Ben closed his eyes. Leaned his head back against the metal toolbox and allowed the warmth of the midday sun piercing through the thin atmosphere to penetrate his body. In the high altitude, cloudless skies were excruciatingly bright. Despite a cool breeze in the air, the temperature was warm, and he’d already removed his sweater, content to sit in the elements clad only in his cargo pants and undershirt.
“You done with this?” Travis inquired, referring to the last few bites of the foot-long meatball and bell pepper sub they’d been sharing.
Without opening his eyes, Ben nodded.
“Mind if I finish it off?”
“No, go ahead.”
The side road they were parked on sat halfway between Glenwood Springs and Leadville, a remote pull-off area with ample space for the equestrian trailer, hidden from view of the interstate and the multitude of cars and semi-trailers traveling past. The oversized sandwich, pasta salad, and bottles of Gatorade purchased at a local sub shop in Eagle had been consumed, and now Travis and Ben sat in the open bed of the Dodge, left to the songs of finches in the trees, occasional snorts from Maximilian, and their own silent, post-meal contemplation.
After departing from the Flying O Ranch and leaving a stupefied Jack Osbourne in their wake, they’d headed for home. Drifted in and out of banal conversation, discussing everything and nothing and avoiding that which was most important and heavy on their minds. Something loomed over their heads, waiting to be cracked open, explored, dissected, but neither of them had the guts to pull it down into the light.
With one eye open, Ben squinted at his companion and watched as he finished off the last bite of sandwich. Marinara sauce pooled at the corners of his mouth, dripped down into his goatee, until he brought up a napkin to wipe it away. His profile was rigid yet soft, harsh yet supple, mirroring his complex personality: a callous yet vulnerable cowboy who was unafraid of life yet equally full of angst. Tiny red scratches still crisscrossed his cheek from their tussle by the muddy creek. Although it had only been yesterday, to Ben it felt like whole days had passed. He found it odd how the passage of time on this trip glided by in strange ways, as though rope had been cinched around them, holding them at a slower pace than the rest of the world.
Travis crumpled up the sandwich wrapping and shoved it into the carryout bag. Took a final swig of his drink and added the empty bottle as well. Dug down deep inside his boot and pull out a rubber-banded roll of money. Leaning back against the toolbox, Travis held the wad up to examine it in the sunlight, as though to admire it. Or admonish it. Ben watched him twirl it around in his fingers. Eventually, he spoke. “I suppose we should talk about this.”
“That’s a lot of cash,” Ben commented. “Glad Jack owned up to what he owed you. Seems like bullshit that he threatened otherwise, considering you two had a deal with Max.”
“He doesn’t always pay me in cash. Just for services he doesn’t want on the books…” His voice fell in decibels and he stared hard at the money. “He wrote me a check for Max. Legitimately, from his business account. This payment, though -” he pinched the money between his fingers “- this is for something else.”
A small wave of discontent rumbled through Ben’s torso, poking at his gut, and he tasted bile at the back of his throat. Swallowed saliva a few times to wash it away but was unsuccessful. Of course he knew the direction Travis was headed – he’d heard enough of the conversation with Jack to have an idea – but that didn’t make hearing the confession any easier for him. Meatballs and marinara and grape sports drink churned in his stomach, and he brought a hand up to his chest to keep the illness at bay.
“The stud date wasn’t just about Max,” Travis continued in a muted tone. “It was about me, too.”
Ben got to his feet. Stood with arms wrapped around himself, staring off at the branches of evergreen trees. He was clenching his jaw so tight, it hurt. “I kinda figured something like that was going on,” he managed to get out. Slowly, he exhaled, oxygen barely escaping through gritted teeth. “The way Jack greeted you with a hug and then treated you like shit the second he noticed me in the truck. That, and some of the conversation I managed to hear… Well, I knew your argument was about more than just horse breeding.”
Travis ended up behind him, standing close enough for Ben to feel his breath. Then, he wrapped his arms around Ben’s arms and brushed his whiskered chin against his ear. “I decided to come clean and tell you the truth,” Travis whispered, “because I know you heard some things today. But you didn’t hear all of it, and I couldn’t leave you with that kind of guessing game. Not now, when you’ve decided to stay.” He paused. Slumped a little against Ben’s shoulder. “Fuck, I’m not proud of it,” he continued solemnly. “You know the old cliché: desperate times call for desperate measures. But I’m not going to make excuses for it or plea for your forgiveness. It is what it is. Like I told you, I’m trying to get the ranch out from under Curtis’ foothold. Improvements need to be made on the property, and all kinds of bills need to be paid, especially with calving season around the bend. It’s been a long road… and now I’m taking a shortcut. I won’t blame you for wanting no part of it – or of me – now that you know. The second you give the word, Ben, I’ll drop you at the airport. Without question or protest.”
