Rush me, p.55
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       Rush Me, p.55

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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Page 55

  Yeah, I bet Sophie would really give it to the weather gods if it rained on her reunion.

  Sophie dominated the conversation as we waited for Ryan, which was how I learned about her yoga poses, and her new car, and how much money she would make when she sold her apartment, because, you know, that might happen any second. . .

  I sat up, glaring at my brother. Was she dropping the hint that they were moving in together, or dropping hints that he should suggest it? Or—worse—propose?


  David interrupted one of these hints a minute later. “Holy shit. Is that Ryan Carter?”

  Sophie’s irritation at being interrupted vanished. “Really? Where?” She leaned forward to see. “Oh my God, that’s totally him. What’s he doing here?”

  Only great restraint kept me from saying, “Eating, I bet. ”

  Ryan stood talking to the maître d’, but not, apparently, about where his table was. Ryan wore his easy-going, friendly celebrity expression, and the maître d’ made those universal hand gestures that implied plays. So quickly I almost missed it, Ryan’s eyes flicked away, scanning the room. He avoided making contact with all the faces craning towards him, like little needles pointing North. I bit back a smile. Maybe I should go rescue him.

  My brother beat me to it. “Should I go say hello to him?”

  Confused, I turned back to my brother. “What? No, I’ll—” I stopped. Come to think of it, I hadn’t mentioned Ryan’s name. “Since when are you so interested in football?”

  “Not just football,” my brother explained patiently without looking my way. “The company’s interested in anyone like Carter. Celebrities who need a place to relax away from their fans would love San Leandro. ”

  I tried not to laugh. “That’s a great idea. Why don’t I go ask him?”

  “Wait, no. Rachael!”

  Smirking, I crossed the room before my hissing brother could make a fuss. One of the waitresses, hanging around with the apparent desire to lead Ryan to his table—my table—scowled at me, but I ignored her. The maître d’ noticed me next, and made to hustle me away from his prime customer.

  When Ryan looked up and saw me, he smiled.

  My stomach faltered.

  That smile killed me.

  The maître d’ recovered from my rude interruption. “If you’ll tell me the name of your party, Mr. Carter. ”

  He didn’t take his eyes off me. “This is my party. ”

  The staff melted away.

  “Everyone’s so appalled I dare approach you,” I murmured. “Makes me want to ask you to sign my chest. ”

  His eyes sparkled with blue fire, kindling the same flame deep in my belly. “Really. ” His gaze lowered to the lacy camisole peeping out beneath my cardigan. His smile spread slowly, like dawn over water. “Got a pen?”

  I flipped my hair back, grinning up at him. “You’re not that lucky. ”

  “I’ll let you mark me, too,” he offered, gazing at my lips.

  At which point, my dumb brother stumbled up behind us. “Mr. Carter. ” He reached across me and grabbed Ryan’s hand. I sighed. Well, we were supposed to be meeting my family, not making out in a restaurant. “So good to meet you. As my sister might have told you, I represent the San Leandro property on the coast of Turkey. . . ”

  “No. ” Ryan refocused. “She didn’t. ”

  “Oh. ” This took David back a little, but not enough. After shooting me a sidelong glance, he blundered on. “Well, it’s a beautiful resort, filled with all the commodities of big city life, in the privacy of a Mediterranean island. ”

  Ryan looked at me, confused.

  “Why don’t you come back to our table, and we can talk about it. ” I tucked my arm through his.

  My boldness clearly embarrassed my brother. “I don’t want to impose, Mr. Carter—I just wanted to let you know about our resort, and that if you’re interested, I would be personally happy to arrange your visit. Let me give you one of my business cards—”

  “I’ll sit down. ” Ryan angled a skeptical glance at me. Seriously? it seemed to ask. Why are you doing this to me?

  David appeared shell-shocked, and now, no longer able to contain it, he let out a brief, almost professional gushing of how much he enjoyed Ryan’s game.

  “Hi,” Sophie purred when Ryan folded himself down beside me in the booth. She leaned forward, thrusting her breasts towards him. “I’m Sophie Salisbury. ”

  From bad to worse. I was offended on David’s behalf. “Sophie is my brother’s girlfriend. ”

  Sophie passed a cool look over me, and smiled. “We’re still waiting on Rachael’s date. But poor thing, I don’t think he’s going to show. ”

  Ryan didn’t laugh, but it was a close call. “I’m not that late. ”

  I tried not to smirk, but alas, I was not that good a person. David picked it up first. “Wait,” he said, voice strangled. He stared at Ryan. “You’re not. . . ”

  Sophie’s poise dropped, and she gaped at us. “No way. ”

  Ryan slung an arm around me. I rolled my eyes at him; he grinned back. “Oh, sorry,” he whispered to me. “Does this fall under the ‘I’m-not-allowed-to-mark-my-territory’ clause?”

  “This is my boyfriend. ” I tried to restrain the corners of my mouth from tipping up. “Ryan Carter. ”

  Ryan nodded briefly. “Good to meet you. ”

  My thick-headed brother had trouble processing. “You’re dating—but—you can’t be dating Rachael. ”

  Such fraternal support. “Thanks. ”

  “I just—” He shook his head, and then drew himself together and gave Ryan a professional smile. “Rachael never told us she was dating a legend. ”

  “Oh, she probably didn’t notice. ”

  “Oh, yes I did. Didn’t I tell you I read your Wikipedia page just a couple weeks ago?”

  He grinned. “But my homepage is so much better. ”

  “Rachael doesn’t even like football. ” Sophie sounded personally insulted.

  “Luckily, she likes me, so it all works out. ”

  There was a little silence.

  I turned back to my brother, pasting on a bright smile. “So, how’s the company?”

  My brother darted a glance at the man he’d just tried to land as a client. “Good. Better every day. It’s a great gig. ” He slid from awed fan to patronizing older brother in an impressively short breath. “You know, Rach, you should really try your hand at something green. Print’s a dying industry, and really, who’s surprised?”

  I bristled. David hadn’t even known “green” equated “environmental” until he started in at his job. I had always been the family member saying “Don’t throw that away! Recycle!” and it galled me to hear David suddenly playing the environmental hero.

  Beside him, Sophie nodded. I was impressed by how her long hair never lost its form. “David’s right. I just watched this segment about how more and more people are publishing online. Soon they’re going to cut your job altogether. ”

  Everyone had an opinion, didn’t they?

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