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Authors: Carole Mortimer

The Talk of Hollywood

BOOK: The Talk of Hollywood
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Praise for
Carole Mortimer:

‘A physically vulnerable hero and spunky heroine make a winning combination that readers are bound to fall in love with.’

—RT Book Reviews
on
THE RETURN OF THE RENEGADE

‘This is an excellently penned tale about family dynamics, grudges, and letting go of the past. The ending is particularly satisfying.’

—RT Book Reviews
on
THE RELUCTANT DUKE

‘Her strong, traditional romances, with their distinct style, brilliantly developed characters and romantic plot twists, have earned her an enthusiastic audience worldwide.’

—Dear Author
on Carole Mortimer

About the Author

CAROLE MORTIMER
was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written over one hundred and fifty books for Harlequin Mills & Boon
®
. Carole has six sons: Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’

Recent titles by the same author:

SURRENDER TO THE PAST
TAMING THE LAST ST CLAIRE
(The Scandalous St Claires)
THE RELUCTANT DUKE
(The Scandalous St Claires)
JORDAN ST CLAIRE: DARK AND DANGEROUS
(The Scandalous St Claires)

Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

The Talk of
Hollywood

Carole Mortimer

www.millsandboon.co.uk

CHAPTER ONE

‘I
T WOULD
appear that your guest has finally arrived, Gramps,’ Stazy said as she stood stiffly beside one of the bay windows in the drawing room, facing towards the front of Bromley House and watching the sleek black sports car as it was driven down the gravel driveway of her grandfather’s Hampshire estate. She was unable to make out the features of the driver of the car behind the tinted windows; but, nevertheless, she was sure that it was Jaxon Wilder, the English actor and director who for the past ten years had held the fickle world of Hollywood in the palm of his elegant hand.

‘Don’t be so hard on the man, Stazy; he’s only five minutes late, and he did have to drive all the way from London!’ her grandfather chided indulgently from the comfort of his armchair.

‘Then maybe it would have been a good idea on his part to take into account the distance he had to travel and set out accordingly.’ Stazy had made absolutely no secret of her disapproval of Jaxon Wilder’s visit here, and found the whole idea of his wanting to write and direct a film about the life of her deceased grandmother totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to persuade her grandfather into dismissing the idea as readily—which was why Jaxon Wilder was now
parking that sleek black sports car on the driveway outside her grandfather’s home.

Stazy turned away before she saw the man in question alight from the car; she already knew exactly what Jaxon Wilder looked like. The whole world probably recognised Jaxon Wilder after he had completely swept the board at every awards ceremony earlier in the year with his recent film, in which he had once again acted and directed.

Aged in his mid-thirties, he was tall and lean, with wide and powerful shoulders, slightly overlong dark hair, and piercing grey eyes set either side of an aristocratic nose. His mouth was sculptured and sensual, his chin square and determined, and the deep timbre of his voice had been known to send quivers of pleasure down the spines of women of all ages. Jaxon Wilder was known to be the highest paid actor and director on both sides of the pond.

His looks and appeal had often led to his being photographed in newspapers and magazines with the latest beautiful woman to share his life—and his bed! And his reason for coming here today was to use that charm in an effort to persuade Stazy’s grandfather into giving his blessing—and help—to the writing of a screenplay about the adventurous life of Stazy’s grandmother, Anastasia Romanski. A woman who, as a young child, had escaped the Russian Revolution with her family by fleeing to England, and as an adult had been one of the many secret and unsung heroines of her adopted country.

Anastasia had died only two years ago, at the age of ninety-four. Her obituary in the newspaper had drawn the attention of a nosy reporter who, when he had looked deeper into Anastasia’s life, had discovered
that there had been far more to Anastasia Bromley than the obscure accolades mentioned. The result had been a sensationalised biography about Anastasia, published six months ago, and the ensuing publicity had caused her grandfather to suffer a mild heart attack.

In the circumstances, was it any wonder that Stazy had been horrified to discover that Jaxon Wilder intended to make a film of Anastasia’s life? And, even worse, that the film director had an appointment with her grandfather in order to discuss the project? Stazy had decided it was a discussion she had every intention of being a part of!

‘Sir Geoffrey.’ Jaxon moved smoothly forward to shake the older man’s hand as the butler showed him into the drawing room of Bromley House.

‘Mr Wilder.’ It was hard to believe that Geoffrey Bromley was a man aged in his mid-nineties as he returned the firmness of Jaxon’s handshake. His dark hair was only lightly streaked with grey, his shoulders still stiffly erect in his tailored dark three-piece suit and snowy white shirt with a meticulously tied grey tie.

‘Jaxon, please,’ he invited. ‘May I say how pleased I am that you agreed to see me today—?’

‘Then the pleasure would appear to be all yours!’

‘Stazy!’ Geoffrey Bromley rebuked affectionately as he turned towards the woman who had spoken so sharply.

Jaxon turned to look at her too as she stood in front of the bay window. The sun shining in behind her made it hard for him to make out her features, although the hostility of her tone was enough of an indication that she, at least, wasn’t in the least pleased by Jaxon’s visit!

‘My granddaughter Stazy Bromley, Mr Wilder,’ Sir Geoffrey introduced lightly.

Jaxon, having refreshed his memory on the Bromley family before leaving his London hotel earlier that morning, already knew that Stazy was short for Anastasia—the same name as her grandmother. Information that had in no way prepared him for Stazy Bromley’s startling resemblance to her grandmother as she stepped out of the sunlight.

