I’ve got to let it go and leave it alone,
Just walk away, stop it going on
Get too scared to jump if I wait too long,
But maybe someday …I’ll see you smile as you call my name.
~ The Cure, “Maybe Someday”
Tanner was right. Forcing myself to admit it was a privately painful feat.
It’s Toretto, Brian. It always has been Toretto.
The back of my hand still tingles with the sense memory of his palm, the weight of his hand, the faint rasp of callous over my knuckles. His dark eyes are somber as he slides the folded slip of paper across the Formica. I didn’t want to believe it, liked him too much. Cared too much. In getting close, I got too close – and it happened faster than it ever did in the past. As outgoing as I am, I don’t have a very large collection of friends. I’d like to count Dom amongst them, but he will inevitably learn the truth. One way or another, he’ll discover that Vince was right all along. And then I’ll be the enemy, in his eyes.
I don’t want to see that happen. I don’t want to kill the glint that flashes in his eyes when he smiles that goofy grin of his.
Dom’s careful to avoid my fingers as I take the slip of paper from him. Directions to Race Wars. Best non-answer anyone’s ever given me. He’s all but admitted it. Why does that hurt so fucking much? That he’s guilty? It’s my job. Pulling off a successful UC will bag the detective badge I’ve been gunning for. Only, that doesn’t seem so important anymore. This is going to end badly, one way or another. The truckers … damn it, the only thing that’s important to me in that moment, as I glance up from the paper and hold Dom’s gaze, is somehow managing to be there to stop them from doing this. Minimize the inevitable damage as much as I’m capable.
“So you’re gonna lay out some bank for me to make you money? I might be driving, but this is all you, Dom. Your car, your winnings.”
He pops another shrimp in his mouth, licks the sauce off his lower lip, and bobs his head. “I figure five large to start should be enough to get you rolling.”
“You’re willing to gamble that much on me in a single throw.” I lean back in the bench, stretch my legs out, hands lax against my thighs. Just listening to him talk soothes the tension from my body. That voice rumbles, and I just let everything go. Nothing else matters. My leg shifts as I relax, calf bumping into his beneath the table.
He arches an eyebrow at me. “And then some. You’ll be fine,” grabs another shrimp. His leg presses into mine, and the sudden shift toward tactile baffles me. First in the car, and now this… “What? You just blew away a Ferrari, for crying out loud.”
I roll my eyes and stare off across the highway at the endless stretch of ocean.
“Okay, you wouldn’t have beaten the car if I’d been driving it. Happy? That’s beside the point though.”
I can’t help it, I have to laugh. When I glance back at him, he’s flashing that goofy grin of his at me. I doubt anyone could maintain a gloomy outlook around Dom for any length of time. “So you don’t think I can beat you.”
That grin gets wider, “not a chance in hell, buster.” Dom shoves the plate in the center of the table toward me a fraction. “Have some.”
“I almost had you.” Don’t know why I persist with that. Maybe just to keep him talking.
“Brian, Brian.” There’s a gleam of sweat along his temple as he shakes his head. “I don’t keep you around for your mad driving skills. Though you really did make that Eclipse dance, I gotta hand it to you there.”
“What am I then, comic relief? Everybody laughs at the ‘snowman’ behind his back?”
Dom frowns and cants his head to the side, watches me devour a few shrimp in silence. “Good question. Don’t know I thought that far. You’re the tuna-lover that’s dating my sister.”
Ouch. I flinch inwardly at that assessment but manage to keep it from showing. One corner of my mouth twists into a wry smirk. “Like you’d do that for anyone else your sister dated?”
“That’s the point. I wouldn’t. Her and Vince have been doing this little,” he grabs a shrimp and twirls it in a circle in the air before devouring it, “tango of some kind. Been driving me nuts with it. You’re the first person she’s even looked at twice. She’s using you. You realize that, right? Mia’s been in love with Vince since she was old enough to walk, I think.”
I watch him without saying a word, his attention moving between me and the shrimp without an ounce of guile to be seen. “Why’d you threaten to break my neck like that? If you knew, I mean?”
