Hackers with(out) Remorse - (Book 4 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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8 - Steady, As She Goes

Hacker Rule #14: Always start a mission with a full tank in case you have to outrun the cops.

“Tiana, come on! Really?!”

“Ahh! Shit! Okay, wait, wait!” Tiana laughed as she jotted a few notes down in her notebook. “Give me a second, I’ve almost got it.”

“Did you get the same number to the equation?” David asked through the computer screen.

“Mmm... 345,902?” she said.

David smirked as he threw his hands in the air. “You’re a genius!”

“Oh, well you know,” she said, dusting her shoulders dramatically as he chuckled. He stared at her for a moment before a soft smile decorated his handsome, chiseled face. “What?” she asked.

“We... should get dinner sometime,” he said shyly. “I mean... to go over our project. Only if you want.”

Tiana cracked a smile. “I’d really like that, David...”

He blushed slightly and his hazel-green eyes shimmered as if she just made his day. He checked his watch and a quick frown came to his face. “It’s been over an hour. I should let you go. Meet up again tomorrow?”

She nodded with a smile and waved before she ended the Skype call. Then there was a knock at her door. “Yea?” she asked.

The door opened before Owen stepped inside. “Hey, T. We’re about to debrief another lead we found. You got a minute?” he asked.

“Sure,” she said. She got up from the bed and followed him outside into the common area. She stood next to him and listened in on Anna, Joey, Darren, and Jason talking.

“But, Anna, it’s the best way to get the key,” Joey insisted.

“Fuck you, puta! I’m not shaking my ass for another fucking sponsor again! I don’t give a shit!” Anna snapped.

“And you shouldn’t have to. That’s so demeaning. You deserve better, Anna,” Darren said, fixing his glasses.

Anna looked at him with a smirk. “Thank you, Darren. See, Joey? At least Darren respects me.”

“Oh my god! There’s a fucking point to this, Anna,” Joey said exasperated.

“Then you do it!” she snapped at him.

“Nobody wants to see Joey’s hairy ass,” Jason laughed.

“Man, fuck you, Jason,” Joey said, flipping him off.

“Guys,” Owen said, clearing his throat.

“Owen!” Anna said frustrated. “Talk some sense into your little stupid ass friends.”

Owen looked at Tiana. “So basically, we found out that Dante had been exchanging tangible merchandise with a client through a P.O. Box. We don’t use P.O. boxes. We don’t use anything that can be tracked. Dante knew this. So, what we’re trying to do is find out which P.O. Box it is and get the key.”

“Which these sexist dumbasses expect me to get by putting my ass in some dirty gringo’s face. I don’t fucking think so,” Anna snapped.

“Well, who has the key?” Tiana asked.

“Jim Tip. He’s part of a band called the Rocky Rollstans,” Darren said, looking at his screen.

“And you need a woman to get the key from them... because...?” Tiana asked.

“Because men lose all rationale and are easily manipulated when a pretty woman is near,” Joey smirked, looking at Jason. “Isn’t that right, Jason?”

“Yep,” Jason said, biting his lip and eyeing Tiana from head to toe. Tiana looked at him startled from his heated gaze. She felt her cheeks get hot and immediately looked away. Owen sucked his teeth and gave Jason a dirty threatening look.

“Um.... but Jim Tip is gay,” Darren said quickly.

“He is?” Joey asked, surprised.

“Yea, look,” Darren said, holding out the tablet to him. “Tabloids say he recently broke up with his boyfriend of 5 years.”

“Damn... 5 years with the same person?” Jason shuddered.

“Is being tied down to one person such a scary thought?” Darren asked.

“Hell yeah,” Jason said with disgust.

“You’re such a hoe, Jason,” Anna said, rolling her eyes. Jason shrugged unbothered. “But that being said...” Anna looked at Owen. “Looks like you’ll be the one shaking your ass, ayy Papi Chulo?” she teased.

Owen rolled his eyes with a smirk. “Gosh! You guys just want me for my body!” he said, clutching his chest dramatically as they all laughed.

“He’ll be performing at a concert hall tonight in Tribeca. If you guys are ready, I can get our band in,” Darren said, scrolling on his tablet.

Joey looked at Owen and shrugged. “We can perform ‘Marking the Sadist’,” Joey said. “That one always goes over well.”

“Yea, you get all the girls hot and bothered with that one,” Jason smirked at Owen.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” Tiana said, cutting them off. “You guys have a band?” Owen paused as he worked through his mind and realized it was more information that he had not told her.

“It was at this moment... that Owen Evans realized... he fucked up,” Jason narrated.

“It’s called... Dark Riot...” Owen started apprehensively.

“Thiisssss motherfucker is in a whole ass band?!” Tiana said, throwing her arms in the air. “I’m done,” she said, walking away.

“Goddammit, Tiana,” Owen groaned.

“So... is that a yes?” Darren asked.

~*~

Jason ran down the stairs to the small gym near the garage and heard Tyler grunting in sync with the sound of a bag being hit. He strolled inside and saw his friend jeering his fist into a large heavy bag hanging from the ceiling, hitting it as hard as he could. Sweat beads rolled down his forehead, over his bulging biceps and into the tank top clinging to his muscular back. “We found another lead,” Jason said, walking over to him with his hands resting in his sweatpants pockets. “Some dude named... Jim Tip.”

Tyler looked at him for a second before he went back to punching the bag. “So, we’re probably gonna perform tonight so O can do his thing,” Jason continued. “You gonna tag along and be our groupie?” he teased. Tyler just ignored him as he continued punching the bag. Jason sighed as he grabbed the bag, holding it steady. “You had that nightmare again, didn’t you?”

Tyler faltered for a second as if he had just taken a blow to the chest before his jaw tensed with anger. “I keep seeing his fucking face. Everywhere I go. I can’t escape him,” he sneered as he punched the bag harder.

