Chain reaction, p.28
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       Chain Reaction, p.28

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 28


  “Let’s head to the park,” Alex says, then pulls out a tennis ball from the front closet. Paco seems way too excited to play.

  Brittany puts a hand to her forehead. “He’s been looking forward to this all week. I don’t think there’s any stopping him. ” She points to Alex. “I’m talking about my husband, not my son. ”

  “I get a handicap because of my leg!” Carlos yells out, then yelps some kind of war cry he probably learned in the army but sounds ridiculous echoing through our house. If Reyes heard, he’ll probably kick our front door down with his gun blazing thinking we’re getting robbed.

  “You’re not gettin’ a handicap,” Alex tells him. “Your arm isn’t damaged. ”

  “I agree,” I add.

  “Man, you guys are brutal,” Carlos says, although he knows full well that if either me or Alex had any injuries he wouldn’t be giving us a handicap.

  Nikki halts. “All right, I think Panty Discus needs to be explained. It sounds like a slam on women, to be honest. ” She puts her hands on her hips, and all I can think about is seeing those hips without any clothes covering them.

  “It’s not a slam on women,” I tell her. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it became an Olympic sport. ”

  She laughs. “I don’t think so. ”

  We all head over to a huge, empty grassy area by the park.

  “We’re playin’ in teams,” Alex says. “Couples against couples. ”

  “I’m not playing something that’s named Panty Discus,” Brittany exclaims. “I know you explained what it meant, but it still sounds dirty. ” She earmuffs Paco. “And I really don’t want Paco saying it. ”

  Carlos rolls his eyes. “Brit, get that stick out of your rich ass, please, and suck it up. You’re playin’. And when my nephew is old enough, he’ll not only be sayin’ it, he’ll be playin’ it, too. It’s a Fuentes tradition. ”

  Brittany’s mouth is open in shock. “Carlos, if I’m concerned about my son hearing Panty Discus,” she says, whispering the offending words, “do you really think I want him to hear cuss words flying out of your mouth?”

  “Can I at least spell them?” Carlos asks. I don’t think he’s kidding.

  Alex gets in the middle of them. “That’s fine. Brit, if you don’t want to play, you don’t have to. Paco can fill in for you, although to be honest, it’ll probably kill my winnin’ streak. ”

  Brittany walks up to Alex and points her finger to his chest. “I’ll do it, but only because I’m your wife and I love you. ”

  Kiara watches Alex and Brittany with a longing gaze, then stares at my oblivious brother Carlos. Nikki was just joking with her back at the house, but I’ve got the feeling Kiara’s been waiting for a ring from my brother. I don’t know why he’s been dragging his feet, because we all know it’s gonna happen.

  “I’m game,” Kiara says with a sigh.

  I look at Nikki. I can’t wait to get this over with so I can be alone with her.

  “How about you, Nik?” I ask.

  “I’m game, too,” she says, giving me look that gets my heart racing. “Just tell me what to do. ”

  “What does the winner get?” Brittany asks.

  “Braggin’ rights,” Carlos explains. “Which in this family is worth more than money. ” He turns to Kiara. “We better win, mamacita. ”

  Alex sets up a stick as the starting line and shows everyone the homemade Panty Discus contraption—which is just a leg cut off of a pair of women’s panty hose with a ball stuck in the toe end and a knot in the other end. “The object is to toss the Panty Discus as far as you can. Farthest combined toss wins. ”

  “Oldest goes first,” I tell him.

  “Works for me. ” Alex stands at the starting line and starts twirling the ball over his head faster and faster before he releases it. It flies high and far in the air. When it lands, he’s pretty cocky thinking that nobody can best him. He places a rock in its place. “Brit, your turn. ”

  I watch as Brittany tries the same technique, twirling the ball over her head. He stands next to her, coaching, while Paco makes a game of trying to pat down my spiked hair. “Come on, Brit, I got full faith in you to pull this one out,” Alex says to Brittany. “Twirl it faster now. Damn, girl, you look hot doin’ that. Okay, release!”

  She does, but the Panty Discus is released when the ball is aimed to the side and flies out of her hand, heading directly to her right and not straight ahead. It lands about fifteen feet to the side of the starting line.

  “What. The. Hell. Was. That?” Alex asks, sucking in a breath.

  Brittany huffs and cries out, “You said I looked hot and it totally threw me off. It’s not my fault. I’ve never played this game before, Alex. Next time, shut up and let me toss it without your comments. ”

  “Chica, that was embarrassin’. You need some intensive Panty Discus instruction. ” He playfully picks her up and carries her to where we’re sitting. “When we get home—”

  “My turn!” Carlos says, rubbing his hands together gleefully. “Watch and learn from the expert, people. ” He limps over to the starting line and circles one end of the hose over his head. “You takin’ notes, Kiara?”

  “I’m too busy w-w-watching your muscles flex,” she says.

