Chain reaction, p.14
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       Chain Reaction, p.14

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 14


  “I don’t bonk. ”

  Marco sticks his head between us. “Yes, Nikki, you do. I’ve got firsthand knowledge. ” He pats me on the chest with the back of his hand. “But she likes to call it makin’ love. Ain’t that the truth, puta?”

  “Lay off, man,” I tell Marco in a stern voice, but as I look at his eyes and see they’re completely bloodshot I know he’s wasted.

  “Why should I lay off?” Marco drapes his arm around Nikki and kisses her cheek mockingly. She doesn’t move a muscle. “Nikki here likes gettin’ down and dirty, don’t you, baby?”

  She winces. I push him away from her and say to him, “Come on, man. Don’t be a pendejo. ”

  In a flash she runs down the hall and disappears.

  “Since we broke up all she does is hang out with rich white dudes. Every once in a while she needs to be reminded what it was like to be with a Latino stud,” Marco says.

  I take my books out of my locker and head to class. “You should probably go home and sleep off whatever you’re on, ese. ”

  “Need to stay in school,” he answers. “If I’m absent, they won’t let me try out for the soccer team. ”

  Soccer tryouts are today and tomorrow after school. Soccer wasn’t a popular sport at Flatiron High, but at Fairfield it’s obviously big because everyone is talking about it. Even some of the girls talked about watching the tryouts.

  I don’t see Nikki until the end of the day, in chemistry. She’s standing at the lab table across from me. “What’s up?” I say.

  She doesn’t respond.

  “Marco didn’t mean what he said this mornin’. ”

  “Yes, he did. You guys are all alike. Leave me alone. ”

  “Why does Nikki hate me so much?” I ask Derek.

  He laughs. “Nikki hates every guy who reminds her of Marco. You’re Mexican, he’s Mexican … and worse, you’re friends. ’Nuff said. ”

  “So she goes for guys like Hunter instead?”

  He shakes his head. “Don’t ask me. I’m having enough troubles with my own relationship; the last thing I want to do is try to analyze someone else’s. ” Derek and I start getting our lab station ready while we wait for Peterson’s instructions. “You ever have a girlfriend?” he asks me.

  “Not a serious one—nothin’ that lasted more than a couple of months. ” I dated a girl when I lived in Mexico, but her parents didn’t like me. They said they didn’t want their daughter running with some poor dude. I bet if her parents knew I was living back in the U. S. they’d be pissed we broke up. Getting a one-way ticket to the States without sneaking across the border like a fugitive is like winning the lottery.

  “A bunch of us are gonna watch you at soccer tryouts,” Mariana says to me as she leans across the lab table. “I hear you’ve got moves. ”

  Nikki snorts.

  “Table one, I hear talking!” Peterson yells from across the room. “Do you four want a detention, because I have some detention slips in my desk collecting dust. You know how much I hate dust. ”

  After the final bell rings, Derek and I head for the locker room. During tryouts, the social divide is blurred. The coach puts Marco and me on the same team and we dominate. The other side can’t even score. Justin Dougan, who happens to be our goalie, pushes me from behind when I get close to our net to block a ball.

  “What the fuck, Dougan. If you haven’t noticed, we’re on the same team. ”

  “Oops,” he says sarcastically, then holds out his hand so anyone watching would think he’s about to help me up.

  I whack his hand away. “Were you born a prick?”

  “Shut up, Fuentes. We might be on the same team, but we’ll never be in the same league. ”

  Derek stands beside me. “Dougan, get over yourself. ”

  “It’s cool,” I tell Derek, and ignore Dougan the rest of the time.

  At the end of practice, all the guys walk to the hot dog place a block away from school. Derek has been preoccupied the entire walk over. He pulls out his cell phone and starts texting the minute we get our food and sit down.

  “You been datin’ Kendall a long time?” I ask him.

  “Since this summer,” he says. “She doesn’t trust me. She thinks I’m gonna cheat on her or find someone else if we go to different colleges. ” He grabs a fry. “I love her, you know. I can’t even see myself with anyone else. ”

  “Does she know you’re in it for the long haul?”

  “Shit, Luis, I tell her all the time. Nikki’s been putting negativity and doubts in her head ever since we started going out. Don’t get me wrong … I think Nikki’s cool, but she thinks we’re all out to screw as many girls as possible. I wish she had a boyfriend so she’d loosen up. ” He nods in my direction. “Would you date her?”

  I think of Nikki’s feisty attitude mixed with her delicate vulnerability that intrigues me to no end. She’s also crazy beautiful with a body that has inspired more than a few fantasies. I’m afraid if I dated her, I wouldn’t want to let her go. I’d have to, though. I have a long-term plan, and it doesn’t include being tied down to a girl.

  “So, would you date her, or what?” Derek asks again.

  “I’d go out with her,” I admit.

