Holiday Escort: A Christmas Novella

BOOK: Holiday Escort: A Christmas Novella
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Holiday Escort
A Christmas Novella
Holiday Escort
A Christmas Novella
Shanora Williams

Copyright © 2015 Shanora Williams

All rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any form without prior written permission of the publisher, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution, circulation or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights, and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Thank you for respecting the work of this author.

Published December 2015

Editing by Librum Artis Editorial Services

Cover Art and Design by Shanora Williams

Trademarks: This book identifies product names and services known to be trademarks, registered trademarks, or service marks of their respective holders. The author acknowledges the trademarked status in this work of fiction. The publication and use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Other Books By

Shanora Williams

Standalones:

Tainted Black

Sweet Promise Series

Sudden Desires (#1)

BEWARE Series:

BEWARE

BEWARE 2: The Comeback

FireNine Series:

Who He Is

Who We Are

Who I Am

Who I’m Becoming

Hard to Resist Series:

Hard to Resist

Hard to Hold On

Hard to Forget (1.5)

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Chapter 1

P
iper

I
can’t believe
I’m doing this, but I’m out of options.

The holidays are upon us. Christmas is just around the corner, and you know what that means for me?

A two-day trip to the Madisons’ cabin in Aspen, Colorado!

Am I excited? No.

Who are the Madisons? My family.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death. I mean, I have to love them profoundly to do something this drastic—sitting on a park bench in December in New York, waiting on a
male escort
that I hired
online
. He’s not a gigolo or whatever people call it now—he actually just accompanies women to events, being whatever they need him to be. There is no sex involved whatsoever.

Those are his rules, which happens to be listed big and bold on his website.

Good Lord. I couldn’t even imagine that happening.

But, online? I mean, seriously. Come on!

Has my life really come to this? Hiring a man to pretend to be my boyfriend, just to please my parents?

Yes. Indeed it has.

I turn my cellphone over, checking the time. Two more minutes until he’s supposed to arrive. Lifting my head, I take a quick look around the park.

There aren’t many people here. It’s nearing 7 p.m. and most people are on their way home or packing their shit for the holidays.

Christmas is only three days away, after all.

I hear footsteps coming from my left, slow and measured. Turning my head to the sound of them, I spot a slender figure with broad shoulders, coming my direction.

There is a mild glare behind the person and I squint my eyes, trying to make out details, as the person continues to walk in my direction. When the person comes closer, I straighten up, realizing this is my guy.

It has to be him.

I mean, look at what he’s wearing.

A navy blue, pin-striped suit, his hair trimmed and gelled, slicked to the side in a manner that broadcasts he is all that, and he knows it—that he’ll never let anyone tell him otherwise.

Italian. He has to be Italian. His skin is very olive—a smooth, creamy tan.

When he quirks a cheek, a full set of dimples are put right on display beneath that well-kept beard.

Oh, Lord. Built-in charisma. I feel the urge to beam at him like a silly schoolgirl, but I don’t.

In the ads I saw, he was gorgeous, but in person he is freaking breathtaking.

I sort of can’t stand it.

He’s neat.

He’s hot.

He’s tan.

He’s tall.

He seems well-built beneath that suit, too.

Actually, I’m certain he is.

He’s perfect… maybe
too
perfect for someone like me.

How in the hell am I supposed to pull off having a man that looks like that!?

“Hi!” I hop up immediately, shooting out an arm and completely disregarding my last concern, because I need this. It’s too late to turn back now. “You must be Matthew Cooper.”

He extends his arm, grabbing my hand and shaking it firmly. “Correct.” He flashes a crooked smile. “And you must be Piper Madison?”

“Yep, definitely her.” I sit back down on the bench, crossing one leg over the other and straightening the hem of my vintage, brown and burgundy skirt.

Matthew takes a seat beside me, turning to face me directly, giving me all of his attention.

Sheesh, he doesn’t joke around.

“So… I wanted to meet up with you to let you know that we’ll be flying out to Colorado on Friday night. My parents will be expecting me before Saturday because they do this whole hot chocolate bar tradition thing, and then play charades. It was fun when we were younger but now,” I roll my eyes, “well, you probably get it.”

He’s smirking now, nodding his head. “I get it. Family can be crazy sometimes.”

“Yeah, well, prepare for the worst.” I laugh awkwardly. “My family—my mother especially—is insanely overbearing and so nosy. As soon as we hit the front door, prepare to be smothered and asked a million and one questions.”

“That’s okay,” he rubs his chin. “I’m sure we can manage.”

I smile, breaking our bolted gazes. “Anyway, about the pay. Are we still set on the seven grand to cover this whole weekend? I can also reimburse you for the flight.”

“That’s okay. I can pay for my own seat. I just need to know which flight you’re taking.”

“Okay.”

Matthew sits up straight, adjusting his tie. “You don’t have to pay me until after, so don’t worry too much about that right now. I’d like you to be satisfied with your time spent with me. If you aren’t—if I happen to let you down in any way, I will walk away and you can keep your money.” He pauses, looking me over from head to toe. I fidget in my seat. “There is one thing I’d like to speak on, that I think you should consider.”

“And what’s that?”

“I think you should invite me to your place so that I can get to know you a little better.”

I blink rapidly, trying hard to avoid a frown. “Um… Not saying I don’t trust you or anything, but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable having you in my home just yet.”

He laughs, dropping his head, showcasing one of his dimples. “I knew you were going to say something like that. They all do.”

“They all?”

“Fifty-six.”

I frown. “Fifty-six what?”

“You were probably going to ask me how many women I’ve escorted. Fifty-six women, and they are all alive and well and have taken my advice into full consideration.” He taps the pocket of his shirt. “I have my book of references if you’d like to contact them personally.”

