The Billionaire's Dilemma: Identical Twins
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by Francine Howarth
Description: In the past Tania has masqueraded as Nina at parties, and likewise Nina had to pretend to be Tania. As far as Tania is concerned one more act of deception isn't going to hurt anybody. Despite Nina's reluctance, she's won over by Tania's pleading ways and travels to London on a pre-arranged date with a Polo playing playboy. Allessandre, convinced he's been duped, is determined to unveil the twins and teach them a lesson they won't forget. Revenge proves bittersweet when the one he desires takes flight. Forced to travel half way around the globe in attempt to redeem his unforgivable behaviour he has no idea the woman he loves walks with lions, nor that a lioness will challenge his desire to be her one and only.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [241 KB]
Reading time: 150-210 min.
Nina stepped from the train to the platform at Paddington Station, her mind whirling in vortex of uncertainty as to whether her identical twin had lied to her.
After all Nina Klaassen now had to pass herself off as Tania Klaassen. She could do it, she had in the past...sort of.
Oh, Hell, this was nothing short of a blind date.
According to Tania, her so-called date was well educated, extremely astute and no walkover conquest. In fact, Tania had claimed him to be the most challenging man she'd ever met. Therefore Nina Klaassen. No, no, think Tania, Tania, Tania.
Oh God. This trip to London could so easily become a highly embarrassing situation. Why I agreed to this charade just doesn't make any kind of sense. You fool, Nina, you utter fool. The thought alone caused her fist to tighten around her cell phone.
She drew a deep breath. A taxi, she needed a taxi. The last message left on Tania's cell phone had stated her new date could not make it to pick her up from the station. A tad inconvenient, but a taxi was not a problem. There were dozens lined up at a short distance. She walked on, rather glad the taxi rank lay within the station precinct and the whole place sheltered from the elements. Throughout the journey from Oxford the train had thundered through a continuous wall of water, and outside was probably monsoon like, if the sound of drumming rain from above was anything to judge by.
Taxis began pulling away from the taxi rank one after the other. If she didn't get there soon they'd all be gone. She hurried onward. The concourse itself was surrounded by eye-catching displays from postcards to teddy bears in various on-station booths, all reminding her she'd stepped out of her comfort zone into unknown territory. Nevertheless, Tania's need for three cell phones amused her.
Number one phone for family calls, number two for business and number three for new love interest. Tania had a place for every thing, and every person, too, kept in the right place just like her shoes in all the right boxes. Subsequently, number three phone was now hers for the next twenty-four hours simply because she was supposedly Tania.
To feel edgy was normal despite the fact she'd travelled this path more than once, though not in the circumstance of a blind date. Past masquerades had involved light-hearted teasing of joint friends and associates at parties and the like. This time was different, and she really wished her identical twin could be a little more responsible in not expecting her to stand in while Tania went off somewhere else other than where she was supposed to be. To commit to minor deceptions at parties had been fun but to actually pretend to be Tania and on a date with a polo playing billionaire was another game entirely. A first real date for Tania, admittedly, and hopefully Allessandre Romao would not suspect any sense of duplicity.
She and Tania both had long hair the colour of ripe corn, so no problem there that came to mind. Tania for the most part kept hers pinned back in a clasp. Whereas, her own preferred choice was that of loose flowing except when styled up for evening dos and or for riding horses. Having her crown hair scraped back severe in a clasp for today felt a little unusual but bearable for the moment. Their eyes, damn, were not absolute identical. Oh, Hell, such hadn't entered into the equation until now. Where Tania's were deep sapphire edged with pale aquamarine, hers were fathoms deep bordering on violet. Would she be able to convince this unknown man that she, Nina, was Tania?
Tania had sworn she had not slept with the new man, and had only kissed him. On balance, it was not that easy to have sex at a polo match without a prime player being missed from the field of play, especially with spectators relatively up close and personal. But, Tania had ended the day at this man's house, when in fact she'd gone to the polo ground with someone else. She had not enlightened further, beyond the no sex thingy. So, it was going to be a case of playing it by ear, and her heart skipped for she was off to the opera, something she adored and Tania hated. In fact, she suspected a night at the opera to be the sole reason for Tania's panic phone call begging her identical twin to stand-in for her.
Whatever, this was Tania's night in name only, and Nina was walking into the unknown with arias from La Boheme revolving in her head. She hailed a taxi.
