Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 21


Shondrella, Dave, and Renata gather around my desk with grave expressions. Lacey comes up behind them. “Did you tell her?”

“Tell her what?” I ask, alarmed. I’m thinking it’s more stuff about the closure problem for Wonderbag. Now that Bert has specced a luxury zipper, we need a different closure.

“I have it cued up.” Lacey joins the others, tablet in hand. “What’s going on?”

Shondrella casts a worried glance at Jack’s cubicle, which is empty due to another mandatory afternoon in shipping.

“It might not be anything,” Dave says. “That dude probably has nine lives knowing him.”

I straighten, alarmed. “Is Jack in trouble?”

“Kind of!” Shondrella says.

“What?” I ask, maybe too fervently.

Lacey winces. “I was looking up some pictures about this weird bump that I have on my arm, just worried that it might be cancerous, and look what I came across.” She hands me her tablet, and there on the screen, in full-color photography, it’s a mole that looks like Jack’s.

“This is a cancerous mole?”

“It is the worst type of cancer there is,” Shondrella says. “One of us has to say something to him.”

“I’m sure he’s gotten it checked out,” I say. “It’s not like it’s in a place that he can’t see!”

“This is Jack we’re talking about,” Renata says. “Does he strike you as somebody who’s up on modern medicine?”

“The EU has affordable health care,” I say. “I’m sure it was looked at.”

“I have two words for you.” Renata leans in.

“Stop it with the goat carts,” I say.

“Somebody at least has to ask him if he’s checked it out,” she says.

They’re all staring at me. “Why me?”

“You know him the best,” Renata says.

“And you’re our leader,” Shondrella says.

I snort. “Some leader,” I say. God, I sound like Jack.

“You’re the mom of our family,” Dave says. “But not like a mom. You’re the cool older sister.”

“Nice save,” I say, scrolling through the disturbing pictures of moles that look like Jack’s. “I don’t know how I’m gonna bring this up to him.”

“You’ll find a way,” Renata says.

I ruminate over the mole situation for the rest of the day. Jack doesn’t do well with people being concerned about him. I try to think up jokey ways to bring it up, but at the same time, I want him to take it seriously.

If he hasn’t gotten it checked out, he really, really needs to.

He rolls in at a few minutes to five and starts packing up his stuff. The shipping guys say he’s being a big help down there. Apparently, he knows how to fix all kinds of trucks, and he can lift a surprising amount. I look at his muscular hands and think about his desire to get in Bert’s face, which is guy code for starting a fight. Bert’s got a good fifty pounds on Jack, but I think Jack has more muscle. Jack would kick his ass.

Not that I’d want it to come to that. We can win this struggle the right way.

I saunter over, cool and casual. “Five on the dot,” I say. “God forbid you stay.”

“I’m thinking the company truck can get me as far as Jersey City, at which point I’ll abandon it.”

I know he won’t, but I don’t say that. Jack always wants you to think the worst.

“Say,” I say, tilting my head. “We’re considering doing a skin cancer screening one of these days. Have you ever done one of those?”

“A screening?”

“A screening,” I say. “Like moles and things. To make sure they’re not cancerous.”

He narrows his eyes. “You don’t like my mole? Is that it?”

I shrug. “Have you ever gotten it checked out?”

“It’s not cancer, don’t worry. I would not do a screening.”

“So you’ve never gotten it checked?”

He puts on his coat and shoves his phone in his pocket. “Nope.”

“Then how do you know it’s not cancer?” I ask.

“Because I do.”

“You know this how? It’s important, Jack.”

“Are you proposing an exam of some sort? In the you-know-what closet?”

“Screw off, be serious!”

“I’m not worried about the mole.”

“So you got it checked out already?”

“I haven’t gotten it checked out, but it’s not a problem.”

“God, do you take nothing seriously?” I gust out, feeling angry. “Excuse us if we care about you.”

“You’re paid to tolerate me. There’s a difference.” It’s so Jack to hate any idea of somebody caring.

“We’re paid to tolerate each other and we care, and that’s because we’re family and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re the black sheep who acts like he’s not in the family, but he totally is.”

His eyes shine in all of their burnt-butter, thick-lashed gorgeousness. “Families don’t keep secrets from each other.”

“Oh my god, you’re still on the butt-dial? If only you would apply some of that energy toward your job, you might help us save this company.”

“Unlikely. Your biggest departmental accomplishment is removing a dead plant from the trash.”

I snort, enjoying myself in spite of his jackhole-ness. “Is somebody jealous of Keith?”

He sighs.

“Jealous of Keith,” I tease. “The laziest and most unprofessional man on the planet, now jealous of a cactus. So sad.”

His eyes flash and I have the stupidest urge to close the distance between us, to press my face to his neck or something. Supposedly we’re co-workers. What is wrong with me?

“It’s just a matter of time,” he continues. “There are twenty-five or so people in this department. You think I can’t crack one of them?”

I get in his face—frustrated, angry, and so alive. “You never will.” I draw closer. I’m thinking about the way he wiped the chocolate off my lip. The feel of his thumb. Sure and warm and good. “Because everyone here knows it’s wrong to break a pact. So sorry,” I whisper, inappropriately close.

“But as we’ve established, wrong things can be so much fun.”

My heart skips a beat. I should cut this off but I can’t, or maybe I don’t want to. I’m creeping up, closer and closer, the exact place I shouldn’t be. “You think you’re hot but you’re not.”

“I think I’m hot,” he says. “And so do you. Look, we agree on something!”


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