12 - Bad Habit
Hacker Rule #10: Never get attached to a potential liability.
“Shit, that feels good...”
Owen leaned his head back against the wall as he grasped the back of the head going to town on his throbbing erection. His grip guided the movements, signifying how deep and how fast he wanted it. “That’s it, baby. Just like that. Fuck. You love sucking Daddy’s dick, don’t you?”
Owen could hear grunting from beneath him as he bit down on his bottom lip. His hips thrust forward to meet the warm mouth that enveloped him. “Yea, you fuckin’ love it, don’t you, you dirty girl. Fuck, Tiana, baby, I want-”
Suddenly the mouth abruptly removed from his shaft. “WHAT?!”
Owen’s eyes shot open as he looked down in front of him to see a cute short-haired guy with tan skin wiping his mouth. His brown eyes reflected that he was absolutely infuriated. “Jay...” Owen said apprehensively, realizing his blunder. “Hey, baby. What’s wrong?”
“WHAT’S WRONG?! YOU SAID HER FUCKING NAME!”
Owen furrowed his brows, feigning confusion. “What? No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you fucking did!” Jay blurted. “I’m giving you bomb-ass head and you’re thinking about someone else?! Dammit, Owen! Do I just mean shit to you?!”
Owen sighed as he rubbed his hand over his face. “Jay, calm down, babe. It was just a slip-up. I didn’t mean to. Besides, you know we’re just fucking. It’s not like we’re in a relationship or anything.”
Jay looked at Owen and swallowed hard before he averted his eyes in angst. “You can be such a fucking dick, Evans, you know that?” Jay said, turning around.
“Wait, Jay,” Owen said, grabbing his arm before he could leave. “Come on, baby, don’t be like that. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But, you know me. You know how I am. I’m a non-committal kinda guy.”
“Yea, I know, Owen,” Jay sighed as he looked down.
“So, what’s the problem?” Owen asked. He tilted Jay’s head back with his finger under his chin. “I thought you were okay with this. I thought we were having fun.”
“Yea, we are,” Jay muttered before he looked into Owen’s eyes. “But... I kinda want more than this...”
“God, Jay, please not this shit again,” Owen groaned. “I told you-”
“You told me you didn’t want anything serious,” Jay said annoyed. “But you clearly have feelings for someone else who I’m sure you’d change your relationship status for. How am I supposed to feel knowing that you’re thinking about somebody else when we’re fucking?” Owen looked at Jay for a brief moment, trying to think of what to say before Jay impatiently rolled his eyes and turned around. “Fuck this shit,” Jay said annoyed.
“Jay,” Owen said, grabbing him again as he pulled him toward him. Jay groaned with agitation as Owen gripped the back of his neck. “Come on, baby, look at me,” Owen persisted, trying to see his face. Jay huffed as he looked up at Owen. “I like you, Jay. You know I do. I know that you have feelings for me, and I... I appreciate that. Believe me when I say it doesn’t leave me indifferent. I’m just... not ready for that level,” Owen said.
Jay looked at Owen with worry in his eyes. “I just want more of you, Owen.”
“I know, baby,” Owen said, pressing his lips against his as he kissed Jay softly. “And I’m about to give you more of me...”
“Owen, that’s not what I mea-” Jay started.
“Oh, so you don’t want me to fuck the shit out of you, is that it?” Owen smirked against his lips.
Jay pulled back and eyed the mischievous smirk in Owen’s eyes that always set his body ablaze. “God, yes,” Jay breathed out.
Owen grinned. “Hands and knees. On the bed. Now.”
David leaned back, looking at the position of the table cloth before he rushed back to the table and readjusted it again.
“I literally didn’t think it was possible for you to be even more Type A than you already are... but holy fucking shit was I wrong!” David glanced to the side to see his roommate Miles doubled over in laughter. His hand slapped the floor, littered with cable cords, as Miles wheezed until he went into a coughing fit.
“Are you done?” David said, annoyed.
Miles rubbed his chest before he readjusted his headset. “Are you?” Miles grinned. “You’ve messed with that fucking table cloth for a straight hour. And you call me crazy- HEY YOU FUCKING COCK-SUCKING NOOB! HOW ABOUT YOU EAT MY SHIT!”
David sighed as Miles yelled at his double-screen computer. Loud gun noises resounded throughout their high-rise luxury apartment. “YOU SHOOT LIKE A FUCKING STORMTROOPER! HOW THE FUCK DID YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO TURN ON A GODDAMN COMPUTER, YOU DUMBFUCK?!”
David tried to ignore Miles as he continued to tidy the place up. “So, you gonna fuck her or what?” Miles asked, leaning to the side. He kept playing, keeping his eyes on the screen.
“Miles... shut up,” David grunted. “And when she gets here, try acting normal. I would appreciate it if you didn’t scare her away.”
Miles grinned. “Please. You have nothing to worry about with me. We both know you’re the real monster,” he teased.
David rolled his eyes when his phone went off. “Hello?” David answered, hoping it was Tiana. But his face fell. “Yes...” David leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. His posture sinking with each word he received on the other end.
“Yes, I understand...” David said quietly. Miles glanced up at David, while his fingers stayed on the controller. “I wish I could help, but... I really need to focus on my studies,” David replied on the phone.
Miles kept his eyes on him as David’s face tightened in frustration. “I’m surprised he remembers he has a nephew...” David muttered. “No, that wasn’t aimed at... yes, I-... of course...”
Miles finally put his controller down as David hung up the phone. He leaned over the table with his head hanging between his shoulders. “...He never calls you,” Miles said. “What did he want this time?”
David looked up at Miles and shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not letting him stress me out. He’s not my priority right now.”
Miles smirked as he set his eyes back on the computer. “You sure she’s even coming? Maybe she’s figured out how much of a fucking weirdo you are and changed her mind.”
David looked at his phone and sighed with a frown. “... she’s just... a little late I’m sure...”
Tiana groaned as she shifted slightly underneath the bedsheets. She could smell the scent of oranges and looked next to her to see a cup of orange juice on the dresser next to a plate of fruits, toast, and pancakes.
She furrowed her brows in confusion and looked around when she realized she wasn’t even in her own room. She finally caught at the corner of her eye a shirtless Jason holding himself up over a bar in his closet with one hand, while typing away on a tablet with the other. “Jason?” she said, confused.
Jason glanced back at her and a grin came to his face as he dropped to his feet. “Hey,” he said, pulling a small pair of headphones out of his ears. “You’re awake.”
“How long did I sleep?” she asked, bewildered.
“Through the night.”
“Shit...” she muttered, rubbing her eyes. “Why did you let me sleep so long?”
Jason smiled as he walked towards the foot of the bed. “Couple of reasons... you seemed like you needed the rest...” He crawled on top of the bed, trapping her between his legs. “You’re beautiful when you’re sleeping...” Tiana quirked a brow as she watched him crawl up towards her until he was hovering over her. “I like having you in my bed...” he smirked as he lowered his face to hers.
Tiana held her breath as he ran his hand over the bed sheet, feeling her body underneath until he reached between her thighs. “And I like knowing I can cure your insomnia just by sucking on this little gem right here...” he grinned. Two fingers rubbed against her clit over the sheet that still served as an annoying barrier. “Which, might I add, tastes so goddamn addictive.”
Tiana instinctively closed her eyes as she gasped, falling prey to his erotic stroking. “You make this face when I rotate this way,” he smirked. He changed his movements and immediately felt her shiver as she let out a slight moan. “Yup. Just like that. Fuck, you’re sexy.”
Tiana all of a sudden heard her stomach grumble and popped her eyes open. Jason let out a chuckle as he removed his hand. “And that’s why I brought you breakfast. Figured you’d be hungry.”
Tiana smirked at him as she bit her lip and sat up in his bed. “Breakfast in bed? That’s kind of romantic, Jason. I let you go down on me once, and you’re already acting like you’re my boyfriend,” she teased as he climbed on top of her again.
“Mmm,” he grinned, rubbing his lips against hers. “Pussy so good, got me making you breakfast and shit,” he smirked, before pushing his tongue between her lips.
Tiana groaned as she sunk further into his pillow from the force of his kiss. “Bring back sweet Jason,” she muttered against his lips. “You know, the one trying to work his way up to boyfriend status,” she teased.
Jason pulled back and looked at her. “I don’t really know what it is to be in a relationship... or have a girlfriend. So... I really wouldn’t know how to be a...’boyfriend.’“
“You just need to be yourself, Jason...”
Jason smiled at her with a bit of sadness in his eyes. “Not everyone likes that, babe...”
“I do,” she said, searching his eyes.
He hesitated for a moment before grinning mischievously. “And I like the sounds you make when I’m making your body quake... Wanna know what that feels like again?”
Tiana burst out laughing. “No.”
“Your mouth is telling me ‘no’,” he smirked as he leaned down to kiss her neck. “But this body is telling me heeeeelllll yessssss,” he sang.
“You are such a loser!” she laughed as she pushed him back. She leaned over and grabbed an apple slice from the plate. “Where’s your plate?” she asked.
“Well, that’s your breakfast,” Jason said, throwing the covers over his head. He settled between her legs. “This is mine...”
“Jas-oh, fuck!” Tiana gasped as he immediately latched his mouth onto her core. Jason wrapped his hands around both of her thighs, holding them over his shoulders as his body rocked the bed. His tongue lashed against her slit as he sucked her labia into his mouth. His groans showed complete disregard for how loud he was.
“Oh, god, Jason,” she hissed as she tried to crawl backward. But, he just grabbed her thighs and pulled her back down onto his mouth.
“See, this is why I have ropes. Do I need to tie you down again?” he asked, his tongue never missing a beat.
“No, Jason, fuck!” she gasped as she threw her head back and felt his tongue dip into her canal.
“No?” he said, sucking her clit. “You want me to stop?”
“Yes. No. Fuck, yes! Yes! Yes, Daddy, oh god!” she screamed as he mercilessly fucked her with his tongue.
Jason chuckled as he felt her legs vibrate against his face. “Don’t worry, baby. Daddy will take care of you...” Tiana didn’t know what kind of magic Jason was working with his tongue, but she felt her climax start to hit her in waves. She gasped breathlessly and begged him to give her a minute to catch her breath.
Jason smirked as he sat back on his knees and wiped his mouth. He watched Tiana breathe heavily on his bed. “You’re not normal,” she muttered.
“You’re welcome,” he grinned as he stroked her sopping wet cunt with his finger.
Tiana heard her phone beep and slapped her hand on the dresser to grab it. She blinked a few times until she saw a few missed calls and unread texts. “Shae... Shae... Owen... my mom...Shae... David... DAVID?! OH SHIT!” she screeched as she shot up in bed. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” she panicked. She jumped out of Jason’s bed and eagerly searched for her clothes.
“...What’s the problem?” Jason asked, slightly irritated.
“I was supposed to meet with my project partner like... an hour ago!”
“Can’t you reschedule?” Jason muttered, watching her pull on her jeans.
