Rush me, p.43
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       Rush Me, p.43

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 43

  Ah. It clicked into place. I had been fairly closed mouthed about Ryan around the office, but Laurel was the type to read gossip blogs on the off-chance she showed up in them. I could just imagine her surprise when I showed up in one.

  “Thanks. ” I took the proffered box. Its silvered letters spelled out Ladurée, the name of the French macaron shop on Madison. “Oh, wow. I love these. ”

  And I happened to know a box of two-dozen imported cookies cost roughly seventy bucks, and the wait in line could take up to forty minutes.

  My mouth watered. Macarons consisted of two delicate, slightly domed and crackly crusted cookies sandwiched together by ganache. They came delicately infused in a dozen flavors; from chocolate to pistachio, from raspberry to rose, to the only-in-New-York cannelle et raisin. I adored them. Eva called them hipster cupcakes.

  I made myself put the box down, and smile up at the bringer. Laurel looked uncharacteristically nervous. “I remember you mentioned a French theme. ” Her gaze swept over the baguettes and cheeses, along with the sandwich wrappers. “I thought I’d contribute. ”

  “They’re perfect. Yeah, we were, though when the guys came, they brought more. Probably a good thing, since they eat like horses. ” I pushed myself off the ground. “Here, let me introduce you. ”

  Laurel looked like a doll surrounded by the football players, and yet she demanded total and complete attention. Amused, I dropped back next to Eva, stretching out on my stomach and handing her half of my cinnamon-raisin macaron.

  Eva rolled over closer to me and grinned. “They’re very manly men, aren’t they?”

  “I know, right?” I stared at them. “Not that I don’t love your theatre boys. ”

  “I know. It’s just these guys are a different breed entirely. I didn’t even know you could find them like this in Manhattan. ”

  “It’s ’cause they were imported from out of town. Like the cookies. ”

  For a moment, we gazed stupidly at the guys across the blanket. Sun spread over my back, along my hair, and I just lay there, breathing in crunchy leaves and soaking up the Indian summer sunrays.

  Then Eva tensed. “Uh-oh,” she whispered. “Guy trouble at two o’clock. ”

  “What. . . ?” I craned my head to the right. There, striding across the lawn, a scowl marring his golden-boy face, was Ryan Carter. Great.

  “He doesn’t look very happy” Eva added.

  “I hadn’t noticed. ”

  A boy, no more than four, ran into Ryan’s knee. My breath caught. Ryan did not look in the mood for small children. But to my surprise, he paused, unclenched his hands, and knelt down. The little boy spoke, and Ryan laughed, ruffled his hair, and then followed him over to his family’s blanket. He pumped the father’s hand, charmed the wife, and then signed the soccer ball that the child eagerly presented to him.

  “Your heart’s melting right now, isn’t it?”

  “Shut up,” I whispered back. “I hate him. He called me a freak. ”

  “Yeah, ’cause you hurt him when you called him a man-whore. ”

  “He was hooking up with a total stranger the night I met him. ”

  “But he didn’t give you any STDs. ”

  “He called me a freak! What if he thinks I’m awful at sex?”

  Bri, to my embarrassment, dropped down so she, too, lay on her stomach—on her designer coat!—and asked, “So you finally slept with him?”

  I groaned and dropped my face to the grass.

  “Oops, he’s moving again,” Eva said. “And the scowl is back. ”

  “Why would he think you’re awful at sex?” Bri asked.

  “She’s just nervous because they got in a fight. ”

  Bri sounded amazed. “Ryan doesn’t fight with girls. ”

  “Gee, I’m so glad to be the exception. ” Then I snapped my head at her. “What’s that mean?”

  Bri tilted her head. “Ryan just breaks up with people when they argue with him. He doesn’t like conflict. ”

  That boded really well for the conversation we were about to have.

  “Are you going to head him off?” Eva asked.

  No. But I wouldn’t greet him lying face flat on the ground, either. I sat up, the other two girls following.

  Ryan’s attention stayed fixed at my face, but I pretended I didn’t see him, resisting the urge to glance over as he closed the distance. It was hard, and I concentrated on Abe instead, watching as he gesticulated wildly, while Laurel laughed her high-pitched false laugh.

  I watched peripherally as Ryan strode into the group, and the guys broke apart to let him in, thumping him hello and grinning. They stalled him for a bare minute. I angled my face toward Eva. “Quick. Pretend we’re having an interesting conversation. ”

  “Why? I just want to watch this interesting conversation. Besides, it’s too late now. ”

  Ryan blocked out the sun. Seriously. It just wasn’t fair that he was able to do that. Also, maybe I should have stood up to meet him. This angle made him all the more imposing. Plus, I was pretty sure he could see down my scoop top.

  At least I’d worn a black lace bra.

  “Hey, Bri,” he said flatly. “Eva. ” I could feel the weight of his gaze. “Can I talk to you a moment?”

  “Go ahead. ” I looked at the grass.

  He growled. “Don’t be infantile. ”

  My head shot up. Me? Where did he get off, calling me infantile? “Fine. ” I shot to my feet. “Let’s talk. In private. ” I stormed away from the group, leaving Ryan to follow me.

  Yes, I’d overreacted at the gala, but there was no reason for him to be cruel. How could Bri say he was actually nice to other girls? Or maybe he was only nice to girls he actually liked. Something inside shriveled up even more.

  I didn’t stop until I reached the relative privacy of the trees. In the shade it was cooler, and I buttoned my jacket back up. “So? What did you want to talk about?”

  “Why the hell did you tell Caitlin Morriston we were dating?”

  I hadn’t exactly expected an apology, but I certainly hadn’t expected this. “Who? What’re you talking about?”

  “Caitlin Morriston,” he repeated, crossing his arms. A thin grey sweater was the only thing that separated him from the air. “I saw her last night and she said you’d told her we were a couple!”

  The only people I had told that to had been the predatory rich girls at the auction. The fine-boned face of the brunette popped into my head, and I scowled at him. “Saw her how?”

  “For Christ’s sake. Saw her naked. ”

  I stared at him, my chest squeezing in on itself.

  “Because that’s what I do, right? Just hook-up with whoever’s available. ”

  My chest opened up a bit. He was just baiting me. “Are you still mad about that?”

  He stepped closer, his jaw hard. “Wouldn’t you be mad if I called you a whore?”

  I crossed my arms tightly against my chest, swallowing against the lump in my throat. “You called me a freak!” The hurt welled up all over again. I wanted to cry.

  “Well, you freaked out!”

  “Of course I freaked out!” I snapped, hot and tremulous. “I’ve never had unprotected sex in my life, and then to—fine, I should have trusted you, but I’m not good at that! And did you ever think, just for a second, that maybe I’m not playing games, but that I’m painfully shy?”

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards