Excerpt: Finn’s Twins

Excerpt: Finn’s Twins

Book 2: NY! NY! Series

Prologue

The phone was ringing — had been for longer than he wanted to think.

Finn ignored it.

He stood motionless, his entire concentration focused on the developing tray where Angelina Fiorelli’s lips were beginning to emerge.

He’d been waiting all day to do these enlargements, to see if he could find the perfect ‘come-hither’ look in the best of the shots he’d taken the day before. He wasn’t one of the world’s most creative and eagerly sought-after commercial photographers for nothing. When he had an idea, he pursued it. And all the ringing phones in the world were going to interrupt him now.

He leaned closer and permitted himself a small smile as, in the dim red light of the darkroom, he made out the faintest hint of the luscious Fiorelli outline beginning to develop. Yes!

Another ring.

Finn gritted his teeth. Where the hell was Strong?

His matronly taskmaster of a studio manager shouldn’t have any of his high-strung, ruffled-feathered clients left in the office to appease by this time. It was already after 5:00. Why wasn’t she answering it?

Angelina’s famous pouting lips were now fully developed. Perhaps just a shade too sulky. Carefully Finn lifted the enlargement out of the solution and placed it in the stop bath, then submerged another.

The phone rang again — a half ring — then stopped. At last. Finn concentrated as the next set of lips materialized. There was a sharp rap on the darkroom door.

“Go away.”

“Your sister’s on the line.”

He should have known. Meg had been calling him at inopportune moments since she was old enough to talk. “Tell her I’ll call her back.”

“I did. She needs to talk to you now.”

“I’m busy. Tell her I’m busy.”

There was a pause. “She’s crying.”

“Oh, hell.” It took no imagination at all for his mind’s eye to conjure up the vision of his younger sister Meg crying. He’d seen her — and heard her — often enough. Her sweet soft voice would quiver. Her freckled face would grow blotchy and her big blue eyes would swim with tears. Then she would hiccup as she tried to explain to what latest crisis in her life had prompted her to call for help.

Finn knew the routine all too well. And Strong, alternately mother hen and Marine drill sergeant as the occasion demanded, was no better at turning Meg into a self-reliant human being than he was.

Finn sucked in a deep breath and snatched up the receiver. “Now what?”

“Oh, Finn!” came the breathless, teary quaver he’d expected. “It’s Roger!” And the end of the world from the sound of it.

“Who’s Roger?”

“Roger de Fontaine. You know! Roger!”

He didn’t have a clue. “Some guy you’ve been seeing?” Always a good bet.

“The man I love, Finn.” The teary voice wavered with an emotional vibrato. “Truly.”

“Uh-huh.” They’d been down this trail before. Plenty of times. Finn tucked the receiver between his ear and his shoulder and went back to contemplating Angelina Fiorelli’s lips. This shot had possibilities, if only —

“If only I could convince him,” Meg said mournfully.

“Huh?” Finn was distracted. He dragged his attention back to his sister, away from Angelina’s mouth. “Convince him of what?”

“That I love him.”

“Tell him.” It seemed simple enough to him. He’d never fallen in love with anyone, so he’d never said the words. If he had, he would, not that he ever expected to. But why the hell did Meg have to complicate everything? Especially his life!

“I would, Finn, but — the girls are here.”

“Of course they are. Where else would they be?” Her daughters, she meant. Twins. Redhaired, freckle-faced look alikes with the unfortunate names of Tansy and Pansy — a product of Meg’s airy-fairy period — they were five or six. Finn didn’t know for sure; he’d never met them. He’d never met their father either — another of Meg’s true loves who had endured in her affections just long enough to impregnate her. The twins had been three before someone had bothered to tell Meg that he’d died windsurfing. Finn couldn’t even remember his name. He wondered if Meg could.

She lived in San Francisco. He lived in New York.

She pestered him to come visit several times a year. “You could come out here on location sometime,” she’d pointed out often enough.

He could have. He never did.

Keeping a continent between Meg and himself had always seemed the better part of good sense. And once she’d had her twin albatrosses, he’d found more reason to stay away. Finn didn’t do children.

He didn’t have to, he reasoned. He hadn’t had any. Meg had, so she ought to be responsible. He’d told her so more than once.

“I know, I know,” she said now. “But if Roger and I had a little time alone, everything would be fine. He’s getting so impatient. We could get married and then they’d have two parents.”

“Good idea.”

“But I need to convince him.”

“Hire a babysitter and go out for dinner.”

“We need more than dinner, Finn. We need time. Days. Weeks.”

“Weeks?”

“Only a couple,” she said quickly. “Just for the two of us. But now that the girls are out of school it’s harder than ever to get time alone.”

“Send them to camp.”

“Camp?” She sounded doubtful. “That costs a lot of money, doesn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“I suppose I could think about it —” the quaver was back “— but I do hate to ask Roger to pay for sending them before we’ve even . . . ” she sighed. “And you know I can’t.” Meg lived hand to mouth, always had. The only times she ever got enough money to be even slightly ahead was when she talked Finn into providing it.

Like now.

Meg sniffled into the other end of the line. Finn ground his teeth. “You need to settle down, Meg,” he told her. “Grow up. Be responsible.”

She made a sound that was suspiciously like a sob. “I’m trying. I told you, Roger and I —”

“Just need time.”

“Yes. He’ll be a wonderful father, I know he will!” There was a little girl eagerness in her voice now. “He’s strong and masterful and so very smart.”

“Good for him.” Finn didn’t say, Then what does he see in you? Meg couldn’t help it because she was vague and flighty.

“I’ll send you a thousand,” he told her. “You can surely find a good camp to stick them in for a couple of weeks for that.”

“Oh, yes! Of course I can!” All the tears in her voice were gone. “I knew you’d help. You’re the best, Finn. The best brother in the whole world!”

“Uh-huh,” Finn said drily. “You don’t have to convince me. Convince Roger. Those daughters of yours need a strong, dependable father.” God knew they needed one responsible parent. And Meg needed someone else to dump her problems on — besides him.

“I know,” Meg said meekly. “You’re absolutely right.”

“So get them one.” Finn hung up. Satisfied that he’d averted his baby sister’s latest disaster, he went back to Angelina Fiorelli’s luscious lips.