Chemical Kinetics - Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)

Elements of Chemistry (Part 1) ATTRACTION (2015)


Chapter 6. Chemical Kinetics

“FOOLISH, ABSURD, BRAINLESS, crazy, preposterous, ridiculous, silly, stupid…,” I muttered.

“What are you doing?”

I slid my eyes to my right where surly faced Sam sat, flipping through her political science textbook pretending to study.

“You know what I’m doing,” I whispered.

“It’s the synonym game, isn’t it?” she whispered back, turning just slightly in her seat and dipping her head close to mine. “What’s the word?”


“Oh. How many do you have so far?”

“Uh, seven I think¸ maybe eight.”

“Well…you need more than that.” Sam turned and glanced over her shoulder.

I had the window seat. She had the aisle seat. Therefore, the boys were behind her. I’d achieved maximum willpower and hadn’t looked at Martin for the last forty-five minutes. If this were a video game, I’d be on level one thousand, about to face the final boss, and my palms would be sweating with the anticipation.

My palms were sweating now.

Not looking at Martin every thirteen seconds was torture. He was so…lookable. And lookable wasn’t even a word. It should have been, because he was definitely it. Easy-on-the-eyes was the closest phrase I could come up with that would be synonymous with the non-word lookable. Maybe mesmerizing?

Mesmerizing, hypnotic, irresistible, alluring, seductive… Hmm…

“Did you know that deductive and seductive are only one letter away from being the same word?” I asked.

Sam turned back to me and gave me a slight stink eye. “And conducive is conductive, but without a T.”

“Huh.” I nodded. That was interesting. I wondered how many –ductive words I could identify.

Sam continued on a whisper, “Are you ready to talk about it yet?”

“Talk about what?” I removed my eyes from her and stared at the vacant seat in front of mine. Since we were on Martin’s dad’s private plane, we had tons of space. Two seats were on each side of the aisle, and the plane had six rows with an open seating area in the back that included a bar, couches, and a big screen TV. In the front cabin, every other row faced backward which resulted in four seats facing each other.

When we boarded the plane, Sam insisted she and I needed all four of our seats and that neither Martin nor any of his boy-entourage were allowed to sit across from us. Since finding Martin hovering over me earlier in our dorm room, with clear intent-to-kiss posturing, Sam had been doing a lot of insisting.

Sam leveled me with a narrowed glare. “Don’t play dumb, Kaitlyn Parker. Why are we on this plane?”

I folded my arms on my knees and buried my head in my arms.

I felt her tugging on my hair, not hard, just trying to get me to sit up. I didn’t. A moment later she was leaning over me, whispering in my ear, “When I walked in on you this morning you were about to do somethingimprudent. Is that one on your list of synonyms for foolish?”

“No. I’ll add it to the list.” My response was muffled because I was hiding.

“Parker, why are we on this plane?”

I stared at the fabric of the jeans covering my legs within the dim cavern created by my head, arms, and hair. Blowing out a long, measured breath, I sat up slowly, straightened until my back was resting against the seat cushion again and my eyes were level with surly faced Sam.

I stared at her. She stared back, expectant.

“I promised him,” I said.

Her eyebrows bounced up then down. “You promised him? That’s it, that’s why we’re here? You promised?”

I nodded. “Yes. I promised him. I promised him last night and I promised him this morning and then you walked in and you freaked out and then he freaked out and then I thought about hiding in the closet, but I don’t own any spikey heels, so I just agreed. Okay? I just agreed so the freak outs and the name calling would cease and desist.”

Sam’s eyes were half-lidded and her continued surly expression told me she was not impressed with my answer.

But it was the truth…kind of.

When Sam walked in, she’d pitched a fit and started yelling at Martin. Really, she overreacted because she loves me. She was pretty nasty to Martin, called him some unpleasant names I won’t repeat, but I will say they are synonyms for whoreson.

Then Martin, who has no problem yelling at females, males, turtles, grass, and furniture, yelled back. Really, he was defending himself from her overprotectiveness and nasty name-calling. To his credit, he didn’t call her any names. Mostly he just told her to back off and to “mind her own goddam business.”

I stepped in and tried to calm them both down. In doing so, I reassured Martin that I would be going with him—because I did promise him more than once—but only if Sam could go too. Eventually he overcame the shock of my request and agreed. Once he confirmed our destination would have a tennis court, Sam agreed.

Then he did something weird.

