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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 11

Chapter 11

When he got back, Sylvia told him they were going to just jump right into the rape scene, one of the most powerful in the movie.
“We think it might set up a more compelling sexual tension if you and Rhiannon actually are strangers when you come together,” Sylvia told him, “she’s on her way to the set now.”

She entered the space like a queen, wearing a long shimmering silver robe, lowcut and slit to the thigh. As Rafe was taking note of the swell of her creamy breasts, sable hair like a crown piled on top of her head, storm gray eyes and full, sensuous mouth, she saw a lean, brown body, black hair with a unruly swatch almost falling into one eye, pitch dark eyes and a gleaming smile that crossed his face and disappeared, leaving you waiting for its return.

When he took her hand to shake it, both of them were instantly cast into foreign territory, a place neither had even been aware existed, where love and lust and recognition competed for attention. It was like finding like. They were tigers, having been raised with housecats, thinking there was was not another like them, and suddenly being stunningly confronted with another of their own species.
“Bloody hell,” thought Rafe, “I think I just met my match.”
“Holy shit,” thought Rhiannon, “I think I just found my mate.”

“Hello, Ree,” he said.
“I don’t allow anyone to call me Ree,” she informed him haughtily.
“Well, is that right now…Ree?” He grinned.
She smiled back, that gloriously inviting smile that had been the target of so many camera lenses. “Except you, that is.”
“Yes, I thought that’s what you meant to say.”

“Okay, you two, do ya’ think you can quit holding hands now so we can get on with it?”

The way the scene was set up, Kel had already plotted her capture and sent his men to bring her back. She’d been confined in this small, bare room, stone walls, dirt floor (not really dirt, of course, because dirt would be too, well, dirty. This was movie studio stuff, meant to look like dirt but clean). The room contained nothing but a single cot. The silver gown was what she’d been wearing when they kidnapped her from a party. The plan was for him to throw her on the bed and rip it open before proceeding onto the rape itself.
“I think we ought to do it naked,” Rafe told them.
Reynard Fusco, the head director, said, “no way, can’t be done.”
“Why not? You’re allowed to show tits and ass, aren’t you? My ass, her tits. It would make it more real.”
“Besides, Rhiannon would never agree to that!” sputtered Sylvia.
“But I do agree,” Rhiannon backed Rafe up.
“But you’ve never allowed…..”
“That was then and this is now.”
“Hmmm,” said Reynard, “if word gets out, and it will, that Rhiannon’s bare breasts will be seen in this film, that’s probably good for another million tickets. The publicity would be immense.”
He told the camera people what they needed to do, how they needed to film it so neither Rhiannon’s mound or Rafe’s cock were ever revealed. They could edge right up to it with the swell of her hip or the sweep of his flank, barely kissing the line between an R or X rating.

So they showed him from behind as he tore off her robe and then pushed her onto the cot, just his strong shoulders and back, his taut butt and long legs, and from behind him, her ravishingly beautiful but furious face and one luscious golden breast. He quickly climbed on top of her, holding her in place with muscular thighs.
“Tis pleased to meet ye, I am, Missus Captain Stewart,” he said mockingly.
“Crack!” they heard as her hand slapped his cheek with all her strength.
“That’s not in the script!” said Reynard.
“Crack!” He slapped her back equally as hard.
“Neither is that!” exclaimed Sylvia.
Reynard tossed his marked copy on the floor. “I think a script is going to be beside the point with these two.”
He quickly captured her hands with one of his own strong ones and pinned them above her head. He ran his other hand through sable hair, sending pins flying, so that it cascaded down to the pillow and framed her face.
The camera showed his gleaming smile and the audio heard his low voice.
“Bitch,” he said before lowering his head to kiss her.
They played it for real. She fought as hard as she could. Her body writhed under him, seeking escape. She spit in his face, her saliva running down his chin. When she bit him on the shoulder, he yelped in pain. When she freed one hand and clawed his back, bright red streaks of actual blood appeared.  But nothing she did stopped the deed from happening. The cameras showed his hips thrusting and his panting breath and the way he slumped against her in the end. And they filmed her look of defeat and the tears welling out of the smoky eyes and running down her face.
“This first time was for Ireland, Mrs Stewart,” he told her tauntingly, “the next time will be for meself.”

“Cut, cut, cut!” called out Reynard. “It’s a wrap!”

“Did what I think just happened, really happen?” Sylvia asked in hushed tones. “Did he really fuck her right there on the set?”
“All I know, Sylvia, is that we’re going to have to send this film out with a warning to fireproof the theater screens to keep them from igniting.”

