Legend (Page 5)
Recognition flared in his eyes when he saw me in my exercise clothes, and something like excitement kindled in his eyes too. In that stupid moment I felt as if it was excitement to see me. He’s got eyes the oddest color I’ve ever seen—metallic, really, a shimmering steel—and he was standing outside the gym door as if waiting for someone. I saw him, felt an odd little prick of nervousness, then pulled out my card to get in. He started after me, pulled his hood up a little higher to cover his face, and eased into the gym when I did.
I stopped before we got farther than the desk. “He’s with me,” I told the ladies, and he grabbed the pen by the log and signed his name.
“Thanks,” he said under his breath as we headed into the gym area.
I nodded, and suddenly it felt as if I’d had butterflies for breakfast for some reason.
It’s been like that every day now. And every day, I’ve caught him looking at me as he trains. Every day a little longer.
The guy punches hard. He doesn’t stop. Other gym members, especially some of the ones training near the bags, seem threatened and keep talking about him.
He’s got a chip on his shoulder, that one.
Who the hell does he think the bag is?
Who pissed off the kid?
He’s not a kid. He’s a 195-pound-plus, six-foot-plus man. At least a few years older than my twenty. Maybe . . . twenty-three?
He plays around a lot with the bags. He teases and bounces around them, and hits like he lives for that punch. But when someone speaks to him, the playfulness is gone and he puts up a wall that has pretty much kept everyone away for the past few days. The air he exudes is implacable. Determined. And way too intimidating for anyone to miss. Way too intimidating for anyone to call him out on using me to enter the gym. Nobody questions him. They let him be and keep on training, all while shooting covert glances his way.
I’m getting ready to leave for the day when he stops the bag and approaches.
My eyes widen when I hear his voice clearly. A deep, male, dark-thunder voice.
Oh no, buddy, you’re not breaking our unspoken code of silence, I think in alarm.
“What’s your name?” he asks me, eyebrows low as he studies me.
He nods, and thankfully walks away. I’m left feeling a little funny, uncomfortable. I’ve never felt so discomforted by a guy. I exhale, turn around, and head outside, briefly noticing that Cage is taking off his gloves as if he’s getting ready to leave too.
♥ ♥ ♥
RACER CALLS ME Ree. Just Ree. Though he can’t really pronounce the Rs well yet, so it sounds like Wee. Which is adorable. And embarrassing.
He can speak better than that, but I think it’s his pet name for me. The little bugger loves me. The one lone dimple on his cheek pops out whenever I appear. I straddle him on my hip when I pick him up after the gym. “Did you have a good time today, Racer?”
He just nods and looks at me, with the dimple.
“What?” I pretend I don’t know what he’s waiting for, then I go, “Ooooh! This?” I pull out the Popsicle.
He reaches out one chubby hand.
“Give me a kiss or you don’t get it.” His kiss is wet and sloppy, but it delights me to no end. Almost like my dog Fluff’s kisses.
Brooke wants to get pregnant again. I know that with the lifestyle of the fights, she’ll find it hard to watch over two babies. But Racer is older now, and smart. And very, very mischievous.
We stop by the park, where I always sit down to give him some lunch. Riley, one of the team, meets me with the stroller.
“Hey, stranger,” he says.
“Borrowing babies to pick up guys?”
“That’s right. But there’s none to pick up around here. No good ones.”
Like Miles, I think.
“Here you go, little man.” Riley sits Racer in the stroller and they bump fists.
“I can’t believe he does that.”
“Yeah, you can. His dad would bust a vessel if he didn’t know how to bump fists by now.”
“What does he have in store for him next? Shadowboxing at the age of four?”
He laughs and heads off.
I feel a prickle in the back of my neck and turn to see Steel Eyes looking at me. He’s doing push-ups on the ground, army-style, quick and sleek, his head raised to look straight at me. Straight at me with such intensity and confusion, I catch my breath. He stops the push-ups and eases to his feet.
He looks at Racer, then at me.
He looks confused.
“Wee, my fut!”
“Food. Right. You want to get to the fruit bears, don’t you?” I turn to open the container of food as well as a bag of healthy dried fruit nibbles, and when I look at the spot Cage occupied, he’s gone.
I search the park and see him hit the running path. People pass by on rollerblades. Others throw balls. There are people walking and running, and couples on blankets making out or having lunch.
And Cage trotting and punching the air like his life depends on it.
I narrow my eyes and look at his profile a little more closely.
He gives me this rebel vibe. Like he’d rather say I’m sorry than may I, and maybe not even the “sorry” at all. There’s a fierce passion in his features and a kindled fire in his eyes. I admire passionate people. People who burn out everyone around them, they’re so passionate, they want so much, they crave so much.
Drops of moisture cling to his forehead, and not for the first time, I find myself wondering about him, things I shouldn’t admit to wondering about. Even to myself.