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August 2012, Avon Books
ISBN-10: 0062019074
ISBN-13: 978-0062019073
December 1999
LoveSpell Time of Your Life
ISBN: 0-505-52349-3
Reissue:  Oct 2003


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Houma, Louisiana, 1978

"You wanna dance?"

"No!" Sylvie looked with horror at a red-faced Lucien LeDeux. He stood before her, cowlick standing at attention, in his shiny, Sunday Mass suit.

"No?" he asked, the blush of embarrassment on his dark-skinned face deepening to anger. "Why? Sylvie Fontaine is too good for me?" He made a derisive tsk-ing sound by clicking his tongue against his teeth. "A high-class cat and a Cajun swamp rat? Talk about!"

Oh, it was just like that awful Luc to single her out at her first boy-girl dance at Our Lady of the Bayou School! Painfully shy, she glanced quickly around the crepe-paper festooned cafeteria to see if any of her classmates, or Sister Colette, were watching as the wickedest boy in the whole parish asked her to dance. "You are too bad for anyone, Luc LeDeux. But not because you're Cajun. Because you are too...too...bad."

His lips curved into a nasty smirk. "And you are too goody-goody, Sylvie-chatte. Here kitty, here kitty. Meow." He danced around her in a teasing Acadian shuffle.

"Go away," she urged in a mortified whisper.

He stared at her for a long moment, then turned to walk away. Over his shoulder he tossed a parting shot, "Ah, well, I ain't gonna die of a broken heart. But someday, Sylvie, you're gonna beg me to dance with you, I guar-an-tee."


"And it's gonna be real close and slooow. And...and it will prob'ly be sexy, too. Yep, we'll dance together...naked."

She could tell that the latter was a last-minute inspiration, not intended to be mean or harassing, but it was so outrageous, even for Luc, that Sylvie gasped for breath. In all likelihood, he got the idea from those dirty magazines he and the other boys were always snickering over at the far end of the playground. But twelve-year-old boys shouldn't have such indecent thoughts about twelve-year-old girls. At least, Sylvie didn't think they should. She would have to ask her best friend Blanche later. Blanche had had the good sense to hide out in the coat room with a forbidden romance novel, instead of coming inside to the dance. Sylvie wished she had been so wise.

"You better go to confession, Luc. Right now. Father Phillipe will give you a penance of fifty Hail Marys, for sure." Fifty seemed like an extremely high number to her. The most she ever got was three.

"I'll just add it to the hundred from last week, then," he said with a shrug and an I-gotcha wink.

Luc was swaggering now toward Mary-Louise Delacroix, who had the distinction of being the only girl in sixth grade with noticeable breasts. Mary-Louise smiled at Luc as if he was a sweet beignet.

"I hate you, Luc," she called tearfully to his back. His step faltered, and she saw his ears grow pink. "I really do."

Just before he reached Mary-Louise, Luc turned, his black eyes dancing mischievously. And he mouthed a silent message to her, "Naked dancing."

From that day forward, Lucien LeDeux became the plague of Sylvie Fontaine's life.



Houma, Louisiana, 1999

Samson was a stud, no doubt about it. Testosterone on the hoof. A walking hormone magnet.

With his usual raw animal arrogance, he stepped through the low doorway, then reared up, bracing a shoulder against the glass wall. Nostrils flaring and body quivering with tension, he surveyed the far corner where his "harem" huddled together in fear.

Or was it anticipation?

Immediately, his beady eyes honed in on one female...

Delilah. She was nibbling on a tiny red jelly bean. It mattered not that her mousy brown hair stood up in spikes, unlike the renowned beauty of her namesake. Or that she darted her head this way and that, seeking escape...a clear contradiction to the famed Biblical siren who supposedly craved sexual attention. At the same time, her timid glance kept coming back to Samson. Clearly, she was attracted, despite herself.

Samson was not so shy. His widespread stance and outthrust pelvis signaled body language as old as time. "I am male. I am aroused. And I want you." There would be no escape for Delilah. Not from this glass-walled prison. Not from the scurvy rat who would have his way with her.

But Samson was a cool dude. He didn't force his attentions on any female. He didn't have to. Snagging her gaze, Samson held his prey transfixed...the first step in eroding her defenses. Then he waited.

Delilah made a little squealing sound of protest, but couldn't seem to break the eye contact. It was as if she were under some spell. Nervously, she gulped down her jelly bean, followed by two more, a yellow and a green. Gradually her body relaxed, and her eyes dilated with some strong emotion. The only thing missing from her surrender was the white flag.

Samson moved forward slowly, cutting Delilah from the pack. Every movement he made, from narrowed eyes to self-assured body gestures, bespoke a fever pitch of sexual arousal. Delilah was becoming equally affected, a shivering mass of excitement, the closer he got.

Acting swiftly, Samson pounced on Delilah, brutishly, giving her no chance for second thoughts. Without foreplay, he mounted her and was soon thrusting frantically, as if he had not done this a hundred times before. As if they would get no other chance to repeat the ecstasy.

Then, when they were both exhausted with sexual satiety and the door to Delilah's "prison" swung open providing a means of escape, Delilah did the strangest thing. Instead of darting for freedom, she cuddled next to Samson and nuzzled his neck. The victim was staying with her seducer, by choice, even after the fever had passed. It was almost as if Delilah loved Samson. Amazing!

Amazing...because Samson really was a rat.


"I did it! I did it!" Dr. Sylvie Fontaine shrieked with exhilaration. "Move over, Viagra. Here comes JBX...`The Jelly Bean Fix.'"

Her best friend, Blanche Broussard, stood with her arms crossed over her chest, shaking her head at what she must consider an overexuberant reaction on Sylvie's part to a mere scientific experiment. Mere? There was nothing mere about this. It was so much more...the breakthrough of the century!

Sylvie had just run the hundredth trial run on her JBX project...the hundredth successful trial run. Despite her methodical, time-consuming analyses, she was still stunned at the fact staring her in the face...through two sets of beady, sex-glazed eyes.

"I have invented an honest-to-God, legitimate love potion," she said in an awe-filled whisper. "In two weeks the human experiments will begin, but there's no doubt as to the outcome."

Unable to contain her elation, Sylvie boogied a little victory dance around her research lab, witnessed only by a bunch of unimpressed rats and the equally unimpressed Blanche.

"Yeech!" Blance had a profound dislike for rodents of any

type, even the cute, miniature variety that Sylvie used which were more like large mice, and she stood tentatively on the far side of the room, away from the animal cages. She brushed a hand with perfectly manicured lavender nails over the front of her long, gauzy dress, as if she might be contaminated, even from that distance.

In her white lab coat, plain linen shirt and jeans, Sylvie felt frumpy and staid next to Blanche, but after more than thirty years of friendship...thirty-three, if you counted them lying next to each other in high-wheeled, designer carriages as their nannies strolled them to Magnolia Park as babies...she'd long ago given up on competing with Blanche's beauty or flair for style. "Really, Sylv, you've gotta get a personal life. Watching rats have sex is not...well, normal."

"Is that a professional opinion? From `The Love Astrologer'?" Sylvie asked with a grin. Blanche was a self-trained astrologer, a local radio celebrity whose "love horoscopes" were must listening every morning across Louisiana--a combination star chart analysis and Creole philosophy for daily living.

"I develop horoscopes for all aspects of life, not just love charts," Blanche corrected with a little harrumphing sound of consternation. "But you're changing the subject, Sylv." She let out a whoosh of exasperation. "You've been cooped up in this dreary place for too long, hon."

"Do you think this is dreary?" Sylvie was so used to the dim light lab rats preferred that she no longer noticed. "You just don't get it, Blanche. I have invented a love potion...a love potion!"

"Well, big whoop! A potion to reduce that I could get excited about."

"As if you have to worry about your thighs!" Sylvie made several more notes on her clipboard before casting a sidelong glance of disgust at Blanche's perfect figure. At five-foot-ten, Blanche didn't carry an ounce of excess fat. Sylvie, a good four inches shorter, didn't either, but she had to work at it every single day. Darn it!

