Quarter Mile High
Chapter 9 –Wicked One
"Time to get up sleeping beauty." Mia calling in a sing song voice full of her good humour as she walked into Mira's room and opened the curtains. She took in the girl's filled out face and figure, tanned skin and shining hair and eyes. A few months of good food had made a big difference to her.
"This is getting to be an annoying way to way up." Mira grumbled even as she sat up and climbed out of bed in her new pyjamas that Letty had picked out for her. They were shorts and a tank top with hot wheels cars all over them. Two months of someone walking into her room and letting the sun shine into her face every morning. But she secretly loved it. Someone cared if she got up or not, made sure she ate. It was a big change.
"You better get dressed for the garage. Letty tells me that you have a full day of work on a car that's been in the garage for like two months and has to be ready to roll by the end of the week at the latest. Why do you have to work on a car for Letty?" Mia's eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "I thought you might want to come work with me today for a change."
"I have to work on this car because Letty picked it out for me and if I'm gonna be driving it to school when I start next week we need to get it finished." Mira's face gave away the fact she still wasn't sure why Letty had gotten her the car, or if it had really happened, even though she and Letty had been restoring the car for the better part of two months. They'd decided as a team it didn't make sense for Mira to start school in the middle of a semester. She was starting when the semester changed in the middle of the year, which was only a week away. Mia squealed as she pulled Mira in for an excited hug.
"That's so great! I mean, they didn't make me work on my own car when Dom got it for me but I still remember how awesome it was to have my first car. I'll have to swing by the shop to see it when Cindy comes in after lunch. I'll just leave a bit early so I still have time to make it to school."
"You go to school?"
"Yeah, I'm in premed. I'm taking it slow because of all the stuff I have to do around here but I take three classes a semester. I hope I still get into med school even thought I didn't take a full time course load over premed. But Letty is waiting on you downstairs to take you to work with her so you better get a roll on." Mia left the room and Mira dressed in a pair of baggy combat pants, a black wife beater and her boots. It still amazed her how well they fit and how much they suited her. Then she tied her hair up into a ponytail and ran clunkily down the stairs, only to find Letty wearing almost the exact same thing again.
"You're lookin good." Letty chuckled as she took in what Mira had chosen to wear before she'd even seen Letty, which meant the two just thought alike. "Finally another girl around the place who doesn't think everything she wears has to have ruffles on the edges."
"I heard that!" Mia called from the kitchen. "Come eat before it gets cold."
Mira and Letty headed into the kitchen and joined the table, up to that point it had been full of only rowdy men. The whole team was gathered around with the exception of Brian. "Where's Bri?" Letty asked as she sat down in her place on Dom's right and shoved Leon farther down the bench to make room for Mira beside her. Leon gave her a reproachful look but kept eating after dragging his plate down with him. He'd never gotten over the scene that had been made when he'd called his dad for custody of Mira. Mr. De Luca had refused, but had signed papers to allow them to put Mirabella in school. It wasn't that he wanted Mirabella home; he just didn't want to think Leon might get something out of having his sister living with him, so officially Mira's father was still her legal guardian.
"Had to work." Mia answered, tone giving away he had to work for the cops today, something the rest of the team wasn't particularly thrilled about. They'd thought he was done with police work and even if he did only work undercover when his more special skills were needed the team still wasn't pleased. Least of all Vince, who hated anything dressed in blue with a badge. He said he could still see the blue blood even when the 'pig' was wearing their own clothes. But he tried to stay out of it for the sake of the rest of the team, who for some reason wanted Brian around.
Mira looked at all the food Mia had piled in front of her. Every day she got a huge heaping plate of breakfast from Mia. Every day they didn't go eat at Mary's diner because Mia didn't have time to feed them at least. Mira still didn't have a huge appetite. She'd had a bad few weeks just after they'd gotten her Altima to the garage. Letty hadn't let her lie in bed or stay home though. She'd been made to drag her ass to the garage every day. It had sucked, but in the end it had been the right thing to do. The withdrawal symptoms had been much easier to deal with when she'd been kept busy and not thinking about how bad she felt every minute of every day.
Letty had picked out all her classes for the semester, and had been quite honest about the fact that if Mira didn't want to fall way behind the other kids her age she was looking at at least half a summer of summer school too. Mira almost wasn't sure if she'd rather be held back in tenth instead of giving up half her first summer in California to go to school. In the end she decided that it was better to be done with her class then have the summer off. Letty had put her in math, biology, English, and shop. Since shop was a year round class Mira was half a year behind the other kids but Letty assured her that with all she'd been taught at DT she'd likely be ahead of the other kids anyway.
Mira forced herself to clear her plate just like Letty. She told herself every day there were worse things then ending up looking and acting like Letty. Every day Mira watched Letty run the guys around the garage and they never even knew they were being controlled by a woman. No one but Dom, who obviously did know and still didn't care. Mira knew, even at her young age that if her parents had loved each other the way Dom and Letty loved each other she'd have had a far different childhood. That didn't mean Dom didn't still scare her, because he did, but he was pretty cool in his own way.
Her brother still didn't have much to do with her and while it still hurt, Vince and Letty and Mia kept her busy enough that she didn't really mind that much. She might have come to California to find her brother originally, trying to find what they'd had as kids. While she failed to find that she found something almost as good. None of the people who cared for her were blood, but they were acting better to her then her blood was and she was glad to have them.
Her new life had made changes in her that were obvious. The clothes Letty had made her buy too big now fit her, making it obvious why Letty had made her buy them a few sizes too large. Mira knew she'd been very underweight when she'd showed up but the same thing couldn't be said of her now. She looked her age instead of having the figure of a 12 year old like when she'd shown up. Her dead, limp hair was gone. All the good food and frequent washing with good shampoo had transformed it into long, shiny, silky waves of a rich mahogany brown with natural golden streaks. When she'd tried to get it cut off Mia had put her foot down, saying it was definitely too pretty to cut short. Mira had caved, admiring Mia's own black waterfall of hair. But she'd insisted on being allowed to have a trim and Mia had relented, so Mira's hair was now cut off at her elbows instead of the small of her back.
They finished eating and like every other day Mira slid into the driver's seat of Letty's Silvia. They'd found more work to do to the Altima then they'd originally figured and it had kept it in the shop. So that she'd be ready to drive it when it was done Letty had decided to teach her in her own car. Mira was never anything but careful with it, knowing how important it was to Letty. She'd been touched when Letty had told her she was going to have to learn and it may as well be in Letty's car since it was so similar.
"So, tomorrow or the next day we'll have your car done. You excited?"
"Yeah, but I'm gonna miss driving your car. It's awesome."
"You'll be surprised how alike this yours is. Besides I got a surprise for you, but you can't tell any of the guys after I show you what it is, ok?"
"Ok. What is it?"
"I'll show you when we get to the shop." Letty smirked and Mira knew the older girl well enough to know that she wasn't getting anything else out of her until Letty was good and ready to share.
They pulled into the parking lot and Mira parked the Silvia carefully. They walked into the shop and walked over to the Altima. Two months had effected changes in the car as dramatic as the changes in its young owner.
They'd taken all the little flaws out of the paint, which now gleamed like new. The ugly factory rims were gone, replaced with Jesse James .44 rims, encased in Toyo tires. Mira had picked them out from a catalog. Letty told her to just pick the ones she liked best so she had but she didn't want to know how much they'd cost. The new 18 inch chrome rims filled in the fenders perfectly, especially since the car now sat two inches lower over them thanks to the HKS lowering springs and Koni adjustable struts. The headlights were sporting blackout covers for looks and the headlights had been upgraded to a high output HID system underneath. They'd modified the taillights by removing the stock assemblies and modding in Skyline taillight assemblies. From the rear the car looked very Skyline like with the round tail lights and the R34 style body kit they'd used. The car also had a custom matched set of neon under body glows, plate frames front and rear, and all the signal lights and marker lights were done in clear lenses with bulbs that matched the neons. They were all a color matched to the car, someplace between sapphire blue and deep purple.
Under the car they'd added a HKS hi-power exhaust, gutted the catalytic converter and replaced the stock exhaust manifold with an aftermarket turbo manifold and header. They'd added a K and N cold air intake as well. Then a turbo, a HKS GT, allowing for small boost while Mira was still new to the world of performance driving. The turbo had necessitated a new engine computer to control it, as well as a turbo timer, turbo controller, and boost gauge. When the new stereo complete with DVD player was taken into consideration Mira knew her car had more electronics then her father's house. They'd torn the engine down to the bare block to reinforce everything at the beginning so they wouldn't need to do it later when they upped her boost pressure. Stronger piston rings and valves had been used in the rebuild, along with performance cam shafts in the double overhead cam engine. The block had been all reinforced and planed. They'd painted the block blue to match the car, and the engine bay was no longer dirty but highly detailed. Vince had helped them all he could, glad to see yet another Nissan in the crew, helping them make Dom, Brian and Jesse even more of a minority.
They'd upgraded the brakes to huge Brembo cross drilled rotors and 4 piston callipers, the open spaces in the rims allowing the gold Brembo callipers to show through. All in all Mira had figured the car was done. All that was left was to fire it up for the first time since the build. But Letty apparently had other plans for it.
"You wanna know what the surprise is?" Letty asked, eyebrow cocked in curiosity.
"You know I do! I've been dying since you brought it up!" Mira exclaimed.
"Then shush, and follow me." Letty lead Mira to the back of the car, where her workbench was and pulled a scruffy box out from under the table. She pulled the flaps back and inside was a series of three gleaming silver canisters, out of place in the dirty cardboard.
"That's n-" Letty cut Mira off before she could finish nitrous.
"Yeah. The guys don't know I'm putting this in yet so shush. We'll hide the spray under the seat like Dom's, that's how this kit is made. Then we'll hide the one and two shot buttons in your horn buttons on the steering wheel. I don't intend to fill the system just yet, but it'll be there. Go check out the other things I did last night."
"Ok." Mira went to check out her car and found sponsor decals on it now. HKS, Toyo, Jesse James, Sparco, Holly Nitrous, The Racer's Edge, Nismo, Momo, Koni, and Apexi, all done in chrome along the side skirts to keep them out of the visual effects of the car. "It looks great."
"It's not done just yet." Letty walked over. "I know you like the color and really this team doesn't go in for really elaborate paint jobs. I hope you like these." Letty pulled a long cardboard tube out of the car and unrolled the paper within to reveal a set of vinyl graphics for the sides of the car.
Where as Leon's car had a warrior with his sword stretched out with thunder bolts behind him Mira's had a Japanese warrior holding a bolt of thunder as though to throw it. The thunder bold went up onto the front quarter panel and reached back to the front door where the warrior was stretched out like he was flying, his traditional costume looking very Asian. He was a warrior Letty later informed her was actually Raiden, the Japanese god of thunder. Just as on Leon's car, a line of vivid green came out of Raiden's eyes and up to the corner of the headlight assemblies on Mira's.
"We'll have Mia put them on when she comes after lunch, she's the best at it. You like it? I know I likely shoulda asked you first if you had any plans."
"I like it a lot. My plan involved putting some stars back along the sides, this is a hell of a lot better. But isn't awful like Leon's? He's gonna be pissed."
"You're an awful lot like him, and someday he'll see that. But for now this suits you. There's only one other thing. Yo Dom!"
"You got what I asked you to get?"
"Of course." Dom roared back from his office.
"Well, come and do the honours then!" Letty called laughingly back.
