Recently, I released a serial romance on social media. This was a fun experiment, but as with many experiments, there were factors we didn’t plan for. While the idea of releasing a story in small bits sounded good, in actuality my readers had a hard time keeping up. Social media likes to pick and choose which posts people see, so it was difficult for readers to see them all and to remember to search for them.
While I didn’t initially plan to release Double/Triple Trouble on my blog, I have decided to place it below. Hopefully those who missed it on social media or had a difficult time finding all the installments will find this easier reading. To all my loyal readers, thank you so much for continuing to read what I have to offer. I appreciate you more than you know.
Double Triple Trouble
by Lori Soard
Devon let the tan canvas, overnight case drop to the plushly carpeted floor of the honeymoon suite with a dull thunk. A crystal vase graced the heavy oak dining table on the far wall, red roses in full bloom spilled over the edges of the finely cut glass. A bucket of ice nestled next to the vase, keeping a green bottle of champagne cool. A disgustingly sappy, heart-shaped jacuzzi peaked from a curtained corner, while jars of bath beads and oils filled the rising steam with flowery, nausea inducing heaviness.
Exhaustion pressed heavily behind Devon’s throbbing temples. He threw a glance at the shiny, satin comforter topping a king-sized bed complete with ceiling mirrors. His gaze dropped to the electronic key in his hand.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” he murmured to himself before giving a wry chuckle.
Apparently, the desk clerk had assigned him the wrong room. The faint crackle of ice warming to the temperature in the room drew his gaze back to the table. A pale lavender scrap of paper caught his attention. Moving closer, he scooped the letter into his hand.
DEAR MR. &
MRS. ST. CLARE,
WELCOME TO ENCORE RESORT. MAY WE BE THE FIRST TO EXTEND CONGRATULATIONS. PLEASE ACCEPT THE ROSES AND CHAMPAGNE AS OUR WEDDING GIFT.
The paper fluttered out of Devon’s suddenly numb fingers and drifted to the floor like the graceful descent of an eagle.
Marriage. That was a laugh. He was the furthest from marriage he could possibly be. There had only been one woman who’d ever made him consider marriage. He’d have to be crazy to chance holy matrimony after seeing the horror of divorce when his parents had split up. He shuddered at the memory of his once sweet, easy-going mother, slinging a pot of hot coffee in his father’s face. No. Marriage was not on his agenda.
It was actually rather humorous that they’d put him in the honeymoon suite. All the other rooms had been booked and the newlyweds had cancelled their reservations. The man who would never marry, in the honeymoon suite. He’d made it clear he didn’t want the extras – no romantic touches for him.
Devon scooped the colorful note off the cream carpet. The faint, lingering scent of lilies rose from the paper and his hand shook. Lilies always reminded him of her. He closed his eyes for a moment, ordering his thoughts in another direction – any other direction.
She’d run out on him, not the other way around. No explanation. No goodbye. Just an empty closet and a single unfinished book left face down on the coffee table. He forced his thoughts to the letter in front of him.
IF THERE IS ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR STAY MORE PLEASANT, PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO CALL AT EXTENSION L-O-V-E (5683) OR STOP BY MY OFFICE ON THE FIRST FLOOR.
Devon felt the blood drain from his face right down to the tips of his toes only to slam its way into his heart and cause his pulse to pound violently against his chest. Lainy. Crumpling the letter into a tight ball, Devon strode to the door and headed for the first floor. Lainy was here, and they had unfinished business.
“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill. He sounds too blue to cry,” Lainy sang along to her favorite Hank William’s tune, emotion clogged her throat and made her voice sound husky.
She sniffed and pressed her fingers to damp eyelids. She seemed to cry at the drop of a pickle these days. Come to think of it, pickles sounded pretty good right about now. She’d better get her rambling thoughts under control or she’d never finish her work. Just because she hadn’t had time for breakfast was no reason to start daydreaming about lunch. If she was taking that extended vacation in a month, she needed to get caught up.