“Ever try watching porn before you go to bed? That’ll change up your dream patterns real quick,” Jason tried to joke.

Tyler shook his head as he punched the bag extra hard, causing him to wince. Jason sucked his teeth as he grabbed Tyler’s hand. “I swear you’re such a fucking idiot sometimes, Ty.” Jason looked over Tyler’s hand that was just barely wrapped with a thin cloth. There were fresh blood spots leaking through. “Seriously, bro?” Jason said, annoyed.

“It’s no big deal,” Tyler said, pulling his hand back.

“Like hell it is. Ever since Dante’s death, you’ve been angry as shit. You’re becoming unbearable to be around,” Jason said, walking to one of the cabinets. “What happened to all that counseling shit that Russian dude we met in New England during our tour gave you to help you with your anger?”

Tyler rolled his eyes and scoffed. “I haven’t seen Leo in months. I’m sure he’s busy. He doesn’t have time for shit like this.”

“He gave you his number for a reason, Ty. He trained you. He said you were his friend,” Jason said, turning around with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some gauze.

“Just because I fixed his bike, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re friends,” Tyler muttered as he unwrapped the cloth from his hand.

“Stop being an asshole and just call him up so he can knock you on your ass again and knock some sense into that thick head of yours,” Jason said.

“Damn, Jason...” Tyler muttered. Jason soaked the gauze with alcohol and applied it to Tyler’s bleeding knuckles. “I hadn’t had those nightmares about my dad in so long...” Tyler sighed. “But ever since Dante’s death... the motherfucker haunts me. I swear it feels like he’s taunting me sometimes.”

Jason twisted his mouth as his deep blue eyes darkened with remorse. “You don’t have to worry about him anymore, Ty. You haven’t for years...”

“That doesn’t mean shit and you know it,” Tyler quipped.

Jason sighed as he covered the alcohol and gave him a bandage to wrap his hand. “Well, you need something, Ty. If you want, we can train together. But it can’t just be this shit. Especially with you taking your anger out on Tiana.”

“I’m not taking my anger out on her,” Tyler said.

Jason burst out laughing. “Of all people, Ty, you know you can’t lie to me. You’ve been harping on my baby girl since you first saw her.”

“Your baby girl?”

“I’m getting there,” Jason smirked. “One of these days, that fine ass is gonna be mine.” Tyler rolled his eyes as he wrapped his hand. “Unless... the reason you’re angry is because you want her for yourself...” Jason quirked a brow.

“Man, shut up, Jason,” Tyler scoffed.

“Admit it, bro,” Jason teased. “You’ve been thinking about her sexy ass since the moment she set her pretty little brown eyes on you. In hatred, maybe, but she looked at you nonetheless,” Jason chuckled.

Tyler pushed past Jason in frustration. “I don’t fucking want her.”

“Me think you doth protest too much,” Jason snickered. “At least try to get laid by someone tonight. Might do you some good, b-”

“Are we going or not?” Tyler said fed up.

Jason sighed as he put his hands up. “I tried.”

~*~

“You guys played this?” Tiana asked with one headphone in her ear.

“We wrote it what, like... 2 years ago?” Owen said thoughtfully.

“Give or take,” Joey said, leaning against the wall. “That was our ‘Fuck America’ phase.”

“Some of us never left that phase,” Darren chuckled.

“This actually slaps... Didn’t know you guys had it like that,” Tiana said, bobbing her head to the music. “How long have you guys been playing?”

“As a band?” Owen said. “4-5 years. Nothing serious. It was just another form of self-expression for us. Occasionally, we’ve used our band as a cover to get into places we normally wouldn’t be able to. But we’re not as active as we used to be.”

“Jason is on drums. Joey and Owen are on base and guitar with lead vocals. I’m on the keyboard,” Darren said. “Occasionally, Anna would sing with us when she was in the mood.” Darren glanced at Anna who was speaking on the phone in rapid Spanish.

“I swear you guys get stranger and stranger by the second,” Tiana said, looking at Owen.

“We’ve been with each other for a while. Eventually, our passions merge,” Owen said, taking the headphones from her. “You ready to go?”

She nodded before he led her outside to their van where Jason and Tyler were leaning against the vehicle casually chatting. They both stopped talking upon seeing her. Tyler subtly raked his eyes over her form until he met her gaze, causing them both to abruptly look away in annoyance. Meanwhile, Jason shamelessly checked her out. He bit his lip and gave her a teasing smirk. “Now, we’ve got two groupies,” Jason joked.

“I will slap you,” she said to him. Jason laughed and opened up the van for them to pile inside. Tiana scrolled through Dante’s laptop as Owen sat next to her, tuning his guitar. Joey and Jason sat in the front while Jason drove. Tyler leaned back against the van wall with his eyes closed listening to music, while Darren worked at his tablet.

“I found another file on one of Dante’s drives,” Tiana said, breaking the silence. “But it’s password protected.”

“Is it titled ‘Juggernaut’?” Darren asked.

“Yea,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to get that one open for a while,” Darren sighed. “But it’s hard hacking a hacker. Especially one as good as Dante.”

Tiana frowned as she eyed the screen. “I’ve gone through nearly all his files... except that one.”

“Don’t stress it, T,” Owen said, touching her hand. “We’ll figure it out eventually.” Tyler noticed Owen touching Tiana’s hand and turned the music up on his headphones before shutting his eyes again. Owen glanced at his brother who was clenching and releasing his bandaged fists over and over again when he checked a text from Jason.

Jason: He’s spiraling again 😔

Jason: *hello darkness, my old friend…*

Jason: You know what we gotta do, bro

Jason: *whoop that ass*

Owen sighed as the van pulled up to a large parking lot. Joey, Darren, and Tiana hopped out, but Owen grabbed Tyler before he could leave. “We need a minute,” Owen said, closing the door. Jason hopped in the back and sat down on the floor, nonchalantly drumming his sticks.

“What now, Owen?” Tyler asked, annoyed. Owen grabbed Tyler’s hand. He looked over his bandaged wounds before giving Tyler a disappointed look. Tyler sucked his teeth and pulled his hand back. “Would you two get off my dick already? Goddamn...”

“That’s some Lannister shit, Ty. Nobody in here is trying to hop on your dick,” Jason said. He tossed his stick in the air before catching it again to do more drumming.

“You said you were good,” Owen said to him.

“I am,” Tyler said quickly.

Owen gestured to his wounded, bandaged hand dramatically. “Clearly your dumb ass is not!”

“Is this really the time and the place for this?!” Tyler snapped.

Owen pinched his nose as he tried to take a deep breath. “I have regretted that day... everyday.. for the past 13 years because of what it did to you.”

“We’re not doing this shit again, Owen,” Tyler said, heading for the door. “Not to-OW!” Tyler pulled his hand back after Jason’s drumstick smacked against it. “Did you just throw your fucking drumstick at me?!” Tyler snarled.

“It stopped your stubborn ass, didn’t it?” Jason smirked.

“You keep telling me I’m not the one thinking straight because of Tiana. But you’re the one who’s a fucking ticking time bomb!” Owen said.

“We’re only trying to look out for you, bro,” Jason said. “We know you. We know the signs.”

Tyler took a deep breath as he tried to calm his nerves. “I know. I know you’re both only looking out for me. I promise that... I’m fine. I’m just... trying to cope that’s all. It’s taking me a little longer than usual.” Owen and Jason exchanged uncertain looks. “You can beat the shit out of me if I blow up. How’s that?” Tyler asked.

“Shit, I was gonna do that anyway,” Owen said, opening the van door and jumping outside.

~*~

Tiana followed the guys inside when Owen quickly turned to her. “Stay here for now. We’ll be back in a bit. Text me if you need me, okay?” She nodded and he gave her a quick smile before heading off. She watched Owen, Darren, and Joey head backstage for set up, while Jason nudged Tyler to the bar.

“You need a drink,” Jason said, waving over the bartender. “So you can calm your shit.”

“You gonna babysit me the whole damn night?” Tyler asked, irritably. “I told you I’m fine.”

“Yea, yea, sure whatever,” Jason said, smiling at the cute blonde bartender. “My friend here needs a tall glass of Scottish whiskey.”

“We usually give those as shots,” the bartender said.

“... I said tall glass, sweetheart,” Jason insisted.

“Right,” she said. “One moment please.”

Jason leaned back against the counter next to Tyler who sat on a stool with his hand holding his head up, looking rather bored. Jason craned his neck to check out the bartender as she walked away. “She’s kinda cute, right?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “You trying to get me some ass too now?”

Yes, Tyler DumbFuck Evans. Because that’s.. what friends... are for!” Jason said, flicking Tyler’s forehead. Tyler sucked his teeth as he shooed Jason’s hand away. The bartender returned with a tall glass of whiskey and handed it to Tyler. “Thank you... Britney,” Jason said, reading her name tag. He handed her a large tip and winked at her.

She immediately blushed as a shy smile came to her face. “You’re too kind. Thank you!” she said.

“No, thank you,” Jason grinned. “Hey Britney... a pretty girl like you wouldn’t happen to be single now, would you?”

Britney’s eyes widened as she slowly nodded. “I... actually just got out of a relationship. My boyfriend cheated on me with another girl,” she sighed.

“That son of a bitch,” Jason shook his head. “What kind of moron would cheat on a sweet and cute girl like you? What an idiot. He clearly didn’t deserve you.” She cracked a smile and looked down, blushing. “My friend Tyler here was just talking about how he hates cheaters. Really gets on his damn nerves, right Ty?” Jason said, wrapping his arm around Tyler’s neck.

Tyler gave him a ‘wtf’ look. “You’re the only one getting on my nerves right now, Jason,” he muttered. Jason motioned with his head to the bartender and gave Tyler a suggestive look. Tyler sighed and looked at the bartender who looked at him curiously. “Uh... yeah... Hate that shit. Sorry it happened to you,” he said.

“Thanks...” she smiled at him. “What about you? Are you single?”

Tyler went to speak before Jason cut him off. “Yup! He’s single as shit. He has a thing for blondes too.”

“No, I don’t,” Tyler muttered.

“Cute, bubbly blondes like yourself,” Jason continued.

“Jason, I swear I will fuck you up,” Tyler threatened in a whisper.

Britney’s face flushed red as she batted her eyes at the two hunks in front of her. “What do you say, sweetheart,” Jason winked at her.

“Well... I’d hate to have to choose...” she said suggestively, eyeing them both.

Tyler quirked a brow as Jason’s eyes widened in surprise before a grin crossed his face. “I like how she thinks,” Jason snickered.

“I’m over this,” Tyler said, grabbing his drink. Britney looked at Tyler strangely as he gulped down the whiskey.

“Um... give us a minute, will you?” Jason asked her. She nodded before walking off to help other patrons. “Even when I’m trying to give you a good time, your grumpy ass has to ruin it,” Jason said annoyed.

“I didn’t ask for you to hook me up with her,” Tyler grumbled.

“You don’t think she’s cute?”

Tyler shrugged and looked up past Jason. “She’s alright...”

Jason furrowed his brow. He turned his head to follow Tyler’s gaze and saw Tiana talking to Darren by the stage. “OOOOHH! You want my baby girl!” Jason laughed.

“What?! I never said that! Shut the fuck up!” Tyler shoved him.

