Tinderbox by A.R. Hadley


He stood at the lectern, dressed to the nines.

Who does this guy think he is … Matthew Soren PhD?

“Fundamentally, faith in a higher power, a creator, is rooted in deceit. I will walk you through what led me to this belief. Because you see, I was not always an atheist…”

His words belie his stellar suit. More like a suit of armor. What are you protecting yourself from, Mr. Soren? 

When his speech ended twenty minutes later, the room burst into applause. I looked at the pacified crowd of college students. I watched them disperse and waited until they finished congratulating the handsome man.


I went right up to the knight in his armor, ready to put a chink in it. “What convinces you that you are right?”

“Excuse me?” He turned. His blue eyes traced the contours of my face.

Jesus Christ. 

I snickered. Out loud. Because after all, he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.

“Are you a student here?”

“No.” Do I look that young? You look naïve. And you are still laughing. Like. A. School. Girl. Hush. 

“Um, excuse me.” I straightened my jacket and my face. “I said, what convinces you that you are right?”

He continued examining me with a subtle sensual scrutiny. “Did you listen to my speech, Miss…?”

“Ms. Carmichael.” I extended my hand, and as we touched, the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. Military attention. “And, yes, I did listen. I took notes.”

Arching an eyebrow, he smirked.

“I heard you were lecturing. I wanted to hear your speech. I teach literature, but I’m also a minister.” Ah, there’s the pity, over his face like a wet blanket. 

“If you took notes, you should know I already answered that question in—”

“—in your speech.” I finished his sentence. I can play this game. “You don’t do personal interviews then?” I peered at him, pretending he didn’t intimidate me. But he did. Unexpectedly so. It was his eyes. Blue like my favorite pair of jeans. Confident and blue. A perfect complement to his jet black hair.

I want to slide my fingers through it and… Stop it!  

“How personal do you mean?”

Argh! He didn’t miss a beat and the inflection in his voice only meant one thing. He caught me ogling. Those denim eyes studied every inch of my body with the precision of a stealth flier. “Mr. Soren…”

“It’s Matt.”

“Matthew, I would really like to ask you some questions.”

“To disprove my beliefs?”

“Your theories.”

“Beliefs, Ms. Carmichael.”

“It’s Tracey.”

“Would you like to prove me wrong over coffee, Tracey?”

Smooth, Matthew.

No wonder he convinces students to abandon any shred of spiritual curiosity. “Have you ever studied the cell, Mr. Soren?”

He smiled and cleared his throat. “Do you think there is a Christian argument I am not familiar with, Ms. Carmichael?”

“I’m not arguing.”

“Indeed. What is your motivation then?”

“The cell has…” He interrupted the start of my sermon merely by standing taller, if possible, because he already had a good six inches over me, and I wore heels, but nevertheless, he stood taller and he inched forward. His smile spread, and that obnoxious grin coupled with the yummy smell of him, probably Temptation or Obsession or some other aptly named cologne, all of him, rendered me practically speechless. I. am. Never. Speechless.

“Have coffee with me.” He brushed my bangs away from my eyes. “I’m not asking.”

Ahem. Neck hair. Prickle. Tickle. “What is your motivation?” Was that my voice? A mousy squeak?

“To kiss you.”

“To kiss me?” I fumbled. The entire length of a football field.

“Yes. Would you like me to demonstrate my motivation, here?” He looked around. “In the classroom?”

I recovered. “The brain—” Almost.

“What?” He laughed.

The brain. You have one. Speak.

“In the time it took for you to look at me like that—”

“Like what?” He managed to press closer to me. Space didn’t exist between us.


“In the time it took for you to look at me, to suggest kissing me, to step forward, not to mention the blood that’s probably rushing to your lower extremities, not to mention the fact that you are continuously breathing.” He cupped the nape of my neck. “And that…” I stammered. “…all of it — a million little synapses are occurring in your brain. Right now. Instantly. Doing things you don’t even have to think about. You just do—”

His lips fell against mine.

You just do. You just do. You just do. 

I opened my mouth. His tongue slipped in, swirling, tasting and silencing me. Synapses on fire.

Brain… No. No thinking. Think. Think. Think.

I pulled away. Dizzy. Discombobulated.

Why is he having such an effect on me? An atheist. Jesus. That’s right, Tracey, only Jesus can save you from the sin of wanting to bed an…

He took my hand. “There’s a great little cafe on 8th.” He jingled the keys in his pocket. “I’ll meet you there.”

“You brought your car?”


“And it was made at a factory, by hardworking men and women, as well as the parts?”


“And have you met them, those people?”


He knows I’m baiting him. He’s allowing it. Because he wants to silence me with his prowess. “Then your car, it must have come about by chance. No one created it, correct?”

The handsome devil smiled and shook his head. “Oh, we will have fun together.”

My face flushed. The last time I turned the color of a rose bush I was probably fifteen, with a crush.

This is insane.

“Fun?” I tilted my flaming red head to the side.

“You can spend all night trying to convince me.” His irises’ danced, wining and dining me. “I am very motivated.”

The suit and the promise of what was underneath of it left me out of my mind.

My brain.

I’m a goner. He put a chink in my armor. Lord help me. Save me. Forgive me of my sins. 

“All night, huh?” I grinned.

I’ll have you calling out the Lords name, Mr. Atheist Matthew Soren PhD, before the night is over. 

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley has been a creative writer since elementary school, however, she all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness derived from being imaginative.

No more.

She rediscovered her passion in 2014, and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. A.R is currently working on a set of novels as part of a romantic trilogy, and also dabbles in penning short stories.

Day or night, words float around inside her brain. She hears dialogue when awakening from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen.

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