After her father’s untimely death, the only things Lily Harris is left with are debt and scandal—and her late father’s business partner, Jake Tolliver, looking over her shoulder. Lily isn’t interested in being another one of Jake’s many conquests, no matter how attractive he is, or how convincing he might be. She just needs to keep reminding herself she’ll get burned if she makes a deal with this devil.
Billionaire Jake Tolliver is the ultimate ruthless businessman with a well-deserved reputation for always getting what he wants. Before his friend and mentor dies, he asks Jake to take care of his daughter...by marrying her. It sounds like a perfect arrangement to Jake. He’ll have a beautiful wife on his arm, and Lily will have someone to take care of the mess her father left her. But Lily’s a romantic at heart, and she won’t accept a marriage of convenience. She’s wants the one thing Jake can’t afford to lose—his heart.
Each book in the Invested in Love series is STANDALONE:
*The Billionaire's Runaway Fiancee
*The Billionaire's Private Scandal
*The Billionaire's Holiday Engagement
*The Billionaire's Reluctant Fiancee
About the Author
By day, Jenna Bayley-Burke is faster than a speeding toddler, stronger than a stubborn husband, able to leap tall Lego structures in a single bound...but by night, while the family sleeps, she writes romance novels where no one ever has to scoop up after the dog, change diapers, clip coupons, drive carpool, do laundry, mop floors, get Silly Putty out of hair, vacuum, empty the vacuum bag (gross!), exercise, count calories, apply Band-Aids, clean up puke...wait where was this going? Oh, Jenna writes romance because it is glamorous.
Read an Excerpt
"So, we're agreed?" Will Harris winced as he readjusted himself in the bed. His skin had gone yellow and paper-thin. Last month, he'd been healthy, sharp, unbeatable on the golf course. Now, he was days away from death.
"I will take care of Lily. She will have everything she needs." Even if she'll probably fight me every step of the way. Jake Tolliver had been drawn to Lily Harris the first time he'd laid eyes on her. Unfortunately, the more he cared for her, the more she avoided him.
"You'll marry her." It was a strange statement coming from the man who wouldn't give his blessing two years ago when Jake had asked permission before pursuing Lily.
"Will, she's a grown woman who can make her own decisions. As much as I'd like to tell her we're getting married, it wouldn't go over well."
"But you have to." Agitation worsened the tremors in Will's hands, so foreign to a man who'd solved problems for a living. He had an amazing ability to look at any building and see possibility. What he'd taught Jake in the last four years of their partnership was priceless. It gave him a passion and skillset for architecture he'd always hoped to have. Tolliver-Harris was renowned for their ability to rehabilitate dilapidated buildings, to turn schools into hotels, churches into restaurants, the tunnels beneath Portland into a nightclub. That was the legacy Will Harris deserved to be remembered for.
Unfortunately, gossip and derision had taken hold. Will had made some horrid investment decisions, buying in to companies with little hope of return, spent money on gambling and women until his credit ran dry. A few years of frugal spending and completed projects would have corrected it. He just hadn't planned on dying.
"Jake, you have to marry her. She is too vulnerable. Someone will take advantage of that, hurt her in ways ..."
"She's not the fragile flower you think she is. Lily is a brilliant woman." Her intellectual confidence was second to none. It was everything else that had fallen behind.
Will's head shook with the same twitching pace of his hands. "You don't understand. She doesn't have the experience someone her age needs to know who to trust. There hasn't —"
"I've known her as long as I've known you. I know exactly what you mean, and I promise you, no harm will come to her. You know how I feel about her, but while she might spend hours inside the pages of Victorian society, she doesn't live there."
"No, she doesn't. I have kept her so close to me, sheltered her, protected her. She's my life's work, Jake. And this —" His pale eyes went glassy as he gestured to the hospital bed, the bottles of pills lined neatly on the bedside table. "I'm leaving her with nothing but a mess to clean up. I've failed her, and for what? Selfishness."
"Lily will always think of you as devoted. Bank accounts won't change that." Jake stood and turned to the window, unable to watch his mentor crumble. He'd long ago learned to quiet his emotional responses.
"She deserves to be happy." Will's voice thinned and slowed with each word, as if he were plucking them out one by one from his soul. "She's lost so much, and now, even more. Even with how much you paid for my share of the firm, the house will have to be sold."
He'd never realized how many stalled projects Will had invested in, how much credit casinos would sign over to a man who owned an estate this size. Will had bought the land, built the house, and then designed an exclusive set of neighboring estates. It had made him rich and made him a gambler. Many of his investments would have amazing returns in time, but Will's had run out.
"You could make her happy."
"I'd love nothing more." Absolute truth, and not likely to happen. He took every opportunity to get closer to her, just as she did her best to keep her distance. She was guarded with everyone, but more so with him. Or she tried to be. There were times her walls slipped, and he caught a glimpse of absolute perfection.
Will's voice had weakened to barely a whisper. "She needs someone who understands her. And I know how you feel for her."
Jake turned back to his friend, wishing the older man hadn't been so hung up on the age gap between him and Lily two years ago. Everything would be settled by now, and he could go in peace.
