Christmas read: Playing It Cool – free story

Playing It Cool

Here’s a short Christmas-themed story for you to enjoy.

Contains: snow, high levels of drinking and sporadic swearing, ice-related peril, references to classic rugby matches, a pitched battle and perhaps some romance. Please comment!

Tx

***

‘Fuckit, I’m cold.’

‘Fucking freezing.’

‘I’m starting to wish the pitch had frozen hard enough for the match to be postponed.’

‘Me too. Despite that I’m enjoying watching Danny run around being manly. I’ve missed him since he stopped training us.’

‘You and your crush on Danny, I just wish you’d talk to him sometime.’

A heavy sigh, ‘I know, but he’s never looked at me that way.’

‘And he never will unless you say something! Ooh, a break. Go Matt!’

The women cheered on the action in front of them, until someone’s frozen fingers dropped the ball and the ref blew.

‘That scrum looks lovely and warm; I’d love to be in the middle of it, surrounded by hot men. It looks far more exciting than our scrums.’

‘You’d get mashed.  If we had a game tomorrow, it would have been called off, there’s a serious weather front supposed to be moving in.’

‘Nah, that’s for the north only. The weatherman said it would miss the south-east.’

A flurry of snowflakes whipped past the women’s noses.

‘I think Mother Nature says differently.

‘At least these bloody Christmas jumpers are warm. Well, warm-ish. When do you think it would be safe to move inside?’

‘When the final whistle goes? We’ll be fined if we head for the warmth before then, the Boss is watching.’

‘Fuck.’

‘Yeah.’

 

It had been decided several months earlier that the Harford Park RFC teams were to have a joint Christmas social. The first XV down to the vets and the women’s teams would unite for a night of drink-fuelled, festive-themed debauchery. Not that the average Saturday night in the rugby club was ever a quiet affair, but this would be special, with compulsory fancy dress, an “epic” fines session for real and imagined gaffes, and later, whoever was left standing could use the VIP passes for Flames, a cheesy nightclub nearer Central London.

It was the most eagerly anticipated social occasion of the year, the local shops were cleared out of Christmas finery and the postman inundated with parcels to be delivered “c/o Harford Park RFC”. No one foresaw that the unpredictable British weather would thrust a snow-covered spoke into proceedings.

 

Danny tucked his chin into the collar of his winter coat as he strode away from the raucous rugby club, trying to retain some body warmth for his long walk. He would never have even thought of walking the three miles home a couple of years ago, especially through ankle-deep snow, but now he saw it as good exercise and a decent way to sober up. Since he’d started training for triathlons, his stout build had slimmed down to a shadow of his former prop-playing self and he couldn’t drink so much. When the amateurs were desperate, he’d step in and make up the numbers, but he was at an age where his joints wouldn’t take the weekly rugby hammering.

The game that day had been a one-off and he already felt a few twinges and scrapes and bruises developing, overcoming the post-match-winning euphoria. It had been a good night but he’d had one hell of a ribbing for leaving early. It did help that those going clubbing had left earlier than expected too, before they were stranded in Harford. The flakes had begun coming down thickly at the end of the game and started sticking, despite the weatherman’s predictions. There was already a thick layer of several inches on the pavement and roads, cars were starting to skid and slide. However, as Danny had relied on instinct that morning, the boots he was wearing were sensible, with ridged soles so he wouldn’t lose grip in the deepening snow.

He shook some snowflakes out of his mop of curly blond hair, pulled a beanie on and started whistling as he cautiously stepped off the pavement to cross a side road.

‘Help!’ The faint voice came from down the dimly lit street.

Spotting something moving on the ground a few yards away, he stopped, ‘Hello?’

‘Hello, is s-someone there?’ The female’s voice was faint. ‘Please, help!’

Danny started walking towards the tremulous voice. ‘What’s happened?’ As he got closer, he saw a scantily dressed woman huddled on the ground.

‘Be c-careful! Ice!’

