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THE CLUELESS BILLIONAIRE
Series: The Zero Chance Billionaires’ Club, Book 3
Print Length: 275 pages
Publication Date: October 16, 2023
Publisher: Annabeth Avery
Cover Design: Blackraven’s Designs
READ CHAPTER ONE
Pixelated Connections: The Dual Lives of Roger Butler
Rain pattered against the small basement window, streaking down the glass like teardrops as a symphony of droplets played outside. Within the confines of this subterranean sanctuary, Roger Butler’s world lay spread out before him in an elaborate display of digital marvels. The soft glow from multiple monitors illuminated the cramped space, casting shadows on walls lined with shelves that held gadgets and gizmos galore. The hum of processors and cooling fans provided a constant, soothing drone, barely audible beneath the comforting embrace of his noise-cancelling headphones.
Nestled in his ergonomic gaming chair, Roger surveyed his kingdom with a mixture of pride and dissatisfaction. Though he was a billionaire in his early thirties, he had chosen to remain in his parents’ Seattle basement—an odd choice for someone of his means, but one that afforded him the solitude and control he craved. His fingers danced across the keyboard, deftly navigating the virtual landscape displayed on the central monitor.
In the dim light, Roger’s brown man bun seemed to blend into the darkness, his grey eyes fixed intently on the screen. A furrowed brow betrayed the intensity of his focus, while his slight hunch suggested a lingering discomfort with the real world outside these walls.
And then, reality intruded.
The shrill ring of his phone cut through the heady sounds of fantasy warfare like a siren, demanding attention. With a groan, Roger reluctantly peeled his gaze away from the screen and glanced at the caller ID. Jackson Aldridge: business partner, best friend, and the one person who always seemed to call at the most inconvenient moments.
”Hey, Jackson,” Roger said, trying to keep the annoyance from seeping into his voice. He paused the game, his avatar frozen mid-leap.
“Roger, buddy! Just wanted to touch base about our latest project.” Jackson’s voice was hurried, betraying a sense of distraction. In the background, Roger could hear the unmistakable laughter of Logan, Jackson’s son—a sound that simultaneously warmed and stabbed at his heart.
“Sure, what’s up?” Roger asked, attempting to focus on the conversation while ignoring the chaotic symphony of familial joy behind Jackson’s words.
“Nothing major, I just need you to review the designs before we move forward. ”
”Of course,” Roger replied, feeling the familiar sting of envy as the sounds of Jackson’s bustling home continued to filter through the phone line. How different their lives had become.
“Great, thanks. I’ll send them over tonight,” Jackson said, pausing briefly as a child’s shout erupted into the cacophony. “Sorry, man, gotta run. Talk later?”
“Sure thing,” Roger muttered, barely able to suppress the sigh that threatened to expose the ache in his chest.
“Thanks for understanding. Bye!” And with that, Jackson hung up, leaving Roger alone once more with the silence of his basement and the hollow echo of the laughter that had stirred the dormant longing within him.
Slumping back in his ergonomic gaming chair, Roger stared at the paused screen, his mind wandering to the stark contrast between his life and Jackson’s. While his friend navigated the messy, beautiful chaos of a growing family, all Roger had was the click of a mouse and the tap of a keyboard.
“Is this all there is?” he wondered, the question gnawing at the edges of his consciousness, as he resumed the game, seeking solace in the familiar digital world that never judged—never cared whether he was billionaire Roger Butler or LoneWolfWarrior, the fearless adventurer.
Emerging from his inner turmoil, Roger’s fingers guided his avatar through the treacherous terrain, determined to chase away the shadows of envy and loneliness that threatened to overtake him to no avail. Jackson’s call had sent him spiraling down a rabbit hole he had been avoiding for years. He hit the pause button again, before picking up his phone and clicking on a social media app.
His heart tightened as he scrolled through his social media feed—photo after photo of friends with their families, enjoying vacations, and laughing over shared meals. The contrast between their bright, bustling lives and his own dimly lit cavern of solitude gnawed at him.
As he stared blankly at the displays, he couldn’t help but contemplate if this mundane existence was truly all there was to life. With a deep breath, Roger pushed aside the unsettling emotions and clicked his mouse, diving headfirst back into his favorite online game. As LoneWolfWarrior, he was no longer just a lonely billionaire. He was fearless, outgoing, and most importantly, never alone.
A grin spread across his face as he racked up another win, momentarily burying his real-world concerns beneath the exhilaration of victory. In this virtual realm, he felt alive, powerful—a feeling unmatched by any amount in his bank account.
“Nice one, LoneWolfWarrior!” cheered a fellow player, their typed words appearing on screen.
