"Working on your blog?" Bill asks, sitting down for his morning coffee.
"Just checking my comments," Portia answers, glancing up at her father for a second before returning her attention to her laptop. She doesn't dare make eye contact with him for longer than that, fearing he might see the nervous excitement mingled with dread in her expression. Rainier didn't call her last night as he promised. She's not surprised, considering how late her father got in from their meeting, but she's dying to know what happened. She steals another glance at Bill, catches him staring at her, maybe trying to read something from her. Or maybe she's just being paranoid. She tries to stay as calm and normal looking as possible, ignoring her father as she usually does, but seeing a comment from Rainier on her blog makes her blush and smile. Don't be such a girl, she chastises herself, it's not even a romantic comment. Not even a smiley, she thinks. Rainier is very serious about his games.
"Something interesting?" Bill asks.
So he is watching her, Portia thinks. "It's about games, Dad. You're too old to understand."
Bill laughs into his coffee.
He's kept her number programmed into his phone. It's stupid and sentimental, he thinks, but he likes having her in there, just one click away from her voice, even though he meant to stop having any contact with her. Until her father came into his life, that is. Now he has to talk to her.
Portia can barely contain her excitement when her phone buzzes. "Emma!" she enthuses, "You were supposed to call me last night. I guess your date went well..."
"My 'date' kept me out later than I anticipated," Rainier laughs as he grabs his coffee, "But I suppose you know that, since he lives with you. Go somewhere private to talk, chère."
"Totally," Portia says, walking casually out of the kitchen and heading up the stairs to her room.
"What did you tell your father about us?" Rainier asks.
"Nothing!" Portia exclaims, fear gripping at her stomach.
"The truth, chère," Rainier demands.
Portia sighs, "I never told him your name," she says, "I only mentioned that I was interested in a guy who owned a video game company. And that he wouldn't touch me because of my age."
"And you think he believed you?"
"Why wouldn't he?"
Rainier chuckles, "Because you aren't the best liar, and I imagine your father is as good at sussing out a lie as I am. Probably better."
"Are you angry at me?" she asks, her voice small and worried.
"No, chère, I'm not angry at you," he says. If he's going to be angry, it should be at himself. But he's too anxious to be angry. There's so much on the line, his business, his life here, his freedom. Before he negotiates anything more with Bill Arthag, he needs to know what he knows, and he wants.
"When I asked your father why he wanted to invest in such a small company, he said he meant it to be a gift for you," Rainier tells her. "You know him; why would he say that?"
"Maybe he thought if you knew it was for me, you'd cut him a better deal?" Portia suggests.
Rainier laughs, "If I believed he meant what he said, I'd drive a harder bargain. After all, you are his precious daughter, he'd do anything, but anything for you, no matter the price, right?"
"Hey!" Portia protests, "I'm not some spoiled princess."
"I've seen what you drive," Rainier says, "And what you wear."
Portia looks around her, all the new furniture she bought for her bedroom yesterday, all at her father's expense. "Okay," she admits, "My daddy buys me everything I want. But I didn't ask him to buy you for me. I told him I wanted a new piano for my birthday."
"I think he was bluffing, actually, trying to get a reaction from me," Rainier says, but her last sentence gave him pause. Is Bill really trying to buy him for his daughter? It's a disturbing thought, and Rainier puts it away for later consideration. "He suspects there's something between us, more than you let on, but he doesn't know for sure," Rainier decides, with some relief. With no proof of what he did, and no testimony against him from Portia, not even Bill Arthag can touch him.
"I'm sorry I even mentioned it to him," Portia says, "I don't want you to get in trouble. I'm--whatever goes down with you and my dad, I'm on your side. If he does give me your company, I'd give it back to you."
"That's very sweet of you, chère," Rainier says, touched by her words, "But I'm not selling my company. Any I deal I make with you father will be in my interests, or I won't deal."
The elevator doors ping as they close.
"Oh, I know that sound!" Portia exclaims, "You're in the elevator. You know, the one we made love in."
"Sssh," he admonishes, "You know how hard it is for me to ride this thing everyday and not think of you?"
"I'll bet it's hard," she teases.
"Stop that," he sighs, as much to himself as at her, "Our relationship is professional now. We can't do this."
"Speaking of," she says, "You told my father I contacted you about my blog? I think you kind of owe me an interview now."
"If you want. But be warned, Dag is our proper liaison with the public. I'm apparently too much of an asshole to do PR."
"Why don't I believe that?" Portia asks.
"Because I'm nice to you, chère," Rainier says. "I'm not like this for everyone."
"I think you pretend to be asshole, when you're just a very sweet guy," Portia laughs.
"Let's keep that between us," Rainier laughs, "I have a reputation to maintain. Wish me luck, chère, I'm going to the office now to finish this deal with your father."
"You don't need luck; you have ammo," she says with a laugh, "But, good luck, anyway. I'll be thinking of you, all day."
Rainier smiles at the game reference. "Portia," he says, his voice betraying more than he intended as he speaks her name.
"Yes?" she asks, expectant.
It's on the tip of his tongue to say 'I love you', but he can't go there. "Goodbye," he says, his voice breaking on the word.
He should be focused on business, but his thoughts are elsewhere as he drives to the office. It was a simple conversation, but he can't deny the easy affection that surfaces whenever they speak, the rhythm of their banter proving how good they are together, how right they are for each other.
Maybe he was wrong to break it off. Well, of course, he can't be with her now, while she's underage. But when she turns 18...Stina, after all, was just a few years older than that, and he had no qualms about her. But then, he kind of always knew that affair wouldn't last, as much as he enjoyed her company, she wasn't the one. But Portia...he could see a future with her. And as he approaches 30, still a few years away, but coming soon, he's starting to think about that. About settling down, marriage, family. But what right does he have to expect that from her? She's too young to be ready for that, and it would only end badly for them. He made the right decision.
But what if he's wrong? He's never met anyone like her, what are the chances he'd ever find another, someone so perfect for him, so obviously the one? Wouldn't it be worth it to wait for her?
Rainier pulls into his office parking lot with no resolution, hating his own indecisiveness. Let it go, he tells himself, focus on this negotiation. Whatever happens with Portia can't happen until their shared birthday, still months away. Maybe by then he'll be over her, he tells himself. If not, then he'll know what to do.
The game reference Portia made, 'You don't need luck; you have ammo' is from Mass Effect 3, where Grunt replies to Shepard wishing him luck with 'I don't need luck; I have ammo.'