Take My Husband, Please!
An Unconventional Romantic Comedy
Mitch Houdini clung to Sophie's shoulders like the week's dry cleaning as she led him inside. Loud enough to scare off intruders, her strappy stilettos click-clack-click-clacked across the hardwoods and echoed off the walls, giving her foyer a deserted feel. She reached for the lights but thought better of it because, in the dark, a few stubborn extra pounds and some baby-birthing stretchmarks don't exist. Right?
Mitch kicked the door shut and twirled her around, painting a wet trail of kisses along her neck that fueled her long-suppressed yearning to be touched and adored—worshipped even—by a man. This man. From the moment he'd whisked her off in his Lamborghini convertible for a happy hour that had lingered to near-midnight, Mitch had been a heat-seeking missile she could not deflect. Not that she wanted to after all those Mexican martinis.
She reached behind, dropped her keys on a wood console table cluttered with framed photos and a warming pot of orange blossom-scented wax, and discreetly flipped a family portrait on its face. After the date she'd had, prying eyes need not sabotage her intentions.
His voice vibrated the hair on her neck like plucked violin strings. He caressed her face in his hands and let his brazen tongue probe one ear, exploring every hill and cranny like he polished the chrome wheels of his cherished Lamborghini—cleaning and buffing and shining—and shooting chills right to her marrow. He quickly followed with an invitation for dueling tongues, and by then she figured there wasn't much that tongue of his couldn't do. Still, she had imagined he would taste more like Don Juan instead of Cuban cigars and Stolichnaya.
Mitch took a breath and shrugged out of his sports coat, revealing a wedge-shaped torso that strained against the fabric of his tailored shirt. She stood in the shadow of his six-four frame, the ceiling vents blasting cold air on her skin, while his hands ventured where no man had gone for nearly two years. He deftly thumbed her breasts through her little black dress and a pushup bra with its work cut out for it, igniting a white-hot desire between her legs. Every millimeter of her womanhood begged for the point of no return. Begged.
That's when he crushed himself against her.
Whoa. So the rumors were true. His manhood was the stuff of local legend, regaled in water cooler jokes about some hocus pocus that had to be kept under wraps—an industrial-length Mr. Slinky. Uncompressed, it could be dangerous. His massive hardness rolled against her bellybutton and his soft moans set her on fire.
Teasing him with a gentle bite on his lower lip, she drew him into the shadowy living room, around the sofa. He pulled her closer, his hands disappearing under her dress and searing his fingerprints into her bare skin. She felt her lacy panties shift and roll down until they stretched around her thighs. As his fingers explored the terrain between her legs, her breath caught and she could no longer wait.
She pushed him onto the sofa and pounced on top of him. But in less time than it took to say, Wheeee! Sophie felt herself flying backward. She landed on the coffee table with her feet in the air and her bottom winking at the ceiling.
"What the hell?" Mitch said, scrambling to his feet.
"What the hell?" echoed another man's voice.
"What the hell?" Sophie clapped her hands to turn on the lamp.
A man in a black T-shirt and sweats rolled off the sofa dazedly, as if he'd just woken up. His salt-and-pepper mullet spiked in all directions and he blinked furiously.
Sophie blinked furiously too. "Why the hell are you in my house?"
Mitch went into a fighting stance with his fists up. "Who is this?"
"He's my— he's my—" She blew out an exasperated sigh. "Husband."
"Your husband?" Mitch's face turned the same shade as the Sultry Summer Spice lip color smudged around his bruised mouth.
"Not ex yet," the mullet-headed man said.
Sophie huffed and rolled her eyes, gesturing at each man by way of introduction. "Will Camden, Mitchell Houdini."
They made no move to shake hands, and a hot rash of embarrassment spread across Sophie's skin. Will had never seen her with another man before. Had he heard her mouth kissing Mitch's? Her sighs escaping? Her primal need for fulfillment screaming?
The hot rash began to itch then, and she wiped her swollen lips. Her hair clip fell out and bounced noisily on the hardwoods, and that's when she noticed her push-up pads had dislodged themselves and wiggled up to her neck. Great. Now she had no boobs, an up-don't, and her dignity bunched around her ankles. It was official. She was a slut.
"I don't feel well." She held her stomach and wavered on her heels, reaching down to pull up her panties when the martinis went to her head, her eyes crossed, and the room swirled. Down she went like a felled redwood.
Will extricated the panties from her heels and dangled them from his fingertips. "You wear a G-string now?"
Mitch hauled her up by the armpits. "Something you want to tell me?"
Sophie snatched back her panties and squeezed her eyes shut to quell the dizziness. "There's not much to tell. We've been separated for more than a year, and now we're getting divorced. The papers have been filed. Speaking of divorce, Will, did you forget you don't live here anymore?"
"I'm here because somebody had to pick up the kids from the slumber party. They're upstairs, sick."
"Both of them?" Sophie switched gears instaneously.
"Too much sugar would be my guess. And omigod, the projectile barfing was epic. I'm talking some serious industrial-strength chum. First, one would blow, and then the other. I think they were tag-teaming me. I divvied out the Pepto-Bismol, and at least that didn't come back up."
Mitch's mouth contorted through various incarnations of horror.
"Exactly," Will said. "Regurgitated strawberry shortcake is something you don't want to miss in your lifetime."
