Legend (Page 69)

Fighting the champion tomorrow

I just emailed you an airline reservation

If I win, I’ll always regret you not being there to see it

And I’m going to win, Mom

Come to my fight

I look up Reese’s number, and my finger pauses. The thought of her takes pieces of my brain. I’m simmering inside. I sigh and drag a hand down my face. I won’t back down. I can’t lose.

I won’t lose.

I have one chance to see if I’ve got it. One chance to bring it to this one fight.

But what if winning means hurting her?

Who’s my girl rooting for?

The Tates are her family. They treat her well—give her love, support, and acceptance.

My dad did none of that, and I was still with him. How can I expect less of her and the Tates?

I’m still going to prove that I deserved the Black Scorpion’s time, his attention, his respect.

I’m still going to prove to myself that I am good f*****g enough.

I’m going to be accepted by the whole goddamned world even if I wasn’t accepted by my own dad.

I’m going to be a legend.

And a legend will never be gone, even when six feet under.

And a legend gets the girl.

A legend wins the girl.

I’m a fighter and I’m fighting tomorrow night.

But f**k my life, I don’t feel like fighting when I think of my girl not backing me up.

I grab the tennis ball again and try to give it shape, frustrated that I can’t, when there’s a knock on the door.

I set it down and open, and Riptide stands out in the hall.

I stalk back in the room and leave the door open behind me, then watch him from across the room as he shuts the door and follows me inside.

“I’m sorry about your father.”

I shrug. “Yeah, me too.”

He seems to feel the need to specify: “I’m sorry for you.”

I lean on the wall and cross my arms. “I’ve been alone my whole life. I don’t need anyone to win.”

“Yes you do, and you have her. Reese let us know the day you left whose side she’s on. And it sure as f**k ain’t mine. She’ll be in her seat on the front f*****g row on your left. Right next to the woman I love, who will be cheering for me.”

I clench my jaw, my chest expanding painfully as I process this. “She said that?”

“Crystal clear. And I respect that.” He nods, then shoots me a warning look. “I won’t make it easy for you tomorrow, Maverick. I’m bringing my A game.”

My fighter instinct engages, and I push away from the wall and brace my feet apart. “I’m bringing all the game I’ve got.”

He grins then, and we’re back—our competitive juices flowing. He raises his fist, and I instinctively take a step forward and raise mine. We bump knuckles. And it’s on.

It’s. F*****g. On.

“I’m still bringing it home, Tate,” I warn.

“Bring it home, Maverick. I’m still gonna lay it harder on you than anyone.” He steps closer and raises his brows warningly. “And just so you know, whatever it is you think you’re fighting for—Avenger is my legacy. Not your father’s. Mine.” He grabs me by the back of the neck and looks me in the eye, squeezing in some sort of combined threat and encouragement. “You’re a good kid, Maverick. If you’re going to take the ring, you’re going to need to fight to the teeth for it. And if you best me tomorrow, fair and square like your father never did, I’m going to be proud. I’m going to give something back to this ring before I go. I’m going to leave them you.”

He walks to the door, and I growl, “I’m game.”

He grabs the doorknob but waits a moment. “You’re in an identity crisis. Who you think you are and where you come from versus who you can be and where you’re going. I can relate.”

I laugh. “How can you ever relate to that?”

“I’m bipolar.” He looks me in the eye, unflinching. “So yeah, I can relate with the monsters inside. Mine’s in my head. Yours is in your blood. Don’t let it win.”

He jerks the door open, and adds, “That’s our real fight. The one that lasts a lifetime. The hardest to win. You win that, a fight like tomorrow’s is a piece of cake.”

♥ ♥ ♥

I HAD TO call her. I had to see her face. I had to know that what Tate said was true.

As soon as she says she can come over, I open the door of my suite and wait for her. I hear the elevator ting, and see her step out. She stops when she sees me, and I watch her come to me, every step just a little faster, until she throws herself into my arms.

“You’ve been in New York for a while and you didn’t call me?” she asks, hurt, clutching me closer as she whispers against my neck.

I breathe in her hair and speak against the top of her head, stroking a hand down the back of her head. “I’m sorry, I needed to be alone. I’m so used to being alone.”

“But I’m on your side,” she protests, chiding me with a scowl.

I nod and scoop her up, bring her in, and shut the door. She’s in my corner. And all I want to do is hold her to my chest tonight.

FORTY-THREE

THAT MORNING

Reese

I peel my eyes open early, at around 4:30 a.m., when I hear the shower running.

I open the bathroom door a little bit and peer into the stall. He’s soaping himself up in all the glory of glory itself. I am so very addicted to this man.

My mouth waters as I take in his wet, golden muscles. “Are you going to let me soap you up?” I hear myself ask, sex vixen that I woke up being today. “Because I have never, ever done that in my life and I just added it to my bucket list of things to do before I die.”