Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 36

Jaxon

“My side dimple?”

She’s looking up at the famous photo, so beloved by my parents and aficionados of Danbery’s late-period photography. When I arrived here, I requested that it be taken down. It’s only still up because apparently there’s an art installer who needs to get involved when art is rotated. That would be a rich-guy thing to say, too.

“Usually when you smile, you get this cute side dimple.” She points at the photo. “You don’t have it there.”

A dimple? I’d never noticed that before, but it’s not as if I smile at myself in the mirror.

“Zero dimples. That’s how I can tell it’s your fake smile. One of the ways.”

Of all the people who looked at the photo, nobody ever noticed my smile was fake. Forced. People bought it, hook, line, and sinker; except for the people who were there that day, of course. Like Jenny.

I study Jada’s pert nose in profile as she studies the photo. She sees beyond the obvious with an alarming level of clarity. She cares deeply about things, and she wants other people to care, too. What she brings is rich. What does a man do to deserve a woman like this?

“So fake.” She turns to me. She senses more to the story. I want to give her more, but I don’t know how. I’m not a man who tells sad-little-rich-boy stories.

“You’re absolutely right,” I say. “About the fakeness.”

She rambles around the room in her Jada way, stroking the different fabrics, letting her fingers glide lightly over random shiny objects, looking impossibly gorgeous, even with her disheveled bun that still has a pencil in it.

“What’s your favorite thing in this place?” she asks. “And don’t say they’re not your things. Because I know they are.”

I groan.

She turns to me, her hands on her hips, all grit and spirit in a tiny package. “The alarms are going off. You have one minute to get out. What thing do you save? And you can’t say any electronics or a person or somebody else’s stuff. You grew up here. Surely there is one thing here you’d want to save.”

Of course she wants something real; it’s why she’s here. I want to give that to her, but what would I save?

I’m thinking about the cards from Jenny, but I wouldn’t save those—there’s just sadness in those cards. I’d help save something of Arnold’s, I suppose, but she’d never allow that as an answer.

I look at the inlaid armoire I used to hide in as a boy. The Faberge egg I used to play with. All the paintings I’d stare at, outlines to trace, faraway worlds to imagine myself escaping to. I cared about those things once, but little by little, I learned that if you don’t give a shit about people and things, nothing can touch you. It was a kind of safety, and also a massive “fuck you.”

My gaze falls on the hat that she and Lacey and Shondrella and whoever else made for me. Aside from my phone, that’s the thing I’d save. God, how pathetic is that?

She’s waiting. Hopeful. She raises her brows.

I imagine saying it, forcing my lips to form the words—I’d save the hat that you guys made for me. It means something to me that you made it.

But I can’t say it.

She wouldn’t believe me, but that’s not why I don’t tell her. I don’t tell her because telling her feels like telling her too much. It feels like giving her a thread that unravels the whole sweater.

I’m not ready to be unraveled. I’m not so sure there’s anything underneath.

I go to her. “They’re just things to me.” I hear myself say it with a queasy feeling. She knows I’m bullshitting her—I see it in her eyes.

Even worse, I see when she decides to give up on her pursuit of learning something real about me. She’s writing me off in her mind—there is a limit to this man. This is as far as he goes. This is as deep as he goes.

It feels like acid in my stomach.

“I’ll be selling most of the stuff through auction houses,” I add.

She goes to the couch and lowers herself down. She’s back to admiring the fabric. “This is old and beautiful. You can feel the quality.” She runs her hand over it, then leans down and rubs her cheek against it.

“Again with the cheek,” I tease.

“That’s where the most nerves are,” she says. “Well, aside from the hands, but hands can be calloused, whereas cheeks…”

“I thought the most nerves were somewhere else.”

She gives me a witchy smile and presses her cheek to another part of the couch. “Nope.” She closes her eyes and her face softens with pleasure, just like it did when we were double-parked, when I got her off.

That fucking look—I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since. And here it is again. This strange rush of pleasure fills me. It’s such an alien sensation, taking pleasure in somebody else’s pleasure, but the way I feel now, I could make a life’s goal out of giving her things and watching her enjoy them. It’s as if her pleasure has awakened a craving.

