"Well, the contract is certainly in our favor," Dag says as he and Rainier meet up before Bill's scheduled arrival, "We get funding, we get music rights, and we get a silent partner with no say in our business. All he gets is a share of profits that may not actually materialize once the game is released. But I can't believe he'd actually agree to something so obviously not in his interests."
"If he were in this for profit, he would never have approached us in the first place. The fact is, we don't know what his interests really are here, but if he wants this badly enough, he'll accept our terms."
"I don't know, it seems like such a huge risk," Dag wavers.
"You said that about moving to L.A., too. If it weren't for me, we'd still be operating out of your sister's apartment. How is Anniken, by the way?" he asks with a significant raise of his eyebrow.
Dag sighs wearily, "Every time I manage to erase the memory of walking in on you with her, you somehow remind me of it. Anniken is fine; she's getting married in a few months."
"No doubt to someone who deserves her more than I," Rainier says, a wicked smile playing over his lips. Then he gets back to the business at hand, "I talked to Portia this morning. According to her, all Bill knows is that she is interested in me, but not that we actually..."
"Don't say it!" Dag interrupts, "I can't handle the mental image of you with a teen. You've scarred me enough already."
"She looks mature enough," Rainier says, "And you'll get to meet her tomorrow. She's requested an interview. I'll need you to get something together for her, to show her where the game is at."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?'
"Free exposure for our game on a respected blog? Of course it's a good idea."
"But, her father..."
"No doubt already suspects what's been going on between me and his daughter. Denying her request for interview would look more suspicious than granting it. A man who feels guilty would more likely avoid a public meeting, but I, with my clear conscience, am unafraid to face her."
Dag shakes his head and sighs, "I don't know how you do that. I'm sweating bullets just thinking about this meeting with Bill, and you're completely at ease, even though you're the one that..."
"Fucked his daughter," Rainier says, making Dag groan again. "Will it make you feel better about the interview if I promise not to have my way with her on the conference table?"
"You enjoy fucking with me, don't you?"
"Actually, I preferred your sister," Rainier answers, smiling as Dag flinches. "Don't be so nervous, I'll handle Bill," he adds in a soothing tone, "Everything will be fine. Just let me do the talking."
"I've gone over the contract," Bill says when they're all seated, "You can't possibly be serious." The sheer audacity of their proposal nearly floored him when he read it. Only a fool would hand over that much cash, not to mention music rights worth so much more, with so little to gain. He's done his research on their company, up to their eyeballs in debt, everything riding on their one product, this game they have in development. They should be on their knees begging for his money, but instead, Rainier's making demands like they're on equal footing. That takes balls, Bill thinks, the kind of balls he had when he was young and desperate.
"We weren't out seeking investors," Rainier explains, "I'm not really clear about what you hoped to get from us, but these are the only terms we can deal with."
And that's the problem, Bill thinks, he came into this negotiation without a clear objective, wanting only to find this man Portia said she was 'interested' in, to...what? scare him off? buy him out? It was an impulsive move on his part, driven by his instinct to protect his daughter. He broke his own cardinal rule, never let feeling get in the way of business. And that mistake is going to cost him. Luckily for him, he can more than afford this little venture even if it never brings in the promised profits. He may even take in returns worth more than simple money, which he has in abundance already.
"I can accept that," Bill says, ready to concede victory, happy at least that his daughter's taste in men runs toward the kind that isn't afraid to take advantage of any opportunity, a skilled negotiator and a shrewd businessman.
"Before you sign, I have to caution you," Rainier says, his voice grave, "You mentioned wanting to hand over your share in the business to your daughter. I would suggest you discuss this with her first, rather than presenting it to her as a gift. She runs an independent blog, and she could lose a lot of credibility if she was found to be in bed with us." Dag winces at Rainier's choice of metaphor, given the situation, but the words were carefully chosen. That he can use the phrase without a guilty look, a stammer or even a gesture to betray an unclear conscience gives him an air of innocence.
"You're concerned about my daughter's interests," Bill observes, watching Rainier's face for any sign, any hint, and getting nothing but his calm, unruffled gaze in return, "Why, I wonder?"
