Dedicated to my husband, David, who always inspires me and encourages me with my writing.
Brian gritted his teeth as his eyes focused on the light ahead of him. His hands tightly gripped the controls as he felt his heart racing inside his chest. The feeling was very alluring to him. A sensation that he had not felt in years, but never faded away, no matter how badly Mia wanted him to forget about it. Racing. He casted a gaze to his left side to his opponent as he nonchalantly listened to the announcer telling everyone to be ready.
Just as the light changed from red to green, he pushed down on the accelerator button and watched the screen in front of him proceed to move. He was moving up in the pack. First seventh then fifth, making his way ahead while trying to drive carefully to not put a scratch on his pristine blue Jaguar. His rival, on the other hand, the blonde hair boy beside him was sitting up on his knees as he bumped his way against their foes. “That all you got?” Brian tossed a playful banter to his son. “I’m leaving you, son.”
Jack’s eyes went wide and jammed his thumb harder on the button as if that could magically make his car go any faster. He had chosen, much to his father’s dismay, a bright red Ferrari. “I’m going to get you!” He announced as he stood a little higher on his knees, concentrating as hard as he could.
Brian eased off the gas and allowed the distance between their cars to become shorter, ignoring his AI opponents who flew ahead. Then his controller vibrated as his son’s car rammed into his back end. “Hey!” He laughed as he saw his damaged Jaguar in front of him on the screen. The bumper just barely attached.
His son showed no mercy as he switched to his right side and bumped into him again. “I’m passing you, dad!” He shouted triumphantly.
Brian gunned the vehicle with a quick jolt just to scare him, but then kept his finger lightly off the controller. He smiled big as he watched his son’s car sprint ahead. “You’re good, son.”
Moments later, they ended the course with the Ferrari crossing the line at fourth place while Brian trailed behind in sixth. He scrunched his face still at the damaged Jaguar. Throwing the controller down in victory, Jack celebrated and turned to give his mom a big smile. “I beat dad!”
Mia gave a silent “thank you” look to her husband and then clapped. “Way to go!”
“I should have chosen a better car.” Brian coyly grumbled as he gave his son a nookie. Inwardly, he could hear Dominic Toretto’s voice criticizing him for such a statement. After all, it wasn’t the car, it was the driver. Just hearing his good friend’s voice sent a cold feeling throughout his body. It reminded of the looming meeting that they were going to have that day.
Dom went dark awhile back and in fact so did the whole team. It was odd even for Mia. Then when he finally established contact, nobody was talking. He felt so disconnected from the team. Ever since he promised Mia after their last job with Hobbs and Shaw that he wouldn’t get involved anymore. But still, Dom and the others, they were his family. He never brought it up to Mia. She didn’t want him to help last time. He needed to be with Jack and she didn’t want to raise him nor their newly baby girl alone. He just missed the bullets. The adrenaline rush. The cars. The racing. Everything. He felt a nagging tug on his arm. “Dad! Dad?”
Shaking his head, he blinked himself out of his muse and looked down at his son in confusion. “Yes, buddy?”
Jack pouted his lips. “We going to race again, right?” He pointed eagerly to the screen in front of him with the car selection.
Mia walked over and gingerly placed her fingertips on his shoulder. She knew ever since she got that phone call the other day from her brother wanting a visit, that Brian didn’t act the same. He was very reclusive and his eyes troubled her. She worriedly looked towards the staircase of their home that led to the second-floor bedroom where their daughter was resting. She just put her down for a nap when Jack decided to game a few with his father. “You okay?”
Brian diverted his eyes from her. He couldn’t confess his emotions. “I’m fine.” He returned his focus to the television set. “Get another one started, Jack.”
Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang and Mia was the first to greet their friends. She first embraced her brother, Dom and then gave Letty a warm hug. She noticed that Letty’s right arm was pulled downward some as she was holding a baby carrier.
Dom walked inside first and his eyes instantly fell upon Brian as he stood up from the floor where he was with his son. Dom’s jaw squared as his body became rigid, but then he cracked a smile. “Long time no see, Brian.”
“The same,” Brian forced a light chuckle, trying to lighten the mood. The air felt so cold inside the house even if it was the dead center of Summer. Jack gave a small wave to his uncle.
Dom knelt in front of the boy. “Jack. Heh. You’re a chip off the old block.”
“I was racing daddy.” Jack proudly pointed to his XBOX one.
“That so?” Dom glanced up at Brian.
“He definitely has the blood for it.”
Letty stopped at the living room’s entranceway and lowered the baby carrier gingerly to the floor, careful not to disturb its occupant. She cleared her throat to catch her husband’s attention. Dom stood back up and walked over. “Mia, Brian. I thought I would introduce you to the newest member of our family.” He knelt as he spoke and unhooked the baby boy inside. “This is Brian.”
Mia tried her best to smile genuinely, but the news troubled her. When was Letty pregnant? She casted the dark hair woman beside her a look to try to read her facial expressions, but her expression was cryptic. She then stepped in closer to the little boy that Dom was holding. “He’s adorable, Dom. Congratulations to you both.”
“Yeah,” Brian was also caught off-guard by the announcement. “You finally settling down?” After all the time, he had been with Letty and Dom, he never really heard them talking about having children or moving away from the life they chose. What would happen to their team then?
“Brian,” Mia teased to chime in. “Maybe they are giving up the ‘fast’ life like you did.”
Dom and Letty exchanged a look and then he handed the little boy back to her. “Got any beer?”
“I’ll get a couple of Coronas. Meet you out back.” Brian motioned to their back porch as he walked into the kitchen. Dom wanted to talk about something and apparently not with Letty and Mia in the room. Just him. A pit formed in his stomach. Was this another job? The chance to return to the life he had years ago? Would Mia let him? Guilt plagued him. He couldn’t leave his kids. He knew he couldn’t get involved and risk exposure to them. It was hard enough going through when Mia was kidnapped.
Breaking the awkward silence, Letty sat down on the couch as she held onto Brian. Jack slowly walked up to say hello to his cousin.
Mia caught Letty’s glance. “She’s upstairs napping.”
“Oh.” Letty smiled at Jack in front of her as he gently held Brian’s small fingers. “Brian, this is Jack. He’s your big cousin.” Brian gave the boy a toothless slobbery smile with a soft coo.
Mia giggled. “He likes you, Jack.”
Jack’s face glowed. “You think he can play the game with me?”
Letty shook her head with a grin. “He’s too young now. Give him another year or so and you can teach him all your moves.”
Jack’s face faltered with disappointment, but then happily moved back to his game. Mia frowned as she looked on. “He loves cars like his father.”
“And uncle.” Letty added. Her voice trailed off as she kept her eyes away from her sister-in-law.
Mia decided to press the issue. “Is he yours?”
Letty sighed hard and glanced upwards for a moment. “It’s Elena’s.”
Dom’s sister’s mind flashed to his relationship with Elena. She remembered him speaking of her during the time when he thought Letty was killed. Dom was drowning in emotions then. She never seen him so torn up. Maybe Elena was a rebound. Maybe it was love. She never really tried to question it. She knew when to back away from her big brother. Coming quickly to his defense, she spoke up, “I know it looks bad, Letty, but trust me, Dom wouldn’t have been with her if he knew you were alive.”
“It’s not that.” Letty cut her off quickly and diverted her dark eyes to the direction where the two men went. She knew that Dom was going to have the rougher part of the conversations. She couldn’t leave Mia in the dark. After all, on the way to their house, Dominic asked if she would talk to his sister first. “Mia, you need to know something.”
Dom tried to relax as much as he could without making it look too forced. His lips rested on the bottle opening. He continued to rehearse the conversation in his mind as he stalled for time. Replaying the words over and over. “Nice place. You did alright for yourself.”
Brian knew that Dom’s eyes were betraying him. He had known the man in front of him for too long. Something was up. Maybe it was his cop intuition. His old school days with LAPD. Dom was dancing around the real subject of their visit. “You going to tell me about your last run?” He blurted out as he kept his hand around the beer bottle in front of him. Pain filled his eyes. He didn’t like being kept in the dark. Not when his friends’ lives were on the line. He was tipped off earlier on, but he didn’t disclose that to Dominic Toretto nor his sister, Mia. The tipper’s identity would be kept secret.
“What all you know?” Dom shot back guardedly.
“Enough.” Brian smiled wryly. He pulled a spark plug.
Dom narrowed his eyes and took another swig of the Corona. He felt the cold beverage easing down his throat. The grip around the bottle became tighter. He didn’t call this play at all. How the hell did Brian know? Did someone tell him? Who? Most likely it was Roman. The man couldn’t keep anything secret. His fame and glory was too much for him and who knows what tweets he posted from their incursion in Russia. No, he was not going to place blame here. He had to take what was given to him. “It was a tough decision.” His answer was flat. “I don’t regret it.”
