Friday morning and the sun was shining, that made Bo wake up with a smile. For that little moment before reality sunk in, he was happy. Then the surroundings infiltrated him. The alarm on his phone suddenly blasted again, and the word Pilates popped up on the screen. That brought him back to earth with a bang, he remembered Coop's words, and he tried to see the bright side, but there didn't seem to be one.
Until he got to another breakfast meeting afterwards. The little blonde thing who'd flirted outrageously when they'd been at the cafe two days earlier, was there smiling as he walked in with Blake, ahead of the others this time.
"Hi guys, I'm Lara. If you need anything, just shout." With that she directed them to some long tables set up to one side.
"So blonde is your thing, hey?" Blake elbowed him, "that's the liveliest you've looked in weeks."
Bo rolled his eyes, but there was no denying he had perked up a little, it had been a long time since he'd been interested in anything.
By the time the other guys arrived, he was tucking into the best poached eggs and avocado that he'd ever tasted, a hint of chilli, lots of pepper, delicious.
He reached for the OJ and saw the jug was empty.
"Ask for another one, will you please?" Coop asked.
Bo nodded, pushing his chair back, he made for the counter. The blonde waitress was serving another customer, so he waited.
Natasha came out of the office to see a tall, handsome man stood at the counter, with his huge presence, stubbled jaw, full lips, even in side profile Natasha could tell he was an attractive man....with his eyes trained on delicate, slim and blonde Lara. She wasn't jealous of her, there was a lot to be said for curves and hair her grandmother called russet, but the handsome athlete just loved the alternative, that was no surprise. She took a deep breath, that animosity came from a place a long time ago, taking a sigh, she approached him.
"Can I help? Or would you rather wait for Lara?" He jumped at the voice, turning to face her with an awkward smile.
"Er. No. Thanks. We just need some more orange juice, of possible." He added a quick please as she nodded and made her way to the fridge.
"I don't suppose you have any pomegranate juice?" He asked when she came back with the jug, his warm eyes staring at her.
Her eyes lit up, "I do! Pomegranate Martini's are my fave. Have them most nights when the door shuts!"
He was amused at her reaction, smirking while she gushed like a giggly girl, and it was a long moment before he replied, "You've got good taste."
Blushing furiously, she scurried back to the fridge then gave him the dark glass of juice along with the jug.
Natasha burst into her office, then slammed the door closed, collapsing against it. She felt such a fool, but the man who had asked for juice had the greatest eyes, when he finally took his eyes off Lara, she reminded herself. It was a long time since she'd had a reaction like that to anyone, her confidence with men was poor, she had safe encounters on her terms, but it was a long time since someone as mesmerising as him had infiltrated her brain. For what good it did. Because then said brain went to sleep, and she made a ridiculous attempt at flirting...that went down like a lead balloon. Tumbleweeds should have blown through the restaurant, and she felt like an idiot. She'd got it all so wrong, she was so poor at judging men.
He was quite obviously one of the hockey players, as oppose to a coach, he was tall, imposing and had that air of confidence that only professional athletes had. The sport wasn't in the same league as it was in the States, but even at this lowly level, the players were surrounded by beautiful women, Hell, the cafe trade seemed to increase ten fold when the team were in the building, word was obviously getting around. Or suddenly every young female student in the city wanted coffee at the same time.
So what the hell had possessed her even attempt to flirt? She was a middle aged frump. Lara was an expert at that, she wasn't. Now she was just embarrassed. He was clearly younger than her, and WAY out of her league. Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths, it was only nine thirty, she had a long day ahead.
Everyone from the team had left when she finally emerged, and Natasha was glad that she didn't have to see any of the team again, well not until the next breakfast meeting, and who knew when that would be. She was heading out for some fun with Steph that night, she had to focus on having fun and not making a fool of herself. She couldn't lose the confidence that she'd strived to get back over the last ten or more years.
It was several hours later when she did confess, after too many drinks, to flirting with the man who had shut her down in just a split second, making her feel about an inch tall.
Steph, equally as drunk, slid and arm around her. "If some guy is too obsessed with one of your teenage student baristas, then more fool him. He couldn't handle a grown up and mature woman with boobs and brains, like you."
She turned to her, hiding a smile, "Are you saying I'm old or fat?"
Her friend cackled, like a witch, "don't be stupid, I'm saying you've got class and he has none. Let's go to that new hotel bar across town. Find us some champagne, and check out some REAL classy men!"
Natasha didn't remember much detail after that, but she woke up safely in her bed, ruing her hangover and wishing she didn't have to work that morning.
"So, today, we're talking about social media."
Bo groaned, he liked Oscar, but this was ridiculous. He listened as the team were told that part of their obligation to the team was to post, frequently, on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, any platform they used. The Hornets were a fairly new team and they were desperate for more publicity, plus it was a way to give something back to their fans. And they apparently loved players engaging with them.
"I know none of you need help in using social media, but there is a social media representative for us who can help any of you. Obviously, these posts won't include drunken shenanigans, nudity, or anything illegal...." He paused as the team sniggered, "...but personal details, trips, training, visits to local restaurants, pics of you with fans, your family, pets...it's all good."
