Read Rivals Online

Authors: Jilly Cooper

Rivals (5 page)

BOOK: Rivals
7.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
This girl is exactly what I need to wake them all up at Corinium, he was thinking. She’s superbright, ambitious, aggressive. The IBA would adore the deb programme, it had quality and universal appeal; and being a woman, Cameron would appeal to the incoming chairman, Lady Gosling. Even more important, from the way she had carved up Simon Harris’s treatment, she was capable of seeing what was wrong with a programme and subtly gearing it towards the American market without making it too bland. And finally, as she had a British passport, there wouldn’t be the usual ghastly hassle about work permits.
‘How’d you like to work in England?’
‘How much?’
‘Thirty grand.’
‘You’ve got to be joking. I’m on a hundred thousand dollars here.’
‘It’s cheaper living in England, and we could pick up a few bills.’
‘I’d have to have somewhere to live,’ said Cameron, thinking longingly of the honey-coloured houses she’d seen on the video.
‘We can arrange that.’
‘If I’m stuck in the country, I’ll need a car.’
‘Of course.’
For a minute she glared at him. ‘How soon do I get on the Board?’
‘Cameron,’ said Tony gently, ‘I’m the boss of Corinium. I decide that.’
‘I’ll kick it around,’ she said indifferently. ‘You’d better sleep with me first.’
Not by a flicker did Tony’s swarthy face betray his surprise.
‘Why? D’you think afterwards I might not want to offer you the job?’
Cameron smiled for the first time that evening. ‘No, I might not want to take it.’
Even in the bedroom she didn’t stop fighting, promptly switching on the television.
‘God is love,’ a lady in a shirtwaister, with very long royal blue eyelashes, was saying, ‘not a guy with a stick; He wants us all to enjoy ourselves.’
‘And so say all of us,’ said Cameron.
Tony turned off the television and, with remarkably steady hands, removed her huge earrings, and massaged the reddened lobes.
‘D’you get a good satellite picture from these?’
There wasn’t much else to take off. Just the yellow dress and a pair of yellow pants. Tony never dreamed that anyone with such a sinewy, well-muscled body could have such a smooth skin.
‘Those Y-fronts went out with the ark,’ said Cameron, throwing them in the wastepaper basket. ‘I’m going to buy you some boxer shorts.’
Bearing in mind that it was eight o’clock in the morning in England, Tony thought he acquitted himself with honours.
‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,’ sang Cameron as she finally climbed off him.
‘Still fighting the American War of Independence,’ murmured Tony into her shoulder.
But just as he was falling asleep, he realized she was rigid and shuddering beside him. Reaching down, he found her hand in her bush.
‘I thought you’d come as well,’ he said, outraged.
‘If you figured that, Buster, you’ve got a lot to learn.’
‘Come here, you bitch.’
Tugging away her hand, he knelt over her, kissing her navel, then very slowly progressing downwards. Lying on the floor, tangled in each other’s arms, they were interrupted much later by the telephone.
It was Corinium’s sales director, Georgie Baines.
‘I thought you’d like the monthly revenue figures, Tony. I didn’t wake you?’
‘I’ve been up for hours.’
‘You can say that again,’ said Cameron, wriggling out from under him.
‘They’re up four million on last year,’ said Georgie jubilantly. For five minutes they discussed business, then Georgie said that Percy, Tony’s chauffeur, would like a word.
‘Good morning, my Lord,’ said Percy. ‘We won the Test match by four wickets.’
Tony was almost more delighted by that than by the advertising figures. Hearing water running in the shower, he was about to jump on Cameron once more, when the telephone rang again. After that it kept ringing, ending up with a call from Alicia, Tony’s beautiful and demanding mistress.
‘Do you spend all your life on the telephone?’ she screamed.
There was a knock on the door. Tony hung up and, wrapping a towel round his waist, went to answer it. It was the breakfast he’d ordered before going out last night.
Having signed the bill, he found Cameron in the bathroom, drying her pants with the hair dryer. She was wearing Tony’s dark-blue silk birthday shirt, with one of his red paisley ties wound round her waist. Her hair was wet from the shower; she looked sensational.
‘Come back to bed.’
‘Can’t. I’ve got a breakfast meeting. Got to get there early to check the room isn’t bugged.’
The telephone rang again.
‘You answer it,’ said Tony evilly.
Cameron picked it up.
