The Price of Revenge (Bad Boys of Wall Street #2)
The Price of Revenge (Bad Boys of Wall Street #2)
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"With the dual point of view and the twists that happened in this book, I had trouble putting it down. Cora’s parents and husband, Eli, made me want to strangle them, and hope that Cora to got away from them. The last 20% part of this book had me at the edge of my seat waiting for the crazy stuff to happen and it was so worth it to binge!" - Amazon Reviewer
Eight years ago she burned me. Now, my ex is the key to my revenge against her family.
The rest of the world calls her the Princess of Wall Street, but I call her shallow. Traitorous. A she-devil in Prada. Those are the nicest words I’ll use for my ex, Cora Margulis, since I’ve made it my mission to keep her name off my lips. Though I can barely keep her memory out of my head.
My brothers and I have climbed the rungs of success, starting from the basement. Now that we’re at the top, I don’t lack much. But my newest charity needs a particular type of building. And the Realtor who holds it is the father of the Princess herself.
If he was anybody else, this would be an easy transaction. But there’s so much bad blood between the Margulis family and myself, I’m liable to drown at any moment.
But revenge burns hot inside me and I decide to alchemize this opportunity. It’s time to give the Margulis family what they deserve. I’ve been waiting eight years to show this man just how high a poor Kentucky boy can climb.
But in order to get to Allan, I need to get much closer to Cora.
The price of revenge, it turns out, is pretty steep.
I just might lose my empire—and my heart—in the process.
Billionaires. Bad boys. Bleeding hearts. These outsiders are known as the Bad Boys of Wall Street and every book in the series features glittering Manhattan skyscrapers, swoon-worthy heroes, and a guaranteed HEA.
"I love the rival’s daughter trope especially with billionaires. It feels like if Succession was a romance and I live for the thrill of boardroom takeovers." - Amazon Reviewer
"Watch out for the irritating character Eli, many times i wanted to jump through my kindle and punch him. Ember really knows how to pull you into the story like you can see everything playing out. I'm so excited the next book is available, I definitely hate waiting :) Kudos to Ember!!" - Goodreads Reviewer
Chapter One Preview
Chapter One Preview
A gorgeous fury.
That’s what New York City had; what drew me in.
It was the “starving hysterical naked” madness of Ginsberg, but it was more than that. Way more.
NYC throbbed with a pulse—one that you could see, feel, taste, and fuck.
It was the fury of ambition. The need to not just rise but explode.
That’s what brought me to this fascinating shithole. Shithole being laced with love, of course. The way fraternity members love their house; that distant, codependent, beer-stained love. The type of love that would absolutely ditch you in a heartbeat if something better came up; except what could be better than being a billionaire in New York City?
My brothers and I might have been Kentuckians by birth, but we were New Yorkers by creed.
Ambition brought us, the gorgeous fury snagged us, and the sprawling, unchecked future made us stay. That and a little unfinished business.
We came to explode.
And I was a motherfuckin’ firework, baby.
“Axel. Earth to Axel.” The annoyed intonation of my brother Trace’s voice jostled me from my reverie. I’d been staring out the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Manhattan. Looking out at the mess of Manhattan always got me thinking about where we’d started in this gorgeous, furious city.
“What?” I tuned into the conversation. A bit too late for my brothers’ tastes. They both rolled their eyes in unison. Sure, I should have been listening. But this damn cityscape was so damn sexy.
“I said Francis is coming so we can discuss the list of new properties he scouted for us.” Trace’s big leather chair creaked a little as he leaned back in it, arching a brow at me condescendingly. He was older and taller than Damian and me, but he really showed his older-brother superiority through his unflinching use of judgmental eyebrows.
“That’s great,” I said, steepling my fingers as I turned my attention back to the world beyond the window. It was a gray day, early summer. The clouds were so thick and low I could practically touch them from this floor of the building. I could imagine the humid bite of the outside air, even though here in the conference room, it was a perfectly conditioned sixty-seven degrees.
“Why do you look like you’re passing a kidney stone?” Damian asked me. I was the youngest in our family board room, but not by much. Damian and I were the same age for roughly one month, which meant we’d been in the same grade all through school.
“I can barely hear either of you over Trace’s eyebrows.” I winced as Trace rolled his lips inward, trying not to laugh. “Calm your brows, bro.”
“You are such a fucking twatnugget,” Trace said, launching his pen in my direction. Our pens were custom-made and heavy enough to double as a weapon should the need arise, so I dodged it as best I could from my chair.
