"What—exactly—is it?" Sheriff Thad Houston asked.
"I'll keep it simple," the enthusiastic scientist replied. "As we know, men can become sexually attracted to any woman...."
"well, not any," That interjected. "I mean, come on. There are standards."
"Is she breathing?" His female deputy, Bailey, added sotto voce.
"I like to think I'm more discriminating than that."
"She's just offended because you haven't made a play for her," the skinny nerd to his left said.
"Because we work together. Do you hit on everyone you work with, Cody?"
The skinny geek looked embarrassed.
"Well, there's a yes. So, tell us about the formula, Frank."
That scientist nodded, hurrying to give his explanation.
"Okay—men are easily attracted." He paused, waiting for interruptions. There were none. "The woman decides which male she'll mate with. I think we're all familiar with that."
"Yeah, before I even say hello," Cody mumbled.
"Much of this is based in looks, physique and a bunch of variables we can't categorize. Anyway, all that aside—she's also attracted by scent. Where a man gets aroused, his odor changes. Same for a woman. It's pheromones...."
He was losing his audience, except for the geek, who hung on every word.
"We know the importance of the first kiss. In fact, we men sweat that detail. Some of us practice on blowup dolls...." He eyed the geek.
"Frank, while we're young," the sheriff prompted.
"Right. If a woman hasn't decided by then if she'll mate, that moment often decides it."
"Could you not say it quite that way?" A female scientist, who had been silent until now, said. "It makes us sound like animals."
"Haven't you heard, Gemma. All men are animals?" The deputy said with a grin.
The women tapped knuckles.
"If we could?" Thad said loudly. "There's a bit of an emergency here."
"Okay! So what you may not know is that women have special glands that taste the man when they kiss. A complex analysis takes plan that neither one realizes. Her body tests for all kinds of factors to decide of this man is a prime candidate to mate—er—have relations—make love to...." He looked flustered. Having been forced from his comfort zone, he was ill at ease.
"It's easier for me to be clinical," he said to Gemma.
She nodded, accepting that.
"So, she tastes a guy's spit?" Thad's turn to look uncomfortable. "That's weird, Franklin."
"That's nature, Thaddeus. We've been working on this formula to use with females of endangered species to make them more docile and amicable to mating."
"So, it's not intended for humans?" Thad asked.
"No, not at all. It could be, I suppose. But why? Using it would be tantamount to rape. A woman with this in her system would want to make with every man who fit her genetic profile."
"You're shitting me!" Bailey yelled. "Regardless of—eh—attractiveness and personal hygiene?" She shoved at the geek who'd sidled up to her.
"Do you have something to counteract it?" Thad asked.
"That's strictly theoretical," Frank replied. "And also hasn't been tested. Which are two of the many reasons this has been locked down tight."
"How did it get out?" Gemma demanded. "If it's kept so tightly locked down? It's in the water!"
"Bailey checked the security tapes," Thad said.
"There was one person," Bailey said. "Only you're not gonna believe it."
They eyed her, waiting.
"Minnie, the lunch cart lady."
"She's a hundred years old!" The geek squeaked.
"She might be forty," Thad corrected. "And—uh...."
"Not attractive," Frank supplied. "How did she get in? Only two f us have the code to the cabinet."
"Because one of you told her," Thad eyed the geek.
"It wasn't me!" The geek jumped away from the law.
"Maybe not intentionally," Gemma said. "But there can be invisible people."
"No one can be invisible," the geek replied. "Can they?" He appealed to Frank.
"I don't mean literally, Cody. Ever walked in a room and no one looks up or speaks? You might as well be invisible?"
The others gave Gemma Kremer a long appraisal. Tall, well endowed, stunning, with magnificent red hair, they couldn't imagine her ever being ignored.
"All the time," Cody replied. "You guys are the only ones who talk to me." He glanced at Deputy Bailey.
She smiled sadly. "Sorry, Cody."
"No, I get it. You have guys hit on you all the time. What's one more geek?" He shrugged.
"Anyway," Gemma forged ahead. "She as probably in the room once or twice when you opened it, and saw the code."
"Why would the lunch cart lady take the love potion?" frank asked.
"You're kidding, right?" Bailey said. "Who wouldn't want to be irresistible? What an ego boost."
"You don't need a formula," Cody told her. "You're beautiful all on your own."
Bailey, who was brunette, buxom and buff, blushed. "Thanks, Cody."
Thad snapped his fingers. "Focus for me? Okay, why put it in the water?"
"An accident,"Frank speculated. "Spilled when trying to apply it."
"Or maybe she wanted to share the joy," Cody added.
"More likely, she wanted total chaos so she could get to something else more important," Thad replied. "There are a lot of very scary things in the lab. If she's a spy...."
"Then we've got trouble," Frank concluded.
"We're already in trouble," Gemma reminded them. "We've shut off the water and issued bottled drinking water. But we don't know if it can be absorbed through the skin or become airborne."
