On what should be the happiest day of her life, Rebecca Ross is panic stricken. Rebecca has just wed Craig Jacobs, but she realizes she put more thought into choosing her florist than she did in choosing the man she’s just pledged to love for the rest of her life.
Before Craig, Rebecca, a talented Long Island girl, dreamed of following in her grandmother’s footsteps with an acting career. Unfortunately, she was cut down to size by years of disappointment, and by her first love—a Hollywood director. She returned to Long Island a lost and broken woman, and ended up in the last place she ever wanted: her old bedroom at her parents’ house.
But Rebecca’s mother, an overzealous convert to Judaism, has a long held dream too: marry off her three daughters to Jewish men. So no one is more thrilled than her when Rebecca meets and marries bon vivant Craig Jacobs, the man who has won over the whole family. Too bad they’re all about to discover that underneath his charismatic shell, this Prince Charming is anything but!
“Wedlocked is a funny, warm, and engaging story about life, love, marriage and family. This page-turner is the perfect summer read!” —Wendy Walker, bestselling author of Social Lives
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By Bonnie Trachtenberg
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Bonnie Trachtenberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBOOK ONE
My Scary Tale Wedding, 1999
"It's our own Jean Harlow!" my Aunt Jen oozed as I entered the cocktail room after the ceremony. "You are a vision, my dear. And this is the most marvelous wedding I've ever seen! Did you taste the passed hors d'oeuvres? Five star!" she raved, her eyebrows arching over round eyes that twinkled from champagne.
"Ahhh, machaya!" my Uncle Bob said, joyously acknowledging the air conditioning as he made his entrance from the steamy patio through the elegant French doors. "Rebecca, love, you finally, finally did it," he called to me. "Finally!" he exclaimed even more loudly, rewarding me with a sloppy kiss. "Look at this face," he said to Aunt Jen.
"I know, Jean Harlow!" my aunt repeated.
"No, prettier. Grace Kelly! Lucky for you, you've got your mother's genes!" He put his arm around my shoulder and squeezed. I could smell the dusting of sour cigar smoke that lingered on his double-breasted tuxedo and was glad that one of the edicts of my supreme, albeit temporary, fiefdom dictated that all smokers be relegated to the outdoor patio to feed their vice. And all who knew the bride—and her uncanny sense of smell—dared not attempt to light up from any corner of the castle's sprawling interior.
I peeked through the etched panes of glass and spied a small group of Craig's friends and employees from his novelty gift business immersed in a cloud of smoke as they sucked down their cigarettes while broiling under the sun's punishing rays. Rivulets of sweat trickled down the women's glamorously made-up faces and formed unsightly patches under the men's arms. I shook my head in pity at what addicts will suffer through to get their fix.
I turned to find several relatives clamoring for my attention and realized the guest whirlwind was underway. I saw the immense joy on everyone's faces: Aunt Stacy and Uncle Milton, cousins Kirk and Janet and Elaine, friends from all parts of the country. They were people who had known and loved me for thirty-six years, yet couldn't sense that my intestines had knotted into a pretzel beneath the candlelight silk of my form-fitting gown.
I stood on tip toes, frantically searching for Karen, who had flown in from Los Angeles to act as bridesmaid. It was then that I noticed the champagne spatter on my ecru satin shoes. I cringed at the thought of the slapstick finale to my elegant wedding recession: My photographer's assistant had backed into a waiter poised with a tray of bubbly-filled glasses for the wedding party. These, of course, promptly tumbled into a pile of sticky, hazardous shards. I caught a fleeting glance of the frantic waiter scrambling for a broom before being whisked into the gardens by Georgia, my intrepid photographer, for "after photos" with my new husband.
Craig, an attractive guy with light brown curly hair and intense hazel eyes, is about five feet ten inches and built sturdily like a tree. Roguish and charismatic at his best, he liked to take voracious bites out of life. Now, however, he was irritable, jittery, and desperate to party.
"This is my wedding day. I want to enjoy it. I don't want to spend it sweatin' in the garden for your pictures."