But, surely she could stop for half an hour and eat lunch? She was starving. Her stomach seconded with a noisy rumble.
Lainy reached down and patted her belly, “You be quiet.”
She gave a startled yelp and bolted behind her desk as a loud rap shook her office door on its hinges. Her arms came up protectively over her middle.
“Come in.” She wouldn’t be surprised if whoever it was had left permanent fist marks on the outside of her door.
The knob twisted as if in slow motion replay and the door swung inward. Lainy felt her heart kick into overdrive. Her breathing grew shallow, sounding loud even to her.
The man standing on the threshold was massive, well over six feet, his broad shoulders filled the doorway. A lock of midnight-black hair had dared escape and flop onto his forehead. His blue eyes were as icy as the depths of the arctic ocean. He was all animal power. He attracted her yet repelled her at the same time, like opposite ends of a magnet. Devon St. Clare. Lainy made an instinctive move to hide behind her desk, but it was too late. His brilliant and alert gaze had already dropped to her stomach, his throat worked convulsively.
Pregnant. Lainy was pregnant. Obviously pregnant. Devon smothered a groan.
“You’re pregnant.” He pointed at her bulging belly.
Her whiskey-brown eyes snapped with the scared defensiveness of a doe trapped in a car’s headlights. “Why thank you for that diagnosis, Dr. St. Clare. I never would have known what ailed me.”
Her full lips were twisted sarcastically. Devon frowned. Lainy had always been an optimist. She was the one who believed things would ultimately work out. She’d been the type of person who pulled out a handful of pennies at every wishing well, fountain and mud puddle and made wishes. What had happened to her since she’d run out on him?
“When is the baby due?” His jaw ached from gritting his teeth together so hard. He was amazed they didn’t collapse against each other into fine enamel powder.
“December twenty-fourth. Four more weeks.” Her gaze shifted to the side as she refused to meet his eyes.
“Is it mine?” He winced even as the words left his mouth. Of course the baby was his. Lainy hadn’t left him until the end of June. She wasn’t the cheating type – he didn’t think.
“No. ‘It’ is MINE.” Her hands had flown up to her hips, and her cheeks flushed with predatory anger. She’d never looked more beautiful. Devon swallowed, realizing how much he’d missed her spirit.
“You should’ve told me, Lainy.” He’d meant it to be a gentle admonition but the words came out sounding choked and emotional.
A father – he was going to be a father. A wide grin tugged at the corners of his mouth and he felt it pulling into a full-fledged smile.
“You can wipe that sappy smile off your face.” Lainy rounded the end of the heavy desk and paced to a few feet in front of him. She wagged her finger under his nose. “You didn’t want to be tied down, remember?”
Sudden realization flooded through Devon. Was that why she’d left? Had she truly believed he wouldn’t marry her once he’d found out she was pregnant? He’d known she’d recently become a Christian and was struggling with their living situation. She’d told him she couldn’t live with him without being married now that she was saved. But he’d been so adamant against marriage when she’d broached it. He could still remember the hurt look on her face when he’d said he would NEVER get married, they could live together in sin forever. He’d even laughed, never really noticing how silent she’d grown. It had been a few days later that he’d come home to an echoingly empty apartment.
He grasped her slender hand in his and bent down on one knee. Frantic, she struggled against his grip.
“Devon, don’t you dare. Don’t do this to me now.”
“Lainy, you’re going to have my baby.” He let his gaze rest on the swelling that was their child. “We’re going to be parents…”
“Stop.” She tugged harder at her hand, her fingers slipping loose a fraction.
Devon frowned. He was trying to do what was right here. It was his obligation to marry Lainy and provide a name for his child. True, he hadn’t planned on ever marrying, but if he had to do it, he’d rather it be Lainy than anyone.
“Lainy, I’ve grown up a little since you left. I can handle being a husband and a father. Just give me a chance.”
Sparkling tears pooled on the ends of Lainy’s lashes. “You don’t have any idea, Devon. You don’t have a clue.”
“So clue me.” He smiled gently at her.
