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Legend (Page 17)

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Oz turns off the video, and I start suiting up with my gloves again. “More often than not, when Riptide fights, he leaves with no mark on his face. He’s the greatest ever seen.”

“I’ll be greater.”

“You’re cocky.” He comes over to tighten my gloves at the wrists, then he slaps me on the back of the head, sober enough to glare. “Save the c**k for the girls.”

“F**k, I am.”

“Really?” he says, suddenly interested. “What girls?”

“One girl. Just one.”

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“What’s her name?”

I shake my head and aim for the heavy bag.

Sorry, Oz, but she’s all mine.

ELEVEN

THE UNDERGROUND FROM AFAR

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Reese

I’m wondering a lot about the Underground from my room tonight. The Tates wanted easy access to the inaugural fight, so they booked us at a five-star hotel downtown.

Apparently there are many fighting circuits. In this one, it’s fought by seasons, two a year, winter and summer. Spring and fall are for training. The fights take place at different sites—starting with the inaugural, happening tonight in Seattle, up to the final fight, which is in New York this year. During the season, fighters drop out due to injury or losses. Every night, if a fighter wins, he has the opportunity to fight another opponent, and then another, until he steps down or loses. This means the best fighters fight last; otherwise, others won’t have an opportunity to get very far. The good rookie fighters can climb their way up to fight the top dogs. From what I’ve heard, there’s only one undefeated one for the past three years. Remy Tate.

The suite is eerily silent as the whole team except for Diane, Racer, and me has gone to the inaugural fight.

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I almost fainted when Remy came out with his duffel and his sporting gear. He swept past like a beast and I’m stressing about the pounding Maverick could get from him and other more seasoned fighters like him.

I’m nervous for Maverick.

I’ve tucked Racer into bed. I read him a book about trains, and then I even went and searched for some sugary treats—the kind that are not available in the Tates’ suite kitchen. I try to watch TV.

I set the remote aside and stare at the window when, hours later, I hear the team shuffle back into the suite.

Usually I don’t know what they’re talking about, I’d rather play with the trains and giggle at Racer’s smile, his eyes shining. I want to eat his dimple and take his chubby cheek along with it too. But tonight Racer’s asleep already, and I’m way too curious to go to my room yet.

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Remington is soaked as he stalks straight to the kitchen to guzzle and hydrate.

He’s quiet and satisfied, and Brooke doesn’t look frazzled at all. So I’m sure things went well tonight.

When she goes to check up on Racer, I hang around the men, wondering if I should ask.

“Lots of new guys. With Scorpion out and Parker the Terror still in the hospital, they’re all thinking they have a shot at the final match this year.”

“They’re a bunch of dumb shits,” Coach Lupe says.

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“What did you think of the new star, Coach?” Pete asks curiously.

“Can tell he’s been provoked in his heart and his spirit. He’s got anger locked so tight, his muscles practically seize with it.”

Maverick?

“Got some fire. You think he thinks he’ll get to fight Riptide?” Riley asks.

Coach scratches his bald head. “He’ll have to go through dozens to get a chance. Rookies don’t fight the champ unless they’re kicking some serious a*s.”

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“Oz was just snoozing behind the ropes.” Pete shakes his head in disapproval.

Ohmigod. They are talking about him. They are talking about my Maverick.

My Maverick?

No, not mine. At all. But my friend.

Maybe my friend.

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“What do we know about this guy?” Pete then asks, taking out his phone as if making notes.

“Confirmed?” Coach asks. “Nothing. You saw his mark?”

“Couldn’t mean what we think it does. Rem’s not worried,” Pete counters.

“’Cause it’s my job to worry for us,” Coach growls.

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I touch the penny in my pocket. I get a horrible pang for chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I head to the kitchen in search of something to fulfill my craving. “You need anything, Reese?” Diane asks.

“I’m looking for something to snack on. Dietetic!” I specify to Diane. “Definitely not chocolate or ice cream.”

“I’ve got almond milk vanilla ice cream. It’s pretty good, lower calories than the normal kind. One scoop? Or two?”

Oh god. “One,” I say, but lift two fingers.

She laughs.

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I carry it to my room and then just stare at the ice cream and think of him. Maverick. Cage. Maverick is outside the box, but cage is as if trapped. I think of his tattoo of the bird and picture fingers tracing it, and guess whose fingers those are? Mine.

And then lips are pressing against it, and guess whose lips those are? Mine.

And he tastes better than this vanilla ice cream, and it suddenly feels like the only thing that will satisfy this endless craving he’s started in me is him, and I’m pretty sure I can’t have him just like I can’t have normal ice cream.

I hold the bowl in my hands but actually strain my ears to hear more of the talk out in the living room.

Remington Tate is the king of the ring. Undefeated for years. He trains like his life depends on it, and he fights like he lives for it. He’s an icon of the Underground and a master fighter. First a boxer, kicked out because of his unruly temper, he’s now made a name for himself in the Underground to rival that of any heavyweight, welterweight, or middleweight champion. He fights mega-fights, which draw mega-crowds; and between his cocky, dimpled grins and the way he beats his opponents to a pulp, the sensational fights he creates are cause for a lot of money and a lot of fans.

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