They were still on the cot.
“Hey, we’re done. You can get up and get dressed now.”
“Turn the lights off when you leave,” Rafe answered back.

The rest of the Hollywood filming proceeded smoothly. Of course, he moved his things out of his hotel and into her hilltop mansion the first night. Neither even considered for one moment that they wouldn’t be together. It was good that Press Buckley had the kind of sweet, generous personality that he had. He put in his usual sterling performance without resentment although he already realized he was going to be over-shadowed by his new young co-star. He’d known many famous actors in his career but none who oozed pure sex appeal from his very pores the way Rafe did. He was at least Rhiannon’s equal in that department. Some people had it in person but it somehow faded on film. Rafe and Rhiannon weren’t like that. If anything, they were so photogenic, the cameras emphasized their magnetism and the chemistry between them magnified it even more.

They were lying naked on a double lounger beside her turquoise pool.  Each was the only person the other had ever felt they could reveal themselves to. Both had an obsession with maintaining an armor coat of invulnerability yet now they freely removed their self-protective shields, leaving themselves open to the other.
He’d told her about Laney.
She shrugged. “If I was your sister, I’d want to fuck you too, Rafe.”

She told him the real story of her life.
“Instead of Rhiannon, try Pearl Ann Mosier. Instead of Ireland, try West fucking Virginia. Try a broken down shack in the back woods shared with six other kids, a father who drank and a pathetic excuse for a mother who was glad when he took his violence out on us instead of her. Try brothers and uncles and cousins and neighbors who all considered you fair game when they wanted sex. They had such tender ways of describing it. They’d order you to lay down because they wanted a piece of ass or a shot of leg or they wanted to rip one off or they’d laugh when they wanted a blow job and say, “time for your dinner, Pearlie”. I don’t know when the first time was, Rafe. I can’t even remember back to when it didn’t happen.”
“Jesus, Ree, that’s awful. I know what I did to Laney probably wasn’t fair but I always loved her and took care of her along with it.”
“Yeah, it’s a whole different thing, Rafe.”
“So how’d you get out of that life, Honey?”
Her smile was sad. It made him want to kiss her but he didn’t because he knew she needed to finish her story. “My dad made us all quit school when we were ten to go to work and bring him in his drinking money. He sent me off to clean house and baby-sit for one of the few semi-affluent families in our area. From my point of view now, they’d still be relatively poor but, you know, they were well off for that place. The woman was nice, really nice. She’d talk to me sometimes about my life when I was polishing her furniture or mopping her floor.  They paid me a dollar an hour. Eventually, she told me she was going to give me a raise, up to a dollar and a quarter, but she wasn’t going to tell my Pap. That way I’d have a little money of my own. I saved almost every single penny, Rafe. I couldn’t have spent it anyway because how would I have been able to explain how I had any money that I didn’t turn over to Pap? Most weeks that was two or three dollars. I lived in fear that someone would find out because any of them would have stolen it.  I decided I’d leave when I was 14. Even staying that long was a risk that I’d get pregnant. I had almost $700 by then.“
“My family has always been rich. I can’t even imagine saving that much a quarter at a time.”
“Well, yeah, Rafe, you told me your ultimate goal was a Corvette but mine was survival. Anyway, I hitchhiked into the nearest town that had a bus stop and I bought a ticket for Hollywood. If I’d known then, how unlikely it was that I’d make a go of it, I’d never have had nerve enough to do it. When I got to California, I joined the street kids but I never let myself get caught up in taking drugs and even though, I traded sex for food more times than you can count, no matter how scared or desperate I was, I never weakened and let myself get hooked on drugs or become part of the stable of any pimp just for the so-called security of being taken care of. I listened and worked on getting West Virginia out of my speech. I hid what was left of my money in the park. It wasn’t safe but was safer there than on my body which was subject to inspection and violation by whoever took a notion at any time.”
He was stroking the length of her golden back, massaging tense muscles, wanting to show her his sympathy, if not his understanding, because, of course, he couldn’t begin to understand what it must have been like. Not to him who’d never had to submit to anyone’s will except Renny’s and he was mostly pretty reasonable in his demands. 
“Here’s optimism for you. I went to one of the re-sale shops in Beverly Hills and spent a big chunk of my money on an outfit, not the red leather mini-skirt and see-through blouse and stiletto heels the other baby whores wore, but a white silk dress and sandals, not even very low cut. The kind of understated but elegant dresses I saw the rich men’s wives wearing when they lunched on Rodeo Drive.  And I tried to hang out places where people would see me who weren’t just cheap johns looking for a quick, young lay. I knew one thing in those years, Rafe, and that was the only possession I had of any value in this world was being beautiful and I meant to sell it for as high a price as I could negotiate from life. I wanted to be a movie star and I never, ever let myself lose my focus, even when I was so hungry, my stomach was cramping, or some slimy piece of shit smacked me around just because he enjoyed doing it, or I had to force myself not to puke when my head was being pushed down on some dirty old man’s smelly dick. The only thing I really worried about was somebody beating me up bad enough to threaten my looks.”
She took a deep breath. “My plan worked too, Rafe, because one day when I was at the drug store drinking coffee, I met Ted Frazier, and he ended up being my lifesaver. The crazy thing was, I was prepared to offer sex for salvation but Ted didn’t even want that.  All he ever asked me to do was get naked and lay across his lap and let him spank me while he called me a bad, bad girl. He did it pretty hard. It hurt, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as going down on someone or letting them fuck me. Except for that, he was good to me. He moved me into his cottage in Hollywood, and he bought me some more nice clothes besides just that one outfit. He had some low-level connections in the movie industry and he finally wangled me an interview with a minor producer. Ted showed me how to dress and wear my make up.
“’You have to vamp him, Rhiannon’, which is what I was calling myself by then. Don’t just hand it to him on a silver platter. Make him give up something in return’. It was obvious the producer wanted me. He promised me a part in a movie and asked me to move in with him until the right role came along. When I told Ted I was moving out, he said, of course, like it was a foregone conclusion. He told me to remember that this guy wasn’t shit but he was only the second card in my deck, he himself being the first. He said the secret was to keep moving up until I got to the King. I met the next guy at one of the producer’s parties. He was a mega-cokehead and pretty mean when he was stoned, but also slightly higher in the Hollywood pecking order so the places he took me were more prestigious and filled with more important people. My King turned out to be a director who said he thought I’d be perfect in a film they were just then casting and it turned out, he really meant it. Of course, he wanted sex too but that went without saying. He actually did put me in his movie, which turned out to be, Magic Creek, and the rest, as they say, is history. I always promised myself that once I made it, I would never fuck another man unless it was my idea.”
She wound her arms around his neck, putting her lips on his ear, “it’s my idea to fuck you, Rafe.”

“Did you ever kill anyone, Rafe?”
“Nope. I’ve hurt a few people, was probably responsible for someone commiting suicide but I never actually killed anyone myself.”
“Would you if you had to?”
“Sure. I’d rather think of another way ‘cause I wouldn’t want to take a chance on going to jail, but if I was backed into a corner, I would. Are you trying to tell me you killed someone, Ree?”
“The day I was leaving West Virginia. I thought I was alone, getting my stash out from behind a loose foundation stone in the shed where I kept it. Pap snuck up behind me. He was going to take my money and beat me for hiding it from him in the first place. I couldn’t let that happen or I knew I’d never get away. He was coming toward me, calling me a fucking little cunt. He was drunk and slow and stumbling. I was desperate. I grabbed up the rock I’d taken from the foundation and ran around behind him.  As he was starting to turn, I bashed it into his temple as hard as I could. He fell. I felt for his pulse and he was still alive. So I tried to hit him again in exactly the same spot. I waited for while to see what was going to happen and by the next time I checked, he’d quit breathing. I rolled him over onto the stone, hoping it would look like he’d fallen down and hit his head against it and then I ran. Seemed like it would have been suspicious that Pap died the same day I disappeared but as far as I know, no one ever tried to come after me. Probably everyone in Blister Springs was glad the miserable piece of shit was dead. I know I was. Do you think I was wrong, Rafe?”
“No, not wrong, Ree. I probably wouldn’t have let happen by accident though. I’d have made a plan in advance so I could control the way it went down.”

He told her about his times ten rule.  “God,” she said, stretching sinuously, before pressing hard against him, “being with you is like being let out of a cage. It’s so wonderful to be able to tell you everything. I think we’re kindred spirits, Rafe.”

“Did you ever go back, Ree, out of curiosity?”
“Never! I don’t want to ever see that place or any of those people again! They must not know who I am, Rafe, ‘cause they’d come around threatening and begging if they did. That would be the only fun part, watching their faces when I told them I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. I don’t care about anyone from around here. None of them knew where I was from. If I had to make up some story about why I ended up on the street after coming from Ireland, I could make that glamorous if I needed to. The only thing I worry about is someone from West Virginia recognizing me.”

