Tate eyed the lightning flashing across the horizon warily. As long as the storm stayed on the horizon and the wind stayed relatively calm, they wouldn't be in any danger, but if it picked up, he'd have to find a safe place to pull off the road. He'd make up the hours later if he got too far behind schedule, but he wouldn't risk himself, his truck, or most especially Mason by driving in high winds. His current load was light enough to make the trailer susceptible to the force of the gusts.
The distant roll of thunder sent a shiver of excitement down Mason's spine. He loved storms, but he wondered how safe it would be to actually drive through one in a semi. Not that he doubted Tate's skill, but since riding along with his lover on several trips, he'd learned you could never assume the same for the other drivers on the road around them. "Will we be able to keep going?" he asked, his mind already dreaming up ways they could pass the time if they were forced to pull off the road. His gaze traveled over Tate's lean form behind the wheel, silhouetted by another snap of lightning. "Or do you think we should stop for the night?"
Tate glanced at the clock, then back out at the strengthening storm. "I was really looking forward to sleeping in our bed tonight rather than in the truck," he admitted, "but I don't like the way this weather looks. At the very least, we're going to have to pull over and sit it out. We can see what time it is when it blows over and decide if we want to try to get home or wait until tomorrow."
"You know it doesn't matter to me where we sleep, as long as I'm with you." Mason slid a hand to Tate's knee with a light squeeze. He hadn't been riding with Tate long enough for the excitement of spending nights with him on the road to wear off yet, and every time they curled together in the small sleeping space in the back of the cab, it reminded him of their first night together, when Tate had rescued him from running off the road in a blizzard. The lightning's aftermath rumbled through the charged atmosphere, and Mason suspected tonight could be nearly as intense. "If it doesn't matter that you don't drop off your cargo until tomorrow, that might be best. We don't have to be at Whippoorwill Lake at any particular time; I just told Anne I'd call her when we were on our way."
"As long as we're in Atlanta by noon tomorrow, the company won't care," Tate replied, beginning to look for a likely exit where they could pull off. "And I have to admit, I don't like the looks of that storm. The trailer's already pulling at me, and we're barely on the edge of the bad weather. If it comes this way, we'll have to stop anyway. Better to do it now when we can choose rather than later when we don't have another option." His stomach fluttered a little at the thought of meeting the director of the retreat and conference center where Mason had suggested they get married. His lover had assured him the director was completely comfortable with alternative lifestyles and wouldn't mind at all that they were a nontraditional couple. All the reassurance in the world couldn't erase the memory of his mother's reaction when he told her. If it hadn't been for Sarah, he didn't know what he'd have done, where he'd have gone. It made him leery even now, fifteen years later, of talking about his sexuality.
Mason didn't miss the sudden tension in Tate's leg beneath his palm, though he wasn't sure if it was from the storm or his mentioning their appointment to tour Whippoorwill Lake. He'd fallen in love with the center, a collection of cabins surrounding a central lodge nestled in the North Georgia mountains, when his publisher held a regional meeting there several years earlier. When he and Tate began talking about a commitment ceremony to solemnize their union, Mason knew Whippoorwill was the perfect place to make their vows. He just hoped Tate wasn't having second thoughts. He started to pull back his hand, but reminded himself that withdrawing into himself wouldn't solve anything. He wouldn't know what Tate was feeling unless he asked. "Is something beside the storm worrying you, babe?" he said softly, rubbing Tate's leg in a soothing caress.
Spying an exit, Tate eased the truck off the road and pulled into the parking lot of a travel plaza. Putting the rig in park and setting the engine to idle, he turned to face his lover. "Just nervous," he admitted. "I haven't had many people in my life take it well when they've learned I'm gay. It makes me leery of admitting it to strangers, even when I know they're predisposed to be sympathetic."
"I've already talked to Anne and she's perfectly fine with the fact that we're both men. In fact, she said they've had several nontraditional ceremonies at the center--she's got photos from some to show us tomorrow, along with more traditional wedding parties." Now that the truck was stopped, Mason unfastened his seat belt and leaned forward, cradling Tate's face between his hands. "Besides, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, does it? There will always be some people who won't accept what we feel for each other. We just don't need to have anything to do with them. And Anne isn't like that, and neither are my family or friends."
Tate summoned a smile. "I know that. Your family couldn't have been more welcoming, and I know you wouldn't have suggested Whippoorwill Lake if Anne wasn't open-minded. It's not a logical reaction. It's just an ingrained one."
Beneath the ache in his heart, Mason felt an undercurrent of anger at the way Tate had been rejected by his family when he'd admitted he was gay. He couldn't change the past, but he could be sure his lover had no doubt how much he was cherished now. Leaning forward, he claimed Tate's lips in a slow, sensual kiss. A steady rain was beginning to beat against the cab's windows, but Mason didn't care whether anyone could see them. Tate was the other half of his heart, and he didn't care who knew it; but if they were going to move beyond kissing--which he had every intention of doing!--they'd be more comfortable in the back. "Let's see if I can't coax a different kind of reaction out of you, hmmmm?" He dropped a hand to the fly of Tate's jeans, humming at the heavy shaft he could feel swelling beneath the worn denim. "Yeah, that's the kind of reaction I was hoping for. Let's take this upstairs, shall we?"
Tate grinned, hips lifting into the provocative touch. "Oh, yeah." He pushed out of his seat. "I don't imagine you fancy a steering wheel digging into your back while I'm inside you."
Grinning back, Mason wiggled his eyebrows. "Maybe I'd make you ride the steering wheel for a change--give you something to remember when you're driving without me."
"All I have to do is close my eyes and I remember," Tate promised. "Every moment we're together is burned like a brand into my heart and it just takes a whiff of your cologne, the sound of your voice, to bring them all rushing back. But if you're going to give me something to remember, I'd rather do it on the bunk. It's been ... a long time."
Mason had meant the comment to be teasing, but Tate's response set his cock throbbing. He'd topped more often than bottomed before meeting Tate, and though he'd certainly had no complaints about their lovemaking since, the thought of sinking into Tate, of coming inside his lover, set a coil of heat spiraling in his groin. Even more, knowing Tate trusted him, loved him enough to offer him something Mason suspected he'd shared with few other lovers set his heart racing. "Then I'll have to take a long time getting you ready for me," he murmured, his voice husky with desire.
Tate's eyes closed on the thought, body swaying into Mason's in the tight space, the thought enough to have him aching. "A very long time," he agreed, reaching for his lover's hand and leading him back into the sleeper section of the cab. Slowly, knowing he had his partner's full attention, he worked his T-shirt up, revealing the tawny skin beneath, inch by provocative inch. Finally pulling it over his head, he started on his jeans next, unbuttoning the four buttons one at a time, peeling the plackets open so they highlighted his boxer-clad erection, a wet spot already staining the cotton. Turning to give Mason a better view of his ass, he bent to remove his heavy work boots and to pull his jeans down and off.