Authors: Sandra Hill
To my old friend, Rhonda Paul/Zaveckis/Hammett/?,
who was more outrageous than any of my romance
heroines. Where are you today, Rhonda?
“Love’s chemistry thrives best in equal heat.”
—John Wilmot, earl of Rochester
The Imperfect Enjoyment
“You wanna dance?”
Samson was a stud, no doubt about it.
Samson and Delilah were at it again.
“I’ve never seen so many men with no behinds in…
Sylvie had thought her life was hell. Little did she…
Luc never got a chance to kick Sylvie’s butt. Her…
Luc wanted to kick himself a short time later, even…
Criminal elements wouldn’t prompt a peep from Tante Lulu, but…
Leaning against the bar, Sylvie decided that she needed a…
Outside the doors of Swampy’s, Luc inhaled and exhaled for…
“I want to go home,” she said a short time…
Five hours had passed, and Sylvie was still fast asleep.
“How old was I when I had my first sexual…
“Hey, Luc, I just got a great idea for promoting…
“Hey, guys, enough dawdling! Time to get this show on…
Despite her plea to be taken directly to the jail…
Luckily, Sylvie made it home before she broke down.
Luc was sitting at Swampy’s bar several days later when…
“I have a present for you,” Tante Lulu said without…
Two months later…
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, was 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-
. 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’d gotten 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,” Sylvie 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.
With his usual raw animal magnetism, 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 returning to Samson. Clearly, she was attracted, despite herself.
Samson was not so shy. His widespread stance and outthrust pelvis sent a message 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 movements, 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, 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 sex
ual 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,
, 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.
There was nothing
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
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.
“Yech!” Blanche had a profound dislike for
rodents of any type, even the cute, miniature variety of rats 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 the time they’d spent lying next to each other in high-wheeled, designer carriages while 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 philosophy for daily living.
“I develop horoscopes for all aspects of life, not just love charts,” Blanche corrected her 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 thighs…now
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 she passes the big Three-Oh. Forget cellulite.
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? Disgusting!”
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, Sylvie 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
that 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 big-time 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 iron out those little wrinkles.”
“But it sounds sort of like that date rape drug, GHB…you know, the one they call ‘Easy Lay.’”
“Absolutely not! Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid knocks a person out; my love potion turns them on
. 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, Blanche…How many times have you and I 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
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
? 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, ever 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.
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. She came from a family of overachievers, and it was her turn to get some much-overdue credit. Fame and fortune, without being the deer in the headlights, that was 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 coffeemaker 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 revive 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 dweeb…an 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?” Blanche asked.
“I don’t need sizzle.” Sylvie raised her chin defensively.
“Sylvie Marie Fontaine!” Blanche declared, 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’d come 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 makeup. “Do you really believe my mother or my grandmother have experienced a lustful day in their lives?” Sylvie asked. “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 first demonstrated her profound shyness as a young girl. Shyness and timidity in any form were considered a weakness in the Breaux family.
“Well, in every family there’s an aberration,” Blanche conceded.