You ready to see Mace's response? I have to say when I wrote this scene I expected something different, but as usual my characters surprised me. Let's see if they surprised you...
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Hustle Into Love
Mace couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. The statement was so ridiculous he couldn’t believe she’d even said it. “Not sleeping with him? Please, honey. Everyone knows you and Lì have been lovers for years. Christ, you probably started the night he dragged you out of that two-bit club in Vegas.”
He blocked the fist that nearly took off his aristocratic nose, but missed the one she’d aimed at his gut. His breath shot out of him with a strangled whoosh, but he grabbed her wrist before she was able to hit him again.
“I told you,” he gritted out, “not to do that again.”
“You think I’m going to listen to a no-good-rat-idiot with illusions of grandeur?” Chantal raged. “I don’t care if you’re Lì’s brother or not, you have no right to say that to me.”
Rubbing his stomach with one hand, he pushed her away with the other. “Knock it off. I’m sorry you’re angry, but lying and saying you and Lì aren’t a couple is just stupid.”
Incredibly, he saw hurt in her eyes. She shook her head. “Why do you hate me so much? You’ve been on my case since I got here. Even if Lì and I were together—which we aren’t—you’re treating me like the enemy.”
“Not the enemy,” he corrected, ignoring the guilt curling in his gut. She was playing him and doing a damn fine job. “But, damn it. Seeing you lead Lì around by his dick for the last ten years has made me angry.”
Her mouth fell open. “I beg your pardon? You think I lead your brother around by his…dick?”
The word sounded incongruous coming from Chantal’s cupid-bow mouth. “Hey. It’s pretty fucking obvious. He paid for you to get where you are, he’s never misses a major performance that I know of, and he doesn’t do anything when you cheat on him. He just smiles and continues on with your relationship. And it’s easy to see it’s your way or the highway. You do what you want, when you want. That tells me you’ve got him by the short hairs, honey. And you’re right. I have hated you for that.”
“You think I’ve cheated on Lì,” she echoed. “You really believe I boss your brother around.” The look in her eyes had gone from pain to confusion to fury again. “And you think he’s not man enough to stop me from doing it.”
Mace’s temper flared. “Lì’s the best man I know. But when it comes to you, he’s a bloody idiot.”
“Then it’s genetic,” she snarled, her eyes going to molten fire. “You’re an idiot, too. An even bigger one because you are so damn wrong about this.”
“You still singing that song?” he scoffed. “Why? Having a sugar daddy is an American custom, isn’t it? I’ll bet when Lì walked in that club you thought your ship had come in.”
“You know, when I told Lì he should try and get to know you, I had no idea you were such a stuck up, arrogant prig.” Chantal clenched her fists again and without thinking he braced himself. She had a damned good right hook. “Maybe that’s why he hasn’t told you the truth.”
“The truth?” Mace shook his head. “What truth is that, baby? I know everything there is to know about you. Once I saw how you’d latched onto my brother I made it my business.” He kept the fact he’d been interested in her to himself.
“You’re serious.” Her mouth fell open again. “You investigated me? Why?”
“He’s my brother,” he said simply. “And I love him.”
To his surprise, all the anger drained out of her face. She just stared at him, her eyes narrowed. After a long moment, she sat back on her desk. “And that’s the only reason I’m not knocking you into next week. I think you really do.”
Suddenly her words from before popped into his mind. “What do you mean you told Lì he should get to know me? What did you have to do with it?”
She shrugged and a faint touch of pink brushed her cheeks. “He was lonely and he often spoke of you. I nagged him into visiting.” She shrugged again. “Lì needed his family.”
He had her to thank for Lì taking that step to build a relationship? It had meant so much to Mace and to their mother. Warmth touched his heart. Damn it, she was doing it again. Making him like her. It was bad enough to lust after her, but liking her was even more dangerous. He put her generous action out of his mind with an effort. “Are you sure it wasn’t something else?”
Chantal frowned. “Like what?”
Mace crossed his arms. “Lì’s a wealthy man, but the D'Avranches are even richer. If you got him to connect with my family...”
She stood abruptly and he saw that the anger was back, but this time it was mixed with shock and a pain that was palatable. “You think I’d do that? Go to all the trouble to bring you and Lì together just so he'd get more money. Because somehow in the end, I'd benefit?”
Mace knew in a heartbeat whatever he might think about Chantal, he’d missed the mark on this one. No one was that good an actress. Doing that had never occurred to her. “No. Damn it to hell. I’m sorry. That was a filthy thing to say.” He pushed his hand through his long hair. “Look. Let’s just forget this, all right? I’m sorry I brought you and Lì up. It’s not my business.”
“You really do hate me.”
