Rating: PG (but it is slashy)
I knew there was something special about Toretto and his team the moment I laid eyes on them. Call it gut instinct. And no, not that far south. This honestly had nothing to do with hormones and Mia, no matter what others thought. She was only a part of the whole.
What I didn’t know was why my wolf sat up and begged when Dominic Toretto threw me across the street. No, I knew some of why. I’ve always been a sucker for a decent alpha type. Got me in a ton of trouble as a kid before I learned to control my instincts instead of letting them control me. But I didn’t know there was more to it than that.
I played it cool, iceman all the way, on that street, through the race, even through the party afterward. And I never let on how much Mia’s words struck home the next day.
“He owns you now.”
That little corner of me, the part of me that is ‘wolf’ and so wants to be owned, rose up inside, and I had a hell of a time stuffing the sucker back down.
But still I didn’t get it, that those words might mean exactly what I wanted it to mean. Not until I came by the garage three days later and a dog came loping up to me.
Dirty blond fur and paws just a bit too big for his body, like he was still growing into them. He loped right up and butted me in the stomach while the team eyed me like a fresh steak.
“Hey there, buddy.” I shoved the critter away and dropped to my knees for a closer look. I was pretty sure I wasn’t dealing with some kind of attack dog. The team might be happy to see me dead, Vince especially, but Dom would throw a fit about blood spatter in the open engine compartments. Besides, the puppy was dancing in place like a kid on speed. Not exactly terrifying.
Then I got a look at the pup’s eyes, and I knew. “Hey there, Jesse.” I gave him a firm scratch behind the ears and watched his eyes droop in bliss. “Huh, that explains a few things.”
Jesse’s tongue lolled in delight for a moment, then I was scratching a young man behind the ears instead of a dog. A naked young man. But I didn’t let that upset me. I wasn’t going to flinch. Not even when Jesse let out a bellow of delight.
“Ha, see. I told you he’s one of us.” He bounced to his feet with a manic grin.
“Tuck it away, kid,” Dom called, stepping out of his office. “No nudity in the garage. You know that.”
“Dom, Dom, he knows. He gets it,” Jesse crowed, but he bounced his way to his back office.
Dom just raised an eyebrow.
“Can we see you?” Jesse asked a moment later, when he returned in jeans, with the button undone, and a mesh tank, but no shoes.
I was surprised. By his question, not his clothes. The few people who knew what I was, none had ever asked to see, not even the few fellow cops who were shifters too.
“Not here,” Dom said, his voice a firm command, and I finally understood just why I wanted to bare my throat to him. This wasn’t just a team. This was a pack. “Saturday, my place.”
As I turned to my new baby and all the work I still had to do on her, I wondered if I wanted to throttle Tanner or Bilkins more for getting me into this situation.
Saturday turned out well, despite Vince’s hissy fit. Since he’d heard my invitation, his decision to stalk off could only have been preplanned. Little shit.
After dinner but before the movie came the puppy pile. Everyone gradually disappeared into the house and reappeared on four feet several minutes later, until I was the only one on two feet in the yard. A large wolf with dark curly fur stalked up to me with a pointed look.
He pointed his nose at the house and huffed.
I took the order and slipped inside, passing a growling Vince by the door. After I shed my clothes, it took a minute to manage the shift. I know it’s good for you to shift often and spend time as the wolf, but I rarely have a safe moment. Not as a cop. Doubly so while undercover.
The shift was hard, but once I stood on all fours and shook my fur, it felt sooo good. I stretched and wriggled and rolled on the kitchen floor until all the kinks in my spine were gone.
The moment I stepped out the door, a blond bullet sideswiped me. Jesse bowled me over and stood over me panting eagerly, sporting the lupine equivalent of a grin. He in turn was knocked away by a sleek black wolf who had to be Mia. She scratched dirt toward Jesse and nuzzled against my neck before bounding away.
Dom still stood in the middle of the yard, Vince and Leon flanking him. Letty should have been at Dom’s shoulder, but she was off on the far side of the yard. Mia headed her way, starting a play fight, but that didn’t change the fact that I expected the mated pair to be side by side.
Unless Dom and Letty weren’t mated….
Dom growled before I could think things through. I shuffled up to him and dropped to my belly. A good part of me wanted to roll over, bare my throat and my belly to him. Tell him he was my alpha in every way I could. Except I couldn’t. A cop couldn’t have a street racer for an alpha, and if I really submitted to him, I wouldn’t be able to take it back. That was one thing I couldn’t lie about.
So I lay there and let everyone nudge and sniff, offering Dom a slight tilt of my neck and snapping at Vince when he tried to claim authority over me. Dom I liked, too much really. Vince was just an ass.
Once issues of dominance were settled to Dom’s satisfaction, if no one else’s, the yard turned into a free-for-all. Everyone let their inner child loose, or in Jessie’s case not so inner, until we all collapsed in a painting pile of exhausted fur. Even Letty deigned to join us, though she settled nowhere near Dom.
