“Give it back to me!” Samantha tugged hard at the remote and wrested it from Ben’s hands. He blamed his defeat on his sweaty hands and his hangover. No way was a little girl stronger than him. Maybe he’d brush the dust off some of the machines in his personal gym and work out, well, how to work out. Maybe.
She clutched the remote to her T-shirt-clad chest—more Hello Kitty—and gave him a death glare she’d inherited from her mother. Maddy had been Ben’s third—and God willing, final—wife, and theirs had been a tempestuous relationship for the four years it’d lasted. Fun, though. Never boring. And it’d gotten him a daughter he loved more than life, but, Jesus, that glare was spooky. Maybe Maddy trained her during the week, doling out tips for driving Daddy crazy.
“I want to finish watching the episode!”
“It fades to black right about here,” Ben told her. When it came to his shows, he had an eidetic memory. Shame the same didn’t hold for his dates, but that was why he called them all “honey.” “Two-parter. You don’t get to find out if what’s-his-name dies until the next episode.”
“Rob, yeah.” Ben rubbed his hand over his eyes. “Listen, precious, this show isn’t something I want you watching, okay?”
She frowned. “Why not? No one swears and no one gets naked.” A wistful look passed over her face. “Though there was that one scene when they get soaked to the skin by that truck that drives through the puddle and they go back to Steve’s penthouse and Steve won’t let Rob drip on the rugs, so he takes off his jeans, and then Steve takes off his
“I remember,” Ben said hastily before she could go into more details. Jesus, they grew up fast. There’d been a twenty-percent bump in fan mail after the guys had stripped down to whatever Costume had decided a rich asshole and a street kid would wear under their jeans. It’d been a nice morning until the actors had bitched about being nothing but beefcake—they’d used the words “artistic integrity,” which in Ben’s experience usually meant that they were devoid of any—and then asked for a raise in salary. A raise that they hadn’t gotten because Ben hired people who knew how to write contracts, thank you very much.
In that time slot? Better believe it’d all been Ivory-soap pure, not that it’d stopped the fans reading significance into every line and coming up with some wacky ideas about Steve and Rob’s relationship.
can’t I watch it?” Samantha said, a suspicion of a whine showing through. “It’s old. They don’t have computers! Not real ones. It’s like a history lesson.”
The fuck? A show set in the late nineties was costume drama?
“I know, I know, okay, but that show…” He gave her a helpless look. How did you explain to an eleven-year-old that some experiences left you scarred? Deeply, deeply scarred.
“I like it,” she said, and wasn’t that fucking peachy. His daughter, the one who could spot a dud two minutes past the credits, liked Hourglass
. What was he going to tell her? Dialogue unspooled in his head, smooth and plausible.
Look, sweetie, it was a cheesy fantasy show that only lasted for two seasons because we hired a couple of guys who looked good topless and we struck gold with the housewives and the gays, but they were never going to be the network’s demographic choice of viewer and then that fuck of a leading man, that talentless hack Morden, jumped ship to be a movie star and left me drowning in debt and I’d like to take his Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar and insert it sideways into his—
No. None of that would get past his gritted teeth. He’d always kept a tolerant, pleased-for-the-guy-and-his-big-break, yeah-sure-we’re-still-good-buddies thing going on and he wouldn’t let the truth spew out over Samantha, who’d been in diapers when Ash fucking Morden had walked off set, that annoying grin front and center. What had Cosmopolitan called that grin when they’d interviewed Ash for their sexy older men (ha!) issue last year, not that Ben gave a shit? Oh, yeah. “Charmingly roguish and a real panty-dampener.”
Yeah, Ash leering at a girl was enough to make anyone piss themselves laughing given the number of men he’d fucked over the years.
“I’m glad you like it, sweetie, but it’s, like, ten years old. More. Turn off the TV and how about you and me go have some fun, huh?”
“I want to finish watching it.”
“You can’t,” Ben said flatly. “Two seasons. There were, uh, forty-two, maybe forty-three episodes and they’re about fifty minutes long. You go home in a few hours, so do the math.”
Fifty-minute episodes; that dated Hourglass
more than the primitive computers and cell phones that were too big for pockets— hell, most purses. Nowadays, an episode could come in at around forty minutes and no one blinked an eye.
“Then take me to a Best Buy so I can get the DVDs. I have my allowance saved up.”
“It never came out on DVD.”
Samantha’s mouth pooched up, bewilderment replacing stubbornness. “Don’t be silly, Daddy. Every
thing comes out on DVD. Gilligan’s Island
is on DVD. Bewitched
“Yeah, yeah, I know, okay.” He was saying that often recently, and it sounded more of a lie each time. He didn’t know. Didn’t know where he was going with his life, didn’t know why his baby girl was obsessed with a long-dead show about a man making wishes and slowly whittling his life away—who did
that? Seriously, who would? Steve York was a fucking idiot. “They are. Hourglass
Simple question, with a simple answer. He owned the rights, he didn’t need the money, not that there’d be much, and he was damned if Ash Morden was getting a penny in royalties.
“Not commercially viable, sweetie. It had a small fan-base and they’ve probably forgotten all about it now.”
“So who owns the rights?” Samantha asked, cutting to the heart of the matter with an incisive flick of her hair. “You can make them release it, Daddy. They’d do it for you
“Well, as it happens…”
“You do? You
own them?” Samantha managed to convey jumping up and down, clapping her hands cutely, without moving. “That makes it so easy!”