“Thanks!” Roger replied, a hint of pride in his keystrokes. With each message exchanged, the weight of loneliness lifted slightly from his shoulders.
Roger navigated through the digital landscape, his eyes flicking between the chat window and the action unfolding before him. Battle cries and magical spells filled his headphones, drowning out the persistent rain tapping against the basement window.
”Watch out for the ambush up ahead,” warned another player, their avatar pausing to type the message.
“Got it!” Roger responded, steering LoneWolfWarrior through the treacherous terrain with deft precision. As he skillfully evaded traps and outsmarted opponents, a sense of camaraderie enveloped him. These were his people, his tribe—those who understood the irresistible pull of the virtual world.
“Phew, that was close!” Roger thought as he outmaneuvered a particularly nasty foe. His heart raced, adrenaline coursing through his veins. It was moments like these that made it all worthwhile—the unadulterated thrill of life on the edge, albeit a fictional one.
“Great teamwork, everyone,” he typed into the chat window, genuine warmth infusing each letter. For now, at least, the void in his heart seemed a little less cavernous.
As he continued to immerse himself in the game, Roger couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps there was something more waiting for him beyond this digital realm. But until then, LoneWolfWarrior would fight on, conquering monsters and demons both real and imagined—one keystroke at a time.
The rhythmic tapping of his fingers against the keyboard filled the basement, accompanied by the hum of his high-end gaming rig. The vivid colors and intricate detail of the digital landscapes offered an intoxicating escape from the emptiness that haunted him.
A bittersweet satisfaction mingled with the lingering sadness in his chest. He could almost forget the stark contrast between his life and Jackson’s, if only for a few precious moments. His eyes narrowed with focus, tracking the movements of his trusty avatar, LoneWolfWarrior.
”Ah, the thrill of victory,” he mused inwardly, as his character skillfully dispatched another foe.
Suddenly, a new character appeared on-screen: “FierceElfPrincess” had joined his quest. Her arrival was like a splash of cold water, electrifying and refreshing. Together, they tackled a series of challenging quests and battles, their avatars moving in harmony as if they’d been comrades-in-arms for ages.
Roger couldn’t help but notice how FierceElfPrincess didn’t just follow; she led, strategized, and took risks. It was a welcome change in the often-predictable dynamics of online gameplay.
”Nice move!” he typed, admiration evident in his keystrokes. In return, FierceElfPrincess sent him a virtual wink, a playful acknowledgement of their burgeoning camaraderie.
Roger felt an unfamiliar warmth spread through him, a sense of connection he hadn’t experienced in quite some time. He marveled at the ease with which they communicated, their exchanges flowing as naturally as if they were old friends.
“Who would’ve thought such a simple gesture could mean so much?” he pondered, surprised by how much he valued this newfound rapport.
But amidst the excitement of their partnership, a nagging sense of familiarity tugged at Roger’s mind. He couldn’t quite place it, but there was something about FierceElfPrincess that felt…known.
“Maybe it’s just the way she carries herself in the game,” he reasoned, dismissing the thought and refocusing on the task at hand.
As they continued to vanquish virtual foes and conquer digital dungeons, Roger found himself increasingly grateful for FierceElfPrincess’s presence. For a fleeting moment, it seemed as though the void of loneliness had been filled, if only by the glow of a computer screen and the camaraderie of a mysterious gaming companion.
* * *
A soft thud echoed through Roger’s headphones as FierceElfPrincess initiated a chat. The sound pulled him from his thoughts, and he couldn’t help but smile as her words appeared on the screen.
”Another victory! We make a great team,” she wrote, punctuating her message with a cheerful emoji.
Roger’s fingers hovered over the keyboard for a moment before he responded, “Definitely! Your strategies are impressive.
“ He felt a warmth in his chest at the genuine connection he was forming with this virtual stranger. It had been ages since he’d experienced such camaraderie—likely not since his high school and college days when he and his friends would huddle around their gaming consoles late into the night. His heart thrummed with excitement at the prospect of having found someone who shared his passions.
“Thanks! I’ve always loved puzzles and riddles,” FierceElfPrincess replied. “They’re like a mental workout, you know?”
Roger laughed softly to himself, feeling the tension in his shoulders ease. “I totally get that,” he typed back. “I’ve been playing these games since I was a teenager. They’ve always been my escape.”
His eyes widened as he realized what he’d just revealed. He’d never shared anything so personal with anyone in the gaming community before, yet it felt natural and freeing to do so with FierceElfPrincess.
”Same here!” she responded enthusiastically. “I remember staying up way too late trying to beat levels while my parents thought I was asleep. Those were the days!”
