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Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 4


The PR people are overjoyed with the speech; everybody is—even Arnold and Charley.

Barclay looks on approvingly, thinking, perhaps, that the bad seed son has decided to change his ways and pretend to be good.

Because you never want to show you care, I stare down at my phone, scrolling a lot of nothing, but really, I’d like to put an ice pick through my ears. One for each ear, preferably continuing on into whatever part of my brain remembers things. Or maybe a good old-fashioned frontal lobotomy would do the trick.

It’s that Türenbourg lawn photograph all over again.

One moment of weakness. I shouldn’t have agreed to it—not any of it. Letting myself get boxed in like this.

It’s then that the feed fires back up with a series of clicks and an overseas-sounding ring. Voices blare out over the speaker.

Specifically, a woman’s voice.

“Please square your shoulders and wash away adversity as I wash my teeth with my silver toothbrush!”

Barclay’s looking around the room, confused.

The voice goes on about Grey Poupon. Is somebody making a comedy routine out of the speech?

The voice has an accent now, going on and on.

“Quick, bring the servants, I shall need some smelling salts. Where is my cravat? Where is my Foppish Ascot? If I cannot drive my Foppish Ascot 3000 in the NASCAR race, I will truly despair!”

“What the hell?” I say.

“I don’t know what’s happening.” Barclay’s stabbing buttons on the phone as the voice goes on. It’s almost an out-of-body experience. “Seems to be a phone number in the US.”

Arnold simply unplugs the whole system.

Dead quiet.

People stare at me, waiting to see what I’ll do. People are always staring at me, wondering what terrible thing I’ll do.

Finally. I’m feeling like myself again.

Arnold tries a tentative smile. “A bit of joviality,” he tries.

Barclay waves away the mocking voices. “The call was a great success. I’m already getting messages and texts congratulating and thanking you.”

I’m shown said texts and messages, and it appears that the whole world loved the speech.

Except for the Grey Poupon woman.

Charley stands. “I, for one, am ready for a cocktail.”

“Me too,” I say.

“As for whoever that was, naturally, that person will be ferreted out and fired,” Barclay says.

“No need. I’ll handle it,” I say.

Everybody stares at me, dumbfounded.

“What?” Charley says.

“Find out who it is. I’ll take it from there,” I say.

“What do you mean?” Barclay asks.

“I mean, identify the person and tell me who it is,” I say. “And I’ll take the punishment from there.”

Charley looks baffled. “What are you going to do?”

“Whatever I damn well please,” I say casually.

“No doubt that it was clear insubordination,” Barclay says nervously. “Misguided if not deeply insulting, no doubt about that. But to go to such lengths to personally fire her—”

“I didn’t say I’d fire her,” I say.

Barclay looks relieved.

“I said I’d punish her. I may have her drawn and quartered. Maybe strung up by her thumbs. And there’s always a piranha pool. There are many ways to destroy a person. Get me a name, Barclay.” I head out the door.

Charley catches up to me. “Come on,” he says.

I give him a look and keep on.

“You get the name, and then what? You’re not really going to destroy this poor woman?”

“Why not?” I say. “My schedule’s clear.”

“It’s not enough that everyone on the continent hates you? You have to go pick fights with the Americans, too? Listen to yourself, Jaxon. Going after this woman would be despicable!”

“You don’t have to sell me on it, Charley, I’ve already decided to go.”

He snorts. “You’re grieving, Jaxon. Petty distractions like this won’t make your grief hurt less.”

“Considering my grief over this is zero, can you hurt less than zero?” I ask him. “Would a negative number of hurting be the same as pleasure? Anyway, dragging my family’s name through the mud has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I can’t take an axe to Wycliff just yet, but this works.”

“Think what you’re doing. Can’t you just say, ‘Who cares about this random snarky person? I’m gonna live my own life.’”

“And the fun in that would be what, exactly?”

His mouth forms into a grim line.


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