"They're our pictures, Craig," I corrected him while yanking his cummerbund, which had twisted askew. "You missed the first round, the least you can do is be obliging for these."
With a huff, he reluctantly stayed to fulfill his husbandly duty. But as I bent down to lift the embroidered chapel-length train of my gown to keep it from soiling, one of my beaded shoulder straps snapped open and spilled onto the grass. Craig, Georgia, and I stared at the glistening pile of pearls and crystals in disbelief, and then at my newly revealed cleavage. I gasped as I flipped the top of the dress back up to cover my bustier.
"Great! What do I do now?" I said in a full panic.
Georgia took a deep breath, and slowly looked me over. "We could nix the Jean Harlow look and go for Madonna instead," she suggested in the jovial manner she had adopted earlier in the day after witnessing my fragile state. "Angie," Georgia called to her assistant. "We need a pinning!"
Angie rushed to my aid, quickly redesigning my gown with a new strapless motif, as Georgia mopped her forehead with a handkerchief, Craig growled with impatience, and I whimpered like a wounded puppy. When Angie was done, Georgia pulled us together in front of an ethereal expanse of trees.
"We've got to get you two to smile!" she declared, cocking her head to one side.
Georgia, known for her artistic black and white photos, also possessed an innate jolliness and sardonic wit that helped brighten my day. I just hoped she wouldn't unwittingly document the anguished underbelly of my nuptial experience—and turn my wedding album into a freeze-frame tribute to the film Gaslight. I could just imagine, with each turned page, Craig secretly plotting my descent into madness.
Even Georgia was in earshot before the ceremony when Craig finally appeared outside the long wooden doors of my dressing room. After arriving late and setting the schedule back, he had the temerity to be evasive when I confronted him with the fact that I'd overheard his parents—his guardians for the night—in a heated discussion about the fact that he hadn't come home until early that morning. Craig, assuming his best defense was a good offense, tried to divert my tirade by turning the tables. It was a vexation he managed through the crack in the dressing room door.
"Why do you have to know every move I make? Stop being so controlling!" he yelled at me.
"Craig," I said, trying to keep my voice down, "I know you didn't come home last night. Where were you?"
"I went out for a drink with a friend, not a woman. That's all you need to know."
"Excuse me? I'm about to become your wife. I think I have the right to know where you were the night before our wedding!"
Craig offered a big, exasperated sigh. "Fine, I was out with Lou. Since you banned him from the wedding, I had to give him last night."
"Lou!" I exclaimed through the sliver of open space between us. "Craig, what's wrong with you?"
Lou—which I am convinced is short for Lucifer—liked to think of himself as Craig's best friend, and over the years, he had actually convinced Craig of that notion as well. When I entered the equation, I found Craig's denial about him beyond baffling. For some reason, he refused to acknowledge his friend's inherently evil nature.
Lou fancied himself a modern day Bugsy Siegel. His "business ventures" ranged from restaurants to arcades to money lending. From the tidbits of information I'd overheard in his conversations with Craig, I could sense the shadiness and impropriety despite my lack of business savvy. Perhaps this feeling was derived from Lou's personal reputation. He was, after all, known for his myriad wicked sins—philandering, swindling, drug dealing, theft, spiking the groomsmen's drinks with Ecstasy at the bachelor party, and his general attraction to absolutely everything immoral life has to offer. So he was just the sleazy runt any bride would want corrupting her groom on his last night of singlehood. I could just imagine the debauchery, especially considering Lou's resentment of me. One thing I knew for sure, nothing good could come from a pre-wedding outing with Lucifer.
"It's not a big deal."
"You stay out all night doing God-knows-what with that bottom-feeder, and you think it's not a big deal?"
"What's the difference who I spent it with? It's over and done with, Beck. I'm here aren't I?" he said sacrificially, pushing his nose through the door's crack for proof.
I leaned in closer, bringing us nose to nose as I slowly enunciated for him: "Lucky me! You showed up for your own wedding. I'm soooo grateful!"
Of course you would think that being at each other's throats would dwarf any bad luck that might have arisen from the groom glimpsing his bride in full wedding attire. But credit where credit is due—as he shot his irksome remarks and yelled so that everyone in our wedding party knew we were fighting—he never once peeked at my dress.