"Alright I'm comin already." They heard Dom's chair scrape back from his desk and a moment later he appeared again, a few scrapes of paper in his hands. "We don't normally do this until you win your first race, but since you put so much work into havin this car ready before you go to school we're making an exception." Dom crouched down beside the front skirt of the car, first on the side farthest away from Mira and Letty and then he crouched at the back. He moved around to the other side and Letty made Mira close her eyes.
"Ok, open them." Letty told Mira a moment later.
The graphics on the Altima were now one step closer to complete, as the car was now sporting a chrome D·T logo on each front bumper skirt and the number 6 on each rear skirt.
"Welcome to D·T." Dom said casually as he walked away. Leon looked on, not happy at all with this new development. He still had moments, and whole days really where he wished he'd wake up and find out his sister had never showed up on the doorstep. No matter what Dom had told him he still felt like her presence was stifling to him. He didn't think it was right for him to live how he had been if he was supposed to be his sister's guardian. He knew he should be a good example to her, but he really didn't want to be.
He watched as Mia showed up and click clacked her way into the shop on her heels. If his sister was a little more like Mia and a little less like Letty he might have found her a little easier to take. Every day Mira was around Letty she became a little more outspoken, a little more attitude filled, a little more confident. Leon worried some of his issues with Mira might come from the fact he saw himself in another week when she stared school beating guys like himself off her with a big stick. She'd grown into her big green eyes since she'd filled out. And that was another issue, she'd filled out into what a 16 year old should look like and Leon knew that the boys at her school were going to notice. A girl looking like his sister, driving a car like the one Letty had built her, with the D·T logos to boot was going to make a splash in high school. Most especially in shop class where girls were rare enough, let alone girls who looked like his little sister looked, drove like his little sister drove, and called the infamous Letty Aunt and the even more infamous Dom and Vince Uncle. She was going to be popular and that meant boys. And Leon remembered when he was a 17 year old boy, and moreover he remembered exactly what had been on his mind when he'd been a 17 year old boy. Those punks were going to be looking at his little sister with that one thing on their mind.
But hating the fact that guys were going to be all over her also meant he cared about what happened to her, and he hated the fact he cared too. He didn't want to care about whether she stayed or went. That meant he was responsible for her and he'd have to start acting like it. If anything since she'd shown up he'd lived even wilder then before, as though he was determined to show Mira, the team, and most importantly himself that nothing was changed.
"This the car?" He heard Mia ask as she stopped in front of the gleaming Altima.
"Yeah." Letty answered with her typical 'I'm so pleased with myself' grin. "You like?"
"I really like. Who picked the colour? You?" Mia asked Letty, knowing the girl's appreciation for purple.
"It came this colour and Mira loves it so we just fixed it up, we didn't paint it." Letty lowered her voice so she'd only be audible to Mia."'Sides if I'm the D·T queen then Mira's gonna be our princess. No doubt about it, the girl's gonna race as well as her brother. You should see her with the car. So she should have her car the colour of royalty too."
Mia looked at Mira. "How'd you talk them into putting D·T and your team number on it already? They even made me win a race first." Mia pouted playfully.
"I don't know. Dom just put that stuff on there." Mira blushed under the attention.
"Besides how could she not win her first race with a Jesse Adam's special under the hood?" Vince asked, joining the conversation as he tossed a brotherly arm around Mira's shoulders.
"Can I get my driver's licence instead of my learners first?" Mira squeaked out her question, nervous about starting to race, even though it was something she really wanted to do.
"If you want to, but you don't need to. You handle Letty's beast like a champ." Vince winked. "And if you want to learn how to race from a pro, you just let m-"
"Me show you." Letty cut Vince off with a chuckle.
"Maybe Leon'd like to teach her." Dom said from the door to his office, voice gruff. Leon looked up in shock, it was another one of those things Dom phrased like a question and meant as an order and Leon knew it.
"Yeah, sure, I'll show her a few things, as soon as her car's ready. Be a lot for her to learn to drive mine and race at the same time."
"Oh no, it's fine really." Mira interjected in a polite tone, but the fact she didn't want to be alone with Leon was clear. "I'm sure that after all the work Letty put into my car she'd like to show me how to race it too." Mira glanced at Letty, who shrugged. Dom's face had an unreadable look.
"We'll see." He said as he went back into his office.
"Mia, can you do the graphics before you head to class?" Letty asked her friend and adopted sister. Ever since she'd started spending so much time with Dom and his father when she was 10 Letty had had that sort of relationship with Mia.
"Yeah, I left early today so I got time." Mia took the tube with the graphics in it from Letty and got out her spray bottle and squeegee. In a remarkably short amount of time Mia had the Raiden graphics on the side of the car. "Wow Letty, you outdid yourself this time. That looks great. Just the right amount of connection between her car and his." Mia told Letty in low tones, meant for only the two of them to hear.
"Thanks. She really likes it too."
"Can't blame her. She's gotten so pretty since she got here, she's gonna be quite the sensation at school when she starts."
"No kidden. You should see the look on Leon's face when he realizes guys are gonna come sniffin around after her. He gets this mad jealous look on his face. When that boy stops kidden himself that he doesn't want her around it's gonna be pretty funny." Both girls shared a laugh, making them the center of attention to the shop.
Mira couldn't believe they treated her like she was one of them. Letty and Mia were so pretty, she didn't feel like she belonged at all.
"Well? What'd ya think?" Letty called in Mira's direction, drawing her attention back to the car.
She looked, then did a double take. With the bright black, silver and chrome graphics, chrome rims, blacked out windows and neon kit turned on it looked like a car straight out of a magazine, not just another Nissan Altima. "I can't believe it's mine."
