Rush me, p.20
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       Rush Me, p.20

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 20

  I yanked my shirt over my head, and then tugged my jeans stiffly up my legs. “You know what, John? You’re a sloppy kisser. ”

  John looked wounded.

  “I shouldn’t have done this. ” I shook my head. “I was just—”

  “Horny. I know. You mentioned that several times last night. ”

  “Yeah, well. ” I picked up my purse, and stood awkwardly in the doorway. “Anyway—I have to go. ” This was awkward. Was I awkward, or the situation? Probably both.

  John frowned. “I don’t get it. I thought we were having fun. ”

  “Yeah—I think—” I frowned at the ceiling, embarrassed and uncomfortable. “You know—the first time—when we—I sort of thought we were going to be a thing. A couple. ”

  “You did?”

  I laughed. It was either that or cry. “Yeah. I did. ”

  “You didn’t think that this time, though. You know about Caroline. ”

  “Yeah, I do, of course. I guess I’m just not comfortable sleeping with someone in a relationship. ”

  He shrugged. “Well, Caroline’s non-negotiable. ”

  “I know. ” And I did. The thing was, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a relationship with John even if Caroline wasn’t around. He had the sweeping prince image down pat, but I wouldn’t bank on a heart of gold.

  “So. . . what?” John sounded implacable.

  “Nothing. ” I felt more awkward by the second. “I just. . . don’t think we’re going to have. . . a thing. Anymore. Just to—put that out there. ”

  “Oh, come on. ” John reached out and caressed my hips. “I like you. You’re hot, you’re smart—why throw what we have away?”

  Because I already felt sick about last night. “I think it would just be better if we. . . just. . . ”

  “Be friends?” he finished when I trailed off.

  I smiled weakly. “Yeah. Let’s just be friends. ”

  I left, embarrassed and disappointed in myself. Why was John so at ease with his relationship with Caroline and also sleeping with me? What was wrong with me? I didn’t like John, so I shouldn’t feel ill and hot and disappointed. Why couldn’t I just have sex like a normal person and not care about it? Damn, Ryan had been right. I did have issues. I wanted a hot shower.

  John lived in the 40s, and when I left his building the morning light pierced straight into my brain, while the Manhattan traffic and construction yammered away at my ears. I skulked in the shadows, digging through my purse for my phone. It wasn’t yet nine; I could call in sick with no hard feelings, and hide in my room watching disaster movies online. What had ever made me think sleeping with someone I didn’t respect was a good idea?

  And where was my phone?

  As I pawed through compartment after compartment, dread slowly built. Oh, no. I had taken it out at the football game to check the time, and then I had tossed it back under the seat, hoping it would land on my purse. But I hadn’t seen it since then, had I?

  . . . Damn.

  I trudged back downtown. At least in the subway the light wasn’t as bad, though the noise and stench hurt my over-delicate senses. I sat down in a corner seat, tucked my purse tight against me, and closed my eyes. I had a ways to go until I reached my stop, which was a massive, hellish muddle of tunnels and exits.

  Once I’d navigated the station, I entered into the stadium, and then paused. Last night, we’d gone straight through to the stadium, but now I was lost with a thousand different directions to choose from.

  I followed signs to the Team Pro Shop, figuring that at least had to have staff I could ask about lost and found. I didn’t even make it to the desk, immediately distracted by a hundred themed knickknacks. There were baby clothes with the Leopards insignia emblazoned across, salt-and-pepper shakers, pink helmets with leopard spots, nightlights, and a million racks of clothes. I stopped by the poster rack, and flipped through until I found one of Ryan. It was a really great shot of his butt.

  “Can I help you find anything?”

  I blushed and turned around. The saleswoman’s voice was a little too loud. “I was actually wondering if there’s a lost and found somewhere. ”

  “Of course. From yesterday?”

  I nodded.

  “That’s with Guest Services. Let me get you their number. ”

  I twisted my face apologetically. “I actually lost my phone. ”

  Guest Services hadn’t found my cell in their post-game sweep of the stadium, but once the shop lady put me in touch with them, they sent a helpful man down, who let me into the stadium and directed me toward my seating area. Down below, at the edge of the field, I watched a twenty-person group get a tour of the stadium.

  I poked around under the seats. Maybe I should have asked the Lost and Found guy to stay and actually call my phone for me. That would have been a lot faster than peering into the dark spaces. Of course, peering into dark spaces was preferable to peering into the bright blue sky. Seriously, New York. Three-quarters of the time you’re bleak as houses, and now the sun was bright enough to scar my retinas? How unfair.

  I was on my hands and knees, scrutinizing the underside of a seat, when a familiar voice rang out. “Rachael?”

  No. Freaking. Way.

  Ryan Carter walked up the stairs from the field, a bag slung over his shoulder. He looked pissed off, and far too good in sweats, but I was concentrating on not noticing that. Especially since I just couldn’t handle him this morning. “Ryan. Hi. What are you doing here?”

  He looked insulted. “This is my stadium. I actually work here. What are you doing?”

  “Your stadium? Oh, okay. ”

  “Rachael. . . ” His voice was low and rumbling.

  “I lost my cell,” I said stiffly.

  He reached back to massage his neck. “Tell me another one. ”

  “I did!”

  “Yeah. First your scarf, and now your phone? I don’t think so. ”

  “Just call me, okay?”

  He dug out his phone. Still staring at it, he added in a particularly snide voice, “Nice T-shirt. ”

  “What?”

  “Didn’t have time to change?”

  Not far away, my phone started ringing. I ignored it. “What are you talking about?”

  “You know, I didn’t really believe you at first. About your ad-agency boyfriend. But you two were really going at it yesterday. ”

  That damn Kiss-Cam. I kept my voice flat. “You’re talking about John. ”

  He stepped up a row of seats, heading toward my phone. “Yeah. You’d convinced me you were actually legitimately shy. Guess not. ”

  The hollow feeling in my stomach started to churn. As though he had any right to talk about my actions.

  “I hope,” Ryan drawled, “that he was at least worth it. ”

  I broke. “Will you just shut up? No, he wasn’t worth it! And I was drunk off my head and in a bad mood and I slept with him just because—just because—I don’t even know, but I shouldn’t have and now I feel disgusting even though I don’t want to feel that way, I want to be able to hook up with people and feel carefree like those mythological normal, adjusted people out there. And I don’t want to deal with you right now, Mr. I’m-Such-A-Goddamn-Charming-Quarterback, with your snarky little remarks and your clever quips. I just want to be in a fucking bad mood! Argh!” I threw myself into one of the seats.

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards