Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 30


Jada

“Did you see that? Did you?”

“Yes.” Jack pulls out into traffic, shifting deftly.

I want more. I care about Jack’s opinion, and I want him on my side.

“Right?” I urge. “Can you tell me that there’s any possible chance that he’s not trying to destroy the company? What boss actively tries to prevent a capable and motivated employee from working?”

He drives with his usual expertise, flowing in and out of the traffic like it’s water, all serene concentration. “He’s a very bad boss,” Jack says. “He shouldn’t be in that position.”

“Thank you!” I say, gratified. “He literally is trying to destroy morale. Shutting the system off like that. This stupid training. He doesn’t care. And of course he exempted you so that we could do this errand. He knows I think you’re a shitty worker.”

“Karma’s a bitch,” Jack says, switching lanes.

“Not helpful.”

“We’ll get this done so you can get back, how about that?”

“Is that an offer? Without extorting sexual favors?”

The glance he gives me is dark and real and sends shivers into my core. “We could add it in.”

“Just drive.” I look down at my phone, trying to keep my head. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about our game since it started. “Literally shuts down the intranet. He wants us to fail, but you’d think he’d at least be more stealthy about it.”

Maybe Jack senses how upset I am, I don’t know, but he asks me questions about Wonderbag, and also the history of sequins, which happen to be two of my favorite subjects, and gets us to the first stop—a massive warehouse outside of Newark—in no time.

I linger around, playing supervisor while he unloads the stuff, and then I hover around to watch him do the paperwork.

There’s a potential problem with a few backordered items that the customer is getting angry about. I’m about to step in, but Jack handles it like a pro—he’s firm, but with just the right degree of humor, providing the perfect amount of assurance—enough to calm him, but not so much that a promise might be construed.

We go on the rest of the deliveries which Jack has reordered for efficiency.

“You’re good at this,” I say.

“I’m good at a lot of things.”

“Screw off,” I say, laughing, as if he’s being ridic. As if I’m not thinking about how he said there’s no machine he can’t push beyond the specs. He meant it sexy, of course.

He catches me looking at him. “What?”

“Is this how you made it to LaGuardia so quickly? Extreme concentration?”

“You don’t want to know how I made it to LaGuardia.”

“Dave thinks you probably got several tickets.”

“A gentleman never tells.”

“Skills include driving and finding a jerky reply to any sentence,” I say.

He shrugs happily.

“Have you had any other jobs besides driving?”

“Nope. Just driving,” he says.

“Always in a delivery capacity? Have you done Uber? Taxi?”

“Nope,” he says. “Now what? Back to the office?”

“You’re all done?” I ask.

“I’m just an overachiever.”

“Bert’ll just give us other bullshit to do,” I say. “Busywork. Can we go pick up some food? I don’t care. Just one of the noodle places up here. I missed my lunch doing the yoga pants. Is there some rule about eating in the truck?”

“You haven’t eaten yet?”

“Have you?” I ask hopefully.

He does a sudden U-turn.

“Dude!”

“We’re getting you a meal.”

“Any noodle place. Or Mexican anything.” We pass more restaurants. “Look, a parking spot! We could grab a quick burger.”

“You picked Holey Icewich; it’s my turn now,” he says.


“I can’t eat here!” I say as we head into the ultraposh environs of Café Maximus. Because naturally he finds the most inappropriate everything.

“My treat,” he says as we’re seated at a luxurious booth in a palm-and-velvet-draped corner.

“You’ll blow your whole paycheck!”

“What do you care?”

“Because I’m a responsible person who cares about things?”

“Lucky for you, I’m an irresponsible person who doesn’t,” he says. “You may as well take advantage of that fact.”

“I’m not that kind of person,” I say.

“Why not play one for the day? You may as well enjoy my reckless nature.” He lowers his voice to a rumble. “Wouldn’t I do it if the tables were turned?”

I narrow my eyes. Waters are delivered. A waiter comes and hands us menus. Jack studies his, but I’m studying Jack. All of these big, reckless things without a second thought. What would it be like to live like Jack? Just let the chips fall where they may?

Finally I look down. “There aren’t even prices!”

“You like black bean soup?” he asks.

“Not if it doesn’t have a price,” I say. “I have a limit to how much I’ll take advantage.”

“Bo-ring,” he says. “You love grilled chicken stuff, that we know.”