For a girl who spent a lot of time metaphorically pissing all over her man to stake her claim in public, she ignored and shunned him a lot in private.
But making sense of Letty’s relationship with Dom wasn’t my job. Figuring out who was jacking semis was my job, and hopefully I was a little closer to hearing the truth after today.
Accepting Mia’s dinner offer was a mistake. Flirting was fine. We both knew it wasn’t going anywhere even if everyone else thought I was serious. And pissing off Vince was half the fun. But actually going out? Letting it get anywhere? That was a recipe for heartbreak—for both of us.
After Vince went to sulk in the living room, I nudged Mia until she agreed to step into the backyard with me, where we might manage to not be overheard.
“Hey, I like you,” I said softly once we were over by the back fence and I was sure we were alone. “I really do. But I don’t want to make you do something you don’t want to do just to piss Vince off.
Mia laughed, and I might have fallen a little bit in love with her then. “You beat me to it. I was going to say I’d still love to do dinner. Vince needs to be taken down a gear. But I’m not looking for anything serious. Just a good meal and a fun evening. That okay with you?”
I considered that, and what I now knew about Mia and had long known about shifters. “That mean there’s a chance the evening will end up in bed, if I promise it’s just between friends?” I asked lightly, grinning so she could take it as a joke if she wanted to.
Her smile got all sultry and she looked up at me through her lashes. “Why, Brian, are you implying I might not be the sweet little virgin my brother thinks I am?”
“I think you’re a bigger minx than Letty when you want to be.” I cupped her cheek and stroked a thumb across her cheekbone, a good trigger in a lot of the shifters I’d known. “And your brother will think you a virgin until you show up with a baby in tow.” She leaned into my touch, and I was really tempted to see if I could get an invite up to her room. Being undercover tended to put a crimp in my sex life, and I was just as much of a horn dog as the next shifter. But I really, really didn’t want to upset her. “But no, just expressing a bit of a hope about a beautiful girl.”
She leaned in to me, her face coming closer, her lips soon hovering close enough to mine I could feel the warmth of her skin. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Her lips brushed against mine as she spoke, but a moment later she was gone and the door to the kitchen was closing behind her.
I really like that girl.
I really fucked up going to Hector’s garage, but it seemed like such a good idea when I saw that list in Hector’s hand. I needed something, anything, to give Bilkins. And Hector, desperate for the funds to get into the Nader circuit, packing that wad of cash, seemed as good a person to be pulling the truck heists as any.
Except he wasn’t. Or if he was, there wasn’t a thing in his garage to indicate it. There were Hondas there, but wrong tires, wrong descriptions. And if that weren’t bad enough, Vince clobbered me with a shotgun before I made it back to the truck.
Okay, maybe bringing Harry’s truck had not been the smartest possible move. Bright red and not a souped up racer, even in the shadows it probably stood out like a sore thumb in this neighborhood.
And if Vince trying to cave my head in weren’t bad enough, Dom looming over when I woke up was enough to make a snowman panic. Calm exterior or not, he was pissed. It showed in his eyes, and my wolf wanted nothing more than to show my neck and beg for forgiveness.
“He’s not your alpha,” I bellowed internally.
But my instincts didn’t seem to care. It took everything I had to nod, to struggle up to my knees, and none of the fear had to do with the shotgun pointed at my head.
I couldn’t look at Dom as I formulated my lie. My desperate panting wasn’t fear, but forcing out something believable. I had to believe it if he was going to believe it. Or my eyes would give me away.
I think, just maybe, I really did believe it by the time I finished. “Because, Dom, you know I can’t lose again.” I felt the need to win—the race, Dom’s respect—burn through me with those words.
“He’s a cop!”
Fuck, Vince and his damned gut. So hard to tell if he really knew or wanted it to be true because he was jealous about Mia. I so should have found another way in. But how was I to know chasing Mia would cause so much trouble with Dom’s second?
“You a cop?”
I was fucked. I couldn’t lie to Dom, not about that. I’d never get the words out past the whine building in my throat. So I shook my head and tried to look innocent and pathetic. And I bared my throat.
Submission. Dom could see it, see the longing in me. I could see in his eyes the alpha urge to shake me by the scruff. There were doubts there, too. Would be as long as the words stayed silent. But for tonight he decided to ignore them.
“Let’s go for a little ride.”
I wanted to deck Bilkins so badly. Or rip out his throat with my bare teeth. Yeah, that would feel really good.
But I couldn’t. He was FBI. He was my superior.
He was still an asshole.
And the fucker’s standing there waving that blasted cigar around.
Least Sergeant Tanner could have done was let me have a cigarette, let me rebalance my system before I did something stupid, like start a fight with one of the surveillance team. He knew why I used to smoke. Helped me quit after he became my alpha.
