Part Thirty Three
Chapter Thirty Three
As Natasha took the phone and flipped the camera around, she snapped a couple of pics, and the man, David, thanked her and Bo profusely, before making his way back to his table, and presumably his wife, who sat there tutting in his direction.
Natasha smiled before her eyes met his.
"I wasn't sure you'd come." He managed to throw the words out as he drank her in, it was a week since he'd seen her, and she looked so different and yet so familiar. Her blue green eyes sparkled, her pale skin was flawless, her luminous russet hair was wound into a single large loose curl, that fell over her shoulder, and the emerald dress she wore set off her colouring to perfection. Ruffled around the neck and hanging off one shoulder, then tight over her ample breasts, her slim waist and round hips. He loved her ass, and her legs..and her boobs, and the dress truly showed the shit out of them. Wow. He thought as he appreciated very inch of her, and that was making it very difficult to concentrate on the moment.
He stood from his seat, and pulled her into a hug, he wanted to do more, but presumed she would hate his familiarity. So he had to keep his distance to some extent. Not scare her off, as an impulsive person, this was completely against his nature. But he did what was right, ending the hug to rush around the table to pull out a chair for her.
"You look amazing," he offered as he sat opposite her.
Then she purposely ran her eyes up and down him, twice. "You too."
He preened in that attention for a moment, then sighed, "I am trying."
That made her nod, "thank you. It's noted."
Suddenly he had no idea what that meant, where she was with it all. So he changed the subject, "do you want wine?"
She bit her lip as she contemplated for a moment, and it turned him on so much that he wanted to toss the table over and drag her into his arms, instead he adjusted his trousers, trying to hide his reaction to her just being there.
"Are you? Maybe red?"
He nodded, "there's a really good Malbec on the menu."
She gave a little sigh, "I love Malbec. Good choice."
Signalling to the waiter, he ordered the bottle, then turned back to her, "you look amazing. Did I just say that?" When she nodded, grinning, he laughed, "sorry, not been this nervous in a long time. I didn't think you'd come...I don't deserve this chance."
Natasha was stunned, she wasn't lying when she'd ogled Bo, he looked amazing. Better than that in a charcoal suit that seemed to coat his skin and a black shirt, open at the collar. He was huge, tall and broad, yet tonight he seemed so humble. When she'd found him posing with the fan who'd obviously recognised him, her heart had melted that little bit more, she was one step away from being a puddle of mush on the floor.
"We need to talk, I can get that. Though it's not been top of my agenda."
He nodded, "that's fair, I was a complete bastard last weekend. I don't cope well with stress."
The waiter appeared with the bottle of wine, and they were both quiet as it was opened, Natasha tasted it, and agreed it was palatable.
"Are you ready to order?"
Bo shook his head, "can we have a few more minutes?"
He gave a half bow, "of course, sir. Take your time."
Once they were alone, he leaned back in his chair, his eyes never leaving her, she managed, "I saw you, on TV last week."
His blush was such a cute reaction. "I helped Coop out..."
"Did you enjoy it?"
He chuckled, "there were some really cool kids there. I enjoyed it. More fun that I realised."
"You do that back in the States?"
Bo shrugged, "had some charity days, visits to hospitals. You know PR stuff."
"But never to schools of normal kids who just love life?"
Grinning he leaned back in his chair and nodded, "exactly like that."
It made her smile. To see such passion, such happiness in his eyes, that had been something she'd never seen. It made him so fucking human that again she melted towards him, psychologically not physically.
"I'm glad you're here. That you came."
When she looked up he was studying her, intently. There was a tension between them, and it made her both nervous and sad. "I wasn't sure until I walked out the door."
He had such an elegance about him, on the ice, in the gym, and even here, in a suit, sat in front of her, watching her every move. In reply, she was drinking him in so greedily, that she almost missed his response.
"I wanted to say that I was out of order, you are exactly right, I was domineering, jeez, last week at Coop's..."
She blushed as the memories of that quickie in Freya's bathroom came to mind, it had been crazy, and wonderful. Perfect in every way.
