an angel.
Disguised as the devil.
"Sebastian Cartwright, meet Georgia Peach," Victoria declares.
He rises, furrows his eyebrows, and questions, "Georgia Peach? Is that a joke?"
Embarrassment mixes with pride. I've heard every joke under the sun growing up about my name. But it's mine, and I've come to accept it. Now that I'm an adult, I thought others would be more mature about it, but apparently, Mr. Grumpy Pants only looks like he has class and maturity. I pull it together and proudly state, "No, it's not."
"Georgia Peach, the cupcake lady," he mutters.
"Do you want one? I can go to the break room and get it before they're all gone," I retort in a chipper voice.
He stares at me as if I'm crazy, replying, "No." He turns quiet, assessing me, and tension grows thicker with every breath we take.
Victoria clears her throat. Unable to hide her uncomfortable tone, she asks, "So you two have met?"
He snaps his sneer at her. "Yes. In the lobby. Ms. Peach didn't introduce herself."
I blurt out, "I was supposed to know it was you?"
"Yeah. Everyone knows me. You're no different, so don't pretend to be."
"I had no idea who you were. Why would I know you anyway? I doubt we hang out in the same circles," I argue.
He scoffs. "Of course we don't. But I'm sure you did your homework researching our company?"
My pulse races. I retort, "Yes, I did. But only the CEO's photo is on the website. It only mentions your name, along with other heads of the corporation."
"I'm all over the internet. Let's not act like you didn't do a search on me," he accuses.
Appalled at his audacity, I insist, "I did no such thing."
He grunts. "Sure you didn't."
"I didn't," I claim again, glaring at him.
Tense silence fills the air.
Victoria glances between us, then clears her throat. She interjects, "Not everyone cares to know you, Sebastian."
He acts like he doesn't hear her, keeping his scowl pinned on me.
She continues, "While we have your attention, are there any additional documents you'll need this morning for your meetings?"
He crosses his arms, and his biceps strain against the expensive fabric of his suit jacket. I curse myself when my eyes drift to them. He catches me and fixates his sexy yet lewd gaze on me. If anyone else looked at me like that, I'd slap them. But something about the way he studies me is irresistible. It creates an uncomfortable ache in my body. He finally shakes his head. "Not that I'm aware of. As of now, everything is adequate, Victoria." He glances at her, then pins his intimidating stare on me once again.
Why does he have to be so hot?
I'm a liar.
I do everything in my power not to appear scared of him and announce, "I look forward to working with you, Mr. Cartwright."
His lips purse in an expression I'm unsure how to take. My pulse quickens as he replies in a dry voice, "Welcome to Cartwright Enterprises."
"Thank you," I cheerfully state, then spin and leave, exhaling deeply the moment I step out of the room. I go to the desk Victoria assigned to me and turn.
"Like I said, he's a teddy bear once you get to know him," she states.
"Sure he is," I reply.
She offers a smile, then points to a pile on my desk. "If you can start with those files, I'd appreciate it."
I nod. "Of course."
She starts to leave, then stops and adds, "He really is great once he drops his guard. He's just a bit aloof when he first meets people."
"Aloof?" I challenge. It's not exactly the word I would have chosen, but I guess it's more politically correct.
She nods, claiming, "Underneath the hard exterior is a brilliant, very generous man."
"Sure," I reply, then sit in my chair. "Should I tell you when I'm finished with each file or the entire pile?"
"If you can send me the individual files, that would be great."
I give her a little salute. "On it!"
She grins and leaves.
I turn on the computer and punch in the passcode written on a sticky note. It prompts me to create a new one, and I stare at Sebastian's closed door, thinking for a minute, then type in, KillHimWithKindness4Ever.
There. That will remind me to stay calm.
A message in the portal pops up.
Mr. Cartwright: I need the spreadsheet for Gulf Oil updated for the ten o'clock meeting.
Victoria: Georgia, it's in your pile. Can you focus on that first?
I pull the correct folder and study the notes on the spreadsheet. I find the corresponding file on the computer and update the formulas. When I finish, I email it to Victoria and Sebastian, then click on the message box.
