Rules of attraction, p.35
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       Rules of Attraction, p.35

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 35


  Oh, crap, this is serious. She’s not foolin’ around, so I better think of something quick. “Drive me to the body shop. I’m borrowin’ Alex’s new car tonight. ”

  “You can use my car,” she says, not batting an eye.

  Oh, hell. I’ve got to come up with an excuse as to why I need my brother’s new car instead of a hot Beemer convertible. “Kiara likes vintage cars. She’ll be disappointed if I come in a Beemer when she’s expectin’ a Monte Carlo. She’s not normal, you know. And she gets upset easily. I wouldn’t want to make her cry and stutter on Homecoming. ”

  “Are you going to feed me more bullshit until I drop you at McConnell’s?”

  “Pretty much. ”

  At a stoplight, Brittany sighs and takes a deep breath. “Fine, I’ll take you. But don’t expect me to get out of the car or talk to him. ”

  “But if I’m takin’ his car, he’ll need a ride home. Can you take him, so I can get ready for the dance?” My brother and Brittany together make me nauseous, but the thought of them apart and miserable is just . . . no está bien, not good. I give them a hard time, but deep down I envy their relationship. When they’re together, the world could fall apart around them and they’d never notice or care as long as they have each other.

  “Don’t push it, Carlos,” Brittany says. “I’m dropping you off, then leaving. But I’ll give you a piece of advice for tonight, and then I’ll shut up. Rein in your attitude and ego tonight and treat Kiara like you would a princess. Make her feel special. ”

  “You think I’ve got a big ego and an attitude problem?” I ask her.

  She lets out a short laugh. “I don’t think you do, Carlos. I know it. Unfortunately, it’s a Fuentes flaw. ”

  “I’d call it an asset. It’s what makes us Fuentes brothers irresistible. ”

  “Yeah, whatever,” she says. “It’s what ruins your relationships. If you want Kiara to have great memories of tonight, just remember what I said and rein it in. ”

  “Did I ever tell you that Alex loves you so much he got your name tattooed all over his body? Hell, he even got your name branded into the back of his neck. ”

  “They say ‘LB,’ Carlos. The initials for Latino Blood. ”

  “No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. He wants everyone to think that, but in reality it means Lover of Brittany. LB, get it?”

  “Nice try, Carlos. Totally not true, but a nice try nonetheless. ”

  True to her word, Brittany drops me off at the shop and speeds away. Her tires screech on the parking lot, something I’m sure my brother taught her to do. It’s just more proof they should be together.

  In the shop, my brother has his head under the hood of a Cadillac. I wonder if he’s oblivious that his recent ex-girlfriend/love of his life just sped away.

  “What are you doin’ here?” Alex asks me as he wipes his hands on a shop cloth. “I thought you were half dead. ”

  “You’d be surprised how far away half dead is from fully dead, Alex. Actually I feel like shit, but am doin’ a helluva good job fakin’ it. ”

  “Uh-huh. ” I notice he’s got a black bandanna on, something I haven’t seen him wear since he was in the Latino Blood. It’s not a good sign. He looks like a rebel, too much like me. I know firsthand when you take the time to look like a rebel, actin’ like one isn’t far behind. “I’ve got a bunch of work to do, and you’ve got a dance to get to, so if you don’t mind—”

  “Why did you break up with Brittany?”

  “Is that what she told you?” Alex says, his eyebrows crinkling in frustration and anger. Man, he’s pissed right now. From the ragged look of him, I don’t think he’s slept well lately.

  “Keep your pants on, bro,” I tell him. “She didn’t say anythin’. She told me to ask you what happened. ”

  “We broke up. You were right, Carlos. Brit and I are too different. We come from different worlds and it was never gonna work out. ”

  When he ducks his head under the hood again, I pull him back. “Usted es estupido. ”

  “You callin’ me stupid? I’m not the one who unintentionally got jumped in to a gang last Sunday. ” He shakes his head. “Talk about stupid. ”

  “I’ll tell you what, Alex. You tell me why you and the beauty queen broke up, and I’ll tell you everythin’ I know ’bout Devlin. ”

  Alex sighs, the action deflating his anger a bit. I know he wants to protect me and our family above all else. He knows next week I’m gonna be called to action by Devlin. He can’t resist being involved in trying to help get me out of this.

  “Her parents are comin’ to town to visit her sister Shelley in two weeks,” Alex says. “She wants to tell them we’ve been secretly dating seriously since we started college. They know how it ended between us back in Chicago. I was a total asshole to her, then I left. ” He presses his palms to his eyes and moans. “Look at me, Carlos. I’m still the same guy they wouldn’t let her date back in Chicago. They think I’m the scum of the earth, and they’re probably right. Brittany wants me to fuckin’ go to dinner with them, as if they’ll just accept that the girl they groomed to be a princess ended up with the guy they’ll always see as the poor, dirty Mexican from the slums. ”

  I can’t believe it. My own brother, the one who bravely fought his own gang and wasn’t afraid to get shot for it, is shittin’ in his pants at the prospect of standing up for himself and their relationship in front of Brittany’s parents. “You’re afraid,” I tell him.