I shake my head, laughing. “Okay—okay, fine.” I sigh. “Geez, you are very sure of yourself. But my sister will love that! She likes people that stand their ground.”

“Are you not one of those people?”

I shrug. “You know, I actually don’t think that I am. I can hold my own, handle myself, but the fact that I’m even paying you for this bullshit trip should be proof enough that I’m not as self-assured as I’d like to think. If I were, I wouldn’t care about my family seeing me at twenty-eight with no one to call my lover. I’ve been single since my freshman year in college. Now it’s just casual flings, nothing past a first date.”

“And why’s that?” Matthew asks.

I shrug. “Because guys are assholes.”

I look up and he tilts his head, eyes softening.

Honey. That’s what they remind me of. The color of honey.

Matthew sighs, pulling out his cellphone and handing it to me. “I want you to plug your number in,” he says.

“Okay…” I grab the cellphone, adding my number quickly and then handing it back to him. “But why?”

“Because I want you to know that I won’t be another guy you consider an asshole. You need me to be sweet, show you things and teach you others? I can. You want to kiss me in front of everyone, as soon as we enter your parent’s cabin, so that it seems we are so in love—so unbreakable—they won’t question it? I can do that too. I can do a lot of things, Piper. My main goal,” he murmurs, leaning closer to me, “is to make sure
you
are happy and that you’re having a great time. Because if you aren’t happy, I’ll have a dissatisfied customer and I refuse for that to happen on my watch. I have never let a customer down, and I don’t plan on starting now.”

Well…
I already like the sound of that. My cheeks burn with something I haven’t felt in a very long time, and as we look at one another, I can’t help but feel that burn drift down to my chest, increasing the pace of my heartbeat.

Shit.
Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten someone this handsome.

But he had a beard and nice hair and in the emails, he seemed kind, so I had to go with it. He was a perfect fit for my vintage-dressing, Editor-in-Chief of Inside Scoop, coffee-holic self.

Plus, duh! The beard!

“That’s great,” I murmur. “And exactly what I needed to hear. You know, I’ve never done anything like this before so I’m sort of nervous. Hiring someone to pretend to be my boyfriend? Seems like a romcom movie type of thing, you know? What if they catch on or something?”

He’s amused by this. “I don’t think they will. Most people don’t think ‘male escort’ when they see a new man around. This really isn’t as outrageous as you think—then again, it is my job and I’d hate to look like a jackass so I have to say that.”

I laugh. “Yeah. Makes sense.”

“Listen,” he says calmly when he notices my leg bouncing. “Don’t be nervous. Tonight, I want you to write up a list of questions or things your family will most likely ask about me. I usually have the same answers for everything. Occupation? Dentist. Hobby? Writing and drawing comics. My parents? Deceased.”

He blinks slowly after saying the last part, which leads me to believe that it may be true.

I don’t touch on it. This is business, and I’d hate to make things any more awkward than they already are now.

My leg stops bouncing. “Okay. I’ll make a list.”

“Great. You can text or email it to me. And tomorrow, I hope to get an invite to your place. I promise this isn’t me making a move on you or anything,” he laughs. “This will really help. Family portraits, the way you decorate, favorite wine, TV shows, snacks—it all helps. The more I know about you, the better. That way if they ask me a personal question about you, I can answer it with full honesty. I will have a list of my own that you’ll need to answer, and once that’s done, I’ll go home, pack, and then study until our flight. Sound good?”

“Sounds great,” I breathe. “I’ll be sure to send you my flight number too.”

He nods, pushing to a stand and extending his arm. I stand with him, grabbing his hand and shaking it again.

Hmm. That wasn’t bad at all. He made me feel completely at ease. It was almost like visiting a male gynecologist with a soothing voice that just makes everything seem all right—which is great. I don’t need this guy treating me like a bag of money.

I already feel like an idiot for paying so much, but the guy has to make a living, I suppose.

“Until next time, Piper?”

We drop our hands. “Until next time, Matthew.”

I grin like a child. I can’t believe how silly I’m being. He’s just a guy—a really hot one, but still just a guy.

Plus, for him, this really is all about the money. Is he passionate? Yes. Is he determined to make this a success? Yes. But he’s also doing his
j-o-b
. He’s doing what he has to do to get through this weekend.

Let’s just hope this weekend goes as planned.

I turn away from Matthew just as he does, but I can’t help stealing a glance over my shoulder.

I watch his hips swing in those tailored pants, how he strides away casually.

Damn.

Even his ass is great looking.

I don’t think there’s a single flaw about him. I mean, really.

He’s charming.

He’s witty.

He’s calm and collected.

He’s hot as sin.

He is perfect.

All of that I gathered in one little, ten-minute meet up.

When I make it to my car, I grab a loose sheet of scrap paper and a pen out of my bag, and jot down a few questions to ask him.

I then write some things about myself that I think he should know, like how my family will act really disappointed in me and will probably hint at how I’ve let them down over the years.

They consider me somewhat of a failure, but only because I actually chased my dreams and didn’t follow the path they set for me.

A lawyer, doctor, or married to a billionaire. I had to be one of them, but I’m not.

Which is why it’s good that I can make Matthew whatever I want him to be. If I want him to be a surgeon, I can say that and he’ll go along with it, but he chose dentist and that’s cool too.

If I want to tell them that I have this huge project coming up that will pay me mega-bucks once complete, he can agree with me and even touch on it. Maybe he can inform them of how passionate I really am about my job.

For once, I want them to appreciate me.

And, well, it is the holidays. Why not give them a gift like this?

A gift to show them that maybe all hope isn’t lost with me and that I’m not the daughter with no future or backup plan.

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