EXCERPT #1 *NEW*
It’s midweek already, and I’m halfway through my workout when I get a text from Brooke:
Hey! Huge line at the Underground registration, might pick up lunch on our way back home. Don’t wait for us – lunch home w/Diane
Me: Got it ☺ Will take Racer to park and meet you home ltr
I set my phone aside and scan the gym again. Some otherworldly impulse has me walking past the weights section. I cross the treadmills, bicycles, toward the mats at the end and the boxing bags. I scan the area where Maverick always works out. There are several guys at the bags now. None of them are as big, or mysterious. Or hot.
Disappointment washes over me. I wait a bit, checking the time. Five minutes to leave for Racer.
Reese, you’re acting stupid.
“You’re looking for your friend? The one you come in with?”
“I . . . ah . . . yeah.”
“He hasn’t come in.”
I head to pick up Racer from day care, meet Pete there with the stroller and our snacks, then sit Racer inside and push him to the park. There’s this spot I like under the shadow of a tree. I head there. “How was day care, Racer?”
He’s scanning the park for dogs, I know.
“This is nice, isn’t it?”
I pull out his fruit bears and open them. He dives in.
“Racer, I ran extra hard today and I’m suddenly hungry. If I tell you an extra story tonight, would you give me one of your fruit bears?”
“Two stowies,” he negotiates.
“Okay, two stories, for two bears?” I shoot back.
He hesitates, then nods and lets me pull out two bears, examining my hand thoroughly. I let him open my palm.
He grins a dimpled grin that I could eat up, and then continues eating.
I shove them in my mouth and start to set up my blanket and stop in my tracks when I spot the figure doing pull-ups on the tree.
His T-shirt is riding upward due to the lifted position of his arms, and I can see the concrete-like squares of his abs perfectly.
His extraordinary eyes blaze and glow when he spots me a few feet away, not far from the tree. He drops himself to the ground, lithe as a cat and surprisingly quiet, and as he stretches to his feet from the crouched position he landed in, his eyes are direct and interested and warm. No, not warm. More.
There’s a flip in my stomach when his lips curl a little. He ambles over and I have the oddest sensation that he was waiting for me. But . . . was he?
“Mavewick!” Racer repeats, and puts out his fist.
He bumps fists with Racer. “Dude. Cool cap.”
He taps Racer’s Yankees baseball cap. Then his eyes lift to meet mine.
My stomach feels unsettled, but it’s not from hunger, more like from nerves or something like . . . anticipation.
“Didn’t see you at the gym today,” I say.
He shakes his head. “I talked to Oz.”
He gives me this quiet, perfect smile and simply nods.
We smile for the most delicious few seconds.
“So you’re fighting during the inaugural?” I ask excitedly.
He pulls out a page from his back jeans pocket. “That’s me.”
I take and scan the page. It indicates his accepting the Underground terms and rules of engagement, states his coach’s name, and then his name. A dangerous little chill runs down my spine when I read:
Maverick “the Avenger” Cage
And Maverick “the Avenger” Cage is watching me read this paper, studying my reaction.
My palms are sweaty all of a sudden. “Well . . . wow.”
My stomach is quaking upon seeing his name, I don’t know why. Maverick Cage. His name is a conundrum. Maverick means “rebel,” and cage . . . But it looks like this maverick is coming out of his cage.
He tucks the page back into his jeans. “I had to tell someone.”
“And you came to tell me?” If I sound bewildered, it’s because I am.
He stares into me, a liquid look coming to his eyes. “It wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for you.”
“That’s totally not true.”
He glances down at the stroller. “I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t tell my buddy here.” He fist-bumps Racer again and Racer giggles at the attention.
“Mom and Dad are busy, so I get to keep him for an extra while,” I tell Maverick.
He stares at me. He has a very stubborn, arrogant face, but when he smiles, pleasure softens his granitelike features. And he’s smiling right now. Dear me. “So he’s not yours,” he says.
“God, no. I wish!”
I can’t think straight when he looks at me. I feel naked. As if he knows that I’ve missed him. As if he knows that just looking at him makes me feel odd. Odd and oddly sensual inside. Responding to him.
I open my blanket and bend over to smooth it on the ground. Then I realize my butt is sticking out, the Himalayas of butts out there for him to see. In tight exercise gear. Fuck.
He kneels on his haunches at the edges of the blanket and opens his hand. “Share the blanket with me?”
