The Billionaire Bachelor

By: Jessica Lemmon

It was an irritating corporate chess game, but Reese was learning to toe the line when necessary. He planned on growing Crane Hotels to twice the size his father had, and to do that, he couldn’t be a lone wolf. He needed the support of the people who made decisions: the board.

Since his work ethic preceded him and they still didn’t trust him, the wolf would have to put on sheep’s clothing to make them believe he was one of the herd. A family man. A husband intent on keeping up squeaky-clean public appearances.

Win the press, win the board.

Win the board, win CEO.

But Reese also knew his weaknesses. He needed someone who was his opposite yet equal. He needed someone who could handle pressure elegantly, even while using the word horseshit.

He needed Merina Van Heusen.

“I have a dinner date,” Alex announced, standing from his chair.

“Who is she?” Tag teased.

Big Crane’s sons had all taken after him, none of them planning on settling down—well, until just now. But Reese’s would be a marriage on paper—totally different. His father had loved their mother, and after she died, he never found another to fill her shoes. Alex was in his sixties and neither the board nor the media cared if he dated. No, that magnifying glass focus fell on Reese, who was the next in line as heir to the Crane throne. Tag’s dating was overlooked because he was the party guy and it was expected. Eli was a nonissue since he was overseas. Maybe when he came home, the press would care who he was fucking.

Reese doubted it. The media had their hooks into him. He was the easy target—the man who’d made tawdry headlines because of the number of women he spent time with—and never spent time with more than once.

“She is a he, and he is the linen supplier for the greater Chicago area,” Alex answered.

“You’re supposed to be retired,” Reese said.

“Six months.” His father pointed at him. Reese smiled. His old man. Retired but not dead, he often said of his future plans. Alex turned and left the conference room and Reese stood to do the same. It had been a hell of a long day already and was less than half over. He didn’t stop at five, unless it was five a.m.

“Explain to me why you have to marry Merina Van Heusen?” Tag asked, still lounging in the chair. Even dressed nicely, he resembled a lazy cat. He was damn good, though. Guest and Restaurant Services was not an easy part of the hotel business to keep running, but Tag did it flawlessly. And dressed like a bum half the time. Go figure.

“Because Kate Hudson is taken?”

Tag rolled his eyes. “Why not just date her?”

“The board needs to see I’m serious. Nothing is more serious than marriage. Once I’ve settled down, they’ll see I’m a changed man. Responsible.”

“No longer the consummate billionaire bachelor,” Tag drawled, quoting one of the gossip rags.

“Right,” Reese agreed. “It’s a business deal like any other deal.” He lifted his iPhone and tucked it into his jacket pocket, then straightened his shirtsleeves. “It has perimeters, an end date, and a goal. I’m going to give her a few days—maybe wait until next week to ask her. After she cools down, Merina will see. She’s a smart businesswoman, despite the fact that she’s in love with that relic of a hotel.”

“Sentimentality isn’t a crime.”

“It isn’t, but it’s a tool I can use to my advantage. Our advantage,” he amended. “This will be advantageous for both of us.”

“I’m all for you being in position of CEO, Reese; you know I am. This is your destiny. Your legacy. The board is making a mistake if they look elsewhere,” Tag said.

“I appreciate that,” Reese said, meaning it. The Crane men had always stuck together. His youngest brother may ride his ass on occasion, but in the clutch, Tag had his back.

“But,” Tag continued, his tone cautious, “blackmail is low, bro.” He finally stood, slowly, then crossed his arms over his chest. Tag was taller than Reese or Eli, standing close to six-five. Massive shoulders, huge arms, and tree-trunk legs came from their father’s side, the towering height from their mother’s father. Granddad Weller was huge. Eli and Reese liked to give Tag a hard time about his hair, but Tag refused to cut it. Either he had a Samson complex or he liked looking like a beached merman, it was hard to say.

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