"...then," he tried to carry on, but waited until her burning face was looking back up at him. "Then, when you try to help me out of my funk...I snap, I push you away...I insult you."
She sipped her wine, biding her time to reply, "you were stressed. I get it, and I'm not bearing a grudge for that."
His eyebrows lifted and he leaned forward, "but you are for something else?"
He picked up on her choice of words, she should have known he would. Fighting being honest, she instead shrugged, and was glad that the waiter returned, and they both quickly glanced at their menus, no closer to ordering dinner.
As they'd ordered, she didn't even know what she was selecting, yet she could feel his eyes on her once more. He was waiting for her to answer, he hadn't forgotten the direction of their pre disruption conversation. Much to her chagrin.
Taking a deep breath and an equally large slug of wine, she started to speak, "I was upset at the way that you treated me, and angry. But admit that maybe more about me than you. The big picture, really is that this isn't going anywhere."
It was as much as she could say, because this wasn't going anywhere, that was for sure.
Bo leaned forward onto his elbows, a crease appearing between her eyebrows as he stared at her,"what do you mean?"
"You're leaving. End of the season, five months maybe...and you have no intention of coming back. Why would we carry this on? Why would we do that? This is going nowhere. Not long term."
He was silent for ages watching her, and she reached for her glass, holding it in her fingers defensively. It was so hard to sit there, constantly in his scrutiny.
"You want me to promise you that?" he finally offered.
She shook her head, wanting to jump up and run out. But she didn't. "I would never make you do something that you didn't want, but I do know that you pushing me away last week, well it really upset me, if I invest any more time with you...then when you go I'll be devastated, and I'm not up for that."
Shaking his head, he kept up the silent pressure of his eyes, his body leaning towards her, "this may fizzle out, a few weeks, a few months."
Nodding she dropped her eyes, "very true. So what's the point of pushing any further if it's just going to end?" Couldn't he see how this would break her?
"I didn't say it would! That's not what I'm saying, at all. But you don't know what's going to happen."
"Bo, I do know. Whatever happens this is ending in shit. It's all a bit much for me. I told you I don't do relationships, just like you told me. This changed, it became something more..and I can't deal with it. I can't slide back into anything with you."
He seemed to digest that for a long moment, then their appetisers arrived, and they paused for the plates to be laid in front of them.
"I am not looking to fight with you. I came here tonight to tell you that you're right. About everything."
Widening her eyes she smirked at him, "everything?" This was interesting.
Rolling his eyes at her attempt at wit, he leaned forward, "all joking aside, I have been living in the past. Resenting all I still have, ruing all that I've lost. That I'll never get back. I was wrong, so wrong. And I pushed you away in my need to keep living that lie."
She made to protest, but he shook his head, "no, I have to say this. I have barely spoken to my family since I came here, I have withdrawn from all my friendships, hiding from what I've lost...instead of appreciating what I have...what I had. Ironically blocking all that I felt I deserved, then grumbling about all that I had chosen. I cannot explain to myself how I got to that place."
She looked down, focussing on the scallops on her plate for a long moment. And it seemed to encourage him to carry on.
"When I had my accident, I turned my back on everything. It didn't help that I found my girlfriend in bed with my best mate. That wasn't the worst thing, looking back I didn't even like her that much, but over the months and years it became the catalyst for everything. It symbolised everything I lost, and I reacted, I realise that now."
He took a bite of his lobster cannelloni starter, chewing on it thoughtfully, then when he swallowed he continued and she found herself hanging on his every word.
"So. There I was. No sport, shit life feeling as though everything had ended. And I blamed her, my best friend, the people who have barely contacted me since."
He chewed again, his eyes never leaving hers, "but in all honesty, I closed down, I projected all my own shit onto the relationships I had, and blamed everyone else for it all."
She gasped, "wow. That's quite insightful."
He nodded, "and I'd have never got there if you hadn't pushed me there, you and Coop."
"Yup. Made me think about why I started playing hockey, what I want from life. You have made me realise that only I can control my future, and if I'm stuck in the past then that will never happen."
Laughing he ate the last portion of his starter, then sat back, "like I say, you and Coop. Both tore a strip off me, and for good reason."
"So you're changing things around?"
Inclining his head a little, he replied, "I opened up my social media, after I left yours. People have missed me. I've been inundated with messages. My parents are coming to visit, I spoke to one of my sisters yesterday...and the world hasn't ended, people aren't laughing at me, no one is making fun of my change of fortune."
"I imagine they aren't."
He nodded, and it was almost palpable, the relief wafting off him.
"So tell me about your messages."
He paused for a moment, then nodded, telling her about his old captain, his old room-mate, teammates. The group chat, the pictures of kids, weddings...and them wanting to visit, to come see him.
"Wow, so it's been a cathartic week?"
Grinning he leaned forward, "I'm not sure I fully understand that word, but whilst I'm not sure that my glass is half full...it's not half empty. That's the main thing."
"I'm so pleased for you, I really am."
His face dropped, "but it's not enough?"
Shrugging, she laid her cutlery across her plate, "I can't go back into this. It's too difficult."
"I get you've been hurt, haven't we all? But that mean we can't stop living."
"You are leaving!"She blurted, then sat back embarrassed, aware that a few heads had turned to look at them.
"I can't say I'm not."
She nodded, "and that's right. You shouldn't make decisions based on me, I'd never expect that."
"So then we end up here, stalemate."
Giving a tense smile, she watched as the waiter cleared their table. Then she sighed, "I...er...I just can't do this, Bo. You are such an explosion, a whirlwind, you are so much larger than life. There's no way I can let this go further. It scares me."
Bo leaned back in his seat, running a hand across his chiselled jaw, his eyes hooded for a moment, "are you telling me that there's no chance, that I can't change that?"
Nodding, she bit her lip nervously, he was so hard to reject, so difficult to turn down.
"Drives me nuts," he hissed, regaining her attention.
"Biting your lip, makes me want to lick it."
Warmth shot through her, and she shuddered, to the core. He saw that, she knew he did.
"You want me, just as much."
She shook her head, vehemently, but that just made him smile.
"You do. Why can't we just explore, see where this takes us?"
"Because I can't do it."
He flicked his head back looking at the ceiling for a long time, taking several deep breaths, "what made you so scared?"
She wasn't about to answer that, her past wasn't up for discussion.
"Someone hurt you? A man?"
When she could only shrugged, he sighed, "now who's living in the past?"
Shaking her head, she reached for her bag, bracing to push up from the seat, to leave, to get out, "this is not up for discussion. Yes – I have a past, and I am doing everything I can to stop it ruling my life. So stop judging me!"
He reached for her hand, and stopped her, "stop. Don't go."
Pausing, she met his concerned expression, "please."
Shaking his head, Bo kept his hand on hers, "this is what I did last week, to you. Can't you see that? We're both weighed down with baggage."
That made her slump back in her chair, "I'm not like you."
Shrugging, he reached for his wine, "seems very similar, you prod me I snap, I prod you, you snap."
Main courses arrived at that moment, and they sat in silence, she licked her wounds as she ate what she was sure was a delicious meal, but the anxiety meant she could barely taste it.
"Can't we try?"
Natasha looked up to see he'd stopped eating, and he was doing what he'd done all night, watching her, studying her.
"I can't, Bo. This last week...I've opened doors I closed a long time ago, and I'm not strong enough to go through that again."
"You won't tell me what happened?"
She shook her head, "I can't."
"I respect that, but for the record, I've sat here and told you how much I want you, how you've made me feel like I've never felt before, that I want to always feel how I feel when I'm with you."
Blushing and gasping in equal measure, she stopped eating, mouth hanging open as she watched him just speak.
"So I'm not going to just get up and walk away. You are the only real friend I have here, the only person whose chosen to spend time with me, and that means so much to me. Can we be friends at least?"
"What would that entail?" She asked with a croaky voice.
Shrugging, he seemed to deliberately pause, dragging out his answer, "dinner, cinema, coffee. The usual. You can't leave me alone every night in that shitty apartment."
As she nodded as answer, unable to refuse him, she had a sick feeling wash over her, this wasn't going to end well. She was sure.