When the boat's a rockin’, don't come knockin’!
Out-and-proud travel writer Dan Taylor can’t steer a boat to save his life, but that doesn’t stop him from accepting an assignment to write up a narrowboat holiday. Instead of a change of pace from city life, though, the canal seems dull as ditchwater. Until he crashes into the boat of a half-naked, tattooed, pierced man whose rugged, penniless appearance is at odds with a posh accent.
Still smarting from past betrayal, Robin Hamilton’s “closet” is his narrowboat, his refuge from outrageous, provocative men like Dan. Yet he can’t seem to stop himself from rescuing the hopelessly out-of-place city boy from one scrape after another. Until he finds himself giving in to reluctant attraction, even considering a brief, harmless fling.
After all, in less than a week, Dan’s going back to his London diet of casual hook-ups and friends with benefits.
Determined not to fall in love, both men dive into one week of indulgence…only to find themselves drawn deep into an undertow of escalating intimacy and emotional intensity. Troubled waters neither of them expected…or wanted.
Product WarningsContains one lovable tart, one posh boy gone feral, rough sex, alfresco sex, vile strawberry-flavoured condoms, intimate body piercings, red thermal long-johns, erotic woodchopping, an errant cat, a few colourful characters you wouldn't touch with a bargepole, and plenty of messing about on the river.
Copyright © 2011 Josephine Myles
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Steering around a curve in the canal’s path, Dan caught sight of the white railings of a swing bridge up ahead. He’d passed through only one so far, and someone else had opened it for him so he hadn’t had to figure out how to moor up and operate the bloody thing. That was another reason he could have done with having Tristan onboard. Dan scanned the bank. There was a clear section coming up, and the sign said seventy-two-hour moorings. Those must be the tourist spaces, and if he stopped here, he could figure out the bridge on another day—preferably when not half-dead from hunger.
But how the hell was he meant to steer into the bank? The instructor had shown him earlier, but all Dan could remember right now was the guy’s meaty paws on the controls. He should have been concentrating, but the sight of the prison tattoos across the guy’s knuckles had distracted him, making him wonder what on earth would possess someone to ink “ABBA RULE” as a permanent message to the world.
Did he have to steer the front or the back in first? The burly instructor with the Swedish pop fixation had somehow managed to get the boat to drift in sideways so that the whole fifty-foot length bumped gently against the bank at the same time. Ah well, Dan would just have to see what he could do. What was the worst that could happen?
Getting the front end against the bank was fairly straightforward, even if it did make contact with an ominous grating sound. But then there was the back to steer in, and everything he tried seemed to make it swing out farther. Not willing to concede defeat, Dan crunched away at the gears, swung the tiller arm around and churned up the canal into a muddy soup.
And then he’d gone and done it. Got the boat wedged in diagonally so that he was nearly caught up in the branches of an overhanging tree on the wild side of the bank, while the front end was where he wanted to be—the towpath side.
“Jesus, not again,” someone called behind him.
Dan whirled around, and his stomach did a nauseating little flip. Sodding perfect! It was Tattoo-guy again, standing astride a beat-up old bicycle with one of his trademark glowers directed Dan’s way. Okay, so he was wearing a T-shirt this time, but there was no mistaking that piercing gaze and air of contempt.
“Uh, I don’t suppose you could help me out, could you? I seem to be stuck.” Dan gave what he hoped was an ingratiating smile.
Tattoo-guy stared at him for a long moment, then shook his head, dismounted and chucked the bike against the fence. He strode over to the front end of the Faerie Queen and hopped on deck, making his way down the side of the boat like a monkey. Watching him move along the sticking-out shelf—the gunwales, that’s what it was called—Dan couldn’t help but admire the economy of his movements. For a big bloke, he was remarkably agile.
Within moments he fetched up on the back deck and loomed over Dan, radiating annoyance. “And what exactly were you trying to do this time? It’s not wide enough to turn here. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that.”
Dan bristled. “I’m not an idiot! I was trying to moor up where you told me to, on the tourist moorings.” He gestured at the sign, nearly clipping Tattoo-guy’s arm. “The stupid bloody thing wouldn’t go in the right direction, and then I got stuck on something. Shit, are we going to have to get someone to tow me off it?”
