Shakedown

By: Jen Talty

The VIP Lounge, book 1




Prologue



Three years ago…

Scarsdale, NY



WILLIAM XAVIER SUMNER III, who went by Xavier, stood behind his father, staring at the computer screen with a knot coiling in the pit of his stomach. Unlike his older sister, Bonnie, he’d done everything his father had ever asked. Whatever his father wanted him to do, William did it without complaining. This included attending the University of Michigan, his father’s and grandfather’s alma mater, when Xavier would have preferred Boston University.

His sister had dropped out of college two years in and even though their father cut her off completely from the family fortune, she’d managed to marry some older dude that would support her until she did something to screw that up. Their parents were still mortified by their oldest daughter’s shenanigans, and they barely spoke.

Xavier, on the other hand, had a great relationship with his parents. He didn’t resent or even have any regrets over doing things his parents’ way. They paid the bills, and Xavier didn’t want for anything.

Except he wanted to be a journalist and eventually a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. He fancied crime novels and investigated pieces of work looking into past crimes, or crime organizations, murders, even in-depth looks at famous people. Sort of the garden variety of unauthorized biographies.

“Dad, I’m not asking for anything, but—”

“I understand that, Xavier, but if you want to venture out of the family business, then you’re going to do it on your own. Besides, I would have stopped giving you any kind of allowance after college.”

But Xavier’s income at his father’s company would have been five times the amount of his starting salary for a cable news company out of New York City.

“I’m not Bonnie. I respect what you’ve done for me. I appreciate all the opportunities I’ve had in life. I don’t understand why you’re depleting my bank account.”

His father tapped a few keys, and Xavier watched as the money that should have reverted to him on the day of his college graduation, disappear.

“Sit,” his father said, pointing to a big, brown, leather, wing-back chair on the other side of a mahogany desk in his father’s office off the living room in his childhood home in Scarsdale, New York. There had been times in Xavier’s life when he thought the ten-thousand-dollar home with seven bedrooms and an added cottage house was more than plenteous. Often, he’d wished his family lived a more down-to-earth lifestyle when it came to their homes, vacation homes, cars, and private jets. His parents always tried to teach him the value of a dollar. They shopped at discount stores, and designer clothes were considered, for the most part, a waste of money.

That concept always made him laugh considering his dad thought nothing of dropping a couple hundred grand on a new car.

“I feel like I’m being punished for having worked hard my entire life and wanting to pursue my passion.”

“You’re twenty-three. Your life has barely begun, and I’m not punishing you.” His father rocked back on his chair, clasping his hands behind his head. At fifty-eight, his father was one of the richest men in the State of New York. He’d taken the small family investment firm which provided his modest upbringing and turned it into a company with a net worth of over fifteen billion dollars by the time he’d turned thirty.

“You just blocked me from family funds because I won’t go work for you.” It was rare that Xavier asked for money because he didn’t have to. It had always just been there.

His father arched a brow. “Now you’re being childish. You knew the deal from the get-go. I don’t think it was too much to ask for two years of your work life to see if maybe you might change your mind.”

Xavier opened his mouth, but his father held up his hand.

“It’s not like I’m cutting you out of the will or anything crazy. If in four years, you’re successful and happy, I’ll put the money back.”

“Who gets to define what that means exactly?”

“Write down your goals for the career path you want, and we’ll see how it unfolds.” His father rubbed his chin whiskers with his thumb and forefinger. Saturday was the only day he didn’t have to shave, and for as long as Xavier could remember, his father never once put a razor to his face on that day. “Happiness is a relative term, but I think we can agree that you’ll either enjoy what you’re doing, or you won’t.”

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