He would fight for her.
There weren't many people could say that. And he needed her, not wanted, NEEDED. Natasha liked being wanted, needed was a whole new level. It made her feel special, but she couldn't let herself get carried away, Bo was promising nothing, not really. And he'd let her down so much in the past, and they'd only known each other a few weeks.
But then there was that kiss. Her knees threatened to give way at just the thought of it. There had been more passion in that kiss than in every other minute of her life combined. Hell, since he'd walked into her life, all there had been was passion, anger, fire. And she hated to admit how much she loved it. How it had turned her world upside down, made her life mean something. Finally.
Despite that he seemed to make her act lie a child, pouty, insolent, pathetic, and she was scared too, he scared her. So her way of coping? Getting through every day. Since he'd arrived on the scene, It was all so messy, so confusing....but it made her feel alive.
He'd left the shop, chased after his team mates, as they made their way to the ice rink for more training.
But his presence was still there, in front of her as she tried to slow her racing heart.
And they'd finally exchanged phone numbers.
We're in London on the weekend. We leave Friday evening. Can we meet tomorrow or Thursday? Before I go.
Natasha stared at the phone for the umpteenth time since getting the first message from Bo. She still hadn't replied.
Finally snatching at it, she sent him a return message.
I play tennis with my friend on Thursday. So tomorrow is better. But don't think this is all agreement, sweetness and light.
Bo responded very quickly, which made her smile.
Perfect, I'll expect darkness. Til then, I'll think about you...in a tiny tennis skirt.
That made her roll her eyes, and laugh, at the same time. He seemed to have that paradoxical effect on every part of her.
That evening she met Steph for a zumba class, neither had the co-ordination to do more than bounce around in the back row, but it was fun, they got a bit sweaty, and more importantly, after a shower, they hit the bar at the gym, drinking exotic smoothies, laced with gin. A secret reserved only for regulars.
Sitting opposite Steph, damp hair wrapped into a loose bun, comfy yoga pants and her favourite t-shirt, chewing on peanuts and sipping tonight's special of Mango and guava smoothie, she was relaxed for the first time in ages.
"So he came back for you?" Steph's eyes were wide, her mouth hanging open in surprise as Natasha relayed the story. "I fucking knew it, he LIKES you!"
Shrugging, Natasha reached for her drink and took a long sip, "I don't know about that. We seem to fight, like cat and dog."
"They say there's a fine line between love and hate."
"Fine? There's a thick black line telling me to run like fuck."
Steph giggled, "that's until your libido kicks in, I think the sexy Natasha deep inside can't wait to get to grips with him."
"Not happening, we agreed on friends. That's it."
Steph chuckled, sipping her smoothie via the pink straw, then her eyes widened even more and she almost choked.
Natasha followed her gaze, and spotted three men coming into the bar, the middle one being the very man they were talking about. "Fuck," she cursed under her breath, but Steph was rubbing her hands together in glee.
"I get to meet the hunk, in the flesh...and his mates aren't too bad either."
But Natasha was already ducking in her seat, desperate to avoid the three men. But it wasn't her day, as she tried to slink lower in her chair, she felt his eyes find her, burn into her skin.
He'd found her.
Bo had loved his massage, back in the States the clubs he had played for had a team of masseuses, but here there was a woman at the gym who was contracted by the club, but she ran a business, so none of them could be fitted in until late in the evening.
Another thing that frustrated him.
That was until the woman with the demon-like thumbs, Maggie, started to work on his painful knee and calf. She was a dream, creating more pain, and relief with her hands than anyone else ever had. It was amazing. She was getting godlike status in his head.
Afterwards she'd given him some advice on modified stretches, things that no physical therapist had given him in the past, so that pleased him. He was trying his best to see the positives in everything, but it didn't come natural. Not when he despised everything that he currently was.
He was the last out of the treatment room; Jax Perez, his only other friend beside Blake, had preceded him, he and Pete "Nails" Naylor, a promising rookie. Both had picked up knocks in training, and as he emerged, they both stood waiting.
"They do great drinks downstairs, like healthy shit." Jax grinned. "Unless you're rushing off."
Bo had laughed at that, his cantankerous attitude and poor socialising were already legendary, "I am not THAT bad."
Nails, as Pete was known, slapped him on the back, "you keep telling yourself that, Pen."
Rolling his eyes, he followed them into the rather lavish cafe attached to the gym, and as they argued over who was paying....or rather NOT paying, he spotted something that stopped him in his tracks.
He hadn't stopped thinking about her all day, after their talk earlier in the afternoon, the way she'd agreed to give him another chance. He wasn't proud of his behaviour to date, especially running off after their kiss. And what a fucking kiss. He'd not remembered a kiss that earth shattering since Mrs Parker, an assistant teacher at his high school and the donator of his first proper kiss. Between an older married woman and a teenager—you expected sparks, fireworks. But he hadn't anticipated that with Natasha.
Now, just looking across at her, he was hard. He wanted more.
She looked amazing, as always, devoid of any make up, hair loosely tied up, casual clothes, face flushed, eyes sparkling, there was no effort, no glamour by the definition of the word, but she could have been a catwalk model. She lit up the room.
And she was staring at him, covertly, nope, she really was trying to hide, in a bar filled with maybe ten people, there was nowhere to hide. The girl she was sat with was doing little to collude with her, as she eyeballed him and his teammates as they crossed the room.
Pete had drawn the short straw, so he ordered them three drinks, and laughed when the man serving them asked in a rather lascivious manner, if they wanted the 'cock or the mock-tail'. Pete's guffaws made everyone in the bar turn their heads, and Jax smacked the back of the younger man's head, "there's too much cock in here already." But that only made him laugh louder.
As they waited for the smoothies, Jax perused the room, spotting what Bo had seen a few minutes earlier. The fact that he'd stayed behind to speak to Natasha when they were at her cafe, was no secret within the team, so he wasn't surprised when Jax elbowed him in the ribs and whispered hoarsely, "have you seen who's over there?"
Bo rolled his eyes, but Jax was, as usual, lacking in both tact and perception of the situation, instead marching across the room, waving, "Natasha! Fancy seeing you here....with a very pretty friend."
Bo closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before opening them, and following Jax into the hell his friend had unwittingly created. The last thing he needed was a witness to his possible awkwardness with Natasha.
She was blushing as she played with the straw in her drink, eyes down, shoulders raised, defensive. He wasn't sure whether she was angry, or upset....or both.
Jax sat next to her friend and grinned, "I'm Jax, Jax Perez....an acquaintance of Natasha." He had a slow, East coast drawl that seemed more obvious and elaborate when he was trying to impress.
"Stephanie Moore, friends call me Steph." Bo watched as Natasha's friend flirted back, eyelashes fluttering as she smiled at Perez.
The other man raised an eyebrow, "ah, so are you offended if I call you Steph?" He placed both hands on his chest and stared at her with a smile.
Bo rolled his eyes as he dropped into the seat between Jax and Natasha, "fuck Perez, you are sorely lacking in charm, tact...." He leaned towards Steph and theatrically whispered, "we all wonder if he's actually a virgin....I mean does anyone fall for that shit?"
Natasha's eyes flicked up at that, meeting his and challenging him silently. Was she hinting that he was as poor at communicating? He wanted to grin, lean in, pin her down, challenge her right back, because he knew he had better lines, but as expected Perez was uncaring, carrying on with his version of charming conversation and dominating the group.
Letting his friend talk, he inched his chair closer to Natasha, "didn't know you were a member here." It was the gym they used regularly, the whole team had membership.
She finally looked at him, as, the two to their left flirted more, "we come to a class once or twice a week....and I swim if I have a later start in the mornings."
He nodded, "It's a great facility, I have to say that."
"Reluctantly." She offered with great perceptiveness. Because there was little positive in his life at the moment.
Bo hated that she could do that, see inside him, and was grateful when Pete's arrival disturbed the awkwardness that reappeared between them again.
"Mocktails all around," he said with a theatrical wink that meant he was lying. Which made Bo groan, he wasn't expecting alcohol.
"Really, Nails? Vodka before a training day?"
Peter, the new boy, shook his head, "a hundred percent juice, Pen." He referred back to him with his reluctantly accepted nickname. "Promise."
Reaching for the drink, he gestured to Natasha, "you know Natasha, from Heaven and Hell, breakfast?"
