Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 29

Jada

It hadn’t occurred to me until now that his style is as deliberately obnoxious as some of the things he says. I’m sure he has access to all kinds of nice clothes. His friend Arnold wore a normal outfit the other day. Arnold probably has a closet full of stylish clothes, not a loud print shirt to be found among them. If Arnold’s bringing him money, he’d surely be up for giving Jack a few cast-offs.

Jack sits there so suave and cool, but I know I’ve hit a nerve—I can see it in his sly sideways glance. “I strive to appear repulsive,” he says in an amused tone. “Is this some kind of reverse psychology where I insist it’s not my goal to look repulsive? And I rush to accept the makeover?”

“No, it’s more of an observation. My point is, he doesn’t want a makeover,” I say to Renata. “Let it go.”

Jack gives me a lazy smile, that one dimple in full flare. His phone pings and he shuts it off without even checking to see who it is, eyes fixed on mine the whole time. “Let me offer another theory,” he says.

“Oh, this should be good.”

“You don’t want me to have a makeover because you want me all to yourself.”

“Hah!”

“Jada would never do that,” Renata assures him. “She cares about others first. If she was in an airplane that was in trouble, she’d make sure everybody else had their oxygen masks on before affixing her own. She would give you the shirt off her back before she’d be selfish like that.”

I cross my arms, daring Jack to say whatever bullshit comment he’s thinking of.

He just smiles, of course.

Renata glances at her own pinging phone now. “Damn.” She goes back to her cubicle, because unlike Jack, she cares about the texts that come in.

“You so want me,” Jack says.

I move around the opening of his cubicle and press my finger into his chest. “I so have your number.”

He grabs my finger and a whoosh of excitement flows over me. “My number? Meaning that I make myself look repulsive because otherwise predators would surely hunt me for my meat? Which is so delicious that I need two layers of defense, spines and camouflage as a sour fish? Is that what you’re saying?”

I lean in nearer. “That would be the least plausible of several explanations.”

“The truth is, I am quite delicious,” he says.

“You think you’re delicious? That’s interesting that you would know that. With an unfortunate mental image to go with it. Are you an acrobat, Jack?”

He keeps hold of my finger, sitting up now, bringing his face near to mine in the confines of his cubicle walls. “I’ve been known to create that impression.” He angles his gaze in the direction of the supply closet.

I hold my ground. I know he’s trying to corrupt me, but it’s unbelievably enjoyable. I suppose that’s the point.

“You have no idea,” he whispers.

“You shouldn’t oversell things like that,” I say.

“I’m underselling it.”

“You are the worst,” I say.

“That’s part of the fun.” He smiles.

Renata’s swearing at her screen in the background; usually I’d be involved by now, but the office is a million miles away and this sexy reality with Jack is a respite, a secret oasis in the middle of the dusty, war-torn reality of SportyGoCo.

He comes in closer. I can feel his heat, his strange allure. He’s so much more than he seems. “The experience of my spiny protrusions, you have no idea.”

“Oh my god!” I yank away my finger. I’m just laughing now. What is he doing to me? I’m trying to save this company, to save my work family, and he’s making me forget it all. “Don’t you have something to do in shipping?”

He grabs his phone and takes a look. “Apparently so.”

“So they’ve been texting you this whole time and you’re ignoring it?”

He sighs. “A hero’s day is never done, that’s for sure.” With that he takes off, still wearing our department hat.

I go over to where Renata is stressing out over the small selection of sample clasps we can get in time to make a Wonderbag prototype. “We could go to MayRay Fashion but look at this price.”

I press my palms to my eyes, trying to think of a new option.

“What is up with you two?” Renata asks.

“Other than him being a freak?”

“Yes, other than that,” she says. “You guys seemed intense.”

“Because he’s intensely jerky.”

“Check it out.” Renata shows me her phone with a stealth shot of Jack. He’s leaning against the side of his cubicle, talking to somebody outside the frame. The shot captures everything dorky about his styling, and everything nice about him, too, except that you can’t see his eyes through his famous skinny glasses. Then she flips to another picture where he has his glasses off. Then another where he’s at the watercooler laughing with Shondrella. “What do you think?” she says. “I bet my friend would literally pay him to appear on her channel. The transformation, if he were to allow it, would be staggering. I’m not giving up. He could be so doable. Maybe I’d even do him.”

“You can’t!” I say.

“Why not?” she asks.

“He said no,” I say. “Hey, can you forward those to me, though?”

“Something for the spank bank?”

I give her a playful glare. “My roommates were asking about him. Deliberate or not, his style is definitely in the you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it category.”

“No shit,” she says, staring at the laughing photo.

“Double-lock closure ahoy!” Shondrella says, beelining over to us with a small box. “Three sizes!”

“This has gotta be our answer,” I say. “Please let this work.”

We race to the back of the table to try this new closure with the design. It’s a Velcro alternative.

Shondrella gets one of the prototypes out. Renata lines up the strips to sew.

“Base too big.” I fly to my computer to redo the dimensions. We decide to try it in two different ways. Naturally, just as Renata starts cutting, Lacey tells us that the yoga pants fit session got moved up with our size twelve fit model.

“Yoga pants first, then Wonderbag,” I say. “We can do this!”

Varsha takes over the cutting while we hop onto the yoga project. We skip lunch, making headway.

And then Bert arrives and announces that everybody needs to do a CPR training.

“What the hell?” Varsha whispers.

“Since when do we need that?” Shondrella whisper-squeaks.

I speak up. “Every one of us? Would there be any exceptions outside of a current CPR certification?” I ask, laying a little trap.

“No exceptions outside current certification,” Bert says.

I try to look sad. “Well, my certificate is good for another year. Anybody else?”

“Sorry, I’m shutting off the system,” Bert says. “I’m shutting down the office and turning off the intranet and locking up.”

“But since I have my certificate and we have our fit model onsite…”

“Nope.”

“Maybe I’ll just take a half-day,” I say. Because I can finish the bag at home, not that I’d say that. I have a lot of days stored up, being that I never take them off.

“Half-days require notice,” he says. “If you aren’t going to be in the training, I need you to go with Jack on his deliveries for the rest of the day and confirm he’s following the company guidebook on customer courtesy. He’s also been having challenges filling out the paperwork correctly,” he says.

“Shouldn’t somebody from shipping do that?” I protest.

“Is that a no?” Bert asks. “You’re one of our top people on protocol. And you seem to be interested in his poor work habits.”

Jack puts on a face of mock surprise. I grit my teeth. Bert definitely overheard my useless comment from back when Jack started.

People are filing out, heading down to the space we use for trainings, the space we used to use for parties and fitness breaks when this was a great place to work.

“Why would Jack be exempt from the training?”

“So that you can do this errand,” Bert says with a completely straight face. “Leave the project here. It’ll be there in the morning.”

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