Legend (Page 71)

“Your best buddy Tate’s got an in now,” he says resentfully. “You can get anyone you want at this point.”

“Then f*****g realize it’s me who’s standing right here asking you to be in my corner.”

He shakes his head and wipes his face, then folds his arms, and he starts crying.

I groan and drop back to my haunches. “Don’t do this to me, Oz.”

“Just f*****g go.”

“Not without you.”

He grabs the nearest bottle and tries to drink.

I stop it midair, yanking it away from him and setting it aside, my voice low. “So that’s how this goes. You want to sabotage us, Oz? Do you?” I’m mad now. I’m so f*****g mad I can’t see straight.

I plant my hand on the back of his seat and lean forward. “Be f*****g man enough to fight the fight we set out to fight.”

His eyes shoot daggers at me. “Go, Cage. This isn’t my fight anymore,” he says, glaring at me.

I curl my hands into fists, go slam my palm into the wall, then I come back and drop down before him.

“Why are you still here?”

“’Cause you’re still here.”

He glowers.

I glower back. Then I lean in my seat and stare at the room. “Good rooms compared to where we started, huh.”

“Pretty damn fine,” he grumbles.

I sigh and drag my hand down my face. “Oz. Talk to me.”

He glances down at his empty hands. “I try leaving it but I can’t. . . .” He exhales and looks away. “Seventy-eight fighters I’ve trained in the past decade as coach. Fighters I’d nurse to health. Fighters I’d wake up at three a.m. to get them ready by four to train. Fighters I helped cook for, helped dress, hell, I even helped some stay sober. They all leave. Every rung up the ladder of success, every match I helped win, was just one more rung to the top where they’d say goodbye to me. I gave everything up for so many of them. Didn’t have kids—my champs were my kids. Gave up time with the wife. They all leave. And so will you, Maverick.”

I lean forward, looking at him. “Whether this is the end of something great or the beginning . . . win or lose tonight . . . I want you in my corner always, Oz. Always.”

He frowns and clamps his lips tight, his eyes red. “Even like this?!” he cries, disbelieving.

“Hey.” I lean forward even more, nodding somberly. “I’m going to support you. You can get through this and you don’t need to do it alone. Just because you’ve lost this fight before doesn’t mean you’ll lose it forever. I won’t let you. I’m going to support you to win yours like you’ve been supporting me to win mine. If you need me right now, I’m here.”

He exhales through his nostrils, then sets the bottle aside. “Fine. I’ll take the damn twelve steps.”

“Good. I’m proud.”

He glowers. “You really want to fight tonight or are you turning into a p***y?”

“My dick’s just fine tonight, Oz, and so are my fists, but I want you to be there.”

“Well. Guess I will just take one step first. ’Cause if my champ needs me and it’s not out of pity, then he’s got me.”

“Good. ’Cause if my coach wants me, he’s got me.” We share a look of understanding as we both stand, and I glance at the clock. The seconds have never ticked faster.

We have seven minutes to get to the Underground.

Once outside, it’s five minutes and counting. I take a look at the hotel cab line and swear.

Half a dozen people in line and no cabs pulling in.

“All right, Oz. Let’s get you a much-needed workout.” I trot to the sidewalk and check to make sure that he follows, and he groans and tries to catch up as I start running like hell to the Underground.

FORTY-FIVE

RINGSIDE SEATS

Reese

“Reese?” Brooke calls my name from the bedroom door. “You ready?”

I leap out of the bathroom, where I was tying my hair back in a braid, and nod. “I’m so nervous.”

She laughs and hugs me, happily so.

“You don’t look nervous,” I tell her as she goes to give some last-minute instructions to Racer and kisses him good night.

She grins privately. “Whatever happens, Remington will be celebrating tonight.”

“Why do you say that?”

She leans over to tuck Racer in bed. “Because I’m pregnant.” She smiles so wide as she looks back at me. “I’m pregnant and Remington is going to be thrilled. Nothing matters more to him than we do. Right, Racer? A little sister, or a little brother?”

“No,” he says frowning, sitting up in bed. “My mommy’s mine!” He squeezes her. And she laughs and smacks his rump and settles him back down to bed, and nods to Diane.

We take the elevators to where Pete waits with an SUV. And then we both head out of the hotel, past Central Park and toward the East Side, to the warehouse of the Underground.

There are easily fifteen thousand people present, and Brooke leads me to a row of empty front-row-center seats.

I can smell the metallic scent of blood and sweat and beer and warmth of too many humans together. The sight of the ring so close makes my breath hitch.

“How you do it, I don’t know,” I tell her as we wait.

She pats my thigh reassuringly. “It gets easier. It’s never fun when there’s blood.”

“There’s going to be blood.” I exhale, preparing for it.

She nods. “It’s the final. They fight for all.” She scowls and waves Pete over. “What’s the delay?” she asks.