Authors: Barbara Boswell
Tags: #Single mothers, #Triplets
This book made available by the Internet Archive.
Books by Barbara Boswell
Rule Breaker #55%
Another Whirlwind Courtship #583
The Bridal Price #609
The Baby Track #651
License To Love #685
Double Trouble #749
Trip/* Treat #7S7
loves writing about families. "I guess family has been a big influence on my writing," she says. "I particularly enjoy writing about how my characters' family relationships affect them."
When Barbara isn't writing and reading, she's spending time with her own family—her husband, three daughters and three cats, who she concedes are the true bosses of their home! She has lived in Europe, but now makes her home in Pennsylvania. She collects miniatures and holiday ornaments, tries to avoid exercise and has somehow found the time to write over twenty category romances.
"Do you have any plans for the weekend?" Cole Tre-maine asked his brother Tyler as they emerged from the air-conditioned chill of the office building into the warmth of the sunny May day.
Tyler immediately donned his mirrored sunglasses against the brightness. "This is Memorial Day weekend," he explained patiently.
"Ah, say no more." Cole grinned. "How could I have forgotten, even for a moment? Memorial Day weekend is Tyler Tremaine's bacchanalian kickoff to the summer social season. What began as a simple cookout ten years ago has evolved into a—"
"Enough!" Tyler held up his hand, his lips tightening into a world-weary grimace. "I just heard this lecture from Dad and I don't care to hear it from you, too, big brother."
"Exactly which lecture would this be?" Cole asked amusedly.
"The one about me turning thirty-five last month and still showing no signs of settling down with a—quote—-nice, suitable young woman—unquote—who will turn me into a serious-minded, devoted family man."
"Nice, suitable young woman, hmm?" Cole hid a smile, "Do you suppose Dad has anyone in particular in mind? Somebody's wellborn, well-connected, eligible daughter or niece, perhaps?"
"Undoubtedly, but he didn't mention any names. He did mention that he's certain this nice, suitable young woman couldn't possibly be one of my current acquaintances. Dad thinks every woman I date is either a bimbo or a gold-digger or a combination thereof."
Cole chuckled. "Gee, I wonder where he ever got that impression?"
"Don't you start in on me, too! The simple truth is that I'm not interested in settling down with a nice, suitable young woman—at least, not for a long, long time. I mean, what's the rush? Men in their fifties are able to have children and get married and—"
"Ah, the Warren Beatty defense," Cole said, nodding. "Certainly a compelling argument for extended bachelorhood. I trust you made use of it during your talk with Dad. Was he at all swayed?"
"Not a bit. Said he doesn't care what anybody else does, that I'm his son and he can't stand to watch me waste the best years of my life with a parade of meaningless women
and activities " Tyler's voice trailed off. "You get the
picture, I'm sure. He probably gave you the same lecture before you married Chelsea."
"No, he didn't. Dad's changed a lot in the past few years, Tyler," Cole said thoughtfully. "Ever since he married Nina he-"
"—wants everybody else in the universe to be tied down, too," Tyler interrupted glumly. "Misery loves company, I suppose."
"Dad is not miserable, and you know it. He's been walking on air since he married Nina, and I don't think he's hit the ground yet. He really wants his sons to be as happy as he is. And Dad does make a valid point about not wasting years of your life chasing after everything except what will bring you true happiness. He loved Nina for—how long was it? almost thirty-five years?—before he finally—"
"I don't want to talk about the star-crossed love story of Dad and Nina," Tyler cut in roughly. "It has nothing to do with me. I'm not carrying a torch for anyone. I'm perfectly happy with my life exactly the way it is and I damn well resent being told that I'm wasting my time because I choose not to chain myself to some nice, suitable young woman who will dutifully provide me with the requisite heir and proceed to turn me into some kind of domestic paragon."
"It would take more than a nice, suitable young woman to accomplish that," Cole said jovially. "You'd need something along the lines of a miracle worker to pull off such a stunning transformation."
"Funny, Cole." Tyler's smile more closely resembled a ! wolf baring his teeth than a grin of mirth.' 'Keep those jokes coming. They're just what I need after a half hour of Dad's ranting and raving about the joys and respectability of domestic bliss."
