Rush me, p.36
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       Rush Me, p.36

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 36

  The Museum was located in the high nineties of the Upper East Side, and while the miniature columns and entablature were much smaller than the Met’s, it still put me in mind of the grander buildings. The area would have felt private and peaceful, if the traffic hadn’t morphed into taxis and sports cars.

  “Who’s going to be here?” I asked a little nervously as the car slowed.

  “Oh, I dunno. A couple movie stars. A couple business moguls. It’s pretty classy. ”

  “How were you able to get me in in such short order?”

  He grinned. “You think they were gonna tell me no? When I’m a Mike? Hell no. ”

  Confused, I tried to parse through his words, wondering if he’d just compared himself to ginger Mike. “You’re like Mike?”

  “No, I am a Mike. ”

  “Wait—is that a nickname?”

  He laughed. “No, it’s my position. ” When I stayed silent, he tilted his head. “You know, middle linebacker?” He adopted a deep, sports announcer voice. “Quarterback of the defense?” He sighed good-naturedly at my blank face. “You thought I was talking about Irish. ”

  “You guys have too many nicknames. ” Then, unable to help myself, I asked, “Does Ryan have a nickname?”

  Abe grinned. “’Course he does. The General. ”

  I tilted my head, Dispatch instantly streaming through my head on auto-repeat, where it would stay firmly lodged for the next hour. There was a decorated general with a heart of gold. . . “Where’d that come from?”

  “The way he fires off commands. And since he studied military history, of course. ”

  Shock spread through me. “He did what?”

  “Military history,” Abe repeated, pulling the car over to the side. “At Michigan. Didn’t you know that?”

  I stared after him for a second as he climbed out of the car and handed a uniformed valet his keys, then pushed my door open and came around to his side. “No. No, I didn’t. ”

  He rolled his eyes at me. “You know, I would have opened your door. ”

  Amusement rolled over my surprise and I smirked. “It’s true. It’s been scientifically proven that wearing dresses weakens women’s arms. ”

  “East Coasters,” he grumbled, spoiling it by grinning at me. “All right, smile for the cameras. ”

  “What cameras?”

  The cameras, it turned out, were everywhere. Paparazzi loitered about in jeans and dresses, holding cameras with protruding lenses, and backed by a couple of news vans. Did news channels cover charity auctions? Maybe I should get a TV, one of these years. The Daily Show probably didn’t cover everything I ought to know about current affairs.

  “This is a little weird,” I said out of the side of my mouth as we stepped up the stairs. I lifted my dress, pretending I was in ballet class.

  “You’re telling me. I’m from San Diego. I like to wear shorts year round. ”

  “Mr. Krasner! A picture. ”

  “Blargh. ” I swallowed a smile, reminded he was twenty-one. He rolled his impressive shoulders back. “Let’s do this. ”

  The photographer who’d beckoned tried to place me and had no luck. “Who are you?”

  Well, why not. “Rachael Hamilton. ”

  He shrugged. “All righ’. Let’s get one together and one apart, yeah?”

  One meant more like one of us, and fifty of Abe. More paparazzi loped over when it became clear Abe was standing still, and after one glace at my awkward stance they dismissed me. I glanced around at the other well-dressed attendees, noting their hands propped on hips, slightly angled legs and bent knees, and heads held high. I was ridiculously glad I’d worn the formal green dress.

  “Good, that’s over. ” Abe tucked my arm in his. I smiled, and we left the cameras for the museum. Inside the wide, high ceilinged entrance, impeccably dressed gala attendees snaked up a marble staircase and into the museum proper.

  “It’s the receiving line. ” Abe pulled at his tie. “And then we’ll be in, and we can just wander. ”

  I kept my voice low. “Do you do things like this a lot?”

  “Me? Nah. You know I was only drafted this year, right?”

  “Drafted?”

  “First round,” he said proudly, and on seeing my expression, rolled his eyes. “I keep forgetting how out of it you are. The NFL Draft? Every April?”

  “Sorry. But I can probably tell you about a lot of the artwork inside. ”

  “Gee, thanks. ”

  The couple in front of us turned around as soon as we paused our sotto-voiced conversation. “Abe Krasner, right?” the actor who played the hot dad in Driving Cars said. The woman smiling beside him also looked familiar. “Man, that blitz in the beginning of the third against the Raiders was great, and I don’t even like the Leopards. What’s a good California boy like you doing in a mean state like this?”

  Abe smiled his good-California-boy smile. “Thanks. It’s the weather. It just calls to me. ”

  The Californian trio laughed.

  “This is Rachael Hamilton. ” Abe flipped his hand my way. Hot Dad reached out for a handshake, introducing himself by his actual name of Andrew Young, while the woman’s was Lisa Chu. We talked with the two of them the entire way up the stairs, along with the older philanthropist couple behind us, who also wanted to compliment Abe’s blitz. I resisted asking him what a blitz was until we had been greeted by the charity’s committee and entered the museum, saying goodbye to our new friends. “I don’t get it. Are we back in 1944? Is London under attack?”

  Abe laughed so hard he ended up leaning against the hallway’s wall, framed by two Baroque paintings. “You kill me. A blitz is when there’re more defensive players than the offense accounted for, and it’s usually a linebacker or defensive back who crosses the scrimmage line. . . ” He trailed back into laughter at my expression. “Okay. ” He pulled a straight face. “Let’s do this in one sentence. It’s basically when the defense rushes the other team’s quarterback. Make sense?”

  Not really. “Rushes him and does what?”

  He started laughing again. “I give up. Let’s go find you Ryan, and then I am going to find me a hot girl who can talk about football. ”

  “That’s what I like about you, Abe. You have your priorities in order. ”

  Teasing and prodding, we entered the next gallery room. A small sigh of happiness escaped as I took in the giant, sweeping masterpieces hung on each wall. Olive green fields rolled under rose-colored clouds. Young lovers and gypsy camps roamed through the bucolic scenes held up in intricate stained walnut frames. Across from me, a boy shepherd watched over his flock under an orange-tinged sky.

  The room’s centerpiece, a seven-tiered fountain, obscured the flock. Bubbly champagne frothed downward as waiters reached out to catch the golden ambrosia. They circulated through the room with their balanced platters, passing by women in long gowns and men in black jackets. Murmured voices were underlain by the slightest whisper of classical music. Precious stones winked in earrings and cuff links, and guests appraised each other from behind their champagne flutes. A young woman in a red dress tossed a flirtatious glance at a young man on an older lady’s arm, while two men huddled together in the shadows, trading secrets over empty glasses. People touched and parted, a dance of consequence, as everyone tried to break into circles higher than their own.

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards