Chapter 1

Mason looked at the girl in front of him, not believing that she had beaten him at his own game. "I suppose you think you're rather clever?" he snarled, crossing his arms over his chest, and mentally daring her to chastise him for losing. "You cheated on the last bend."

"I don't see how." The girl cooed sinisterly, refusing to back down from him. He saw her stance when she hopped out of the car, she was not to be messed with but he didn't care. He knew she had cheated and was not going to let her waltz on by with his win. "Prove to me how I cheated and maybe I'll race you again and see if you win…..which I highly doubt." He heard the Oh's and ah's of the crowd they had drawn. "I won fair and square and if you're going to accuse me of cheating why don't you take your sorry ass back to wherever it is you came from and go suck a dick." She flipped her hair over her shoulder and stalked away, sneering over her shoulder at him, towards her car.

"I live around here," he defended himself as she hopped into her car, through her open window, and turned her car on. The car roared to life under her and she glared over at him. "Why don't you go back to wherever the hell you came from?" he added with a grim grin. She was a good looking woman and any man would want her. Hell, he wanted her, if he was being honest with himself, and he would probably have taken her home with him if she hadn't agreed to the race. He didn't even know her name. He headed over to her car and leaned in through the open window, smiling stiffly at her.

"What do you want?" she snarled, pushing his face back out of her car, her winnings in the back seat and her cigarettes in the passenger seat. She would admit he was hot, and she wouldn't mind screwing around with him, but she didn't like the tone he took with her and accusing her of cheating. She was outraged, she had never –never- cheated a day in her life. She groaned when he walked around the front of her car and, opening the door, sat in her passenger seat after he picked up her cigs.

"I just want to talk….and find out your name." he sighed, closing the door and window. He waited for her to do the same and leaned his head against the headrest. "Where are you from?"

She eyed him suspiciously and rolled up her window, reluctantly. "My name is Karina. And you are?" she sighed, leaning her elbow on the door and placing her hand on her temple. She wasn't in the mood to deal with him. She just wanted to go home and fix the dents to her car.

"Mason. You took a few dents during the race." He continued, watching as the crowd dispersed and tossed her her cigs.

"Yeah, well they will be fixed by the end of tonight. You got some nasty dents too." She muttered, looking over to his car, indicating the front bumper that she had bumped into.

"Yep, she probably won't be fixed until next week."

"You don't want her fixed quickly? Don't you race with her?" she asked, arching a brow at him.

"No, I want her fixed…it's just that she costs a pretty penny to fix up after a race. It's not a big deal, I'll just work a little longer this week." He shrugged, "Who's fixing this beauty?" he asked, as he ran a hand over the dash board.

"I am." She said proudly, smiling slightly. She still felt uneasy about him but since she had somewhat wrecked his car she wanted to make it up to him. "I can fix yours if you want….free of charge."

Mason looked at Karina carefully, "You would do that for free? Just like that? I hardly know you and vice versa. Plus you were the one who fucked up my car, why would I let you fix her up?"

"'Cause you need that car in working condition." She stated simply. "And like you said, I 'fucked' her up, so I owe you that much."

"And if I refuse?"

Karina shrugged nonchalantly, hiding her amusement by biting her lower lip slightly. "Whatever. I just figured you would want her working at top shape for your next race. If you have one that is."

"Fine, you can fix her…."

"Well, then get out of my car and get in your piece of shit and follow me." She placed her hands on the steering wheel as he pushed out of her car and trudged, impatiently, over to his ride. She had to admit that his car was a piece of shit at the moment but by the time she was through with it, it would look and run as if it were a new car. She backed out of her spot, barely avoiding all the spectators, and pushed into a higher gear. When she reached the road she downshifted and practically stomped on the gas pedal.

She looked over her shoulder periodically, checking to see if he was following, which he was, and she mumbled to herself about taking pity on a guy she beat and had the balls to tell her she cheated. She stifled a groan as he continued to follow her. Why in the hell was she doing this? She didn't know the guy, at all, and she wanted to help him out. It was unlike her to help someone she beat in a race.

He followed in silence as Karina took a sharp corner, following her turn effortlessly, and stifled a groan as he saw what was around the bend. She slowed in front of him and he compensated, tapping the brakes. 'Of course, she had to be a rich girl.' He thought, stiffening as she turned in the driveway of what looked like a mansion. He hesitated but then pulled into the drive behind her.

The house itself was immense, but the garage he was following Karina to was equally as impressive. He stopped beside her and slowly slid out of his seat, standing beside his car, door open in front of him and stopping himself from walking into the massive garage. It looked expensive with its two stories towering over him. It had a faded blue look, that he guessed was intentional, and it could hold well over four cars at once. He took a shaky breath, unsure whether he should go in or get back in his car and drive away as fast as possible. He looked over to Karina and watched, silently, as she strode to the garage doors and punched a code beside the door. Once she finished she walked back to her car and her engine roared to life as the door pulled up, revealing the room inside.

It was, for lack of a better word, huge. Tools all along the walls, work tables all over the room, and an unwelcome feeling presented itself in the pit of his stomach telling him that he shouldn't be here. He didn't know a thing about high living and this was making him uncomfortable. He watched as Karina eased her car into the garage off to one side and waved for him to follow. Reluctantly he followed her in and cut his engine.

Karina eyed him as he looked around the room and decided he was uncomfortable in the space. "Uh," she began, walking over to grab her mechanics clothes, "I'm gonna go change real quick so I can get to work…you're welcome to crash on the couch up in the loft. Just take the stairs and it's the second door on the right." She headed to the one of two bathrooms in the garage and began changing. She threw her nice clothes in her bag.

Mason followed her directions up the stairs and down the hall into the second room. He nudged the half opened door with his shoulder, looking around the room blankly, and made his way to the couch. He shrugged off his leather jacket and threw it over the back of the couch. He may as well get a few minutes of sleep while she worked on his car. He didn't trust her still but it was better, and faster, than going to his employer and asking if he could get more hours. He lay down on the couch, resting his head against the arm of the couch while his feet draped over the other arm. He sighed, exhausted, and closed his eyes.

Karina walked out of the bathroom and tugged open the hood on Mason's car open, peering in to take a look at the engine. The engine wasn't that bad, just needed a few tweaks to it; she sighed and shut the hood. She walked around the car, inspecting, and stopped at the bumper. She pursed her lips and set to work after she grabbed a wrench.

Mason groaned as he heard the sounds of his car being fixed. He mentally cringed at the thought of Karina mauling his car. He only trusted one person to fix her and it wasn't that rich girl. He slung his legs off the side of the couch and sat up. The couch had been comfortable and he had drifted off to sleep. 'What time is it?' he wondered, running his hand over his face trying to wipe away the exhaustion. He stood to his feet, wobbly at first, and made his way to the door. He pushed past it, down the hallway, and descended the stairs. When he came to his car, groggily, he saw that the dents in the bumper and door were fixed and wondered where Karina had gone off to. When he reached his car, he ran a hand over the smooth surface. "Try not to get it as badly dented as last night." He heard a voice say from the other side of the car. He walked around and saw Karina leaning against his car's door.

"What are you doing?" he asked, sitting down beside her.

"What does it look like? I'm waiting for you to get down here. I've been done with your car for a few minutes." She breathed. He noticed she had a cigarette in her mouth and her breathing was in time with the smoke she inhaled. "I didn't want to wake you so I decided I'd wait."
"What time is it?"

"Almost four in the morning."

"Four? I've been here all night?"

"Yep, and you seemed rather comfortable on my couch."

"Your couch?" he asked, confused. This was her garage?

"Yep. My couch….my dad gifted me the garage when I was twelve."

"So you own the house too?" he piped shocked.

"No, my dad owns the house. I just own the garage and my car." She shrugged, tapping the cigarette on the ground. She flung the cigarette off to the other side of the garage, and leaned her head against his car.

"Oh, so you're just the rich girl who gets stuff from her rich daddy?" he frowned.

"No. I am a mechanic so I get paid for fixing people's cars. I pay for the parts and everything and you need a new sparkplug."

"I do?" he arched a brow at her, "How long have you been a mechanic?"

"Ever since I was four. My dad thought it would be best if I learned at a young age, so I learned and now I'm a mechanic…..Anyway, your car is in need of a few."

"Do you love doing it?"

"Doing what?"

"Being a mechanic and a racer?"

She smirked, "Yeah, out there it doesn't matter if I win 'cause I'm rich, but 'cause I have skill. I win because I'm good at it. My dad doesn't have any authority in the world of racing, I earned my reputation. I hate it when someone brings up my father on the track. He has no place there."

"So the only reason your name is known is 'cause of you, not your dad? Well, I'd say you have skill but then again you cheated so…"

"I did not cheat! I have never cheated in a race. I will never cheat in a race. Like I said at the track, I won fair and square…." She glared at him, taking out another cigarette and putting it in her mouth. She grabbed the lighter that was beside her and lit it, when Mason reached out and grabbed her hand. She looked at him, confused, and froze.

"Smoking is bad for you." He stated simply. "Plus if you didn't cheat then how did my car get that many dents in it?"

"You ran into Cliff, of course your car is going to come out of that race in need of repair. And smoking isn't that bad for you."

"Yeah, it is. If not now it will be."

"Well, maybe I need them to take the stress off me for a few." She sneered, keeping her eyes to the floor. She re-lit the lighter again and tried to light the cigarette but Mason snatched the cig from her mouth. "What the hell?!"

"You need to quit….maybe if you stopped smoking you could do more races." He said coolly, holding the cig in his hand tightly.

"What are you talking about?" she asked, glare clearly written on her features.

"Tom won't let you enter more races, right?" he paused, looking at her, and when she nodded he continued, "'Cause you keep smoking? You could be just as rich as your daddy if you quit and did more races."

