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PERFECT CATCH






N.R. WALKER







Blurb:


Calvin Lynch and Troy Hoffman have been best mates since they were fourteen years old. They’re both hard-working tradesmen, both love weekends away fishing, both gay, but have never been single at the same time. Until now.

What is supposed to be a weekend away fishing with a group of mates, changes at the last minute when friends bail out in an attempt to give Cal and Troy some alone time.

With more than just hooks on the line, can these two see what’s been right in front of them the whole time?

The Perfect Catch is a short story about falling for your best friend hook, line, and sinker.










Copyright:


Editor: Labyrinth Bound Edits

Perfect Catch © 2016 N.R. Walker

Publisher: BlueHeart Press



Second Edition: January 2017

Smashwords Edition



All Rights Reserved:

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events or locales is coincidental.

The Licensed Art Material is being used for illustrative purposes only.

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.



Warning:

Intended for an 18+ audience only. This book contains material that maybe offensive to some and is intended for a mature, adult audience. It contains graphic language, explicit sexual content, and adult situations.



The author uses Australian English spelling and grammar.


Trademarks:

Esky: The Coleman Company, Inc.

Guinness: Guinness & Co.

Tooheys: Lion Pty Ltd.

Hawaii Five 0: CBS Television Studios

MasterChef: EndemolShine (Aust) Pty Ltd.

Iron Chef: Fuji Television Network, inc.




DEDICATION



To the wonderful folk in the M/M Daily Grind.

This story wouldn’t exist without you.







AUTHOR NOTE


This was previously released as part of the It Was Always You anthology, released 2016.

It is now released as a single title. No additional content has been added.





CHAPTER ONE




“Hey, can you grab the other end of this?” Troy asked. He climbed on his knees under the canopy into the back of his four-wheel-drive utility. He gripped one end of the long folded tent that leaned against the tailgate and waited for me to help with the other.

“Sure.” I lifted the bottom end, and together we slid the tent onto the tray of his ute. I helped him load everything else on, getting ready for our weekend of camping out and fishing in the mountains.

I’d just called by his place to drop off the food for our trip and to see if he needed any last minute things. It was Thursday evening, and we were leaving at sunup the next day. “You sure you don’t need me to get anything else?” I asked.

He pointed his chin toward a carton of Tooheys Extra Dry on the floor of his garage. “Just those.”

I picked up the box of beer and slid it on the tray toward him. “Need ice for the beer?”

“Nah, we’ll grab it from a servo on the way, yeah?”

I nodded. “What about your fishing rods?” His fishing rod holder was a two-metre length of PVC pipe, eight inches in diameter. The fishing rods simply slid into it, a screw cap at each end making them secure and well protected.

“I’ll fix that up on top,” he replied, sliding out of the back of his ute. Using the back tyre of the ute as a step, he grabbed the top rail of the canopy and effortlessly lifted himself up. “Pass it up for me?”

I held the long pipe along the roof of the canopy steady, and Troy fixed it with ratchet clamps. We’d done this so many times, gotten ready to go camping, that we barely needed words. We just kinda knew what the other was thinking. I’d known Troy Hoffman since the eighth grade, been mates since then too. We grew up and still lived in this country town. Life hadn’t always put us on the same page in the ten years I’d known him, but we somehow always ended up hangin’ out.

He’d been the only other gay kid I’d known when I was fourteen. He caught me checking out the school’s polocrosse captain, and when I thought he was gonna punch me, he just swallowed hard and said, “He’s hot, isn’t he?” And we were inseparable after that. We were never together in the boyfriends-sense. We kept each other’s secret until we were both ready to come out. He only had his mum to tell, and she took it like she was relieved he’d finally told her. My folks were okay with it; well, my mum and sister were fine with it. I think my dad was just relieved I was still a man’s man. I was still keen to do my building apprenticeship and was one of the hardest hitting guys on our rugby team. I think my old man thought all gay men had a swish to their hips. But when he realised it didn’t change a single thing about me, he said he was fine with it. I had to wonder if he’d still accept me if I was more flamboyant. I’d never really thought parents’ love should have limits, but apparently my dad’s might have.

Troy jumped down and clapped his hand on my shoulder. “You okay?”