“I’m having twins.”
Devon felt the smile fade by slow degrees and a cold sweat break over his brow. Twins. The word rose up around him like shackles tying him down for the rest of his life. He heard Lainy’s cynical snort at his reaction, but his mind focused on the ramifications of her words.
She wasn’t surprised at his reaction, Lainy told herself. That was why she’d left without explanations. He didn’t even want to be a husband, much less a father. Add twins to that equation and you had a full-fledged disaster on your hands.
It was better to cut her losses now than to allow herself to fully open up to Devon and trust him with her heart, then have him stomp on it. A sharp stab of pain slammed into her lower back and Lainy sucked in her breath. She needed to stay calm for the babies.
“Why don’t you just go, Devon?” She moved to the swivel chair behind her desk and collapsed onto it. The faint aching throb remained in the small of her spine.
“No.” He stood, feet spread slightly apart, a determined look on his face. “I think we should get married.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She winced as another pain hit her.
“Are you okay?” His blue eyes turned from icy determination to warm concern in a moment as he rushed to her side.
Lainy bit her lower lip hard enough to draw blood. “Just some Braxton Hicks. No big deal.”
“I’m no expert, but I don’t think Braxton Kicks should make you turn pasty-white. Maybe we should call a doctor.” He reached out a gentle hand and brushed back a loose strand of hair.
Lainy resisted the urge to nuzzle into his hand. She remembered how he’d used any excuse to touch her hair. He’d often told her it was her best feature. A cinder-brown he’d called it – full of colors and life just like a smoldering fire. A stronger contraction pulled her stomach taut, running from her back to her front like superhuman arms crushing tight.
“No doctors. I’m fine.” Lainy tried to push to her feet. Stopped midway into a stand.
“I think my water just broke.” The damp announcement of the babies’ imminent arrival saturated her clothing.
The room blurred in a haze of pain and fear. She was vaguely aware of Devon shouting orders to someone and gently grasping her elbow to lead her to his car. Her eyes drifted shut as her world narrowed and became one focused breath after another. The only sound in the leather scented car was the heavy rasp of her breathing. Big breath in. Hold. One. Two. Three. Four. Breathe out. One. Two. Three. Four.
“We’re almost there, sweetheart. Just hold on.”
Lainy heard Devon’s voice as if she were standing on the top of a mountain and he was at the bottom shouting. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Pant. Pant. Pant.
Mustn’t hyperventilate. She had to breathe. In. Hold. Out. Was there room in there to scream? She could breathe in, hold, then scream, couldn’t she?
The whir of an ambulance signaled their arrival at the hospital. A nurse in crisp white pants and lab coat rolled a wheelchair next to the Mustang convertible. What an impractical car for babies, Lainy thought. But then Devon had never wanted babies – or a wife.
A sob hiccuped out of her before she could stop it.
The nurse patted her on the shoulder. “There. There, honey. It’ll be okay. First baby?”
“Babies,” Lainy panted.
“Twins,” Devon confirmed as the nurse rolled her past the automatic doors and toward maternity with practiced efficiency.
Several hours later, Lainy had given birth to two wrinkled, red and screaming girls. Devon couldn’t seem to stop smiling. His cheeks ached from the grin on his face.
“I don’t feel so well.” Lainy fell back on the starched, pillows, her face matching their whiteness. Devon frowned. He had thought the worst was over.
“Lainy?” The doctor’s voice went up a notch and his face was etched in panic.
Devon grasped Lainy’s hand and held tight. He wasn’t going to lose her. He’d never told her how much he loved her. Not even when she’d lived with him. He’d been too scared to commit himself that much. To give up his heart.
Pant pant pant. Lainy’s breathing was shallow. Her pulse beat frantically against where his thumb rested on the soft inner skin of her wrist.
“Breathe, Lainy.” He leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to her damp forehead. She looked up at him with dazed eyes, pain dulling their usual brightness and twisting her features.
