Will Chantal forgive Mace's latest gaffe? I certainly hope so. But I sometimes wonder if they'll ever get it right. Let's see what happens in today's installment!
Hustle Into Love
Chantal stared up into Mace’s frustrated face. Damn. He was apologizing. And she wasn’t ready for him to do that yet. She was enjoying being mad too much.
Though it wasn’t just anger she was feeling. That had come later…after she’d chewed on the other emotion she’d experienced. Hurt. Mace had really hurt her by thinking she wasn’t bright enough to consider all the details of her being the headliner tonight.
She was right in holding him off about going to bed together. It was obvious her belief he didn’t really know her was right on target. He thought she was stupid and flighty. He had no idea she was the one who not only danced her shows, but designed and produced most of them herself. She’d wanted to belt him again, but instead she’d settled for snarling at him, letting him know the color of her hair did not equate to a low IQ.
But fueling the fury had been the hurt that he couldn’t see past her face and figure. She’d thought she’d had him pegged wrong. That he did know more about her than she’d imagined. Realizing she had been right all along was a bitter pill to swallow.
But when Cái told her about the extra security people Mace had quietly added, she couldn’t help but melt a little. Mace was worried about her, and she wasn’t sure exactly how to take that. Lì and those close friends in her entourage were the only ones who’d ever cared in the past, so having someone else added to the mix—especially someone like Mace—was a little overwhelming.
And now here he was, looking down at her with those big dark eyes, and wanting her forgiveness for his stupidity. She knew she’d give it. She’d already forgiven him. But she wasn’t about to let him off the hook so easily. So she jerked her hands away and balled them on her hips.
“You think you overreacted,” she said, cocking her head. “How?”
“I shouldn’t have gone off like that.” Mace’s jaw tightened. “I know you’re very capable of taking care of business.”
She narrowed her eyes. He wasn’t nearly apologetic enough. “If I’m so capable, why did you treat me like a blank-eyed bimbo?”
He went red and stuck his hands in his pockets. He even shuffled his feet. Chantal bit back a laugh. He looked like a very naughty six year old who’d been caught sneaking a cookie before dinner.
“I’ve never thought of you as a bimbo, blank-eyed or otherwise,” he muttered. “And I don’t think you’re stupid. That’s not why I did what I did.”
“Then—” she tapped her foot pointedly, “—why were you such an ass about it?”
Immediately the six year old was gone, and in his place was a frustrated angry man. “For the same reason I just about threw Sheldon Aims out of the casino. I was trying to protect you.”
It really wasn’t fair that both Mace’s anger and his charm made her want to toss aside her doubts and let him kiss her into oblivion. Men like him should have warning labels. Caution: Involvement with this man will lead to brain freeze and wet panties.
“Damn it, Chantal,” he growled. “I’m sorry. I was worried about security, but I should have known you’d be aware, too. And you’d take care of it. But all I could think of was you being grabbed by some jerk in the audience. And since I don’t want anyone but me touching you, I handled it poorly.”
“Poorly?” She stifled the sigh she wanted to utter at his obvious worry about her and concentrated instead on his claim of ownership. “I’d say you handled it very poorly, especially since I’m the one who says who gets to touch me.”
Mace’s eyes flashed, even in the low light of the casino. “Are you saying you wanted Sheldon Aims’ hands on you?”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” She rolled her eyes. “Sheldon and I are friends. I’ve known him almost as long as I’ve known Lì. There’s nothing romantic between us. But—” she poked Mace’s broad chest, “—if I wanted his hands on me, you’d have no say in it.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer. “But I want to have a say in it. Or doesn’t what we shared earlier matter to you at all?”
“Of course it mattered to me.” Suddenly things had gotten heavier than she’d expected. She searched his angry face. “Are you asking me for some kind of commitment? Right here in the middle of the casino?”
“A commitment isn’t quite the right word.” His cheeks reddened again. “But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me to see you in Sheldon’s arms. It bothered the hell out of me.”
She couldn’t stop the melty feeling this time. “Sheldon’s a friend, Mace. Nothing more.”
“But he tried to poach you.”
Laughing, Chantal shook her head. “That was business. And an excuse for lunch. He knew I wouldn’t leave The Golden Tiger. He knows how much I love Lì.”
“So, he was just—”
“—messing with you when he said all that.” She nodded. “He’s got a weird sense of humor, my Big Bear does.”
Mace grumbled something under his breath about how bears should stay in the woods where they belong. Then he sighed and squeezed her hand. “I am really sorry I overreacted. I only wanted to know you were safe.”
“And that—” she moved into his arms to give him a hug, “—is why I’m forgiving you. Because even though you were a wrong, you were wrong for the right reasons.”
He snorted out a laugh. “I think I understand your logic.”
She pulled away again, but he held onto her hands, so she just wrinkled her nose at him. “I was really looking forward to being mad at you longer.”
“Does that mean it’s my turn to say sorry?”
She couldn’t help the smile. “So, now we’re all made up. I wonder how long it will take for us to get into our next fight.”
His eyes narrowed. “And what makes you think we’ll fight again?”
“Hello?” She rolled her eyes again. “Man. Woman. Stubborn. Need I say more?”
Mace lifted a dark eyebrow. “You may have a point.”
“If we’d met back in the beginning, we’d have hashed all this tiresome, unimportant stuff out already,” she teased. “And we’d be friends already.”
“Honey,” he dropped a kiss on her smiling lips, “we are friends.”
“Just not with benefits.”
He grinned lasciviously. “Not yet.”
“Mace,” her gaze met his, “did it ever occur to you that Lì might have put this all together—you running the casino and me working the entertainment—just so we could finally meet?”
Mace stilled and his eyes narrowed. “Yes,” he said slowly, “once I knew you weren’t a couple, I considered it. After all, it never made sense to me he’d up and leave when there was still so much to do here.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I couldn’t understand why he’d have me come to do this major overhaul and then go on vacation.”
“I’ll bet forcing us to meet was his plan all along.”
“You think he knew once we’d met—” she blushed, “—we’d get involved?”
“My brother is an intelligent man.” He grinned down at Chantal. “Maybe he knew more than we thought.”
She giggled. “Maybe we weren’t as good at hiding what we felt about each other as we hoped we were.”
“I’d put a wager on it.” Mace nodded. “And damn it, he probably knew all along I was attracted to you, so he thought up this little scheme to see if something would happen.”
“I should be angry with him,” Chantal sighed, “—but—”
“—but it’s hard to be angry with someone who might have done you the biggest favor of your life.”
She stared up at him, unaware her heart was in her eyes. “Is that what you think, Mace?”
He lifted her hand to his lips. “Sweetheart, I think I owe Lì a hell of a lot more than a simple thank you.”
“Well…isn’t this cozy.”
They both stiffened, and when Mace looked over Chantal’s shoulder he almost groaned aloud. He’d been so intent on making Chantal understand his feelings he hadn’t even noticed they had company.
Chóngdé and her father, Hui Sun stood right behind them.
Oh boy...this isn't good. I wondered if Chóngdé would dare show her face again and she did. And she brought reinforcements. This should be very interesting.
Hey... (shameless bit of promotion) don't forget to pick up my latest book. Second Chances III: Life's A Dance is out from Aspen Mountain and is a wonderful story about a second chance at love. And Check it out HERE.
And I'll be back on Thursday with the next installment. Make sure you let me know what you think!!!!
Follow Your Dreams