He gathered me up in his arms like I belonged there, gave me a swift, closed-mouth kiss, and said he’d wait for me in the hall. Then he left the room and stepped out of the suite area and promptly waited…in the hall…for me…for a full hour.

I felt like Scarlett O’Hara after she was kissed by Rhett Butler, confused and anxious and swoony and wanting it to happen again.

Sam and I had a brief argument after that, and by some miracle she agreed to come with me. Honestly, I don’t think she felt like she had a choice since I stubbornly insisted I was going, and she lacked the time necessary to argue me out of it.

However, all the arguing and promising and name-calling aside, a large part of me was strangely excited about the trip. I was nineteen years old and the dodgiest thing I’d ever done was drink peach schnapps and drunk dial my ex last summer. I’d never thrown caution to the wind before. I’d never done anything this nutty and spontaneous. It was equal parts thrilling, terrifying, and confusing.

So…here we were. On the plane, with Martin, his handsome friend Eric from the fraternity party, and seven other dudes, most of whom looked like they’d stepped out of an Abercrombie and Finch photo-shoot; except they had clothes on, unfortunately. Sam and I were the only females if you didn’t count the two flight attendants.

We’d been briefly introduced to the boys upon entering the plane. Martin had referred to a few of them by a number first, then by first name.

Interestingly, they didn’t seem to be surprised by our presence. I was also pretty sure they were checking me out, but not in the, I might hit that checking me out. More like a, Are you a Yoko Ono? checking me out.

As I shook everyone’s hand I was surprised to see that one of the seven guys was Ben, the cuss monster from my time spent in the science cabinet. I couldn’t fathom why Martin would have him come along, especially given the fact he’d tried to drug then extort Martin the night before.

Maybe they’d man-hugged it out.

Boys were just weird.

I made a mental note to tell Martin the entire conversation between Ben and the unknown female, because Ben had basically admitted to drugging girls. And there was really only one reason he could be drugging girls. He was Ben the rapist as far as I was concerned and I wanted nothing to do with him.

Sam and I took a seat in the front of the plane after introductions and left the males to their bonding.

I felt the mounting pressure of Sam’s glare; she pressed her lips together in my general direction, looking displeased and surly.

“I can’t believe we did this, I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. How did that happen? How did we get here? And now we’re going to some private beach in the middle of the Caribbean? This is crazy.”

“It is kind of crazy.” I shrugged, feeling shell shocked by the fact I was on this plane and all the circumstances leading up to this moment. Less than twenty-four hours ago I’d kissed Martin Sandeke—or rather, he’d kissed me. And then it happened again…and again. He’d placed his hands on my body like he had a right to do so, and I let him.

My skin still remembered his touch. Just thinking about his hands on me made my breasts feel tight and heavy, and my neck, back, and arms break out in goosebumps. I was warm all over and felt a little drunk with excitement and fear.

“But,” I started, stopped, gave my head a quick shake, then began again, “but…it’s okay. We’re okay. We’re together. If we get there and we don’t want to stay we can leave.”

“And go where? Do what? Swim to Jamaica?”

I shook my head, fighting back the swelling tide of Martin-inspired lust.

“No. I sent George, my mother’s PA, a message. George knows the flight information, where we are. Worst case scenario, I call him and he arranges for us to leave. We’re good.”

Sam looked at me for several soundless seconds, then blurted, “You told your mother?”

“Of course. Well, technically I told her personal assistant, George. As the daughter of a senator I have to inform her any time I leave the country.”

“You don’t think she’s going to freak out?”

“No. Why would she? I’m using the buddy system. She knows where I am, and with whom, and for how long, and why.”

Although, I was still a bit uncertain as to why…

“You ladies need any drinks?”

Both Sam and I glanced up to find handsome Eric hovering in the aisle, poised at the precipice to our secluded island of four seats. Sam stared at him, like she was confused by his presence.

“What?” she asked.

“Drinks. Do you need any…drinks?”

“No. No drinks.” She crossed her arms and tilted her head to the side, her eyes narrowing as though she were inspecting him. “You’re shorter than I remembered.”

He returned her eye squint and raised her a smirk. “Maybe you’re suffering from altitude sickness. You should probably get up and walk around, stretch your legs.”

More squint staring ensued and now they were both smirking.

At length, Sam nodded and said, “I could stretch my legs.”

I eyeballed her as she quickly unbuckled her seatbelt and stood, all the while her gaze affixed to handsome Eric. His smirk became a grin when she stepped into the aisle and his eyes visibly brightened when she moved a tad closer to him.

