Two back to back victories were made all the sweeter by two things for Bo, scoring prolifically, and a spate of messages from Natasha telling him how great he was. It made him feel like he hadn't in ages and that could only be a good thing. Monday morning, before they left for their trip back North, they all hit the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and for the first time since he arrived in the UK, Vaughn's antics, his boisterous and cocky behaviour didn't fuck him off. Instead he sat with Blake and Jax and ignored him.
As they climbed on the bus, Coop smacked him on his back, "great weekend, Holding. Fees like a turning point."
He should have known that his coach would be tuned in to every nuance within the team, he wasn't about to become friends with Vaughn, but he had to let things go, ignoring that part of the moment, he instead turned to his coach and muttered, "I still hate it here."
Coop laughed, "whatever you say, Pen. Get on that bus and keep that to yourself."
Bo scowled at him, hating that nothing phased the bastard, then climbed into the coach, glad of a seat to himself. Plugging his ear phones into his phone, he lost himself in a playlist that Natasha had sent him the previous day.
By the time they reached the Midlands and stopped for a break, he was back to feeling the euphoria. Some European based ice hockey websites were raving over him, his agent had forwarded him several links and it made him feel so much happier than thinking about the logistics of where his life was.
It was late lunch when they got back to the rink, and then he had a meeting with Oscar, some PR opportunities that the club wanted him to take on. He had always answered with a hard no, he didn't want anything to do with it, but today, he found himself agreeing to three interviews, a photo shoot, and a hospital visit to the local children's ward.
The last he would do with pleasure, but Oscar wrapped it up in a package he had to agree to it all, or nothing.
Knowing he'd been played again, he rolled his eyes at the other man, then left, worryingly feeling a little lighter than he had.
And drove home past the cafe that seemed to be the centre of his current universe. Pulling into a parking space at the side of the road, he climbed out and straightened out the creases, he wasn't sure he'd EVER accept driving the car he had.
Then he saw the sigh, Heaven and Hell. And it truly was. Through the large glass windows he could see Natasha, there were maybe half a dozen people in the room, eating and drinking coffee, and she was stooped listening to an elderly gentleman say something. Standing to her full height, she laughed, such a natural thing and his body lurched at the sight. The older man blushed, then started laughing himself. She had such a natural rapport with people, he envied her that, she didn't hide behind ten foot walls like he did.
He crossed the road and she still hadn't seen him, she was back behind the counter cleaning the coffee machine when the door bell tinkled, announcing his arrival. She glanced up and he'd have paid money to photograph her face at that moment, he couldn't remember anyone being so pleased to see him. Euphoria washed over her face, flushing her cheeks, her eyes sparkling and wide, then she bit her lip, sighed, and schooled a more safe expression. And he loved that she tried to hide her emotions, and even more that he failed.
He knew he was beaming as he crossed the room to the counter.
"I hear you do a mean cuppa Joe," he laid on a heavy East coast accent and it was greeted with a smile.
"The best this side of New York."
He laughed at that, "how are you?" He asked dropping the volume of his voice as she leaned on the counter, "good weekend?"
She shrugged, "caught up with some new friends, watched this fit bloke score a few goals on the ice. Ticked all my boxes."
He gasped, she was never this forward, "fit bloke?" When she nodded, he narrowed his eyes, "and that ticked all your boxes?"
That made her blush and he loved that too.
"Maybe most of them, then. You want a coffee?"
He nodded, "your strongest brew?"
She busied herself making him a mug, then had to clear tables as a couple left. He stayed leaning his hip against the counter.
When she came back to him, she smiled again, he loved her smile, it made him think of the picture that had haunted him all weekend, her nursing a baby. He'd never been bothered by children, never cared either way, but something hit him hard at the sight of Natasha grinning to him over the repose of a cute baby.
"You OK?" She asked placing a mug in front of him. Jolting him from his daydream.
Nodding he took a sip from the mug, then moaned in pleasure, it was good coffee.
"So I thought, as you close up early on Wednesday, then I could cook you dinner."
She tilted her head to stare at him, "you're cooking for me?"
"Yup, I cook a few things well!"
There was a coyness in her expression and he knew what was wrong, she was hoping for tonight, or at least tomorrow, leaning even closer he murmured, "I want us to have a special day, some time together, not rushed, and not when I'm recovering from two days of being smashed into boards. Is that wrong?"
She shook her head, "no. It's good."