* * *
"Have you tasted the skewered lamb?" my pretty, ebullient cousin Vicki asked, chomping with enthusiasm while holding a plate with two meat-laden sticks.
"Lamb? They weren't supposed to serve lamb. I told them definitely not to serve lamb!"
"Why not?" my baffled cousin inquired as she protectively shielded her plate from my reach just in case I meant to snatch it away.
"Because I love little lambs. They're beautiful and innocent and gentle, and I always wanted one as a pet. And I certainly didn't want any sacrificed on the occasion of my wedding!" I seethed between clenched teeth, with what I bet was a crazed look considering the wide-eyed expression on Vicki's face.
"Oh," she replied weakly but kept on nibbling.
"Mom!" I called as I approached her table. "They're serving lamb!"
"Oh dear!" she exclaimed, and I waited for her to storm the kitchen. But then I realized the ankle she had twisted the night before was elevated on a nearby chair.
Luckily, my cousin Paula, the Hollywood casting agent, came to the rescue in the lamb fiasco. Even though she is decidedly carnivorous, she knew it was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, and so she put the kibosh on the kebob. Then she headed back to her luscious date, a gorgeous aspiring actor named Ted, who, surprisingly, looked like he actually hailed from the same decade as my thirty-seven-year-old, cradle-robbing, couch-casting cousin. Even more shocking, I suspected that Ted was sporting a brain behind his perfectly chiseled face.
I ambled out of the ballroom and toward the dressing room hoping for some respite before facing the rest of the guests. On my way, I spotted Karen in the golden jacquard gown I chose for her. She motioned me into the majestic, deco hallway, adorned with claw-foot tables of inlaid marble and ornate sofas of upholstered tapestry. We passed the enormous bouquet of calla lilies and blush roses that filled the giant castle urn and paused at the antique piano. Her kind, doe-like eyes settled on my green ones. I knew the glamorous eyeliner and added lashes could not conceal my trepidation from her. But this is why she is my best friend. There's a part of me that only she understands.
"I think we need to talk!" she said, taking my hand.
"Oh, God, Karen. What did I do?" I asked in a panic.
She quickly pulled me down the hallway, past the powder room, and toward the library, where we would have privacy. We parked ourselves next to a wall just before the high-rounded archway of the room. She tightened a bobby pin into the side of my soft, blonde chignon and then looked me in the eye again.
"Okay, woman. What's going on?"
"I don't know exactly. I have this sensation in the pit of my stomach."
"It's just anxiety. It's your big day."
"No, it's something else. I feel like somebody up there's trying to tell me something. I mean, look at my dress. Look at my shoes! I have guests eating lamb, a limping mother—"
"Lots of weddings have mishaps. It goes with the territory."
"I know ... but ... this wedding ... it's so important to me that it be ... perfect."
"It is perfect, Rebecca. You should hear everyone raving out there," she said, indicating the ballroom down the hall. "I know this all happened really fast for you, probably too fast, so it's natural for you to be nervous. You've been on your own your whole adult life. This is going to be a major adjustment."
"I think it's more than that."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm ... I'm afraid ..."
I stopped to think about the magnitude of what I was about to say.
"Oh my God, Karen. I don't know if I can bear to say it. If people knew, they'd think I was a complete idiot."
"Beck, if you know one thing, you know I'd never tell anyone anything you said to me in confidence."
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. "I'm afraid I just made the biggest mistake of my life!"
Karen looked at me with wide eyes and then sighed deeply.
"Okay," she said calmly. "Now this may surprise you, but tons of people feel that way on their wedding day. This could just be post-wedding jitters."
"I've heard of pre-wedding jitters. Is there such a thing as post-wedding jitters?" I asked with dubious hope.
"Of course. I had that."
"When? Right after your wedding?"
"Sure," she assured me. "And right up until my divorce."
"Oh Lord," I said, slapping my forehead with the palm of my hand.
"Okay, calm down. I was just kidding."
