Atoms, Molecules, and Ions - Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)

Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)


Chapter 1. Atoms, Molecules, and Ions

QUIET, SILENT, MUTED, hushed, stilled, reticent… I moved my mouth, breathed the words—soundlessly—from my hiding place.

This game comforted me, calmed me, settled my nerves. Yes, recalling synonyms while anxious was a bizarre coping strategy, but it worked. And very little usually worked.

The voices from beyond the cabinet grew louder and were accompanied by the click of heels and the dull echo of tennis shoes. I held my breath and strained to decipher how many sets of feet were represented by the approaching shoes. I guessed two, also because only two voices were audible.

“…think that he’s going to want to fuck you? After what happened last Friday?” The words were a hiss emanating from an unknown male voice; I tensed at the use of vulgarity.

“I’ll get there late. If you do your job then he won’t even remember it,” came a feminine reply. The female was closest to my hiding spot in the chemistry lab cabinet; her words were, therefore, much clearer.

“Shit,” he said. I tried not to huff in disgust at his foul language as he continued. “I don’t even know how much to use. I’ve only used it on bitches.”

“I don’t know either. Just…double it. Martin is, what? Like, twice the size of the girls you usually dope out?”

I tensed again, my eyes narrowing. The name Martin, in particular, made my heart beat faster. I knew only one Martin.

Martin Sandeke.

Martin Sandeke, the heir to Sandeke Telecom Systems in Palo Alto, California, and smartypants in his own right. I also came from a notable family—my mother was a US senator, my father was the dean of the college of medicine at UCLA, and my maternal grandfather was an astronaut. However, unlike Martin’s family, we weren’t billionaires. We were scientists, politicians, and scholars.

Martin Sandeke, the six-foot-three modern day physical manifestation of Hercules and captain of our university’s rowing team.

Martin Sandeke, unrepentant manwhore extraordinaire and kind of a jerk-faced bully.

Martin Sandeke, my year-long chemistry lab partner and all-around most unobtainable person in the universe—who I never spoke to except to ask for beakers, relay findings, and request modifications to the heat level of my Bunsen burner.

And by Bunsen burner I meant, literally, my Bunsen burner. Not the figurative Bunsen burner in my pants. Because I hoped Martin Sandeke had no idea that he affected the heat levels of my figurative Bunsen burner.

He did affect them. But, obviously—since he was cosmically unobtainable and kind of a bully—I didn’t want him to know that.

“He’s about two twenty, so…yeah. I guess,” the male responded. His tennis shoes made scuffing sounds on the linoleum as he neared my hiding spot.

I rolled my lips between my teeth and stared at the crack in the cabinet doors. I couldn’t see his face, but I could now discern he was standing directly in front of the cabinet, next to the unknown girl. Maybe facing her.

“But what’s in it for me?” the cuss monster asked, his voice lower than it had been, more intimate.

I heard some rustling then the sloppy sounds of kissing. Instinctively, I stuck my tongue out and mocked gagging. Listening to public displays of affection was unpleasant, especially when lip smacking and groaning was involved, and most especially while trapped in a chemistry lab cabinet that smelled heavily of sulfur.

The next words spoken came from the girl and were a bit whiny. “Money, dummy. Martin’s loaded—well, his family is loaded—and they’ll buy me off. All you have to do is give him the stuff tonight in his drink. I’ll take him upstairs, record the whole thing. Bonus if I get pregnant.”

My mouth dropped open, my eyes wide, unable to believe what I’d just heard. The awfulness, rustling, and lip smacking continued.

“You dope him and I’ll rope him.” The girl’s pleasure-filled gasps were audible and rather ridiculous sounding.

“Oh, yeah baby—touch me there.” These breathy words were accompanied by the sound of a beaker crashing to the ground and a zipper being undone.

I winced, scowled. Really, people had no manners or sense of decorum.

“No, no, we can’t. He’ll be here any minute. I need to leave,” the girl pleaded. I noted she sounded the perfect mixture of regretful and hurried. “You need to make sure he stays at the house for the party. I’ll be there at eleven, so give him the stuff around ten thirty, okay?”

The zipper came back up, the man backed into the cabinet. I jerked at the resultant bang of the doors. “How do you know where he’ll be all the time?”

“We dated, remember?”

“No. He fucked you. You never dated. Martin Sandeke doesn’t date.”

“Yeah, well, I know his schedule. He comes here on Fridays and does…hell if I know what with his ugly little lab partner.”


