Shall we see what happens next? Enjoy!
Hustle Into Love
* * * * *
Mace cursed himself as he walked down the narrow hallway towards Chantal’s small office. He couldn’t believe he was so nervous about talking to her. Christ, he’d stood in boardrooms filled with angry shareholders and gave speeches to them. Why did the idea of meeting with one diminutive dancer make him feel like a schoolboy again?
He’d just spent the last hour with Chóngdé and that hadn’t gone well. But it was over, and if he was lucky, he could finish doing damage control and then report back to Lì about the latest brouhaha his “special friend” had caused.
Pausing in front of the door, he took a deep breath and tried to remember what he was going to say. Damned if every time he looked into Chantal’s golden eyes he forgot everything but pulling her against him and kissing the breath out of her.
He was just about to knock when he heard Cái’s quiet voice.
“I cannot believe she hit you, Madame.” The assistant was obviously horrified. “This is not the way our women are taught to behave.”
Mace heard Chantal give a small snort of laughter. “Well, I don’t think her precious father did very well with her manners. And considering her name is supposed to mean virtuous, I’ll bet she’s a big disappointment to her parents.”
Cái turned a laugh into a polite cough, but Mace couldn’t help but chuckle. It was a pretty insult.
“What will we do if she comes back?” he heard Cái worry. “We cannot force her to leave. Her father is a very important man.”
“Like I told her, I don’t care if her daddy is God, she’s out of here if I have to pick her up and toss her out myself.”
“Call me Chantal, Cái. You don’t want me to hurt you, too.”
Mace choked back another laugh when he heard the younger man gulp audibly. “Yes, Mad…Chantal.”
Figuring this was just as good a time as any, Mace knocked lightly. He heard a frantic whisper and suddenly worried she wouldn’t let him in, he pushed open the door before he was invited in. Chantal sat at her desk in the same workout clothes she’d been wearing earlier and stared crossly at him while Cái hovered anxiously nearby.
“Well, D'Avranches,” she said, her amber eyes flashing. “I guess it’s not just your girlfriend who lacks manners. What would your mama say?”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t let me in.” He thought an honest answer might diffuse the irritation he saw on her lovely face. “And I wanted to speak to you.” Mace looked at Cái. “Do you mind?”
The younger man started to leave then stopped abruptly. He swung back around to look at Chantal. “Madame?”
Chantal heaved a heavy sigh. “Since you were smart enough to stop and ask, I’ll let the name thing go.” She crooked a finger and when Cái went back to her side, she whispered something in his ear. Mace saw the assistant’s face go white, but he slowly nodded. A moment later, they were alone.
“What did you say to him?” Mace asked curiously.
The side of her mouth turned up in a reluctant smile. “I told him if you didn’t come out of the office in ten minutes to call paramedics because you probably wouldn’t be leaving alive.”
He thought of the expression on Cái’s face. “I think he believed you.”
She lifted a golden eyebrow. “And why shouldn’t he?”
Mace lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay. I get it. You’re mad.”
“You think?” Chantal sighed again. “What do you want Mace? Are you here to rub it in that I lost my temper? That I made a fool of myself over your girlfriend? Well, save your breath. I already know that.”
Hoping that meant she was softening, he sat down on the side of her desk. “I’m not here to rub your nose in anything. In fact, I think you held your temper pretty well. Chóngdé can be pretty irritating.”
“You should know.”
Okay. So much for soft. Now it was Mace’s turn to count to ten. “Look. I’m here to apologize. She had no right to say those things to you, and she sure as hell didn’t have a right to hit you. And—”
“If you’re here to try and get your girlfriend’s job back, you can go to hell along with her,” Chantal snarled, firing up again. “If I have to call Lì I will, but I’m not have that kai por on my stage again.”
“God damn it!” Mace thundered. “I’m not here to get her job back, and that’s because you’re right. She is a bitch. But what she’s not, is my bloody girlfriend.”
