Rush me, p.24
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       Rush Me, p.24

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 24

  Eva gave me a look.

  “Fine. ” My head dropped against the back of the couch. “I’m a Jane. I’m a Jane, okay?” The staid older sister.

  “There’s nothing wrong with being a Jane. ”

  “That’s what the Elizabeths always say,” I muttered darkly.

  She laughed. “The Elizabeths also don’t have steady jobs or practicality. ”

  “Practicality! Next you’ll call me a Charlotte. ”

  Eva rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. You’re in publishing, right? Which is definitely not practical. As long as one of your temping gigs doesn’t turn into some real officey-job, you’re safe. ”

  “I’ll probably have to. If they’ll even have me. I got two more rejections today. ” I made a face. “At least they bothered to send rejection letters instead of just stringing me along. ”

  Eva waggled her brows at me. “You could always marry rich. ”

  “Don’t be disgusting. ” I tossed a pillow her way.

  * * *

  I changed into a vintage black dress after my temp job on Friday, despite Abe’s warning that the others might dress down. If they didn’t, I didn’t want to host a dinner in jeans.

  Not that I was hosting. Ryan was the host. I was just the ceremonial presider. Or something.

  This time, when I walked through the marble lobby, the thin, impeccably dressed concierge inclined his head marginally. “Ms. Hamilton. ”

  I resisted nodding back and saying, “Mr. Jeeves. ” “Good evening,” I said, instead. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

  “Mr. Phillips, miss. ”

  “Mr. Phillips. ” I smiled widely as I stepped over to the elegant elevators. “Nice to meet you. ”

  Ryan opened his door almost before I knocked, and I smiled at him tentatively. “I suppose I’m the first one here again?”

  “You’re a positive Sherlock Holmes. ”

  “Nancy Drew. ” I slipped out of my coat before he could slide it from my shoulders. “I do a very poor British accent. ” I held my coat out to him, expecting him to put it away, but he just stared at me. Was I being rude? Should I put it away myself? “What’s wrong?”

  He shook his head, blinking a couple times, and then took my coat and hung it. “Nothing. ”

  “No, what?” I pressed, a little nervously. If Abe actually had sent out a memo saying not to dress up, I was going to look awful silly. I loved my dress, with its plunging back and slight sleeves that looked like they might slip off my shoulders, but it didn’t exactly blend. I smoothed my hand over the full skirt and wondered if I should change into my work clothes.

  He looked me dead in the eye, flicked them to the side in consideration, and then met mine straight on. “Okay. Fine. That dress looks like it’s meant to be taken off. ”

  I shivered right to my toes. “Well,” I said, primly as I could. “Not by you. ”

  “Don’t worry, I get it. ” He shook his head. “You obviously have some issues, so I’m just going to leave you alone until you work them out. ”

  “Oh, like you don’t?” I snorted.

  He grinned at me. “Trust me. I work them out. ”

  Yeah, I just bet he did.

  I followed him into the kitchen, where he’d already unloaded the bags the deli had sent over. I set my addition of challah and candles on the counter. “You call Johnny-boy again?” he asked as he finished setting the table, utterly failing at nonchalance.

  I grinned. “Every night this week. ”

  For a moment, he looked startled, and then he laughed. “You wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole. Never dressed up for him, either. ”

  “Oh, like you know me so well?”

  “You, and your many, many issues. ”

  “I didn’t dress up for you; I dressed up for Shabbat,” I said loftily.

  “Well, you look beautiful. ” Ryan met my gaze dead-on before sweeping past me into the back of the apartment. “Come on, we’re short four places. ”

  Shocked into silence, I snapped my mouth shut and followed him. Guerilla compliments; conqueror of sarcasm.

  I did an even better impression of running into a brick wall when I realized we were entering his bedroom, which must have taken up a quarter of the apartment. Like the main room, one of the walls looked out over the park and Manhattan skyline, but the huge navy bed that dominated the space drew most of my attention. I quickly refocused on the walls, which were lined with framed pictures of teammates, brothers, and a woman whose image nicked my memory. Hanging below her photo were three brightly patterned, delicate silk scarves. Memorabilia for the Leopards and yellow and blue Wolverines pennants took up more wall space, while built in shelves held books with white-creased spines and a smattering of trophies.

  In the middle of the long wall, atop of a decorative mantel, stood a cast bronze statuette of a lunging, helmeted man cradling a football. He was balanced against a taller mounted trophy of an ellipsoid, whose particular angle made me think of a Martian’s head. A closer inspection revealed it to be a silver football. Above the mantel, a dark oak Jesus hung suspended on his cross, nails biting through his hands, his face a fingernail of agony.

  Ryan headed for the small square table against the glass wall. “Grab the chairs. ” He hefted the table up, and I awkwardly looped my arms around the chair set and dragged them out to the main room.

  “So, are you religious?” I asked, as we set up the extra seats and then unloaded the food.

  He shrugged. “Yeah. I guess. ”

  I wasn’t sure how someone guessed if they were religious. “Do you go to church often?”

  “A couple of times a month. ”

  “Oh. ” I stared at him. I’d assumed he was Catholic like I was Jewish—big on the family, food, culture, and guilt. Except for Stephen, most of my Catholic friends had stopped regularly attending church after Confirmation. “How come you go?” I stopped. “Sorry, I’m not trying to be insulting. I’m just curious. Is it organized, or do you just drop in?”

  “Drop in. If I need a moment. My grandparents were really big on Church, and during high school and college I didn’t have that much to do with it—but I find it—comforting. ”

  “Where are you from, again?”

  “Outside of Dubuque. The rest of my family’s still there. ” He looked skyward when I remained silent. “Iowa. ”

  “Iowa?”

  He laughed at my incredulity. “You Yankees. You’re all so shocked the rest of the country exists. ”

  “That’s not true. I admit California’s a state. ”

  “Yeah, I’d hope. They only have, oh, the eight largest economy in the world. ”

  “What can I say?” I teased. “I’m New England born-and-bred. Wigs me out just being in New York. ”

  He adopted a falsely surprised tone. “New York isn’t part of New England?”

  I shook my head at him, pouring out the wine. “What sacrilege. We wouldn’t even take them if they wanted in. ”

  The same crew showed up, plus two new players and a woman by Malcolm’s side. She wore a knee-length sky blue dress that flattered her long, thin form, and black, springy curls haloed out several inches. As soon as they entered, I elbowed Keith, who stood beside me. “Is that her? Has he asked yet?”

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards