Authors: Josephine Myles
Giles drew in great, ragged lungfuls of air between coughs. There were only a couple of feet between him and the safety of land, but each step felt like running a marathon. Setting his foot onto the gunwales and heaving himself up was a mountain climb, weighed down with a leaden burden.
But then arms were helping him, a voice issuing commands, and he released his hold
on everything he loved.
“Come on! Back to the trees, in case the fuel tanks blow.”
Giles vaguely recognised the voice so he followed it through the gloom. Numbness
had invaded his mind and body, turning his limbs to clay and his thoughts to mud.
Smutty couldn’t be… could he?
A tree root caught his foot. Giles stumbled and landed painfully. He wanted to lie
there. To sleep forever. To never feel again. But someone was calling for him with a hoarse voice.
“Giles? Are you okay? Speak to me!”
Giles opened his mouth and something came out. It sounded desolate, but it seemed to satisfy the owner of the voice. Fabian.
“Yes, he’s conscious,” Fabian continued in a brisker tone. “The other casualty is being given CPR… Yeah, Rick seems to know what he’s doing. Says he has a qualification… Hold on, I’ll check.”
Giles cracked his eyes open to see Fabian striding away from him, mobile phone
clamped to his ear. He looked like a chimney sweep, soot blackened and tattered. He dropped to his knees beside something, only a few yards away. A dark shape on the ground. With a red-headed figure kneeling beside it and pushing down rhythmically with both hands.
Giles’s heart tore.
He crawled, heedless of the cold rain now dripping through the shelter of the trees
onto his naked back. He had to be there. To see. To touch. To try and beat Fate just this once.
As he reached them Rick ceased his compressions and tilted Smutty’s head back.
Giles watched as he pinched Smutty’s nose, sealing his lips over those unresponsive ones.
“Stay,” Giles rasped, clutching at Smutty’s hand and clasping it to his heart, is if he could transmit his own life force into that limp body. “Stay with me. Please, please stay!”
Smutty’s chest rose with Rick’s first breath, then deflated.
“Smutty! I need you to stay. P-please don’t leave me. I need you—I love you—”
Smutty’s chest rose again as Rick blew into his mouth. It took forever. Long enough
for Giles to babble out his undying love and a thousand sincere promises for the future.
“I’ll even help you with the vegetable garden, I prom—”
Smutty coughed, his body jerking.
Relief flooded Giles. He reached out with greedy arms, knocking Rick aside and
pulling Smutty against his chest.
“Thank you! Oh, thank you, oh God, I can’t believe I nearly lost you.”
Smutty’s breaths came in choking sobs, but as Giles ran gentle hands up and down his back, he gradually calmed.
Giles kissed the top of his head reverently.
Smutty opened his eyes and tilted his head back. His face was smeared with black,
making his eyes gleam brighter than ever.
“Hey,” he whispered. “Did you mean all that?”
Smutty coughed again, but recovered and smiled. “About the gardening. Loving me.
“You heard that? But you were…”
“I heard it. Followed your voice back, didn’t I?”
Giles grinned, his heart straining under the pressure of so much love.
“I meant every word of it.”
“Good. Coz my boat’s buggered. Think I’ll be staying here after all.” Smutty smiled
softly and laced his fingers through Giles’s.
“That your only reason?” Giles asked, trying to keep his voice even but failing
Smutty chuckled, coughed, and leaned his head against Giles’s chest. “There’s this
posh guy I’ve fallen for, too.”
They sat together, watching
blaze like a Viking funeral pyre, immolating the past’s hold over them both. Searing their fears of commitment to flakes of ash, dancing on the wind.
Sirens cut through the air.
Giles eyed the compost heap warily. When Smutty had asked him to turn it, it had
sounded like a simple request. Faced with the steaming midden of kitchen scraps and soiled straw, however, bile rose in his throat. Who would have thought two men and five chickens could generate so much waste in just four months?
Still, nothing like an unpleasant task to take his mind off things. Giles thrust the fork into the top of the pile and began flipping the soggy, squishy mess into the next empty section of the composting bins.
The August sun beat down on his shoulders, and Giles paused to strip his T-shirt,
before using it to wipe the sweat from his brow. Glancing down at his newly tanned and defined chest, he marvelled at what a difference Smutty had made to his life. They’d been getting along so well: gardening together every morning; Giles painting in the afternoons, while Smutty practised his fire-dancing; and long nights turning the bed into a tangle of sweat-dampened sheets.
Then Smutty had made his announcement over breakfast.
“I’ll need the car this morning. Remember?” he’d said.
He did, and he still didn’t like it. That obstinate boyfriend of his hadn’t wanted a lick of help from Giles, and refused to elaborate on his plans beyond the bare minimum. Too bloody independent, that’s what he was.
Giles had almost transferred the whole heap to its new location when he felt arms
circling his waist.
“Hey sexy,” Smutty murmured in his ear, “What a sight to come home to.”
Giles turned, smiling at the mention of “home” and the sensation of warm man
pressed up against him.
Smutty kissed him slowly, like they had all the time in the world, but Giles knew that wasn’t the case.
“Mmm, what’s got you all worked up?” Smutty chuckled, pulling back from Giles’s
insistent embrace. “Didn’t think turning compost was a kink of yours. I’ll have to remember that.”