"The good news is that the effects are short lived," Frank said. "Only an hour."
"That's an hour longer than I like," Thad replied. "She wouldn't need long for a theft. She could walk in while we're all—busy and rob the place blind."
"Change the security access codes. Only you and Gemma know them," Bailey suggested.
"Excellent idea. Thad?" Gemma led him to her office.
Already, women were behaving peculiarly. The usual buttoned down, professional attire and sensible shoes, had been replaced by short skirts and high heels.
As they walked down the corridor to her office, Gemma watched as no less than seven women approached Thad. They all wanted to talk to him, but he politely put them off. The seventh was persistent. She approached rapidly, grabbing him in surprisingly strong arms. Her kiss left him dizzy. She licked her lips, tossed her hair and moved on.
"Guess you weren't her type," Gemma said with a giggle.
"Thank God! Not that it wouldn't be fun...."
"Refreshing to meet a man with scruples." She smiled at him.
He looked annoyed rather than pleased. "Most of us do, Doctor Kremer. Otherwise, the prisons would be full of rapists and there wouldn't be a decent man around."
"Point taken. Sorry."
"Why do women assume men are mindless sex fiends? We hold jobs, have hobbies, read the occasional book...."
"Maybe because even when you're doing that, your minds are on sex."
He looked even more offended. "If that was true, I'd have done you already," he replied.
His tone was hard to read. Gemma didn't know whether to be offended or flattered. She took it as a compliment, inclining her head.
"Thanks, I guess?"
He snorted derisively. "For what? Noticing? Self-control?"
They'd reached her office. She typed in her code and they entered. Her personal assistant gave Thad the eye. Gemma put her arm through his.
"Don't even think about it, Tina. No calls."
"Nicely played," Thad complimented as the door whisked shut.
She smiled flirtatiously. "Thanks."
"Uh, Gemma, are you feeling okay?"
"What? A girl can't flirt?"
"Normally I'd be all over that action. But today, well, it's a little spooky."
"Lighten up, Houston. You're so not my type."
"That makes me feel so much better. What—uh—what is your type?"
She giggled, raising a coy eyebrow. "Light brown hair, blue eyes, chiseled jaw, jacked, dimples...."
"That makes me feel so much better. He looked uncomfortable, wanting to hide his male parts. She'd just perfectly described him. Forcing himself not to take a fig leaf position, he waited for her to access the computer. She entered her authorization codes and stepped aside for him to enter his.
While he typed his code into the console, her hands explored his body. She kissed his neck, nuzzling and nipping playfully. Getting terribly aroused, he did his job and gained access to the security codes.
"They—uh—need your authorization to switch to random codes," he told her as he wiggled free.
"Oh, poo," she tapped in her code.
"All security codes have now been changed," the computer announced. "To reset your access, follow security procedure 7A." The message repeated three times.
"Now that's done, we can relax and party...." She tried to unbutton his shirt.
Thad backed away, suddenly very nervous. He flipped open his phone.
"Frank! Frank! Could this thing to airborne?"
"Theoretically possible. Why?"
"Doctor—uh—Kremer isn't acting like herself. Stop that." He swatted her hands away as she tried to undo his pants.
"Gemma's been affected?"
"Yeah. Some women approached me outside. We got to her office and she got affection..... Hey!"
She successfully unzipped his pants.
"You know that rape thing you mentioned?"
"It's not the women you need to worry about! Keep Bailey isolated. Do not let her out!"
"Shit! Too late, Thad. She and Cody went to his lab."
"Dammit. Call and warn him. Now! Then you find an antidote!"
The phone clattered to the floor. Frank could hear Thad protesting and Gemma cajoling him. He hung up.
He made the call to Cody, but the young man didn't answer. Knowing he had to protect the younger man, he went after them. He burst into Cody's office to find him and Bailey talking politely as he went through his computer files.
"You're both okay!"
"Yes, frank. Get a grip," Bailey said.
"Thad called. He said to keep you isolated. Gemma's acting funny."
"As in hilarious?"
"What do you think?"
"I think that sounds pretty bad. How did it happen? We weren't exposed."
"It seems to be airborne and one woman can affect another. She started acting funny after some women approached them in the corridor. Did anyone come near you on the way here?"
"No. No one came anywhere near us."
"Good. Thad said a woman kissed him. I'm wondering if.... Oh, God...."
"What?" Cody looked up from his deck. "Frank?"
"I had this awful thought. What if this affects men too. Not like sex drive—but appeal? One woman kissed him and left, but after that, Gemma started acting weird."
"The implications are terrifying!" Bailey said. "Could it affect all of us?"
"Not if we're careful. At least the codes are changed."
"What if she got what she wanted already?" Bailey asked.
"She won't get out. The computer went into lock down as soon as the codes were changed."
"Track her badge," Bailey said. "You can find her with that."