"I don't want to be as rich as my dad. I just want to race. I've never cared for the money that came along with it. I love to race and fix cars. I fell in love with cars at the age of four and that hasn't changed since. "

"I don't come from a rich family like you do. I don't understand how you can live like you do when so many others need help, but what I do understand is that on the track you can be whoever you want. Whoever you need to be. I don't come from a privileged family. Hell I don't even come from a moderate family. We've had to scrounge for food and a place to stay, but on the race track I'm in control of my destiny and I win 'cause of my family. They rely on me and what I bring home. But I understand your love of the race. My dad and I use to go to the races when I was a kid."

Karina stared blankly at Mason. She had no idea why she was opening up to him but she realized that she needed someone to open up to. Her mother wasn't someone she could talk to about the races she won and her dad had forbidden it when she wrecked her first car. It had been beyond saving and she had taken all the useful parts from that car that she could before her dad had sold it. She loved racing but her dad didn't understand her. Her parents thought she had been an idiot when she said she loved to race and they had tried to stop her every chance they could but she had gotten a friend to take her to the track and she stayed with them whenever she was in a race. Her parents didn't find out until her nineteenth birthday that she was still racing and by then they couldn't stop her so they allowed it, even though they weren't pleased about her decision.

"My mom isn't really pleased that I race," he continued, looking at the floor solemnly, "but if it puts food on the table for my brothers and sisters, she'll allow me to do it. I would've won tonight if you hadn't crashed into me on the last corner."

"My parents don't care if I race or not. To be honest they don't really care for me period, but they allow me to race even if they don't like it."

"Why would they not like you?"

"I'm nothing but a problem for them to always watch. They just love to watch me fail at anything they tell me to do. Racing is the one place where I'm not a failure. They just don't care for the races though."

"I know the feeling of being a failure." He sighed, looking at her with a weary smile.

"You do?" she paused in her rant, and looked at him in surprise.

"Yeah, I do. My dad walked out on my mom and the rest of us when I was fourteen and he told me what a failure I had been, I didn't really believe him, but just the thought of that's why he left hurt me."

"Oh, I'm so-"

"I don't want your pity or your sympathy. I've worked hard to become the racer I am."

"I do not pity you nor am I sympathizing. I am giving you my condolences. I don't know what it feels like but I can understand how you must feel." She stood to her feet, grabbing her cigarettes and placing them in her pocket. "You're welcome to stay as long as you want. I need to meet Tom anyway, so I may not be back until noon. So if you want, just make yourself at home."

Mason nodded, "Thanks, but I may be leaving soon anyway. Don't have a reason to stay…"

"I'll have your sparkplugs by the time I get back, so if you want to wait for that-"she headed towards her car, paused, and turned to face him. "Just don't let my parents know that you're here…or the butler for that matter."

"You have a butler?" he asked, arching a brow.

"Yep," she grabbed her keys from the table and walked over to her car, hopping into it. "They wouldn't be too happy about you being here."

"Why should I stay?" he asked, standing up where he stood.

"Because I haven't finished with your car and it will go so much faster after I put in the sparkplugs." She started her car and looked at Mason. "It's your choice if you want to stay or not. I won't force you to stay but it would help your car if you changed…uh, tweaked it. Anyway, I gotta go." She put the car in reverse and backed out of the garage as the door opened.

Mason watched her leave, a little confused at her generous offer. What did she want in return for fixing her car? Did she have an ulterior motive? It didn't matter at the moment, he was exhausted and she had offered for him to crash here. So maybe she was just trying to make up for causing the dents that had been in his car? Maybe she actually had a shred of guilt in her for the problems she had caused him. He decided he would stay until she put the sparkplugs in. It couldn't hurt. Now that he thought about it, he realized he had to see Tom too. 'Later.' He thought, shrugging off his shirt as he made his way to the bathroom.

Karina drove in complete silence, no music, just her thoughts circling her mind. She thought about why she was being so nice to Mason. She hadn't really damaged his car enough for her to actually offer to fix it but then again she hadn't expected to meet one of the drivers that she raced against. 'Oh well.' She mused, smiling softly. He would most likely be there when she returned so she would take her time. Tom was probably thinking of a way to keep her with him for the day. She rolled her eyes at her boss. 'Why can't he just find some other willing girl to screw with?' Tom had been trying to get her to sleep with him and she had all but kicked his sorry ass. He was her boss and she would respect that, but she would not allow herself to be bullied into sleeping with anyone…not even her low-life boss.

Twenty minutes later, Karina pulled into her employer's driveway. She stopped at the gate and pushed the buzzer. "Who is it?" a gruff, disciplined voice asked over the speakers. Karina sighed heavily, leaned out her window and held the button.

"It's me, Vlad. Could you let me in? I don't have all day. I got a customer back at the garage and I would like my money." She stated bluntly. "I really don't have time for shit like this."

"Sorry, 'Rina, but Boss is in a meeting and he doesn't want to see anyone after this meeting." Karina smiled at her nickname. Vlad had given it to her the second week that she started working for Tom. She was very fond of Vlad.

"Well, could you tell him that its Karina and that I'm a very busy girl and didn't want him to be offended that I didn't stop by the day after my win?" She was slightly teasing, but she didn't have time to mess around. She just wanted the money so she could pay for the sparkplugs.

