Jessica smiled as she watched her husband up on the stage. Undeniably a gifted speaker, Oscar captivated the audience with tales and pictures from his latest explorations.

“And here you have it,” he said. “Vulvaria splendens.”

A few gasps and giggles traveled through the room. It didn’t take much imagination to see the resemblance between the shimmering flower and female genitalia. The protruding pistil even looked like a clitoris, peeking out between the pink petals.

“It’s virtually unknown to science,” Oscar continued. “But the natives are very familiar with the plant. Vulvaria splendens—or ‘the wanton flower’, as they call it—used to be an integral part of fertility rites. These customs disappeared with missionaries arriving, but an elderly woman I interviewed said they used the flower as part of certain ceremonies. According to their lore, the goddess of sexuality could embody any woman who ate it. She wouldn’t give me much details, but it seems the flower could have some properties that enhance female sex drive.”

Jessica couldn’t help chuckling. As much as she liked to support her husband, Medical Anthropology still seemed like pseudoscience to her sometimes.

“This of course needs to be investigated further,” Oscar continued. “We’ve just got the permits to start human trials. So, we encourage women who are interested in participating to contact me or my colleague, Dr. Renard.”

The applause rained down as Oscar wrapped up his talk. People flocked around him afterwards. To them he was the eccentric genius—an academic superstar. To Jessica, he was her husband, and she wanted to take him home. She caught his eye in the crowd, giving him a pleading look. He smiled apologetically, holding up a finger to indicate he would just be another minute. She dangled the car keys, showing she would wait in the car.

“Sorry, sorry!” he said when he joined her half an hour later. “My grad students had some questions about the project.”

As she often did, Jessica wore her raven black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, exposing her slender neck. As he often did, Oscar leaned in and playfully kissed a trail from her cheek down to her collar bone. She was skeptical when he decided to grow his beard, but found she liked how it tickled her. He kept it neat, and it gave him a distinguished look, well suited for a young professor.

“And I suppose Liam and Adam can’t wait until tomorrow to talk to the genius?” she chuckled. She steered his mouth to hers and kissed him to show she wasn’t actually mad for waiting.

Oscar started the car. “Are you sure you don’t mind if I have the guys over tomorrow? We could just meet at the office.”

“I have a well-deserved week off starting tomorrow. As long as I can relax all day, I don’t mind what you do.”

“And I told you Ben and Dr. Renard is coming too, right? We need to put the final touches on the expedition, but I thought we could have a barbecue too.”

“Dr. Renard?” Jessica laughed. “I’ve known Tony as long as I’ve known you—surely we can drop the formalities by now?”

Oscar chuckled. “Yes. Sorry, I guess I’m still in professional mode.”

“You looked good up there,” Jessica said.

Oscar glanced at her, grinning. “And you look good all the time. I could barely concentrate when I saw you from the podium.”

He put his hand on her naked thigh. Her dress was short, but Oscar insisted it was appropriate to wear to the fundraiser. The cleavage wasn’t very low cut but enough to offer an appealing presentation of her ample chest. She enjoyed looking good, sometimes more than she cared to admit, even to herself.

Oscar’s caress soon wandered to the inside of her thigh. She cocked her eyebrow at him.

“I take it you’re no longer in professional mode.”

He smiled but kept his eyes on the traffic. His hand lingered a moment before it wandered upwards, pushing the dress along with it.

“Hey, mister,” she said, pushing his hand away. “There are other people around.”

Oscar frowned. “They can’t see from their cars…”

“They might. And what if it’s someone from the function?”

She enjoyed when her husband found her irresistible, unable to keep his hands away. But she had been raised in a conservative home. She had become more liberated over the years, but any sort of sexual affection was still, in her mind, something that happened between two people behind closed doors. Sure, wanton desires popped into her mind now and then, but they were just stupid fantasies, and not something she’d ever act on.

“And I don’t want to get in an accident,” she added. “Wait until we get home.”

Oscar accelerated, rushing them home through the streets.

“Great work, guys,” Jessica heard her husband say out in their backyard the next day. “How did you get so many to sign up so quickly?”

Jessica smiled at how obviously stoked the two students were by his appraisal. She put the groceries down on the kitchen sink. Oscar had assured her she didn’t have to do the shopping, telling her to just relax on her day off. But she insisted to sort out the food for the barbeque. She enjoyed cooking, at least when she had enough time for it. Chopping vegetables, she listened with half an ear as Liam and Adam explained how they had handed out flyers around campus to attract female students to join the trials to test the effect of the flower. Jessica wasn’t surprised those cute boys were successful at attracting girls to a study about sex drive. She had a strong suspicion they were quite the heartbreakers around campus. Liam bright blond, and Adam black, they looked like two opposite peas in a pod, both athletically built. They were old enough to have some wits about them, but still possessed some boyish charm.

“With this we definitely have enough young female participants,” Tony said. “And we have a lot in the forty plus category. What we’re lacking are women around thirty.”

“Don’t look at me. I’m not interested,” Jessica said as she joined them in the backyard, passing out beer bottles.

“Thank you, Mrs. Bergman,” Liam and Adam said in unison.

She smiled at how they insisted on calling her that. “I thought Ben was joining you too?”

Oscar kissed her on the cheek. “He’s running late.”

“So, you haven’t been coaxed into the study?” Tony asked, giving her a cheeky grin.

“I’m afraid my wife doesn’t believe much in this project.”

Tony looked amused. “Really? How come?”

“Listen, boys,” Jessica sighed. “It’s the day before your expedition. I don’t want to bring you down and make you doubt your mission.”

“But now you’ve made me curious,” Tony insisted.

Jessica looked at her husband, who nodded.

“Well then,” Jessica said. “Are you familiar with the Doctrine of Signatures?”

“The Doctrine of Signatures…” Oscar began, his voice taking on the tone of a lecturer. “This is the idea that herbs, typically, resembling parts of the human body have therapeutic properties that affect that specific body part.”

“Exactly,” Jessica said. “And it’s a theological argument. It suggests that some god or gods have left hints about how to utilize their creation. And it’s been disproven repeatedly.”

“So, you don’t think the Goat Flower works?” Tony asked.

Jessica frowned. “The Goat Flower?”

“It’s another name the natives used for it,” Oscar explained. “Tony believes we should use that as its common name.”

“It doesn’t look much like a goat to me,” Jessica said, picking up a picture of the flower to study it. Perhaps those petals could be interpreted as ears, but it really looked a lot more like a…

“But we can’t exactly call it the pussy plant,” Tony chuckled.

Jessica put the picture down. “My point is you’re as likely to turn your participants into goats as you are affecting their sex drive.”

“You don’t think we can find new medicines from plants?” Tony asked. “Or are you and your big pharma palls afraid we just might be right?”

Jessica gave him a lethargic look. Here we go again… The first time she met Oscar and Tony was many years ago at a conference, where she represented her pharmaceutical company and they presented some of their studies on natural remedies. Her and Tony’s debate had started that day, and it hadn’t really stopped yet.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” Jessica said. “We have plenty of pharmaceuticals derived from plants—painkillers from willow, heart medicine from foxglove, anti-inflammatory agents from chestnut. But in none of these cases does the plant look like what they’re treating.”

There was a moment of silence as her words sank in.

“Well, we’ll see,” Oscar said eventually, seemingly unaffected by his wife’s rant. “At least we have an excuse to go back and look for more specimens.”

“If you’re so sure the plant doesn’t work,” Tony continued, giving Jessica a challenging stare. “Then why don’t you want to try it?”

“I just don’t see the point.”

“Maybe you’re afraid it actually works?” Tony taunted.

“There is nothing wrong with my sex drive, thank you very much,” Jessica retorted, not showing that even referring to sex in a conversation with anyone but her husband made her uncomfortable.

“Uhm, I meant afraid as in it would be a natural competitor to your industrial pharma,” Tony said, grinning at her. “But thanks for sharing.”

Liam and Adam looked uncomfortable, whereas Oscar seemed unmoved by the bickering between his wife and his colleague. He always seemed to be above it, somehow.

“You did animal studies, right?” Jessica asked.

Oscar nodded. “Of course.”


Oscar shook his head. “No effect.”

Jessica hummed. “But it didn’t deter you from continuing the study?”

“Humans are more complex,” Oscar said.

“It’s tricky trying these things on rats,” Tony added. “They’re kind of horny all the time.”

“But at least it showed the plant is safe,” Oscar explained. “We’ve even tried it ourselves.”

“Oh, have you now?” Jessica chuckled. “And did it work?”

“No, can’t say it did,” Oscar admitted. “But the lore said it only affected women, and as you know our team is all male.”

Jessica smirked. “Maybe you’re all just horny all the time too.”

She regretted her comment, especially as it implicated Liam and Adam. They were innocent bystanders. Tony always seemed to drag out the worst in her.

“How long would I have to eat your damn plant for?” she asked.

“Just a few days,” Oscar assured her.

Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “Fine. Just give me your precious Goat Flower. I’ll be your guinea pig.”

“Excellent!” Oscar exclaimed.

He seemed very happy she was going along with this. She shook her head, thinking he’ll be disappointed if he expected she’d turn into some sex hungry monster.

“Here you go,” Tony said, looking pleased as he handed her a vial with capsules.

“This doesn’t look like flowers,” Jessica said, inspecting the vial.

“We can’t exactly give our participants a plant to chew on,” Tony said.

“Yes, we put ground up flowers in capsules to control the dosage,” Oscar added. “One per day is enough.”

“All right then. Here’s to nothing,” Jessica said and swallowed the capsule with a chug from her beer.

They all looked silently at her, studying her reaction.

“Oh, my god!” she taunted, coquettishly placing her hands on her cheeks. “I’m, like, so turned on right now!”

“Am I interrupting something?” someone said from behind.

Jessica spun around to see Ben entering from the backyard gate. “Good to see you, Ben. Is Maggie coming as well?”

“Well, that’s the thing,” the rugged captain said, scratching his head. “We kind of decided to go our separate ways.”

“Oh, Ben. I’m so sorry,” Jessica said.

She gave Ben a supportive hug. He seemed confused, but eventually responded and put his arm around her waist.

“It’s OK,” he said. “It was long overdue.”

To her surprise, Jessica became aware of how Ben’s hard body felt against her own. He wore jeans and a t-shirt and she a thin beach dress over her bikini, and she felt the contours of his muscles against her soft curves. She let go and mentally shook her head at her inappropriate cognizance. All this talk about the effects of that stupid plant obviously made her mind wander.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” Oscar asked, patting Ben on the back. “I’m sure we can postpone the expedition, at least for a few weeks.”

“No, I’m fine,” Ben sighed. “I’d rather get away for a while. But Maggie’s obviously not coming along for the trip as a cook like we planned.”

“That’s fine,” Tony said. “We can sort ourselves out. Unless…”

He glanced at Jessica.

“That’s a great idea!” Oscar asserted. “What do you say, honey? We always said you should come along sometime. We have a spare ticket, apparently.”

“As a cook?”

“It’s not much work, and it’s just three nights,” Oscar assured her. “You’ll have plenty of time to relax. And perhaps you’d rather do it on a beautiful, tropical island than alone here in our backyard?”

“Uhm. I don’t know,” Jessica said. “I’ll think about it. And speaking of relaxing in our backyard, that’s what I was meant to do today. Can you guys sort out barbeque? I’ve prepared everything, so you just need to fire up the grill.”

Oscar kissed her on the cheek and went inside to get the food. Jessica stepped over to the pool, feeling the water with her toe. Nice temperature. But she did her laps in there most every morning, and the prospect of swimming in a tropical ocean sounded pretty good. She didn’t mind coming along as a cook, even though it sounded like a demotion for a professional woman with her own career. But going on an excursion with her husband and four other men? She got along well with them, even if Tony sometimes got under her skin. Yet, she’d be the only woman of the expedition.

She was just about to remove her dress before diving into the pool when she stopped herself. The conversation among the guys had gone quiet, and they seemed to sneak anticipating peeks in her direction. Apart from her husband, none of them had seen her in a bikini before, even though she’d known some of them for many years. She grabbed the hem of her dress and pulled it over her head, pretending to be oblivious to their prying eyes.

Or maybe she was just imagining it. She dove into the pool, thinking she clearly needed to cool herself down. The conversation had resumed when she came up for air. Oscar was starting up the barbeque, and the others studied maps of the islands they were traveling to. Jessica did a few laps before deciding it was time to get some sun.

