Rush me, p.41
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       Rush Me, p.41

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 41

  “I think it has a lot of potential. ” I folded my hands being my back. My throat was dry, but I kept my gaze straight. “The whole notion is smart, and could be done for all sorts of figures, and historical periods. I just—would like to talk to the author about it. ”

  Gretchen leaned back in her chair. “And then what are you going to do?”

  “I’m not sure. But I’d be interested in working with the author, perhaps to build a website, which I think, due to the popularity of similar sites, would be very popular. And I’d like to help her focus her angle. ”

  Gretchen still regarded me as though I was a strange, foreign bug, and then she sighed. “I can’t stop you from looking up a person online, reading her excerpts, and contacting her that way,” she said slowly. “But no Maples&Co employee contacts authors we don’t plan to represent. ”

  I clutched the manuscript to my chest, thinking furiously. “Okay. Of course not. That’s good to know. ” I backed out of the office, shaking, before she could withdraw her implicit agreement. Once out of sight, I breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t told me it was illegal to contact the author. She might think it stupid and a waste of time, but I could convince her otherwise. Done well, this would be a book she wanted, and a book she wanted might land me a job. I started to grin. It might be only the germ of an idea, but at least I had taken action. As least I was going to try.

  That evening, I took my standard route home, walking down the Slope and resisting chocolate covered pretzels from Duane Reade, coffee from Dunkin Donuts and take-out from hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurants. But I stalled outside one of the local Irish pubs, staring in at the widescreen TV. Inside, fans in black and crimson toasted each other with foamy pints under low hanging yellow lights. I pulled my coat tighter, gloved hands shoved into pockets as I watched Leopards fight Dolphins under the warm Miami sun. I watched and watched and watched, and the moment the camera focused on Ryan’s face, eye black underlining his farseeing gaze, I turned and hurried on.

  * * *

  The author’s name was Alexandra Wilson, and she lived in Chicago. She sounded astonished when I called her up. “I’d love to talk to you about it. ”

  I’d told her this is my email, but I wanted to make sure we were clear. “You do understand that this has nothing to do with Maples&Co. But I do think you have a really good manuscript, and I’d be interested in doing a—a consultation. ”

  “Oh. ” Now she sounded younger than I’d expected. “Really? That would be great. Does that cost money?”

  Good question. “Er—no. ” Was that the wrong answer? I needed money, and people probably did charge for editing services, but I had contacted her, not the other way around.

  “Well, great. I’m actually going to be in New York next week. I’d love to meet with you. ”

  I spent the next week researching similar titles to Alexa Wilson’s. I studied formatting and designs. I ran through the manuscript with a red pen, scratching out adverbs left and right, sticking in notes, fact-checking each article.

  “I don’t get it. ” Eva wrinkled her nose at me one evening. She sprawled on the couch, chain watching Gilmore Girls, while I lay on the carpet with manuscript pages spread out before me. “So what if you help this lady make her book amazing? How does that help you?”

  “I don’t know. I hope that if I make it ship-shape, Gretchen will take it. ”

  “Well, and what does that get you? Didn’t you say you guys also have agents? If you do all this work for this woman, why don’t you just be her agent and get that commission?”

  I paused. “Huh. Good idea, except I’m not an agent. I don’t have any credentials or anything. ”

  “So?” She folded her legs. “You must know how to do it. Don’t you read the contracts? In acting, it’s all about knowing people, and you already know your editor, and I bet you know the competition, too. ”

  I thought about it. The legality of taking a book from the slush pile and subbing it around seemed shady. Then again, what did I have to lose? “I’d thought about bringing it back to my editor, but if she doesn’t want it, who the hell knows? I might as well. I do know people, and an agent gets at least fifteen percent. ”

  Eva was silent for a moment. “All right. I have to ask. You’ve been totally aggressive and fierce this week. What’s going on?”

  “Maybe I’m always fierce. ”

  “Yeah. No. And this isn’t, like, mama-bear fierce, but more soulless-corporate person fierce. ”

  Affront straightened my spine. “I haven’t done a single soulless corporate thing!”

  “No, but I can imagine you doing something. ”

  “That’s not fair. ”

  “What happened with Ryan?”

  I stared down at my papers. A bust of Alexander stared up at me. His eyes were sultry and far-sighted, and his full lips were carved in a pout. He knew he was beautiful. He knew his curly haired lion’s mane was the envy of thousands.

  Or the sculptor knew that he better make the young king stunning, or he’d lose his own head as soon as he finished sculpting this one.

  “I slept with him. ”

  “What?” Eva shrieked. “Oh my God! When? How was it?”

  “At the charity auction,” I admitted. “And it was. . . wonderful. It just didn’t end well. ” I tried to fill her in on the details, but my throat choked up on the words. He called me a freak. I called him a slut. I cringed with shame just thinking it. “Anyways, afterwards was awful. ”

  Eva came down to the floor and enveloped me in a hug. “I’m so sorry. What an asshole. ”

  I leaned into her, almost laughing. I wasn’t sure he was the real jerk. “Thanks. ”

  “Um. . . at the charity auction?”

  “We were in a back room,” I defended myself. “Far away. ”

  She snorted. “Yeah, ’cause they don’t have security cameras in every room in museums. ”

  I sat upright. “You don’t think anyone. . . ” I tried to swallow, my throat dry. “You don’t think. . . ”

  “Shh. ” She stroked my hair. “It doesn’t matter. I’m sure no one saw you. Or if they did, they thought it was romantic. ”

  I wanted to throw up.

  “Okay. Don’t think about that. Focus on the present. And you know what we need now? A proper girls’ night. We’ll have Jen and Nanami over and we’ll watch bad end-of-the-world movies where almost everyone dies. ”

  We scheduled the end-of-the-world for Friday night, and by the end of the week I’d cooled enough to share the rest of the details with Eva. After that, I planned to put this whole football debacle behind me. Which would be easy. I just had to avoid any mention of the NFL ever again.

  Except at ten o’clock Friday morning, Abe called.

  I stepped out into the hallway to take it, making a face at Laurel as I walked by. “Hi. ”

  “Hey, Rach. ” Abe sounded unnervingly peppy. “So. . . are we getting together for Shabbos tonight?”

  I closed my eyes. “No, Abe. Sorry. I’m busy. ”

  “I thought we were scheduled into your calendar. ” A tiny bit of hurt entered his voice. Fake, right? Hadn’t Ryan told him and the rest about—well, all of it? Why would they want anything to do with me?

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards