Chapter One

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Today was the day! Yes, it was finally here. And he felt great, not even the tiredness that plagued him of late. Tossing aside the sheets, Laurent De Berger took a quick peek out the window. Uff! Same old fastidious blue sky with the glaring sunlight. Dallas’s usual weather and today was no different. Parbleu! How can the sun be so bright on the thirty-first of October, practically November? It was beyond him.

Living in the damn city, he missed his Paris drizzle, the cool, if not downright cold falls, with dead leaves clogging street gutters in their range of colors dimming to winter’s grayness. Nothing here to mark the passing seasons, no changing hues or temperatures, just the same dreary blue and hot yellow fixture in the sky. Then again, he couldn’t do much about either or for being there in the first place.

With a sigh, he remembered how he had come to be an exile from his native country…either that or end up in prison. Well, the choice seemed easy—better Dallas’s insufferable weather than seeing comforting gray skies from behind bars. Not his fault French Internal Revenues Department hadn’t caught up sooner with call centers or their earnings, realizing only much later how much money they really made. By then Laurent had a flourishing bank account stashed in Switzerland’s secreted vaults and wasn’t about to give it up for some stupid mistake on the government’s part. And to think the business was going great, too. At age twenty-five, he managed one of the most profitable call centers in all of France, something he had started as a way to pass time while searching for a job more in line with his Sorbonne University degree in Economics.

A friend of his asked him to lend a hand in a new sort of enterprise, and Laurent accepted readily. To his surprise, it turned out a gold mine, quite worth the challenge, to the point only three years later he was earning more than his father ever did during his employed life. This, though, didn’t mean Laurent was entitled to keep it all, at least according to the French Treasury. Waking up after years of being unaware of the venture’s enormous potentials, the newly learned accountants came on to Laurent and requested an outrageous sum of money, claiming huge tax evasions for the entire period the business had run. Well, options seemed limited, but instead of forking over half his bank account, Laurent bought a plane ticket to Montreal and was out of Paris before anyone could lay a finger on him or his money.

Gone from his country for good, Canada was an acceptable replacement. The choice was hardly casual. His intended destination had a very favorable legislation toward holders of French passports in need of fresh starts. Few restrictions and many advantages gave Laurent the right, mostly the time, to seek jobs and stable settlements without any pressure. In addition, it was his type of place. Cold and with marked seasonal changes, he loved both the people and the city, also because they talked his language. And that was no small advantage.

Though he knew English well enough, nothing beat his French when hustling a lap dancer working in the middle of nowhere. It was part of the beauty of this fascinating nation. To drive for hours in a magnificent countryside until he’d come up to a place that, along with food, offered lap dance shows on the side. And Laurent had always been partial to women and could never resist tasting the flesh they displayed so freely.

But Canada wasn’t a land of opportunities for sex alone. At twenty-seven, Laurent was more than ready to start over on a new and different career, whatever came his way. At his age, he wasn’t choosy nor could he afford to be. And meeting Julie Walters certainly proved this point.

As head of a start-up company, she was conducting interviews for a sales position in an uncharted field, or so it was when Laurent first heard of it. At that time, seven years ago, biotechnology was the future. No one had any clear idea on what they were getting into. Most distrusted it outright. That stuff about genes and cloning seemed pure sci-fi, meddling with something closer to God than science, which couldn’t be tolerated or encouraged.

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