Rush me, p.68
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       Rush Me, p.68

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 68

  But I didn’t know what else to do.

  She blinked twice, and turned around and reentered Howard Johnson’s office.

  Oh, God. I’d ruined everything. I’d known Gretchen might say no, but I’d expected her to brush me off and wash her hands of me. I hadn’t expected her to march right back into my new employer’s office and have him rescind my job offer. I’d really screwed up this time.

  I stood in the open doorway while Gretchen walked forward. “Howard,” she said firmly. “Can you get Rachael a press pass for the Leopard’s game this Sunday? She needs to go make up with her boyfriend, and if you do she’ll probably get you Ryan Carter’s autograph. ”

  Howard Johnson’s eyes just about bugged out of his head. “You’re dating Ryan Carter?”

  I laughed, my hands shaking slightly from the release of wound up tension. I couldn’t believe that had just worked. Thank God for nice people. Thank God for people who appreciated love stories. “Yes. And Mr. Johnson, if I can have a badge, I’ll get you an autograph from every player on the team. ”

  * * *

  That Sunday, I mostly followed people with cameras.

  They entered the stadium at a different point then the rest of the mob, and I tried to slip in behind them. Two men stopped me, and asked for my name and ID.

  “Rachael Hamilton. ” I tried to sound as though I belonged here. “Press. ” I held up my Maple&Co ID.

  One of the men checked my name against his list. “Go on in, Ms. Hamilton. Enjoy the game. ”

  I breathed a sigh of relief as I entered. Howard Johnson had presented me with a press badge, but I’d half expected to be thrown out, anyway.

  Eva had been highly skeptical when I told her my plan. “Why didn’t you just ask Dylan or Abe to sneak you into the player’s box?”

  I’d paused as I’d pulled on my boots. “Because then they’d know I was there, and I’d be surrounded by all those wives, and it would be uncomfortable. ”

  “Uncomfortable,” Eva had repeated. “More uncomfortable than asking your new boss for press passes? Admit it, you just didn’t think of it. In fact, you should have just had the guys ask Ryan to meet them at a coffee shop, and then you’d be there instead. ”

  “Ryan’s been anti-social lately. ” I’d picked up a scarf with green notes that matched my dress. “Besides, this is a grand gesture, okay? You should appreciate those. ”

  “I do,” Eva had said flippantly, and then she’d caught sight of my face in the mirror. She’d jumped up and placed her hands on my shoulders. “Hey. You are going to be wonderful. Ryan loves you. You two are great together. It’s going to be okay, all right?” She’d wrapped her arm tightly around me, and I’d leaned into her.

  And the first step had worked. Good. Now I just had to find the media lounge.

  Keeping the pair with cameras in sight, I trailed after them, admiring the sleek, pale wood, the high glass windows opening into the stadium, the low, curved chairs. The cameras climbed higher, and I followed, until we were all outside the door of another room, with a discreet little sign that read “Press Lounge/Box. ” We all showed our IDs again. We were all waved inside, even me and the butterflies housed in my stomach.

  The lounge was high ceilinged and bright with light pouring in from the stadium far below. People gathered, chatting and laughing in low voices, all dressed in suits and shiny shoes. I swallowed hard. Okay. Where could I station myself so that I wouldn’t look entirely out of place?

  “Don’t think I’ve seen you here before. ”

  A fifty-something man was grinning down at me with a very, very full head of hair and gleaming, clacking teeth. A sports announcer? I put out my hand to shake his and put on my best professional voice. “Rachael Hamilton. I’m here with Maples&Co. We’re putting out a line of YA books about the Leopards. ” Was that too much information? Didn’t they always say the best liars barely said anything? Babblers made the worst liars.

  “Good to meet you, Rachael Hamilton. I’m Eddie Bruge. But you already knew that!” He laughed heartily. I laughed a little, too. Definitely some famous sports announcer.

  Eddie Bruge wanted to tell me all about the Leopards. It irritated me. Fine, I didn’t know every last rule of football and the statistics that went with each player, but that was because I’d grown up a book person, not because I was a twenty-three-year-old female. While his superior manner grated, I managed to nod and smile. I wasn’t interested in putting people in their places right now. I just wanted to keep a low profile and get to the end of the game.

  After about fifteen minutes, a tall, statuesque brunette came and rescued me. “I see you’ve met the famous Eddie Bruge. ” She smiled tightly at the announcer. “And he seems to be keeping you from meeting anyone else. I’m Tanya Jones. I write for Sports Today. ”

  “Nice to meet you. ” I was relieved to find another woman. Besides Tanya, I’d only spotted two others and the lack of them surprised me.

  With Tanya around, Mr. Bruge backed off on his rather overbearing manner, but he still lectured on the finer points of the game. Tanya’s face pinched, her lips narrowing, and I felt put out on her behalf. It was one thing to condescend to a newbie half your age, but quite another to act as though another professional didn’t know her own work.

  “He’s impossible,” Tanya said when everyone finally meandered out into the box, a long room filled with computers and cameras and overlooking the stadium proper. “One of those men that will never admit a woman can know sports as well as he does. He might be a good reporter, but he’s a lousy human being. ” Still muttering, she strode to her station.

  I took a seat at the side of the box, pulling my chair close to the windows so I could watch everything. Soon enough, the music started blasting, the fog pluming, and the players jogged out onto the field accompanied by screams and cheers of fans.

  I could feel my heart fall onto that field.

  There he was, number 7, raising one hand to wave and then streaming across the green.

  The thing was, it didn’t matter if I sometimes started thinking about a novel in the middle of a game. It didn’t matter if I didn’t understand all the rules, or know what a squib kick meant or what a cutback referred to.

  What mattered was Ryan.

  Because of Ryan, I could watch this game for hours. Because of him, I wanted to know the rules, to understand, to be able to share it with him. And even now, where I still confused positions and missed vital plays—I wanted to watch.

  As he ran, as he threw, caught, passed, crumpled to the ground with the football tucked securely against him. He made this beautiful. I could watch him play football, or cook dinner, or laugh with fans, forever. I wanted to watch him, and to talk to him, and laugh. I wanted to curl up against his side and talk about the world, and I wanted to ride on the carousel. I wanted to listen to his bad singing and hear his bad jokes and travel and go home with him.

  I just wanted him.

  “Got your eye on one of them down there?” Eddie Bruge chuckled at me during halftime. “I heard you sighing. ”

  Well, that was awkward. “Oh, I’m just—watching. ”

  He winked at me. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and catch one of them in the locker room later. Shouldn’t take much for a pretty young thing like you. ”

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