‘Someone called Alicia,’ she said.
‘Say I’m in the shower.’
‘She didn’t sound very pleased,’ said Cameron, putting down the receiver.
Scooping up the mini-bottles of shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, and cologne, she dropped them into her bag. Then, peeling the shoulder pads out of her yellow dress, she fixed them into the shoulders of Tony’s dark-blue shirt. As she went into the bedroom, she removed a strawberry as big as a cricket ball from the grapefruit on Tony’s breakfast tray.
‘What are your plans?’ asked Tony.
‘I’m in the studios from ten o’clock onwards. I should be through around eight. And you?’
‘I’ve got people to see. I’m lunching with Ali MacGraw – more my age group, sweetie.’ He kissed Cameron on the forehead. ‘And I want that shirt back.’
‘You can wear my yellow dress. If I wear it, Ronnie’ll know I haven’t been home.’ Taking a mirror from her bag, she winced at her reflection in the bright sunlight. ‘He’ll know it anyway.’
‘I’ll call you later,’ said Tony.
The moment she’d gone, he showered, dressed and, having summoned one of the secretaries from Corinium’s American office on 5th Avenue, dictated a completely new treatment for ‘Four Men went to Mow’.
In the middle, Alicia rang and demanded who had answered the telephone.
‘Your successor,’ said Tony, without a trace of compassion, and hung up.
By midday he had a new and beautifully bound presentation booklet for ‘Four Men went to Mow’, containing a character analysis of the new hero, who was now the working-class boy and not the peer’s son (who had become a lord), plus a new list of possible stars, suggested locations, story lines, and a couple of pages of simplified dialogue, all based entirely on Cameron’s recommendations.
Ronnie called up as Tony was reading it through.
‘How d’you like Cameron?’
‘Like wasn’t the operative word. What’s bugging her?’
‘More enfant than terrible,’ said Ronnie, who wanted to do business with Tony very badly, ‘but she’s too ambitious for her own good, and too upfront. There’s a streak of idealism which makes her scream and shout till she gets what she wants; and if you’re as sexy as she is you antagonize not only women but also the men who don’t get to pull you.
‘Don’t tell anyone I told you, but the programme controller’s going to axe her last documentary, and she’s been so rude to Bella Wakefield she’s being taken off the series. But she’s bright,’ Ronnie sighed. ‘Sadly they don’t give a shit about talent here any more. But that’s off the record.’
‘We haven’t spoken,’ said Tony.
‘As a quid pro quo, can we be the first people to see “Four Men went to Mow?”’ asked Ronnie. ‘I know Cameron carved it up, but it looked great to me.’
‘Of course,’ said Tony smoothly.
After an exceptionally affable lunch with Ali MacGraw, who was an old friend, to discuss a long-term project, Tony strolled down to see USBC, the deadly rivals of NBS.
At the plaza of the Seagram building tourists and office workers sat on the walls, eating sandwiches and pizza, trying to woo the blazing sun down between the office blocks on to their bare arms and legs. The flowers in the centre strip of Park Avenue wilted in the heat as Tony sauntered past General Motors and the Pan Am building with their thousand glittering windows, admiring the coloured awnings outside the houses and the beautiful, loping New York girls with their briefcases, who looked back at him with flattering interest. Maybe Cameron was right about the paucity of real New York men.
The Head of Co-Production at USBC and the Daytime Programme Controller were enchanted by the video of the honey-coloured houses and the Cotswold countryside.
‘This series,’ Tony told them, his deep, beautiful voice flowing on like vintage port glugging out of a priceless decanter, ‘will be a cross between James Herriot and “Animal House”, but in a way it’s much, much more. We intend to explore real friendship between real men; not homosexuality, but that Victorian virtue, comradeship. The hero, a poor boy from a deprived background, doesn’t inherit the earth or the girl, but he finds his integrity. The story, despite its depths, is simple enough to appeal to a Mexican peasant or to an Alabama black.’
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that the extremely influential VPICDT Prog. (which stood for Vice-President In Charge of Daytime Programming) had just entered the room. Tony warmed to his subject.
‘In England,’ he went on, ‘we are sick of wimps who wear their sensitivity on their silk shirtsleeves. The guys in our story are kind to animals and women, but they shoot from the hip first and get in touch with their feelings later. Nor would they be seen dead in an apron. Let us have men as men again, and bring back dignity and chivalry to our sex.’
