Rush me, p.28
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       Rush Me, p.28

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 28

  Then again, I really didn’t want to spend my grocery money on a taxi to Brooklyn. Who did I know in Manhattan whose apartment I could crash at?

  “You could just stay here,” Ryan said, a little too casually. I narrowed my eyes at him. He narrowed his back.

  Then I ruined it by yawning again.

  “Come on. ” He moved my legs off of his. “I might even have a spare toothbrush. ”


  “Why? What kind of question is that?”

  “I don’t have a spare toothbrush. ” I sleepily pushed to my feet and stumbled after him. Boy, I was tired. Collapsing on the sofa sounded a hell of a lot better than trekking across town.

  “Here. ” Ryan handed me a toothbrush still in its casing. “I have a whole bin of them. ”

  I squinted at the brush, and then slowly unwrapped it. “Is it so your one-night stands can be hygienic?”

  “What? No! It’s so I don’t have to buy cleaning supplies! I also have extra toothpaste and dish soap and packs of dental floss! You have a one-track mind. Here’s the toothpaste. ”

  “Thanks. ”

  Ryan disappeared while I got ready for bed. When he came back, he had a jersey. “Clean, I promise. So are the sheets. ” He led me to a guest room. I hadn’t realized New York apartments could fit guest rooms, but this was spacious and well lit, the bed bigger than mine, and the quilt and pillows like something out of a hotel. “Do you need anything else?” Ryan asked. “Water? Anything to read?”

  I shook my head, taking the red and black jersey from his hand. “I’m good. Thanks. ” I hesitated. Part of me wanted him to lean forward, just the smallest distance, and kiss me.

  But I felt like Ryan wanted all or nothing. Especially when I was here, in his apartment, staying the night. How could I start anything if I wasn’t sure I could finish it?

  He lingered in the doorway, his eyes darker than usual, his smile a touch softer. “Good night, Rachael. ”

  Neither of us moved, and my heart sped up. Maybe I could do this. I liked him. I wanted him.

  And I was scared out of my mind.

  His hand lightly brushed my cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning. ” He hesitated one more moment, and when I said nothing, he retreated.

  I closed the door and leaned against it. Damn. What was wrong with me? Why had I tensed up? I stepped out of my dress and pulled his jersey on over my tights. Maybe I should go knock on his door and walk in and. . . I couldn’t think past that. Then what was I going to do? Excuse myself when my walls slammed up and I freaked out, and come back to the guest room?

  Disappointed in myself, I burrowed under the thick comforter. The jersey smelled of soft detergent and a slight wisp of cedar, and I thought of its owner as I drifted off to sleep.

  Chapter Twelve

  When I woke up, I smelled cinnamon.

  After I slipping my bra on under Ryan’s jersey, I stepped into the living room. Maybe I should have thought about my crazy bedhead too, because when I entered, Ryan froze and stared at me.

  I swallowed. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and his skin gleamed gold even late in September. For a stretched moment, I stared at his abs, and then my gaze dipped a little lower. Cheeks burning, I wrenched my eyes up, expecting to see a smirk curving those perfect lips. Instead, they had parted slightly, and he studied me with an odd light.

  Self-consciousness descended quickly. I was wrapped in his overlarge shirt, fresh out of bed, and somewhat surprised to find that I had actually slept over at Ryan’s. Awareness cracked between us as our gazes touched and parted.

  Good thing I’d thrown my bra on.

  To cover my confusion, I gracelessly dropped onto one of the bar stools at the kitchen island. I stared at the thick slices of leftover challah drenched in cinnamon-flecked egg batter and frying away on the stovetop. “Mornin’. You know how to make French toast?”

  He finally blinked and pulled himself together. “I’m not totally incompetent. And I do live by myself, you know. What do you think I eat?”

  “Take-out,” I said promptly.

  He snorted. “Get a plate. ”

  After breakfast, I slipped back into my little black dress and heels. Ryan grinned at me. “Shut up. ” I was perfectly aware I looked like I was about to perform a walk of shame. I smoothed the skirt down. “This is New York. People wear black dresses all the time. Besides, it’s nine, not some ridiculously early hour. ”

  “I didn’t say anything. ”

  “And yet I have no problem reading your mind. ”

  “I’d give you a ride home, except you might have that skirt problem again. ”

  I leaned my shoulder against the wall and crossed my arms. “You know, you were really pushing it that day. ”

  “You had spent a fair amount of time insulting me. ”

  “You know you deserved it. ” I looked back down at my skirt. “This is actually a much fuller skirt than the other one, and I am wearing tights. ” I looked up and smiled hopefully. “Pretty please? To the subway, at least?”

  He grinned. “Oh, fine. I need to be at the stadium in a while anyway. ”

  Ten minutes later we were on his bike, my arms fastened around his waist, my thighs pressed along his. I deeply regretted not jumping him last night when I had the chance. So much for platonic friendship.

  He’d barely started his bike when I shouted into his ear. “Wait! Go straight!”

  “Into the park? Rachael. . . ”

  “Come on. You’ve never been on a carousel? Your inner child is crying!”

  “I rode horses!” he cried, frustrated, but he went anyway.

  I sighed happily when we stood in front of the carousel building, red brick and white stone covered by a two-tiered, peaked green roof. “They found it abandoned on Coney Island in 1950. But it’s over a hundred years old. ” We wove past the popcorn and balloon venders until we stood in line, close enough to peer through at the prancing mares and the rearing black stallions. “There are fifty-seven horses and two chariots. ” I paused. “The entire team could be on it at the same time. ”

  Ryan shook his head. “Is this one of those memorizing-random-stuff like the poker thing?”

  “No, this is a love kind-of-thing. ” I pointed at a white horse with a black, flowing mane and rainbow colored accouterments. “She’s my favorite. ”

  To my surprise, Ryan laughed and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Someday, I’m going to get you on an actual horse. ”

  “But this has a soundtrack!” I protested, smiling.

  When we tried to buy our tickets, the vender refused to let us pay. “Win against those damn Steelers,” he told Ryan, shaking his head. “If I have to listen to my brother-in-law gloat one more time. . . ”

  Ryan smiled. “I’ll do my best. ”

  I shook my head as we walked by, entering the carousel’s enclosure. “I must have seen that man half-a-dozen times and he never waved my fee. ”

  “Half-a-dozen times? Rach, sometimes I worry about you. ”

  I laughed. “Pick your steed, sir,” I said, in a fairly awful English accent. Ryan tugged my hair affectionately and stepped toward the closest horse, a brown bay. “No, not that one. ” I dropped back to my normal voice. “You should be on one of the armored horses. ” I dragged him about until we found a brown horse covered in red and blue and green armor, plated up his neck and head. A blue saddle sat atop his protective blankets.

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New York Leopards