Legend (Page 56)

I drop his suitcase in his room. “Go change. We’re going to the circuit party.”

“Says who? Don’t think so.”

“I say so, Oz.”

“I don’t mingle.”

“Don’t mingle. Sit there, for all I care.”

“Why the f**k will I do that?”

“’Cause there’s a chance Reese will be there.”

He looks at me like I’ve lost it. And yeah, I’ve lost it. I’m f****d-up over her and I’m not denying it. I need a Reese-aholics Anonymous but I’m not ready to sober up, as far as I’m concerned. I’m ready to keep drowning in her.

“If she wanted you, she’d have made it,” Oz says. “I had a f*****g SUNDAE on the plane. You totally missed out.”

“Just get dressed,” I snarl, then I wait and cross my arms, staring out the window. I know what she feels for me. I know she wants me. I know it’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Oz comes out in boxers and a white T-shirt. “Won’t mind hanging around here while you go. Have fun.”

I shake my head at him, then I hit the shower. In two days, semifinals begin. Two nights. Multiple fights. I need to end up second or I’m over.

I need to train harder than ever. Concentrate more than my brain can possibly even accomplish.

But tonight Reese is haunting me.

THIRTY-SIX

MY FIRST BIG CHOICE

Reese

He’s staying at our hotel. At our same hotel. It made it easier to get the room number, since the Tates are known by the hotel staff. But it made me all the more nervous when I rode the elevators to the seventeenth floor, keeping my head down.

Ting.

I step out, my nervousness and anticipation reaching new levels when I start scanning room numbers. Down the hall, I check the number and I knock on the door. Oz opens the door, squinting.

I exhale. “Is Maverick here?”

He focuses on me. “A little late, aren’t you, little lady?”

God, I can’t get into a battle with Oz right now. “So he’s not in?”

“He’s not.”

F**k. “Well, do you know where I could find him? Is he training?”

“Look, girl, I’m not a guy who gets up into someone’s business but he’s my champ, and I won’t stand for him being played. So maybe leave a guy with a mission time to focus on it . . .”

“Oz.” I hear an angry voice speak behind him. His f*****g voice. So near and so excruciatingly real, I’m trembling as my heart turns over in my chest.

Oz sighs and opens the door, and there’s my Maverick. My rebel. All alone, except for Oz.

And now me.

He’s wearing jeans and a black button-down shirt, and he looks like death by sex, and I feel like dying tonight about a dozen times over.

I stay outside, peering into where he is. The suite is huge, and seeing Maverick among such luxury makes him look like a dark prince of the underworld.

“I came looking for you,” I lamely say.

“And I waited for you.”

His deep, resonating voice sounds lower and more thunderous than ever, and my stomach grips in reply. I wait for him to say something else—to tell me how much I suck.

“I’m sorry, Maverick.”

He comes to the door, and then lowers his voice, one hand on the doorframe as he leans forward. “Did they keep you from me?”

He’s gauging me and I’m gauging him back, not knowing what to do to be let in.

“No.”

“You’re here to tell me we’re a mistake.” He’s searching my expression with a new rawness in his eyes.

“No.”

We stare at each other.

I’m about to ask, beg, “Can I come in?” when he takes my hand in his and starts backing in as he leads me inside. And as he does, he watches me with bare, thirsty, impaling eyes, and my knees feel like rubber as I follow him, ready to tell him what I came here to say.

Maverick stops to look at Oz. A look that says he wants to be alone. With me. And Oz shuffles into one of the bedrooms. He steps out a minute later, clothed, shoes on.

“You don’t have to leave,” Maverick says. “Just give us some privacy.”

“Nah, nah, you two need it,” Oz says, and says he has something to do. And then he leaves, looking at Maverick as he shuts the door.

He cares about him.

And so does Maverick for Oz.

My heart can’t take the heaviness I feel.

I realize Maverick is looking down at me now, waiting, expectant. His hand is still gripping mine. Lightly, almost as if he expects me to draw away. And then, his other hand lifts to my cheek and he cups my face and runs his thumb beneath my eye.

“You’ve been crying.”

Just like that, with his tenderness—so unexpected for such a tough guy—he makes my eyes sting a little again.

“How do you know?” I whisper.

“I just know.” He dries the other corner of my eye, looking sad. “You okay?” he asks.

“I am now,” I croak, and I look at his chest, and up at him, and swallow. “You look very handsome in black. Are you going out?”

His lips pull a little, and his eyes are still full of questions—and tenderness. So much tenderness I feel flooded with it. He shakes his head. “Not anymore.”

I like how silent he is, how every look of his says something. We’re both silent now. And I think he knows why I’m here.

Or does he?

He’s studying me too deeply. Almost tortured. And I realize maybe he doesn’t.

I take his hand and open it, and then I set the penny inside.