When a dripping-wet female yelled his name, Bronson Dane didn't even try to stop his eyes from roaming over all of her.
With only a short white towel covering her glistening dark, Italian skin, his mother's personal assistant of only six months certainly knew how to catch a man's attention.
"Mr. Dane," she repeated, clutching the towel to her chest with both hands. She'd stopped short as she'd stepped from the bath when she saw him standing at the desk in his mother's adjoining office.
"Formalities are unnecessary when you're only wearing water droplets and a towel. Call me Bronson." He shoved his hands in his pants pockets, thankful he'd shed his jacket because, damn, the temperature just rose at least ten degrees. "Where is my mother and why are you showering in her private bath?"
Wide eyes, nearly as dark as her ebony hair, blinked in rapid succession. "Olivia is gone for the day. I often use the gym, and since I'm working this afternoon, she told me just to freshen up here instead of running back to my guest cottage."
Bronson muttered a curse at his naive mother. It was bad enough Mia Spinelli lived on the Dane estate, but now she was given free rein of the house? Hadn't his mother learned her lesson from the last "loyal" assistant? When would the woman realize she couldn't trust everyone who looked innocent?
This was Hollywood, for pity's sake. Lies and manipulation were as common as breast implants and collagen injections.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Dane. I had no idea anyone would be coming by," Mia continued, squaring her shoulders as if having a conversation wearing only a scrap of terry cloth was normal. "Weren't you supposed to be shooting in Australia until next week?"
"Call me Bronson," he reminded her, gritting his teeth at the floral aroma wafting from the bathroom. "The movie wrapped a week early. I stopped by to talk to my mother about the film festival next week. Did she say when she'd be back?"
"She'll be back later in the afternoon. She's having lunch with her attorney to go over the final contract for her next book." The knuckles on the hand fisting her towel between her breasts turned white as she crossed the room. "If you'll excuse me, I dropped my toiletry bag on the desk chair when I came in because the phone was ringing."
Before she could pass by him, he blocked her and reached for the simple black bag from the leather desk chair. She grabbed for it, but he held the small bag out to the side, away from her grasp.
He didn't trust her, especially since she'd just come off the heels of working for the one man he despised in the industry, Anthony Price. He loathed the man with every fiber of his being. But he certainly didn't want to think about all those reasons now.
His mother had assured him that Mia was "a doll" and completely trustworthy and dependable. His sister, Victoria, had jumped on the Mia bandwagon as well, stating that Mia was such a joy and pleasure to be around. When they'd chatted on the phone last, Victoria had gone so far as to say that she'd instantly clicked with their mother's new assistant.
Granted, Mia had been around for six months, but was that enough time for his mother and sister to be such diehard Mia Spinelli fans?
Bronson wasn't blind, though. Anthony sending his assistant here to snoop was really sinking to a low he never expected.
The rumors of Mia and Anthony's relationship were anything but businesslike. And that irked him even more. The fact his mother had hired Mia while he'd been on location in Australia still grated on him. True, his mother could have any assistant she chose, but why bring in one fresh from his nemesis?
The Hollywood rumor mill had pegged the mesmerizing Mia as the main problem in Anthony's rocky marriage. Whom Mia slept with was none of his concern, but it was his business if she was taking Dane family secrets back to her lover.
Bronson and his mother were secretly working on a huge film that he knew the media would die to get their hands on. He and his mother had worked for years honing this project, and he had no doubt Anthony Price, Hollywood's top director, wanted to know just what the big secret was.
Just because his mother wasn't suspicious didn't mean he'd be letting his guard down any time soon.
Bronson intended to find out just what this conveniently placed assistant's intentions were before she uncovered the script and slid back in between Anthony's sheets with it in hand. The thought of this sexy siren in bed with the devil made his stomach knot up.
He thrust the bag her way because he needed her to get dressed. Whether he trusted her or not had no bearing on matters; she was fresh from the shower smelling of something sexy and floralher own because that certainly wasn't his mother's scentand he was having a hard time focusing on the task at hand.
