Rules of attraction, p.28
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       Rules of Attraction, p.28

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
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Page 28

 

  In a frenzied panic, I pull Kiara down on the couch and lay atop her to save her from danger.

  I look up, confused. Wait, nobody is in the room besides us. What the hell?

  I look at the television screen and see the hero of the movie standing over the body of a dead guy with blood streaming out of his chest. The gunshots were coming from the television.

  I look back at a stunned, scared, half-naked Kiara.

  “Sorry,” I say, moving off her and shifting to the other side of the couch. “Sorry. It was only the TV. ” My heart is beating faster than a drum at a rock concert. When I heard the gunshots I’d have done anything to protect her life. Even if it meant sacrificing my own. The thought of losing her in the same way I lost my father and almost lost Alex is just too much. I’m practically hyperventilating from the thought of it.

  Fuck.

  I broke my number one rule: never get emotionally involved.

  Whatever happened to foolin’ around only with girls who want nothin’ more than a good time? The word “amor,” or the English equivalent, “love,” isn’t in my vocabulary. I’m not boyfriend material. If you want love and commitment, don’t come knockin’ at my door. I have to get out before I’m in too deep.

  “It’s okay. ” She sits up and leans over me, her body too close. I can’t think straight when I can feel the heat of her body penetrate mine. I feel claustrophobic and trapped. I have to get out of here.

  I gently move her away so there’s distance between us.

  “No, it’s not okay. This isn’t okay. ” My reaction to the gunshots puts everything back into perspective. I can’t do this with Kiara. I press my palms against my eyes and breathe out a frustrated sigh. “Cover yourself,” I say, then pick up her shirt.

  When I toss the oversized T-shirt to her, I tell myself to avoid meeting her gaze. I don’t want to see the hurt in her eyes and know I was the one who put it there.

  “I w-w-wanted th-th-this,” she stutters in a shaky voice. “Y-y-you d-d-did, t-t-too. ”

  Shit. Now she’s so emotional she can hardly get a word out without stumbling all over it. It would be better for her to hate me than fall in love with me.

  “Yeah, well, I want a girl who’ll fuck around with me, not declare her undying love. ”

  “I d-d-didn’t—”

  I put up a hand, stopping her. I know what she’s gonna say, that she never said this would turn into something more. “You said you were fallin’ in love with me, and that’s the last thing a guy like me needs to hear. Admit it, Kiara. Girls like you want to cut guys’ nuts off and hang ’em from your rearview mirror. ”

  I’m rambling like a complete pendejo, the words streaming out of my mouth without my even thinking about what I’m saying. I know I’m hurting her with each word. It’s practically killin’ me to do this to her, but she needs to know I’m not the one who’ll be there to catch her when she falls. I’ve still got Devlin to deal with, and I might not come back alive. The last thing I’d ever want is for Kiara to be mourning someone who didn’t deserve her love in the first place.

  “We can be friends—,” I tell her.

  “Friends who fool around, without any emotion?”

  “Yeah. What’s wrong with that?”

  “I want more. ”

  “Not gonna happen. You want more, go find yourself another sucker. ” I head for the door, needing to get away from her before I kneel down and beg her to take me back into her arms and finish what we started. As I leave her, I try to shove all images of her out of my head. Fat chance of that anytime soon.

  Back in my room, I sit on my bed. There’s no use tryin’ to get any sleep. I know that’s not gonna happen tonight. I shake my head, wondering how I got myself into this mess. Leavin’ her in that room was the first selfless thing I’ve done since I came to Colorado.

  And I feel like complete crap.

  38

  Kiara

  I sit in the den and go over in my head what happened tonight. As much as I told myself that fooling around with him wouldn’t make our relationship serious, I hoped otherwise. I knew exactly what I was doing, and the fact that it backfired just brought home the fact that Carlos is right. He’s not boyfriend material. He only wants a girl who’ll take her clothes off for him without a commitment or promise.

  He wants a girl like Madison.

  I made a complete fool out of myself tonight. To think that sharing my body with him would make him change was stupid. Did I really think an amazing physical connection between us could make him want a permanent relationship with me? The fact is, I did.

  When we kissed tonight it was perfect. It was everything I wanted and expected and hoped for. As soon as he cupped my face in his hands, I was lost. I knew nothing I had or could have with Michael would ever compete with the intensity of what Carlos and I were sharing.

  Now all of that is shattered, because Carlos pushed me away. After that, my tongue got heavy and every word I uttered came out as a stutter.

  Oh, I am beyond embarrassed. How am I going to face him in the morning? Worse, how am I going to face myself?

  39

  Carlos

  I got about two hours of sleep last night. When the sun wakes me up, I moan and roll over to try and get more sleep. It’s hard to do when the entire room is painted the same color as the damn sun. Next time I’m at the hardware store I need to get some black paint to darken this place to match my mood.

  I lie on my side and hold a pillow over my eyes. The next time I open them, it’s ten.