  “I’m supposed to have Kendall come on my boat next weekend. You should come with us … I’ll have her bring Nikki. ”

  “Nikki won’t go if she knows I’m gonna be there,” I tell him.

  “Leave that up to me. ”

  A kid I don’t know walks past us. “Hey, Ben!” Derek says.

  The kid gives a half wave as he heads to the game room off to the side.

  “That’s Ben Cruz, Nikki’s brother,” Derek explains. “He’s a freshman and is completely antisocial if you’re not into gaming. ”

  “Gamin’, huh?” I say.

  “Yep. ”

  I wander into the game room after I finish eating and most of the guys have left.

  Ben is playing some alien shooting game when I walk up to him. He’s in the zone and doesn’t look up until the game is over.

  “You’re Nikki’s brother, right?” I ask before he slips another token in the slot.

  He looks at me, then goes back to playing the game.

  “I’m Luis Fuentes,” I tell him.

  He starts shooting aliens. “I know who you are. You’re Alex’s brother. ”

  “How’d you know?”

  He shrugs. “Photographic memory, I guess. ”

  Gamers love when you speak their language. “You ever play World of Warcraft?”

  “Of course. ”

  “They’ve got some sick graphics. ” I had played WoW, but the free trial period ended and there was no way I could afford the monthly fee. “Awesome game,” I tell him.

  When he finds out I’ve played WoW, his entire face lights up. “I’ve been playing for two years,” he says. “I’m designing my own adventure game with awesome graphics and levels just like Warcraft. Nobody really cares except gamers. ”

  “I’ll bet it’s cool. ” I definitely appreciate strategic computer games.

  “I’d show it to you …” He hesitates. “But you probably don’t want to come to my house. ”

  “Why not?”

  “Because I’m a geeky freshman and you’re a senior who hangs with the tough kids and jocks. On top of that, I heard my sister telling her friends that you’re a jerk. ”

  Marco yells out, “Yo, Luis. We’re goin’ over to Juan’s house to hang out. Come on, I’ll give you a ride. ”

  Ben stiffens as soon as Marco’s voice bellows through the air. The poor kid is scared shitless of Marco. Is it because of Nikki? Or did Ben and Marco have a problem in the past?

  “I’m gonna stay here,” I tell Marco.

  He laughs. “All right. But when you get bored playin’ with the geeks, call me. ”

  Ben pretends not to hear the insult. We talk about online games versus traditional arcade games. It doesn’t
take long before Ben insists I come to his house so he can show me the new game he’s developing that would mix the two. The kid is more excited than I would be if I got a Camaro.

  When I follow Ben up the driveway of his house, it’s hard not to be impressed. Inside, each room is decorated in weird patterns and colors. They have a computer room decorated in a jungle theme complete with a stuffed tiger in the corner.

  Ben has a superhigh-tech computer with a huge monitor that looks like a television screen. I bet the whole thing cost close to four Gs.

  Ben explains how to play the game he’s designing. I choose to be a dragon slayer and my mission is to battle the badass dragon who’s guarding my princess. In the middle of my battle, the dragon freezes. Ben takes the controller from me.

  “I need to fix that bug,” he says. I try and help him, although computer coding is not my strong suit.

  “What are you doing here?” Nikki asks me when she walks into the computer room.

  “Playin’ video games with your brother. ”

  “He’s a freshman,” she says.

  “So? Luis’s a gamer,” Ben tells her proudly. “Just like me. Us gamers have to stick together. ”

  Nikki sneers at me. “Luis is not a gamer, Ben. ” She huffs in frustration and storms out of the room.

  “Be right back,” I tell Ben, then I follow Nikki. She’s heading for the stairs, but I grab her elbow and force her to look at me. “What’s your problem?”

  “I don’t like you. ”

  “You haven’t even given me a chance. ”

  She laughs. “I don’t need to. You’re too cocky for your own good. ”

  “It’s a cover-up for my extreme insecurity when it comes to you. Maybe if we kissed it would prove whether we have chemistry or not. ”

  “Just one kiss?”

  I nod. “You don’t know what you’re missin’. ”

  She closes the space between us and, before my brain has time to contemplate what’s about to happen, Nikki grabs the back of my hair and pulls my head to hers so our lips are just barely touching.

  Talk about an adrenaline rush.

  “Do you kiss with just lips?” she whispers, then brushes her lips against mine. “Or do you spice it up a bit?” Her tongue darts between my lips in a slow, sensuous rhythm that sends images of us together in a more intimate setting rushing through my head.

  I keep my hands at my sides, letting her control this. That means I’m in control of myself, even if she’s controlling the kiss. I know she’s fucking with me, making me all hot and bothered just to dis me after.

  I’ve got this. In fact, I think she’s the one losing control.

  “I definitely like to spice it up. ” I glide my tongue against hers. It’s hot and wet and feels fucking incredible. A small moan escapes from her mouth that I swear sounds like, “Oh, Luis,” and that’s where I lose it.

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