The taxi drew to a halt outside a grand London house.
Given Tania's previous description of the place it ticked all the right boxes on her sister's list for future husband and provider. Set back from the road with high walls and automatic gates protecting against unwelcome intruders, it was Tania's dream London house. It was almost identical to the one she'd sketched years ago as a child when dreaming how one day she might be a princess and live in a house such as this.
Beyond the gates she noted a silver McLaren and black Bentley Continental parked side-by-side denoting wealth of the owner. God, what am I doing here? Rays of sunlight suddenly streaked through grey overhead canopy, the imposing structure radiating a kind of welcoming warmth. A good omen, perhaps? Whatever, a shiver of apprehension shimmied down her spine.
In any case, she preferred the country mansion where they resided at present, despite the dreadful tragedy and cause of their having to live there in the first place. Damn Tania. She should say to hell with this masquerade and disappear to the railed parkland opposite; a lake shimmering in sunshine was far more appealing to her love for wide-open spaces. Maybe I should catch the next train home.
"The clock's ticking, missy," said the cab driver. "You staying or going?"
"Sorry," she said with a smile. "How much do I owe you?"
"Make it a straight ten," he replied, which surprised her because she'd expected it to be around twelve pounds fifty pence on distance travelled.
With the driver paid and her now out of the taxi, it pulled away from the curbside. This was it. She was at her destination. She could either cross the road and disappear into that park, or turn and face the intercom attached to one of the gateposts. Her mind raced in wild consideration. She didn't have to go in there, didn't have to take part in this stupid deception. Thrusting a hand upward to release the hair gripper feeling more like a tool for torture than useful hair adornment, she hurriedly finger-combed her hair and drew several deep breaths as the gripper disappeared to her pocket.
Why, why do I so willingly put myself through hell for my twin like this
She grabbed the handle of her pull-along case and, about to turn toward the intercom, she heard a click: the gates moving inward. She couldn't turn and run. Not now. A lean man of average height came striding forth, pristine in appearance with silver grey hair and moustache, and pale blue eyes exuding immense experience in handling delicate situations. This was not her sister's new interest. He was much too old. Tania's preference in male escorts to parties and the like tended around late twenties to early thirty mark.
"I'll take that," he said, catching hold of her overnight case while gesturing her onward, his monotone voice impeccable manservant mode. "You will want to freshen up, no doubt." He turned slightly and smiled. "Mr Romao is not at home."
"Oh, I see," sounded pathetic. But why had I needed to be at the house by noon on the dot?
"I'm Baxter," said the man. "Lunch is prepared."
"I'm to eat alone?"
"If hungry," he replied. "If not, perhaps you'd care to take a swim first."
"Swim?" she queried, taken aback. It was summer all right, but a bit chilly at present.
"Indoor pool," he said with a passing smile, as though reading her thoughts.
Oh hell, Tania hadn't said anything about a pool. "I haven't brought swimwear."
"Mr Romao estimates his return to be at around two this afternoon."
So, Baxter was saying she could skinny-dip. Fair enough. Why not? They reached the door and Baxter ushered her inside: the outer gates already closing to. Nevertheless, the prospect of a skinny-dip in a pool made her feel slightly self conscious, and she hadn't even so much as kicked off her shoes.
Oh God, I should have cancelled this date. Any excuse would have sufficed, and it would have been up to Tania to explain the why factor. It was too much to ask of her in the first place and Tania could go to hell on this little caper.
"Look, I think I've made a mistake," she said, as Baxter closed the door behind them and offered to take her raincoat.
"Mistake?" He looked a little puzzled, his wise manservant eyes searching hers.
She gave in to his silent request to remove her raincoat, and let him assist in wresting it from her shoulders. It was too late to walk away now. She was committed to seeing this deception through to its finale. "I'm too early, right?" she mooted, thinking it strange to be there and her date elsewhere. Maybe Tania had given her the wrong time to arrive.
"No, I was given to expect you at noon," replied Baxter with a reassuring smile. "Mr Romao had intended to be here but circumstances beyond his control intervened." Baxter's expression remained unreadable. "Would you like to see your room, now?" he asked, taking her hat as well.
Already distracted by the opulence of the entrance hall with its glass dome above, she replied, "Yes, I suppose I'd better."
As Baxter turned and led off, Nina let out a sigh of relief. He'd said her room. She had her own room. That eased her anxious state a little. After all, a room all her own meant Mr Romao, whoever he was, had his own room, too.
