Texts, impromptu visits and flowers. That summed up Natasha's week. Every day a gift of some description was delivered, flowers, chocolates, a book even a sparkly scarf that exactly matched her favourite jacket, the man was thoughtful. Plus she was bombarded with messages from Bo, some important, some silly, all really sweet. Most days he called in, for lunch, or a coffee. Each time, perching against the counter, he was charming, friendly, but kept that physical and emotional distance that he was self imposing. There was innuendo there, hints about how much he cared for her, how much he wanted her. But he maintained that distance. It was her move to make, that was abundantly clear. And the frustration was starting to kill her.
Bo wasn't back to full training, though he'd gone to a few gym sessions, which seemed to help him manage his own frustrations. Coop had told him that he could ramp up his on ice stuff over the next few days, but as the first game on Friday night approached, Bo had to face it from off the ice. Natasha wasn't sure how he'd deal with that.
But in an unexpected move, the web team had asked him to assist with their live commentary, and do some on air interviews, and Bo smiled for the first time in ages when he even mentioned the game. Finally, he was feeling involved and that was huge for him. He seemed to get his joie de vivre back.
Natasha decided she wasn't going to the game as she was so tired, it had been a physically hard week, and then there was Bo, battering at her defences. She was emotionally frazzled. All week she dreamed of an evening relaxing, wine, maybe pizza and a box set on TV. She had one of her staff opening up Saturday morning, so she could even have a lie in. It was like a mantra, a goal, something to work towards.
But as game time approached, she knew she couldn't stay away, so she called a cab and headed to the rink. She didn't know any of the wives gathered, Freya was home with the kids tonight, Michelle was pregnant and resting, and Lizzie only came to occasional games, and that was a huge reason why she didn't want to go initially. Instead, she took a seat on her own in one of the attacking corners of the ice and pulled out her book. She was in the middle of reading To Kill a Mocking Bird, part of her challenge to read the top fifty books in the next eighteen months, and she was really enjoying the Harper Lee book. It was easy to switch off as the team warmed up, but when the game started she dropped it and watched intently.
Bo being in her life was a good thing on so many levels, but it was really the return to a sport she had once loved that had opened so many doors. New friends, possibly new colleagues, but also a rekindled love, hockey. She got absorbed in the first period instantly, it was fast, exciting, and she loved it. She missed the brooding presence of Bo Holding, demanding, controlling on the ice, a dominating force. The team stuttered initially, he was an important lynch pin in the team, but as time progressed, they pulled it together and got a goal before the end of the first period and the team left the ice to applause.
During the break when Natasha had a hot chocolate she returned to her book. Only for her phone to buzz, disturbing her.
Thought you weren't coming, but have to say, I fucking love that shirt, from this angle I get a great view!
She looked down, she was wearing a v-neck t-shirt which was fitted, clinging to her favoured assets, but it was a million miles from obscene. Grinning, she dropped her head, hiding that smile. Instead, penning a quick reply.
This? Old t-shirt. Nothing special.
She knew he was in the arena, and obviously that he could see her, but she wasn't about to show her hand by craning her eyes around the building for him. This was still a game, and she wasn't giving him an inch.
That's where you're wrong, looks amazing. But then your tits would look great in anything...
As she gasped at his forwardness, aware of the way her whole body zinged at that. Before she could reply, her phone pinged again.
...or even better nothing!
Blushing, she shook her head, she dropped her eyes to the book, imagining him chuckling at her expense. She needed to play it cool. At all costs.
Discreetly, she managed to identify where the web team were in the rink, a scaffold platform up high in the eaves, and she could make out the hulk like Bo between the two significantly smaller men, hunched over a TV screen with their backs to her. She couldn't hear their commentary, but she could tell they were laughing. That's what Bo needed, camaraderie, fun, the reality that there was more to him than his sport. Not an ego massage as much as some normality. He had never had normal, not really. This whole media driven life, everything available but nothing genuine, nothing as it seems. It was no wonder that he was so suspicious, so untrusting. And despite his success, his prowess, he lacked confidence in himself, his relationships, and the reasons that people spent time with him. Fun with peers, that was exactly what he needed, and it made her smile.
The second period was exciting, a single goal for each team, but the play was end to end, until Vaughn got into a fight, and he was absolutely battered. They guy he dropped gloves with was twice his size and looked mean, and he rained punches on to the smaller man. Once it was stopped by the officials, and the other player was about to hit the penalty box for a long time, he was punched from the side by Travis Kyle, another Hornet and Vaughn's best buddy, if Bo was to be believed. That led to a bench clearing fight, twenty plus men fighting, gloves, sticks and helmets scattered across the ice, and chaos everywhere. Which pleased the cheering fans no end.
It took ages to settle, and to dole out the appropriate punishments, and as the original instigator was thrown out with a game penalty, Natasha found herself jumping to her feet and cheering like a banshee, even though she didn't like Vaughn.
"Never took you for a fight fan," a voice growled at her ear, and she jumped, her heart pounding with fear, amazed that Bo could sneak up on her unawares like that.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," he offered, pulling her into a hug.
He was oblivious to the looks around them, even if he wasn't wearing a club suit, even if he wasn't six foot plus of solid, talented muscle, fans nearby knew his face and instantly recognised him.
"Not a ghost, a sneaky man who likes scaring me!" She exclaimed punching his arm lightly as her heart started to calm.
"Too good an opportunity to miss. You alone?"
She shrugged, "I wasn't coming, but then I had to. The girls all are sans babysitters, and I'm not hanging out with those WAG's."
He nodded, glancing to the seats behind the dugouts, filled with a variety of glamorous women, "good call. They're shit company."
Then he lowered himself into the seat beside her, which seemed to give every fan within a fifty foot radius carte blanche to approach for autographs, or rather selfies. So, their conversation was stilted.
"How's the commentary?" She asked, when the stream of kids and parents seemed to ease.
He shrugged, "enjoyed it until they just kept asking how my head was."
"Didn't want to talk about the accident?"
Turning slowly, he studied her until she met his eyes fully, "No. Just couldn't admit that the biggest problem with my head is that it's preoccupied by this beautiful baker who thinks I'm an undeserving, using bastard."
"I don't think that!" She exclaimed defensively, then sighed as she digested the rest of his words, "preoccupied?"
Laughing, he nodded, "you are all I think about. Literally."
At that point his phone buzzed, checking it he groaned, then swept down to kiss her cheek, "got to go, game is back on..."
And he disappeared.
He kept doing that, railroading her, overwhelming her every sense, then rushing off, leaving her to rue her slow decision making.
Five goals to four, with the winner scored in the dying seconds by Blake Myers, the captain, was a result the whole arena, bar the couple of dozen travelling fans, wanted. Everyone was singing and screeching as the teams gathered for the end of game presentations. Whoops, cat-calls and bruised faces kind of summed up the night for all gathered. The atmosphere was electric, fans singing and cheering, players clapping each other on the back.
Despite that, as everyone waited to hear who deserved the man of the match award in such a memorable game, Natasha decided to hit the bar, a glass of wine then she'd leave. She definitely wasn't waiting for Bo to come and find her. She reassured herself several times of that fact as she entered the bar.
The man behind the bar recognised her, smiling before getting her a drink. As she sipped it, sat on a stool, she watched the room fill with people, adorned in team shirts, hats, scarves, all raving over the game that had a bit of everything, she knew that she was scanning the room for Bo. Though she was still reassuring herself that she wasn't.
Yet, she knew that he had changed, he'd proved himself. Bo had said every word that she wanted him to say, he wanted to stay, he wanted to make more of this, this relationship, he wanted it all. He wanted her. And a few weeks earlier, that was exactly what she'd wanted from him, commitment, promise... a chance of a future.
And still it didn't seem enough, she still had her heart, her inner feelings wrapped in the steel cage that appeared after the disaster with Torrie. Was it fair? No. He wasn't Torrie, he was someone better, someone who truly showed he cared. He was offering her everything, his friendship, his care, the great sex they'd already shared, but the truth of it was, she was scared, terrified of ending up in the same place as she was previously. Her parents, Torrie, even Nana H, she lost everyone she cared about. She wasn't sure that she could cope with losing again.
But what was the alternative? Being alone? Watching Bo get involved with another woman? Never trying to make it work?
At that moment, as if by some sort of mirage, he appeared in front of her, crossing the bar area in several long purposeful strides. When he stopped in front of her, she reached up, cupped his cheek as she breathed in the closeness of him, then raised up from her seat and planted her lips on his.