More guilt shot through him. She looked like someone had stolen her favorite dancing shoes. “I don’t hate you. Not really. I just hate the idea of you and Lì together. It pisses me off.”
“Have you ever asked him about me? About us?” Chantal looked up at him with swimming golden eyes.
“I said it’s none of my business,” he muttered, not wanting to admit he’d steered every conversation as far away from Chantal Montgomery as he could. It was the only way he could make it through a night with his brother some times. As it was, he often had to go home and take a cold shower whenever Lì had waxed eloquent about something his “dear friend” had done.
Her lips narrowed. “If you haven’t talked to him, this ‘truth’ you think you know? Where did you get it? The tabloids? Because there’s no way your investigators could have told you Lì and I were lovers.”
Mace frowned. She was right. None of the investigators he’d hired had come back with those specifics, but then he hadn’t hired the kind that peeped into windows either. “Come on, Chantal. I said let it go.”
“You don’t even know your brother, do you?”
That pissed him off anew. “I know him a hell of a lot better than you do.”
She shook her head and he was taken aback by the serious look in her eyes. It was as if she was coming to a decision, because after a couple of moments, she sighed. “Mace. I’m going to say this one more time. Lì and I aren’t lovers. He’s my best friend on the planet, but…he doesn’t think of me that way.”
“Damn it.” Mace was abruptly furious. “Anyone with a heartbeat would think of you that way.” When her eyebrow winged up, he realized exactly what he’d said. Red touched his cheeks. She had him saying things best left unsaid.
“Thank you. I think.” She sighed again. “Mace, you know where Lì is right now, right? On some sort of sabbatical with…a friend?”
Now it was his mouth that dropped open. “You know about that?”
“Of course I know,” she answered. “He didn’t keep it a secret.”
“I don’t understand.” Mace stared at her. “You know he’s cheating on you and you don’t care? Do you have some sort of open relationship or something? Is that why he doesn’t care if you sleep with someone else…because he does, too?” Immediately, he shook his head. “No way. I don’t believe that. Lì wouldn’t do something so despicable.”
“Maybe you do know him,” Chantal murmured.
“I’m sorry, honey.” He touched her arm. “I know it’s got to hurt he’s with another woman.”
He frowned at her. “He’s not what?”
She sighed again and bit her lip. “He’s not with another woman, Mace. Damn it. He should be the one to tell you. Not me.”
Confusion was fast approaching. “Tell me what?”
She rubbed her forehead and took a deep breath. “He’s…he’s with a man.”
Mace just stared at her. “A man.”
Nodding, she searched his eyes. “Yes. Someone he cares about very much, and has for years. But you know how difficult it is in his culture—for his generation especially—to admit such a thing. So they often go away together.”
There were so many thoughts tumbling around in Mace’s head, he couldn’t even think. He understood immediately what she was trying to say and for the life of him, he didn’t see a reason why she’d lie about something like that. It wouldn’t do anything for her. Get her anything or protect her in any way. So…if it were true…
It wasn’t that he had problems with the lifestyle overall. Hell, he had a few mates back in London who’d come out of the closet, and he’d stayed friends with them. But…his own brother? Knowing everything he knew about Lì, he was having trouble believing any of it. “You’re telling me my brother is gay?”
Chantal pursed her lips. “I’m not saying anything other than what I said at the beginning. If you want to know more, you’ll have to ask him. But Lì and I aren’t lovers and never have been. And this is one of the reasons for it.”
“If he’s gay,” Mace went on, not even hearing her, “that means you aren’t sleeping together.”
She rolled her eyes. Well, duh. I’ve only told you that a dozen times.”
Abruptly, he realized that if that were true, most of the thoughts he’d been harboring about Chantal over the years were wrong. She hadn’t used his big brother and she wasn’t a mercenary bitch he had to keep from stealing the family jewels. His resentment, anger, jealousy and pain whenever he’d hear about her from Lì or his mother was unwarranted and unnecessary. And if all those emotions were unnecessary, then that meant…
With one stride he was next to her, and her eyes widened when he grabbed her upper arms and pulled her against him. At the feel of her, everything inside him went hard and hot. His heart pounded and his cock stiffened painfully. Finally, his body shouted. Finally she was in his arms where she should be.
Ignoring their earlier argument, the news his brother was gay and the idea she might not want anything to do with him, Mace did what he’d been longing to do since he first saw her shake her stuff at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
He kissed her.
Well, look at that. Another cliffhanger. What a naughty girl I am. *grin* But what Mace did is even naughtier. I wonder just what Chantal will do now? Punch him again or give him a kiss that will set his hair to smoking? We'll find out on Tuesday!
Hugs to all and have a wonderful weekend,
Follow Your Dreams