His knuckles are still scarred. I can’t decide why I keep looking at them. I get a gut squeeze of empathy every time I see the bruises. His hands are huge. He plants them on the blanket, then shifts to lean back on his arms, stretching out his legs before him. Other couples are nearby on blankets. It feels intimate when I set my stuff down, and I feel myself go hot when I sense him watching me settle down next to it.
He spreads out just a little more and squints up at the tree, then looks at me in silence.
I search the picnic bag. “Want some . . . kid food? Or I’ve got . . .” I pull out my emergency Snickers bar, which I’m proud not to have touched yet, and I hand it over. “Plus one water and a drinking cup with a lid.”
I pass the drinking cup to Racer and hand Maverick the water. He takes it. “I’m good.” He opens the water bottle and hands it to me.
I shake my head. I’m not hungry, really. Or thirsty. My stomach feels full of butterflies again and it makes no sense, since I don’t even know him.
He shifts up higher on his arms, the flex of his torsal muscles visible through the cotton of his shirt.
“I almost thought you’d arrived to the gym and got yourself kicked out,” I try.
“Not yet. There’s still tomorrow.” He smirks.
And there’s a tinge of merriment in his eyes.
“Wee, and the ducks?”
I jerk my attention back to Racer and my pending business with him. “Right. I promised we’d feed the ducks today.” I quickly pack our stuff and then push the stroller toward the lake. He walks beside me.
I feel him watching me as I stop at the dispenser to fill up a cup of duck food.
“Mavewick, get me out,” Racer commands.
Maverick sweeps him up and sets him on his feet.
“Don’t go in the water, Racer, just stay on the edge, and don’t let them bite your finger. Do it like this. . . .” I show him how to cup his hand. “Or throw it in the water and watch them pick at it.”
He nods and starts throwing all over, sending the ducks after the nibbles.
I sit on the ground, the scent of damp grass surrounding us as Maverick sits beside me.
“Hey, I want to do something for you.”
I can’t remember how to breathe.
I give him a moment to explain, but he’s not helping me out, only smiling. His face is open, friendly, his smile captivating. But his eyes are guarded, careful. I try to keep my voice indifferent.
“You mean for the gym?” I ask, a puzzled frown on my face.
He nods. “For that. And Oz.”
“Oh.” I shake my head, laughing softly. “It’s nothing, really.”
When he looks at me, he looks curious, and unsatisfied somehow. But a genuinely appreciative smile touches his eyes. “Trust me. It’s not nothing. It’s something, and I appreciate it.”
His open gratitude makes me so warm. He makes me feel impulsive.
“I’m in a healthy-living boot camp this summer. You’re meeting the new Reese,” I hear myself blurt out.
Wow. Did I just spew it out like that?
I’m so desperate for him to share bits of himself that I’m just totally baring myself to him without his even asking. Thank god he takes it in stride with an attractive little dance in his eyes.
“What was the old one like?” he asks easily.
I shrug and shake my head, not really wanting to get into that.
When he does nothing to fill the silence that settles between us, it leaves me with nothing to do but look up at him. I lift my lashes, and he’s staring at me with a look of total intrigue in his eyes. Wisps of hair tease my face, and I push them away, feeling really restless under that stare.
“Help me kick my own ass, and we’ll call it even,” I suddenly suggest.
He shakes his head with playful stubbornness. “We’re not even. I still owe you.” His eyes grow thoughtful, and he reaches into his pocket and extracts something. “Open your palm.”
He looks so intense that I open my palm and watch him drop something in it. “What’s this?”
I stare at the penny in my palm, then look up at him in confusion.
His voice sounds a little more harsh and textured all of a sudden. “I don’t have a lot right now, but I got this.”
“For a rainy day?” I ask.
“For any day.”
SEATTLE | Maverick
‘Not in a million years, kid.’
‘Get the fuck out of my face!’
Four cities in two days, and more doors slammed in my face than I can count. I sling my backpack over my shoulder and scratch another name from my list.
Hopping on to a bus and hopping off thirty minutes later, I scan the mix of both commercial and apartment numbers down the block, then knock on my last door.
He’s a tall man, his hair like pepper, clad in sweats, with a yellow timer hanging from his neck. He gives me a questioning look.
“I’m your next champion.”
He laughs, but then he must see something on my face. In my stance. Thirst, resoluteness, guts. Maybe I’m wearing my balls in my eyes. He falls sober and swings the door wide-open. “Come on in.”