Grinning like the buffoon he knew he was becoming, he drained his coffee, "I've go to go, unpack....sleep. It's as hard for me, I'm desperate too."
That made her face relax and that was a good thing, so he reached out, cupped her cheek for a moment, then plucked t her lips with his, a friendly, yet promising kiss.
Then, reluctantly, he left.
The following evening, weekly zumba class, and Natasha's legs were still weak from that encounter, the looks, the words, the tension and that kiss. A complete sensual overload. And the promise of SO much more.
Steph just laughed, "at least he came looking for you, and I have to say I think I admire him for holding out, I thought he'd drag you in to the kitchen at the cafe and screw you against the fridge."
Natasha rolled her eyes, "you have such a way with words!"
"Look, I'm in a boring relationship, let me live vicariously through your new one."
She could argue that she wasn't in a relationship, but that was futile, as something was happening. There was no denying it.
"If you're not happy, why don't you end it?" Her real concern was for her friend, she seemed unhappy.
"I think I'm just comparing Ethan to a certain man with the nickname Porno."
Natasha gave her a knowing look, "you were really happy a month ago when you came back form your holiday."
She shrugged, "I think the sun is a natural aphrodisiac. We literally spent ten days in bed...now he doesn't seem that bothered. I don't know, maybe it's just we're both busy."
Natasha grimaced, "you've been together about four months, it shouldn't have worn off yet."
The class had finished and they'd had their single token smoothie in the bar. So they gathered their things and made their way out into the mild night.
"Don't just settle if you're not happy, and I'm sure that Jax Perez would get boring a few months in too."
Steph hugged her as she laughed, "so you're saying I have a short attention span?"
"Now that's food for thought."
"Will you let me know how the date goes?"
She nodded as they parted, and then headed home.
Her phone beeped as she was unlocking the door, she knew before she glanced at the phone that it was Bo.
Presume you're home from the gym?
She actually felt touched that he remembered her schedule.
Just getting in through the door. How was training?
Throwing her bag onto the sofa, she moved into the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water as she awaited his reply to that.
I think that our new strength and conditioning coach is a sadistic bastard
That made her smile, flicking on the TV, she collapsed onto the TV then again replied.
That's par for the course, surely? Fatigue and fitness, love and marriage, you know the saying???
Another episode of her latest compelling box set started on the TV, and she got submerged in the plot, even though she was very conscious of the fact he hadn't replied. It was more than twenty minutes before her replied...but knocking her front door.
She really wasn't expecting him to be on her door step when she reached the door. But he was. Looking tired, but with a smile that lit up his face.
"Hi," he offered, hands behind back, head dropped in a rather coy manner.
"I wasn't expecting to see you."
He nodded, "just felt like coming over and saying hello."
That made him laugh, his eyes crinkling, his white teeth catching the light from behind her. "So I've said it."
She nodded, and the tension between them built, the air felt thick, her voice seemed to catch in her throat.
"So I had two questions before tomorrow." When she nodded, encouraging him, he continued, "is there anything you don't eat?"
"I don't like celery, and I'm not a huge fan of offal, but as a foodie, I will admit that I like almost everything."
He sighed, "good to know, I have a repertoire of about five dishes, if you had huge food noes, then I could be struggling. Second, is can I please have a kiss, just to keep me going until tomorrow?"
They were still on the doorstep, the scene of their previous kiss, and acknowledging that, she chuckled, "a kiss? I think I can allow that."
Grinning, he reached for her, pulling her into his chest, then planting his lips on hers, devoured her all over again. Her body throbbed, pressing into his, the contact a sizzle, and she gasped against his mouth. She'd never had a man kiss her like he did, it was all consuming, and she loved it. It meant that she was more than tempted to drag him into her home and make this into more.
But he had planned the following evening, and she wasn't about to upset his plans.
In fact it was he who pulled away, looking down at her, "I'm going to leave before I can't, before I don't." He sighed, "though it's very tempting to...." shaking his head, he stopped that thought. "No, not going there. I'll pick you up at seven?"
She shook her head, "I'll get to you, if you're cooking you won't want to leave."
It was his turn to shake his head, "No. I am picking you up. I am not letting you get a cab, and if you drive...then you can't have any of the delicious wine I have bought."
"I have to work early on Thursday, I can't get drunk."
Smiling he pecked her on the lips, "a few glasses won't get you drunk, just....relaxed."
Then with a wink he was gone into the night. Leaving her to acknowledge the building tension, the anticipation of the following evening.