Excerpt of No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
(Page 2 of 4)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
Together they lifted the shell free and lowered it right side up
into the waiting cradle. As Becca checked the rigging, she said, "You
Milo shrugged. "Was it a state secret, then, your rowing?"
"I see you haven't lost your talent for sarcasm," she countered,
although for Milo, who used sarcasm the way other coaches might
use a battering ram, the comment had been mild enough.
"He was concerned, and I can't say I blame him. You can't keep
on this way. Not," he added before she could draw breath for a
heated protest, "if you want a chance of a place in the semis, much
less at winning."
"What?" Glancing up in surprise, she saw that he was no longer
frowning, but regarding her speculatively.
"In spite of what everyone says," Milo went on, "I think it's possible
that you can win in the trials, maybe even in the Games. You
were one of the best rowers I've ever seen, once. It wouldn't be the
first time a rower your age has made a comeback. But you can't keep
up this half-arsed business. Rowing after work and on weekends,
doing weights and the erg in your cottage - oh, I know about that.
Did you think a few beers would buy you silence in a place this incestuous?"
He grinned, then sobered. "You're going to have to make
a decision, Becca. If you're going to do this, you'll have to give up
everything else. It will be the hardest thing you've ever done, but I
think you're just bloody-minded enough to succeed."
It was the first time that anyone had given her the least bit of
encouragement, and from Milo it meant more than from anyone
else. Her throat tight, she managed to say, "I'll - I'll think about
it." Then she nodded at the shell, and together they hefted the boat
above their heads, maneuvering it through the narrow gate, and
gently set it into the water beside the launch raft.
She slipped off her shoes, tossing them to one side of the raft.
Then she retrieved her oars, and in one fluid movement she balanced
them across the center of the shell while lowering herself into the
The shell rocked precariously as it took her weight. The movement
reminded her, as it always did, that she sat backwards on a
sliver of carbon fiber narrower than her body, inches above the water,
and that only her skill and determination kept her fragile craft
from the river's dark grasp.
But fear was good. It made her strong and careful. She slipped
the oars into the locks and tightened the gates. Then, with the bowside
oar resting on the raft and the strokeside oar balanced flat on
the water, she slipped her feet into the trainers attached to the footboard
and closed the Velcro fasteners.
"I'll wait for you," offered Milo. "Help you put the boat up."
Becca shook her head. "I can manage. I've got my key." She felt
the slight weight of the lanyard against her chest. "But, Milo..."
She hesitated. "Thanks."
"I'll leave the lights on, then," he said as she pushed away from
the raft. "Have a good row."
But she was moving now, letting the current take the shell out
into the river's center, and his words barely registered.
The world seemed to fall away as she settled into a warm-up
rhythm, working the kinks out of her shoulders and the stiffness
from her thighs. The wind bathed her face as it blew steadily downriver.
Between the wind and the current, she would have the advantage -
at least until she made the turn round Temple Island, and then
she would have both wind and current against her as she rowed back
Her strokes grew longer, deeper, as she watched the arched
golden lights of Henley Bridge recede in the distance. She was moving
backwards, as rowers did, judging the river by instinct, and she
might have been moving backwards in time as well. For an instant
she was the girl who had seen an Olympic gold medal within her
reach. The girl who had let it slip away.
Excerpted from No Mark Upon Her
by Deborah Crombie. Copyright © 2012 by Deborah Crombie.
Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.