Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 38


Jada

Jack pulls me close in the back of his limo. Lights flash by as we glide up Amsterdam near the park. It’s a windy Friday night; fallen leaves and bits of trash swirl in eddies in building entryways and street corners, mirroring the motion of the butterflies in my belly.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“You’ll see,” he says into my hair. His mole and dorky glasses are gone, and he’s wearing the hat we made, which covers the bleached tips of his hair, rendering him 99% pure hotness.

It’s funny that he thought he needed such an extreme disguise. Antonio says he can’t walk around in any large European city without people recognizing him, but I really don’t think he needs it in America.

He told me not to worry about what I’m wearing, which suggests I won’t be wearing it for long. Will we be going to a romantic hotel? Maybe a sexy club where there will be full-blown costumes for us to wear?

I didn’t see Jack much after he delivered the bags to the airport. Shipping had him for the rest of the day, so I catch him up on our progress, letting him know that we cranked out two additional Wonderbag prototypes while pretending to work on yoga pants. We’re still a long way from rescuing the company—a few social media influencer pictures won’t sell bags—but it can get our foot in the door to buyers, and that’s all we need. The orders.

We turn down a gloomy, tree-lined street and stop at some sort of park. There are empty basketball courts and a dimly lit area behind it that seems to have a kiosk and some trees. Not exactly the type of place where you’d expect a hotel or sex club.

“Soooo…” I say when we get out.

He hands me a large duffel bag sack that seems to be full of fabric and he grabs a picnic basket. Stanley speeds away.

I hoist the thing over my shoulder. “What’s the plan?”

“You’ll see.” Jack leads me down a path behind a basketball court into a pocket park featuring a trio of horseback-riding statues. The main statue rises up from a massive stone slab the size of a small car. A pair of smaller horseback riders trail behind the main rider on either side like a jet-fighter formation of old statues. A few leaf-covered benches are arranged in front of the statues. The noise of jets and cars and horns is subdued here; I’m sure it’s pretty in the summer.

“What is this place?”

“Gunther Creek pocket park,” he says. “Come on.”

He leads me around to the back, to a nook created by the three statues. He swipes his foot, clearing the leaves from the stone surface. He takes the bag from me and unfurls a few picnic blankets, putting one on top of the other, and then he sets out the basket.

“Are we having a fall picnic?” I ask.

“You’ll see.” He holds out his hand. “I’ll show you where to sit.”

“Okay.” I let him guide me to a spot at the center and I sit down, cross-legged. As soon as I’m settled, I hear it—this gurgling river sound, almost like bells, along with pigeon cooing sounds.

“Whoa!” I whisper. “What is that?”

He grins. “You hear it?”

“Where’s it coming from?”

He sits behind me and pulls off my hat and wraps his arms around me. “Turn your head to the right—really slow.”

“This is getting kinkier by the second,” I say. I turn my head slowly and that’s when the volume cranks—like a symphony of gurgles and birds. “Whoa!” I turn my head back forward and it softens. “Where’s it coming from?”

“The pigeons roost in that huge fir tree, and the creek has a bend up there—I don’t know what it is about the shape, but it makes this bright sound. And the sounds echo off the statue base. Do you like it?”

“I love it. It’s so pretty. And so weird. Like a strange duet. More than that. A symphony. Birds with a babbling brook.”

“Pigeon cooing is your favorite sound, right?” he says.

“I love that you remembered.” I turn in his arms. “How do you know about this place?”

“There’s a school for boys a few blocks up that I went to for a while. I’d skip out and come here.” He opens the picnic basket and hands me a thermos. “Hot cider,” he says. “This insulated bag is full of pizza rolls stuffed with parmesan, sweet potato, and pesto.”

“Excuse me? What is this pizza roll madness?”

He hands one to me. “Chef Ursula makes them.”

“More wonders from the kitchen of the man who brought a vending machine sandwich to work.” I bite into the crunchy, flakey shell and nearly keel over from the flavor explosion. “Dead,” I whisper.

He grabs one and stretches out on his back.

“This is our mysterious and torrid date?” I say. “I have to listen to the prettiest secret sound ever while eating gourmet pizza rolls?”

“Don’t tell anyone. You’ll ruin my reputation.”

I grab another and stretch out next to him. I make him tell me more about this place when he was a boy. What his life was like. He’d forgotten about it until I mentioned the pigeons.

I snuggle close. “I thought it was going to be something wild.”

“I know,” he says.

“It feels weird to do nothing but lie on the ground and listen to a sound together. Like I’m nowhere. Out of time. Is this what it feels like to be a tree?”

“You don’t do much relaxing, do you?” he teases.

“No,” I say.

“You want some more cider?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to sit up,” I say.

He tells me to open my mouth and he carefully dribbles some in. Some gets on my cheek. I’m laughing and almost choking. He blots it with a napkin and settles back down next to me.

It’s sexy being under the blanket with him in this secret place, listening to the magical sounds.

After a while, I feel like I’m unwinding. Like something is unwinding in my head. I try to describe it to him, and he’s just laughing. “Of all the ways I imagined corrupting you, relaxation was not even on the list.”

I get on top of him and make him tell me what was on the list.

“Sex-addled debauchery,” he whispers.

“Shut it.” I press my finger to his sexy lips.

He takes hold of it and kisses my fingertip. “Do you want any grapes or cookies? I have those, too. All of them are foods that you can eat on your back.”

“Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Well, you know me,” he says. “A loserish and thoroughly decadent Lothario.”

“Why do you do that?” I ask.

“What?”

“Why do you make yourself sound worse than you are? You’re the world’s worst publicity agent for yourself. If you were my publicity agent, I’d fire you.”

He turns me so I’m on my back again. He’s leaning over me, feeding me grapes, and the sound is all around me, but all I can see is him. All I can feel is him. I can tell from his expression that he’s thinking about my question. I want him to answer it for real. I want to know.

“Seriously, Jack, why not say, ‘I’ve brought you to this amazing place and I thought of everything myself, because I rock.’”

“That’s what I’d say if I were my best PR agent?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

He looks at me for a long time, during which he feeds me another grape, sitting up there, careful not to put too much weight on me.

I love the feel of him. I love this magical place with its strange, secret music featuring pigeon sounds. He slides a cool finger down my hot cheek. I think he won’t answer my question, and then he says, “I don’t know how it goes where I’m not the bad guy.”

“Well, you brought me to this place because you thought I’d like it,” I say.

He leans down and rumbles into my ear, “Maybe I wanted to feast on your pleasure like a demon.”

“Fuck off.” I’m trying not to smile, but he really is sexy when he’s being like that. I won’t encourage it, though—not right now. “Try again.”

“I wanted to corrupt the shit out of you. You never relax and do stupid things, so I’m making you do a stupid thing so that I can watch you sink into a life of debauchery.”

“Nope.”

He twists a strand of my hair. He’s quiet for a long time. “I want to give you things and make you happy because you’re like nobody I’ve ever met.”

My breath catches in my throat. “Okay.”

“And you’re beautiful and funny and a fucking warrior, and I can’t look at you without thinking about touching you.”

“Was that so hard?” I’m keeping it light. “That’s how I feel, too. Looking at you.”

He says, “And I want you in my bed tonight, but not as part of a transaction where you owe me things as part of some game. I want you to want to be there, as yourself. Because the more I get to know you, the more I care about you. And that’s just a little bit terrifying, but I don’t want it to stop. So I brought you to this amazing place and thought of everything…because I rock.”

I snort. “You so rock.” I look up at him in the moonlight. He thinks he’s this closed-off villain, but he’s honest and vulnerable and raw in his own weird way.

“And if anybody ever threatens you or makes you unhappy,” he adds, “I’ll punch their face off.”

“I’ll come over,” I say.

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