The Billionaire Bachelor

By: Jessica Lemmon


He remained stoically silent.

“My family’s goddamn name is on the marquee, Crane!” She shot out of her seat and pressed her fingertips onto his desk. Shining, perfect, unscarred. No character. No soul. No history.

Like Reese Crane himself.

“Your family’s name will remain on the building,” he stated calmly. And while those words tumbled around her brain and set fire to the fury that he’d put on to sear, he added, “Your parents are getting close to retirement age. Are you sure you swam over here on their behalf? Or is this about you?”

“Of course I’m sure,” she said too quickly. She wasn’t sure at all. Her world had been upended. Like when she’d learned there was no Santa Claus and that her dad had been sneaking downstairs to eat the Oreos all those years. She thought back to her mom telling her about the sale of the Van Heusen and recalled the dash of hope in Jolie’s expression.

Did they want out?

“Think about it, Merina. What I’m offering is more than retirement, and at their age I’m sure they don’t want to find work,” Reese stated. “Running the Van Heusen is all they’ve known.”

If she had said that, the sentence would have been infused with passion hinting at the fairy tale by which they came to own the Van Heusen. When Reese said it, he made the hotel sound like it was a lame, deaf, blind dog needing to be put down.

No. She would not accept this. Not from Reese. Not from her parents. It was possible they’d forgotten how much the hotel meant to them. Not having money created desperate feelings. Her father wasn’t as spry as he once was given his heart condition. Maybe they needed her intrusion.

Reese’s phone buzzed and Bobbie stated, “Ms. Van Heusen’s town car is here, sir.”

“I don’t want it,” Merina bit out, still leaning over his desk.

He angled his eyes up to her and they stayed locked in a heated staring contest until “Very well” came from the phone’s speaker, then clicked off again.

Merina straightened. Outside, the rain started coming down in sheets. Didn’t it figure? An involuntary shiver racked her spine, and possibly her lips were turning blue from her wet hair, but she kept her knees locked and her arms folded securely over her peek-a-boo breasts.

“I have an appointment I can’t miss, but I won’t leave you in suspense.” Reese stood, deftly unbuttoned his jacket, and shrugged out of it. Those shoulders. My God. He was a mountain of a man. Tall and broad and the absolute opposite of what anyone might expect a hotel owner-slash-billionaire to look like.

“Suspense?” she repeated, her voice dipping low when he came out from behind the desk. Her eyes screwed up to meet his as he draped his suit jacket over her shoulders.

“I’m not going to put you out on your fantastic ass, Merina.” His lips tipped—lush lips. His was a mouth made for sin. But then, Satan. So it made sense.

She gripped the jacket when he let go. She should be throwing it at him, but it was warm and she was freezing. And it smelled of leather and money and power. Three things she wished didn’t make her feel safe. What was it about this man? She’d seen pictures of him before, and yes, noticed he was attractive, but in the flesh there was something about him that made her feel utterly feminine. Even at the worst possible times. Like when he was dangling her job over a lava-filled pit and daring her to grab for it.

“I appreciate your reconsidering. I belong at the Van Heusen.” Until she figured out a way to get the hotel back, at least she could be there. She would come up with a way to delay the remodel.

“No, you misunderstand me. I can’t keep you there,” he said, a frown marring his otherwise perfect brow. “But I can offer you almost any position you’d like at Crane Hotels. We have openings in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio. I know it’s not Chicago, but chances are you can stay in the Midwest.”

He slid past her while she stared at the sheeting rain, her fingers going numb around the lapels of his jacket. Not only was he firing her, but he expected her to work for him? Expected her to leave Chicago? This was her city, dammit! He didn’t reserve the right to boot her out.

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