She switches to her other cheek and my breath catches in my throat. It’s as if she’s quietly anchoring herself in this place, laying claim to it, even.

Jada would find things to save.

The urge to go to her is fierce. My cock strains. My palms itch to touch her. I want to consume her in every way—it’s an urge so primal, it’s a struggle to stay rooted where I am. Sex was always a cool calculation with me, but standing here, I’m feeling positively Neanderthal.

She picks up a quilt that’s draped over the back of it and stands up, holding it up, inspecting it. “This pattern. So pretty. Moroccan?” She rolls her eyes. “As if you would know. Why am I even asking?” This, too, she rubs on her cheek.

I can’t stand it anymore.

I go to her, wrapping the quilt around her and holding it tight.

Her eyes sparkle. We’re face to face. I take an end of the quilt and rub it along her face. This is how she takes in fabric—through the cheek.

She closes her eyes, all pleasure.

I let the quilt go and stroke her cheek with the backs of my fingers, then I stroke along her hairline.

She opens her eyes, slyly gazing up at me.

“What are you thinking right now?” My palm glides over her skin. My other hand traces the curve of her hip. I’m eating her up with my hands, down her thigh and up her sexy ass, pressing my cock into her curves through the fabric.

She whispers, “There’s no way that I could ever pay rent in this beautiful place.”

I scowl. Rent? What?

“I don’t have the money,” she says. “I have nothing to pay with.”

My heart skips a beat. The game. She loves that game. And this is what we do, now, isn’t it?

She gazes at the floor, shy and demure, then looks back up. She’s getting into her part.

I don’t want to be acting out roles. I want to be us.

“I’m not playing right now.” I pull her close, pressing kisses along the line of her jaw.

Her breath quickens. She’s still cocooned in that fabric, trapped in there, right on the sweet side of edgy.

“I just can’t get enough of you,” I whisper.

“What are you suggesting, sir?” She pulls back, regarding me with an innocent expression.

Sex has always been about release for me—the more impersonal, the better. Just two people who want to fuck. No questions, no emotions, no games—unless it’s the kind where you’re playing a role.

God, how ironic. The one woman I’m desperate to know everything about, the one woman I want to be real with, and she wants us to play sexcapade roles. It’s my own fault. I started this thing. But I don’t want Jada to be an impoverished tenant or a woman willing to trade her body to keep Forty-fifth Street clear of double-parkers.

I want to be with Jada and only Jada. I want her to do Jada things. And I want her to be with me—not a landlord or a horny blackmailer—but me, Jaxon.

I may be shit at revealing my innermost self, but I still want it to be me she’s with.

She mumbles something more about the rent.

“We’re not doing that.” I grab hold of her bun and tip her head sideways exposing her neck. I plant a kiss on her neck. “I’m not playing right now. I want us to be real.” It’s a confession, the best I can make, being that I’m not the confessing kind.

She makes a humming sound. She’s warm and soft against me. My hand trails down her belly through the quilt and pushes between her legs. I fumble for the general location of her clit through the fabric.

“Nothing I can give you?” she gasps.

My heart sinks. Serves me right. Why would she want to be real with me when I won’t even tell her what I’d save in a fire?

I imagine myself telling her. The hat, I’d say. Two words, two syllables. I could expand on it—I’d save the hat.

Four simple syllables to show how empty I am.

She’s worked her arm out of the quilt down there. She grazes my cock through the fabric of my pants, and just that much contact nearly makes me come. It’s about so much more than her touch—it’s about the way she’s going after what she wants, the way she appreciates beauty, and how she moves so fluidly from stern to playful. It’s about the way she says hmm to herself as she explores the contours of my cock, as though she’s pleased with what she’s finding.

Then she grabs it hard.

And suddenly I can’t resist any longer. My cock will happily play the game. My cock doesn’t give a shit if the game is ten ways of messed up. I push her to the wall and pull the fabric off her, unwrapping her like a candy. “The rent here is exorbitant,” I growl.

Her eyes gleam.

This is what I have now—this pleasure of hers. I’ll take it.

“How exorbitant?” she asks.

“You’ll have to give a lot.”

“I don’t have a lot,” she says, arching into me.