Those merry brown eyes shone with glee, and Giles forced himself to ask the
question: “Did you find a boat?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve had my eye on one for a while. Got a good deal, too. C’mon. I’m
gonna need a hand. And a strong pair of arms.” Smutty’s gaze strayed down to Giles’s biceps and lingered there appreciatively.
Giles turned towards the canal, only to find his arm almost yanked out of its socket.
“Not that way. How d’you think I got back?”
But if the boat wasn’t here yet, then where was Smutty taking him?
It was easier not to think too hard as Smutty pulled him round to the front of the
house. Giles just let life wash over him. He was getting better at that these days, under Smutty’s patient guidance, but he was still a work in progress.
Then he saw the upturned rowing boat on the top of the car and began to laugh.
“C’mon. We’re both gonna need to carry her down to the water. Over our heads, I
thought. What do you reckon?”
Giles pulled Smutty to him and landed a kiss on his temple. “I reckon you’re an
infernal tease, that’s what I reckon.”
“Why? What have I done now?” But Smutty’s eyes danced as he proclaimed his
“You knew I thought you meant another narrowboat, didn’t you? It’s been bothering
me all morning.”
“Worried I was gonna cruise off and leave you?” Smutty’s tone was serious, even
though the light still glimmered in his eyes. “I already told you, I’m here for keeps now.” He grinned mischievously. “Think I’d run off and leave my chooks? No way!”
“You’re only staying because of the chickens?” Giles did his best to sound hurt, but his heart had swollen so much the joy leaked out into his words and curled up his lips.
“Yeah, and don’t you forget it,” Smutty teased, his arms resting on either side of
They stood there for a long time, smiling into each other’ eyes, until a beep from
Smutty’s mobile disturbed them.
“It’s Rick,” Smutty said, squinting as he shielded the screen from the sun. “Is that boy ever gonna stop texting me for advice about his love life? I’m hardly agony aunt material.”
“I think you’re the best he’s got, and you definitely owe him.”
“If anyone should be asking for advice, it’s Finn.”
Giles snorted. Fabian’s sham marriage had gone ahead last month, much to their
amazement and Smutty’s vocal disapproval. It was probably a good thing they hadn’t been invited to the ceremony. Giles had a strong suspicion Smutty would have spoken up at the point where the vicar asked if anyone had any objections.
Smutty keyed in a quick response to Rick’s text then shoved the phone back in his
pocket. “Come on. I want to give this boat a test drive. You ever rowed before?”
“Of course. It was compulsory at school, and I was on the rowing team at uni.”
“Yeah, I bet. You posh lot sure know how to live.” The words were as defiantly class-conscious as ever, but Giles couldn’t detect any trace of resentment anymore—just gentle teasing.
After they’d taken off the bungee cords that held the boat to the roof rack, they
hoisted her off and over their heads. The oars were secured inside.
“Bloody hell, she’s heavy.”
“Yeah. Quality bit of workmanship, she is. Solid cedar.” Smutty knocked on the hull
and Giles could hear the pride in his voice.
He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of hearing that.
They were halfway through the meadow when Smutty dropped his final bombshell,
ever so casually.
“By the way, I had a call from Starlight while I was out.”
“Oh yes?” Giles panted, struggling with his grip on the varnished wood.
“Yeah. Says she’s coming to visit. Wants to meet this man who’s finally persuaded me to settle down. You don’t mind her campervan parked up in the drive for the winter, do you?”
“All winter? I, er, yes. I mean no, I don’t mind. Of course not. She’s your mother.”
And he’d put up with anything for Smutty’s sake.
Conversation was put on hold for a few minutes as they made their way through the
trees, trying to avoid knocking down too many apples. And finally they were out in the open again.
“Here we go. Set her down here.”
Giles groaned with relief as he straightened again, rubbing his sore shoulders. “We’ll have to build a boathouse down here. I’m not carrying that back again.”
“Good idea,” Smutty agreed, stretching his neck and arms. Giles would never get tired of watching him move. It was like poetry, the fluid grace of his body.
“Oh yeah,” Smutty continued, flashing that impish grin of his. “I was only joking
about Starlight staying for the winter. She’ll be here a couple of weeks, tops then she’s off to Mexico for a few months.”
Giles breathed a silent sigh of relief. “Does she need somewhere to leave her
“Well, yeah, but she knows lots of people. She’ll find somewhere.”
“She can leave it here. We’ll keep it safe.”
“You sure? It’s a proper VW hippie-mobile. CND signs and rainbows all over the
bodywork. Tie-dyed curtains and leopard print seat covers. You know the kind of thing.”
Giles didn’t, but he was willing to find out. He wanted to find out, as it was Smutty’s heritage.
“I’d be honoured to look after it for her.”
Smutty walked into his outstretched arms. “You’re just a big softie really, aren’t you?”
It didn’t need answering, as they both knew it was true.
“You can row first,” Smutty said, looking at the boat.
“Need me to show you how it’s done?”
“Nah, I just want to get a look at you doing it with your shirt off. Be like a free wank mag.”
Giles pushed his sniggering boyfriend to the ground and kissed him, hard.
About the Author
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo once spent two years living on a slowly decaying narrowboat, and was determined
that she would one day use the experience as fodder for a novel. So far she’s managed to milk a novel, novella and short story out of it, but she solemnly promises not to write any more narrowboat stories... for a little while, anyway!
Visit Jo’s website at
josephinemyles.com for m
ore information about her published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads. To sign up for her free newsletter, use the link you’ll find in the sidebar on all pages of her website.
Also by the Author
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.