Legend (Page 46)

“Oz, come on. Let’s talk about it.”

The elevator arrives, and he boards defiantly. “There’s nothing to talk about. You’re gonna be on my back, then I quit.”

“Oz.”

“You either lay off me, or I’m not going to be spending time here to be lectured. I got enough of that before with Wendy.”

“I’m not Wendy, all right? Just chill and we’ll figure this out. Get back on this f*****g floor, Oz,” I growl.

He glares but steps off. “I’m chill. Just back the f**k off.” He storms back into the room, and says, “Heavy bag.”

I follow him inside, simmering in frustration as I spread my hands out in helplessness. “I don’t know how to help you, Oz.”

“I can take care of myself. You worry about you. Heavy bag.”

I grind my molars. Then I go hit the bag, bare-knuckled. And get the perfect sound. And I keep going. And going and going. Getting it all out of my system. Getting ready for a fight.

♥ ♥ ♥

THE CROWD ROARS outside, and then there’s silence and the announcer speaks. “For the first time in Chicago, ladies and gentlemen, we give you the man causing waves . . . the man causing whispers . . . the man you all fear . . . the first rookie ever to get this far in an Underground championship . . . We give you, Maverick ‘the Avenger’ Cage!”

I turn to Oz. “If we win tonight, promise you’ll try again tomorrow.”

He smirks. “I’ll promise tomorrow.” Then he sobers and opens the door, where the crowd starts with a combination of name-calling and booing. “Let’s do this, son. One match at a time.”

I nod and I step outside and head to the ring.

TWENTY-NINE

RUN WITH ME

Reese

He won. I heard it from the team. Depending on the rankings of the fighters, they get to fight on separate nights in each location now that we’re heading to semifinals. Even numbers fight on one night, odd numbers on the next.

Maverick didn’t get to fight Remy in Chicago. But he beat every single man put in his path.

We’re in Chicago now, and he’s shot up in rankings from 148th (where he started, with no record) to thirty-ninth (after his first five match nights) to seventh now. Everybody is talking about the way Cage “cages” his opponents against the ropes, then knocks them out with what they’re calling the Maverick Jab because of his long arms and incredible reach.

The question on everyone’s mind is if he has it in him to stay there and make semifinals and win against the experienced fighters he’ll be facing.

But the main question is if he has it in him to beat Riptide.

“I’m telling you, he does. You need to stop training with him,” Coach said that night after the fight.

“The more you tell him not to, the more he’s going to do it,” Pete advised Coach Lupe when Remy stayed mum.

“Why, Rem?” Coach demanded.

“Because he’s unstoppable, and I’m challenged to see if he’ll stop . . . or not. I’m hoping not.” He lifted his fist and looked at his bruised knuckles that reminded me exactly of Maverick’s bruised knuckles.

“So you help Scorpion leave a legacy rather than protect yours?”

“He’s less the son of that b*****d than he thinks he is,” Remy answered. “All he has of his father is the scorpion on his back. Scorpion was never this good this early on. Hell, ever. And he was never this clean.”

“I still don’t agree with you mentoring him,” Lupe growled.

“You don’t have to agree, Coach.”

“F**K, RIPTIDE, LISTEN TO ME! That kid IS POISON! He’s a SCORPION IN THE MAKING.”

“Coach.” Remy’s voice turned threatening.

Coach quieted down. And Remy just sent him a look that said to drop it.

“I like Cage. He’s got fire burning in that soul,” Riley said.

“Saying he was on fire in the ring tonight is an understatement,” Pete said.

Coach Lupe shook his head. “Talent like that, untamed, can go wrong in so many ways. Like it did with the father. One trigger, and it snaps, and he’ll be the worst nightmare you’ve ever encountered up there. Anyone has ever encountered up there,” Coach warned.

I was so sick of spying on the men to hear about the Underground that I headed over to Brooke’s bedroom, where she was lying on her stomach on the bed reviewing the flight schedule. “Brooke, is there somewhere online where I can watch the fights?”

She sat up and reached for the pad and pen on the hotel nightstand. “Oh, of course. Sometimes, not always, depending on the location. Here, I’ll list a few sites.” She tore off a page and scribbled down half a dozen web links. “Try those,” she said, handing over the page.

I headed to my room and did a search on my phone, trying to see if the latest match was being replayed. I found an image of Maverick’s broad, muscled back with his phoenix tattoo, and there were hundreds of comments on it. This guy f*****g scares me but I can’t get enough of watching!

I kept scanning for the fight when he texted me. For the first time ever.

Hey Reese Where are you training tomorrow?

And let me just say that those elusive little butterflies, the ones I’d always overheard girls talk about but I had personally never met until Maverick, they have found a new home in me.

I can’t tame them when I think of him. Hear his name mentioned. They’ve become a part of every thought of him. Of remembering him in my room, of bending down to kiss the beak of his phoenix. Wanting more. So much more.