“Let me give you a tour of the plane,” he offered helpfully like a boy scout. “You can lean on me if we experience any turbulence.”

“Sure thing,” she drawled, sounding surly and amused at the same time. “Lead the way, shorty.”

Eric rubbed the back of his neck and breathed a laugh as the two of them walked off together to the front of the plane. I craned my neck and watched them depart with borderline rapt fascination.

When Sam laughed at something Eric said I could watch no longer without labeling myself a creeper. So I relaxed—as much as I could relax—back in my seat and stared at my hands.


I jumped at the sound of my name coming from Martin’s lips and turned to face him. I also, for reasons known only to my subconscious, balled my hands into fists and lifted them between us, like I was prepared for a fist fight or a boxing match.

He studied my defensive posturing and smirked, taking the seat Sam had vacated without asking permission. Meanwhile I glared at him, my mental wall up and prepped, though my hands fell back to my lap. I had to do this because…super-hot boy alert level ten thousand.

“Sandeke,” I said. I knew I sounded ridiculous, like I was greeting a sworn enemy, but I had to be on guard.

His gaze skated over my face then flickered to my hands, still fists on my lap. Then he gave my hands a smile. Apparently they amused him.

“Are you going to hit me?”

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “It depends on if you take your pants off again.”

“You’ll hit me if I take my pants off?”

“Yeah…I might give you a junk punch.”

He laughed, very loudly and very suddenly, and with the complete abandon that comes from being surprised. But his laugh was a radioactive seduction and had a half-life of infinity. I wanted him to stop laughing never. It made his eyes crinkle and his mouth curve in a sinful smile, showcasing his excellent dental hygiene regimen.

He also looked so different. He usually wore an expression of perpetual unimpressed boredom. Perpetual unimpressed boredom was a good look for him, a very good look. As were all the other expressions I’d seen, like distrust, mischievous amusement, thunderous anger, unveiled interest, etc.

But laughter…he almost looked happy. Happiness on Martin was a revelation of beauty and physical perfection married to excellent and infectious good-mood vibes. I let my fists drop. Less than a minute into our first interaction on this trip and my carefully constructed defenses had been virtually blown to bits.

I might as well wave the white panties of surrender.

“Oh, well. Barnacles,” I said to nothing and no one.

His laugh gradually receded and his eyes flickered over me. “No more fists.”

“Nope. There’s no use.” I’m sure I sounded despondent.

“So you think I could take you in a fist fight?”

“I think you could take me whenever.” I shrugged. “If you wanted to, and I really only have myself to blame.”

Martin narrowed his eyes, and they sharpened, surveying me. “You don’t look happy about this.”

“I’m not.”

“Why not?”

I stared at him for a beat then freely admitted the truth. “Here is the problem, Martin. I feel like I like you.”

The sharpness in his gaze softened and his mouth curved into a lazy, satisfied smile. “That doesn’t sound like a problem to me.”

“But it is,” I pressed. “Because the feeling originates entirely in my pants.”

Martin choked a shocked laugh, and leaned away from me.

I rushed to continue. “Hence the problem, you see? I know you as my lab partner who won’t help me tabulate findings. And I also know you as a bit of a—and pardon the expression—as a bit of a manwhore who is not nice to the girls he sleeps with and who gets into fist fights, and who is somewhat bitter and jaded despite having the world at his fingertips.”

Martin clenched his jaw. His lids drooped into unhappy slits and he flinched just slightly. His long fingers tightened on his legs.

I ignored the outward signs of irritation, wanting to make him see reason. “We have nothing in common. You’re in a fraternity, go to parties on purpose, own a yacht, and are the king of the universe.” I pressed both of my hands to my chest. “And I’m an unapologetic nerd who thinks it’s fun to spend Saturday nights playing my guitar and writing music. I like arguing about Doctor Who episodes, and whether Samwise Gamgee or Frodo Baggins was ultimately responsible for the destruction of the ring. I play video games. I limit myself to three cookies, but then always cheat and have seven. Meanwhile you look like you’ve never had a cookie in your life. I’m a virgin and you’re only the second boy I’ve kissed… We just don’t fit.” I said this last part quietly, gently, hoping he’d see reason.

Martin’s face was devoid of expression, but his gaze moved from the tip of my chin to the top of my forehead, then back to my eyes.

He was smiling…sorta. But it resembled a grimace more than a smile. I watched his chest expand with a deep breath before he said, “You don’t even know me, how can you say we don’t fit? That’s not right, Kaitlyn.”


