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Мортимер Кэрол

The Talk of Hollywood

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«The Talk of Hollywood» - Кэрол Мортимер

Lights… From his latest sports car to his latest blonde, gossip surrounds infamous Hollywood actor and director Jaxon Wilder. Unnamed sources are speculating outrageously about an unknown beauty that Jaxon is determined to get to know…intimately! Camera… Except Stazy, infuriatingly, is nothing like Jaxon’s usual conquests…To Jaxon’s disgust she demands an equal stake in his project – they’ll have to work side by side for months! Bedroom! Jaxon agrees to a professional partnership…knowing that, however hard Stazy tries to resist, eventually they’ll tantalise the tabloids with a scandalous affair – on and off the red carpet!
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About the Author

Praise for Carole Mortimer:

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


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


‘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:



(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

The Talk of Hollywood

Carole Mortimer


‘IT 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.

Jaxon had first written to the older man several months ago—a letter in which he had outlined his idea for the film. The letter he had received back from Geoffrey Bromley two weeks later had been cautiously encouraging. The two men had spoken several times on the telephone before Jaxon had suggested they meet in person and discuss the idea more extensively.

In none of those exchanges had Sir Geoffrey so much as hinted at his granddaughter’s antagonism to the film being made!

Sir Geoffrey smiled confidently. ‘I assure you that ultimately Stazy will go along with whatever I decide.’

Jaxon had no doubt that when necessary the older man could be as persuasive as his wife was reputed to have been, but in a totally different way—the part Geoffrey Bromley had played in the events of the previous century were even more shrouded in mystery than those of his now deceased wife. But from the little Jaxon knew the other man had held a very high position of authority in England’s security at the time of his retirement twenty-five years ago.

Was it any wonder that Stazy Bromley had the same forceful determination as both her grandparents?

Or that his own visit here today promised to be a battle of wills between the two of them!

A battle Jaxon ultimately had every intention of winning …

‘I trust the two of you didn’t discuss anything of importance during my absence …?’ Stazy said softly as she came back into the room, closely followed by the butler. He was carrying a heavily laden silver tray, the contents of which he proceeded to place on the low coffee table in front of the sofa where Stazy now sat, looking enquiringly at the two men seated opposite.

Her grandfather gave her another of those censorious glances as Jaxon Wilder answered. ‘I’m sure that neither of us would have dared to do that, Dr Bromley …’ he said dryly.

Stazy was just as sure that the forceful Jaxon Wilder would pretty much dare to do anything he damn well pleased! ‘Do you care for milk and sugar in your tea, Mr Wilder?’ she prompted lightly as she held the sugar bowl poised over the three delicate china cups.

‘Just milk, thanks.’

Stazy nodded as she added two spoonfuls of sugar to her grandfather’s cup before commencing to pour the tea. ‘No doubt it becomes more difficult, as you get older, to maintain the perfect bodyweight.

‘Darling, I really don’t think this constant bickering with Jaxon is necessary,’ her grandfather admonished affectionately as she stood up to carry his cup and saucer over to him after handing Jaxon his own cup.

‘Perhaps not,’ Stazy allowed, her cheeks warming slightly at the rebuke. ‘But I’m sure Mr Wilder is equally capable of defending himself if he feels it necessary.’

Jaxon was fast losing his patience with Stazy Bromley’s snide comments. She might appear delicately beautiful in appearance, but as far as he could tell, where this particular woman was concerned, that was exactly where the delicacy ended.

‘Undoubtedly,’ he bit out abruptly. ‘Now, if we could perhaps return to discussing Butterfly …?’

‘“Butterfly” …?’ his adversary repeated slowly as she resumed her seat on the sofa before crossing one silkily elegant knee over the other.

‘It was your grandmother’s code name—’

‘I’m aware of what it was, Mr Wilder,’ she cut in crisply.

‘It’s also the working title of my film,’ Jaxon explained tersely.

‘Isn’t that rather presumptuous of you?’ She frowned. ‘As far as I’m aware,’ she continued warily, ‘there has been no agreement as yet to there even being a film, let alone it already having a working title!’ She turned enquiring eyes to her grandfather, her tension palpable.

Sir Geoffrey shrugged. ‘I don’t believe there is any way in which we can stop Mr Wilder from making his film, Stazy.’


‘With or without our co-operation,’ Sir Geoffrey added firmly. ‘And personally—after the publication of that dreadful biography!—I would rather be allowed to have some say in the content than none at all.’

Stazy Bromley’s eyes glittered with anger as she turned to look at Jaxon. ‘If you’ve dared to threaten my grandfather—’

‘Of course Jaxon hasn’t threatened me, darling—’

‘And Jaxon resents the hell—excuse my language, sir—’ Jaxon nodded briefly to the older man before turning his chilling gaze back to the bristling Stazy Bromley ‘—out of the implication that he might have done so!’