I scrubbed my hand over my face, trying to clear my head. “Yeah.”

“You need this weekend,” he said, opening the passenger door. “It’ll take your mind off… you know.”

Off what? “Oh.” I scoffed out a laugh. “No, it’s not that. I wasn’t even thinking about that.”

Troy eyed me cautiously, but then proceeded to lean into his truck and rifle through the centre console, giving me a great view of his arse and thighs. He was wearing an old T-shirt and some footy shorts and his usual work boots. He was a mechanic by trade. He kept fit by running and playing soccer on weekends. His body was trim and tanned, muscular in all the right places. He’d always been the good-looking kid at school. He still was. With short brown hair, eyes the colour of burnt honey, and a killer smile that pressed a dimple into his left cheek.

Everyone always assumed we were a couple. Where there was one of us, the other was never too far away, but it just never happened that way. We were only twenty-four, and the gay market in Claremont wasn’t exactly thriving. But we’d always missed the mark: dating other guys, nothing ever too permanent though, and never being single at the same time.

Until now.

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. I hadn’t realised I’d zoned out again. “You were a million miles away. Either that or you really were checking out my arse.”

I laughed him off and ignored how my cheeks heated. Fuck.

He studied me, a soft smile on his lips but a curious edge to his eyes. “I didn’t think you were that serious about Shane. If you don’t want to come away with me this weekend, just say so. I mean, you only broke up last weekend so―”

“I’m fine,” I said, trying to brush off his concern. “I wasn’t even thinking about him. We weren’t that serious, just a couple of dates.” He didn’t look too convinced. “It’s just work stuff, that’s all. You know, you’re right though. I do need this weekend away. Are you sure there’s nothing you need me to grab?”

“Nah, we’re good. I think I’ve got everything. Just bring yourself.”

“Okay then. I’d better get going. See you at my place in the morning.” I took a few steps out of the garage and down the driveway to my old truck.

“Hey Cal,” Troy called out. He was standing there, holding a black piece of cloth and looking a little concerned. “Did you wanna hang out here a while? We can order something in to eat if you want?”

I wasn’t my usual sarcastic self, and I knew he was concerned. So I gave him the best smile I could muster. “It’s bad enough I have to put up with your ugly mug all weekend. No point in spoilin’ my Thursday night too.”

We were always taking the piss out of each other, so he must have been reassured I was okay because he grinned at me. “Yeah, I don’t want to be interrupting your date with your Hawaii Five-0 boyfriend. What’s his name? Steve McGarrett?”

“That’s Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett to you.” I gave him a mock salute with my middle finger and mouthed “fuck you” as I got into my truck.

Troy just laughed and went back into his garage, and I drove away with a smile.

It was only a five-minute drive to my place. In a town of fifty-thousand people, it was only five minutes to anywhere. Just as I was pulling into the driveway, my phone rang. I fished it out of my pocket. It was Peta. I’d gotten to know her during my apprenticeship days, me a carpenter, her an electrician. Apprentices spent three days a week working, two days in the classroom, and we’d shared a table one day in the busy cafeteria, started up a conversation, and had been friends ever since. “Hey sparkie,” I answered, knowing it would get a response from her.

“Hey chippie.”

“How’s things?”

“Good. Just seeing if you’re still going away tomorrow?”

I cut the engine and got out of my truck and walked to my front door. “Yep. Why?”

“Did you need me to come by and feed Meggs?”

“Yeah, is that okay? If not, I can just leave food out for her. It’s only two nights. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” I crooked the phone between my ear and shoulder so I could use both hands to unlock the door. Sometimes the front door stuck a little.

“Still haven’t fixed your front door?”

“Shut up.”

Peta laughed. “You know what they say: a carpenter’s house is never finished, and a mechanic’s car never runs right.”

“An electrician’s house is never wired right. Still have that ceiling fan that doesn’t work?”

“Shut up.”

I laughed and pushed my way inside and closed the door behind me with a hard shove.

“Speaking of mechanics,” Peta said, and I suppressed a sigh. I knew what was coming. “Still just you and Troy going this weekend?”