I scan down, stomach growling. Everything looks delicious. “Yeah, but…”

“And we know you like turkey with swiss. This turkey croquette right here comes with a salad. How does that sound?”

“Too expensive!”

“You always take pickles out of your stuff at lunch, so I’m gonna guess dill is out, which nixes the steak salad. You shared that lasagna with Renata the other day, so you might like this puttenesca.” He looks up. “Do you like spicy things?”

“Don’t you want to know?”

“You like anything Mexican,” he says. “I’m going with a yes on that.”

Is Arnold supporting him financially? Is that what’s going on here? He pretty effectively narrows it down to the three finalists I’d choose, and he gets me to say if he guessed correctly. I tell him he got two out of three, because I would have the raw tuna salad in the running—if I was the kind of person who’d order an entrée at a place like this, which, I inform him, I’m not.

Jack shrugs and orders all three entrees, plus some appetizers and a twenty-one-year-old scotch on the rocks. “And for the lady…” He regards me thoughtfully. “Do you like Manhattans?”

“The drink? We’re on work hours!”

“Work is over for the day,” he says.

“Training could be unexpectedly done before work hours are over. Renata’s supposed to text me.”

“So what if it gets over early?”

“I’m not a screw-up, that’s what.”

He sighs and checks the menu while the waiter waits. “Look—there’s a champagne cocktail. You like champagne cocktails, judging from how often you and Renata say, ‘Break out the champers!’”

“It’s just an expression.”

“So, you don’t like the champers?”

“Not during work hours!”

“Scotch rocks and a champagne cocktail,” he says, handing the menu back to the waiter.

“Don’t bring the champagne cocktail. I’m having water.” I say this in a hard enough voice to the waiter that it overrides Jack’s bullshit. “Fizzy water.”

“Tough customer,” he says after the waiter leaves.

My napkin has been folded into a strange little sculpture on my plate, and my place setting involves four forks. “You charging this to Arnold or something?”

He sits back, stretching a lazy arm along the seat back. The men here are dressed in Ralph Lauren and Alexander McQueen, but Jack looks perfectly at ease and even at home in his 1990s print shirt—today’s is powder blue with black triangles and random yellow squiggle lines. “Maybe I won some more shell games.”

“You could be fired for this.”

“I don’t see Bert around here, do you?”

I smile in spite of myself. Jack is the worst, and I can’t stop loving it.

He makes a big show of swirling the dark amber liquid in the glass, inspecting its color. He takes a sip and closes his eyes. I’m drinking him in. He’s a fascinating and sometimes wonderful creature, enjoying his cocktail in the middle of the day. Defying Bert. He makes it look fun.

“You have such persuasive powers, and you waste them entirely on being a destructive, corruptive influence.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Is this you changing your mind?”

“No!” I sip my water, wishing I’d ordered the champagne cocktail now. What’s stopping me? But I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s the middle of the day! It’s just not me.

“So I’ve heard this is a European thing—drinks at lunch,” I say. “And you eat dinner at ten at night or whatever.”

“That’s about right. And dancing ‘til dawn.”

The way he looks at life is so different. I try to imagine him dancing around a fire pit in some little village with goats running around like Renata said. Did they live in tents? Were his parents back-to-the-earthers with no place to call home like Mia suggested?

“Is that what they did where you’re from? Dances and things? Even in your little village?”

He furrows his brow. “My little village?”

“Renata says you’re from this…small rural village. Very…rustic.”

He laughs. “We lived in a lot of places, but I wouldn’t call them rustic.”

“Of all the places you lived, which place would you most consider to be your home?”

He looks down at his scotch. “I don’t know if there is a place I’d actually call home.”

I stiffen. Have I strayed into embarrassing territory? I grab a piece of warm bread and slather butter over it.

“I suppose that just means everywhere is your home,” I say brightly, trying to put a good face on it. “It sounds like you experienced a lot of different places. Do you have a favorite place in Europe, even if it’s not your home, to maybe just walk around in?”

He looks thoughtful. “I don’t know. I find that being out on the street in any city can be a hassle.”

“Of course!” I say, internally scolding myself for not thinking of my privilege. Of course living on the streets would be hard. I’m sure the police hassle the homeless in every city, not just America. “I’ve always loved the ocean,” I say quickly. I feel like this is a safe subject—everybody, rich or poor, has access to the majesty of the ocean. “I don’t care where it is. It’s about the sound. The power. I didn’t see it even until I was in my twenties.”

I try the bread and nearly die. It’s fresh, with just a hint of rosemary. And the butter seems to have honey in it. What is this witchcraft?

“You didn’t see the ocean until your twenties?”

“I grew up in central Illinois, a town you wouldn’t know. Even the nearby towns, you wouldn’t know them. It was a tractor-parts plant town. If we had money to go anywhere, it would be to the Six Flags. It’s the place with rides. Like a fair.”

Our appetizers come. Again I feel bad for letting him order all of this stuff, and I find myself wondering if maybe he just never learned proper money management. I came up poor, too, but I was obsessed with saving money—I had to be. A lot of my friends would squander money immediately when they got it.

“Try the calamari,” he says, wiping his fingers and settling back into his seat, assuming that relaxed and princely pose of his.

I put a bit on my plate and try it. And nearly go into shock. It’s heavenly—perfectly crunchy, perfectly sweet.

“Whoa! Yum,” I say.

Jack grins.

I eat some more. I’m starving. I’m fully indulging now.

In the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, I’m the ant, toiling away, storing grain so I have something for winter. I grew up with grasshoppers, always taking advantage. I came to despise the grasshoppers of the world. I swore I’d surround myself with responsible men—dependable men who know how to pull their weight.

Jack is so team grasshopper, just singing and loafing. What would it be like? To just say, “Screw it all! I’m a grasshopper, now!”

“I think you want to change your mind,” he says. “About the cocktail.”

His lowball glass is cut crystal…is it real Waterford? He rotates it a bit, positioning the napkin to be parallel to the table edge, fingers light on the luxe surface—a light touch that’s deft and sure, like in the delivery truck.

“We may get called back, though. There’s so much to do.”

“Mmm,” he rumbles, voice like deep velvet on my skin. “Sounds like an argument for the cocktail.”

I rotate my own glass, lining my own napkin up with the edge, feeling like I’ve been in battle forever. They made my fizzy ice water the best they could, with a lemon and two raspberries on a long toothpick thing. It’s nice.

“I’m fine,” I say.

“Even a non-alcoholic one?”

I flick my gaze to his scotch. What would it be like? “I just can’t get behind such a madly expensive drink.”

“I love your pondering and debating face.”

“Oh, you think I have a pondering and debating face?”

“You always bite the right side of your lip and stare into the middle distance with this sexy half-squint.”

I keep hold of the side of my lip and turn my half-squint in his direction. “Maybe I’m pondering you.”

“Maybe you should be.”

“Uh-huh.” I try the other appetizer—a flatbread thing with balsamic-drizzled goat cheese—surprised at how much he notices about me.

I’m used to men monitoring me, paying attention to me, wanting to make a good impression or whatever, but Jack’s attention feels different. He’s interested and engaged, even affectionate. It feels like the difference between a harsh spotlight and a glow I want to bask in.

Just to tease him, I grab the menu and scan down the cocktail area to the very bottom. That’s where I find the lavender gold. “Hmmm, here is a cocktail that has actual gold flecks frozen into the ice cubes along with rare lavender flowers from the remote monastic Mediterranean island of Île Saint-Honorat. What do you think about that one?”

“Get it.”

“Just kidding. It has literal gold! It’s a ridiculous cocktail.”

“Having ridiculous cocktails courtesy of Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver while everybody learns some stupid skill? Sounds like a win-win.”

It’s like he’s trying to lead me down this path of ill repute and I find that I’m loving it. I want to have the cocktail. I want to kiss him again, dorkiness and all. I want to have fun with him. I want to have adventures with him.

“I dare you,” he says.

Suddenly I’m thinking about what Renata always says—that I’d give the shirt off my back if I could. If a plane was crashing, I’d put on everybody’s oxygen masks before my own.

What is that? It’s bonkers! Even the flight attendants say to put on your own mask on before assisting others.

Bert has kicked us out of the office for what he no doubt hopes is the rest of the day, and I’m still acting like I’m at work. And Jack is practically begging me to order this thing.

I pick up the menu. “Lavender-infused gin, rhubarb, lemon, and sparkling rose with ice cubes that have rare lavender flowers and gold flakes frozen into the middle of them. Maybe I will.”

The light in his eyes makes me feel weirdly happy.

