Linda Joffe Hull is a Denver-based author. She writes mystery and contemporary fiction under her own name, and with author Keir Graff as part of the writing team known as Linda Keir.
A former president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and board member of Mystery Writers of America, Linda was named the 2013 RMFW Writer of the Year. Linda has written multiple novels set in and around the Denver metro area including “The Big Bang,” “Eternally 21,” “Black Thursday” and “Sweetheart Deal.”
Recent titles as Linda Keir are available in all formats and include “The Swing of Things,” “Drowning with Others” and “The Three Mrs. Wrights.” A fourth Linda Keir novel is in the works.
Visit Linda at www.lindajoffehull.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@lindaejh).
The following is an excerpt from “The Three Mrs. Wrights.”
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
Jessica had been to dusty Nogales several times and vacationed in laid-back Puerto Peñasco once, but she’d never had any particular desire to visit Cancún. Part of it was that she’d grown up surrounded by sand, sunshine, and Latino culture in Phoenix. Mostly, though, she associated the place with the pre– and post–spring break chatter of party-hearty sorority girls whose conversations were peppered with, “Cancún is, like, so lit!”
But as Jessica relaxed in her own private cabana on the white-sand beach, sipped a slushy mango margarita rimmed with smoky chili powder and salt, and gazed out at the honest-to-god turquoise sea, she had to admit those ditzy girls with Greek letters on the asses of their underbutt-baring shorts were onto something. And they’d stayed at the seedy strip of downtown hotels known for hosting weeklong, all-you-can-drink bacchanals for horny college students, not the stunning White Sand Resort. Jon had lifted her out of blustery, arctic Chicago and set her down in an all-inclusive, five-star heaven.
“Your job,” he’d told her while he knotted his tie and she headed for water yoga, “is to relax and recharge while I give this speech and shake a few hands.”
“And what if I want to watch you in action afterward?” she’d asked.
“Trust me, you’ve seen it before. When I’m done, it’s time to dine, dance, and romance.”
Once she was nearly horizontal on the cushioned chaise, even those activities sounded like too much effort. Which must have been the last thing she thought before the crashing waves and the potent margarita lulled her into a peaceful nap.
She woke to Jon’s voice, carried to her on the gentle breeze.
“. . . you sound worried . . . You do realize there’s no logical weight behind that phrase, don’t you? . . . We’re in this together. And there’s no such thing as too good to be true.”
Talking business. Always business, even here in paradise.
Hearing Jon’s footsteps crunching toward her in the sand, she closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep until she felt a soft kiss on her lips. “Water yoga in the infinity pool must have been even harder than it looked.”
“It’s impossible to balance on those floating mats,” she said drowsily, looking at him.
Jon had changed out of the suit he’d worn to the conference at the three-star resort next door and into blue bathing trunks. How he looked equally good in both was a mystery for the ages.
“Sounds like a decent workout, anyway.”
“How was the conference?” she asked.
“The speech was the speech. At the reception afterward, I learned that Farber Nanotech is a mere ten years behind us in diagnostics, and their technology sucks. I also talked investment with a guy who may or may not have been a member of the Saudi royal family.”
“So, an arms dealer?”
“Gone legit,” Jon said. “Or trying to.”
“A successful morning, then.”
“All I could think about was getting back to you.”
“Objective accomplished,” Jessica said, pulling him in closer for a longer kiss. “What should we do next? There are some amazing ruins we could tour, but I’ve always wanted to swim in a cenote. Or we could—”
“Jessie,” Jon said, sitting down on the edge of her chaise, suddenly serious. “My divorce came through.”
“What?” she said, certain she’d misheard him over the surf.
“There are a lot of logistical details to be worked out, and things are definitely going to be difficult for a while, but the papers are signed.”
She had been waiting for this moment for so long. Even though she’d suspected he would surprise her, she was utterly dumbfounded. He took her hands and held them between his. “I’m officially single, and I have no intention of staying that way for long.”
“Jon,” she whispered, her pulse racing.
He slid off the edge of the chaise and knelt in the sand. “Let’s get married.”
Her heart beat so hard it almost hurt as she struggled to process what was happening. She’d abandoned her fellowship and followed Jon to frigid Chicago in the fervent hope that this moment would come— but had always assumed it lay just beyond the horizon. She’d never imagined it could happen so fast.
A shadow crossed his face. “Is it too soon?”
“Yes,” she said, tears suddenly streaming down her face. “I mean no, it’s not too soon. Yes! Let’s get married!”
