Monday, July 9, 2012
Tumble Turn excerpt by Charlie Cochrane
In Tumble Turn, a contemporary m/m romance by Charlie Cochrane, winning isn't everything...except when everything rides on being first.
Ben Edwards is the rising star of British Paralympic swimming, with a medal at London 2012 firmly in his sights. Love isn't going to be allowed to get in the way -- until he meets Nick, who proves to be a big distraction from training. With his times sliding, and a family illness, to worry him, it looks like Ben's Olympic dreams are in tatters. Until Nick comes up with the most outrageous incentive for winning.
MLR Press (April 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-645-2 (ebook)
“Where’s my bloody tickets?”
I hadn’t heard that voice in best part of a year, but I knew it straight away, even though it had gone down a couple of notes. Matty had seemed to keep growing, even into his twenties. Now he looked like a rugby lock forward and a gorgeous one, to boot. I couldn’t find my voice.
“You promised me tickets, so I could watch you. Don’t pretend you’ve forgotten.”
I hadn’t. I didn’t. “I remembered alright, I thought you’d forgotten, you miserable sod.” I got him in a bear hug—well, you have to take your chances when you can—after which I whacked him a bit. “I know you were supposed to be travelling all last summer, but where were you at Christmas? I went round your house but your mum wouldn’t say.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t take the chance to slag me off.” Matty wriggled out of the clinch. “I committed the cardinal sin of choosing to spend the holidays with Dad, so I was persona non grata for a while. I hardly recognised you just now. You’ve put on a lot of muscle.”
I resisted saying he didn’t recognise me because he’d not kept in touch so he hadn’t seen me fill out and blossom. “You here for the Games?” Stupid bloody question, of course, seeing as we were both standing outside the Aquatics Centre.
“Silly bugger, of course I am. Had to get my tickets through the proper channels since you’d let me down.” His grin told me he was just winding me up. “I hope the British manage to get some medals tonight.”
“So do I.” I’d got a ticket for the swimming—able-bodied—from a friend of a friend and I couldn’t wait to get up the stairs and into my space. I think I had more butterflies in my stomach than when I’m competing. Of course I knew a couple of the lads who’d be out there and I’d be cheering them on, but it’s sometimes frustrating because you almost want to be in the pool swimming the race for them. Not that I’d be a lot of use in a mainstream race, but you take my point. “You here on your own?” It sounded like I was chatting him up and maybe I was. I knew I had two chances of winning him over to my lane—fat and slim—but a boy’s got to do what a boy’s got to do.
“No, I’ve got Nick with me. I got a couple of tickets because I was going to bring Jenny, but she’s had to work so her brother came along.” His words came out all of a rush, with particular emphasis on Jenny and brother which was the point where I knew he knew. I guess the gossip machines had been going full blast at home and he wasn’t likely to have missed the juicy bit of tit-tat, with all its embellishments. “Ben’s gay. Did he ever try it on with you?”
“Jenny’s your girlfriend?” I made it easy for him.
“Yeah. We’re coming up to our ninemonthiversary.”
I managed not to laugh. That must have been Jenny’s term, not his; not unless he’d changed an awful lot since he went off to Uni. “Nice. Is she at Plymouth as well?”
“Yeah, doing biology research. She’s pretty smart.” He jerked his thumb behind him. “Nick’s even brighter. He’s at Warwick. Languages.” That potted history seemed to be all I was going to get. “You’ll like him. I’m glad I ran across you.”
My heart sank. I’d had this sort of thing happen before and the glint in Matty’s eye showed it was coming right round the corner at me again. I’m not a bad looking bloke, even with the slight twist to my arm and the listing to one side that tends to happen after my second pint. And I’m not just going on what Mum says. I’ve never had any problems getting dates; they all say I scrub up and strip off pretty well. Even when I’m not shaved down for a race.
As a result, some of my friends think I’ll be God’s gift to their token gay—and usually hideously ugly—mate (assuming I’m not the token gay myself). They drag along Tom or Chris or whatever he’s called and steer him in my direction on the assumption that I’m gay and single and, given that I’ve got CP, probably not that fussy. Right on two counts, wrong on one, and wrong on the only one which really matters. I don’t want anyone else’s leavings, or the last chocolate left in the box, romance’s equivalent of that horrible hard centre that cracks your teeth. I could just imagine what this Nick was going to be like so I got into gear for doing a runner.
“I’m sure I will, but I’m in a bit of a hurry at the moment. What about meeting up later on, over a pint?” I started to back away. “Ring my mobile when the last event’s done.”
“Same number?” Matty had to raise his voice as I continued my not-very-gallant retreat.
“Yeah. See you later.” I waved, turned and made my way through the crowd, almost colliding with a corker of a bloke carrying two coffees. Shame Nick wasn’t going to look like him. I’d just have to text Matty back tomorrow and say I’d missed his call because of the crowd noise. I felt guilty, but only for all of three minutes. Matty White had effectively cut himself out of my life and I wasn’t going to roll over and let him back in.
Fate's a cruel mistress. Or master. Or something. I got to my seat-eventually, after battling through crowds and then signing autographs for some real swimming fanatics-and I was settling in when something slapped the back of my head.
"Ben!" It was Matty, of course, looking pleased as punch and plonking his backside in the seat behind mine and two to the left. "That's a stroke of luck. I'd forgotten I hadn't got your number on my new phone."
That made me even more angry. Matty pulling the "long lost friend" thing on me when he hadn't bothered to keep my number. I scowled at him, and at the weasely looking bloke sitting to the left of him, who was evidently the ghastly Nick and every bit as horrible as I'd imagined him. There was another bump to my head and I spun round one hundred and eighty degrees, about to give some clumsy sod a mouthful. There was gorgeous-guy-with-the-coffees smiling at me and being terribly apologetic.
"Sorry, did I thump you?" He smiled, revealing the sort of set of lovely teeth that would have been all the better to eat me with, if I'd been lucky. "My fault. I've always been clumsy. I think it's dyspraxia but Jenny just says I'm a prat. With dys-prat-sia." He grinned.
This horrible hot flush-remember my habit of blushing?- started to clamber up the back of my neck, which is hardly my best look given that there's more than a trace of ginger in my hair.
I managed to stammer something like, "No worries," although I could have been spouting gibberish, for all that I was aware. All I could think of was that I'd nearly gone and cocked everything up with my, "Ring me but I won't answer the phone" ruse. At least fate had saved me, and redeemed itself at the same time.
Unless I was buggering things up again by making an assumption too many, this must have been Jenny's brother, and he wasn't the spotty nerd I'd expected.
"I'm Nick." This gorgeous vision of tall, dark handsomeness stuck out his hand. "You must be Ben."
"Yeah, that's right." I managed to shake his hand without shaking too much myself. Sometimes I get a bit clumsy if I'm overexcited.
"We saw you on the telly-Paralympic World Cup, earlier this year. You won."
"You don't half state the bleeding obvious," Matty chipped in, grinning. "I suspect Ben remembers that for himself."
"Just a little." I was hoping the red flush was starting to subside.
"Matty was so proud of you. Kept pointing at the screen and saying that was his best mate from school days. He started to cry when you won." Nick rolled his eyes. "Great Jessy."
I was starting to well up, too. Maybe Matty had redeemed himself a bit. "We said we'd be here, being a part of it. Even back when we were horrible, spotty schoolboys, we knew we'd have to
make London 2012 happen."
"And you did." Matty ruffled my hair, just like we were fourteen again. "I've got tickets to see you, next month, so you damn well better make the final. And get a medal. No pressure."
"Not much. Only from you, Mum and Dad and the whole bloody street."
"Me as well." Nick had got himself settled into his seat, and given that I was in the row below I got a distinct eyeful of his crotch every time I turned to speak to him. I wasn't sure it was helping my coherence.
"Will you be there to cheer me on as well?" I tried a) not to sound too hopeful and b) not to keep staring at his trousers.
"Try and stop me. If you win I'll be basking in the reflected glory for months. We're sport mad in our house and even the friend of a future brother-in-law would count as one of the family if he had an Paralympic medal."
Future brother-in-law? No wonder Matty had been full of the lovey-dovey talk. "Wear your lucky y-fronts, then. I'll need all the help I can get."
"Gah. False modesty." Matty whacked my shoulder with his programme. I was about to launch into a great spiel about how I was up against a really tough field when Nick got there before me.
"No, Ben's just being realistic. There are some really fast Aussies in his event, and this guy from the US is starting to make a splash. No pun intended."
"Which guy from the US?" Matty pulled the face I remember from school, the one which usually appeared when we did algebra.
"The one who placed fourth in that race we watched. When Ben won." Nick gave me a wink. "Was he this thick at school?"
"Worse." I listened in as Nick gave Matty a comprehensive rundown on the top runners and riders in Paralympic swimming. Gorgeous, knowledgeable, funny; he seemed too good to be true. There had to be a catch and I had an awful feeling the catch was insurmountable. He was going to turn out to be straight and only here for the swimming. All my conspiracy theories about Matty finding out I was gay and engineering a meeting would turn out to be hot air and leave me with just daydreams.
"Rebecca Adlington going to do the double again?" Nick's voice woke me out of my reverie. I'd gone off on a mental tangent-mainly involving him, me, a swimming pool and a double bed.
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