Rush me, p.67
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       Rush Me, p.67

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 67

  She ran her finger over it, and when she spoke, I could barely hear her. “I love him so much. ” Her eyes were bright with tears. “It’s funny. How good we get at torturing the people we love the most. ”

  I bit my lip.

  She smiled sadly. “I don’t even need to see him to know everything he would say to me. To know how he’d look at me. ”

  “Did you say no because you don’t want to marry him, or because you don’t want all those other complications?”

  “I don’t know. ” Her voice cracked. “I think I said no because I was scared. ”

  When I went back to my room, I picked up my phone.

  * * *

  The next morning, Briana and I used the last of the eggs and milk to make pancakes. We ate them, watching the rain. Every time Bri moved her left hand, she threw light around the room. I wondered if she had slept with the ring on.

  “Tell me about Ryan now. What happened with you two?”

  I sighed. “It just—didn’t work. I guess we were both too judgmental and unable to let the other in. I think that’s always been our problem. ”

  She swirled a piece through the maple syrup, unimpressed. “Can’t you fix that? If it’s not ideological, or something hurtful—if it’s just making judgments, you can apologize and work past it. ”

  I shrugged. That required one of us being willing to apologize.

  “Rach. ” Briana reached out and touched my arm. “Do you love him?”

  I stilled. I had always imagined being in love as some grand, sweeping epic. A prince on a white horse. Dashing. Kind and intelligent and caring. “I love how he makes me feel. ” Like I was more than just another struggling post-grad in New York. With Ryan, I felt intelligent, witty, charming. I felt adventurous and beautiful and thrilling.

  I felt like I was a heroine.

  I missed him when we weren’t together. I wanted to share each silly thought that passed through my mind, and hear him laugh. I would be happy to spend each night at his place, and to walk around in his jersey, making French toast and talking about nothing and everything.

  But love. . . Wasn’t that reserved for the Byronic hero of my daydreams, the serious, poetic soul?

  “How could I?” I burst out, as though Bri had argued. “It’s not going to work out. Better to let it die now, instead of dragging it out forever. ” Why even bother? Weren’t we doomed to end badly, anyway, in an explosion of anger and tears? Better that than being dragged apart by different families, different religions, different interests, different backgrounds. “We have nothing in common. ”

  Bri’s small smile shut me up. “You’re exactly the same. The same sense of humor, the same mentality about life, the same curiosity about everything. Look at the two of you. You’re so passionate. The other things are just outside trimmings. ”

  I was silent a long time, thinking, and then I hung my head miserably. “You’re right. We’re really good at saying things to hurt each other. And I think we went too far. ”

  “Maybe. But I guarantee Ryan feels just as strongly about you as you do about him. All you need is for one of you to be willing to extend that olive branch. ”

  Yeah, well, that olive branch was so heavy I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to pick it up.

  An hour later, while both of us sat curled on the couch, books in hand, the doorbell rang. Bri shot me an inquisitive glance. Since we were staying at my friend’s place, it fell to me to fend off strangers, so I trooped over to the door and opened it.

  And like I had suspected, it wasn’t a stranger.

  Malcolm stood before me, red-eyed and tired. He pulled his jacket tight, like he needed more warmth. I opened the door wider and stepped back, nodding shortly as he stepped inside. “Turn left and go straight. ”

  I waited just long enough to catch Malcolm mumble several words and then say, very clearly, “I love you,” and to hear Briana’s muffled sob and footsteps. I peeked back and saw them wrapped in an embrace, Malcolm’s head resting atop Bri’s.

  Then I stepped out into the cold December air and started to walk.

  * * *

  I didn’t come back until the sun began to set. There was a note on the kitchen table—Went out to dinner, B&M. Bri’s handwriting. A heart encircled the initials.

  Then she wasn’t angry I had brought him here. And hopefully, they would figure out what they wanted. Together.

  I wrote my own short note, and then I headed for the train station.

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  “Here’s your contract. ” Howard Johnson, head of the Digital Media department at Maples&Co, handed me a packet. “Take your time looking it over. ”

  It was all as we’d discussed. A full-time job in Manhattan. No law school for me! I could pay my rent and buy my groceries. I would have a livable wage. Not what my parents or brother made, of course, not by a long shot—but for a twenty-three year old? In publishing? I couldn’t ask for more.

  I signed. “Excellent. ” Howard took the papers over to the photocopier after he added his own signature.

  As we waited for the copies, Gretchen popped by and smiled. “Sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to let your new assistant know that yes, The Tenth Review will be featuring your website. Congratulations. ”

  “Thanks. ” I beamed. “That’s wonderful. ”

  She smiled, and turned to Howard. “You two look all done here. ”

  “Just so. ” He slid the copy toward me. “That’s all we have. We’ll see you Monday, then. ”

  “That sounds great. ” I thanked him and followed Gretchen out of the room. She stopped in front of her office, and I paused as well instead of heading out for the day. I was so excited, so pleased—but I still had one small request. My nerves started to churn.

  Luckily, Gretchen was feeling chatty. “Any plans this week?”

  One. One plan, because the rest had fallen through. Because Ryan hadn’t answered his phone and his concierge had sent me away. I straightened my shoulders, grateful for the lead-in. “Actually, I’m hoping to go to the Leopards game. ”

  “Should be a great one. ” Gretchen nodded with satisfaction. “They really bounced back this season. ” Then she shook her head. “But I don’t think you’ll be able to get tickets this late. They’re completely sold out. ”

  I screwed up my courage. “I know. I was actually hoping to get on the press list. ”

  My old boss stared at me blankly. “You want me to get you into a football game as press? Rachael, that’s—”

  “I know,” I interrupted. “It’s entirely unorthodox. But you’re right, there aren’t any tickets left, and it’s important I go to this game. ”

  Gretchen kindly gave me the benefit of the doubt. “How is this related to work?”

  “It’s not. ” I sucked in a breath and laid it all out. This wasn’t professional and it wasn’t even that plausible, but Gretchen liked me. Moreover, Gretchen liked romance enough that half her imprint focused on love stories.

  “I wouldn’t ask,” I finished, “but this is the only way I can get in touch with him. It’s the only place I know he’ll be. ” I winced and held my breath. Please don’t let me have just thrown away my new job. And any reference Gretchen might have given me.

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New York Leopards