Huge deal 21 wall street.., p.7

Huge Deal (21 Wall Street Book 3), page 7

 

Huge Deal (21 Wall Street Book 3)
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  Kennedy scowled. “You can’t leave in the middle of a chess game.”

  “Oh, did I forget to mention?” she asked casually, pulling her hair out from the neck of the jacket and letting it fall, dark and heavy, against the lapel, then pointing down at the board. “Checkmate.”

  Kennedy looked at the pieces, his disbelief shifting quickly to shock as he realized that his king was out of moves. He gave a thoughtful look at the woman he’d known—or thought he’d known—for years.

  And wondered just what else he’d underestimated about her.

  9

  Sunday, April 7

  “Damn it,” Kennedy muttered under his breath, tapping his six iron in irritation against the toe of his golf shoe. “Where’s the drink cart? I need a beer.”

  “Yeah, I’m sure that’ll help,” Ian said, shielding his eyes from the sun and looking in the direction of Kennedy’s ball to the far right. “Hell of a slice.”

  “Actually, sometimes a drink really does help with this game,” Jarod Lanham said from behind the wheel of the golf cart he was sharing with Matt. “Gets you out of your head a bit.”

  “I don’t think Kennedy’s ever been out of his head in his life,” Matt said.

  “Sure he has. He’s had sex, right?”

  “Even then, I’m not so sure if he really loses himself,” Ian said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were diagrams in his nightstand with all of the various erogenous zones labeled.”

  “You fools realize I can hear you, right?” Kennedy asked.

  Kennedy had gladly accepted the invitation to join his friends and Jarod for a golf getaway in Florida for the weekend. He’d have said yes regardless, but even having grown up around money, he couldn’t deny that Jarod Lanham bumped the definition of luxury up to a whole other level.

  For starters, the man was a billionaire with a capital B. Kennedy knew plenty of seven- and eight-figure guys. But meeting an eleven-figure guy face-to-face was rare, even on Wall Street. Even more impressive, Jarod wasn’t some old fossil who’d amassed his fortune over the course of seven decades. At thirty-eight, he was only two years older than Kennedy. It would be annoying, if Kennedy didn’t like the guy. Which he did.

  Despite the private jet, the elite golf membership, and God knew how many private villas he had in about eight countries, the man was surprisingly down-to-earth.

  Jarod also was an exceptional golfer, and yesterday, Kennedy’s game had been on point. He’d beaten Matt and Ian and come within a respectable four shots of Jarod. Today was a different story.

  “Stupid sport,” Kennedy muttered.

  “That it is,” Jarod said, taking a sip of the expensive bottled water from the cart. “One day you’re on top of your game, then one little thing gets out of alignment, and it all goes to hell.”

  “Is it your back, old man?” asked Matt, who, at twenty-nine, liked to pretend he had the youthful vigor of a college kid while the rest of them hobbled around on walkers.

  “Oh, the body’s rarely the problem,” Jarod told Matt. He tapped his temple. “It’s up here. A work stress gets in your head, a woman . . .” He spread his fingers wide and made a bomb noise.

  Kennedy rolled his eyes and walked around to the back of the cart he and Ian were sharing, dropping his club into his bag. “Whose shot?”

  “Mine,” Ian said, pointing at a ball fifty or so yards up on the fairway. Then he looked back. “No rush, though. No one’s behind us. Plenty of time.”

  “Absolutely. We’ve got all day to discuss what’s got you flubbing every other shot,” Jarod agreed, grinning at Kennedy.

  “Could be that you guys won’t shut up,” Kennedy supplied.

  “Could be that Avetna crashed on Friday,” Matt suggested.

  “Nah, we’d all be screwed on that one,” Ian said, referring to the stock that had plummeted unexpectedly a few days earlier, causing a mini shock wave on the NYSE floor.

  “So a woman, then,” Jarod said to Kennedy. “I hear your woman had an ice sculpture made in your likeness for your birthday party. Sorry I was out of town and missed it.”

  “It was extremely majestic,” Matt said.

  “That’s what’s on your mind, Dawson? PTSD from your party?” Ian asked.

  “I don’t have anything on my mind!” Kennedy looked around. He really needed that drink cart.

  “Not even the fact that your brother and our assistant are dating?”

  Kennedy’s gaze swung back around to Matt, who was innocently studying a tee. “They’re not dating.”

  “Not what I heard,” Ian said.

  Jarod pretended to settle into the leather seat of the golf cart. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

  “What did you hear?” Kennedy said, laser-focused on Ian.

  Ian’s light-blue eyes flicked to Matt before coming back to Kennedy. “Just that Jack and Kate went out to dinner last week. Twice.”

  “Lara told you that?”

  “Kate did.”

  Kennedy felt a surge of frustration that Kate had mentioned to Ian she was going out with Jack, but not him. Though, Kennedy had suspected what was going on. After the party, Jack had asked him for her number, and as Kate had requested, Kennedy had handed it over. Reluctantly.

  He’d reminded himself that it wasn’t his business who Kate dated. Jack may have been the bane of his existence when they were teens, but they were close now. He was a good guy. A serial dater, sure, but no more than Kennedy or any of the other guys used to be.

  “You guys get in a fight?” Matt asked.

  “My brother and I are fine.”

  “Not you and Jack, you and Kate. You two have been more impatient with each other than usual the past week.”

  “Ever since you disappeared together at your party,” Ian added.

  “We didn’t disappear. We just went to play chess. It wasn’t a big deal.”

  “You’ve never asked me to play chess,” Matt said.

  “Do you play?”

  “Yes, and I’m excellent.”

  “Which means you’re a heinous opponent.”

  “He is,” Jarod agreed. “He acts like it’s a mathlete competition.”

  “Which I always won.”

  “Hey, you know what you should do?” Jarod said, turning to Matt excitedly as though he just had a great idea. “Record yourself talking about your mathletics, then play it for Sabrina. See if she still chooses you.”

  “She will,” Matt said smugly. “You lost, man, fair and square.”

  “I didn’t fully put myself in the game,” Jarod said. “And is that any way to talk to your fairy godmother?”

  Kennedy couldn’t help but smirk at Jarod’s self-appointed nickname. Late last year, Jarod had shown a brief interest in Sabrina, realized that she was entirely hung up on Matt, and switched allegiances, getting all up in their business to bring them together.

  “The point is,” Matt said, looking back toward Kennedy, “we need to help Kennedy come to grips with Jack and Kate’s relationship so his golf game can get back on track.”

  “Two dates is not a relationship. And if it were, I wouldn’t care. I’m happy for them.”

  “And?” Ian prompted when Kennedy said nothing more.

  “And what?” Kennedy grabbed a bottle of water.

  “I know this will upset your carefully built walls, but we know you, man. What’s on your mind?”

  Kennedy exhaled and looked around at the vast amount of green, realizing, though it galled him to do so, that maybe he did need to talk it out.

  “What do you guys think about Claudia?”

  “She’s nice,” Ian said automatically.

  Nice. There was that word again, the same one Kate had used the night of the party.

  “Never met her,” Jarod said, holding up his hands when Kennedy looked his way.

  Kennedy shifted his gaze to Matt, who gave an indifferent shrug. “Yeah, she’s nice.”

  Damn it. He knew they meant it. Just as Kate had meant i
t. Because Claudia was nice. And beautiful. Smart. Generous. So why the hell did the people closest to him sound so bored when her name was mentioned?

  Worse, why did Kennedy feel bored?

  “Are things getting serious between you guys?” Jarod asked.

  “It’s only been a couple months,” Kennedy said automatically.

  “So?” All three of the guys asked it at the same time.

  Kennedy gave them an incredulous look. “So people do not get serious after two months.”

  “I did,” Ian said matter-of-factly.

  Matt nodded in agreement. “I think I knew Sabrina was it for me the second I met her. It just took me a couple years to figure it out, a couple more to convince her . . .”

  “I convinced her,” Jarod said.

  “Shut up, man,” Matt said.

  “Guys.” Ian nodded at Kennedy. “Focus.”

  “Right,” Matt said. “Okay, so you and Claudia are just casual for now, and yet you look awfully serious.”

  “That’s just my face,” Kennedy said.

  Ian laughed. “True. But you do seem extra pensive. And not just about your golf game.”

  Kennedy squinted up at the sky, not quite sure how to explain himself. Not even sure why he wanted to explain himself. He was hardly prone to talking about what was on his mind, and he definitely wasn’t inclined to share feelings. But something had been brewing deep inside him lately, and he figured if he didn’t get it out with these guys, he never would. “You guys ever think it’s weird that both of you are getting married before me?” He didn’t include Jarod, but he knew the other man well enough to know he wouldn’t mind being left out—he was new to their group.

  “I guess,” Matt said. “I mean, I never gave much thought to any of us Wolfes getting married, but I guess if I had, I would’ve assumed you’d be the first one to the altar.”

  Me too.

  Kennedy hadn’t spent the past decade planning his wedding, but he also had never been one of those guys who squawked about being a bachelor for life. He always figured he’d find a nice woman, settle down, have kids.

  And yeah, he sort of thought it’d have happened by now.

  “So is anyone else confused why Kennedy’s got marriage on the brain but also is insisting he and his girlfriend aren’t serious?” Matt asked.

  “No,” Jarod said. “He’s thirty-seven now—”

  “Thirty-six,” Kennedy ground out.

  “I’m just saying, it makes sense. You’re not getting any younger—”

  “Jesus.” Kennedy turned back to the golf cart and pointed at Ian to follow suit. “Get in. We’re done here.”

  “You know I’m right,” Jarod said, calling over his shoulder as he and Matt drove off.

  Once they were alone, Ian turned to Kennedy, his voice atypically serious. “You’re not having some sort of midlife crisis because of your birthday and the fact that Matt and I are married and almost married, are you?”

  “No, that’s not it,” Kennedy said, meaning it. He was happy for his friends, and he wasn’t foolish enough to rush out and find the first wife available out of competition or fear of getting older.

  “So what is it?”

  Kennedy put his hands on the wheel of the golf cart but didn’t take it out of “Park.” “Kate and I sort of got into it the other night at my birthday party.”

  “Kate?” Ian asked, sounding puzzled by the mention of their assistant’s name when they’d been talking about Claudia. “And what do you mean got into it?”

  Kennedy rubbed his forehead. “You know how we always say the wrong thing to each other?”

  Ian nodded. “You’re too much alike.”

  Kennedy gave him a surprised look. “We’re nothing alike.”

  “Neither one of you can stand for things to be out of order, and yet you can’t seem to get the other person in order. Alike.”

  “Well, maybe,” Kennedy said, unable to deny that both he and Kate thrived on organization. “But when it comes to relationships, we’re apparently opposites.”

  “Relationships?” Ian’s voice was startled and a little wary. “When were you guys talking about that?”

  “At my birthday party. You know she believes in love at first sight?”

  “And?”

  “And,” Kennedy snapped, annoyed that Ian wasn’t sharing his concern, “I’m worried she’ll get her heart broken when she realizes that love at first sight doesn’t exist, especially with my brother.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Seriously? You’re taking her side on this?”

  Ian held up his hands. “I’m not taking anyone’s side. I’m just saying that Kate and Jack seemed to really hit it off. It could be something. And besides, what does it matter if she has a different vision of relationships than you? You’ve got Claudia. She has Jack.”

  His stomach clenched. “I thought you said it was only two dates.”

  Ian studied him. “Okay, I’m going to say this while you don’t have a golf club in your hands . . . You’re acting jealous, man.”

  “I am not,” Kennedy said automatically.

  “Okay,” Ian agreed just a little too readily before gesturing at the fairway in front of them. “Then can we play golf now, or . . . ?”

  Kennedy nodded in agreement and drove the golf cart forward to Ian’s ball, which his friend proceeded to land nicely on the green.

  Kennedy’s game, on the other hand, continued to deteriorate.

  He refused to let himself think about why.

  10

  Sunday, April 7

  “We should have brunch in every day,” Sabrina said, sitting back in her chair and rubbing her stomach. “So much better than a restaurant.”