Pete nodded enthusiastically, "greatest breakfast in town."
She grinned at that, "great compliment from someone obviously local."
Peter glowed in her attention as she quizzed him about his home town, somewhere very close that she knew well. Bo felt like he was on the outside looking in, but seeing Natasha animated, happy....he couldn't complain. This was easier than the conversation had been between them both recently.
After not very long, Steph and Jax seemed to untangle their libidos and turn back to the other three, and for Bo, that signalled the start of Natasha's friend grilling him, intently.
He looked at the other woman trying to hide his smirk at her expression, she was being a best friend, trying to quiz him, being Natasha's defender. And he liked that she had someone looking out for her, "that's me."
She nodded, "and you...." Biting her lip, she paused. She was as readable as her friend. She wanted to ask him questions, find out what his intentions were regarding her friend. Maybe warn him off. But she didn't want to draw attention to anything in front of the other two men. She was a good friend, but it all still amused him. He laughed, she was a little discreet at least, he appreciated that. Even if she didn't quite know how to manage the situation. Natasha was trying to hide a smile too.
"You are single?" Steph finally managed.
As he made to nod an answer, Jax, leaned between them, "of course he is! He's a grouch, first and last. I am, however, single, and I'm fun."
Steph smiled at him, "and you are extremely sweet. I like that." Then she turned her head ninety degrees to stare at him, "unlike you, Bo?"
Jax was glancing between them, suddenly unable to follow the conversation, unable to work out why Bo was suddenly the subject of her directness. Then Natasha herself entered the mix.
Her smile was sweet as she spoke, "you're right Jax and Steph, Bo's sullen, and cranky and resents the world. I have no idea why you two lovely men are spending time with him."Grinning almost sarcastically at him, he rolled his eyes, he deserved this, their wrath, not that this was particularly angry.
Nails laughed out loud, as Jax clapped Bo on the back, "she got your number."
He turned and looked haughtily down at the two friends and rolled his eyes again, "says the man they call Porno."
That made Steph lean forward, "what???" Her eyes were bulging, and suddenly all attention was on someone else.
Naylor, Nails was enjoying this, eyes flitting between the two men he normally looked up to and held in revere. Chuckling, he theatre-whispered, "they call him porno cos there's a porn actress called Perez....like him, and rumour has it they're related."
Jax sat back in his seat and eyed the rookie deviously, before then flicking his attention to Bo. "So when did this become an 'abuse Perez' session?"
Both men laughed, and Bo was aware of the amusement on the faces of the two women. He was having real genuine fun, and it felt good, even if he was the intended butt of every joke.
Steph was charismatic, and despite her obvious need to support her friend and push him, she dropped into loud and dramatic banter with the other two men. Obviously enjoying their attention.
Bo finally took the chance to glance at Natasha, and was rewarded with catching her staring at him, as they were both now on the fringe of the conversation. He couldn't say anything, without attracting the attention of the others, so he tried non verbally, raising an eyebrow, hoping it said you OK?
She stared at him before a long moment before she inclined her head, gave a small shy smile. Then she mouthed the word 'awkward'. And that made him feel good, conspiratorial, in collusion with her. And he liked it.
"I need to call a cab," Steph finally announced. She lived a couple of miles away, unlike Natasha who could walk the distance home.
Natasha watched in amusement as the men titled Porno and Nails fought to offer a ride to Steph, both were apparently interested in her friend....who was still dating a man, despite his popularity reducing over the last few weeks. And she was loving every minute.
Eventually Perez or Porno won, convincing her that dropping her home caused him the least inconvenience, and he beamed with satisfaction, as the boy he'd beaten skulked off to his car. He was over confident as he slung an arm around Steph's shoulders, and grinned at Natasha and Bo.
"So guess I'll catch you in the morning, Bo. Tash—been a ball."
Steph rolled her eyes, but she loved it too, "we can drop Natasha home."
Bo leaned forward, "I pass hers, it's OK."
"I can walk!" Natasha tried to protest, but neither seemed to be listening. So she slammed her fist on the table, the bang gathering everyone's attention. "Thanks Steph, but I'm not dragging Jax here miles out of his way, and I would walk, but Bo here owes me. Big style."
Bo turned to her and nodded in agreement, "that I do."