Authors: Barbara Boswell
|Trouble In Triplicate|
Trouble In Triplicate
TROUBLE IN TRIPLICATE
A Bantam Book I May 1986
LOVES WEPT and the wave device are registered trademarks
of Bantam Books, Inc.
Copyright © 1986 by Barbara Boswell.
"You did that deliberately, didn't you?" The deep, masculine voice sounded in Juliet Post's ear, and she whirled around to find herself facing Caine Saxon, the brother of the one true enemy she possessed in this world. She decided that made him an enemy-by-association.
"You!" Juliet glowered at him. "What are you doing here?" Fate had never been unkind enough to throw them together socially . . . until now, it seemed. Here they were at the Wilmonts' party, just a few inches apart in the noisy, crowded living room. And then another, more troubling thought struck. "Is your brother here too?"
Juliet cast an anxious glance toward the kitchen, where her sisters were preparing trays of hot hors d'oeuvres to be served to the party guests. John and Laura Wilmont had hired the Post Sisters' Catering Service for the evening. What if Grant Saxon were here? With another woman? How would Randi react to that? Not well, Juliet feared. Her sister was having a rough time getting over that lying, cheating, bestial Grant Saxon. And here she was, face to face with his odious brother.
Caine didn't look particularly thrilled to see her, either. "No, Grant isn't here." He scowled at her. "Well, which one are you? Juliet, Miranda, or Olivia?"
Juliet scowled back at him. Life as an identical triplet had taught her to be tolerant of those who couldn't tell her apart from her two sisters, but she was unable to indulge Caine Saxon with her usual patience in the matter. "It's none of your business who I am!" she snapped.
"Juliet, Miranda, and Olivia." Caine shook his head as he repeated the names. "Right out of Shakespeare, huh?"
"Our parents were English professors here at U. Va." She'd told the story of their names so many times, it was natural to lapse into it. And then she remembered that she was talking to the enemy, and she frowned. "I'm amazed that you've even heard of Shakespeare. After all, he had nothing to do with football."
Caine grinned in spite of himself. "Yeah, if I had triplets, I'd name them O. J., Bradshaw, and Bart Starr." And then he remembered that he was talking to the enemy and his expression hardened. "So are you going to tell me which one you are?"
"No," Juliet replied succinctly.
"Then I'll just have to figure it out for myself, won't I?" Caine's gaze swept over her, taking in her slender five-foot-four height; her short dark hair, which framed her small face like a sleek, smooth cap; her big, wide-set eyes, which were a deep periwinkle blue in color. Her small, straight nose with its slight smattering of freckles gave her a wholesome girl-next-door look, and she had a firm little chin and a sweetly generous mouth.
She was slim and small-boned and lovely—and she had two sisters who looked exactly like her.
Confusion flickered across Caine's face. He couldn't tell one sister from the other. He'd never been able to.
"Doesn't it spook you?" he'd once asked his brother Grant during Grant's whirlwind courtship of Miranda Post. "The Post triplets are clones of each other. Isn't it weird to be with a woman who's interchangeable with two others?" Caine couldn't fathom it. He knew he'd always wonder which was the original. And suppose they tricked you with a substitute?
Grant had merely laughed. "There are ways of telling the triplets apart," he'd said, amused. "Their personalities are totally different. I guess that's the most reliable way of knowing who is who."
Caine decided to use that clue to learn this particular Post's identity now. "If you won't tell me who you are, I'll find out by process of elimination." His brows narrowed in concentration. "Olivia is never without her trusty sidekick, Bobby Lee Taggert. There is no Bobby Lee by your side, so you can't be Olivia. Miranda is so quiet that she doesn't speak until she's spoken to. You certainly haven't been quiet and shy, so unless Miranda has undergone a radical personality change since she broke up with my brother, you can't be her. That leaves me with Juliet, the acknowledged leader of the pack. You're Juliet, aren't you?"
"You're a regular sleuth, Sherlock."
"I like to know the identity of the person I'm speaking to." Caine's momentary smile of triumph faded, to be replaced by a frown. "You did it deliberately, didn't you, Juliet?"
"What are you talking about?" she asked with unconcealed irritation.
"I saw you introduce that scholarly looking guy to my date!"
Juliet followed his gaze to a corner of the room where her friend and neighbor, Mark Walsh—who wore wire-rimmed glasses, was a math professor at the university, and was both scholarly looking and brilliant—was talking to a lovely blonde. Juliet had introduced him to her ten minutes before.
"That's Sherry Carson, the weather girl on Channel 42," Juliet said aloud. Sherry Carson was Mark's dream girl, and he'd nearly swooned when he'd seen her here at the party. He was too shy and nervous to introduce himself to the star of his fantasies, so Juliet had introduced herself to Sherry, and then introduced Sherry to Mark.
"I know it's Sherry Carson," Caine said impatiently. "I was the one who brought her to this party."
"She was standing alone when I introduced myself to her. And she seemed happy to have some company," Juliet retorted. "She said that she didn't know anyone here and she appeared to be very pleased to meet Mark."
"She was angry with me because I'd left her alone too long to talk football with some of the guys."
They watched Sherry Carson talking animatedly to Mark Walsh, who appeared to be listening raptly. "They seem to be getting along very well," Juliet said. "Too bad, Mr. Saxon. Looks like you've lost your date."
Juliet was delighted at the turn of events. She was pleased that Mark seemed to be making headway with the girl of his dreams, and she relished the fact that Caine Saxon's date had defected— thanks to the matchmaking efforts of Juliet Post.
"You're feeling quite pleased with yourself, aren't you?" Caine said. "The expression on your face is a dead giveaway. You look like Sylvester the Cat grinning at Tweety Bird as Grandma departs for the day."
"I can't take full credit." Juliet shrugged. "Mark Walsh is as sweet and sincere as you Saxons are cold and shallow and deceitful. It shouldn't take Sherry Carson long to realize that."
"Sherry isn't the sweet and sincere type. And I resent your slur on the collective Saxon character, lady."
"It's not a slur, it's a statement of fact!"
Caine's eyes glittered. "You're lucky you're a woman, Ms. Post. Because if you were a man, I'd—"
"You'd what? Meet me outside and take me apart limb by limb?" Juliet asked mockingly. "Your stupid machismo is out of date, Saxon. A real man doesn't have to fight to prove his manhood these days. Or womanize, either. Of course, I wouldn't expect you or your conniving brother to know anything about men with values and morals. That's alien territory for you, isn't it?"
Caine was clearly angry. His body was taut and his eyes flashed fire. Obviously, she'd struck a nerve. Juliet congratulated herself.
"Grant told me how impossible you three clones have been! He said there's no reasoning with any of you, and I can see he's right." Caine's voice was low and husky with intensity. "Well, you've got one helluva nerve, lady! Especially since it was your sister who jilted my brother!"
"After she found out he was cheating on her! I'd say she was quite justified in breaking their engagement."
Caine was briefly taken aback. "Cheated on her? Is that why she ended the engagement?"
"I know it must come as a great surprise to a couple of swinging playboys like you and your brother, but most women believe that when a man proposes marriage—and goes so far as to buy an engagement ring—he is ready and willing to give up other women. But not Grant Saxon!" Juliet clenched her fists. "Two weeks before his wedding he goes to Richmond and spends the weekend with another woman! Can you blame Randi for calling off the wedding? What kind of a husband would your brother make if he—"
"Julie, we need some help with the lamb in the kitchen." The young woman who joined them at that moment was Juliet's duplicate, from the gold hoop earrings affixed to her small earlobes to the white over-sized shirt belted at the waist with a wide bright blue belt to the white cropped slacks, bright blue shoes, and gold ankle bracelet.
"I'm coming, Liwy," Juliet said tightly, scarcely glancing at her sister.
For a dazed moment Caine wondered how she knew which sister it was. He blinked, and the two sisters turned and started toward the kitchen. He stared after them and wondered which was the one he'd been talking to. Quarreling with, he silently amended. And there were three of them!
He gave his head a slight shake, as if to clear it. They spooked him, all right. Poor Grant might not realize it now, but he'd had a lucky escape from that crew! In addition to being unnervingly identical, they were vengeful and vindictive.
For one solid month Grant had suffered through having the phone slammed down in his ear, having his letters returned unopened, and his flowers returned with the cards torn into pieces. All this from the woman who had jilted him! And now it appeared that the triple threat had declared war on all Saxons. Juliet had undoubtedly seen him come into the Wilmonts' house with Sherry Carson and set out to sabotage his date by introducing her to another man.
Caine glanced across the room to where Mark Walsh was gazing at Sherry Carson with unadulterated adoration. The way that Grant used to gaze at Miranda Post, Caine thought grimly. Well, it appeared he'd lost Sherry to the young scholar in the wire-rimmed glasses. It bothered him a little that he didn't care at all, but he didn't. There had already been quite a few Sherry Carson types in his life, brief flings who accepted and promised nothing but a good time and no strings attached.
Perhaps Sherry had decided that Mark Walsh's undisguised admiration was a better deal than Caine Saxon's undisguised indifference Chalk one up for Juliet Post for providing the means for her defection.
, he mentally scored.
Or was it Post-two?
Miranda's outright, abject rejection of Grant certainly counted for something. Poor Grant. Caine grimaced as he visualized the dejected countenance his brother wore these days. The Saxon brothers weren't accustomed to outright, abject rejection by anyone, let alone by a woman! Since their grade-school days, when they'd played midget football, they'd been popular with the girls.
Playboys, Juliet Post had scathingly called them. Caine didn't care for the term. To him, it conjured up an image of a smarmy Latin lover in a velvet smoking jacket with rings on his fingers. He and Grant had dated a lot of women between them, but they'd never resorted to velvet smoking jackets, jewels, and smarminess.
The Post triplets were small-town girls, he reminded himself. They'd been born and raised here in Charlottesville, Virginia, and were still here at the age of twenty-six. The fact that he and Grant had been nationally known pro football players and lived in big cities—himself in Pittsburgh and Grant in Atlanta—undoubtedly made them seem cosmopolitan and sophisticated to a provincial trio like the Post sisters.