Stazy had the good sense to realise that she just might have been out of line with that last remark. It was really no excuse that she had been predisposed to dislike Jaxon Wilder before she had even met him, based purely on the things she had read about him. Especially when he had been charm itself since his arrival. To her grandfather, at least. Stazy was pretty sure, after her barely veiled remarks, that the antagonism now went both ways!

But exactly what had Jaxon Wilder expected to happen when he had arranged to come here? That he would meet alone with a man aged in his mid-nineties who had recently suffered a heart attack? That the two of them would exchange pleasantries before he walked away with Geoffrey’s complete co-operation? If that was what he’d thought was going to happen then he obviously didn’t know Stazy’s grandfather very well; even twenty-five years after his supposed retirement Geoffrey was a power to be reckoned with! And Stazy considered herself only one step behind him …

Not only was she a highly qualified London university lecturer, it had been hinted at by the powers that be that she was in line to become head of the department when her professor stepped down next year—and Stazy hadn’t put herself in that position at only twenty-nine by being shy and retiring.

‘I apologise if I was mistaken,’ she murmured softly. ‘Mr Wilder’s use of the term “working title” seemed to imply that things had already been settled between the two of you.’

‘Apology accepted,’ Jaxon Wilder grated, without even the slightest lessening of the tension in those broad shoulders. ‘Obviously I would rather proceed with your blessing, Sir Geoffrey.’ He nodded to the older man, at the same time managing to imply that he didn’t give a damn whether or not he had Stazy’s!

‘And his co-operation?’ she put in dryly.

Cool grey eyes turned back in her direction. ‘Of course.’

Stazy repressed the shiver that threatened to run the length of her spine—of alarm rather than the pleasure she imagined most women felt when Jaxon Wilder looked at them! As his icy gaze raked over her with slow criticism Stazy knew exactly what he would see: a woman who preferred a no-nonsense appearance. Her lashes were naturally long and dark, requiring no mascara, and in fact her face was completely bare of make-up apart from a pale peach lipgloss. Her hands, throat and ears were completely unadorned with jewellery.

Certainly Stazy knew herself to be nothing in the least like the beautiful and willowy actresses in whose company Jaxon Wilder had so often been seen, photographed for newspapers and magazines during the last dozen years or so. She doubted the man would even know what to do with an intelligent woman …

What on earth—?

Why should she care what Jaxon Wilder thought of her? As far as Stazy was concerned there would be absolutely no reason for the two of them ever to meet again after today—let alone for her to care what he thought of her as a woman …

She straightened determinedly. ‘I believe you are not only wasting your own time, Mr Wilder, but also my grandfather’s and mine—’

‘As it happens, I’m willing to give Jaxon my blessing and my co-operation. I will allow him to read letters and personal papers of Anastasia’s.’ Geoffrey spoke firmly over Stazy’s scathing dismissal. ‘But only under certain conditions.’

Stazy’s eyes widened as she turned to look at her grandfather. ‘You can’t be serious!’

Her grandfather gave a slight inclination of his head. ‘I believe you will find, darling, that it’s called controlling a situation that one knows is inevitable, rather than attempting a futile fight against it.’

Jaxon felt none of the exhilaration he might have expected to feel at Sir Geoffrey not only giving his blessing to the making of the film, but also offering him access to certain of Anastasia’s personal papers in order to aid in the writing of the screenplay. Inwardly he sensed that whatever Geoffrey’s conditions were, Jaxon wasn’t going to like them …

Stazy Bromley obviously felt that same sense of unease as she stood up abruptly, a frown between those clear green eyes as she stared down at her grandfather for several long seconds before her expression softened slightly.

‘Darling, remember what happened after that awful book was published—’

‘I’m insulted that you would even think of comparing the film I intend to make with that sensationalised trash!’ Jaxon rose sharply to his feet.

She turned to look at him coolly. ‘How can I think otherwise?’

‘Maybe by giving me a chance—’

‘Now, now, you two.’ Sir Geoffrey chuckled softly. ‘It really doesn’t bode well if the two of you can’t even be in the same room together without arguing.’

Jaxon’s earlier feeling of trepidation grew as he turned to look down at the older man, not fooled for a moment by the innocence of Sir Geoffrey’s expression. ‘Perhaps you would care to explain your conditions …?’ he prompted slowly, warily. Whatever ace Geoffrey Bromley had hidden up his sleeve Jaxon was utterly convinced he wasn’t going to like it!