“Have you ever loved anyone, Rafe?”
“Just Laney and now you, Honey.”
“You’re it for me, Rafe. I never loved anyone ‘til you.”
“What does that mean, Ree? What constitutes love for people like us?” His midnight eyes met her smoky ones.
“Are you going to ask me to marry you, Rafe?”
“Are you going to ask to live with me?”
“Are you going to ask me to be faithful to you?”
“Are you going to promise to be faithful to me?”
She smiled her open-hearted smile. “Then I guess it just means loving, Rafe.”

They weren’t exactly alike. She was more spontaneous; he was more calculating. She was more likely to mount a frontal assault; he was more likely to set a clever trap. When she got angry, she shouted; when he got angry, he went quiet. She was more like fire and he was more like ice.

When they fought, it was like the clash of the titans. Sometimes, he won and sometimes she did. For instance, he was adamant that she give up cocaine.
“It’s not that I’m self-righteous about the drugs themselves,” he told her, “only that they make their users go weak and stupid and I don’t get off on weakness or stupidity.”
“But, I don’t do it that often. It’s not like I’m addicted. And, Rafe,” she told him, “sex goes better with coke.”
“If I’m not enough to satisfy you without chemical assistance, Ree, I guarantee you, I’ll walk away. I’d see that as a personal failure.”
“It’s not like that, Rafe,” she protested.
He was straddling her, hard, just ready to slide inside.
“Then I guess you’ve got a decision to make, don’t you, Sweetheart? Why don’t you tell me what it is right now?”
“Fuck you, Rafe! Nobody tells me what I can and can’t do. That’s another vow I made to myself a long time ago.”
“Good enough.” He crawled off of her and pulled his shorts on.
“You wouldn’t! You wouldn’t really leave me!”
He turned back and smiled his flashing smile but she saw his eyes had gone hard and black, a sign she’d learned to recognize as meaning there was no possibility of compromise.
“If you wait until I’m out the door, Ree, it will be too late.”
His hand was on the knob before she broke. “No, Rafe, come back!”
“Are you making me a promise, Honey?”
“Yes, I promise, just don’t leave, Rafe, please.”
He watched her flush the last of the white powder down the toilet.

She wanted him to let her tie him up just to prove he trusted her. He thought he did trust her but it went so against his grain to let himself be put in a helpless position, even by her, that so far, he’d resisted. The more he balked, the more insistent she became.
“You say you love me and have faith me in, Rafe, but it must not be true or you’d give yourself over to me, like falling backwards, believing in someone enough to know they’ll catch you.”
“I trust you, Sweetheart, honest, but it’s just not something I think I can do.”
“Fine, then, Rafe.” Her eyes were storm cloud gray, her version of his cold black ones. “You thought sex with cocaine was a personal rejection of you. I think sex without faith is a rejection of me. If you can’t prove to me you trust me, then just leave me alone.”
It went three days of her shunning every overture he made. If he put his arms around her, she slipped away. If he tried to kiss her, she turned her head.  In bed, she curled up on her own side as far away from him as she could get so they didn’t touch.
“Okay,” he finally said, sounding reluctant and miserable. “I give up, Ree. Just do it.”
She made him lie spread-eagled on the bed, tying his wrists and ankles with scarves, before knotting them to the bedposts. They weren’t tied loosely either to give the illusion of play but snugly, so he knew he couldn’t break free.
“Jesus, Rafe,” she laughed the pealing laugh her fans loved so much, “you’ve broken into a sweat and you’re stiff as a board. Are you starting to hyperventilate?”
“Maybe I am,” he panted. “Push my hair out of my eye, Ree.”
“Just relax, Baby. I don’t want to hurt you, I only want to love you.”
“It’s not that. I’m not afraid you’ll hurt me. You’d have to kill me if you did. It’s giving over control to someone else, even you.”
“I know, and that’s why I want to do it, because you never let anyone else.”
She had pulled a colorful, fluffy peacock feather from one of the flower arrangements and began to dance it lightly down his body, from his forehead to his cheeks, across his lips and down his neck. She tickled it around his nipples and back and forth across his belly. From there, it went to his groin, teasing his cock and balls, before moving on to his inner thighs and down his legs and to the bottoms of his feet.
Lust won over anxiety. He was still conscious of the scarves binding him but he’d become hard in spite of them.
When she’d completed her circuit with the feather, she revisited the same route with her lips and tongue, kissing his face, breathing into his ear, gently kissing his lips, probing the inside of his mouth with her tongue. She nuzzled his neck and licked his shoulders and sucked his nipples. Her tongue traced wet circles on his belly and then her mouth left butterfly kisses on his inner thighs and all around his groin. Finally she massaged his testicles with her tongue, then licked the base of his cock, before lighting on the tip, taunting him.
By now his submission to her was complete. Lying there, completely immobile, forced to allow her to work her will on him as she chose had him on fire. His cock seemed like a huge and pulsing thing, craving release.
“ Jesus, Ree, do it now, please, Baby!”
“Do you trust me, Rafe?”
“Yes, yes!”
“Completely, Ree, I swear it!”
She straddled him and lowered herself onto him although still she didn’t hurry. If his hands had been free, he’d have been grasping her butt, forcing her to move more quickly and bring him fulfillment. But, of course, his hands weren’t free so all he could do was wait until she decided it was time to give him what he craved so desperately.
Finally, she did, rode him until he stiffened and bucked against her. It felt like his ejaculation was coming from the very depths of his being. He moaned and collapsed limply against the sheets, not even caring that he was still tied and at her mercy.
She had to cut the scarves to release him, he’d pulled them so tight in the throes of his climax. When he was loose, she laid down beside him.
“I love you, Rafe. I only wanted to make a point. From the minute I met you I knew I’d found the only person I could depend on to have my back no matter what. I just wanted you to know you could count on the same from me.”