“Yep. Robbo can’t come. Christie has some family BBQ on.” Paul Robertson, or Robbo as we called him, was a mate of ours. The three of us, and sometimes Allan and Mick, would usually do something on weekends. Our camping trips usually involved fishing, motorbike riding, and drinking beer.

Peta’s voice through the phone interrupted my thoughts. “Well, I was talking to Christie today. She does have a family BBQ on. Her sister’s in town, so that much is true.”

I walked into my kitchen and threw my keys and wallet on the counter. “And?”

“Well, she also told Robbo not to go so you and Troy would finally have a weekend alone.”

I let out a long sigh, allowed my head to fall forward and my shoulders to sag. “Peta,” I started.

“Listen,” she interrupted. “You need this. Everyone can see it except you two. And I’m telling you, he wants you as much you want him.”

I scrubbed my hand over my face. I tried to reply, but I’d given up on this argument years ago. “He’s my best mate. That’s all.”

“How long have you been in love with him?”

I swallowed hard.

“That’s what I thought. You’ve got the whole weekend with him, Cal. Put yourself out there.”

“And risk, what? Everything?”

Her voice was soft and resonating. “Wouldn’t it be worth it?”

And for that I had no reply.

“Just think about it. I’m telling you, there’s no way he’d say no.”

“Look, I have to go.”

“Calvin Lynch, you know I love you. I’m just telling you how it is.” She always did. “I’ll come around at lunch time and make sure Meggs is okay. And Cal?”

“Yeah?”

“I want all the details.” I could tell she was smiling. “All of them.”

“I’m going now.”

“Say hello to Commander McGarrett for me.”

I groaned into the phone and disconnected the call, cutting her laughter short. I wasn’t that predictable, was I?

Meggs the cat sat perched on the arm of the sofa. She looked at me with such contempt, and I was certain if a cat could roll its eyes, she would. Her affections for me swayed between adoring and loathing, and I swear the only reason she tolerated me was because I fed her. She wasn’t my cat. Not really. She came with the house, and I’d given her the name Ginger Meggs, given her colouring. As it turned out, he was a she, so we dropped the Ginger, and she just got Meggs.

I bought the house last year; a ‘renovators dream’ was the diplomatic way of calling it a dump. It was an old three-bedroom weatherboard in a pretty good part of town, but the house had good bones. Given I was a builder by trade, I had plans to do it up as time and finances allowed.

I planted myself on the sofa with a heavy sigh, and picking up the remote, I turned the TV on just as Hawaii Five-0 was just about to start. It was perfect timing really. Meggs decided she’d grace me with her presence and curled up on my lap.

“It’s not my fault Steve McGarrett’s hot,” I said to Meggs. It also wasn’t my fault he reminded me of Troy. Peta’s conversation echoed in my mind. “Fuck.”

Meggs never replied. Not that I expected her to. Not that I needed her to. I already knew the answer.

I was screwed either way. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. Was risking my friendship with my best friend worth it? God, what if he said no? What if he laughed in my face? Ugh. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t.

…but butterflies took off in my belly because, well, what if he said yes?



CHAPTER TWO




When Troy arrived at my place at six o’clock, I threw my gear into the back and climbed into his ute. His ute was his pride and joy, in pristine condition, immaculate inside and out. It was rigged with every 4x4 off-roader gadget on the market, and as a mechanic, what was under the hood was perfect too.

I handed him an egg and bacon burger and slid his coffee into his cup holder. Before he could argue, I said, “If any spills, I’ll detail the interior myself.”

He just smiled. “Thanks.”

I knew he was meticulous about his ute, and that was fine with me. He was proud of it, and he should be. He’d worked hard for everything he had.

He started to drive out of town, heading for the mountains. There were other, more popular recreational dams we could have gone to, but given it was a long weekend, they’d be packed with families and kids. Troy had done some work for a guy who owned some property about an hour and a half out of town, right up the top of the hills that ran east of Claremont. The property had a river that had been stocked with trout, and in what was a fair trade, Troy did a free service on the guy’s car for a few weekends throughout the year of free fishing. It was perfect really.

I unwrapped his burger for him and handed it to him. He took it graciously. “Did you make these?”

“Yep,” I answered. “Yours is egg, bacon, and BBQ sauce. Coffee is white with one.”

