We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 9


Renata’s showing me the ways of the office computer, specifically that thing called the company intranet, which she explains as a mini-internet just for them. Could Renata be the butt-dialer? She has a certain mischievous attitude. If it’s not her, she knows who it was.

“You didn’t have an intranet at your old job?” she asks. “Where again did you work before?”

“I was a driver in different places,” I say, wishing I’d reviewed the information Soto gave me about my supposed background.

“Like where? What was the last place?”

I shrug. “Türenbourg?”

“Is that a shipping company?”

“It’s a small principality in Central Europe,” I say.

“But you’re American…”

“Yes, I am,” I say. “I attended school here as a child, but we spent most of our time overseas, mostly Türenbourg.”

Jada’s carrying a bunch of fabric and paper toward one of the giant tables in the work area that stretches up and down the side of the space. She’s so petite, but she has this big presence that makes it hard to look away when she’s in the room.

Renata narrows her eyes at me. “Weird. We thought you had a job doing deliveries upstate.”

“I’ve driven all over,” I say as Jada sets down the fabric. She has a certain magnetism. How is it that such a killjoy is wrapped in so much hotness? It’s not right.

Renata’s asking me more questions.

“Excuse me?” I say.

“So you grew up mostly in Europe, then,” she repeats. “In a small, relatively unknown European country.”

“It’s known to those of us who live there,” I say.

“Oh, of course!” she exclaims, nodding. “I didn’t mean that to be insulting. I think I’ve heard of it. It’s just not one of the main ones!”

Jada stops to talk to Dave. She smiles at him and leans in. I frown. Office romance?

“Is it very rural?”

“What?” I ask, turning back to Renata.

“Türenbourg,” Renata says.

“Very,” I say. “One of the most rural on the continent. Many of the buildings there date back to the medieval times.”

“Really!” she says.

I sigh, thinking about the ridiculous castle my parents spent a fortune on to make themselves feel royal. “Decrepit piles of old stones barely fit for human habitation, if you ask me. Crumbling walls, leaky ceilings.” I shake my head. All those millions they poured into the place, and the servants still had to pull out a bucket or two whenever it rained. “Swarms of plague-infested rats would be right at home in those old places, let’s just say.”

Renata looks concerned. “That’s terrible!” She bites her lip. “Your home at least had heating and cooling, I’d imagine.”

“Cooling? Are you kidding? And the heating, well, thank goodness for fireplaces, I suppose.”

“Of course,” Renata says cheerfully. “Well, who doesn’t love a roaring fire!”

What is Jada saying to Dave? It’s hard to imagine them together romantically, but then again, control freaks like people who they can crush the life out of, and easygoing Dave doesn’t seem like somebody who’d put up much resistance.

I never date Jadas. I date bored princesses, viperish socialites, heiresses who want to punish their parents by getting into the tabloids with me. Jetset girls into no-strings fucking.

What now? Renata’s been struggling not to stare at the mole, but now she’s avoiding staring at the mole with a look of pity. “I’m sure there is some beauty in your rural homeland,” she says solemnly.

“Life without modern technology,” I grumble. “Not a fan.”

My residences in London, Paris, Hong Kong all have sophisticated geothermal systems with controls that monitor the weather outside and the people inside and all of that.

I pretend to look at the nonsensical chart Renata pointed out, but really, I’m watching Jada.

“It’s probably bewildering for you, like to go in the supermarket and see all the technology that we have. All the scanners and self-checkout. Were you just shocked when you first saw it? Were you like, what’s up with the beeping sounds?”

I sigh. In my world, the chefs do the marketing and food appears constantly—so much so that you forget how to feed yourself. “Not something I have tons of experience with.”

“I’m sorry! Oh my god, I didn’t mean to insinuate you’re from some kind of backwards nowheresville or anything,” she adds nervously. “I don’t know that much about little countries like yours except for, like, that Borat movie? Not that I think it’s all goat carts or…you know…I should shut up now.”

Jada looks up right in that instant and it’s all I can do to tamp down the rush of sensation as our eyes meet.

“Well,” I say, tearing my gaze back to Renata. “Different places have different stores.” A good neutral answer.