Myriad images of Travis down on his knees, laying spread-eagle on his back, perched on all fours with hairy balls slapping up against his chin and ass flashed behind Ben’s eyes like a graphic collage of pornographic blips. They were disturbing yet entrancing, abominable yet intriguing. To Ben’s surprise, a tiny speck within his sick, twisted psyche actually felt titillated at the thought of Travis tricking. What the hell is wrong with you? he cursed himself. This is all kinds of fucked-up.
When he didn’t receive a response from Ben, Travis released his hold and stepped back. A few seconds later, Ben heard him hop down from the truck. When he turned, Travis was wandering off into the trees, head hung low with shame or disappointment or maybe both. A moment later, a cloud of cigarette smoke rose up, and the sound of piss hitting dirt and pine cones drifted over the air.
Ben sighed, thengathered the trash from the truck bed and jumped down to the ground. Snapped the tailgate shut behind him and peeked into the window of the equestrian trailer. “Wish you could have warned me about all this, buddy…” he said, sliding fingers down Max’s muzzle.
In response, the sorrel stallion neighed and bobbed his head and then looked away as if not interested in solving Ben’s problems.
Travis returned from the trees, buckling his belt. “Let’s head out,” he said, taking one final drag of his cigarette. Once he’d snuffed it out beneath his boot, he picked up the squashed butt to drop it into the ashtray, but Ben prevented him from climbing inside the cab. Stood firm at the open door with his arm stretched out across the frame.
“What?” Travis demanded. His eyes were narrowed, his mouth turned down.
Ben pulled him into a long kiss. Tongues tangled together. Saliva pooled. When he released Travis, the man still had an expression of despondency on his face. Horizontal lines creased across his freckled forehead. “What the hell are you doing, Ben?”
“Yeah, but why…?”
“Because I want to,” he replied. “Because I want you.”
Travis blinked a few times, as if mulling over the statement. “You’re serious…”
“Even though you know I’m a whor–”
Ben cut him off by grabbing hold and pushing his mouth against his lips once more, shortening any distance between them until their hips were gyrating together, pelvis against pelvis. Further discussion about the gritty elements of the cowboy’s side gig could wait.
* * * *
In the backseat of the truck cab, there wasn’t a whole lot of leg room. However, there was enough space across the length of the rear cushioned bench for two bodies to lay together, one on top of the other. And that’s where Ben was perched: on top of Travis, drowning him in deep kisses, rubbing the palm of his hand against the hardened bulge beneath Travis’ button-fly.
They’d cracked the windows open a few inches, but despite this effort, the cab was gaining additional degrees with each passing minute. Feeling the heat, Ben pulled his t-shirt over his head with a one-handed swoop and tossed it aside to land wherever it landed. He hated tearing his mouth away from Travis’ feverish lips in order to do so and immediately returned to the oral connection once he was free of the garment. Travis’ hands glided across his bare back, tugged at his shoulder blades, ran hard lines down his spine until he reached Ben’s ass. There, his strong hands lingered, pulling and prodding and bearing down so that their hip bones were pressed together.
Ben shifted his attention to Travis’ jaw, dragging a line of saliva as his lips passed over his facial hair and dipped down to his earlobe. Then, below that, into the tender spot of his neck. In response, Travis shuddered and moaned and pulled Ben’s hips down harder. Without lifting his mouth from skin, Ben slid a hand between their compressed torsos and began to open Travis’ shirt, one pearl snap-button at a time.
Snap… Snap… Snap. Each sound was erotic, like the unraveling of clothing during a striptease act, where both voyeur and exhibitionist tremble in anticipation of the final outcome.
Mouth still clamped on Travis’ salty-sweet flesh, Ben moved farther down, kissing the ridge of his clavicle, pausing to swirl and dart his tongue around each nipple that was outlined by soft tufts of chest hair. Travis was aroused by this oral stimulation. “Yes, yes… that,” he whispered in approval, running fingers through Ben’s thick hair. His whole body involuntarily squirmed on the seat.
