Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

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The Independent Online

I was on the Paddington Express after a long flight when it hit me. The gorgeous dark-haired stranger was wrestling with a suitcase. He smelled like Hugo Boss cologne, sweat and spice. I've always been a believer in the power of pheromones to attract mates, so I wasn't surprised to feel seriously turned on when he sat next to me.

Ironically, I was reading a science magazine piece about the invisible chemicals that drive male bull elephants into a mating frenzy and how laboratory mice can't get laid without them. But I'd never had a reaction this intense - just sitting next to this guy was like a dose of erotic aromatherapy. I started fantasising about stopping time and ripping his clothes off.

Unfortunately, 15 minutes later we were pulling into the station. I blurted out the lamest pick-up line ever: "This is going to sounds weird, but I was just wondering what type of cologne you use because I want to buy some for my [imaginary] brother."

He smiled and suggested that we share a cab. I agreed, despite living two-minute's walk from the station. I found out that his name is Mark and he's a property developer with the faint aroma of cinnamon.

Our chat turned into dinner and drinks before he asked if I wanted to come in for a nightcap, which I hoped was a euphemism. The fact that he hadn't had time to shower yet made me even more ravenous.

Fragrance companies have long been cashing in on the belief that perfume is Prozac for relationships. Dolce & Gabbana has just released a fragrance called "The One" that supposedly makes men believe that the wearer is up to 12lb lighter than she appears. And a German perfumier is hawking a fragrance called Vulva Original, which "beguiles the senses with the scent of a real vagina".

Ever since I read about men being attracted to the cosy aromas of childhood like pumpkin and cinnamon, I've tended to use vanilla oil in lieu of flowery scents. I also like the idea that my exes will face the torture of flashbacks every time they pass a bakery.

I wasn't wearing perfume, but it didn't matter because the chemistry was perfect. We retired to the bedroom, and sex with him was like guzzling a rich Bordeaux after years of white wine spritzers.

The next morning, after an energetic second session, I headed to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water.

That's when I saw it, nestled among clothes in his washing machine: a single hot pink bra. "Do you have a girlfriend?" I asked, feeling my stomach drop.

"Look," he said nervously, "I've had a very on-off thing with someone for the past two years, and I've been meaning to sort things out but everything with you happened so fast." "Well it's obviously still pretty 'on' to her if her underwear is here," I said, pulling my clothes on. I'm starting to understand how those female bull elephants feel post-coitally once they realise the males have harems of 50 each.

He pleaded with me to stay, but I slipped out while he showered. My nose may have led me to an amazing sexual experience, but I need to get a lot better at sniffing out liars.