Home > Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2)

Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2)
Author: Lauren Layne



Monday Morning, September 18

“You’re an angel, and I love you,” I say with a reverence usually reserved for people in church.

My assistant lifts an eyebrow and holds out two aspirin. “Are you talking to me or the bagel sandwich?”

“Both,” I say around a bite, holding out my free hand for the pills.

Kate waits until I swallow, then holds out a Venti Starbucks cup that I use to wash down the pills.

“How’d you know?” I ask, picking up the egg and Swiss on sesame bagel once more.

“That you were hungover as crap? I get your flight change notifications. Taking an unplanned Sunday red-eye from Vegas to New York after a bachelor party pretty much says it all.”

I wince. “Can we not say the word Vegas? Or bachelor party? And until further notice, all references to alcohol are hereby banned.”

She smirks. “It sucks getting old, huh?”

“I’m not old,” I say automatically. The very suggestion’s an affront. After all, I’m Matt Cannon, Wall Street’s legendary wunderkind.

And yeah, only douchebags would call themselves legendary, but in my case? It’s kind of true. I graduated from high school when I was sixteen, college when I was nineteen, and got hired on at Wolfe Investments just days after my twenty-second birthday, back when my liver was basically a virgin (though I was definitely not) and more than ready to take on the booze-fest that is Wall Street.

Whoops. I just remembered we’re not talking about alcohol. Not until the aspirin, caffeine, and this sandwich work their sweet magic on my hangover.

Anyway, the point is I’m only twenty-eight. Not exactly a boy wonder anymore, but to be one of the Wolfes before thirty is brag-worthy. It’s hard enough to get hired by the company in the first place, even harder to move up the ranks at such a young age, and . . .

Oh hell, who am I kidding?

I can’t drink like I could when I was twenty-two, and I am officially feeling the effects of the forty-eight-hour rager that was my cousin’s bachelor party.

“How are you feeling, for real?” Kate asks, giving me a critical once-over.

Kate Henley’s one of those assistants who you guard more closely than your wallet, Pappy Van Winkle, or bank account password. She’s that valuable.

Sure, she’s got the petite, pretty, doe-eyed look of a 1950s debutante, but she’s obscenely competent at her job. So competent, in fact, she works for not one demanding boss but three. A couple of years ago, I got promoted to director the same month as my two best friends and Wolfe colleagues, Ian Bradley and Kennedy Dawson. The promotion meant we each got our own assistant instead of sharing one like the junior guys. We couldn’t decide who got Kate, so she took on all three of us and does it twice as well as any of the other assistants who support only one investment broker.

Our arrangement also means we made a pact to keep our playboy wiles far away from her, though truth be told, I don’t know that she was ever really at risk. I’m pretty sure Kate’s too smart to fall for one of us because she knows us all too well, though her gaze does seem to linger on Kennedy at times.

I grin at her. “Better. Thanks. Headache’s already receding.”

“Good. Because The Sams want to see you.”

My grin disappears. “Now?” I check my Rolex. “It’s barely eight on Monday morning.”

“Yeah, well, this is Wall Street. Everyone’s day started four hours ago. Speaking of which, I’ve called you, like, ten times.”

I rub my forehead. “I lost my cell phone . . . somewhere. The Sams say what they wanted?”

“Nope,” she says, bending to pull something out of a garment bag. “But they came by my desk themselves instead of sending Carla, which is never good. Put this on.”

She hands me a skinny blue tie, and I obediently tug off the striped one I put on in the airport bathroom at baggage claim. At best, it smells like the smoke of a Vegas casino. At worst . . .

The way Kate wrinkles her nose when she takes it tells me it’s in the unnamed “worse” category.

I put the fresh tie around my neck, but she holds up a finger and waves it in a circle. “Hmm, nope. You’re worse off than I thought.” She holds up a white dress shirt. “Wardrobe change. Where the hell’d you sleep last night, a barroom floor?”

“Didn’t sleep at all,” I mutter, unbuttoning my shirt.

It sort of sums up my and Kate’s platonic relationship that I’m shirtless but she doesn’t so much as glance at the upper body I’ve earned through long gym hours as she hands me the shirt. “One day you really are going to be too old for this, you know.”

“One day,” I say as I put on the fresh shirt. “Not today.”

A minute later, I’ve got a clean shirt, new tie, and feel slightly better as the aspirin and caffeine kick in.

“The guys in?” I ask, referring to Ian and Kennedy, as I straighten the knot of my tie. I don’t have a mirror, so I spread my arms for Kate to assess.

She looks me up and down. “Good as we’re gonna get for now, but as soon as you’re done with the meeting, you need a shower. And no, the guys aren’t in. Kennedy was grabbing an early coffee with a client, and Ian said he had an early meeting as well.”

I lift my eyebrows. “‘Early meeting’ meaning . . . he got distracted by Lara in the shower?”

“My thoughts exactly.”

Ian is rather disgustingly in love with his fiancée, Lara McKenzie. And while their level of infatuation is nauseating, there’s no woman I’d rather have lost my partner in playboy debauchery to than her. An agent with the white-collar division of the FBI, Lara’s smart, funny, and, best of all, tolerates exactly none of Ian’s bullshit, which is plentiful.

“Okay, let’s do this,” I say, taking one last bite of sandwich and a gulp of coffee. “Scale of one to ten, how intense were The Sams when they came by?”

“Eight,” she says as we walk toward the elevators. “Here.” Kate hands me a piece of gum as she punches the “Up” button.

“Where’s Joe?” I ask, unwrapping the gum.


“Shit,” I grumble, folding the stick of gum into my mouth.

Joe Schneider is my direct boss, and he’s a good one. The sort of boss you want to be by your side when the higher-ups personally summon you for something you know nothing about. No such luck today. I’d forgotten he’d taken his wife to Thailand for two weeks for their twentieth wedding anniversary.

I’m on my own.

I dutifully chew my gum until the elevator arrives, then spit it back into the wrapper so I’m not chomping gum like a sixteen-year-old cashier at the mall when I meet with the CEOs of the company.

Kate holds out her hand, but I shake my head and step into the elevator. “I don’t pay you enough to throw out my chewed gum.”

“You don’t pay me enough for any of this,” she calls after me as the elevator doors close, separating us.

It’s a short ride to the top floor of the building. Can’t say I spend much time up here, thank God. It’s not that I mind the bosses—or my boss’s bosses in this case—I just prefer my face time with them to involve one too many vodka martinis at the company holiday party.

Getting called up on a Monday morning when I’m hungover as hell? Not my idea of a solid start to the week.

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