“That’s a new one,” I said. Some people exercised their brains with sudoku or crossword puzzles or that incomprehensibly annoying new game, Wordle. My brothers and I chose to keep our cerebellums active by inventing new insults for each other. “I give it an eight out of ten.”
We might have moved millions of dollars an hour but we were still brothers to our cores.
“Eight out of ten? The scale is rigged. Listen, can we get back to this property?” Trace motioned to a fresh-faced young man on the other side of the glass wall of our conference room. The guy popped in, a big smile on his face, eager to please. And he should be, because we paid really fucking well at Fairchild Enterprises.
We had no other option but to play the game our way. To the wealthy, elite assholes of Wall Street and Manhattan in general, we would always be the hillbillies. It didn’t matter if I flew to my house in the Hamptons in my helicopter. To them, being self-made meant we were new money, which only resonated as an insult on their side of the aisle. Because my older brother Trace made our first half-million by squeezing Wall Street—a financial move that some of these dickheads looked down on—they thought we were dumb money on top of that. And because we refused to dress, look, or act the part of the snide holier-than-thou jerkfaces they wanted us to be, we were also considered ugly money.
New. Dumb. Ugly.
I’d cry about it if I didn’t have so many zeroes at the end of my bank balance.
But this wasn’t an empire for empire’s sake—no, we wanted a community to go along with it. One designed strictly for the so-called new, dumb and ugly. We weren’t those Monopoly fuckers who freebased dollar bills and set fire to the competition. We actually had morals, thankyouverymuch. Rigid morals, at that, though we were inclined to embrace slight hedonism.
Because nobody said you had to be celibate as one of the good guys. Even though, to most of the elite circles here, we were unequivocally, hands down the bad boys.
“Can you pick up that pen and bring us a fresh round of espresso?” Trace asked the new hire, Kyle.
Kyle nodded effusively. “Of course. Of course. Anything you want.” He picked up Trace’s pen, returned it to him with a strange sort of bow, and then hurried out of the conference room.
“He gets five stars for the bow,” Damian murmured. “Does he have Asian heritage?”
“No. I think he just gets flustered around us.” I reached for my own Fairchild pen-weapon. “Which is understandable.”
Damien and Trace snorted. We shared mischievous grins before returning to the papers in front of us.
“So now that Francis is almost here, and we haven’t reviewed his findings—let’s continue.” Trace started with the eyebrows again, but I didn’t give him shit about it for now. More would come. It always did.
Damian rustled through the papers, that line forming between his eyes when he was deep in thought. That happened a lot, because he was always thinking about extremely complicated things. As a natural-born mathematician and college-bred hacker, he was reliably thinking of some extremely relevant detail.
“I don’t like the look on your face now,” I told him.
“Look at the properties,” Damian said. “You’ll see.”
I scanned the sheets in front of me. I was predisposed to disappointment. I’d been searching for almost a year for the perfect building to add to our portfolio, but nothing had been just right. This wasn’t a throwaway project—this was the heart and soul of our empire. The big business we’d acquired last year, Strata, expanded our interests from simply wealth management to tech, as well. Now we wanted to formalize our charity endeavors. Give them a home and room to soar.
Everything we did was so that we could give back. And this building would serve as the hub for that work from here on out.
Of the papers in front of me, only one looked remotely attractive. I picked it up, scanning the stats. Okay, maybe I was wrong. This place looked perfect.
“Wait. Where is this?” I flipped through pages, trying to orient myself. “And when did it go on the market. Are we calling them already?”
“We will if you say so,” Damian said.
We needed something big, something totally ours, and something that could contain transitional housing, schooling, social events, and our charity headquarters with room to grow. This fifteen-story building had it all. Including a holdover community garden from previous tenants.
“Hey, everyone,” Francis tittered as he came into the conference room, iPad in one hand and dramatically sweeping his other back over the finger waves in his dark, gelled hair. As our collective executive assistant, he wrangled the three of us like the stray cats we were. If anybody wanted to get to us, they had to get past Francis first, and he wore his company-provided Gucci suits like armor.
The new hire bolted in behind him, a small tray with three dainty espresso cups jostling as he came inside. “Here’s the espressos you wanted. Sirs.” Kyle sent us an unsteady smile.
Damian waved him off. “You don’t have to call us sir. You’re fine.”
Kyle nodded, his face careening between crestfallen and euphoric as he set a cup by each one of us. Then he stumbled toward the door, looking at us over his shoulder. Francis eyed him through the glass wall as Kyle scurried away down the hall.
