Part Forty Eight
Chapter Forty Eight
Natasha's heart had stopped, she was sure of it. How could three words cause so much carnage? Her mind was racing, her body sluggish and her tongue felt three times it's size as she tried to work out what to say in response.
Bo leaned in, and kissed her lips, "you don't have to say anything, this wasn't a bargaining chip, or a test..." He sighed, "wasn't expecting to say them myself, but I did, and I mean it. I do." As she made to reply, he placed his thumb over her lips, "no, don't say anything, I am not expecting you to respond. Come on..."
He led her out of the arena and they fought with the crowds all leading to the exit, as they were crossing the arena to the adjacent hotel and the location of both the American team, and the evenings party. Everyone else was heading out of the arena to the car parks and public transport the opposite side of the building. At times it was like treading water, and Bo tucked her behind him as they tried to part the crowds and get to where they were heading.
They were both laughing like hyenas when they finally got to the hotel.
"Wish we'd booked a room here," he whispered against her ear as they entered the foyer. That made her knees weak, but instead she rolled her eyes at him.
"I think you are becoming sex obsessed."
Tugging her into his arms, he kissed her nose, "addicted, that's the word." He kissed her again, "and to you, not sex. I'm Natasha-addicted."
Again she swooned, he was doing that to her, all the time. Swiping her off her feet, metaphorically, but almost physically. Clinging to his shoulders, she smiled up at him.
"I like that about you!"
He laughed at that, because he knew that she was still keeping everything close to her chest, but that was where she was, but she knew that she had to open up, share her darkest secrets, because that's what he deserved, and that was what couples did. The thought didn't scare her as much, and the only thing blocking her talking about all that happened, with Mia, Torrie and her parents, was the pain that talking about it caused her. It was a selfish thing, or rather a self preservation thing. But as she stood in the reception of a really smart hotel, wrapped in the arms of a man who loved her, she started to shake at the thought of what she had to do.
Bo led her into the ballroom, a large elegant room off the main foyer that was the location for the evenings soiree. It was quiet, most of the teams and dignitaries were still at the ice, but the stage at the end of the room was filled with trophies and awards, the real point of the evening.
His hand on the small of her back, directed her towards the bar, as he leaned down to murmur, "I understand it's a free bar, and to be honest, the NHL owes me more than a few drinks." As she chuckled, he added, "and I apologise now for all the times I'm going to abandon you tonight." When she stared at him, he smiled, "not physically, but there will be a lot of people wanting to talk to me, people I know...and that'll mean you are not the centre of my attention, and I regret that already."
Swoon number three.
With a large glass of wine, she leaned against the bar, Bo closing her in with a hand either side of her, his body close to her.
"You OK?" He asked, dropping his lips to her forehead. "You're quiet."
She nodded, "lots to think about, you keep dropping bombshells on me."
"There's no agenda, there's no deal or reason for it."
She smiled up at him, those huge blue eyes, "I know that, and I believe you, I trust you, more than anyone else."
He thought his knees might give way at that, it was all he wanted to hear, from Natasha's lips, those three words were more important that I love you. She trusted him, and he wanted to preen his feathers in front of everyone like a tropical bird, in a ridiculous show of manliness.
Before he could find the words, she planted her lips on his, tongue invading his mouth, her hands raking over his chest before cupping his chin as she kissed him.
"We should talk, there are things you don't know..."
He nodded, "I'm sure there's lots, and we have the rest of our lives to talk, baby, don't worry."
Then he reciprocated her kiss, increasing it ten fold.
Until an awkward cough caused them to drift slowly, rather than burst apart. Their eyes locked until Bo finally looked in the direction of the cough.
And his heart sank to see his best friend, or rather ex-best friend, stood there looking nervous, anxious. Suddenly he wanted to leave, screw them all, he had this woman, he had a new life and he gave zero shits for the hints at his past life.
Nathan must've sensed his disdain, for he sighed, "can we talk, man? I really don't want to let this moment pass."
He gestured across the room to an empty table in the corner. Bo nodded then led Natasha with him, as Nathan made to protest, he shook his head.
"You can say anything you want to me in front of her, she knows everything."
Nathan had the good grace to blush, but then with a nod accompanied them to the table.
Bo sat down with Natasha close to his side, but rested back in his chair, crossing a foot over his opposite knee, and resting his beer bottle on his thigh, all the time watching Nathan.
Nathan took in a deep breath, "I just wanted to apologise, just the two of us..." he gave an awkward grimace at Natasha, then turned back to Bo. "I haven't said that with enough honesty."
Bo pondered that, "you mean you didn't want to say sorry in front of your goons last night?"
"Deserved. And probably. Look, I know what I did was unforgivable..."
"Why?" Bo asked the one question that still bothered him.
Nathan looked at him, "why what?"
He shrugged, "You've never been short of women, ones far better than Daniele. I just don't understand why you would risk all that you did, for her. We were like brothers."
The other man looked to the floor for a moment, his poker tell, and Bo braced himself for bullshit.
"She hounded me, for weeks, months. Before the accident. Then she was upset, you weren't interested in her. You were holding her at arm's length. She told me you were there that day, I was coming to see you."
Bo laughed, "really? Coming to see me, then ended up fucking my girlfriend? That was like chopping off my left nut!" He ran a hand through his hair, "I didn't care about her, seeing her up to her neck in guilt, lies, deceit...it did nothing for me. Not really.
"But you!" He shook his head, "it was the worst time of my life, you were like my brother...all I wanted over the weeks and months after, was the man who knew how to make me laugh, who shared a shit ton of memories with me, to lift me from the darkest place I'd ever been. But you weren't there...because you betrayed me."
Bo was on a rant, "I was at the lowest point in my life, and you cut me to the core. Women come and go," he glanced at Natasha and squeezed her hand, "until you meet someone special, but best friends, they're meant to be forever."
Nathan nodded, "I know, and I don't think I can ever apologise enough."
Bo agreed, "you're right, because I can't believe that it was worth it, you have someone else now, it wasn't even like you really wanted her."
He had the decency to drop his head and at least look embarrassed, "I didn't think, I just did. And I regret that every day."
Natasha stroked her thumb against his hand in support, and he smiled at her, it felt so good having her beside him.
"I want to just say OK, forget about everything, but I can't Nathan. It's not that easy." He made to turn away, see who else was joining this party, when Nathan spoke again.
"I was always jealous of you."
That made him stop in his tracks and glare at him, "what? Why?"
"You were always so together, best skater, best player, MVP every season, and I couldn't be that, your family are great, you had it all."
He knew that Nathan hated his childhood and the broken family that had dragged him up, but he was so wrong, and until a few months back, the truth was that Bo was so jealous of him.
"That is bullshit."
Nathan dropped his head again, and Bo noticed he'd turned to block Natasha from the conversation slightly, "even now, after losing everything, you reappear like some phoenix, all strong, all happy, and with a woman who you clearly love, and loves you back...we don't all get that."
He sighed, "you told me you married, I presumed..."
Nathan shrugged, "not every decision has the perfect outcome. Maybe one day you'll forgive me?"
He wasn't sure, he should feel smug, at being the envy of his friend, but he thought back to every conversation he'd had during the weekend, elite athletes, striving to always be the best didn't make for the happiest or most content individuals, which seemed almost unfathomable, before he'd stepped out of that world. Money was a great thing to have filling a bank account, but it didn't make everyone truly happy.
Nathan walked away, and left them together, and as he pulled her into his arms, she wrapped her arms around his neck and met his lips head on. Glad for the distance from the real heart of the party.
"So he's jealous that I have you."
He gave a smug grin when he looked down at her, still close to him, pressed against him. And she replied, "or rather of your charisma, your smile...and your loving family."
"And he has no idea that I've been a distant bastard to them all, and hated fucking everything until someone made me realise that life was passing me by."
She sighed, "you appreciate it all now, and your family are coming to visit soon, that's all that matters."
"And with no headaches for two weeks, I could be back playing soon."
Wriggling amorously in his arms, she smiled, "and all is good with the world."
"It is, let's pay our dues and then get out of this place, there are far better things to do than hang out with my previous life."
The food served was good, and they were eating on some sort of lobster rolls and what Natasha convinced him was caviar as cheers welcomed the arrival of the winning team – the locals, east of the Atlantic team.
Bo whooped, clapping his hands above his head along with the majority of people in the room, and then the team emerged onto the small stage. Everyone laughed and cheered as the key players were interviewed, and the room they were in got fuller and busier.
It was a great atmosphere, and the players were surprisingly funny, and all-in-all, it was a great advert for the NHL, those present who weren't great fans, soon would be.
They stood at the back of the room, and Bo kept his hand on the small of Natasha's back. He enjoyed having that contact.
As the speeches finished, she looked up at him, "I really need to talk to you, properly."
He liked the sound of that, and smiled at her. "Whatever you want." Placing their glasses on a nearby table, he took her hand, "let's get out of here."
They'd done their bit.
Before they could step out of the door, Andreas' voice boomed out Bo's name. Turning, he smiled at him.
"Brother, we are leaving, sorry to not spend more time here..." suddenly hearing all of Natasha's secrets, clearing the slate was all he cared about.
Andreas grinned, clapping him on the shoulder, then smiling in Natasha's direction he offered, "I'd be rushing off too, if I were you."
Bo should hate the way he seemed to repeatedly and openly ogle Natasha, but he knew that neither would betray him, unlike Nathan...he hated that he was always there souring things. He had to do something about him, because it wasn't enough. He had to forgive him, he knew that much.
"You're right, I am a lucky, lucky man."
Laughing, Andreas pulled him into a hug, then promised he'd visit, soon. "Can't wait to see what this UK league is all about."
Previously, Bo would have run it down, but these days he was proud of all that he had in his life, plus he knew that the players and fans at his club would love having such an auspicious visitor.
"Make sure it's soon..."
An arm around Natasha, he led them out of the room, and it was then that he spotted Nathan out of the corner of his eye.
"Let me just say goodbye."
Moving across the foyer, she followed him.
"Nathan, I just wanted to say goodbye."
He stepped away from his friends, seeing Bo's offered hand, and shook it.
Bo nodded, "I can't hate you forever."
That made his former friend smile, "that feels like the greatest relief."
"Who's your buddy Price?" A voice asked from the group behind Nathan, and a man that Bo didn't know stepped forward and extended a hand. As Bo looked to him, he realised his eyes weren't on him, but on Natasha.
"Tash? Is that you?"