Natasha had set up a voodoo doll of him in the kitchen. NO, that was a complete lie. But she did keep reminding herself that every thing she'd done the last twenty four hours was a reaction to him being a complete knob and not some irrational hormonal surge. In anger the next morning, she'd drawn a face onto a tea towel and draped it in the corner of the kitchen, swinging at it every time she walked past. No one else realised what it was, or what it stood for, but to Natasha, that inane Sharpie grin was Bo's smug face, reeling her in, then running off like the coward that he was.
Everything she feared had come true, he had sucked her in, ready to throw her out once he'd piqued her interest. She wasn't sure who she was more angry with, him for walking out on her, or herself for caring.
Mid morning the phone had rung and she heard Oscar gushing down the line at her, and asking if they could have a breakfast with her the following day. She wanted to roll her eyes, because the last thing she needed was forced professional contact with the man whose effigy she'd semi constructed in her kitchen.
She was in a constant swirling hell.
Bo had spent four hours in the gym, he needed to get the edge, be better. That's what he told himself, but in all honesty, he had nowhere to go, no one to see. There were a few other single men on the team, but Vaughn seemed to have sucked them in to a gang, and he'd rather chop of a ball that hang out with that prick.
So he trained, alone. Driving past the cafe on the way, and the way back from the gym. Each time slowing down so that he could torture himself with the visual of Natasha at her best, behind the counter, smiling, hospitable, sexy...yup, he couldn't deny that she turned him on. So why did you walk away...again?
She pushed him away, and he stepped back, that was all it was. He didn't see any sign that she wanted more, wanted him. Instead she apologised, to step away from him, it just fuelled his inner anger, and fear. He wouldn't let her reject him, jump before you're pushed, that was his motto, and he had to stick by it.
But that didn't mean that he had to feel great the day after, and then there was the cafe drive past...twice.
Back at his apartment, he took in the bare walls, the cold, empty, un-lived in rooms and sighed. He'd had an amazing penthouse place back in the States, but he'd sold that as his career had taken a nosedive, and now...all he had to show for life was a storage unit of belongings on another continent, this barren home and a shitty little car.
Tossing his keys onto the breakfast bar, he pulled his phone out, seeing another missed call from his mother. He didn't want to speak to her, wasn't ready for to hear her enthusiasm, her disappointment, but he had nothing, and no one else.
With a groan, he connected the call back.
"Bo?" He could hear the joy in his mother's voice as she covered the handset and theatre whispered to, he presumed, his father, "it's Bo, darling."
He closed his eyes as she started to quiz him, "darling, we've been so worried, you haven't been answering your calls, and it's been more than a month. How is it? Is it all you hoped?"
That was the million dollar question, did he believe this was a step back towards the NHL? His hopes of that were diminishing as his body battled, bruised and bloodied through games. But he was getting stronger, and he was starting to sense the love for the game that had dominated his life.
"It's OK. It's different."
She was silent for a moment, "baby, I know that it's not what you want, this wasn't what you planned, but it's hockey. You're playing."
He sighed, "yup. It's not a patch on even college hockey, but it's good to be on the ice. Not sure I'd find this level of competition anywhere else." And that wasn't a compliment, but as usual, his happy mother heard what she wanted to hear.
He could hear the pleasure in her voice, "and college? How's that?"
"I have an assignment, I've only had a couple of days in so far, but the schedule has a few busy patches, seems that the course runs in clusters." It was probably the only thing in his life that was progressive, something that was going to help build for the future. He could look forward with his education, as oppose to back to the past. That was dragging him down in every other part of his life.
"We don't get any coverage of your games, but your father has been finding the results. You've scored quite a few times. We're really proud of you."
That was greeted with a grunt, "it's..." What? He didn't know how to finish his answer. He didn't know what he waned to say about it all. "It's different."
His mother sighed, "I know, and I guess you miss the NHL still, but it's hockey, and you're growing, and getting stronger."
It sounded like something you'd say to a teenager, and he was twenty seven, it was almost nine years since his rookie season, he should be a captain, an MVP, in the All Stars team. There were so many things he should be doing, instead he was festering in a shitty team in a shitty league. It was a living hell.
"Long way off, Mom."
His mother, oblivious to his pain, his current mental state, gushed, "but you'll do it, baby. I have every confidence in you."
He rolled his eyes, glad that she wasn't stood in front of him, then changed the subject, "how are the girls?"
That made her gush, about her three daughters, the lawyer, the teacher and the new graduate. All opening new doors, and to top it off, Mollie,the middle one, the teacher, had a new, serious boyfriend, his mother spent an age gushing over whether or not, Malcolm – an LAPD cop would pop the question.
His head was exploding when he finally managed to hang up, that was why he lived away from California and his Dad worked fifty or sixty hour weeks at work. Too many hormones, too much fuss.
He'd avoided his laptop in the corner of the apartment, but now...there was nothing else he could do. Work. Time to kick start his education, hockey was dying, he had to replace it with something else.
Pilates was a bitch. Anyone who challenged that was a liar...or they'd never been. Bo flopped back on his mat and was rewarded by hearing his captain and new friend Blake, panting beside him. Turning his head, he laughed at his exhausted pose.
"That is a murderer." Bo gestured to the svelte and very athletic woman who had led the hour of torture.
Blake rolled on to his stomach with a groan, "I though I was fit...I almost have a six pack. How can a few exercises hurt so much?"
Bo was grinning as Jax Perez, Blake's right hand man and assistant captain, lifted himself up from his mat beyond Blake and rolled his eyes, "because that woman is a fucking assassin in her other job. Saying that, it's a shit ton easier than that Zumba class they made us go to last year."