“Of course!” she exclaims. “That’s all it is, a difference of culture. No value judgement!”

“Is there some sort of lunch break soon?”

“You can take lunch whenever you want. You hit the virtual punch out. We get thirty-five minutes, so don’t click it until you’re starting to eat.”

“Wait.” She has my full attention now. “Only thirty-five minutes?”

“Bert is strict on that. Didn’t you read the rules?”

“Thirty-five minutes isn’t even enough time to get seated,” I say indignantly. I’d imagined going out for lunch to one of the places our family historically has accounts.

She regards me strangely. “You have to bring lunch from home or order in. Or there are machines in the break room,” she adds nonsensically.


“You know…”

“Never mind, I’ll have my…uh…friend Arnold deal with it.” I pull out my phone and shoot off a quick text to Arnold while Renata taps away on the keys.

Jaxon: Have Papaggio send a

linguini lunch around noon.

Shrimp if they have it.

Arnold: Are you sure

Papaggio’s lunch service

is appropriate for an office?

Jaxon: Just put in the order.

I click off and turn back to the computer.

“Right here is our virtual punch card system.” Renata shows me more about the punch card thing and goes on to teach me the world’s most obnoxious computer program, ironically named Excel. “I can’t believe that you’ve never used a spreadsheet program.”

“Why would I?” I ask, gazing around. Jada’s gone off somewhere. “What in the world would a delivery driver need with a computer program?”

Fun fact: In Excel, when you type into one box, strange things happen in another box. But not always.

“Sure, right!” She’s nodding furiously. “We use computers here. It’s just…I guess it’s just an American quirk. No judgement. I’m not somebody who believes computers are the mark of an advanced civilization. The important thing is people.”

I turn back to her. What the fuck?

“Anyway!” she says brightly. She shows me more things about Excel. I’m eyeing an elegant woman of fifty or so. Her hair is entirely black except for one white streak swept up the center. She’s laughing with somebody at the water cooler. Could that woman be the butt-dialer? I put her on the list of suspects along with Renata.

I sit back and give Renata a conspiratorial smile. “So I understand there was a butt-dial incident a couple of months back.”

She straightens up. “Did Bert tell you that?”


She snorts. “It’s not something we talk about.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“The person could get into trouble.”


“I’m not at liberty to say,” she says.

“So it was somebody in this department?”

Renata straightens. “I didn’t say that. Did I say that? We don’t talk about that incident here, that is what I’m saying.”

“Why not? It sounds hilarious.”

One corner of her lips quirk. “It was, but we don’t talk about it, that’s all.”

“Was it you?” I give her the smile that’s been proven to drop panties across the Amalfi Coast. “I bet it was you.”

Renata’s laughing. “You will never get it out of me,” she says.

Jada’s back up front. “Well then, it must have been Jada,” I tease.

Renata’s eyes grow wide. “Jada? Oh my god, no way! She is the most upstanding, professional member of the team. Oh my god, what a ridiculous thought!”

My phone pings. It’s Soto. “I have to take this call,” I say.

Renata looks confused. “But we’re in the middle of your training.”

“Nevertheless,” I say, using my servants’ very convenient all-purpose word.

I get up and head out to the hall past Varsha the receptionist, who stares intensely and unblinkingly at my eyes. That seems to be her trick for not staring at my mole.

Soto wants to know how it’s going.

“Listen,” I say, “does this Bert character have the power to fire me? He has some sort of ridiculous demerit system, and apparently I’ve earned two of them already. What is this bullshit? He can’t actually fire me, can he?”

“Of course he can fire you, Mr. Henningsly. He has no idea who you are. You’re just another employee there—that was the plan. You’re undercover. I suppose we could tell this guy who you are, but there’s no guaranteeing he won’t spill it. It’s also possible that he could still fire you, even knowing who you are.”

“Wait, what? Even when I’m the owner? That’s ridiculous. I own the company.”

“Yes, but it seems that SportyGoCo is being run by some sort of outside management company. A management company is typically given a certain amount of operational autonomy in terms of things like personnel decisions. Can’t you avoid getting demerits? Is the job difficult?”

“More like annoying. You told people I worked upstate?”

“In Buffalo. Did you not read the email?”

“No,” I say.

Soto tells me that he’ll send it around again, and we click off.

People are eating their lunches at their desks. Some leave the office briefly, only to return with sandwiches wrapped in paper marked with the word “Subway.” Others heat cups of things in what seems to be a small microwave that they keep in a sad little room called the break room, a windowless space full of plastic furniture, dirty appliances, and tall, glass-fronted display cases all combining to create the most disturbing dining ambience this side of the Rothenburg Medieval Torture Museum.

It’s no wonder they take the stuff to their desks.

I slow as I pass by Jada’s desk. She has a sandwich encased in a clear triangular plastic shell. Is this what people carry their lunches to work in? It seems odd. Like something from a science fiction movie.

Jada looks up. Her eyes have a gem-like depth and clarity to them. They’re hazel—light brown around the pupil and green toward the outer edge. “Can I help you?”

“Got your lunch, I see,” I say.

“Yes. Chicken club,” she says.

“Mine’s coming soon. Delivery,” I say. A few people had pizzas delivered, so Italian delivery will be right on point for this office. I’m finally starting to get the hang of things.

“Good for you.”

Some perverse need to nettle her some more keeps me rooted to the ground. “I understand we have thirty-five minutes,” I say.

She looks up. Jada doesn’t gape at my mole and nervously look away like everyone else, and she doesn’t stare maniacally at my pupils or at my nose like Varsha does. No, Jada looks into my eyes in a normal, relaxed way, treating me like a human and all that.

She really is insufferable.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she says. “If you want to get out of here anywhere near on time, you’ll eat while you work.”

“We’re supposed to get out at five,” I say.

She snorts. “Good luck with that.”

“But it says so at the top of the PDF,” I say. “Five o’clock. Quitting time.”

She gives me this look, as though she can’t decide if I’m joking. “You think you’ll get out of here at five?”

“I’m planning on it.”

“If you still have things to do, you’ll have to finish them.”

“I’ll finish the next day,” I say.

“What if we send you to Ship2Speed with a package and you’re still in line at five? You can’t discard it. If you’re out on a local delivery, you can’t just abandon the truck.”

“Certainly not,” I say. “I’d pull to the side first. Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver would never leave the truck blocking traffic.”

She sniffs, unimpressed. “You’re so full of shit. And you’re not leaving at five.”

“We’ll see.”

“You aren’t.”

I run my finger over the strip of plastic at the top edge of one of the three carpeted cubicle walls that surround her laminated desk and I lower my voice to a rumble. “I dare you to give me a delivery at four fifty.”

Her lips part and it’s everything. “Oh my god, what is up with you?” she demands.


“Are you trying to act like an incompetent jerk so we don’t ask you to do things? Or are you actually that guy?”

“Incompetent jerk? I thought I was Don Juan—”

“Shut it!” She looks around to see if anybody overheard and gets control of herself. “Five is not happening.”

“Why are you so invested in my staying past quitting time?”

“I’m not invested in you at all. What I am invested in is for this company not to sink and for all of us to keep our jobs.”

“Jack!” Varsha calls out. “You have…visitors.”

I turn to see a trio of people in white shirts with bowties with large boxes bearing the name Papaggio. “Ah, lunch!” I head over.

“Where should we put it?” a woman with curly hair asks. She blinks at me, fighting not to stare at my mole.

“I only needed one lunch,” I say in a low voice.

“One lunch, yes. You are Jack Smith, are you not?” she asks.

“Yes, but…”

She gives me a polite smile. “Where should we set up?”

I lead them to my cubicle desk, thinking maybe the large boxes mean that they have other deliveries in the building.

They stop at my cubicle looking confused. “This is where we set up?”

“This is where I plan to eat, yes,” I say.

“Never mind! We can work with any space.” Boxes are placed on the floor. A white tablecloth is unfurled, shaken out, and settled over the surface of my cubicle desk.

“Wait, uhhh…this might be more than I needed.”

The youngest of the trio unwraps what looks to be fine china. He sets it on the cloth piece by piece. Another places silver on a white cloth napkin, transforming my cubicle into a dinner setting worthy of a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.

Dozens of heads have popped up over the walls of dozens of cubicles.

“I don’t need all this,” I say in a hushed voice.

“Papaggio lunch service is known for its attention to detail,” the woman says. A silver-domed dish is produced and set on the middle of my desk. A basket of piping-hot bread is set out. The silver dome is removed from a plate of pasta.

“Linguini and grilled shrimp with housemade pasta in a black pepper marinara sauce with a touch of sherry. Fresh rosemary bread with artisanal creamery butter.” Another dome comes off. “Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and goat cheese with housemade vinaigrette, and there’s a complimentary truffle selection for dessert, a traditional favorite.”

Naturally, Bert chooses this moment to arrive. He takes in the scene of me being served like royalty with a mixture of shock and disgust. “What the hell are you doing, Smith?”

One of the workers pulls out my chair. “Whenever you’re ready, sir,” he says.

The other man drapes a white napkin over his arm and shows me a clear bottle. “Carbonated or flat water, sir?” he asks. “We also have a selection of wines. We suggest a 1999 Giannotti Chianti with this.”

Bert’s eyes nearly bug out of his head. “What is this?”

“I wasn’t expecting this level of production…”

“Are you looking for another demerit?” Bert barks. “Is that it? You can’t be bringing restaurant teams onto the design floor.”

“I was told we have thirty-five minutes for lunch,” I point out. “I see other people getting deliveries.”

“You call this a delivery?”

“It’s a type of delivery.”

Bert glares for a moment, then stabs a finger at the Papaggio people, cheeks a ragey shade of pink. “Five minutes. Out.” He storms off.

“Should we…take it away?” the Papaggio woman asks.

Jada’s suddenly there. “Pack it up for him as leftovers,” she says.

“Of course.” The trio sets to wrapping plates and glasses. “So sorry for any inconvenience,” one says.

“Right.” I turn to Jada. “Thank you.”

Jada snorts. “You are not getting fired on your first day, and I’m not having you famished from hunger. We are getting some work out of you. I don’t care what kind of sob story—”

Renata is there suddenly, eyeing the Papaggio people as they file out the door. “It’s not Jack’s fault. It’s Arnold’s.”

“Who’s Arnold?” Jada asks.

“Jack’s friend,” Renata tells her. “Jack asked his friend Arnold to have lunch sent and this is what Arnold sent. He probably thought it would be funny. But it’s not at all funny.”

“No, that’s not…” I say. “I asked Arnold for Italian.”

Jada does her pout-frown where she scowls and plumps her lips, and god, I can’t stop staring at those lips. They’re so kissable. She’s so kissable. So perversely kissable with her hot little body and workaholic pencil bun. I would take the pencils right out of there.

“So this friend of yours, Arnold—are you even listening?” Jada demands.


“This friend of yours knows your…circumstances, and he thought it would be funny to send you this over-the-top lunch service?”

“What do you mean, my circumstances?” I ask.

“It’s not funny, it’s cruel,” Renata says. “Arnold should be ashamed of himself! It’s not funny to make fun of…” She gestures at me.

I’m not quite comprehending this. “You have to admit, it was a little bit funny.”

“Oh my god, do you not take anything seriously?” Jada’s gem-like eyes blaze. “Your friend sends you an ostentatious, over-the-top lunch that nearly got you your last demerit. You would lose this job, and we would lose you. We need you here. We’re counting on you.”

“Counting on me!” I grin. “Can’t say I’d recommend that.”

She stiffens. “What?”

“Counting on me. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“So we can’t count on you? Is that what you mean?” She crosses her arms, staring down at me with a kind of fiery outrage. It’s absolutely delightful.

“Well, you can…but…”

“Oh my god!” she says, disgusted, and I can’t get enough—I really can’t. “Do you not care about anything?”

I care about finding the butt-dialer, but at the moment, I care more about the outrageousness of this woman trying to get everyone in the universe under her thumb.

“Not particularly,” I say.

“Oh my god, screw you!” She straightens her petite frame, burning with outrage. “Also? That guy Arnold is not your friend.” With that, she storms off.

I watch her all the way. It’s wrong to want her, but I want her with a ferocious hunger I’ve never felt before.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode