Rush me, p.52
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       Rush Me, p.52

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 52

  Mike spoke up from where he sat on Ryan’s other side, his red hair faintly gleaming. “Mr. Darcy in a lake?”

  Ryan and I both stared at him.

  He shrugged. “Two sisters. We must have watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice twice a month. They’re insanely jealous that I’m here. ”


  The curtain rose on the Bennet family; five unmarried daughters, a crotchety father, and a nosy, marriage-minded mother. Soon, the entire village of Longbourn had joined the dance number. Then a carriage rolled across the stage, bringing the joyful Mr. Bingley and his family, along with the proud Mr. Darcy, to the estate they planned to let, while their new neighbors whirled among them. I studied Mr. Bingley, who had hooked-up briefly with Eva, and decided he was probably good-looking under his stage-makeup, and he definitely had a good tenor.

  Mr. Darcy, an Indian-American with gorgeous curls and smoldering eyes, drew as much attention as his £10,000 a year character had in Austen’s novel. It was while watching him stride across the stage that I finally saw Eva, dressed in a black-and-white maid’s uniform. She glowed. I squeezed Ryan’s hand.

  The play swept by in a whirl of dance numbers and swooning romance and Austen’s social commentary, biting even when sung. Everyone played their part to perfection, and since the actors obviously got a kick out of their roles, the audience enjoyed it. Everyone relaxed more after the intermission, when it had become clear that the show wasn’t a bust, and that the audience wasn’t going to have to cringe and wince through a travesty of their favorite novel.

  The musical ended in a triumphant number after pride and prejudice had crumbled, and Darcy and Elizabeth leaned in for one perfect, endless kiss.

  Afterward, we met Eva at the stage door and I threw my arms around her. “You were brilliant!” I squeezed her tightly, then presented her with the bouquet Ryan had been holding.

  “We wanted to bring you a football, but Rachael was against it,” Mike quipped.

  Eva laughed, brimming with endorphins and energy and high spirits. “I’m so glad you all came!” She embraced each person in turn. Dylan looked uncharacteristically shy, and offered her another batch of flowers. Eva kissed him on the cheek and grinned at me.

  “They called intermission half-time,” I told her.

  “Shut up. ” Keith bumped my shoulder. “Honest mistake. ”

  Bri added several flowers to the bouquet. “You were wonderful. ”

  Malcolm leaned his head close to Ryan’s. “I think we’re doing this wrong. We always end up with concussions, not flowers. ”

  Eva already had plans with the cast and crew, but the rest of us ended up in a bar. I leaned against Ryan as I chatted with Bri. Every part of me felt warm and content. We weren’t talking to each other, or even looking at each other. But his arm was around me, his side lined up with mine. How was it possible that someone’s mere presence could make me so happy?

  “So why aren’t you coming to Baltimore?” Bri asked. Tomorrow, the team would fly down to Maryland, and Bri planned to join them. On learning they’d be playing a team called the Ravens, I’d made a “they’ll win nevermore” crack to Ryan. He’d grinned and shaken his head and told me that the Baltimore Ravens had beaten me to it—they were actually named after Poe’s poem.

  Bri took a sip of her cider. “You could drive down with me. ”

  I shrugged. “I have plans with some of my college friends. ” I wasn’t sure yet how I was supposed to balance my work, social, and dating life. But it seemed like if I spent every other weekend out of state, I would never see my friends. Or breathe.

  Bri groaned. “It’d be way more fun if you came. ”

  “You must know a ton of people there by now. ”

  “Yes, but most of them aren’t people I’d hang out with in real life. ” She shook her head. “They’re nice, but a lot of them have small kids and conservative values and sometimes I feel like a total sore thumb. ”

  “Do a lot of them go to all the games?”

  “Mm-hmm. I can’t, when I have papers due, but there’s a group that’s there each time. ”

  I wondered who paid. I still couldn’t swallow the idea of letting a guy spend that much money on me. Maybe they only flew out wives and fiancée types, in relationships so close they basically had joint-finances? Which begged the question—when was Malcolm going to propose? I decided on some investigative questioning. “Is it mostly girlfriends? Or are there a lot of wives?”

  “Oh, it’s a mix. A couple of the guys have long term girlfriends who always go; you’d fit right in. ”

  Malcolm, who did not seem to realize that I was beginning to delicately pry, butted in. “Yeah, and a bunch of them bring their kids, too. They wear eye black and tiny jerseys. ”

  He smiled down at Bri, and my heart softened. I recalled the baby clothes in the Team Pro shop. If Ryan had a kid, his could wear a tiny little jersey with a tiny number seven and one of those pairs of tiny little Leopard ears. . .

  Okay, I was definitely getting ahead of myself. That was just embarrassing.

  “Anyway, it’s a lot of fun. ” She spoke lightly, as though trying to draw my mind away from the thought of babies. Which were not, actually, something I ever really considered, except in a hey-those-are-almost-as-cute-as-puppies way.

  After Ryan left for Baltimore, I spent Sunday brunch with Nanami and Jen, and then I spent the rest of the day and the next working on the website with Alexa. She’d thrown herself into the revisions and marketing with incredible energy; her time in New York had patched up her old friendship and left her clear headed and more relaxed, and I found her both a quick friend and a solid partner.

  Gretchen had accepted the revised manuscript when I brought it to her, though she hadn’t shown much interest. My heart had pounded and my palms sweat, my words blurring together as I presented the website, while Gretchen had given it the same bland-faced indifference she used on a regular basis. Still, she hadn’t brushed me off, and in the end she’d told me she’d “think about it. ”

  I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but since I was still recovering from the stress of pseudo-pitching a book, I’d decided to just lay low and work on marketing with Alexa.

  Laurel, on the other hand, paged through the site with fascination during our Monday lunch break. “I had no idea you knew anything about websites. And how’d you get all these site views already?”

  “Massive networking. Alexa actually tweets really cleverly and she emailed all her grad friends about it—and I guess those departments are gossipy, because it’s made the rounds. And I have some friends who have book blogs so they’ve sent their readers this way, too. Oh, and I’ve been emailing a bunch of humor sites and seeing if Alexa can guest blog, and they’re really receptive. ”

  Laurel shook her head. “Damn, you should get a job. ”

  “Thanks. ” I hoped that meant she thought I deserved one, rather than that my hobby had consumed me. “So should you. ”

  She gave me a smile so dry it almost patronized. “No, I shouldn’t. ”

  I tilted my head.

  She shrugged. “I like publishing. But it’s. . . I don’t know. Besides, I just found out how much Gretchen makes, and she’s been here for ages. ” She took a sip of her diet soda and shuddered. “And you want it so much. I think it’s fun, but. . . does it make sense to work so hard when you get paid so little? I could be an assistant somewhere else and make double what Marie gets. ”

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