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Authors: Josephine Myles

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BOOK: Boats in the night
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“You landlubbers,” Smutty said as he walked past, shaking his head. “Lost all contact with nature, you have. You’ve gone soft.” If he weren’t holding his tray with both hands, he’d have emphasised the last word with a squeeze of Giles’s incipient love handles, but perhaps it was best he didn’t. He didn’t know him well enough yet to joke about things like that.

Giles raised his eyebrows. “I haven’t noticed you complaining about the hot and cold running water and comfortable bed.”

Smutty selected a table next to the small fountain and sat in the teak chair. “Nah, but I reckon we should spend a night on the boat soon. It won’t be that long till she’s fixed and I’m on my way. You don’t want to miss your chance to fuck me on there, do you?”

But instead of the salacious grin Smutty had expected at that suggestion, Giles looked like someone had just taken away his favourite toy. “You’ll be going? When?”

“I dunno how long it will take me to get the part ordered but I doubt anywhere will

have it in stock, and I reckon I’ll need at least a day or two to get the engine fixed, so… I should be here another week maybe. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you in the lurch. You’ll get your garden all tidied before I go.”

“That’s not what I was thinking.”

“Oh, well, you’ll get plenty of chances to stick your dick into me too, so no need to panic.”

Giles’s glare could have cut through steel. “Do you have to be so crude about it?”

“Gods, chill out mate. I’m just being honest. Can’t see the point in dressing sex up with pretty little euphemisms.”

Giles stirred his coffee, looking down at it as if the answers to the riddle of life were written in the milk foam. “It’s not dressing it up, it’s giving what we do together some respect. Some meaning beyond the physical mechanics.”

Smutty pondered this. Was Giles trying to tell him something, or was it just his

repressed upbringing winding him so uptight he couldn’t cope with a bit of earthy language?

Maybe he’d never know. Giles wasn’t exactly forthcoming with personal details, although perhaps that was no wonder, seeing as how his ex had been a total shit to him.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Smutty sipped his tea and tried to regain his equilibrium listening to the fountain.

“So we’ve got another week together?” Giles asked. “You can promise me at least that long?”

Smutty nodded. “Yeah, I can promise if that makes you happy.”

Giles gave him a long, level stare. “I’m not happy, but I’ll just have to make the best of it, I suppose.”

They finished their tea in silence. As Smutty rose to leave, Giles laid a hand on his arm. “Tomorrow. Would you like to go out somewhere with me? We could spend the day

somewhere. Wherever you like. There are some beautiful National Trust properties round here. Stourhead is stunning at this time of year.”

Giles wanted to take him round stately homes? That was just… weird. Touching, but

Smutty didn’t want to read too much into it right now.

“I need to do some work on the garden, get it ready for the plants coming on

Monday.”

“But you’d have time to come out for dinner with me, wouldn’t you? Please?”

Smutty laid a hand over Giles’s and squeezed. “Yeah, I’d like that. Just make sure it’s not so posh they take one look at me and slam the door in our faces, okay?”

“They’d have to deal with my lawyer if they did,” Giles growled. “No one gets to

treat you like that. Not ever. You hear me?”

“Uh, yeah, okay. Not much I can do about it if they do, though, is there? Not unless you’re volunteering to be my personal bodyguard.”

Giles gave a sad smile. “I would if you’d let me.”

Smutty stared into Giles’s eyes, trying to work out what exactly was going on in that mysterious head of his. Then the French doors opened and a chattering family spilled out, the children tearing around the space whooping. The moment broken, Giles headed back inside.

Smutty huffed and picked up the trays. Bloody posh people, just assuming someone else would clean up after them. Someone of Smutty’s class.

There was no chance it could ever work out between the two of them, was there?

***

Smutty walked down the path through the orchard, acutely aware of Giles following

behind him. Every twig snapping underfoot and rustle of grasses teased his ears. Giles hadn’t spoken much on the drive back from Bath, and had disappeared upstairs to his studio for a couple of hours. After grilling some veggie burgers, Smutty had had to get his attention by banging on the door announcing “grub’s up”. The meal had been weird—tense would be the wrong word, but Smutty could feel the weight of Giles’s gaze on him while he ate, yet whenever he made eye-contact, Giles found something fascinating to stare at on the tabletop.