My alpha. Fuck. Soon as he said I couldn’t have one, I couldn’t even go grab a smoke on the way back to the garage. If he had any idea how close I was to jumping packs…
“He’s a model of self-control.”
Damn Tanner. He had no idea… none.
I never thought Dom would trust me again, not after the doubts in his eyes in Hector’s junkyard. But no, he surprised me, taking me to his personal garage. Maybe he saw how honest I was about not breaking Mia’s heart.
Maybe he saw something more. Why else would he tell me about his dad, about Kenny. God, you’d think he had me bugged, the timing of that story, just after Tanner shoved those photos in my face.
It made sense now. The control, the anger so carefully leashed wherever Dom went. He’d loosed the leash once and learned from his mistake.
Or so I thought, for one brief moment.
“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters, not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.”
He did it. He and his team had pulled every heist. Not Mia, his baby sister, the only one in college and getting out of the life the rest of them wallowed in. But the rest? Oh yeah. Dom led them all to go suicidal on semis on a regular basis.
I should have called Tanner the instant I was alone. I didn’t have any evidence, but it was as much as we had on any of the other teams. And I just knew…
But I didn’t. I couldn’t.
I couldn’t turn Dom in.
“No. No. The only thing that pulled me in was you. Being friends with your brother’s just a bonus.”
Mia just lit up as I poured that pathetic line off my tongue, and I felt like the world’s biggest heel. All this beautiful girl wanted was a chance to be first in someone’s life. She’d never get that with Dom, lost in his own head after their father’s death. She’d never get that from Vince, his head too far up Dom’s ass. And all I could do was ape it, because I wasn’t here for her. Not really. I was here to catch the criminals.
She was nice enough to wait until we were alone on the beach to confront me with my lies.
“I appreciate the sentiment, you know. None of the others… I’m Dom’s little sister, so they don’t bother to play up to me.”
“I’m not playing.”
Such a sweet smile, doubly so under the light of the moon. Lying on the hood of her car with her didn’t weaken the experience any to my mind. “Yes, you are. And I love it. Feel free to keep it up, if only to piss off Vince. But you don’t have to. I know where we stand. I want a good time, and you’re in love with my brother.”
I opened my mouth to protest and froze, her words hitting like a punch to the gut. I looked at her, dark skin, long black hair, and eyes just like her brother’s.
She grinned, wicked and tempting as Letty at her catty best. “Don’t tell me you hadn’t figured it out?”
My jaw flapped in the ocean breeze, words trapped in my lungs.
“Damn, boys are dense.”
That I had to laugh at. “Didn’t really think about it. He’s with Letty. Hell, for all I know, he could be straight.” Rare for a shifter, but not unheard of. I had a cousin who only liked girls.
It was Mia’s turn to laugh. “Dom? Straight? Ha. Letty may have her hooks in him for now, but only because Dom’s been so confused since prison. Sometimes I think while he was in there he forgot everything Dad taught us, everything it means to be what we are.”
“He remembers racing.”
“Yeah, that he can’t seem to forget.” She sighed, eyes sad, and I remembered how she’d told me Dom wanted her to be a doctor so she can patch him up on the sly. I remembered Dom saying he lived a quarter mile at a time.
“I thought… you know, him and Letty… the way she is, I thought they were mated,” I asked, as much because I wanted to give Mia something different to focus on as because I was curious. Very curious.
“Letty, settle down?” Mia laughed. “She’d no more get married than mated. It’s not in her nature.”
I considered that, then shoved it to the back of my mind. “And Dom?” Not long ago I’d’ve said totally. Dom seemed the family building type, the alpha with a pack bound by both blood and friendship. Now? I wasn’t so sure.
Mia just smiled a speculative smile. “Dom’s always wanted what Mom and Dad had. For the right person, he’ll settle down. For now, he flirts and lets Letty drive off the ones too weak to suit…. But I don’t want to talk about Dom right now.” She cupped my cheek in her delicate little hand, calluses from helping in the garage rough against my stubble, and leaned closer.
“Then what would you like to talk about?” I lightly cupped a hand over her hip, more than prepared to jump back if she protested in any way. But she didn’t. Instead, she kissed me.
No shy virgin, that girl. She kissed better than all the guys I’d been with and most of the girls. Inside of a minute I was brain-dead and ready to crawl up her dress right there on the beach.
“I don’t think I want to talk at all anymore.”
I had to stare at her a minute to figure out what she was talking about. My question. Right. “Can do.” I slid a hand up her thigh and under her dress, but this time she rolled away, off the hood of her car.
“Come on, not here.”
I rolled back to my feet and opened the passenger door of her car. “Dom gonna kill me if we go back to your place?”
“No, cause we’re going to yours.”
That was a damned amazing night, even in the cramped backroom at Harry’s. At least, it was until Tanner called.
Fucking Dom. He waited until Mia and I were both distracted to pull another heist when neither of us would notice the house was empty. And now we’re going after Tran, and I still can’t tell Tanner that he’s on the wrong track.