Troy grinned at me, then he bit into his burger and spoke with his mouth full. “Mmm, it’s good.”

We ate in silence as he drove, and when he put half his burger on his lap, I handed him his coffee. “Thanks,” he said with a warm smile. He took a mouthful and handed it back to me. I put it in his cup holder for him, ignoring how our fingers brushed, ignoring how we did things that couples did… ignoring how my heart tripped over and how butterflies set my stomach on edge.

“Hey, weren’t we supposed to get ice at the servo?” I asked, just remembering that he’d said that yesterday.

“Already got it,” he answered, swallowing down the last of his breakfast. “I was up early, so I filled up on fuel and grabbed some ice before I got to your place this morning.”

Oh. “Let me know what I owe you for that.”

“Forget about it. You paid for all the food.”

I shrugged. It was true. Our weekends away fishing usually squared off with each other. One of us would pay for one thing, the other would pay for something else. It was no big deal either way.

I stretched out as much as I could and took Troy’s phone out of the cradle on the dash. “You right there?” he asked with a smile.

“Yep,” I answered, thumbing the screen. “You need to update your playlists.”

He chuckled, that deep familiar rumble I’d know anywhere. “You know, technology’s great, but I miss the days of car stereos with CDs. Then I could just keep one CD, and you’d have to like it or lump it.”

“And you’d make that one and only CD some country shit too.”

Troy laughed. “Damn straight.”

I scrolled through his playlists. “Jesus, man. Do you have any music that doesn’t have a steel guitar?”

“Not any worth playing.”

I recradled his phone and took out my own. I’d set up my phone to connect to Bluetooth in Troy’s ute the first time I got in it. Because that’s what best friends did: they rode shotgun, and they directed the music. I disconnected his phone, connected mine, and opted for random. Because seriously, any song on my phone was better than his.

“Make yourself at home,” Troy said. The corner of his lips twitched with a well-fought smile.

I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. “I always do.”

He only got through half a song. “And you think my taste in music is shit.”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“This is crap. All these new so-called singers aren’t even musicians. I bet half of ’em couldn’t even play the guitar or piano.”

“Is that the catalyst of what makes a musician?”

“It should be.”

“What if they’re a drummer?”

“Drummers are acceptable. These tossers you listen to only know how to press buttons on a synthesiser. If they had to play a live concert with an actual band, they wouldn’t know how.”

I snorted out a laugh. “And your country twangers would have to put their banjos down so they could brush their one and only tooth with a toothbrush they share with their cousin.”

Troy laughed. “What’s wrong with a banjo?”

“The one tooth and toothbrush-sharing cousin doesn't bother you?”

He shook his head and laughed. “Just listen to your shit music and shut up.”


* * * *


When Troy pulled onto the dirt road, I jumped out of the ute to open the gate. He drove through and I shut the gate behind him, and when I got back into his ute, Troy was smiling.

I knew that smile. It was his gone-fishin’ smile, his “weekend away with no mobile phone service” smile. Possibly even his “Friday night footy and pizza” smile. It was contagious.

The property we were on was a two-hundred-acre lot, mostly hilly with overgrown vegetation. It wasn’t good for much else than fishing and goats. Apparently the owners bought it a few years back, intending to put a weekender on it, but I liked that there was no house on it. I liked that it was secluded. For me, that was the very best part.

The dirt road meandered through overgrown outcrops around the side of a hill, and we followed it down to the river. There was a spot levelled off not far from the water where we usually made camp, and the circle of rocks in the front still held charcoal evidence of the last time we’d been here.

Troy stopped the ute just to the back of the campsite and got out, stretching his hands high above his head with a smile. His shirt rode up, revealing that dark trail of hair, which ran from his navel down past the waistband of his—

“You getting out of the ute? Or you gonna fish from there?”

I flipped him off and got out of the ute. The sound of the water and the feel of sunlight on my skin made me smile. “We setting up camp? Or seeing if they’re biting first?”

Troy scoffed out a laugh and reached up to unscrew the cap on the fishing-rod holder. “Whadda you think?”

I smiled to myself. It really was a stupid question. “I’ll get the flies.”



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