Well? Whatcha think? If Hui Sun isn't involved, could it be his darling daughter? What do you think is going to happen now. Grab some Sangria and let's find out! Enjoy!!!
Hustle Into Love
“Well.” Chantal stared at the woman in front of her and wished with all that was in her, her instincts hadn’t been so keen. Even though all the evidence had pointed to the father, she’d just known Chóngdé Sun had something to do with the whole mess. God, she hated it when she was right. “It is you. I can’t say I’m surprised, though I didn’t think even you had the guts to do something so stupid.”
“Be silent!” Chóngdé’s dark eyes flashed with wrath. “I am smarter, more beautiful and much more talented than you. Once you are gone all will see that. I will be the headliner at The Golden Tiger. All will come to see me dance." She toasted herself with the bubbling glass of champagne she carried. "I will be famous and all will bow at my feet. I will travel the world and impress everyone. No one will even miss you.”
Chantal blinked in surprise. Wow. It was worse than she’d thought. Chóngdé had gone over the edge. The Asian woman was truly living in a fantasy world if she believed all that. Then her stomach flipped over. Once you are gone… Just what the hell did Chóngdé mean by that?
“You come here with your western ways,” raged Chóngdé, “wearing suggestive clothes and flirting with all the men. They are all fools. They cannot see past your seductive looks and half-spoken promises. They do not see all you do is lie. You have bewitched them. It is the only explanation for Mace choosing you over someone like me.”
“Yeah.” Chantal fought not to roll her eyes in disbelief. She looked down at the sloppy bathrobe she’d grabbed from Mace’s room when she’d stomped out. This was sexy? “I’m a big charmer, I am. I wow them all over the world. Got hundreds…no thousands of men in my clutches. You should see the list.”
“Do not mock me!” Chóngdé screamed. “Mace loved me before you came. He will love me again once I get rid of you. I have it all planned. My father will be proud of me for winning back such a man’s affection.”
The uneasy feeling grew stronger. Too late Chantal realized baiting the other woman probably wasn’t the smartest idea. The knowledge Chóngdé was planning to get rid of her was like a blow to the stomach. She eased back a little and tried to speak soothingly. “All right. Let’s say you’re right. So what’s your plan then? I’m still too visible. It would be in all the news. You can’t get rid of me without the whole world clamoring to find out what happened.”
Chóngdé’s face turned crafty. “Yes. It is true many believe you are more important than you truly are. I have taken this into account. I could kill you where you stand,” she went on, making Chantal’s blood run cold, “but as much as I would love to do so, it would bring too much attention to myself and my father. So I have arranged another way to deal with you.”
Chantal fought back more fear. Chóngdé was a little too assured for her taste. “And just how do you plan to do that?”
The Asian woman smiled, making Chantal think of an exotic Cheshire Cat. “You, Chantal Montgomery, are simply going to disappear.”
“Disappear?” Chantal shook her head, trying frantically to talk sense into Chóngdé. “You aren’t thinking straight. Remember who I am. I can’t just up and disappear. Everyone knows what I look like. I’ll be recognized. And Mace and Lì will never stop looking for me. They’ll hunt down every sighting until they find me. Give it up, Chóngdé. It won’t work.”
Chóngdé laughed. “You think so much of yourself. But I know the truth. How do you Westerner’s put it? Out of the sight, out of the mind? Mace will look for a while, but after all he is a man. Once he has someone new in his bed—me—he will forget you quickly enough.”
The thought of Mace and Chóngdé made Chantal want to scratch the other woman’s eyes out. She held herself back with an effort. “You really are crazy. He loves me, Chóngdé. He won’t forget me.”
“I will make him forget you!” Chóngdé snarled, “and,” her pink lips turned up in a smug smile, “since you’ll be writing him a note telling him you are leaving forever, he will not even look for you.”
Chantal’s mouth dropped open. “Excuse me, but I won’t be writing any note to anyone.”
“No—” Chóngdé shrugged, “—you will not, but I know someone who will. Someone talented enough who will copy your handwriting perfectly. They will write it for you.”