"Believe it. We're gonna finish it up today and you're gonna drive it home tonight. Let's get going." Letty got Mira to work on some prep work while she started to inventory the parts in the sneaky pete NOS system. She'd let Vince in on the surprise and he'd helped her prepare the Sparco seat to receive the system. She was putting a wet NOS system into the car, direct port fogger system to be precise, hidden under the manifold. It would allow them all the horsepower gains they'd ever want on the 2.4 litre Altima. Letty figured that Mira would outgrow the Altima before she ever outgrew the power the 2.4 litre in line 4 would be pumping out with the aggressive exhaust profile and direct injected NOS, not to mention the fact that the turbo they'd chosen for the application was fairly large and capable of pushing far more boost then they were setting it up for while the teen was still getting use to her newly tuned ride.
They worked on finishing Mira's car all afternoon and by 5pm they were ready to try to start it up. Everyone gathered around and Letty pressed the keys into Mira's hand.
"You try it Letty, you know more about it then I do."
"All you gotta do is turn the key to the on position for a minute then turn it over. If it sputters pump the gas a little bit. It's your car, you do it."
"Ok." Mira took a deep breath, slid onto her new leather racing seat that matched the rest of her black leather interior. She put the key into the ignition, let it sit there in the on position for a minute then turned the engine over. It started right up, and then went to stall out.
"Give it some gas." Jesse called, leaning into the engine bay. Mira listened and the car revved up. When she let off the gas it held idle perfect. She left it running and slid out of the driver's seat. Letty high fived her. Mia, who'd returned right to the garage from school hoping not to miss the big first run hugged her. Dom, almost self consciously patted her on her head with a smile. Jesse gave her a goofy smile, for some reason Mira and Jesse had never really hit it off, but even Jesse couldn't help but be excited about the Altima being ready to hit the road. Vince walked up with something wrapped in a paper bag with his old coyote grin on his face.
"I got you a little somethin." Vince said as he handed over his parcel. "Can't take it home without it."
"What is it?" Mira asked, holding the bag in her hands.
"Open it and find out. You gonna have a hard time at school if you're so simple you can't open a paper bag." Vince smirked. Mira decked him in the gut. He huffed out a breath. He'd started out letting her punch him when her cravings and feelings got to be too much for her. He let her do it as a way out, small as she was there hadn't been much chance of her hurting him. After two months working with Letty when she punched he felt it.
"I'm not simple!" Mira laughed as she went to punch Vince again. "I'll show you who's simple."
"I surrender, open the bag." Vince backed up laughing to avoid another jolt to his abs.
Mira opened the bag as everyone pushed her into it and found a set of vanity plates for her car that read WICKED 1. She threw herself at Vince, who caught her with an umph.
"Thank you!" Mira told Vince as she hugged him around the waist. He hugged her back briefly then pushed her away.
"Go put them on the car." He told her gruffly and she gave him a knowing smile. The only one missing from the group was Leon, who'd hung back around the car he was working on. He didn't know what to say or how to get involved. He'd pretty much made his position on his team giving his sister a car clear, and it wasn't a favourable position. But he did think he should say something nice to her when everyone else had. He remembered his first car and how excited he'd been too.
"Congratulations Mira. Take good care of it." Leon said as he walked past his sister. She looked up in shock and her gaze followed his back across the room. She thought back and realized that it might well have been the first nice thing he'd ever said to her since she'd shown up in Cali.
She was unwilling to make a big deal of it just in case it didn't really mean anything by it. She simply let it go and let Letty help her affix her plates below her neon frames. "What was that about?" Mira asked Letty softly.
"I don't know. Maybe he feels bad about how he's been acting. Could be a step in the right direction."
"Could be I guess. We'll just have to see." Mira said with a cynicism beyond her years.
"Think positive girl." Letty chuckled. She finished the last bolt on the licence plate. "There you go, ready to roll. Take it home."
"Don't I need a licensed driver with me to be on the road? I only have my permit."
"Technically yeah, but live a little. You also can't street race if you listen to what Joe cop tells you either. 'Sides we'll be around you the whole way home. You'll do fine, and you won't get to use high enough rpm's to go into boost. Have fun flying solo wicked one."
Mira grinned. "Won't be hard driving this bad boy."
"No doubt. Try not to deafen yourself on that stereo ay?"
"I'll try not to."
She rolled the car out of the shop and paused in the evening sun, watching it sparkle on the flawless hood. Letty's car came out of the back and Dom followed her, pausing to wave Mira into traffic between him and his woman. She took the cue and followed Letty into the street. True to her word Letty kept Mira between her and Dom the whole way home. They all pulled up to the house and parked their cars, all of them clicking their doors locked and security systems on at the same time.
"I for one vote we go out for dinner. I really don't want to cook and I think Mira's car and pending return to school are worth celebrating." Mia said as she kicked off her less then comfortable heels.
"I could go for some Chinese." Vince replied as he flopped back on the couch.
"We always have Chinese. Let's go someplace where they don't know you by a first name basis, huh coyote?" Letty teased Vince.
"Good luck finding that restaurant. They know of him and his legendary gut at every place with take out in a ten mile radius of the house, shop or café." Leon added his teasing to Letty's. Vince flipped them off with a sarcastic glare.
"I was thinking of someplace a little nicer. Someplace where you guys actually have to change out of your dirty shop clothes before we go." Mia interjected. "Someplace like D'Angelo's."
"Yeah, let's go there." Letty moaned. "I still remember their all you can eat desert buffet."
"Oh yeah, that place." Remembrance lit Dom's eyes. "That place was awesome. Let's go there." He headed for the stairs. "You all have 20 minutes to be ready to go."
Everyone scrambled to their rooms to get ready to go to dinner. Mira picked out a leather skirt with dragons embroidered on the belt in blue and a blue halter neck tank top to match. She put her flame boots back on and took the tie out of her hair. She brushed it out and clunked her way back downstairs only to find Letty wearing almost the same outfit yet again.
