Moments that changed your entire life were exceedingly rare, but as I sat there, staring at the man clacking away at his keyboard at the other side of the desk, I knew that this was one of those moments. With nothing more than a few keystrokes, he was making me a multi-millionaire.
As I watched, he hit enter and then it was done.
I blinked hard, entirely unsure how I was supposed to feel right now. I’d just sold the patent I’d spent the last nine years working on, and now I was richer than I’d ever been able to imagine.
David grinned as he looked away from his computer and extended his hand across the desk to shake mine. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Porter. If you ever happen to come up with something else you’d like to sell—”
“I know who to call,” I said, sliding my palm into his, knowing that I was interrupting him, but I needed to get out of here.
I didn’t even know why. I just knew that I needed to not be sitting here anymore. “Thank you, David. I’ll be in touch.”
Rising quickly as soon as he released my hand, I managed to shoot him a polite grin before I strode out of his office with my head swirling and my stomach in knots. Because seriously, what the fuck do I do now?
What did other people do when they found out they’d just become a few dollars short of a billionaire? My head spun again at the thought, and I suddenly reached into my pocket for my phone. Maybe he lied. Maybe it’s not true. Maybe—
As I stared down at the screen after logging into my bank account, the amount of zeroes staring back at me were staggering. But they also confirmed that it was real.
Unless I’m dreaming.
Reaching down, I pinched myself but the pain searing through me meant that it was not, in fact, a dream. This is happening.
I blinked rapidly a few times in quick succession, swallowing back the nerves that were threatening to choke me. Hope. I need to call Hope. She’ll know what to do.
My best friend always did. Whenever anything happened in my life, she was the person I called first. It seemed only natural that I did the same now.
Feeling like I was moving in a haze, I scrolled to her number and brought my phone to my ear after hitting dial. Hope answered a few seconds later, a smile in her voice even if I knew she was probably too busy at work to make small talk with me in the middle of the day.
“Hey, you,” she said happily. “What’s up? I’m just about to run into a meeting, but—”
“I sold it,” I said, interrupting her too but needing to speak those words out loud before she disappeared to go into her meeting. “The patent, Hope. I sold it.”
Stunned silence met my announcement. Then the sound of clapping burst out from her end of the line. “Congratulations, Porter! I’m so proud of you. Wow. That’s incredible.”
She giggled softly. “You sound like you’re in shock. Can’t say I blame you, but maybe you should sit down for a minute?”
“Can’t. Need to get out of here. I…” I swallowed hard past the itchy dryness of my throat, still sort of stumbling as I tried to find my way to the street. “I don’t really know what to do right now. Tell me what to do, Hope.”
“That’s funny, you usually hate it when I tell you what to do,” she teased lightly. “If you’d really like suggestions though, you can always go get that piece of shit car of yours fixed now.”
“Hey, leave Trudy out of this. She’s innocent.”
Hope laughed. “Trudy needs to be put out to pasture before she kills you, my friend. I was going to tell you to drive her to a dealership, buy a new car, and leave her right there, but I thought I’d ease you into it. Besides, you’ll get more for her if you patch her up a bit before you sell her.”
“I’m not selling her,” I said immediately. “Stop bashing on Trudy. That car is built on memories and dreams. She’s been there for all the big moments in our lives. I’m not getting rid of her.”
Hope sighed. “Trudy is a death trap. I know she means a lot to you, so keep her, then. Just get a new car to actually drive around in and do your daydreaming in Trudy. Just do it in your garage and, you know, maybe lose the keys in case you get tempted to take her out.”
“She’s not that bad,” I argued, but this was why I called Hope. Only a couple minutes into our conversation, and I was feeling more like myself than I had all day.
My mind cleared, the weird black spots disappeared from my vision, and the feeling crept back into my legs.
“She is that bad, Porter. That car should’ve been off the road at least half a decade ago, but I don’t know. If you don’t want to go have her fixed, why don’t you go grab a drink? Or a nap? You can probably afford to retire now, right? That’s what I would do, a nice long nap on a Thursday at noon. Sounds like heaven to me.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe I’ll have a few drinks and then grab a nap. It’s been a long-ass day, even if it is only noon.”
“Great, it’s settled then. Just in time. Hey, I’m walking into that meeting now, but how about I take you out to dinner tomorrow night to celebrate?”
Sounds like heaven to me, but instead of repeating the sentiment back to her, I shrugged even if she couldn’t see me. Maybe she could hear it and I wouldn’t sound as excited as I was. “Sure. Tell me when and where, and I’ll be there.”
“I’ll text you,” she rushed out, her voice softer now. “I’m in the conference room, honey. I’ve got to go, okay? Congratulations again! Have a great nap.”
The line went dead before I could say goodbye, but talking to her had done what I’d hoped it would. It’d put a smile on my face and ripped me out of my funk. I was a multi-millionaire now. I could do whatever the hell I wanted and no one could say a word about it.
Putting things in perspective for me was a talent of Hope’s, but I wasn’t just going to go home and take a nap. I also wasn’t going to go day-drinking by myself. Instead, I just walked around for a while. With an extra pep in my step and my hands shoved into the pockets of my slacks, I roamed the streets of Seattle for absolutely no good reason.