The older man gave a shrug. ‘My first condition is that there will be no copies made of my wife’s personal papers. In fact they are never to leave this house.’

That was going to make things slightly awkward. It would mean that Jaxon would have to spend several days—possibly a week—here at Bromley House in order to read those papers and make notes before he was able to go away and write the screenplay. But, busy schedule permitting, there was no real reason why it couldn’t be done. Over the years he had certainly stayed in infinitely less salubrious places than the elegant comfort of Bromley House!

‘My second condition—’

‘Exactly how many conditions are there?’ Jaxon prompted with amusement.

‘Just the two,’ Sir Geoffrey assured him dryly. ‘And the first condition will only apply if you agree to the second.’

‘Fine.’ Jaxon nodded ruefully.

‘Oh, I wouldn’t give me your agreement just yet, Jaxon,’ the older man warned derisively.

Stazy didn’t at all like the calculating glint she could clearly see in her grandfather’s eyes. His first condition made a certain amount of sense—although there was no guarantee, of course. But at least Jaxon Wilder having access to her grandmother’s personal papers might mean there was a slight chance his screenplay would have some basis in truth. Not much, but some.

That only left her grandfather’s second condition …

‘Go ahead, Gramps,’ she invited softly.

‘Perhaps you should both sit down first …?’

Stazy tensed and at the same time sensed Jaxon’s own increased wariness as he stood across the room from her. ‘Do we need to sit down …?’

‘Oh I think it might be advisable,’ her grandfather confirmed dryly.

‘I’ll remain standing, if you don’t mind,’ Jaxon Wilder rasped gruffly.

‘Not at all,’ Geoffrey chuckled. ‘Stazy?’

‘The same,’ she murmured warily.

‘Very well.’ Her grandfather relaxed back in his chair as he looked up at the two of them. ‘I have found your conversation today highly … diverting, shall we say? And I assure you there is really very little that a man of my age finds in the least amusing!’ her grandfather added ruefully.

He was playing with them, Stazy recognised frustratedly. Amusing himself at their expense. ‘Will you just spit it out, Gramps!’

He smiled slightly as he rested his elbows on the arms of the chair before linking his fingers together in front of his chest. ‘Stazy, you obviously have reservations about the content of Jaxon’s film—’

‘With good reason!’

‘With no reason whatsoever,’ Jaxon corrected grimly. ‘I am not the one responsible for that dreadful biography—nor have I ever written or starred in a film that twists the truth in order to add sensationalism,’ he added hardly.

‘I doubt most Hollywood actors would recognise the truth if it jumped up and bit them on the nose!’ Those green eyes glittered with scorn.

Jaxon wasn’t sure which one of them had closed the distance between them—was only aware that they now stood so close that their noses were almost touching as she glared up at him and Jaxon scowled right back down at her.

He was suddenly aware of the soft insidiousness of Stazy’s perfume: a heady combination of cinnamon, lemon and—much more disturbing—hotly enraged woman …

Close to her like this, Jaxon could see that those amazing green eyes had a ring of black about the iris, giving them a strangely luminous quality that was almost mesmerising when fringed with the longest, darkest lashes he had ever seen. Her complexion was the pale ivory of fine bone china, with the same delicacy of appearance.

A delicacy that was completely at odds with the sensual fullness of her mouth.

Her lips were slightly parted now, to reveal small and perfectly straight white teeth. Small white teeth that Jaxon imagined could bite a man with passion as easily as—What the …?

Jaxon stepped back abruptly as he realised he had allowed his thoughts to wander way off the reservation, considering the antagonism the two of them clearly felt towards each other. Not only that, but Stazy Bromley was exactly like all the buttoned-down and career-orientated women he knew who had clawed themselves up the professional ladder so that they might inhabit the higher echelons of certain film studios. Hard, unfeminine women, whom Jaxon always avoided like the plague!

He eased the tension from his shoulders before turning back to face the obviously still amused Geoffrey Bromley. ‘I agree with Stazy—’

‘How refreshing!’ she cut in dryly.

‘You may as well just get this is over with,’ Jaxon finished ruefully.

‘Let’s hope the two of you are in as much agreement about my second condition.’ Sir Geoffrey nodded, no longer smiling or as relaxed as he had been a short time ago. ‘I’ve given the matter some thought, and in view of Stazy’s lack of enthusiasm for the making of your film, and your own obvious determination to prove her suspicions wrong, Jaxon, I feel it would be better for all concerned if Stazy were to assist you in collating and researching Anastasia’s personal papers.’

‘What …?’

Jaxon was completely in agreement with Stazy Bromley’s obvious horror at the mere suggestion of the two of them working that closely together even for one minute, let alone the days or weeks it might take him to go through Anastasia Bromley’s papers!


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