Wedding Bell Blues

By: Meg Benjamin

Docia grimaced. “Several candidates leap to mind, but most of them are related to me.”

The waitress set a plate with an immense burger in front of Pete. It overflowed with mushrooms and cheese and bacon—a heart attack waiting to happen. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I forgot to ask how you wanted it. Lee figured medium rare because that’s the best way.”

“Sounds good.” Pete nodded and took a bite. Salty cheese, crisp smoked bacon and perfectly sautéed mushrooms were like a taste explosion in his mouth. “Holy shit, I will never underestimate this place again, I swear.”

“I’ll hold you to it.” Docia pushed herself back from the table. “I still need to talk to Ken about the wine. Can you two stay out of trouble for a few minutes?”

“We’ll try.” Cal was grinning again. Pete wanted to kick him.

The grin stayed in place as Cal watched Docia walk across the room to the bar where Ken, the sommelier and co-owner of the restaurant, was opening a bottle of wine.

When he turned back to Pete, his grin abruptly disappeared. “Okay, so are you ready to tell me about it? Why exactly did you end up in the hospital last week? How serious is it?”

Pete pinched the bridge of his nose, telling himself he didn’t feel a headache coming on. “You’ve been talking to Dad, haven’t you?”

“Lars. And don’t change the subject. What’s going on?”

“It was nothing.” Pete crunched a perfect French fry between his front teeth. “I just blacked out for a couple of minutes at the office. The doctor gave me some pills. I’m okay.”

“Lars said you fainted.”

Pete’s jaw tightened. “I did not faint. I’ve never fainted in my life. Lars is prone to exaggerate.”

“Lars is a freakin’ accountant.”

“I’m telling you the whole thing was no big deal. The doctor gave me some blood pressure meds. And some stuff for acid reflux. That’s it.” The doctor had also offered him his choice of anti-anxiety drugs, which he had politely declined. Anxiety was part of the territory.

Cal shook his head. “You used to be a better liar than this. Even I know you’re not giving me the whole story here.”

Pete looked down at his burger, then back up to his younger brother. “It’s a high stress job, Calthorpe. Par for the course. Don’t worry about it. You’ve got enough on your plate with The Wedding.”

Cal still frowned, but Docia was headed back across the room toward them. He shook his head. “We’ll talk about this more later.”

“There’s nothing more to talk about. I’ve got the meds—problem solved.”

“You’re my brother, Pete. That gives me the right to bug you. But for now, I’ll settle for a promise.”

“And that would be…”

“You’re on vacation this week. No phones. No laptop. No business. Just Texas.”

Pete’s jaw tightened slightly. He’d already checked his e-mail twice that afternoon. Plus the call to Bergstrom that had made him late. Cal was asking him to cut off his lifeline. Going cold turkey would not be fun.

Cal narrowed his eyes. “Promise me. Okay?”

Pete sighed. “Okay. Not that I think this is any of your business, you understand.”

Cal gave him a slightly smug smile, then he shrugged. “Think of it this way, starting tomorrow, we’re both going to have more than enough to keep us occupied anyway.”

Pete paused, holding another fry poised in front of his mouth. “What happens tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” Docia glanced back and forth between them as she sat again. “Well, your mother’s plane gets in to San Antonio at two.”

Pete leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes in anguish. “Doomed, Calthorpe. We’re both doomed.”

“That we are.” Cal grinned again.

Chapter Two

Pete woke the next day certain that he was late for work. Judging from the sunlight pouring in his window, he’d somehow missed the alarm. His heart raced for a few moments until he remembered—he didn’t have to go to work because he wasn’t in Des Moines. He was in Texas being Cal’s hired gun.

He flipped open his cell and checked for messages. Nothing yet. For a few moments he considered calling in to the office, just to be sure. No, dammit, just let it go for a week. After all, he’d promised Cal. Sort of.

His case load would be handled. The assistants were capable of doing the work, even if none of them had conviction rates in the same ballpark as his when he’d been an assistant himself. He needed some time off—that was the general consensus of everybody in the office, including Bergstrom.

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