"You'll marry her. Make sure she's loved." His eyelids drooped, the pain meds having kicked in enough to let him sleep.
"You have my word." An easy promise. He'd love her, always. Marry her tomorrow if she wanted. But she didn't.
At least, not yet.
Drizzle clung to the air, hovering without falling. The impending storm fit the bleak tone of her father's burial. The gray sky held back its tears just as she did. Lily Harris concentrated on breathing, not wanting to listen to the pretty words as generic as the list of business acquaintances on the memorial guest book the funeral home had insisted on.
No one would ever get the satisfaction of seeing her shoulders slump or a tear fall down her cheek. She pulled in a deep breath and held her head higher. She might dissolve into a puddle of tears eventually, but here they'd see nothing but pride for the man who'd dedicated his life to being a good father. The few people who pretended to care enough to attend a private graveside service were just like the others, waiting for the news headlines, eager for gossip about how she looked and acted today.
The lawyer handling her father's estate held a black umbrella over them both. The moisture in the air seeped through her clothes, chilling her to the bone. The minister's words rang empty; everything had for the last month. Pancreatic cancer hit hard and fast and painfully. Each word people spoke seemed filled with morbid curiosity of how a world so tightly woven unraveled so quickly and completely. The life she knew had died with her father. The entire estate needed to be sold to clear his debts, and it might not be enough.
Jake Tolliver's presence echoed around her like a suffocating aura. She didn't need to turn to know he'd moved to stand behind her, his hand at her elbow. He'd been the one navigating the financial black hole while she focused on her father. She was grateful for the time it had saved her but wary of what he might expect in return. He'd already taken her father's portion of their firm.
"Ready?" Jake's deep timbre resonated through her, but she didn't turn her head. As much as she'd needed him to be in control of the business since her father's diagnosis, she couldn't be indebted to him. She had enough debt already.
If she leaned on him too much, she'd fall when he stepped back. She had to get her bearings, had to stand on her own feet. Whether she knew how or not.
He clasped her elbow before she could respond, taking her from the relative safety of the umbrella. Her vulnerability crested like a wave she nearly choked on as they stepped away from her father's gravesite. She couldn't make a scene, even though she wanted to break away, to stay close. Run all the way back to the life she used to have.
"We need to go." Jake kept walking, propelling her forward.
"Not yet," she managed to whisper, casting a glance to where workers had stepped in, covering his still-open grave with a tarp. It seemed so undone, so unreal.
"He wouldn't want you to stay. Not to watch this, to be watched." His determination dominated her, leading her on when everything in her wanted to stay.
"He wouldn't want this, either. He would've wanted me to do what I feel is right. Haven't you ever felt anything like this gaping hole tearing me apart? It's too fast."
"A little farther, Lily. Almost there." His fingers tightened on her, his pace quickening, the heels of her shoes sinking into the damp grass with each step. "You can make it to the car."
She pursed her lips in a firm line, knowing he was right. She saw the reporters at the meeting gate, cars ready to follow wherever they went. A few weeks ago, being in the headlines meant she'd attended a charity event. Now, it symbolized how low her father had sunk before his death, the dozens of people claiming he owed them money. What a legacy to have left.
Rows of black cars waited beyond the marshy grass of the cemetery. With a wave of his hand, Jake dismissed the car she'd arrived in and its driver. Before she could even ask what he was doing, he opened the door of the only car with color in the line, a shimmering emerald green, the signature color of all his businesses. With a firm hand at the small of her back, he urged her inside. Just as the chauffer had acquiesced, so did she. She couldn't defy Jake Tolliver, the powerful and generous, at least not under the watchful eye of the media.
Jake joined her in the car and turned the key, the feral sound of power echoing in her ears. The car leapt onto the road, racing out of the gate amid flashes of light.
* * *
Jake's entire body vibrated with tension; he didn't want to imagine how it must be for her. Lily sat ramrod straight in the leather seat, her blond hair damp around her shoulders. Even now, with her world crumbling, she looked perfect. She was every inch a woman, but she still radiated an innocence that had him doing things for her he would never even consider doing for someone else. And she resented him for it.
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and checked the rearview mirror. A few of the reporters had followed, but not all. She was going through enough without having to be watched.
She'd been so composed all through the funeral, the unaffected poise of a woman much older than twenty-three. No one saw cracks in her veneer. If he hadn't heard her sobbing in her room at night, he might say she was handling it well.
Lily took a shaky breath and let it out slowly. She slid off the sunglasses shielding her eyes and put them carefully on her lap. His glasses. She hadn't thought to bring any, and he hadn't wanted to let any of those vultures see her cry. They'd come to pick over the carnage of William Harris. Lily had done her part. Anyone who didn't know her as well as he did wouldn't have noticed how she struggled.
"The reporters are coming anyway, no matter what path you take to the house." Her voice, thick and unsteady, squeezed his very soul. He never wanted her to ever feel this kind of pain, but there was nothing he could do about it.
"They're not coming anywhere near you. I'm locking the gate."