“But you’re looking at her.”

“I’m not looking at her.”

“You want that ass don’t you?” Jason smirked.

“Jason, I swear to go-”

Jason grabbed Tyler’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. “I’ve known you for 16 years, Ty. I know you better than anyone else.”

“Cut the shit,” Tyler said, slapping Jason’s hand. “I’ll talk to the damn blonde if it will shut you up.”

Jason smirked as he shook his head. “I’m going to go set up. You keep wallowing in denial.” He patted Tyler’s shoulder and walked away. “And finish that drink!” he shouted.

Tyler sucked his teeth with a smirk as he drank the rest of the whiskey.

~

Tiana watched the guys prepare on stage. Darren settled behind the keyboard, Jason sat behind the drums, and Joey and Owen grabbed their bass and guitar. She still couldn’t believe Owen could actually play, let alone sing. The guy had far too many talents for her to keep track of. Owen walked up to the stage to announce their band. He scouted the crowd for Tiana and winked at her before he started playing.

Tiana couldn’t help but smile. Owen’s voice was beautiful. It had a deep, sensual rasp to it that she didn’t even know he could hit. When Joey and Owen sang together, their voices blended so well. She wondered how they weren’t already big. She scoured the crowd that was jiving to their song and spotted Tyler. He was in the back leaning against the bar watching Dark Riot perform on stage. She took a deep breath, challenging herself to try to make peace with the asshole and headed in his direction.

Tyler kept his eyes trained on Tiana as she headed in what he had hoped wasn’t his direction. He felt his throat tighten as she came to his side. “Hey,” she said, sidling up next to him.

His chestnut eyes slit over to her. “...Hey..”

“So... is this Jim Tip guy here yet?” she asked. Tyler subtly pointed and she followed his direction to see a sharply dressed man with his hair slicked back wearing a pair of shades and sitting in one of the lounge couches on the balcony. “Jeez. Did he use enough hair gel?” she joked. Tyler looked at her and sighed irritably as he watched the stage again. Tiana took another deep breath trying not to go off the deep end and tried again. “How do we know he’ll be interested in Owen?” she asked.

Tyler scoffed amused. “Have you seen my brother work? He’s a goddamn natural.” Tiana frowned slightly as she looked back on stage. She had seen Owen work his magic on both men and women quite a few times. Just never on her. “He’s already got Jimbo there hooked,” Tyler said.

Tiana looked up to see Jim leaned over, his elbows resting on his knees as he watched more attentively than before. “Damn... I need Owen to teach me his moves,” Tiana muttered. Tyler smirked as he finished his drink and put the empty glass on the table. Tiana felt her phone buzz in her pocket and pulled out her phone to see a text from David.

David: How does tomorrow night sound at around 6? There’s a nice Italian restaurant not too far from Central Park I’d like to take you.

Tyler looked at Tiana to see her smiling brightly as she texted away on her phone. He raised a curious brow, wondering what had her smiling from ear to ear. “You guys won’t need me tomorrow night, right?” she asked, looking at her phone.

“I’m sure we’ll manage...” Tyler said.

“Perfect,” Tiana said, ignoring his rude tone. “It’s... a... date...” she said out loud with her text. Tyler furrowed his brow at the word ‘date’ and the high pitch in her voice. He glanced at her phone to see what looked like a guy’s name. His jaw tightened as he immediately looked back at the stage. “I need to talk to Owen and Darren about that file I found,” she said, still texting. “I think I know how to get it open. But I need-”

“I really don’t give a shit what you need,” Tyler snapped, not looking at her.

Tiana visibly pulled back and looked at him in shock. “Do you ever turn your assholism off?!” she snarled at him.

“Can I get you another drink?” Britney asked, popping up behind them.

Tyler looked from a fuming Tiana to Britney and nodded before she scurried away. “Oh, now I get it,” Tiana said, folding her arms across her chest. She stared at the empty glass next to him. “Alcohol just turns you into a bigger asshole. You know, normal people just become drunk flirts, but you’re clearly far from normal.”

Britney returned with his drink. “Here you go,” she smiled brightly. “I opened a new bottle for you, so it’s fresh.”

Tyler smirked at Britney. “Thanks... When do you get off?”

“Um... after the next set,” Britney answered.

“How about I get you a drink after?” he smiled charmingly.

Britney beamed brightly. “I’d love that!” She bounded away as he took a sip and met Tiana’s agitated gaze.

“See? I can be a drunk flirt,” he smirked mockingly.

“You’re a dick, Tyler,” Tiana said to him.

“Why? Did that bother you?” Tyler asked, cocking his head to the side.

“Why would I care?” Tiana scoffed.

“I don’t know. Why would you?” Tyler said, locking eyes with her. Tiana swallowed hard before she turned around and walked away from him. His grin quickly fell away as he sighed, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.

~

“Give it up for Dark Riot!” The audience screamed and cheered as the guys left the stage.

“Still got it!” Joey said, flexing his hands.

“That was awesome!” Tiana said, nearly tackling Owen. “Shit, O! Didn’t know you had it like that!”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, T, that I need to start introducing you to,” Owen smirked at her. Tiana smiled but gave him a strange look.

“Owen has always been a lady-killer,” Darren chuckled. “Speaking of which... here comes your target now.”

They all looked toward Jim walking down the stairs with an entourage behind him. His sharp green eyes immediately locked on Owen as he approached him. Darren, Joey, and Jason pretended to busy themselves as Owen eyed the well-dressed guy approaching him. “Nice performance,” Jim said, looking Owen over. “Why do I feel like I’ve met you before?”

Owen grinned. “Doubt it. You’d remember me if you’d ever met me.”

“Cocky,” Jim smirked.

“I can be,” Owen quipped.

