Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 12


Jada

The next morning, Jack leans casually on the wall in front of Varsha’s desk like he’s some bored prince on a yachting holiday, chatting away with her.

He’s wearing yet another oversized 1990s button-up shirt. This one is bright yellow with blue and black triangles and circles all over it. Still, you can tell he has a muscular build under there—entirely due to genetics, no doubt, considering that this guy is the laziest assclown I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting.

He’d have lovely black hair if he hadn’t messed it up with those bleached tips. His brows are dark and harsh—the kind you’d imagine on a villain. They add this alluring intensity to his gaze. Especially when he bothers to remove his itty-bitty shaded rectangular glasses that he possibly time-traveled to steal from the face of Leonardo DiCaprio circa 1995.

Where does he shop that he’s getting those things? Why did nobody stop him? Of course it perfectly goes with his personality. Why be pleasing to the eye when he could be trolling people with his weirdly squandered hotness potential?

And then there are the things he can’t mess up. His nose, for example, is on the large side, roughly sculpted in a good way that goes with his cheekbones and strong jaw. His lips are expressive—very “there” lips.

He looks over and catches my eye. He tips his head down and peers at me over his glasses, gaze glittering under those villain eyebrows.

A rush of feeling arrows to my core and I look away, because I can’t even. His eyes are golden brown like burnt butter, with thick lashes, of course. Offensively thick. You could expect nothing less from Jack Smith, entitled delivery driver.

I grit my teeth. I told him to look busy—why is he bothering Varsha? The man has the worst work ethic I’ve ever witnessed, though I do have to admit that he completes his delivery duties with shocking speed.

But other than that, the worst!

Renata told me that he attended school here as a child, but mostly grew up in an impoverished, rural Türenbourgian village where they lived in decrepit homes without proper heating. “All goat carts and rat-infested stone rooms, from the sound of it,” she said. “Very backwards, like medieval!”

She also thinks he lied on his resume, which is increasingly easy to believe. The possibility that his only work experience is from a rustic village on the other side of the world explains his ignorance of basic office operations and his bewilderment about things like bag lunches, which that asshole Arnold took such advantage of.

Maybe Jack is from humble circumstances, but for Arnold to order white-glove meal service for his clueless friend on his first day at work? And then the next day he gets him to pack a vending machine sandwich for his bagged lunch? What a psycho!

It’s my guess this Arnold character is well-off—that Upper West Side place is probably his. A bored rich bro with no conscience.

Tragic poverty would also explain Lacey’s report that Jack nearly keeled over in shock when he saw her drinking from a water fountain out in the hall. “Is that…tap water?” he’d asked, horrified.

“I explained it was perfectly safe, but the way he acted, you’d think it contained bubonic plague spores,” Lacey had whispered to Renata and me afterwards. “Has the man never seen a person drink out of a water fountain?”

“Maybe their water back home is full of bacteria from unsanitary farming practices,” Renata had said. “Maybe he doesn’t understand that it’s safe to drink the water here in America.”

“I told him it was safe, and he wouldn’t believe me,” Lacey said.

I look back up. Jack smiles at me. I frown. He shouldn’t be goofing off with Varsha—he’s liable to get another demerit, and worse, he might get her one, too. Jack is mostly useless, but Varsha isn’t.

He seems amused that I’m frowning, judging from the width of his smile.

It’s not his fault that his parents raised him in a village where he acquired all of the office skills of a rabbit, but he needs to at least try to be a decent employee.

He leans in and says something to Varsha. She smiles, enchanted.

Dave told me that Jack was curious about the butt-dial incident. It’s so Jack to zero in on the exact thing he needs to leave alone. God, is that what they’re talking about? Is he quizzing Varsha?

I can’t stand it. I head over.

“Sorry, Jada,” Varsha says, ducking back to her duties.

Jack is unbothered, as usual.

“If you’d put half of the energy that you expend screwing around into your work duties, you might actually help us around here.”

“But what fun would that be?”

“It would be fun for those of us who give a shit about the company,” I snap.

“But I’m Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver.”

“You need to stop distracting people, and if you don’t have anything to do, you need to ask us how you can help. And at the very least, you need to look busy when Bert comes through.”

He makes an exaggerated concerned face that is a hundred percent fake.

“Fine. It’s your funeral.” I head back to my desk. God, why am I bothering with him? Why should I care if he gets fired?

Naturally, he follows me. “Big bad Bert.”

“That’s right.” I sit down.

“I hear he’s irate over some hilarious butt-dial incident. Some pompous jerk getting the piss taken out of him.”

“Give it up,” I say.

“What?”

“Nobody’s gonna tell you who it was.” I give him my own pretty smile. “Nobody.”

He looks caught out for a moment, then quickly recovers. “Is that a challenge?”

“It’s not a challenge; it’s a fact.”

“Mmmm,” he rumbles. “I think it’s a challenge.”

“For real, Jack, don’t be a child! You’re so shit at looking busy. Bert would love nothing more than to fire you.”

“Why would he hire a person only to fire them?”

“Because he’s dedicated his life to destroying this place and ruining morale.” I wake up my screen, showing that I’m getting to work. Hint hint.

Jack comes around and leans on my interior cubicle wall. A hint of a smile plays on his full lips, causing his cheekbones to be more defined, more model-like even. Apparently his sexy charisma is the only thing about him willing to work overtime.

“I can see that Bert’s an asshole,” he says, “but why set out to destroy the company he’s running? Presumably the man wants to keep his position.”

“Well, I’m telling you that’s how it is.”

“But it doesn’t make sense.”

“Not everything that’s true is going to make sense to you. I mean, you packed a vending machine sandwich in your lunch the other day, so…”

“It’s the sandwich I requested,” he says, doubling down.

Right then I have this rush of compassion for him. He still doesn’t understand why it was weird.

“Look, Jack, this was a great place before it got bought, before Bert came. And sometimes it’s frustrating to me that you’ll never know how good it was, and what a privilege it was to work here, even a year ago.”

I tell him about the good people who fled, leaving me with the work of three senior designers. I tell him about our fun celebrations. Our camaraderie. I don’t know why I’m so invested in Jack’s positive opinion of SportyGoCo in general and our scrappy department in particular, but I really am.

“It’s just a job,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

His warm eyes twinkle. “Just a job that doesn’t produce much beyond misery for people in cubicles, as far as I can tell.”

My jaw drops.

“Maybe it should be shut down,” he says.

“Oh my god! Screw you, because you know what? People here love this company. We care about each other and pull for each other. We’re a family, and family is worth fighting for.”

“Is it, though?”

“Excuse me? Is family worth fighting for? That’s what you’re asking? Yes, it is.”

“Not so sure about that,” he says.

“What? You don’t think family is worth fighting for? Or do you mean you don’t think this family is worth fighting for?”

“A little of both, I suppose.”

My mouth goes dry. I barely have words. “So this family? Just not worth it?”

He shrugs.

People are starting to look in our direction. Ughhh, why do I let this guy get to me?

I take a deep breath. “I’m gonna give you a pass because you’ve only been here for a little while and I get that life has given you some hard knocks. But this is your family now, too.”

He sighs wearily, as though he hates the very concept of family.

“Look around you, Jack. Every one of these people here would drop everything they’re doing if you needed them. Maybe things seem bleak here at the moment, and it’s not exactly a living wage for Manhattan, but we’re gonna come out the other side together.” I’m picking up steam, here. I once read a study that showed that if a teacher treats struggling students like they’re top of the class, those students do better. This might be a good strategy with Jack. “You may not realize it, but people have noticed what a fast delivery guy you are. You are already a valuable member of this family—did you know that? You’re part of a tight, loyal, hardworking family who will always pull for each other, no matter what.”

“A tight, loyal, hardworking family who will always pull for each other, no matter what?” he asks.

“Yes!” I say.

“Hmmm.” He drapes an arm over the cubicle wall and gazes wearily at the ceiling, a position that causes his shirt to draw tight over his muscular shoulder. “No, thanks.”

I straighten. “Excuse me?”

“The family thing. Hard pass.”

Outrage courses through me. God, why am I even paying attention to him? I lean in. “Sorry, but you don’t have a choice. You’re here, therefore, you’re part of our family. We’ll pull for you whether you like it or not.”

“You’ll pull for me?” He wipes an invisible speck from his shirt. “Please don’t.”

“Too bad,” I say, heart racing. “I’m gonna guess that people were unkind to you at your previous places of work—if in fact there were any—and they may not have had fair employment laws, but you’re gonna find out it’s different here. It’s your first week, so you get a pass.”

He leans in, all burnt-butter eyes and villainous brows. “I don’t want a pass.”

“Too bad! You get a pass, Jack.”

“I reject it,” he says.

“You can’t reject a pass. I’ve given it already.”

“I’ve tossed it away,” he says.

“Sorry,” I say, leaning in. Just a couple more inches and I’d be feeling the coarse brush of his thick five-o-clock shadow on my face. “Once given, a pass cannot be tossed.”

“I believe it can.”

“Get a room,” Shondrella says, gliding by.

“More like a padded cell,” I call after her. “If I have to hear any more out of this one.” I take my seat with a huff.

“This one’s returning to his cubicle,” he says.

“Good.” I sit, feeling wild. What was I working on?

He’s back. He sets his chin on my cubicle wall. “What’s more, this one is going to unmask the butt-dialer.”

“Why do you want to know so badly?” I demand.

He smiles his stupidly pretty smile. “At this very moment? Because you don’t want me to.”

“Knock yourself out.” I stand, and one of my bun pencils slides out and clatters to the floor. “There was a pact before you came, and we honor our pacts. There’s nothing you can do about it. Not one. Little. Thing.”

“I’ll get it out of somebody.”

I smile. “No, you won’t.”

“Won’t I?”

I lean in. “I’ll see to it that you don’t.”

He kneels down, scoops up the pencil, and rises back to his usual infuriating height. “I’ll find the weakest link—you know I will.”

He settles gentle fingers onto the top of my hair as he slides the pencil into my bun. He leans in close and whispers, “And I will mercilessly exploit that link. Mercilessly.”

He strolls off, leaving me standing there, seething. I yank out the pencil and sit back down.

I’m letting him get to me. Worse, I may as well have created an engraved invitation for him to make it his life’s mission to unmask me as the butt-dialer.

I tell myself he’s not the type to tell Bert—I’ve never met a man with more aversion to authority figures. But he’ll find a way to lord it over me if he could. If I was a sweater, he’d probably think he could unravel me.

I watch him over at the copy machine. You think you can unravel me? Think again, party-shirt peacock.

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