  I call miamá, just because I need to hear her voice again. She says that she’s trying to get tickets to visit, and I detect an excitement I haven’t heard from her in years. It reminds me that I told Mrs. W. I’d help out at the store today. I’ll send miamá the extra money I make so she can add it to the trip fund.

  After I shower, I knock on Kiara’s bedroom door. She’s not there, so I head downstairs.

  “Where’s Kiara?” I ask Brandon, who’s playin’ some computer game in the Professor’s office.

  He’s either ignoring me or doesn’t hear me.

  “Yo, Racer!” I yell.

  “What?” Brandon says, not turning around.

  I stand next to him and check out the game he’s addicted to. On the screen are a bunch of cartoon characters walking in a park. In the corner of the screen it says: Commodities: Cocaine, 3 grams; Marijuana, 7 grams.

  “What kind of game is this?” I ask the kid.

  “A trading game. ”

  The kid is a damn cyber drug dealer. “Turn it off,” I tell him.

  “Why?”

  “ ’Cause it’s stupid. ”

  “How do you know?” Brandon looks up at me with innocent eyes. “You’ve never played it. ”

  “Yeah, I have. ” The real-life game. And that’s only because I had to do it to survive. But Brandon has choices in life, and doesn’t need to deal drugs to survive. No use in havin’ him play a game that simulates it when he’s in kindergarten. “Turn it off, Brandon, or I will. I’m not kiddin’. ”

  He sticks his chin in the air and continues playing. “No. ”

  “What’s the problem?” Westford says, walking into the room.

  “Carlos told me I have to turn off my game. Daddy, you told me I can go on your computer and play a trading game. All my friends play it. ”

  I point to Brandon. “Your son and his friends are cyber drug dealers,” I tell his father.

  Westford’s eyes go wide and he rushes to the screen. “Drug dealers? Brandon, what are you playing?”

  I walk out of the room when Westford tells Brandon that illegal drugs are not a commodity. Then he mumbles something about parental controls and how they can’t replace parents and he should have supervised more closely.

  I wander outside and find Kiara working on her car, her legs and feet sticking out of the driver’s side door. I watch as she works upside down, her head
under the dash, and a screwdriver in her hands.

  “Need help?” I ask.

  “Nope,” she says without looking up.

  “Can I take a look at the door? Maybe I can fix it. ”

  “It’s fine. ”

  “No, it’s not. It’s busted. You can’t go around with it like that forever. ”

  “Watch me. ”

  I lean against the side of the car. And wait. And wait. If she doesn’t shimmy herself out in a few minutes I’m tempted to drag her ass out.

  Westford walks out of the house. “Kiara, what time are you and Carlos going to Hospitali-Tea?”

  “As soon as I can tape this wire together, Dad. It won’t cooperate. ”

  “You probably need to solder it,” I tell her, although at this point it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t want any suggestions from me.

  “Let me know when you’re ready to go. In the meantime, I need a word with Carlos. ” Westford crooks his finger at me. “Meet me in my office. ”

  He doesn’t look or sound too happy with me. Truth is, he shouldn’t be. Last night I had my hands full with his daughter.

  I pass Brandon watching some cartoon in the den on my way to the Professor’s office.

  “What’s goin’ on?” I ask as I take a seat.

  “Obviously not this. ” He tosses me my shirt from last night. “I found it on the floor of the den. It’s obvious there was some hanky-panky going on. ”

  Okay, so he knows we fooled around. But at least he didn’t find Kiara’s bra on top of my shirt.

  “Yeah . . . things kinda got a little heated after you and Mrs. W. left the den last night,” I tell him.

  “I was afraid of that. Colleen and I believe in open communication with our kids. And while you’re not one of my own, I’m responsible for you at this point. ” The Professor rubs his hand across his face and sucks in a breath. “You’d think I’d be prepared for this talk. Once upon a time I was a teenager and did the same thing in my parents’ house. ” He looks up. “Of course, I was a little more diligent about hiding the evidence. ”

  “It won’t happen again, sir. ”

  “What, leaving the evidence or you fooling around in my house with my daughter? And please cut the ‘sir’ bullshit. This isn’t the military. ”

  “I was the one who forced myself on him, Dad,” Kiara says, appearing in the doorway. “It was not his fault. ”

  The Professor winces as he says, “It takes two to tango. I’m not placing blame or fault. I’m just discussing. I wish your mother was here to have this talk. Did you, uh, protect yourselves at least?”

  Kiara moans, totally embarrassed. “Dad, we didn’t have sex. ”

  “Oh,” he says. “You didn’t?”

  I shake my head.

  I can’t believe I’m in the middle of this conversation. Mexican dads don’t have these kinds of talks, especially with the boys their daughters are foolin’ around with. They’d kick the boy’s ass first, then ask questions. After that, they’d forbid their daughter to go outside without a chaperone. There’s none of this “open communication” bullshit.

 

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