The Billionaire Bachelor

By: Jessica Lemmon

“I have an idea,” Reese announced. Something that had been knocking around in his head since a soaking wet Merina Van Heusen had marched into his office and plunked a doorknob onto his desk.

At the mention of an idea, Alex waited. Tag’s brow creased.

Tag should know better. Of course Reese would come up with a plan before he gave up on being named CEO. It may be an impromptu, mostly old-fashioned plan, but it was a plan.

“Merina Van Heusen came by my office this morning to speak with me about my plans to remodel the Van Heusen.”

Alex’s brow went up.

“She left incensed,” Reese continued. “Stormed out of my office fifteen minutes later but not before insulting me in front of Phil Lightman.”

“You’re remodeling the Van Heusen? That place is a landmark,” Tag said.

“All aboard the ball-busting train.” Reese gave Tag a dry look.

His brother grinned in response. “Well, it is.”

“Shit,” Alex said with a raspy chuckle. His father was in a sleek gray suit and whimsical checkered tie and wore a full white mustache/goatee combo that complemented his thick white hair. He was former military, brawny, had brains and power, and enough balls to say what he meant.

“Shit is right.” Tag winced. “I’ve met Merina Van Heusen. She loves that hotel. I bet she freaked.”

Reese frowned. He’d never met her before this morning. “Where did you meet Merina Van Heusen?”

“Hotel supply conference.” Tag shrugged.

Reese shook his head. If there was a party, Tag was there. It’s one reason he was damn good at what he did for Crane. No one schmoozed like Tag.

“I spoke to her and her parents about the VH. It was obvious she loved that building for more than its bottom-line potential,” Tag said.

“Bad business,” Alex put in.

“Merina is more than just a numbers girl,” Reese stated, agreeing with both his brother and his father. Her passion for her hotel was a tick in the plus column for Reese, because he had something she wanted. That he’d bet she’d do anything to get back.

“I have a perception problem,” Reese said.

Alex grunted his agreement.

“The board sees me as a rich, spoiled prince about to inherit the kingdom. They don’t trust me. I’m unsettled. A loner.” A playboy, the tabloids said. He didn’t care for the insulting title, but it wasn’t untrue. He enjoyed the company of a number of women, consensually, of course, and he wasn’t about to apologize for it.

“A man-whore?” Tag offered.

Reese glared.

“Last one.” Tag held up a hand of surrender and smiled around his beard, a flash of straight, white teeth thanks to braces he’d bitched about for two years.

“Bed-hopping” as Frank, the douche bag, had called it during the meeting. Whether Reese agreed or not, the perception was there and wasn’t going anywhere. As long as the shareholders remained puritanically dated and the board handed them their balls—female board member Lilith’s included, because Reese would bet aces to assholes she had them—Reese was going to have a problem. Which meant he had to change his nefarious ways.

On the outside.

“I have to alter that perception,” Reese said. “Go from a man who enjoys the company of many women to a man who enjoys the company of one woman.”

“Can you even do that?” Tag smirked.

Smart-ass. Reese ignored him and continued. “Once they see me settled, snuggled into a routine, they’ll pay more attention to my achievements. The press will have to report on the woman who tamed me rather than the women I discard.” That wasn’t how he operated, but there was no convincing the outside world. The women he dated knew the score, enjoyed their time spent, and moved on. But reporters were vampires. They wanted blood and amicability didn’t make for interesting headlines.

It was the run-in with Merina that started Reese’s gears turning. She was fiery and passionate but also elegant and intelligent. If he were involved with someone like her, the local rags would have no choice but to take notice. One relationship for show could fix all of his problems. It was almost too simple.

He told his brother and father as much, finishing with, “Merina is the whole package.”

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