What’s worse than losing your fiancé? Having him break the news two weeks before the wedding during dinner with his family. Tamsyn is shamed by the way Will handles things, but so grateful when his identical brothers step in to take care of her.
It turns out Dean and Evan want to do more than care for the curvy beauty. The men share everything, and Tamsyn is just the wife they want. If she’s brave enough to explore the option, she might find they are exactly what she needs.
This contains naughty bits that should only be read by adults.
The Gaines’ dinner table was loud and boisterous, as usual. As a teenager, when she had befriended Jaely after the family had moved next door, it had taken Tamsyn a bit of time to adjust to everyone always talking at once when she had joined the family for the occasional dinner. After ten years of being friends with Jaely and fourteen months with her brother Will, three as his fiancée, she couldn’t imagine their dining room any other way.
It now felt strange on the few occasions when she shared a meal with her parents, who were often busy and not home. The Wallace family was quiet and well-mannered, ever mindful of the rules of decorum. It boggled her mind to imagine Father and Mother sitting down with the Gaines clan for a meal. They had interacted throughout the years in an aloof way, but the two groups didn’t mix socially.
They would have to at the wedding, which reminded her to ask her best friend, “Did you find out if the candles for the centerpieces come in snow?”
Jaely shook her head. “No, the clerk told me the closest they have is white smoke.”
Tamsyn couldn’t hide a frown. “I really wanted snow. It has to coordinate with the rest of the linen.”
“You aren’t likely to get snow in July,” said Dean with a saucy wink.
“Smoke is a possibility,” added Evan. “I hear there are some wildfires still burning in the mountains.”
Jaely rolled her eyes. “Could you two please be serious?”
Tamsyn giggled. “I don’t think they’ve been serious from the day they were born.” She gave the twins a fond smile. They were five years older than her, but they certainly didn’t seem a lot more mature or distant. She had counted them as friends from the day she’d met them, along with the other Gaines children, ten years ago. Back then, she’d been chubby, knock-kneed, and wearing braces. Jaely and Will had been in a similar boat, but the oldest identical Gaines boys had already outgrown that awkward phase.
Her cheeks burned as she suddenly recalled the fierce crush she’d had on the twin boys back then. Feeling guilty for the thought, she turned back to her fiancé, who looked pale. Sweat beaded his lip. With concern, she leaned closer to him to ask softly, “Are you feeling all right, Will?”
He nodded jerkily, but didn’t reply.
After looking at him for a moment, puzzled when he wouldn’t meet her gaze, she turned back to Jaely with a shrug. “I suppose white smoke will have to do.”
“That reminds me, love,” said Flora, the matriarch of the Gaines family, “Lacey’s dress is finished. The dressmaker has us down for one last fitting a few days before the wedding, to make sure there are no last-minute alterations, but everything is ready.”
Tamsyn smiled at the smallest Gaines, and Lacey’s nose wrinkled as she grinned in return. “Are you still ready to be my flower girl?”
“Yes, Tamsyn.” The four-year-old squirmed in her delight. “Me can’t wait.”
“I can’t wait,” corrected Conrad, earning a puzzled look from his tiny daughter.
“How come you’s excited too, Daddy? You can’t be a flower girl.”
Tamsyn joined in with the giggles around the table until she realized Will looked queasy. Touching his arm, she said, “Are you ill? Do you need a doctor?”
“I can’t…” He struggled to breathe, tugging at his collar.
“Is it an allergy to something?” asked Flora, the second to pick up on her son’s distress. “There aren’t any allergies in the family, but I read just the other day that you can develop an allergy to something that never seemed to bother you before. Isn’t that fascinating?”
Ignoring her future mother-in-law’s babbling, as Flora was apt to do, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t do this.” He said it with an explosion of sound, as though the words had burst from him via cannon.
Will gulped audibly as the table fell silent. “I just can’t, Tamsyn.”
She frowned. “Can’t what?”
“I can’t go through with this. I can’t marry you.”
She blinked, too stunned to react for a second. “What? Is this a joke?” Will rarely indulged in pranks, and she couldn’t imagine he would think this was funny, but that had to be what he was doing. Nothing else made sense.
Will bunched up his napkin and set it on the table. “No joke, I’m afraid.” He sighed, looking heartbroken. “I just don’t love you the way I’m s’posed to, Tamsyn.” Will’s copper eyes, so much like his father’s and siblings’, were moist with suppressed tears. “I thought I did, but then…”
She shook her head, clutching her own napkin like a lifeline. “This…it makes no sense…I… You can’t really be calling off the wedding?” And like this, at the family dinner table? She burned with mortification and the first stirrings of anger.
