Rush me, p.54
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       Rush Me, p.54

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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Page 54

  I rolled my eyes when Ryan didn’t immediately respond. “Of course. I am a halfie, after all. ”

  “I don’t know, Mimi. ” Ryan said, and I sat up straighter. “Anyway, I have to go. ” They signed off with mutual “I love yous. ”

  I frowned, slightly insulted. “Ryan, of course I celebrate Christmas. I told you. I’m half-and-half. ”

  He injected a light note into his response. “Cream-and-milk?”

  I snorted and crossed my arms.

  He avoided me, concentrating on sweeping our dinner dishes into the sink. “I didn’t realize you could be ‘half’ a religion. ”

  Story of my life. “Technically, I’m Jewish. But I’m not as Jewish as Abe is, and we still have a Christmas tree and go on Easter egg hunts. Why do you think I always felt so confused about Shabbats? I didn’t feel legitimate enough. So sure, I’m religiously confused, just like thousands of others, but definitely not by Christmas. ”

  “So you’re only confused by the Jewish holidays, not the Christian ones?”

  Usually I was more than happy to have a conversation muddling through anthropological musings, but not right now. “Ryan. You’re avoiding the question. ”

  He sighed, and dropped down onto one of the bar stools. “It’s just—I don’t bring people home. ”

  “People,” I parroted. “You mean girls. ”

  “Well—yeah. ”

  “Because. . . ?” When he stayed silent, I inserted my own meaning. “Because like your grandma said, none of them last very long?”

  He shoved a hand through his hair. “Don’t make this about you. ”

  “I’m not, I’m just trying to understand. ”

  “There’s nothing to understand. ” He stood and turned away. “I just don’t bring anyone home. ”

  “Why not? Did you have a bad experience? Or is it because you usually date society girls who don’t really do well at your farm—”

  “Rachael!” he bit off. “You might like psycho-analyzing yourself, but stop doing it to me!”

  I sat up sharply, taken aback. “Fine. Excuse me for caring. ”

  “I’m pretty sure it’s called being nosy. ”

  “Yeah. ” I stood and grabbed my purse. “And I’m pretty sure it’s called a relationship. ”

  He groaned. “Rach, don’t be so touchy. . . ”

  “I’m not being touchy. But obviously neither of us are in a good mood anymore, and I have a lot of work to do with Alexa and the book. . . ”

  “Rachael. ” He stopped me with a hand on my arm, but I refused to look at him. “Rachael,” he said again, slower, towing me toward him. He pressed his lips against my temple. Against my neck.

  My eyelids fluttered shut. He kissed them, too, and then, finally, my lips.

  It might not have solved anything. But after a moment or two, neither of us cared.

  * * *

  Two days later, I was back at Ryan’s when another call came in. This time, it was my brother.

  “I hear you have your high school reunion in a couple of weeks. ” David sounded entirely too peppy for someone who had rarely cared about my school life. But then, it was Sophie’s reunion, too. “You excited?”

  To be honest, I had half-forgotten about the reunion. “I’ll be happy to see my friends. ”

  “Yeah, well, listen. ” David went on as though I hadn’t spoken. “Sophie wants to go into the city this weekend and buy a new dress. Like she needs one; I swear she buys a new dress for every single event. But I figured we could all get dinner Friday. ”

  “Sounds good. ” I mentally began drawing up a short list of restaurants.

  David beat me to it. “Great! Let’s meet at the Topical; its Sophie’s favorite. Are you bringing your boyfriend?”

  I blinked. Stared at the cracks in the ceiling. Blinked again. “My boyfriend?” I glanced at Ryan. How did David know about him? David was oblivious to my social life, as previously established. I wasn’t sure Dad even knew, since he carried the oblivious gene my brother had inherited. Well, Dad probably knew. Parental telepathy and all that.

  My brother, unlike Mom and Ryan’s grandma, didn’t want to question religion or geography, but just wanted to follow his girlfriend’s orders. “Sophie said you’d told her about him, and that she would love to meet him. ”

  Oh, ugh. David would have forgotten about that time I’d stuck Ryan on the phone with him if stupid Sophie Salisbury hadn’t kept harping at it. “He might be busy,” I warned my brother. “But give me a sec and I’ll ask. ” I headed back into the living room, which I’d left when I took the call. Ryan sat on the sofa, studying game tapes. I dropped down next to him. “My brother wants to get dinner Friday. ” Mike punted a football across the screen. “Interested?”

  “In meeting your brother?” Dark humor sparkled in Ryan’s eyes. “Will the dreaded Sophie Salisbury be there?”

  I scrunched up my face. “Gag me. ”

  He laughed. “Absolutely. ”

  I nudged him with my shoulder before delivering a last caution. “You don’t have to. It’s basically just going to be an exercise in torture. ”

  “Then I definitely wouldn’t miss it. ”

  A smile escaped me, and I picked up my cell. “Okay. See you Friday. ”

  * * *

  The Topical had opened four years ago, but it was still impossible to get a table without a reservation a month in advance. Unless, of course, the owner had vacationed in San Leandro, and didn’t mind giving the island’s PR man a table on short notice.

  I loved publishing. But sometimes it just didn’t seem fair, the perks other people received.

  The maître d’ showed me to my brother’s table when I arrived. David sat on the same side as Sophie, his arm draped around her, his fingers trailing up and down her skin. Their faces were bent close to each other, noses almost brushing, and as I neared I could hear their murmured conversation. “I love you,” David said.

  “I love you,” Sophie answered.

  Their lips smacked together.

  I might have thrown up a little in my mouth.

  “Hi, guys. ” I tried not to sound overly disgusted. David looked up and grinned, and then unfolded from his chair and crushed the breath out of me. I didn’t mind. Then I turned to Sophie, who gave me that same bright smile she’d doled out over Rosh Hashanah. Under my brother’s beaming eye, we exchanged a limp-armed, weak embrace. Her perfume made my head spin. She was a danger to oxygen.

  “I thought you were bringing your boyfriend,” Sophie said as we sat down. Didn’t she have any other conversational gambits? Even work. Seriously. Or the weather. We could take about the biting November winds.

  “He shouldn’t be too late. He was just held up by practice. ”

  “Is he a doctor?” David asked, and I realized he’d thought I’d meant his practice. “Mom must be pleased. ”

  “No, he’s not. How was your drive up?”

  “That rain,” Sophie complained, brushing a strand of platinum hair from her forehead. “I swear to God, it poured the entire time. What a disaster. If it rains next weekend—” She broke off, shaking her head.

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards