War in Germany
Joe

Joe rolled over. He had been having a pleasant dream about something and now there was a woman shrieking in his ear…why wouldn't she go away? But then again, who could it be? With a start Joe woke up enough to realize where he was.

It was his alarm. Restraining the frustrated words that had sprung to his mouth, he slapped at the clock. As always he deliberated flopping over back to sleep, and as always the discipline that made him a good coach had him staggering to his feet.

Staggering…staggering. Oh lord. It was a quick two steps to the hotel chair and Joe put his head in his hands.

Last night he had seen Jess Bamra like he'd never seen her before. Or maybe he finally couldn't ignore the way he always had seen her. No matter, she had walked through the hotel door and it was all he could do to string together a sentence.

After that he'd been doing okay. He had one glass of wine and sat in the corner, acting like the perfect chaperone. Then Jules had come over, asking for a dance. Jess had come over too. He had known that she was slightly drunk. Otherwise she would have never let her face swing so close to his and smile so infectiously. Jules had dragged him onto the dance floor and then, carried away by the music, he had grabbed Jess to dance with her too.

Okay, so far, so good. Dancing with Jess and Jules. If only he'd stayed on the dance floor. But no, he had been concerned about Jess when she left. He'd fooled himself into thinking that it was his job as a coach. And maybe it was okay to help her to her feet and support her when she almost fell outside the door. But to stand two inches from her, staring at her face, talking…that hadn't been so wise. Especially when Jules had wandered out and caught them red-handed. He felt bad about that. He knew that Jules liked him but what could he do? He didn't like her back. He couldn't see any way around hurting her feelings. She'd be mad at him.

Jules would be mad at Jess too. Would that mess up his team? he wondered. Girls were girls and if there was something going on...maybe Jules wouldn't pass the ball to Jess now because she was mad at her…

"I am a true football coach," he thought wryly. "I almost kissed one of my players last night and now I'm worrying about how it will affect my team."

Dear lord, he had almost kissed her. He couldn't believe it. He had never tried anything with any of the girls. He hadn't even let himself think about it. What had happened? He thought his alcohol tolerance was higher than that. One glass of wine shouldn't push him all the way from not even considering kissing one of his players to almost doing so.

Joe knew he would have kissed her if Jules hadn't shown up. And that scared him. The truth was, it wasn't the wine that had made him lose his self-control. It was Jess. That scared him too. He wasn't sure he'd be able to coach fairly now. Could he keep that professional distance?

And yet how could he be anything else? Jess's family was equally, if not more limiting than their coach-player relationship. He had said the brave words "your mum's a barrel of laughs compared to my dad," but frankly, he was terrified of her mother.

There was nothing he could do. He had developed feelings that were ridiculously similar to love and he was trapped. He wanted Jess now, more than anything, but there was no way it could happen. There were too many obstacles in the way: the team, Jules, Jess's family, maybe even Jess herself…he'd have to forget about it.

Joe was astonished to find two tears trickling down his cheeks. He didn't want to forget about it. Damn. He rose from the chair and headed for the shower. Maybe cold water would bring him to his senses.