Her mansion was on the very top of a hill in the Hollywood Hills. She had forty acres of prime real estate. She’d paid a fortune for it but it was worth an even bigger fortune now. The house was three meandering levels of French doors and patios, towering cathedral ceilings and open beams, potted trees and great bowls of blooming flowers. The outside wall of the master bedroom was solid glass so that it seemed like sleeping outdoors with the pool just steps away and the lights of L.A. gleaming below.

Sometimes they heard the thumping blades of helicopters flying above them.
“It’s the fucking paparazzi,” she said, “you’ll get used to that. Come on, let’s go inside until they give up.”
“Fuck, no. They’re not going to dictate what we do. What do you care anyway, Ree? Let’em take their pictures,” burying his head between her legs.

They went on location to Ireland, a country they both fell in love with, maybe partly because they were so enthralled with each other. When they didn’t have to be on the set, they took long rides past green hills that swept to the base of mountains and along craggy-cliffed coasts and long golden beaches, through wooded glens and beside crystal lakes, through villages with colorful pubs and thatch-roofed cottages and castles and churches. She said she didn’t really know why she chose Rhiannon to be her name or why she picked Ireland to be the country of, basically, her rebirth. She guessed it was just that both were just as foreign to West Virginia and Pearl Ann Mosier as anything she could think of.  He told her that he was part Irish in that it was where his mother’s family was from. The studio’s publicity department sent out elaborately detailed press releases about the movie star, Rhiannon’s, triumphant return to the country of her birth.

Rafe didn’t actually like moviemaking much – the long hours, many of which were filled with waiting and boredom.  Repeating scenes because someone got their lines wrong, something that never happened with Rafe and his photographic memory. He thought this would be the last time he’d ever want to do this. Better to be in a car watching the scenery fly by at a two hundred miles an hour. He would miss Ree when it was over but it wasn’t like he had to spend every minute of his life with her. She had her world and he had his. They’d have plenty of time to be together.

About halfway through filming, they changed the ending.
Rhiannon’s character, Fiona, had been supposed to finally be rescued by the British and joyfully reunited with Captain Stewart. Press was the star, after all. But, they could see that wouldn’t be realistic. Fiona and Kel were so electric together, audiences would never buy her happily parting from him to rejoin her huband. No woman, especially, would believe she’d willingly leave Kel. So, while he still died in the end, now the movie’s final scenes showed a grieving Fiona, back with a husband who knew he’d killed the man his wife loved and mourning his own loss as a consequence.
“It’s actually better this way, more dramatic,” Reynard told the rest of the production group.

The advance reviews were overwhelmingly positive. The critics were inspired to new heights of over-the-top description, which usually included some variation of heat, based on the strength of Rhiannon and Rafe’s passionate performances.
“These two are positively incendiary together,” declared one.
“They’re like nuclear fusion,” exclaimed another.
“I expected to see smoke rising from the screen,” enthused yet a third.
“The love scene of the century,” it was labelled.
 “Of the century?” asked Rafe, cocking one dark eyebrow, “have movies even been in existence for a century?”