Not to mention that he was not one bit happy with the immediate physical attraction he felt to his enemy's lover.
"Get dressed. We'll talk."
With a slight nod, she turned, crossed the room and entered the still-steamy bath, shutting the door at her back. He had no room on his plate for lustful feelings, and he was a damn fool for even letting them creep into his thoughts. His main concern right now was to keep his mother and his fashion designer sister out of any more scandal.
His mother's last assistant had stolen nearly half a million dollars from Olivia's personal account over the span of several months. The media loved feeding off the Dane name right now, which is why they needed to be a bit more cautious about whom they let into their livesespecially if he had any hopes of keeping this script under wraps.
Was it any wonder his blood pressure had soared since he stepped into his mother's office? Olivia Dane was an icon, and the media would love to get some dirt on herthough he doubted there was any. They had a way of twisting even the innocent to make them look sordid.
Olivia Dane had been Hollywood's sweetheart, had starred in more films than any other female in the industry and had been dubbed the "Grand Dane" years ago. The media loved her. Which is precisely why he needed to keep a close watch on her new assistant.
The bathroom door opened once again and Mia emerged wearing crisp white capris and a black, sleeveless button-down shirt. She had twisted her long dark hair into some sort of knot at the nape of her neck. Her feet were still bare, except for the subtle pink polish on her toes. A simple gold locket lay in the open V of her shirt.
Everything about this woman screamed innocence and simplicity, so how the hell did she end up working for the most glamorous woman in Hollywood?
Olivia had told him how impeccable Mia's credentials were and Mia's reasons for leaving her job with Anthony. Supposedly she didn't want to be the cause of any more rumors and aid in destroying Anthony's marriage.
His mother had said she admired a woman who put others' needs ahead of her own. She assured him the background check also confirmed her initial thoughtsMia was flawless and perfect for the job.
A background check could easily make a person look good on paper, and Mia had certainly appeared to be innocent as an angel, but Bronson wanted to get to know more about the quiet, subtle Miss Spinelli. The one who, no matter what line she fed his mother, still may be sleeping withand possibly spying forhis enemy.
And fate had just handed him the perfect opportunity. What better way to get to know someone than a little one-on-one time? With the exotic, sexy ambiance of the Cannes Film Festival next week, how could she resist succumbing to his charms as his escort? He hadn't been dubbed People's Sexiest Man Alive for nothing.
"I have a proposition for you," he told her. "You're traveling to Cannes with my mother. Correct?" Mia nodded.
"There are ceremonies every evening with parties afterward. I want you to escort me to those events."
"Escort you?" she asked, eyes wide. "But I'm only going to work with Olivia, and I hadn't planned on attending any of the evenings' festivities."
He hadn't planned on asking her to be his escort, but he also hadn't planned on his first impression of her covered in iridescent droplets and wearing nothing but a piece of terry cloth. God knows he could invite any woman he knew, but he really didn't want to have to entertain and make sure some diva was properly pampered. This woman, this virtual stranger, would be the ideal companion. He'd been on location nearly the entire time she'd been employed by his mother. He couldn't think of a better venue to get to know Mia than to have her as his "date" for five nights in a row.
"I don't think this is a good idea," Mia said, taking a seat behind his mother's desk and booting up the computer. "I'm pretty busy with Olivia, and I know we'll be working just as hard in Cannes because she's trying to finish this book by midsummer."
Bronson stood on the other side of the desk, watching Mia's delicate, ringless fingers fly over the keyboard. "I assure you, my mother will have no problem with your being my escort. You just worry about getting to the plane on time and packing light. I'll have Victoria ship all the dresses you'll need. She's a whiz in a pinch."
She looked up from the screen, licking her naked lips.
"But why me?"
"Why not you?" he countered, liking this idea more and more.
"I'm just an assistant."
Bronson shrugged. "All the more reason. Unless you don't want to be seen with me because of your recent scandal with your previous employer." He leaned in close and whispered, "Or you have a jealous lover."
Mia's eyes widened. "...