I really, really hoped they’d find something good on the Trans’ property.
If wishes were fishes the poor wouldn’t starve. And I wouldn’t be getting bitched out by Bilkins. Again.
I fucking hate the feebs. He had no idea how close he came to a knuckle sandwich.
“I don’t care if you have to put a gun to someone’s head and blow your cover to smithereens.”
Oh that’s helpful.
Thirty-six hours to prove what I already knew and couldn’t say.
And Tanner thought it’s all about Mia. Was the man blind?
“There’s all kinds of family, Brian. That’s a choice you’ll have to make.”
Maybe not that blind, but blind enough. I should be able to tell him everything. Tanner’s my alpha. Had been for years. I chose him. But I couldn’t tell him the truth because my wolf wanted Dom, I wanted Dom, and I couldn’t believe Tanner couldn’t see that I’d already made the choice.
Whether I wanted to or not.
“So what’s wrong, Brian?”
All that dominance, concern, protective potential. Could I really answer him this time?
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” Guess not.
“Come on. Obviously something’s off.”
“Look, I have my good days and I have my bad days, just like anybody else.”
Oh Lord, he so should have called me on that one. Could I possibly have sounded any more like a petulant child?
The banter continued apace, getting nowhere. I couldn’t believe I got into an argument over shrimp and illegally attained money. I couldn’t believe I was in that situation at all.
“Fuck.” I slapped both hands down on the table and dropped my head against my chest, eyes closed. “I can’t do this.” Couldn’t lie to Dom. Couldn’t tell him the truth. No more than I could Tanner.
Dom’s hand griped my forearm. Too macho to be seen touching my hand. “Hey, Bri, what’s going on?”
I shook of his hand, and he moved it up to my shoulder, the side of his hand touching my neck. Reflex and need sent my head tilting away from his touch, baring my neck. His thumb was moving along my collarbone before sanity reared its head and I shook him off, leaning back in my seat so I was out of reach.
“Don’t,” I snarled.
Dom raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his built chest. “Seems like you want it fine.”
I shook my head and look away, down, anywhere but at Dom. “Can’t always have what I want.”
Dom frowned and I watched through my eyelashes as he tried to figure things out. “What are you…? Look, I’m… I’d take care of you. I take care of my people. Is this about Vince? Letty?”
I took a deep breath, and looked up to meet his eyes, not as a member of his pack but as a lone wolf holding his own. “I need an alpha who lives his life more than a quarter mile at a time,” I hissed. And watched.
Dom’s eyes opened wide and his head rocked back like I’d punched him hard. He froze, brain spinning behind eyes that seemed like true windows to the soul for once. Nothing hidden.
Then he blinked, frowned for just a moment, and stiffened up under his usual confident shell. His eyes met mine again, and nothing moved in their brown depths now. “I see. Well, if it’s gotta be that way, it’s gotta be that way.” He slid a card across the table.
It was my turn to frown. “What’s this?” I asked, looking at the card rather than picking it up.
“Directions to race wars. You still gotta make me some money with that beater of yours. And maybe you’ll meet someone there who better meets your criteria.”
I wanted to howl, to scream, to latch onto him and swear even Vince couldn’t drive me away. But I didn’t. I’d had alphas who lived moment to moment, who didn’t protect their own because of their demons. I couldn’t do that again. Wouldn’t do that again. No matter how my heart protested. Dom had too many demons he was running from. So I grabbed the card and stuffed it in my pocket.
“Go on, head for the car. I’ll deal with the bill.”
I wanted to growl, given the argument we’d had over the bill earlier, given that I’d just informed Dom I wasn’t part of his pack, wasn’t his to protect. But I saw a glimmer of pain under that firm alpha façade, and just nodded and headed for the car.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck Tanner. Fuck Bilkins. Fuck Dominic Toretto and his demons.
And fuck me and the heart I just ripped from my chest and left at the table.
Race wars should have been the most amazing experience of my life. Better than the police academy. Better than boosting my first car with Rome. The energy was amazing, the people, the cars. Oh, man, the cars.
I raced five times that afternoon and won enough to pay off all Dom’s bills on the Supra repairs. I made friends with teams from all over So Cal and a few from Nor Cal. Six different alphas came sniffing around me after I won my fifth race, and only three of them backed off fast when Dom came to congratulate me. One was even tempting, a powerful woman from up north. If I had been everything I looked to be, I would have been set.
But I wasn’t what I appeared. I was a cop, undercover, looking for whoever was heisting trucks. So I had to smile and play nice, and turn everyone down no matter what their offer or how tempting it sounded.
And then Jessie raced Johnny Tran. Fucking Tran. What the hell was that boy thinking? And why hadn’t Dom warned him off the Trans? Jessie should have known better.