I twisted my lips to the side, my heart seized in my chest.

I hated the word ugly. It was an ugly word.

Ugly, unsightly, gross, misshapen, repelling…I mentally recited. For some reason, the synonym game didn’t help me this time.

“His lab partner? Wait, I’ve heard about her. Isn’t her dad an astronaut, or something?”

“Who cares? She’s nobody. Kathy or Kelly or something. Whatever,” the girl huffed, the heels of her shoes carrying her farther away. “Forget about her, she’s nothing. The point is you need to stay here and make sure he comes tonight, okay? I gotta go before he gets here.”

“Bitch, you better not be playing me.”

The girl responded but I didn’t catch the words. My back itched and while tucked in the cabinet, I couldn’t reach the spot. In fact, it would be a difficult spot to reach even if I were standing in an open field. Also, my mind was still reciting synonyms for ugly.

I didn’t think I was ugly.

I knew my hair was unremarkable. It was long, wavy, and dark brown. I always wore it in a ponytail, bun, or clip. This was because hair, other than warming my head, served no purpose. Mostly, I ignored it.

I rather liked my eyes. They were grey. It was an unusual color I’d been told on more than one occasion. Granted, no one ever said they were pretty, but no one ever said they were ugly either. That had to count for something.

I was no supermodel in height or size, at five foot seven and a size ten. But I wasn’t Jabba the Hut either.

My teeth were reasonably straight, though I had a noticeable gap between the front top two. I was also pale—the color of paper my best friend, Sam, had once said. My eyebrows were too thick, I knew this. Sam—short for Samantha—often remarked that I should get them plucked, thinned out.

I ignored this advice, as I didn’t care about thick eyebrows so long as they never became a unibrow like my aunt Viki’s.

I glanced down at my comfortable clothes—men’s wide-leg, navy cargo pants with torn-off cuffs, worn Converse, and an oversized Weezer T-shirt. I might be plain, unremarkable, or even mousy. But it’s not like I was a horrible beast who turned people into stone with a single gaze. I was just…low maintenance.

That was okay with me. I didn’t need attention, didn’t want it. People, especially people my age and especially other girls, made very little sense to me. I didn’t see the value in spending hours in front of a mirror when I could be playing video games, or playing the guitar, or reading a book instead.

But sometimes, when I was with Martin and we were calculating particulate levels, I wanted to be beautiful. Really, it was the only time I wished I looked different. Then I remembered he was a jerk-face and everything went back to normal.

I gave myself a mental shake and gritted my teeth. Straining to listen, I pressed my ear against the cabinet door and waited for signs the unknown male was still present.

The itch in the center of my back was spreading and I didn’t know how much longer I could stand it. On the itch scale, it was quickly moving from aggravating to brain-exploding torturous.

But then the sound of shuffling footsteps approaching from the hall snagged my attention. They slowed, then stopped.

“Hey man. Whatsup?” said the mystery cussing fiend.

“What are you doing here?” Martin asked. I guessed he was standing at the entrance to the lab because his voice was somewhat muffled. Regardless, it made my stomach erupt in rabid butterflies. I often had a physical response to the sound of Martin’s voice.

“Wanted to make sure you’re coming to the house party tonight.”

I heard more footsteps. They were Martin’s. I’d know that nonchalant gait anywhere—because I was pathetic and maybe a little obsessed with all things Martin Sandeke. But the difference between my obsession with Martin and the other girls’ obsession with Martin was that I had absolutely no problem admiring his finer features from afar.

Because Martin really was kind of a jerk.

He’d never been a jerk to me, likely because I was an excellent lab partner. We spoke only about chemistry—and he liked acing assignments—but I’d seen him in action. He’d lose his temper and then BOOM! he’d go off on whatever poor soul he happened to believe responsible.

If it was a girl, they’d leave crying after coming in contact with his razor wit (and, by razor, I mean cutting and wound inducing). He never called them names, he didn’t have to. He’d just tell them the truth.

If it was a guy, he might only use words. But sometimes he used fists too. I’d been a witness to this once—Martin beating the crap out of a slightly shorter but also slightly broader jilted boyfriend of one of his one-night stands. At least, that was the rumor that went around after both of them were escorted out of the dining hall by campus police.

Martin was an equal opportunity jerk-face and therefore best avoided outside of the chemistry lab.

No one spoke for a moment; then, I stiffened when I heard Martin ask, “Where’s Parker?”

That was me. I’m Parker.

To be more precise, I’m Kaitlyn Parker, Katy for short; but I doubt Martin knows my first name.

“Parker? Who’s Parker?”

“My lab partner.”

“I thought your lab partner was that girl, the one—”

“She is a girl.”

“Her name is Parker?”

I knew Martin was close now because I heard him sigh; his next words were clipped with impatience. “What did you want again?”

“The party tonight—you’re still coming, right?”

“I already told you I’d be there.”

“Good. Because I’m counting on you to be my wingman.” The mystery speaker’s voice started to fade. I guessed he was leaving, having secured what he came for.

“Yeah, whatever,” was Martin’s offhanded response.

“I’ll see you tonight, bro. You better come, I’m serious.”

Martin didn’t respond. I guessed the unknown male finally exited because, after a silent pause, I heard Martin release a very audible huff. It was heavy, exaggerated, and flavored with exasperation; of note, I’d heard him employ this sigh once before with a girl who followed him into our chemistry lab. I never wanted to be on the receiving end of that sigh—so far so good.

Meanwhile, I was still in the chemistry cabinet and the itch of the century had spread to my shoulders and stomach. I was likely going to go crazy if I didn’t scratch it within the next ten seconds. It felt like I was being repeatedly stung by a legion of fire ants.

During those ten seconds I debated my options.

I could stay in the cabinet, wait for Martin to leave, go quietly insane, then send him an anonymous note about the conversation I’d overheard.

Or, I could burst forth from my hiding place, scratch my itch, look like the doofus I was, then hope he’d forget as I regaled him with details of the conversation I’d overheard.

In the end it didn’t matter, because the cabinet doors were abruptly opened. A whoosh of fresh air followed and I found myself face-to-face with Martin Sandeke.

His eyes were blue and exceptionally beautiful. They reminded me of blue flame. Well, usually they were lovely, at present they were narrowed and sharp, and focused squarely on me. Beginning with my eyes, they moved down then up, ending where they started.

He was truly a magnificent specimen. All broad shoulders and narrow hips, with the thick muscular thighs of a rower. His brown hair was streaked with blond—likely due to all his time on the water and in the sun.

I wasn’t used to this—him looking at me, standing so close—thus, combined with my normal female palpitations, I couldn’t quite draw breath for several seconds.

At length he said, “Parker.”


“What are you doing?”

“Uh…” I released the breath I’d been holding and unthinkingly arched my back, reached behind me to scratch my itch.

Maybe it was the effect of his eyes and unavoidable handsomeness, or maybe it was because I’d seen him rip girls to shreds and was therefore a little afraid of a potential non-chemistry related conversation. Or maybe it was the itch between my shoulder blades, because without thinking, I blurted the truth, “I was hiding in the cabinet.”

His brow furrowed, but his gaze relaxed slightly, his confusion plain. “Why are you hiding in the cabinet?”

I reached over my shoulder, stretching my arm, and tried to reach the itch with my left hand instead of my right. This didn’t work.

“Why does anyone hide in a chemistry cabinet?” I shrugged, mostly because I hoped the movement would help me get to the itch.

He lifted a single eyebrow and grabbed me by my upper arms, pulling and lifting me like I weighed next to nothing. He set me safely on the ground.

Martin’s hands on my arms sent a bolt of girly awareness to the pit of my stomach. It was paired with belated embarrassment at being found as a burst of heat spread from my chest to my neck.

He still gripped my arms when he asked, “Do you hide in the cabinet often?”

“Sometimes,” I said distractedly, my jaw clenched, willing the mortified blush to recede.

“Is this an everyday thing?”

“No. Only on special occasions, like when strange people arrive to plot your demise.” I twisted out of his grip, reached for and failed to find the spot needed to secure relief.

“Plot my demise?” His eyes darted over me again, I could tell he was studying my movements. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to reach an itch between my shoulder blades.” My elbow was in the air now, my hand down the neck of my shirt.

Martin’s eyes widened then blinked. Without a word he stepped forward into my personal space. Before I could comprehend what was happening, he’d backed me into the lab table and I was trapped. Martin was against me, his arms wrapped around my body, his hands slipped under my T-shirt to the center of my back, and then his fingers itched the unreachable space between my shoulder blades.



But then, my brain’s very understandably stunted fan-girl reaction to his movements was quickly eclipsed by the blissful relief of an inch scratched.

