On the Run (Whispering Key #2) - May Archer



Help Me Hagatha (Issue #2394)

Dear Aunt Hagatha:

I’m dating a woman who’s slept with twelve different guys including me. It’s not that I’m judging her, it’s just that this seems like a lot of guys for one woman. How many sexual partners should a person have?

Randy in Richmond

Dear Randy,

That is rather a lot. I personally sleep with a maximum of ten. My mattress is king-sized, you see, and with more than ten, men start falling off here and there, and elbows end up in places where elbows do not belong. The whole thing gets rather awkward.

Oh! Oh, wait. Did you mean in a lifetime? Hmm. While I’d ordinarily hesitate to provide a one-size-fits-all response to such a deeply personal question, your assurance that you’re “not judging her” has swayed me, so I’ve undertaken hands-on research to arrive at the correct answer. I’ll let you know when I hit it.

In the meantime, if Randy’s girlfriend is reading this, the answer is at least thirteen. Make of that what you will.


Aunt Hagatha

“For the love of God, Mason, pick up,” I muttered for the fourteenth time in as many minutes.

If my best friend was trying to make a point about me ducking his calls and texts for the past week or so, message fucking received. I regretted all the life choices that had led me to this place—every single one—and I’d happily beg his forgiveness once he answered the goddamn phone.

The blue-haired lady standing in front of me in hell’s own rental car line turned around to give me a pursed-lipped cranky sigh, possibly because my muttering had grown increasingly sweary and increasingly loud and there was a family of kids behind me… or possibly because she realized she was wearing a blue plastic sun visor indoors at nighttime, and she, too, regretted her life choices.

Okay, probably not that.

Fact Number One: I was supposed to be headed to the Maldives right now, to the grand opening of a gay-friendly resort whose tagline read “Adventure Travel for the Unadventurous,” which was so perfectly on-brand for me, I’d known it was destiny.

It was meant to be the trip of a lifetime—a trip I’d been talking about for over a year since my name had been drawn in a lottery to take part in the opening week festivities. A chance to frolic on sandy beaches with nearly naked, well-oiled celebrity chefs, actors, and musicians, while social media influencers and the mainstream press cavorted around us, documenting the whole experience. My private villa had cost approximately five mortgage payments, but I hadn’t minded.

I’d had my suitcase packed and my passport ready. I’d started day drinking by eleven—because who doesn’t love a salon that offers rosé whilst threading your brows and waxing your unmentionables?—which had flowed nicely into a boozy lunch with my editor, Jeanette, at a little café not far from her office at HiWire News, and was supposed to segue into a twelve-hour nap on the first leg of my first class flight to Malé, give or take a frisky hand job if my seatmate was cute (and male and heteroflexible).

But then, at some point after my first celebratory martini but before my crab cakes arrived, Jeanette’s chatter had segued into celebrity gossip—a part of HiWire’s revenue stream I wasn’t generally involved in—and I’d felt the first little frisson of concern.

“Have you ever heard of a bar called Dive?” she asked with a wolfish smile. “It’s a gay bar.”

I rolled my eyes. “Obviously.” But some hind-brain-ish form of self-preservation had made me bite my tongue rather than inform her I’d been there just two nights before. “Why?”

“The latest scandal, Tobias, darling! Turns out, a certain rock star was partying at Dive and hooked up with a man.”

I’d gripped the stem of my martini glass. “Some of us do that regularly, Jeanette. It’s hardly scandalous.”

“Don’t be naïve, Tobias. You’re not famous. Half the female population of America is in mourning this morning. So much for that actress Jayd dated last year, hmm?” She’d snorted. “Of course, his people refuse to comment on their client’s sexuality and blah blah. But the pictures tell the tale.” She’d pulled up the HiWire website on her omnipresent tablet and slid it across the white linen tablecloth with an absolutely gleeful smile. “The poor sod on his knees in the picture is about to become famous, too, for approximately fifteen minutes.”

After one glance, I’d signaled the server over, canceled my crab cake order, and ordered another martini.

“Hard to make him famous,” I’d croaked, my

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