Rush me, p.44
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       Rush Me, p.44

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 44

  He cocked his head. “Are you?”

  “Yes,” I said through gritted teeth. “In certain departments. I don’t exactly have the best track record with men. Unlike you. ” I went on the offense again. “With your record of Louisa Bellower and Jessica Marintos and Katie Lorraine!”

  “You’re calling me a slut again. ” He sounded amused.

  “No. No. I’m just saying you’re a little more—experienced—than I am, and that freaked me out. It’s quite a history. ”

  “What did you do, stalk me?”

  “Reading your Wikipedia page does not count as stalking. ”

  He shook his head. “First, those aren’t the kind of girls who get diseases—”

  “That’s so elitist. You think money and fame is a deterrent?”

  “Look, I just mean—”

  “Yeah, I know what you mean. ” I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I insulted you. I told you, I’m not good at this, and I panicked. I thought too much and got worried. ”

  Ryan watched me, an odd light illuminating his face. “How many people have you slept with?”

  “That’s none of your business. ”

  “Less than five?” he needled. I flicked my gaze away, and he pressed on. “One?”

  “Three,” I shot back.

  Surprise flared across his face, and then settled into delighted satisfaction. “Really. And who was the best?”

  Smug bastard. I snorted. “Not you. ”

  He laughed, and then cocked his head with curiosity. “And why wouldn’t you let me—”

  “Um,” I interrupted, jutting my chin up and focusing on a tree branch behind him. I could feel the heat streak across my cheeks. “I haven’t. Before. ”

  “You’re kidding. But what about—”

  “I said no,” I told the branch. “I haven’t exactly had—normal relationships. With John, it just—I didn’t trust him enough. And with Stephen—well, he didn’t like that. And it’s not easy for me, you know. ” I managed to drag my gaze back to his. “I don’t like not being in control. ”

  “I know. ” The slightest smile curved his lips.

  Oh, he thought it was funny? “You like being in control, too. Your nickname’s The General. ”

  The smile widened. “Yeah. ”

  “And you studied military history, too. ” As though that mattered. “You didn’t tell me. ”

  His focus dipped slightly and he took a step closer to me. “I wouldn’t want to upset your assumption that I was a dumb jock. ”

  I smiled reluctantly. “No wonder you did so well at plotting America’s take-over by the NFL. That’s basically the culmination of all your life work. ”

  “Just about. ” And then he slanted his mouth down over mine. His lips were warm and firm and before I knew it, I was pressed against a tree, losing myself in the kiss.

  I shoved away. “You are such an idiot. ”

  “Uh-huh. ” He kissed my neck.

  “Seriously. ” I jerked my jacket closed and glared at him. He raised his brows and held his hands up innocently, a smile still dancing on his lips. “Why do you care about my history or how many people I’ve slept with?”

  “Well, I bet you want to get some good practice in now, don’t you?”

  “Shut up. ” I started to move away. He snagged my hand, twirling me back toward him. “Why, you think I need lessons? You still think I’m a freak?”

  His eyes narrowed. “Oh, so that’s what this is about. ” This time, when he kissed me, it was filled with slow fire. He stoked the heat in me until I was boneless and out of breath, clinging to his shoulders. “That,” he murmured against my lips, “is definitely not something you need to worry about. ”

  Well. Apparently my ire wasn’t as firm as I’d expected. I managed a tiny downturn of my lips as I leaned back, but I left my arms draped over his shoulders and I could feel my eyes crinkling.

  He responded with a half grin. “Please don’t tell me I’m going to have to undergo three tests or something to prove my worth. ”

  “That sounds like a great idea. ”

  “You’re going to want dragons slayed, aren’t you? Maybe a giant or two?”

  “And a mountain scaled. And the evil army destroyed. ” Warmth spread out through my limbs and my chest relaxed. He didn’t think I was a freak. “Only then can you have half-my-kingdom and my hand in marriage. ”

  He twinkled at me, filled with good-boy charm. “It’s not your hand in marriage I want. It’s your hand on—”

  “Shut up. ” I smacked the back of his head lightly, and he laughed. I grinned, and then strove for a more serious tone. “I’m sorry. I should have believed you. It’s just, uh, I have. . . trust issues with guys. And I know that you’re not. . . But. . . was I wrong, then? Have there not been that many women?”

  He was quiet, gazing at the sky at though answers would be written in the clouds. “What do you want me to say? That I wasn’t interested in gorgeous girls jumping for my attention?”

  He could have left out the gorgeous bit. “Okay, fine. But why don’t you ever just date one? Why all the hopping around?”

  His grasp tightened. “I haven’t liked anyone long enough to stay with them. ”

  “None of them?” That was fairly intimidating. I’d been hoping—wanting, longing—for this to be a real relationship, but what if he just saw me as someone to hook up with?

  “They’re nice enough. But—I don’t know, they’re a lot of work. It’s not easy. And it’s boring. ”

  “So why don’t you go out with a different type?”

  He gave me a look. “It’s not like I get to meet a ton of other women. ”

  I snorted in disbelief. “Really?”

  “You think I have a lot of time between practice and games? There’s no real off season. We’re always training, never just lounging around, waiting to meet people. Girls don’t just come up to me on the street and say, hey, want to get coffee? Sometimes the fans do, but then they want to date the Leopard quarterback, not me. ” He paused, looking aggravated. “Actually, that’s the problem with all of them. They all want to date the quarterback. ”

  For a moment, I stood silently, taking that in. “Well, I don’t want to date your uniform. ”

  He laughed. “Yeah, I noticed. ”

  I want to date you.

  “You want to come to the game tomorrow?”

  Not quite the same, but I wasn’t up for a conversation about our relationship right now. I opened my mouth to say yes, and then shook my head. “I’m meeting the author of that book I told you about. ”

  “That’s great! Why don’t you meet with her on Monday?”

  I snorted. “Because we already have plans. Didn’t you tell me the games are almost always sold out?”

  “Well, yeah, but there’s a box for players’ friends. Bri’ll be there. ”

  I hesitated. Part of me couldn’t fathom trading a chance for a job for anything. Then again, this meeting didn’t guarantee Gretchen’s interest.

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