Legend (Page 62)

He swings out again, I block and hold his arm up there with mine, opening his side. And I hit again, crushing his ribs.

He’s winded. And that’s when I drive my hook upward, straight to the head. First the left hook. Then the right hook. And then I shoot my arm out straight and bust his face, his nose crunching beneath my knuckles. He falls to the ground.

Next up is Hot Shot.

I keep my guard up, brace my legs apart, and hold my balance. Everything I learned from Tate.

We go toe-to-toe. I double punch, hit, stunning him.

I protect, then attack. Protect, attack. Stay away from the ropes, prowl back, then prowl forward until I’ve got him caged.

And then I pummel him. Gut. Ribs. Gut. Temple. Jaw.

He’s on the ground.

The adrenaline is rushing inside me. I’m bloodthirsty and I’m eager for it. I’m taking this ring tonight no matter who they put before me.

With Taz, we dance a lot. Hop, duck, leap around. He’s fast but I’m just as fast, and I’m stronger. I catch a few hits. They hardly graze. Mine don’t graze him. They land and crunch bone beneath my knuckles, knock him to his knees.

He tries to come up and his leg quivers, and he falls.

I take Libertine out within two minutes of taking the ring.

Spidermann avoids the ropes. He’s been studying me?

I play it different. I let him get in a few hits to the body, let him bring me to the ropes, and then I flip us around, cage him in, and f*****g finish him.

Twister is last.

Oh, I’m going to have fun with him. Flirting with Reese? Busting his nose last time was not enough for me.

I prolong it this time. I raise my fist and crunch his nose under my knuckles—in case he doesn’t remember who f*****g busted it before.

He yells, and when his hand flies instinctively to the source of the pain, I go straight for his liver.

He chokes on a breath and gets blood all over my chest as he tries to lean on me for balance.

I shove him back (I’m not his hugging post), then let him recover before readying to hit again.

“You motherfucker,” he hisses, charging.

I smash my hook into his mouth, then hold his head between my folded arm and hit him three times with my fist. Then I drop him splat on the ground.

There’s a wave of shocked gasps across the crowd. I look around the arena as it falls silent, clenching my jaw, narrowing my eyes, and then I raise my arms and let my fist punch the air, saying, This is who I am!

“Absolutely ruthless! No mercy from Maverick Cage, NO F*****G MERCY TONIGHT! Ladies and gentleman, we give you . . . Maverick ‘the Avenger’ Cage!”

I’m catching my breath as my arm is raised, and then I pull free and leap out of the ring to where Oz waits to lead me down the walkway, to the back room.

“You just got into the f*****g final, Mav. YOU’RE IN THE F*****G FINAL!”

“Yeah.” I pull my gloves free inside the back room and then grin up at him in wonder, disbelief, and a high you couldn’t believe.

“Come here, you little fucker.” He squeezes me and I squeeze back, both of us laughing, then I shove my hands out. “Help me take these off. I want to tell Reese.”

Oz works one hand free and I use my teeth to pull my tapes off the other as fast as I can. Suddenly I’m on fire to tell her. I can’t wait another second to tell her.

There’s only one thing I want right now. One thing that will make this real. Telling Reese she’ll be watching me fight at the final.

THIRTY-EIGHT

MILES

Reese

I’m stepping out of the shower when Miles texts me the club address where they’re waiting for me. I answer his text:

I’ll meet you there.

And quickly change, let Brooke know I’m leaving and Racer is asleep, and I head off, assuring her I’ll be safe and home before Racer wakes.

The club is packed, bustling with dancing bodies and thrumming with music. Inside the club, I spot Miles, Avery, and Gabe. I head over. Avery is pressed to Gabe’s side. They’ve been on and off together for ages.

Miles is wearing his contacts, his hair slicked back, wearing a polo and tan slacks. Gabe is in jeans and a pastel polo. Avery is dressed to slay in a sequined top.

“Well, well, well!” Gabe says when I ease into the booth in the only space left, next to Miles. “Our worldly little lady is here.”

“Thanks, Gabe.”

“Won’t you say hello to me, Reesey?” Miles asks, waiting.

“Hi, Miles,” I say.

I used to leap at the opportunity to kiss his cheek, but it’s too clean-shaven and white, and I hesitate. I lean over and briefly brush my lips to his jaw.

Miles leans back with a frown. “You look different.” He eyes me.

“She looks radiant! You look so . . . fit!” Avery says, disgruntled.

“I can see that,” Miles says, studying me in appraisal.

I would’ve killed for this look before. But it’s such a lukewarm look after the smoldering ones I’ve gotten lately. I’m amazed how unaffected I am. I’m amazed by how much distance puts things in perspective.

The three of them look different to me.

Miles sits there, the computer wizard that he is. Preppy and confident and just a tad too smug.

Gabe is outspoken and chill, but half the things he says are bullshit.

And Avery . . .

I never really knew Avery. She’s always with Gabe and Gabe is always with Miles, and Miles, for some reason, liked to hover around me.

I wonder why I liked to hover around him too, and then wonder if maybe I’d truly felt so lonely, I’d rather have them than no one at all?