Bo looked at the work counter filled with the ingredients he'd scoured the town to find. Despite his mixed heritage, a Swedish mother and Jamaican father, he'd been brought up with a typical West Coast menu. Strongly influenced by Mexico he loved everything spicy, and he knew that Natasha loved that cuisine too. But his favourite meal, his rather luxurious fish curry. He'd eaten a lot of Korean food as a kid, but this was purely Thai influenced. A room-mate in college had a Thai mother, and he'd had the recipe from her when he'd stayed with them one Christmas. It was creamy, yet spicy, coconut with firm chunks of monkfish and large juicy prawns. Once prepped it was a quick meal to execute.
But as he looked around the kitchen, he knew two things, he didn't have a decent knife for cutting things up, and he didn't have a wok to cook it in either. Ridiculous that he could spend hours getting the freshest fish, but forget to check cupboards and drawers for the equipment he needed.
He could head to a shop and buy things, but he didn't have the luxury of time. He knew that Natasha would have them, but he couldn't ask her.
Closest in terms of distance was Freya, Coop's wife. He had spoken to her about many things, maybe she'd help.
A phone call told him she was only too happy to help, so he dived in the car and bombed to her house at a rate of knots. As he pulled onto the driveway to her house, she appeared on the door step with two boxes.
"You may only want a sharp knife, but I doubt you have decent table wear. I've put in nice wine glasses, champagne flutes and matching crockery, I'm presuming it's just two place settings?"
When he rolled his eyes, she chuckled, "I'll also send you a picture of how to lay the table. She deserves to be spoilt."
"Who said it was a she?" He offered almost petulantly.
Again she laughed, "you're having a romantic meal for two with a teammate?"
"OK, point made."
Patting his back as he picked up the boxes, "look after her, she's one of the good ones, OK?"
He couldn't help hearing that warning as he drove home.
Everything was ready. All he had to do was turn on the hob and start....it would take fifteen minutes once they decided to eat. He dived in the shower, aware that the clock was ticking, and by the time he got to hers, it was just after seven. Bo hated being late, and he was out of breath when he got to her door. And blamed that on him rushing, it was nothing to do with the anticipation of the coming evening, the anxiety at the thought of getting things right.
It was another warm night, it seemed that September was a much more generous month in terms of weather in this god forsaken country. When the door opened and Natasha stood there in a sleeveless top and shorts, short ones that framed her infinity legs, he was even more grateful for the warm evenings.
"Hi," she sounded as breathless as him. He presumed she wasn't rushing like him, and it made him want to smile.
Leading her to his car, before starting the engine, he turned as best he could in a small space to face her.
"I just want to say, that this...." he sighed running a hand through his hair. "Look, I'm worried that I've put to much emphasis on tonight. I just want us to have fun...a date."
She smiled, though he could see the relief in her expression, "you build something up, it is destined to fail...." as he nodded, happy that she agreed, she added, "suppose that's the excuse for any....er....issues with performance later?"
Her eyes glinted with humour and he couldn't help but burst out laughing, "that wouldn't be a problem....if that's where the evening heads." He had to say that, because he wasn't presuming anything. And he didn't want her thinking that was a pressure. That was what he expected. Wanted, yes, but never expected. "But that's not the point of the evening."
"You mean you don't want 'more' than kisses?" She managed to say that, to inflame his every cell, whilst still looking innocent. He almost imploded in the seat.
"I am not even dignifying that with an answer, needless to say, I am only explaining my own agenda. Yours....I have no control over." He accompanied that with a doff of his invisible hat, and she chuckled.
He started the engine, suddenly a lot more relaxed. They were both on the same page, all he had to do was pull off a great meal, so someone who cooked for a living. Simple!
As she entered his apartment, Natasha couldn't help but turn to Bo and stare, "you've furnished?"
He laughed, "so I got a new lamp and a new sofa....that two seater thing I had was too small for me to stretch out on."
