Wedding Bell Blues, my second Konigsburg book, was released in print on Tuesday. I loved writing it, at least in part because I’d just been through my older son’s wedding and I had weddings on the brain. But it also gave me a chance to play around with some things connected to weddings and wedding rituals.
The bride here is Docia Kent, the heroine of my first Konigsburg novel Venus In Blue Jeans. Docia and I have a lot in common, at least in terms of attitude (no, I’m not six feet tall, and my figure has never stopped any conversations). Docia doesn’t like fancy, although she’s a rich girl herself. She wears jeans and T-shirts, and at one point she considers dumping her high heels into the trash because of the pain they’ve caused her. A girl after my own heart, in other words.
What happens, I wondered, when you combine a woman like that with a mother who wants a lavish, Cinderella-style wedding? You get trouble, that’s what. A bride who hates her dress and who tries to hide out when her mother wants to look at place-cards. Fortunately for Docia, she has the best friend of all time, the unflappable Janie Dupree, who runs interference for both Docia and her mother Reba. Janie manages to come up with solutions to all the problems that arise, and she even gives up the one thing every bridesmaid craves—the perfect, celestial bridesmaid’s dress—to make the wedding run smoothly.
Of course, I wanted to give Janie somebody to love, but I couldn’t make it easy for her (gotta have that conflict, y’all). Her hero is Pete Toleffson, the brother of the groom. Pete’s attitude is a lot like Docia’s—a pox on all weddings. But Pete’s a born fixer, and this wedding requires a lot of fixing. He and Janie have to put out a lot of brushfires to get Cal and Docia to the altar. And, of course, they discover they’re perfect for each other in the process, although that doesn’t mean they can just proceed to the exit and HEA. In other words, problems ensue, big ones.
Anyway, I’m really fond of Wedding Bell Blues. It introduced the entire, sprawling Toleffson family and re-introduced the quarreling Kents. And it usually makes me want to go have a glass of champagne, even though most of the characters are thoroughly sick of it by novel’s end!
Here’s an excerpt in which Pete and Janie consider getting busy.
“Why did you become such a nice girl in the first place, Janie Dupree?” He watched her now, dark eyes to dark eyes. “Nature or nurture?”
“I’m from Konigsburg.” Her smile turned wry. “Females here are bred to be nice. My daddy was from East Louisiana and Mama’s from Lampasas—they both knew how girls were supposed to behave. I’ve spent most of my life living up to that standard, even after Daddy died.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was killed in an accident on the highway—his truck collided with a semi. I was nineteen.” Janie shook her head. “I had three semesters at UT, and then I had to come home and help my mom.”
“Nice girl,” Pete said softly.
She nodded. “Nice girl. I always wanted to go back and finish, but I’ve never had time.”
“So now I’m assistant manager of the bookstore, thanks to Docia.” She shrugged. “I never thought I’d get this far. I figured I’d be a waitress for the rest of my life.”
“Gratitude’s a bitch,” He murmured.
“No. I don’t resent her. Not Docia. And not Cal. He’s the best thing that ever happened to her. I’m so happy for her. I want her to have the best wedding ever.”
Pete nodded. “Yeah. Same for him and me. Although my little brother has never had a problem finding women. Girls always flocked after him like swallows headed back to Capistrano, not that he ever seemed to notice.”
“They didn’t do that with you and Lars?”
He paused to consider. “Lars, yeah. Lars is Mr. Responsible—or he used to be, before Sherice. Women always thought he was a great husband candidate.”
“And you?” Janie cocked her head.
Pete stared up at the streetlight on Spicewood. “Nope. Nobody has ever considered me much of a candidate for Mr. Right. I’m a great candidate for Mr. Right Now, however.” He glanced back at her, feeling his groin tighten. This was definitely not the direction he’d originally planned on going. But then lately his plans had had a tendency to go south.
Part of his brain screamed at him to say good night and go upstairs, but it couldn’t make the connection to the rest of his body, particularly not when she smiled at him like she was doing now.
“I guess that’s one way to get rid of sympathizers. Jump into bed with somebody else.”
She was going to keep talking, and he was going to say something supremely stupid. That was almost a given. Pete leaned over abruptly and covered her mouth with his own.
Heat flashed through his body, sucking the breath from his lungs. She was soft and warm against him, her breasts pressed lightly on his chest. He cupped her face in his hands, angling his head to deepen the kiss.
Janie’s hands moved up his chest to his shoulders. And then she pushed, gently. She tipped her head back, staring up at his face, her eyes narrowed. “Tell me the truth, Pete Toleffson—are you doing this because you feel sorry for me?”
“Sorry?” He was having trouble focusing. What exactly was she talking about? And why had she stopped kissing him?
Her jaw firmed. “Are you sorry for me because Otto dumped me so publicly?”
Good Lord, she was serious!
It took him a moment to remember just who Otto was. “If I’m sorry for anybody, it’s Otto,” he muttered. “The freakin’ idiot blew it big time.”
Janie gave his shoulders a small shake, like a miniature Rottweiler. “I’m serious, Pete. I don’t want pity.”
Pete took a deep breath, closing his eyes. If only he could get enough blood back to his brain to form a sentence. “I don’t believe in pity sex, Ms. Dupree. Among other things, pity doesn’t really do much to get me in the right mood.”
She grinned up at him. “Are you in the right mood?”
Too much talking. Entirely too much talking was going on right now. “Lady, I’ve been in the right mood since I saw you walk into the Dew Drop my first night in town.”
He dropped his head, opening his mouth against hers again. One arm locked around her shoulders as he pulled her against him. Then Janie’s arms wrapped around his neck, and she pressed her body to his, shoulder to hip.
Pete felt as if a small rocket had ignited in his groin. He leaned back against the stair, moving his tongue into the warmth of her mouth, his fingers spearing through her soft hair. All of his senses were suddenly in play—pinwheels of light went off before his eyes, he tasted something sweet, spicy, felt the warm, wet rasp of her tongue, smelled a faint echo of lavender, heard the distant humming of the street lights—or was that him?
Janie’s fingers slid beneath his shirt, smoothing across his chest. Her palm touched the jut of his nipple and every inch of his body was suddenly like rock.
Somehow he had to get her upstairs. Now.