“You’ll give me a lot,” I say in the harsh tone she wants. “And then you’ll give more.” I slide a finger down the side of her face. “And I’ll do excruciating things.”

She squeaks, “Please. Take pity on me.”

“Pity,” I growl, “is the only thing I won’t take.”

She takes in a ragged breath.

I hoist her up, carry her across the place to my bedroom, and throw her down on the bed. I back up in the dim light, kicking the door closed behind me. “Off. All of it.”

“All of it? This is my price?” She’s on her knees, unbuttoning her blouse. She’s acting shy about it, hands clumsy.

There’s a dim part of me that still knows better—knows that this can’t be how we fuck for the first time.

But she’s peeling off her shirt and her bra. Her breasts are fucking stunning—and I’m mindless with lust. I’m across the room in a flash, clumsily tearing at the rest of her clothes.

I’m not playing, but she doesn’t need to know that. I pull up her skirt, right up to her waist, because she wants it a little bit dirty. That’s the game, and I’ll give her what she wants.

Her eyes light with shock as I push her back down on the bed. I reach down between her thighs and take the crotch of her panties in my fist, knuckles grazing her sex.

She’s breaking character, laughing. “Oh my god, not again!”

I force myself not to smile; I rip apart her panties like I did in the truck.

“Erp!” she exclaims, but then she finds my cock. “It’s so huge. Too big. Not this, sir.”

There’s a response I should probably make, but I’m lost in the scent of her skin. She’s totally naked now except the skirt. I pull my shirt off.

She reaches up and grabs the belt of my trousers and pulls me close. I push into her a little, pants pressing up against her silken folds. She seems to like it, so I go a little harder.

She threads her fingers through my hair.

I kiss her, doing her with my thigh while we make out. It’s a little bit dirty and wrong that I still have my pants on, but that’s the game. I’m the landlord with bad intentions. I move down her body, kissing my way down. I close my teeth over her nipple—just lightly. She sucks in a sharp breath. I lick her nipple and then her other nipple, and then I do the teeth thing.

I can’t believe how soft she is.

She groans with pleasure, fumbling faster with my belt. I love her sounds.

I rise up on my knees and shove her legs apart. “Do your nipples,” I say.

“What?” she gasps.

I grab her hands and put them on her nipples. “Squeeze them. Do them nice and hard.”

She complies. I take a good look at the hotness that is her pleasuring herself, my cock straining against the confining layer of my pants, and then I give her pussy a long, ruthless lick.

She cries out.

I grip her thighs with iron force and lick her mind-blowingly delicious core, growling into her sex like a maniac, which she probably thinks I’m doing for effect when it’s actually pure primal hunger. I’ve never been hungry for a woman like this, never had this urge to claim a woman like this.

Eventually she’s writhing under my grip. She’s so sexy, I can’t stand it. I begin to finger her while I lick her.

“Yes,” she breathes.

“You’re going to come for me,” I growl, “and then you’re gonna come again when I fuck you, and after that I’m gonna fuck another orgasm right out of you. I’ll take as many as I please, do you understand?”

“That many, huhhh…”

“That many and more.”

Her protests turn nonsensical as I zero in on her quivering center. She cries out, coming exuberantly. I consume her to the last drop, and then I kiss her mound, which is covered with perfectly trimmed wisps of damp blonde hair. I undo her skirt and get it off of her.

Her perfectly rounded belly shudders as she pants. I kiss it and slide my hand over it; I’m iron-hard, knowing that I made her come so hard, she can barely catch her breath.

“I love this right here,” I say, sliding my palm over her belly.

She grabs my hand. “Come here.”

I crawl over her, and she goes back for my belt. I let her undo it. I stand by the bed and pull my trousers all the way off, enjoying her pleased sound when my cock springs free.

She kisses the side of it. A small, gentle kiss. It nearly kills me, just that kiss.

I grab a condom from the drawer. “See this?” I say, holding the little square packet aloft as I loom over her.

“Yes,” she says breathlessly. She wants me to say more dirty shit, and I will, because we’re this far now, and I want to make it good for her.

“This is the condom I’m going to use to fuck your rent right out of you.”

“Is that so,” she says, a little bit sassy.

I sit next to her. “Grab onto the headboard.”

She grabs onto the wooden slats above her. I set the foil corner on to her tender belly and draw it lightly along her skin. Her whole body shivers at the slight bite of it.

“Close your eyes,” I say. “What am I writing?”

I make a J, then an A, and of course she gets it right away.

“Jack.”

“That’s right, because I own you right now.” I finish my name, then I loom over her and let her watch me put the condom on. I’m hard as iron, and she’s definitely ready to go again. I crawl over her. “You’re going to take me all the way in,” I say in a low, rumbly voice. “You are going to let me fuck you nice and hard. This is how you are going to earn your keep.” I give the side of her breast a light slap. Her eyes widen, and it makes me think that no one has ever done that before. “You understand?”

“Yes,” she pants.

I position myself at her entrance and then I take her wrists and pin them over her head, watching her face as I enter her. She closes her eyes, but I’m watching her. She may be fucking a filthy landlord, but I’m fucking Jada Herberger. I’m right here with her.

We get up a rhythm like we’ve been fucking for years—it’s that natural between us.

Eventually I let her arms go. She’s exploring my body, seeming to marvel at my muscles, which stokes me ridiculously high.

I change my angle, speeding up.

She comes with a cry just as I come with a white-hot blast of lightning that melts my brain.


Jada turns over, lids heavy. Sated. “That was…oh my god.”

I slide a finger along her cheek. Her skin glows in the moonlight. She smiles, happy. I smile back. It’s my fake smile, but she won’t notice up close like this. She won’t notice I’m broken open.

Is this what it feels like to be with somebody you actually care about? It’s messing me up. She’s the only thing in the world that I want now. I should probably send her home.

“It’s like we have a secret together,” she says. “This whole secret world that nobody would ever guess.”

She means the game.

“Stay for dinner,” I say.

“Is that what that noise is downstairs?”

“Arnold and the chef. Will you stay?” I grab my phone and check the menu. “Grilled salmon and veggies and couscous with a ton of sides.” I show her.

“Jesus,” she says. “And there would be enough?”

“Please,” I say.

“Wow, okay,” she says.

I text down to add a guest and then I text Soto for an update and toss the phone aside. “Come here,” I say, leading her into the bathroom.

“What the hell!”

I start up the jets and let the tub fill while she explores the place. She runs her hand over the mosaic countertop. Everything here is inlaid with tiny tiles—arranged to replicate the Turkish bath experience or something like that. She pokes her head into the nook full of plants under a massive skylight. She peeks into both the steam room and the sauna.

“You want a glass of wine before dinner?” I ask.

“You don’t need to trouble anybody.”

“It’s right here. White, red, or bubbly?”

“What, you have a wine cellar in your bathroom?”

“I wouldn’t call it a cellar,” I say, opening the door to the temperature-controlled cabinet.

“Oh my god, seriously?”

I pour us each a nice Bordeaux and we get into the tub.

Jada slides her foot along my leg, grinning. “This bathroom isn’t over the top,” she teases. “No, no, not at all.” She gives me shit for a while. People never give me shit, but I don’t mind it with her. We’re in each other’s corner.

“The wealthy will pay anything for luxury shit they don’t need,” I say.

“I guess!” She lies back and closes her eyes, and I watch her perfect breasts. In size, they’re more soup bowl than coffee mug, and her wide, pink nipples are very Jada in attitude—energetic and cocky and punching above their weight. But they’re relaxing now in the water, just like she is.

She swishes her feet and makes a contented noise—not her sexy “hmm” this time; this noise is more of a happy “nngh.”

Her contentment does something to my chest. I don’t want to stop giving her things. I want to keep her here and spoil her and watch her pleasure and never let it end.

“You meant it when you said your hobby was driving,” she says. “Do you want to go back? Will they let you?”

“I’m too old,” I say. “I can still work out on tracks and race in lesser organizations, though.”

“You’re like thirty-six, right?”

“Yup. Too old to jump back into the big leagues. Not that they’d let me.”

“Did you like it?”

“So much.” Before I know it, I’ve got my iPad. I play a clip of Baku from ten years ago, and then Azerbaijan, and then the fight. People thought the punch was me being the worst guy ever, and I was happy to let them think it; sometimes I’d even laugh about it. I got a lot of mileage out of doing impersonations of people’s self-righteous commentary on yachts that winter.

