Chain reaction, p.40
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       Chain Reaction, p.40
 

         Part #3 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 40

 

  I’ve got a duffel full of cash. Nobody is guarding the warehouse door, so I walk right in.

  “It’s about time,” Chuy says. “I was waiting for you. You managed to ditch my boys last night. Where were you?”

  “If I thought that was any of your business, I wouldn’t have ditched them. ” The last thing I’d do is let Chuy or Marco know I was with Nikki. The Blood and Nikki are two separate parts of my life, and I’ll do everything in my power to keep it that way.

  “You’re a wiseass,” Chuy says. “And you haven’t proven that you can be trusted. ” He nods to the duffel. “Or have you?”

  I toss the duffel to him. Just as he unzips the top and digs inside, my brothers barge into the room like a SWAT team.

  Alex and Carlos are both here, ready to fight. Not a good idea. I’ve got this all figured out, and having them here is screwing everything up. If we get busted, or bullets go flying, I need my brothers out of here.

  “Well, well … it’s a Fuentes family reunion,” Chuy says. “Nice of you to join us. ”

  No, it wasn’t. What the hell is going on? How did they know I’d be here, unless Reyes tipped them off? I turn to my brothers and say, “Alex, get the fuck out of here … and take Carlos with you. I don’t need you guys here. ”

  Carlos limps inside the room until he’s standing next to me. “What, you think we were gonna let you meet with Chuy on your own? No way. ”

  Shit. “This is not how this was supposed to go down. ”

  Chuy pulls out a gun and points it at Alex. “Maybe it was,” he says, unfazed. “This is my lucky day. I get to kill the entire Fuentes family. ”

  “You forget that I have millions that I can turn over to the cops, or give to you,” I tell him.

  “I know,” Chuy says. “That’s why I’ll kill you last, while you’re watchin’ your brothers die. Or you can save yourself and give me the info I need. I’m God in Fairfield. You don’t believe me, just ask your cousin Enrique … Oh, yeah, you can’t. I smoked him this mornin’ when he wouldn’t tell me where you were. Loyalty, guys. You’re not loyal, you die. Period. Loyalty to the LB comes before loyalty to family. ”

  No. Not Enrique. My stomach lurches.

  With his free hand, Chuy pulls up a picture on his phone … of Enrique lying on the floor of his body shop with blood pooled around his head.

  “Enrique didn’t know where I was!” I yell. “He was the most loyal Blood you’d ever have, you pendejo. ”

  Alex pulls out a gun and points it at Chuy. “Put the gun down or I’ll kill you. ”

  Chuy laughs. “You wouldn’t, Alex. I know you. You haven’t got it in you to kill someone. Besides, I’ve got a chica named Nikki who’s beggin’ for her life right about now. ”

  What! I feel like he just punched me in the gut and the wind got knocked out of me. He could have stabbed me with a knife and it would hurt less. “You hurt Nikki and I swear I’ll kill you with my own hands,” I growl.

  Chuy shrugs. “Put the gun down, Alex, or Luis’s little girlfriend has a tragic accident. If I don’t call my guys and let them know I’ve secured the money, she’ll find herself in the Des Plaines river … tied to a big rock that sinks all the way to the bottom. ”

  Alex slowly puts the gun down and kicks it over to him.

  Chuy looks to Carlos. “You might as well give up yours, too. ”

  A very pissed-off Carlos takes a gun from beneath his shirt and tosses it onto Chuy’s desk.

  “And what about yours?” Chuy asks me. “The one I gave you. ”

  “I left it at home,” I tell him.

  “Prove it. Lift up your shirt and turn around real slow. ” After I do, he says, “Time to give me the numbers. ”

  “Let my brothers go,” I tell him. “This is between you and me. ”

  “No,” Chuy says. “This is between me and all of you. You’re in this together as far as I’m concerned. ”

  This is not happening. Despite all I’ve risked to keep them safe, I’ve managed to jeopardize my brothers’ lives, and Nikki’s. “If I give you the codes, you have to promise to let my brothers and Nikki go. ”

  “I was bluffin’ about Nikki. ” Chuy laughs. “I guess I should play more poker, huh? The first lesson in battle is knowin’ the weakness of your enemies. Nikki is your weakness, Luis. You shouldn’t have spilled the truth to Marco about how much you cared about the girl. I’ll give you a hint … he’s not really your friend. He got close to you because I told him to. ”

  “I know your weakness,” I tell him.

  “What’s that?”

  “Money. You want it, and I have it. You hurt my brothers, you’ll never see another cent. ”

  Chuy holds up the gun and points it at Alex. “I’m gonna call your bluff. ”

  I hold my breath as Alex holds his hand out, stopping me and Carlos from running in front of him. He knows we’ll do it; we’ll take a bullet and die for him.

  Alex stands straight and tall, staring into the barrel of Chuy’s gun.

  A shot rings out. Shit. No! But wait, Alex is still standing. Even he looks surprised as he stares at Chuy with a red stain on his shirt that’s growing bigger and bigger. Chuy was shot and clutches his shoulder as he collapses.