Jim looked at Owen amused before he glanced at Tiana still clinging to him. “Girlfriend of yours?” Jim asked.

Owen looked at Tiana who quickly let go of him. “I... uh... was just trying to get an autograph,” Tiana said quickly. “I love your band,” she said, trying to escape.

“You forgot your autograph,” Owen said quickly. Tiana looked at him confused as she walked back over to him. He grabbed her by the waist and looked into her eyes. “Where do you want it?” The question took her by such surprise. Her words were completely caught in her throat as her eyes grew big like saucers. Owen noted the confused panic in her eyes and tried desperately not to grin. “The autograph, doll face. Where do you want it?” he insisted.

“I don’t have any paper,” she said.

“I’ll improvise...” Owen said, lifting the hem of her shirt. Tiana shivered as goosebumps covered her entire body from Owen’s light touch. He crouched down and signed his name on her hip bone before leaving a soft kiss where he signed. She swore her knees were going to buckle.

“Can’t leave my fans unsatisfied,” Owen grinned, standing back up. He leaned in and whispered into her ear. “That should have turned him on a little. Thanks for the assist. You need to work on your acting though. Meet me out back in an hour.”

Tiana stood back from him and nodded. “Thanks so much!” she said before quickly taking off.

~

Tiana sat at the bar scrolling through her phone, feeling several emotions she couldn’t understand. Why did Tyler hitting on the bartender bother her so much? Why couldn’t she keep it together around Owen? Why did Jason make her so damn nervous? Why was she so concerned about these guys? She was supposed to be focusing on her brother. He’s the only thing that matters right now.

She checked her phone again, rereading her text conversation with David. She liked him. A lot. And he definitely liked her. She nibbled her bottom lip, trying to piece the fragments of her mind together before Jason sat down next to her. “You look lonely,” he said.

“And you took it upon yourself to keep me company?” she asked.

“I’m just that nice of a guy, you know?” he teased her.

Tiana rolled her eyes with a smirk. “Is this all we’re doing right now? Waiting around until Owen gets what we need?”

“Consider it a blessing,” Jason chuckled. “What. Do you miss the thrill of your life being in danger, you little troublemaker?” Tiana chuckled as she shrugged. She glanced over at Owen to see him getting touchy with Jim and swore they were about to kiss. “He’s good, right?” Jason said, following her gaze. “I swear he just gets better with time.”

Tiana swallowed down the lump in her throat as she looked down at her hands and fumbled with them. “Ayy, looks like both my boys are trying to get some tonight,” Jason laughed. Tiana quickly looked up to see Tyler and the blonde bartender chatting. She felt her chest tighten before she stood from the stool and started walking away. “Hey!” Jason said, rushing up to her. “What’s wrong?”

“I just... I don’t belong here. With you guys. I don’t fit into this weird-ass vigilante group you have. I was better off being angry with you idiots for kidnapping me. Not trying to be the bigger person and make nice,” she said frustrated.

“Hey, hey, hey, calm down,” Jason said, grabbing her shoulders. “For what it’s worth... I am really sorry for scaring you like that. I mean the kidnapping was hot and fun and I’d love to re-enact tying you up in my bedroom some time while I-”

“Is this supposed to be an apology?!” she blurted.

“Right...” Jason said, letting her go. “Yes. This is me apologizing for kidnapping you. Okay? I just panicked. I’ve never been turned down before and I needed to lure you in. You caught me a little off guard.”

Tiana’s shoulders fell. “You guys could have just told me what was going on instead of kidnapping me.”

“We were running out of time. HeaTWave may already know of your existence and we couldn’t take any chances,” Jason said.

“...HeaTWave?” she asked, confused.

“They’re one of our biggest rival hacker groups and a group that Silos had been working against for a while. Let’s just say... they’re really not nice people,” Jason sighed.

Tiana looked at him strangely. “I swear I feel like I’m in a bootleg episode of the Justice League. You guys have an arch-nemesis now? Bruh,” she said, turning around.

“It’s serious, Tiana,” Jason said, grabbing her again and turning her around. “We don’t fuck around with that shit. Silos had a lot of enemies and HeaTWave was the worst of them all...” Jason trailed off and Tiana noticed the way his eyes avoided hers.

“Jason,” she said. “Do you guys think this group killed Dante? You think they killed my brother?”

Jason looked at her and deeply exhaled. “We don’t know for sure... but they’re at the top of our list...”

Tiana put her head in her hands as her brows furrowed in frustration. “I can’t deal with this. I can’t! This is too much!” She quickly rushed out of the concert hall and outside the building.

“Tiana!” Jason shouted as he ran after her. Tiana plopped down on the sidewalk, trying to catch her breath. She felt like she was on the verge of a panic attack. “There’s a reason why bits and pieces of information come out at a time. We didn’t want to overload you with too much,” Jason said, crouching down in front of her. She looked up at him to see a concerned look in his eyes. “You told us to start being honest with you... Is that not what you want?” he asked.

“No, I do,” she said quickly. “I’m just... damn, it’s a lot.”

“I know...” Jason sighed.

Tiana took a deep breath and looked at Jason. “Thank you... for being honest with me.”

Jason gave her a genuine smile that matched the soft sparkle in his light blue eyes and set her heart aflutter. “While we’re being honest,” he said. “When you run, your ass does this amazing sexy jiggle that just gets me-”

“SERIOUSLY, JASON?!” she said, throwing her hands up as he burst into laughter. She shook her head watching him laugh in great amusement at his own foolishness. “You love getting me riled up, don’t you?” she grinned.

“That’s one way to put it,” he smirked. Tiana shook her head as she let out a chuckle. Jason heard his phone go off and checked a message from Owen. “Looks like our boy acquired the key,” Jason grinned. Tiana twitched her lip slightly, not wanting to know what he did to get it.