I melted in his arms, my forehead resting against his chest, and I moaned my satisfaction.

“Oh, yes, God. That’s the spot… Please, don’t stop,” I murmured, obviously out of my mind. But it felt so good. So very, very good. Like sinking into a hot bubble bath after walking a mile through a nor’easter.

Martin didn’t stop.

Well…not precisely.

Rather, over the course of a full minute, he ceased using his nails, and instead began caressing and massaging my back with his fingers and hands. I realized too late that his head had dipped to my neck and his lips were against my ear, his hot breath tickling me and sending delightfully dangerous shivers down my spine, and down the backs of my legs to my toes.

“Did I make it all better?” he whispered, then bit—yes, bit!—my neck, like he was tasting me.

Then he bit me again.

I sucked in a breath and my eyes opened—even as my body instinctively arched toward him. Reality burst through the delightful fog of his ministrations like one of those disturbing and jarring windup jack-in-the-box clowns.

After one and a half semesters of virtually nothing but mundane academic interactions, I was in the chemistry lab with Martin Sandeke and his hands were roaming, liberal, and greedy. His face was tucked in my neck. I was trapped against a lab table. Our bodies were intimately connected.

And I’d just moaned.

What the hiccup was going on?

I raised my palms to his chest and made to push him away. This only caused his hands to still, now on the curve of my waist, and his grip to tighten. He plastered our fronts together more completely.

“Um…” I cleared my throat, found my voice unsteady. “Yeah, yeah—all better,” I croaked.

He laughed. Actually, it was more like a lazy chuckle.

One of Martin’s hands slipped up my back and under the strap of my bra, where the itch had been, his fingers splayed wide. The other went to the clip on my head and released the spring. My hair fell like a curtain and I felt him wrap his hand around the thick length.

I pushed him again, tilted my head to the side and away, feeling breathless. “I’m all better now. Thanks for the help. Services no longer needed.” Everywhere he touched sent ripples of awareness and heat to my core.

My attempt at escape was a failure, because, as soon as I pressed against him in earnest, Martin tugged my hair, encouraged me to tilt my chin upward.

Then he kissed me.

And—damn, damn, damn—he was a good kisser.

More precisely, since I had grossly limited experience in the kissing department, he was what I imagined a good kisser would kiss like. The kind girls fantasize about. The guy who just takes what he wants, like he’s hungry and you’re on the menu, but somehow makes it epic for both parties involved.

No preamble, prologue, or preface. Just urgent, fervent, worshipful kisses, one right after the other. I had no choice but to wrap my arms around his neck, stand on my tiptoes, and try to kiss him back. Because, honestly, the way he held me, the way he growled when our tongues met, the way his mouth moved over mine—he demanded it.

Also, in the recesses of my mind, I realized that this entire situation was completely preposterous. Likely, he was drunk, or tripping on acid, or was playing some kind of joke.

One day I would persuade my grandchildren to gather ’round while I put in my good dentures—the ones with no space between my two front teeth—and I would tell them for the millionth time about how Hercules had once accidentally kissed me in the chemistry lab at my Ivy League University.

The need for air eventually required our lips to part, though we separated only inches. If I inclined my head forward our noses would touch.

I opened my eyes as wide as they would go and glanced at his, where I found his gaze alternately moving between my lips and my eyes. I also noted I wasn’t the only one breathing heavily.

I said and thought in unison, my voice just above a whisper, “What was that?”

His eyes stopped moving over my face and instead settled, held mine captive. They were heated and…hot and…intense. I was starting to understand why the blood of a thousand virgins had been sacrificed at his altar of sexual prowess.

I tried to swallow. I couldn’t.

“That was necessary,” he finally said. Actually, he growled it.


“Yes. That needed to happen.”

“It did?”

He nodded once and bent as though he were going to do it again. I stiffened, my hands moved instantly to his chest and I thwarted his advance—because, if he started kissing me, it was surely a sign of Armageddon. Also, I was so far out of my comfort level, I was in an alternate dimension.

“No-no-no-no.” I twisted my head to the side, braced my hands against the imposing wall of his chest. “We’re not doing that again. I don’t kiss unobtainable boys, it’s one of my life rules.”

He tugged my hair—I’d forgotten that he’d wrapped his hand around it—and bodily pressed me against the black-topped lab table. His other arm, still under my shirt, wrapped completely around me.