Her words sent a shiver of recognition down Roger’s spine, eliciting memories of sneaking game sessions under the cover of darkness. He chuckled, shaking his head at the thought of how little he’d changed since then, still finding solace in the same virtual realms.
”Guilty as charged,” he admitted, fingers flying across the keys. “Sometimes I think I’ve never really grown out of that phase.”
“Who says we have to grow up?” FierceElfPrincess shot back playfully. “I say, embrace your inner child!”
Roger felt the corners of his mouth curl into a grin as he read her words. There was an ease to their conversation that made him feel like he’d known her for years. As they continued to chat, exchanging stories and jokes, Roger couldn’t help but think that maybe—just maybe—he’d found a genuine friend in this virtual world.
* * *
The digital landscape shimmered with the colors of a setting sun, casting long shadows over FierceElfPrincess and LoneWolfWarrior as they stood side by side, victorious after their latest conquest. Roger couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pride at how well they’d worked together, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
”We make an excellent team,” he typed into the chat window, his fingers moving almost on autopilot as if they had a mind of their own.
”Couldn’t have done it without you, LoneWolf,” came her reply, accompanied by a smiley face that warmed Roger’s heart in a way no emoji ever had before.
As they continued to navigate the virtual world, Roger felt an inexplicable sense of déjà vu with every interaction he shared with FierceElfPrincess. There was something about the way she moved, the way she communicated, that seemed so…familiar. He racked his brain, trying to pinpoint where this feeling was coming from, but ultimately decided it must simply be a product of the emotional connection they were building.
“Hey, have we met before?” he asked, unable to completely shake the nagging thought that there might be more to their growing friendship than met the eye.
“Only in our dreams, I’m sure,” she teased, playfully dodging around an animated tree as they continued their journey.
Roger laughed, but deep down, the question continued to gnaw at him. His heart raced in anticipation of uncovering a hidden truth or forgotten memory.
It was then that reality decided to make its presence known, shattering the enchanting spell cast over him by the game. The faint sound of footsteps descending the stairs, followed by his mother’s voice calling out his name, pierced through his noise-cancelling headphones like a dagger.
“Roger, dinner’s ready!” she announced, the warmth and familiarity of her voice contrasting starkly with the mysterious allure of FierceElfPrincess.
Caught off guard by this sudden intrusion, Roger’s heart skipped a beat as he was forcefully yanked back from his digital escape into the cold, hard reality of his Seattle basement. The juxtaposition was jarring, like being awakened from a pleasant dream by an alarm clock blaring in his ear.
“Be right there, Mom,” he called back, swallowing hard as he prepared to leave the virtual world behind—for now. With one last lingering glance at the screen, he typed out a hasty message to FierceElfPrincess: “Sorry, gotta go! Dinner time. Let’s team up again soon.”
“Sure thing,” she replied, her words infused with a warmth that seemed to transcend the pixels on the screen. “Take care, LoneWolf. See you around.
“ As Roger reluctantly removed his headphones and pushed away from his desk, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of loss at leaving FierceElfPrincess behind. Yet at the same time, the lingering sense of familiarity continued to haunt him, sparking a newfound curiosity that gnawed at the edges of his mind.
Who was this enigmatic gamer who’d managed to capture his attention so completely? And could she possibly hold the key to unlocking a more fulfilling, less lonely existence outside the confines of his basement sanctuary?
As he ascended the basement stairs, each creaking step echoed through the house, amplifying the emptiness around him. The scent of his mother’s cooking wafted down, a warm embrace coaxing him upward. Despite the growing anticipation for the meal, Roger found himself unable to shake his thoughts of FierceElfPrincess. Who was she? And could this mysterious gamer fill the void in his life?
The sound of clinking dishes and laughter reached his ears, pulling him back to reality. He paused at the top of the stairs, steeling himself for the inevitable small talk and prying questions from his family. Taking one last glance towards the basement, Roger tried to hold onto the warmth and camaraderie he’d felt with FierceElfPrincess, hoping it might make the evening a bit more bearable.
“Roger!” His mom’s voice called out again, more insistent this time.
“Coming, Mom!” He sighed, plastering a smile on his face as he took the final step into the well-lit dining room. A part of him longed to return to the world where he was LoneWolfWarrior and FierceElfPrincess eagerly awaited their next adventure together. But for now, he’d have to be content with the promise of their future camaraderie in the virtual world while navigating the complexities of his real life.
And who knew? Maybe, just maybe, FierceElfPrincess would one day find her way into his ordinary world, making it a little less lonely.
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