Giles didn’t even complain about the lack of meat in his food.

Still, Giles had agreed to accompany him down to the boat for a change. They hadn’t

been there together since that first night, and Smutty wanted one more set of memories to carry away with him. He’d been too tense that first time—worried that Giles would use his physical advantage to force him into more than he was ready for. Now there was trust between them. More trust than he’d ever placed in another man.

As they left the shade of the apple trees Smutty schooled his face into a tight smile and tried to call up his habitual good cheer. Strange the way it seemed to have deserted him.

He had what he wanted, surely? He had his freedom, he had enough money to repair
Freya’s
engine, and he had a few more days of great sex to look forward to before he headed off down the canal.

Giles’s hands landed on his shoulders. Smutty jumped. He must have been standing

there for some time, just staring into the twilight.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather spend the night in a comfortable bed?”

“My bed’s not that bad.”

“If you say so.” Giles paused, his thumbs kneading the muscles in Smutty’s neck.

“You’re younger than I am. My old bones find it harder to cope with a mattress that thin.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have spent the night here before, remember?”

“No, I mean, how do you know you’re older than I am? I’ve never told you my age.”

Giles’s hands stilled. “You look younger, you act younger. You can’t be older than

your mid twenties, surely? I’m thirty-two.”

The sound that escaped Smutty’s lips was more of a bark than a laugh, sharp and

devoid of humour. “I’m thirty-five.”

“You’re joking.” Giles moved to stand in front of him. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“Nope, ‘fraid not. I’m just one of life’s eternal drifters. Never wanted to settle down.”

Giles’s s eyes seemed to glow in the dusk, reflecting the washed out blue of the sky.

Smutty tried to decipher the emotion pouring out of them; was that wonder? Giles’s fingertips brushed along Smutty’s cheekbones and round to his temples, the gentle contact making Smutty’s eyes water. He blinked hard, trying to clear his vision. Stupid fucked-up emotions.

He was meant to be enjoying tonight, not getting tearful for no good reason.

“Your skin is so smooth. How can you be older than me? I’m already getting lines.”

Giles’s forehead creased, emphasising his point. Strange how on him, they were sexy. Giles rocked the distinguished look, and Smutty had a sharp longing to see his hair sprinkled with grey.

“Clean living? Devil-may-care attitude? I don’t know. I expect I have my dad to thank for it. You don’t see many wrinkled Maoris around.”

Giles nodded slowly. “So you’re an older man.” A faint smile played over his lips.

“All right, no need to make a big deal of it. Age doesn’t matter, does it? I still feel like a big kid inside.”

“Maybe you’re ready to grow up and settle down now. You don’t want to spend your

whole life drifting along, do you?”

“Why not? Do you have a better suggestion? I’ve got nothing but this boat.” Irritated, Smutty gestured towards
Freya
. “I’ve never held down a proper job. Never wanted to, and seeing as how I was home-schooled, I never got around to taking any qualifications anyway.

The best I can hope for is to claim benefits and get stuck in a council flat in some dodgy neighbourhood full of junkies. I don’t have a cushy inheritance to fall back on like some people I could mention.” As soon as the words spilled out of Smutty’s mouth he regretted them, but Giles didn’t flare into anger like he’d expected.

No, Giles kept staring, that look of wonder slowly changing into something wary, yet resolute.

Giles swallowed, and Smutty watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. He should

lick him there. He should grab him and kiss him and pull him onto the boat. He should change the mood to something he could deal with, before Giles went and said something he didn’t really mean.

Smutty wound an arm around Giles’s neck to pull him close, but Giles wouldn’t

move.

Giles swallowed again, his jaw working hard.

“Stay,” Giles said. “I want you to stay. Here. With me.”

Chapter Fifteen

Giles stood there, exposed, waiting for Smutty’s reply. This was worse than taking his finals. Worse than his teaching interview in front of a panel of three. Worse than waiting for Fabian when he didn’t make it home until late in the evening, strange scents on his clothing that Giles didn’t want to think too closely about.

Smutty took a step back, stared at the ground for long moments, then out at the canal, and back to Giles.

“You don’t mean that.”

“I do.” Giles had never been more certain of anything in his life. The details of how it would all work were hazy, but he couldn’t ignore the way his heart tightened when Smutty was near. The way all his senses sharpened, while the world narrowed down to an intense focus on that one person. It was love, he was sure of it, but how to convince Smutty?

Smutty sighed heavily. “You might mean it now—”

“I do mean it now.”

“Yes, but what makes you think it’s going to last? How long do think it will be before you get bored of me? I’ve got no place in your world, Giles. I don’t fit in here.”

“You fit in perfectly.” Giles gestured back towards the orchard. “You love the garden, don’t you? You’ve told me all sorts of ideas you’ve had for growing things. Stay. Do that.

Give us a chance. You’ve had a great time this last week, haven’t you?”

“But that’s just a week. A holiday for both of us. It wouldn’t work when you’re back at your job. Can you imagine introducing me to your friends and colleagues? They’d think you’d gone nuts.”

“I’m not going back to my job.”

“What? Why?” Smutty frowned and crossed his arms. “Don’t you go making crazy

decisions on my account.”

Giles waved his hand dismissively. “This isn’t about you. It’s been coming a long

time. All you’ve done is help me find the courage to do what I want with my life.”

“So what are you going to do instead?”

“Painting. It makes me happy.”

A faint smile graced Smutty’s lips. “That’s good, then.” He frowned. “But what about money? Painting won’t bring in a regular wage, and the mortgage on that place must cost a bomb.”

“Don’t you worry about that. I have investments, and Nunney House has been in the

family since it was built. There’s never been a mortgage.” Confidence suffused Giles. So far he’d managed to counter all of Smutty’s arguments. “Come on. Take a chance. That’s what your life’s been all about so far, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Why the hell not? We’re good together, aren’t we? Who cares what the rest of the

world thinks about us. I can support us both, you can look after the gardens. You can even keep your bloody boat if it makes you happy.”

Smutty flinched. “Thanks for your permission, Mr Rathbourne.”

“I… I didn’t mean it like that.”

“No, but that’s the way it is with toffs like you, isn’t it? You’re used to having control.

Used to making decisions for the rest of us. Tell me, what’s gonna happen when you get bored of me? Are you gonna start drinking again? Tell me it’s time to move on? You want me to fall in love with this place—with you—and then risk losing everything?”

“Love is always a risk. You just have to take your chances in the here and now.

Please.” Giles raised a hand to Smutty’s face, cradling his jaw and lifting his chin. “Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t have feelings for me too.”

Smutty’s eyes rose slowly, revealing naked fear and want. “I do feel. I do care about you. That’s what’s so scary. I haven’t felt this way since Finn.”

“Finn? Who the hell is Finn?” Giles dropped his hand and folded his arms as jealousy bubbled inside him, hot and sour in his throat.

“Kid I grew up with. Best mates we were. Both figured out we were gay around the

same time. Started messing around with each other. I thought we’d be together forever, you know? I was only sixteen, but I had my whole life figured out. Didn’t you fall for anyone at that age?”

Giles thought back to his awkward adolescence and his hopeless crushes. He’d never

been close to any of them, though. Never had a chance to realise his fantasies. He shook his head. “No. Not till I was much older.”

“But you remember what it was like, being a teenager? Fizzing with hormones?

Thinking you were the first person in the whole bloody world to discover sex? Everything feeling so fucking intense and no one else understood you?”

Giles gave a wry smile. “I didn’t discover sex until I was in my twenties.”

“Yeah, but you must have had a wank, surely? Fantasised about other blokes and all

that.”

“Of course.”

“Right, so you remember that feeling. The intensity of it all. The way it took over your life.” Smutty paused and Giles nodded. “Okay, well me and Finn, we shared all that. I’d always loved him like a brother, but then there was so much more. My heart felt like it was gonna burst sometimes. Couldn’t think about nothing else. Just him. His body. His smile.”

“I don’t need to know this.”

BOOK: Boats in the night
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ads

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