But now I wish I hadn’t let people think the worst. Because I don’t want her to think it. And suddenly I’m telling her the real story. The behind-the-scenes story that only my pit crew guys know, how the golden boy I’d punched had sabotaged my pit operation, endangering my guys. The proof we found had conveniently disappeared, and people were quick to assume I was lying.

She believes me, and it means a lot.

Suddenly I care what she thinks. I care about the SportyGoCo crew. I even care about knit hats and a dead cactus.

She’s staring at the bathroom wine cabinet. “Rich people will pay anything for luxury shit they don’t need,” she mumbles.

“It’s so true.”

“I just got an idea,” she says, “and it’s pretty wild.”

“What is it?” I ask.

“So, there are certain cost parameters we need to stay within in order to make our products viable for the big box stores and discounters that we work with. If it’s too expensive for our customers, it doesn’t matter if it’s the coolest thing ever.”

“Wait, are you talking work right now?” I say. “We are enjoying a post-fuck soak with fine wine and you’re talking about work?”

“Yeah! Keep up!” She grins. “Okay, so it doesn’t matter how cool Unicorn Wonderbag is, because Bert is making us use a luxury zipper, right?”

I nod, loving how her eyes light up when she gets a new idea for Unicorn Wonderbag.

“Our customers can’t afford it. We need a shit ton of signed purchase orders in the next two weeks to break the contract with Bert’s overlords, and Wonderbag was our last hope.”

“Correct,” I say.

“We can’t get those orders from our regular customers—fashion big box and discount mall brands. They can’t do expensive. But what if we made the bag wildly expensive and went after a different customer?”

“I already looked into making the orders myself,” I say. “It has to be legit retail.”

“No, but that’s what I mean. The rich will buy luxury shit they don’t need. We could make Unicorn Wonderbag into a luxury bag and sell it high-end.”

“But don’t you need to be a luxury brand?”

“Maybe we don’t give a shit.” She floats over and puts her chin on my shoulder. “We’re blazing a new brand pathway. Also, maybe somebody we know has connections to a different class of stores. A higher end on the retail spectrum.” She’s gazing at me, so full of trust and hope, it kills me.

“You think there are luxury shops out there wanting to do things for me?”

“Maybe?”

“Disregarding the fact that I never shop, do you think anybody out there wants to do anything with me? I’m the last person somebody would want to help or partner with.”

“I bet that’s not true. It’s not true for me. It’s not true for all the people at work. And you know that world, right? Surely you have one contact.”

“I have a lot of contacts. They all hate me.”

She sighs.

I get out of the tub.

I dry off and button my shirt, staring at the wall full of squares and triangles in different shades of blue, racking my brain for another solution. Because god, that look of trust. It’s going to turn to devastation when her beloved company and beloved family gets disbanded.

I’m a billionaire and I can’t save this one company that I literally own due to this vindictive contract my parents created. One last nasty move from the grave. And this move is hurting the woman I’m falling for.

It’s enraging. Intolerable. I’d burn the world if it made a difference. But it wouldn’t.

When did her happiness and her pleasure become so critically important to me? Is this how a relationship feels? What the hell happens if the other person is hurt or in trouble, and you can’t help them? How do people do this?

I throw her a towel to dry off, trying to come up with something. And then it occurs to me. “Hey,” I say.

“Yeah?”

“I have an idea.”

Her eyes gleam with pleasure and it’s everything. “What?”

“Let’s start a new company. Just leave SportyGoCo behind and make something we like better.”

“What?”

“Remake SportyGoCo. Inside a new company.”

“You mean cut and run?”

“No! We take everything that’s good about it and move it into a new company. A better office space, better management, better neighborhood.”

“But it wouldn’t be SportyGoCo.”

“It would be similar, though,” I argue. “We’d make an offer for the current employees to come over. Create great bonus packages.”

“But a lot of us have contracts that won’t let us work for competitors,” she says.

“We’d get around the contracts.”

I outline my ideas. She protests that people won’t want to do a longer commute, that we’d have to build a new brand with new designs.