His shoulders sagged, as though he bore the weight of all the heavy glares directed toward him in a physical manner. “I met someone else at my work. She makes me feel things I didn’t even know I could.” Still looking like the victim, he reached out to pat her hand. “I’m very sorry that I didn’t say something sooner, Tamsyn. If I had met her just a week earlier, I wouldn’t have proposed—”
She jerked her hand from his, having to fist it to resist the urge to slap him. “You met her a week after we got engaged?” At his sheepish nod, she reeled back in her seat, suddenly desperate to be away from him. He wasn’t the man she knew, or thought she had known. “How could you do this? Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Fine job you did of that,” said Dean, his contempt for his brother obvious in his tone and sparking copper eyes.
“This isn’t your business,” said Will.
“You made it our business when you chose to humiliate Tamsyn this way, in front of all of us,” snarled Evan.
“I can’t handle this.” Will shoved away from the table, glaring at his brothers before turning awkwardly toward Tamsyn. “We’ll talk later, okay?”
“Talk?” She stared down at her clenched fists, shrugging him off when he tried to touch her shoulder. Talking to him held no appeal. Right then, she wanted to be as far away from him as possible.
Her head was whirling as she stood up, and she stumbled, but tried to keep walking. Nausea burned a trail up her throat, and she cringed as she tried to imagine telling her parents what had transpired. They would no doubt be not-so-secretly thrilled, having made no effort to hide their disapproval of Will and his unorthodox family. It hurt her heart to imagine dealing with them, knowing how they would react.
Strong arms caught her as she started to fall, and she looked up into Dean’s face, idly wondering how anyone could confuse him with his twin, even though they both wore their overly long russet locks in a similar style. The minute differences in the shape of their eyebrows and his slightly fuller lower lip made them easy to tell apart.
Evan was suddenly there on her other side, providing support with an arm around her waist. Their solid bodies provided protection for her curvy frame and kept her from falling. Tears scalded her eyes and burst free with a hoarse sob.
“Do you want to go home?” asked Evan.
She shook her head, unable to imagine confiding anything to her parents yet. She wished now she had gotten her own place after graduation and starting her new job, but it had seemed silly when she and Will had plans to marry soon, and he already owned his own house.
“Do you want to stay here?” asked Dean, looking uncertainly at his parents and Jaely, who had cornered Will to keep him from leaving.
“Too much…” She whimpered, leaning even more on the two men, as pain coursed through her. It wasn’t physical pain, but she felt the emotional sting everywhere.
“Right.” Dean and Evan shared a look before he said, “You’re coming home with us.”
She didn’t argue. She couldn’t think about anything at that moment except escaping from Will’s presence. Tamsyn let the two men lead her from the house of her second family. The family that had almost been hers in an official capacity. Ragged sobs tore from her aching chest, and she collapsed against Evan in the back seat as Dean drove them.
Later, she didn’t recall the drive to their apartment in the center of downtown. She didn’t remember getting out of the car or walking between the twins, though she assumed she must have. Her next clear memory was of sitting on one of the large sectional sofas in their spacious living room, grasping a cup of hot coffee she had yet to sip, and staring mindlessly at the pristine white wall. “Snow,” she whispered.
“What, sweetie?” asked Dean, who sat on her left. Evan had sprawled on her right.
“Your walls. They’re snow-colored, like the candles I wanted for the centerpieces…” She trailed off, another quiet sob escaping her raw throat. Tamsyn knew she must have been crying for a long time, but she had remained unaware of it beyond a visceral level. The pain in her throat let her know she hadn’t been silent.
Dean pulled her more firmly against him, so her head rested on his chest. Evan scooted closer, putting his head on her shoulder, his hand rubbing small circles on her thigh.
“Why didn’t I see it?” she rasped. Had she missed something? Tamsyn searched her memories, looking for signs. “He was kind of withdrawn, but I really thought it was just from planning the wedding. He never said…never seemed…” She bit her lip, recalling something that had concerned her at the time, but she had forced herself not to dwell on it, thinking it would resolve itself. “He said we were boring. We never did anything new, and I didn’t seem interested. I just lay there, and I never initiated sex.” She closed her eyes. “He must have been comparing me to her.”
Dean grasped her hand, squeezing gently. “Will is acting like an idiot, Tamsyn.”
“Definitely.” Evan rubbed his cheek against her shoulder. “If he’s giving you up, he’s nuts.”
“Everyone’s going to know.” Her voice broke, and sobs rose in her again. “Everyone will know I’m a failure. I wasn’t good enough. Not slim enough or adventurous enough in bed. I couldn’t be what he needed…” The next sob choked her, but she was aware enough of Evan moving away, leaving her bereft. Not that she could blame him, with the way she was carrying on.
Tamsyn didn’t resist when Dean pulled her into his arms, with her lying across his lap. His hands were soothing on her back, and even in her hazy state, she inhaled his crisp male scent with appreciation. He didn’t hide it beneath pricy cologne the way Will did.