Rolling her eyes, Chantal huffed out a laugh. “Right.”
More embarrassed than he’d been in a long time, he narrowed his eyes. “I’ve got no reason to lie to you. Yeah. I…slept with her a few times, but it didn’t mean anything. We were just having a good time.”
That golden eyebrow winged up again. “Looks like Chóngdé thought differently.”
He shrugged, knowing she was right. “My mistake. She’s not used to being told no, as you saw today. But she’s now heard it twice. From both you and me. She’s been told she doesn’t work at The Golden Tiger any longer. I escorted her out myself.”
Chantal sat up, surprise on her face. “You backed me over your girlfriend?”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he repeated through clenched teeth. “And I won’t be seeing her anymore after the crap she pulled today. You’re not the only one who won’t play games like that. She was completely out of line. While I may not be happy that Lì gave you so much freedom over the entertainment division, I’m not stupid. And what Chóngdé did today was way over the top.”
“My division, my rules,” Chantal shot back, bristling like a cat over his remark. “And I don’t give a damn whether you like me being here or not. Lì put me in charge, and I plan to make sure he gets everything he wanted for his casino.”
“I don’t intend to get in your way.” He’d had just about enough of her attitude. “But I think it would be helpful if we communicated a little more about what you want to do. That way I can back you when I need to. Chóngdé wasn’t the only one whose feathers you ruffled today.”
Chantal narrowed her eyes in thought. “Chin Zhao. That rat. I bet he couldn’t wait to run to you and complain. Well, that’s one strike for him.”
“That’s why I was at the practice session,” Mace offered. “I wasn’t spying and I wasn’t trying to tell you what to do. But I was curious if any of his protests were valid.”
She surprised him with a Cantonese gutter curse he hadn’t heard in years. Her eyes blazed again, and Mace wondered if he’d have burn marks when he left. Maybe he would need the paramedics.
Chantal stood abruptly, and he swore he could feel the fury radiating from her. “You want me to communicate. Fine. I’ll tell you whenever I think you should know something. I’ll make sure if I would have told Lì about it, I will tell you. But understand this, boss man. I am in charge. Period. Full stop. If you don’t like something I’m doing, fine. Tell me. But don’t expect me to follow your orders. If I agree with you, I’ll change. But if I don’t, I won’t. Got it?”
Mace pictured himself grabbing Chantal by the shoulders and shaking her until her teeth rattled. Then he pictured himself kissing her breathless. He wondered if Lì ever wanted to do the same.
That thought was like having a bucket of ice water tossed in his face. He blinked and took another deep breath. He had to count to twenty this time. “If that’s the way it has to be, okay. But, damn it, I’m responsible for this casino just like you are for the entertainment, and I don’t want to let Lì down either. So let’s try to work together, all right?”
Chantal stared at him then nodded slowly. “Sure. Fine. But do us both a favor. Stay away from my dancers from now on. That way we won’t have this problem again. Workplace relationships only cause more trouble.”
Mace blinked. Had she really said what he thought she had? “Excuse me?”
She waved her hand impatiently. “You heard me. Just make sure the next woman you sleep with isn’t someone I have to train. Working with someone you’re involved with is never a good thing.”
“You dare tell me that?” He was abruptly so angry he had trouble putting coherent words together. “You, who’s made a career out of doing that very same thing? Don’t you think you’re being fucking hypocritical?”
Chantal only stared at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
He couldn’t help himself. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard. All the anger and jealousy he’d stored up over the last ten years tumbled out of him with no warning.
“I’m talking about you and Lì, damn it.”
How's THAT for a cliff hanger. LOL Just how do you think Chantal will respond to that bit of misinformation? Will she tell him the truth or let him stew in his own jealousy? And if she does tell him about her and Li, what will Mace do?
Stay tuned and find out some of the answers on Tuesday! And don't forget to let me know what you think in the comments below. Two winners so far... Will you be next?
Hugs and see ya next week!
Follow Your Dreams