Your Bed or Mine?by Candy Halliday
WELCOME TO WOODBERRY PARK: a subdivision in the burbs where desperate housewives do desperate things. Ask Zada Clark. Zada appears in divorce court expecting to get a quickie divorce from her spur-of-the-moment marriage to her hunky ex-marine husband - a man she thought was Mr. Right until she realized Rick's first name should have been ALWAYS. Not exactly known for her own ability to compromise, their short marriage has been a disaster. EXCEPT in the bedroom. Zada insists there's more to marriage than just great sex, and wants her divorce. Now! But when a brawl over the house and the dog breaks out in the courtroom, the disgruntled judge rules that Rick and Zada have ninety days to reach a compromise or face serious repercussions.
Reach a compromise in ninety days?
Ain't gonna happen!
Rick suggests they turn the situation into something they can settle between them - a real-life game of Survivor (Zada's favorite reality show). He'll move back in, and the first one to outwit, outplay, and outlast the other - wins the house and the dog. Never one to back down from a challenge, Zada says "game on." And when Rick moves back home and into the guest bedroom down the hall from hers, Zada informs Rick real quick, "We are not going to end up in your bed or mine!" But the burning question is: Will Rick be able to out-tease, out-tempt, and out-tantalize Zada into changing her mind and calling off the divorce?
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Your Bed or Mine?
By Candy Halliday
WARNER FOREVERCopyright © 2006 Candy Viers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneZada Thornton Clark didn't miss the frown on her divorce attorney's face as she hurried up the courthouse steps. The disapproving frown should have intimidated Zada.
The fact that the revered Angie Naylon was known around Chicago for her killer instinct in the courtroom, didn't mean squat to Zada, either. There was just something about having personally held your college roommate's head over the toilet more than once that served as a pretty good equalizer.
Zada reached the top of the courthouse steps.
Angie's frown only deepened.
"Are you kidding me, Zada?" Angie looked her up and down. "This is your idea of a mousy-looking outfit for the judge's benefit?"
"No," Zada said stubbornly. "This is my idea of an eat-your-heart-out outfit for Rick's benefit. I want Rick Clark to get his last good look at what he lost when he walked out on me."
"And how shallow is that?" Angie said with disgust.
"Today," said Zada, "shallow suits me just fine."
"Obviously," Angie snipped when two suits and ties walked past, craning their necks around for a second look at Zada's curvaceous nothing-skinny-about-her figure.
Angie looked back at Zada and said, "Your all-about-me dress certainly leaves nothing to theimagination. And here's another news flash for you. Red is not listed on the mousy side of the color chart."
"But red is listed on a brunette's side of the color chart," Zada argued, tossing her long, dark hair. "Ask any brunette. It's our signature color."
"It's the judge's signature you need to be worried about." Angie frowned again. "I warned you this judge was old school, Zada. He doesn't take divorce lightly. That dress blows any chance we had of him believing you're a meek and mousy heartbroken housewife, only asking to keep your home and your poor blind dog."
Angie wheeled around and stomped into the courthouse.
Zada hurried after her.
"Oh, come on, Angie," Zada pleaded when she finally caught up. "I'm about as mousy as a wolverine, and you know it. You could dress me in a nun's habit, and I'd still look militant."
"We don't have time to argue," Angie snapped, glaring at her again. "Your case is the first one on the docket after the lunch break. That dress is enough to sway the property settlement in Rick's favor. The last thing we need is to be late for your hearing."
Angie forged ahead, her briefcase in a death grip.
Zada picked up speed, trying to keep up.
"But we still have the poor blind dog hook," Zada pointed out, trying to make amends. "I'm the one who's taken care of Simon since Rick walked out on us."
Angie sent her another mean look.
"How many times do we have to go over this, Zada? Simon is Rick's dog."
"The dog Rick left with me," Zada said.
"And the dog who saved Rick's life," Angie reminded her. "Rick's attorney will make a big production over Rick and Simon being injured recovering that explosive device at O'Hare. Separating a man from his heroic life-saving dog is not going to be an easy task."
"That's when you bring up the fact that I didn't even know Rick when he and Simon were injured," Zada said, "but that I was so touched when I heard Simon was blinded in that explosion, I visited Simon at the vet's hospital every day and even wrote a children's book about him."
"And Rick's attorney will remind the judge that Rick is one of the top trainers of explosive-detection dogs in the nation," Angie said. "Rick trains dogs professionally every day of the week."
"Yes, Rick does train dogs professionally every day of the week," Zada said. "Twelve to fourteen hours every day of the week. But I'm Simon's stay-at-home mom. The mom who didn't walk out and leave Simon behind."
"It doesn't matter," Angie insisted. "Rick's attorney will say the only reason Rick left Simon behind, is because Rick had your house specifically equipped so poor, blind Simon could function as a normal dog again."
"Wrong again," Zada said. "Simon could have learned to function like a normal dog without all that high-tech equipment Rick had installed in the house. Any owner of a blind dog will confirm that. Rick never gave Simon a chance to learn to manage on his own. Rick's a techno-geek. Plain and simple."
Angie stopped walking and turned around to face her.