"Yes." Vlad answered solemnly. "Don't expect him to say yes though. Give me a minute."

She chuckled slightly at the thought of Vlad knocking on Tom's door and Tom throwing a fit for interrupting his meeting. Tom would then hear what his bodyguard had to say and then start jumping up and down when he found out it was her. He would then call off the meeting and fly down the stairs to meet her at the door. She would stand and nod her welcome as he hugged her and drew her into his first floor office, have her sit down and flatter her with compliments on her win. Karina rolled her eyes dramatically at the ritual he had. The speaker buzzed a little and then Vlad's welcoming voice came on, "Well, 'Rina, it seems he is anxious to see you…"

"Isn't he always anxious to see me?" she joked. She heard the bodyguard chuckle and the buzzer for the gate to open, watching as the gates swung open for her. She drove forward until she came to park in front of the big estate. She climbed out slowly, sighing with discomfort, and shut her door. She walked up to the front double doors as it opened to reveal Vlad waiting patiently for her and with a small smile playing on his lips. She smiled back and followed him inside.

Mason drifted out of the shower, running the towel through his hair again in an attempt to dry it, and having already pulled on his jeans. He walked out of the bathroom to stand beside his car, looking at the sleek finish. He had to admit Karina had done a great job on his only ride and he appreciated that she had obviously put much care into fixing his car up. He smiled slightly, remembering that Karina had called his car a piece of shit and he agreed but he loved his car too much to ever really want to get rid of her.

He ran a finger over the sleek passenger's side door and chuckled to himself. "Why does it surprise me that she is just as good as a mechanic as a racer?" he asked himself. It shouldn't surprise him that she was just as talented a fixer of cars as she was a driver of the very same cars. He shook his head and walked to the fridge. He pulled it open, seeing that she was well stocked in fruits, veggies, meats, and alcohol. He noticed his favorite beer sitting behind a bottle of fancy wine and he plucked it from behind, being careful not to hit the wine bottle. He also grabbed a pear that was sitting in a bowl on the top shelf and shut the fridge door using his hip. He leaned against the counter, placing his beer beside him, and reached in his pocket for his portable, and very tiny, bottle-opener. He could get used to the idea of having Karina around. Yeah, she had her faults, but so did he, and he was sure that she only put up the bad-ass routine as a mask to hide whatever secrets she held. He understood that having secrets could be very costly and he just hoped she had learned to trust the right people.

Karina walked into Tom's office following Vlad and as she came to stand beside the friendly bodyguard, Tom strolled forward, hugging her tightly. "Ow." She complained, patting her boss' shoulder heavily. "Tom, I don't have time for sentimental bullshit right now. You can go back to your meeting as soon as I get the money I earned from last night."

Tom reluctantly let go of her, leaning back against his desk. "Well, you're in a great mood today, 'Rina. What? Did you lose on your second race with your new car?" he teased, aggravation written clearly on his features from her sour mood.

"I didn't get any sleep last night and I'm still not done for the day." She sighed, lowering her voice and raised her hands to her temples, messaging gently. "I need a little extra cash to get some sparkplugs, Tom, so could you please stop all the sweet talking and just give me what I earned so I can leave? I will pay you back when I win my next race."

"What makes you think you're gonna have another race so soon?"

Karina eyed him, a scowl marring her own features. What did he mean by that? "Tom, I don't understand what you're trying to say. I am going to race in another race. I can't afford not to race."

"You don't have another race scheduled; you're free until I need another definite win. Why do you need the sparkplugs? Isn't your car working perfectly?"

"Yes she is. One of your so called drivers and I raced last night and I may have accidently, almost made him crash. I didn't know he was your driver. So I offered to fix up his car for free, but he needs new sparkplugs and I don't have any spares." She explained, leaving out the driver's name so Mason wouldn't get anything deducted from his 'paycheck.'

"What's his name?" Tom sneered, not taking his eyes off of her. She pursed her lips, frowning. This was what she wanted to avoid most. Tom saw her apprehension and strolled forward, placing his hands on her hips gently. She inwardly cringed at the feeling, but didn't say anything. "What's his name, 'Rina? I need to know so I can take precautions with him in the future. You know above anyone that if I have a fucked up driver or car someone has to pay for it. So I will ask again and this is the last time. What's the bastard's name?"

Karina shivered. She had to play to her strengths before she gave up Mason, so she gingerly placed her hands on his chest, trying not to vomit, and looked pleadingly into his dark eyes. "Please don't do anything to hurt him or his car. I fixed it up so it's running almost perfectly, aside from the sparkplugs. Tom, please just let me fix it up and you won't have to take precautions with him. You know my work is sound and the cars I fix up work ten times better than they originally did. Please?" she begged, "I just need the money for the sparkplugs."

She watched as Tom thought it through. She could normally guess what he was thinking but today something must have really pissed him off, because she couldn't even read his body language. He sighed, his eyes warming ever so slightly. "I only do this for you. If you tell anyone that this happened, your shop and cars become mine. Understand?" Karina nodded quickly. "Good. Now, I have a meeting and a bunch of pain in the ass board members to get back to. Vlad will get you your pay and the amount you need for the sparkplugs." He kissed her cheek and she tried not to flinch away. "Get some sleep, my dear. I want you to have dinner with me tomorrow night. I'll pick you up at 7 and be dressed to impress."

She said she would be ready by 6:30 and withdrew from his cold embrace. Mason better appreciate everything she went through just so he could continue racing. She was relieved when Tom left the room and she flopped back into one of the chairs facing his desk. That had been too much for her to handle. She would defiantly need a drink when she got home. She heard Vlad laugh or cough, she couldn't tell which, and looked up at him. "What?" she asked, arching a brow. "Think I overdid it?"

"No," he answered. She could always count on him to give her an honest answer. "It's just that I never knew you for someone to cover for someone. This boy must be something interesting if he's got you covering for him."

"What? No. He's not…he's just someone I'm helping out." She watched Vlad write her check and then took out enough cash from Tom's desk to pay for the sparkplugs and a little extra. He handed it over to her and she started to protest, "Vlad, this is too much-"

"Nonsense. Tom would want you to have a little extra. Besides if you're that worried about it, I'll just cover the extra. You deserve a little extra for your win last night. Wasn't it the same race you won when you first started racing?" he smiled cheerfully, holding out the cash.

"Thanks. Yeah, it was. I've been in racing since I was sixteen. About eight years. Seven of those, I've been working for Tom." She grabbed the small pile of green and folded them so they fit in her pocket. "I should be going. Thanks again, Vlad."

"Anytime, 'Rina. I'll tell Tom you said farewell." Karina stood and hugged her friend, before nodding her approval. She strode out of the office and house, heading for her car. Once in she headed for the auto parts store and then she would go to the bank to cash her winning check. She reminded herself of how lucky she was in life and instantly thought of helping Mason out with his family problem. He just wouldn't know it was her that helped.

Mason awoke when he heard a phone begin playing some music and groaned as he took his phone from his pocket. He opened it and held it to his ear, grumbly saying, "Hello?" No answer. He frowned and looked at it. It wasn't someone calling his phone, it was Karina's cell. He looked at the blackberry, debating whether he should answer it or not. He decided to leave it alone and turned back to the t.v. he had turned on before his little nap. He wondered for a split second where the rich girl was and then shook his head roughly, bringing a throbbing to his temples. Why was he even thinking about her?

He needed to think of something else that wouldn't give him a headache. "Oh shit!" he gasped, remembering that he had to drop off some cash for his mom to make the payment on the house. He tore his cell from his pocket and fumbled to find her number. He hit 'send' and waited as patiently as he could, listening to the music of the older woman's phone. He was about to hang up when he heard, "Hello?"

"Mom?" he asked carefully, momentarily relieved that her 'boyfriend' wasn't home yet.

"What is it, Mas?" she asked, worry sounding in her words. He knew he sounded like a little boy calling his mom about a cut or some other crap like that, but he didn't care. "Did something happen at the race last night?"

He closed his eyes, sighing softly, "I lost the race, Mom. I don't know what happened, I was in the lead the whole race, but then she rammed into my bumper on the last turn. Once she passed me, she 'bumped' into my fender. I couldn't shake her and she won. She cheated." He growled, slamming his fist into the pillows beside him. "I'm sorry I lost. Next time I won't lose…"

"Honey, don't you dare apologize. Did you try your hardest?"


"Well, then you have nothing to apologize for. You did your best; it's just that the girl you raced against was a little better. You'll do better next time. What is she like? The girl you raced, I mean?"

"You'd like her. She is just as much a pain in the ass as Ivy is. She's loud and nosy-"

"So you like her then?"

"I guess…I mean she is sexy as hell but I can't stand her."

His mom laughed quietly, "Sounds like you're enjoying her company because you didn't come home last night."

"I didn't sleep with her, if that's what you're prying for. She was fixing my car all night and I was crashed on her sofa. When I woke up, she was sitting beside my car smoking."

"Oh, she sounds like me when I was her age…..aside from the racing. Try not to be too difficult. We both know how you get when there is a pretty lady involved." She paused and Mason heard the unmistakable echo of a door closing in the background. "Mas, I gotta go. Adam's home and he doesn't like it when I'm on the phone."

"You really should get rid of that bastard-"


"Sorry, Mom, but you know I hate him. I'll talk to you when I get home tonight. Love you, Mom."

"Love you too, Hun. Remember to be nice to her."

"I'll try."

"Alright. See you later." Mason hung up and tucked his phone back into his pocket. Adam was his mom's new boyfriend and he was an asshole. He always tried to have everything done his way and have everyone in his family listen to only him. Adam was a man that if you didn't listen to him nor did things his way, he would beat the shit out of you and he had already done that with one of Mason's little sisters. Mason had been at his sister's defense and had taken a beaten, willingly, so Adam wouldn't hurt little Amy. Mason didn't want to go home but at the moment he didn't have anywhere else to go. His girlfriend had kicked him out for the week because he kept racing when she didn't want him to.