It didn’t matter in the end. All that mattered was protecting Jessie, finding a way to get him home safe. Except… fight with Tran or not, Dom didn’t seem to be doing anything. Not even coming after me over the snitch comment, which I so expected. Vince’s certainty I was a cop would surely come back to the surface in the face of that.
But no. Nothing happened. Not until nightfall. Then Dom came to me, and apparently Jessie was the last thing on his mind.
Or rather, finding Jessie was.
“With Jessie missing we need another driver. I know you haven’t practiced, but you’re a good wheel man and I think you can pull it off.”
I stared at him, my mind stuck in neutral from shock.
I glanced over his shoulder to Vince, who was scowling at me like he wanted to plant me in the ground, but he didn’t say anything.
I glanced over Dom’s other shoulder at Leon, who was watching Dom with a worried expression, or as worried as the laid back man ever got.
Behind him, I spotted Letty and Mia hissing at each other.
“Bri,” Dom snapped, the implied order finally kicking my brain into gear. “I need an answer now.”
“You’ve got to be fucking joking,” poured from my mouth before my internal censors went back online.
Vince growled. “Come on, we can do it without him.”
“What about Jessie?” I snapped back. “Are you guys going to do anything to find him before the fucking Trans shoot him?”
Dom winced, it was very faint, but definitely a wince. Leon was much more obvious in his reaction. Good to know someone felt they should be going after Jessie.
“For the love of God, Dom, I know you said you live a quarter mile at a time, but is money really more important than Jessie? Or is it even the money with you? Is it the thrill, Dom? Is that what you really love?” My voice got louder until I was almost shouting. The sound must have attracted Letty and Mia’s attention because the girls came up to the group, circling their men until they were at my side.
Oh hell, they were choosing sides.
“Jessie knows where to lay low.” But Dom’s voice lacked the confidence it should have held.
“Like he knew not to race anyone from little Saigon?” I spat back.
“He’ll be fine,” Dom snapped. “If you’re not in, just say—”
My cell ringing caught everyone’s attention. Or rather, the theme song of NYPD Blue ringing out startled everyone.
“Half sec,” I said firmly, flipping my phone open. “Officer O’Conner.” I tried to ignore the way Dom’s eyes widened and Vince’s narrowed. The way Mia and Letty both pulled away.
“This is Peterson out of Yucaipa. We got a pick up and detain order for a Jessie Stevens, but no orders as to what to do once we got him.”
My eyes fell shut as relief flooded my body. “Protective custody. He’s a key witness to an incident with a local gang down in LA.”
“And just how long are we supposed to hold your witness?”
Oh, snarky. “I’ll be by in an hour or two to get him. Just hold him secure for now.” Before the ass could get snarky again or ask for a name higher up to confirm authorization, I hung up. Hopefully, all the info I’d left out when I’d made the pick up and retain request would keep anyone from contacting Sergeant Tanner before I had Jessie safe somewhere else.
“What the fuck…?” Dom spat.
“I told you,” Vince snarled. “A fucking cop.”
“Brian?” Mia asked softly.
Doubt this was what Bilkins meant when he told me to blow my cover. “My name is Brian O’Conner. I am an undercover operative with the LAPD on a joint taskforce with the FBI to identify the team that has been jacking semis and stealing their loads.”
Lots of gasps followed that, and Letty looked even more willing to throttle me than Vince.
I just kept talking. “Jessie is currently in custody in Yucaipa. You tell me where you want him, I’ll pick him up and get him there.”
“And why should we trust you, Brian O’Conner?” Surprisingly it was Leon who spoke first. No one else seemed able to compile words.
“You shouldn’t.” I shrugged. “But I care about Jessie, and I want to see him survive this weekend.” I turned to Dom, waiting to be blasted by his expression, or maybe just shot.
Dom met my eyes, his expression weary but less angry than I expected. “You knew. All along, you knew.”
Not a question. I shook my head. “I didn’t want to… but no, didn’t have a clue until last Friday.”
“Still… a week.” Dom crossed his arms, his fingers tapping against his bicep. “Why aren’t we in jail, or at least getting raided like Tran?”
I raised an eyebrow, pointedly, and let my chin tilt, just a little, up.
Dom sucked in a breath of air, eyes wide again. Vince snarled and bolted forward. I let him land one solid on my chin, but caught the second, twisting his arm up behind his back.
“You get one shot for being right, but don’t ever doubt I’ve done my best for this pack,” I hiss in his ear as he struggled against my grip.
“Let him go, Brian.”
My hands had released before I completely process the order from Dom. Vince tried to turn and come at me again, but this time Dom grabbed him and held him back.
“Vince, no more.” Dom grabbed Vince by the scruff of his neck and shook him until the fight drained, if not the anger. “Take Jessie to Hector’s.”
I nodded, and started to walk away.
“Do they know it was us?”
I paused, turned back. I’d only made it three or four steps. “Not from me. Oh, they’re pretty sure since the Tran raid flubbed, but no one has proof. Course, since the truckers are arming themselves now… Might have proof in injury next time. If nothing else.”
Dom nodded, eyes hard and angry, but I got the strange feeling it wasn’t aimed at me. Maybe. I waited another moment, but no one said anything. So I walked away.
Getting Jessie out of Yucaipa wasn’t easy, but I did manage without having to call my superiors, who wouldn’t have taken it well. Had to leave Jessie’s car in impound though. That’d be a headache for another day.
I snuck Jessie in through the back at Hector’s, the little brat still apologizing vociferously for fucking up so badly. After listening to it for damn near two hours thanks to weekend traffic, I was about ready to shoot the kid myself no matter how much I liked him.
Hector lit up the moment he spotted us. “You’re here.”
“Dom called?” I asked.
“Gave the basics anyway.” Hector was pulling out his phone, but I turned to walk away. Time for me to get out of Dodge.
Except someone grabbed my arms. I struggled, pulling free and turning to deck whoever had tried to hold me. Then stopped when I realized it had been Jessie on the right and Hector on the left.
“They’re here,” Hector said into his phone, then handed it to Jessie, who immediately started babbling his apologies, again.
“I gotta go,” I said firmly to Hector, but he shook his head.
“Just a sec,” Hector said. “Dom wants to talk to you next.”
I stiffened, panic racing through me. I watched Hector, looking for any sign that he knew, that Dom had told him the truth about me. But Hector just watched Jessie with a fond smile.
Then Jessie handed me the phone.
“Yeah?” I said, trying to sound as cool and calm as I needed to be.
“Jessie’s car?” Dom sounded as strong as ever, even over the thin cell connection.
“Impound, and getting it out any time soon may be tricky.” I tried to sound at least a little apologetic, but I was just happy the kid was safe.
“Safer there for the moment anyway,” Dom said. “Leon called his fence, bitched him out for not warning us the truckers were arming.”
Why the hell is he telling me this? “Oh?”
“He tried to brush it off until Leon mentioned our cop contact had warned us. Then he admitted he even sold a couple of them shotguns himself.” Dom spat away from the microphone.
I winced. “Fuck.”
“Seriously. So I bitched out our contacts and we’re off the hook for the last shipment. Mentioning that an undercover was up our tailpipe seems to have made them back off. Don’t suppose you can give us a name to throw at them?”
“Anyone likely to get hurt if I do?” I asked, even though Bilkins’ name was already half way out my throat.
“Nah, wrong crowd for that. Might be trouble if it gets back to Tran, but then we’d get that lot off the street.”
I nodded though Dom couldn’t see it. “FBI’s Bilkins. Liaison to the locals is Sergeant Tanner.” I listened to him repeat that, probably to Leon, and tried to ignore the odd looks Hector was giving me. “How deep should I go into hiding?” A polite way of asking how mad he was and whether he was going to offer me to the Trans to cover for Jessie.
“If you want your name to stay out of it, be at work on Monday.”
My heart lodged itself in my throat as the possible interpretations of that thundered through my brain.
“But you can tell your boss to keep an eye on the industrial section of Little Saigon tomorrow.”
And with that he hung up. I stared at the phone, frowning for a moment, before I handed it back to Hector.
He studied me a moment. Then he held up his hands in surrender and took the phone. “I don’t know, don’t wanna know. This never happened.”
I nodded. “You’ll keep an eye on Jessie until Tran cools down?”
“Kid’s safe as houses here.” Hector clapped me on the shoulder, then lead Jessie away.
Fuck. That just left Tanner.
“I said I didn’t care if you had to put a gun to someone’s head and blow your cover if it got you the evidence we needed. I did not say to blow your cover and fail to get any evidence at all.”
I slouched on the couch and tried to let Bilkins’ bitching blow around me. Wasn’t easy.
“Everybody calm down,” Tanner finally cut in. “Yelling isn’t getting us anywhere. Brian, explain this.”
Oh right, all on me again. Bastards. “I didn’t blow my cover.” Lie. “They knew.” Yeah, right. “Jessie Stevens, team mechanical genius, screwed up with Johnny Tran and panicked.” At least that was truth. “Dom came to me and asked if I could get the cops to find him.” Well, he might have if he’d known or been thinking straight. “Given I was sitting not only on his turf, but surrounded by other racers, I acquiesced.”
“Why the hell would you do that?” Bilkins snapped. “They might have only suspected.”
“Because if I didn’t, chances were they’d hand me over to Tran as the person who narked. Johnny already accused Toretto. You think he wouldn’t like to clear his name?” I tried to stay calm, sound cool, but my shoulders hunched and my spine curved in defensively all the same. I still wasn’t sure why Dom hadn’t handed me over or if he wouldn’t someday soon. Not completely.
“He has a point,” Tanner said, and I wanted to laugh. Same conversation, same theme, different main focus. This case sucked.
“Yes, I have a point. Shit, Bilkins, I was on edge already. Rumors about the heists were all over race wars, along with word that the cops were lurking and the truckers were arming. I heard your name once or twice.” That actually got a faint look of worry from the bastard. Good.
“You think we have a leak, Brian?” Tanner asked.
“I think Brian here is the leak.” Bilkins stood by the wall, his arms crossed, all disapproving. All I wanted to do was pull my gun, plug the bastard, and get the fuck out of there.
Tanner should have protested immediately, but he didn’t. He just looked at me.
I looked back.
Bilkins snapped first. “We need a reason to go after Toretto. If he knew Brian was undercover, if he got that information from somewhere else—” Oh he said that part so snidely. “ —then he’d cover his tracks around Brian. Where were you the night of the last heist?”
I kept glaring at Tanner. “Dinner with Mia, then back at Harry’s.”
“With Mia?” Tanner asked. I knew he was asking if she was clouding my judgment.
“A mutually agreed upon good time between friends.” At least there I didn’t have to lie. The rest, however… I turned to Bilkins. “Toretto didn’t do it, and even if he did—shit, no matter who did do it, you’re not going to find any evidence now. Word is out. No one is going to pull another heist in this area.” Hopefully I wasn’t completely bullshitting.
“Bullshit,” Bilkins spat. “You’re going to go back there and find out who’s doing this.”
“And if they kill me for being a snitch?”
“Brian, you don’t have to go back,” Tanner said.
“Then we’ll have them for murder!” Bilkins continued.
I laughed. “Good to know what I’m worth in your eyes.” I turned to Tanner as I stood.
“You’re not going back,” Tanner said. No, ordered. It didn’t even register with me. I was free as a bird because Tanner wasn’t my alpha, not anymore.
“Yes, I am.”
I watched as the realization hit, as Sergeant Tanner of the LAPD, alpha to a good dozen shifters in his precinct, had to accept that he’d lost one of his pack. Oh how he had fucked up, and now he could see it.
With that, I left.
My heart was in my throat as I walked up to DT’s Garage Monday morning. I didn’t know what would happen when I got past that door. Oh, there were hints there and hints here. Dom telling me it was Leon’s fence and Dom’s contacts implied trust. But Tran needed buying off, and I’d make a good offering.
My phone rang as I passed the front gate. It was Tanner.
“Where are you?”
“You don’t have to go back there.” This time Tanner offered, assured, rather than ordering. Didn’t make a difference. I didn’t reply.
“Fine. You should know before you go in there that a Honda Civic with all the likely mods was found burning in Little Saigon last night.”
“Only one?” So that’s what Dom meant? But what happened to the other two?
“Keep your ears open, if you would. Something like that might spread in the gossip, like your little run in with the Trans at the beginning of all this.”
As I hung up, I could faintly hear Tanner’s voice still talking. I think he said, “Be careful.” Duh.
Jessie was the first person I saw inside the building. He bounded over to me and threw his arms around me.
“Thank you. Thank you,” he chanted.
“Hey, is it safe for you to be here?” I had to ask. I didn’t trust Dom to do right by the kid, not after this weekend.
“Dom squared things with Tran. It’s cool. I’m clear.” And then Jessie bared his throat to me, like I was his alpha, or at least his senior in the pack.
I wanted to bellow ‘what the fuck’, but I didn’t dare under the circumstances. Too many unknowns. Instead, I pressed my lips to the joint of neck and shoulder for a moment before whispering, “I’m so glad.” Then I pushed him away with a playful smile. “Shouldn’t you be getting some work done then?”
Letty was leaning against the nearest car when Jessie bounced to his office. She met my questioning expression with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. We studied each other for a few minutes before she finally broke into a full smile and sauntered up to me. “This should be interesting.”
She pulled me into a hug and bared her neck too, just like Jessie. I leaned down and pressed a kiss again, waiting for her to deck me for it. But she just laughed.
“He’s your problem now, Brian.” And she pulled away and wandered off.
I frowned for a moment, watching her go, before I spotted Leon coming toward me from the back room. I plastered a blank expression back on my face, but he just smiled.
“Thanks, man,” he said, offering me a hand. “For everything.”
We shook, but then he shifted his grip and placed my hand on his shoulder, thumb on the curve of his neck. Squeezing my hand in place, he tilted his neck, smile never fading.
On the outside, I was smiling, calm and cool. On the inside I was completely freaking out. That was three of Dom’s pack offering me their submission. Me! What the hell?
“No big,” I said, really meaning ‘You don’t owe me anything.’
Leon just grinned, released my hand, and clapped me on the shoulder, pushing me toward the back of the building and Dom’s office.
Vince was standing outside. Glaring.
Not having a clue what else to do and spotting Dom behind the dusty and stained glass, I walked over. The moment I was in reach, Vince’s hands clapped down on my shoulders. I would have thrown him off if he’d gotten anywhere near my neck, but his hands stayed out, more on my upper arms.