About five-six in height, with the same flame-coloured hair—neither red nor gold, but a startling mixture of the two—and a pale and porcelain complexion, she had a wide, intelligent brow above sultry eyes of deep emerald-green. Her nose was small and perfectly straight, and she had full and sensuous lips above a stubbornly determined chin.

The hairstyle was different, of course; Anastasia had favoured shoulder-length hair, whereas her granddaughter’s was stylishly cut in an abundance of layers that was secured at her nape and cascaded down to the middle of her back. The black, knee-length sheath of a dress she wore added to the impression of elegant chic.

Other than those minor differences Jaxon knew he might have been looking at the twenty-nine-year-old Anastasia Romanski.

Green eyes raked over Jaxon dismissively. ‘Mr Wilder.’

Jaxon gave an inclination of his head. ‘Miss Bromley,’ he returned smoothly.

‘That would be
Dr
Bromley,’ she corrected coolly.

Stazy Bromley had the beauty and grace of a supermodel rather than the appearance of a dusty doctor of Archaeology, as Jaxon knew her to be. Maybe, faced with her obvious antagonism towards him, Jaxon should have had Geoffrey Bromley’s granddaughter investigated more thoroughly than simply making a note of her age and occupation …

‘Stazy, perhaps you would like to go and tell Mrs Little we’ll have tea now …?’ her grandfather prompted, softly but firmly.

Those full and sensuous lips thinned. ‘Is that an unsubtle hint for me to leave you and Mr Wilder alone for a few minutes, Gramps?’ Stazy Bromley said dryly, those disapproving green eyes remaining firmly fixed on Jaxon.

‘I think that might be best, darling,’ her grandfather encouraged ruefully.

‘Just try not to let Mr Wilder use his reputed charm to persuade you into agreeing to or signing anything before I get back!’ she warned, with another cold glance in Jaxon’s direction.

‘I wouldn’t dream of it, Dr Bromley,’ Jaxon drawled. ‘Although I’m flattered that you think I have charm!’ Mockery perhaps wasn’t the best line for him to take when Stazy Bromley was obviously so antagonistic towards him already, but then Jaxon couldn’t say he particularly cared for being treated as if he were some sort of trickster, trying to dupe her grandfather into selling off the family jewels!

Obviously the subject of her grandmother’s past was a sensitive one to Stazy Bromley.

‘I don’t know you well enough as yet to have decided exactly what you are, Mr Wilder,’ Stazy Bromley assured him distantly.

But she obviously didn’t number his ‘charm’ as one of his more obvious attributes, Jaxon recognised ruefully. That was a pity, because her physical similarities to her grandmother were already enough to have him intrigued. Similarities that she seemed to deliberately downplay with her lack of make-up and the confinement of her riotous red-gold hair.

If that really was Stazy’s intention then she had failed miserably. As if those sultry green eyes and that poutingly sensuous mouth weren’t enough of an attraction, her curvaceous figure in that fitted black dress certainly was!

Stazy had only ever seen Jaxon Wilder on the big screen before today, where he invariably appeared tall and dark and very powerful. It was an image she had believed to be magnified by the size of that screen. She had been wrong. Even dressed formally, in a tailored black suit, snowy-white silk shirt and silver tie, Jaxon Wilder was just as powerfully charismatic in the flesh.

‘That really is enough, darling,’ her grandfather rebuked. ‘And I have no doubt that Mr Wilder and I will manage perfectly well for the short time you’re gone,’ he added pointedly.

‘I have no doubt you will, Grandfather.’ Her voice softened as she smiled affectionately at her aged grandparent before leaving.

Her grandfather was now the only family Stazy had, her parents having both died fifteen years ago, when their light aeroplane had crashed into the sea off the coast of Cornwall.

Despite already being aged in their early eighties, Anastasia and Geoffrey had been wonderful to their traumatised granddaughter, taking fourteen-year-old Stazy into their home and their lives without a second thought. As a result Stazy’s protectiveness where they were both concerned was much stronger than it might otherwise have been.

To the point where she now saw Jaxon Wilder’s plans to make a film about her deceased grandmother as nothing more than Hollywood sensationalism—no doubt inspired by that dreadful biography, in which her
grandmother had been portrayed as the equivalent of a Russian Mata Hari working for British Intelligence!

No doubt Jaxon Wilder also saw the project as a means of earning himself yet another shelf of awards to add to his already considerable collection. That was a pity—for him!—because Stazy saw it as her mission in life to ensure that film was never made!

‘I’m afraid Stazy doesn’t approve of your making a film of my late wife’s life, Jaxon,’ Sir Geoffrey murmured wryly.

He gave a rueful smile. ‘One would never have guessed!’

The older man smiled slightly. ‘Please, sit down and tell me exactly what it is you want from me,’ he invited smoothly as he resumed his seat in the armchair beside the unlit fireplace.

‘Shouldn’t we wait for your granddaughter to return before we discuss this any further?’ Jaxon grimaced as he lowered his lean length down on to the chair opposite, already knowing that Stazy Bromley’s attitude was going to be a problem he hadn’t envisaged when he had flown over to England yesterday with the express purpose of discussing the details of the film with Geoffrey Bromley.

BOOK: The Talk of Hollywood
13.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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