“The way you describe me makes me sound like an entitled asshole.”

It was my turn to flinch, lean away. My cheeks heated and stung as though they’d been slapped. I gaped at him and his fierce blue eyes for a long stretch. When he said nothing more, just glared at me, I ducked my head and studied the armrest between us.

“I. I. I…you’re right,” I admitted on a sigh. “I don’t know you, not really. And you’re right that my conclusion we don’t fit is based on my observations and assumptions, which are clearly limited to empirical data sources.”

“I’m not suggesting marriage, Parker. I just…” He paused, though I felt his gaze on me and it felt heavy. “Look at me.”

I braced myself, then lifted my chin to meet his eyes. I expected to find a glower or a scowl. Instead I found his stare to be oddly earnest and searching.

“I’d just like a chance to know you.”

“But why?” I blurted, feeling offended on behalf of everything that was perfect and gifted and beautiful about him. “Why me?”

“Because you’re not intimidated by me.”

“Well, that’s wrong. I am. You scare me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You kind of do.”

“No, I don’t. That feeling of fear and excitement? That originates in your pants. It isn’t about who I am, it’s about what I look like. I feel that for you too.”

My brain stumbled to grasp his meaning. I lifted an eyebrow, pursed my lips, and considered this statement.

He continued before I was finished considering. “You don’t care about my family.”

“I care about your family as human beings, but I don’t know your family,” I said defensively. “I’m sure if I knew them I’d care about them.”

“Exactly. That’s exactly right, except you wouldn’t. If you knew my family you wouldn’t care about them, because you’re smart.” The cloudy frustration in his eyes began to dissipate and he looked like my answer pleased him.

“That’s true. I am smart. But you are also smart, maybe smarter.”

“And you’re funny.”

“You should know that most of the time the funny is not on purpose.”

“And honest.”

“That’s not always a good thing.”

“And fucking gorgeous—”

I paired a huff with dismissive snort-laugh. But then my expression sobered when I saw Martin was serious.

I swallowed with difficulty then cleared my throat. I couldn’t quite bear the weight and intensity of his stare, so I glanced down again at the arm rest. I’d learned from my mother that when someone gives you a subjective compliment—meaning one that can’t be disproven and is based on opinion—but that you find to be completely false, rather than argue, it’s much better to just say thank you, or I appreciate that and strive to be that compliment.

Fools fight compliments, she’d said, and sometimes other people see you better than you can see yourself.

So I quietly said, “Thank you,” to the armrest.

“You’re welcome.”

I tucked my hair behind my ears and wrestled to find the courage to look at him again. I made it as far as his neck.

“Are you going to give me a chance? Yes or no?” The way he spoke, with such severe directness, was off-putting and strangely alluring. He was entitled, or at least he came across that way, because all of his words were demands.

It also made me want to refuse what he was demanding.

“I’m…going to be open to the possibility of giving you a chance.” When I finished, my eyes flickered to his. I discovered him watching me with a narrowed stare and a little smirk. He was really too freaking good-looking, it was the un-fairest of the unfair.

“Is that the best you can do?” he challenged, leaning forward.

“No. But how you speak to me sometimes makes me want to withhold what you want.”

His eyes flashed and felt at once more penetrating. “How do I speak to you?”

“Like I owe you something, like you’re entitled.”

“That’s just confidence. I’m not going to be self-conscious for any reason, and I’m not going to fake it to make you feel better.”

His response was jarring, irritating, and oddly thrilling, so I volleyed back, “Maybe you should be. Maybe your confidence isn’t based on reality. Maybe you’re not infallible. Maybe you’re not always going to get what you want.”

He watched me as several long moments passed, his gaze growing increasingly inscrutable but somehow hotter. I held his eyes, maybe finding the courage because my feathers were ruffled.

“Okay,” he finally said. “I’ll try not to demand things of you…as often.”

“Good.” I felt strangely disappointed at this news, which made no sense. Did I enjoy it when he spoke to me like I was an underling assigned to obey his every whim? When I reflected on it I realized that maybe I did, because I certainly enjoyed rebelling, defying, and challenging his demands...

We stared at each other. I tried to look at him and his beautiful face with as much objectivity as possible. Who was this person? Who was Martin Sandeke really?

“Tell me something, Martin.”

“What do you want to know, Parker?” Again my question seemed to please him, his features softening and settling into amused—dare I say enthusiastic?—curiosity.