"Too much of the gaming media is dependent on advertising, and their reviews and articles are skewed toward pleasing the giants of our industry. I'd hate to see an independent blog like Portia's become sullied in that way," Rainier answers truthfully enough. Though of course there's also the fact that he doesn't want an already complicated romantic relationship to get muddied by a business connection. Even though this partnership comes with no control over the business, the thought of Portia owning a piece of it disturbs him on a fundamental level. It's bad enough that he's going to be partnered with her father now, whether or not they ever sleep together again.
He's smooth, Bill thinks, a master bullshitter. But Bill has years of experience over him, and knows when he's being lied to, even by a master. "No, there's more here than you're telling me. What is your relationship to Portia, exactly?' Bill decides to come right out with it. He's paying enough for this, he thinks, might as well use it for what it's worth.
Dag gasps audibly, but neither Bill nor Rainier so much as glance at him. Maintaining his cool, Rainier smiles, "It hasn't escaped my notice that Portia has developed a bit of a crush on me," Rainier says, giving away no more than Portia already told Bill herself, "Though I"m sure she'd die to hear me say that in front of her father. You know how it is with girls her age."
"And what about you?" Bill persists, "How do you feel about her?"
"I'm flattered, of course, "Rainier says, "Who wouldn't be? But she's young, and no doubt she'll be over it long before she'd be old enough for me to return the compliment."
For the first time in his life, Bill actually can't tell if he's being lied to, and comes out of this meeting with no clearer idea of what sort of relationship Rainier and Portia share. He has, however, gained the confidence that this little investment will eventually pay off; like him, Rainier's the type who can turn shit into gold, and will no doubt use the sudden flow of cash to its best advantage.
"Don't knock or anything, Dad," Portia says, not looking up from her laptop as her father comes into her room.
"Your door was open," Bill answers, "Do you have a minute? I need to talk to you."
"Sure," Portia answers, trying to appear completely ease. Rainier had already emailed her about the results of his meeting with her father, and while that took the edge off her nervousness, now she has to worry about giving away to her father how in the loop she's been through this whole process. ''This isn't about the scratch on the car door, is it? That totally wasn't my fault."
Her ploy works, as Bill is momentarily distracted, "Scratch? How bad is it?"
Portia shrugs, "You can hardly see it."
Bill sits down on a chair by her bed, "I'll deal with that later," he says, "I'm here to ask you about these games you've been so involved in lately."
Portia rolls her eyes, "You know, most men get expensive cars and cheap mistresses for their midlife crises."
Bill laughs, "Well, I have a garage full of expensive cars, and your mother would insist the my mistresses be of the highest quality so as not to reflect poorly on her. So that leaves me with intruding on my young daughter's hobbies." After they share a laugh, Bill continues, "Seriously, Portia, this isn't about me. How would you like to own a part of a gaming company?"
"Dad, I play games, and I blog about games for fun. I'm not interested in business, not even the business of gaming. Music is my true calling, you know that. And, no, I don't want you to buy me an orchestra, either."
"Well, I've invested in your friend Rainier's business," Bill says, watching her face. Unlike Rainier, she has less control over her expression, which falls now into a frown.
"Daddy!" she protests, feigning surprise at the news, "I'm so embarrassed! Why did you do that?"
"I wanted to meet this man you said you were interested in," Bill answers.
"Well, thanks for that," she moans, overdoing the emotional teen bit just a little, "You've probably scared him off and ruined my life forever."
"No man who's actually worthy of you would be scared off by me," Bill answers.
Portia sighs heavily, "You could at least wait until I bring guys home before you start testing their worthiness."
"Well, you know me, always proactive," Bill laughs. "I guess you don't want me to sign over my share of the company to you then?" he asks he he rises from the chair.
"No!" she answers, "I'm already dying of embarrassment! Don't make it worse!'
Portia is a little disappointed to discover the Dag would be present for her interview, sitting between them like a chaperone; she'd been hoping for some alone time with Rainier. And no doubt that was exactly what he was trying to avoid.
"I'll be honest, I've never been much into the sports games," Portia admits when they fire up a demo version of their unfinished game for her to play. "The graphics are certainly awesome, the way the sun shines on the waves..." After messing around with a simple surfing competition, she finds her character has the option to hang out in a bar and socialize. "Oooh, now this is fun," she says as she tries flirting with some NPCs, "I'd could totally do this for hours."
"It's just a diversion between the competitions that actually make up the bulk of the game," Dag explains, "You won't actually spend much time in the bar at all."
"Oh, that's too bad. I mean, I"m sure your actual target audience wants to get right back into the surfing thing, but I just want to play this game. Is there anywhere I can go besides this bar?"
"Other bars unlock as you progress through the game," Dag tells her.
"Just bars? What if I wanted to go shopping? Or to a restaurant? Do I have a house I can go to?"
"You're looking for more of a sandbox experience," Rainier observes, "Something like GTA?"
"Well, sure. But without the killing and the missions, maybe? Not that I mind killing, I do a lot of that. But what you've got here, socializing with random NPCs who aren't there to hand out plot coupons...you could expand this out to a whole world."
"A world without plot coupons? No missions, no objectives?" Rainier asks, "What's the point of that?"
Portia shrugs, "I'm not the game developer." She turns her attention back to the demo, "Okay, so I've got this NPC to agree to be my girlfriend. Now what?"
"Now you have another competition. And she'll be on the beach to watch you."
"I don't even get to screw her in the alley behind the bar?" Portia laughs.
"What is with you and public sex in filthy places?" Rainier asks. Dag covers his ears, wishing he weren't part of this conversation.
"Well, how about inside a car then? Do I even have a car?"
"I think she's onto something, Dag," Rainier says.
"You want to add public sexual encounters to this game, now?" Dag gasps, "You know what that will do to the rating."
"Not for this game. But, this whole sandbox world idea..." Rainier thought it was a crazy idea when Stina had mentioned it, but Stina was no gamer. Portia, however, was a whole other matter. If she'd be interested, then maybe there is a market for it.
"I'd buy it," Portia says, proving his point.
Nina pages Dag and he gets up to take the call in his office, casting a warning look at Rainier before leaving the two of them alone.
"Can we talk about us?" she asks as soon as the door closes behind Dag.
"That's not what you're here for," Rainier points out.
"Actually, it is," Portia says, getting up and sitting on his lap, "Though, of course, I won't mention it on my blog."
"Portia, we agreed not to do this," Rainier protests, but does nothing about removing her from his lap.
"I know," she says, leaning close to him for a kiss, "But I miss you so much, I can't help myself."
Their lips come so close to meeting, but Rainier turns his head, brushing his lips against her neck instead. "Your fragrance," he whispers, "What's the word for chèvrefeuille?"
"Mmm, honeysuckle," he sighs, "What a lovely word." Holding her like this, kissing her soft neck, her hand on his cheek, playing with his hair...he jokingly promised Dag he wouldn't take her on the conference table, but right now he'd like to do just that.
"I just want to be with you."
"And that could ruin me, you know that. We have to stop this."
"This? This is completely innocent," she protests.
"There's nothing innocent about you sitting on my lap," Rainier laughs, "And even though this is my office and completely inappropriate in every way, I'm this close to bending you over this chair, despite the considerable risk involved. It was bad enough before, but now I have your father asking me about my relationship with you...?"
"But you've handled my father."
"Just barely, Portia. I'd be a fool to carry on with you now." He keeps talking about ending it, even while he holds her, caressing the hand that rests against his chest. "Listen, It's the middle of July, you start college in September. And we have our birthday in October. That's not too long to wait, is it? Let's go our separate ways for these few months, chère, and if that doesn't kill this thing between us, then we'll be together."
"And we can't even see each other in the meantime. We wouldn't have to have sex..."
"We obviously can't handle being in a room together," Rainier says, "This is for the best, trust me. If this means anything, if it's real, it will still be there in October. If it's not, if you meet someone else, or find you don't miss me, then it's over, with no regrets."
Portia reluctantly lifts herself off his lap and agrees to his terms. At least it's better than his previous assertion that their age difference was too great to overcome even after she turned 18. "You'll still play Diablo 3 with me, at least?" she asks with a teasing smile, "I'd hate to finish without you."
"Of course," he says, "I'd never abandon my gaming partner."