Chas and Vic flew out for the premiere and Rafe sent Laney a ticket too. She’d bought a dress especially for the occasion. She thought she looked good in sea blue silk that matched her eyes. She’d pulled one side of her long blonde hair back and fastened it with a blue beaded comb. Chas and Vic told her she looked beautiful although when your competition was Rhiannon, it took more than that to inspire confidence.
They were already seated in the theater when Rhiannon and Rafe arrived in their limo to trod the red carpet, swarmed by reporters and cameras, so they had to watch that part later on t.v. Rhiannon wore a long low-cut black silk gown with the bodice trimmed in jet beads, her hair a tangle of sable curls. (She’d originally planned to wear her hair on top of her head, but he’d run his hands through it saying, “no, I love it like this, Ree, wear it down for me.”) Rafe was dressed in black slacks, black shirt and casually formal black jacket.
“Kiss her,” the people watching began to chant. “Kiss her, Rafe. We want to see you kiss her!”
“They won’t be satisfied unless we do it,” she murmured to him.
So, he turned and put his arms around her waist while hers wound around his neck and he lowered his lips to hers.
“I love you, Rafe,” they heard her say when it was over and a small sigh of appreciation went up from the audience.
Later, he sat watching, seated between Laney and Rhiannon, both of whom he assumed would want him to spend the night with them. Could be a bit of an awkward moment unless he handled it very, very diplomatically. He hadn’t quite decided yet exactly how he would do that until Rhiannon whispered in his ear, “remember, Rafe, how I said you could trust me to have your back no matter what?”
“Yes,” he whispered back.
“It’s been a while. I expect she’s anxious to see you, so it’s okay, Baby.”
He squeezed her hand and breathed a small sigh of gratitude.

Benchmark popped for dinner at Arletti’s after the premiere, currently the hippest, most prestigious (and most expensive) restaurant among the film industry in-crowd. Everyone involved with No Winners was ecstatic. They’d been around the movie business long enough to smell a hit when they saw one and they’d been around long enough to recognize a star when they saw one and Rafe Vincennes was going to be a star of the top rank, every bit as big as Rhiannon herself. They were a match made in heaven as far as the studio was concerned.
It was all pretty old hat for Rhiannon, and Rafe was more amused by all the hubbub than anything else, but Chas and Vic and Laney were awed - being chauffeured around in limousines to up scale restaurants , cameras going off in all directions, reporters crying out for Rhiannon and Rafe’s attention, sitting with movie stars like Rhiannon and Press Buckley, other diners coming up wanting autographs. It was a heady experience. Most of all, for them, it had been exciting seeing their own Rafe, larger than life, up there on the screen. Every one of them wondered if he’d be different now that he’d gotten all this attention but they were relieved to find he was still the same old Rafe, no more impressed by movie stardom than he had been about getting A’s or making touchdowns or winning races.

Sitting at the table in her suite later, Lane asked him, “you love her, don’t you, Rafe?”
“Come over here, Honey, and sit on my lap.” It was his favorite way to have a serious discussion because he could make his points with touching as well as talking.
He put his arm around her waist and smoothed her hair off her face. “I do love her, Lane. But that doesn’t have anything to do with you, Sweetie. No matter what else happens, nothing will ever change between us. We’ve been part of one another’s lives since the beginning.”
“Will you move to California now and just make movies?”
“I don’t have any intention of ever making another movie. I’ll be home when all the publicity shit is done, probably in the next few weeks. I’ll be there when you get your Christmas break. Now, you know what’s been going on with me, so tell me what’s happening in your life? Do you like Skidmore?”
“Yes, I really do and I love Saratoga Springs. All the professors are nice and I’ve made some friends. I’m getting good grades. You know the best thing, Rafe?”
“What’s that, Lane?”
“Unlike you, I love having people all around me and everywhere I go. After all the years at Heron Point, just rattling around by myself and being lonesome, having a roommate and hearing people in the halls and sharing a bathroom and eating in the cafeteria seems cozy and friendly, sort of what I imagine the house was like when all the older kids were there. I used to dream about how fun it must have been when everyone lived at home.”
He shook his head, “well, different strokes, I guess, Honey. What about your roommate? What’s she like?”
“She’s really sweet and smart but heavy and not very attractive, thank God.”
“Thank God?”
“Yes, Rafe,” she sighed, “because I showed her your website and now she has a huge crush on you. She asks about you all the time and when this movie comes out, it’s going to be worse. I don’t want you coming to school to visit me and seducing my roommate and then leaving me to deal with her broken heart. “
He grinned. “Do you think I would do that to you, Laney?”
“Are you saying you wouldn’t?”
“When would I have time?” he asked, pulling her head down to kiss her.