"And you were supposed to be a plain and simple housewife," Angie reminded her. "But now that you've blown that strategy to hell and back, you tell me, Zada. Who do you think the judge is going to say deserves Simon and house?"
"Me," Zada insisted.
Angie groaned and walked off again.
"Angie!" Zada called after her. "I'm the one who's practically made Simon a household name with my Simon Sees children's series." When she caught back up, Zada said, "Be sure and point that out. Publishers Weekly and the New York Times have both hailed Simon Sees as an inspiration for children with disabilities everywhere. Simon and I already have a national tour of children's hospitals scheduled around Christmas this year."
"How convenient," Angie quipped, "since red is your signature color." Her eyes cut sideways for a second. "Take my advice this time, Zada. Wear a different dress for the children's tour."
Angie turned down a corridor.
Zada clipped along behind her in four-inch heels.
At least Angie hadn't said anything about the shoes. Her sling-back red pumps were as sexy as the dress. Or maybe Angie just never got past the dress.
When they finally reached the designated courtroom, Angie pulled Zada aside and pointed a finger under her nose.
"Keep your militant mouth shut," Angie said. "I mean it, Zada. I don't want even so much as a peep out of you in that courtroom."
Zada made the zipped-lip motion with her fingers.
Angie said, "You walk in there and sit down as quickly as possible before the judge notices the lower half of your dress is missing. And it wouldn't hurt to slump a little. Judge Parkins is in his seventies. The way that dress clings to every inch of your body, the old fart could have a heart attack and croak right there on the bench."
"Sit and slump," Zada said. "Got it."
She tried smiling brightly at Angie.
Angie didn't smile back.
She tossed her auburn hair back from her forehead.
She adjusted the jacket of her gray business suit.
And she marched into the courtroom.
Fine. Be that way, Zada decided.
Maybe short and clingy wasn't the best choice.
And maybe red wasn't the best color.
But Zada quickly changed her mind when she saw the look on Rick's face when she walked into the courtroom.
He was already seated at one of the tables at the front of the room with his attorney. And now with an eyes-popped-out expression on his dropped-jaw face.
Zada smiled inwardly.
She threw her shoulders back.
She thrust her breasts forward.
She held her head high.
And walked right past her soon-to-be ex-husband.
Rick was already nervous, but there was no doubt in his mind about why his mouth suddenly went dry. Zada always had that effect on him. Long, shimmering dark brown hair. Sultry, dark brown eyes. Voluptuous curves that had the power to bring any man to his knees. Except Rick was done.
No more on his knees, begging Zada to reconsider.
A man's pride could only take so much.
Yes, they'd had one hell of a fight. Yes, they'd both said horrible things to each other. And no, he shouldn't have walked out. Especially when he knew exactly how Zada felt about the "walking out" issue.
Zada's father had walked out on her mother when Zada had only been six, and her younger sister had just turned four. They'd been in their teens when her mother took her father back-something Zada had never fully forgiven her for doing.
Unfortunately, younger sister Sally served as proof that history does have a way of repeating itself. Sally had allowed her own husband to come and go at will, begging Zada to understand that she had two young sons to consider; another huge sore spot with Zada.
In Zada's mind, walking out was the ultimate taboo.
Rick had known that.
And he'd cursed himself every day since he walked out; for allowing his pride to get in the way when Zada gave him that damned you-walk-out-now-and-it's-over-between-us-for-good ultimatum.
Except Zada knew ultimatums were his pet peeve, which was the exact reason she'd hit him with an ultimatum.
Rick sighed inwardly.
Some days you were the dog.
Some days, the hydrant.
He'd expected her to be angry, sure. Only angry didn't cover Zada's reaction. Furious was more like it.
Zada had changed the locks on the house the same day and filed for separation papers two weeks later.
Any chance for a reconciliation had walked right out the door with him. Zada had told him so-in those exact words-during the one and only verbal conversation he'd had with her since the day he left.
After that conversation, she'd refused to speak to him at all. Their only direct communication over the last six months-except through their attorneys-had been via brief one-line e-mails. Him confirming every Wednesday he would stop by to see Simon. Zada confirming she would make arrangements to be gone for the hour he would be at the house.
They'd lived apart for the required six months now.
The legal separation period before a divorce.
Zada had no intention of backing down.
He had no intention of backing down.
They were two strong-willed, hard-headed people-each determined to bend the other to their own way of thinking.
And where had their stubbornness gotten them?
Straight to divorce court.
Now, Rick found himself sitting in a courtroom, ready to face a judge who would put an end to their marriage. Yet, all he could think about was how great Zada looked in that red dress, and what a damn fool he'd be if he let her go through with the divorce.
Rick was still looking at her, Zada could feel it.
It should have given her immense satisfaction knowing she'd definitely gotten his attention. But as good as she knew she looked in her new red dress, Rick looked ten times better.
I never should have glanced in his direction.
His cream-colored summer sports coat really showed off his tan. And his a-little-longer-than-fashionable Matthew McConaughey-style hair was still damp and sexy-looking from the shower he'd obviously taken before he left the dog training center to appear in court.
If she dared look directly at him, Zada knew his eyes would be a deep, brooding blue. Rick's eyes always turned darker when he was angry or under pressure.
Funny, but she'd never been attracted to blond men before she met Rick. Funny also that the second she did meet him, her tall, dark, and handsome preference switched to tall, blond, and handsome in about two seconds flat.
His ex-marine fine-honed body hadn't deterred her from switching to the blond side of gotta-have-him, either. If any man had a fine-honed body, it was Rick.
Supposedly thanks to his stupid health food.
Zada's lips pursed in a pouty frown.
Proper nutrition was an obsession with Rick.
Her idea of a balanced diet was a cookie in each hand.
She hoped Rick felt stupid when he died of nothing.
That's all health was anyway-the slowest possible rate at which a person died.
As for her, she wanted to slide through the Pearly Gates-a doughnut in one hand, a chocolate éclair in the other-yelling, "Show me the bakery!"
She'd often wondered what she'd been thinking going from a whirlwind romance straight into a marriage. Other than the fact that Rick excited her like no man ever had, or ever would again. Unfortunately, if any two people had ever been total opposites, it was definitely the two of them.
Opposites attract, sure. But that didn't mean they could live together. She and Rick had sure proved that point, in more ways than one.
Rick liked the house kept military-standard neat and tidy. Her idea of daily cleaning was a sweeping glance around the room.
Health-food-nut Rick prayed to the tofu gods who kept him in tip-top physical shape. She was on a first name basis with Ronald McDonald.
Early-to-bed-early-to-rise Rick ran five miles before breakfast every morning. Burning the midnight writing oil meant she rarely got up for breakfast-and her idea of exercise was jogging over to the fridge for another Dove ice-cream bar.
Living together had been a total disaster.
The fact that they were both type A personalities with limited skills when it came to the art of compromise, didn't help matters, either. Zada was surprised their marriage had lasted even a year. In fact, it was a miracle they hadn't killed each other that first week after the honeymoon. If the sex hadn't been so fabulous, they probably would have killed each other.
Zada quickly dismissed that thought.
Reinforcements zoomed forward to take over.
Mind-boggling sex tapped her on the shoulder.
The twins-hot and sweaty sex-whispered in her ear.
Pleasure ran an enticing finger up and down her spine.
Ecstasy did a lively little tap dance just below her belly button.
Zada squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.
She reached for the water pitcher sitting on the table in front of her, poured a glass of water, and took a cool, calming drink. Only then did she chance her first real look directly at Rick.
He was staring right at her.
She still loved him, truly she did. But there was more to marriage than just great sex.
Damn you, Rick Clark!
Why did you have to walk out on me like that?
"All rise," the bailiff announced.
Angie grabbed Zada's arm, pulling her to her feet.
Zada didn't dare look at Rick again.
But when a sinking feeling hit the pit of her stomach like a wrecking ball, Zada decided slumping wasn't going to be any problem for her at all.
Rick was only half listening as his attorney, Bob Thompson, argued back and forth with Zada's attorney over the property settlement. Bob had already assured him there was no way the judge would rule in Zada's favor. Especially with Rick's generous offer to purchase a condo or any other residence of Zada's choice-gratis, of course.
Against Bob's advice, he'd insisted on making the offer to purchase Zada another residence himself. He still loved her. Hell, he'd always love her. They just couldn't live together. The least he could do was make sure Zada was settled and happy on her own.
What he wouldn't do-and the reason he'd held firm on his desire to keep the house-was uproot Simon again. He owed the dog his life. Simon had learned to maneuver freely with the aid of the high frequency sensors he'd had installed in the house he'd bought shortly after he and Zada were married. Simon could maneuver so well in his new environment, in fact, no one would even suspect the dog was blind.
The state-of-the-art equipment had cost a fortune and was well worth every penny as far as Rick was concerned. But going through that expense again, only because Zada was trying to punish him by keeping the house, was ridiculous.
Almost as ridiculous as her expecting to keep Simon.
Which wasn't going to happen.
Excerpted from Your Bed or Mine? by Candy Halliday Copyright © 2006 by Candy Viers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Over a year ago Zada met Rick when she went to the hospital to visit his explosives dog blinded in an incident at O¿Hare. After a whirlwind courtship, they married. The sex was great, but except for caring for Simon, they had nothing in common. During a squabble, he threatened to leave she told him if he does do not come back. Both hit their respective button as she knows men leave like her dad did and he does not handle ultimatums well. Now one year from their marriage they are in divorce court.----------- However Judge Parkins becomes exasperated with both of them, as both of them demands custody of Simon. He tells them they will remain married until they work out their differences especially over Simon. Rick¿s lawyer Bob Thompson pushes him to move back into their home figuring that will drive Zada out. However, as the two combatants battle over a matchmaking dog who loves both of them, their love for one another remains strong even as each pulls dirty tricks to drive the other out.----------- YOUR BED OR MINE? Is a humorous battle of the sexes between opposites who share two things in common, a love for one another and love for Simon. The story line is fun to follow though many readers will doubt the judge¿s ruling and the consequential arrangement. Still Candy Halliday provides an amusing second chance at getting right romance.----------- Harriet Klausner