Danny skirted a dark patch and slowed. He could feel the lethal slickness under his shoes, disguised by the layer of snow.

‘I f-fell and I’ve h-hurt myself. Phone d-dead. C-can you help me st-stand please?’

The heavy snow obscured his vision again.  He held his arms out and hands grabbed him. As he pulled the woman to her feet, he could feel them slip out from underneath her. ‘Bloody hell, are you wearing skates?’

‘Stupid sh-sh-shoes.’

They turned towards the main road, and she tried to walk, but cried out when she tried to put weight on one glittery, sandal-clad foot. Her feet slipped again, and if it hadn’t been for Danny, she would have crashed to the ground. She attempted walking again, but had to stem another shriek.

Danny felt her slight weight as she gasped, ‘Look, would you mind if I carry you? We’re not going anywhere fast with you like this.’

‘O-O-OK. Please…my skirt…’

He looked down. It was rather short, barely visible under her hip-length coat. ‘I’ll try not to let it rise up.’ He swung her up in his arms, settled her as she tugged at her skirt. He could feel her shivering and icy water immediately started soaking through his jacket. Her skirt was the least of her worries. ‘Where are you going?’

‘T-train station. Catch train home.’

‘Not tonight, they’ve all been cancelled.’ Her increasingly violent shivers concerned him. ‘Look, the rugby club’s a few hundred yards that way, we can raid the place for dry clothes, get some first aid for that ankle, and see if anyone there is heading your way. Sound OK to you?’

‘OK.’

He could barely hear her voice, and started walking as fast as he could. Luckily, they were close enough, and the club’s drive was rough ground with a better purchase for his feet. The sounds of partying grew louder as his arms began to tire.

‘You OK?’ he asked.

There was no response from his bundle. He kicked the first set of double doors open, and turned sideways to get through, ensuring her legs weren’t knocked. He elbowed the lighter, second set ajar and walked into the noisy, warm bar.

‘Danny! You’re back so soon!’

‘Danny boy! Who’s the fair maiden?’

A woman gasped, ‘Oh my god, she’s fucking freezing, filthy and soaked to the skin. And look at her ankle!’

Immediately, the tipsy men and women surrounding him seemed to sober up.

The women’s captain elbowed her way to the front, ‘Emma, go put the showers on, she needs warming up ASAP. Matt, go find some towels. Jim, can we have some hot chocolate please? Anyone else, find dry and clean clothes. We’ll also need the first aid kit. Get Jim to call an ambulance too, although it’ll take ages to get here in this weather. Where did you find her?’ The last question was directed at Danny.

‘She was near the main road, said she’d fallen.’

The girl stirred, ‘Fall, where am I?’

‘You’re at the rugby club; we’ll sort you out here.’ Someone passed the captain a couple of towels. She draped one over the girl, gently lifted strands of water-darkened, long blonde hair out of her face and wrapped the other towel around her head. ‘What’s your name, sweetheart?’

‘A-Amy.’

‘OK, Amy. I’m Beth. Danny will take you to the changing rooms, we’ll warm you up and get you sorted in no time.’

‘Thank y-you. I’m s-so c-c-cold.’

Danny followed mother-hen Beth to the changing rooms, garnering many approving glances from the club patrons. He felt like Superman, despite his arms burning like hell.

Emma jogged back towards them, ‘I’ve started running the small bath in the ref’s room. It’ll fill in no time and be better than the shower.’

‘Good thinking, Emma. We can’t put her in until she’s less cold, but it’ll help warm the room up.’

The smaller room was already beginning to steam slightly when they entered. Beth stuck her hand in the bath water and nodded approvingly, ‘We’ll remove the jacket, and then I’m afraid you’ll have to leave as all her wet clothes need to come off.’

They propped the shaking girl up on a nearby bench and stripped off the lightweight jacket, and a handbag that she’d had tangled around her neck. She was wearing a glitzy, silver halter-neck dress underneath.

‘No wonder she’s so cold, even without getting wet!’ exclaimed Beth.