“Perfect,” he said, tilting his face upward to kiss her. “They have the most stunning area for weddings, and I reserved it for us.”
“Tonight?” she gasped.
“I’ve never felt so impulsive or vulnerable, but I can’t think of a better way to officially start our life together than to exchange our vows right here, in this beautiful place.”
“I . . . I just don’t know what to say. I can’t even find the words.”
“Follow my lead: I love you. I want to marry you. Right away.”
“I love you, and I want to marry you right away,” she said, trying to regain her composure. “But what about my mom and my family? I feel like they should be here.”
“We’ll have a second ceremony or a big celebration after the dust from the divorce settles. Whatever you want. But today is about us.”
“What about rings?”
“I’m having them custom made in Antwerp.”
“So you’ve been planning this—”
“Since my lawyer emailed yesterday. It caught us both by surprise. Now that we’re here, I can’t pass up an opportunity like this.”
“I can’t believe this,” Jessica said, her whole body electric.
“Believe it,” Jon said.
“I need a dress! I didn’t bring anything I can get married in.”
“Come as you are,” Jon said. “All we have to do is show up, and the El Oro wedding package will take care of the rest: flowers, music, officiant, and the most beautiful setting you can imagine.”
“I love you,” she told him.
“I love you, too. But if we don’t stop gushing, you’re going to be late.” Standing up, he reached for her hand and helped her off the chaise. “You’re due at the bridal salon in thirty minutes.”
Jessica really did feel dizzy. “This can’t be happening. I’m still asleep in the sun.”
“If that’s what you want to believe.”
Jessica wasn’t one of those girls who’d grown up planning a picture-perfect big day, going over all the details in her mind until all she needed was a willing groom. She had always assumed there would be a billowing white dress, a church, and a car with JUST MARRIED written on the back window in shaving cream, but she found the idea of starring in a big production much more intimidating than, say, defending a thesis. Though she’d expected a traditional wedding, she preferred the idea of an elopement.
Somehow Jon had managed to give her both.
Her only regret was that her mom would miss it. But, really, there was no need to fret about how her thrice-married mom would handle it when she learned her daughter had gotten married in Mexico on the spur of the moment.
With that thought, Jessica relaxed into the prewedding pampering Jon had arranged and slowly accepted the reality that she was truly a bride.
Her anxiety about a dress evaporated when a van from a nearby bridal shop arrived with a rack of choices in her size, all of them perfectly suited to a beach wedding. She did feel a fleeting moment of loneliness as she tried on dresses in the hotel—the saleswoman was a warm and encouraging stranger—but that vanished, too, as soon as she came out wearing the dress that made both of them say, “Yes!” It was a Jenny Packham column dress with beaded straps bedecked in ivory embroidery and matching beadwork over a sandy-hued lining.
Fortunately, she’d brought along something old, a necklace that had once belonged to her grandmother that Jessica still wore regularly. With her stunning new dress and a blue garter belt borrowed from the bridal salon, she was ready.
At exactly sunset, a solo violinist played the first notes of the “Wedding March.” Jessica emerged from her private bridal suite holding a bouquet of roses, orchids, and assorted tropical blooms. It’s odd, she thought, that no one will ever see me as a bride in the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn. But when she locked eyes with Jon, standing beside a robed minister beneath a white gazebo overlooking the ocean, she realized she was seen by the only one who mattered.
Orchids, roses, and assorted greenery overflowed the white pots lining the aisle as she walked toward him, their heady fragrance nearly overwhelming her senses.
“You’re even more breathtaking than I imagined,” Jon whispered into her ear as she reached his side.
A delicate breeze cooled the heat rising in her cheeks. “I still can’t believe this is happening,” she said.
“If it’s a dream, do you want to wake up?” he asked.
She shook her head.
The minister, who she presumed was nondenominational from his simple attire, opened a slender book and beamed at them over its pages. Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he began to speak in lilting, lightly accented English.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here to join Jessica and Jon in the union of marriage,” he said. “This contract is not to be entered into lightly, but thoughtfully and seriously, and with a deep realization of its obligations and responsibilities . . .”
Jessica was more sure than ever that she was still asleep, that any second she was going to wake up on the lounge chair with only a melted margarita by her side. Yet she’d never felt so awake and alive.
“Do you take this woman, Jessica Rae Meyers, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“I do,” Jon said.
Jessica’s heart soared as the smiling officiant turned to her.
“And do you, Jessica, take this man, Jonathan Mitchell Wright III, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”