I just realized I forgot to tell you all who won December's hat pull. I'm so sorry. I was so excited about what was happening with Chantal and Mace I totally spaced that part. My bad. Anyway, check the end of the post to find the winner of December's contest. And enjoy today's installment. Let's see how Mace get's out of his latest gaffe.
Hustle Into Love
* * * * *
And she was. He had to admit that now. Everything was in place, just as she’d said it would be. As Mace stood on the casino floor surrounded by happy, chattering guests, he realized just how capable Chantal was.
There were extra staff, more seating, an abundance of food and—to Mace’s relief—all the security necessary to keep things calm and safe for the performers. The stage was set, the lighting and music ready to go and the only thing more important was the star herself.
She wasn’t a blonde bimbo whose only ability was dancing. Not that he’d ever thought that, but after he’d screwed up and ordered her not to perform, she’d let him have it between both eyes. Apparently he wasn’t the first person not to recognize the brain behind the beauty. But he really didn’t care about anyone else. The hint of pain in her eyes at his actions had floored him, but before he could apologize—again—she’d swept out of the room, her hurt feelings trailing behind her.
So all he could do was make sure everything she’d set up went according to plan. Though he did beef up the security detail a little. He knew Chantal didn’t think of herself as someone important enough to worry about, especially here in Macau, but Mace knew differently. She was a treasure. And treasures needed to be protected.
He knew part of the reason he’d overreacted to the news of her dancing was wrapped up in his concern she be safe. Just in the short time he’d actually known her—had it only been a single week since they’d met face to face?—he’d become so possessive of Chantal, even the thought of her going to the store without proper security scared the hell out of him.
She might not want him to worry about it, but he had no choice. Not anymore. Whether she liked it or not, the moment she’d surrendered herself in his arms, she’d given him the right to do so.
But he had to break through that reserve of hers first. Not only was she leery of becoming intimately involved with him, for some reason he kept making mistakes with her. He was damn tired of the taste of his foot in his mouth.
Luckily, he’d have no reason to have to talk to her about this evening. Other than a small problem at the door when they had to turn people away due to full capacity, all was going according to plan. Just as she’d said it would go.
And the two earlier shows she’d done had shown him how meticulously organized she was in her planning. Granted, it was just her doing the performing, but Mace knew very well how easily problems could pop up.
Now, as he watched her finish her latest performance, a mixture of ballet and the classical Chinese ribbon dance where long silk sleeves accentuated her hand and arm movements, he could only hope she’d let him apologize again. She hadn’t spoken a single word to him all night. Any messages, concerns or problems were sent via Cái.
He was getting to hate the sight of that young man.
“Well, now,” he heard a hearty voice say, “you pulled quite a coup d'état on the rest of us, D'Avranches. Makes me wonder what you’re going to do next.”
Mace turned to see the burly form of Shelton Aims, the owner of the Shore's Casino, one of the first built on Macau. The big American was grinning ear to ear and chomping on a fat cigar.
“Shelton. Good to see you.” He shook the man’s hand. “What do you mean, a coup?”
Shelton nodded at the stage where Chantal was whirling her long sleeves around in a whip-like motion, drawing ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd. You could hear the snapping of the fabric even where Mace stood near the bar. “Hell, boy. I’m talking about you bringing her here. First time I’ve ever seen this place full up.”
“She does have a way of drawing them in,” Mace agreed. “But she’s only here temporarily. Lì wants her to put together the entertainment portion of the casino.”
“Lì Yeung’s a smart man. She’s dynamite wrapped in a damned sexy package.”
“Look, but don’t touch, Aims.” Jealousy whirled up in Mace and showed its fangs. “She’s spoken for.”
The older man lifted a brow. “Do tell? First I’ve heard of it. Last gossip was she was footloose and fancy free after she broke it off with that Italian count.”
Mace shook his head. Was he the only one who’d misunderstood about Lì and Chantal? “Let’s just say someone has his eye on her.”