“No,” Ben said firmly. “I’m not releasing a DVD because you watched a couple episodes of a show that’s dead and buried. Forget it.”
“Then let me borrow the videos,” she said, her eyes flint-hard.
“Do you own a VCR?” Ben asked, fairly sure of the answer. Maddy threw out the old and embraced the new with religious fervor. He’d once asked her why she hadn’t tried to trade a five-year-old Samantha in for a baby and gotten a slap that had rocked him back on his heels.
“And you know I don’t let anything on The Wall leave the house.” Ben bit at his lip and tried not to let Sam’s woebegone expression affect him. “Okay, I’ll tell you what. Because I love you, because I’m weak and a shitty father, like that’s news, I’ll get someone in the office to come here and copy them to DVD for you. It’ll take them hours, but what the hell; they don’t do anything useful anyways. How about that? Your own, one-of-a-kind set of Hourglass
“Will I get them by tomorrow?” she asked, her eyes narrowed.
“They’ll start work on it tomorrow,” Ben said, not committing himself. “I’ll send the DVDs over to your mom’s house when they’re done, okay?”
Samantha took a deep breath. “I love you, Daddy.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ben said gruffly. She meant it; that was what always got to him. “Now turn that damn TV off and let’s go out, huh? Daddy needs some fresh air.”
And a drink. He so needed a drink.
* * * *
“So she mainlines the whole fucking show in a week, homework abandoned, her mother’s screaming down the phone at me like it’s my fault, and then it turns out she’s copied the DVDs and gotten her friends hooked on it too.” Ben shook his head and stabbed his fork into a piece of wilted lettuce. When he was a kid, you threw the rabbit food out when it went limp; now he was paying extra to eat it. Go figure. The restaurant was packed, every table taken, but that didn’t mean anything. Ben never ate anywhere that wasn’t, like he never waited in line. All about the image, always.
?” Larry said incredulously. “Ben, that piece of shit isn’t old enough to be retro and it was never a cult. I don’t get it.”
“That’s why you’re an accountant, Foster,” Ben said. “Leave it to the eleven-year-old girls to know a good thing when they see it.”
Larry raised his eyebrows. “Tell me that’s a joke and I won’t charge you when I laugh politely.”
Ben snorted and took a sip of imported water that cost more for a glass than a bottle of wine in some places. What the fuck was so special about water from Fiji? He’d known Larry for decades, long enough that jokes about what would and wouldn’t appear on his bill weren’t funny anymore. “It’s a joke, but it’s on me. She nagged me for forty-eight hours straight about making a movie. Said they’d done it for Starsky and Hutch
, Charlie’s Angels
, The Dukes of Hazzard
“Please. I’m eating.”
“I know, I know.”
Larry chewed perfunctorily on a chunk of steak and then swallowed. Before the meal was over, he’d be popping antacids. “So who does she see in the main roles? Who’s hot?”
“She doesn’t want a remake,” Ben said, regretting the chance to recast. Not that he wanted to make the fucking movie. “That might be possible. She’s right, there’s a shitload of nostalgia out there—”
“Either that or the writers have run out of ideas,” Larry interjected.
“Bite your tongue. Anyway, she wants the original cast.”
Larry frowned. “Are they alive? Well, I know Morden is…”
“Jesus, Larry, it wasn’t that long ago, and they were younger than you. Yeah, they’re alive. Some of them. Anita Carris died.”
“I heard about that.” Larry was silent for a moment, as a sign of respect, Ben assumed. “Drugs, right?”
,” Ben snapped, unreasonably annoyed. Anita had been nice. Classy. He’d respected that and never made a move on her. Not his type, anyway. “God, Larry, she had cancer, okay? I sent flowers.” He reconsidered. “At least, I meant to. Maybe I did.” He waved his hand impatiently. “It doesn’t matter. She’s gone, so we’d have to recast the grumpy neighbor for a start.”
“Hell, you’d have to recast them all,” Larry said, a frown doing its best to put lines in a Botoxed forehead. “I only caught a few episodes, but wasn’t that the one where the two guys kept taking their shirts off? Who’s gonna want to see them do that now?”
“Sam thinks it’d be cool to see them ten years later. Pick up the story, reunite them after they went their separate ways in the final episode, work in some angst because they don’t know how long York’s got left after all those fucking wishes… Oh, she’s full of ideas.”
Larry shrugged. “Good for her. I’m not seeing the problem.”
“She’s driving me crazy
“Keep smiling and by this time next week, she’ll be into something else.”
Ben sighed. “Any other kid, I’d agree. Sam’s a force of nature when she’s like this.”
“You spoil her,” Larry said.
Ben eyed him sourly. “Still drinking from the ‘best uncle in the world’ mug she gave you, Uncle Larry?”
Larry and his wife, Janet, weren’t related to Samantha, but they were still family. Janet had gone to high school with Maddy, and after the divorce she and Larry had refused to choose any side but Sam’s, sweeping in and taking her off for weekends when a depressed Maddy was drinking too much. They’d filled their sprawling house with children Sam’s age for her to play with, borrowed from their friends and family.
Larry had the grace to look abashed, but he soon rallied. “Okay, so we spoil her too. She’s a great kid; God knows how she managed it with you for a father, but she is. It doesn’t mean I’d give her the moon if she asked for it, and you can’t give her this. It’s impossible.”
Impossible was a word Ben had expunged from his personal dictionary. Nothing was impossible given enough desire to make it happen and a shitload of money. Samantha had the first, and he had the last. It could work.