Rush me, p.40
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       Rush Me, p.40

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 40

  He shoved himself upright, his brows clashing together. “Just how many people do you think I fuck?”

  “I don’t know! You’re a professional football player! You need to be careful!”

  His face tightened with anger. “Well, I guess it’s too late now, so we might as well enjoy it. ” He reached forward, grabbed my arm and wrenched me toward him. He kissed me harshly, a kiss that took and took and took until I could no longer breathe. He pulled me flush against him. He was hard and we were still naked, and it would be so easy—

  I pushed him back. “No! Aren’t you listening to me?”

  “What, the part where I’m a whore or about how I’m an idiot?”

  “Ryan—”

  “You know what? I don’t care. Because apparently there are a hundred other girls I could screw around with, so I’m going to go find one of them. ” He shoved on his pants. I watched as he wrestled to zip them, and then I turned and picked up my dress.

  “And what about you?” he asked, after we had finished dressing in silence. “How the hell do I know you’re clean?”

  I already regretted my outburst, so I answered with my face to the floor, subdued and embarrassed. “You don’t. But I am. ” What was my problem? Why did I have to jump down his throat, attack him just because I was scared of everything? I’m sorry, I wanted to say. I wanted to explain that I always thought of the worst possible event, that of course I trusted him, I just needed a minute to get over my first assumptions and worries. “I’m—”

  He overrode me, his beautiful face drawn with lines of anger. “You know, maybe that’s the reason you play so coy. ” I stopped, confused by the cruel hint in his voice. “Because as soon as anyone lands you in bed they find out what a freak you are. ”

  Hurt struck everywhere, like a hundred stabbing needles, forming a thousand bruises. Usually I could toss insults with the best of them, but now I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Not one snarky remark. Because he was right. I’d never liked anyone more than I liked Ryan, and yet right after I managed to open up to him, I ended up slamming him out and forcing him away.

  So I nodded, two small jerks of my chin, and then I tilted my head up and walked out, past nameless paintings and unused furniture, letting tears stream in the empty, dark halls.

  Chapter Seventeen

  There were two sides of New York. There was the beautiful city, the one showcased in films, the one compared to Paris and London, which people traveled from all over the world to see.

  And there was the other New York, the angry city, which came out after a bad day at work or a fight with the family or a failure of any kind. That city was wet and dark and hard. There, tourists walked slower than snails and didn’t know how to angle their shoulders so they wouldn’t hit locals as we barged down the street. The buildings crowded out the sky, the weather was cold, the subways were packed and you’d always, always, just missed your train.

  I lived in that city for a week after the gala. I turned ugly. I became the kind of person who cut in front of the gangs of people taking pictures of Macy’s windows. When a suburban dad cursed me out for ruining the video he was taking on his smartphone I spat: “This is a city people actually live in, not a tourist trap. ”

  That weekend, I scowled so hard and so long my face actually hurt. My shoulder ached from the amount of times I’d knocked into strangers on the street, refusing to move an inch if they weren’t going to accommodate me, too. I burned with energy, and used it to pound through Central Park, music blaring through my ears. Then I returned home and chowed through a full box of Pad Thai.

  Eva watched all of this with a furrowed brow. The morning after the charity auction, she had begun to cheerfully grill me, only to be given a quick, “It didn’t go well. ”

  I didn’t want to talk about it.

  Most of the time, I didn’t think about it either, but late at night I relieved the evening over and over, an endless loop of ways the conversation should have gone, things I should have said. I wouldn’t have freaked out. I wouldn’t have judged. I would have said, “That was great. Let’s go to Larry’s diner. ”

  On Thursday, I didn’t have a temping gig so I went into my internship instead. At first, I might as well have stayed home, because I was utterly non-effective. I kept stopping and staring at the wall, hot with shame as I remembered my behavior. My stomach clenched with humiliation and my face crumpled with hurt. Freak. In an effort to mindlessly distract myself, I pulled all the junk out of my inbox and started tossing half of it. I stopped when I found the gossip-rag on Alexander the Great, struck again by the professionalism. I flipped through it, reading up on ancient rumors. One suggested Alexander’s best friend was also his lover, and that when Hephaestion died, Alexander went mad with grief for a week.

  I didn’t want to read that story.

  Instead, I flipped to a “What-Not-To-Wear” section featuring five paintings of the conquering tyrant, where his outfits ranged from Macedonian armor to Persian robes to Renaissance pantaloons. I read the snarky comments on the clothing and the painters and, for the first time in days, laughed. I sat there for half an hour, a reluctant smile on my face as I absorbed gossip from two thousand years ago.

  I’d put it aside knowing there was no chance Gretchen would take on an unagented submission, but damn, I liked this book. And why did I always have to have that “no” switch on in my mind, dismissing things before I’d even given them a shot? No more. If I could try to open up to Ryan, even though I’d failed and slammed my walls back up just like always, I could damn well be brave enough to try to further my career.

  “I’m going to go talk to Gretchen for a minute,” I told Marie.

  I waited until the editor ended a call, and then I ducked into her office. Gretchen peered at me over stacks of papers, books, and a half-proofed manuscript. “Hmm?”

  “We got this manuscript in a bit back. ” I held it up. “I know it’s unsolicited, but it’s really good. It’s a history of Alexander the Great in the form of a tabloid. ” She looked unimpressed, so I plunged on, pitching the book as though I was its agent. “Several similar books have been published recently—collections of historical tweets, world history and classic literature interpreted through Facebook—it’s like those. Clever, but informative. ” I handed it over to her, heart pounding.

  She barely flipped through it. “You know we don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. ”

  “I know. But I think this is worth looking at. ”

  She shrugged, handing the book back to me. “We’re already swamped with books, and to be honest, I don’t see anything that special about this. How many people are interested in Alexander the Great?”

  Usually I would back down at this point, muttering that was right and retreating to my corner. But Ryan’s insidious, unwanted voice whispered, “I don’t believe for a second you could be scared of anyone. ” “It’s really well done. But if you’re not interested. . . Would you mind if I talked to the author?” At the request, my nerves started up a can-can line.

  Gretchen frowned at me like I was crazy. “What do you mean? Talk about what?”

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards