Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 13


I’m discreetly texting with Arnold, sending him some delivery stuff to collate onto a central Excel sheet. Naturally, he’s taking his own sweet time with it. I find this almost as annoying as the fact that nearly the entire office gang is gathered across the room by the windows.

The cool kids all gathered by the windows, I suppose you could say, or at least the pathetically struggling office worker version of the cool kids, which isn’t all that cool.

As a man who’s rather vigorously hated, you’d think I’m used to being excluded from things, but in fact, it’s the opposite. People constantly invite me to their gatherings. My presence adds a note of controversy if not notoriety, a way to spice up an otherwise sure-to-be-boring event. I rarely show up, but I’m always invited.

Not that I care about being excluded from whatever idiotic display it is I’m seeing here. Some sort of meeting that seems to be led by our resident spitfire, pencil-bun Joan of Arc herself, Jada Herberger.

They chat excitedly in hushed tones; it’s quite the work family hoedown.

I focus back on the text, ignoring them. Ignoring her.

We honor our pacts and there’s nothing you can do about it. Not one. Little. Thing.

Jada has no idea who she’s dealing with. She and her mighty little attitude and perky posture and perfect little nose. She thinks she can stop me?

Jada looks happy and radiant, and she seems to be complimenting somebody, lovingly cooing over them.

I grit my teeth. Whoever could be the unlucky recipient of such an outpouring of love from buzzkill Jada?

Not that I care to be part of it. It’ll be a one-on-one thing when I find and break the weak link that I know to be here. It’s not as if people divulge secrets when there’s a group listening. Once I get the identity, I’ll determine next steps after that.

Somebody from shipping is suddenly in my face. “Do you have the stock level update?”

“Working on it,” I growl.

He looks at my computer screen where a blue circle bounces around on a field of black. “When do you think you’ll have it?”

Whenever my valet-slash-personal assistant finishes it—that’s the real answer, but I don’t need to be Workaday Wally to know it’s not the one to give. “You’ll get it when you get it,” I say.

“What does that mean?” he asks.

“Soon,” I say, watching the group. Who the hell is Jada so lovey-dovey over? Not that it matters.

“Pleistocene era soon or today soon?” he pursues.

I grit my teeth. Life is so much easier when you can dismiss people, like clicking the X on an annoying pop-up window. “You’ll know when it happens,” I inform him.

He mumbles something and walks off.

Finally I can’t stand it anymore. I stroll over to see what the fuss is.

Dave grins. “Have you met Keith yet?”

A snarl rises up from my chest unbidden. “Keith?”

“You’d remember if you met Keith,” Dave assures me. “Let Jack see.”

People shift around. Jada and Shondrella the fiftysomething fashionista are kneeling on either side of a dead cactus—if you can call it that. It’s more like a spindly, spiny six-foot-high husk that used to be a cactus. Shondrella is poking at the dirt with a toothpick.

“Keith the Cactus,” Jada says, beaming at the thing. “We found him next to a dumpster down on the street and we’ve been trying to rehabilitate him in this sunny window. He’s totally getting better!”

Is this some sort of joke? It’s obvious the thing is dead. “A garbage cactus,” I say.

“Rescue cactus,” Jada says. “He has his own Instagram—Keith the Rescue Cactus.” She puts on a baby voice and points at one of the protrusions. “Look at his little arm. He was all alone in the world, and nobody cared about him, but we’re saving him.”

“Not from the looks of it,” I say.

She glares at me, lips pursed into a luscious little rosebud of admonition. “Luckily you’re not the be-all and end-all of cactus knowledge.”

“It doesn’t take a be-all and end-all of cactus knowledge to see that it’s dead.”

“You’re just saying that because you didn’t see how he was before,” Jada says. “We worked together to research food and pooled our money to get a light meter, and he’s responding—see? Come here.” Lacey shows me a smooth patch of green the size of a thumbprint. “This was all brown before. He’s getting better.”

“You probably just rubbed off some dirt,” I say.

“No, man, we’re helping him,” Dave says.

I’m still eyeing Jada. “Rhymes with bossed jaws.”

Jada looks confused, then she works it out. Her glare flares, connecting right to my groin. “No cause is ever lost.”

I don’t know why I should be so irritated by the fact that this woman’s ridiculously fierce loyalty extends all the way to a plant from the garbage.

“It doesn’t matter what you think, does it? Everybody can see he’s getting better.”

“Dude,” Dave says. “He’s bouncing back. But you can’t tell Bert. Bert can never know about Keith. As far as Bert is concerned, Keith is just some sad office plant that we never think about.”

“Wait, what? Bert thinks it’s a sad office plant?” I tease, but people aren’t listening. As if they haven’t irritated me enough, they’re now literally breaking into song.

“Go Keeeeeith, go Keeeeeeeith, go Keeeeeeith.”

They’re moving their hands around, singing like the fucking Von Trapps, or Charley’s family, singing Queen songs around the Christmas tree.

It’s so sweet, so saccharine, it hurts my teeth.

It hurts my entire soul.


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