Tattoo-guy raised his eyebrows. “What you’ve somehow managed to do is get stuck on the shelf. You can’t see it, but it runs along under the water to protect the wildlife on the bank.” He stared pointedly at the bank behind him, and Dan coloured.
“Oh, bugger. Sorry ’bout that. It was the first time I’ve had to moor up, and I couldn’t work out how to get the back of the boat to go the right way. These crazy things steer all back to front.”
Those dark blue eyes gave Dan a look of utter disbelief. “How long did they spend teaching you how to steer? All of five minutes?”
Dan squirmed. “More like fifteen, but I reckon I could have done with longer.”
“No shit. Well, I suppose it’s not really your fault if they let you go without knowing what you were doing.” A weariness crept into the man’s voice, and Dan relaxed enough to take him in properly. He was perhaps Dan’s age and definitely rough around the edges, what with the frayed T-shirt, the grime in the creases of his knuckles, and the five-o’clock shadow, but there was no denying the bloke had great bone structure, his cheekbones high and his chin strong. Shame he always seemed to be frowning. Dan wondered what it would take to get him to smile.
“So, what do we do now?” Dan asked.
“You need to push us off the shelf with the bargepole, and I’ll take over the steering, since you obviously can’t handle the pressure.”
Dan muttered uncomplimentary things that were drowned out by the noise of the engine and took up the cream-and-green-striped bargepole. It was a surprise to discover it still had a use in this day and age. He’d assumed it was there simply to add to the authenticity of the experience, a relic of a bygone age like the traditional roses and castles painted on the door panels. This was good, though. This was one of those moments he could fashion into an interesting little anecdote for the magazine readers. If he left out Mr. Grumpy-pants, that was.
As the bargepole made contact with the concrete lining of the canal, Dan pushed with as much strength as he could muster. The boat shifted a little, but they were still stuck.
“Come on, you’ll need to push harder than that. Put a bit of muscle into it.”
Dan gritted his teeth and strained until his arms began to shake with the effort but still couldn’t rock the boat free. He had a cyclist’s body, lean and toned, but built for endurance rather than brute force. He didn’t want to come across like some kind of wimp, though, so he gave another thrust, grunting with the effort. And this time he felt it move a little farther. He turned to his rescuer with a smug grin, then realised why. Tattoo-guy’s hands were on the end of the pole. Bugger.
The Faerie Queen rocked free. Tattoo-guy grabbed hold of Dan’s hand and placed it on the tiller. “Right, then, once you’ve got the front in where you want it, you need to get into first gear and steer into the bank.”
Dan watched the towpath bank getting closer, aware of the warmth of that strong hand covering his own. “But all day I’ve been steering the opposite way to where I wanted to go.” Who would have thought a boat with only three gears and two directions to steer in could be so complicated?
“Yeah, but what you need to remember is that you steer in the direction that you want the back of the boat to go in. Going round a bend, that will be the opposite way to the direction you want to follow, but when you’re mooring up, you need to steer towards where you want to go.”
Feeling his brain start to melt—physics never was his strong point—Dan decided to prove himself by some practical action. Once the boat made contact, he leapt onto the bank, grasped the front mooring rope and secured it through one of the steel rings set into the concrete edge. The effect was somewhat spoilt, however, by the way Tattoo-guy got his tied up first, then came along to tut at and retie Dan’s own knot. Dan watched his technique closely, determined to get it right next time.
“Thanks,” Dan breathed, hyperaware that he was standing way too close to one of the most attractive men he’d met in a long time. One who not only hated his guts but was probably straight, he reminded himself, taking a step back. “Dan Taylor,” he said, sticking out his hand. “I owe you one.”
After a long moment, Tattoo-guy shook his hand. “Robin Hamilton,” he said, his voice gruff. “I reckon you owe me two after today, but I don’t think you’ve got anything I’m interested in.”
That dark blue gaze roamed over his body, and Dan drew in a sharp breath. Maybe not so straight after all, then. He decided to take a chance—he couldn’t likely make things any worse than they already were, could he? “How would you know if you’re interested or not if you don’t sample the goods?” He gave his cheekiest grin.