"We gotta start talking about clothes before we get dressed." Mira giggled. "We look like twins." At the mention of twins Mira got quiet. She hadn't thought of what she was saying before she said it and it made her think of her sister. It'd been a long time since she'd allowed herself to think of her sister.
Her lucky sister that her mom had picked to take, instead of leaving with her father. Mira knew it wasn't logical but she pretty much hated her twin. If she ever saw her again it'd be too soon. She couldn't get past her anger and jealousy that her mother had picked her blue eyed sister to save and thrown her to the wolves. What was so wrong with her and Leon that her mother felt she could just abandon them like some dog she was tired of taking care of? For that matter what had made Lyra so special? She'd always been so painfully shy and quiet. Mira was quite sure she was happier with the Toretto's then she'd ever been at home and it was only fair that she got the good family for a change since her sister, last time she'd spoken to her some years ago, had been living in a mansion with a rich step dad.
"Yeah but that's cool. Shows you got good taste." Letty chuckled as Mira looked up at her.
"Yeah, or you do."
"Either way we both look good so it's all good."
The rest of the team joined them in the hall and they headed back out into the evening sun.
"I'm gonna ride with Mira." Letty told the group as they walked up to the purple car.
"I'll ride with you guys too." Mia pulled open one of the back doors as Letty and Mira slid into the front. They watched the guys pile into Vince's car, Vince driving and Dom riding shotgun, leaving the back seat for Leon and Jesse. Mira's car was at the end of the drive so she backed out first, leaving Vince to follow.
"So where'm I going?" Mira asked, still not all that familiar with L.A. streets. Letty started giving directions. They got on a long stretch of straight road. Vince pulled into the outside lane and started pulling up on them.
"Smoke 'im." Letty growled, imitating Dom then laughing. Mira, embodied by her confidence with Letty beside her pushed the throttle down and laughed as her car jumped forward. Mira glanced over at Vince and saw a look of shock on his face as the men watched the girls pull out on them, streaking away.
"Oh hell no." Dom chuckled. "I know you ain't letting them get there first."
"Hell no brotha." Vince growled and pushed his own accelerator. He started to gain on Mira but then a slow car pulled out in front of him. "Damn it grandma get the fuck outta the fast lane!" He roared as the rest of the carload of his friends laughed at his expense.
With a quick shoulder check he pulled into the slow lane on the outside and darted up around the slow moving Cadillac boat. He couldn't see the purple Nissan in traffic anywhere. He kept the accelerator wide open and kept darting up through cars. Before he knew it he was at the restaurant. Parked out front was a certain Altima and inside it were three very self satisfied females.
Once they saw the azure Maxima parked the girls piled out and waited on the sidewalk for the men. When they were in earshot Letty called out, "Vince, you should ride home with us, you might just learn how to drive that car. And they say its women drivers who wreck the road for everybody."
Dom, Leon and Jesse all guffawed as Mira and Mia giggled behind their hands.
"I didn't know it was a race. I was just enjoying the drive." Vince carefully kept his anger and frustration off his face.
"Sure." Mia continued to giggle. "That was why I distinctly saw your mouth form the word F-U-C-K when we started to pull away from you and you tried to catch up." Mia spelled out the f word as she let Vince know he was busted.
"Well, that damn old lady in the Cadillac cut me off." Vince started to try and explain his loss.
"Whatever V, fact is you got beat. By a girl." Mira giggled. "I think this means the guys are buying right?" She asked Letty and Mia.
"Oh definitely." Letty smirked as she caught Dom's eye, letting him know that the forfeit for their loss was in fact to by the girl's dinners. Dom groaned.
"They did win, stupid Cadillac or no." He admitted. The rest of the men agreed with some grumbling and they headed in the restaurant.
"So where's Brian?" Dom asked Mia as they started to eat after Mia had said the grace over their food, another tradition that Mira wasn't use to but was fast growing accustomed to.
"He had to work, he should have been home by now but I couldn't get a hold of him on his cell or in the car. I don't know what's up with him but I guess he just had to work late."
"Funny he didn't call." Dom mused. "But I'm sure you're right and he just got caught up in something."
"Where's Brian work when he's not at the shop with us?" Mira asked curiously. Since Brian had never been called into work for the cops in all the time she'd been with the team the fact that he was one had never come up before.
"He's a part time detective for the LAPD." Mia said, her face giving away her pride that Brian was more then just some street racer.
"He's a cop?" Mira looked uncomfortable with that information. "He's a cop who street races?"
"He's not much of a cop." Vince ruffled Mira's hair and chuckled after he put 'the buster' down.
"He's a fine cop, who plays by different rules because of his position. He doesn't go around showing off his street racing and if he got caught he'd be in just as much trouble as anyone else. Cops aren't perfect, they're just responsible to enforce the law. Besides he's a special unit detective not a cop."
"He's still a
"Vince! You know Brian saved our asses and if he wants to pick up the odd case then he's not hurting anything." Dom cut his friend off, slicing his hand through the air to show the matter was closed.
"I know, I know." Vince muttered and shovelled his mouth full of food.
When they were finished eating everyone was stuffed full. The guys grumbled about picking up the tab but they did anyway. No one had it in them to race on the way home, they were all too stuffed with deserts to be competitive. They arrived home to find Brian's Supra parked with the other cars that had been abandoned at home.
Brian met them at the door. "Mia, I need to talk to you for a minute." Brian informed his girl friend as he dragged her up the stairs to their room.
"What is it Brian? Are you ok? I was worried when I couldn't get you on the phone and you were so late getting home."
"I'm ok." Brian sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "The girl working for my mom? Remember her?"
"Of course. What about her?"