 

Danny felt like he was deserting Amy as he backed out of the room, with other women rushing in either side of him, carrying hot drinks and clothes, and even a bottle of shampoo. The door closed and he turned to return to the bar area.

In one hand swung her silver handbag. Opening it gave him a slash of guilt, it felt intrusive, but there wasn’t much there, just a slim black phone, a small purse, tissues and a lipstick. He knocked the door to the referee’s room and handed over the bag, minus the phone. Someone in the club usually had a charger; he could give it some power for her to call home once she felt better.

Re-entering the club bar, he felt like hours had passed since he’d departed for home to catcalls ringing around him. He was handed a glass of whiskey and clapped on the back.

‘Good work, my man, get that down you.’

He didn’t give his training any thought at all as he slugged the drink. She had gone so quiet, so fast. He’d been really worried she wouldn’t survive. What was a few drinks compared to that?

‘What a stunner, but did you see how little she was wearing?’ His tall and handsome but surprisingly modest and shy mate Matt rolled his dark eyes, ‘And those shoes? If she’s broken her ankle, I wouldn’t be surprised. Fucking madness.  Any idea how long she’d been there?’

‘No idea, she just said she wanted to go to the train station.’ As Danny shrugged, he realised the arms and front of his coat were wet, so stripped it off to drape over a nearby radiator along with his beanie and gloves. Underneath, he was wearing a tacky Christmas jumper and jeans, as per most in the bar.

‘There’s no way she would have reached the train station like that. You know, you probably saved her life.’

‘I dunno.’ Danny felt a blush rising in his cheeks.

Matt nodded at the window; the snow was now so heavy, despite the exterior lights, it was impossible to see more than a foot. ‘She was on the verge of hypothermia, her lips were blue and it looked like she’d been dragging herself quite a way, she had scrapes all over her legs and hands. You’re a hero, my man.’

A soft kiss was dabbed to his cheek, ‘I agree. Danny, you’re a hero.’ Emma smiled, ‘She’s come around properly, and we’ve cancelled the ambulance as she’s warmed up sufficiently according to the thermometer Beth is wielding.’

‘It wouldn’t have got here anyway,’ interjected Jim from behind the bar. ‘I’ve been listening to the radio, there’s been a massive pile-up on the dual carriageway, the road is blocked and there are possible fatalities. There’s been fighting at the taxi rank in town, most drivers have given up and gone home. Buses and trains cancelled. Police are advising for everyone to stay indoors.’

‘Lock-in tonight then, Jim?’ Matt grinned cheekily.

Jim sighed and looked around at the twenty-or-so drinkers left in the club, ‘Anyone who hasn’t left by now and doesn’t live within half a mile is stuck here, so I don’t have much choice. There are some mats you can borrow from the playgroup, and I’ve taken some blankets out of the cupboard to air, you’ll have to sleep on the floors of the function rooms. Or drink in here all night.’

Danny stared at the dregs of whiskey left in his glass, ‘In that case, Jim, I’ll have another. Thanks.’

 

An hour or so later, more of the women returned. Apparently, Amy had warmed enough to be able to get in the bath, they had helped her wash, towelled her off and cleaned her grazes. Beth thought the ankle was badly sprained and had strapped it up. A hairdryer had been magicked up to dry her hair. Danny had plugged the lifeless phone in to charge, and the dark-haired, petite Emma darted back and forth, but appeared to enjoy returning to Danny and Matt’s company.

Emma’s job had also been to keep the drink flowing between the changing rooms and the bar; once it was clear that Amy was OK, the women had continued drinking. They even had an impromptu, hilarious fashion show with all the clothes that had been gathered, including a scrum half prancing around in Amy’s now-dry dress and shoes. She had told the women she never, ever wanted to see the garments again, if it could be helped. They held an on-the-spot auction for the surprisingly undamaged designer items, and raised enough funds to raid the club shop for something more substantial.