"Every woman in the world has to worry about her thighs, honey. Especially after they pass the big Three-Oh. Forget cellulite. Everything starts to swell up or slip down then."

"That's precisely why my discovery is so important. It moves the emphasis away from physical appearance."

"With rat aphrodisiacs? Gross!"

Blanche just didn't understand.

In this spare room, off the main laboratories of Terrebonne Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company that dealt almost exclusively with birth control and hormone replacement products, Sylvia had been conducting her experiments for the past year on dozens of rodent couples in their glass-walled cages. It hadn't started out that way. She'd been immersed in her regular work involving progesterone when she noticed an elevation in pheromone levels as different ingredients were manipulated. Out of that had grown her JBX Project, which would be of special interest to any

for-profit company, especially after the way Pfizer stock had almost doubled in price following the announcement in mid '98 of its little blue pill.

Of course, there was a world of difference between Viagra and JBX, but they were both drugs which could enhance a person's love life. The public would love it...there was no doubt about that fact, in Sylvie's mind.

She'd given her chemical formula to just the male rat, the male and female, just the female, two males, two females, every combination possible. She'd adjusted the proportions, measured heart rates and blood pressure, tested blood samples, studied changes in physical characteristics. Samson and Delilah were the standard against which all the other "guinea pigs" were studied, and they'd proven in more than a hundred encounters that physical and emotional attraction could be directed on a short-term basis. Oh, the idea of inciting or heightening lust had been around since the beginning of time. Everything from amulets to oysters. And, of course, Viagra. But being able to orchestrate the emotions, perhaps even love itself, through chemistry, now that was a bigtime breakthrough.

"Isn't this illegal or something, hon? Drugging someone without their permission?"

"Well, in the wrong hands it could be problematic, but that will never happen...well, any more than Viagra, or any other substance is misused. Besides, it will be at least a year before we're ready to go public with this...lots of time to tackle those little wrinkles."

"But it sounds sort of like that date rape drug, know, the one they call `Easy Lay'."

"Absolutely not! Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid knocks a person out, my love potion turns them on...emotionally. Well, physically, too, but the most important part is that the receiving party is attracted temporarily, on an emotional level, lasting anywhere from a few days to several weeks."

"I just don't know, Sylvie."

"Think about it, many times you and I have said that the mating game is based too much on youth and physical appearance...that men and women often overlook the perfect partner. This potion gives that perfect person an opportunity to be with the mate they want, to have that person get to know the real individual. Hopefully, when the potion wears off, the lovin' feelings will remain."

"But the ethics of it all! The manipulation!"

"Hah! How is this any more unethical than following the advice of that popular book The Rules? Or wearing a push-up bra? Or seductive perfume? Health food stores are loaded with bottled love aids. Heck, women have been manipulating men, and vice-versa, for centuries, since Eve gave Adam the apple."

"I know you've worked hard to conquer your shyness, Sylvie, but I still can't visualize you setting yourself up for the publicity this would engender. You would be the spokesperson for this potion when it hits the market, right?"

"No! Never!" She shivered with distaste at the notion of making a spectacle of herself, not having come that far in her shyness therapy. But she did want credit for her work. Coming from a family of overachievers, it was her turn to get some much overdue credit. Fame and fortune, without being the deer in the headlights, that's what she wanted.

"Your company might feel differently."

She shook her head. "I may be working in Terrebonne facilities, but this is my project. All the project data is stored in my safety deposit box, and the essentials of my everyday work are kept in that locked briefcase," she said, pointing to the desk, "which I carry home with me every day. I have no interest in being personally associated with this product in the public eye, but I do expect recognition behind the scenes and in the professional scientific community."

"This is all about your boss, isn't it, Sylv?" Blanche walked over to the coffee maker in the corner, the multi-colored bands of purple in her skirt shimmering in the thin stream of sunlight coming through the single window.

"Partly," Sylvie admitted, taking one of the cups her friend handed to her. Before she continued, she took a sip, savoring as always the pungent scent of the thick, black Creole coffee, with enough caffeine to jumpstart a corpse. In fact, it was one of the secret ingredients in her love potion formula--an idea she'd gotten from the voodoo ritual handbook that had once belonged to her great grandmother many times removed, Marie Baptiste, the demented antebellum mistress of a sugar plantation out on Bayou Noir. "I mean, I didn't start this experiment with Charles in mind, but once I saw the implications, I knew that I would volunteer to be one of the dozen female guinea pigs when the human experiments began, and Charles would be one of the dozen male targets. It took a little convincing, but eventually he agreed...for the sake of the company. We're starting in two weeks."

"Charles Henderson is a middle-aged executive stick-in-the-mud. Bo-o-o-ring, with a capital B," Blanche asserted. "You can do ten times better than him. Besides, you're approaching this whole seduction business wrong. You zap a man with a love potion and it takes all the mystery out of romance. What's wrong with the old-fashioned way of falling in love?"

"Ah, but that's why I've been thinking that I would be better off with a man like Charles."

"Honey, you've been dating the wrong men if you think that. I wonder if you realize what you're doing here."

"I know exactly what I'm doing. No more handsome men with overinflated egos. No more BMW-driving, bottled water-drinking, exercise-addicted, vitamin-conscious, suntanned hunks of testosterone in Gucci loafers. No more boring nights of deep discussions on the lofty subjects of golf handicaps or 401K portfolios or mega-amp woofers. It's time for a 180 degree turn in my life. All I want now is a quiet, scholarly type, like Charles...or a reasonable facsimile. A companion. A husband. A man to make a home with me and give me children. Lots of them." She sighed with frustration, knowing she was failing miserably in explaining her motives, especially since tears of concern were welling in Blanche's eyes.

"Where's the sizzle in that picture, my friend?"

"I don't need sizzle." Sylvie raised her chin defensively.

"Sylvie Marie Fontaine!" Blanche chastised, setting down her coffee and planting her hands on her hips. "Everyone needs sizzle. Are you sure there's Creole blood flowing through your veins? Every Creole woman has passion in her soul."

Oh, there was Creole blood in her veins all right. Some families prided themselves on having ancestors who came over on the Mayflower. Sylvie's family took great pride in being one of the original white Creole families of French or Spanish descent who settled in the Louisiana colony centuries ago.

Sylvie laughed at the notion of anyone questioning her Creole bloodlines. Meanwhile, Blanche swiped at her tears with a tissue, careful not to mar her make-up.

"Do you really believe my mother, or my grandmother, have experienced a lustful day in their lives? Or Aunt Margo or Aunt Madeline? Even my cousin, Valerie?" She made an exaggerated shiver of distaste. Valerie was the perfect example of Breaux womanhood, held up to her as a role model from the time Sylvie demonstrated her first example of profound shyness as a young girl. Shyness and timidity in any form were considered a weakness in the Breaux family...a cancer to be rooted out and hidden from public display.

"Well, in every family there's an aberration," Blanche conceded.

"Aberration about says it all," she said with a sigh. In Sylvie's matriarchal Breaux family, there were no men. Mostly, they just gave up and died under all that feminine domination. In her family, the women didn't divorce their men; they buried them. The Breaux women were known throughout Louisiana as the Ice Breaux, short for Ice Brotherhood, a slur on their femininity, as well as recognition of their cold ruthlessness in pursuing their goals. Her mother, Inez Breaux-Fontaine, was a state legislator with aspirations for the U.S. Congress. Her grandmother, Dixie Breaux, was a hard-as-nails oil lobbyist. Her aunts, Margo and Madeline Breaux, had stopped at nothing in setting up their mail-order tea dynasty. Valerie Breaux, daughter of her deceased Uncle Henri, made no apologies for her roughshod, fast-track career path from jury consultant to Court TV anchor.

The look of compassion in Blanche's eyes said, without words, that she understood perfectly how much of Sylvie's present actions was based, deep down, on lifelong insecurities stemming from her family. With a shrug of resignation, Blanche asked, "So, when are you going to do the deed?"