“If you fuck us over, fuck him over, I will tear your throat out with my bare teeth.” As sincere as the threat was, Vince kept his distance, not getting right in my face. Sincere but not challenging.
“Not gonna happen.”
The corner of Vince’s lips curled up, and his head tilted. “Good luck, Buster.” He shoved me through the office doorway.
My head was spinning faster than the wheels on the Supra at that point, so I didn’t notice Mia standing next to Dom at the desk until she moved forward. A moment later, I was wrapped up in her arms. This hug was supportive and comforting, and the world seemed to slow back to a normal pace.
Until Mia bared her neck to me.
“Mia?” I whispered, finally feeling free to show my confusion.
“It’s okay, Brian.” I felt wetness blossom on my shirt collar and realized she was crying, but it didn’t feel like she was upset. “It’s really okay.”
I pressed a kiss to her neck as I had for Letty and Jessie and felt her smile in response.
“You’re good for him,” she whispered into my ear, then pressed a kiss to my cheek. Then she was gone from my arms, from the room, and the door was closing with a soft click.
I looked at Dom. He smiled up at me from behind his desk.
“Tanner says someone found a burnt out Honda Civic in Little Saigon.”
Dom’s smile got wider.
“The other two?”
“Had to placate Tran somehow.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Risky, what with the cops looking for those cars.”
“There’s no paperwork,” Dom said, voice dry but amused. “Tran knows what they used to do. Even warned him he might want to wait on any experimenting until the heat dies down.”
“Anyone catches him dicking around will assume it was his gang all along.” Not a bad plan. “Until he tells the truth.”
Dom’s smile became vicious. “And nark, after accusing me publicly of doing so to him?”
Ah, reputation and honor. Interesting leverage. “And me?” My stomach clenched to even ask the question. After all, I did nark on Tran. So to speak.
“You can stick around a few more weeks, work here, work at Harry’s, before ‘moving on.’ If you stay away from a few corners of LA you probably won’t be recognized.”
Dom stood and moved closer. His hand hovered, half outstretched. “Or stay.”
There was so much more to that statement, so many words unspoken. But I didn’t need to hear them. I stepped forward and nudged his hand until it settled on my shoulder. Dom’s thumb moving across my collar bone sent shivers down my spine, not in a bad way. His smile sent fear scampering, replaced with a thrum of arousal I hadn’t dare let myself feel around him.
Slipping one arm around his waist and the other behind his head, I pulled Dom into a kiss. God, it was perfect. His fingers tightening on my neck only made it better.
When he pulled back, I let him. Dom’s thumb pressed into my collar bone as he spoke. “How long has that been in the offering?”
I let out a chuckle and leaned into the dominating touch. “You didn’t know? Your sister had me pegged ages ago.”
“I hoped,” he admitted with a slight tilt of his head. Leaning in again, this time he brushed his lips over my neck, teasing here and there until he finally brushed his teeth against the skin just above his hand. “I don’t share,” he said, warning strong in his voice.
The angle was a little awkward, but I leaned in and scraped my teeth over the unmarked skin at the joint of his neck and shoulder. “Good, neither do I.”
Life wasn’t going to be easy in any way shape or form. Even shifted into the community liaison division, I was still a cop. Word would get out. Some people wouldn’t like it. There would be problems at some point or another, either from the LAPD or the racers and the lowlifes they ran with.
I didn’t give a shit. Let them come.
The crowd had already built, the back streets of Hollywood full of fast cars covered in neon and mods, when I stepped out of the Supra. It was mine now, title and all. My mating gift from Dom.
Dom stepped out of his car to my left, Vince from his on my right with Leon, Jessie, and Letty beyond him. Mia was home studying, though she was currently threatening to switch to forensic pathology and join the police department. It mostly amused Dom, but Vince was freaking out. Probably her intention.
At least since I was Dom’s mate, Vince technically hadn’t lost any rank in the pack. He was still Dom’s second so we were getting along alright.
Hector came up with his posse from the other side of the street. “Brian, my man, good to see you.” His eyes flicked to the bruise proudly visible above my collar, then at the matching one on Dom’s neck, teeth indents still visible in both. Mating marks, better than wedding rings in some circles. Hector took it in and grinned like a mad fool. “Congratulations, snowman.” He pounded me on the back before shoving me over toward Dom, who was already being circled by half a dozen half-dressed ladies.
I caught a sympathetic look from Letty as she wandered past to check out Edward’s latest mods, but she didn’t come over to help. Figured.
“Ladies, ladies,” I chanted as I came up, arms wide and welcoming. Then I crossed them over my chest and glared in imitation of Dom. “Piss off.” They all looked completely startled, more so than Letty’s cattiness ever earned. Ah, they’d learn. I turned to Dom. “Are you here to sniff at skanks or race?”
Dom grinned and I knew he approved. He stepped up to me and ran his fingers through my hair. “All right. Hector, what’re we doing tonight?”