Part Thirty Four
Chapter Thirty Four
How did you maintain a platonic relationship with a member of the opposite sex whose bones you wanted to jump so desperately?
For Bo, that was the million dollar question. Knowing that Natasha agreed to spend time with him made him smile, he hit training the morning after their dinner with a smile on his face, and it had been there since.
But since he'd asked her to be his friend, to spend time with him, he was happy. Though he'd had to follow up his request with a promise that there would be no sex. He laughed as he remembered the earnest expression on her face as she'd asked that, and the way he'd reluctantly agreed to it. But if he'd learned nothing else, it was that sex wasn't everything, and he had to rely on his charm, his personality and his chivalry to overwhelm her. Because he wasn't wrong, he was sure that she liked him that she wanted more, just like he did.
There seemed to be more than the fact he would be heading back to the US that was making her hold back, and he was hopeful that they could get back on track with time, he was hoping that she'd open up to him, share things with that. He wanted that.
So he hit the gym hard, hit the ice hard, throwing himself into his life a hundred percent...and kept his distance for a couple of days, even thought it almost killed him, He knew that would be what they both needed, some time to clear their minds. And as his Swedish grandmother used to say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. He was hoping that was true.
Today was Thursday, and he had waited almost three days. It was time to make plans. After the gym session he was calling to the cafe. He needed to talk to her. Stake his claim.
How did you cope with a force like Bo Holding taking over your life?
You threw yourself into work, you worked fourteen hour days, and you pretended that you didn't want a life outside of that job, and that you weren't waiting for the phone call or text from the man who was turning your life upside down without being in it. From the moment she'd left the restaurant, insisting on travelling home alone, Bo had been absent from her life. The occasional barely daily text saying hi in some format was all he gave her, and she was too bloody stubborn to reply to them.
Then she reminded herself that she didn't want this, couldn't want this. So why was she so confused over it?
Steph had arrived the morning after the dinner to see how the talk had gone. But she could shed no light. Natasha knew she wasn't making sense, she'd barely slept, her mind going around in circles, from the conversation they'd had, and the links to her past. In the depths of her dreams, despite the difference in their physical and personal attributes, Bo moulded into Torrie. They became one and the same, and that wasn't a great place to be.
"You wanted this, distance." Natasha nodded at Steph's analogy.
"So why am I so fucked up over it all?"
Steph shrugged, "cos he's hot as fuck and bangs you like you've never had it before?"
Natasha blushed and chuckled in equal measures, "he does have certain talents, but I need more than that."
"You want him to commit to you, but you're not exactly offering him anything back."
That had hurt, but she loved Steph's honesty. "I can't leave this place to follow him on a whim. I can't when I've put everything I have into it, this cafe..it's all I have."
She nodded, "I know babe, but his career, his hockey is all he has, and whilst he can do it here, he hankers after being the best. That is what has driven him to be successful. He is who he is because of that drive. You can't admire that and expect him to give up on it."
She nodded, tears prickling her eyes, "I see that, I get that. But it's hard..."
Steph came around the counter to hug her, "and you have to realise that this isn't just about him."
Those words hung in her head and her heart for the next few days as the distance between her and Bo grew.
The tension and anxiety that built whilst she waited for each little crumb he threw her, was making her physically sick. She couldn't cope with letting her mind become idle, so she stayed in work, trying out new recipes and filling her counters with new and delicious confections. Which the customers loved.
That was how it worked. Occupy brain, forget life. Her mantra.
Until Thursday early afternoon when the ding of the bell over the door alerted her to someone entering. Looking up she literally wobbled on her feet to see that tall, dark and foreboding figure that filled the doorway. He stood there for a long moment, drinking her in, and that made her whole body tingle as she reciprocated, looking him slowly up and down.
It was several seconds before he moved towards her, and she was grateful for the time to recover her voice and her rampant heart.
"Hi," she offered, speaking first.
He walked right up to her before replying.
"How are you? You look great."
That was a lie, she had bags under her eyes and a death pallor, but she wasn't going to argue.
"Hmm, not sure about that! How's your week going?"
He lounged a hip against the counter, his smile constant, "OK. A bit lonely, seems that you are the only person I want to do things with, Natasha."
Her name was almost a breath at the end of the comment that had already turned her knees to mush.
"You're good at this, Bo Holding."
That made him laugh, hard.
"You make it very easy, Natasha Ingram."
Can you blush on top of a blush? Natasha was, or at least she was trying to.
Almost as though he sensed her weak moment, he leaned closer, "I want to go to the cinema tonight. There's a new thriller—hot male lead..."
She bit her lip, taking a deep breath, "you want to go with me?"
He nodded, "that's what friends do? Apparently one of the Hemsworth brothers is shirtless in it, and none of the boys want to see that apparently."
After another deep breath, she managed a quip, "so I'm your second choice?"
He lifted an eyebrow, "hmm, the film wasn't my first choice, but I know your love for those Aussies."
He was choosing the film for her, that was the most contrived, and most sweet thing that she could imagine. This infuriating man.
He dropped his head, looking up at her from under his dark lashes, "Say you'll come."
"Just a film."
Grinning he clapped his hands together in a really sweet gesture, "of course! I'll pick you up at seven."
With that he waltzed out of the cafe and disappeared down the street.
He had wondered if she'd refuse, and that wouldn't have surprised him. Natasha Ingram was one of the strongest women he'd ever met, and she wasn't going to do anything she didn't want to. He loved that about her. So her giving in, agreeing with his plans seemed like a gift, and he wasn't about to look that horse in the mouth.
Meaning that he was almost diva-like getting ready. He tried six different pairs of jeans and a dozen shirts and t-shirts until he was happy, then he gelled his short curls, felt he looked all 'soul glow' so he washed it out. He'd never been so undecided or bothered at how he looked, and he was almost late. It was exactly seven pm when he almost skidded to a stop outside her home.
To his annoyance she was on the doorstep waiting, and he rued his timing, but then something told him she'd have met him downstairs whatever time he arrived, this was her keeping her distance after all. Inviting him into her home would be against everything she stood for.
Jumping out of his tiny car as best he could, he sprinted across the street, dodging traffic before stopping in front of her with a smile.
She studied him for a long moment, obviously taking in his enthusiasm and what he hoped was a boyish smile, then rolled her eyes.
"It's the fucking cinema!"
Chuckling, he took her arm and led her to the road, "yup, it's the cinema. And we've got back row seats."
Her protest at that was weak, but he admitted that there were no reservations in reality as he drove across town to the cinema complex.
"I wouldn't sit in the back row even if you did," she offered as he paused at traffic lights.
"Why? Scared you couldn't resist me?"
The eye roll was becoming par for the course with him, "no because I'm not fourteen on a first date."
"Nothing wrong with reliving your youth."
She turned in her seat, "I'm thirty one, that's hardly ancient!"
He laughed as he pulled off from the junction, "thirty one? You are my sugar mama."
She wasn't sensitive about her age, but he wasn't exactly pushing her positivity buttons, "I'm not your anything!"
"Fair, but a four year age gap is brag-worthy..." he glanced at her, and obviously spotted her indignant face, "...if we were dating."
She digested the fact that she was intimate with every inch of his body without knowing his actual age, made Natasha feel a little nauseous.
"Well we are most definitely not. Dating."
It was an aggressive snap, but she wasn't sorry. This was a bad idea, her and Bo, they could never be platonic.
"I should go home."
He shook his head, "sorry, you are just so easy to aggravate."
"I'll be silent until we get there. OK?"
They sat on the aisle halfway up the busy theatre, and Natasha actually relaxed and enjoyed both the film and the popcorn, and when he was behaving, Bo was good company. After the film he was insistent that they get food, she wasn't that hungry, but he informed her that he didn't get hungry, he got hangry.
"Who am I to get between you and your unquenchable appetite?"
He pulled up outside a late night cafe, "I have spent my whole life eating steamed chicken and broccoli."
"And you don't now?"
He shook his head, "it's a lower level, so I can take my foot of the gas on occasion...I eat well ninety percent of the time." When she contemplated that, he seemed to read her mind, "this isn't me berating my team, just that even if I ate better, cleaner...my knee can't do any more than it is at the moment, so I can afford to relax on times."
They ate burgers which were tasty and surprisingly not overly greasy, washing it down with diet coke. And the conversation and atmosphere were light. Natasha was still so guarded, so worried about the evening, how it would end, and whether she would be able to push him away if he moved on her, that she couldn't really relax.
When they finally left and walked towards his car, Bo made the school boy error of putting an arm around her shoulder, it was cold that was his justification, and whilst he constantly hoped that she'd change her intentions towards her, that move had been anything but...a move. But she froze pulled away from him, then sighed.
"I can't do this, Bo. It can't work. We can't be just friends. Not with our history."
Before he could protest, she dived out into the street and hailed a cab. Then not for the first time in their fragile relationship, one of them bolted, this time her.
As the taxi cut through the dark night, Natasha couldn't get Bo's sad face out of her mind as he watched her go. Disappear. Again.
She hated hurting him, but letting him believe that this could be more wasn't healthy. He'd joked all night, been friendly, but there was the hint of over familiarity. She felt like a bird in the paws of a cat, playing with her, lulling her into a false sense of security before taking the plunge.
She thought about Stephs's analogy earlier, that she was as equally unlikely to commit, and she knew there was a lot of truth in that, she was scared, not of him, but how he made her feel, what she might do when she got carried away.
She'd done it once, and that had ruined everything.
Shaking her head she had to put all thoughts of all those absent in her life, Torrie, her parents and her daughter, aside. Three of them hadn't spoken to her in years, the other broke her heart every day. Leaning forward she tapped the taxi driver on the shoulder.
"Can you go to the cemetery on Poplar Street please?"
It was dark, she should be worried about going there alone, but nothing was as scary as losing her was. And she'd survived that...just.