Laying Pipe - Kiki Clark Page 0,1

and for their winter festival, but otherwise they were low-key with a lot of decades-old small businesses on Main Street.

Pulling into Lukas’s driveway, next to his car, he shut off his truck and threw open the door, stepping down with a groan. His body was aching from a full day’s work and wondering why the hell he wasn’t sitting in his living room with a beer and something mindless on his TV.

When he spied Lukas’s face peeking out of one of his windows, he smiled reassuringly. As sore as his back was after spending most of the day in the crawl space of a client’s house, there had never been any question about whether he’d help Dave’s son. He’d known Lukas since he was a teen, and even though Lukas lived on his own now, John was close enough with the whole family that it wasn’t abnormal for him to call John for help.

Plus, Lukas had sounded so scared in his message it had tugged at John’s heartstrings. He knew Lukas wasn’t super handy—much to Dave’s chagrin; the man still held out hope of convincing Lukas to join his construction business so he could take it over one day—but he’d never struck John as panicky either.

As he walked up to the front door, it flew open and Lukas’s pale face and huge blue eyes made John’s chest tighten. “You okay, kid?”

Lukas rolled his eyes like he always did when John called him that, and he mentally reminded himself to stop. Lukas was in his midtwenties—a far cry from a child. He’d lived on his own for years and had a good job. Hell, he was more of an adult than most people his age, including John’s former stepson. Last John had heard, Steven had changed majors—again—and his mom was fed up with him.

“Um, yeah. Sorry about the voicemail.” Lukas stepped back so John could enter, then closed the door behind him and took off toward the basement door. “I showered when I got home and everything was fine, but when I went to wash dishes after I finished eating, nothing came out of the faucet. I went in the bathroom, and nothing.”

John nodded, glad he’d grabbed his crimper. When he’d put in a new water heater, after Lukas bought the place, he’d noticed that the plumbing had been updated to a combination of PVC and PEX. Which was good. But the crimped connections could separate over time. If that was what had happened, it should be an easy enough fix.

“So you went to check the basement and found water?”

“Yeah.” Lukas nibbled on his lower lip and glanced at the door. John ignored the stirring in his gut at the flash of teeth sinking into his plump lip. The awareness of Lukas’s attractiveness was a relatively new development, and he absolutely wasn’t going to think about what it meant. “I called you right away, then went back down and tried to find the shutoff for the main line… but, um, I couldn’t.”

A pink stain covered Lukas’s cheeks, causing John to frown and pause with his hand on the door. “It’s okay. I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks, John.” Lukas’s wet eyes dropped to the ground, and he swallowed audibly. If John wasn’t mistaken, it had looked like he was trying not to cry. Why was he so upset? Just because he didn’t know where the shutoff valve was?

And what can I do to make him feel better?

His mind blanked, and he stood at the basement door for an awkwardly long time. Finally, he cleared his throat and jerked his head in the direction of the basement. “I better, uh, go see what’s happening down there.”

“Do you… Should I come with you?”

John stopped with his hand on the knob. What was the right answer? He didn’t want Lukas to feel like John didn’t want him tagging along, but he also didn’t want him to feel like he had to. Like he wasn’t “man enough” if he didn’t learn how to fix the problem, so if there was a next time, he could take care of it himself without calling John for help.

Plus, he kind of liked when Lukas called him for help.

He cursed himself for admitting that much—even if it was just to himself.

He shrugged. “Only if you want to. I don’t mind going down solo.”

Lukas’s face did something weird at his words—a sort of twisting to his mouth—then he pasted on a smile that didn’t fool John for a second. “I guess