Rules of attraction, p.6
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       Rules of Attraction, p.6

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
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Page 6

 

  Madison is looking in her rearview mirror. At the mention of her parents, she stills for the slightest moment before smiling again. “They’re always traveling,” she explains while reapplying more of that shiny lip gloss. “But I like it, because I can do whatever I want with whoever I want without any rules. ”

  Considering my life has been full of people tryin’ to rule it, her life sounds bueno to me.

  “Omigod, you and your brother look like twins,” Lacey says as Alex approaches the Mustang.

  “I don’t see the resemblance,” I tell her as I open the door. Madison and Lacey get out, too. Do they expect an introduction? They stand in front of me with their flawless pale skin and their makeup sparkling in the sun. “Thanks for the ride,” I say.

  They both hug me. Madison gives me an extra-long squeeze. It’s definitely a sign that she’s interested.

  I can tell Alex isn’t exactly sure what I’m doin’ with these two chicks. I drape my arms around Madison’s and Lacey’s shoulders. “Hey, Alex, this is Madison and Lacey. The two hottest chicks at Flatiron High. ”

  Both girls nod at Alex and flash their bright smiles. They like the compliment, although I think they know they’re smokin’ and don’t need to be reminded.

  “Thanks for givin’ my brother a ride,” Alex says, then turns around and heads back inside.

  After the girls drive off, I follow him into the shop and find him working on the front bumper cover of an SUV that’s obviously been in an accident.

  “You the only one here?” I ask.

  “Yeah. Help me remove this thing,” he says as he tosses me a Phillips.

  Alex and I used to work on cars together at my cousin Enrique’s auto-body shop. It was one of the few things we did when we were actually tryin’ to stay out of trouble. My brother and cousin taught me everythin’ they knew about cars, and whatever they didn’t teach me I figured out on my own when I took apart junkers in the back of the shop.

  I get under the hood of the SUV and work on the inside screws. The sound of metal clinking on metal echoes through the shop and for a second I feel like we’re back in Chicago at Enrique’s.

  “Nice girls,” my brother says sarcastically as we work side by side.

  “Yeah, I know. I was thinkin’ about askin’ both of them to Homecoming. ” I shove the Phillips in my back pocket. “Oh, and before I forget to tell you, Kiara invited me over for cookies yesterday. ”

  “Why didn’t you go?”

  “Besides the fact that I didn’t want to, she uninvited me. ”

  Alex turns his focus from the bumper to me. “Please tell me you weren’t a complete pendejo to her. ”

  “I just had a little fun, that’s all. Next time you want to arrange an escort for me, make sure it’s one who doesn’t wear oversized shirts with stupid sayings on them. Kiara reminds me of a dude I knew back in Chicago, Alex. I’m not even sure she’s female. ”

  “You want me to p-p-prove it?” my ex–peer guide’s voice echoes from the doorway.

  Oh, hell.

  6

  Kiara

  “Yeah,” Carlos says, challenge and amusement written all over his face. “Prove it. ”

  Alex holds up a hand. “No. Don’t. ” He shoves Carlos against the car and mutters something in Spanish. Carlos mutters something back. I have no clue what they’re saying, but neither sounds happy.

  I’m not too happy either. I can’t believe I just stuttered. I’m so pissed at myself for letting Carlos get me so emotional I stumbled over my words. That means he has power over me, and that fact makes me angrier. I can’t wait until Friday, when Operation Cookie will finally go into effect. I have to wait until the cookies are good and stale in order for it to work right. At least he won’t be expecting it.

  A frustrated Alex stomps away from Carlos and pulls a box from behind the cashier’s desk. “I tested your radio, and I think a spring is missin’. I don’t think it’s gonna work, but I’d like to give it a try. Give me your keys and I’ll pull your car in. ” He turns to Carlos. “Don’t say a word while I’m gone. ”

  The second after Alex leaves, Carlos says, “So if you still want to prove you’re not a dude, I’m game. ”

  “Does being a jerk make you feel better about yourself?” I say.

  “No. But pissin’ off my brother does. And pissin’ you off pisses my brother off. Sorry you’re the one caught in the crossfire. ”

  “Keep me out of it. ”

  “Not likely to happen any time soon. ” Carlos crouches in front of the car they were working on and pulls on the bumper cover.

  “You need to unhook the clips first,” I tell him, pleased to prove that I know more about cars than he does. “It won’t come off until you unhook the clips. ”

  “You talkin’ bras or bumpers?” he asks, then flashes me a cocky grin. “ ’Cause I’m an expert at unhooking both. ”

  I shouldn’t have done it. It was immature. It was that sexy and stupid comment Carlos made. That, combined with him making fun of the way I say “marmalade,” was what pushed me to make him eat his words.

  It’s Friday. Tuck and I came to school early this morning to rig Carlos’s locker. Tuesday after school Tuck and I made over a hundred double-chocolate chip cookies. When they cooled off, we glued a small but powerful magnet to the back of each one. Now they’re stale cookie magnets. When Carlos opens his locker this morning, the inside is going to be decorated with a hundred little cookie magnets.

  When he tries to pull each magnet off, the cookie will break into pieces and crumble in his hand. I got superstrong little magnets the size of a dime. It’ll be messy, that’s for sure. So he’ll have two options: keep the magnet cookies stuck inside his locker, or take them off one by one and be showered with little broken cookie pieces.

  “Remind me never to get in a fight with you,” Tuck says as he acts as a lookout. School won’t start for another forty-five minutes, so there are only a few people passing in the hallway.

  I open Carlos’s locker using the combination that was written on top of his schedule, which Mr. House gave to me. I feel guilty, but not guilty enough not to do it. I place a few cookies, then look at Tuck. He’s on the lookout for Carlos or anyone else who might get suspicious. Each time I place a cookie, the clink of the magnet against metal makes Tuck laugh.

  Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.

  “He’s going to freak,” Tuck says. “He’ll know it was you, you know. When you punk someone, the goal is to do it anonymously so you don’t get caught. ”

  “Too late now. ” I attach more magnet cookies, but wonder how I’m going to get all one hundred of them inside. I’m placing them on the top, back, inside door, sides . . . I’m running out of space, but I’m almost done. It looks like the inside of his locker has brown measles.

  I reach into the bag. “Only one left. ”

  Tuck peeks his head inside. “This could be one of the best pranks ever at Flatiron High, Kiara. You could go down in the history books. I’m proud of you. Put the last one on the outside, right in the middle. ”

  “Good idea. ” I close his locker before anyone catches us, attach the last cookie, then check my watch. Homeroom starts in twenty minutes. “Now we wait. ”

  Tuck looks down the hallway. “People are coming. Shouldn’t we hide?”

  “Yeah, but I have to see his reaction,” I say. “Let’s hide in Mrs. Hadden’s room. ”

  Five minutes later, as Tuck and I peek through the square window in the door, Carlos comes walking down the hall.

  “There he is,” I whisper. My heart is beating furiously in my chest.

  His eyebrows furrow when he reaches his locker and sees a big brown cookie on it. He looks left and right, obviously looking for any sign of who did it. When he pulls the cookie off, it crumbles in his hand but leaves the magnet stuck to his locker.

  “What’s his reaction?” I ask Tuck, who’s taller and has a better vi
ew.

  “He’s smiling. And shaking his head. Now he’s tossing the crumbled cookie in the garbage. ”

  Carlos won’t be smiling when he opens his locker to find ninety-nine more cookie magnets.

  “I’m going out there,” I tell Tuck. I emerge from the safety of Mrs. Hadden’s room and walk to my locker as if nothing is out of the ordinary.

  “Hey,” I say to Carlos as he eyes his open locker with all the cookies.

  “I’ll give you an A+ for originality and execution,” he says.

  “Does it bother you I get good grades in everything, even pranks?”

  “Yes. ” He cocks a brow. “I’m impressed. I’m pissed off, but impressed. ” He closes his locker, the ninety-nine cookies still attached to the inside. As if the cookies don’t exist, we walk side by side to his first-period class.

  I can’t help but smile while we walk down the hall. He shakes his head a few times, as if he can’t believe what I did.

  “Truce?” I ask.

  “No way. You may have won this battle, but this war, chica, is far from over. ”

  7

  Carlos

  I can’t get rid of the cookie smell. It’s on my hands, it’s in my books . . . hell, it’s even in my backpack. I tried taking a few of them off my locker, but it was such a mess I gave up. I’ll keep ’em in until they get really moldy . . . then I’ll collect all the crumbs and shove them into Kiara’s locker. Or better yet, superglue them to the inside.

  I have to get my mind off cookies and Kiara. Nothing beats miamá’s cookin’, but as soon as I get home from school today I take whatever I can find in Alex’s apartment and attempt to make us an authentic Mexican meal. It’ll get me to stop thinking about those damn double-chocolate chip cookies. That, combined with the fact that I’ve been here almost a week and have yet to eat authentic, spicy Mexican food, is drivin’ me nuts.

  Alex leans into the pot of stewed meat and inhales the scent. I can tell just by the expression on his face it reminds him of home.

  “It’s called carne guisada. It’s Mexican. ” I say the words slowly as if he’s never heard of it.

  “I know what it is, smart-ass. ” He replaces the lid, then sets the table and goes back to studying.

  We sit down to eat an hour later. I watch as my brother inhales his first serving and takes a second.

  “Eat much?”

  “Nothin’ as good as this. ” Alex licks his fork. “I didn’t know you could cook. ”

  “You don’t know a lot of things about me. ”

  “I used to. ”

  I push around the food on my plate, suddenly not hungry. “That was a long time ago. ” I keep my eyes focused on my food. I don’t even know my brother anymore. After he got shot, I guess I was afraid to talk to him because talkin’ about it made it real. Alex never said what exactly happened when he got jumped out of the Latino Blood, and I never asked. But yesterday mornin’ I got a clue. “I saw your scars yesterday when you came out of the shower. ”

 
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