Dawson couldn’t wait to get out into the world and experience life. A recent graduate from Encino College, he desperately wanted to be on his own and independent. He was a cute young man in an innocent, newly minted way with a boyish look, a slight build, and a freckled complexion.

His passion was literature, and he aspired to be a writer. His favorite professor instructed him, “Before you write, you must first live.” Dawson took his advice to heart, and as soon as he graduated, he packed his bags and set forth on a grand quest across the U.S.

A quick set of goodbyes to family and friends, he headed out of California and east so that he could experience “America.”

As Dawson drove across the lush plains of the desert, a sense of independence came over him. The city disappeared, giving way to long stretches of open road. Nothing stood before him and to either side of his vehicle laid nothing but shrubs and sand. The mountains in the distance took his breath away. “For purple mountain majesties, Above the fruited plain” now made sense to him as he witnessed the colored hues of the distant peaks surrounding him.

It was a full day before he needed to fill up his tank with gas.  Wow, these hybrid cars go quite a long time without refueling, he thought. In the distance stood a small filling station, a diner, and a garage. Looks like something out of a John Steinbeck novel. This tiny town couldn’t be more picturesque if Norman Rockwell painted it. He chuckled to himself as he pulled off the road.

The gas station was sparse, with only a smattering of sixteen-wheelers refueling. A dozen local shops made up the center of the city. If it weren’t for a few cars parked randomly on the street, one would think this was a ghost town.

Dawson filled his tank then parked his car next to the diner. As he entered the classic, aluminum, midcentury eatery, the small town’s history presented itself to him. Faded framed photos of the area and the locals who lived there hung from the walls in various, slightly crooked positions.

“Welcome. Menus in front of you. Have a seat, and I’ll be back to get your order,” said the salty middle-aged waitress as she attended to the only other patron in the establishment.

As Dawson looked over the oversized, laminated menu, his eyes wandered over to the man the waitress was serving. He couldn’t help but be captivated by the pair of locals who exchanged familiar pleasantries. It was apparent that they have been friends for a while. The waitress looked as if she lived a tired, long, hard life; the other patron told a very different story. He was a strapping fellow in his early thirties and ruggedly handsome. He wore old jeans and a surprisingly tight white tank top that showed off his large, imposing arms. His long wavy hair and thick beard perfectly framed his attractive face. Dawson tried not to stare, but he found it almost impossible to keep his eyes off this sizeable, sexy stranger.

“Have you decided what you’d like, son?” She asked as she approached with her notepad poised. Dawson chuckled as he thought, “Yes, and he’s sitting right over there.”

As clever as Dawson thought he was at disguising his interests in the man at the far end of the counter, the salty waitress couldn’t help but offer up some information about the other patron dining in the establishment. “Shame you’re driving that fancy car. Leo over there is our resident mechanic. Wouldn’t be the worst luck you if you broke down in these parts.” She said with a wry smile and a wink.

Apparently, Dawson wasn’t as subtle as he thought with his continuous glances down at the far end of the counter. Because five minutes after the waitress’s comment, the man sitting there got up off from his perch and headed over towards Dawson. As he approached, his silhouette grew even more imposing. His heavy work boots added an inch or two to his height, and his muscular torso became even more evident. A rough voice spoke simply, “Is there something off about me, or are you staring at me for no reason?” Dawson stuttered as he replied. “Sorry, sir, my mind wandered. My imagination often gets the best of me. I didn’t mean to stare. I was just in my head. I’m so sorry!”

The man smiled and introduced himself. “Leo …like the lion. That’s my name. Welcome to our humble town.” Dawson nervously laughed. “You’re certainly imposing. I thought you were coming over here to kick my ass. Not say, hello.”

A chuckle from the waitress across the counter lightened the mood. Leo continued, “We may not be pretty around here, but we sure are friendly.” Dawson surprised himself with his blunt and flirtatious next statement. “I beg to differ with you. You’re certainly a fine-looking man.”

Careful, Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore. Dawson instantly thought as he tensed up, fearing he may have just overstepped his bounds.

Leo roared with laughter. “Well, thank you. I seem to attract a lot of attention. Mind if I have my dinner over here on this end of the counter with you? Why eat alone?” His deep dark eyes were beyond inviting. Dawson felt drawn to Leo’s lips as if they were magnetized. DAMN, this dude is hot. I want to have this stud for supper! Dawson again caught himself; just play it cool and keep your naughty thoughts to yourself.

