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FOK (Wall Street Royals), Page 1

Tara Sue Me

  Copyright © 2019 by Tara Sue Me

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


  Cover photo: DepositPhotos

  Cover by: Mister Sue Me

  Edited: P. Wade

  Created with Vellum






  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Coming Soon

  Out Now

  About the Author

  Also by Tara Sue Me

  Chapter One

  In her mind, Celeste Walsh was a badass. She never backed down, never averted her gaze first, and never took shit from anyone.

  In reality, however, though she refused to be a doormat, she had yet to blossom into full-blown badassery. The closest she’d been able to get was to perfect the art of remaining utterly calm in the face of anything. Her roommate, Reagan, told her it was her superpower. Celeste had snorted and said if that was true, she wanted to exchange it for something useful, like mind reading or invisibility.

  Although, she had to admit that today this odd superpower could come in handy. She was auditioning for a scholarship, but that wasn’t anything new. In fact, this was her eleventh scholarship audition. What made this audition different was that it would be the last. Last audition. Her last hope.

  If she didn’t score this scholarship, she wouldn’t be attending Juilliard in the fall. Which would also mean no longer being able to stay in New York. She’d be on a bus headed back home to Middle-of-Nowhere Virginia. Upon arrival, her parents would put her to work, either washing dishes or bussing tables at the family’s farm to table restaurant.

  She shivered, determined to get this one.

  “Hey, Celeste,” one of her fellow applicants, Erin, said.

  Celeste smiled and greeted the young woman in a similar financial situation as her own. They’d auditioned at many of the same scholarships and had received rejections from the same ones. There were a few they hadn’t heard from yet.

  “Did you hear?” Erin asked, her eyes dancing the way they did when she wanted to share the latest juicy gossip.

  “Probably not.” Celeste rarely listened to gossip or watched the news. Her life revolved around the violin. Violin. School. Violin. She possessed little time for anything else in her life. And she didn’t apologize or make excuses for it. Especially with the new piece she planned for today's audition.

  “Barbara Murphy is in the hospital,” Erin said.

  “Really?” Celeste asked. That wasn’t gossip. Barbara Murphy headed and funded the scholarship they were auditioning for today, in memory of her daughter. Melinda Murphy had been a pianist and had also attended Juilliard years ago when she was younger. She’d died young, but Celeste wasn’t sure if she’d ever heard how. “Who’s running the audition?”

  “No one I’ve talked with knows.”

  They both turned to look at the auditorium doors. The first group to audition, vocalists, had entered only five minutes ago. It wasn’t long before the doors opened and three guys walked out.

  “Fucking asshole,” the tallest one said and the other two nodded and murmured in agreement.

  “Who’s running the audition with Mrs. Murphy in the hospital?” Someone nearby asked.

  “Her grandson,” the tall guy answered. “Some Wall Street hotshot who doesn’t know shit about the arts.”

  The trio of vocalists left amid a growing rumble of discontent. A discontent that, unfortunately, remained in their wake. However, Celeste felt no need to continue talking about the grandson she couldn’t do anything about. She retreated to her corner of the room and tried to tune out the noise around her like she always did, by picturing herself playing the violin.

  Knowing this was her last audition and one of the largest scholarships offered, she’d changed her audition piece. The composer wasn’t as well know as the ones her competition would play, nor was the piece itself known by very many outside the music world. If this grandson was as clueless as the vocalist had alluded to, should she play something more well known?

  She forced herself to breathe deep and calm. As she did, the music she needed to play made itself known. When a harried assistant called for her group, Celeste rose from her seat, lost in the calm, ready to play, and with no worries about a grandson who may or may not know the difference between a violin and a cello.

  * * *

  Lance Braxton cut the violinist off after nine seconds of playing. “That’s enough. Next!”

  Beside him, his grandmother’s personal assistant, Richard, sighed and signaled for a ten minute break. Lance raised an eyebrow at him, and Richard took a deep breath before turning to address the man at his side. “Mr. Braxton, you can’t cut them off like that. You must allow them to finish playing.”

  Lance placed his pen on the table, so it lined up exactly parallel to the pad it was next to. Only when he was certain it rested precisely where he wanted, did he turn to the man his grandmother said she couldn't operate without. “Richard,” he said slowly, as if gathering his thoughts. Which he wasn’t. “Perhaps you have nothing better to do today than to sit here and listen to Tchaikovsky over and over, but some of us have actual work to do.”

  Richard opened his mouth as if he would interrupt, but Lance shot him a look that made him change his mind. “You have worked for my grandmother for three years; however, I have been her grandson for much longer. Do you understand?”

  Richard was smart enough to only nod.

  “Though I do not typically sit here and listen, I know the characteristics my grandmother requires for the recipient of the scholarship bearing my mother’s name. Therefore, if I determine an applicant has none of these characteristics, I’m doing us all a favor by not wasting time and letting that person go.”

  Lance estimated Richard cost him valuable time by putting him in a position to explain himself. He rarely explained himself. Even rarer did he do so to anyone’s personal assistant. The fact he’d just done so, and that there were people who could hear the conversation, irritated him. He needed to move this thing along. He had real work to do. Though he couldn’t deny his grandmother's request when she asked him to take her place today. His Grandmother Murphy was the one person he couldn’t tell no.

  Beside him, Richard swallowed and sweat beaded on his forehead. “Yes, Mr. Braxton. I understand.”

  Lance nodded. “You’re excused. I’ll finish up here.”

  The other man scrambled to pick up his notebook and pens. Lance waited with a patience he didn’t feel until the door closed behind the assistant his grandmother insisted was a lifesaver. He didn’t see how, but Richard wasn’t his problem. At least on most days. Today, he’d been a major pain in the ass.

  “Let’s go, people,” he said to no one in particular, knowing someone would hear and usher out the next applicant. He shuffled the papers in front of him. How many more did he have to sit through?

  The click of heels on the stage alerted him
the next applicant was in place. He pulled the information sheet he had on whoever it was. “Name?” He asked without looking up.

  “Celeste Walsh.”

  Her voice was delicate and feminine. Yet something in her tone spoke of a quietly held strength. It intrigued him and he looked up. She was stunning for lack of a better word. At some point her dark hair had been pulled up, now, however, more than a few strands had fallen free, giving her a wild and untamed appearance.

  An appearance that should have been at odds with her elegant yet subtle black floor length dress, but somehow wasn’t. In fact, her entire ensemble could be described as a hot mess. Instead she was one of the hottest women he’d seen in a long time.

  She stood waiting, the very epitome of calm, violin in hand as if she had all the time in the world. Not at all as if he held her future in his hands, which he did based upon the paper in front of him.

  He wanted to crush the paper. Because in doing so he would have no ties to the glorious creature before him. Which meant he could do any damn thing she would allow him to do to her. And he’d make sure she wanted the same things he did.

  But he couldn’t do that, so he cleared his throat and said, “Whenever you’re ready, Ms. Walsh.”

  She gave him a curt nod, closed her eyes, and played.

  He recognized the song within the first few bars, and it both impressed and surprised him. He should stop her. It was a difficult and complex piece, even for the most accomplished violinist, and he didn’t want to listen while she fucked up her chance at his scholarship. Yet, he couldn’t because that moment in time served one purpose - for Celeste Walsh to play her violin for him.

  Not that he thought for a second he might stop her. He couldn’t. Not with the way she played. With Celeste, playing violin involved her entire body. She swayed at times. Others, she held still. No matter what, though, her face was a myriad of expressions while she held the bow and touched the strings as she would a lover.

  She kept her eyes closed the entire time, and Lance felt as if he were peeking at a private or intimate moment. Her performance was one of the most erotic things he’d ever witnessed. In fact, music had never aroused him the way it did when she played. Never had he been so thankful for a table. He’d hate for her, or anyone for that matter, to see the erection her playing caused.

  He wondered if anyone else had offered her a scholarship and this audition was just for fun? Had such passion filled all of her pervious auditions? Was she always so euphoric while she played? It was borderline obscene, and he loved it. He wanted more of it.

  He wanted her.

  She held him captive until the last note sounded and even when its echo had disappeared from the room, she held still, not yet releasing him from her spell. Until she moved, he didn’t breathe.

  Finally, she opened one eye and then the other, looking around almost as if she’d forgotten where she was. That wasn’t possible, though, was it? She looked toward where he sat, the room's lighting did not allow her to see him, and for a second looked as if he'd caught her doing something naughty.

  Holy hell. Did she get turned on playing the violin? He didn’t know, but damn it all to hell, he would find out.

  She remained on stage, clearly expecting him to dismiss her. He didn’t feel bad in the least keeping her waiting. Her feet shifted the slightest bit. The small movement was so far the only hint she wasn’t near as calm as she portrayed.

  He picked up a paper from the pile in front of him and made it a point not to look at her when he spoke. “You’re twenty-five?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Her unexpected use of ‘sir’ sent a shock throughout his body. He opened his mouth to tell her she didn’t have to call him ‘sir’ but shut it just as quickly because he’d have added “Yet.”

  He kept his gaze even and uninterested when he lifted his head. “You’re significantly older than most of your peers auditioning today.”

  She remained silent, and he nodded in approval. Yes, she would be a fun one. “Why are you only now applying to Juilliard?” he asked.

  “After I graduated from high school, my grandmother came to live with us. My mom couldn’t both watch her and do what she had been doing with the family business. I took over my Mom’s role so she could care for her mother.”

  “What was your mother’s job?”

  “She was the pastry chef at our family’s restaurant.”

  Impressive and not listed on her application. “You worked as a pastry chef for seven years?”

  “I wasn’t always the pastry chef. Sometimes I waited tables and sometimes I washed dishes.”

  He nodded, not interested in the past, and definitely not interested in listening about her washing dishes. “Why the violin? Why now?”

  She shifted her gaze to somewhere beyond him, and her eyes took on a faraway look. “Because it’s my time now. My time to stand on my own and to make something of myself. Because I love the violin and nothing would make me happier than to play it every day. And because I don’t want to work in a restaurant all my life.”

  And she shouldn’t, he thought. Not with the way she’d just played that piece. Working in a restaurant would waste her talent, and he couldn’t allow that to happen. Not when he had a way to ensure it wouldn’t.

  He stacked the pile of papers in front of him and tapped them on the table. What was the name of the woman working on stage who ushered the applicants on and off? She’d introduced herself when he’d first arrived, but he hadn’t made note of it, deciding it was a detail Richard could worry with. Which did him no good since he gave the man the boot.

  “Thank you, Ms. Walsh,” he said to the waiting woman on stage and smiled inwardly at the curt nod she gave in response and how she turned to walk away as if he’d excused her. “I did not say I excused you.”

  She froze and turned. “But you said -”

  “Do not make it a habit to repeat back to me what I said. I have no trouble remembering my words, especially if I spoke them mere seconds before. What I said was, 'Thank you, Ms. Walsh' which in no way sounds like, ‘You are excused.’ Now, move back to where you were.”

  While she took the few necessary steps to return to her initial spot in the middle of the stage, he addressed those still waiting and the woman whose name he couldn’t remember. “That’s all for this year. Thank you for coming. You’re excused.” Ignoring the muttered protests, he turned his attention back to Celeste. “See how that works? The ‘you’re excused’ part?”

  She gaped at him in shock though. Probably wasn’t hearing anything at all. From the look on her face, everything he said went in one ear and straight out the other. He didn’t say anything else to her. Best she learn from the start how he operated.

  The woman with the name he couldn’t remember stepped out the shadows and onto the stage. She held one hand like a shield over her eyes, probably trying to see him better. “Mr. Braxton?”

  “Yes.” He knew what she would say, and he didn’t want to hear it. After gathering together the few things he’d brought in, he walked to the stage.

  As expected, as soon as his foot hit the first step, she appeared before him, flustered and flipping through pages on a clipboard. “There are three more violinists waiting backstage, and we haven’t even started the brass group and….” Her voice trailed off when she looked up and saw him shaking his head.

  “No,” he said.


  “There will be no more auditions for this year’s scholarship.” Having made his way up the stairs to the stage, he turned to Celeste. “Get your things together and come with me.”

  Chapter Two

  Celeste was glad she couldn’t see what she looked like. Before she took the stage, she’d realized a good part of her hair had fallen out of the slipknot she’d put in earlier. With seconds left to make her way onstage, there was nothing to be done and even now, she couldn’t do it because he had ordered her to go with him.

  Go with him where? She wanted t
o ask but couldn’t gather the courage necessary to do so. It had been so much easier when he was a faceless shadow in the auditorium. He was not so faceless now. He was anything other than faceless. In fact, she could pretty much guarantee that tonight his face would be in one of two places: her dreams or her fantasies. And if she was lucky, both.

  His thick hair was neatly cut but longish enough to curl up a touch right above his ears. The color rested somewhere between brown and black, and just looking at it was enough to make her want to dig her fingers in it. His eyes were a deep blue, and at the moment, quite frosty.

  “Now,” he barked, and she realized she hadn’t moved to gather her things the way he’d asked. She went straight to work, doing what he’d asked, and thankful she didn’t have much.

  God, it shouldn’t turn her on when he spoke like that, but something about his tone when paired with the expression he wore, made it hard to breathe and also reminded her of exactly how long it’d been since she’d had sex.

  He waited for her while she put away her violin and grabbed her tote bag. The other applicants whispered with each other in confusion, though none approached either of them, walking instead to the woman with the clipboard.

  As she made her way to the man she assumed to be the infamous grandson, she realized she didn’t know his name. It didn’t seem right what with him having an entire file on her.

  “I don’t believe I caught your name,” she said once she stood in front of him. He was taller than she’d estimated, and she almost had to crane her neck to look up at him.

  “That’s because I didn’t throw it to you, Ms. Walsh.” He didn’t tell her then either, but reached for her violin like he wanted to carry it for her.

  She shook her head and almost asked him where they were going, but he opened the door to the waiting area at that exact second. Word the auditions were over had obviously spread to those waiting out here. Celeste wasn’t prepared for the hateful glances and snide looks.

  Didn’t they know she knew as much as they did? Were they aware he hadn’t mentioned the scholarship even once to her?