Me: I finished the spreadsheet for Gulf Oil. Would you like paper copies?
Mr. Cartwright: Yes, that is how we do things around here.
My stomach clenches. I shake my head, press print, then type another message.
Me: How many copies would you like?
Mr. Cartwright: Victoria, please inform Georgia where she can find pertinent information.
Victoria: Will do.
I breathe through my anger, and my grammy's words fill my head. "No one is responsible for your feelings except you."
Hard to say when Mr. Grumpy Pants is your boss.
Her voice claims, "He can only affect you if you let him."
I shake it off as Victoria approaches my desk.
"Sorry," I quickly state.
"No worries. It won't take long before you know these things," she claims, then takes control of my mouse. She clicks a dropdown box on the schedule. "This is where you'll find Mr. Cartwright's upcoming appointment notes. If you select the description, it'll state who is attending the meeting. You'll always make copies for each person in attendance, plus two extras in case there are any surprises."
"Great. Thanks for showing me," I say.
"No problem. You'll need to add them to the presentation folders," she adds, then returns to her office.
The meeting with Gulf Oil has five people listed. I make eight to include Sebastian and the two extras. I take them off the printer, then knock on his door.
"Yeah?" he calls out.
I open the door and approach him at the desk. He doesn't look up, and I wonder if it's just to be a bigger jerk and add to his intimidation factor.
In a condescending tone, he finally states, "Is there something you need, Ms. Peach?"
I try to ignore his obvious jab at my name and reply, "I'm here to add the spreadsheets to the presentation folders."
"Do you want a reward for doing your job?" he questions.
I gape, then catch myself. "No, of course not."
"Then why are you bothering me with this?"
Unsure how to respond, I don't answer him.
He sits back in his chair and arches his eyebrows. "Well?"
"Don't you have the folders?" I quiz.
He sighs. "No, Ms. Peach. I do not have the folders. Those are in the conference room, which is where I meet people."
I point to the huge table in his office. "You don't meet with people there?"
He snorts. "Of course not. How would I ever exit the room when I'm ready if they're in my office?"
Stupidity washes over me, but then I catch myself again. I force another smile and chirp, "It's my first day, Mr. Cartwright. Excuse my ignorance. I'll make sure these are updated. I won't concern you over this issue ever again."
He refocuses on his computer screen, muttering, "Good."
I hightail it out of his office, go to the conference room, and find the folders in a stack. I position the spreadsheets in the same spot as the sample folder and glance around the room.
A buffet cabinet has a pitcher of water, glasses, coffee, mugs, cream, and sugar on it. It seems cold to me. Surely if this is the room where clients meet, there should be a bit more life to it, right?
I go to Victoria's office and knock.
She looks up from her desk. "Hey, Georgia. What can I help you with?"
"I added the spreadsheets to the folders."
"Is something wrong?" she asks.
"Gulf Oil is an important client, correct?" I quiz.
"Yes. They're one of our largest," she admits.
I step closer, confessing, "I don't want to be disrespectful, but the meeting room looks a bit...um...cold."
Surprise fills her expression.
I quickly add, "I was wondering if I could take one of the vases of fresh flowers from the break room and put it in there? Also, maybe add a plate of my cupcakes?"
She shrugs. "Sure. That would be nice."
"Great. Thanks. I won't take a long time to do it," I state. Then I go into the break room. I look for a platter and find it and several empty vases.
It gives me another idea.
I take one set of flowers and cut the stems. I position them in a glass globe so they're the perfect size for the conference room table. Then I pick up the other vase and take both to the conference room. The big one I put on the buffet cabinet.
I return to the break room and place a dozen cupcakes on the platter. Then I take them to my desk. I find a package of colored sharpies in my desk drawer and make four signs with the flavors of the cupcakes on each. I go back into the conference room and place the platter and signs on the buffet cabinet.
Satisfaction fills me when I assess the room. The Dallas skyline is just as impressive here as Sebastian's office. But now, the flowers and cupcakes add a touch of warmness that wasn't present before.