“How is Kyle working out?” Francis asked as he set his things down at an empty chair.
“Very eager,” Trace said diplomatically.
“Do we need to talk to HR?” Francis settled into his seat with a grimace, arranging his suit coat delicately. The man cherished his Gucci collection, possibly even more than he did his current boyfriend.
“He’s fine,” Damian said. “I met him and his parents at a tech convention a few years back and wanted to help him out.”
Francis had a strange, pursed smile as he swiped through screens on his iPad. I could tell what he was thinking, so I said it out loud.
“Yes, another charity case, Francis.”
“Hey, I didn’t say anything,” Francis laughed, crossed his legs under the glass table. He’d worked with us for a few years now, so he was one of the few people on Wall Street who really knew us. Our story. Our painful history. And why our future was so important. “Now what did you guys think of my buildings?”
“This one.” I pushed the paper his way. He glanced at it and nodded.
“Okay. Let’s pull up the owner info.” He tapped efficiently at his screen while I steepled my fingers and looked out over the city. Trace slurped noisily at his espresso. He’d become an espresso snob when we regularly had more than fifty thousand dollars in our bank accounts.
“Oh.” Francis narrowed his eyes at the screen and then looked up at me. Almost guiltily, which was concerning.
He blinked a few times. “You’re not going to like this.”
“Like what?” Damian asked.
Francis set his iPad down. “The building is owned by Margulis Realty.”
The name thudded into the conversation in exactly the way you’d expect a huge pile of shit to land. I reached for the expensive pen-weapon, flicking my thumb back and forth over the tip.
We came to New York City to explode, but fireworks singe when you get too close. Quite a few Wall Street insiders didn’t just dislike me and my brothers, they hated us. Once upon a time, the twattiest nugget of them all tried to pull the rug out from under me.
He believed he owned Manhattan, and I was trespassing.
Because, well, he sort of did own Manhattan. Allan Margulis, the owner of Margulis Realty.
He didn’t count on how bright and brilliant my bang would be. Allan was textbook pissed when I asked his daughter to marry me. Madder still when she accepted. And went reality TV-variety apeshit when I refused to back down and started planning my future with her.
His fury stained everything. Including my relationship with the one and only woman I’ve ever loved. That’s a scar for another time. The type of shit I would only talk about if I got drunk and sad enough. But that man no longer shut doors on me.
And I’d be damned if he kept me from this building.
“We can keep looking,” Trace offered, looking at me hopefully.
“Let’s fast-track an offer,” I told Francis before looking to my brothers. “Right? It looks good to you guys?”
“It looks perfect,” Damian said, “but—”
“He’s not gonna sell to us, Axel,” Trace said in a low voice.
“That’s for his board of directors to decide, isn’t it?” I asked. “And I’ll make sure they vote to sell. Francis, offer a full million higher than the asking price.”
Francis barely blinked at this as he recorded our notes. I didn’t even need to know the price. I just needed the building.
“And schedule my meeting with them under the name Spencer Wattford,” I added quickly.
“Jesus, Axel,” Damian said, dragging his hands down his face.
“Do you think it’s worth going there just to get kicked out of the building?” Trace asked.
“They won’t kick me out,” I promised him, though really, I had no idea.
Because if there was one company I’d avoided like the fucking plague, it was Margulis Realty. What went down between me and the Margulis family eight years ago is the sort of thing I strove to not think about. But the truth was that even when I didn’t think about it, it pushed me higher. Hotter. Brighter.
So yes. I was deeply interested in purchasing this dream building even though it was being sold by the man who told me that I was a joke. The same man who convinced his daughter, the ex-love of my life, to see me as a joke as well.
Allan Margulis and his miserable tribe of money-hungry, dollar bill-freebasing, sacks of turds.
My ex-fiancée, Cora, included.
If there was one person I’d be happy to never look in the face again, it was my ex. Because apparently our love had not been so impervious and ever-lasting, though she spent three years of our lives convincing me of the opposite. But some things must be endured as the price of revenge.
This building purchase was only the first stop on the revenge train; I’d been laying the tracks for the past eight years. I’d always wanted to take down Allan Margulis, the final exclamation point on my life. Somehow, I’d make it happen. While I still didn’t have my plan in place, this building would be the doorway. I could feel it.
“I’ll see when I can get you on their schedule,” Francis said, swiping so furiously on his screen that one gelled strand of his dark hair came unglued. Then he pulled out his cell phone, tapping out the phone number. “Any chance we could get some bodycam footage for if they do kick you out, though?”