"She's a runaway. But not only is she a runaway, she is Leon's other sister. And her mother is looking for her, really looking, not like the father was looking for Mira. Leon's mother really wants Lyra back. I left her under my mom's care for now but I could get in big shit for knowing where she is and not taking her in to send her home. Shit this is a mess Mia."
"What are you gonna do?" Mia sat on their bed and watched Brian pace.
"I don't know. I was hoping you'd have some ideas for me." Brian ran a hand through his hair agitatedly and looked at Mia.
"I don't know what to tell you Bri. Not only does that suck for Lyra but from what Letty and Vince have told me Mira pretty much hates her sister. Its not for anything that Lyra actually did, just some issues over being mad their mother picked Lyra to take when she left Mira behind and it all caused Leon to run off. I guess Leon and Mira use to be like two peas, inseperable."
"I don't know what to do Mia. I'm cool with not turning her in this time, mom'll take care of her but her mom's her legal guardian and she's not gonna give her up like Mr. De Luca gave up Mira. Not to mention Lyra's step dad is some big shot public official in their home town. A crooked public official from what I hear and read in his file."
"Maybe your mom has some ideas. I really don't know Brian. It is a big mess. Poor Mira's getting so settled. She starts school on Monday and it's really going to mess her up to know her sister's in town."
"Ok, well, we'll let it go for tonight and I'll see if my mom had any ideas for me tomorrow. You better get up early and keep the team home for breakfast in the morning though and I'll take off early and go down to mom's to talk to her."
"Ok. Did you get to eat supper?" Mia asked, mothering instinct in full effect. "We all went out to celebrate Mira's car being on the road but I'll make you something if you're hungry."
"I'm ok, I ate on the way home. I knew I was running late."
"We better get back before Dom gets worried."
They walked back downstairs and sat down with the team to watch a movie. Only Dom picked up on their mutual disquiet but he kept it to himself as he watched the movie with Letty curled up in his lap. Jesse and Leon were sprawled in their typical place on the floor in front of the coffee table. Vince was sitting on the end of the sofa with Mira on the floor in front of him, leaning on his legs with hers pulled up to her chest.
Dom still couldn't get over how much his friend had taken to the girl. If she didn't look so much like a young female Leon most people would assume Vince was her brother out of all of them. The longer they knew each other the closer they got, carrying on just like a real brother and sister. When the girl's poor first boyfriend came around to pick her up, if she was ever stupid enough to let the nameless boy within a hundred feet of the place, he was likely to find himself being tag team assaulted by one tough blue eyed hard ass and one jealous, overprotective but not aware of it yet green eyed monster. And that didn't even count Dominic, who knew he'd join in with them just for fun.
Mira tipped her head back so she could look Vince in the eyes, albeit upside down. "Something's up." Mira said in a low tone so that only Vince would hear her.
"What'd ya mean?"
"Brian keeps staring at me and it's kinda obvious. Mia looks worried."
Vince looked and Mia did look worried. "Maybe Brian's on some upsetting case or somethin. Don't worry 'bout it. I'm sure it's nothing. Mia worries about whether to answer yes to paper or plastic at the grocery store."
"I guess." Mira shrugged and went back to watching the movie.
When it was over everyone broke up to go to bed. Brian went to bed but found sleep hard to come by. Mia was right, Mira was getting so happy and comfortable with them. Brian, not knowing how the thing with her sister would fall out, had no idea if she'd still be that happy at the end of the situation. He had no idea if his mom would be able to help him or not, and no idea what he'd be able to do other then send the girl home to her mother if his own mother didn't have any good ideas for him. He finally fell into a restless sleep, tossing around in his agitation.
Brian left early the next morning to go talk to his mother and Mia got up when he did so she could start to make enough food to feed her team, knowing they were going to wonder why they were eating at home on a day they'd normally to Mary's Diner. She hoped she could hold them off with some sort of explanation. They'd decided in the interest of keeping the peace and not upsetting Mira they wouldn't tell the team about Lyra until they knew more.
Since it was Friday Mia didn't even know what would happen over the weekend and Monday was Mira's first day of class. All she knew was the whole situation was getting complicated.
Letty and Dom were the first ones down the stairs for breakfast. "Why we eatin at home? Did you and Brian fight?" Dom asked, eyes dark with worry.
"No, we're fine. Brian had some work to do and he had to leave early today. I just thought since he woke me up anyway we'd eat here and save Mary the trouble."
"Ok." Dom sat at the head of the table and started to thumb through the newspaper.
"Are you retrieving little miss DT princess today or am I?" Mia asked Letty with a tight smile. Her worry about what was going to happen to both twins was making it hard for her to be normal.
"I'll get her." Letty answered, her eyebrow raised with curiosity over Mia's strange mood.
"Hold up a sec Lett, I wanted to ask you." Dom looked up at Letty, their black eyes meeting. "You think we should ask Mira to come to races tonight? Let her give it a try?"
"Hell yeah!" Letty grinned. "She's really good with her car now, good enough for me to up her boost and fill her nitrous. No reason why she couldn't get in a race against a few of Hector's cousins or somethin. It'll make her weekend, and with school starting on Monday that's a good thing."
"Ok, we'll tell her at the shop today then."
Letty nodded and skipped back upstairs to wake up Mira. She pushed into her room and tossed the curtains open. "Up an at 'em!"
"Argh, don't tell me you're a morning person too." Mira groaned as she sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"I am when days start to turn out as good as this one. We're eating at home today, something with Brian needing to work early so get up. You don't want to miss Mia's breakfast do you?"
"I'll be right down." Mira said as she started to open drawers looking for clothes.
"K." Letty headed back down and made sure Mira's place on her right was kept free. They all ate then went to work. Right before closing Dom called a shop meeting.
"So it's Friday again. That means races people. I want all your cars ready to go for tonight before we go home for supper." Everyone but Mira was happily grinning, imagining races and all the fun they entailed. "This means you too princess." Dom addressed Mira, Letty's nickname for the shop's youngest employee slipping out. It was sarcastic, but in a good way. "Your car needs the most work, needs more boost and the nitrous tanks filled so you better get to it." Dom walked away into his office while Letty and Vince fussed over Mira and Leon and Jesse looked on, not half as happy.
"Now she's goin to races." Jesse grumbled. "So she can mess that up just like she messed up our parties?"
"Don't tell me Dawg, I was against this from the start." Leon growled back.
"Little miss princess because she had such a hard life." Jesse felt his place as the team baby threatened and didn't really like it, plus he followed Leon in most topics and that went double for Leon's attitude about the new girl. "Don't see them treaten us special because we had hard lives before we got here now do you?"
"No kidden. From what I remember about my sister she's no princess. Girl had a wild streak a mile wide and a smart mouth. When she gets right back to normal they'll see what they got themselves into." Leon turned back to his own workbench.
Letty and Mira pulled the Altima in and did all the adjustments they felt it needed. Jesse made himself scarce because he didn't want to help them fine tune Mira's engine. He had known the day would come when they'd take Mira racing but he hadn't known it would be so soon. He and Leon took off for home early, not caring if Dom didn't like it or not because both of them knew their cars were ready to roll.
Mira could hardly sit still at supper, a meal that Brian was still conspicuously absent from. She was so excited she hardly ate, and no one had even told her she might well be put in her first race that night. She was just that excited about getting to go be seen with her new friends.
By the time 11 o'clock came there was still no sign of Brian so they left without him, knowing sometimes his work kept him strange hours.
By 12 o'clock they were setting up their races, meet and greet hour over. There were a lot of people Mira's age present. Were it a weeknight race that wouldn't have been the case but on the weekends a lot of young people participated in the car show element if not the actual racing events.
Mira adjusted her skirt, for what felt like the millionth time and cursed Mia for picking it out for the billionth. It was about mid thigh and red plaid. She'd paired it up with a little white baby doll tee with Dom's DT logo on the front in black, with black cap sleeves to match. Mia had tried to get her to wear a pair of her knee high boots but she'd refused, favouring her flame boots.
Mira still didn't know how she'd been allowed out of the house dressed like she was. Every time Vince's eyes found her a look of displeasure filled his face. Mira watched as he stalked over to Mia, no doubt to take the older girl down a few pegs over what passed as acceptable for her to dress Mira in. Mira was sticking with Letty because all the other girls her age were wearing even less and were mostly busy hanging all over guys or posing almost lewdly on the hoods of cars. Dom came walking up to where she and Letty were standing.
"Ok, you're in the first race." Dom said and Mira assumed he was addressing Letty. She continued to scan the crowd, though what she was looking for she didn't know. Her eyes found her brother, who was all over some blond girl who was obviously a bimbo and about as smart as exhaust fumes. "Did you hear me?" Dom asked. Still getting no answer he tapped Mira on the shoulder. "Hey kid, you awake in there? You hear me?"
"You were talking to me?" Mira looked up to meet Dom's eyes in shock.
"Yeah, I was talking to you. You're in the first race. You and Hector's cousin Raul and Edwin's youngest brother Damien. Raul drives a Honda Accord and Damien drives a Mazda MX-3. Your car is the only turbo in the pack, they think they can take you anyway because you're a girl. You gonna let them think like that?" Dom stood waiting on an answer. Mira glanced at Letty and what she saw in Letty's eyes gave her courage.
"Hell no. A Honda? Boy needs his head examined."
Letty laughed uproariously, feeling she'd taught her young protégé well.
"So does Mia for letting you outta the house dressed like that." Vince growled as he walked up to the group. "You be careful gettin in and outta the car or you'll be showin off more then anyone around here ever better see."
Mira and Letty laughed at Vince's discomfort. "Yeah dad, I'll be careful." Mira teased as she went to get into her car to drive it where Dom had indicated. She ended up between the two boys. Raul rolled down his window while they waited on the line for an all clear.
"Baby, your position in the car should be in the back seat, not the driver's seat." Raul called out, trying to intimidate Mira.
"Oh yeah? Well, you know how my car has NISMO parts because that's what Nissan calls their motor sports division?"
"Yeah, what about it?"
"What's Honda's motor sports division called then? HOMO?" Mira smirked as the Latin boy turned red. "I'll see you at the finish line, you and your homo car."
Hector, after a brief conversation with Leon raised his arms to get everyone's attention. When he was sure all three young people had all eyes on him he dropped his arms. The two males got off the line faster, their experience giving them the edge.
Mira didn't let her position in third get her down. She knew she'd be able to bring on the speed over 3000 RPM when her turbo kicked in and her nitrous helped her avoid turbo lag. When she hit her third gear she started gaining on them. She managed to pass first Raul then Damien. She didn't win by a huge margin but she did edge them both out to cross the line first.
The three of them drove back to the starting line and got out of their cars. Mira was enveloped by a team hug as she got out of her car. They all cleared a path for Dom as he walked back up to the group. He handed her a stack of money. "There's what you won."
Mira looked at the money then at Dom. "I can't take this. You keep it. I owe you too much already."
"I always let my team keep their whole first win. From this point on when you win you can keep a certain amount and the rest goes to the team but this time, your first time you keep it all."
"I know I should argue that more but I'm not gonna because I really want the money." Mira laughed and Letty joined her, remembering what her first win had been like too. After watching Dom and Leon race it was 1 am and the races broke up, a good portion of them heading back to Dom's house for a party.
As they walked up the path to the house it became obvious to Vince at least that Leon wasn't going to lay any ground rules down for his sister so with a sigh Vince realized it would fall to him to do it. He stopped her before she started up the stairs to the porch.
"Now, I know you're excited about winning and likely looking forward to this party as much as the rest of us."
"Yeah, I am. I haven't been to a party in a long time."
"Ok, well, there's gonna be stuff goin on when everyone gets here. Some people might be doing drugs and of course a lot of people will be drinking. I do not want to catch you with any drugs. I don't care who says that it's just weed or whatever. No drugs. Understand?"
Mira rolled her eyes. "I gotcha, no drugs."
"And since you're only 16 if I find out you had more then one drink this will be the last party you ever participate in here. One drink so you don't feel totally left out and that's it."
In all honestly it was better then Mira had thought she was going to be allowed. She nodded to show she agreed. "Is that it?"
"No, one more thing. It's just after one now. You will go upstairs to bed at 2. That's late enough for someone your age to be up."
"Aw V." Mira pouted.
"Don't aw V me. It's late enough. Take it or leave it." Vince knew Dom and Letty would back him up because they'd already talked about what kind of ground rules were needed for someone so young at one of their parties. They'd been known to end up a bit wild.
"Fine. Only seems fair since I have to start school in like two days you'd let me stay up really late this once."
"No dice." Vince chuckled at her attempts to play him her way. She was pretty good at it, he'd give her that, but he also felt pretty strongly about the subject so he wasn't giving in this time. They walked into the house together and found there was already loud music playing and people dancing all around the living room and dining room. A group of young people lead by Damien called Mira over and Vince let her go with a scowl their way, daring them to try anything with Mira. The scowl on his face only got worse when Damien led Mira out into the throng of people dancing to Usher's Yeah and they started to dance, a little closer then Vince wanted to see them dancing. He kept out of it because he didn't want to embarrass Mira, but he didn't like it one bit.
Mira went to bed when she'd said she would, committed to making a good impression and making sure she didn't lose the trust of Vince and Letty. She owed them a lot and for the first time in a long time she cared that someone was proud of her. She didn't want to let them down.
The rest of the weekend pasted quickly for the team. Brian and Mia spent the whole weekend in a strange mood and no one ever heard an explanation of where Brian had been all day and night on Friday, or why he worked all weekend too.
On Monday morning Mira got up on her own and got downstairs before anyone was sent up to get her up.
"Nervous?" Letty asked as Mira sat down at the table.
"A little." Mira admitted as she added milk to her Lucky Charms. "Do I look ok?"
Letty took in Mira's low rise cargo pants with a blue belt, cropped black wife beater and her ever present flame boots. The teen had left her hair down long but had an elastic around her wrist just like Letty herself often did. "Yeah, you look fine. You got your safety glasses and coveralls in your bag?"
"Yep. I got all my books too. I guess I'm ready to go."
"Ok, well, good luck and come straight to the garage after you get out for the day, ok?"
"Sure, see you then." Mira said as she stood up and headed out the back door toward her car. She was excited and nervous all at once. She drove to school and parked in student parking, heading into her home room which happened to be shop class. She found that Damien, Edwin's brother was in her class. He motioned her over to sit with him. They were just chatting back and forth when the teacher came in. He stood at the front of the room.
"Class, we have a new student. She wasn't with us last semester so let's do everything we can to help her catch up."
"I got a few ideas what she can do for extra credit." Raul called out crudely. "Ay Mami?" The guys around him laughed.
"Do any of them involve teaching your sorry ass how to drive?" Mira called back, one eyebrow raised in a credible impression of Letty. "Cause I know I taught you how not to on Friday night."
"Ouuwwww." The class called out.
"Enough." The teacher, who identified himself as Mr. Peterson said firmly. "Mira, if you need help catching up don't be afraid to ask for help.
"Thank you Mr. Peterson but I'm sure I'll be fine."
"Ok. Let's start by letting you introduce yourself to the class. Tell us a bit about where you're from and of course what you drive and anything else you'd like to tell us." He motioned Mira up to the front of the class. She got up and walked up to the front, fighting her nervousness. It didn't help when she saw about 25 sets of eyes on her. All of them male and a lot of them clearly not happy to be seeing her in their midst.
"I'm Mirabella De Luca, but I go by Mira. I'm from Santa Fe New Mexico but I moved to California about two months ago to live with my brother Leon. I drive a 1997 Nissan Altima with too many modifications to get into right now that I built with my…" Mira struggled with what to call Letty, "Aunt Letty." After all it was what Letty had told her to call her.
"As in Letty Rodriguez?" One of the guys asked, not believing it could be the Letty.
"Yeah. I live with Letty and Dom because my brother Leon lives with them too. I've spent the last two months working with Letty at Dom's shop."
"Your brother is the guy who works for Dom that owns a Skyline?" Yet another one of her new classmates questioned.
"That's Leon." Mira said, finding her confidence as it became clear her class was slightly in awe of her.
"Ok, that's enough. Mira take your seat." Mr. Peterson put an end to q and a and started class. Mira found out that they had day one and two and on day one she would have shop all morning and English all afternoon and on day two she'd have math all morning and biology all afternoon. For the first half hour they got lecture and for the rest of the morning they went into the shop to use what they'd learned. They were allowed to take their own cars in if they could apply what they'd learned on their own car. Everyone pushed Mira to bring her car in but since it was so newly built she didn't have anything she could do to it so she had no reason.
She fit in better then she ever could have dreamed and before she knew it the bell was ringing for lunch. She headed out to her car, Damien and another guy named Beck following with her. They were partners in class and they'd hit it off and decided to all go out to lunch together to meet the rest of Damien's clique at the local fast food hot spot. It turned out that Damien was pretty popular and he'd taken a liking to Mira. They were taking Mira's car since everyone but Damien, (who'd seen too much of it, all from behind) had no idea what it looked like.
As they walked out into the bright midday California sun Mira squinted at her car. Someone was standing beside it. As they got closer it became obvious to Mira who it was.
"You…" She growled.