Thinking he’d gone slightly over the top, Tony switched briskly to finance. ‘We can do it for three-quarters of a million an hour,’ he said. ‘It’ll be thirty per cent cheaper if we make it in England; we’ll put up twenty per cent of the cost against Europe and the UK.’
Admiring the discreet blue coronet on Tony’s dark-green shirt, the VPICDT Prog., who’d just been bawled out on the phone by his wife for forgetting to collect the suit she’d had altered at Ralph Lauren, reflected that Lord B had real class. And he was right – it was high time men were men again.
‘Very interesting, Tony,’ he said. ‘We’d like to kick the idea around. You in New York for a few days?’
‘Yes,’ said Tony.
‘Showing it to other people?’
‘Of course.’
‘We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.’
Outside it had rained. The trees had taken on a deeper greenness. The city had the warm wet smell of a conservatory. Park Avenue was a solid yellow mass of honking taxis. Quivering with the excitement of wheeler-dealing, Tony knew he ought to ring Ronnie and show him the treatment. Let him sweat, he thought, let Cameron sweat. He went back to the Waldorf, checked out and, without leaving a forwarding address, flew to Los Angeles.
Cameron lived in an eleventh-floor apartment on Riverside Drive with a glorious view of the Hudson River. She got home at about nine after a hellish day, punctuated with screaming matches which had finally culminated in Bella Wakefield turning up on the set wearing two-inch false eyelashes and half a ton of purple eyeshadow to play a Victorian governess. When Cameron had ordered her to take her make-up down, Bella had stormed out, presumably to sob on the Vice-President’s already sodden shoulder.
The moment she got in, Cameron played back her recording machine, but there was no message from Tony, not even a click to show he’d rung and hung up because she wasn’t there. He hadn’t left any messages at NBS either.
Cameron, however, had done her homework. As Tony had learnt from Ronnie that she was brilliant but unbalanced, she in turn had discovered that Tony was an unprincipled shit, much more interested in making money than good programmes, masterly at board-room intrigue, and so smooth he could slide up a hill. Convinced she could handle him, Cameron wasn’t at all put out by this information, and decided to accept the job.
She’d always wanted to work in England and track down her English relations. She admired British television, and she’d bitterly envied all those rich girls at Barnard who’d travelled to Europe so effortlessly on Daddy’s income. It would also give her a chance to get away from her mother and her mother’s appalling lover, Mike. Cameron gave a shudder; she had recurrent nightmares about Mike.
She turned on the light. She would be sad to leave her apartment, which was painted white throughout, with yellow curtains and rush matting on the polished floors. Furniture in the living-room included a grand piano, a dentist’s chair upholstered in red paisley like Tony’s tie, a dartboard, and a gold toe, one foot high, which had been surreptitiously chipped from the foot of a cherub in the Metropolitan Museum. Books lined most of one wall, but half a shelf was taken up with videos of the programmes she’d made. These were her identity. Cameron only felt she truly existed when she saw her credits coming up on the screen.
And now this English lord had come along and thrown her into complete turmoil because he hadn’t called. Denied a father in her teens, Cameron was always drawn to older men. She was attracted by Tony’s utter ruthlessness, and, despite her sniping, sexually it had ended up a great night.
Then why didn’t the bastard call? Lord of the Never Rings. Collapsing on the sofa, she gazed out of the window. On the opposite bank, lights from the factories and power stations sent glittering yellow snakes across the black water. Watching the coloured Dinky cars whizzing up and down the freeway, she fell asleep.
When she woke next morning, very cold and stiff, the Hudson had turned to a sheet of white metal, with the power stations smoking dreamily in the morning mist. Perhaps Tony had only offered her a job as a ruse to get her into bed, but she didn’t think he was like that. If he’d just wanted to screw her, he’d have said so. Yet when she rang the Waldorf to accept, she was outraged to be told that Tony had checked out, leaving no forwarding address.
‘This guy’s mighty popular,’ said the operator. ‘Everyone’s been ringing him.’
BOOK: Rivals
7.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Josie Under Fire by Ann Turnbull
Justice by Gillian Zane
Alien Eyes by Lynn Hightower
Legally Bound by Saffire, Blue
The House Sitter by Peter Lovesey
Historia de Roma by Indro Montanelli
Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie
The Wild Wood Enquiry by Ann Purser