Legend (Page 47)

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Trying unsuccessfully to tame them, I text him the gym I planned to be at, and he replied, I’ll look for you.

I spent all night watching the matches, wincing when he caught a few hits. Most of the time, I winced for the others.

Maverick is an intimidating force, slowly and surely overtaking the Underground.

♥ ♥ ♥

NOW I’M STARING at the doors of the gym as I push myself hard on the stationary bicycle.

Chicago is windy, but Brooke tells me to enjoy it because Miami—our next stop—should be blistering. I’m blistering now in the crowded gym. I’ve grown addicted to exercise, the endorphins, the way my body reacts to the stimuli. Sweat beads on my forehead. My body’s hot and my muscles burn. I’ve never felt stronger. My muscles are getting so firm and lovely. Even breathing is easier now: my lungs becoming more efficient these past few weeks. Same goes for my heart. It takes more to agitate it, much more.

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I keep pushing, breathing in and out, in and out, and then I breathe in and hold it and my heart definitely gets the kick it needs when Maverick “the Avenger” Cage steps inside.

The gym quiets.

Really, the more people hear about him, the more scared they become.

I’m scared of him too, but in a wholly different way.

I’m scared of the power he has. Not in his fists. But over me.

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I stop pedaling, the wheels keep turning on momentum, and I feel as if my whole world is spinning too. Lungs and heart, here’s your favorite workout now . . . approaching soundlessly like a panther. . . .

And his lips are forming the sexiest male smile ever smiled on this earth. “Look at you,” he says in that deep-thunder voice.

Oh god.

I can’t look sexy right now, not like Maverick looks sexy now. He’s freshly showered, his lean, muscled, tanned body covered in a pair of sweatpants and a clean T-shirt, a little sexy cut on the corner of his lips.

I’m concerned about the cut.

And oddly attracted to it, for it is right on that lovely smiling mouth of his.

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“Did you get hurt last night?” I ask.

He shakes his head like that cut is nothing. He notices that I’m panting, I guess. He lifts up my water when I try to reach for it and cracks it open for me. He watches me take a long swig. I down it all, then gasp for air, smiling. “Sorry.”

He steps before me and straddles the bicycle wheel, then he folds his arms over my bike handles as he looks directly at me. The shirt is straining over his muscles. His voice low and barely audible through the gym’s background music. “Hey. Want to go for a late-night run with me tonight?”

I lift my finger and absently touch the cut on his lip. Then I realize what I’m doing and pull my finger away. “What?”

His eyes twinkle happily. So . . . he likes me touching him? “Come run with me, Reese.”

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I hesitate. But somewhere between meeting him and giving him my V card, I’ve come to feel things for him that I’ve never felt for anyone in my life. He’s also my friend and I miss him. “I’d love to.”

“I’ll pick you up at your hotel. Ten p.m.?”

He steps closer, and I roll my eyes pointedly at the people in the gym, staring covertly at us. He’s the Avenger. People have been talking about him nonstop.

He glances at them in silence, then they all scatter or turn away, and he looks at me. “Is someone bothering you?”

“No.”

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He nods and heads to the vending machines, brings me a new water, sets it down, then we look at each other.

He stares at my face as if he misses the look of it.

And I stare at his face, missing the look of his.

I find myself staring at his retreating back, at the black T-shirt that ironically reads i don’t know what i’m doing in white letters.

I exhale, aware of all the looks coming my way. I pull out my music, turn on “Geronimo” by Sheppard, think of us as if I’ve been oddly finding a little bit of us in every song I hear, and pedal like I want to burn off the arousal Maverick left lingering in me.

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♥ ♥ ♥

IT’S 10:02 P.M. when I step off the elevator, dressed top to bottom in exercise gear, the laces of my sneakers double knotted, and from the blazing lights in the hotel lobby, I walk out into the cool streets. I see his hooded figure, waiting against a wall at the start of the hotel driveway.

I start to walk over and then trot, and he quietly starts trotting next to me. Silently. I follow him toward the park.

Yellow lights dot the walkway, but the deeper we head in, the darker it is. I can smell freshly cut grass. And fresh air. And guy.

Guy who makes me happy inside. And tremble.

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And ache.

And yearn.

“It looks different at night. Almost mystical,” I say when we’ve been running for fifteen minutes. The sound of our feet smoothly hitting the pavement eases up as he slows his pace, and I slow mine.

We end up stopping to look at each other.

Or rather, Maverick seemed to want to look at me.

I laugh. “I’m silly.”

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But when he tips my face up to the moonlight, I don’t laugh.

It’s not silly.

This is serious.

Him. And me.

I gave him my V card.

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And he’s the Avenger.

And I want him.

I don’t know if being brave is stopping now or going all the way. I only know what feels good right now. I edge into the shadows, backing away from him. Maverick follows me.

We silently drop down on the grass, on our backs, and we stare above.

“Makes me sad when I stare up at the sky and can’t see any stars. It’s like all the noise in the city and the lights keep you from seeing what’s right in front of you,” I admit.