Most travelers don’t stop by this diner anymore.” Leo helped himself to a forkful of salad as he continued. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, what brings you to our humble town?”

Dawson took a sip of water from the plastic cup recently placed in front of him. “I’m a writer, and I just finished school. I’m on a road trip. No destination, really. I saw this place and thought, ‘that looks like America to me,’ and I figured I’d fuel up and get a bite.”

“Well, if you’re looking for a small-town, you undoubtedly found it,” Leo belted out with a chuckle. “It doesn’t get much smaller than this! Perhaps you’ll permit me to show you some of the local sites after we eat? It’s the least I could do for a young Hemmingway!”

“Yes, please! That sounds awesome!” Dawson replied. Eager to spend time with this massive, sexy hunk.

After dinner, the two men head out to begin their tour of the town. Leo drove a large, black RAM flatbed truck. Indeed, a considerable contrast to Dawson’s small hybrid Prius. “I’ll show you the city center, as well as a few other places that I think you’ll find interesting.” His eyes twinkled as he pulled out his keys and chirped the doors open.

Dawson glanced over at his car, barely peeking out from behind the diner. “If you’ll give me for a minute, I’ll be back soon. I just need to go to my car.” He disappeared as Leo started his engine and searched for the perfect playlist on his phone.

Minutes later, Dawson reappeared and jumped into the truck. “Ready now. I’m excited to learn about the town and your life here.”

“It may not be much, considering what you’re used to in the city, but I think you’ll enjoy it. This town is old, rustic, and authentic – like most people who live here.” He grinned as he slipped his truck into drive and pulled onto a dirt road.

As they drove, Dawson did his best not to be obvious about eyeing Leo up and down. He fought the urge to reach over and run his fingers through his thick mane of luscious hair. His mind wandered as he thought, I’ve never kissed a man with a beard and mustache before. I wonder if I’d enjoy the bristling of his beard on my lips?

Dawson’s daydream was cut short by the sudden stop as they reached their first destination.

It was a massive water tower with the town’s name painted in faded, weathered paint. The tower stood about two hundred feet tall and was located in the middle of nowhere. A small railing circled its top, and a rickety ladder led up to it.

Leo jumped out of the car as he pointed up towards it, “That’s the best view of the town. Shame we can’t climb up there anymore. I wouldn’t trust that ladder.” Dawson agreed as he looked at the rusted old rungs that lead up. “Can’t say it looks like it would hold our weight anymore.”

“Yup,” Leo agreed. “But it did when I was a teenager. That’s the spot where I lost my virginity.” He continued with almost a bashful blush.

“Lucky girl!” Dawson blurted out. The thought of this stud having sex excited him. Before Dawson could apologize for his inappropriate outburst, Leo corrected him. “Lucky guy, you mean. His name was Cal. We were besties at the time. You know teenagers, they get to experimenting.”

Dawson was sweating. He was outside, so he knew the temperature hadn’t increased, yet, suddenly the palms of his hands were damp, and his forehead was flushed.

“Best to keep going. The sun’s setting and there are few more spots to show you before you head back on the road.”

The two men jumped in the truck and headed towards the old hotel.

It was a five-minute drive on a dirt road when they pulled up to a spectacular hotel next to the tracks. A cargo train slowly rolled by, seemingly having no beginning or end to the long row of shipping containers it transported.

“Ever hear of a Harvey girl?” Leo inquired. “They were the hostesses of these hotels. They even made a movie about them! This was one of Fred Harvey’s flagship hotels. Sadly, it recently shut its doors for good.”

The hotel was unusually grand for its location and was ornately beautiful. It was clear that it was a popular destination for travelers in its heyday. Dawson was disappointed to hear it was closed. Spending a night here must have been quite memorable —something he would have enjoyed experiencing and perhaps writing about.

A short walk away was Leo’s doctor’s office. He explained that the old physician in the window working is the same man who delivered him as a baby.

Dawson was touched by how friendly this idyllic small town was. He found it sad how so many travelers passed by it every day, and seemingly none of them would stop to learn what a unique and lovely town it was.

Leo opened the truck door for Dawson. “Night’s coming. I’ve already taken up too much of your time. Let’s get you back and on the road”.

As the two men approached the diner, Dawson could see its’ timeworn sign flicker to life and the friendly, old waitress inside attending to several road-weary truckers.

