Legend (Page 37)

I stay silent.

“I need to do this for me,” he explains with a fierce and determined gleam in his eyes.

“Maverick . . .” I wrap my arms around myself. It’s not easy for me to find someone I connect with. I haven’t ever felt the kind of connection to a stranger that I felt when I started interacting with Maverick “the Avenger” Cage. “That night with you meant more to me than you’ll ever know,” I whisper. “I shouldn’t have kissed you just now. I’m trying to find myself, and I can’t do that if I’m lost in you.”

He takes my chin and the touch triggers heat all over me. “I won’t let you get lost,” he promises.

“The Tates are my family. I don’t think we should do what we did again. And Miles is coming to town next month.”

“Miles, that’s his name?”

I nod and glance helplessly at him.

The liquid look in his gaze starts to harden right before my eyes. “Yeah, I get it. He’s not my father’s son.” He grits his jaw, his eyes dark, then we stare at each other. He starts to stand, but then, as if by impulse, his hand engulfs my cheek as he grabs my face and kisses me, almost punishing and hot. I stay there, melted, as he gets to his feet and walks away.

I exhale and shut my eyes and touch my lips.

It’s over. We won’t do it again. Right? Did he agree or not?

Yes, because he was angry.

I’m sure we will be civil but . . . apart. And I can’t stand it. And suddenly I can’t remember why we can’t, why it’s wrong.

Or why I wrote my phone number on his arm.

TWENTY-TWO

NO MORE

Maverick

I ran eight MILES, and it’s midnight now.

Miles. Miles. Miles.

I stare at myself in the mirror in the hotel bathroom, looking deep into my eyes. And I smash my fist into the glass.

TWENTY-THREE

BROKEN KNUCKLES

Maverick

The next day we’re training, Oz and I. We’re training in a storage unit he got us for the day. The door’s wide open, and he hung the bags from the iron beams in the ceiling. I’m using my left, over and over. Hitting. Listening to the sounds. Smack, thud, thud, smack, poof.

“Whoa, stop, stop. Where’s your right?” Oz demands when he shakes himself out of a nap. The guy brought a fold-out chair and has just sat there for hours after we gobbled down two pizzas, one each. I might have had a few extra slices of his.

“I’m trying to strengthen my left,” I lie.

He scowls at me. “You got a great left. Your left is almost as good as your right.”

“Keyword ‘almost,’ ” I point out. I aim for the bag.

“You hurt your right?” He comes over and grabs my right and I pull it free before he can pull off my glove.

“I f****d up, all right,” I growl. “It’ll be back to normal in no time.”

“You f****d your right. During the season. When?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“When?”

“Last night. I broke something.”

“You broke YOUR KNUCKLES, THAT’S WHAT! You f**k your right on a temper tantrum? What the f**k? Am I gonna have another Scorpion on my hands? Huh?” He pushes me, and I let him, just stand there and let him have his tantrum. He gives up and stalks back to his chair.

“You might as well not go to the fight without your right,” he growls.

“I’m not missing a fight.”

“You should’ve thoughta that before busting your knuckles. This because of Tate? A girl?”

I hit the bag, then lower my arms and stare at the ground, inhaling deeply.

“Her name’s Reese,” I say, under my breath, frowning up at the heavy bag. “Reese Dumas.”

He swears under his breath. Then he pulls out the flask. “Stay away, Maverick.”

“How about you stay away from that flask, Oz?”

“I can’t.”

“So we understand each other.” I get into position and start hitting. “I’m not quitting her.” Then I test my right and jab the bag, and pain shoots up my arm. I yank my glove off.

I stare morosely at my hand, testing my fingers and curling them in.

“Members of the Tate team,” Oz says, leaning forward in his seat, “even if they’re not blood related, they’re closer than if they were. She’s not going to want to even look at you, Maverick.”

I toss my right glove aside and keep hitting with my left. I don’t think we should do what we did again . . . the Tates are my family . . . Miles is coming . . .

“I don’t want to see you make a fool of yourself for a damn Wendy!”

I stop. Then slide my gaze to Oz and narrow my eyes. “She’s no Wendy.”

The frustration’s building. I go back to hitting and I’m hitting the bag hard.

“Heard you trained with him,” Oz says.

“Yeah. Would’ve told you if you’d been half-awake.” I don’t stop hitting.

“This means you won’t need me now, huh.”

“No. Just means I get more chances to find out how to beat him.”

“He’s getting the same chance to be sure how to beat you,” he growls.

He swigs and stares mournfully out the storage unit door and I stare at the heavy bag and keep on hitting until my muscles burn out, and then I keep going.

TWENTY-FOUR

PATCHING UP MAVERICK

Reese

My mom’s been calling, but I haven’t picked up the phone. I’m afraid she’ll hear my voice and she knows me too well, she will know there’s something haunting my thoughts.