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Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 11


There are always a number of urgent if not hyperventilating texts, emails, and voicemails regarding the Wycliff empire, as well as the various holdings I inherited, my social calendar, and random publicity matters. I ignore them all in favor of completing tasks from Varsha’s “gopher list,” a scrawled list of mostly restocking and delivery activities. She drew what I assume is a gopher up top and handed it over, seeming to marshal every bit of willpower to gaze at my nose and not my theatrical mole.

After I complete the tasks on the list, my overlords down in shipping have me run a few things across town, and suddenly it’s lunch.

Jada stops by my desk with a bag of microwave popcorn. “Half a day with no demerits! Call the papers!”

Is Control Freak Barbie joking with me, now?

“Can you believe it?” I tease.

“Will you be getting lunch delivered by Papaggio again? That would probably do it.”

I produce the insulated bag that Arnold sent me with. “I brought a lunch from home.”

She tilts her head like she can’t figure me out. She probably has a perfectly ordered and arranged world where everything makes sense. “Do you live near here?”

I lean back and cross my legs. “I’m staying at a place on West Seventy-sixth Street.”

“Wow. Nice.”

“Oh, it’s nothing special, trust me,” I say, wishing I hadn’t divulged this bit of information. “Where do you live?” I decide here to unpack my lunch as a demonstration of my regular guy status.

“A building on West Forty-fifth and Ninth—it’s the Times Square side of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a cool place. Well, not amazing on a physical level, but a lot of my best friends live there. I had a roommate, a dancer, but she moved in with a guy, and this tiny studio opened up on the top floor and I grabbed it, even though it’s way too expensive for me…somehow I swing it, but—” She falls silent as soon as I pull out my sandwich. “What is that?”

“Barbeque chicken.” I open the plastic shell.

“You brought that from home?” she asks.

“It came out of a lunch bag from home, did it not? Is there some rule in the PDF about it? Because I honestly can’t be bothered to read that whole thing.”

She blinks dramatically. “Are you being funny right now?”

I frown. I’m used to being the amused one, not the amusing one. I give her a stern look. She’s just a poor girl with pencils in her bun—why do I care what she thinks?

Usually a hard look is enough to back people off, but not Jada. Also, what the hell is so funny, anyway? It’s exactly the brand of sandwich she had.

“That is your bag lunch from home,” she clarifies.


“But it’s a vending machine sandwich.”

What the hell is a vending machine sandwich? It doesn’t matter. I sit up straight, giving her the lordly look that usually wilts people. “This is the sandwich,” I bite out, “that I brought from home.”

Jada’s eyes glow with stunned amusement, which I find I like less than simple amusement. “Who would pack a vending machine sandwich in a bag lunch from home? Oh my god, did your friend Arnold tell you to do this? Tell me the truth, did Arnold give this to you?”

“I told him what I wanted, and he got it for me.”

“Okay, maybe you asked your friend Arnold for a sandwich to bring, but he got it in a machine, Jack. He’s playing a joke on you, and it’s not even a funny joke. He got it in a machine.”

Dave comes by wearing a winter hat. “Got what in the machine?”

“That’s the sandwich Jack brought as his bag lunch,” Jada says. “He brought a vending machine sandwich from home.”

“Dude! You brought a vending machine sandwich from home?” Dave puts his fists on either side of his head and then spreads his fingers, making an explosion sound. “That is so meta, dude! Fucking meta!”

Jada frowns at the sandwich. “Arnold is not a good friend to you. You need to understand that.” She returns to her desk.

“Hey, Jack, you don’t have to eat at your desk,” Dave says. “Come on.”

I want to stay—I’m feeling unfinished with Jada, but I remind myself I’m here to ferret out the butt-dialer.

I follow Dave into the gloomy break room. It’s here that I notice what I thought were display cases are machines that sell sandwiches like mine, along with other food items. These apparently are the vending machines.

