Rush me, p.3
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       Rush Me, p.3

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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  That was it. I dropped my now empty glass on a table and headed deeper into the apartment, through the hallway and then up a staircase blocked by a doggy-gate with a sign that read YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

  Sorry, Gandalf. I would, and I’d collect my damn two hundred dollars, too, thanks-very-much.

  Steadying myself on the gate, I swung my legs over and headed up into the off-limit floor of the apartment.

  Chapter Two

  The second floor held three doors, and I chose the one in the middle. The lights revealed a bright, comfortable bedroom. Jeans and sweatshirts lay crumpled on the floor. Rumpled sheets and blankets were pulled up in a semblance of tidiness. I draped my scarf over the desk chair as I studied the books on the shelves, the knickknacks and pictures.

  A young black man showed up over and over, as a child with his family, and later with friends and a stunningly beautiful woman. In those, the man’s face shone with adoration. He grew not only taller but broader, his shoulders hinting at an albatross-like wingspan, muscles rippling down his arms. The room’s owner, I presumed. His laptop sat on the desk and I wondered if it would be wrong to go over and check my email.

  Hmm. Yes. Maybe I was tipsier than I supposed.

  Instead, I dragged myself to one of the walls to study a print hanging above the bed. A full moon streaked bright across a lake scene. The white and orange of the shore were painted in familiar, wobbling waves, and I studied it for a minute, trying to make a connection. I’d never quite finished my minor in Art History—or my minor in Classics, or the one in Philosophy—but I’d gone through enough classes to recognize the famous ones. Edvard Munch. There’d been a print of The Scream, a ghoulish Expressionist painting, in one of my classrooms.

  Satisfied that I hadn’t forgotten all of my training, I perched on the edge of the bed and flipped through the magazines on the side table. They were addressed to a Malcolm Lindsey, who I assumed must be the guy in the pictures. I picked up Sports Illustrated, which lay atop Wired and something on cars.

  What was Sports Illustrated even about? I had the vague idea that it pictured lots of half naked women. Or maybe that was only the swimsuit edition? I couldn’t fathom reading an entire magazine on sports, illustrated or otherwise. People running around hitting a ball with their feet, or catching it and throwing it again? Okay. Maybe we should be spending more money on the education system?

  “Reading up on the team?”

  I yanked my head out of the magazine, abruptly aware that I’d snuck into a private room. When I saw the man in the doorway, my stomach plummeted.

  Oh. Great.

  Mr. Get In or Get Out stepped into the room. In full light, I could tell his angelic good looks hadn’t come from my imagination. Tousled honey-blond hair topped a face of sharp angles and smooth planes. Broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, and since he’d misplaced his shirt I had an unobstructed view of the well-defined abs and golden glow usually seen on billboard models. An arrow of dusky golden hair pointed below his dangerously low riding jeans. I swallowed sharply and jerked my chin up.

  He moved closer and the door swung shut behind him, cutting off the party’s din. “What are you doing here? This room’s off limits. ”

  “Then what are you doing here?” I shot back, my spine stiffening. Queen of debate, that’s me.

  He raised a golden brow. “My friend owns the apartment. ”

  Oh. I hadn’t expected a legitimate answer. I watched in silence as he swept open a dresser drawer and yanked a navy T-shirt out. His abdomen tightened and rippled as he pulled the shirt down, and I stared, enthralled, until the fabric blocked out my view. He reached up and gave his hair a rustle. “Are you sick or something?”

  I tore my gaze, once more, from his body and concentrated on the wall behind him. “Uh, no. ”

  “Hiding from someone?”

  I frowned. “Who would I be hiding from?”

  “You tell me,” he drawled. “You’re the one hidden away in a room that’s supposed to be locked. You do get that the party is downstairs, right?”

  “I wanted some quiet. ” And for the floor to conveniently open up and swallow me whole. Would explaining I’d accidentally gatecrashed the party be better or worse than pretending I’d retreated here to relax? I looked longingly at the bed, imagining my own feather quilt and the calmness of my room. “I wanted to get away from all those people. I just wanted. . . privacy. ”

  “I see. ” He lowered his voice to a murmur and his body down beside me. His thigh grazed mine. Unexpected heat jolted through my body, and I yanked my face up to meet his gaze. His eyes were relentlessly blue, steady blue, like the sky in winter, or the waters off the Italian coast.

  His fingers pushed a curl behind my ear, trailed down my jaw line, and stroked, soft as whispers, down my neck. In a dazed, blue fog, I was barely aware of his other hand cupping my shoulder, his body angling over mine, and my weight gliding down into the quilt cloud. Aware of nothing, really, until lips brushed against mine and shattered the spell.

  Shaken, I lurched to my feet, shoving the blond away. “What the hell are you doing?” I asked, embarrassed to find my voice shaking. I swallowed. God, my whole body trembled. If we’d lived four centuries before I would’ve sworn he’d used witchcraft.

  He looked up at me from a sprawl, and a smile curled his lips. “Oh, come on. You’re looking for privacy in a bedroom?”

  My cheeks flamed. “I know it sounds unlikely,” I said from between gritted teeth. “But I was. And I’m not interested. ”

  By the way his eyes narrowed, I could tell that hadn’t been the wisest thing to say. “Really. ” He perused my body in a deliberately intimate manner. “You’re sure about that. ”

  I shivered and concentrated once more on the wall. “You’re not my type. ”

  “And what’s your type?” He rose and came toward me with the slow strides of a big cat.

  Artistic. Funny. Bespectacled. Not a golden, arrogant prince with a warrior’s body.

  But God, those eyes cut through me.

  As though he could read my thoughts, he smiled in satisfaction. Or maybe my face had no originality compared to all the others he had read. And I thought, why not? We were alone. He didn’t know that I didn’t do one-night stands, that I didn’t care for frat boy jock types, that I wasn’t that girl. And he was beautiful, and I was lonely, and maybe, just briefly, I could let down my walls and be carefree and reckless and young.

  “Dammit, Ryan. ” A newcomer spoke with the slow, tinged vowels of the South, and my walls slammed right back into place. “I told you to leave my bedroom alone. ”

  The room’s owner—Malcolm Lindsey, I presumed—stood in the doorway, his muscles even more intimidating than the blond’s. He shook his shaved head and made to leave. “Just lock the door when you’re done—I forgot earlier. ”

  “Oh. ” Ryan looked almost disappointed as I was cleared of breaking and entering. “That was you. ”

  I took a step away from Ryan. Thank God for the interruption. What had I been thinking? Hadn’t I already proven I was no good at sleeping with people without attachment? Well, I’d had some small—minuscule—attachment to John, but that hadn’t ended well. Fool me twice. . . “Please don’t leave. ”

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New York Leopards