Leo leaned over and clicked off the radio. A hint of disappointment in his voice from the impending departure of his new buddy, “Guess you’ll be hitting the road now.”

Dawson coyly glanced over, “I guess… Hopefully, my car will start. I may not have mentioned it earlier, but it was a bit temperamental before. That was the reason I stopped at the diner…”

Without missing a beat, Leo gave a decisive nod, “Let me take a look. I’ll happily make sure the car is okay before you head out on the road again”.

The Prius seemed like a child’s toy next to the big, black RAM truck. Leo pulled next to the car, and Dawson jumped to attempt to start the vehicle.  It didn’t take more than a few seconds to see that the dashboard was flashing light a Christmas tree, and the car was deader than a doornail.

“Would you look at that! Good thing you stayed. It looks like your car is kaput!” Leo exclaimed. He wasted no time in pulling a large, powerful flashlight from behind the seat. “Why don’t you grab a coffee inside? I’ll look under the hood and see if there’s something I could do.” Dawson graciously accepted his offer to help, and with sincere gratitude, he headed inside the diner to await the verdict on the car.

After several quarters invested in the jukebox and a cup of coffee that was stronger than he had hoped it would be. Leo waved at Dawson from outside to join him. He had isolated the problem and wanted to show him his findings.

Dawson looked at the waitress so that he may pay his tab. The waitress returned his gaze with a smile. “Don’t sweat the coffee. It’s on me. Go see what he’s got to say about your car.” An appreciative smile was all the waitress needed from Dawson as she winked in return.

The sizable diner windows casting a warm glow that perfectly lit Leo’s tone, firm, tight butt as he leaned over the side of the car towards the engine. “Well, doctor, will the patient survive?” Dawson joked as he swooned at the sight in front of him.

Leo emerged from under the hood as he answered, wiping his hands with a rag removing a bit of grime and grease from the engine. “I got good news, and I got bad news… The bad news is that the cable that your car needs will take a few days to get in from town. I’ll have to special order it online. The good news is that I found the identical cable that you need in the trash behind the diner, and I can have it installed in a few minutes.”

Dawson answered carefully, “Well, I’m okay with waiting a couple of days if you’d like to order a new cable.”

Leo smiled in agreement with his decision. “Yup, you can’t be too careful about things you find in the trash. Best to have a brand new one for your journey.”

Dawson proceeded, unsure how this would go. “Now the problem of where to stay. It’s a shame that beautiful hotel is no longer open.”

Leo again wasted no time in his reply. “With that hotel gone, there’s pretty much nothing around here for miles. I can’t let you sleep in your car. That certainly wouldn’t be neighborly. If you’d like, you’ll be welcome to stay with me.”

Dawson fought the urge to sound excited, “That’s very kind of you. Are you sure you’ve got the room at your place?”

Leo head back to his truck to put his tools away as he continued, “It’s a big bed; I’ve always found that whoever stays in it has a good evening. Although, I can’t promise they leave well-rested in the morning.”

“Who needs sleep? Who even needs a bed? …Your truck is the size of my apartment in Los Angeles!” Dawson exclaimed.

Leo’s face lit up as he evaluated his surroundings, calculating how much privacy they had, “I couldn’t agree more. Why wait till we get back to my place?”

With that, Leo grabbed Dawson like he was a toy, his mighty hands placed firmly around him as he lifted him with a mighty heave. Leo’s mouth aggressively pressed against Dawson’s hungry lips in an instant. The two men consumed each other in an explosion of passion that neither had ever known before. Dawson’s hands reached out to feel this mammoth man who was about to be on top of him. His hands quivered as they brushed Leo’s powerful pectoral muscles and ripped chiseled abs underneath his shirt.

You could easily crush someone with those massive arms and formidable chest.

Leo breathed his reply in Dawson’s ear, “You may need to keep me in check. I don’t want to hurt you.” Dawson replied with an eager smirk, “Don’t worry about it. Fortunately, I know where your doctor’s office is.” Leo appreciated Dawson’s fearless and adventurous nature.

Leo’s beard was brushing against Dawson’s face as he kissed him even deeper than before. Dawson attempted to decide which was hotter, the bushy beard brushing up against his face or the strong, powerful pelvis grinding against him in the back of a truck. Why choose which feels better? They’re both freaking awesome! Dawson promised himself just to enjoy the experience as he made mental notes for the chapter about Leo he’d be writing in his book!