It was more than that, he had a few photos on a side table, and the small dining table was immaculately laid for two. Down to two sets of cutlery and a flute as well as a high quality wine glass. She was more than impressed.
"I like it, looks a million times more homely."
Nodding he thanked her, "I should give you a real guided tour."
It took a few minutes to visit the bathroom, a spare room, and then his bedroom. Both gulped nervously as they stood on the threshold, she wondered if the silver and black tartan bedding was new, it matched the artwork in the room, two black and white images of beaches, maybe California, she couldn't tell, but it was homage in part to his heritage, his youth. She was sure.
"So what's for dinner?" She asked as he linked his fingers through hers and led her back to the lounge.
"Curry, it's a fave of mine."
Her stomach rumbled at the thought, "mine too."
Pouring them both a glass of white wine, he smiled, "I just need a few minutes in the kitchen, will you sit...?"
He gestured to the sofa, then handed her his iPad, "you can choose the playlist."
She was still pouring through his downloaded and streamed lists of music when he appeared beside her, "everything is under control." He lowered beside her, "what are you thinking?"
She gave a little shrug, "there is a lot of stuff here that reminds me of my youth," she didn't add the words in the US. But she knew that he knew that. "Dave Matthews, Matchbox Twenty, Tim McGraw, Train....stuff I don't hear a lot in this country."
Nodding, he swiped the screen then chose a 'driving' play list, "then I think you'll like this."
His proximity meant that she could barely concentrate on the music playing.
"So how was it? Being a pretty English girl in a Massachusetts High School?"
She didn't talk about that time much, but it was their common link in essence, her time in his country, the time she fell in love with the game he loved. "I was popular, I wasn't sure people would like me, but they did. It was different to here, two countries, poles apart."
"Not just the weather."
She laughed, "no, not just the weather. School life, town life....it's all so different. Coming back here was harder than actually going out there."
As soon as she said that, she knew she'd opened the door to discuss her leaving the US, and she wasn't going there.
"You must have been one of those jocks, hey? Bet all the girls were lining up for a piece of the Holding."
He laughed at that, "you reckon? The star of my High School team couldn't keep up with the attention, but he was tall, huge...I was definitely a late developer. I was in the NHL before I grew into my body I suppose."
"Late developer?" She offered coyly, and that made him laugh.
She sipped her wine and watched him as he headed back into the kitchen.
"This will be five minutes, maximum."
"Then I'll sit."
He met her at the table, pulling out a chair for her, and topping up her wine, "are you trying to get me drunk?"
Shaking his head, he placed a heat proof mat on the table beside her, before reappearing with a pot filled with the most beautifully creamy curry and another of fluffy fragrant rice.
"Quite the chef," she offered as he brought the final bowl of hot roti.
"Thank you," he sat opposite her and placed the smallest bowl of something dark and dry in front of her. "Toasted peanuts and coconut. For a little crunch."
Her stomach rumbled, and whilst she was trying to be polite, ladylike, the aromas were so intriguing that she couldn't help but lean forward and lift the spoon, "is this fish?"
He nodded, "monkfish and shrimp."
She groaned, "oh my god, you can come again. That is like..." All she could do was smile.
She tried to maintain her ladylike-ness by taking just a small spoonful of the rice, then a ladle of curry. But she ate in silence, knowing he was watching her and she couldn't fight the moans, the groans and the sighs that his food created.
"It's like the soundtrack to a flix!"
Natasha stopped in her tracks, "flix?"
Bo grimaced, "sorry engaging my mouth without my brain...it means a porn film?"
She knew her mouth had dropped open in shock, but she couldn't control that, "I just like food."
He sighed, "and I feel so happy that you like my food."
She was slowly regaining her composure, "I love it. Where did the recipe come from? Not a family thing?"
He shook his head, "neither of my parents cook, when I was in college my room-mate Kurt Volkerding took me back to his for a break, his mother is Thai, and she made so many amazing curries, that I insisted she gave me a recipe. This has morphed over time as I can afford better ingredients, and the more frequently that I cook it."