For some reason, that made her cry harder, and it took her a few minutes to realize Evan was back, sitting next to her. When she managed to lift her head from Dean’s chest, she eyed the glass of water and small blue pill he held out to her doubtfully. “What’s that?”
“A mild sedative. Do you remember that I used to sleepwalk?” At her nod, he said, “I don’t much anymore, but if I’ve gone wandering more than a night or two in a row, I take these for a few nights to reset my sleep pattern, and no more sleepwalking.” Evan smiled. “It’s safe, I promise.”
She held out her shaking hand, but he shook his head.
It was oddly intimate to have him put the pill on her tongue, and a jolt of something shot through her when his fingers brushed the inside of her mouth as he withdrew. She obediently sipped the water he held and swallowed the sedative. Tamsyn was too drained to argue and too unstable at the moment to care that she was seeking chemical refuge. It was only temporary, and she would still have to deal with everything when it wore off. There was no harm in a small reprieve.
She groaned, her throat flaring with pain at the sound. “Going to have to cancel everything,” she said hoarsely. “Flowers, dresses, reservations.” Tears streamed from her eyes again, though she should have been dehydrated by now. “The honeymoon.” She had been looking forward to their trip to the Caribbean ever since the night he’d proposed.
Evan sat beside her again, leaving her half on Dean’s lap as he settled her legs across his. “It will be okay. We’ll handle everything.”
“By that, we mean we’ll let Jaely and Mom handle everything,” said Dean with a small grin. “We don’t know enough of the details, but they will.”
“I guess I should be glad he finally told me two weeks before the wedding instead of leaving me at the altar alone.” The mental image seared into her mind, sending a fresh wave of shame through her. “How am I going to face everyone?”
“Don’t worry about it for now.” Evan started rubbing her bare legs in a motion that was probably supposed to be soothing, but was actually leaving her feeling a little…breathless.
“How can I not worry? It’s so embarrassing.”
“You’ll have to face everyone at some point, but for now, you’re going to stay here with us.” Dean spoke firmly, as though the matter was decided. “We’ll hide out here, ignore the phone, and eat takeaway—god knows I wouldn’t subject you to our cooking. You’ve suffered enough.”
She gave him an anemic smile. “I really can’t though. My job—”
Evan arched a brow. “You’re what, the junior secretary to the assistant’s dog walker? They can do without you.”
She scowled. “I’m in admin support.”
Dean arched a brow. “What do you do?”
She flushed. “Everything all the people above me tell me to do,” she admitted with a sigh. “It turns out my parents may have been right about the degree in Renaissance art.”
“Useless,” said Evan with a sigh. “That’s okay. We’re filthy rich, so we’ll take care of you until you’re back on your feet.”
She swiped her cheeks. “I’m not sick or dying, Evan. I’ve just been dumped.”
“Don’t argue with us,” said Dean with mock sternness. “You know you want to stay here.”
“I really shouldn’t…”
“We have chocolate,” said Evan.
“And champagne,” added Dean.
“And a huge jetted tub in the room you’ll use.” Evan danced his fingers around her ankle.
“Free video games,” said Dean.
“I do love your games,” she admitted.
“Excellent. We have one we just wrapped up that will need testers. You can be our first.”
She was starting to feel woozy, but managed to nod. “I’d love to.” Tamsyn thought about pointing out that she might not be in the best state of mind to help detect bugs in their software, with her thoughts so preoccupied, but a yawn stole the words.
“Okay, let’s get you to bed, love,” said Dean.
She tried to stand on her own, but they wouldn’t let her. She let out a yelp of surprise when Evan lifted her into his arms to carry her. With a sigh of contentment, she ignored the voice telling her to insist that she walk on her own and just enjoyed the experience.
No man had ever carried her before. She hadn’t permitted it from fear of being too heavy, but she didn’t think she was too much for Evan’s broad shoulders and tall frame. She was completely confident he could support her curves, and that he wanted to do so.
She held on reflexively for a moment when he eased her onto the bed, but forced her hands to let go. Tamsyn snuggled into the soft pillow as someone placed a blanket over her.
“Should we try to wake her up to undress?” asked one of the twins.
“No, I don’t think we can. That stuff knocks you out fast.” That had to be Evan, since he sounded like he had experience with the medication.
“Maybe we should undress her?”
Tamsyn felt a dart of alarm—and something else—shoot through her at Dean’s suggestion, but couldn’t open her eyes or manage to form a protest.
Evan groaned. “That would be some serious temptation, Dean. I think it’s best to just let her sleep in her shorts and shirt for now.”
“Maybe her bra?”
Tamsyn was slipping into unconsciousness, but she swore she heard both men groan as though in pain. Sweet relief in the form of blackness swept over her before she could be sure or hear more of their discussion.