excerpt

Barging In coverBarging In by Josephine Myles

When the boat’s a rockin’, don’t come knockin’!

Instead of a change of pace from city life, Dan’s narrowboat holiday is dull as ditchwater. Until he crashes into the boat of a half-naked, tattooed, pierced man.

Robin’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. Even considering a brief, harmless fling.

Determined not to fall in love, both men dive into one week of indulgence…only to find troubled waters of intimacy and emotions neither of them expected…or wanted.

***

“Jesus, Tris, you should see this guy up ahead. Wish I could take you a picture.”

“Why? Is he hot? Is he—” The line went completely dead this time, not just crackly. Dan cursed, then turned his attention back to the boater.

The inked whorls across his upper back rippled as the man drove the axe down into the log before him. Scratch that about boaters not being Dan’s type—this one was just fine from the rear. He wore sturdy black leather boots that reached mid-calf, and his close-fitted combat trousers were tucked inside. His dark hair was cropped short, his tanned back tautly muscled, and his pert buttocks lovingly accentuated by the cut of his trousers. Dan spotted a dark patch on the waistband and imagined licking the sweat from the channel of his spine—picturing himself chasing a bead of perspiration on down, below the waistband and between those enticing cheeks.

Bloody boat engine. The vibrations, combined with the hot man up ahead, had given him the mother of all boners. And stranded on his deck in tight Levis, it was going to be pretty obvious to anyone who cared to look. Wouldn’t be a problem somewhere he stood a chance of being able to do something about it, but out here on the bloody Kennet and Avon canal? It was enough to make him wish the bloke away…but it was hard to wish away such a perfect arse. Maybe if he got a look at the front of him. An eyeful of snaggletoothed, bushy-bearded boater would be like a mental cold shower.

Dan strained to catch a glimpse as his narrowboat slowly chugged past. The glint of Tattoo-guy’s pierced nipples hijacked his attention, distracting him completely. As he panned up the boater’s body, a thud shook through the boat beneath him.

Dan pitched forward, catching a blow to his ribs from the rear door.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” The boater dropped his axe and glowered. “Stupid fucking tourist! They shouldn’t let you lot out in boats if you don’t know how to steer the bloody things.”

“God, I’m sorry! Wait a minute, I’ll sort it out.” Panic coursed through Dan’s body. He grappled with the controls, trying to recall how the guy at the hire company had operated the reverse gear. If only he’d been paying more attention! The prow of Dan’s boat pushed against the rear fender of the woodchopper’s deep red boat. He really did have his nose up the other guy’s arse after all. Just not quite how he’d been imagining it. Dan cut the engine—he could remember how to do that much at least.

Tattoo-guy jumped onto the back deck of his own boat and gave Dan’s a hard kick, bracing himself against the rear doors. The bulk of the Faerie Queen rocked free; then the boater grabbed the rail along her roof to hold her steady. Dan clung to his tiller and gave his rescuer a grateful smile. “Thanks. Sorry, I couldn’t find the reverse anywhere.”

The boater took hold of Dan’s boat and pulled it alongside his, using brute strength to shift the tonne of steel through the water. Dan’s smile faltered as he drew nearer to the bloke. Tattoo-guy looked seriously pissed off, his dark blue eyes hostile and his mouth set in a line.

“Watch where you’re going in future, all right? You could do serious damage to some of the boats along here. Serendipity’s a tough old bird,” he said, patting the roof of the red boat, “but some of the others have wood or fibreglass hulls. You could sink them if you’re not careful. And slow down a bit, ’cause your wash ends up rocking the boats you pass, understand?” His voice vibrated with controlled anger, but it was surprisingly rich and cultured for one so scruffy.

“Yeah, okay, point taken. I’ll be more careful.” Dan attempted another smile.

“It’s not some fucking joke. These are people’s homes. We might not live in brick-and-mortar houses like the rest of you, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a bit of respect.” The bloke folded his arms and glared at Dan.

Whoa! Where had that come from? “Hey, can we start again, please? It was a simple accident. I’m not disrespecting anyone here. I’m just a canal virgin, all right?”

“I suppose you think that makes it all right, then, do you? Steering like a bloody maniac and crashing into my boat?”

“Yeah, wait, no!” Dan could see he wasn’t going to win this argument no matter what. “I’ve said I was sorry. If there’s damage, I can pay for it.”

Tattoo-guy sneered. “That’s exactly the sort of attitude I’d expect from a tourist. You think you can just throw money at a problem and it’ll go away, don’t you?”

“Look mate, you don’t know anything about me.” Dan drew himself up to his full five foot six, painfully aware the other guy was still looming over him by about half a foot. “I’ve just offered to pay for any damage I’ve caused, so I don’t see what your problem is.”

“My problem is if you’ve caused any damage with your little stunt, I have to cruise all the way to the nearest dry dock in Bristol and get her lifted out of the water. Then I’ve got to clean and reblack the hull, which has got to be one of the most backbreaking tasks I’ve ever had the misfortune to do. It’s not like spraying over a nick in your car’s paintwork. It’s a week out of my life I’ve got to spend sorting out the results of your sloppy steering.”

“Oh. Shit. That is a big deal. Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Yeah, well, that’s because you’re a tosser.” Tattoo-guy gave Dan a withering stare, then dropped to his knees and leaned over the water. Dan took an instinctive step back. He relaxed when the man began poking at the side of his hull under the water, presumably feeling around for damage. You couldn’t see anything in the murky green canal. Looked more like pea soup than water.

“You’re a lucky man,” Tattoo-guy said, straightening up again. Funny, Dan didn’t feel all that lucky right now, despite being in the vicinity of a gorgeous, half-naked boater. “There’s no damage done this time, but like I said, you need to watch out, because some boats are a lot more vulnerable.”

Dan nodded. “Right. Gotcha. I’ll pay better attention.”

“What’s your excuse, anyway? Talking on the phone, were you? Or taking a photo? I know you can only go at a snail’s pace on one of these boats, but as you’re such a beginner, you should have your whole attention on the water ahead, all right?”

Dan wrenched the Bluetooth from his ear and shoved it into his pocket. There was no way he was going to tell this miserable git what had distracted him. It was bad enough being shouted at by the best-looking bloke he’d met in ages. He tried for a smile and just about managed it. “Right you are. Any more tips while you’re at it?” And he didn’t mean for that to come out sounding sarcastic, but it was too late to take it back.

“Yeah. Clear off. There’s spots for tourists to moor up in Bathampton.”

Tattoo-guy gave Dan’s boat a push and turned away, hopping back to the bank and picking up his axe. That would be Dan’s cue to leave, then.

He started the engine with a sigh. Bugger, what a way to hit it off with his first real boater. He turned his concentration back to his boat and tried to remember how to get the thing going again. By the time he was confident enough to look back, Tattoo-guy was nowhere to be seen.