“No!” she said, grabbing her shirt. “Crap! I gotta shower, and brush my teeth, and-” Tiana rushed for the door when Jason walked in front of the door to block her. “Jason, I need to go!”
“Just cancel. You’re already an hour late.”
“Jason!” she said, trying to move him. But his body was like a brick wall. “I swear you really are Colossus!”
“I don’t want you with him,” Jason said quickly.
Tiana looked up to see Jason was far more serious than his usual demeanor. “You know I’m not actually your girlfriend, right? We were just kidding...”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
Tiana groaned as she rubbed her face. “So, is this the possessive, jealous side of you coming out now?”
“Maybe? I don’t know,” he shrugged. “All I know is I want you here. Not there. Here.”
Tiana took a step back, eyeing him as she bit her lip. “I thought you were okay with this.”
“I guess I lied,” he shrugged again. “I’m feeling a little selfish today.”
“Jason...” Tiana groaned.
“Tiana,” he responded simply.
She shook her head in frustration. “I can’t stay here and play these games with you, Jason. I’m just meeting him for a project.”
“Then, I’ll come with you.”
“Oh my god!” she said, throwing her arms in the air. “Jason, we haven’t even fucked! Maybe we should just pause this for a min-”
“No!” he said, quickly grabbing her shoulders. He groaned in frustration as he racked his brain. “Fine. I’ll... I’ll dial it back... a little.”
Tiana looked at him, trying to figure him out. “You said this was supposed to be...fun. Is this going to be a problem?”
“I told you, ‘no’,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re a 21st-century woman. You can... fuck who you want...”
Tiana rolled her eyes. “I haven’t even kissed him.”
“Good. Let’s keep it that way,” he said before he could stop himself.
“Shit... sorry...” he muttered, running his fingers through his hair. He didn’t understand where this strange surge of jealousy came from. It was getting worse by the day. “Damn. What the hell...”
Tiana could tell Jason was having a moment, and he seemed conflicted. She was starting to second guess their little arrangement. “I need to go, Jason...”
He looked at her and sighed. “Sure...” He stepped to the side so she could reach the handle. But before she could turn the knob, he grabbed her waist and turned her around as he pushed her back against the door. He immediately attacked her lips as he wrapped his hand around her throat and pinned her to the door.
Tiana could hardly breathe as Jason’s other hand palmed her ass entirely and squeezed so hard he nearly lifted her off the floor. “I can’t help that I crave you...” he said, sucking on her bottom lip. “And I’m not backing down...”
Tiana opened her eyes and stared into his blue irises that seemed as serious as his tone. She reached for the doorknob and turned it before opening the door. “I’m going now...” she said. She could see his jaw tense as he watched her step outside. She closed the door before she fell trap to his advances again.
Tiana took a few steps down the hall and turned the corner, bumping right into Tyler. “Woah!” she said, jumping back startled.
Tyler’s chestnut brown eyes raked over her form as if trying to figure out what she had been doing before. He immediately looked at Jason’s closed door and then back at her as his forehead creased with frustration. “Is there something wrong with your room?” he asked, irritably.
Tiana rolled her eyes impatiently. “Jason has better decor,” she mocked.
“You’re not funny,” he said with heavy snark.
“And you’re not my daddy. How about you mind your damn business, Tyler?” she snapped at him.
“How about you stop being such a fucking tease!” he snapped back at her.
She looked at him startled. “...Who the hell am I teasing?”
Tyler hesitated for a moment as he tried to find his words before clearing his throat. “...Jason. I told him your ass would be a distraction, and it looks like I was right. Whatever you two have going on is going to end up fucking up the dynamic of this team.”
“First of all, that’s again none of your business. And secondly, Anna dated Dante so I don’t see the problem.”
“That’s different,” Tyler said quickly.
“How is that different?” she asked.
“It just is. We don’t need you causing any problems,” he growled at her.
“Honestly, fuck you, Tyler,” she said, flipping him off. Tyler’s jaw tensed as she shoved him out of the way to head to the bathroom to shower.
“She’s a good kid, you know?”
Owen sat on the roof of Dante’s car, keeping his eyes on Tiana. She walked down the stairs of the Brooklyn brownstone, exchanging candy bars with Shae as they laughed like children. “And I don’t wanna corrupt her,” Dante continued as he leaned back against his car next to Owen. “I don’t wanna get her stirred up in this shit. Not my baby sis. She deserves better than that.”
Dante put the spliff to his lips and deeply inhaled as he watched his sister with saddened eyes. “She’ll be pissed as shit if she ever finds out I’ve been lying to her like this,” Dante added.
“Then just tell her, D,” Owen said, looking at him. “Stop lying to her. She’s strong. She can handle it.”
Dante shook his head defiantly. “Nah. I love her too much. She don’t deserve this shit...”
Owen sighed as he set his eyes back on Tiana. “I love her too, D. Which is why she’s better off knowing for her own sake.”
“Listen, Owen. I appreciate you. You my boy. But Tiana is my little sister. With my mama’s mind slowly going with this illness that’s taken over her body, she’s all I got. Ain’t no way in hell I’m getting her caught up in this shit.” Owen shook his head, but he couldn’t argue with Dante. He had his reservations for a reason.
“I know you love her,” Dante said suddenly. Owen looked at Dante surprised. “I admire the sister-brother relationship y’all have. That’s why I know you’ll take care of her. Even after I’m gone-”
“Yo, why the fuck you always gotta say shit like that?” Owen said, annoyed. “You’re not gonna fucking die.”