A while after, the door opened and conversation hushed. A stunning blonde stood there, poker-straight shiny hair almost to her waist, green eyes gleaming in her make-up-free face. Her slim form was clad in a long red Harford rugby shirt with black leggings on her slender, shapely legs. A pair of red socks and crutches completed the picture.

Danny heard Matt gulp beside him.

‘I believe I have someone to thank for my life.’ Her voice was soft, her eyes travelling around the assorted occupants of the bar.

Danny gingerly put his hand up, ‘I…I don’t know if I saved your life but I’m the one that found you. I’m Danny.’

Amy’s eyes ran over him, finishing at his blond curls, jutting chin and smiling eyes, ‘Hi Danny, thank you.’ She hobbled into the bar, swinging carefully on the crutches towards their small group, and conversations resumed.

Beth followed her, looking pleased as punch at the result of her nursing. ‘She recovered really quickly, once we got her warmed up. And I’ve strapped up her ankle, I think it’s just badly sprained.’

‘Do you like my outfit?’ Amy did a whimsical twirl, ‘Your club shop had some base layers so I got a set plus the jersey and socks. I’m toasty warm now.’

‘You look lovely.’ Matt’s voice was hoarse and he had to clear his throat, ‘Err, hi, I’m Matt. What on earth were you doing there?’

The blonde settled against a nearby bar stool, taking the weight off her feet. ‘I’d been at a house party. It was supposed to be an elegant, civilised affair, instead it turned raucous and I left when the local scumbag drug dealer arrived.’ Amy rolled her eyes, ‘I was hoping for a taxi, but my phone died and I had to walk away from the house as some wasted middle-aged guy kept trying to feel me up. Then I got lost.’

‘Very unlucky.’

Amy shivered, ‘And cold. I never intended on walking anywhere in those shoes, they’re sitting down shoes only. I’m supposed to be training for a race next month.’

‘Not on that ankle, you won’t,’ warned Beth. ‘You’ll need an x-ray, I don’t think it’s broken but I could be wrong.’

Amy sighed, ‘Just my luck. Has anyone seen my phone?’

Danny fumbled behind him, ‘Here it is – it should have enough charge by now.’

‘Great, I’ll try calling a taxi. Or waking a friend up.’

Danny coughed, ‘Ummm, Jim says we’re snowed in and the roads are blocked. No one’s going anywhere soon. ‘

‘Jim?’

The barman bustled over, ‘I hear my name being used in vain? Evening, lovely lady, you’re looking much better.’ The grey fox gave Amy a flirtatious smile, ‘Booze or bed?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Your choice is either to try to sleep in one of the function rooms, or keep drinking in the bar here. Unless you live within walking distance?’

‘Nope, the other side of London. So we’re all stuck here?’

‘Yep, weatherman got it utterly wrong.’ Jim looked like he was enjoying being the portent of doom. ‘Roads won’t be ploughed until morning.’

Amy shrugged and grinned, ‘Well, I might as well make the most of it, there’s no one at home waiting for me.’ She brought a fifty-pound note out of her handbag, ‘Next round on me?’

 

It probably wasn’t the best of ideas for someone who’d been on the verge of hypothermia to be boozing it up with the rest of them a couple of hours later, but the first aid crew were satisfied she was fine. The women returning from the ref’s room plus others who had failed to catch a taxi or train sheepishly wandering back swelled the group to thirty or so. Some headed for a nap, but most stayed in the bar, drinking chatting and singing. Jim had found some old, classic rugby matches to watch on the TV screens, and they dragged some of the mats into the bar. They even unlocked the kitchen and fried chips to stave off the munchies.

Danny lay with a pint in one hand and a chip in the other and a woman either side of him, watching the Barbarians beat New Zealand in 1973. The large bowl of fried potatoey goodness was balanced on his flat stomach and both women were digging in with him. Beth and a couple of the other women were the other side of Emma with their own helpings of chips.

It was unusual for Danny to spend so much time with women, even when he was coaching their team, but he was enjoying it. Emma had a really offbeat sense of humour, and she used her hands to talk enthusiastically. Every now and again, she lightly touched him to make a point. Amy chuckled and added in some dry comments. He felt quite dizzy from the attention. And they both smelled so good.