Devon opened his mouth to tell her he loved her but the doctor’s soft chuckle surprised him. The man was laughing?
“Well, what do we have here?” The man glanced up at Lainy with an impish grin. “You need to push a couple more times, sweetheart.”
Lainy shook her head.
“Seems we have a surprise baby that was hiding behind the other two.”
Silence. Triplets? The only noise in the suddenly still room was the shallow rasp of Lainy’s breathing. Devon closed his eyes in panic. He wasn’t certain of his ability to be a good father to one baby, much less two. Now, he had to figure out how to parent three?
He couldn’t do it. Terror rushed to the pit of his stomach, heaved its way up into his throat and lodged there. He would make a lousy father a a worse husband. It wasn’t fair to Lainy. Wasn’t fair to the babies. They all deserved better. He’d help them financially of course, but on an emotional level he wasn’t capable. He was too much like his own father.
His father, who’d left his wife and eight year old son one stormy night. He’d driven away in his Oldsmobile station wagon with the wood-grained sides and never looked back. Devon had vowed then never to commit to something he couldn’t handle – and he couldn’t handle this.
He dropped Lainy’s hand and took two steps back. Her eyes flew to his face, even as she bit down on her lip to hold back a scream. Sudden understanding flooded her eyes with moisture.
He lifted his hands. “I’m sorry, Lainy. I-I..” He took two more steps back.
A tiny bundle slipped into the doctor’s hands and a soft mewl drew Devon back to the bed. He blinked back emotion at the sight of his child still attached to his mother by the long cord that had given him life these past months. He reached out a finger and gently touched the sticky little hand. His son blinked at him and grasped Devon’s finger tightly in his tiny fist.
His son and his daughters. Pride swelled in his chest. He glanced at Lainy, but she had her eyes closed and her face turned to the inside of the room.
“Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?” The doctor held a shiny pair of stainless steel scissors toward Devon.
He took them automatically, their cool metal feeling icy against his hot palm. Weighing them in his hand for a moment he pulled the handles apart and centered the opening over the cord.
Devon took a deep breath. He wasn’t his father. He didn’t want to be anything like the man. He loved Lainy. And he loved his children. Now he just had to convince Lainy he was worth taking another chance on.
He closed the blades with a decisive snap, cutting the binds of his past that had tied him away from commitment. Each baby was cleaned and dressed in a warm, fuzzy kimono. Devon pressed a kiss to each tiny, silken forehead and then allowed the nurses to cart the babies to the nursery for some basic tests and measurements.
Lainy was still staring toward the putrid-green, sanitized wall. He carefully sat down next to her and placed a hand on either side of her shoulders. She still didn’t move, closing her eyes to avoid his probing gaze.
“I know you’re exhausted, Lainy.” He brushed a stray strand of hair off her temple. “I just want to say one thing.”
Dark lashes remained like miniature, black, half-moons on her cheeks. He saw the long length of her throat work convulsively.
“I love you and I want you and the babies more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life.”
Her lashes flew up and a wide brown gaze slammed into his. “What did you say?”
“I want you and the babies. I’ll be here for you.” He leaned over and pressed a butterfly kiss into the corner of her mouth.
She twisted her head and turned it into a full kiss, pulling his lower lip gently with her mouth, drawing him in.
“What did you say? Say it one more time,” Lainy insisted.
“I want you–”
She waved an impatient hand. “The other part?”
“I love you.”
“Since when?” Her expression was stern.
“Since forever.” He could feel the heat in his cheeks. “I just couldn’t say it, because I’m an idiot.”
“And why should I believe you now?”
“Because I love you so much I’m asking you to marry me. I’ll be a good husband.”
Lainy laid her palm against his cheek. “And father.”
“Is that a yes?”
“You don’t deserve me.”
“I know that.”
Devon let out a whoop and scooped her into his arms, raining kisses over her face. He was no longer scared of raising triplets. Together, with the comfort and security of their love to return to, he and Lainy could handle any trouble their trio might stir up.
© 2017 Lori Soard, All Rights Reserved
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