He doesn’t ask for my name.
I guess with one look, he knows he’ll find my name in the dictionary, right next to “determined.”
He leads me to his garage. “Where’d you train before?” he asks.
“Self-taught. I watch videos.”
He scoffs, then shrugs. “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.”
I eye the equipment across the room. The heavy bag hangs from the ceiling, the leather worn from other fighters before me. There’s a boxing dummy at the corner. Speed bag. Weights. A whole private gym set up here. I drop both my bags, then zip open my backpack and start to put on the gloves without bothering to remove my hoodie.
“Take that off; I need to know what you’ve got. Need to see your form,” Hennesy says.
I clench my jaw. Slowly unzip my hoodie. Take it off and glance past my shoulder, shifting to keep my back from the coach’s view. The guy is clearing the fighting area. Good. We can get down to business. He walks to me when I face him.
“Give it over.” I hand him my hoodie and he tosses it aside, then crosses his arms and looks at me. “Speedball first.”
I inhale, position myself before the speedball, and hit. Wham.
I keep on hitting, lightning fast, my fists making the bag fly.
I would have warmed up first, but I’ve been doing this for days, and I won’t stop until I’ve got myself a coach—and not even then.
I’ve got momentum now, and I pick up speed, my arms moving back and forth, working the speed bag until it’s moving so fast you can’t even see it.
I’m starting to sweat; it’s stuffy in here, but I can’t stop. I need him to take me on. I need one yes to get me in the ring. Just one yes and I’ll do the rest.
“Time.” Hennesy stops me. He signals to the boxing dummy and the heavy bag. “Let’s see you pound the bag.”
I swing out and slam my knuckles on the bag, putting everything into my fists. Thack, thump, thud.
Hennesy’s composure starts to crumble with excitement. “Holy shit, boy!”
I’m getting in to it. I’m in the zone—where it’s just me, the leather brown bag, my fists, and nothing else but slamming the spot I’m looking at.
“I’ve seen enough.” He stops the bag from swinging. His eyes glassy. “Fill this out.”
I pull off my right glove and grab a pen as he slaps a paper onto a desk at the corner. I bend down to fill out my name and contact information and realize, too late, that I exposed the tattoo on my back.
“You’re his boy.”
I freeze midsignature.
A second ticks by. Then two.
I slowly set the pen down and take one last look at the paper. I might not get to fill it out after all. I turn.
His face has paled.
I wait it out for a few beats. Maybe he’s different. Maybe he can deal with it.
He tosses my jacket at me. “Get out. Nobody wants to see you fight.”
I frown fiercely as I catch my jacket in my fist and edge forward, equally mad now. “That’s too damn bad. ’Cause I’m fighting anyway.”
I keep my eyes on him as I pull off my left glove, shove my arms into my hoodie, and zip up.
I walk out and the door slams behind me. I clench my jaw, and I shove my gloves into my bag and spot the old, black gloves inside too. I push them down into the bottom of the duffel bag and zip it up.
The season starts in a week and a half. No coach? No fight. I can’t even get into a gym.
But I won’t let anyone or anything keep me from the ring.
I pick up a penny from the ground.
And I spot a girl in workout clothes across the street, tying her shoelaces. She’s a step away from the gym door. I straighten, pull my hoodie over my head, and cross the street, following after her like I belong.
LEGEND is the 6th and final installment of the REAL series, but it can also be read as standalone or after the three Remington and Brooke books (Real/Mine/Remy.)
Real (Book One) The Real Series
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1CHl6sS
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1w35g8N
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1zT7J31
Mine (Book Two) The Real Series
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1I2nbzy
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1tHrdns
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1zmq1cT
Remy (Book Three) The Real Series
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1vOn8T2
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1w35lcN
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1ynVnBv
Rogue (Book Four) The Real Series
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1vOnjh8
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1FOFfJy
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1wvpqI6
Ripped (Book Five) The Real Series
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1Bfzsi
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1yia714
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/11X9CAG
About the Author
Hey! I’m Katy Evans and I love family, books, life, and love. I’m married with two children and three dogs and spend my time baking, walking, writing, reading, and taking care of my family. Thank you for spending your time with me and picking up my story. I hope you had an amazing time with it, like I did. If you’d like to know more about books in progress, look me up on the Internet, I’d love to hear from you!