They had all giggled over the awkward haka performed reluctantly by the New Zealanders, so unlike the present-day tour de force, and over the dated hairstyles and kit.

‘You know, I’ve seen that try a million times, but never the rest of the match,’ commented Amy.

‘You watch rugby?’ Danny and Emma turned to her in surprise.

‘I played in uni, and…ummm, my dad played for the Saints.’

‘What was his name?’ When Amy whispered the answer, Danny nearly choked on his chips. ‘Him? Bloody hell, he won England and Lions caps too!’

Amy blushed, ‘Ssshhh, I don’t usually tell people in rugby clubs, they start asking me for autographs or expect me to use his name. Or start calling me “the Smith girl”.’

‘OK, we’ll keep shtum. Won’t we?’ Danny elbowed Emma.

Emma nodded and hummed as her mouth was full of chip. They carried on watching the match, and Matt came to join them, sitting down on the other side of Amy. He was quiet, which was unlike the normally ebullient Matt.

‘You OK, mate?’ asked Danny.

Matt nodded, he seemed to be blushing slightly, ‘Good, thanks. Ummm, it’s been a long day. How are you feeling, Amy?’

Amy yawned, ‘Brighter than I usually feel at four in the morning, but not by much.’

‘Ummm, would you like a drink?’

Amy held up the pint of bitter she had been nursing, ‘I’m struggling.’

‘Something shorter?’

‘All right.’

While Matt went to the bar, Amy turned to Danny, ‘This night has turned out more enjoyable than I thought, barring the awful house party and near-hypothermia. That wasn’t so great.’ She shivered.

‘Yeah, I was worried for a bit. You muttered something about going to the station, although as Matt said, I’m not sure you would have got there.’

‘I can’t remember much from shortly after I fell, just a lot of white and pain. I can’t explain why I didn’t just knock on the door of any nearby house, but the cold got to me, I couldn’t think straight. Scary.’ She shuddered again.

‘Tunnel vision. I’ve seen people on the rugby pitch or triathlon field ignore serious injuries to carry on. Sometimes your brain doesn’t realise that circumstances have irrevocably changed.’

‘Yeah, getting to the station was all I could think about. Even when you found me, then you mentioned a rugby club and that sounded tempting and I knew I would be OK at a rugby club. The women were epic, you were epic too.’ She kissed his cheek and smiled widely at him.

He happily grinned back, feeling an unexpected warmth in his groin. Danny was used to being single; he trained so hard that his love life had taken a back seat. Amy was a stunner, and it occurred to him that if he asked her nicely, she may go out on a date with him. He was already in her good books for rescuing her. He opened his mouth, ‘Amy-’

A throat was cleared, ‘Ummm, I got some port, it seemed more Christmassy.’ Matt was standing above them looking like a just-kicked puppy, with a bottle and a few glasses in hand.

‘Ooh, port. Lovely idea,’ congratulated Amy.

The penny dropped for Danny – Matt only acted like he had when he fancied a woman. There had been jokes about how incompetent at flirting he was, and that it was usually obvious. So obvious that the boys usually gave him carte blanche just for the entertainment value. Somehow, Danny had missed the signs.

‘I got a glass for Emma but she’s fallen asleep.’

Danny glanced to his other side to see Emma dozing, curled up. Beth was the only one still awake, and she gave Danny an incomprehensible glare.

What had he done wrong there?

He was confused. First Matt, now Beth. Definitely too much to drink if he couldn’t figure out what was going on. He excused himself, ‘Sorry, little boys’ room is calling.’

The bar group had dwindled by half, and the remainder not watching the classic matches were dozing in chairs or singing mournful songs in the far corner. The break didn’t do much to clear his head. On his return, he picked up a couple of blankets, intending to head for the function rooms. Perhaps sleep would be a better bet?

‘You know those are the larrrshhtt ones,’ Jim informed him. As it had quietened and his services were rarely needed, Jim had joined the other drinkers. ‘I wash keepin’ dem for der women.’ He nodded towards their group.

That meant Danny had to stick around.  He wandered back just as Amy stood for her own visit to the loo.

Emma was shifting around a bit in her sleep, tucking her hands in her sleeves to warm up so Danny carefully lay one of the blankets partly over her. Beth and the others had found their own covers so he held the other out to Matt, ‘Here, last one for you and Amy.’

Matt looked guilty, ‘Danny, I’m really sorry about interrupting before, I don’t know…it was clumsy of me. I panicked.’

‘Why did you panic? Do you like her?’

Matt nodded so hard, his dark hair fell in his eyes, ‘As soon as I saw her, I had to stop myself from lifting her out of your arms.’

Danny laughed, ‘I’d have been quite happy for you to, my arms were killing me.’

‘Then when she returned…’ Matt rubbed his chest. ‘And she’s really nice and smart and knows about rugby. But you have dibs.’

‘Nah, the floor is yours.’

Matt’s shoulders relaxed, ‘I owe you a million.’ His shoulders stiffened up, ‘Fuck, that means I’ll definitely have to ask her.’ He knocked back a mouthful of port.

‘What’s up?’ Amy had returned silently on her socked feet. ‘Ask me what?’

Matt’s gulp was audible. ‘Amy, wouldyouliketogoforadrinksometime? Please?’

‘OK.’

‘OK? You will?’

‘Yes.’

‘OK.’ Matt looked lost for words.

Danny nudged him, ‘This is when you’re supposed to find out where she’d like to go and when.’

‘OK.’

‘I’ll leave you to it.’ He couldn’t spoon-feed Matt what he should do next; he was hardly experienced himself recently. Danny regained his position on the mat next to Emma, and tucked himself under the remaining half of blanket. He only felt a twinge of envy as Matt and Amy moved closer and closer together, instead sipping his port and watching Jonny drop that goal once more, then his eyes began drifting closed.

 

Mmmm. Something smelled fresh and clean, and felt soft against his face. A little body was snuggled partially over him, breasts against his chest and arm, hips against his awakening groin. Who was it? The bundle of womanhood groaned slightly, and yawned.

And stiffened.

Danny concentrated on staying relaxed, not sure who it was or what he should do. Last he could remember was seeing Jonno holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft. Unfortunately, his body disagreed, continuing to harden.

Did he imagine her rubbing against him slightly?

‘Pssssttt! Emma!’

The hair was lifted away from his face, and he felt a sharp inhale. Then, slowly, the body moved off him. He felt some regret in letting it go, and some deflation in the groin area. Luckily. Otherwise the blanket resettling around him might have looked quite obscene.

It felt colder without his feminine extra. There was whispering around him, some soft snores and the creak of a door, the clink of a glass. And a giggle hushed up.

He slowly cracked his eyes open, to see the TV screen black and dark. Some bright light was coming in around the edges of the curtains, illuminating the bar area. He sat up slowly, his body creaking and aches from the previous day’s effort making themselves known.

None of the women’s team were there, but Matt was curled around Amy, contented smiles on both of their dozing faces. A couple of others were asleep across chairs, including Jim.

The bar door squeaked and he turned to see Beth sneaking in. The smell of bacon wafted over, and his stomach grumbled. He lifted a hand, and she looked guilty for a moment, then pressed a finger to her lips before crooking it.

Following the captain into the corridor towards another function room, the enticing scent of bacon strengthened as did the buzz of chatter.

‘We’ve raided the kitchens.’ Beth could speak normally once out of the bar. ‘We’re using the function room closest for breakfast. Some people are going to try getting home or to work once the drive is cleared.’ There was a cheer from outside, ‘And others need the energy.’

There seemed to be more people in the room than in the bar last night. Danny spotted a couple of families with kids tucking in to platefuls. They definitely weren’t around last night. The TV screens were showing dramatic pictures of snow rescues and kids tobogganing down slopes.