Ben continued to concentrate on the taut nipples while his hand traveled south, tracing the thin line of hair that led down the length of Travis’ abdomen like a treasure trail to the prize. Attempting to unbuckle the leather belt with one hand at such a cramped, awkward angle proved difficult for Ben, and so Travis pitched in, completing the task himself, even unbuttoning his fly and pushing his boxers down so that his hardness flapped up against his stomach. Ben had him wrapped within his hand before Travis could even wiggle the jeans and underwear off of his hips.
Ben worked on each pectoral, each abdominal muscle as he traveled southward. When finally he reached his precum-drenched destination, Travis arched up to meet his mouth, clutched his hair. “Fuck, baby, that’s good…”
Baby … The sentiment was unexpected. Made Ben experience a deeper bond with Travis, even if he hadn’t intended it as a serious sign of affection.
Ben slithered back on top of Travis’ torso and drowned his mouth in a kiss once more. Along with this upward motion, he pushed on the back of Travis’ left thigh, rolling the man up onto his lower back. Then, denim rubbed against denim as Ben pressed himself down against Travis’ backside. After frotting and showing a few excited thrusts, Ben buried his face against Travis’ ear and whispered, “Maybe I could fuck you this time…” He didn’t think the act through, too blinded by lust.
Without speaking, but clearly demonstrating his opposition to Ben’s suggestion, Travis grabbed a tight hold of his waist and expertly flipped him up and over until the roles were reversed and Ben was pinned beneath Travis’ hips and legs. He couldn’t deny that he preferred being there, pressed under the weight of the body he craved.
With deft hands, Travis tugged on Ben’s jeans and boxer briefs until they were down around his thighs. Briefly, he took Ben into his mouth, going strong and steady for several minutes while stroking himself until he decided it was time to move on. He then nudged Ben’s right hip, prompting him to turn over, and propped him up onto all fours. Guttural groans emanated from deep within Ben as Travis gave each of his exposed buttocks several palm slaps.
Flashbacks of the motel room, the creaky bed, the weight of Travis on his back while he expertly fucked him, came front and forward and reminded Ben that his ass was for the taking, not Travis’. He preferred it that way – to be the receiver. The way in which he’d been quickly flipped over just now, it was obvious that Travis preferred it that way, too.
Ben knew he wasn’t near ready for it. Knew that it would end up being a big mess, because they didn’t have a towel, just their clothing, and they were in a truck, not a bed. But – fuck it all – he didn’t give a damn about the details, only the sensations. He needed to be filled.
Travis slid his finger in and out of Ben’s insides and took some time to prepare for the onslaught, first procuring a packet of lube from his apparent endless supply, then rolling on a condom from the same pocket of endless supplies. A bigger picture unfolded before Ben’s eyes now, the reason why Travis kept lube and condoms and poppers in his pockets like keys and cigarettes, always at the ready. He had to be prepared. He had to keep an ample inventory of fuck paraphernalia on hand for wherever and whenever and whomever he ended up with. Ben was both put-off and turned on by the realization. Maybe that was illogical, but he didn’t give a flying fuck.
All sense of time and space and the ability to think clearly dissipated from Ben with each long and purposeful thrust that Travis propelled at him. The pressure had loosened, the discomfort had subsided. Now, it was all pleasure. And when Travis grabbed his hair and pulled his head around to kiss him, he thought he’d never felt so fucking good in his entire life. Every fiber of his being tingled. His mind felt desperate. Don’t let it end. Don’t lose your fucking load yet, he commanded himself. But his willpower didn’t last long. Travis stroked him to orgasm in a short amount of time, and his seed exploded onto the seat.
Travis quickened the pace of his rhythm, grunting under his breath, pushing and pulling against Ben’s buttocks while his fingers dug into his hips. Ben braced a hand against the window, hoping to keep his forehead from smacking against the door. The sound of skin slapping against skin filled the humid air of the cab.
Rounding the crest of his own orgasm, Travis backed out, pulled off the condom, and fervently rubbed himself with the palm of his hand until he was shooting his warm load across Ben’s backside. Through heavy inhalations, he grunted, “Goddamn, Ben, you’re unbelievable…”
Ben twisted his head back once more to meet him in a kiss, and Travis hugged him close. The semen squished between chest and spine like an adhesive, and their bodies were momentarily bonded together. For now, the two men were inseparable.