“Yes. We’re doing that again.”

“No. We’re not. We’re not doing anything unless it involves measuring the composition of trace elements in surface water.”

“Parker—” His hand left my hair and slipped under my shirt again, spanning my side and stomach.

“Because we’re lab partners and lab partners do not kiss.”

“Then we’re not lab partners anymore.”

“You can’t switch lab partners in the middle of the semester.”

“I just did.”

My fingers moved to catch his wrists because his hands were on their way to second base; I successfully intercepted his northward progress. “Nope. I don’t do that.”

“Do what?” He nuzzled my neck and whispered against my skin. He must’ve known that nuzzling was going to cause my insides to melt. I imagined he’d conducted methodical experiments into the fastest way to female self-lubrication.

“I’m not one of your easy girls, or even difficult girls.” My voice wavered, so I cleared my throat. “I’m not even really a girl. I’m more like one of the boys. Think of me like a boy.”

“Not possible.”

“It’s true. Do you kiss boys? Because, if not, then I think you must have me confused with someone else.”

His movements stilled and a long moment passed. Then his hands fell away, he stepped away, and I slumped slightly forward—a weird mixture of feeling bereft and relieved.

“You’re a lesbian.” He said the words as though they explained a mystery he’d been trying to solve for years.

My eyes shot to his. He was four feet away and I found him watching me with a dawning something. If I didn’t know any better it looked like disappointment and frustration.

I swallowed, successfully, licked my lips, then shook my head. The irony of his confusion not lost on me.

My first and only boyfriend had been gay. I just didn’t know it while we were dating throughout high school.

I was still trying to catch my breath when I responded, “No. I’m not gay. I’m just…not interested in you that way.”

This was true—because I’d witnessed his path of devastation with my own eyes.

This was also a lie—because I was most definitely interested in him that way, just not the after part where he would say it was meaningless sex, make me cry, and tell me to get over it.

His eyebrows jumped a fraction of a centimeter at my softly spoken declaration.

“Not interested...,” he repeated.

I stepped to the side, scaling the length of the table, and reached for my bag. I hefted it to my shoulder, escape now the only thing on my mind. His slightly narrowed eyes followed my movements.

“I know, right?” I tried to sound self-deprecating, which wasn’t difficult because I truly meant my next words. “Who am I? I’m nobody.”

“You’re not nobody,” he countered. “Your mother is a senator and your grandfather was an astronaut.”

I cringed. I hated it when people brought up my family. “Just because my family is famous, doesn’t mean I’m somebody.”

He shifted forward and said with a surprising amount of vehemence. “Exactly! That’s exactly right.”

“I know, right?” I readily agreed. “See, I’m ordinary. And you’re you and I’m sure you’re used to the deafening sound of underwear hitting the floor every time you enter a room. But I don’t do that kind of thing, even for Hercules. Sure, I’ll think about the possibility later when I’m safely alone in bed, but I never cross-pollinate fantasy and reality.”

“When you’re alone in bed?”

I didn’t acknowledge his words because…mortification.

Instead, I said, “I’m not a fast and loose girl. I’m a slow and steady girl. Who knows when or if I’ll ever cross the finish line?”

He blinked at me, at my deluge of words. I didn’t even try to read his expression because I was so focused on walking backward out of the room.

“You’re leaving?” he asked.

“Yep.” I threw my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m going to go now. And don’t worry about the experiment. I’ll come in over spring break and finish it up. And when I see you after the break, everything will be back to normal. We can forget this ever happened. We shall never speak of it.” My voice cracked on the last word.


“Have a really great spring break.”

“Kaitlyn—” He took two strides forward as though he were going to stop me, but halted at the sound of crunching glass underfoot. He glanced at his feet, noticing for the first time the broken beaker on the floor. “What the hell?”

I seized the opportunity afforded by his split attention and bolted out of the room.

In fact, I ran down the hall like an insane person and slipped into the elevator just before it closed. I even jogged back to my dorm, didn’t begin to relax until I crossed the threshold of the keycard access area, climbed the three flights to my room, and locked the door behind me.

I tossed my bag to the corner of the tiny space, threw myself backward on my bed, and rubbed my eyes with the base of my palms. The scene in the lab played over and over behind my closed eyelids—him touching me, kissing me, scratching the impossible itch.

It wasn’t until several minutes later that I realized I’d forgotten to tell him about the dastardly plot I’d overheard.