Suddenly the whole business took a more sinister turn. Maybe Chóngdé wasn’t as stupid as Chantal thought. It looked as if she really did have a plan. She certainly had thought a lot of things through. All except Mace forgetting his lover. Chantal knew in her heart he would never stop looking, note or not. And Lì…Lì would be right there beside him.
But Chóngdé would never believe that. In her experience women had no value to men except for what they could do for them, whether it be warm their beds, give them a son or do their laundry. Chóngdé didn’t understand about the connection a man and woman could make that went far beyond what could be seen. Mace and Chantal had been destined for each other. They were soulmates in every sense of the word. But Chóngdé had never experienced that type of love. And she probably never would. It made Chantal almost feel sorry for her.
Until she felt the painful ropes around her wrists. Then she didn’t feel a bit sorry anymore.
“And just how,” she said now, “will you accomplish getting rid of me with no one the wiser?”
Chóngdé looked briefly disconcerted as she struggled to comprehend the idiom. But then her eyes narrowed. “While I do not see your value, I know of many men who think the great Chantal is a treasure worth everything they own. So I plan to capitalize on that stupidity.”
Chantal swallowed. If she was scared before, there was something about the utter ruthlessness of Chóngdé’s voice that made her mouth go even drier. “I don’t understand.”
“I have friends.” Chóngdé’s smile turned sly. “Useful friends who I have worked with in the past. They will take care of you for me. Soon you will be no more than a bad memory.”
She needed to learn more. Chantal stared up at her captor and thought quickly. The woman spoke rashly when she was angry. Maybe if Chantal provoked her, Chóngdé would let something else slip. “I don’t care how useful your friends are. They can’t hide me forever. I’m famous. Note or no note, I’ll be missed. You’re being ridiculous again, Chóngdé. Give it up and let me go.”
“Kai por,” hissed the Asian woman. “I am much smarter than you. Than any man. You do not know what I can do. What I have done.”
“Right,” Chantal drawled. A little more and she’d have her. The woman really did have a hair-trigger temper. “You’re so important you have to hide behind your daddy’s coattails to do anything. Give me a break. I bet you’ve never done a thing without his permission.”
“That is a lie!” The shout rocked the small room as Chantal got her wish and Chóngdé’s uncertain temper gave way. “My father,” the woman spat, “thinks I am a stupid female. That I am helpless. But I have built an entire organization right under his nose and he knows nothing. My friends and I make thousands of American dollars and he doesn’t even see it.”
“Sure.” Chantal fanned the fire a little more. “What do you do? Sell Girl Scout cookies? Maybe Tupperware?” She snorted. “Yeah, a criminal enterprise like that would shock your poor daddy.”
The blow to the cheek took her by surprise, but she counted it as necessary when Chóngdé’s anger exploded and the truth came pouring out.
“You too underestimate me,” the woman screamed. “I am not a silly female. I am the boss. Do you understand? I am in charge of everything!”
“In charge of what?” Chantal made her words sound disbelieving. “I’m all a flutter, so impress me.”
In answer, Chóngdé growled out a furious word. Slamming the unfortunate champagne glass down on a nearby table, she strode over to a large door across the room. The latch on the outside was three inches wide and over two feet long. It was made of a heavy looking metal, and Chantal wondered briefly if the other woman was smuggling drugs or liquor or some such thing so valuable it needed to be locked away. Her silent question was answered when, after unlocking the big padlock, with an ear-piercing squeak of the hinges, Chóngdé pulled open the big door.
In the gloom of the room, it was at first hard to make anything out. All she could see were what looked like piles of clothing strewn around the small space. Slowly, her eyes became accustomed to the low light. But her mind refused to believe what it was seeing. Until one of the piles of clothing moved.
It was then the very marrow of Chantal’s bones froze in horror. Chóngdé wasn’t smuggling drugs, liquor or even guns. She wasn’t indulging in the contemptible act of selling endangered exotic animals. The woman was doing something even more despicable.
Chóngdé was trafficking in human beings.
Oh wow. That came out of the blue. I expected something totally different. I love it when my characters surprise me! But since human slavery is one of the most unrecognized and horrible kind of smuggling, I think my characters decided to bring it to your attention.
What will Chantal do to get herself out of this mess? Will Mace be able to save her in time? Find out by reading each week!
Hugs and see you on Thursday!