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King of Wall Street

By:Louise Bay

abbed 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—”

“Results, not effort, get rewarded,” he said in a clipped tone.

So he gave no credit for trying? What could I have done other than turn up at the guy’s place of business? I wasn’t Max King. Why would someone at the WTO take a call from a barely paid researcher?

Jesus, couldn’t he give a girl a break?

Before I had a chance to respond, his cell vibrated on his desk.

“Amanda?” he barked into the phone. Jesus. This was a small office, so I knew Amanda didn’t work at King & Associates. I got an odd sense of satisfaction he wasn’t just sharp with me. I didn’t see him interact much with others, but somehow his attitude toward me felt personal. But it sounded as if Amanda got the same brusque treatment I did. “We’re not having this discussion again. I said no.” Girlfriend? Page Six had never had any reports of Max dating. But he had to be. A man built like that, asshole or not, wasn’t going without. It sounded as though Amanda had the honor of putting up with him outside office hours.

Hanging up, he slung his phone against the desk, watching as it skidded across the glass and came to rest against his laptop. Continuing to read, he rubbed his long, tan fingers over his forehead as if Amanda had given him a headache. I didn’t think my report was helping much.

“Typos are not acceptable, Ms. Jayne. There’s no excuse for being anything less than exceptional when it comes to something that only requires effort.” He closed my report, sat back in his chair, and fixed his stare on me. “Attention to detail doesn’t require ingenuity, creativity, or lateral thinking. If you can’t get the basics right, why should I trust you with anything more complicated?”

Typos? I’d read through that report a thousand times.

He steepled his fingers in front of him. “Revise in accordance with my notes and don’t bring it back to me until it’s typo free. I’ll fine you for every mistake I find.”

Fine me? I wanted to fire back that if I could fine him every time he was a penis, I’d retire inside of three months. Asshole.

Slowly, I reached for my report, wondering if he had anything else to add, any words of encouragement or thanks.

But no. I took the stack of papers and headed to the door.

“Oh, and Ms. Jayne?”

This is it. He’s going to leave me some morsel of dignity. I turned to him, holding my breath.

“Pastrami on rye, no pickle.”

I stood glued to the spot, breathing through the sucker punch to the gut.

What. A. Douche.

“For my lunch,” he added, clearly not understanding why I hadn’t left already.

I nodded and opened the door. If I didn’t leave right now, I might just throw myself across his desk and pull out all his perfect hair.

As I closed the door, Donna, Max’s assistant, asked, “How did it go?”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know how you do it, working for him. He’s so . . .” I started to flick through the report, looking for the typos he’d referred to.

Donna rolled her chair away from her desk and stood. “His bark is worse than his bite. Are you off to the deli?”

“Yeah. Pastrami today.”

Donna pulled on her jacket. “I’ll walk with you. I need a break.” She grabbed her wallet and we made our way out into downtown New York. Of course, Max didn’t like any of the sandwich shops near the office. Instead we had to head five blocks northeast to Joey’s Café. At least it was sunny, and too early in the year for the humidity to make a trip to the deli feel like a midday hike along the streets of Calcutta.

“Hey, Donna. Hey, Harper,” Joey, the owner, called as we entered through the glass door. The deli was exactly the opposite of the type of place where I’d expect Max to order his lunch. It was very clearly a family-owned place that hadn’t seen a remodeling since the Beatles were together. In here there was nothing of the slick, modern, ruthless persona that made up Max King.

“How’s the bossman?” Joey asked.

“Oh, you know,” Donna said. “Working too hard, as usual. What was his order, Harper?”

“Pastrami on rye. Extra pickle.” Nothing like passive-aggressive revenge.

Joey raised his eyebrows. “Extra pickle?” Jesus, of course Joey knew Max’s preferences.

“Okay.” I winced. “No pickle.”

Donna elbowed me. “And I’ll have a turkey salad on sourdough,” she said, then turned to me. “Let’s eat in and we can talk.”

“Make that two,” I said to Joey.

The deli had a few tables, all with mismatched chairs. Most customers took their orders to go, but today I was grateful for a few extra minutes out of the office. I followed Donna as she led us to one of the back tables.

“Extra pickle?” she asked, grinning.

“I know.” I sighed. “That was childish. I’m sorry. I just wish he wasn’t such a . . . ”

“Tell me what happened.”

I gave her the rundown on our meeting—his irritation that I hadn’t spoken to his contact at the WTO, the lecture about typos, his lack of appreciation for any of my hard work.

“Tell Max the Yankees deserved all they got this weekend,” Joey said as he placed our order in front of us, sliding two cans of soda onto the melamine surface, even though we’d not ordered any drinks. Did Joey talk baseball with Max? Had they even met?

“I’ll tell him,” Donna said, smiling, “but he might move his business elsewhere if I do. You know how touchy he is when the Mets do well.”

“He’s going to have to get used to it this season. And I’m not worried about losing him. He’s been coming here for over a decade.”

Over a decade?

“You know what he’d say to that?” Donna asked, unwrap