Chain reaction, p.32
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       Chain Reaction, p.32
 

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 32

 

  “It’s yours,” I say.

  “I don’t know what to say. It must’ve cost you a fortune. I just … wow. I’d beg you to return it and get your money back, but I don’t want to part with it. ”

  I kiss him on his cheek. “It’s okay. I didn’t need that college fund, anyway. ” He cocks an eyebrow, and I smile mischievously. “I’m just kidding. I had money saved up from babysitting and birthdays. ” With my forefinger, I run a path down the front of his shirt. “Besides, you’re worth it. ”

  “That’s debatable, mi chava. ” He stills my hand. “It’s the coolest gift anyone’s ever given me. ”

  “Good. Mission accomplished. ”

  “Not yet. ” He puts the meteorite gently back in the box and kisses me passionately until I’m wanting more and my insides are melting. I’m breathless and never want to stop. Knowing that we’re alone, and I have another gift planned for him, makes me want to skip dinner altogether. “Thanks for the gift,” he says against my lips.

  “My pleasure. ” Flustered now, I step away from him and gesture to the dining room, where everything is set up. “I made an authentic Mexican meal. ”

  “Recipes passed down from your abuelita?”

  “Not really. Try a cookbook I bought yesterday at the mall. ”

  He laughs. “Next time you want to make an authentic Mexican meal, call me first. Miamá taught me and my brothers to cook when we were kids. ”

  After serving him a plate of chicken enchiladas and guacamole, I realized that I should have followed the recipe and mixed the avocado by hand instead of blending it in a mixer. It was like soup, and did not taste good at all. I made a flan for dessert, but it fell into chunky gelatinous pieces as I served it to him.

  “You did an awesome job,” he says as he fishes for the slippery flan eluding his spoon.

  “You’re lying. It sucked. Face reality, Luis. I should have ordered takeout. If you were Mrs. Peterson, you’d give me a D minus on this meal. ”

  He laughs. “An A plus for effort. The tortilla chips were awesome. ”

  “That’s because I bought them ready-made at the Mexican grocery in Wheeling,” I say.

  When we’re done, he helps me clear the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Afterward, I see him leaning against the kitchen counter watching me. “You have a plan for the rest of the night, or are we gonna wing it?”

  I take his hand and weave his fingers through mine. “I have another birthday present for you. ”

  “What is it?”

  I lean close to his ear and whisper, “Me. ” He swallows, hard. I watch as the muscle in his jaw twitches. “Want to go upstairs … to my bedroom?”

  He nods slowly. “I didn’t think you could top that meteorite gift, but you just did. ”

  I take his hand and lead him to my room. My heart is racing the entire time, because I’ve prepared myself for this. I tell myself it’s okay, because I want this as much as Luis. I’m in control here. I just have to keep myself in check and not let my emotions run wild.

  Luis walks around my room, studying the pictures on my wall. Most of them are of me and my friends. Some are dogs from the shelter. He stops when his eyes focus on the one of me and him at Alex and Brittany’s wedding two summers ago. We both had no clue the photographer had caught the moment on camera.

  He points to it. “How did you get this?”

  “Brittany brought it over when she had dinner at my house one night. ”

  He points to the expression on my face. “You were so pissed. Look at me, with that stupid-ass cocky grin. I thought I was the shit back then. ” He shakes his head, then scans the rest of the pictures.

  While his back is turned to me, I reach around and slowly unzip my dress. “You are the shit, Luis,” I say in a teasing voice.

  “Nah, I’m—”

  He stops midsentence as he looks at me and it registers that I’m unzipping my dress. My mouth is dry as I slide the straps down my shoulders slowly until the material falls to the floor in a pool at my feet.

  His eyes never leave me. Mine never leave him.

  “What were you saying?” I ask.

  “I forgot. ” His gaze travels down the length of my body. I dressed in pink lace panties and a matching bra, prepared for us to be together tonight. “Mi chava …” He takes a step toward me. “I didn’t think you could look more beautiful than when you opened the door tonight. But you do. ”

  I hold my breath in anticipation and longing as his fingers skim lightly over my shoulders before gently slipping my bra straps aside.

  This is okay, I tell myself. I can enjoy this and stay as emotionally detached as I want. His lips replace his fingers. He kisses one shoulder, then brushes his warm lips across my neck and kisses the other one.

  I grab on to him for support because his warm breath brushing over my skin makes me dizzy. I want him here with me, I want him close … but this is sex. It has to be just sex.

  I grab him over his pants, then unzip his jeans.

  “Easy, girl,” he says, amused.

  He puts an arm around me, holding me steady, as he bends down to kiss me. It’s not just any kiss. His lips move slowly over mine, brushing against them before his tongue reaches out. I feel his hot breath mingle with mine as our tongues glide over each other’s in a slow rhythm that makes my skin hot and sweaty. His hands move slowly up and down the curve of my back in the same rhythm as our kiss.

  Truth is, being with Luis makes me want to ditch all of my self-awareness and give in to every temptation.