Jason stood to his feet and held out his hand to Tiana. She looked up at him confused. “Are we going to get it?” she asked, taking his hand.

“The guys will take care of it. You and me? We’re going on a little joy ride. Get your mind off of this shit,” he said, pulling her up.

“Wait what?”

“I won that race remember? Time to pick up my prize,” he said, leading her to his car.

“Jason, I don’t-”

“Come on, beautiful. Don’t act like you don’t like the thrill,” he winked at her. “Admit it. You’re a natural-born troublemaker.”

“I’m gonna regret this,” she muttered, getting into his car.

~*~

“Favorite movie.”

Mad Max.”

“Really?” Tiana asked, shuffling M&Ms into her mouth.

“Fuck yeah. It’s set in the post-apocalypse. It’s got fast cars with death traps built into them. And... it has badass hot women like Charlize Theron,” Jason grinned as he sped down the highway.

“That’s true. Charlize makes me question my sexuality sometimes...” Tiana laughed, popping another M&M into her mouth.

Jason glanced over at her. “Don’t worry, beautiful. She doesn’t compare to you,” he winked.

“Jason...” she said embarrassed, trying not to reveal her face as he laughed amused.

“What about you?” he asked.

Black Panther. For obvious reasons,” she said.

“That’s funny. Dante said the same thing,” Jason smirked.

Tiana chuckled. “Black Panther was groundbreaking for black representation in cyberpunk movies. Furthering an age of Afro-futurism I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It was... really moving...”

A small smile came to Jason’s face. “It’s nice that you finally had that moment. It’s only a shame it took so long to come.”

“You’re telling me...” Tiana sighed as she looked out the window.

~*~

“And so I really really like going to the beach because my skin gets so pale and just laying out in the sun letting my skin get all bronze and toasty like Katy Perry said sun-kissed skin and who doesn’t like-”

“Britney! Britney!” Tyler said, grabbing the bartender by her shoulders. “I think you’ve had a little too much to drink. You should go home. Let me call you a cab.”

Britney looked at Tyler confused as she watched him dial on his phone. “A cab? But... but why? I thought we were having fun?”

Tyler looked at her as he listened to the phone ring. “We were. I just... I need to go.”

“I can go with you.”

“No, that’s alright.”

Britney scoffed. “I thought you liked me.”

Tyler sighed as he spoke into the phone. He gave their address and hung up. “You’re a sweet girl, but I’m not really interested.”

“But, you said-”

“I know what I said, I... was just being a dick,” he groaned as Tiana and Jason’s words flooded his mind. “Sorry for leading you on.”

Britney looked at him and rolled her eyes. “Fucking asshole,” she muttered before storming away. Tyler groaned in frustration when he felt someone grab his shoulder.

“Wow, brother! You are just sooooo good with the ladies! I am loving it! What a pro! What’s your secret?” Owen teased as he squeezed Tyler’s neck.

“Fuck off, Owen,” Tyler said, shrugging his hand off.

“Did you at least get her number? Did she give you a nice blow job to help you relieve all that pent up stress?” Owen snickered.

“I said fuck off! Goddammit,” Tyler muttered. “You got the key?”

“And the P.O. Box number,” Owen grinned, waving the key in his face.

“Great, let’s get this over with,” Tyler said, looking around. “Where’s Jason? ...and... Tiana?”

Owen quickly looked around the room before his face flushed over. “Oh, fuck.”

~*~

Jason pulled up to a high-level parking garage with tons of sports cars parked side-by-side. “You comin’, beautiful?” he asked, getting out of the car.

“Is it... safe...?” she asked, looking around.

“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you,” he winked at her.

“Yea... Funny how that didn’t answer my question,” she said with a quirked brow. Jason chuckled as he headed over to a group of guys talking by one of the sports cars. Tiana stepped out of the car and leaned against it, eyeing the detail of the sports cars around her. “Jeez...” she muttered. “I have never felt poorer in my life.”

She looked up to see Jason walking back to the car, carrying an engine with another guy. She quickly stepped out of the way as they lifted the hood and started working to settle it inside. “What are you guys doing?” she asked, watching them.

“It’s a new Sniper GTX Nitrous engine,” Jason said, squinting as he eyed the smooth metal. “Goddamn, she’s gorgeous!”

“You’re such a weirdo, Jason,” she laughed.

“Come here. You’ll see what I mean,” he said, grabbing her wrist. He pulled her in front of him, pressing her back against his chest as he pointed to the details of the engine. “This one has the same coating as my original engine, only it regenerates 5x faster. The heart of the engine is so smooth, it literally purrs like a kitten.”

He grabbed her hand and pressed it against the engine until she felt a soft gentle hum. “That’s impressive,” she said surprised. “You mean to tell me you couldn’t make this yourself?” she teased.

Jason grinned as he leaned in, pressing into her. “I can make anything I want to, babe,” he said in her ear. “But there’s something more satisfying about winning it over instead.”

Tiana glanced over her shoulder and met Jason’s suggestive, bright blue gaze that set her whole body aflame. She anxiously stepped back, nearly knocking into him. “Sorry,” she said quickly.

“Take it easy, beautiful...” he said, gripping her. “I still make you nervous?”

Tiana’s breathing shortened as his hands teasingly squeezed her hips ever-so-gently. “Yes,” she said immediately. “I mean no. I’m... gonna go wait in the car.” Jason smirked as he watched her walk back to his car.

“You comin’ out to the next race?” the man asked, handing Jason a few bills.

“Maybe... We’ll see how this one rides first,” Jason said, counting his bills.

“The car or the girl?” the man smirked.

Jason sucked his teeth with a grin. “Shut up. It’s not like that.”

“Yea, okay,” the man grinned mischievously. Instantly, he lost his smile. “Shit!” he blurted. Jason’s ears perked up before he nodded to the guy and rushed back to his car.