“Are you sure Arnold’s not paying?”

“What the hell do you care?”

Something effervesces in my belly. “Yeah, what do I care?”

A waiter comes over and uses a small tool to scrape the crumbs from the tablecloth. I look into Jack’s eyes, mirroring his playful attitude. “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll take that lavender gold cocktail.”

“Very good.” The waiter walks off.

Jack’s watching me.

“It feels weird to be this person,” I confess.

“It’s hot as hell on you,” he says.

“Being a reckless libertine is hot? That’s what you like?”

“There are people in the world who’d order that without a second thought, but when you do it, it’s different. Like you’re kicking a door down. You have no idea, Jada.”

My cheeks heat. “You’ll be kicking the door down to the Café Maximus dishwashing room.”

“I won’t.”

I narrow my eyes.

My cocktail comes and I give it a taste. It’s all tangy sweetness like the best, most fragrant sweet tart on the planet, but yummier. It’s delicious—wildly delicious. But it’s about more than the taste. It’s like I snatched gold from the dragon’s lair.

“You like it?”

I mirror his relaxed pose, just because he’s the picture of fun leisure and suddenly I want some of it for myself. Why is everything so fun with Jack? I give him an evil smile. “Very much!”

He gives me an evil smile back. It’s as if we’re the only two people in the world. “Excellent,” he says.

“I’d still rather be nailing those projects, but as long as we’re here…” I swirl the drink, watching the flecks in the ice cube catch the light. It’s food-grade gold. Who ever even heard of that?

“So what would your perfect day be?” he asks suddenly. “Let’s say if there were no emergencies or demands. You could do whatever you want.”

“I walk to work and it’s nice out and I see people on the way. The people you met.”

“The Jada fan club.”

“And Bert’s not in the office all day. We do a fitting with a fit model, and everything is right on the first try.”

“So your perfect day is you at work?”

“Of course! It’s my dream job. It’s no Chanel, but I love it. I’ve always wanted to be head designer at a fashion house.”

He nods, watching me. What is he seeing?

“But also, it’s a family—it really is,” I add. “Maybe you think family’s the devil, but it’s important to me. I came to New York scared and alone with no people, and Shondrella and Lacey and the former owners of SportyGoCo all took me under their wing. I literally showed up with a suitcase and sewing skills and some dreams about acting and they saved my ass.”

“You came to New York to act?”

“Right? I probably don’t seem like an actor.”

“It’s not very practical.”

“It’s practical if you think you’re gonna be a big star,” I say. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this. It sounds arrogant.”

“What actor doesn’t go into it thinking that? So it didn’t pan out?”

“I landed a decent part in a show right off the bat. That’s how I figured out I didn’t like being in the theater. I enjoyed the acting part, but the whole world of the theater—it wasn’t for me. There’s so much waiting around. And you depend on other people to pick you, to react off of, to schmooze.”

Another course comes. Exotic nuts and olives and little dishes of paté.

“Acting would be very collaborative,” he says. “And you like to hustle. You were probably the kid in school who did all of her assignments ahead of time.”

“It’s true. And I don’t like to wait around for people. My friends are actors, so I’ll do it as a fun friend activity now and then, but it’s not for me.” I sip my drink, pausing to fully appreciate it. “I knew how to make my own clothes, and I parlayed that into Varsha’s job, and from there the owners let me start assisting. Though I greased that along by learning everything I could off of YouTube. They were having problems with an update in their CAD program, and I spent an entire night learning the new program and studying discussion threads so that I could swoop in and save the day. Sometimes I’d try to anticipate problems.”

“That is so you.”

“What?” I protest.

“You took home homework on a job.”

I shrug happily. “It worked, didn’t it? My evil plan worked. That first year in the city was so rough, though. I made new friends over the years, like in the building where I live? Best friend group ever. But I still do a lot of holidays with the SportyGoCo gang. Especially Thanksgiving, because who wants to leave Manhattan in the fall? It’s like my friends are on Forty-Fifth Street, but SportyGoCo is my family.”

He looks up, and right there, I can see he wants to ask about my actual family but stops himself, as if he senses I don’t want to discuss them. Jack’s more intuitive than he likes to let on. I get the feeling that there are worlds inside of him.

“What about a perfect day that doesn’t involve work?” he asks. “What about a perfect day that’s doing useless things that are just pleasure?”

I gaze into my drink. “Hmmm.”

“Besides being the victim of sexy blackmail.”

“So that’s off the table, too?” I complain. I say this like I’m unhappy about it, but I secretly love our sexy blackmail game, and I want to tell him so. I want to find the words. It’s not the kind of thing I typically say.

“Something I don’t know about,” he adds.

I stir my drink. “It’s a pleasure to watch you struggle to contain your annoyance when we sing the Keith song,” I say.

“Do you never do anything useless? A movie marathon? A stupid game that you play on your phone all day?”

I roll my eyes. “Video games. Not likely.”

“You hate video games?”

“With a passion. Wait—do you love them?”

“I’ve played them but…” He shrugs.

I’m hugely relieved. Why should I care if he likes video games? But I do.

“Why do you hate them?” he asks.

I groan. “What’s not to hate?”

He looks at me with mischievous affection and something warm flows through my chest.

“Are you getting me drunk and interrogating me?” I ask.

He waits.

I gaze back down at my drink. I’ve never stopped feeling stupid about not standing up for myself. “Just family bullshit.”

“I know about that,” he says.

I don’t know what it is—maybe because we have this wrong yet totally fun game where he’s my sexy blackmailer, maybe because we’re playing hooky and having cocktails in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s that he’s a self-confessed terrible person, or that we have this secret world, or just that I feel happy with him—him and his stupid hair and outlandish mole and bright shirts and fun corruptive influence. Whatever it is, I find myself telling him the whole story. How I’d spent the entirety of my teens caring for my mom when she had cancer. How hard it was. How alone I felt. How I stopped being in sleepovers, dances, gymnastics, school plays. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” I say.

“It was just you two?”

“There was my dad and two brothers, but they coped through World of Warcraft.” I try to keep the bitterness out of my voice, but I’m sure Jack hears it. “They couldn’t deal. And the more I stepped up, the more helpless they seemed to become. A vicious cycle.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, it was a precious time with my mom that I would never trade for anything. Except having her back, of course. Because we said so many real things to each other, and she told me everything she could about being an adult and a woman. She’s the one who taught me how to sew. We’d sit for hours in that medicine-smelling room, and I’d make sparkly bright things, dreaming of a different life. I’d make garments for her, too—bright things designed to be comfy to wear in bed. Easy to get on and off.”

“It sounds like a gift. That time.”

“It was a gift,” I say. “Did you not have that…before you lost your parents?”

“No,” he says simply.

“Sorry.”

He shrugs. “And your dad and brothers…”

“They went deeper into those video games. I hated them for leaving me alone. I mean, my dad worked at the car parts factory, and he’d come home and they’d play those games together, him and my brothers—both younger and older.”

“No wonder,” he says, meaning my thing about video games.

“Right? And our family sunk into debt because of her illness. Dad was having a hard time paying it off after she died, so I went to work as soon as I could at McDonald’s. I kept on working, year after year. My brothers never took jobs, and they could’ve—they were perfectly capable. I told myself I got that time with her, and they didn’t, and that I was the strong one. I liked being the strong one. I was holding down all the jobs and making sure this family survived. Like an idiot.”

“It doesn’t seem idiotic to me,” he says.

I sip my drink, feeling so stupidly grateful for the beauty of it. The perfect flavor. Like a taste of being Cinderella.

I’m also grateful for Jack’s solid, steady presence, and how keenly he listens. I have this sense, sitting here, that he’s feeding me—not on the food level, but on the human nourishment level. How did I get here? To this place of caring and sharing with Jack of all people? Because I really like it.

“Maybe it wasn’t idiotic at first,” I continue, “but it was idiotic that I stayed in that role. Then there was this one day where I came home exhausted. I’d graduated high school two years earlier; I should’ve been out of that town by then, trying for my acting career. Anyway, I walk in, and my brothers and dad are laughing and playing that game and the place is piled high with fast-food containers, and it was as if this lightning bolt struck me. The three of them were playing the entire Saturday while I was working. They didn’t even make their own food! I went right into my room and got a plane ticket. I’d had the money saved up. Why did I stay so long? And guess who got jobs the moment I blew town?”

“Your brothers?”

I shake my head. “I was a fool to stay.”

“Jada—”

“Don’t tell me I wasn’t a fool.”

His brows are still all dark and slashy and villainy, but there’s this soulfulness in his eyes that hits me deep. “Can I think that you weren’t a fool?”

“Don’t try to take it away. It’s how I feel. I don’t know why I’m telling you this whole sordid thing.”

“People tell me secrets all the time. They know I won’t judge.”

“Being that you’re such a wicked person,” I say.

“Yes.”

I snort. “Except doesn’t telling everybody you’re a wicked person nullify some of the wickedness? Wouldn’t a truly bad person try to come off as good?”

“Too much work,” he says. “Being a self-centered Lothario who blackmails women for sexual favors is already hard enough.”

“I have to say, Jack, I find that aspect of you…” I pause, soaking in his delicious attention. “I find that aspect of you quite enjoyable, to be honest.”

He does his lopsided smile, one dimple firing. “Do you?”

“Very much.”

His eyes sparkle. “It is an enjoyable aspect of me, isn’t it?”

“Hah.” I kick him under the table. “It’s probably same old, same old for you, huh?”

“You think I go around blackmailing women for kisses?”

“You don’t?”

“Only you.”

The rush of pleasure that comes over me is intense. “Wellllll,” is all I manage.

“The way you refuse to throw yourself at me. What choice do I have?”

I bite back a smile. In spite of all of his get-back, spiny-fish offensiveness, I really can imagine women throwing themselves at him. He may not know what to wear, and he may have the dorkiest hairstyle this side of Olive Garden and an almost fake-looking mole, but he’s the most alluring person I’ve ever met. “I feel special that I’m the only one that you would…blackmail for sexual favors?” I say it like it’s a joke, but I do feel special now. “I’m gonna go on record here and say that it’s…fun. Unusually hot, in fact.” Our gazes lock. “It’s fun and hot.”

I don’t have to say anything more. I basically just wrote out a name tag that says, Hi, I’m Jada and I’d like you to sexually blackmail me a bit more!

He loops his foot around my ankle and pulls up my leg, setting my foot on his knee under the table. He slides my shoe off. It’s so brazen it steals my breath away.

I wiggle my foot in his hand. “You so like to push it.”

“Don’t change the subject. You still haven’t told me your favorite thing to do. Video games are out, I’m guessing.” He cradles my foot with surprising gentleness. “Let’s have it. One non-goal-oriented thing that you love to do.”

This conversation makes me nervous; do I know who I am when I’m not pulling for somebody else? Also, we’re outside of work now and Jack Smith has his very capable hand on my foot, and the touch of his clever fingers has the butterflies in my belly doing the Lindy Hop.

Suddenly I hit on it. The most useless thing I do all the time. “I like watching pigeons.”

“Pigeons?”

“I know. I can’t help it. I like sitting and staring at them. Out my window. At bus stops. The people who grew up here, they think pigeons are the bird version of rats or something, but I think they’re beautiful. I love their cooing song—it’s so pretty. They have lots of different kinds of cooing, but my favorite is that soft coo they make when they’re just hanging out. How could people hate that sound?”

He studies my eyes. “I don’t know. Why do you think?”

“Because it’s too common, maybe. It’s the prettiest sound, but if you have to listen to it all the time, I guess you come to hate it? Do they even hear it? I know that crows are supposedly more badass, but pigeons…”

Our entrees come—all three of them with extra plates. I eat five times my body weight in the most extravagant and delectable gourmet dishes ever. He keeps my foot the whole time, his hand resting on my ankle, fingers grazing my stocking foot as we talk about the people at work. He asks questions about the different departments. He really is interested in the place for somebody who recently suggested we all quit.

We linger over dessert and coffee. Before I know it, it’s two hours later and the restaurant is setting up for dinner. I grab my phone. “It’s five. We have to get back to the office. I have to meet my friend Willow for yoga at six.”

He slides a finger down the tender part of my foot. Shivers flow all over me. “Does that mean that I have to give this back?”

“Feet are a requirement for yoga.” I look around nervously, feeling guilty about the bill that’s coming. “Are you sure I can’t at least pay the tip? I feel weird.”

He gives me a hard look.

I raise my hands in defeat. I’m not going to diminish this gesture of his by refusing it anymore. “Thank you very much. It was delicious.”