"Sorry," Cole replied, though he did not sound even slightly apologetic. "I'll drop the subject of your—er—social life and move on to safer ground. Something like real estate, maybe?"
Tyler groaned. "Safer ground... real estate Yet another one of your truly atrocious attempts at humor. My advice is to keep your day job at Tremaine Incorporated and stay away from stand-up comedy, brother."
"Okay, I'll spare you any more of my devastating wit. I do have a grounds-related question, though. Have you had any luck buying the corner lot next door to your place? A while ago, you mentioned that the old man who lived there
was dying and that you were going to make him an offer for his property that he couldn't refuse. Whatever happened with that?"
Tyler frowned. "Unfortunately, nothing happened. My lawyer finally got in to see the old recluse and made him that offer, which he had absolutely no trouble refusing. He died shortly afterward and left the place to his nephew."
"And the nephew's asking price soared the moment he learned that a Tremaine was interested in buying the property," Cole surmised. "Too bad, Tyler."
"The nephew is dead, so his widow and children inherited the place," Tyler said flatly, "and apparently, they intend to live there. They moved in about three months ago."
"Well, I hope you're not entertaining any nefarious plans to make them sell to you," Cole said sternly. "I mean, intimidating widows and orphans is not—"
"I haven't intimidated the widow," Tyler cut in with a long-suffering sigh. "In fact, I've been downright civil to her. Over the phone, that is. I haven't met her in person."
"You called her?"
1 'She called me last month before I left for Japan on that marketing trip. She'd found this miserable-looking tabby cat skulking around in her cellar and thought it might be mine. The cat is a stray—I call him Psycho-Kitty because of his less than amiable personality—and I'd been leaving food out for him, but I assured her that he was definitely not my cat. She decided to let him move in with them."
Tyler smiled slightly. "She said she'd named him Sleuth because he can find his way in and out of anywhere without being detected. Sleuth! I told her it was the stupidest name for a cat I'd ever heard and that she was nuts to let him inside her house."
"You told her she was stupid and crazy, hmm?" Cole arched his dark brows. "Is that what you call being downright civil or is it a sample of your much heralded charm?"
"I was doing her a favor. I had valid reasons for naming that cat Psycho-Kitty—he's as unpredictable as a terrorist. Anyway, I'm not trying to charm Carrie—that's her name, Carrie Wilcox. I want to get her off the property so I can buy it, not bowl her over with neighborly friendliness."
" Well, this weekend brawl you call a picnic might just do the trick," said Cole. "If the poor widow has lived next door to you for only three months, then this will be her first experience with the way you entertain your many, many, many friends. It's sure to be an appalling surprise. I feel sorry for the unfortunate woman."
"I'm going to invite her to the party," Tyler said, smiling wickedly. Behind his mirrored sunglasses, his green eyes were gleaming with purpose. "I'll stop by her place as soon as I get home. I always invite my neighbors to my parties— the homeowners, that is. I don't bother with the transient apartment dwellers."
"I assume your neighbors never come, but inviting them is sort of an insurance policy against having them call the police to complain about the noise and all those zesty antics that go on until all hours?"
Tyler nodded. "It makes them feel like mean-spirited killjoys, calling the cops on a party they were invited to."
"Wonder how the widow will react?" mused Cole. "She has kids, you say? How many? Hold old are they?"
"How am I supposed to know?" growled Tyler. "Do I look like the welcoming committee? I didn't call on the Wilcoxes when they moved in, and I've been in Japan for the past month. This afternoon will be the first time I've set foot in the place since I went over to pay my last respects to old Mr. Wilcox."
"And make a final bid for his property," added Cole.
"Which was turned down flat by his lawyer." Tyler frowned, then brightened. "Well, maybe after this weekend Mrs. Wilcox and her brood will be more receptive to my offer to buy them out."
"I think you can count on it," Cole said wryly. He glanced at his watch. "I'd better get home. Chelsea and I are taking the children up to the cabin in the Catoctin Mountains this weekend. We want to leave right after dinner so the kids will be asleep during most of the drive."