“What’s happening?” Tiana asked as she saw the other men hop into the cars and start pulling out of the garage.

“Cops,” Jason said. He shifted the gears before speeding out of the garage and blasting onto the road. Tiana could immediately hear police sirens behind them as a voice blared through a radio.

“STOP! PULL OVER!”

“Oh shit!” she freaked. “This is it! This is how I die!”

“Relax. I won’t let anything happen to you,” Jason said, speeding down the road past the other sports cars.

“Are you kidding me? Do you know how many black people have survived being chased by the cops? They’ll fire 6 warning shots in my ass and plead self-defense!”

Jason’s fingers played with his dashboard as he clicked a few buttons. In seconds, Tiana heard a voice through the radio. “Suspects are heading on 288! Calling for backup!”

“You deadass have a police scanner. Okay, you really are a criminal,” she said.

“Eh... that’s subjective...” he smirked.

“We are outrunning the cops! How is that subjective?!” she blurted.

“Keyword, outrunning,” Jason said. He made a quick turn, easily dodging two squad cars and sped right past them, sending him into a fit of laughter.

“Wow, you’re seriously enjoying this...” she said, looking at him like he was crazy.

He quirked an amused brow at her. “Aren’t you?”

Tiana closed her eyes tight and said a quick prayer. “Jason... I’m really not tryna die tonight.” She looked out the window to see a few more squad cars turning on the ramp. “They’re catching up to us,” she panicked. “Go! Go! Go!”

“Time to try out that new engine,” Jason said. “Do me a favor, beautiful, and take the wheel for a second.”

“BITCH, WHAT?!”

“Just hold it steady, babe,” he said, putting a heavy rectangular box on the petal as he leaned out of the window.

She quickly grabbed the wheel. Her eyes widened with fear as they sped down the freeway. “You’re so fucking crazy!” she blurted, trying to keep the wheel steady.

“You’re doing great, babe,” Jason said. He flicked a switch on the hood before crawling back inside. He quickly sat back down and grabbed the wheel. Tiana plastered her back to her seat, hyperventilating as the car picked up immense speed.

Jason peeked through the windshield to see road spikes ahead of them surrounded by cop cars. “I’m... gonna have to do something risky... Do you trust me, Tiana?”

“Do pigs fly?!” she blurted.

“Good enough,” he shrugged. He made a sharp turn, doing a complete 180 as they flew back in the other direction.

“HOLY SHIT! DID YOU SEE THAT?!” a voice came from the police scanner. “SUSPECT IS OUT OF RANGE. I REPEAT, SUSPECT IS OUT. OF. RANGE!”

“JASON!” Tiana blurted.

“Just trust me, babe. I’ve done this before,” he said, shifting gears. He sped up, dodging oncoming traffic.

Tiana felt like she was going to throw up. She looked behind them to see that they were actually losing the cops. Jason made another sharp turn, nearly flying off the ramp and onto an unknown road. He drove underneath an underpass, hiding out. A few minutes later, several squad cars went flying by without seeing them. “We’ve lost the suspect. Currently in pursuit of other suspects on the I-96.”

“There we go,” Jason smiled as he slowly pulled out and headed home.

“Oh my god!” Tiana breathed heavily. Her chest rose and fell with anxiety as Jason sped down the empty freeway.

“You okay?” Jason asked, glancing at her. He knew chases like this were fun for him because he did them often. But he was starting to think that he may have actually pushed her a bit too far this time. “Tiana!” he said, trying to snap her out of it. She jumped startled. “Are you okay?!” he asked again.

“Y-yea! I-! That was fucking insane! You’re insane! And I just drove down a fucking highway from the damn passenger seat! Like what the shit?! Oh my god!” she said, panicking.

Jason realized she was a lot more hopped up on adrenaline than he was expecting and pulled over to the side. “Just breathe, Tiana, breathe,” he said, turning to her. She took deep breaths, trying to calm down. She looked at him, her eyes still shimmering with excitement. Her heart was beating at 100 mph in her chest as her hands trembled uncontrollably.

He quickly grabbed her hands to still her. “Breathe...” he said, emulating the moves to inhale and exhale. Tiana knew Jason was only trying to calm her, but his touch was only making her that much more anxious. “Breathe...” he repeated as he pursed his lips.

She watched his lips form an O as he motioned for her to exhale. She followed his instructions and for the first time, she saw real deep concern in his bright blue eyes. “...in... and out...” he said to her. His thumb ran soothingly over her thigh, but to her, it seemed like he was just teasing her. Especially since his eyes switched every now and then from her eyes to her lips.

She took deep breaths as she found herself staring at his lips. Her mind felt hazy and her heart was still beating so fast she could hear it in her head. Her mind moved rapidly before she was jumping out of her seat and on top of him. “Woah!” he said, startled as he quickly caught her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and eagerly pushed her lips against his, breathing heavily into his mouth.

Jason hesitated for just a second, wondering if she had snapped or something. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her waist, holding her body firmly pressed against his. He possessively ran his hands up and down her waist. His thumb pressed into her skin as his tongue lashed hungrily against hers, eager for more of her. She tasted so good. Her body felt so soft in his embrace. His hands immediately gravitated to her ass and he felt himself harden with a vengeance as he tightly grasped what he had been craving.

She clung to his shirt, kissing him ferociously and feeling his firm chest against hers. She moaned into his mouth as he caressed and squeezed her backside. His mouth tried to conquer hers. Suddenly her eyes popped open when it occurred to her what she was doing. She quickly pulled back from him and stared at him wide-eyed. “Tiana?” he said, confused.

She shook her head as she scrambled off of him and plopped back down in her seat. Jason looked at her confused. She nibbled on her thumb, breathing heavily, as she stared out the window to the road. “Tia-” he started again.