  “Well, the food came from a restaurant,” Lara said, adding a bit more orange juice to her mimosa. “Lest either of you was assuming I could whip up bananas Foster French toast or whatever magic is happening with that quiche.”

  “Cheese. Cheese is what’s happening with that quiche,” Kate said.

  “Oh great. My wedding dress likes cheese almost as much as it likes this bread,” Lara said sarcastically, dragging a last bite of French toast through a puddle of syrup.

  “It’s the sugar that’ll get you,” Sabrina said absently.

  Lara glared at her.

  “Could get you. Would get you if you were a different body type, without your wondrous metabolism.” Sabrina looked at Kate. “Help.”

  Kate grinned. “Nope. I think that was one of the few times I’ve ever seen you verbally flounder. It was sort of glorious.”

  “Totally glorious,” Lara agreed gleefully.

  Sabrina, in addition to being one of the most beautiful women Kate had ever seen, seemed to radiate chic, effortless confidence. It had been intimidating at first. Even though Kate considered herself fairly secure in her own life and choices, it was hard not to feel like a wannabe in Sabrina’s presence.

  But the more she’d gotten to know Sabrina, the more she’d seen beyond the rough edges and the cool polish to a woman who was warm and vibrant and giving. She’d won Kate over, first by being a fiercely loyal friend to Ian, who she’d known since childhood, and then later as Matt’s soul mate.

  Of course, it had taken Matt and Sabrina a while to realize their soul-mate status, but Kate had known from the beginning. You couldn’t be in the same room with them and not feel the electricity.

  “You know, I’m not worried,” Lara said after she finished chewing the French toast and pushed her empty plate away. “It won’t matter if my wedding dress is snug, because I have two of the most competent women on the planet as bridesmaids.”

  “Well, that’s true,” Kate said. “You know, you’ll be my tenth wedding?”

  “Tenth?” Sabrina asked. “As in you’ve done the bridesmaid thing ten times?”

  Kate nodded. “And maid of honor twice.”

  “Overachieve much, Miss Congeniality?”

  “It’s not like that,” Kate said.
“I mean, yeah, I love my cousins and college girlfriends, but I’m pretty sure some of them included me for the reason you just implied. Competence. I’m super handy in a crisis.”

  “That you are, but you know that’s not why I asked you, right?” Lara said, studying Kate.

  “Of course,” she said automatically. Kate hadn’t known Lara as long as she had Sabrina, and as a former SEC agent and current badass FBI agent, she was an unexpected addition to their group. But although she’d been wary of Lara when the other woman had been assigned to investigate Ian for insider trading, Lara made it pretty difficult to dislike her. With her big blue eyes, black-rimmed glasses, and her trademark blonde ponytail, she looked like the girl next door and acted like it, too. She was as kind as she was ambitious, funny as she was smart.

  No doubt about it, her guys had picked good ones. Well, two of her guys had. Jury was still out on Claudia.

  “Okay, so when do we get details?” Lara asked Kate.

  “On what?” Kate helped herself to more champagne.

  “Kennedy’s billionaire brother!”

  Kate’s champagne flute froze halfway to her mouth as she stared at Sabrina. “Jack is not a billionaire. Is he?” If anyone would know, it would be Sabrina.

  Sabrina lifted a shoulder, her white silk blouse shimmying at the gesture. “If he’s not officially, he’s close.”

  “How is that even possible?” Lara asked. “He’s in his early thirties.”

  “So? Jarod’s late thirties, and he’s part of the billionaire club.”

  Kate fanned herself at the name. Jarod Lanham was hot. Unlike so many of the guys who worked downtown and freaked out at the first sight of gray hair, discreetly paying hundreds every other week to take care of it, Jarod had embraced the gray, resulting in a Clooney-worthy silver-fox vibe.

  “I guess I don’t know for sure about Jack,” Sabrina admitted. “But he does a ton of business overseas, and that’s a whole other world of power and money.”

  “Okay, it’s official, he’s never coming over to my place,” Kate said.

  Sabrina and Lara stared at her.

  “What? I’m not inviting a billionaire, or an almost billionaire, to my studio apartment.”

 
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