He excuses himself and ambles confidently up to the maître d’, presumably to pay. This meal was such a bold, impulsive, too-huge gesture. I am loving how reckless he is. I’m wishing our afternoon didn’t have to end. I want his hand on my foot, on my leg. I want for him to blackmail me for a kiss again.

“I’ll drop you off,” he says when he gets back. “You don’t need to go back to the office, right?”

“Yeah, except my office sweater but…right? I suppose I don’t have to go back in.”

“I don’t either. I’ll just leave the truck on the side of the road.”


After some more of the competence porn that is his driving, he stops in front of my building. Our time together felt like the best date ever, and when he turns to me, I know he feels the same.

And I want to kiss him.

But I think of something better. I press a finger to his chest. He looks down at it, then up at me, all stern and sparkly.

“You can’t double-park like this, mister. What do I have to do to convince you to not park like an asshole?”

A lazy smile spreads over his face. “Can’t I?”

“No!” I bite out, heart pounding.

With rough, sure movements, he slams the vehicle into park. “You’re telling me you want me to move this thing?”

“That’s right.”

He draws one wicked finger up my neck and tips up my chin. My breath hitches. Cars streams past us. “It’ll cost you,” he says.

My heart races. “You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I? Come here,” he says.

I lean over, ready for my kiss there in the wide, flat front seat of the SportyGoCo delivery van. He’s having none of it. He curls a hand around my waist and takes a fistful of my puffer coat and jerks me right up next to him.

I gasp.

He slaps my far leg. “Spread.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s gonna cost you more this time.”

My lips part. “What?”

“Do you want me not to park like an asshole?”

“Uh, yeah!” I breathe.

He reaches down and settles a hand on my right thigh—the one that’s farthest from him—and shoves it away—far enough that the bottom snap of my jacket pops open, far enough that the fabric of my breezy pleat skirt stretches tight, far enough that you could consider my legs to be officially and obscenely spread. “You’re not running this thing; I am.”

“Bossy much?” I gust out, a rhetorical question if ever there was one.

“You think this is a cute little game?” he growls. “Scoot that ass forward.”

I swallow and scoot up. He smooths his hands over the fabric of my skirt like he’s getting the lay of the land of my lower half. The topography, up one thigh to my sex, which he cups briefly, and then down the other thigh to my far knee, which he pushes out more. “Are you wet for me, yet?” he asks. “Thinking what I’m gonna do to you?”

am very wet for him, but that’s not the game, and I want the game. “What do you care?” I whisper all sassy. “You’ll take your pleasure either way.”

“Oh, I will.” He slides his hand under the inside of my skirt now, up my bare thigh. Confident fingers play over the wet crotch of my panties. “What color are they?”

“You’ll never know,” I say.

He grabs my sex and squeezes, putting wicked pressure on my swollen bud. “Wrong answer. Now you’ll show me. Pull up your skirt and show me.”

“What if somebody walks out into the street and sees?”

“You are so hot when you act like a good girl.” He lets me go. “Show me.”

I lift my pelvis and pull up my skirt to show him.

“Blue.” He grabs the fabric and yanks with brutish force, ripping the crotch right out of my panties.

“Oh my god, what did you do?”

He tosses the shred of cotton aside and his fingers are back between my legs, exploring roughly—from my clit to my hole, down and up, down and up. “I think you like being out here with the traffic rumbling by, being used.”

I’m panting as he finds my nub with his finger, ruthlessly honing in on what I need.

“Hmmm.” My senses begin to whirl. My eyes drift closed. My head plops back on the headrest.

“No, no, no. You want to get arrested? Look at me. Look at me like we’re talking.”

I sit up and look right at him.

There’s something shockingly intimate about looking into his eyes while he shamelessly fingers me. I don’t know how long I can keep it up.

“That’s it.”

“You are the worst,” I whisper into his lips. His gaze is fully feral, brown eyes flecked with black under villain brows.

“I know. Now grab onto my coat.”

I grab on and he inserts one finger into me, right inside. It goes in slow and thick.

Heat spears through me. It’s not a cute little game, anymore; it’s a wild game that’s gone slightly out of control. He’s owning me in the middle of traffic.

My breath shudders out of me. “What if a cop comes?”

“They’ll see you whoring yourself out. They’ll see your pussy being owned by a lazy, filthy-minded roustabout.”

He pushes his finger in deeper, and presses his thumb to my clit, and whatever he’s doing, I’m gone, coming in a million shattered pieces.

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