Propositioned Into A Foreign Affair(6)

By: Catherine Mann

“For what?”

“For not offering platitudes that really don’t fix anything.” She set her crystal stemware back on the table. “I prefer a no B.S. attitude.”

He simply nodded, refilling her glass. He hadn’t realized the family matriarch—Lillian Hudson—was battling for her life. Lillian was somewhat of a legend around France, her homeland until she met and married a young American soldier during WWII. “This is your grandmother you made the movie about?”

“Yes. Since my grandfather died thirteen years ago, Grandmere—I’m the only one to call her Grandmere, actually, but that’s besides the point.” Bella paused to sip her wine. “She’s made it her mission to bring their wartime love story to the big screen. We were afraid she couldn’t live long enough, but with the film making its debut in a week on Christmas day, it looks like she’ll have her wish. She’s weak, but hanging on. This project has come together in time to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Hudson Studios. It’s perfect timing.”

“It must have been tough playing your grandmother in the movie, especially now.” He didn’t keep up with Hollywood bios, but he seemed to recall that while Bella Hudson had made great strides in independent films she’d yet to achieve a breakout role.

She toyed with her napkin, twisting it tight. “People think my casting was some kind of family gift, but I had to fight to get that part. And I’m so glad I got the chance. Making a movie about my grandparents’ World War II romance was an honor—all the more fitting since the movie itself is called Honor. Are you familiar with their story?”

“Only what I’ve read in news releases about the movie.” He lied a bit, but hearing her sexy voice stoked his senses. And talking about her grandparents softened the strained edges around her eyes.

He suspected the telling would relax her far more than any wine and he most definitely wanted to make Bella feel at home.

She eased back into her chair, toying with the stem on her wineglass. “My grandfather was a U.S. soldier when he met my grandmother here in France. She was a struggling cabaret performer. They secretly married. After the war, he brought her back to the States. My grandfather Charles founded a movie studio so Grandmere Lillian could bring her talents to the big screen. He made her a legend and she made his fledgling studio a huge success. It’s a fairy-tale story.” Her eyes sparkled more than the crystal in the candlelight.

“Sounds like you have romance in your genes.”

Her smile faded fast. She rose from her chair, taking her drink with her as she turned her back to him and crossed to the window, boats bobbing in the busy French port outside.

“My belief in romance took a serious hit recently.” Her voice trembled. “My mother had an affair with her husband’s brother. My parents have split up as a result. I always thought they had such a great marriage and now everything has come crumbling down.”

He shoved back his chair and walked over to her, stopping an inch shy of touching her. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

She glanced over her shoulder at him, fiery spirit replacing any tears in her eyes. “I’m not sure why I’m spilling my guts to you this way.”

“Maybe you just needed to tell someone rather than having the press tell it all for you.”

She tossed her head, her hair a flame-red contrast against the white robe. “Perhaps.”

The exotic perfume of her shampoo mingled with the scent of the massage oil slicking her skin. His body stirred in response, but he could control himself.

The payoff would be worthwhile for both of them if she decided to stay—and it needed to be her decision. “I’m afraid I don’t have any reassuring words to offer you, Bella. My Garrison cousins are all jumping on the marriage bandwagon, but I’m still a cynical soul when it comes to tying the knot.”

She laughed low, her eyes lingering on his face a second longer than casual interest. “Did your parents have a crummy marriage, too?”

He slid around to stand beside her, leaning one shoulder on the picture window overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. He normally didn’t roll out his life story for strangers, not that his private life was any secret after the way the press raked his mother over the coals. Anything he said, Bella could find out on her own.