Rush me, p.49
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       Rush Me, p.49

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 49

  He glared at me, crossing his arms. “Well, aren’t you?”

  My jaw dropped open. My throat went dry. “Uh. . . ”

  “You told Caitlin Morrison we were a couple. ”

  “Yeah, to get her to go away!”

  His eyes narrowed. “Okay. So I’m good enough to fuck, but you won’t date me?”

  Sometimes I could read Ryan’s mind, and sometimes he leapt to conclusions that didn’t make any sense. “What are you talking about?”

  “Because no matter what, I’m still just another dumb jock. I get it. ”

  Good God, this man could be stubborn. “I don’t think you’re dumb. ”

  “Then is this the ring thing?”

  “The—the what? Ryan, I swear, sometimes you’re impossible to follow. ”

  “You said you didn’t like rings, that you don’t like the idea of belonging to someone. Being property. And you just railed on me for telling Barrett off. Let me guess—you don’t like ‘labels’ either. ”

  He remembered my engagement ring rant?

  “But you know, the way I was raised was that you ask a girl out and you pay for her dinner and you buy her flowers. Jesus, Rachael, you drive me crazy. God forbid I ever wanted to buy you a present—you’d probably tell me how demeaning it was and toss it in the gutter. You’d probably say Tiffany’s is built on blood money and that if I really cared about you I would—I don’t know—give up football and join the Peace Corps!”

  I was entirely blown away. I couldn’t even think of what to say. Finally, fumbling, I said, “You never asked me out to dinner. ”

  He glared at me. “I have you over for dinner all the time. ”

  “But you never asked me out. ”

  Exasperation flooded his voice. “Fine. Do you want to go out to dinner with me?”

  “Yes. ”

  He stopped looking pissed off and irritated and looked confused and vulnerable. “You do?”

  “Yes. I do. ”

  “Oh. ”

  “And you can buy me, flowers, too, if you want. ”

  His brows creased uncertainly.

  “God, Ryan!” I exploded. “You drive me nuts, too, sometimes!”

  He started to grin. “At least it’s mutual. ” He dropped down on the couch and regarded me rather warily. “Are you going to flip out again if I kiss you?”

  I smiled at him. “Why don’t you find out?”

  And he did.

  Chapter Nineteen

  I was humming “Not Pretty Enough to Tempt Me” and de-bugging the kitchenette when Eva walked in.

  “Oh my God, stop singing that. ” She dropped her purse and re-did her messy bun. “We just spent like two hours on that number. ”

  “I can’t help it. ” I covered a cockroach with a plastic cup and slid a stiff piece of paper stock beneath it. The cockroach started scrambling around, its little legs frantically beating against the plastic walls. “I’m happy. ”

  “Please don’t tell me you’re going to free that. We have a duty to the city to exterminate all of them. ”

  I started shuffling toward the small window, sticking my nose in the air and answering airily. “If it survives a five story fall to the ground, maybe it deserves to live. ”

  “Of course it will survive,” Eva grumbled, coming forward and wrestling the cup and paper from me in the gentlest manner possible. “I’m flushing it down the toilet. At least that way it will breed in the sewers and not bother us until we can’t make rent and end up living there. ”

  When she came back into the tiny living room she surveyed the counter like a general. “Is that the last of them?”

  “Uh-huh. So. . . bad day at rehearsal?”

  “Why would you say that?” She started spraying down the counter with bleach, determined to remove every trace of the insects.

  “Instinct. ”

  “The show opens in two weeks and today Martin fumbled half his lines. The wardrobe mistress finally got me a dress, ages after everyone else, and when I told her it was too small she had the nerve to say I must have put on weight! That woman. . . ” She scrubbed the same spot over and over again. “And,” she added, in a low, menacing tone, “My parents have decided to come see the show. ”

  I winced. It so happened that both of Eva’s parents taught literature, and held any tinkering with the classics in dismal regard. They had been openly shocked by the idea of anyone singing Austen’s prose, but apparently they were taking the higher road and coming to see the show to support their daughter.

  It had occurred to me more than once that Mr. and Mrs. Bryant had misplaced their humor long ago.

  “Are you and Ryan going to come?” Eva asked. “Because if I have to listen to you humming gushily, then you’d damn well better listen to me sing my little heart out. ”

  “We’ll be there. ” I checked my phone for the time. “And, in fact, he’ll be here in like five minutes. ”

  Eva turned sharply. “He will? Why?”

  I grinned and gave a little shake. “We’re going on a date. ”

  Eva stared at me. “Ew. ”

  I stopped my happy-dance. “What?”

  “That is so sickeningly couple-y. I don’t know if I can handle it. ”

  I crossed my arms. “Given that we just decided a couple days ago that we are a couple, I think it makes sense. Besides, we’ve never actually gone on a date. And you go on dates all the time!”

  She let out a snort of disdain. “No. I occasionally go out to dinner with whomever I’m hooking up with. I don’t giggle. ”

  Giggle? Who giggled? I’d never giggled in my life. Ha. I stuck out my tongue. “Please. I don’t giggle, either. ”

  Ten minutes later, I buzzed Ryan up to the apartment. Despite the fifty-five steps, he wasn’t even huffing when I opened the door. He dropped a quick kiss on my lips and glanced around the apartment, which seemed to constrict even more with him inside. “Hey, Eva,” he said, and then shot me a grin. “Nice place. ”

  I felt a little fluttery and let out a laugh. Eva raised her brows, and I frowned at her. “I’ll give you the grand tour. ” I waved my hand to the left. “Here, we have the kitchen. ” I waved to the right. “The bathroom. ” Five steps forward led to “Eva’s room,” and another step forward, “And here’s mine. ”

  He crossed the living room in three long steps, bracing his hands against my doorframe and leaning over me to peer into my room. His arm brushed against my back. “This is a fire-hazard. ”

  I frowned. “I cleaned! I hung my clothes up and everything!”

  He nodded at a red and gold Venetian mask hanging on the wall. “I like that. ”

  “I got it when studying in Italy. ”

  “Bet you look cute in it. ”

  “I look cute in anything. ” He turned his head and smiled.

  “Anyway. ” I stepped away but still grinned like a madman. “We should go. ”

  Eva caught my eye. “Did I just hear something?”

  Auditory delusions were just so sad in one so young. “I’ll see you later. ”

  She laughed. “Have fun, kids. ”

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