‘Half of the street lost power when a car hit ice and street furniture. They’re sheltering here while the electricity company sorts it out. We’ve set up a playroom next door.’ Beth handed Danny a plate of food. ‘Get that down you, there’s digging to do.’

‘Huh?’

‘Shovelling snow.’

 

As Danny ate, he searched for a glimpse of Emma. To no avail; there wasn’t a peep of her bouncing brunette head. However, ten minutes later a yawning Matt and Amy came in, the latter on her crutches. They waved before grabbing their own plates of food and joining him, Matt solicitously carrying both plates.

‘Sleep well?’

Matt and Amy smiled happily back around mouthfuls of food, glancing and each other and blushing.

‘How’s the ankle?’

Amy pulled a face, ‘Throbbing a bit, like my head. Beth has already given me some painkillers.

‘Good. Apparently we’ve some shovelling to do. Well, Matt and I have, to clear the club drive enough for cars to get out, and help some locals.’

‘People have cars here?’

‘A few were leaving them here overnight anyway and collecting them in the morning once they were sober enough to drive.’

Matt cleared his mouth, ‘Mine’s one of them. I was going to take a bus or taxi home last night and return this morning. It’s going to be a big dig; the snow’s really deep out there, over a foot, nearly two in parts.’

‘Really?’ Danny hadn’t thought to look outside yet, he’d been distracted by his experience on waking, and that Emma had since disappeared.

‘That’s one hell of a Michael Fish moment for someone; there was no prediction of snow for the south-east at all. Just a hard frost.’

Amy hummed, ‘They changed the forecast late morning, but by then it was too late for many. Me included, I was Christmas shopping before getting ready for the party and didn’t think to check.’

Matt teased the woman by his side, ‘You were underdressed for any kind of weather, admit it.’

‘Yeah, there is that,’ she admitted with a grin. ‘I wasn’t planning on walking anywhere though. Strictly taxi and train, with emergency taxi money just in case, hence the fifty-quid note I used for the drinks once I knew I was stuck here. See, I wasn’t being totally daft.’ She nudged Matt playfully.

Danny watched as the two teased each other while they cleared their plates, then Amy excused herself to go for a shower. Matt helped her part of the way, until Amy patted his cheek reassuringly and sent him back.

Matt grinned ruefully as he rejoined Danny with a couple of mugs of coffee, passing one over. ‘She’s going to freshen up, Beth’s found some toothbrushes. Wanna go for a walk?’

‘OK.’ They wandered out of the function room towards the main part of the club. ‘You know, I’ve never seen you so comfortable with a woman.’

Matt continued to grin, ‘She’s wonderful, isn’t she? I can’t believe she wants to go out with me. We chatted for hours and then she fell asleep in my arms. I’m going to drive her home later.’

Potty. Absolutely head over heels.

Danny couldn’t help another pang of envy. Which somehow reminded him of Emma. He glanced around, wondering if she would reappear.

‘Who’re you looking for?’ Matt’s grin had turned into a smirk. ‘Emma, perchance?’

‘How…?’

‘You’ve always had a soft spot for her.’

More like hard after that morning, thought Danny. He felt a twitch in his groin at the memory.

‘And she seems to like your company. Nothing’s ever happened between you, has it?’

‘She’s a player, no consorting between players and coaching staff, remember?’

‘You’re not a coach any more, are you?’

‘No, I’m not,’ realised Danny as he pushed the main club doors open and cold air rushed in. ‘Ooh, look, someone’s built a snowman.’

‘Fire!’

The first missile splatted into him milliseconds later, then they were bombarded by a barrage of white balls.

‘Oh shee-eesus!’

Danny and Matt both backed up and the doors swung closed to the sound of feminine and childish giggles. They looked at each other and laughed at the lumps of snow in their hair and clothes, even lumps sinking into and cooling the remains of their coffees.

‘War?’ Matt raised an eyebrow at Danny.

‘War.’

