Pint-sized Dave Tanaka, coxswain of his Cambridge college's rowing team, loves having eight strapping athletes hanging on his every word, their strength at his command. But there's one in particular whose attention he craves: Archie, who rows stroke for the side.
Six-foot-six Archie acts like he's just one of the lads -- although the way he calls out some of the other rowers on their thoughtless comments makes Dave's heart beat harder for him. But is there anything personal in it?
Tensions rise as they compete in the inter-college races, the Bumps ... and as they prepare for their final race, the one that will determine if they win their oars, Dave still doesn't know if Archie is in the same boat as him, in more ways than one!
Includes the short story mini-sequel, Firm Pressure.
I was just about to get on my bike when Archie showed up again. "I thought you'd gone back to college," I said, feeling a little flutter in my stomach. It'd never been just me and him before, without any of the other lads. I wondered if I could pluck up the nerve to say something to him.
"Oh, I was commiserating with a friend from Churchill." He frowned. "Dave? Why haven't you got changed?"
I shrugged wetly. "Didn't bring a change of clothes. I didn't want to jinx it." The cox only gets chucked in if you win the race, you see.
"You idiot! Look, you're shivering." He stripped off his sweatshirt and held it out to me.
Well, they say it's the thought that counts. And the thought of me cycling around Cambridge dressed in a bloody marquee was not an attractive one. "If I put that on, the sleeves'll be dragging on the ground!"
Archie smiled. "You can wear my shirt, then. Sorry it's a bit sweaty, but it's all I've got." My breath hitched as he stripped it off, and suddenly I was nose-to-nipple with Archie's bare, beautiful chest. I could feel the warmth coming off it in waves, and the rich smell of him was going right where it counted. "Come on, then, get your shirt off!" Archie's voice made me jerk my gaze away from the golden hair dusting his pecs, although my eyes kept trying to sneak back whenever my attention wavered.
"What, out here, where anyone could see me? Not bloody likely!"
Archie laughed. "You're not serious! Why on earth not?"
Because next to you I'll look like a pigeon-chested little kid and if I'm very, very lucky I'll die of shame before anyone sees me and laughs. "I'm shy, all right?"
"Well, come back in the boathouse, then." He opened the door. I followed him in nervously and shut it behind me. There wasn't much light inside, which was good. Maybe he wouldn't be able to see how scrawny I was with my kit off.
Reluctantly I peeled off my sopping wet T-shirt. I was so bloody cold I couldn't tell which were my nipples and which were goosebumps. "That's better," Archie said softly and passed me his shirt.
The scent of him as I got it over my head was almost overpowering. Strong, warm sweat filled my nostrils with its heady odour, and the material felt burning hot on my frozen skin.