Rush me, p.4
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       Rush Me, p.4

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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Page 4

  Malcolm raised his brows at the blond.

  Ryan grinned. “She’s a little high strung. ”

  “I’m not high strung!” Which, admittedly, did not do much to convince anyone otherwise. I took a deep breath. “There’s been a misunderstanding. ”

  “Yeah,” Ryan leaned back against the wall. “I thought she was sane. ”

  I conjured up my most withering glare. “You thought I was easy,” I corrected, and then I frowned. “Wait, so I’d have to be insane to not be interested in you?”

  Malcolm started to laugh, a low, warm chuckle, opening his mouth to show off perfect orthodontist work before slapping Ryan on the back. “Guess those magic hands finally failed you. ”

  “Please. ” Ryan’s eyes locked on mine. “She’s just scared of how much she wants me. ”

  Hot embarrassment flashed through me at how close he’d come to the truth, and I crossed my arms tightly. “Where the hell did you get such a large ego?”

  Malcolm’s grin grew even larger, and he cocked his head at me. “Probably from being Ryan Carter. ”

  “Which means what?”

  The two guys exchanged a disbelieving look. “For the Leopards?”

  The name tickled, like a phrase I’d read a hundred times but never quite committed to memory. Weren’t sports teams often named after animals, and, I don’t know, non-PC Native American phrases? I knew the Patriots and the Red Sox, and the Yankees came along with the latter, but that just about exhausted my sports trivia. But given the wall photos and the builds of these two, I was fairly confident the Leopards were one of New York’s football teams.

  Still, I couldn’t help from playing dumb after seeing their appalled astonishment. I widened my eyes, aware it made me appear young and naïve. “That’s football, right?”

  Their faces slackened as though no proper response could be found for a girl who didn’t know the Leopards. Does not compute. “Sorry. ” I bit back a smile and held my hands up, palms out. “I don’t really follow sports. ”

  Ryan took a step forward. “You’re lying. ”

  His incredulity sucked the humor away. “Excuse me?”

  “What the hell would you be doing here if you don’t follow us?”

  Wow. “You know what that sounds like?” I countered. “Like an egotistical jock who can’t stand believing he isn’t the center of everyone else’s world. So what if you do play for the Leopards? Do you think that makes you a celebrity, or something?”

  Ryan’s lips thinned down to white lines. Malcolm goggled at me, and then turned to his friend. “Where did she come from?”

  “A theatre party,” I finally managed to slip in as Ryan opened his mouth. “Walking into this apartment was an accident. ”

  “Then you should walk back out. ”

  “Tried that. Turns out it’s hard to squeeze your way through a hundred drunken party-goers. ”

  “I’ll say. ” Ryan raked his eyes down my body in a way that made me remember how stick thin all the girls out there had been. Football groupies, I realized. Desperate to sleep with pro-athletes. I imagined them being vetted by appearance before their invitations were handed out, and shuddered.

  “So you’re an actress?” Malcolm asked.

  “No. I work in publishing. A Maples&Co imprint. ”

  Ryan raised a brow. “So you’re a nerd. ”

  He made it sound like an insult, like Sophie Salisbury had in high school. I bristled. “Must be a novel concept. People using their brains for a paycheck. ” Well, a theoretical paycheck, currently made up of goodwill and happiness.

  Ryan’s jaw clenched, and Malcolm shifted slightly, catching his gaze. Ryan let out a long breath, and when he spoke his voice had cooled. “You should leave. ”

  I shrugged. “Happy to. Just show me the way out. ”

  “We have a fire-escape. ”

  Oh, please. “Do you treat everyone who doesn’t recognize you like this?”

  His voice was flat. “Everyone recognizes me. ”

  “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. Do they genuflect, too?”

  I’d thought that was a decent enough zing, but amusement sparked in his eyes. “Yeah, usually. ” When I started, uncertainly, to smile in response to his reawakened humor, he added: “Weren’t you watching earlier?”

  My smile collapsed.

  His grew, though, pleased with himself. “I’ll get her out,” he said to Malcolm, and then gestured through the open door in a parody of a gentleman. “Ladies first. ”

  Would he would grab my arm and yank me through if I refused to move? I shivered, wrapping my arms around my body and wondering why the idea didn’t turn me off. It was damn unfair, the things beautiful people could get away with. It made them dangerous.

  Forcing myself to jump up, I nodded at Malcolm. His friend might be an asshole, but I’d gatecrashed Malcolm’s party and hid in his room. “Nice apartment. I like the Munch. Not his most famous, but I can see why you wouldn’t want The Scream in your bedroom. ”

  There was a long stretched silence while the boys gaped at me, and when I realized what I had said I felt myself turn brighter than a stoplight. “The painting. . . ” I fumbled. “I meant the print you have on your wall. ”

  Ryan, on the other hand, was filled with even more good humor. “Good. Because I think screams belong in the bedroom. ”

  I straightened my shoulders and tried not to run out of the bedroom. Not a prude, I chanted to myself. They’re immature, and you’re not a prude.

  I hated being a prude.

  At the edge of the cacophony, I halted, still not seeing an easy way to the outer door. Ryan stopped behind me. “Okay, I can see why you had trouble getting through. ”

  Vindication tasted sweet, and I smiled. Still, I was unwilling to simply plunge into the fray, so I stalled. “Where did all these people even come from?”

  “The party. Most of them are friends. Or friends of friends. ”

  Shocked, I turned to look at him. “So this is an after-party? Good God, what was the actual party like?”

  Utter disbelief crossed the perfect planes of his face. “It was for the season opener. ”

  “The what?”

  I must have rendered Ryan speechless, because his mouth opened and closed several times before he gave up on me and faced the crowd. “Hey!” His voice cut through the music and high-decibel chatter, strong and demanding and accustomed to being obeyed. “Clear a path!”

  I snorted. But then, slowly, people turned to look, and then, like dominoes, bodies pushed to the side. A narrow aisle cleared, lined by faces beaming at the chance to follow Ryan Carter’s orders. “Must be nice. ” I couldn’t stop myself from snipping. “All these lackeys, jumping at your every word. ”

  He flashed a grin over his shoulder as he led me out of the apartment, finally making our way into the hall. I took a deep breath, my system shocked to no longer be inhaling warm, perfumed air. “Jealous?” he asked. It should have meant, jealous that I have lackeys and you don’t? Instead, it sounded like, jealous you aren’t one of them?

  “Oh, please. I already told you. I’m not interested. ”

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