“All right, I found something,” Sebastian Pettigrew announced, peering at his phone.
“Oh God . . .” Flynn Archer groaned, clutching his stomach. “This is going to give me an ulcer.”
The two actors were absolute show-stoppers; tall, handsome and elegant with fine features and impeccable British accents. They were both considered international sex symbols. They were decorated thespians, stars of stage and screen. They were in a spot of bother.
Flynn and Sebastian had been friends since college, costars in various plays and movies, and were even neighbors in rural England. What very few people realized was that they were also lovers. They kept it secret for career-related reasons at first, then personal reasons. There were family and friend issues to think of, not to mention public shame. Though that was getting to be less of a problem these days.
Perhaps that was why they had snuck away from their current movie shoot to spend quality time with each other. For safety’s sake, they were restricted to kissing, but it was very involved kissing. Sebastian had thought the broken down outbuilding was safe from prying eyes, but when he came up for air, there was a small woman standing by the door, her eyes wide.
By the way she had her hands on the waistband of her breeches, she was intent on doing some private adjustments, but had satisfied herself with taking in the sight of two of the world’s most beautiful men grazing on each other’s lips.
When Sebastian and Flynn – still wrapped in each other’s arms – returned her shocked look, she held up her hands in supplication and backed out.
The two actors remained frozen for a minute, then exchanged panicked looks.
“We have to catch her!” Sebastian blurted.
“And say what? We were just practicing a play?!”
“That might actually be true for us! Just - something! She’s probably already planning the press announcement!
He rushed out into the controlled chaos of the shoot, desperately seeking a blonde head of French braided hair. He hadn’t gone too far when he realized he was alone. The instinct to ‘wait a few minutes before you follow me’ was ingrained pretty deeply in both of them. Never mind, his better half would catch up. True enough, after about five minutes of searching for the mystery woman, Flynn appeared at his elbow.
“Have you found her?”
“No. . .”
“She had on breeches – a caretaker for the horses?” Flynn deducted.
Sebastian groaned. An actress might have been persuaded to hold her tongue for the promise of work and rubbing shoulders with A-listers. An animal trainer could retire on this scandal.
A quick ask around revealed the horse trainers had just packed up to shoot a chase at an orchard a few miles away. There was little they could do without arousing suspicion. Flynn and Sebastian went back to work with little more than a name to go on.
Sebastian found her Twitter account and was currently searching for world-shattering news of their relationship. Flynn peered over his shoulder.
“What did she say?”
“’U ever walk in on 2 ppl kissing & they’re just so in love? Like the world could disappear? Wish som1 would kiss me like that.”
“It appears so.”
“Check the replies.”
“’Awwww’, ‘You’ll find someone’, ‘hugs’, ‘Who did you see kissing?’, ‘Just two guys in the park’, ‘Cute’!”
“She didn’t tell anyone?” Flynn marveled. “Do you think she’s keeping it for purposes of blackmail?”
“I suppose it’s possible. Do you know how much longer she’s going to be on set?”
“We wrap up the outdoor scenes in a day or two.”
“Then we need to have a chat as soon as possible,” Sebastian declared.
They found Marian in a local pub after the shoot wrapped up for the night, nursing a white wine and staring wistfully into the distance.
Sebastian headed to a booth in the back. Flynn approached Marian.
“Would you care to join me for a drink?” He purred in his most seductive tone. Fangirls the world over swooned.
“Oh hello. I wondered when one of you would show up,” Marian said, sipping her wine.
“Yes . . . well . . . I don’t suppose you’d join me in a booth? Another glass of wine for the lady!” Flynn declared. She was American, he noted.
“This – this really isn’t necessary,” Marian stammered. “I mean, I’ll take the wine, but –“
She trailed off as Flynn picked up the new glass of wine and steered her gently to a booth at the back of the pub. The small woman slid into the booth. Sebastian was already seated. Flynn placed the new glass of wine next to Marian and sat next to his lover.
“I’m not going to tell anyone.”
Both men blinked.
“You could make quite a bit of money off of –“ Sebastian started.
“Yeah, but it’s nobody’s business,” Marian said, draining her first glass.
“ . . . . you really don’t care about the money?” Flynn asked.
“Money doesn’t make you happy. Besides, how could I take money for destroying someone else’s happiness?”
Flynn and Sebastian exchanged a look.
“I do kind of wonder, though . . . why are you keeping it a secret in the first place? I guess that’s none of my business, either.”
“We . . . have our reasons,” Flynn muttered, exchanging another look with Sebastian. This was not going as planned. It was going well, no doubt, but just not as planned.
“I know Hollywood likes to perpetuate the liberal, free-wheeling actor as normal, but well, we’re very traditional,” Sebastian said.
“You guys are so sweet, though! So in love and it’s just obvious—“ Marian held up her second glass, now empty and waggled it to catch the attention of the waitress. She nodded and returned a few minutes later with another glass of wine.
“I . . . I suppose we could tell you if we wanted—“ Flynn began.
“Family bullshit, right?”
“Among others,” Sebastian muttered, taking a sip of his beer.
“Yeah, I hear that. Anything outside of perfect heteronormative relationships and you might as well eat babies.” Marian started in on her third glass of wine.
Sebastian and Flynn exchanged a look. Flynn started to smile. Sebastian rolled his eyes. Mr. Archer gestured for the waitress and pointed to Marian.
“Just bring a bottle of whatever she’s drinking.”
“Are you gay, Miss Underhill?”
“If only,” Marian muttered. “That would be less complicated.”
“But, you do have someone,” Sebastian pushed, forgetting the wistful tone of the Tweet.
“No, I – I don’t have anyone,” she sighed.
“But you are attracted to men?” Flynn asked.
The waitress came back with a bottle of wine. Sebastian sighed roughly as his lover topped up Marian’s glass. He knew where this was going and it was going to be a disaster, as always.
“I don’t suppose you would be interested in – well, playing a beard?” Flynn suggested.
“A beard? Oh . . . you mean being a fake girlfriend so no one knows that you’re gay?”
“I am actually bisexual,” Flynn informed her.
Marian took a long slug of wine.
“Still a unicorn,” she muttered, slumping back against the bench.
“A unicorn?” Sebastian echoed.
Marian drained her glass, starting to look a bit inebriated.
“There’s this thing in polyamory circles called ‘unicorn hunting.’ That’s when a couple – usually a straight guy and a bisexual woman – find a third for their relationship. Well, they say relationship, but they’re looking for a bisexual woman with no issues or feelings or desires or needs of her own, who’s always up for sex. In other words –“
“A creature that doesn’t exist,” Sebastian supplied.
“What does that have to do with the current situation?” Flynn asked. “I’m not asking for any sort of sexual –“
“You’re still assuming she’s okay with being used to hide your real relationship.”
“I was only asking,” Flynn said, shame-faced.
“Wait . . . polyamory? Isn’t that . . . ?” Sebastian began.
“Being in love with more than one person at a time,” Marian confirmed. She drained her glass. “Ridiculous, I know. I can’t even find one person to love, much less two.”
Hot, awkward silence flooded the booth.
“Uh-oh, we’re at the weepy, emotional stage of drunk,” she warned the two men. “Lessee if we can’t slide through it to the ‘forgot why I’m drinking’ stage.”
Flynn carefully slid the bottle out of her reach.
“You certainly can pick them, Flynn,” Sebastian said in admiration.
“What?!” Flynn snapped. “She’s lonely! Of course she’s sad!”
“And what about Jennifer?”
“Jennifer actually cared for me. She was upset that I cut things off at your insistence, luv,” the blond growled.
“Bloody figured it out because she wasn’t an idiot, and dumped me.”
Marian stretched across the table and retrieved her wine bottle, whereupon she poured another glass.
“And this one—“ Sebastian began.
“We could come out!” Flynn snapped. “How about that?!”
The blond snatched up his dark-haired lover’s hand. Sebastian hastily extracted himself from the grip, checking to see if anyone had seen them.
“I’ll do it!” the American lady announced, sipping her wine.
Both actors stopped and looked at her.
“What?” Sebastian asked.
“I said I’ll do it! I’ll be your fake girlfriend for the paparazzi!” Marian announced, pointing at Flynn.
“Ah . . . . really?” Flynn asked, flicking a glance at Sebastian. “Why?”
“Reason #1: Alcohol,” Marian declared. “And Reason #2: You guys look like you could use less stress in your lives.”