The house from the outside she'd thought magnificent while inside positively palatial. As they ascended the staircase she glanced at portraits of fine-boned fillies and well-muscled stallions adorning the wall from ground level to second floor. Each framed portrait followed the curve of the marble staircase, it too rather grand with wrought ironwork and marble pillars. "Are the equines famous by any chance?"
Baxter smiled. "Famous is as famous does," he replied, nodding toward the last portrait of a superb grey. "Xander, there, sired the best of the best in polo ponies, even after his untimely and tragic death."
She guessed Artificial Insemination with pre-frozen sperm, meaning the stallion's bloodlines to be considered second to none. Looking at the horse and thinking how fit polo players needed to be, and given Tania's preferred choice in men, Nina's imagination started galloping. Mr Romao was Brazilian according to her twin, or at least held a Brazilian passport. She imagined tanned olive skin, and no doubt Latino good looks. Tania had a penchant for tall very rich good-looking men, and this one certainly was not ailing in a monetary sense.
Nina followed Baxter along the upper corridor lined with more portraits of horses and one of a stunningly good-looking man. She paused and her heart missed several beats. She'd expected eyes like molten chocolate. But these were hazel, a flash of gold outer. He was squinting in the glare of sunlight, the creases around his eyes rending his smile that of utterly irresistible magnetism.
Baxter sensed her interest and said, "Mr Romao senior, taken thirty years ago."
"Oh," she exclaimed, hoping Baxter was less perceptive to sense of inner disappointment.
"Like father, like son," said Baxter, opening a door. "They could be twins."
A flush flooded her cheeks. What would Baxter think if he knew he was talking to one of twins, identical twins? Mr. Romao, too, a carbon copy of his father, how intriguing. He ushered her into a room fit for a princess. It was a room made for Tania, her sister's eyes the colour of the walls, the gold furnishings matching her twin's favourite precious metal. It had a four-poster bed like Tania had always dreamed of having one day. It was true they were identical twins but worlds apart in personal tastes, men the exception.
"When you've decided on lunch or a swim, use the bell," he said, pointing to bell push near the door. He smiled. "It's easy to get lost hereabouts when unfamiliar with the house."
"I'll do that," she said with a reciprocating smile. "And thank you."
He left, and the twin swap had passed its first test. Baxter hadn't suspected her to be anyone other than Tania. Thank goodness her twin had only been to the house once before and that time for supper only. Nothing more. Or so she'd said. The big test would be when Mr Romao returned. Would Allessandre know? Would he know she was not Tania? Whatever, he was not at home. A swim it was then, and would help pass the two-hour wait time until the man of the house returned.
Baxter kept his word and escorted her to the pool below the stairs, presumably built within space that at one time housed a large cellar complex. Inside the cavernous room he smiled, turned about, and left her to indulge in the pleasure of a swimming pool all to herself. As he closed the door it vanished and became part of a vast mural surrounding the entire pool. The mural itself depicted a beautiful panoramic vista of vineyards and orange trees bearing fruit. Around the pool were several chairs and lounge beds and side tables with magazines in abundance, as though the whole was a sun-soaked paradise.
Standing there all on her own with fluffy guest bathrobe gratis Mr Romao, she smiled and let it slide from her shoulders. She dived into the pool and swam to its centre and there dived to touch bottom. She remained submerged and finally surfaced near to the far end, where she stayed a moment, resting one hand on the side of the pool. How decadent to have a pool in the basement, and to be able to swim at will any time of the year.
Her aunt's out-door pool was hardly ever used in summer with exception of sweltering hot days, and absolutely no one had taken a dip in it out of the summer season in years. Not since a New Year's party, in which dares and double dares had been bandied around by Tania as major challenge to all the young males present. Each and every contestant had thought the winner up for a night out with Tania, but when it finally came to prize time Tania was nowhere to be found. Her twin, although infuriating at times, had a loveable but terribly wicked streak and was often prone to mischief.
She slipped under the water and swam below the surface as far as her breath would hold, and surfaced just beyond mid pool. Dog paddling, she swirled around and then dived to the bottom. The very second she surfaced she sensed herself no longer alone. The man from the portrait, legs spread, hands on hips, stood before her. Well, not portrait man in the flesh, his look-a-like son. It couldn't be anyone but Allessandre.
Damn. He was back earlier than expected.