Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 26

Jaxon

Her eyes blaze. Her scent envelops me. Workaholic Barbie with all of that disdain. I want her so badly, it’s criminal.

“It’s like there’s no end to you,” she says. “No limit.”

“That’s part of why you’re so hot for me,” I say.

“There will not be a repeat. I prefer to kiss men who have some kind of a moral compass.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say. “A man with a moral compass will never kiss as well as a thoroughly corrupted and power-drunk Lothario.”

“He’ll kiss better. Ask me how I know.” With that, she walks off.

I watch her, fascinated.

I’ve kissed princesses, fashion models, socialite hostesses with the mostest. I know a good kiss. That was a great kiss.

Beyond great.

I was stupid for her—stupid for the taste of her lips, obsessed with the feel of her skin with my palm. I couldn’t suck in enough of her scent. And Jesus, the way her eyes changed when I pushed her against the wall. The entire feeling of us changed, as if we were trembling and coming alive together. I was a hungry beast, dying of starvation, and she was the feast, and I had to devour her, drown in her, ruin her like she was all I knew. Though “knew” isn’t the word. There was no “knowing” happening whatsoever. My brain was being bypassed entirely, there was just my need and my hands and my lips, a mad orchestra directed by my cock and my libido.

It’s not like me to lose control like that. Fucking has always been a sport to me. Ninety percent strategy. Ten percent luck. A hundred percent control.

That’ll be all.

I grit my teeth.

She dismissed me? In the middle of that kiss?

The rest of the employees drift in, and soon the place is its usual hive of activity. A few minutes later, Jada’s up at the worktable ripping open packages with the usual garment-making suspects.

I’m trying to focus on making notes for Soto, but then I look back over, and they seem to be struggling, all high drama. Jada reaches up and pushes a bit of hair out of her face.

Of course she had to push me away. She’s a good girl, after all. She didn’t think I had that level of wrongness in me, and she didn’t think she had it in herself, either. Those delicious kissable frowning lips and the grabbable blonde bun.

Her imitation runs through my head. Quick, bring the servants, I shall need some smelling salts. Where is my cravat? Where is my Foppish Ascot?

How could I have ever thought it was anybody but her? That imitation was pure Jada—Jada in her noble warrior Joan of Arc mode, sniffing out the hypocrisy and going for it.

Now that I’ve found her, what will I do? I tell myself I’ll decide when I decide. I’m running the show here. In the meantime, there’s a problem in shipping: Some software glitch made it so that we lost a lot of inventory data last night, and the guys have been scrambling to catch up before Bert does something drastic.

I ride down the elevator, ready to pitch in. I need to stop pretending to be somebody else at some point. I know who the butt-dialer is, after all, but for now, the shipping guys need my help. They’re good guys who don’t deserve to have to cancel their weekend fishing trips and football games because of a software glitch.

I grab the tablet and get to work.

My parents truly were amazing. Not only did they have the world convinced that they were parents and philanthropists with big hearts when the complete opposite was true, but they had people believing that they run a good business when even I can see it’s being trashed.

We’re making good time. The inventory project is a mindless task that requires me to hold a tablet and check stock against numbers in the system—just enough distraction to not think about the kiss with Jada or Jenny showing up with all of those explanations and memories.

It would have been nice for the ten-year-old boy that I was to have gotten one of those cards or to hear her say those things. But for the man I am now, it’s an unwanted if not outrightly perverse gift.

Needless to say, I lit into Arnold after work. He had no business sending Jenny into the office. Into my place of business! Arnold protested that she was leaving town for a while and there wouldn’t have been another chance, as if that matters. I was harsher with him than I should’ve been. But seriously, after all these years?

Jenny showing up to explain things at this late date is like showing a man who’d cut his arm off to escape a trap that the key had been hidden within reach all along.

Not. Helpful. At all.

Jada would think she can sew back the arm. She’d give it everything—this is the woman, after all, who thinks she can bring a dead cactus back to life. But no way would she succeed, and I wouldn’t want it anyway. The good thing about losing something crucial is that nobody can take it away from you a second time. It’s a glorious form of immunity.

