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Royals Series
Author: Louise Bay

Chapter One




Ten. Whole. Minutes. It didn’t sound like a long time, but as I sat across from Max King, the so-called King of Wall Street, while he silently read through the first draft of a report I’d produced on the textile industry in Bangladesh, it felt like a lifetime.

Resisting the urge to revert to my fourteen-year-old self and ask him what he was thinking, I glanced around, trying to find something else to fixate on.

Max’s office suited him perfectly—the A/C was set to the average temperature of an igloo; the walls, ceilings, and floors were all blinding white, adding to the arctic ambience. His desk was glass and chrome, and the New York sun bled through the opaque blinds, trying without success to thaw the frost that penetrated the room. I hated it. Every time I entered the place I had the urge to flash my bra or graffiti the walls in bright red lipstick. It was the place fun came to die.

Max’s sigh pulled my attention back to his long index finger that he trailed down the page of my research. He shook his head. My stomach somersaulted. I knew impressing him would be an impossible task but that didn’t mean I hadn’t secretly hoped I’d nailed it. I’d worked so hard on this report, my first research for the Max King. I’d barely slept, working double so I didn’t neglect my other duties in the office. I’d printed off and examined everything that had been written on the industry in the last decade. I’d pored over the statistics, trying to find patterns and draw conclusions. And I’d scoured the King & Associates archives trying to find any historical research that we’d produced so we could explain any inconsistencies. I’d covered every base, hadn’t I? When I’d printed it out earlier that morning, long before anyone else had arrived, I’d been happy—proud even. I’d done a good job.

“You spoke to Marvin about the latest data?” he asked.

I nodded, though he didn’t look up, so I said, “Yes. All the graphs are based on the latest figures.” Did they look wrong? Had he expected something else?

I just wanted him to say, “Good job.”

I’d been desperate to work for Max King since before I enrolled at business school. He was the power behind the throne of many of the Wall Street success stories in the last few years. King & Associates provided investment banks with critical research that helped their investment decisions. I liked the idea that there were a ton of flashy suits from investment banks shouting about how rich they were and the man who had made it happen was happy to go quietly about his business, just being amazing at what he did. Understated, determined, supremely successful—he was everything I wanted to be. When I got the offer during my final semester to be a junior researcher at King & Associates, I was thrilled, but I also felt an odd sense that the universe was simply unravelling how it should, as though it was simply the next step in my destiny.

Destiny could kiss my ass. My first six weeks in my new position had been nothing I’d expected. I’d assumed I’d be surrounded by ambitious, intelligent, well-dressed twenty and thirty somethings and I’d been right about that. And the clients we worked for—almost every investment bank in Manhattan—were phenomenal and lived up to every expectation I’d had. Max King, however, had turned out to be a huge letdown. The fact was, despite being crazy smart, respected by everyone on Wall Street, and looking as if he should have been on a poster on teenage me’s bedroom wall, he was . . .




A total asshole.

He was as handsome in real life as he was in his picture on the cover of Forbes or any of the other publicity shots I’d clicked through as I stalked him during my MBA at Berkeley. One morning, I’d arrived super early, seen him in his running gear—sweaty, panting, Lycra clad. Thighs so strong they looked as if they might be made of marble. Broad shoulders; a strong Roman nose; dark-brown, glossy hair—the kind wasted on a man—and a year-round tan that screamed, I vacation four times a year. In the office he wore custom suits. Handmade suits fell a particular way on the shoulders that I recognized from the few meetings I’d had with my father. His face and body lived up to every expectation I’d had. Working with him, not so much.

I hadn’t expected him to be such a tyrant.

Each morning, as he swooped through the throng of open-plan desks to his office, he never so much as greeted any of us with a good morning. He regularly yelled into his phone so loud he could be heard from the elevator lobby. And last Tuesday? When I’d passed him in the office and smiled at him, the veins in his neck began to bulge and he looked as if he was going to reach out and choke me.

I smoothed my palms down the fabric of my Zara skirt. Perhaps I irritated him because I wasn’t as sleek as the other women in the office. I didn’t dress in the regulation Prada. Did I look as though I didn’t care? I just couldn’t afford anything better at the moment.

As the most junior member of the team, I was at the bottom of the pecking order. Which meant I knew Mr. King’s sandwich order, how to untangle the photocopier, and I had every courier company on speed dial. But that was to be expected and I was just happy because I got to work with the guy I’d looked up to and admired for years.

And here he was, shaking his head and wielding a pen with the reddest ink I’d ever seen. With each circle, crisscross, and exaggerated question mark he made, I seemed to shrink.

“Where are your references?” he asked without looking up.

References? When I looked at the other reports we produced, they never had the sources in the report. “I have them back at my desk—”

“Did you speak to Donny?”

“I’m waiting to hear back from him.” He looked up and I tried not to wince. I’d put in two calls to Max’s contact at the World Trade Organization, but I couldn’t make the guy talk to me.

He shook his head and grabbed his phone and dialed. “Hey, hotshot,” he said. “I need to understand the position on Everything But Arms. I heard your guys are putting pressure on the EU?” Max didn’t put the phone on speaker, so I watched as he scribbled notes over my paper. “It would really help for this thing I’m doing about Bangladesh.” Max grinned, looked up briefly, caught my eye, and looked away as if just the sight of me irritated him. Great.

Max hung up.

“I put in two calls—”

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