"Soon. Two weeks...a month, at most. We're still synchronizing schedules for all the test candidates." Sylvie pointed to a petri dish filled with dozens of jelly beans.

"Jelly beans?" Blanche raised an eyebrow in question.

"Yep. My lab rats like them, and...oh, I might as well tell you. Charles has a passion for jelly beans. too."

Blanche snorted with disgust. "It's about the only thing he's ever demonstrated a passion for."

Sylvie shot her a glance of condemnation for that snide remark, even though it was true that Charles hadn't succumbed to any of the normal hints and downright obvious, normal seduction techniques she'd tried the past year.

"Would they work for anyone?" Blanche picked up a handful and let them slip through her fingers. "I mean, if I give them to some guy, would they work for me?"

"Not those. They contain my enzymes. In order for them to work for you, your fact, putting your simple saliva, or a drop of blood, even a hair, inside a blind set of jelly beans, like those over there...would work for you. Along with my secret ingredients, of course." She pointed to her briefcase where a plastic ziplock bag held dozens of the multi-colored candies.

"Be careful, honey," Blanche warned as she picked up her purse and prepared to leave. "Sometimes the worst thing that can happen in life is we get what we wish for."

Sylvie refused to let Blanche's admonition dampen her spirits. Nothing could ruin her good mood today.


Lucien LeDeux was in a lousy mood.

He was supposed to be on a two-week vacation. The crawfish were fat and sluggish this summer, and he'd much rather be down in the bayou checking his nets than cruising into the sweltering city at rush hour. But duty called in the form of his own conniving brother.

"You are in some kind of wild-ass lousy mood," his brother René griped from the passenger seat of his jeep where he was holding onto the crash bar with white knuckles. The right door had fallen off two months ago, and Luc hadn't bothered to replace it. "I think it's Sylvie Fontaine that has the steam risin' from your ears."

Sometimes René had a death wish when it came to his running mouth.

"I think you've had the hots for her since we were kids. I think your testiness is just a cover-up for deeper feelings. I think you're afraid of--"

"I think you better shut up, René. I only do one good thing a year, and your tab is runnin' out fast."

"Cool your jets, man. I was just pointin' out that you and Sylvie are--"

"Aaiiee! Knock off the love connection crap, René, or I'm outta here."

"Dieu, if you don't wanna help, I can get another lawyer."

"I should be so lucky."

"Maybe F. Lee Bailey is available. Or Roy Black. Oooh, ooh, about that guy with the fringed leather jacket...Jerry whatshisname?"

"Hah! You and I both know there isn't another attorney who'd take on your case."

"Mais, oui, but then I am fortunate to get `The Swamp Solicitor.'" René smirked at him.

Luc gritted his teeth and refused to rise to that particular bait, but he took great delight in pressing his foot to the accelerator and speeding down the highway, hitting every pothole the parish road crew had missed in the past few years. He got grim satisfaction from the surreptitious sign of the cross René made on his chest.

"I shouldn't have put you in this spot, Luc."

René's sudden contriteness surprised him. "You had no choice," Luc admitted. "C'est ein affair ŕ pus finir." It was a much-used Cajun saying but particularly applicable in this case. "It's a thing that has no end."

René nodded. "Perhaps we can finally put an end to it."

The hopeful note in his brother's voice tore at Luc's heart. It didn't matter if it was a seven-year-old René looking up to a ten-year-old Luc for answers, or a thirty-year-old René and a thirty-three-year-old Luc. Their father's misdeeds were never-ending. The scars never got a chance to heal.

Luc's stereo suddenly kicked on, and René's static-y voice belted out:

"Bayou man is a woman' delight.
Catch fish all the day
And make love all the night.
Don' matter if he rough
Like a scaly red snapper.
Long as he give his baby enough
Good hot Cajun lovin'..."

Even the raucous demo tape of René's couldn't raise his spirits now. His brother was an excellent smalltime commercial fisherman, a fair singer and accordionist on the side, and a horrible lyricist. But he fancied himself the next Garth Brooks of the Bayou with his combination of country, zydeco and Cajun music which he played off-nights from one dive to the other across Louisiana.

