Rush me, p.56
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       Rush Me, p.56

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
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Page 56

  Our dinners arrived as David finished giving us the news on San Leandro and his hoped-for promotion, and then he turned to Ryan. “So, how did you meet my sister?”

  Ryan leaned back against the booth. “She broke into my friend’s apartment. ”

  I started speaking almost before he stopped. “Shut up. I did not. ” I paused. “Or only, you know, technically. I was going to a party near his friend Malcolm’s apartment, and accidentally stepped in the wrong door. ”

  David swallowed hard. “Wide-receiver Malcolm Lindsey?”

  “It’s like they’re living, breathing human beings and not just action figures,” I chirped.

  I was pretty sure everyone glared at me, then.

  “How long have you guys been together?” Ryan asked. “Rach told me. . . you all went to high school together?”

  “Sophie was Rach’s year. ” David imparted that news so comfortably, as though this wasn’t cause of much stress and strife. “But we didn’t really know each other until I visited home and ran into her at a barbeque. That was, what, five months ago, babe?”

  “Six next month. ” Sophie took a fortifying sip of wine and stared at me like I was an alien. Or a thief. Shaking her head, she smiled brightly at Ryan. “It lines up perfectly with the five year reunion, so I’m thinking of having a little party. Just for our close friends. But you’re welcome to come. ”

  Ryan looked at me, raising his brow just the tiniest bit. I could practically hear his thoughts: five-year reunion? Six month anniversary party? Boy, we sure waited for the long haul.

  “I’d love to come,” Ryan said, just as I said, “You know, Ryan’s not actually coming to the reunion. ”

  “Really?” Sophie cocked her head like a killer-coo-coo bird. Or whatever kind of bird is violent. Vultures. Could Sophie be a vulture? “That is just too bad. ”

  I smiled at him tightly. “But you’re playing Thanksgiving. And the reunion’s two days after. ”

  “Yeah, but it’s a home game, and they’re giving us Friday evening and Saturday off. ” He smiled warmly at my brother and Sophie. “Sounds great. I wouldn’t miss it. ”

  I was mystified. Ryan, however, flew into even better spirits, and joked and laughed for the rest of the evening. He even put in a word or two about how San Leandro sounded like a great place to visit.

  “Why did you say all that?” I asked as we left. “My high school reunion? Ugh, I hardly even want to go. ”

  “Don’t lie. You can’t wait. ”

  “Okay. ” We crossed Fifth just below the Met and entered the park. Dead brown leaves clung to most of the branches, but what little greenery remained still enlivened me. “It’ll probably be a kick. But why do you want to go?”

  “I’ll get to meet everyone you grew up with. ”

  “Why would you want to do that?” I asked warily.

  He responded promptly. “To find out if you were always this much of a pain in the ass. ”

  “You could have just asked Sophie. ”

  He laughed. “I didn’t think she was as bad as you did. She didn’t breathe fire or try to eat your brother alive. ”

  I stopped. “You did not like Sophie. ”

  “She was hot, too. ” Mischievousness tinged his voice.

  “Yeah, ’cause she came straight from the hot place down below. ”

  “I suppose it is summer in Australia. . . ”

  I cracked a smile and shook my head. “So, do you really want to come?” I tried to envision him in Ashbury, meeting my parents and friends. “I guess I never quite pictured you in Ashbury. It’s not really your scene. ”

  “Why not?”

  Because Ashbury was like a worn fleece blanket, old and familiar and comforting. Ryan was new and bright—but he was comforting, too. “I don’t know. Maybe it would work. And then we could go to your place around Christmas. ”

  “Rach—”

  “What?” The note in his voice made me defensive. “If you’re meeting all my friends and family, don’t you think I should get to meet yours?”

  “You’ve already met all my friends. ”

  “Ryan—”

  He stopped and sighed, reaching up to tousle his hair. Cleopatra’s Needle towered up behind him, easily visible through the sparse branches. “Look, Rach, they’re just not—cosmopolitan—enough for you. You’d spend your entire time making fun of the farm, and the trackers, and the clothes—hell, you’d make fun of the entire state. ”

  “I would not!”

  He raised his brows in disbelief. “If you saw a guy in a flannel shirt riding a tractor and smoking tobacco, you wouldn’t snicker to yourself?”

  Maybe. A little bit. I tried to joke, “But I would know it was wrong. ”

  Apparently that had been the wrong thing to say, since Ryan snorted. “Yeah, there’s no way you’re meeting my family. ”

  I snapped my lips shut.

  Ryan didn’t seem to notice anything was wrong, and kept chatting about meeting my brother and San Leandro as we cut through fields of children playing games. Eventually, though, when he pointed out a couple of kids dressed up as superheroes and I failed to laugh, he stopped. “You’re not still thinking about that meeting my family thing, are you?”

  “Sort of. ”

  He leaned his head back in frustration. “Look, I’ve never brought anyone home, okay? It’s not something I do. ”

  “You just met my brother. And his girlfriend. ” I paused. “Do you actually want to come to the reunion?”

  “’Course I do. I told you that. ”

  “Fine. Then you can come, if I get to meet your family. ”

  He drew up short. “That’s like some weird form of blackmail. ”

  “No, it’s not,” I said, insulted. “It’s normal couple stuff. ”

  “Normal couple stuff. ”

  “Yeah. Don’t you think?”

  “I don’t think you’d know normal couple stuff if it bit you in the ass. ”

  I leveled my gaze at him. “You meet my family, I meet yours. That’s how it works. ”

  “Maybe. ” He studied the distance with disproportionate interest. “How ’bout I think about it?”

  “Do you think they wouldn’t like me?”

  He stopped and cupped my face in his hands. In his face, I read confusion and seriousness and worry. I didn’t say anything, just let him look, until he finally brushed a kiss across my lips and stepped away. “My mother would have loved you. Fine. We’ll go see your family, and then you’ll meet mine. ”

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Thanksgiving at my house was roughly akin to feeding time at a zoo.

  There were my dad’s parents, two retired teachers who craved great-grandchildren like great-grandchildren craved presents. Since David and Sophie had gone to her aunt’s for the holiday, I was the only one around to pester. My maternal grandmother also attended, and spent the majority of time driving my mother crazy. We also hosted an assortment of aunts, uncles, cousins, and significant others, along with too much pie and too much alcohol. Halfway into his third beer, Uncle Mike always started telling the story of that time he went fishing and there was that storm and that shark and by this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a mermaid or two showed up as well.

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards