Laying Pipe - Kiki Clark
John Butler wondered if he’d ever get used to coming home to an empty house.
It was strange because he and his ex-wife, Heather, hadn’t been married that long, really. Not quite seven years, and they’d been divorced for almost ten. But sometimes, when he’d had a particularly long day, there was a moment just before he pushed the door open that he ached for someone to be waiting on the other side.
Maybe he should get a dog.
Laughing at himself, he trudged into the house and beelined for the kitchen where he threw together a ham sandwich and scarfed it down. Tuesdays were his long day, so lunch had been a long-ass time ago.
Once his stomach wasn’t so angry, he headed up to his room, stripped, and stepped into his shower. The water was scalding, just how he liked it after crawling underneath a double-wide all afternoon. He rinsed away the day and tried not to think about that empty feeling in the pit of his stomach that had been growing larger lately. He’d long ago made his peace with being alone. He was in his forties; it was time to let go of the dream of someone to grow old with.
He’d thought Heather would be it for him. Fuck, he’d been so in love with her. But she hadn’t been able to handle his erratic schedule when he’d started his plumbing business. They’d started to fight more and more and have less and less sex.
Fuck. He missed sex.
Maybe that was all he needed to not feel so lonely. He was a little old for a one-night stand, but there were all kinds of apps and shit available now. Snorting, he shut off the shower with a quick jerk, annoyed with his fanciful thoughts.
His best friend, Dave, and his wife, Lydia, had tried setting him up a couple of times over the last few years. It had never gone well. He wasn’t sure what his problem was, but he hadn’t felt a spark with anyone in quite a while. He’d finally convinced them to stop putting them all through the torture of the dates.
Dave and Lydia’s son flashed in his mind, and he groaned as he scrubbed at his face and hair with a towel. Lukas kept intruding on his thoughts for some reason, and whenever John let himself think about the younger man for more than a few moments, he’d feel a clenching in his stomach and a tingling in his balls.
Which was ridiculous. Even if he were interested in men—which he wasn’t—Lukas was way too young for him. And Dave’s son.
And too attractive for John’s old ass.
Back in his room, he checked his phone compulsively, and his heart skipped a damn beat when he saw the notifications on the screen. There was a missed call and voicemail from Lukas from just a few minutes before. His finger hesitated a moment before he unlocked the screen and pulled up his voicemails.
“Fuck, John. Where are you? Shit, shit, shit. Um, okay, can you call me whenever you get this? My basement is filling with water, and I can’t call my dad because my parents are out of town… Fuck. Please, John. I don’t know what to do.”
Mind immediately shifting into work mode, he threw on clothes as he mentally ran through the supplies he had in his truck. Slipping his phone in his pocket, he was driving down the street before he realized he hadn’t let Lukas know he was coming. It was only a ten-minute drive across town to Lukas’s place, but he used his truck’s handsfree system to call him.
“John? Shit, did you get my message?” Lukas answered, sounding just as frantic as his earlier message.
“Yup, I’m on my way right now. I’ll be there in just a few minutes, okay?”
He heard Lukas suck in a breath, then let it out noisily. “Okay. Thank you.”
“No worries. I’ll see you in a minute.” He hung up and focused on the drive, and on not thinking about what he’d been contemplating just before getting Lukas’s message. Nope. That way lay madness. Lukas was his best friend’s twenty-six-year-old son. John was forty-two.
There was little traffic in Knotting Pine at eight o’clock on a Tuesday, but then there wasn’t a ton of traffic even during “rush hour” in their small town. They were an hour from the closest big city, Grand Rapids, and had a population of less than ten thousand. A typical Michigan small town, they got some tourists during the summer,