“I’m just sayin’...” Dante said, averting his eyes. Owen shook his head in frustration. He hated when Dante would go on these random tangents, speaking as if he were going to die the next day. “I trust you, Owen,” Dante said. “I trust you, and I respect you. Love her as I would. Protect her as I would. Treat her like I would. I know with you, she’s in good hands.”
Owen swallowed hard as he set his blue eyes back on Tiana running up to him. “Bro, you GOTTA try this new chocolate bar!” Tiana said with a little too much excitement. But then, she noticed the look on his face. She glanced at Dante to see him sporting the same somber expression. “What’s wrong with y’all?” she asked.
Neither of them said anything as Tiana looked at Owen and grabbed his hand. “Owen?” she asked. “Are you listening to me?”
“Are you listening to me?”
Owen snapped out of his daydream as he felt something poke his side. “Hello!” He looked down to see Jay lying in bed next to him with his arms wrapped around Owen’s waist and his head nestled just underneath his chin. “Owen!” Jay said again.
“Yea, babe?” Owen said, clearing his throat. “Sorry, did you say something?”
“I’ve been talking to you this whole time. You telling me you weren’t listening?” Jay said, annoyed.
Owen sighed as he ran his hand over his face. “I just... got distracted... tell me again.”
Jay twisted his mouth as he lay his head back down on Owen’s chest. “I said I want you to think about going steady,” Jay repeated.
“...fuck, Jay… We literally just talked about this,” Owen groaned.
“Just! Think about it. Please,” Jay said, kissing Owen’s nipple.
Owen sighed when he heard his phone buzz. He checked it to see a text from Tyler. “I gotta go,” he said, patting Jay’s shoulder.
“Is this you trying to dodge me again?”
“No, Jay. I really have to go,” Owen said. He got out of bed and pulled on his jeans.
Owen looked at Jay lying in bed with a bit of hurt and frustration in his eyes. “My brother,” Owen responded. He grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head. Jay watched Owen put on the rest of his things and got out of bed to stand in front of Owen, completely naked. Owen raked his eyes over Jay’s naked form until he locked him into a curious heated gaze. “I don’t want to hurt you, Jay,” Owen said reluctantly.
Jay grabbed Owen’s face between his hands and planted a soft kiss on his lips. “Then just tell me you’ll at least... think about it,” Jay pleaded. Owen searched Jay’s eyes before nodding. He pulled away from him and headed out the door.
Tiana waited impatiently at the door, feeling beyond awful about sleeping through her meeting with David. She eyed the high-rise luxury apartment building and couldn’t believe this is where he was staying. She looked through the glass door to see David coming out of the elevator. He seemed rather upset until his eyes caught hers and a smile came to his face.
“I’M SO SO SO SO SO SO SORRY!” she blurted as he opened the door. She jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. “Please don’t drop me as a partner.”
David chuckled as she pulled back and shoved a box of donuts in his hands. “These are apology donuts,” she said before he could get a word out. “This is a strawberry apology donut to reflect the color you probably became when you saw my disgraceful text. This donut has broken, scattered apologetic sprinkles as a representation of my life that currently feels like it’s falling apart. And this chocolate donut is sad and a hot ass mess like me...” she said, holding the chocolate donut up.
“Tiana,” David laughed.
“I’m hoping this chocolate donut tastes good enough for you to forgive me,” she said, pushing the donut towards his lips.
David smirked as he leaned down and took a bite of the donut. He chewed for a minute before smiling. “The donut has passed my taste test. I forgive you,” he smiled.
“Good job, donut,” she said, taking a bite of it herself. She swallowed and looked up at David. But her smile fell to a frown again. “Seriously though... I’m really... really sorry. I don’t normally fuck up like that,” she apologized.
David smiled as he brought a hand to her cheek. “It’s okay, Tiana. Did something happen?”
Tiana swallowed hard. “I... I overslept.”
David’s brows furrowed in concern. He decided not to push further. “Well, the important thing is that you’re here now,” he said warmly.
“Yes!” she said quickly. She followed him into the elevator as he hit the 23rd-floor button. “This place is swanky. I’ve never felt so broke,” she teased.
David chuckled. “My roommate Miles comes from a pretty wealthy family. We went to boarding school together when we were younger. I was fortunate enough to reconnect with him again after so long when I started attending NYU.”
“That’s pretty cool,” Tiana said. “Boarding school though? Eesh. Don’t know if I could do it.”
David shrugged. “Wasn’t exactly my favorite experience either, but... it made me stronger. Gave me my passion for science and technology. To go into prosthetics and help victims of war and disease that cause them to lose their limbs.”
“That’s really selfless of you, David,” Tiana smiled.
David shrugged. “It’s not selfless, I’m just trying to do the right thing. It’s what my brother would have wanted.” The elevator opened and they stepped out as David led her to his apartment. He stopped in front of her before opening the door. “A bit of a heads up... my roommate is a little... eccentric,” David said. “Just... don’t pay him much mind.”
When they opened the door, Tiana’s jaw nearly hit the floor at how massive and luxurious the apartment looked. “Goddamn!” she blurted. “The taxes on this place must be ridiculous.”
“Well, that’s just New York real estate in general.” Tiana glanced to the side to see a guy with semi-long hair half-covering his face. He sat on the floor with his legs folded beneath him in a large living room playing in front of a huge screen TV.
“Tiana, this is my roommate, Miles. Miles...” David said.
Miles stood to his feet and walked over to her with a wide grin on his face. “So THIS is Tiana,” he smirked. “David talks about you A LOT.”
“Dammit, Miles...” David groaned.
“You talk about me?” she smiled at David.
“School stuff,” David said, ushering her to his room. “We’ve got work to do, Miles. See you later.” Miles smirked as he watched the two of them disappear in David’s room.