I hefted with a humorless laugh. “I’m sure Allan would love to personally kick me out of his building. But I bet he won’t.”
Francis was on the phone with Margulis Realty, his sugary-sweet customer service voice something better fit for Hollywood.
“How can you be so sure?” Trace asked.
“Because I know his kryptonite. It’s public drama.” I flashed my brother an evil grin. “That man knows how far I’ll drag him into the tabloids if he tries any shit.”
My brothers and I discussed the details of the building while Francis wrapped up his call. He set the phone down, looking victorious.
“Spencer Wattford will be meeting the Margulis board. Today.”
“Today?” I laughed incredulously. “Fuck yeah.”
“I bumped one of your afternoon appointments to make it work,” Francis said. “But it sounds like they’re motivated to sell.”
“An extra million can be pretty convincing,” Trace conceded.
Damian didn’t look convinced. His arms were crossed, and he shook his head. “We do want this building. Don’t pull any shit that will get in the way of that.”
Ah. My brother knew me too well.
“I’ll behave perfectly,” I assured him. To Francis I said, “When does Zero get back from the dog walker?”
Damian groaned again. “Axel. I swear to God.”
“I don’t have time to listen to your complaining,” I said with a smile. On the inside, I was so jazzed I could hardly contain myself. But some trepidation came along with the excitement. Okay, a serious amount of trepidation.
I hadn’t been within ten feet of these assholes in eight years.
Which was why I needed Zero.
I grew up in the foster system with my brother Damian. I knew what it meant to be shuffled from one house to the next, all your shit stuffed unceremoniously into a trash bag.
You started to feel like trash yourself.
That’s why, when I adopted my dog, I went to the dog pound.
Zero was part Rottweiler, part something else nobody was sure of, and my most faithful companion. Zero was stocky with a dark, glossy coat. He knew what it felt like to be loved, lose that love, and then bounce between all the wrong households. He also knew what it felt like to finally find a forever home, like the one Damian and I had been lucky enough to find.
Zero and I got shit done. Zero was also the number of fucks we collectively gave about what outsiders thought of our business practices. And he was coming with me to Margulis Realty.
One of the best parts about my plan to meet with Allan Margulis—that intolerable, soulless, dead-eyed billionaire who was probably born half-robot—was that he hated dogs.
But when I showed up offering him twenty million dollars in cash, he couldn’t say shit about my dog.
God, I loved being me.
“Axel, you can’t take Zero,” Trace rapped his knuckles against my doorframe as I got Zero leashed up later that afternoon.
“The fuck I can’t.” I stood, smoothing down the front of my button-up. I wore a light gray business suit. Perfect black tie. Alligator shoes. I could be in fucking Vogue. I’d tell Anna Wintour to make sure to give Zero his own suit, too, for the photo shoot.
“Dude, we want him to say yes. Not chase you out of the board room.”
“He wants money, and that’s what we’ve got. He’ll deal with Zero because he has to.” I sent Zero a mischievous grin. He was in this with me. He sent me a lopsided dog grin, his tongue hanging out. His dark brown coat positively gleamed. I tutted for Zero to follow me as I headed toward the doorway. “Besides, the board has to vote in the best interests of the company. And the best interests of their company is to make a cool million extra, whether or not a dog is present.”
Trace grimaced as he stepped aside. “I hate when you’re right.”
“I love when you doubt me.” I clapped his shoulder as Zero and I breezed by. “Just lets me stroke my own ego.”
“Maybe that’s why I do it,” Trace called after me. “Being a good big brother and all.”
I waved to our employees as I left. Everybody knew Zero. Everybody loved him. Zero snorfled as some admin employees cooed on his way out. Once we hit the elevator, my cool grin faltered. In the back of the company car—a luxuriously tricked-out Cadillac Escalade in two-tone black with black wheels to match—I finally let my shoulders sag.
“We got this, Zero,” I told him as he panted next to me. But the truth was, I didn’t know.
A battalion of assistants scanned guests lists in advance of functions, galas, and more, to help us avoid the Margulis family. On the rare occasion I found myself even remotely near a Margulis, I left before I could chance seeing Cora.
You’d think that nearly a whole damn decade later this would be easier.
But it wasn’t. Which only proved to that whispering little gremlin in the back of my mind that Cora and I really were some sort of twisted soul mates or something.
