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Wedding Bell Blues
By Amos, Robyn
"Ms. Lawrence." Judge Fox said, with as much amusement as southern charm. "Would you please explain your 'attractive nuisance' defense to the court?"
"Of course, Your Honor," Moni Lawrence said, taking a deep breath, still a bit stunned to find herself in a San Diego small-claims court.
She darted a look in Grant Forrest's direction. He bore a strong resemblance to the actor Taye Diggs -- smooth skin the color of bittersweet chocolate, neatly trimmed hair and a clean-cut, handsome face. His khaki pants were pressed into a crisp seam, and his shirt and tie were perfectly coordinated and wrinkle-free. He was the picture of composure -- and why shouldn't he be? He was suing her.
He'd stated his case against her in a strong clear voice, but now that it was her turn, she prayed her voice wouldn't crack.
"An attractive nuisance is an irresistible hazard -- like an unenclosed pool would be to a child. The water is so seductive, the child is lured to it and, therefore, endangered."
"I object, Your Honor," Grant interrupted. "My pool was enclosed, in fact, Ms. Lawrence had to drive her car through my fence to get to it."
"Judge Fox, in this particular situation, it was Mr. Forrest himself that was the hazard. Not his pool."
Moni held her breath, afraid to glance in the plaintiff's direction. Any moment now, she was sure she would burst into flames from the sheer force of Grant's gaze.
Judge Fox chuckled, creases forming in his leathery brown cheeks. "And would you please tell the court how you came across this defense strategy, young lady?"
His eyes sparkled with grandfatherly amusement, and Moni felt like a five-year-old who'd just been asked to perform for visiting relatives.
"When I was in college, I took a business law course and remember going over attractive nuisances and how they can be liabilities for businesses or homeowners. So I did some research on the Internet to see how it might be applied in this case."
Moni could see that Judge Foxwas amused by her defense. While she realized that didn't mean he was buying into it, she had to give it her best shot. Why couldn't she be Ally McBeal for a day?
She cleared her throat. "As the plaintiff stated earlier, his cat ran into the street, and I swerved to avoid it. Now, I might have been able to regain control if Mr. Forrest hadn't been standing right there stark naked."
At that point, Moni made the mistake of looking over at Grant again. This time her memory took over. His clothes started melting from his body the way ice cream dripped from a cone. She could see every muscle in his lean, well-defined chest. His biceps were firm and he had a tight six-pack at his middle. Her eyes dropped lower.
She drew a sharp breath. For a moment, Moni forgot where she was. Clutching a hand to her chest, she gaped at Grant.
"Ms. Lawrence." Judge Fox banged his gavel to get her attention. "Ms. Lawrence, please continue." Like a needle skipping across a record, her fantasy ended. She faced forward, pulling herself together.
"Yes, um ... as I was saying ... " She blinked. "Uh, what was I saying, Your Honor?" Judge Fox sighed, his amusement fading.
"Ms. Lawrence, you were about to explain to the court just how Mr. Forrest's nudity makes him an attractive nuisance."
"Of course, I'm sorry, Your Honor. I'm a bit nervous. I've never been in a courtroom before."
The judge smiled, his eyes softening again. "Where are you from? Your accent is mighty familiar."
"Oh, I'm sure you've never heard of my hometown, Judge. I'm from Dunkin, Virginia."
Judge Fox laughed, smacking his desktop. "A little town about forty miles outside of Richmond, right?"
"Why, yes." Moni straightened with surprise.
"You mean you've actually heard of it?"
"I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. We used to drive to Dunkin to go fishing twice a year. You know, I've been meaning to get back there."
Grant cleared his throat. Judge Fox gave the plaintiff a sharp look but took the hint and prompted Moni to continue.
Gaining confidence, she raised her voice. "Now, I realize that things are done a lot differently here than where I come from, but isn't it still against the law to parade around naked in public?"
"Objection, Your Honor, I wasn't parading around, it was an acc -- "
"Now, now, Mr. Forrest, you've had your turn. Let Ms. Lawrence state her case. Then I'll hear from you again."
"Thank you, sir," Moni continued. "I was so caught off guard by the plaintiff's ... uh, pe -- uh, I mean his ... "
Moni grabbed the water pitcher in front of her, poured herself a glass, and took a long sip.
Her cheeks felt hotter than a pancake griddle on Sunday morning.
"Let me start over. Mr. Forrest's nudity was so startling, I lost control of my vehicle a second time, and was drawn onto his property to my own misfortune. In fact, I think Mr. Forrest is lucky he wasn't arrested for indecent exposure."
From the corner of her eye, she saw Grant throw his hands up. "Your Honor, you can't possibly be taking this seriously."
"Young man, I've been doing this for many years without the benefit of your help. I think I can decide for myself what I should and should not take seriously. Now, tell me this, Mr. Forrest, did you and the defendant reach an initial agreement regarding the fence?"
"Yes. I told Ms. Lawrence that I would get a few estimates, and she agreed to pay for the repairs."
The judge nodded toward the defendant. "Is that true, Ms. Lawrence? Did you agree to pay for the repairs to Mr. Forrest's fence?"
"I did, Your Honor, but the estimates Mr. Forrest brought me were outrageous."Continues...
Excerpted from Wedding Bell Blues by Amos, Robyn Excerpted by permission.
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