Bo grimaced, "zumba like dance and shit?"
Both men nodded, and all three groaned together.
Coop, seemingly unaffected by the class had sprung to his feet, "guys, shower, then we're brunching at Heaven and Hell. Last one there is helping the clean up."
Bo's heart stopped, he couldn't avoid her. He'd hoped that it would be more than a day later, but it seemed that after their early gym session, he was going to have to face his nemesis.
They were all so charming, if there wasn't one brooding, avoidant male sat amongst them, then she'd wonder why she hadn't relaxed, had barely slept since the phone call from Oscar. But Natasha could sense Bo, sat at the table, picking at his food.
Sarah, one of her casual student staff was dealing with them, she was hiding in the kitchen. She knew she was hiding, in her own domain, her own business. But it was easier than standing out there, waiting to see if he rejected her, or acknowledged her. And it fucking killed her that it mattered so much. The rest of the team made up for his silence. They were a rowdy bunch. She knew a few by name, and more by face.
She was making fruit tarts, tucked away in a corner when she heard a cough to her left. For a moment her heart pounded, and she mentally prepared herself for the confrontation, But as she turned, disappointment almost rendered her incapable. It wasn't Bo, it was the man who'd offered to 'show her a good time' at the Ladies Night. His name escaped her, but that wasn't an issue.
"Hi, Natasha. I'm Vaughn, Bobby Vaughn. We met at the party last week. I just wanted to check how you were."
He leaned a hip against the counter, but his eyes weren't on her, they kept flitting back to the tables of players, and following his gaze, she realised that he was studying Bo. Who sat stock still, hands gripped into fists as he stared back at the man in front of her.
Great, a pissing contest.
She was tempted to tell Vaughn that he wasn't likely to get a reaction from Bo, but he was angry, she could see and feel that, as could the man in front of her. Grinning, he dropped onto his elbow, his back now to Bo.
"So I was wondering...you know, if you wanted to go out, for a drink, dinner?"
Even if this wasn't some sort of game between the men, she'd have no interest in going on a date with this man, he'd been overpowering at Ladies Night. She was glad when Bo rescued her.
Stopping what she was doing, she turned fully to him, and said, "no."
His face dropped in shock, he obviously wasn't used to being rejected. When he made to protest, she gave him a dazzling smile.
"I never have been, and never will be a pawn in some macho game. Suggest you call weapons and meet at dawn in a field somewhere."
The historical reference of a duel was lost on him, so rolling her eyes, she turned back to her work, as the men jeered Vaughn heading back to them unsuccessfully.
Before they left, Coop came over, he was a true gentleman, as well as being a huge hunk of a man, and she wasn't sure she'd ever not blush in his presence.
"Sorry if it all got a bit rowdy earlier, Vaughn..." he paused, puffing a breath up to flick the hair out of his eyes. "He thinks he's a bit of a Lothario. He's not," he shrugged. "Anyway, there's no way I'd let him loose here. He's on a tight leash, OK?"
She smiled back at him, "I've dealt with worse, and I get the gist."
"Thanks for a great breakfast again, you'll come to the next home game? We're away all weekend, but we've got a double header home weekend after that, I can get you tickets?"
She had no intention of setting foot in the rink again, but he had no need to know that. So with a smile, she waved them off.
The cafe was almost eerily quiet without them, so she took advantage as Sarah served customers, to clear the tables. Thirty plates, mugs and cutlery. She'd barely stacked three sets, when an awkward throat clearing sound came from behind her.
She knew it was Bo, and she didn't know what that made her think. Instead of thinking about it, she turned slowly to see him stood, hands in pockets, bottom lip snagged in his teeth as he looked rather humbled.
She gave a theatrical, exaggerated gasp to that, "for?"
Rolling his eyes, he stepped forward, "I get it, I am a prick. I know that. I just wanted to apologise."
"For walking out on me AGAIN? Ignoring me since, not so much as a text? Blanking me today? Any particular part of that list?" Making her knees quake, kissing in a way that would make all other kisses lacklustre, tearing her world to shreds, creating lust in her that she'd never felt before, those were the things that she didn't say, didn't ask...but couldn't help but think.
"My head is fucked, and I'm not used to this."
Placing a hand on her hip, she stared at him, "being friends?"
Running a hand over his face, he stalled for a moment, then offered, "you pushed me away. You apologised as though kissing me was repulsive."
She widened her eyes and shushed him, the last thing she needed was her staff knowing what had happened. "I did that, because I thought I got a bit carried away. Then you physically ran away."
"You stepped back first, YOU started it. I was just following your lead."
Natasha wasn't about to believe that, and even if she did, this was going nowhere, that was blatantly obvious. "Whatever, I'm sorry, you're sorry. Let's just agree to disagree."
She turned back to the table she was clearing when he reached and gripped her arm. His touch setting her off in goosebumps, not that she'd ever tell him that.
"Can we try again?"
She laughed, "I've abandoned you once, you have run away twice. There's nothing left to 'try', is there?"
He groaned, "you're the only person who gets me. I know I'm evasive, I don't know how to do this...it all feels so difficult. Can we have one last try?"
It would be ways to say yes, but she was so bloody scared too. The more she thought about it, the more she realised that they were the same, hiding from the ghosts of their pasts and reluctant to move on. She wasn't sure she could. So where did that leave them?
"There's too much baggage, Bo."
"And I'm here for just a few months, can't we just have fun. Labelling this...it just makes it harder."
He shrugged, "If that's what you're offering. I just need us to spend time together."
"And it's nothing to do with...what was his name? Vaughn? Asking me out?"
"He was trying to annoy me."
She smirked, "and it worked?"
"I wanted to punch him."