First Page: Contemporary
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"Countdown to launch, two minutes."
Damien glanced at his Tag Heuer, set the stopwatch. The parachute was comfortably heavy on his back, all systems were go. He leaned over the side of the balloon basket, the beautiful village of Avondvaart below his feet. Holland was stunning this time of year, green trees and lush fields. Blue water canals snaked through the plush countryside, turning it into a patchwork quilt. Business and board meetings had vanished from his brain once he'd seen the billboard. Parachute from a hot air balloon? To hell with the meeting. The quest for adventure called, no howled, his name.
He tightened his straps one more time, adjusted his goggles, checked the altimeter. Two thousand meters. Perfect. The multi-colored hot air balloon spread out above his head like a rainbow umbrella; the occasional whoosh of the burner combined with the flapping of the balloon silk made his ears quiver. Adrenaline spiked his heart to sharp staccato beats and tightened his stomach into a clenched ball. In mere moments he'd soar among the birds before he catapulted to earth.
Damien dropped his head into his hands and released a heartfelt groan. Why hadn't he left the damn cell phone in the car? A quick glance at the readout showed his secretary, Iris's number. If he didn't answer, she'd hound him clear down to terra firma.
"Iris, I'm a little busy right now. . ."
"I have Ms. Black on line one. She'd like to speak with you." Iris's prim and proper take-no-shit voice swept through the phone line and took no prisoners.