"A car trip with two kids—now, that's the stuff of nightmares." Tyler shuddered. "Why bother going anywhere with small children? No matter where you go, it's the same routine of looking after them every minute of the day and night. You might as well stay at home—at least it saves you the trouble of carting their unlimited paraphernalia from place to place."
"I don't think this is the time or place for me to go into the joys of parenthood with you, Tyler," Cole said dryly. "So I'll just say that someday you'll understand and appreciate the role of children in your life."
"More threats." Tyler flashed his white, straight teeth. "This seems to be the day for than. First Dad with his 'nice, suitable young woman' curse, now you with the menacing 'wait until you have kids of your own' hex. Well, I'm going to celebrate the absence of both in my life by thoroughly enjoying every moment of the holiday weekend."
The brothers parted, laughing and wishing each other a good weekend, despite the disparity of their plans. Cole headed to his comfortable suburban Maryland home where his wife, Chelsea, three-year-old Daniel and ten-month-old Kylie Ann eagerly awaited him.
Tyler drove to his neighborhood in a once fashionable but now aging residential section of northwest Washington, D.C. There were yards and trees and shabbily kept, genteel houses, most of which needed large infusions of cash to restore them to their former glory. Many longtime residents of the street spent their winters and summers elsewhere, letting their property fall into slow decline. After the deaths of some elderly neighbors, their houses were sold and divided into apartments, a lucrative bonus for the heirs, who al-
ready had homes and lives elsewhere. Young people, many of them new to the D.C. area, single or recently divorced, in graduate schools or entry-level government jobs, moved in and out of the apartments without anybody really noticing that they'd come or gone.
If there had ever been a cohesive sense of neighborhood, it was already gone by the time Tyler had moved onto the street ten years ago. He didn't mind; the impersonal, increasingly transitional atmosphere of the area suited him. He had no need for neighborhood block parties or Block Watch or Block Parents or any other programs that would provide the street with a communal, protective air.
He owned a three-story brick house perched in the middle of a spacious tree-lined yard, next door to a small frame house on the desirable corner lot. From the time he'd moved in, Tyler had planned to buy that corner lot and tear down the ugly little house on it, thus considerably extending his territory. So far he'd had no luck, but he was certain that he would prevail. It was inevitable; there had never been a Tremaine who didn't get what he wanted, eventually.
Tyler swung his car, a red 1957 Thunderbird convertible, the crown jewel in his classic car collection, into the narrow driveway of the run-down little house next door to his. He might as well extend his invitation to the widow and her offspring in person. Still wearing his corporate executive attire of gray suit, immaculate white shirt and red power tie, he strode to the front door and sounded the tarnished brass knocker.
The door was opened a few moments later by a tall, blond young man in cutoff jeans and a tank top, whose age Tyler guessed to be about twenty. Obviously the son of the widow, Tyler decided. He'd imagined the woman to be fifty-something, and a college-age son fit the scenario.
"I'm your next-door neighbor, Tyler Tremaine," he said, flashing his best friendly neighbor grin.
To make himself seem less formidable and more approachable, he removed his suit coat, unfastened the top buttons of his shirt and loosened his tie as he spoke. He also felt considerably cooler. It seemed that the high temperature for the day had been reached on this airless, covered porch.
"I'd like to invite you and your whole family to my annual Memorial Day picnic tomorrow. It's a tradition of mine to invite the entire neighborhood. We'll start serving dinner around nine, but feel free to drop by earlier for drinks and snacks if you'd like. The most indefatigable early birds generally start showing up around seven."
The young man stared at him, seemingly stunned. Finally he collected himself enough to offer his hand for an introductory shake. "Come in, come in, please. I'm Ben Shaw, Carrie's brother. Thank-you for inviting us to your party."
Tyler stepped inside and took a quick glance around. The vestibule where they stood, and the two rooms visible from there, revealed faded wallpaper, aging fixtures, ruinously scuffed floors and windows that were little more than decaying relics. The place was a dump, and restoration would cost a mint. The widow and her family would be better off living elsewhere on the tidy sum they would receive for this property, Tyler decided loftily.
Ben Shaw took a deep breath, as if to bolster himself. "You.. .wouldn't happen to be one of the Tremaines, would you? The—the ones who own the drugstore and bookstore chains?"