When it was released to the general public, “No Winners” became the highest grossing movie ever. The rape scene was the talk of the media, even including those that didn’t normally pay much attention to the film industry. The video of it zoomed to the top of YouTube’s all-time most viewed list. Rafe’s butt and Rhiannon’s boob were surely the most shaded out pieces of film ever on family channels and mainstream media. But not in the magazines and on cable, where they were shown clearly and lingerly, as they were in other print sources not quite so prudish. Press Buckley was the forgotten man as Rafe and Rhiannon became Hollywood’s new power couple. She was voted “Most Beautiful Actress” and he was voted “Handsomest Actor”. Collectively, they were named “Hottest Duo”.

The studio called Rafe and Rhiannon to a meeting.
“We need to start thinking about your next film.”
“There’s not going to be a next film for me,” Rafe told.
They were stunned, aghast.
“What do you mean that there’s not going to be another film? You have to make another film! You’re a star now! The public wants to see you!”
“I don’t owe the public anything and I don’t owe you anything either. I fulfilled my obligation under my contract.” His smile went sliding across his face. “I only promised to fuck you, I never promised to marry you.”
“You can’t do this!”
“Yes,” he said, gently, “I very definitely think I can.”
“Rhiannon, you’ve got to make him see reason!”
She shrugged. “Man says he doesn’t want to make a movie, I guess that’s his business.”
“But what about the money, Rafe? We’ll make you a multi-millionaire!”
“My trust fund just kicked in. I’m already a multi-millionaire.”

Back at her house, she told him, “God, Rafe, that was great! I loved seeing the looks on their faces when you told them no. They couldn’t believe anyone existed on this earth who’d reject them. At first, they thought you were just holding out for a better deal. The mercenary bastards can understand that. When they finally realized you really meant it, they went into shock. I envy you, Rafe. It must have been nice never to have had to kiss anyone’s ass to get what you wanted. What would you have done if you’d been in my position, I wonder?”
“I’d have done just what you did, Ree. I’d have been tough enough to play the game however I had to play it until I got myself into a winning position.”
She moved up to him and unbuttoned his jeans. “I know a winning position, I’d like to put you in right now.”

They were watching Rafe’s face on the t.v. screen for what seemed like about the millionth time.
“What did I tell you, Jeff? He went, he saw, he conquered.”
“You were right. You know, he probably got the part based on his looks but he deserved it too. He’s actually a good actor, Denis.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that. That’s what used to make the rest of us so upset with him when we were kids.”

“Have you seen the new Time magazine?” Linda Dee asked Rhonda Fisher at their weekly dinner (which was Mexican tonight).
“No, why?”
“Guess who is on the front cover?”
“I have no idea. Who?”
“Rafe Vincennes, that’s who!” she slammed her hand down onto the table, causing the other diners to stare in their direction.
“Are you serious, Linda? Rafe on the cover of Time?”
“Yes, because of that movie he made, and the caption above his treacherous, smiling face says, Headed for Super-Stardom. I’m not sure I can bear it, Rhonda. Whatever happened to ‘what goes around, comes around’? A less deserving person I can’t imagine and yet, he just keeps going around and catching the brass ring every time. It just isn’t fair,” she said bitterly. “And here’s the very worst part. Chelsea confessed to me that she went to see that movie and she told me as soon as it comes out on dvd she’s buying it and she said she was probably going to watch it about a million times.” (Chelsea was a nurse in St Vincent’s Hospital in Baltimore now).
“Try not to be too upset, Linda. I mean, I think most of the people in or from Benedict have seen it. It’s natural when Rafe comes from here.  And that’s probably even more so if you were ever, if you were ever…. (she was trying to think of a delicate way to say it) involved with Rafe.”
Linda closed her eyes in pain at the thought.
“And even you have to admit that Rafe was rather larger than life. Even as a student, the normal rules never seemed to apply to him.”
“Oh, I’ll grant you that. Will he get away with it his whole life, do you think, or will justice finally catch up with him someday?”

