Authors: Cox, Carrie
Copyright © 2014 Carrie Cox
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author.
Billionaire Jack Harding, the golden boy of the race circuit, has finally met his match.
For the past five years, success, money and women have fallen into Jack Harding’s lap. Life was a game for Jack until a near fatal crash left him broken, damaged and angry at the world.
People say he is almost as good behind the wheel as he is in the bedroom. With his sinfully sexy smile and chocolate brown eyes, women find him impossible to resist, and I am no exception.
His brother hired me to nurse Jack back to health. It seemed like a fantastic opportunity at the time, but I am way out of my depth. Beneath his anger and dark moods, I sense Jack is holding something back. He isn’t the superficial man everyone thinks he is.
The more I get to know Jack Harding, the more certain I am that he is the man of my dreams. The trouble is, my dreams never end happily ever after…
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As the car travelled around another tight bend in the cliff road, I felt my stomach churn in response. I swallowed, then took a deep breath. I really didn’t want to see my lunch again. The congealed meatballs that had been served up on the plane hadn’t looked appealing the first time around.
Luckily the appearance of the on-flight food plus the fact I had been a bundle of nerves all day meant I hadn’t eaten much at lunch.
I glanced over at Lauren, who was sitting next to me on the back seat of the chauffeur-driven Mercedes, to see whether she was feeling as sick as me, but she was staring excitedly out of the window, gazing at the grey, tumbling sea churning below the cliff road.
The driver had picked us up from the airport thirty minutes ago. He’d been waiting for us at arrivals, waving a sign with our names printed on it, but he wasn’t very talkative. I guessed English wasn’t his first language. My knowledge of French was pretty much non-existent, so it was probably a good thing he wasn’t in the mood to chat.
I didn’t understand why Lauren was so enthralled by the view. As I gazed out of the rain splattered window, all I saw was grey.
Grey sky. Grey cliffs. Grey road.
Before leaving America, I’d researched Monaco on the internet, and all the pictures I’d browsed through showed crystal clear seas and skies of brilliant blue, but today there was no sunshine. Today Monaco reflected how I was feeling. Grey and unsettled.
I glanced again at Lauren. She seemed to sense my eyes on her and turned to face me.
“Are you okay, Kristina?”
I pressed a hand to my stomach. “I’m feeling a little sick.”
Lauren’s forehead crinkled with concern. “Is it this winding road? Or is it nerves?”
“Probably a little of both,” I muttered and leaned back in my seat, closing my eyes. We were climbing higher and the sight of the cliff dropping away below us was making me feel worse.
Lauren patted my leg reassuringly, but it only served to remind me what I was wearing and why I was dressed like this.
I wore a pair of beige chinos and a starched white shirt. My hair was pulled back from my face, fastened in a small bun at the nape of my neck, and I had on a pair of my sister’s discretely elegant pearl earrings.
This was not my normal wardrobe. My own limited collection of clothing included: cut-offs, cowboy boots and strappy vest tops. All the jewelry I owned was costume stuff— dangly and glittery. In fact, the more glittery the better as far as I was concerned. But as my clothes and trashy earrings wouldn’t make a good impression, I had allowed Lauren and my sister, Kate, to fuss over me and give me a makeover. According to them, I now looked
for my new position.
My stomach churned again as I thought about the job. I was sure my future employer would see through my presentable facade as soon as I stepped out of the car. I’d been a total idiot. I couldn’t believe I’d let Kate and Lauren talk me into this.
Just thinking about my sister made me feel homesick, which was crazy. Just last week I was moaning to Lauren, telling her how I hated being the third wheel around Kate and her fiancé, Benjamin. They were totally loved up, and as much as they insisted I wasn’t in the way, I knew they’d prefer to be alone. They were just too polite to say so.
Benjamin Easton’s mansion in Rhode Island was huge, but I couldn’t stand being a gooseberry, so when this job offer came up, I jumped at the chance of gaining some independence and giving my sister and Benjamin some space.
But I was regretting it now.
The car began to slow, and I craned my neck to look out of the window. As the house came into view, I heard Lauren gasp.
“Wow,” she whispered into my ear and grabbed my arm. “This must be it! Oh my God. It’s beautiful.”
I nodded and swallowed the lump in my throat. I had to agree. The house was beautiful. Even on a day like today with the rain lashing down and grey clouds hovering menacingly above us, the white stone building was stunning.
Shallow steps led up to a covered walkway that was lined with white marble pillars. Each pillar was intricately engraved with patterns of entwined vines.
I chewed on my lip, something I always did when I was nervous, and I gazed up at the huge house, trying to take it all in.
