Wedding Bell Blues

By: Meg Benjamin

“Are you two going out tonight?” Her mother was watching her more closely now. “I thought you had a date this evening.”

“He said he might come over. If his practice doesn’t run late.” Janie’s stomach began to curl into a ball. Talking about Otto at dinner didn’t help her digestion much.

In the living room, the phone began to ring. “Oh,” her mother chirped, “maybe that’s Otto.” She turned and headed toward the sound.

Janie pushed herself up and began carrying plates to the sink. Given the time, it probably was Otto. She just wished she felt happier about that possibility.

After his run-in with Janie Dupree, Pete headed back to his temporary home in the apartment above the bookstore, fuming. Who was she to tell him what his responsibilities were anyway? What made her the authority on all things wedding-related? Since when did the maid of honor tell the best man what to do?

He unlocked the street-level door and climbed the stairs to the apartment. It was more comfortable than his condo back in Iowa in a lot of ways. The high tin ceilings and limestone walls were picturesque as hell, and the air conditioning worked fine, a major factor, considering the August heat in Texas.

It was just sort of…empty.

To be fair, his condo in Des Moines wasn’t much more lively. And on the whole Pete liked being solitary. But sometimes, usually right after he’d spent time with Cal and Docia, being on his own felt a little more bleak than usual.

He pulled his cell out of his pocket, flipping it open before he could stop himself, and checked the messages. Nothing particularly vital. Nothing he couldn’t put off.

Pete sighed. Of course, he could put it off, but he wouldn’t. He hit the number for Joe Bergstrom, the County Attorney. Bergstrom would still be there. The latest Mrs. Bergstrom had taken off over a year ago.

Fifteen minutes later, in the middle of a discussion of a particularly clueless assistant’s chances against one of the more aggressive defense attorneys in town, Pete remembered he was supposed to meet Cal and Docia at the restaurant down the street. He cut the conversation short, promising to call back the next day, and headed back down the stairs to Brenner’s.

He was halfway there before he thought about what he was wearing—jeans, boots, and a faded T-shirt that said “Lawyers Do It With Subpoenas”. Probably not the kind of outfit people usually wore to an upscale tapas bar.

He could see Cal and Docia sitting at a table near the front as he pushed open the elegant glass door to the restaurant. Lee Contreras, the owner he’d met a couple of days before, raised an eyebrow at the T-shirt, but he led the way to the table without making any comments.

Cal grinned, of course. “Nice of you to drop by, bro. Of course you missed the tapas tasting.”

Pete slumped into his chair. “I don’t suppose they make burgers here?”

“You suppose wrong,” Docia snapped. “They make a great burger.” She waved a hand at a teenaged girl wearing a tuxedo shirt and black bow tie along with her black jeans. “Bring the gentleman the special burger, Donna. Can we get the order in before the kitchen closes?”

The waitress nodded. “Sure, Docia. Anything to drink, sir?”

Pete considered having another beer then decided against it. Docia already looked fairly pissed and his getting slightly shit-faced wouldn’t help. “Iced tea, please.”

“Coming right up.” The girl grinned and flounced off toward the kitchen.

Silence stretched across the table, then Pete shrugged. “Sorry to be late. No excuse, ma’am.”

Docia exhaled, shaking her head. “You’re not that late, and you didn’t even promise you were coming. I’m just on edge about this whole wedding thing. I’ll be a good sister-in-law, honest.”

She gave him a smile that started a pain somewhere around Pete’s diaphragm. God, she was gorgeous. Why didn’t he have that kind of luck? “Hey, right now you’re already the best sister-in-law I’ve got.”

Docia’s forehead wrinkled slightly. “I thought Lars was married.”

Cal’s grin turned wry. “He is. To Sherice. Pete’s trying to make a point here.”

Pete picked up a spare piece of bread lying in the bread basket, dipping it in a puddle of olive oil left on Cal’s plate. “I’m going to be a better best man, trust me. I just need to get the hang of it.”

“A ‘better best man’?” Cal raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like an old Who song.”

“Hey, consider me your hired gun. Who do you want me to kill first?”

“I’ll think about it.”

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