Rafe was having somewhat the same thoughts, not the justice part, just about the brass ring and how people came to get it. He’d ridden up to the cabin to get away from the phone. Now he was sitting on a chair on the porch with his legs propped up on the railing, Hawk at his feet. It was an overcast day, making the world look metallic – the sky was iron, the grass in the fields was pewter, the bay beyond was steel. He’d left his cell back at the house. There’d be no new messages because his voice mail box was full. Luckily, Renny and Magdelene were in Mobile visiting again with Gil and Cindy (Gil was retired now from Princeton) because the land line just kept ringing and ringing and ringing, taking messages until the answering machine ran out of tape. Rafe had deleted them a couple of times but this last time, he’d just let it fill up and left it that way. The post office had notified him that they were holding his mail too because the Heron Point mailbox, while large, wasn’t big enough to stuff all his fan mail into. He guessed he’d have to run into Benedict and pick it up eventually. He’d told them to just pitch it but they said they couldn’t do that. A person’s mail was sacred whether he wanted it or not.  Jeri told him his movie fans had discovered the race website and it got so many hits, it crashed the server. He’d sent her a check for a new and bigger one. He also sent her an extra $5,000 for herself just for all the work she did. When she e-mailed him back, she said she did what she did for him and not for money but she was keeping the $5,000 just the same J!  Vic e-mailed him that he was getting mail at the carriage house too because he’d never turned in a change of address since he’d hardly received any mail there and he knew he could trust them to forward on anything that looked important. Vic asked what Rafe wanted them to do with it and Rafe told him to throw it away. Then Vic asked if he cared if they read it. Amused, he told them to go ahead and to tell him about anything especially interesting. So, now Vic kept up a running commentary in his e-mails, mostly about exotic and explicit sexual offers, (from both men and women), marriage proposals (from both men and women) and of course, passionate promises of undying love (from both women and men). Rafe had decided there were even more crazies in the world than he had previously thought.
So he was here at the cabin because it was about the only refuge he had left (no phone, thank God), here or driving in his car. Reporters had even tracked him down and tried to snag an interview when he was on the boat, for Christ’s sake, not that anyone could catch him in the cigarette boat but still.
Rafe didn’t really think much about God one way or the other. If there was a Supreme Being, it sure seemed like he (or she, or it) had a capricious sense of humor. Even a brain as smart as his couldn’t make rhyme or reason of what human beings were supposed to accomplish, if they were even meant to accomplish anything. If an Intelligence had planned it all, it was as if it had set them all down in an impenetrable forest with no map and then just said, “have at it.”  So they all staggered around this way and that, bumping into trees and stumbling over rocks and falling into holes. People were terrified to admit there might be absolutely nothing rational about any of it and that’s why they had to invent institutions like the church and idiotic ideas like the infallibility of a Pope to comfort themselves that they had some freakin’ kind of guidance.
If there was one thing he knew, and anyone who paid any attention at all had to know, it was that life was not fair. That was so patently obvious, it appeared to be deliberate. There seemed to be some perverse law of physics operating that dictated that objects and people, were attracted to other objects and people, in direct proportion to how much those other objects and people repelled them, in other words, anything or anyone that was hard to get was automatically deemed more desirable.
Rafe had benefited from this principle throughout his life, not because he was trying, but just because of the way things were.  Take women, for instance. How many times had he ever beckoned a woman, offering her nothing more than a quick lay, and had her come flying to him even as she cast aside the man who loved her and wanted to give her the world? The answer was many times. He’d even asked a girl about it once. He knew she had an adoring boyfriend. Why would she hurt that boyfriend to be with him? She said it was because he was exciting and her boyfriend wasn’t. He told her, “yeah, but I’m only going to be exciting for a few hours and then I’ll be gone.” She’d just shrugged and said she’d worry about that later. He guessed at least a third of the fan club gals were married but they threw their names in the hat just like the single ones, taking the risk of the consequences if their husbands ever found out what was going on.
He’d played sports with other athletes who ached to be stars and craved the spotlight of media attention. They’d have crawled on their hands and knees to be interviewed by reporters but the media chased after him, who did everything he could to avoid them. Things flowed to him that he didn’t give a fuck about like winning poetry prizes or being published in the JM while there were others who would have been ecstatic to have those things and never got them.
And now, he was being called a movie star, although it wasn’t anything he’d ever wanted or needed, not like Ree had needed it. She was one who had broken that barrier, forcing life to hand over something she was determined to have, and she’d done it through sheer guts and will. He admired her for that, being able to get herself out of a terrible situation and into one where she had enough power to control her own life. She saw all the media bullshit as a debt she owed the people who put her where she was, her fans. She loved them and was immensely grateful to them. He didn’t feel that way. He didn’t give a damn whether he had a fan or not because he wasn’t dependent on them for anything he cared about.
Fortunately, there was a large gate at the head of the Heron Point driveway. It had almost never been closed before but he had it closed now and he was letting Hawk run loose so if some enterprising reporter or camera person did make it over the fence or up to the house via the dock, they were taking a chance on suffering some rather significant injury.

Chapter 12

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