The shipping and logistics end of the business is actually kind of interesting. I’m doing inventory with a man named Sammy who’s been here for years. Sammy knows everything about ground shipping, about getting pieces of garments moved all over. It’s complicated and fascinating, a large system where all the parts need to be functioning at peak efficiency, just like a pit crew.

Sammy is complaining about how much money gets squandered by shipping late or having to ship in separate parcels lately. This seems like intel that I could bring to Soto in my quest to wrest control away from Bert and Bloxburn or however it’s all arranged.

Surely I can get rid of them if they’re outright screwing it up.

I order twenty-five pizzas for lunch—enough for the entire shipping team. I lie and say the pizza place owes me; not out of any Good Samaritanism, but we’re running behind. I add an anchovy pizza and use it to bribe Dave to come down and help; I happen to know he has a light afternoon.

My plan works. Sammy and Dave start tossing out ideas over pizza. They start running numbers and discover that adding one more full-time shipping person would save the company double that expense in rush fees. They tell me about this new kind of order alert system that would help with inventory. Not that I give a shit about the business, but I do think a lot about speed and logistics in motorsport, and we all start geeking out on it.

Clearly this company would’ve been better off being run entirely by the employees this whole time, not that my parents would have gone for that.

Dave is all about helping with inventory now that he grasps the situation, and he identifies some other employees who’d pitch in for pizza, and soon we have a crowd, and we get back to work.

Being a member of a team racing the clock is invigorating. Not that I’m going to go all in on the charms of honest work, but we finish with two hours to spare, and there are high fives all around, even this sense of camaraderie, like we’ve been through something together.

When Sammy invites me out for beers after work with the crew, I hear myself telling them that I’ll meet them.

I head back up in the elevator, wondering if Varsha has a gopher list.

She doesn’t. Instead, I find tension—I can feel it the moment I stroll into the design department. Jada looks up as I pass her. She widens her eyes and shakes her head ominously.

And then I see Bert leaning by the back shelving, looking all smug. He’s watching Lacey go from design table to design table. She looks like she’s about to collapse, and nobody’s helping her, which is strange, considering she’s the design department mascot.

What’s going on?

I focus back on my spreadsheet—not easy with the silent keening and gnashing of teeth. I can barely concentrate.

What has Bert done now?

I pull out my phone, put it in selfie mode, and study the scene behind me. Bert is more than smug; he’s looking like the cat that swallowed the canary.

I text Jada:

Jaxon: what’s up?

Jada: Lacey screwed up a promo thing

that had to go out. She has to switch

a thing around and get it out in the

three o’clock Ship2Speed rush overnight

or it’s too late.

Jaxon: frowny face

Jada: He gave us extra tasks when

we tried to help. Shondrella might

have to miss her kid’s soccer game now.

Shitshow.

Jaxon: Lacey has 2 demerits, right?

Jada: CANNOT get another.

I glower at Bert who’s twiddling merrily on his phone.

Jaxon: I don’t understand why

it can’t be rushed.

LA is not on another planet.

Jada: it has to be Ship2Speed.

Approved vendor only.

Jaxon: so this is a setup

Jada: to fire Lacey

Charley was right about meeting people I’d like to hit on this job. I would’ve gone after Bert so fast in my old life, but of course I keep thinking about Jada. Her distressed expression. And the shipping guys. I can’t let myself get booted without knowing for sure that I have control over the operations here.

Is this how poor people have to go through life? Wanting to hit shitheads like Bert but there is too much to lose? And said shitheads control their lives and make thoughtless, asinine decisions that screw things up for them, and there’s nothing to be done?

Because it really is intolerable.

I grab my phone and storm out of the office and down the hall to the rooftop patio. It’s nearly rush hour; the street down below is fully gridlocked. The sounds of horns and sirens drift up on the breeze along with the diesel fumes and the faint scent of grilled meat from a nearby gyro cart.

