A long long time ago, I was a chemistry major. And when graduation season rolled around this year, I started reminiscing about why I switched to English. That jumble of feelings, the confusion, the dawning of understanding, all inspired this story.
Semisonic's "Chemistry" has the same bittersweet feel to it, learning from love and life. I also love that, in the music video, they merge love and science (both kinds of chemistry) by juxtaposing a Rube Goldberg machine with couples falling in and out of relationships.
On the verge of committing the next five years to a PhD in chemistry, undergraduate Betty goes out for a celebration, not knowing she'll be overtaken by the need to feel passion for something other than science, if only for one night.
Rated: Adult (18+)
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Heat level: Erotic
I sat surrounded by textbooks and notes, glasses perched on my nose, when my roommate Elaine swept in with my mail. She dangled a letter at me and squealed excitement. I read UCLA graduate school, Department of Chemistry on the return address and froze. “You do it,” I said and we held our breath as the seal split beneath her long fingernail.
“We'd like to offer you a spot in the class of...” was as far as she read before we dissolved into laughter and excited screaming. This was what I'd worked for since high school, sacrificing social life, extracurriculars, and free summers with abandon. But now that I'd finally been accepted, a part of me felt empty. What came next?
Elaine knew how to proceed. I would've been satisfied sitting in our room with a few friends, doing shots out of test tubes we'd “accidentally” left in our lab coats during our summer research internships. She insisted on a real party, which meant getting dragged along to a club on the beach.
We were staying overnight with a friend of hers—so no one would be responsible for driving home—who had graduated a few classes ahead of us and now worked in some swank LA office doing something with numbers. Whatever it was allowed him to rent a sweet condo near Santa Monica.
She bribed me with the promise of doing my next pain-in-the-ass titration in the lab and I figured going out to a club for a few hours was a reasonable exchange for getting out of the most mind-numbing part of working in a chemistry lab.
While I finished writing up a lab report, she packed our bags full of God knows what, her excitement more than enough for both of us, and hauled me out the door at 6pm. “We'll get ready at my friend's place,” she said, a tote over her shoulder as we went to my car. “Bettie, this is going to be the most fun ever! You'll see. You deserve a little break from academia.” I tried to protest that I liked my academia, that clubbing wasn't really my style, but she shushed me.
The closer we got to the coast, the sweatier my palms grew. I had no place in a club. I knew from past experience at the few college parties I went to that I'd sit in the corner and have a lovely, sober time watching people flirt, seduce, and for some, make fools of themselves. Good enough entertainment, on occasion, but not the way I'd choose to celebrate. While my regrets grew, my roomie talked on and on about club-hopping and hot guys. She didn't really have my attention until she mentioned my outfit.
I looked down at my jeans and dressy shirt, the one item in my closet that I wore to campus parties. Dark brown, it set off my golden skin (or so the sales clerk convinced me) and showed more cleavage than I normally liked. It was some kind of soft supple material that I was told (by the same clerk) would be “fabulous” for a night out. Hell, sequins even dotted the v-neck and I never did sparkly. “What's wrong with this?
She snorted. I rolled my eyes. “It's fine for on campus, Betts, when you're lab geek fabulosa, but tonight I want you to forget about all that and have fun. Which means putting you in clothes you don't normally wear.”
Dread washed over me as I mentally flipped through Elaine's wardrobe. “What exactly did you bring me?”
She giggled, which didn't settle my nerves any. “A little of this, a little of that.” I managed to keep my eyes on the road despite my inclination to stare her down until she spilled the truth. I guess she knew me well enough because she said, “Don't give me that look. I'll make a deal with you. Let me doll you up and if you really, truly hate it, you can change back into...this.” I saw her nose wrinkle from the corner of my eye.
My sigh ended the conversation and Elaine turned up the music, so we drove the last stretch of the I-10 in silence.
She gave me turn by turn directions at the end, my personal Magellan, until we reached a quiet block of houses a mile up from the beach with a miraculously open spot against the curb near the condo complex. The air felt different here, salty and fresh. I took it in, letting myself forget the party, grad school, finals, everything but the smell of the ocean.
Sometimes, when I needed an escape, I'd drive to one of the more secluded beaches in Orange County and spend the day sitting oceanside. My toes would sift through the sand and I would let the rumble of crashing waves lull me into a blissful daze. Some days, I sat like that for hours; others, I'd walk the wet sand, picking up interesting shells and rocks to add to the clear vase I kept on my desk: sand on the bottom, an ever-growing pile of beautiful ocean detritus on top.
Our host answered the door. He looked vaguely familiar but I didn't get to say more than hello before Elaine dragged me into the guest bedroom and told me to strip down. The girl had no shame, and it had selectively rubbed off on me, so I shucked my clothes and stood in my undies, waiting for her to give me further instruction. She looked me over with a critical eye. “At least you wore your slutty underwear,” she remarked before taking out clothes and makeup and instruments of hair torture.
I looked down at my black silk thong and shrugged. It was laundry weekend; they were the only pair left in my drawer. A present from Elaine last Valentines day. She's odd like that, but I loved her anyway.
An hour later, I was dressed, coiffed, and made up to her exacting standards. The room lacked a mirror, which suited Elaine's evil scheme just fine. If I couldn't see, I couldn't protest. At last she led me into the guest bath with my eyes closed and settled me in front of a mirror. “Open,” she said.
A woman in a full-length mirror greeted me, and it took my brain more than a moment to connect my body to that figure. “Wow,” I said, touching the sultry curls that tumbled around my face and the cleavage I now owned, thanks to one of Elaine's amazing bras and a really low cut shirt-dress. Still black, still blinged out, but far more seductive than what I'd worn. In other circumstances I would have complained about the shortness of the dress, but Elaine had slipped me into glistening black leggings that ended in bright red high heels.
“Ok,” I grudgingly admitted, “I'll go out like this.” I wasn't Bettie for the night. I was someone else, though I didn't know who.
The club's heartbeat matched my own, racing and thudding in techno-time. Our host had already found a woman to cling to on the dance floor. A good-looking man had just dragged Elaine off, which suited me fine. I got to sit at the bar and observe uninhibited humanity without my friend trying to push me toward every man I saw.
In the past, my analysis would have involved smirking at people indulging in their baser instincts, but tonight I saw the writhing crowd as so much more. Sensuality bloomed from the cloud of couples losing themselves on the dance floor and it flooded my veins until my world was in soft-focus. The Long Island Iced Tea that Elaine had ordered for me didn't hurt either.
It was during one of my long perusals of the club that my ever-expanding world screeched to a halt. Sun-kissed blond hair absorbed the effervescent light show, turning his strands a multitude of hues. He had a tall, lean body; not overly-muscled like too many Hollywood wannabes, but fit. When he raised his glass, the muscles in his forearm bunched into a hard knot. He sat far enough down the bar that I could skim his figure without being noticed, but close enough to see details.
The thumping music melted away along with the crowd. His nose had been broken at least once and his jaw inspired unprecedented thoughts of nibbling the line from chin to ear, then sinking my teeth into the soft flesh of his lobe to feel him shudder against me. Muscles shifted under his button-up shirt as he turned in my direction, winked, and raised his glass in a toast.
My eyebrow popped and I turned to my left and right, trying to be casual but curious to see this guy's new friend. No one was immediately obvious so I returned to my drink, staring down into the long glass before taking a long sip. Elaine told me I was too quick to judge people, thus her plying me with alcohol. I figured for one night, wearing this insane getup, I could let go a bit. Hell, I could even feel my hips starting to sway to the music as I sat on one of the high barstools.
A warm hand settled on my shoulder and gently swiveled me around. He smelled like the ocean and nothing else after that mattered, I was sunk.
“Hi,” he said, leaning close to be heard over the music. “Can I sit?”
I nodded, my normal I don't know, can you? comment far from my mind, replaced with awe at his face. I hadn't gotten the full effect from his profile but time crawled by as I drank in the sea green eyes showing a hint of the smile that adorned his full pink lips. “Bettie,” I said and stuck out my hand, feeling award as soon as I did it. Surely a handshake with the most beautiful man one had ever seen was not proper protocol.
But his smile grew and he inched closer, his warm hand engulfing mine. “Robert.” He didn't seem to mind the handshake; he still cradled my hand in his and I didn't dare breathe lest he take it as a sign to release me.
He nodded to the dance floor. “Not your scene, huh?” His lips brushed my ear, his breath ruffled my hair, and warm waves of pleasure suffused through my body.
“How'd you guess?” I returned the intimate whisper and when I heard his sharp inhale the thrill of power drugged me.
His hand let go of mine, but my momentary disappointment vanished when he boxed me into the bar corner and pressed himself against my knees. “You had the same look I have when my well-intentioned friends drag me away from the surf to have a social life.” His smile turned crooked and a little vulnerable and my mind was made up before I'd known the question.
I'd have to thank Elaine for dressing me up because a Bettie Page persona surfaced, surprising both of us. I smoothed my hands up his chest to loop around his neck and pull him down for a hot kiss. He tasted like beer and man with a hint of oceany tang beneath it all. In his arms I was surrounded by my beach-side bliss. “Let's go,” I said.
Normal Bettie wanted to take back the words or scold me for being easy but my Bettie Page told her to stuff it, that I'd have years to be responsible in grad school and beyond. Time to live it up, my break between busting my ass in high school and college, and busting my ass in grad school. To make up for every party and social gathering I’d missed. To feel passion for something other than chemistry. This was my night and my choice.
Only one thing would satisfy me.
He rumbled assent and pulled me from the stool. We were out the door and around the corner up against a wall before I could catch my breath. He pressed me against the cool brick, one hand sliding against the skin of my back and the other tangling in my hair. The tug against my scalp heightened my tactile awareness and my fingers desired to touch him back. I shoved them under his shirt while my eyes rolled back in my head from his fierce kisses. Smooth, warm flesh met my hands and I explored, skimming over his hard little nipples and finding a small hoop pierced through one.
I gave an experimental tug and his hips jerked against me. His cock pressed into the thinly-covered juncture of my thighs, rubbing my clit back and forth. My hips undulated of their own accord in moves I didn't know I had. At that point, nothing mattered but having him inside me. I ached with a soul-deep emptiness only he could fill, Robert who smelled and tasted like the ocean.
“My place is around the corner,” he said, “No more than a five minute walk.”
I nodded. We were beyond words at that point. I jotted off a text to Elaine so she wouldn't worry and grasped Robert's hand as he led the way into my first one-night stand.
The door to his apartment slammed almost as loud as my heart. We tore at each others' clothes desperate to be skin-to-skin. And blessedly, finally, after leaving a trail of cotton and lycra and denim he pressed me into the soft down comforter of his bed, his flesh searing mine. I was drugged, high on his scent and the cool ocean breeze blowing in through the half-open window. Moonlight streamed in to limn his muscles in silver.
“Take me,” I demanded but he laughed and kissed me into a frenzy of desperate lust until I was grinding against his still-covered erection and begging for release.
“Got places to go, Bettie?”
He nibbled my neck, awakening nerves I didn't know I possessed. Chills erupted across my body and I think he kissed every one while I reached for coherence.
“Need more,” I finally managed. He laughed again.
“Such urgency. We have all kinds of time.” He slithered down to my pussy and spread my thighs wide. I moved to cover myself, not used to being open and exposed. Hands of iron stopped my efforts and then his tongue was on me and my muscles went limp from pleasure.
He traced figure eights around my clit and sucked on the labia I always tried to ignore for their lack of logic and symmetry. Under his mouth, they were beautiful.
I was beautiful. And daring as I let him eat me, thrilling at this new me. A Bettie who moaned in ecstasy and pulled his hair to drag him closer. A woman who knew what she wanted and took her pleasure without shame or self-consciousness.
I hurtled toward orgasm. He thrust two fingers into my drenched pussy and found my g-spot with more ease than I ever had. Pinpricks shot across my body. The hair on my arms stood on end from the electricity sparking from where our flesh touched. Even knowing the biological impossibility of it, I felt its truth.
His teeth sank into my clit and I erupted beneath him, coming apart under his hands and being reborn into someone who looked like me but smelled of sweet salt air.
I hauled him up for a kiss, growling at my taste on his lips. Fresh, feminine. Made me crave his skin. He stood, his erection straining against the black cotton of his briefs. I released him and licked his shaft like an ice cream cone and I was a woman dying of hot flashes. He started with compliments but I took him into my mouth and his words turned to mush, groans and gasps I'd never elicited from a man before.
