"What is that delicious scent you're wearing?"

"Hmm?" Salma turned off the bone saw and fastidiously wiped her hands on her apron before taking out her earplugs. "Did you say something?"

Now Kevin felt self conscious. She'd been working on an important experiment and he'd interrupted her to flirt. That was hardly professional behaviour in a journalist!

"Oh, it's...I'm sorry, it's nothing important. I shouldn't have interrupted you."

"Are you sure?" Salma gave him an encouraging smile, not showing a hint of impatience despite having an experimental subject congealing right in front of her. She really was a most charming woman, he was so glad she'd come to Desert Bluffs.

Kevin thought about pretending he'd had some serious question to ask, like "is this guy local or imported?" or "What's that you're implanting in his chest?" but he decided to bite the bullet and be honest. He flipped his hair back and tried to look casual. "I, well...it's just your scent. It's lovely."

Salma blinked at him. "You...like the smell of blood?"

Kevin laughed awkwardly. WAY TO MESS UP A COMPLIMENT, KEVIN. "Oh, no! Well, I mean...yes, of course. Who doesn't enjoy the scent of blood? Not that there's anything wrong with not enjoying it, if you don't, we all have our personal tastes..." He was babbling like a school boy. How embarrassing! "But I...I was talking about your perfume. I think it's pretty." He smiled extra wide and took a step back, giving her space. "That's all. Sorry for interrupting."

"Oh!" said Salma, looking a little shocked. Fiddlesticks. Had he screwed things up between them? Gosh he hoped not.

The moment Salma had arrived in Desert Bluffs Kevin had been smitten. She was beautiful, of course, but there was more to it than that. With her shiny Strexcorp lab and her list of compulsory experimental procedures she'd brought something special to the town, and as the months went by Kevin had only become more enchanted. Most newcomers took a while to adjust to Desert Bluffs' mandatory diligence but Salma had taken to her job with a dedicated zeal that put many older residents to shame. And lately he'd started to think she liked him, too, and not just as a colleague. Had he been wrong?

Salma gave him a tiny little unaltered-human smile and...was that a giggle? The tinkling sound of her laugh was like angels singing, if angels existed. Which they don't. "Oh, it's...jasmine. I think. Honestly I just buy whatever's on sale, I didn't think anyone would pay attention."

"Well, I pay attention, and I think it's lovely," said Kevin.

"Thanks," said Salma. She looked up at him with her big white-rimmed brown eyes and he really felt like they were having a moment. His heart did a happy little jig and beat solidly for at least 30 seconds straight.

But...they weren't being paid to have moments. Wouldn't want the productivity overseers to notice them slacking off like this, now, would they? "I should let you get back to work," said Kevin, regretfully.

"Right," said Salma. "These larvae won't implant themselves." What a credit she was to their employers! She picked up one of the larvae and turned it over in her hands. The cute little thing wriggled and tried to pierce her hands with it's proboscis but she held it firm. "I bet she'd make a wonderful mother," thought Kevin, then laughed at himself. He barely knew this woman, and here he was thinking about children! Why, he didn't even know if they were biologically compatible!

Salma put the larva gently back into it's box and picked up her earplugs. Looking away she said "But when I'm done...do you want to spend the next break period together? I don't know if you eat..." She turned her head shyly towards Kevin to see his reaction and he had to stop himself from smiling so wide he split his head open again.

"I'd love to," he said.

"Great," said Salma, then before he could say anything more put her earplugs back in.

The bone saw hummed it's cheerful little tune and the air filled with the scent of blood and jasmine.