“Oh wow!” Tiana said, looking around his rather large and clean bedroom.
“I know. It’s a lot,” David said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I’m still kind of getting used to it. Very different from my simple home back in Minnesota.”
“I like it,” she said, walking over to his computer desk. “Is this where we’re working?”
“Yea, you can have a seat,” David said. “I’ll go get us something to drink since you already bought snacks,” he chuckled, gesturing to her donuts.
Tiana sat down at his desk and saw several pieces of prosthetic material lingering about, half-completed. She looked at a picture on his desk of an older woman she could only assume was his mother, and the small child she was holding in her arms to be David. “I figured coffee would be best,” David said, walking into the bedroom with two mugs. “With the donuts.”
“Perfect,” she smiled.
David sat down next to her and turned on his laptop as Tiana got settled in. She glanced at him and peered slightly when he looked at her. “Something on my face?” he asked.
“No,” she said quickly. “You just... look different without your glasses.” David gave her a confused smile before she glanced back down at her notebook. “So, molecular thermodynamics.”
A few hours had gone by and David and Tiana were hard at work on their project. They had moved from the desk to the floor that was covered with papers decorated with their notes. “That formula still doesn’t work,” Tiana said, nibbling on the back of her pencil. She lay on the floor kicking her legs behind her.
“Hmm... try changing the third quadratic,” David said, pointing to her paper. Tiana went back to work, scribbling away when her phone went off.
My Favorite Ride??: You left your panties in my bed ??... was that a gift?
Tiana rolled her eyes and texted back.
Tiana: I’ll get them from you later.
She put her phone down and went back to working when she felt her phone buzz again.
My Favorite Ride🍆: Have I told you how fucking good you taste? I already miss your pussy in my face. 🤤
Tiana instinctively clutched her thighs as she felt herself pulsate. “Are you okay?” David asked, looking up at her from his notebook.
“Ah, yea,” she said, quickly texting back. “Sorry.” She put her phone down when it vibrated again.
Tiana: I’m working, Jason.
My Favorite Ride??: Baby, you got me over here drooling...
My Favorite Ride🍆: Just tell Drake that you have to go so I can tongue fuck the shit out of you again. My tongue and your clit were made for each other.
Tiana nearly choked as she started coughing. “Tiana?” David asked again.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, coughing. “I think one of the sprinkles got caught in my throat. Do you have any water?”
“Sure,” David said. He stood to his feet and walked out of the room. Tiana furiously texted Jason back.
Tiana: BOI! 😤 You’re out of control! I’m working here! Don’t make me turn off my phone!
My Favorite Ride??: But I miss you...
Tiana found herself smiling at that when another text came in and she immediately lost her smile.
My Favorite Ride🍆: More than I miss your thighs around my neck 😩🤤
Tiana: Phone is going on silent, you freak.
Tiana put her phone away just as David came back with a glass of water. “Thanks,” she smiled as she grabbed the cup from him. David sat down in front of her and watched as she practically inhaled her drink.
“Are you alright?” David asked again. “You seem flustered.”
“Yup,” she said, putting her cup down. “Just spam calls.”
“Hate those,” he said, looking back down at his notebook. “Did you figure out the equation?”
“Yup,” she said, handing him her paper. He looked over her work and nodded with a smile.
“You’re good,” he said, turning the paper over. “Very good.”
“I try,” she said, jokingly flipping her braids. “Big brains run in the family.”
David looked up at her and smiled. “You know, I really enjoy spending time with you. You’re... different.”
Tiana couldn’t help but smile back. “I enjoy spending time with you too, David.”
“Do you want... to stay over for dinner maybe? We could order in and watch a movie.”
Tiana felt her stomach flutter when her phone lit up and she saw Shae’s name pop up. “I would honestly love that,” she said. “But, I’ve been ditching my best friend for too long... rain check?” David nodded as he watched her stand to her feet. “I think we’re nearly there with our project. Just a few more tweaks and we should be good,” she said.
“We make a good team,” David said, standing to his feet as well.
“Yea, we do...” she said, noticing he was awfully close. She looked up at him and felt him lean forward. “Something on your mind?” she asked.
David looked at her lips before staring back into her eyes. He shook his head with a shy smile. “Nothing.”
“Will you two stop fucking around?!” Tyler had grown aggravated with the way Jason and Owen had preoccupied themselves with their phones.
“This is important,” Jason said, holding up his finger.
“This is important! Put the goddamn phone away!” Tyler snapped.
“Jason, I think Ty needs to get laid,” Owen grinned as he tucked his phone into his pocket. “Cause I swear you just be angry for no damn reason sometimes.”
“Right?” Jason laughed. “You’re a good lookin’ dude, Ty. It shouldn’t be that hard for you.”
“I’m gonna beat the shit out of both of you,” Tyler said, pulling out his laptop. Darren plopped down on the couch next to him. “Darren, are you hooked up?”
“Yea,” Darren said, sticking a thumb drive into Tyler’s computer. “I just went through some of the files... Guys, it’s some seriously fucked up shit.”
“Pull it up on the projector,” Tyler said. Darren clicked a few buttons and a middle-aged man’s face showed on the screen.
“That’s him?” Jason asked. “Looks like a fucking hillbilly.”
“I’m definitely getting the Big Lebowski vibes,” Owen grinned.
“Lionel Reed...” Darren said tightly. “A sick, dirty bastard. Tortures people for a living.”
“So, he’s a sadist,” Owen said.
“All those Elite pieces of shit are,” Tyler said, sucking his teeth.