“I guess this is us,” Lauren said, but the driver didn’t reply.
Instead, he turned his head and nodded once before opening his door and stepping out into the rain.
Both Lauren and I followed the driver’s example, clambering out of the car.
I hunched my shoulders against the persistent rain and walked around to the trunk, ready to take my suitcase from the driver, but he looked horrified and snatched up the case before I could reach for it.
“No,” he said. “No. This is my job.”
I shrugged and moved away from the trunk. For want of anything better to do with my hands, I stuffed them into the pockets of my chinos. I didn’t even realize I was slouching until Lauren shot me a look.
“Act confident,” she whispered. “First impressions count for a lot.”
I took my hands out of my pockets and tried to improve my posture. I followed Lauren as she walked towards the house. In her enthusiasm, she jumped up the steps two at a time, practically skipping up to the entrance. I trailed behind her.
The huge, oak front door opened before we reached it, and a small, dark-haired woman greeted us.
“Welcome to Monaco,” she said in a gorgeous French accent. “I am Maria.”
I guessed she was mid-twenties. She was wearing a black dress and white apron, so I figured she worked here. A house this size probably needed an army of staff to keep it running.
We introduced ourselves, although it was obvious she knew who we were and was expecting us. We passed through the doorway and Lauren gasped again as she turned in a circle to take in the magnificent entrance hall.
The floor was marble, and at the far end of the hall, a wide staircase twisted up to a galleried landing. The walls were furnished in a very simple and sparse way and that just made the hall seem even larger. As our shoes clacked against the cool marble, a crash of thunder sounded outside. I jumped.
“The weather today is so bad. I’m sorry,” Maria said, as if she was personally responsible. “But the sun will be out tomorrow.”
She smiled confidently then moved away from us to talk to the driver rapidly in French.
“This whole thing is a bad idea,” I muttered.
Lauren reluctantly dragged her gaze away from a watercolor in a golden frame she’d been studying and turned to me. “What are you talking about, Kristina? It’s a brilliant idea. It’s your fresh start. You deserve this.”
She was wrong. I was stupid to think that this could work, to think that they would accept me. As soon as they uncovered my secret, I would be kicked out of here. And I’d deserve it.
I shook my head and moved closer to Lauren, but before I could say anything more, the driver said, “I am going now.” He nodded at us both.
“Thank you,” Lauren and I said in unison as the driver turned and walked back towards his car.
Just before Maria shut the door, I got a last glimpse of the shiny, silver Mercedes and wished I was leaving with the driver. I could go after him and ask him to take me to the airport. If I called Kate and explained, she would pay for my ticket home. Then the door closed, and it was too late.
Lauren was staring at me. She looked annoyed. “Come on, Kristina,” she said. “You look like you’ve lost a dollar and found a nickel.” She nudged me with her elbow. “Smile. It’s going to be brilliant. Trust me.”
I wish I could have smiled, but I was terrified. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I was about to tell Lauren that this had all been a terrible mistake when I heard footsteps on the stairs. Lauren heard them too, and we both turned.
I heard Lauren’s sharp intake of breath and I understood her reaction. Alexander Harding demanded that kind of response.
I stared up at our future employer. Alexander Harding was a billionaire who had made his fortune in precious stones. He was a business associate of my sister’s fiancé, Benjamin Easton, which was how Lauren and I first met him and how I managed to get this job.
He was gorgeous. Unbelievably good-looking. But I couldn’t relax and enjoy the sight of this sexy man walking down the stairs with my secret hanging over me.
My palms were sweating and my pulse was racing.
This was my moment of truth. I would have to tell him everything. I was going to have to confess my secret and hope he didn’t chuck me out straightaway. It would be embarrassing, but I’d get over it. Eventually.
I shot a glance at Lauren. Her cheeks were flushed and she looked nervous, almost as nervous as me.
My heart was pounding, and as Alexander Harding descended the last two steps and came to a stop in front of us, I thought my heart might burst from my chest. I wanted to spill it all now. I wanted to confess, but I couldn’t. I was mesmerized.
I hated admitting that. I mean, he was just a good-looking guy, and I didn’t consider myself particularly superficial. In my experience, sexy-as-hell men tended to be assholes. But there was something about his cool good looks and his presence that made me forget everything I had planned to say.
He smiled at both of us. “I hope you had a pleasant flight.” His voice was low and mellow.
I managed to respond, “Yes, thank you.”
Although, that wasn’t actually true. I’ve always hated sitting still in confined spaces for any length of time, so the long flight from the US to Monte Carlo had been my idea of absolute hell.