  He wags his eyebrows at her, then whips the Panty Discus with all he’s got and it lands a yard or so farther than Alex’s toss. Carlos yelps out another war cry and kisses his newfound army muscles. “Army strong, suck’ahs!”

  “You’re loco,” I tell him as he puts a stick to mark the place of his throw and hands the Panty Discus to Kiara.

  Kiara imitates Carlos’s helicopter-style move and does a pretty good job whipping the hose in front of her. It doesn’t go as far as his, but at least it’s straight. Carlos nods, impressed with her toss. “I think we’ve got it in the bag, Kiara,” he tells her as he marks her spot.

  My turn.

  “Wait!” Nikki says before I step up to the starting line. She rushes up to me and crushes my mouth to hers. “Good luck. ”

  “Mmm, I like good luck kisses. We should have Panty Discus tournaments all the time,” I say.

  She stands aside while I take a deep breath and channel all of my energy toward getting this thing past Carlos’s marker. I twirl the hose around, then with all my might whip it in the air. It flies high, and I’m sure I got the height but fear I’m lacking the distance until it falls a few inches past Carlos’s stick.

  “No way!” Carlos says.

  I kiss my muscles, mocking him. “Don’t knock the swimmer, suck’ahs! Even in the off season we can kick butt. ”

  I grab Nikki around the waist and pull her against me. “How was that?”

  “Perfect. ”

  “Your turn. Make me proud, chica. ”

  Nikki walks up to the starting line, determination and focus outlined in her tense expression. She whips the ball around her head like a warrior with a war club, then releases the thing in the air with a loud grunt that echoes throughout the park.

  It lands way farther than Kiara’s. Adding up the combined distances, we win.

  I point to Nikki. “That’s my girl. ”

  She jumps up and down, raising her hands in the air like we just won a trip to Hawaii. “We did it!”

  As we’re celebrating, a car drives up with a bunch of girls inside. The car stops and a girl gets out. She’s got a huge grin on her face and is walking with a sway of her hips as she makes a direct beeline toward Carlos. “Carlos!” she says excitedly. “I can’t believe it’s you! My brother told me you were back, but … well, my friends and I were about to go to the city, but I made them make a detour. I had to check for myself to see if it was true. ”

  It’s Destiny, my brother’s ex from high school.

  My brother’s eyes go wide with shock. “Holy s-h-i-t, Des. It’s been a long time. How the h-e-l-l are ya?” He points to Paco. “Gotta watch the language around my nephew. ”
r />   She laughs. “Hangin’ in there. Going to school for nursing. What about you?”

  “I’m in the army. Stationed in the Middle East, but I’m on leave. ”

  “Wow. ” She makes a point of licking her lips as she checks him out. “Tú eres guapo. ”

  “You look great, too. The same as I remember. ”

  “You still single?”

  He holds up his left hand and points to his ring finger. “Yep. Still a bachelor. ”

  “Awesome. ” One of her friends calls to her. “I got to go, but it was great seeing you. ” She pulls out a card from her purse. “Call me sometime. My number’s on the back. I’d love to catch up. ”

  “Cool,” he says, shoving the card in his back pocket.

  We all watch as my brother’s ex-girlfriend wraps her arms around him and hugs him tight. There are a few kinds of hugs. A short, impersonal “obligatory” hug. A medium-length “it’s good to see you” hug, and then there’s the kind of hug that Destiny is currently giving my brother. It’s a lingering, “I want to be more than friends” hug/squeeze combo.

  I look over at Kiara, standing beside Brittany, absolutely aware of the kind of hug Destiny is giving my brother.

  “Really, call me,” she calls out as she goes back to her friends.

  When Carlos finally turns around and faces us, he must see the look of shock on our faces. I think nobody wants to talk first, because we don’t know what to say.

  Kiara finally does the talking.

  She holds up her left hand and shows off the “no ring” finger. “Still a bachelor!” she says sarcastically, mimicking him. “Are you kidding me?”

  “What?” he says, clueless. “It’s the truth. What do you want me to do, lie to her?”

  “No, I want you to press your bodies together and grind against each other like you were doing. ”

  “I didn’t grind against her. It was an innocent hug good-bye. ”

  “I-I-Innocent? Honey, that hug was anything but innocent. ”

  “Kiara, you’re overreactin’. You want to argue, is that what this is all about? ’Cause I’m leavin’ soon and we won’t be seein’ each other for at least six more months. The last thing I need is you creatin’ drama. ”

  “No, I don’t want to argue. And I’m not creating drama, Carlos. You are. ” Kiara’s nostrils flare in fury, and I notice her eyes getting watery. But she doesn’t lash out at him, or start bawling. Instead she just says, “Maybe you should get back with Destiny. I think she’d like that. ”

  “Is that what you want?”

  “It seems like that’s what you want. Why don’t you take out that card and call her?”

  “Maybe I will,” he yells, pissed off now.

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