“I’m sorry!” she blurted, shaking her head. “I don’t know what happened. What came over me. I... I think it was just an adrenaline rush.”

Jason raised a brow. “That wasn’t just an adrenaline rush...”

“Please drive, Jason,” she said, biting anxiously at her thumb. She stared out the window, desperately avoiding his gaze. Jason kept his eyes on her for a moment longer before he backed out of the spot and continued back to base. Tiana kept checking her phone messages absentmindedly, still confused as to what she did. She couldn’t believe she actually kissed him. She had no idea what came over her.

Jason pulled up to the back of the warehouse and turned to her. He saw her gently rubbing her bottom lip with her thumb, and it only teased him. He imagined pulling that plump lip between his teeth again. “...I can still taste you too, Tiana...” he said, breaking the silence.

She looked at him startled before she vehemently shook her head. “It was a mistake, Jason,” she said, opening the door. He quickly grabbed her thigh before she could get out.

“Tiana,” he said firmly.

“I told you, it was just the adrenaline. Can we please forget this happened?” she asked.

“That wasn’t an adrenaline rush kiss. That was an ‘I want you now’ kiss,” Jason quirked a brow at her.

Tiana shook her head. “You’re reading way too much into it,” she said, stepping out of the car. She headed towards the building, walking fast. She tried not to look at him again, despite the fact that she wanted to, and couldn’t figure out why.

“Goddamn, that kiss. Tiana, what the hell girl...” she muttered, trying to speed up. But Jason quickly caught up to her and grabbed her wrist, yanking her towards him. “Jaso-” she started before he wrapped his hand at the base of her neck and slammed his lips into hers.

Tiana felt herself melting into his strong embrace that was resilient not to let her go. He tightened his hold on her body as his mouth moved against hers. His tongue eagerly seeking out her own before he caught her bottom lip between his teeth. Tiana could feel her heart beating fast in her chest as an unfamiliar feeling spread throughout her body. She couldn’t understand why he smelled so good. Why his taste was so sweet. Why it felt good to be in his arms.

She shook her head in defiance. Placing her hands against his chest, she was frustrated that he felt so deliciously firm and gathered enough willpower to push him back. Jason let her go as she stumbled out of his arms. She tried to catch her breath before she looked up at his blue eyes staring at her, wanting. “This can’t happen again,” she said. “I told you it was a mistake. Just a lapse in judgment.”

“You’re lying,” he said, taking a step towards her.

“Jason-” she said, stepping back from him. But he wrapped his arm around her waist again and pulled her body flushed against his for the third time. “Don’t make me hurt you,” she threatened him

“Then hurt me, baby,” he said, grinning at her. “Because you’re still lying.”

“I told you-” she started.

“I know what you told me. I just don’t believe you,” he said, catching her eye. “Tell me you don’t want me. Look me in the eye and say that.” She furrowed her brow and tensed up when she felt his hand palm her ass and squeeze hard. Jason watched as her eyes instinctively closed, and she let out a slight gasp that made his body hot with desire. “...shit, Tiana...” he croaked out. She opened her eyes and met his heated gaze. “Go on,” he said, giving her a challenging look. His eyes switched from her brown irises to her full lips as he eagerly bit his own bottom lip in anticipation.

“I’m not doing this,” she said, pushing him away. She turned on her heels and walked inside.

~*~

Tiana sat in the corner, watching the rest of them discuss their findings from that night as she kept to herself. She glanced up to see Jason’s provocative gaze fixed on her and immediately looked down, feeling beyond flustered. Kissing Jason opened up a whole can of worms she was not equipped to take on. The only thing she hated more than the fact that she kissed him was the fact that she liked it. She was terrified at the thought that she might actually like his cocky ass.

“T?” Tiana looked up to see Owen staring down at her concerned. “You okay? You haven’t said anything,” Owen said.

Tiana glanced at Jason before she looked back at Owen. “I’m just tired,” she said. “I have a couple of things to do for school tomorrow. Think I’m gonna hit the bed early tonight.”

“You sure?” Owen asked. “I’m here if you need me.”

“Yea, thanks, Owen,” she said, getting up. Tyler watched with curiosity as Jason crossed the room towards Tiana and followed her around the corner. Tiana went to open her door when Jason’s arm blocked the entryway. “Jason,” she sighed. “Go away.”

“I thought we were finally starting to bond,” he said.

“And then we almost got arrested and nearly died in a high-speed chase like this is some Fast & Furious shit,” she muttered.

“I told you... I wouldn’t let anything happen to you,” he insisted.

She turned to look at him just as his eyes slowly raked her over, a starved look in his gaze. “You can’t keep looking at me like that,” she said.

“I’m not looking at you any differently than before,” he said. “The only difference is... now, I know what you taste like.”

She sucked her teeth and went to open her door again when he grabbed her waist and pushed her back against the wall, entrapping her between his arms on either side of her. “You’re a freak,” she said to him as his face got closer to hers.

“And you love it,” he said, before ensnaring her lips with his. Jason immediately placed a hand against her lower back before gliding it down towards her ass.

“Don’t-” she said, but he grabbed her ass hard. He swallowed her moan as he pushed his erection into her, letting her feel him.

“Don’t what,” he said heatedly. His lips scoured down her neck before sucking on the soft flesh just above her collarbone.

“Jason,” she said, pushing him back again.

He looked at her with a tinge of disappointment in his eyes as he took a step back. “I want you, Tiana,” he said to her. “You know I do. And I know you want me too.”

She walked to the door and opened it before looking up at him with hesitation in her eyes, unnerved about what to say. “Please... let’s not make this a thing.”

“Tiana-”

“Goodnight, Jason,” she said before closing the door on him.

~*~

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