“Yea, well, his sadism runs in the family. Apparently his sons Elliott and Sam Reed are very much like him,” Darren said, pulling up a picture of the two guys.
“Well, damn,” Owen smirked with raised brows.
“Don’t get too excited. Elliott is a trafficker, and Sam is... a weapons specialist?” Tyler said, scanning his laptop.
“It’s always the cute ones,” Owen sighed. “Maybe we can rehabilitate the older one if we smack him around a bit.”
“Owen, have some standards, bro,” Jason teased.
“Man, fuck you,” Owen said, flipping him off.
“Well, you couldn’t either way because he’s dead,” Darren interrupted.
The three of them looked at him surprised. “He’s dead?” Owen asked.
“Gutted and split open with a hook by... Christopher Richardson aka the Blue Kaiser,” Darren said, adjusting his glasses.
“Goddamn... a hook?!” Jason said surprised. “Now, that’s what I call badass!”
“That’s what I call unstable,” Darren said sharply. “Listen, Owen. I know Arthur is like your friend or something. But Dante never trusted these Richardson people, and it was clearly for a reason. They’re too dangerous. Too violent. And the Elite of all people? We don’t fuck with the Elite, remember? This is way outside of our expertise.”
“Okay, relax, for a minute, Darren, I hear you,” Owen said. “Arthur isn’t asking us to fight anybody. He just wants us to crack into his security system.”
“That still puts us at risk,” Darren protested. “I know we don’t show prejudice when it comes to picking our clients, but maybe this time we should.”
“Darren, I get it,” Tyler said. “You have every right to feel the way you do. We don’t deal with Elite shit. But... Arthur sounded... desperate. He needs our help.”
“Yea, didn’t he say something about this guy taking their girl or some shit?” Jason asked.
“He didn’t give me much detail, but I think that was the gist of it,” Owen said.
“See?” Jason said, looking at Darren. “They’re just trying to save their girl. Wouldn’t you do the same if it meant saving Anna?”
Darren’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “W-what?! Anna?! N-no, what the fuck, Jason,” Darren freaked.
“Alright, Darren, cut the bullshit,” Owen smirked. “We’ve known you had a thing for Anna for a while now.”
“Seriously?” Darren asked, looking at the three of them.
Tyler nodded with a smirk on his face and Jason laughed. “You turn into a Tom Holland fan girl anytime she’s around,” Jason teased.
“Fuck you,” Darren laughed before he looked down. “I feel bad about it. She’s Dante’s girl.”
“Darren,” Tyler said, putting his hand on Darren’s shoulder. “Dante... is not here anymore...” Tyler struggled to speak as if the words were hot coals on his tongue. He tried to muster a smile as he looked at Darren again. “He would want you to be happy. He would want Anna to be happy,” Tyler encouraged him.
“And who knows, maybe she likes you too,” Owen said. “You won’t know unless you talk to her about more than just going on assignments.”
Darren looked at them and smiled. “Damn... thanks, guys... But then, why can’t you take your own advice? When are you going to admit your feelings for Tian-”
“WOAH! What the fuck?!” Owen blurted.
“Bro, are you serious?!” Tyler snapped. “Where did that even come from?!”
Darren stared at them both wide-eyed and confused and caught Jason laughing hysterically in the corner. “Way to set them off, Darren,” Jason laughed.
“Can we just stay on topic here,” Tyler said more firmly. “We need to look into this security system.”
“And what about finding Dante’s killer?” Darren asked once they settled down.
“We’ll still focus on Dante,” Owen said. “But Arthur said this was an emergency. His cousins are about to fuck shit up, and they need us to do it.”
Darren sighed as he finally nodded in resignation. “Alright,” he said. “Lionel’s security system is like a gridlock. Part of its challenge is that the mainframes are spread out across the world with the majority of them being in the states. And I don’t have the right hardware to get through this system.”
“You mean we need new equipment...” Tyler said. Darren nodded.
“I’m assuming you already know where..?” Owen asked, leading.
“Yup! And you’re not gonna like it!” The guys turned to see Anna walking in her high-heeled ankle boots and jean shorts next to Joey. Darren cleared his throat as he made space on the couch for her to sit. “Hey!” she said, smiling at him.
“H-hi,” Darren said, looking away.
“Darren gave us a pretty good high-level summary of what we’d be looking for,” Joey said, leaning against the armchair of the couch. “The equipment we need is in the form of a plug-in and a cordless adapter. Seemingly simple but packs a powerful punch.”
“I’m waiting for the ‘but’,” Tyler said.
“But... you’ll only find it at an auction... selling for $60,000,” Anna said.
“Oh, is that all?” Jason said sarcastically, kicking his feet up on the table.
“The good news is we can duplicate it without taking the one that’s being auctioned,” Darren said.
“Synthetic alloy regeneration,” Tyler said when it clicked as Darren nodded.
“That’s your specialty, isn’t it, Ty?” Owen asked.
“Yea,” Tyler said. “Haven’t done it in a while though... It’s a little risky. I’d need backup.”
“Jason, you’ve done alloy regeneration before, right?” Joey asked.
Jason smirked and shook his head. “Nah, bro. I blew that shit up, remember?”
“Shit, nevermind,” Joey sighed.
“Tiana... was actually talking to me about alchemy the other day... She’s got some experience with alloy regeneration already...” Darren said.
Owen looked at him surprised before a smile came to his face. “Of course she does. She’s a goddamn genius.”
“Great,” Joey said, rubbing his hands together. “Since this is an Elite auction, Owen, you should definitely go for data and personnel coverage, Tyler for the alloy regeneration, Jason for security and damage control, and Tiana as Tyler’s backup.”