Amused eyes met his. “Oh. Got it. Someone. Now I know why she said no.”
Confused, Mace glanced at the stage where Chantal had finished taking her bows. Should he go escort her backstage or would she be okay by herself? Before he could decide, Chantal disappeared into the crowd, surrounded by a group of security men. Dragging his attention back to the man in front of him, he lifted a brow. “Say no to what?”
“Shelton! You big old bear, you!”
He jumped when Chantal appeared, and was even more surprised when she threw herself into Shelton Aims’ arms. Jealousy reared it’s ugly head, and he gave a menacing snarl, but before he could do what he wanted and rip her away from the other man, she stepped back and planted a sloppy kiss on Aim’s whiskery cheek.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. Mace noted she didn’t even look his way. “I thought you were busy tonight.”
“You know each other?” It was an unnecessary question, but it was all Mace could come up with. “You invited him here?”
Still, Chantal would look at him, and it was Shelton that answered. “Oh yeah. Little Bits and I go way back. The Shores Vegas was one of her first venues. She wowed them there and has been sexing up the stage ever since.”
“Only the best for you, darlin’,” Chantal teased.
“If that was so, you’d have waved goodbye to The Golden Tiger and come work for me at my casino.”
Mace stiffened. “You offered her a job with you?”
“Sure.” Shelton nodded agreeably. “But she’s got some silly idea about loyalty and keeping a promise.” His brown eyes twinkled. “Damn me, but she’s got more heart than she does brains.”
“Watch yourself, Aims,” Mace growled. Without thinking, he stepped protectively in front of Chantal. “Her heart and her brains are just fine! And that’s my brother she’s being loyal to, so back off.”
Stepping forward, Chantal turned and for the first time that evening, their eyes met. She stared at him curiously. “I already told Shelton no, Mace. I’m not going anywhere. You should know that.”
“I do.” Unable to help himself, he put his arm around her. “I trust you. It’s him—” he sent a damning glare Shelton’s way, “—I don’t trust.”
To Mace’s surprise, the big American burst into laughter. “So I was right. You’re the one with the eye on her.”
“Stop it.” Chantal went pink and she shrugged away from Mace’s grasp. “I choose whose eyes, hands and lips I want on me and right now, I’m thinking of going into a nunnery. You men are all idiots.”
The thought of Chantal Montgomery in a convent made both men snort with laughter. “Sorry, honey,” Mace chortled, “but I can just see you doing your prayer dance at evening vespers.”
Her eyes narrowed and flashed, and Mace suddenly remembered that the sleeves of the dress she was wearing could slice like knives if she so chose. “I’m kidding, Chantal,” he said weakly. “Just kidding.”
“I think this is where I exit, stage left,” Shelton said with a big grin. “You’re on your own, boy. Try not to screw up.”
“Thanks,” Mace muttered as the man waddled off, his big cigar puffing like a smoke stack. “Thanks, a lot.”
“So now I’m a boy’s locker room topic?”
He turned to see her hands ball into fists, and he grabbed them in a preemptive strike. “No, damn it. Not at all.”
“Then what was that about? Who do you think you are to warn him off like that?”
Now Mace could feel his temper going. “Who am I? How about the man who earlier today kissed you until your knees gave out? How about the man who wants to make love to you more than he wants to breathe?” He sucked in air to calm himself. He refused to go down that same road with her again. “How about the man who knows he overreacted this afternoon and will do just about anything to redeem himself?”
Will Mace be able to nip their disagreement in the bud? Will Chantal realize he was acting the fool because he cared? Find out on Tuesday in the next intriguing installment.
And now for the winner of December's hat pull. Again, I'm sorry for the delay in the announcement. But I let my new pet turtles, Wooster and Jeeves crawl over all the entries and pick the winner for me.
So December's winner is...
WooHoo!!! Congrats, Carrie! Email me with your snail mail addy so I can send you your special gift!
Follow Your Dreams