Chain reaction, p.36
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       Chain Reaction, p.36
 

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 36

 

  All of them lead me to a room without any windows. I notice dried blood stains on the floor. I should be scared, but I’m not. Marco catches my attention. He’s excited, like my jumping in will raise his position in the Blood.

  A few of the OGs stand behind me, probably making sure I don’t get last-minute jitters and escape.

  “You ready?” Chuy asks.

  I nod. A deep rage simmers inside me, desperate to be unleashed. I don’t know how much longer I can hold it back.

  Chuy grabs my chin, his fingers digging into my skin. “Your face reminds me of Alex,” he says. “I enjoyed bringin’ him to his knees when he jumped out. What sweet revenge this is gonna be. ”

  I pull myself out of his grasp, but the second I’m free Chuy’s iron-hard fist flies in my face. He must have a ring on, because something sharp slashed my cheek.

  “One,” he says, gloating over the obvious damage.

  “Two,” I hear him call out. The rest of the guys start closing in. I quickly shield my face with my hands and arms. It’s hard keeping them up when, blow after blow, my body aches and wants to crumple to the ground.

  “Three. ”

  A blow to my side makes me want to cry out, but I don’t. I hold it in. I can handle anything, even this. I want to fight back, but Chuy’s words are in the back of my head. Our punches will be harder.

  “Four. ”

  Marco clocks me in the jaw when I move my hands for a split second. I taste blood, but don’t have time to dwell on it as I struggle to stay upright. I’m waiting to hear the number thirteen. It’ll be over at thirteen.

  “Five. ”

  One of the guys kicks the back of my knee hard. I stumble to the ground. I’m on my hands and knees now. I’m trying to stand, but can’t. I get kicked hard in the stomach.

  “Six. ”

  I manage to stand up. Each blow feeds the restless fire inside me. I can handle this. I can handle anything.

  “Seven. ”

  I have my hands covering my head again, but I don’t think it does any good. A kick to my back makes me wince. I’m losing energy fast.

  “Eight. ”

  Block it out, Luis. Block out the pain and think about something else.

  Think about Nikki, the girl who stole your heart and ran away with it.

  “Nine. ”

  These guys fight like pros, though. They fight as hard and rough as Alex and Carlos. If Nikki were here, would she care that I was being beaten?

  “Ten. ”

  I think it’s almost done. I don’t know. I’m trying to stay strong but the constant blows and kicks are threatening to break me down, just like Chuy warned. My body has been hit so hard, I think one of these guys must either be wearing steel-toe shoes or has been specially trained for kicking. No. I won’t let them win. I’m in charge of my destiny, not them.

  “Eleven. ”

  Please let this be over soon. I feel my body going limp, and I can’t hold in my rage any longer.

  I don’t hear the number twelve. Chuy has stopped counting. The bastard is just standing, prolonging the beating. The fact that with each blow I’m stepping into the LB and out of Nikki’s life forever is too much to take.

  Fuck this game Chuy’s playing. I start swinging, ready to bring down anyone who dares to get near me.

  “Shit,” I hear someone yell after I punch him.

  I bring two more down while some OGs are trying to pin me to the ground. Chuy is standing off to the side, enjoying this. He’s got a cocky grin on his face that needs to be wiped off, right now.

  I deck two more guys and squirm out of the grasp of the OGs and go after Chuy. I want nothing more right now than to unleash my fury on him. He swings at me, but I’m faster. My fist connects with the side of his jaw. He flies back, and I get brief satisfaction while four of the OGs grab my hands and twist them behind my back.

  Chuy is bleeding out of the side of his mouth. He doesn’t bother wiping it off … instead he licks it like a bloodsucking vampire. I may not get out of this alive, but at this point I don’t give a shit.

  “We have a little miscommunication, pequeña mierda. You seem to think you’re runnin’ this show. Maybe you forgot that I’m the boss here. Not you. You think you could replace me?”

  “Yeah,” I mumble.

  He punches me in the gut and I double over, but the guys holding my arms like a damn vise straighten me back up.

  “Wrong answer. I’ll ask again. You think you could replace me?”

  I take a deep breath, force myself to ignore the piercing pain my body is in, and look up. “Yeah,” I say.

  He punches my face, this time harder—if that was even possible. My head reels in pain.

  “Wrong answer. I’ll ask again. You think you could replace me?”

  I try to open my eyes wider, but I can’t. I do the best I can, though, through the haze. “Yeah. ”

  He punches me in the gut again. He might have broken a rib, ’cause I felt something crack.

  “Wrong answer. I’ll ask again. You think you could replace me?”

  It’s done. I lost Nikki. I lost NASA. I lost everyone else. The only thing I have left is my father’s legacy as a hardass who never backed down until he was dead and buried. I’ll hang on to that legacy for as long as I can.

  “Sí. ”

  “Delgado, get me an electric shaver,” Chuy orders. “And a screwdriver … a sharp one. ”

  “Why?” Marco asks.

  “Just do it, you stupid little fuck. If you don’t want to end up like this pendejo, do it. ”

  Chuy’s next blow to my head is the last thing I remember before I black out.

  When I come to, I’m lying on the cement floor.

  “¡Felicitaciones!” Chuy says as he crouches beside me. I catch sight of the gold rings on his fingers. “You’re one of us now. ”

  I just want to lie back down right here on the floor and sleep until my body stops screaming out in pain.

  44

  Nikki

  Marco finally answers my call after an hour of me trying nonstop.

  “Where’s Luis?” I ask him.

  “I dropped him off at home a few minutes ago,” Marco’s voice echoes through the receiver. He chuckles, the sound mocking me. “He’s in bad shape, but he’ll survive. He’s one tough motherfucker. Didn’t know he had so much fight in him, but Chuy brought him to his knees. ”

  My heart slams in my chest. “You could have stopped it. ”

  “You’re delusional. Luis wanted it … he asked for it. Get your head out of your ass and face the fact, Nik. You don’t have a hold on him anymore. The LB does. ”

  “Why did you pick the LB over me, Marco? Tell me the truth. ”

  “Money, status, brotherhood. You and I would’ve never lasted, and I knew it. You were a temporary distraction from my goals. ”

  A temporary distraction. The truth definitely hurts, but it’s a dull ache instead of real pain. I’m over him, over us, over what happened as a result of our relationship.

  “I was pregnant the day we broke up,” I tell him, then look at the picture of me and Luis dancing at Alex and Brittany’s wedding, still up on my wall. Somehow seeing Luis’s goofy grin as he tried to get me to smile gives me the hope and the strength to get through this conversation. “I’ve carried guilt about not telling you for over two years. I had a miscarriage, and our breakup—combined with losing our baby—messed me up for a long time. ”

  I stop talking and wait for his reaction. I don’t know what I want him to say, or what I expect him to say.

  “How do you know the kid was mine?” he says in a cocky tone.

  He knew I was his first and he was mine. There was nobody else. His question is so insulting he doesn’t deserve an answer.

  I hang up on him, then call Kendall. “Luis got jumped into the Latino Blood tonight,” I tell her. “I’m going to his house to make sure he’s okay. ”

>   “I’m coming with you,” she says. I hear Derek’s muffled voice as she tells him what’s going on. “Derek’s coming, too. We’ll be at your house in five minutes. ”

  “Hurry,” I tell her.

  I knock on Luis’s front door, but there’s no answer. The door is slightly open, so we walk in.

  “Luis?” I call out.

  No one responds. I go to his room, knowing that he’s here … feeling his presence somewhere in the house.

  “I’ll check the bedrooms,” Derek says. “You two stay by the front door. If you need to get out of here fast, just go. ”

  Derek opens the door to Luis’s bedroom. I squeeze Kendall’s arm, scared of what he’ll find … if anything.

  “What the hell happened to you, dude?” Derek asks.

  “Why are you here?” I hear Luis answer.

  “He’s here,” I whisper to Kendall.

  “Nikki wanted to make sure you were okay. ” Derek waves me over. “I’ll, uh, be right outside the door if you need anything … like a hospital. ”

  I gasp when I see Luis sitting on his bed with his back against the wall. His head is resting in his hands. There’s blood all over his face. His head is shaved, and his completely bloodied shirt is in shreds on the floor.

  Granny is sitting beside him, her head on his thigh. She knows he’s hurting.

  I rush over to him, afraid to touch his face for fear I’ll hurt him. “What did they do to you?” I ask softly, trying to hold back the flood of emotion threatening to rush out of me. I have to stay strong for Luis.

  “Go away,” he moans.

  “I’m not leaving while you look like that,” I whisper.

  “I don’t need you here, and I sure as hell don’t want you here. We’re done, remember? I’m not your charity case. ”

  “Well, you look like one right now. Drop the ego and let me help you. ”

  They shaved off his beautiful signature hair. Did they hold him down, or did he bow his head in submission and willingly have it shaved? Either way, they weren’t gentle. He’s got cuts all over his scalp.

  “They shaved your head. ”

  I didn’t realize it before, but his spiked, boyish hair was a symbol of his innocence and individuality. Now he looks so tough … so Latino Blood. I lift his chin and urge him to look at me. When he does, I almost suck in a breath. His lips are busted up, his eyes are half closed because his lids are swollen … and he’s got red, nasty cuts mixed with bruises all over his face, back, and chest.

  When I look into his eyes, they’ve got an empty hollowness to them. It scares me. Will he change and become like Marco?

  “What part of ‘get away from me’ don’t you understand?” he asks.

  When he cups his head in his hands, I catch a glimpse of the letters L and B gouged in his bicep.

  “You need to go to a hospital,” I tell him.

  “I can’t. They’ll ask me what happened. ” He looks up at me. “I’m bound by a code of silence. You know what I need, Nik? Drugs. Illegal ones. Lots of ’em, actually. And make sure there’s enough so I don’t come out of it for a while. ”

 
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