“Bullshit.” Brian let his anger seep through as he pounded the glass table he was sitting at with his fist. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“I remembered my promise to you and my sister years ago. I am not dragging you into our affairs anymore. You have two kids to look out for and I love my sister. You don’t know how scared Mia was for you last time when you helped out.” His voice rose in frustration. His mind flashed to the phone call with Mia when the team was called upon to help find Ramsey. She was on the edge of tears. “She didn’t want anything to happen to you. You couldn’t handle it this time. I didn’t want you to get killed. Like you told Roman at Han’s funeral. No more funerals. You are my brother.”
“Yeah and you said family always stick together.” Brian icily glowered. “Just sometimes now?”
“I know you miss the action, Brian. The rush you get.” Dom chuckled a bit.
The blonde hair man in front of him matched the mood. “I mean I would have you.”
Dom grew still again. So, Roman the blabbermouth didn’t tell their friend everything then. He wasn’t ready yet. He redirected where the conversation was heading. “Can you believe that we had to pair up with Owen Shaw, his brother and their mother.” He chortled again.
This aroused a chuckle from O’Conner. “So, what poor bastard went up against the team this time?”
Dom squarely looked at him. “Me.” Brian continued to laugh, but quickly fell silent when the dead serious look on Dom’s face didn’t disappear.
The ex-cop tried to read his friend, dig into his psyche to see why he would do this, but nothing was pinging. He shook his head and stood up quickly from the table as he ran his hand through his hair. “Why?” He choked on the word.
Toretto sat up straighter. “Brian, you know me.” His words were soft.
Brian decided to relinquish some more data that he had hidden away. “You part of New York?” His voice shook. “I saw the news about the hacked cars.”
“That wasn’t all me.” Dom admitted. He decided to keep the information about Cipher and her crew away. There was no need to dig too deep into this. He repressed the conversation he had with the blonde dread hair woman. The way she pinned him so quickly to make him her pawn. The choice he had to make between Elena and their son with disdain because he wouldn’t kill Letty when she tried to take the case with the Russian nuclear codes. He knew that every move he made she watched, but he did his part. He took the codes and had to do some serious damage to his team’s new vehicles to get out of there. He didn’t enjoy any of it. His sorrow became anger. “What? You some kind of cop again? You going to turn me in?” Dominic’s mood became dark. The two had tension years ago when Brian was an undercover cop to infiltrate their business.
Brian grabbed his beer off the table. “You know I’m not a cop anymore.”
“My kid is not Letty’s. It’s Elena’s. The people I was working for kidnapped both her and my son. If I didn’t do what they said, they were going to kill them. I believe they would.” A beat. “Elena was killed regardless. The Shaw brothers saved my son.” Brian stared hard at his brother-in-law. The news made him take a long hard gulp. He remained silent as he rested his hand up against the deck’s railing. He knew every word that Dom was telling him was the truth. The man was not a liar. “What if it was Mia and your kids, Brian? Tell me. Would you turn your back on me? On the others?” His friend’s silence knew the answer and a weight lifted off Dom’s chest.
O’Conner nodded his head as he understood the trial by fire his friend had to endure. He prayed to God that he never had to relive the same choices. He couldn’t live without Mia nor his children. Whatever happened, it was over with. “I guess there’s only way you can gain back my trust.” There was a slight spark in his eyes.
Dom smirked. “Thought you got rid of your fast cars or are you hiding something from me in the garage?” The question was almost hopeful. He missed checking out the sweet rides with his longtime friend.
Brian moved back to the house’s door. “You kiddin’? Mia wouldn’t let me.”
“What about this trust?” Dom followed.
Brian paused in front of the television set where Jack was. “We can settle it here.”
“But daaddd- “His son protested as he tried to keep his attention on the race going on. “I’m not done yet.”
Dominic shook his head with a sly smirk. “Let the kid play. We can go for a ride.”
“Come back soon, boys.” Letty playfully teased as she watched the pair leave the house.
Mia admired the display. “Just like old times.”
Brian followed Dom down the steps to the driveway where his ‘69 dark red Challenger sat. “Can’t get away from the Challenger, can you?”
“I like the ride.” Dom opened the driver’s door.
His friend paused at the passenger door as he looked over at the bald man across from him. “Next time you need help, you tell me.” Not giving the time for rebuttal, he added, “We are all family.”
“Just don’t show up with that.” Dominic thumbed at the Chrysler Town and Country van. “You’ll embarrass me.”