This was like being five years old again, another thing that wound him up, Bo hated that he resented so much of his life, but that was how it went. Everyday he hated things more, but he prayed that once the season began, once he started to play again, well maybe that would make a difference, he could only hope. They had a road trip to Scotland in two days time, and that would see them play two different teams, and kick their season off. It was the thing that kept him going.
"Our social media sec assures that ten tweets a week is a good baseline."
Oscar was still talking and as he added that, he grimaced awkwardly, before changing the subject and outlining the details for their upcoming weekend, travel, hotels etc. Bo was glad that he felt excitement at trying on his new kit, he hadn't seen the uniform yet, but knew it was yellow and black, obviously.
Something to look forward to at last.
That night as he lay in his bed, checking his email and Facebook for messages, he grimaced, only a few months out of the NHL and everyone had forgotten him already. With a sigh, he created a twitter account. It was the only way he was willing to publicly post anything, a purpose made account for his current role. Separate from his old life.
He was sharing a room with Blake Myers, the team's captain, he knew that was Coop's doing, and he was glad. There were definitely two types within the team, Bobby Vaughn and his defensive buddy Travis Kyle – toxic and divisive, and then Blake, his long term buddy Jax and a few others, who were welcoming, happy and funny.
He couldn't work out why that pocket of poison existed in the team, but he knew from experience that people like them would out themselves, and that was what he had to do, just last out that long. Not be the one who looks like the trouble maker, which he was endanger of doing.
They lost their first game, but it was close. He'd always played a centre role, what he believed was the lynchpin of a team, but with his lack of pace and the clumsiness on the ice, the edge that he'd always relied on, not returning as quickly as he'd like, he'd been dropped down to the teams second line. That meant less play for him, but he was waiting, he'd always been driven, if it was possible to improve he would. This injury would not beat him.
"Come on, Bo-ring," a few of us are going to grab some pizza. After the calories we've burned off, reckon we need a treat."
Bo rolled on to his back on the hotel bed and glanced at his captain and room mate, "Bo-ring? That's all you got?"
He shrugged, "you need a nickname, and you got your panties in a twist over Peep. What they call you back in the NHL?"
"Bo....or Holding." He offered the words dryly.
Frowning, he shook his head, "that's a penalty, not a name."
Bo could almost see the lightbulb moment when he announced, "that's it, Penalty."
Grabbing his jacket, Bo hoped, that like all the other efforts, that name was soon forgotten.
"I thought we were going for pizza."
Blake swung an arm around Bo's shoulders, "have you tried Nando's? Because this is great food. Beats pizza."
He loved pizza, "I doubt that."
"Try me. OK?"
With a shrug he followed them inside, and helping him work out what was happening, he was sat with a half a chicken in their hottest sauce in not very long, and Blake was snapping a selfie of the five of them eating, within moments a bleep from his phone alerted him to the fact that Blake had tagged him in the pic on twitter.
Not that anyone would care. Well no one that mattered anyway.
Sitting back, he crossed his arms over his stomach, Jax grinned at him, "so what do you think of that?"
As takeaways went, it was good grilled chicken, no frills but with a great sauce, what was there not to like, and it was a bit lighter than pizza would have been.
"OK, OK, maybe it was on a par with pizza."
Blake guffawed, "only GREAT pizza."
As the five of them left the building, for the first time in a long time, Bo felt relaxed. That may have been to do with the chicken, but most definitely the company. Maybe there were good guys, after all.
"What cakes do you have? And could I buy a few large slices, please?"
Natasha was cleaning the bottom of the glass chiller, when the voice startled her, jumping up she bumped her head on the upper edge of it.
"Shit!" She exclaimed rubbing the top of her head, then looked up to see Coop stood there. "Hey."
"You OK?" He was suddenly concerned at her possible injury."
"I'm fine, just wasn't expecting anyone in so close to closing time. Made me jump. So cake? All for you, or are you trying to impress someone?"
He grimaced, "try having a three day trip away from home, getting back and then spending most of my first day back in meetings. Hoping I can sweet talk the wife, if not sweet treat her."
She chuckled, "well, seeing as it's you, and you're fast becoming my best customer, I have carrot cake or lemon drizzle cake, fresh, ready for tomorrow. But I will make an exception and dig into them early. Would one of those help?"
Nodding, he smiled, "my wife is a great baker, but she struggles with carrot cake for some reason, she cannot get it right. So that will be a treat. Natasha, you are a life saver."
"Want a coffee whilst I cut it?" She lifted the almost empty jug, "I'm about to empty it down the sink."
Handing him the mug, she headed out back for a container, then started to cut the cake as he sipped his drink, "so how long have you been living here?"
He glanced at her, "the UK? We came over five years ago when I got offered the chance to help set up this team. Moved the family here, thought we'd be here a year max."
"Impressed that you can tell the difference. I'm American to EVERYONE over here."
"I lived just outside Boston for a few years, you learn to tell the difference."
She clammed up after that, she never spoke of her past, of her time in the States, even with Steph.
As if he sensed that, he drained his mug, then took the cake, "again – life saver."