The Billionaire Bachelor

By: Jessica Lemmon

Focus. You’re pissed at Crane.

Right. Big Crane may have done her parents a favor buying it, but now that he was about to “peace out,” it sounded like Reese had decided to flex his corporate muscle.

“Shit!” She didn’t just do that. She did not just drown her Louboutin pumps in a deep puddle by the curb. She didn’t splurge on much, but her shoes were an indulgence. She shook the rainwater from one pump as best she could and sloshed up Rush Street to Superior, her sights set squarely on the Crane Hotel.

Seventy floors of mirrored glass and as invasive as a visit to the ob-gyn. Given the choice between this monstrosity and the Van Heusen, with its warm cookies and cozy design, she couldn’t believe anyone would set foot in the clinical, whitewashed Crane Hotels let alone sleep there.

At the top of that ivory tower, Reese Crane perched like an evil overlord. The oldest Crane son wasn’t royalty, but according to the social media and newspaper attention he sure as hell thought he was.

Halfway down Superior, she folded her arms over her shirt, shuddering against the intensifying wind. She really should have grabbed her coat on her way out, but there hadn’t been a lot of decision-making going into her process. She’d made it this far, fists balled and steam billowing out of her ears, her ire having kept her warm for the relatively short walk. She should have known better. In Chicago, spring didn’t show up until summer.

Finally, she stood face-to-face with the gargantuan, seventy-floor home base. The Crane was not only the premier hotel for the visiting wealthy (and possibly uncultured, given that they stayed here), but it was also where Reese slept, in his very own suite on the top floor, instead of his sprawling Lake Shore Drive mansion. She wouldn’t be surprised if he slept right at his desk, snuggling his cell phone in one hand and a wad of money in the other.

Stupid billionaires.

Inside, she sucked in a generous breath and shook off her chill. At least there was no wind, and despite the chilling whitewash of furniture, rugs, and modern lighting, it was warm. But only in temperature. The Crane represented everything she hated about modern hotels. And she should know, because she’d worked diligently alongside her parents to keep the integrity of their boutique hotel since she started running it. Her hotel was a place of rich history, beauty, and passion. This place was a tower of glass, made so that the lower echelon of the city could see in but never touch.

Perfect for the likes of Reese Crane.

She walked through the lobby, filled to overflowing with businesspeople of every color, shape, and size. Flashes of suits—black, gray, white—passed in a monochrome blur, as if the Crane Hotel had a dress code and each and every guest here had received the memo. Merina, in her plum silk shirt and dark gray pencil skirt and nude heels, didn’t stand out…except for the fact that she resembled a drowned rat.

A few surly glances and cocked brows were her reward for rushing out into the storm. Well. Whatever.

She spotted the elevator leading to Crane’s office, catching the door as an older woman was reaching for the button. The woman with coiffed gray hair widened her eyes in alarm, a tiny dog held snuggly in her arms. Merina skated a hand down her skirt and over her hair, wiping the hollows below her eyes to ensure she didn’t go to Reese’s office with panda eyes.

“Good morning,” she greeted.

The older woman frowned. Here was the other problem with the Crane. Its guests were as snooty as the building.

Attitude reflects leadership.

The doors opened only once, to deliver the woman and her dog to the forty-second floor, and then Merina rode the car to the top floor without interruption. She used the time to straighten herself in the blurry, reflective gold doors. No keys or security codes were needed to reach the top of the building. Reese Crane was probably far too smug to believe anyone would dare come up here without an appointment. She’d heard his secretary was more like a bulldog that guarded his office.

The elevator doors slid aside to reveal a woman wearing all black, her grim expression better suited for a funeral home than a hotel.

“May I help you?” the woman asked, her words measured, curt, and not the least bit friendly.

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