Karina smiled as she hopped back into her car, placing the bag of sparkplugs on the seat beside her. She was excited to finish Mason's car. She wasn't expecting to look forward to going home, knowing that Mason was there waiting for her to finish what she had started. She pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards her home. Her father couldn't control her life now that she lived in the garage so she didn't have to worry about what time she came home and could do whatever she wanted. She turned on her radio and started humming along with the song that was playing, tapping her thumbs on the steering wheel.

Mason called his boss, Tom, and after the third ring he heard Tom's bodyguard's voice. "Good afternoon, Mason."

"Afternoon." He replied coolly. "Can I speak to Tom for a few minutes?"

"Uh, he's in meetings all day today."

"I thought Karina came to see him today?"

"Oh, well she, um, did. He only makes an exception for her because he wants her to accept a proposal…."

"He wants to marry her?" he felt a tiny pang of jealousy, but he didn't understand why he felt so jealous. He swallowed thickly, ignoring the overwhelming emotions he was beginning to notice.

"Yes, he does. What did you want to tell him? I can take a message and he'll get back to you as soon as he can."

"Alright….just tell him that Mason called him and wanted to talk about the race I was in last night. I almost won but uh…Karina sorta bumped into me and I came in second."

"Wait…you're the one that 'Rina beat?"

"Uh, 'Rina? Yeah, she did. She's been trying to fix up my car since last night."

"I'll tell him as soon as I can but he may call you as soon as he hears 'Rina's name. I can't promise anything though."

"That's okay; I just wanted to let him know that I lost and that I won't lose the next race."

"Al-right. I let him know." The bodyguard hung up and shook his head. He wondered if he should really tell his boss that Mason had been the one that baby sis had run into last night and had practically begged Tom not to make the boy pay for it. He couldn't really understand it; Karina never did anything for anyone, except the members of her own little gang. Nor did she beg as she had earlier, so why was she sticking her neck out for him? Could she like this boy? Well, he had to tell Tom eventually, it might as well be now.

Mason clicked his phone close, tossing it beside him on the couch. He figured the bodyguard wouldn't tell his boss that he called so he would call later tonight. A few minutes later, his phone went off again and he answered it, "Hello?"

"Mason, is it?" he heard a deeper, familiar voice on the other end. The voice that belonged to only one man, his boss, Tom. Mason swallowed thickly and took a deep breathe.


"Vlad told me you called. I just wanted to make sure it was Karina, my Karina that you raced against."

"Yeah, it was Karina."

"What happened? She told me about an hour ago that it was her fault and not yours…"

"Well, uh, we were on the last bend and I turned too hard and started drifting into her side. It wasn't her fault, it was my fault and I'll do anything to make up for losing a race. Don't blame her, it totally wasn't her fault. She just helped me out with the repairs."

"Apparently. She thinks very highly of you or she wouldn't have asked me to not make you pay. She even agreed to go out on a date with me tonight. I think you have a lot to be thankful for, she normally doesn't do anything for anyone unless she gets something out of it. Did you offer her anything in return?"

"No, I haven't offered her anything. She just helped me. She didn't tell me you were her boyfriend or fiancé."

Mason heard Tom chuckle and wondered why he was laughing. "She is neither my fiancé nor my girlfriend. Not yet anyway. I have asked her on many occasions but she has declined every time. I do plan on making her mine eventually."

"Well, congratulations Boss. She is a great girl and I wish you both the best of happiness."

"I'll tell you what; I won't make either of you pay if you would be willing to learn how to race from one of my best racers. What do you think?"

"I, uh, I would love to learn from the best. I know I have a lot to learn and I'm willing to. Whenever is convenient for my teacher, I'll meet with them. Thank you, Boss."

Tom laughed, wondering when he should tell Karina that she had a new student. He would tell her tonight along with that he wanted her to step up to become a leader in his gang and bring his and hers gang together, combining them in harmony. He planned to make Karina his wife one day but he wanted her to want to be with him, he didn't want to force her into anything. He loved her too much to not want her to be happy and give her anything she desired. He had money to burn and she was the reason he was willing to use up all his money. He smiled lightly, rolling a cigarette between his thumb and pointer finger. "You're welcome, Mason. I'll have to let your teacher know then tonight. I'll have them call you with a meeting place. Good day." Tom hung up, smiling smugly. He looked over to Vlad, who was standing by his side, and shrugged.

"You're up to something Boss." Vlad stated simply.

"Yep." And he began clacking away on his laptop.

Mason had a tight feeling in his gut, something he only got when someone was planning something to hang over his head. He knew Tom was up to something as soon as he said that he was going to learn from his best racer. He was suspicious but he would move forward and learn as much as he could from said racer. Tom knew what he was doing and Mason would trust his Boss for now. He heard the garage doors open and watched as Karina drove through, a smile on her face and music blaring from her speakers. What the hell was she so happy about?

"Hey, Mason, I got the sparkplugs." Karina called as she turned down the music. She smiled sweetly at the guy sitting on her couch, parking her car and hopping out. Why was she so happy to see him? He didn't mean anything to her. Maybe it was because she was seeing Tom tonight? Yeah, that's what it was. She was excited about the date tonight. She had already started planning her outfit on the way home. It was true that she liked Tom but she wasn't falling in love with him. He was a means to an end and she would do whatever needed to be done so she could get out of the gang. That was why she had her own mini-gang. They were her 'close' friends and they were helping her get out. They owed her their lives so she would use them until they had re-paid their debts. She felt pretty shitty for using them like she was but she needed them to get to her end. She rationalized all of that in her mind while she placed the sparkplugs in place and leaned over the engine.

Mason watched as Karina replaced the sparkplugs with interest. He would love to learn what she knew. He had heard of her amazing races, how she brought new maneuvers to the world of racing. Everyone knew she traveled all over the world, racing for Tom and her reputation, but no one knew where she had learned all of her moves. No one knew how she had gotten her rep up to celebrity status so quickly, over the course of a single year when she had first joined the racing community. Karina had actually inspired him to race. She had shown that anyone could race if they put forth the effort and he admired that about her. In truth, everyone in the racing community respected Karina so much. She had taught them to continue no matter what. She only lost once, only because some asshole had totaled her car, but ever since that lose she had come back stronger and she never lost a race since. "Thanks for doing that." He said appreciatively, a small smile on his lips as she leaned over his car's engine.

"No problem. I do this for a living so it's no big deal." She replied, closing the hood softly. She stretched but then decided that she needed some sleep before her date tonight. She walked over to the couch, sitting down beside Mason. She leaned against the side of her couch and felt herself begin to slip into unconsciousness. She yawned, closing her eyes, and sighing sleepily.

Mason smirked as he reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Go ahead and sleep. I'll be here when you wake up. Nothing will happen to your place, I promise." He soothed gently leaning her against his side.

"Thank you, Mas-"she sighed, falling asleep as soon as the words passed her lips. Mason smiled as Karina lay against his arm.

When Karina awoke, she found she leaned against Mason's side as he leaned his head against hers. She smiled softly at the cuddling but she pulled away from him, slowly, and he fell over with a dull thump on the couch. She giggled as he sprang up, eyes searching all over the room before landing back on her. She rolled her eyes and stood to her feet, stretching her arms over her head as her legs began stinging with the feeling of being numb. A moan escaped her lips at the sore muscles coming 'awake' at the pull on them. She cracked her neck and ran a hand up over her face, into her brown locks.

Mason hadn't realized he had fallen asleep until her woke up against the cushions of Karina's couch. He sifted to get more comfortable as he watched her stretch. He noticed she looked less tired and more aware of her surroundings, a small smile playing on her pink lips. He resisted the urge to find out whether or not those same lips were soft or not and simply settled for yawning and stretching his own sore muscles. "Oh shit!" he heard her exclaim. "I'm gonna be late." She started running around frantically and decided that he should be leaving soon.

"What time is it?" he asked in a whisper, looking around for his phone. He found it on the coffee table in front of the couch and reached for it, checking the time. It was fifteen minutes until six-thirty and he stood to his feet. "I gotta get going. My mom is expecting me home soon."

Karina felt herself pause from running up the stairs to look over her shoulder at the brown-haired man standing in front of her couch. He didn't have to leave yet. "Oh, well, I guess I'll see you at some races. I gotta get ready too."

He nodded, a smile creeping onto his lips, and continued, "Yeah, you will. I'll totally kick your ass the next time we race against each other."

"I look forward to accepting your challenge, but first you have to get better before you can kick anyone's ass. You need lessons in street racing. If you don't find someone to give you lessons, your own ass will most likely be the one to be kicked around."

"Yeah, I'll get someone to teach me and then one day I'll beat your shitty self and my rep will be twice as big as yours is now."

"Good luck with that." And she headed up the stairs to go to her room. She knew he had some talent but he lacked skill. He needed to get someone to teach him that skill and how and when to use that skill and talent. She heard the garage doors open and the distinct roar of an engine, finally the doors closing behind as Mason left. She had to admit that she envied his girlfriend, if he had one. She would bet her entire fortune that he was one of those types of guys who always put the girls wants and needs above his own. The type to smile at the stupid things girls did and flirt right back at them. She shook her head of the dangerous thoughts and decided to distract herself with getting ready for tonight. This was her first date in what seemed like forever so she would behave herself and allow Tom to do what she was comfortable with. She opened her closet doors and sighed as she saw the one dress that always made her look like she was the sexiest woman on the planet. She pulled the red fabric out and held it against her in her floor length mirror. She would also wear her leather jacket with some strappy, black high-heels. She knew Tom would shower her with praises and compliments but she really couldn't bring herself to care.

Mason pulled out of her driveway, quickly, so as not to be seen pulling out of here and pointed his car south of his location. He would be home in at least forty minutes and decided he could stop to get something to eat. He needed something to take his mind off of Karina as he had watched her wake up and stretched until she could move gracefully. He would never tell anyone but he knew if she had really wanted to, she would've made an excellent ballerina. Ivy, his littlest sister, wanted to be one and had made him practice on many occasions with her. He smiled at the thought of Karina in a tutu and shook his head. No, he doubted she would be okay with any of the pink, the tulle, and the frilly girly stuff. Karina wasn't a girly-girl. He sighed as he remembered that Ivy was probably still at practice so he would pick her up and take her to dinner, giving him the perfect excuse to stop by home. He hated the idea of Adam being there to most likely greet him as soon as he entered but he couldn't stop now.

Karina stared into the mirror fifteen minutes later, looking at the way the red fabric clung to her curves and the leather jacket gave her a bit of an edge. The shoes were comfortable, if not high, and she grinned when she narrowed down the small steps she had to take in them. She heard a car pull up and grabbed her clutch, walking to the door. She opened it when she heard the knock and smiled her warmest smile at Tom, looking rather dashing in a suit. Tom bowed low, taking Karina's hand in his own, and pressed a chaste kiss to the skin there. He straightened, not releasing her hand, and met her eyes. "I hope that you will enjoy tonight. There is much we need to discuss." Karina had the sinking feeling that she would hate the topics he wanted to talk about so she simply nodded, following him to his car and sliding in beside him in the backseat as Vlad shut the door behind her.

Vlad sat in the driver's seat and began moving the car forward, Karina sighing softly as they pulled out of her driveway. She hated that Tom knew where she lived but to be part of the gang, like she had wanted to be at age sixteen, it meant that everyone knew everyone worth knowing about. Meaning her being very high up in status meant she was talked about….a lot. Karina watched the landscape fly by and felt her stomach growl, remembering that she hadn't eaten all day.

A few minutes later, they pulled up to one of her towns most famous restaurants and she felt her mouth begin to water at the amazing, delicious smells coming from inside. She refrained from just running in and demanding that they feed her immediately and simply waited for Tom to join her and take her inside. Once inside, a waitress had shown the pair to a table in the middle of the room and said she would be back to take their orders and bring their drinks. Karina looked at Tom expectantly, waiting patiently for him to explain what they needed to talk about. When he didn't answer, she looked over the menu and settled for a chicken dish. The waitress returned and offered them both a glass full of wine and set the bottle in the chilled bucket beside the table. She took their orders, Karina's chicken dish and Tom's seafood dish, and headed back to the kitchen giving the pair complete privacy for the moment. Karina to a sip of the red wine and looked at Tom doing the same, waiting for him to explain himself. "Well," she began, setting the glass down, "you got me here. What do you want to talk about?"

"Can't we just enjoy tonight? Without any business talking?" he asked, already knowing her answer.


He sighed, "Very well. I've asked you to come on a date for some very important reasons. One: I would like to congratulate you on a win on the anniversary of your first race. Two: I would like to ask you again to join our gangs and become a co-leader with me. Third: is actually something that came up earlier today."

"Thank you for remembering and also I'm not going to merge our two gangs. You know as well as I that our gangs wouldn't get along. They know I do not want to be with you. "She finished up quickly as the waitress brought out their dinners and they dug in. After a few bites and deciding the meal was delicious she continued her earlier thought. "What is the third reason?"

Mason stood outside his car, waiting for Ivy to come out from her practice, leaning against the side of his car. He wondered what Karina was doing on her date with their boss and what was his boss' infatuation with her? Tom had always showered his affections towards Karina, since she had first joined the gang and he wondered what Tom really wanted from her. Tom was someone who got what he wanted when he wanted it. He heard the soft thud of a door close up ahead of him and a smile spread over his tightly drawn features as his little sister appeared through them. He held open his arms for her to haphazardly crash into him and tightened his grip on her. "Hey squirt!" he called lovingly.

"I'm not a squirt," Ivy murmured, narrowing her eyes at him. "I'm eleven years old and am no longer so short that you can call me squirt."

Mason rolled his eyes and held open the door so she could climb on in and sit in the passenger seat. He strolled around the car, hopping in while turning on the car, and smirked at Ivy. "Hey Ivy? What do you want to eat? I'm buying." He watched as her face brightened and she practically squealed in delight.

"McDonalds sounds good right now. I'm so hungry I could eat anything."


"Can I drive, Mas?"

"No. I need this car for the races." He explained, pulling the car from the curb and into traffic. He loved his brothers and sisters and would do anything for them but none of them came close to wanting to know more about the races than Ivy did. Mostly it was because she wondered if a girl raced and if said girl had won or lost. She asked about his race last night and he replayed the events of yesterday again, feeling ashamed at his lost race.

"Don't worry, Mas. You'll begin to win more." He silently thanked Ivy for knowing exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to phrase it. He didn't hide much from her and was glad that he could talk to someone about these races that actually understood the terms he used. Ivy didn't say anything until after they had eaten and were on their way home. "I'm sure that girl (meaning Karina) didn't mean to crash into your car. I bet it was an accident."

He realized then that it had been his own fault he had lost the race and scolded himself for not realizing it sooner. He had banked too hard to the left and crashed into her front and then bumped into her back afterwards. He felt like an idiot for blaming Karina on his mistake. Oh well, he would apologize for it next time he saw her.