Rush me, p.26
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       Rush Me, p.26

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 26

  “Well that’s quite a recommendation. ” I had no idea how to interpret being “something different. ”

  “He’s Malcolm’s best friend. I want him to be happy. ”

  I nodded. “Okay. Well. I’ll be sure to send you the newsletter with my love life report. ”

  She laughed again, and Malcolm stepped in. “Something funny?”

  “Always,” She leaned forward to kiss his cheek. In heels and with an inch or so of hair, she almost met his height. “Ryan caught himself a live one. ”

  Malcolm smiled. One hand twisted in his pocket, like he was turning over a box.

  When everyone left, I stayed behind to clear the table again. “Briana thinks it’s weird that we do the dishes together. ”

  “Oh?” Ryan took a stack of plates from me. “What about you?”

  “I think everything’s weird, remember?”

  “It’s because you’re weird. It skews your perception of things. ”

  Across the room, my phone buzzed. Due to my awful, insidious curiosity about ringing phones, I lunged for it, and frowned at the caller ID. Why was my brother calling at eleven on a Friday? “Sorry. One sec. ” I took the call, pacing across the floor and dropping onto the couch directly before the window. “Hey, David. ”

  “Rachael! What’s up?”

  “Oh, just finishing dinner. You?”

  There was a pause. “I wanted to talk to you for a sec. ”

  Great. Ryan raised a brow, and I waved him away. “Sure. What’s up?”

  “So. . . you’re coming home for Rosh Hashanah, right?”

  It drove me nuts when he asked things like that. I knew I was being irrational, since he wasn’t actually checking; it was simply his manner of broaching the topic. Still, it bothered me that he questioned whether I would come home for the holiday. “Of course. I’m coming in Thursday, and staying all weekend. ”

  “And you’re bringing your boyfriend?”

  My what now? “What are you talking about?”

  “Mom said you were seeing someone. ”

  My head fell back, and I gazed up at the ceiling in pain.

  “Sophie told me she’d love to meet him. ”

  I clenched my teeth. Like Sophie didn’t know through the grapevine that I was single. “I told Mom about a friend. Not a boyfriend. ”

  “Oh. ” Silence. He didn’t ask any more questions, but I hadn’t expected him to. After all, this wasn’t about me. “Well, since we’re talking about it, I wanted to talk to you about Sophie. ”

  “Okaaay. ”

  Ryan came down and sat next to me, arms stretched over the back of the couch. I’d sat with my back against the couch’s arm, my knees scrunched up to my chest, and now I felt the sudden urge to extend my legs over his. I resisted, drawing them up even tighter, and mouthing “my brother” at his expression of curiosity.

  “She’s going to come for dinner. ” David sounded like I had tried to fight with him. “And I want you to behave. ”

  “Excuse me? What does that mean?”

  “Sophie told me that you didn’t like her very much in high school. I know that was a long time ago, but I just wanted to make sure you don’t. . . harbor any grudges. ”

  “That I didn’t like her? David, do you remember anything? How she used to torment me?”

  “Don’t exaggerate. This isn’t going to be a problem, is it? Sophie’s very sensitive. She’s a yoga instructor, you know. ”

  “I know. ” Not only because David had mentioned it roughly five hundred times, but also because I had thoroughly stalked her profile pages after she started dating my brother. Still, just because she could hook her foot behind her head did not automatically qualify her for sainthood.

  “Good. So you’ll be on your best behavior?”

  “Did you seriously call me up at eleven just to warn me to be nice a week from now?”

  I could practically hear him stiffening defensively. “I have a very busy schedule. ”

  He was incredible. “Fine. I’ll be sweetness itself. Anyway, I have to go. ”

  “Tell Eva I say hi. ”

  I responded automatically. “I’m not at home. ” Then I stopped and eyed Ryan, who was watching me. Then the words took over, and I was completely unable to stop myself. “I’m at my boyfriend’s. ”

  Ryan shot upright, glaring at me.

  “What?” David sounded confused. “I thought you said you weren’t dating anyone. ”

  “Say hi, darling. ” I held the phone out to Ryan.

  He glared at me, and I snaked one leg out and kicked him. He scowled. “Hi. ” He sounded decidedly unboyfriendly.

  “Who was that?” David demanded.

  “Sorry, I really have to go. Tell Sophie we say hi! Bye!” I hung up.

  “What just happened?” Ryan asked.

  “I just won the grapevine. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. My brother’s girlfriend drives me insane, and David always takes her side in everything. Like in the idea that I’m a total failure. At least now she’ll think I have a boyfriend. Not that I need one,” I hurried to say. “But she sneers at every single girl out there. So. Thanks for your vocal cords. ”

  His face ran the gauntlet of expressions, and settled on a wary smile. “So, are you going to tell them I’m your mystery boyfriend, when they ask?”

  I laughed. “Oh, God no. ”

  This time, I could comprehend his expression perfectly. Surprise soured into irritation. “Why not? What’s so funny about that?” He started to look angry. “Let me guess, they’d also think I was a dumb jock. ”

  I bit back a grin. “First of all, there’s no way they’d believe me. Rachael Hamilton, dating the Leopards’ quarterback? Ha. Sophie especially would think I’d made it up. And it’d be totally embarrassing. ”

  “’Cause I’m a dumb jock. ”

  I kicked him. “Because David would be all, ‘let me pump your hand and say manly things about sports’ and Sophie would be like ‘ohmigod, I slept with half the football team in high school, maybe I should sleep with you too!’” I lowered my voice for David and raised it for Sophie, and then fell silent a moment. “That’s slut-shaming, isn’t it?” How depressing. “I shouldn’t do that. ”

  “It’s so hard to remember you’re all for sexual equality and no double standards. ”

  I gave him a look just as dry as his voice. “Don’t worry, I think you’re a slut too. ”

  He laughed. “Why don’t you like your brother’s girlfriend?”

  “She was that popular girl in school. I wasn’t unpopular, but I certainly wasn’t the star of the field hockey and volleyball teams. Freshman year, she decided she didn’t like me. ”

  “How come?”

  “Oh, I barely remember. ” I stopped, and abruptly added, “I need to stretch out my legs. ”

  “Fine. ” He didn’t move.

  I looked at him warily, but he didn’t seem to feel one way or the other about it. Fine, indeed. After all, he’d decided hooking up with me was a lost cause. We were just. . . platonic friends. I cautiously extended my legs. They hovered in the air an inch or so, and then landed across his thighs. He was warm and solid and didn’t look like he cared. I felt like I’d done a fifty-yard dash and come out the winner.

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