“Josh? Josh?” The illicit pleasure that had raced through my body was completely forgotten as I rolled his unconscious form off me and stared anxiously at his face. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be breathing normally, his broad chest rising and falling evenly. In fact, he looked like he was fast asleep. But how could he fall so deeply asleep so suddenly, especially right in the middle of touching me? What in the world was going on?
Suddenly Josh’s eyes popped open, and he smiled at me. “Hey, Cass, what’s up?”
“Josh?” I stared at him uncertainly. He seemed normal enough, and that indefinable something that made him human was back in his gaze. Apparently the Beast was gone. Still, I wasn’t sure. “Josh, are you…are you really you?” I blurted.
“Am I really me?” He laughed. “What kind of question is that? Who else would I be?”
“Uh…” I hesitated. Then I realized that I was still half-naked with my breasts exposed and my skirt pushed up to show my pussy. Josh seemed to notice it at the same time.
“Uh, Cassie?” He looked at me uncertainly. “Are you all right? You look like… I mean what happened to your clothes? You’re pretty messed up.”
I stared at him and realized that he remembered nothing, absolutely nothing of what had just happened. I opened my mouth to tell him everything—the way he had kissed me and ripped my clothes, the way he had touched and explored my pussy…and then closed it again.
Hadn’t I promised myself that I would preserve our relationship at all costs? Josh already hated himself for being attracted to me. If I told him he had acted on that attraction, and in such an extreme way, our relationship might never recover. And Josh would hate himself—I couldn’t have that. So I did the only thing I could do.
“I, uh, tripped on a root and my blouse caught on a branch and tore,” I said, pulling the ragged edges of my shirt together as well as I could over my breasts.
“Oh yeah?” He frowned. “And why is your mouth all red?”
I could hardly tell him it was red from his kisses. Or that my nipples were pink and puffy from his sucking. Or that my pussy was wet from the way he had touched me.
“I, uh…I think my lips are chapped,” I improvised. “I’d better go to the tent and get changed.”
“Yeah, you do that.” Josh smiled, apparently willing to accept my lame explanation. “When you come out, the pancakes should be ready.”
“Pancakes?” I said weakly. I had completely forgotten about them—not surprising with the strange things that had happened between the two of us.
“Sure, blueberry pancakes—your favorite.” Josh grinned at me. “I woke up early to take a bath in the stream and then decided to make them. Too bad you woke up before they were finished.”
“Yeah, too bad,” I murmured, tugging at my skirt. “Uh, I really should get changed.”
“Be sure you wear something that will fit under our protective gear,” he said seriously. “We’re going after the truth plant again today, only this time we’re going prepared.”
“What?” A shiver of fear raced through me. “Josh, no. We can’t go back! What if it sprays you again?”
He frowned. “What do you mean? I stepped out of the way just in time—remember?” He shook his head. “God knows what it’s spraying, but we need a sample for Pharm-Co. Need to get some of the leaves too.”
“Are you serious?” I looked at him in disbelief. “You really think you jumped out of the way?”
“Of course I did—and pulled you out of the way too.” He looked at me closely. “Are you all right, Cass? You’re acting kind of strange.”
“I’m acting kind of strange? Josh, you—” But then I remembered my promise to myself. “Never mind.” I got to my feet and wobbled unsteadily to the tent. “I…I’ll be right back.”
“Good. I’ll get started on the pancakes.” He went back to the hot griddle and began mixing ingredients and humming softly to himself.
Shaking my head in disbelief, I stumbled into the tent and closed the flap. But instead of changing my shredded clothes, I just sat there in the middle of the tent, my mind churning with unwanted thoughts.
It was obvious that Josh remembered nothing about what had happened with the truth plant yesterday. Instead, he had made up his own version of events in which we both got out of the way of the plant’s toxic spray just in time. If I asked him, he would probably say he remembered us having dinner and then falling asleep under the stars too. But what had actually happened to him while I was asleep?
Well, it seemed clear that he had woken up and taken a bath in the stream, just as he claimed. I wondered if he had been anxious about waking up naked or if his mind had simply edited out that little detail too. Of course the really big question was how he could forget his attack on me.
It wasn’t really that much of an attack, a little voice in my head pointed out. You were shocked at first, but then you just lay there and let him. You even enjoyed it. Hell, he made you come. Do you get that? You let Josh make you come.
I tried to push the nasty little voice away, but it just wouldn’t stop. It was the voice of my guilt talking, and I knew it. This was different from the shower incident, which had basically been an accident. This time Josh had touched me on purpose, and I had liked it—had had an orgasm from the way he stroked and fingered my pussy.
The problem was he didn’t remember any of it, and there was no way I could possibly tell him.
It was the plant, I told myself uneasily. Just the lingering aftereffects of what it sprayed him with. It’s probably all out of his system now, and there’s nothing more to be worried about. Yes, I was sure that was it. After all, hadn’t the Svortzian tried to warn us that the truth plant was dangerous? What were his exact words? Oh yes… “Is bad. Is make you do…things you want to do. Is make you hurt.” Or something like that.
Now I understood what the tall alien had been talking about. The truth plant’s secretions obviously made someone act on their secret desires and do things they wouldn’t normally do in their right minds. No wonder Josh had been acting so strangely—all his inhibitions had been stripped from him. So none of what had happened was his fault.
Come to think of it, I remembered feeling sort of hazy myself while he was touching me—as though it was all right to open myself to him and let him do what he wanted. I hadn’t received such a big dose of “truth serum” as Josh, but some of it had gotten on me. Could it be that my submission to his advances wasn’t all my fault? Could it be that I was simply under the influence of the truth plant as well?
The idea made me feel much better until I remembered one thing—the plant made you act on your hidden or buried desires. So did that mean I secretly desired Josh sexually? That I wanted him to touch me and make me come?
I put my head in my hands. Oh God, that made me sound completely messed up. Josh’s desires could be excused—he was male, and my body had suddenly changed and ripened, drawing him in a way he couldn’t help. But nothing had changed about him—nothing to suddenly attract me or make me want him. Did that mean that deep down, so deep I didn’t even know it myself, I was in love or at least in lust with my own stepbrother?
No! I pushed the thought away. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. Even though there was no real blood relation between us, Josh had been my brother for years. We had been through so much together. For me to love him in a way that was more than platonic would be unnatural and wrong.
Then why did you act that way? Why did you spread your legs for him and let him in so easily? demanded the little voice. What’s wrong with you, Cassandra?
I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to find out. Taking a deep breath, I swore to put this whole incident behind me. I would forget it completely, would overcome it and never think of it, just as I had the shower incident. And I would never, never tell Josh about it.
It was a one-time thing, and now it’s over. Time to get dressed and go eat some pancakes.
And that was exactly what I did.