Rush me, p.48
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       Rush Me, p.48

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 48

  Inside, Matt swiped four drinks for us as I texted Ryan. It didn’t take long for Alexa and Nate to peel off again, and I felt a twinge of worry watching Alexa go. I wasn’t sure which of us it was aimed at.

  “You want to dance?” Matt asked, swaying in front of me. His arms dropped around me, curving down my back.

  “Oh, I don’t know. ” I stepped away. “I’m not really in the mode. ”

  “What d’you mean? Course you are. ”

  I took another step back. “I’d rather just stand here and. . . talk. ”

  “Okay. ” He matched my steps. “I like talking. ”

  I smiled uncomfortably at him.

  “You’re very pretty, you know. Gorgeous eyes. ”

  “Thanks. ” I flicked those eyes down. Where was Ryan? If he would just get here, everything would get a hell of a lot less awkward.

  Okay, it might be more awkward for Matt. But I would be more comfortable.

  “What do you say that we get out of here?”

  “Um. ” I looked at the towering pillar of muscle. “I’m actually meeting up with. . . my. . . ”

  His arm stole around me again, this time holding my waist firmly. He tilted his head down.

  “Matt, no. ”

  I’d pissed him off. “What? You got somewhere better to be?”

  “Rachael? Hey, is this guy bothering you?”

  Part of me melted at the sound of Dylan’s rough Bronx accent. “No. ” I twisted away from Matt and smiled up at Dylan’s frowning face. “Hi. ”

  “We’re fine, man,” Matt growled, leaning into me again.

  Mike stepped to Dylan’s side, his expression stormy. “Barrett? What the hell, man? Back off. ”

  Matt finally straightened up and blinked at the guys. “O’Connor? Pierce?” He broke into an unkind grin. “Nice rush in the third. ”

  “Shut up,” Dylan snapped. At least Keith wasn’t there. He probably would have thrown a punch. “And leave Rach alone. ”

  “What’s it to you?” Matt stepped in front of me, and I frowned. “Maybe she’s the one who won’t leave me alone. ”

  Both Mike and Dylan scoffed disbelief.

  “Hey man, I don’t want to be trouble, but she did come here with me. ” Matt raised his hands.

  Mike shot me a wary look. “I didn’t really,” I protested.

  Dylan just scowled and crossed his arms. “Don’t be crazy. She’s Carter’s girlfriend. ”

  Well. Not exactly.

  “Is she?” Matt scanned my body with far more intimacy than he’d used before. “Imagine that. ” He reached for me.

  Mike frowned, uncharacteristically fierce. “Rachael, get over here. ”

  Anger spiked through me. I stepped away from all of them, forming a third point to our odd little triangle. I wasn’t some bone to fight over, or an inanimate piece of territory to piss on. My nails bit into my fists.

  “Rachael?” Ryan’s voice, bewildered, cut through the silence. “What’s going on?”

  Matt smirked at him. “You’re losing girls along with games, Carter. Guess you just can’t keep them satisfied. ”

  Ryan took one fast, launching step forward, and then pulled his shoulders back. The fists he formed looked a lot more intimidating than mine. In fact, they could crack heads open. “What are you saying, Barrett?”

  Matt shrugged. “Just that it wasn’t you that chick had her hands all over earlier. ”

  Ryan’s fist slammed into Matt’s face.

  I stood there, shocked into stillness, as the other guys jumped in and hauled the two men off each other. Matt roared and spread his fingers around his bloody nose before trying to break away from Mike and a player I didn’t know. The clubbers in our vicinity squealed and pulled out camera phones, and Dylan gave Ryan a shove. “Get out of here,” he muttered, and Ryan grabbed my hand and tugged me through the crowd.

  No one stopped us as we climbed the stairs, passing more bouncers and entering the VIP mezzanine. Not even when he led me deeper into the building, past the crowds. When he snapped at a bouncer, the man let us into a low lit, private room.

  Couches ringed the walls, low and padded with red velvet. A closed down bar stood in one corner and small, round tables of dark mahogany filled the rest of the room. Embossed wooden panels made up the walls. It screamed money and sex, but didn’t have much to say on taste.

  “What a fucking asshole. ” Ryan started to pace, crossing the room with vigorous strides. He shoved his hands through his hair and then shook it back into place. “What were you doing with Barrett?”

  I sunk onto one of the plush couches, wishing I could flip a switch and bring more light. “You just punched a guy!”

  “I thought you were coming here to meet me. ”

  “I think you might’ve broken his nose. . . ”

  “Why were you talking to him?”

  I focused on him. “Excuse me. Did you just ask me why I was talking to someone?”

  He stopped in front of me and crossed his arms, muscles tense. “Yeah, I did. Do you even know who he is?”

  “He’s a Bison tight end. ”

  “Wait, you knew? Then why would you. . . and why’d he say. . . ”

  “Didn’t your mother teach you to finish your sentences?” I said crossly, and then could’ve punched myself. “I didn’t mean—”

  “It’s okay. ” His voice was wry. “She tried to. How did you end up with Barrett?”

  “He’s the teammate of the ex-best friend of the author I met. The two of them already split off—his name was Nate? Do you know a Nate?”

  He stared at me, and then actually turned in a circle as he shoved his hands through his hair. “Yes. Yes, I know Nate Hart. Please don’t tell me you were hanging out with him, too. Christ, what are the possibilities you’d want to meet with a writer with Bison connections?”

  I leaned back on the couch. “That’s a good question. I’m going with cosmic alignments. Mercury’s probably doing something funky. ”

  He dropped down beside me. “You’re crazy. ”

  “It’s one of my most endearing qualities. ”

  He tried to glare, but I could see the suppressed humor. “That’s not exactly what I was going to say. ”

  “Well, and I’m crazy?” I angled my body toward him, propping my arm up on the back of the couch. “Ryan. I don’t care how much you don’t like Matt, you can’t just yank me around like I’m a chew toy!”

  His expression flickered. “I thought I was rescuing you. ”

  “How does breaking someone’s nose rescue me? No, you were using me to prove that you were better than Matt. ”

  “And I’m not better than that idiot?”

  “That’s not the point! I’m not a pawn you can jerk around. That proprietorial attitude—”

  He exploded, eyes flaming hot blue fire, shooting to his feet. “What the hell is wrong with the attitude of not wanting my girlfriend hanging around the team that just beat us 34-32?”

  I stopped breathing.

  Okay, he wasn’t off the hook for acting chauvinistically. But. I just needed a moment to clarify. “What do you mean, your ‘girlfriend’?”

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New York Leopards