Kindle Version: Coming February 12, 2019
Paperback Version: Coming April 23, 2019
Audio Version: TBD
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21 Wall Street, Book Three
+ book summary
Even for a top-gun banker, temptation this hot is quite a gamble, in a sexy Wall Street romp from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.
An alpha among the wolves of Wall Street, Kennedy Dawson rose to the top of the pack by striking the right contracts at the right times. But there’s one deal that’s been giving him a run for his money—a pact to never again let his assistant, Kate, get under his skin. She may be smart, gorgeous, and sharp as a whip, but she’s definitely off-limits.
Kate Henley isn’t a banker, but she knows a thing or two about risk management—specifically, about managing her attraction to her smolderingly sexy boss. She already fell once, and Kennedy showed no sign of paying a return on her investment. So when Kennedy’s brother starts pursuing her, Kate figures she has the best of both worlds. Jack is charming, rich, very attentive, and the spitting image of his older brother.
It’s also making Kennedy think twice. But to win Kate’s heart, he’ll have to broker the deal of a lifetime…and prove he’s worth the risk.
“So,” Jack said, placing the pad of his finger on Kennedy’s globe and giving it an idle spin. Kennedy made a sound of irritation. “It’s not a basketball, man.” “Oh, spoiler alert,” Matt said, snapping his fingers as though just remembering something to tell Jack. “Kennedy doesn’t like when people touch his stuff.” “He never did,” Jack said, dropping into a chair and putting his hands behind his head. “Which one of you wants to tell me what the deal is with Kate?” Kennedy tensed slightly, because he knew his brother. He knew that tone. “What about her?” Jack shrugged. “She’s cute. Like a little tiger cub.” “Don’t be an ass,” Kennedy said. “Actually,” Matt said, “I think Kate would sort of love the comparison. A predatory cat? She’d be all over that. Or not,” he muttered when Kennedy gave him a shut the fuck up look. “She’s my assistant. Leave her alone.” “She’s our assistant,” Matt corrected. “And she’s single.” Kennedy gave his friend a look of irritation. “Jesus, Cannon, don’t you have somewhere to be?” “Not really. And I’m just saying, I saw them talking. They had chemistry.” Kennedy stared hard first at Matt, then at Jack. “It’s Kate. She’s off-limits.” “But she’s not married. Is she straight?” he asked, glancing at Matt for confirmation. Matt nodded, and Jack spread his hands to the sides. “Well then. Nothing off-limits about that.” “We made a pact,” Kennedy said, leaning forward. “Kate’s off-limits.” “Who made the pact?” Jack asked. “Cannon, Ian, and me.” “So, not me,” Jack said with irritating patience. “Right?” “Sounds right,” Matt chimed in. Five minutes ago, Kennedy had been thrilled to see his brother. Jack did most of his business overseas, so Kennedy rarely saw him outside of holidays and occasional visits. He’d been even more thrilled to hear Jack was moving back to New York, and he was glad, truly. And yet . . . Kennedy had seen what Matt had seen. More than that, he’d heard Kate’s laugh. Kate had a sense of humor, but it was more of a facetious, witty humor, not a giggling humor. But she’d been giggling at Jack. Of course she was. That’s what Jack did. He charmed the crap out of women. Easily. John, too, though his other brother had been decidedly less easygoing since his divorce last year. Hell, even Fitz, who’d always been a straight-up geek, had come out of his awkward years with more girlfriends in a month than Kennedy had in a year. But Fitz and John weren’t here. They weren’t sniffing around Kate. “Can you just . . . not?” Kennedy said, rubbing his forehead. “Can I not what?” “That thing. Where you make every woman in your current zip code revolve around you.” “What are you worried about?” Jack said, stretching his legs out in front of him, crossing his hands over his trim stomach. “It’s not like I was flirting with your girl.” Like hell you weren’t. It took Kennedy an embarrassingly long moment to realize that Jack meant Claudia. Claudia was his girl. Not Kate. “Besides, you’re not exactly a repellent monk,” Jack was saying. “For reasons I’ve never been able to quite grasp, women seem to flock to your brooding Heathcliff routine just as much as they do my Leo thing.” Kennedy scratched his temple. His brother wasn’t entirely wrong. Kennedy had never struggled for female attention. He was fit, not awful to look at, had more money, quite honestly, than he knew what to do with. And while his tastes tended toward classic, bordering even on old-fashioned, to his brother’s point, women had always seemed to like that, too. Most women. Not all. Definitely