Lily let out a long sigh. "We can't do that. People expect to visit all day, to pay their respects, though they offer him none. They'll probably want a look around, searching for what to buy at the estate sale."
"No one is passing through the house. You don't need people who claim to be your friends prying for information."
"That's not the way it works, Jake. I keep telling myself there are a few of them who actually are sorry."
"Then where have they been? Any of them could've comforted you, could've helped you through this."
William and Lily had been so close, father and daughter, but also best of friends. In losing him, she'd lost more than a father, more than a way of life. "Once we arrive, the gate will be locked and guarded."
"It's easiest to get it over with. People will be offended if I don't, and that will bring more speculation."
"If they're offended, I have broad shoulders. I'm not a slave to social niceties." He downshifted as he entered the elite neighborhood. Ten houses set back on sprawling plots of land, as opulent as it was exclusive. Families didn't move from here. Any change of residence was caused by death and inheritance. He supposed Will's house was an inheritance of sorts. "Anyone who is truly your friend will understand, and you don't need the rest of them." He swung into the drive, tension easing as two burly men stood at the entrance. What the iron bars couldn't hold back, he knew these two would.
With a nod to the men, he passed through the gates, relaxing more as they closed. Lily was safe, safe to heal and decide what she wanted for her future.
"What if I want them to come?"
"Why would you? They don't deserve your hospitality or politeness. Too many of them equate a person's worth with their bank balance."
"Then they'll think I'm nothing." She stared at the window, her delicate jaw clenched so tightly she might crack a tooth.
"They don't know you. You've lived a sheltered life, angel. You're going to make it through this. Will was my friend. I promised him I do anything to keep you protected."
Lily sniffed. "Does that include being protected from you?"
"You're not afraid of me." He knew there was a reason for the way she avoided him, never letting him too close, doing her best to avoid touching while still seeming the perfect hostess. But he was through playing Beast to her Beauty.
"When you have nothing to lose, there is nothing to fear. Whatever promises you made my father, I absolve you of them. I don't need protecting, or someone trying to run my life."
"You do right now. It's for your own good." He parked the car and killed the engine.
"You have no idea what's good for me. You have no idea what it will be like to dismantle everything my father built and watch it go to the highest bidder. I'm grateful you were here to help while he was ill, but there's nothing you can do now. The nightmare begins, and you can't protect me from it."
"I know nightmares, Lily. I grew up in government housing, went to the best schools on a full scholarship, but what do I know about holding on to pride?"
He pulled his key from the ignition. He hated how she could do this to him, make him feel like he both needed to slay any dragon that came her way and throttle her himself. He never lost his cool, never let emotions rule his actions, but Lily Harris always knew exactly which strings to pull to make him crazy.
"Don't push me right now. Never show all your cards before you know what game you're playing."
She was the most frustrating woman he'd ever known. Anyone else would be grateful. Would be asking him for more. But then if she were anyone else, he would never have bothered.
* * *
If Jake wanted to protect her privacy, why wouldn't he leave her alone? She hated the fuzzy blur of emotions rioting through her. Her father had always been healthy and strong until cancer had come into their lives, turning everything upside down and backward until she barely knew how to stand up straight.
Every day of those last weeks with her father, Jake had been there, hovering. Even with familiarity, she hadn't grown accustomed to the domineering way he took control of all he touched.
"You're being silly," her father had said when she'd suggested he should be wary of Jake. "He's brilliant. I've never met someone so smart and talented at the same time. He works harder than three men together. Honestly, there's no one I trust more."
Whenever she tried to explain how uneasy he made her, she was treated to another ode to Jake. She'd heard his entire life story, everything he wanted people to know at least. The generous charity donations, working through projects others had deemed impossible, making deals no one could believe.
She never understood what Jake wanted with her father's architecture firm. He'd had his own, one with projects spanning the globe and partnerships in every facet of the business from manufacturing to construction. Such sharp predatory focus barely contained beneath the patina of sophistication. There was a ruthlessness behind his dark eyes.
One day he would pounce.
With her father gone and his every asset swallowed up by the yawning maw of his creditors, there was only one way to settle the rest. She hated the idea of selling the house, but her master's degree wasn't complete, and she'd never held a job. Her father always had somewhere he needed her to be without any notice, making it difficult to keep up with her coursework, let alone a job. She should have completed her program by now, be halfway to her doctorate. But there had never been a rush to finish. And now, a degree in English literature seem terribly impractical. What she needed was a business degree and tangible skills, not a plethora of knowledge on the historical significance of the works of Jane Austen.
She had to find some way to support herself. She'd been able to put it off while her father had been ill, but she needed to face the situation head-on. Tomorrow. She'd been through enough today.
She'd find a way to remember her father without all the indiscretions he'd admitted to. He'd apologized profusely for the risky investments, gambling, and women. All things she had never realized were a part of his life. She'd forgiven him everything, because really, what good would it do to blame a dying man for mistakes that were hers as well?
Excerpted from "The Billionaire's Reluctant Fiancée"
Copyright © 2018 Jenna Bayley-Burke.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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