I return to my desk and get lost in the pile of folders. Sebastian steps out of his office and states, "Follow me."
I glance up. "Where are we going?"
He huffs. "To the meeting with Gulf Oil."
"Oh. You want me in the meeting?" I ask, surprised.
His eyes turn to slits. "Are you not Victoria's intern?"
"Yes, of course."
"Tell me, Ms. Peach. Why did you choose to apply at Cartwright Enterprises?" he interrogates.
The hairs on my neck rise. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
His arrogance grows. "Let me guess. You heard how we have more young professionals in the C-suite than any other company in Dallas, and you want to climb up the career ladder as fast as you can?"
No, I wanted to earn money for my cupcake bakery.
"I-I..." I swallow the lump in my throat, suddenly needing a glass of water to quench my dry mouth.
"I didn't promote more young professionals than any other corporation by letting them sit at their desks. Hands-on experience—that's what Cartwright Enterprises is about and why people excel here. You have an MBA, but that isn't going to get you where you want to be without learning," he lectures.
He knows I have my MBA?
He undresses me with his eyes again and lowers his voice, adding, "Isn't that what you want? Hands-on experience?"
Every inch of my skin flushes. My gape only grows.
A level of arrogance so powerful it radiates around him appears. He keeps me in his heated stare another moment, then orders, "Let's go." He motions for me to go ahead of him.
I rise and stroll down the hall, knowing he's checking out my booty the entire time. No matter how much I tell myself not to strut, I can't help it. I sway my hips to torment him, not for more attention, I tell myself.
I'm lying once again.
I glance behind me and catch his gaze right where I felt it. I stop walking, shift on my feet, and arch my eyebrows.
His eyes dart to mine. "Is there a problem, Ms. Peach?" he challenges.
"You can call me Georgia," I blurt out, tired of hearing him say my last name like it's a joke.
He takes my words the wrong way, and I curse myself. His smug expression tells me he's clueless about why I don't want him to call me Ms. Peach.
There's no doubt. Sebastian Cartwright, my new boss, thinks I'm into his attention on my backside and any other part of my body.
No, I'm not.
He steps closer, eliminating the gap between us. His intoxicating scent annihilates me for the second time this morning. His lips twitch as he says, "Well, then, Georgia, is there a reason you're making our clients wait?"
My words jumble in my head. I stutter, "N-no." I spin and walk into the conference room.
There are four men and Victoria in the room. They all have coffee and a cupcake in front of them, except Victoria, who states, "I already had one for breakfast."
"Where did you buy them? My daughter would love these for her birthday party," one man asks.
Victoria rises, motioning toward me. "Georgia made them."
The men stand too, and the one who stated he wanted them for his daughter's party steps in front of me. He gives me a once-over, lingering a bit longer than I'd prefer, then holds out his hand. "Ben Eiler. Nice to meet you. Any chance I can get a few dozen of these by Saturday? My ex-wife thinks I can't plan my daughter's party without her help, and I'm on a mission to show her she doesn't know who she's messing with."
"Georgia's our new intern," Sebastian interjects, stepping so close to me his body heat mingles with mine.
Ben glances at Sebastian, then back at me. "Tell me you aren't too busy to help me out, Georgia? It'll go a long way during our contract negotiations today." He winks in a flirtatious way.
"Are we dealing with cupcakes instead of oil prices?" Sebastian asks in a disapproving tone.
Ben's eyes light up further as he continues to study me. "Well, yes. We sure are. What do you charge for these?"
"I haven't sold them yet," I confess.
"Why not?" he asks.
"I'm saving up for my own bakery someday," I declare.
"Is that so?" Sebastian mumbles.
I cringe inside. Why did I announce that?
"You want a partner? I'll back you," Ben claims.
I gape, then compose myself. "Thank you for your offer, but this is something I need to do on my own."
He chuckles. "Can't argue with that kind of entrepreneurial spirit. But what do you say, Georgia? Can you help me out?"
Something tells me that I'm in a no-win situation. Sebastian moves even closer to me, and I assess his forced smile.
