Legend (Page 6)

I stare until he disappears into the trees around the trail, and then I notice Racer has handily climbed out of his stroller. The little bag of dried fruits is right there, where he used to be eating. My heart turns to lead in my chest at the sight of the Racerless stroller. And then the dread slams into my midsection.

Leaping to my feet, I scan the park. Racer is already running a thousand miles an hour after a Labrador that’s chasing its own tail and then chasing some phantom shadow, running from one end of the field to the other like it’s never run in its whole life.

“Racer!”

I can’t put the blanket and everything back into my bag fast enough. In fact, I don’t. I just leave everything there and run after him the moment the dog spots Racer and charges after him. The dog is off a leash and three times the size of Racer.

I see a familiar figure leap up to a nearby tree branch and grab what looks to be a tennis ball stuck between the leaves. He tosses it to the ground.

The dog grabs it and scampers off, fast as a bullet.

Racer starts after him with a giggle of delight.

He doesn’t get very far. Cage scoops him up under his arm and brings him over. “You lose something?” he asks as he sets Racer on his feet before me.

Did I lose something? I think dazedly.

My breath.

My head.

Part of my soul just now, to be honest.

My heart is a kettledrum, still.

I could’ve lost Racer in the park!

The dog could’ve mauled him!

Brooke told me he was restless and irreverent toward dangers, but I never thought looking after an adorable little kid like him could actually be hard.

But it wouldn’t have been hard if I’d been paying attention to Racer rather than the guy standing two feet away from me, and far too close for comfort, now.

Cage watches me struggle to compose myself. “Thank you,” I tell him, then I drop to my haunches in front of my charge. “Racer.” I look at his happy blue eyes and feel my body tremble. “Don’t do that again. If you want to pet the dog, I’ll go with you.”

“Why?” he challenges, eyes bright and twinkling.

“I couldn’t see you, and I was scared you’d get hurt.”

He tilts his little head upward and eyes the guy, squinting beneath the sunlight.

Cage is looking at him too, and then at me. He looks fascinated all of a sudden. And that face of his is so distracting that I have to force myself to look at something else, so I stare at a spot past his shoulder.

“Wee’s my fwend!” Racer says proudly, extending out his arm to Cage. I quickly realize Racer is giving him his fist.

“He wants to fist-bump,” I hastily explain to Cage.

Cage takes in Racer in his Superman tee and his perfect little jeans. “You’re a cool little dude.”

He makes a fist—his huge and tan, Racer’s white and plump—and their knuckles bump.

Cage lifts his eyes and then looks at me. And I make the mistake of being caught blatantly staring at him when he meets my gaze. His dark, intent stare is a little hot and confusing.

Obviously he and I are not going to fist-bump, and for the life of me, I can’t draw anything but a blank from my brain. I seem to have forgotten how to speak.

The pheromones are in the air and my body is acting funny. Why is my body acting funny?

I’m not talkative, but this guy is worse.

“Did you grow tired of the gym today?” I ask him.

Geez. Could you come up with a duller question, Reese?

He still looks a little fascinated, but there’s a subtle difference in his expression when I mention the gym. Grows a little darker for some reason. “No sparring partners. Too full.”

I nod. “I can be your partner,” I blurt. “Tomorrow.”

Sable eyebrows go up. “You spar?”

I raise my chin a little tauntingly and nod. “I’ll learn.”

Suddenly I feel really energetic.

I sweep Racer up in my arms. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say, and turn back to the stroller and our stuff, walking quietly. I think I feel his gaze on my back, so I distract myself with Racer and fish the dried fruit from the stroller seat. “Do you want more of these?” I ask Racer, showing him the bag.

He shoves my hand away and tries to run off again. “I want to find the dog.”

I sweep him up with effort. “Okay, but hop in here and I’ll push you real fast.”

He stops squirming to get free and obeys and lets me sit him down, grinning over my shoulders at something.

Or someone.

I turn back to Cage, who’s watching us with a half smile on his face that does more for me than anything halfway should do, and I smile wanly and feel his eyes on my back as I push Racer down the path.

“That’s not fast, Wee! Fastew!” Racer says.

S**t. Really? My a*s is going to bounce like crazy.

I lean over to him. “When we round the corner, please, enough embarrassing Reese in front of a boy for a day.” I ruffle his hair and then look ahead in search of the Labrador.

FOUR

KNOCKING

Maverick

The hotel business center has a dozen dormant computers save for the one I’m using. Surfing the net for trainers in the Seattle area. Writing a new list. I started at the top and am at the lower tiers now as I write down the second name, then scan for another half hour. F**k, I’m quickly running out of options.

I log out, tear the page off the hotel notepad, and stare at the two names I’ve got on the list. I rub my jaw and reread the addresses and locations.

I fold the page, shove it into my jeans pocket, grab my bottle of water, and head out to the bus stop.