This was power, understanding how biology and chemistry worked to evoke those hormonal messengers in the laboratory of a body and using it to get what I wanted. Absorbed in my task, I yelped when he pulled away and shoved me back to the bed. An unholy fire lit his eyes and I could feel a matching flame in my own.
I watched myself watch him as his cock slipped inside me. I shuddered around the intrusion, feeling whole for the first time since that damned acceptance letter had arrived. His hips swiveled and thrust. My eyes dipped closed under the weight of the impulses running across my nerves but I didn't want to miss a moment of Robert's body on mine, in mine, so deep he touched my soul.
The spark lit and grew. His breathing, ragged, rough, tickled the hair falling across my neck, adding a layer of sensation to the uncontrollable lust coursing through my body. He canted my hips up, thrusting deeper inside me. My nails scored down his back; I wanted to leave something of myself behind when I left.
The new angle brought his hair-rough pelvis against my swollen clit, rubbing and abrading it oh-so-good with every move. The spark went supernova, flaring between our bodies until we burned too hot to contain. He came with one final thrust and the pulsing of his erection pulled me under with him. Again I shattered into fine pieces, only coming back to myself long minutes later to Robert caressing my hair.
“That good, huh?” he said and it was my turn to laugh. Minutes, hours passed, our breathing slowing to match the tempo of crashing waves outside his window.
I should have been making excuses and finding my way back to the club, but I had no desire to do so. And since Robert seemed in no rush to kick me out, I let myself linger in the afterglow, drifting off into the most restful sleep I'd had in years.
I woke to soft lips nuzzling my neck. “What time is it?” I asked, voice morning-rough.
“Sunrise. Let's go,” he said with boyish glee. We dressed and I took my time, not ready for the night to be over. Robert, patient, waited for me with knowing ocean-blue eyes. He took my hand and led me down the back staircase, stopping to kiss me at every landing. Sweet tender kisses with a hint of last night's fire in his lips.
We exited his building in the pre-dawn light of a new morning. I'd never appreciated this time of day, too busy pulling an all-nighter or catching a few hours sleep before my day began.
In this light, the world had a softer edge; anything seemed possible, the very thing I loved so much about chemistry. The very opposite of a sterile laboratory or cookie-cutter lecture hall.
The alley ended in an unobstructed view of the beach and I envied Robert's life. I knew nothing beyond where he lived and that he rose to see the sunrise but it was enough.
Following his lead, I stripped out of my heels at the edge of the sand and followed him to a boulder near the crashing waves. The chill salt air seeped into my bones, a more welcome wakeup than my blaring alarm. I settled in between his legs and his arms held me as the sun rose in a brilliant display of color. I almost told him about the elements that caused each color, the chemicals in the atmosphere that caused such beauty, but I didn't want anything to break the silence of the moment, his lips pressed to the curve of my neck and his heart beating with mine.
Once the sun had overtaken the dawn, he shifted and our moment ended. Old Bettie reared her head, awkward and unsure. “Robert--”
He silenced me with a kiss. “You know where to find me. Don't be a stranger.” He pulled my cell phone from my back pocket and input his phone number. “There. No excuses.” Fingers intertwined, he returned me to the club and left me with a final kiss after I insisted I knew my way home.
Elaine pelted me with questions when I walked into the condo, wanting to know every detail of the night.
“Later,” I told her. For now, the memories were all mine.
We returned to campus on the same roads, in the same car, with the same CD playing on loop. But I had changed, and it was enough.
But I'd definitely be calling him.
Skylar Kade, self-avowed hedonist and princess extraordinaire, started her writing career after throwing aside yet another romance she could not bring herself to finish. The run-on sentences! The purple prose! Oh, the horror of it was just too much. So she sat down to write her own tale. Her favorite part about writing is the extensive research.
She currently resides in sunny southern California, alternately cursing the polluted air and adoring the often-perfect weather. Skylar spends her time asking the cabana boys to bring her more mimosas and feed her strawberries while she dreams up her next naughty adventure.
You can find her erotic romances at Samhain, Siren, and Ellora’s Cave, in print and e-book. Her next release, "His Only Hope," will be out from Samhain Publishing on September 20, 2011. Check it out here.