The Billionaire Bachelor

By: Jessica Lemmon

When she turned, Reese was pressing a button on the wall. His office doors whispered open.

A balding, smiling man appeared in the doorway and gave Reese a wave of greeting. He noticed her next and offered a nod.

Well. Merina didn’t care who he was; he was about to get an earful. She wouldn’t allow Reese Crane to dismiss her after dropping that bomb on her feet.

She stomped over to the doorway between him and his guest.

“You listen to me, you suited sewer rat.” Disregarding their current third party, she seethed up at Reese. “I’m going to find a way around your machinations and when I do, I’m going to march back in here with the contract my parents signed and shove it straight up your ass.”

Reese’s eyebrows rose, his lips with them. Instead of apologizing to his guest, he grinned over at the balding man, who to his testament was appropriately shocked, and said, “You’ll have to forgive Ms. Van Heusen. She doesn’t like when she doesn’t get her way.”

The balding man laughed, though it sounded a tad uneasy.

Reese tilted his head at Merina. “Will there be anything else?”

“Your head on a pike.” With that parting blow, she left, holding fast to the suit jacket. She wore it on the ride down the elevator, through the bland lobby, and out onto Superior Street, where she wadded it up and threw it into a mud puddle gathering near the curb.

She walked back to the Van Heusen in the rain, telling herself she’d won this round. But Merina didn’t feel victorious.

She felt lost.

Chapter 2

Reese Crane had nine problems—the other members of the board of directors, now disassembling, murmuring to each other about dinner and drinks downtown. Left in the conference room were his youngest brother, Tag, and their father, Alex.

“That meeting went as well as expected,” Reese growled. “Bunch of stodgy old placeholders.”

“At least you held it in that long,” his father said.

Reese had nearly bitten his tongue to remain silent during the meeting. Now he felt his lip curl as he watched the horde of suits waddle away. He had one seat on the board. His father another. But they were in the minority. Thanks to his great-grandfather, who started Crane Hotels and lost the controlling percentage to the public.

The board had made it clear last month they would not appoint Reese in the position of CEO of Crane Hotels when Alex retired. Apparently, no one had changed their collective minds. They’d always liked Alex but had never warmed to his sons.

“Disloyal pack of jackals,” Reese said. They saw him as a spoon-fed brat who’d inherited his way to the top floor of Crane Hotels, which was an oversimplified truth. Yes, he was sitting at the position of chief operations officer because his father had founded Crane Hotels, but it wasn’t as if he didn’t work. As COO, Reese was in charge of the daily operations of the company, which was no small task.

“You have a flippant, playboy reputation,” Alex stated, not for the first time. “They’re being careful.”

“I work damn near eighty hours a week,” Reese all but bellowed. “I bleed over fiscal reports.”

“You have to play nice, bro,” Tag advised, wearing an easy smile. His facial hair was so heavy, he may as well have been sporting a beard. Reese’s youngest brother ran Guest and Restaurant Services for Crane Hotels. He did a lot of travel for hotel openings and bar and restaurant events. Typically, you couldn’t get him into a suit. Today, he’d eschewed his usual corporate Indiana Jones look for gray slacks and a white button-down.

All hail the board.

“They don’t like you much either,” Alex said, tipping his head at his other son.

At that, Tag sat straight in his chair and plucked the pencil out of his low-hanging ponytail-bun hybrid. Tag bucked the system every chance he had, so it wasn’t any wonder the board hadn’t appreciated his bravado. He worked hard, but his style was more beach bum than corporate and every one of those old crones knew it.

The mess over who would hold the position of CEO was only between Reese and the board. Tag didn’t want it. Alex was retiring. Their other brother, Eli, was still stationed in the desert and wasn’t interested.

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