Legend (Page 21)

“Don’t apologize, it’s nice they give a s**t.”

The honesty suddenly makes me realize that when I leave, he’s alone in this room. I compare it to the bustle of people at the Tates’ and shake my head, stunned.

“Don’t you have anyone?”

He shrugs and slips on a shirt. “I’ll take you home.”

It’s the most tense cab ride of my life. Maverick and I are both silent as the cab heads toward the Tates’ hotel, but we stare at each other every couple of minutes. Each time our eyes meet, we smile. But inside me, other things happen. My body squeezes in places and I ache between my legs.

I glance at the skin I sewed above his eye and feel somehow really possessive of him.

I notice, as he hops out of the cab to walk me across the lobby toward the elevators, that people stare at him as he walks next to me. There’s something about him that just calls your attention. Even from a distance. The confidence, the stride, his carriage, his body, his face, and his eyes.

I don’t want the team to see him though. So the moment we hit the elevator bank, I spin to face him even before I press the Up arrow. “It’s fine. I’ll go up.”

Just then, my phone buzzes again. I’m suddenly concerned. What if it’s Brooke already sending the cavalry, aka Pete and Riley, to look for me? I glance at it in dread.

Instead, I read Miles’s name on my phone screen. I tuck the phone quickly away.

Maverick lifts his brow, his eyes smiling down at me.

“Your cousin?”

“No. A boy back home.”

And Miles seems like such a boy compared to Maverick. Maverick is a bit boyish sometimes but so manly, so grown-up and mature. I wonder what made him mature so fast. The kind of tragedy that gives you that look in your eyes, the one that warns people not to get close. That tells them they will never be able to get close.

As if deep in his own thoughts, Maverick looks upward speculatively and then back at me. “Next time, I’ll get a nice place like this.”

“Next time?”

“Next time you come over.” His eyes flick down to where I hid my phone, and then up to me. Was that . . . jealousy?

“We’re leaving to the next location tomorrow.”

He nods. I don’t know where he plans to work out, but it’s the only place I get to see him. I blurt out, “I’ll be at the Body Factory Gym in Denver. I can get you in there too.”

His eyes flood tenderly. “Some people might easily take advantage of how nice you are.”

“I’m not nice on the inside.”

“You’re nice all over.” His eyes run over me, and my toes curl as his eyes reach my feet, and then he catches himself, clenches his jaw, and looks up at me, sincere and strangely puzzled.

“I don’t want to be nice,” I blurt out. “I want to be un-nice. Badass and special and unforgettable. People mistake nice with weak, and I’m not weak.” A man as hard as Maverick should despise weakness.

“I don’t think you’re weak. It takes strength to be kind,” he says in a haunted tone. But his eyes gleam in approval of me.

I want him to say what he thinks of me, but maybe I’m not ready to know. If it’s bad it will funk me out, and if it’s good I’ll be gone. I’ll be gone.

“I won’t make it until at least three days from now. I’ll see you there.” He walks away.

Don’t watch him walk away, Reese.

Don’t look at his inverted-triangle back and his fine a*s, Reese.

I am looking at both when he swings the door open, and my heart does an odd little flip when a group of guys comes in and he looks over his shoulder at me. He remains there, watching me until I board. Just as the doors start to close, I watch him turn away and lift his hand to touch his wound.

A stolen moment. That’s what just happened with him and me. But I want more than a moment. And I don’t want to steal it. I want it to be ours.

I see Miles’s text again and I tuck my phone away without answering.

♥ ♥ ♥

THAT NIGHT I have a dream of us eating ice cream. “Do you want to know something?” Maverick slams the spoon into the bucket and then uses that hand to touch my mouth. “I want to kiss you right here.”

“Why here?”

“Seems like a good place to start.”

And when he sets his lips on mine, I wake up, as if it’s too incredible a reality, it can’t even happen in my dreams.

THIRTEEN

FIRST PAY

Maverick

I haven’t called my mother. Haven’t wanted her to think I couldn’t do it. Now we’re in Oz’s messy hotel room after picking up our pay and I stare at my first check for 18,005 dollars.

I slip it into an envelope and write a note.

My first check. It’s all yours.

Maverick

“You sure you don’t want to keep some of that?” Oz asks dubiously.

“Nah, she needs it more than I do.”

“Plan to send her all your checks?”

“As many as I can, yes.” I eye him narrowly while Oz rests his head on the back of the couch and eyes the ceiling.

“When you get to fight Tate during the season, we’re talking that check will have six, possibly seven, digits, not five.”

“Next one’s for me. I’m setting us up in a nice hotel like the big fighters do.”

“So you can invite her over?”

“Yeah, so I can invite her over.”

He sighs. “Good girls don’t date fighters.”

“Fighters have good wives.”