"Good god." Sophie dug her fingers into her forehead. A lifelong bachelor like Mitch Houdini had to be eased into the dark side of childrearing. Will could play tough, but he had his less-than-shining moments too; he was the king of squeamish stomachs. "You gave up a sympathy barf, didn't you?"
Will screwed up his face. "Point is, I was here for the kids. I handled it. The kitchen, the staircase, even the big wet spot on your bed." Before she could ask, he waved it off. "They're fine now, I'm telling you. It's just that Keely had to see for herself that you weren't in there, and—"
Mitch backed into the foyer. "Look, I don't know who's interrupting here, me or your—er, husband. So I should go and let you two work this out."
Dammit. This was her one night. She'd been crushing on this man for months; and after a handful of dates, they'd finally gotten past the hardest part, broken the slab of ice that had encased her libido for so long.
She thrust her palm flat toward him. "Please don't go. Will is leaving... aren't you? Because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you don't live here anymore."
"Ah, yes," Will said, his mouth an intractable slash. "Didn't mean to interrupt your..." finger quotes, "big date. Can't put a kink in Sophie's plans with the—" quotes again, "big date, now can we?"
"You know," Mitch said from the foyer, forming finger quotes of his own, "the big date is still here."
Will squinted at him. "Yeah, why is that, Mitchell?"
The way he said Mitchell was like verbal spitting. They both stood with eyes narrowed, chins high, and chests puffed out. A cockfight waiting to happen.
Mitch towered over Will by six inches with shoulders and arms to match. He extended a hand. "It's Mitch. Mitch Houdini. We're all adults here. Why don't we start over?"
Will grudgingly shook Mitch's hand, and each man's arm tensed in the protracted squeezing of Olympic wrestlers, jaws clenching and nostrils flaring. Mitch's biceps bulged through his dress shirt, and his face contorted with the effort. Will scrunched up his face like he might have been on the crapper.
Sophie planted herself between them and peeled their hands apart. "There we go," she said, as if breaking up two first graders. "There we go. All civil again. Isn't that better?"
Will pointed a wavering finger. "Houdini. Houdini Real Estate? Where We Make the Home of Your Dreams Appear Like Magic? Aren't you Sophie's boss?"
Sophie crossed her arms over her chest. "He's not my boss."
"I'm her sponsoring broker," Mitch said. "Sophie is her own boss."
The cuckoo lurched in and out of a tiny cubbyhole in the clock, crowing twelve times in a thick, gelatinous quiet, when Will turned a wary gaze on Sophie.
She opened the front door, tamping down the creeping swell of guilt. "We're past the judging phase, Will." The cool night air swirled around her bare legs, and she guided him with a scooping hand gesture toward the exit. "Thanks for getting the kids."
He got nose to nose with her. "Just one more thing."
She tapped her foot while he readied himself to say just one more thing. "Well?"
"Sophie," he said stiffly. Some apparent mental wrangling, a sidelong glance at Mitch, and then he muttered, "I'm staying in the studio for a while."
Sophie leaned closer. "What? The shed?"
"The studio, the shed, whatever. I'm staying in it for a while."
"Ohhellno, you're not."
"Ohhellyes, I am." He turned and headed straight for the back door.
She ran ahead and blocked the door with her body. "What's going on? You're not staying here unless I know why."
His voice dropped to a whisper. "I got... laid off."
"Laid off?" she shouted. "When?"
"Shhh." He peered over his shoulder. "Could we not yell it to the world?"
"You're a director of product development. You have products to develop."
He shook his head. "Whole division is gone. Three months ago. It makes business sense. They're reorganizing, and—"
"Are you kidding?" Sophie could feel her temper building explosively. "You waited till now to tell me? What about your condo?"
"Sold it. Buyers wanted in early. They're leasing it back from me till the closing, which is three or four weeks from this morning. So..."
"Will Camden! You seriously can't—"
She'd barely got the words out when he placed one hand over her mouth. "Now, don't say something you'll regret. I know this seems like a good time to lay into me, but I just need the studio temporarily, till my money's freed up."
Her resolve to not speak wavered until he removed his hand. "There's no place to sleep down there. Junk's everywhere. You still haven't cleaned out all your stuff. The electricity isn't even connected. Not to mention the black widows and fat, flying, disgusting cockroaches."
"Come on, your cockroaches are not fat."
"It's got a padlock on it, and the door is all wonky and—"
"I have been here before, and I do have a key."
Sophie's lips pressed into a scowl, which was hard to maintain given that he was surely still mourning his father. It had only been a few months since Gus Camden passed. How could she be heartless and not help his grieving son? Still, a night in the shed for anyone, much less Will, was the definition of ridiculous. His eyes looked tired and red, and those broad shoulders she'd once leaned on with such unwavering trust now sagged. Had he lost weight?
She tilted her chin. "I want you out of my life, Will."
"Yeah? Well, I wouldn't take you back if you begged me."
"Good. Because I would never beg."
It was an exchange they'd volleyed back and forth repeatedly since he moved out and always resulted in a Camden Standoff, two ex-lovers, ex-confidants, ex-family, ex-everything glaring until somebody blinked.
Every millimeter of her womanhood begged for the point of no return.
She landed on the coffee table with her feet in the air and her bottom winking at the ceiling.
Look, I don’t know who’s interrupting here, me or your—er, husband.
Each man's arm tensed in the protracted squeezing of Olympic wrestlers, jaws clenching and nostrils flaring.