"Well?" Ben asks.
I try to contain my excitement about my first client, confirming, "Sure. I can make that happen."
"Perfect. I'll give you my number so you can get all the details," Ben declares.
"I'm sure your assistant can handle this," Sebastian suggests.
Ben's challenging stare says otherwise. He proclaims, "I think I'll handle this one."
Sebastian's face hardens.
Ben takes another bite of his cupcake and mumbles, "Remind me to take one of these for the road."
"Georgia, have a seat," Sebastian orders, pulling out a chair, his commanding eyes full of irritation.
I obey, trying to contain my giddiness. Sebastian Cartwright is not going to rain on my parade. I have my first client
- Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
- Narrated by: Ava Lucas & Aiden Snow
Georgia's at her desk. She crosses, then uncrosses her legs. The pencil skirt she's wearing hits mid-thigh when she's seated. Her blouse is buttoned up, but a peek of her cleavage shows through.
My raging hard-on returns, and that's before she looks up at me, beaming.
She drawls, "Good morning, Mr. Cartwright. How was your night?"
"Fine," I grumble, then go into my office and close the door. I step toward my desk and freeze.
I reach for the gold-frosted cupcake that has a plastic turkey stuck in it. The scent of sugar flares in my nostrils, and I almost cave before I toss it in the trash.
Don't need empty calories, I tell myself.
Doesn't she know sugar and carbs only turn to fat?
I don't need to add time to my workout to work off her baked goods.
I glance through the glass.
How does she keep those curves, baking all the time?
I spend hours burying myself in work, trying to forget about the conversation earlier with my father, until he texts me.
Dad: Why haven't you called your mother yet?
Me: I'm working.
Dad: You have ten minutes to call her, or I'm going to tell your brother he's the new CEO.
What the fuck is his problem? My brother doesn't even want to be CEO.
Maybe he does.
What if things have changed?
And all of a sudden, now he wants extra responsibility?
My inner demons fight me. New anxiety explodes within me like fireworks.
My father texts me again.
Dad: Two minutes.
I cave and pick up the phone, calling my mother.
She answers, "Sebastian! How are you, dear?"
I lie, "I'm good, Mom."
"Are you calling to tell me you're coming home for Thanksgiving?" she asks wishfully.
I grimace, unable to believe what's about to come out of my mouth. "No. I still can't come. I've got a lot of work to do here."
Disappointment fills her voice. She lays on the guilt. "Oh, honey, I really wish that you'd make time for us. Please tell me you're coming home for Christmas."
I take a deep breath and stare out at the Dallas skyline, forcing myself to reply, "That's what I'm calling to talk to you about."
Hope fills her tone. "Oh?"
My irritation peaks. I swallow it down, informing her, "I'm coming home for the month."
"A month!" she shrieks.
I squeeze my eyes shut. "Yeah. I'll be there on December 1st. I'm leaving on New Year's Day."
As soon as that clock strikes midnight, I'm out of there.
"Oh, Sebastian. I'm so happy to hear this. Everyone will be so excited," she declares.
Sure they will.
One thing I can always count on is being the black sheep of the family. I prefer the excitement of the city to the dull quiet of the country. The family gatherings I wouldn't mind, if everyone in town wouldn't try to pry into my business or point out my failures when they indulge in their gossip.
So I prefer to be by myself. It's easier that way. I reply, "Alright, Mom, I gotta go. I'll talk to you later. Let Dad know what's happening."
"I sure will. I'm so excited. Are you bringing anybody this year?" she inquires.
Here we go...
Find out what happens next in Holiday Hoax
Listen to Holiday Hoax if you love:
- Billionaire Fake Marriage
- Enemies to Lovers
- Office Romance
- Slow Burn
- Grumpy Sunshine
- Spitfire Heroine
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "This book had me laughing and crying, as well as my heart breaking. I love when he really pays attention, gets things right and celebrates his successes."-Reviewer
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "The entire book was so good, and I loved how Sebastian and Georgia are the total opposites but complement each other well. I highly recommend this holiday book!"-Reviewer