"Amazing is right."
He smiled at her, "have some more, please."
Raising an eyebrow, she looked at him for a moment, "I'm just waiting....you know, trying not to look like a pig."
"A pig? Never. It's a compliment if you eat two portions...and you know about my ego."
Rolling her eyes, she reached for the spoon and added more rice to her plate.
Another glass of wine, and he mentioned dessert. She had wanted to bring something, but he insisted on organising it. She was too full anyway.
She shook her head, "Not for a moment, I just need to find capacity to breath. I can't believe you made me have seconds."
Moving across the room, she flopped onto the sofa, and he came to sit beside her, sliding his arm along the back of the cushions. And both of them just took deep breaths as they let their stomachs settle.
"So was part of the plan to render up both into a coma?"
Natasha was slumped back against the sofa cushions, and rolled her head so that she could look at him, similarly reclined beside her.
Shaking his head, he smiled, "not on my agenda, but we have time."
"And a great soundtrack whilst we die." She had no complaints about the music that was playing, it was eclectic and all seemed settled in a good time in her life, mainly her college years.
They'd both been settled in companionable silence for a few minutes, and with each tock of the clock, the more awkward things felt between them. Bo had hoped there would be food, chat and then maybe a little kissing, starting the night off like that, but instead they were beside each other on the sofa and the moment seemed to have passed.
She shook her head, "thought maybe I'm ready for another glass of wine...let me help you with the dishes."
"I've got it, this place may be basic, but it has a dishwasher."
"Which needs to be loaded..."
They stood together, and as he made for the table to retrieve the bottle of wine, her hand encircled his wrist and she pulled him back to her.
"Thanks for dinner, Bo. It was out of this world."
That made him smile as he looked down at her, and he wasn't sure whether he moved first, or she did. But his head lowered to meet hers as it craned up, and their lips met, and that same electricity zinged through him. Within two heartbeats he had his arms wrapped around her, their bodies touching along their length, chest to chest, hip to hip, every inch connected, and it was perfect.
Until she moaned against his lips, and pressed her breasts into his chest. That was derailing every thought in his head. He wanted to rip at her clothes, expose her, see her, taste her, touch her. But he wasn't ready for that, he knew that he could blow this so easily, despite how reciprocal the kiss was, he could feel her anxiety, a tremble in her that he knew would drive her away from him if he wasn't careful.
Dropping his lips to her neck, he ran his tongue over her strong pulse, then nibbled down to her collar bone. But it was as he feasted at her neck that he felt that need to pull back.
"Shit," he offered as he untangled their bodies. "sorry...got carried away."
Grinning she shrugged, "was hardly one sided."
"Let me get you wine, and then I'll just clear the table." As she made to speak, he shook his head, "you're my guest."
When he'd finished loading the dishwasher he returned to the lounge, to see Natasha stood at the floor length windows that looked out over what could only be called 'an improving area'.
"Great view," he offered coming to stand behind her. He wanted to touch her, but had to ease off as he was bordering on molesting her. But as he stopped, to look over her shoulder, she leaned back into him, and so he let his hands slide around her waist.
"It's a lot better than it used to be, you have no idea."
Dropping his chin to her shoulder, he listened as she explained how the area had changed, pointing out the landmarks and the history.
"You love it here."
She nodded, "I've had good times here, all my happy memories are in this town."
He didn't comment on the fact that her parents lived overseas, or the fact that she'd spent a lot of her childhood there too.
She started to hum, and he realised he wasn't even listening to the music. It was some nineties ballad that had slipped into his driving play list, Damn you, Spotify.
"You like this song?"
Nodding she turned in his arms, "reminds me of school."
"Dance with me?"
Her answer was to wrap her arms around him, head on his chest, and he pulled her close. Heaven truly was a place on earth...and he'd become the King of Cliche.