“Fuck no!” Tyler blurted.
“Ty,” Owen sighed.
“She’s a rookie. An amateur,” Tyler said. “She’s not ready for this. Anna knows this world better than her. She should go.”
“Some of those people know my parents,” Anna said. “I’m too recognizable. I’d only bring attention to us, not divert it. Besides, Tiana is the smart one and knows how to help you. I don’t know shit about that stuff.”
“She doesn’t know how to act around these types of people,” Tyler protested. “She’ll stick out like a sore thumb. She’ll get herself, if not all of us, killed.”
“Owen and I will prepare her,” Anna argued. “You need her, Tyler. Whether you like it or not, she’s a part of this team. So, get your head out of your ass and stop acting like a fucking gringo estupido!” Tyler muttered as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.
“Now that that’s settled,” Darren said hesitantly. “We need to get Tiana. Where is she?”
“She’s not picking up her phone,” Owen said with his phone to his ear. “I don’t remember her having classes today.”
“She’s probably still with that asshole Drake,” Jason muttered, texting on his phone.
“What?!” Owen snapped.
“Who?” Tyler said annoyed.
“Alright, well you weirdos relax... We’ll go get her,” Joey smirked as he nudged Anna with his elbow.
“He’s really cute though,” Tiana said, walking alongside Shae near Union Square Park. “And really freaking smart. But, he’s just... very shy. I feel like if I hang out with him anymore, I’ll end up corrupting him.”
“Bitch, corrupt his ass then,” Shae smirked as she leered over the bookshelf outside the bookstore.
“Shae,” Tiana laughed.
“I’m just sayin’,” Shae grinned. “But, I don’t see you with a guy like him, if I’m being honest.”
“Girl, you don’t see me with any guy who’s not black, dark black, and very black,” Tiana smirked.
“True,” Shae said, looking at another book. “White guys really ain’t my cup of tea. Give me a fine ass black man any day.”
“Well, you’re a light bright. So, I’m sure they’re falling at your feet anyway,” Tiana teased.
“I’m not tryna end up with no color-struck nigga neither,” Shae said, sucking her teeth. “Pass on that shit. Deadass, if a nigga can’t see the value and beauty in my dark-skinned sistas, then he could take his raggedy, ashy black behind out my face.”
“Dang, why he gotta be ashy,” Tiana laughed.
“Honestly, if you were ever going to be with a colonizah, I’d ship my boo Owen... you know... if he was actually into you.”
“OUCH! DAMN BITCH!” Tiana said with her hand to her chest.
“Oops... That didn’t come out right, did it?” Shae smirked.
“Rude ass,” Tiana smirked, sucking her teeth.
“Sorry, babes,” Shae snickered. She went to grab a book, and the pages suddenly flipped sporadically before opening to a black and white picture of New Orleans. “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” Shae freaked.
“See what?” Tiana asked.
“The pages! They-”
“It was probably just the wind, Shae.”
Shae stared at the page in the book before she quickly looked up at Tiana. “Tiana... I’ve... this is going to sound crazy, but... I think... I think I’m like cursed or something,” Shae said.
Tiana rolled her eyes. “Shae... boo...”
“No, I’m serious!” she said. “So many weird things have been happening to me lately. Like I feel like I’m being watched. And you’re never at the apartment, so it kinda freaks me out, you know? I mean I’m not superstitious like my grandmother or anything, but I swear sometimes I just... I don’t know, man...”
“Have you been getting enough sleep?” Tiana asked.
Shae sighed as she rubbed the back of her neck. “Not really... This other film festival I’ve been planning has got me a bit sleep-deprived.”
“See?” Tiana said. “You’re probably just tired. Sleep deprivation will have you thinking you’re going crazy. Just try to get some more rest.”
“Yea... yea, I guess,” Shae sighed when she saw a strange guy walking up to them. “Um... T?” Shae said, pointing. “Some Aladdin-looking dude is walking towards us.”
Tiana glanced back to see Joey headed towards them. “Joey?” Tiana said startled.
“Hey, Tiana,” Joey said, taking off his glasses. His eyes landed on Shae and his thick eyebrows raised with intrigue. “Why hello...”
Shae raised an amused brow and smirked at him. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Tiana’s friend,” Joey said, holding his hand out. “And you are?”
“I’m her best friend,” Shae said, ignoring his hand. “And I know all of her friends. And I ain’t never seen you before. So again... who... the hell... are you?”
“Shae, it’s alright,” Tiana laughed, trying to calm her friend. “Joey, why are you here?”
Joey couldn’t help his grin as he tried to peel his eyes away from the strikingly beautiful sassy woman who sparked his interest. He looked at Tiana and remembered his purpose. “Uhhh, you’re needed. ASAP. Your ride is around the corner.”
“Excuse me?” Tiana said.
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep your friend here company,” Joey smiled, looking back at Shae.
“EXCUSE ME?!” Shae scoffed.
“Chop, chop,” Joey clapped. He grabbed Tiana by the shoulders and shoved her down the block. He pointed to a car that was waiting for Tiana across the street.
Tiana sighed and waved back at Shae. “I’ll call you.”
Shae watched Tiana jog off before she looked back at the strange man eyeing her from head to toe. “Listen, Jafar. Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Jafar? I thought I was Aladdin,” he smirked at her.
She looked at him startled, surprised that he heard what she said to Tiana. She quickly rolled her eyes. “Don’t flatter yourself, boo. You’re not my type.”