  “Am not. I just don’t need the bullshit. ”

  The bullshit is that my brother is scared. He’s afraid of Brittany agreeing with her parents once and for all and dumping his ass. Alex can’t take her rejection, so he’s pushing her away and rejecting her before she can do it to him. I know, because that’s the story of my own life.

  “Brittany wants to stick up for your relationship,” I say as I eye Alex’s vintage Monte Carlo at the corner of the shop. “Why don’t you? Because you’re a coward, bro. Have a little faith in your novia. If you don’t, you’ll risk losin’ her for good. ”

  “Her parents will never think I’m good enough for her. I’ll always feel like the lower-class pendejo who took advantage of their daughter. ”

  I’m lucky Kiara’s parents are the opposite. They’re content when their kids are happy, no matter what. They try and influence us, but they don’t judge anyone. At first I thought it was an act, that nobody could just accept me even when I try to push them away. I think the Westfords really do accept people for who they are, flaws and all.

  “If you think you’re the lower-class pendejo, then you are. Problem is, Brittany doesn’t see different social classes or think of your bank account when she’s with you. It’s kind of sickenin’, but she actually loves you no matter what. Maybe you guys should break up, ’cause she deserves a dude who’ll stick up for his relationship at all costs. ”

  “Fuck you,” Alex says. “You don’t know crap about relationships. Since when have you even had one?”

  “I’m in one now. ”

  “It’s fake. Even Kiara admitted it. ”

  “Yeah, well, it’s better than what you’ve got, which is nothin’. ” I walk over to the blue Monte Carlo. “Just so you know, I was hopin’ to borrow your car tonight. Not for me, but for Kiara. I know you think she’s cool, and I can’t very well use her car to take her on an official date. ”

  “I was plannin’ on headin’ over to the Westfords’ before the dance. They invited me. ”

  “Save yourself the trouble,” I say.

  “Fine. But bring it back after the dance, ’cause I was plannin’ on workin’ on it tomorrow. ” After I toss the suit and corsage in the backseat, Alex says, “I thought you hated me and Brittany together. ”

  “I just like to give you shit, Alex. That’s what younger brothers are for, aren’t they?” I shrug. “She might not be a chica Mexicana, but she’s the best your ass is ever gonna get. Might as well seal the deal and
marry the girl. ”

  “With what, half a degree and a vintage car to offer?”

  I shrug. “If that’s all you got, I’m sure she’ll take it. Hell, it’s a helluva lot more than I got, and more than our parents had when they got married. Even worse, ’cause miamá was pregnant with your ugly ass. ”

  “Speakin’ of ugly, have you looked in the mirror lately?”

  “Yeah. It’s funny, Alex. Even with a busted lip and black eye, I’m still better lookin’ than you. ”

  “Yeah, right. Wait,” Alex says. “You still never told me about Devlin. ”

  “Oh, yeah. ” I start the car and rev the engine. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Maybe. ”

  When I get to the Westfords’, Brandon is in my room sitting on my bed with his his arms crossed. The kid is doing his best to put on a mean face that might actually intimidate someone in ten or so years.

  “What’s up, cachorro?”

  “I’m mad at you. ”

  Man, I’m gettin’ heat from all sides today. “Take a number and get in line, kid. ”

  He huffs like a car with a bad exhaust. “You said we were partners in crime. That if I did something, you wouldn’t tattle. And if you did something, I wouldn’t tattle. ”


  “You’re a tattletale. Now Daddy won’t let me play games on the computer unless he’s watching, like I’m a baby. It’s all your fault. ”

  “Sorry. Life isn’t fair. ”

  “Why not?”

  If life was fair, my father wouldn’t have died when I was four. If life was fair, I wouldn’t have to worry about Devlin. If life was fair, I’d have a real chance with Kiara. Life pretty much sucks. “Don’t know. But if you figure it out, cachorro, let me know. ”

  I expect him to throw a fit, but he doesn’t. He jumps off my bed and heads for the door. “I’m still mad at you. ”

  “You’ll get over it. Now beat it. I’ve got to take a shower and get ready. I’m runnin’ late. ”

  “I’ll get over it faster and leave you alone if you can sneak me some candy from the cabinet above the refrigerator. It’s my mom’s secret hiding place. ” He motions for me to bend down so he can tell me a secret. “She keeps unhealthy snacks in it,” he whispers. “You know, the good kind. ” The more he talks about it, the more excited he gets.

  Damn. I have less than an hour before I have to be Kiara’s date, but I don’t want to let the kid down. “All right, Racer. You ready to go on a secret mission to find the treasure?”

  Brandon rubs his hands together, obviously pleased with himself for manipulating me. The kid does have talent in the persuasion department, I’ll give him that much.

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