“But even more, it would be a different neighborhood, different neighbors, all of our little routines would be gone. It wouldn’t have the heart. Our traditions. The things that make it a family would be gone.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do know.” She heads back into the bedroom and starts dressing. “I know you’re trying to help—and I do appreciate it—but it wouldn’t work.”

I follow her, frustrated, pulling on my shirt. “There’d be different things to love.”

“It wouldn’t be our family.”

“Maybe it would be a better family with new people to love.” Why won’t she let me help her?

She grabs her phone. “You don’t upgrade your family like it’s a rental car.”

“If the car’s broken down at the side of the road, you do.”

“It’s not broken, though. And it’s worth fighting for. The SportyGoCo family is worth fighting for.”

“Is it, though?”

She stiffens. “I can’t believe you just said that! Do you not think it’s worth fighting for?”

“I think it’s not worth the extreme amount of pain you could be in for when you could simply build something else.”

“Simply build something else,” she echoes.

“Yes!”

“Jettison my family.” She pulls on her socks with angry force.

“They’re not your family, though—they’re paid to be there.”

“Seriously? Did you actually just say that?”

This cold feeling goes over me. I shouldn’t have said that. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s factually true.

“Be honest,” I say. “Would you know any of them if they weren’t paid to be there? There’s a difference between people who are paid to be around you and those who are around you because they want to be.”

Her gaze blazes hot. I realize only too late that I’ve gone full idiot.

Her voice sounds gravelly for once. “Maybe my people didn’t start out as my family, but they’re family now. And maybe you don’t think they’re worth fighting for, but I know they are.”

“You need to see that it could be a lost cause.” At this point, I’m basically just trying to get her to understand why I said the other stupid things I said, but I’m just adding to the stupid.

“I don’t need to see anything.” She fastens her skirt. “You go ahead and think it’s a lost cause. I never will.”

“Some causes are lost.”

“And some causes are worth fighting for. All the way to the end. That’s what you need to see.”

“But some aren’t,” I say.

“Oh my god. I can’t do this if that’s your attitude.” She heads out the door, down through the day room.

“Jada—”

She stops. Spins. “I don’t care if a man is rich or poor, or if he has a mole or weird glasses or is the hottest thing ever. I care if a man believes in things and if he’s willing to fight for them. I care if a man gives a shit enough to save a few items from a fire instead of letting it all burn.”

With that, she’s heading down the stairs, one flight then another.

I follow her.

Arnold is standing at the first-floor landing, looking bewildered.

“Excuse me, Arnold,” she says, heading into the entryway. She’s putting on her coat, her boots.

“Jada, let’s figure this out. Let me help.”

“I don’t like your help. I hate your help.” She puts up her hands. “Let me be. I just want to leave.”

With that, she’s out the door.

“Sir?” Arnold looks at me quizzically.

“Put her in the car,” I say to him. “Make sure Stanley sees her safely home.”

I watch Arnold go out after her. She’ll let Arnold help her. She doesn’t like my help.

I flatten my hand against the cold windowpane.

I need to get out of here. Maybe I could go back to motorsport. Not F-1, but the British Racing & Sports Car Club has something coming up. There are interesting races on the horizon in Australia.

The car comes around. Arnold points to it. He opens the door for her, and she gets in. There’s a biting wind out there, and the car will feel warm and nice. She’ll go back to SportyGoCo tomorrow. Back to that family of hers. They’ll all go down with the ship together, refusing lifeboats like fools.

I watch the taillights disappear.

Arnold comes back, looking doleful. “I’m sorry, sir,” he says.

“Nothing to be done,” I say.

“Whatever it is, you can’t talk to her? Apologize? You like her. I saw it in the park that day. She likes you.”

“Liked.”

“Oh, come now. You have immense persuasive powers. Talk to her.”

“I don’t have persuasive powers. I have people who are scared of me. There’s a difference. I have people who are wary of what I might do. People who are inspired to do things out of how much they despise me.”

“Not everybody despises you. Not the people who know you,” he says.

Past me would’ve made a quip like, Sounds like I need to work harder at my asshole skills or some shit.

Current me regards Arnold warmly. This man with his keen eyes and thick shock of white hair who’s always been a steady, fair presence.

“Thank you for saying that,” I say.

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