Again, the group of men silenced as she climbed out of the pool. They tried to be discreet, but they were undoubtedly checking her out as she approached, breasts swaying in the confines of her bikini top. She had put on the bikini before Oscar’s team arrived, and she now felt she should have changed. The one she wore, a gift from her husband, was made of thin fabric, and her nipples poked out as cheerful buds.

“Don’t mind me,” she said as she sat down on a recliner in front of them.

She picked up her book and started reading. The guys continued planning the last details of the excursion, but she was sure she caught them glancing at her now and then. Reading in a bikini was so obviously innocent, but with the rest of them properly dressed Jessica felt on display. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was showing off.

“Wouldn’t you rather do that in a tropical paradise?” Oscar said, stepping over to give her a kiss.

Jessica closed her book. “OK, I’ll join.”

After a good night’s sleep and several flights, they traveled by boat to their remote destination. Jessica spent most of the cruise in her bikini, but the sensation of showing off wasn’t as apparent now when the men hung out in nothing but swim trunks. She had known Liam and Adam where fit, but watching the sun reflecting in their sweaty bodies was outright distracting sometimes. She’d never do anything inappropriate with them, of course, but she decided she could at allow herself to some eye candy. Tony was undeniably in good shape too, which shouldn’t have surprised her. He and Oscar spent a lot of time at the gym to stay fit for their expeditions. But it was hard to admit she found that annoying man attractive.

The island looked even more beautiful than Oscar had described it, with white sand contrasting against the clear, blue water. It was larger than she pictured it, with a decent sized forest extending up the volcanic rock. Her eyes traveled over the green vegetation. She wasn’t going to tell the others, but it felt foolish to travel all this way for some useless plant hiding among those trees.

The scenery grew even more spectacular as the sun set, painting the sky in pink. What her husband had failed to point out were the sleeping arrangements. Liam and Adam had brought tents to sleep on the beach, Ben had a hammock in the aft, and the boat cabin contained two beds where Oscar and Tony slept on their expeditions. Jessica had no problems sharing the narrow bed with her husband, but had she known they’d be sharing the cabin with Tony, she would have brought something more concealing than a sheer nightgown to sleep in. She worried it might slip during the night to expose her, and she took the wall side of the bed, putting Oscar as a barrier between her and Tony. It was the proper thing to do.

Jessica woke up early next morning. Oscar and Tony were still asleep, and she decided to get started on the breakfast. Her husband had always been a heavy sleeper, and she managed to sneak to the bow without waking anyone up. The ocean breeze caressed her skin as she chopped the fresh fruit, and the open water with neighboring islands in a distant sure beat the view from their backyard. She had made the right decision to come along.

An unexpected wave shook the boat and set a melon rolling. Before she had a chance to react, it made a splash as it fell into the water. They weren’t short on supplies, but Jessica despised wasting food, and without even thinking about it, she quickly climbed down the ladder into the water. The waves pushed the melon towards the shore, and by the time she caught it, it was shallow enough to stand. She waded ashore, pleased to have saved the fruit.

She noticed Liam and Adam were awake, heads poking out of their respective tents. Melon under one arm, she waved at them. But they didn’t wave back. Instead, they gaped at her, mouths open.

That’s when Jessica realized what she was wearing. Soaking wet, the thin nighty clung to her body like a second skin. Her dark nipples where on clear display. She might as well have been topless!

She froze. A part of her wanted to cover up, or maybe duck back under the water. But while it wasn’t appropriate for her to present herself like this, tits on display before her husband’s student, sneaking away in shame didn’t feel like the right thing to do either. It would just emphasize her embarrassment.

And then there was another voice inside her, like a soothing whisper, telling her they had already seen her. Would it be so bad if she just let them gawk a bit more? Wouldn’t it be kind of fun, even?

She had to do something. For better or worse, she pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and continued up the shore. Her heart beat as she approached the boys, who stared wide eyed at her swaying tits. They had probably poked their heads out to take in the beautiful morning, not expecting a nearly naked woman to be part of the scenery.

“Good morning,” she said, pleased her voice didn’t betray her. “I brought you some fruit.”

She handed the melon to a dumbfounded Adam. Without waiting for a reply, she abruptly turned and waded back into the water. Her head was spinning as she swam back to the boat. Why on earth had she done that?