Free extract from THE HUSBAND DIET
ERICA CANTELLI MEETS SPIDER MAN:
I called an emergency service babysitter and within twenty minutes
I had a Mrs. Doubtfire lookalike at my door. Ever grateful, I shoved
the list of emergency phone numbers (all mine) at her and in three
minutes flat I was out of there. Which was unlucky for me because five
minutes later I was squirming in my Kia van, dying for a pee. I pulled
over into a plaza and charged into a nice-looking bistro restaurant.
Finally a relieved woman in every sense, I stepped out of the stall
and lathered my hands with some rose-scented soap.
Did I remember to get Paul’s slippers? I can’t rememb—what the hell?
A tickling, multilegged slimy sensation under my pants made me freeze as my mind
knew there could only be one explanation. A spider!
A horrible convulsion shook my body at the realization of my
worst phobia. Never mind heights, open spaces or closed spaces—the
only thing in the world that scared me were those wretched beasts.
I remember screaming and beating my leg to kill said beast, but
the thought of it crushed to a pulp against my flesh sent me into a
mindless hysteria. I was beyond panicking. I remember throwing
myself on the floor in a fit of terror for what seemed like days because
darkness kept washing over me and I must’ve been near passing
out several times until someone—a man—gripped my arms.
“Help! Take my pants off!” I shrieked.
“A spider in my pants! Take them off!”
“Your pants?” he asked dubiously.
“Are you sure?”
What the hell was wrong with the guy? “Now!”
At that, the blessed man obliged and yanked on my zipper. “It’s
stuck,” he informed me.
“Just rip them off!” I begged him and he easily tore my pants
from my front zipper down and pulled them off my legs, checking
every inch of wobbly thigh as I frantically kicked, repeating, “
Kill it, kill it!”
I didn’t give a shit if he saw my flesh flailing in the air—I’d
never see him again. All I wanted was to be rid of the monster.
At some point I finally collapsed under him, exhausted, but still
digging my nails into his flesh, still shaking and bawling and clawing
at his shirt until he was half-naked next to me. He felt so safe,
so solid, like a nice cozy cabin in the middle of a snowstorm. And
he smelled fantastic, like a real man, without the nauseating mist of
different colognes I have to fight through to get from the lobby to
my office every morning.
But more than anything, I remember how he’d calmed me down
with his deep, soothing voice and how it had enveloped me, warmed
me, like a father’s should when you’re a scared child or a husband’s
when you’re a woman down in the dumps. I had never had either
source of comfort in my life from my dad or Ira, and it was like the
other shoe had finally dropped. This voice, this presence, this kind
of man, was what I’d lacked my entire life. If I’d had this kind of
solid support and understanding all that time, and not for just a few
terrifying seconds in the ladies’ room, my whole life would’ve been
made. I’d be a different woman today. Sweeter. More self-assured.
Less aggressive. More loved.
This was the kind of patience and loyalty that I needed. Someone
who would believe me and act upon my fears as if they were
as important to him as they were to me. This man had taken me
seriously. This man had been my security. If Ira had been there with
me, never in a thousand years would he have agreed to rip my pants
off just like that.
The stranger put his lips against my ear and whispered, “It’s all
right. It’s gone. Calm down now.”
“Are you sure?” I croaked, burying my head deeper into his
chest, my arms and legs still wrapped around him like a real whack
“Positive—take a look for yourself—see?”
I stopped and lifted my face to scan the floor with trepidation.
He was right. No sign of the thing. The coast was clear. And then I
finally looked up at him. And almost fainted dead away again, but
for another reason this time.
He was surreal. Handsome didn’t even begin to cut it. Wide shoulders.
Muscles. Strong. Perhaps enough to lift me.
Black hair that fell over his forehead. Big green eyes and the most awesome, longest lashes.
Dark five o’clock shadow. Pure man. Pure, sinfully gorgeous man.
“Hands up!” twin voices echoed in the empty bathroom.
My savior turned toward them and raised his hands, his torso
still stuck to mine so that he looked like he was doing sit ups against
“It’s okay, lads. It’s only me,” he assured them.
One of the guards re-holstered his gun. “Sorry, sir.”
“It’s fine. A little accident with a big hairy monster,” he explained,
tucking his shirt back into his jeans as the two guards
looked at me.
I crossed my arms in front of my chest and shot them an evil
glare. “He means the spider.”
One of the guards stifled a snort and I shakily crawled for my
trousers, which were now in shreds, too humbled to look my savior’s
way. It was a good thing that Paul always waxed the hell out of me,
otherwise the guards would’ve thought the poor man was tackling a
grizzly bear in the ladies’ room.
“Oh, okay,” agreed the other guard all too easily.
I hid my face in my torn trousers. “He was just helping out a
hysterical lady,” I contributed, not wanting to seem ungrateful. “Go
now, please. I’m in my underwear in case you hadn’t noticed.” And
they weren’t my best pair, either.
At that my savior chuckled and wrapped his jacket around me
like a kilt. I’m big, but this thing fit all the way around me. My face
still hidden, I muttered a muffled, “Thank you,” and crawled back
into the stall—a different one, though.
“Okay, let’s give the lady some breathing space,” I heard my hero
say. Was he the manager of the restaurant? He sure had authority.
“I’ll be sitting outside if you care to join me for lunch, madam?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Thanks anyway.”
A pause. “Okay, then. I hope to see you again soon.”
Yeah, like that was ever happening. “Me, too, sir. Thank you.”
“We’re at our desk if you need us, ma’am,” called one of the guards.
“All right. Thank you. And thank you, again,” I called to my hero
from over the stall, too embarrassed to show my face.
“My pleasure, madam,” he said. At least that’s what I think. He
had a crazy accent I couldn’t place.
I raced home wearing the guy’s jacket around my hips, up the
stairs past the aghast babysitter who must’ve thought I was a freak,
and hopped back down the stairs, one leg into a pair of jeans. By the
time I got to the front door I was dressed. When you’re a working
mom you learn to multitask very quickly.
“I’ll pay you the extra time!” I shouted over my shoulder as I
catapulted myself out the door and into my Kia, flooring it. No
wonder I always got speeding tickets.