  I look to Carlos, sure he had another gun stashed in his pants. But he’s just looking at Chuy, stunned. He doesn’t have a gun in his hand.

  I look behind me. The shooter is standing in the doorway, the smoking gun shaking in her hand.

  Nikki.

  She drops the gun. She’s hyperventilating as I pull her into my arms. “I couldn’t let him hurt you … I had to …,” she cries out.

  “He’s still alive,” Alex says, swiping the gun away from Chuy’s hand.

  I hear police sirens and pull Nikki close, telling her it’ll be okay even though I’m shaking as hard as she is.

  Reyes barges in, with his gun at the ready. The guy is sweating and breathes a sigh of relief as he eyes the scene. A few other officers surround Chuy and call for an ambulance.

  “Shit, Luis. What the hell were you thinking?” Reyes yells after they stabilize Chuy and take him away on a stretcher. “You all could have been killed. ” He points aggressively at Alex. “I told you to give me the address to this place, then stay put. What the fuck are you doing here?”

  Alex shrugs. “Listen, Reyes, once we realized what was goin’ down, we weren’t about to let our brother face Chuy on his own. ”

  “He’s our blood,” Carlos explains, then pats me on the back. “The kind that matters. ”

  “We need to find out if Enrique’s okay,” I say. “What if he …”

  “I already sent a squad car to check out Enrique’s Auto Body,” Reyes says. He hesitates. “It’s not good news. ”

  I squeeze my eyes shut, wondering when the violence will ever stop. Sometimes I think Ben is right, that the fantasy world is better because reality sucks … but then I look at Nikki and I believe we can beat the odds.

  Reyes makes us all go down to the police station to give our statements, and we’re released to our parents after the district attorney is called in to listen to the taped phone conversation. No charges are filed against us, and the money in the duffel and the offshore account are handed over to the police. Nikki explained that the gun was Marco’s … when they were together he’d shown her the place by the railroad tracks where the LB hid their guns. Marco had told Nikki that he was there when Enrique died and he knew what Chuy had planned at the warehouse. He was called into the station and charged as an accessory to murder.

  “You’re shakin’,” I tell Nikki as I hold her two weeks later. We’re sitting on the couch in her living room while her mother periodically checks in on us. She’s not thrilled we’re still together, but she’s warming up to the idea slowly. Ben told us that we’ve inspired a new game he’s working on … with us as the main characters.

  “I’m so glad you’re here,” Nikki says, wrap
ping her arms around me and squeezing tight. “I have a secret that I haven’t told you. ” She looks up at me, her expressive chocolate eyes a window to her Latina soul. I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to. “I applied to Purdue a week ago. ”

  “Really?” I ask, smiling for the first time since I left her at the beach.

  “Yeah. Who else besides me is going to keep you out of trouble?”

  This girl is my angel. From the first moment I laid eyes on her I remember thinking that God sent her down to earth just for me. She believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. “Nik, I love you. ”

  “I know,” she says, then taps her heart with her fingers. “I feel it in here. I don’t need the words to prove what you’ve already showed me. I’d do it all over, you know. The good and the bad … it was all worth it. ”

  “I’d do it all over, too … but if that ever happens, hold back from kneeing me in the nuts. I’m sure our future children will appreciate it. ”

  She leans away from me and her eyebrows shoot up. “Our future children? Luis, don’t get ahead of yourself. ”

  “Why not?” I ask her. “Doesn’t the thought of marryin’ me give you an adrenaline rush?”

  “Yeah,” she says, kissing me. “Yeah, it does. You once told me that I make you believe in the impossible. You make me believe in love, which I’d given up on. Thank you for proving to me it’s not just a fairy tale. ”

  50

  Nikki

  Seven months after the shooting, three weeks until we graduate, I look at Luis across our chemistry table. Derek is talking to him, but he’s not listening. I know this because he just gave me a wink/smile combo that reminds me of the first time we ever met. I knew the boy was cocky.

  What I didn’t know is that I’d fall in love with him.

  “Nikki, are you paying attention?” Mrs. Peterson, now the mother of a little girl, says as she waves a hand in front of my eyes.

  “To what?”

  Luis laughs.

  “What’s so funny, Mr. Fuentes? We’re working with acid. Paying attention is crucial. Please keep your relationship out of my classroom. ”

  “Sorry, Mrs. P. ,” Luis mumbles as he focuses on the task at hand.

  Mariana and I take a beaker and follow the instructions. “I can’t believe you two are still together,” she grumbles. “It’s not gonna last, you know. ”

  “I wouldn’t bet against us, if I were you,” I tell her as I take a dropper and put a small drop of acid on a piece of paper and examine what happens.

  I feel Luis’s eyes on me, so I look up. He licks his lips suggestively. I would roll my eyes, but instead decide to give him a wink/smile back and lick my own lips to throw him off balance.

  “Dude!” Derek yells. “You just spilled acid on your arm!”

 
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