Seconds later, they were pulling their coats on, cups discarded. They paused by the double doors, noting that the frosted glass panels probably gave warning that someone was coming out.

Matt peered through a cleared piece of glass, ‘Looks like they’ve set up camp about twenty yards away, they’ve built up a wall. We’ll have to reach around the back to disarm them. Let them waste their fire, then we’ll attack.’

They dived out of the doors, one going left and one going right, landing in the soft snow. Shouts of alarm rang out, and more white missiles inundated them as they skirted the bunker, just beyond reach of the artillery powered by an adult and a couple of children.

Danny followed the sound of a familiar laugh as the shower gradually lightened. Their stockpile must have been running low.

‘Attack now!’

He ran as Matt sprinted in from the opposite direction. Two children jumped out, and began running away, screaming with delight. However, snowballs continued to be thrown from the dugout.

‘I’ll take the deserters, you go for HQ!’ Matt yelled as he jogged after the youngsters, giving them a chance to get away.

Several more hits, and Danny started sending hastily made lumps back towards the snowy barricade. He must have hit his target as there was a disgruntled squeal.

‘Do you surrender?’

‘No surrender!’ a woman yelled back, and pelted him with another couple of snowballs.

He jumped over, and found the woman he had been looking for.

 

When Danny had begun as assistant coach to the women’s team, their main coach was Paul. Although competent, Paul had been notorious for being a bit handsy with some of the women. Matters had escalated elsewhere as a result of Paul’s flirtations, and he left the club shortly after. The more-professional Marcus had taken over, and Club management had had a word with Danny and Marcus, making it clear that even though they were volunteers, they didn’t want a repeat. Danny had taken that to mean avoiding even mild flirtations. So, he’d never even considered the women sexually, even though they sometimes flirted with him. They were out of bounds.

Or were they?

Now he was actually looking at her, laughing, with clumps of snow in the hair escaping from her bobble hat, he realised how much he liked her. She had always been enthusiastic about drills, even in the worst of weather, and listened carefully to his instructions. She was intelligent, great with kids and a joy to be with. He’d missed her since another former player had taken over his role.

‘Emma-’ He had fistful of snow in his face for his troubles.

Danny charged her, taking her down onto the soft snow but not landing on her.  She giggled. ‘No surrender!’

‘Are you sure?’ He captured her hands and pinned her lower body down with a restraining leg.

She tried to wriggle away, but couldn’t. ‘Temporary ceasefire?’ she asked hopefully.

‘Cheeky.’ Her mouth was so close to his, he couldn’t resist a pecking kiss.

Her eyes were wide when he drew back, ‘Oh.’ She bit her lip.

Danny’s gaze was drawn to the white teeth nibbling the edge of her pink mouth, ‘Oh?’

Her body softened under his, she stopped fighting as clouds of breath puffed quickly from her mouth.

Sod it, he would kiss her again. He released her hands, and her lips met his halfway.

She tasted minty and fresh and warm and new and like home, all at the same time. Their kiss deepened as they both murmured with delight. He felt her hands in his hair as his tucked her closer.

Clunk!

A ball of ice hit both of them on their heads, breaking the moment. ‘Ow!’ groaned Emma.

He lifted off her as the guilty parties ran away chortling, and helped her to her feet. His body was humming with need, with wanting to get closer to the brunette. ‘You OK?’

Emma gave an awkward smile and brushed the rest of the snow out of her hair and off her clothes, ‘I’m fine.’

They stared at each other, wordlessly, for several moments, until the opening of the club doors broke the tension.

‘Time for you to come in, kids and grown-up kids,’ shouted Beth. Then she noticed Danny and Emma, ‘You two can stay out until you’ve had a proper chat. Don’t freeze.’

They were left by themselves in the white wilderness. Emma looked so small stood there, this time avoiding his eyes, a pink flush on her cheeks.

Danny summoned up his courage; if Matt could do it, so could he. ‘So, Emma…would you like to go for a drink some time?’

***The End***