“What do you think about the Samwise Gamgee versus Frodo Baggins debate?”

His smile flattened just a little and for the first time since he sat down, Martin glanced away. He cleared his throat, picked at a spot on his jeans, then returned his gaze to mine. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

This admission made me smile, then laugh belatedly because he looked uncomfortable. Martin Sandeke looked uncomfortable and it was because he was out of his depth, specifically, he was out of his nerd depth, and being out of his depth looked adorable on Martin.

“Well, let me enlighten you,” I said with a bit of show-womanship, waving my hand through the air. I then turned toward him completely. I didn’t try to dim my bright smile. “There is this book, it is called Lord of the Rings and it was written by a linguist w-a-a-a-a-y back in the twentieth century.”

“I’ve heard of the Lord of the Rings.” His lips twitched but his tone was deadpan. I took this as a good sign.

“Ah, good. Have you seen the movies?”


“But you’ve heard of the twentieth century? It came right after the nineteenth century.”

He didn’t respond, but his closed-mouth smile grew. His fathomless blue eyes were at half-mast, aquamarine, and glittering like the ocean at sunset.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Anyway, in this book there are different kinds of races—elves, orcs, humans, blah, blah, blah, dwarves—but also, there is this race of beings called hobbits. They are little, short of stature, and usually considered insignificant. They have furry feet and they like to smoke pipes and live quietly. In fact, they live very quietly. But they have several breakfasts daily, so…awesome. Anyway…”

Martin cocked his head to the side as though studying me. I didn’t know if he were actually listening or not, but his eyes were intent and focused, like I was providing him with a super important riddle he would have to solve at some point. It gave me fluttery butterflies in my stomach to have his complete attention like this. It also reminded me how much that area in my pants liked him.

“Anyway,” I repeated, trying to focus. “The whole point of the book is to destroy this ring, because the ring is very, very bad.”

“Why is it bad?”

“You’ll have to read the book, and don’t interrupt me. It’s distracting enough looking at you. You’ve already derailed my brain train with your face several times.”

Martin’s mouth pressed together more firmly and I got the impression he was trying not to laugh.

“Back to the story, ultimately—spoiler alert—the ring is destroyed by two of these hobbits.”

Both of his eyebrows jumped in surprise. “How did they do that? You said they’re insignificant.”

“Like I said, you’ll have to read the book for the specifics, but the crux of my question has to do with the two hobbits who destroy the ring—Frodo and Samwise. Frodo bears the ring. He carries it. But,” I lifted a finger in the air for emphasis, “Samwise is his trusted servant, and he is very trustworthy. He supports Frodo, he keeps Frodo from giving up. He even bears the ring for a short time. Plus there’s this bit at the very end that…well, you’ll have to read the book. So, the question is—who deserves the credit for the destruction of the ring? Who was stronger? Frodo or Samwise? The master or the servant?”

Martin frowned at me; I took it as a good sign because it meant he was actually considering the question. But then his frown started to worry me because his eyes grew cagey and guarded.

After a few minutes he asked, “Is this a test?”

I lifted an eyebrow at him and his tone. He sounded a little angry.

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said, is this a test? If I answer incorrectly are you still going to give us a chance?”

Yep. Definitely angry.

It was my turn to frown. “Martin, it’s a conversation. We’re just having a conversation. This isn’t a test. You said, and I agree, that I don’t know you very well. This is my attempt to get to know you better.”

“But if I answer in a way you don’t like, what happens?”

I stared at him, my features likely showing my disorientation at his odd question. “Um,” my eyes flickered to the side, because I was trying not to look at him like he was a crackhead, “nothing? I mean, we talk about it, each reviewing our own opinions and providing support for what we believe. But then, we can always agree to disagree at some point.”

“Then after that?”

“I guess we could end it with a high five to show that there are no hard feelings...?”

His eyes narrowed at me, and he was looking at me like I was the puzzle; when he spoke next it was with an air of distraction. “That sounds nice.”

I frowned, considering him, considering his reaction to a simple question. It made me wonder whether or not Martin Sandeke had ever had a conversation before, one where he was allowed to disagree without being made fun of or punished for his thoughts, where it wasn’t a test.

I was about to ask him something along these lines when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. He announced we were approaching the airport, and should buckle in for our final descent. Meanwhile, I blinked at Martin and a dawning and disturbing realization took root.

Martin Sandeke wasn’t used to freely voicing his thoughts and feelings…nor was he used to kindness.