He shrugs and fans a shrimp tail out on the pad of his index finger, studying the details of the fins. “Maybe ‘cause it seemed like the sort of thing you expected. Or was expected of me. The big brother and all, you know? I trust you with her. You’re both adults. She don’t need me poking around in her life like I did when she was sixteen.”
All his statements are sensible enough, but stacked together they feel like a house of cards. None of it makes any sense. My brow furrows into a scowl as I hold his gaze across the table. His dark eyes wander over my face, and that glint is back. “So you keep me around because I got in your good graces and owe you a ten-second car.” I jut my jaw toward the Supra. “And there she sits, pretty as a picture. Why won’t you take delivery?”
Dom stares at the last shrimp on the plate, looks back up at me through his lashes. When he finally answers, his voice is a low and throaty growl. Makes me think of patchwork sunlight on black enamel, and a chill runs up my spine. “I’d much rather watch you drive, Bri.”
I have to clear my throat before I’m able to form a coherent response. “Yeah? Why’s that?”
He laughs, a soft rasp of sound that makes my fingers tingle. “It’s a very… uplifting …experience.”
I have to blink at that. And then stare at him and study his widening smile before the meaning behind that sinks in completely. “Shit, you’re pulling my leg. You have to be.”
“Nope.” There’s a very faint trace of color creeping up his neck, suspiciously like a blush. He grabs a napkin and gives all his attention to cleaning the nonexistent shrimp juice from his hands.
“You’re serious.” I whisper, fascinated and shocked and not at all believing him. “You keep me around because my driving turns you on?”
Dom gives me a tight-lipped smile and digs his wallet out, leaves a few bills with a generous tip on the table. “I didn’t expect you to understand, Bri. You asked though,” and just like that he pushes up from the booth and walks away.
Oh no, Dominic Toretto; the conversation doesn’t end that easily.
It takes me a couple seconds to pull myself together and trail after him. He’s leaning on the passenger side quarter panel, staring out at the ocean with his heavy arms folded across his chest like a shield.
My Cons whisper on the asphalt of the lot as I position myself directly in front of him, hands in my pockets. “Dom.”
His chin drops, but his gaze flicks toward me. Dark lashes lowered, eyes focusing no higher than my mouth. As focused as I am when I drive, Dominic Toretto has never failed to register to my senses. I recall how it felt to have him beside me in the Eclipse. Knowing that sensation was partially due to his reaction, not simply mine? That was stunning, to say the least.
And of course, I wouldn’t have missed the way he shifted around in his seat earlier even if I’d been blind. I watch his lips tense into a thin line, and give him one of my smiles.
Which, of course, makes him laugh and shake his head. “Get in the car, Spilner. This isn’t something I want to talk about. You get me?”
“Sure. Long as we’re cool, Dom.” I’m not moving until he gives me that much.
He looks back at me finally, goofy grin intact, dark eyes unveiled and glinting. “Always.” And he turns away, shoulder brushing against my chest with deliberate pressure, slides into the car.
Fucking tease. Of all the people I’ve made acquaintance with in this underground microcosm of street racing, he is the last person I’d ever expect it from. Dominic Toretto, ex-con, old school American muscle aficionado, and tease.
Oh well. At least nothing’s ever boring around the man. Like that restaurant, the Cha-Cha-Cha. I’d been wondering what the hell that was actually about. Beyond Mia toying with Vince and all. Because you don’t go on a serious date, and spend the entire evening talking about her brother. That’s not normal. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not even when it’s the only common denominator.
The drive back down into town is quiet. It’s a comfortable silence, and I’m not really eager to end any of this. Not our ride together, not my friendship with Dom, not my place in his team that this assignment gave me a chance at. Fucking ironic, that this is how I found my place. That one spot where I just fit, without trying too hard, without feeling cramped or pressured. Just accepted. And damn if that doesn’t hurt more than anything else; having found the one thing I’ve wanted and searched for, I have to give it all up. Destroy all of it with my own hand, because there’s no way to hang onto it no matter what I do.
My eyes burn and sting behind the protection of my Ray Bans. I tell myself it’s just the wind.