not Kate, who had called him stodgy once or twice to his face. Kate, who apparently preferred Jack’s easy grins and lame Titanic references. Kennedy looked at Matt for help and saw his friend was watching him carefully. Then Matt turned to Jack. “Look, for what it’s worth, if you mess with Kate, I’ll join Kennedy here in kicking your ass.” Jack held up his hands, palms out. “I get it. I promise not to drag her to my lair or whatever the hell it is you two seem to think it is I do to women. Good?” Matt shrugged, and Kennedy forced himself to let the issue drop, if for nothing else than his own peace of mind. To be fair, his brother was a good guy. Yeah, Jack had a larger than usual string of broken hearts behind him, but Kennedy also knew Jack never intentionally led women on. The guy didn’t have the settle-down itch, and he let women know it upfront. Plus, Kate was too smart to fall for a guy who had short-term written all over him. The woman went to visit her parents in Jersey every other weekend and had a half dozen photos of her niece and nephew on her desk. Surely, she had intentions of settling down— Kennedy frowned a little at the thought. Kate didn’t seem to date much, but then again, Kennedy wasn’t entirely sure he would know if she did. Matt and Ian always seemed to be the ones who knew those details about Kate, not him. Still, if and when she did settle down, it’d be with some high school science teacher who told corny jokes, not Jack . . . who definitely told corny jokes. Shit. “Where’s your third musketeer?” Jack asked, interrupting Kennedy’s thoughts. “Ian? Well, let’s see, it’s four o’clock on a Thursday . . . I’m going to guess he’s working. Some of us do that,” Kennedy said. “Actually, I’m pretty sure he and Lara are doing it in his office,” Matt said. Jack sat up straight. “Seriously?” Matt shrugged. “Some of us do that.” Jack laughed, and Kennedy shifted slightly in his chair, trying not to look—and feel—like a disapproving old man. He wasn’t a prude. Far from it. He just didn’t fully grasp the concept of being so overwhelmed with lust that one couldn’t wait until they were at home to have sex in as civilized—or uncivilized—a manner as one pleased. There was a quick knock at the door, and Ian opened it before Kennedy’s “come in.” Jack rose to greet him, and Kennedy listened with half an ear as they discussed who owed whom what after their poker game last summer. All three of them actually owed Kennedy, but he didn’t say so. He didn’t need the money. None of them did. There was a reason he, Ian, and Matt were known as the “Wolfes” of Wall Street. They had a good deal more morals than the scam artists they were named after, and their partying had never veered toward the illegal hard stuff. But over the years, they’d had their fair share of late nights, dropped too many hundred-dollar bills on God knows what. Kennedy wasn’t ashamed of it, not really. The old work-hard-play-hard adage may as well have been written in the Wolfe Investments offices. Kennedy’s family was old-money wealthy, but every dime he spent was his own, earned through determination, smarts, and long hours in this very chair. But sometimes, at least lately, the whole thing had started to feel a little hollow. Mostly, Kennedy chalked it up to the fact that Ian and Matt had settled down with women so perfect for them that it was vaguely irritating to watch. Not that he was jealous, but—well, hell. He was, a little. The two of them had always been wilder than Kennedy, and yet here he was, the tamest of the trio, feeling a little left behind. His brother and friends had moved on to discuss when they could fit in a round of golf at Matt’s club out in Connecticut, when Kate marched into his office, armed with a stack of messages. She was wearing what he thought of as her work uniform—neutral slacks and a white blouse, one button undone to reveal only a hint of skin at the base of her throat. The woman was the literal definition of buttoned-up. Kate began handing out sheets of paper. A couple of years ago, she’d implemented what she referred to as her “hybrid” system, a combination of old-school paper messages as well as an e-mail conveying the same message. It was her way of ensuring their I didn’t get it excuse didn’t fly when she had to deal with the aftermath of whatever message they’d forgotten or ignored. “Dave’s called three times,” she said, handing a sheet of paper to Ian. “He broke his TV. Again. Needs a replacement before ‘the big one,’ his words.” Kennedy smiled. Dave was Ian’s rough-around-the-edges foster father who, while never having raised a hand to Ian, had a bad habit of losing his temper in the middle of whatever sporting event was currently on in front of him and breaking the television with