Not that I’d ever give her the time of day. This meeting could only be awkward, since I presumed both Allan and Cora would be in attendance. Soul mates or not, Cora made a choice eight years ago. And then she’d made several other worse choices since. There was no room for change, compassion, or forgiveness in our current, crystalized realities.
Fuck ’em all.
My driver delivered me to the front doors of the Margulis Realty building. I grinned up at the sleek tower and scratched Zero behind the ears. The last time I’d been inside, I’d been in my last year of grad school with barely a thousand dollars to my name.
And now look at me.
“I’ll let you know when I’m done,” I told Harry, the driver. “But be close by in case I need to make a quick getaway.”
Harry nodded, smirking through the rearview mirror. “I’ll be here, boss.”
I exited the Escalade, Zero hopping out alongside me. Zero waited obediently by my side, off-leash as he’d been trained. I tapped the window to let Harry know we were good. Curious glances flitted our way as New Yorkers streamed by on the sidewalk. I tutted for Zero to follow me and I strutted into Allan’s building as if I owned it. Security immediately closed in, blocking off the hushed, marble lobby.
“You can’t bring that dog in here,” a buff guard who looked like a retired MMA fighter told me.
I checked my watch, pushing my sunglasses up on my head. “I have a three o’clock with Allan Margulis.”
“Spencer Wattford. Call him yourself and see.” I sent them cool grins as they checked a kiosk. After a moment, they waved me through.
“Come on, Zero,” I said, loud enough for passers-by to hear. “It’s time for you to meet big bad Allan Margulis.”
I immediately heard Damian’s voice in my head—Jesus, Axel, you want to tank the deal or what? What could I say? My brothers played it safer than I did. But I had some fucking bones to pick.
I whistled to myself as I headed to the elevators, masking my anxiety. I passed the plant display near the elevator lobby. Eight years ago, I had stowed my shitty leather jacket behind some ferns right there before I went to inform Allan I planned to marry his daughter. I’d needed to use an alias—Spencer Wattford—to get onto his schedule. So really, today was also a trip down memory lane.
For all parties involved.
Zero and I were the only ones in the elevator as we soared up to the thirtieth floor. He sniffed the inside of the elevator car curiously and stayed close to my side as we walked into the reception area of the Margulis executive office suite. As the doe-eyed receptionist looked up at me, several evil thoughts crossed my mind: I should fuck her to prove something to Cora, though what that would prove, I wasn’t sure; I should get the entire administrative staff enrolled in Fairchild Wealth Management, to nag further at Allan; I should fuck the entire administrative staff to prove something else, though I wasn’t sure what, and Jesus, that would be a lot of fucking.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I’m positive you can.” I offered her a winning smile, which she immediately returned. Sometimes, I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can, but with more tattoos and a fuckton more money. Except I wasn’t conning anyone anymore. My checks didn’t bounce. I had faked it until I fucking made it. “Spencer Wattford here for a meeting with the board.”
“Okay, let me find your appointment.” Her attention turned to the computer. She tapped the keyboard a few times and then nodded. “Yes. They’re already waiting for you. Let me tell them you’re here.”
“Excellent.” I looked down at Zero, finally deciding on which one of my evil ideas seemed best. “Would you be able to pass me the information for your HR department as well? I’ve been talking to Mr. Margulis about the upcoming switch for the employees’ financial planning, and I’ll need to organize a few details with your benefits coordinator.”
“Oh, sure. Of course.” The receptionist searched in a drawer, and then handed me a business card. Bingo. I knew where to launch my insidious side-plan, and now my dick was in no danger of falling off. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the conference room.”
I brightened my smile at the same time my insides churned. Zero and I followed the receptionist down a carpeted hallway and around a corner. She pulled open a dark wood door, gesturing for Zero and me to enter.
I thanked her and steeled myself. And then I cast my sights on the Margulis board room.
Inside, everyone I’d ever had a problem with had conveniently gathered around the same glass-topped table. The sunlight from the gray early summer afternoon filtered in, casting muted patterns on the walls.
But the most beautiful part about the crowd in front of me was the scowl that formed on Allan Margulis’s face. I loved watching Spencer Wattford’s true identity sink in for the second time in his life. And his expression when he noticed Zero at my side made the whole thing even better.
And the worst part?
Cora Margulis sat directly in front of me.
I couldn’t look at her, only allowed myself the quickest impressions. Glossy brown hair pulled into a sleek ponytail. Lips the shade of a mulberry wine. Gold wedding ring glinting on her finger.
Eli Rossberg, her husband, at her side.
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