  He pulls his shirt over his head, then tosses it aside. He’s got a big scab on his arm. “What happened?” I ask, tracing around it.

  “Just got a cut workin’ at the garage,” he says, dismissing it.

  “What were you doing?”

  He hesitates long enough for me to question whether he’s about to tell me the truth.

  “It’s not important. ” He kisses me again, trying to make me forget about his mystery wound. It works for the moment.

  We strip naked and move to the bed. Instead of jumping each other’s bones, he takes his sweet time running his hands over every inch of my body as if he’s going to memorize it for a painting later.

  I follow his lead, skimming my palm across his hot skin in a slow, torturous pattern until he’s panting. I lean over him and use my lips and tongue, exploring every inch. He grabs the sheets so hard his knuckles turn white. It makes me feel like I have the power, not the other way around.

  Until it’s his turn to explore. I try to stay calm. But it’s hard. I brace myself for it to happen any minute now. He gently pushes the hair out of my face as he gazes into my eyes. “I’m livin’ my fantasy,” he says.

  “What fantasy is that?” I ask.

  “Bein’ alone with the girl I love. I love you, Nikki. You know that, right?”

  Umm … “Yes. Me too,” I say dumbly, trying to block the rush of emotions threatening to surface.

  His thumb traces my lips and I swear his eyes are getting all glassy. “I’ve never felt this way about another girl before,” he whispers.

  No.

  I don’t want to keep hearing words of love.

  Luis is dangerous and has the ability to suck me in if I let him. I can’t let that happen. He’s got secrets. I’ve got secrets. We can’t share them, but we can share our bodies.

  “Let’s have sex,” I blurt out. I reach over and open my side-table drawer. I pull out a condom from the box I bought over the weekend and hand it to him. “Here. ”

  “Lo único que quiero es hacerte el amor, mi vida. ” I look at him with a blank stare. I think he forgot that Spanish came out of his mouth automatically. “I want to make love to you, Nikki. More than anythin’. But you said—”

  “Forget what I said. Let’s do it. ” He leans in to kiss me again, but I put a hand on his chest and nudge him away. “Put the condom on. ”

  “Now?”
r />   “Yeah, now. ”

  He seems a little frustrated that I’m rushing this, but he rips open the package and puts on the condom. If we do this fast, and I’m able to keep myself free of emotion, it’ll be fine. Tonight will wipe the bad memories of me and Marco away.

  He’s poised above me now, his hands braced on either side of my head. I gaze up at his light brown skin slick against mine. “Come on,” I say, urging him along.

  His lips are inches away from mine. “I got to be honest, Nik. This isn’t how I imagined it. ”

  “It’s fine. Let’s just do it. Hurry up. ”

  I squeeze my eyes shut. I can’t look at him. Not now, when I’m determined to stay emotionless. He hesitates, then swears under his breath and pushes himself off me.

  Cold air rushes under the blanket as he sits on the edge of the bed. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “Why’d you stop?”

  He pulls off the condom and tosses it in the trash. “This ain’t workin’ for me. ”

  “Why not?”

  He looks back at me, pissed. “Shit, Nik, you’re actin’ as though this is a one-night stand between strangers. I’m trying to make love to you and your eyes are shut so damn tight it looked like you were wishin’ I was someone else. ”

  “I’m not … I wasn’t. ”

  “Forget it. ” He grabs his boxers and puts them on. “Next time your boyfriend tells you he loves you, you might want to acknowledge it with more than a yeah, me too. ”

  “I don’t want you to love me,” I snap.

  “Too late, mi chava. ”

  I sit up. “I can’t do the love thing, Luis. ”

  “So you just want a fuck partner, is that it?” he snaps, then shoves his legs into his pants. “It would’ve been cool of you to let me know we were just gonna screw so I didn’t make a fool of myself pourin’ out my feelings. ”

  “You didn’t make a fool out of yourself. Don’t be mad. I just don’t want to get hurt again. I won’t repeat what I did with—”

  “Marco,” he says, finishing my sentence. “I’m fuckin’ sick and tired of it always comin’ back to you and Marco. You still in love with him?”

  “I’m not … I don’t. You have no clue what I went through. ” I can’t get the words out.

  “Tell me, then. Tell me, so you can finally move on. ”

  “I can’t. ”

  He grabs his shirt off the floor and looks at me with a grave expression on his face. “Do you love me?”

  I clutch my blanket to my chest and give him the only answer I can. “No. ”

  39

  Luis

  I want to destroy something, anything. I left Nikki’s house tonight knowing one thing—it’s over. I was an idiot to think she feels the same way about me that I feel about her. I wanted to believe she was holding back because she was scared … but in reality she was just using me to get over someone else.

  Instead of going home, I drive to the LB warehouse. On the way, I notice a car in the rearview mirror that I’ve seen a couple of times before. Am I being tailed? I speed through busier parts of town and lose them. At the warehouse, Marco is sitting with a bunch of guys. Some are drinking beer, some are smoking dope. It’s the scene miamá wanted to shelter me from, probably because she knew I’d be drawn to it at some point.

 
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