“So meta,” Dave says, feeding a bill into a slot. He pushes a button and a bag of pretzels falls down. He bends down and takes it from a small door, then moves to another machine, this one for soft drinks. “You ever try this?” he asks, sitting down and ripping open the bag. “Pepsi with Snyder’s Pretzels. It can’t be Coke, though. The sugariness of the Pepsi contrasts with the salty.” He takes a bit and a swig. “Mmm. Otherwise,” he adds with his mouth still full, “I’m gonna recommend Cheez-Its and Cherry Coke. Savage flavor bomb. Savage.”

I spread a paper napkin on my lap. “Thanks for the tip.”

“Don’t mind Jada. She can be intense, and she works like a maniac, but I guess we should be thankful. This department wouldn’t function without her.”

I nod, wishing people would stop talking about Jada. It’s like this whole place is the Jada show where you can’t stop thinking about her, even when she’s not around.

“Sounds like somebody needs to get a life outside of work,” I say.

“And whatever you do, don’t insult this place. She’ll go ballistic,” Dave warns. “This place is everything to her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this place shuttering, either, but Jada would shoot herself out of a canon in a flaming barrel if it kept this place open longer.”

I sit next to him. “Why bother? It’s just a job that doesn’t produce much beyond misery for people in cubicles, as far as I can tell.”

Dave nearly chokes on a pretzel. “Do not, I repeat, do not say that in front of Jada.”

I make a note to repeat exactly that in front of Jada. I can’t wait. She’ll get that frown and stare pretty daggers at me.

“Promise,” Dave says. “Oh, also—” He holds up the pretzel bag. “These pretzels with the saltwater taffies that Varsha keeps in a bowl at reception? Killer combo. Her family has a saltwater taffy shop in Atlantic City, and she brings them for us special.”

“So what’s your job here exactly?” I ask.

“Accounts receivable and payable.” Dave pulls out a Tupperware of something that might be gazpacho. “Billing specific to the design department. It’s just a stepping stone while I go to night school. I’m working to be a CPA. A good CPA is worth their weight in gold.”

“So…three million and some?”

“Excuse me?”

“You weigh what, one sixty? A pound of gold is twenty thousand. Last I knew.”

“Huh.” Dave stirs his cold soup. “I suppose that’s a good fact to know. Strange but good.”

“A stepping stone to where?” I ask, pulling the bread off my sandwich and looking inside. There is no way I’ll be eating this sandwich.

Dave takes off his hat and sets it aside. Everybody here seems to have the same clumsily knit hat in the same shade of royal blue with a big pom pom on the top.

Dave tells me about his dream job. He’s speeding up his plans due to “Wycliff-pocalypse,” as he calls it. He promptly launches into a lot of bad Bert stories, which gives me the perfect segue.

“I hear there was a butt-dial incident during a company call. And Bert was livid…”

“That was hilarious. Just…wow.” He tosses a wrapper into the garbage. “You would’ve loved it. I mean, the guy deserved it. Some pompous jackalope who never worked a day in his life telling us how to feel.”

“And somebody was…making fun of the guy?”

Dave snorts. “It was savage. You would’ve loved it.”

“I love it,” I assure him. “Who was it?”

Dave turns to look at me now. “I’d tell you if I could, but then I’d have to kill you. And then people would kill me.” He snorts. “Bert was pissed, though!”

I give him my best conspiratorial smile, the conspiratorial smile that has pried bits of gossip from tight-lipped royals and coaxed the primmest of socialites into outrageous misbehavior. “Now I have to know.”

“Dude,” he says. “I can’t.”

“Just between us,” I say. “Renata?” I try. “Shondrella?”

“There was a pact.” He shakes his head. “I can’t.” Like he’s powerless over the whole thing.

“I won’t tell,” I say.

“We said it wouldn’t leave the room,” Dave says.

I can’t believe how intent everybody is to uphold this ridiculous pact. “I’m so curious now. Come on now,” I say breezily. “Don’t be boring!”


I study his face, shocked. I’m used to people falling all over themselves to anticipate my needs and desires, to give me what I want before I can even ask.

Now suddenly I’m in this opposite world where these people are withholding information for no other reason than their little pact.

Never mind.

Nobody keeps secrets from me for long.


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