Rush me, p.19
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       Rush Me, p.19

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 19

  The clock paused again, this time for half-time. “It’s really dangerous, isn’t it?” I looked at John.

  “Yeah. ” He sounded unconcerned until he caught sight of my face. Then he smirked and leaned closer. “You know, I used to play football in high school. ”

  Oh, John, I thought, trying not to laugh. You will never be an expert fiddler.

  “You must have been very brave,” I said, just to see if he’d notice I was making fun, but instead he smiled and placed his arm along the back of my chair.

  “I got us a reservation at Mariette’s. It’s right by my apartment. ”

  Subtle. “That’s sweet. But I’m not sure if I’m up for dinner. ”

  He grinned at me. “We can skip it. ”

  Ah, that’s what I’d seen in him. That smile. “Oh, John, I don’t know. ”

  He scoffed lightly. “We both know why you asked me out, Rachael. ”

  Actually, I’d asked him out to make a guy who would never know we’d gone out jealous. I bet John wasn’t juggling that in his head.

  Someone kicked the back of my chair, and I twisted around to glare at her. Except the glee filling the woman’s face threw me off. “You’re on!”


  John wasn’t as slow. In fact, he flashed a grin, and then reached over to cup my head, planting a long, slow kiss smack on my mouth.

  I froze, and then sighed against his lips. Oh. That was the other reason I’d liked him.

  Ryan’s face popped into my head, and I squished it down. I was done thinking about Ryan. Besides, wasn’t John right? Wasn’t this why I’d asked him out? He was good-looking and since I’d already discarded the idea of an actual relationship with him, he wasn’t an emotional risk. And by making out with him, I could distract myself from Ryan Carter, who was. I lifted my hands to frame John’s cheeks, and went at it.

  Laughter echoed around the stadium as I nuzzled into John, deepening the kiss. His arm wrapped snugly around my waist, and I might have been able to entirely focus on him if the chair’s arm hadn’t bit into my side, and our twisted postures hadn’t irritated my spine.

  When I drew back, he grinned at me like a fool. “Nice,” he said, with unexpected pride, before turning his face away. I followed his gaze to the large screen over the field that had been displaying close-ups.

  A pink heart framed a middle-aged couple that pecked each other on the lips, and then laughed.

  The picture changed to a pair in their twenties, both streaked with paint. They threw their arms up in the air, and then around each other.

  The next couple sported white hair, and the man gallantly kissed the woman’s hand.

  I shook my head, jaw slightly loose. “What is that? Were we. . . was our kiss there?”

  “It’s the kiss cam. ” He smiled smugly. “And yeah. It was. ”

  Football: war, sex, and exploitation. No wonder it sold well.

  To keep myself from staring at Ryan throughout the second half, I asked John to explain the rules. Since he had an ulterior motive, he explained much more extensively than the guys had. There were too many rules to follow, but even with just the basics, knowing that a field goal scored three points and a touchdown six with a point-after option, I followed it a lot better. And I liked the energy, the fans whirling their black and red colors, whooping and cursing and sighing out in relief so palpable it could be bottled.

  By the time the game ended, 23 to 17, even I had caught some of the herd mentality, biting my lip every time the ball headed toward the end zone. And after the last second ticked off the clock, I cheered in tandem with seventy thousand relieved fans.

  “So what happens now?” I asked as we funneled out of the stadium, surrounded by all our new, joyful friends who kept smacking each other on the back and bursting into song. “Where are the athletes?”

  John pulled me tighter against him, purportedly to save me from the path of four rampaging men with painted faces. “The reporters interview them in their locker room, and then they probably go out. ”

  “People interview them in the locker room?” What an awful invasion of privacy.

  “I think they get a ten-minute cool down before the media comes. ” He squeezed my shoulder. “Wasn’t that great? Ahh! Leopards win!” His fingers trailed over my upper arm. “Gotta love a good game. You ready for dinner?”

  I shot a glance over my shoulder, half expecting Ryan to come pounding after us. But it wasn’t like he knew I’d even come. I mean, not unless—I turned to John. “Can the players see the TV? You know, with the close-ups and the kiss cam and everything?”

  “I don’t know. ” John pulled out his phone and texted someone. “Maybe if they record it?”

  My stomach rolled over. Did that mean. . . Well, I had told Ryan I was sleeping with John. So what if he saw me make out with him? It was none of his business.

  I felt like I’d swallowed something rotten.

  And why did I care? All Ryan had done was insult me. He’d called me coy! He was difficult, and rude, and shallow. And he had a total double-standard. I could sleep around if I wanted to. Sex was fun, not the be-all end-all.

  I looked up at John’s even, symmetrical face. I didn’t like him, and that made him safe. We weren’t emotionally involved, so no messy strings straggled out of our non-relationship.

  Not that I was emotionally attracted to Ryan, since lust didn’t count as a real emotion. And it wasn’t like I needed to remind myself of how unlikeable Ryan was, how snarky and bad-tempered and complicated.

  “You know what? You’re right. I don’t really want dinner. ”

  “Really?” He snapped his phone shut.

  “Really. ” And I pressed my lips against his.

  * * *

  When I woke up, I was naked and alone and my head felt like it was shrouded in fog. I pushed myself up, and then fell back with a groan, squeezing my lids shut and curling up around the sick pit in my stomach.

  From somewhere else in the apartment, I could hear John yammering into his cell. “What you worried about, baby?. . . Yup. . . Yeah. . . Yes, I love you too. ”

  The door opened. Closed. The light lessened, and I sighed in relief. And then a body draped over me.

  “Hey, baby. ” John nuzzled my neck. “Time to wake up. ”

  What had I done? Was I going to be sick? When we’d come back to his apartment, we’d had more alcohol, and then we’d fallen into bed in a drink-fueled stupor. And now all I wanted was a hot, hot shower, my own bed, and some vast quantities of comfort food.

  “John. ” I pushed him off me. “Was that your girlfriend?”

  “Hmm? Oh, yeah. ”

  “John!” I was aggravated enough that I wrenched away and toppled over the side of the bed. Ugh, my head still spun. I narrowed my eyes and glared at the blurry vision. “Do you really have an open relationship?”

  “Of course I do. ” He sounded offended. “I don’t believe in being tied down. ”

  I started looking for my clothes. “And what does Caroline believe?”

  “She agrees with me. ”

  Of course she did. “But does she really, or does she just agree with you to keep you?”

  Now I’d made him angry. “That’s ridiculous. Just because you’re narrow-minded doesn’t mean—”

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