Trying to find out more about her, Rainier made several searches of her name online. He found records of Archers from Ashby to Zephram, but did not find a single Portia among them. Her lies are going as deep as to give him a false name, but it doesn't deter him. If anything, the mystery of who she is and what she's lying about only hook him in further, attracted by her mystery, determined to solve her puzzle and beat her game.
They meet at Amazon Heat. Once again, she declines his offer to pick her up and suggests they meet at the club.
"You look lovely," he says, but that's never an adequate description for her. She radiates beauty. "Tell me, how is it possible you don't have someone special in your life?" The question is a compliment, but it's also an attempt to ferret out her secrets.
"I have you, Rainier," she says with a blush, "Don't I?"
"Indeed, you do," he says with his best smile, "And I'm still amazed by that. You must have dozens, hundreds, of men lined up seeking your attention, yet here you are with me."
He watches her face for flashes of guilt, some sense that he's on to something, but her blushes and fluttering eyelashes are innocent. "Sure, I went on dates. But no one special," she says, "Until I met you. And I could turn the question on you; you're attractive, worldly, successful. You can't have been single the entire time you've been here."
"I had a girlfriend, not too long before I met you," Rainier says, "But she was in love with another man."
"She cheated on you?" Portia asks, her eyes alight with curiosity, but nothing else Rainier can discern.
"No. She cheated on him, with me. They broke up, and she was with me for awhile. But she never stopped loving him. So I let her go, and they are back together again." He continues his observations of her reactions, looking for something that would betray her secret, some guilty smile, some knowing look, but it never comes. Either he's on the wrong track, thinking she's lying about another lover, or she's a very skilled liar.
"That's so sweet," Portia says, "So romantic. But I'm sorry for you, if you loved her."
Rainier shrugs, "I loved her. But not like she loved him. And not like..." Portia looks at him expectantly, "Not like I love you," he says.
He suggests they go back to her place, but she tells him she lives near the USC campus, a long drive into a bad neighborhood, and she's rather go to his place. She fiddles with her bracelets when she says that, her eyes darting around, settling anywhere but on him. So he discovered another lie, she doesn't want to bring him home, or to see where she lives. But why, if not to hide another man?
They go back to his place, and they make love. Her shyness and hesitance is long gone, and Rainier is gratified that he was responsible for making this flower bloom.
"Why don't you stay?" he asks as he watches her slip her dress back on.
"And go home in the morning wearing this?" she laughs nervously, "I'd like to avoid the walk of shame."
"I'd like to spend a night with you, and wake up next to you," Rainier says, "Bring a change of clothes next time."
She bites her lip, "Sure, I'll... I'll see what I can do," she says evasively.
"Let me walk you to your car, at least," he says, throwing on some clothes, "Hollywood isn't much better of a neighborhood than South Central. I don't want to send you out there alone."
"You know, I've always wanted to do it in an elevator," Portia says as they ride down to the lobby of his building.
"This elevator is filthy," Rainier says, remembering her offer to take him into the alley the night they met, a little disturbed by her apparent penchant for public sex in dirty places.
"Are you afraid of a little dirty sex?" she teases. "You aren't going to send me home unsatisfied, are you?"
Portia gets what she wants with no more discussion, knowing exactly how to challenge him to get the desired response.
Rainier's heart races when he sees her car, expensive and fast, for the first time. How he would love to drive it! But that's not what he's here for, and he makes no remarks at all about the vehicle, how wealthy she must be to own it, how unsafe it must be to park it in her bad neighborhood. He kisses her goodnight and watches her drive away, back to her secret life, making note of the license number as she goes.
First thing the next morning, Rainier hacks into the DMV records to find Portia's license number, and find out who she really is. The car turns out to be registered to a Bill Arthag, a man in his 40s. Finally, he's onto something, Rainier thinks, she's the pet of some wealthy, older man. A little more searching reveals that Bill has a wife, Mercedes. And the story he was weaving around Portia's secret life unravels when he digs deeper, and learns that Bill and Mercedes have a daughter. A seventeen year old daughter named Portia.
"Are you alone?" Rainier asks when Coby lets him in.
"Sure, dude, what's up?"
Rainier collapses onto a couch. Coby sits on the other, waiting to hear the reason for this surprise visit. "Dude, are you okay?" Coby asks when he notices Rainier's hands are trembling.
"I've been fucking a teenager," Rainier finally says.
"Yeah, I've been there," Coby says. That's why Rainier came to him, and not Dag, who would just tell him he should have kept it in his pants. Dag may be right about that, but Rainier would prefer to discuss this with someone who'd be sympathetic to the trouble that can come from not keeping it in your pants, instead of judging him for it. "Hotties all over the beach, chasing after surfers. I've definitely been there. So, how young?"
"Well, that's almost legal, at least," Coby says.
"Almost legal won't mean anything when they deport me," Rainier moans, "I could lose everything, my business. Or worse, end up in one of your filthy, dangerous, overcrowded prisons..."
"Deported? Seriously? Is she pregnant? Did her parents find out?"
"No, she doesn't even know I know yet."
"Dude, you'll be okay," Coby assures him, "If her parents don't come after you, you'll be fine."
Rainier starts tapping nervously on his coffee table. "Do you have a cigarette?" he asks. He quit smoking two years ago, but the need for nicotine comes on him hard now.
"Dude, that shit is poison," Coby says, "I can roll you a joint?"
"Please," Rainier sighs. He's not going in to work today, anyway, he's too much of a mess.
"I've never felt this way about anyone before her," Rainier admits, becoming more effusive once they are good and stoned. "But I'm almost ten years older than her. What am I going to do?"
"You could stop having sex until she's legal?" Coby suggests, "Or, you know, take your chances that her parents won't find out, or won't come after you if they do find out."
"I doubt she'd let me stop having sex with her," Rainier says, "She's even more demanding than..." Rainier stops himself before he names the one girl both men have had.
"Yeah, Ti is always on," Coby laughs, knowing who Rainier meant, and easy enough about discussing her with his former rival now that he's won, "Even after we broke up, she..." It's Coby's turn to clam up before he reveals that bit of news.
"She slept with you when she was with me?" Rainier surmises, "I didn't really need to know that, but I guess it doesn't matter at this point. I don't know what I'm going to do about Portia. I'm crazy about her. But even when she turns eighteen, I'm still too old for her. I'll be thirty by the time she graduates college."
There's only so much talking they can do around the issue, and after another joint, the guys fire up the console and get into some racing.
"So, dude, you aren't from France, right?" Coby asks.
"I'm from Belgium," Rainier is quite sure they've been through this before.
"But you speak French?"
"Do you have a point, Sheffield? Or are you trying to distract me because I'm owning your ass?"
"Why don't you have your own language?"
"Why don't you?" Rainier counters.
"I do," Coby protests.
"This isn't England," Rainier points out, "And you lose, again," he adds as his car crosses the finish line.
"Shirtless and stoned, just the way I like you," Stina says, interrupting their game to kiss Coby in greeting, "I hope you saved some for me. I had a hard day at work."
"Hey, Rainier," Stina says, sitting beside Coby, "What's up?"
"I should go," Rainier says, getting up, "Thanks, Sheffield."
"Anytime, dude." Coby says.
Rainier looks back on the happily reunited couple before he walks out the door. It's like he never stood between them at all, and he's glad for that, glad he didn't ruin a good thing. He's too far from home and treading in waters too deep to be without friends.