Rush me, p.47
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       Rush Me, p.47

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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Page 47

  But she now gave me such a desperate, pleading look as I hesitated, and I couldn’t say no. “Yeah. You should join us. ”

  From the other side of the table, a new voice said, “I think I will, too. ”

  Alexa jerked so badly she almost upset the drinks. I swung my gaze from her to the newcomer. It was the other player, his dark hair curling slightly, his dark eyes blank. Definitely good-looking, but so solemn I thought he’d do better as a Byronic artist than a football player. He gazed at Alexa like a parched man gazing at water he knew could only be a mirage.

  Matt nodded. “Cool. We’ll come by later. What room are you in?”

  The other player smiled, closed-lip. “Don’t worry. I know the one. ”

  Alexa met his gaze, and for a moment I was certain they’d forgotten the rest of the café existed. And then she ducked her head, high cheekbones flushed. “We have to go. ” She grabbed her purse and clutched it tightly under her arm. “See you!”

  “Uh—nice meeting you. ” I nodded to the two guys and ran after the writer.

  She didn’t stop until we were out of the hotel, and then she caught a breath, leaning against the building. Her face crumpled. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to drag you into that. ”

  “That’s okay. ” I burned with curiosity. “As long as you tell me what just happened. ”

  “It’s—complicated. ” At my expression, she made a face. “Nathan and I grew up together. He was my best friend. A long time ago. ”

  “And now you want to make him jealous. ”

  She buried her face in her hands. “It’s pathetic, isn’t it?” Taking a deep breath, she let them fall to her side. “I’m a grown woman, and here I am, moaning about a guy I dumped a decade ago. ”

  “It’s not pathetic,” I assured her. “It’s irritating that people get a hold on us. But it happens. ”

  She sighed. “Well. Do you mind if we find a liquor store? I lied about the champagne. ”

  I laughed. “I figured. And maybe we should stop somewhere for clothes? I have no idea what Turquoise is, but it sounds like the kind of place that won’t respond well to business blazers. ” She smiled wryly as I thought of one more thing. “Actually—do you have a smart phone? I’m the last person on earth who doesn’t. ”

  She offered hers, and I quickly looked up the game score. Damn, the Leopards lost. There went opening the conversation with congratulations.

  I cleared my throat several times and called him up on my own cell. He answered on the first ring. “Hey. ”

  “Hey. ” I jumped right into my spiel without leaving time to breathe. “Um, so, the author I met with wants to go out tonight—she ran into some old friends, and well, I think she really needed a wing woman. Do you want to—do something—say tomorrow, instead?”

  “You got roped into playing wing woman to a woman you just met?”

  I snorted a laugh and took a step farther from Alexa. “Well, she had this sad desperate look in her eyes. It would have been cruel to leave her. ”

  “Also,” he teased, “you’ll almost certainly get her business now. ”

  Another laugh broke out of me. “Hey! No. You’re bad. ”

  “You want me to meet up with you?”

  I sucked in a breath. “That would be great. We’re going to this place called Turquoise down in the Meatpacking district. ”

  He was silent for a beat. “You’re kidding me. ”

  “Am I humorously kidding or ironically kidding?”

  “How do you even know about Turquoise?”

  I glanced over at Alexa, who gnawed on her pinky nail as she flipped through her phone. “Well, that’s a funny story. ”

  “Humorous funny or ironic funny?”

  I laughed. “I’ll tell you about it later. ”

  * * *

  At nine o’clock, we entered Alexa’s suite. I scanned the room, impressed, as she set the champagne to chill. Her room included not only a bed and armchair, but a tiny sitting area with two loveseats facing each other over a coffee-table.

  We’d stopped by Eva’s theater to pick up clothes, since I’d known she always had more than enough dresses in her locker and the schlep back to Brooklyn was too much. I’d thrown on a red slip dress over tights and belted it, while Alexa had slinked her way into one of Eva’s tiny silver dresses. On Eva, it flattered, but on six-foot Alexa, it could have been a runway outfit.

  Turquoise, we’d found out, catered to the other half, and particularly to sports teams.

  We grabbed Chinese take-out and cracked out more website ideas while we waited for the guys to show up. When they did, we poured plastic cups full of champagne and followed Matt’s toasts to the Bisons, and one or two by Nate aimed at getting to Alexa. They worked. Setting her jaw, she emptied out one of the champagne bottles into her glass.

  At first, all four of us sat on the couch together and talked, but eventually Alexa got up to open another bottle, and Nate followed her. Matt, sitting next to me on the couch, gave me a heavy-lidded gaze and moved a little closer. “So, Rachael. Tell me about yourself. ”

  I glanced over at Alexa, who was engaged in an intense, low-voice conversation with Nate. “Well. . . I live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn with a struggling actress for a roommate, and I struggle to pay rent. ” I shrugged. “Just like every other twenty-something in the city. ”

  He laughed. It wasn’t a “you’re-genuinely-funny” laugh, but a flirtatious one, like he would have laughed no matter what I’d said. It irritated me, but I decided enduring Matt’s come-ons was worth it to let Alexa get whatever closure she needed. “Are you from New York?’

  I burbled out my backstory, and Matt kept my champagne glass full. Ha. I was on to him.

  “So. ” He knocked my knee with his. “How can I convince you to be a Bisons fan?”

  I laughed. I might be on to him, but he was still easier to bear after two glasses of champagne. “I’m just not that interested in sports. ”

  “Not even a little?” he asked, grinning at me. His hand, resting so casually on his thigh, transferred over to mine. I raised a brow at him, and he laughed again, a little more real. “Maybe you just need to give us more of a chance. ”

  “So I keep hearing. ”

  “What’s not to like?” His hand moved a tiny bit higher. “Successful, rich, good-looking. . . ”

  “Modest. . . ”

  He laughed again, and tried to kiss me. I squirmed away and raised my voice. “I think Alexa wants to go now. ”

  She tripped back in my direction. “Yeah. Definitely. Let’s go. ” Nate stepped forward to steady her and she shot him an irritated look and pulled away.

  We took a cab to Turquoise. It deposited us before an innocuous door with chipped paint that looked like the back-entrance to a warehouse. I wondered if New York cabbies knew the location of all the city’s undercover locations.

  We were admitted by a bouncer, who waved us to the front of the two-hundred deep line curling along the hall. At least no one would ever have to wait outside in bad weather.

  The club itself, as promised, was a maze of turquoise themed rooms. The floor glowed with a gentle blue gleam, and pink coral sculptures rose up in glass columns. The lighting dyed any white cloth blue-green. Alexa scoffed. “How very literal. ” I giggled, feeling the champagne.

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New York Leopards