In the past, when I’d seen people just randomly walking around in the middle of the day, I’d always thought it must be nice to have that kind of freedom, and now I had it, so I figured I might as well give it a try. I bought a hot dog, then an ice cream, and then a few other things from street vendors, struck up conversations with a few, and then decided that being the eccentric billionaire type wasn’t for me.
It turned out that aimlessly walking around at lunch time wasn’t nearly as freeing or as fun as it looked, so I headed back to Trudy and called my brother. Foster answered after a few rings, his voice echoing like he was in a parking structure or something.
“I’m just about to get in my car,” he said, confirming my suspicions. “I might lose you for a few when I go down the ramp, but don’t hang up. Reception will come back as soon as I clear the boom.”
“Good to know,” I said. “So, uh, before I lose you, I sold the patent today.”
He went quiet for a beat. “You did? I didn’t know the deal was that close to being done.”
“It wasn’t, but then David called me back last night and said he’d spoken to some of their forecasters. Asked me to come in first thing this morning.”
“You sold it?”
“I sold it.”
He paused again, then started hollering and whooping. “Well-fucking-done, bro! That’s awesome. I’m so damn proud of you. How much did you get? Was it worth all the years you put into it?”
“Uh, yeah.” I cleared my throat and loosened my tie a little when I thought back to all those digits on my screen when I’d checked my bank account. “Let’s just say that it was worth it and leave it at that?”
“Sure. Okay,” he said excitedly. “I’m on my way home. Want to meet me there? I’m pretty sure I’ve got a bottle of bubbly somewhere. We may have to stick it in the freezer for a few before we drink it, but—”
“Yes,” I said, and then I realized that I’d lost him.
While I waited for him to come back, I climbed into my car and turned over the engine, but it took a few tries until the old rust bucket sparked to life. No matter what Hope said, though, I could never just abandon Trudy.
“—you there in twenty minutes?” Foster said when he came back on the line. “Porter?”
“Yeah, sure. Twenty minutes.” I pulled out of my parking spot and frowned. “Why are you leaving work so early?”
“I’m done with everything that needed to be done at the office. You know Milena. She doesn’t micro-manage. I’ve got a few emails to send and stuff like that, but she knows I’ll get it done wherever I am.”
“Well, I mean, I don’t know her, know her, but sure, I know her from what you and Hope have said about her.”
He chuckled. “I’ll see you in a few.”
“See you.” I disconnected the call and focused on the road, but in the back of my mind, I realized that I felt a touch envious of my own damn brother. There was no mistaking the slight pang in my gut now that he’d brought up their boss and I’d been reminded that he saw Hope every day.
By the time I’d parked and walked into his building though, I’d managed to shove the jealousy back in its box in the deepest recesses of my soul. No one could ever know I felt that way—not even my brother.
My brother who, when he opened his front door before I’d even knocked, beamed at me and pulled me into a back-thumping hug. “I’m blown away, man. Completely blown away. Congratulations.”
He released me and motioned me into his place, then slammed the door behind us and handed me a beer that had been waiting on his kitchen counter. “I was wrong about the bubbly, but beer is the nectar of the gods. Nothing wrong with celebrating with it.”
I nodded and took the drink, once again feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience now that my big brother was raving about the sale. Foster’s green eyes were lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree and the soft creases around them were deep as he kept grinning like a loon.
“Seriously, bro. Who thought instant voice translating earbuds would make you a fucking millionaire?”
“Uh, me?” I waggled my brows at him, trying to fake my way into feeling normal again. “On the upside, you can retire now and join me on… a cruise around the world? Backpacking through the ancient cities?”
Foster laughed, his head of dark hair dropping back as he shook it. “No thanks. I’ll pass. I happen to like my job and it’s your money, not mine. I’m not taking it.”
He started walking to his living room and I followed him, trying again in the hopes that he might bite if I tried a different approach. “It is my money, but what if I want to spend some of it on you? It’s not like I’ve got anyone else to spend it on and no one I know will blow off work for a few months to come traveling with me.”
He dropped onto his sofa and kicked his feet up, cradling his beer on his flat stomach as he smirked at me. “Now that, I can help you with. You’re rich now, Porter. Sign up with Sight Unseen and I’ll match you with a woman who deserves to have you spend your money on her.”
I sat down across from him, my head shaking hard and fast. “Nope. My turn to pass. Sorry, but I don’t want anything to do with those women.”
Sighing deeply, he brought his bottle to his mouth and took a drink, his gaze thoughtful on mine. “Suit yourself, but if you change your mind, you know where to find me. I would just like to remind you that we have a proven track record, though. Our algorithm really fucking works and if you’re serious about settling down, we’re the best people to help you find the person to do it with.”
I scoffed. “Who said anything about settling down? I’m talking about traveling, brother. Is your hearing diminishing in your old age?”
Flipping me off, he laughed again and took another sip of his beer, but obviously decided to let it go. For now.
Foster had been trying to get me to sign up to the dating agency where he and Hope worked for years. I knew he wasn’t going to give up for good, and they really did have a fantastic track record, but the fact of it was that I just wasn’t interested.
The woman I wanted wasn’t signed up for Sight Unseen either and unless or until she was, I was staying far, far away from it.