Legend (Page 45)

He goes back to the elevator, and I lean on the door as he disappears inside. I open the hotel room door, dine on cereal, and head to my bed. I lie there, still breathless, squeezing my eyes to relive what just happened in the back of the cab with him.

I have never been so scared.

Reese, is this really you? Are you ready to be bold and brave?

TWENTY-SEVEN

HER

Maverick

When we reach the hotel, I take a shower, drop into bed, and I’m restless. I replay the cab. I replay her kisses. I replay her words. I replay what she said about herself.

You make me drunk, Maverick. . . .

F**k, I shouldn’t have taken her to her hotel. I should’ve brought her with me. To lie here, on my chest. Like she wanted. And talk all night, either with words or with silence.

And I’ll kiss her, for hours, her tongue coming out to play with mine, and I’ll have her breasts in my hands. She’s going to moan into my mouth. And I’m going to draw out those moans, because when I’m with her, I’m intoxicated and I’m crazed and out of control.

Reese in bed, looking nice and sweet, wrapping her arms softly around me as I spread out on her. Her saying my name in a way I know she wants me, needs me like I need her. “Maverick.”

I can’t talk, I’m groaning against her mouth, then squeezing her a*s in my hands as I taste her nipple. I turn her around and kiss the mounds of her a*s too. Slip my fingers between her legs, and she’s all wet and juiced up. I’m memorizing her. It’ll take me forever, but I’m dedicated and I want to memorize every tiny inch and pore with my eyes and my fingers and my tongue.

Her breaths jerk and she rolls around and grabs me to her and takes me inside. She’s hot. Wet. I can’t get enough. She accepts me inside her. She welcomes me inside her. She rubs her hands all along my back, over my tattoo. And she knows what it means. She’s the only one who knows what it means. It’s not about my father, it’s about me.

And I know who she is. I know she’s strong and sweet, I know she fights to balance what others need and what she needs. I know she’s finding Reese, and I know that I’m the lucky guy who’s gotten the privilege of watching her find herself.

TWENTY-EIGHT

STRONGER

Maverick

One . . . two . . . three . . .

Fifty-seven . . . fifty-eight . . . fifty-nine . . .

A hundred . . . a hundred and one . . . a hundred and two . . .

I’m doing sit-ups. Training in an empty hotel room Oz and I wrangled for the day.

I’m thinking of finals six weeks ahead. And of her. Always of her.

I know losing can get to your head. I know losing can ruin a fighter’s life. I also know you’ll never win if you don’t believe you deserve it. Because when your body’s about to give up, and you’re on your last push, you won’t ever go that extra mile if only a fraction of you didn’t believe you could nail this.

Maybe it’s my rebel inside. I’ve always believed I could; mainly, because I don’t think anybody else did. I believe I can. So I will.

And she is mine. I’m claiming her as mine. Slow and easy. That’s how we’ll do this.

But in the ring, I’m not going easy. I’m getting stronger, I’m getting faster, and I’m getting s**t done.

I’m pumped up after yesterday.

I’m pumped up thinking of Reese, in the back of a cab, putting my hand between her legs. In my mind, the better I become, the more deserving I will be of Reese formally dating me.

“Oz, you need to watch Tate when we’re fighting. Tell me if you see an opening.”

“Maverick, I tell you what to do, not the other way around. Get yourself to semifinals first.”

I stop with the sit-ups and ease to my feet, jumping rope now. “Still mad I took you to AA?”

He glares, takes out a water bottle, and guzzles it down.

I toss the rope aside and go slap his back. “Hey. You can do this.” I toss him the tape so he can tape up my hands. “Oz, I can’t be everywhere in the ring. You need to tell me if you see weakness ’cause his coach is sure as hell telling him mine.”

“Not his coach, YOU ARE. All those times training with him? That guy’s been studying you like an encyclopedia.” He scowls bleakly.

“Good,” I murmur, letting him tape my hands. “I’ll know my own weaknesses before finals when he comes at me. I’ve been studying him too.”

“Get yourself to f*****g finals first. Twister’s all up on standings, climbing the ranks. There’s talk that he’s cheating the system, pumped to the balls in steroids.”

“His balls have nothing but air.” Hell, I’m insulted he thinks I’m losing to Twister. I already beat him once. I glare. “I can take him.”

Oz guzzles more water. I narrow my eyes. “You dehydrated?”

“What?”

My eyes widen when he closes his bottle like it’s holy water and slips it into the inside of his jacket. I reach out and wiggle my fingers. “Give me that water.”

“No.”

“Oz.”

He tosses me a new bottle of water from a small cooler. I catch it, set it aside, and take a step. “You put vodka in your water bottle, Oz?” I ask quietly.

He stands up and puffs out his chest as he looks up at me, trying to intimidate me. “Drop it, Cage.”

“Give me your water, Oz.”

“I said it’s water,” he growls.

“Are you drinking?” I ask.

He glares, stomps away, and slams the door shut.

I grit my teeth and stare down at my untaped hands, curling my fingers into my palms. Then I run after him before he catches an elevator.