a various arsenal of projectiles. Beer bottles, a basketball, the remote. Ian replaced each and every flat-screen with an ever bigger, improved model without question. To Ian’s thinking, it was a small price to pay for Dave being the only man who’d given a trouble-making orphan even a hint of stability. Ian sighed and took the paper. “I wonder if they have subscription models for televisions. You know, where Best Buy or some company can auto-replenish every month.” “I’ll look into it,” Kate said. “I was kidding.” “I’ll look into it,” she repeated, handing a message to Matt. “Felicia called. Apparently, your mother’s refusing to let her join her book club.” “Wait, my mom isn’t keen on my dad’s mistress joining her book club? That’s weird. What’s this?” Matt asked as Kate handed him another piece of paper. She tapped a finger against the top of the paper. “A different book club. Carol Madigan is Joe’s sister-in-law. She lives fifteen minutes from Felicia, and they’ve got a book club dedicated mostly to Scottish romance novels. I think she’ll love it.” “Scottish romance novels,” Jack said, looking a little in awe of Kate. “That’s a thing?” “Definitely. Men in kilts? Delightful,” Kate said without looking up as she handed a piece of paper to Kennedy. “Claudia called. Said to remind you not to forget to keep Saturday afternoon open.” Damn. He was drawing a blank. “Remind me?” “Her parents are back in town from Paris.” Kennedy groaned and closed his eyes. “Any chance I can get out of it?” “No.” His eyes popped open in surprise, because the answer came not just from Kate but from the three guys as well. “Seriously?” Kennedy asked. “This from you clowns? Ian, you once literally climbed a hedge to escape a woman you’d slept with. Matt, you took a city bus to avoid someone you thought you might have slept with. And Jack, don’t even get me started with you and Carly Booker—” “That was in the eleventh grade!” his brother protested. “Point is, don’t you think two months into the relationship is a little soon for the meet-the-parents?” “She’s met yours,” Kate pointed out. “Mine live uptown, and Claudia insisted. Hers have retired to eight different houses across Europe.” Kate shrugged. “Knickerbocker Hotel, three p.m. Saturday.” “Where?” “It’s on 42nd and Broadway.” This time, Kennedy’s groan was even more heartfelt. “Midtown?” “Wait, now hold on,” Jack said, holding his chin and narrowing his eyes in a thinking face. “I always thought that Fitz was the baby of the family, but hearing you whine like that . . .” Kennedy shot his brother the finger. “Lovely,” Kate said. “I’ll leave you boys to whatever this is.” She made a circling gesture at the four of them. “I’m heading out for the day. Alison from Fourth is manning my phone till five, but I’ll keep an eye on e-mail. Don’t call my cell unless there’s blood.” Kennedy, Ian, and Matt exchanged surprised looks. They had no issue with Kate making her own schedule, but leaving before five—hell, before seven—was unusual. “Hot date?” Ian asked, his tone playful. “Well . . .” She folded her hands in front of her. “It’s been brought to my attention that I don’t have much of a life outside the office aside from my friendship with Lara and Sabrina, and I’m not sure that even counts, since they’re crazy enough to marry my bosses.” “Who said you didn’t have a life?” Jack asked. Kennedy flinched, still regretting his careless words from the other evening. He kept meaning to apologize, but the moment never seemed quite right. His brother saw his reaction and smirked. “Ah. All caught up.” “Anyway,” Kate said primly, “I’ve decided to take a me day. Well, a me afternoon.” “A what now?” Matt asked. “I’m going to The Plaza for a glass of champagne, then shopping at Bergdorf, then getting my hair done.” She counted on her fingers, and Kennedy knew she had the time at each stop planned down to the minute. “Spontaneous,” Matt teased. “Baby steps,” she said lightly, though Kennedy could have sworn he noticed the slightest pause, as though Matt’s teasing had struck a nerve. “Remember,” she said, pointing around the room. “Tell Kelly if you need anything. Only call me if one of you kills the other, and there’s blood to clean up.” “Out of curiosity, who do you think would be the offed and who would be the offer?” Matt asked. “You three, dead,” she said, pointing to Jack, Matt, and Ian. “Him, guilty.” She pointed at Kennedy. “Hey,” he said, affronted. “Why am I the serial killer?” She shrugged. “You’re so pent-up all the time. I figure it has to eventually come out, and when it does, it’ll be in a big way.” Then Kate turned on her heel and swiftly left his office. Kennedy just stared after her. “She has a point,” Jack said. “You’re very—” “Shut up,” Kennedy muttered. “Just shut up.”