Swerving his jeep off the highway, he ignored the sounds of a half dozen horns blasting behind him. His turn signal hadn't been working for the past year.

He took a quick look at the crowded parking lot of Terrebonne Pharmaceuticals and muttered, "That figures!" Without hesitation, he pulled his jeep into the "No Parking" slot reserved for the company president. The car continued to rumble even after he turned off the ignition, finally coming to a halt with a loud belch from its rear end.

"Your car needs a tune-up," René advised, unwisely.

"My life needs a tune-up."


Luc glanced over at his brother to see what that terse remark implied.

"You're a pain in the ass. A royal chew rouge." René was grinning at him.

"I know." Luc couldn't help but grin back.

"Let's hope Sylvie Fontaine has a taste for pain-in-the-ass, over-the-hill Cajuns."

"Oh, yeah! Ab-so-loot-ly!" He shook his head with the futility of this whole mission. "René, my agreeing to come here today isn't about impressing Sylvie. As if I could!"

"It wouldn't hurt you to try. You don't have to nail her, or nothin'. Just be nice."

Pour l'amour de Dieu! Where does René get these ideas? "Nail her? Where did that brain blip come from anyhow? Me and Bunson Burner Barbie? Ha, ha, ha." He shivered with exaggerated distaste.

Come to think of it, he always felt kind of shivery when he was around Sylvie...nauseous, actually. He couldn't stand the woman. Never could. Without a word...just a toss of her aristocratic head...she always managed to reduce him to the little, ill-clothed, bad boy from the bayous, anxious for a favor from an uptown Creole girl. Not that he ever showed it. Instead, he played down to her expectations.

"I still can't see why I have to be the one to approach her, René. You know her, too. I remember her greeting you at the Crawfish Festival last summer. Seems to me she gave you a big hug of welcome. `Oooh, René, it was so sweet of your band to come play for us.'" The last he mimicked in a high falsetto voice, then added in a grumble, "All I got was her usual frown."

"René laughed. "Sylvie likes you, deep down."

"It must be real deep."

"Here," René said, offering him the rear view mirror which he picked up off the floor. "Your hair looks like a bayou hurricane just swept through."

Luc raked his fingers through his windblown hair, then gave up. Was he seriously buying into René's warped scheme for impressing Sylvie?

"I still say you should have worn a suit."

"A suit! What, you don't like the way I'm dressed now?" He looked down at his jeans and the black tee shirt emblazoned with the logo "Proud to be a Coonass." He lifted his chin defensively. "My clothes are clean."

In truth, his clothes were always clean. Rumpled, yeah. But always, always clean. One time Sylvie had looked kinda funny at his muddy jeans and sniffed, as if he smelled. Didn't matter that he was only eight years old at the time. His clothes were never dirty again, even when he'd had to wash them in cold bayou stream water in an enamel basin at night, along with those of his younger brothers Remy and René, and wear them damp to school in the morning. A slap or two from his father would be thrown in there somewhere. By mid-morning his head would often droop with exhaustion and Sister Colette would rap him awake with a ruler to the head, deriding, "You bad boy, you! You're never going to amount to anything but a gougut...a slovenly, stupid person."

Lordy, he hadn't thought of that in years. No wonder it rankled like hell that he had to go to Ms. Goody Two-Shoes for a favor today.

"Well, come on," he urged then as he climbed over the driver's door, which was rusted shut. "Time to put our pirogue in the water and see if we float or sink."

"Uh, me, I think I'll stay here. Better you should dazzle Sylvie with your moves, in private."

Moves? What moves? Watching his brother squirm uncomfortably in the seat, avoiding his eyes, he realized that he'd been set up good and proper. René had never intended to come in with him. Whatever. He might as well get it over with. Maybe he'd still get in an hour or two of fishing tonight.

"Bonne chance," René called after him as he headed for the front entrance of the pharmaceutical research company, where workers were beginning to stream out, ending their work day.

Yep, it is a thing without end, he decided. Sa fini pas. And it wasn't his father he was thinking of now as the never-ending pain.

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