"Karen, what am I gonna do? I think I could still be in love with Evan."
Now it was her turn.
"Oh, Lord," she said, slapping her forehead too.
"I told you it was a terrible thing—and I'm a complete idiot."
"Stop it, Beck. You're just mixed up. The last six months have been a nutty whirlwind for you. I'm sure you'll see things more clearly tomorrow. For now, just enjoy this amazing party."
"You can't imagine how hard I've been trying today. Do you know what it's like to watch everyone dancing and laughing at your wedding when all you want to do is—"
I stopped and took a deep breath as I thought about how to finish my question. It was then that I smelled it. I gasped and put my hand over my mouth.
"What?!" Karen exclaimed. "Do you smell that?" I whispered.
"What?" she whispered back.
"Smoke?! You mean like, fire?"
"No, I mean like tobacco!"
Then it hit me. Someone was in the library. Someone had heard my sordid confession. And to add insult to injury, someone was defying the Queen's smoking edict! I held my breath and tiptoed to the edge of the wall by the arch and peeked into the room, which was decorated with brown leather couches and wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcases. There were beautiful, cherry wood coffee tables, each featuring a bouquet of flowers, and to my horror, a young man with a cigar in one hand and a snifter of brandy in the other was perusing the titles on one of the mahogany shelves. He turned halfway in my direction as if sensing me staring and with a shallow nod of his head, smiled at me. I gasped in surprise and ducked back behind the wall, turning to Karen with dread.
"Who is it?" she whispered to me.
"A guy. I don't know him. He must be from Craig's side. Oh, God, what if he heard us?"
"Beck, let's just skedaddle," she whispered while trying to pull me away.
I shook my head. "It's too late. He saw me."
"Come on, just forget about it."
I took a deep breath and stood up straight. "I'll handle this, Karen. Can you please just go out there and try to divert the next inevitable disaster?"
She gave me a stern look.
"Please?" I asked again.
She finally nodded and against her better judgment, turned to walk up the hall.
I entered the room apprehensively.
"Excuse me," I called to him with annoyance. "There's no smoking in the castle! Didn't you read the invitation?"
The man turned to face me. He was ruggedly attractive, looked about six foot tall from my five-foot-six-inches vantage point, and filled out his tuxedo in all the right places. His dark brown hair was cropped short, and he had eyes the color and clarity of the Caribbean. Of course I'd always been partial to those of the velvety-brown persuasion, but I had to admit, his made you take notice. He smiled at me in spite of my admonishment.
"I didn't see the invitation. My girlfriend—"
"Well, please put it out," I said impatiently, searching his face for clues on what he might have overheard.
"Of course," he said. "This room just seemed like the perfect place for a cigar. In fact, I was sure they called it the 'Cigar and Brandy' room in the brochure downstairs."
"Today, this is just a library. And by the way, there's no perfect place for a cigar, or a cigarette for that matter."
He looked a bit taken aback by my remark, but then the sides of his mouth began to curl upwards. He obediently found an ashtray and stamped his cigar into it.
"Sorry to upset you on your wedding day," he said, taking a few steps toward the archway where I was still standing, arms akimbo. "I was really just waiting for my girlfriend. She's in the ladies room. My name's Michael."
Then someone tapped me on my bare shoulder. I turned to find my younger sister, Ruthie.
"I see you've met Michael," she said to me.
Excerpted from Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg Copyright © 2011 by Bonnie Trachtenberg. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"I laughed out loud at this story. Got a tad teary here and there and I also loved every page I read. Ms. Trachtenberg is a hoot! If you’re looking for a gift novel, here it is – give it to yourself first!!"--(Nancy Erickson, Cheryl's Book Nook)
“Wedlocked is a delight, filled with humor and heart. You’ll surely cheer as you follow Rebecca Ross’s trials and triumphs as she navigates her way to finding her true self—and true love—at last.” --(Francine LaSala, author of Rita Hayworth’s Shoes)
“Wedlocked is a funny, warm, and engaging story about life, love, marriage and family. This page-turner is the perfect summer read!” --(Wendy Walker, bestselling author of Social Lives)