I put in a call to Soto. He’s gotten a copy of the Bloxburn contract, which he calls “unusually extensive if not draconian.” He’s pulling in contract lawyers. He tells me that wresting control away from them might not be easy.

“Make it easy,” I say, tired of having my hands tied. “Also, there’s an employee here who I want moved to minimal part-time hours, but she still keeps her health insurance. Ten hours a week, ideally. Add that to my list of requests.”

“Now you want to get involved in individual employee arrangements?”

“That’s right,” I say.

“That sort of thing can involve modifying entire categories on the human resources level,” Soto says. “Why is this person suddenly important?”

“She’s not, it’s just that everyone is so maudlin about her situation, I can barely concentrate. It’s annoying. Figure it out.” I hang up, staring out at the scaffolding on the building down the way. I have to get rid of Bert.

Bloxburn. The name still bothers me. I was never in the same location as my parents for long, but I do remember the name. I have this memory of it coming up in angry whispers. Though that might not mean much, being that so much of what my parents said came out in angry whispers.

Jada comes out and frowns. “Oh, you’re here.” Her voice drips with disdain.

A good man would tell her his real identity at this point, but I’m not a good man.

“Three pencils in your bun. Things didn’t go well, I’m thinking.”

Outrage flares in her eyes. Outrage is scathingly hot on her. I have this sudden and utterly savage urge to haul her little body right up to mine; this sudden, savage urge to take those angry lips in mine. I have this need to provoke her that I can’t seem to control.

“Our friend is about to lose her job but oh-ho-ho I have three pencils in my bun,” she says. “You want a comedy award?”

“Depends on the award.”

“Don’t you even care? Her life is basically ruined.”

“So I’m guessing you missed the last Ship2Speed courier pickup.”

She glares up at the clouds.

I don’t know much about shipping, but even I know Ship2Speed is a bad, low-rent option for overseas shipping. The carrier everyone makes fun of.

“Do they not have flights from the airport?” I ask.

“Their customer window closes in thirty minutes, and it’s at least an hour away at this time of day. Obviously we would’ve thought of it otherwise.”

I look over at her, heart pounding. I wait for her to feel me, to look back at me, because I’m just that evil.

Eventually, she does.

Our eyes lock.

The heat between us spirals.

“What?” she demands

“I can get it on that plane.”

“The customer window closes in thirty minutes.”

“I could get it there,” I say.

Jada narrows her eyes. “Thirty minutes? No way. You’d have to have perfect luck on the road. Parting-of-the-Red-Sea luck.”

“A good driver makes his luck.”

She’s giving me this look like she doesn’t believe me. “It sounds reckless.”

My eyes fall to her lips. “Well.” I lower my voice. “I could get a little reckless out there with the right incentive.”

Her lips fall open. Her outrage sparks something deep inside me.

“You wouldn’t.”

I give her the evilest smile I can. Which, let me just say, is pretty evil. It’s a talent of mine.

Her pulse pounds visibly in her throat, and the urge to put my lips there is overwhelming. I wanted her before, but now that I know she’s the butt-dialer, she’s irresistible.

“God, you are the worst,” she bites out. “Lacey is in there crying. Our friend might lose her livelihood, her health insurance, her family. You would literally get pleasure out of making a woman give you sexual favors as payment for things you should do out of the goodness of your heart?”

“If you keep standing there pointing out the obvious, I’ll never make it.”

“You are an unbelievable jerk!”

“Again with the obvious. Do we have a deal?”

Her lips twitch. The movement is tiny, but it’s fucking delicious, because yeah, she loves it a little, and I love her loving it.

I turn to her, go up close to her.

This little game turns her on, and she struggles so hard to pretend it doesn’t, it pushes the hotness factor clear off the charts. I’m addicted to her struggle. I’m addicted to her pleasure.

She comes right up close, her mouth near mine. Smudgy eye shadow. Pink cheeks. “You would be so fired for this.”

“As we’ve established, I’m a jerk who doesn’t give a shit. And we now have twenty-eight minutes.”

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