“Let me guess,” he said, walking up to her. His eyes slowly raked over her. “Feminist. Black Lives Matter and LGBT activist. Free-spirit artist that finds enjoyment out of correcting men and/or white people. Bonus points if the poor victim is both. Probably a Spike Lee fan. And from the way you’re looking at me, I’m guessing you really really really... like The Notebook.”
Shae’s mouth dropped open. “Okay, what the hell, Tiana!”
“She didn’t tell me any of that,” he smirked.
“Bullshit,” she snapped.
Tiana got to the car and hopped in to see Anna in the driver’s seat. “Ay, chica,” Anna said, popping her gum as she switched gears and pulled onto the street.
“Anna... What’s going on?” Tiana asked, putting on her seat belt.
“We need you on an assignment. It’s a big one, so we’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for it,” Anna said, getting onto the freeway.
“Okay...” Tiana said, looking out the window.
“Joey still with your girl?” Anna asked.
“Yea, I think so.”
“He’s gonna hit that.”
“WHAT?!” Tiana blurted. “Nuh-uh. Not Shae. She’s only into black men. I mean, he may not be white, but if I know Shae-”
“Tiana,” Anna chuckled. “Do you not know these boys? They’re all man-whores. Once they set their eyes on something, they don’t stop till it’s theirs. I’m sure you can see that with Jason.”
Tiana scoffed as she set her chin on her palm and smirked. “He is... persistent.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Anna grinned. “Dante was the same way.”
Tiana looked at her. “Really? Oh god, ew.”
“No, not like that,” Anna laughed. “I just mean... Dante was passionate. Whether it was his work. RaVage. The boys. Me...” Anna grew silent as she swallowed hard.
“You miss him...” Tiana said softly.
“So fucking much,” Anna chuckled as she wiped a tear from her cheek. “Coño! I still can’t believe that asshole left me.” Tiana watched Anna who kept her eyes on the road as she sped down the highway. “He was a good man, Tiana,” Anna continued. “No matter what happens... what information you find out about him as we try to find his killer. Just know he was a good man.”
“Yea, I know....” Tiana sighed. “I just wish he didn’t keep so much from me.”
“It was to protect you,” Anna said.
“I’m honestly getting tired of hearing that,” Tiana muttered.
“But, it’s true,” Anna said. “He made Owen, Tyler, and Jason swear it too. And they did. That’s why the guys can be a bit much at times. They’re just keeping their promise.”
“Owen... I feel like he’s still keeping some things from me,” Tiana sighed.
“He probably just likes you.”
Tiana shook her head. “He’s made it clear that I’m nothing more than a sister to him.”
“Yep...” Tiana said, watching the cars go by.
“I don’t know, Tiana,” Anna said. “If there’s one thing I know about the Evans brothers is that they’re good at keeping secrets. They’ve had to their entire lives. Owen may hate labels, but that puta is bisexual. It’s not that far off to think he’s into you.”
“I’d rather not entertain the thought,” Tiana said. “And what do you mean they’ve had to their entire lives?”
Anna shrugged. “They’ve had a really rough life. I used to be devastated if my dresses didn’t arrive in time from the cleaners until I met Owen and Tyler. Talk about problems,” Anna chuckled.
Tiana furrowed her brows. “Owen... hasn’t really told me much about his life... obviously. I know he got into a lot of fights.”
“That comes with being queer in a homophobic world. Their dad was the worst of all. And Tyler... damn, he just...” Anna trailed off and Tiana waited for her to finish her sentence, but she didn’t. “Sorry. It’s not my place to talk about their lives like that,” Anna said.
Tiana sighed as she let her head fall back against the headrest. “A rough life isn’t an excuse to be an ass.”
“True...” Anna said. “Still... You should give Tyler a chance.”
“I’m more interested in Jason,” Tiana said, playing with her belt.
Anna nearly gave herself whiplash as she looked at Tiana. “JASON?!”
“Yea. What’s wrong with Jason?”
“Nothing,” Anna said, looking at the road. “I love him. He’s like... a brother to me, but... well...”
“I mean he’s a hoe,” Anna laughed. Tiana rolled her eyes. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s actually really sweet, a fucking genius, and funny as shit,” Anna said. “But Jason has never stuck with one woman. Once he fucks you, he’ll be on to the next chick. Jason goes through girls like a bag of chips. Like I said, he’s my brother, but he can’t keep his dick in his pants. He’ll never settle down. Have your fun, but... don’t catch feelings.”
Tiana twisted her mouth pensively as she looked out the window again.
Tiana walked into the warehouse to see the guys standing in front of a large TV screen. They were talking among themselves and gesturing with their hands. She squinted her eyes at the TV when she noticed there were explicit images of women being shuffled into trucks.
“What the fuck?!” she blurted. They all glanced back at her as Darren quickly paused the screen.
“T!” Owen said quickly. “We didn’t hear you come in.”
“What the hell are you guys watching?” she asked, frantically.
“We’re just doing our homework for our next assignment...” Owen said.
“What’s this assignment about exactly?” Tiana asked, apprehensively.
“There’s this woman...” Jason said to her. “She needs our help.”
“It looks like more than one woman,” Tiana said, gesturing to the TV screen.
“Not them,” Darren said. He switched the screen to a black woman in a white medical lab coat speaking on the news. She looked as angry as she sounded, and her eyes looked puffy from crying.
“I know her,” Tiana said. “Yea, she’s that badass bitch who told off all those gangbangers that shot up that hospital.”
“Yeah, well, she’s basically our new client,” Owen said. “She’s in trouble and she needs our help. Are you in?”
“A chance to help a sista in need?” Tiana said, looking at the TV. “That goes without saying.”