It's time! Let's get this FREE READ rolling again. Seriously, I can't thank you enough for your patience this last year, and I hope you'll love the rest of the story as much as you did what you've already read. So sit back, grab a cuppa and dream a little with me. Enjoy!!!!
Hustle Into Love
She was going to drive him crazy. Mace shook his head as he paced to the window. Strike that. She already had. Only Chantal could make him lose sleep. Only Chantal could cause him to drink brandy and walk the floor at three o’clock in the morning. He thought about their fight and sighed. How had things gone from soft and sweet to heat and fury so quickly? It was mind-boggling.
He gave a laughing snort. Knowing Chantal, she’d probably make the whole thing into a word of the day. Stupefying. To amaze or shock. To dull a person senses. Hell. That was pretty much what she did to him every time she walked through the door.
God, he had it bad.
A part of him knew he’s screwed up again. Said things he probably shouldn’t have said. But Chantal was so damned fearless. She didn’t know how brutal a man like Hui Sun could be. She’d go charging over there and confront him, and God knows what might happen then.
Mace swore under his breath. He was furious with himself. Sun had fooled him completely. He’d really believed the older man had backed off and called a quit to the vendetta. Lì hadn’t said so in so many words, but the disappointment in his tone when he’d told Mace who was responsible for the bomb was apparent. They might be business rivals, but Sun and Lì were also supposed to be friends, and Mace knew this had hit his brother hard.
He rubbed his eyes as he remembered Chantal’s last words. She’d pulled on his robe, leaving her own clothes strewn where he’d tossed them. Storming to the door, she turned once and it was a wonder his hair hadn’t caught fire, her gaze was so hot.
“Someday you’re going to regret treating me like that delicate statue you admire so much,” she’d snarled, referring to Lì’s amber carving, Innocence Dancing. “I’m not stupid, and I’m not as foolhardy as you might think. I might even have a good idea once in a while. If you gave me the chance. But you never will, will you Mace? Because you still think I’m an empty-headed blonde who’s all emotion and no logic.” She tossed her head angrily. “You couldn’t be more wrong, and until you admit it, I don’t want to see you anywhere near me.”
And with a slam of the door, she was gone.
As he stared at the ornately carved door now, for the first time, he admitted to himself he had been a little heavy-handed. It didn’t matter he wanted to protect her. Chantal was a part of this, whether he liked it or not and she had every right to offer opinions and be in on what might happen next.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t used to having a partner. He wasn’t used to discussions and conversations about business or personal matters. He was more comfortable making decisions and issuing orders. Like—he sighed as realization sunk in—he’d tried to do with his lover.
“And look how well that turned out,” he growled to himself. “I may have been trying to keep her safe, but I did it totally wrong. Now I’ve got to go make it right.”
Knowing he was going to have to sup on another dish of crow, Mace quickly pulled on some jeans and a dark T-shirt. If he had to humble himself, he’d at least be comfortable.
But ten minutes later he found that humbling himself was the last thing on his mind. Now he was pacing in Chantal’s suite, worried all over again.
“What the hell do you mean she isn’t here?” He glared at Eric who had obviously just awakened. The sleep crease in his cheek was a dead giveaway.
Eric yawned mightily. “Isn’t she with you? I mean, she told me to take the night off since you two were going to be together.” The man blinked as he looked out the open doorway and down the hall as if hoping Chantal would magically appear. “Have you lost her?”
Mace’s cheeks reddened. “We…had a fight. She stomped out.”
“Oh.” Eric’s eyes cleared at the news. “So maybe she went down to the office to do some work. You know how she is. If she’s upset, she had to do something.”
Mace stopped pacing. Relief filled him. “Right. Of course. She’ll be danc—” He stopped in mid-word. “No. Damn it. She was dressed in my robe. Even Chantal wouldn’t go downstairs in only a bathrobe.”
Now Eric began to look worried. “Are you sure she didn’t come back to the room?”
“I was there for over an hour nursing a brandy and my temper. She didn’t come back.”
“What about Lì? Maybe she went to cry on your brother’s shoulder.”
Embarrassment warred with concern. But Mace would take being humiliated that she’d gone to Lì if it meant she was there and safe. Immediately, he went to the phone and dialed his brother’s number.
His brother’s sleepy voice made Mace’s heart sink. If Lì was sleeping, would Chantal be there? “Brother, I’m sorry to bother you, but is Chantal with you?”
Lì’s voice was immediately alert. “No. I have not seen her since dinner. What has happened?”
Mace shook his head, real fear beginning to gnaw at him. “I’m not sure. We had a disagreement—” he ignored Eric’s amused snort, “—and she walked out. But when I came down to talk to her, she wasn’t in her room, and Eric hasn’t seen her.”
Lì immediately took charge. Mace heard him throw his covers back and the speakerphone engage. “Call security and have them search for her. Chantal is too intelligent to go out without her security guard. Especially now with all that has gone on.”
Guilt struck Mace at his brother’s words. Lì was right. Chantal was smart. Why was it that he kept underestimating her? Why didn’t he realize what an amazing woman he was in love with? Forcibly, he pushed that aside. Right now he had more important things to deal with.
What had happened to Chantal?
* * * * *
Chantal came suddenly awake, her head throbbing, her mouth dry and parched. Her eyes felt like they’d been rubbed with sandpaper, and her throat burned like fire. She tried to move and was assailed by a wave of nausea so bad she had to take several deep breaths just to keep from throwing up.
After that had passed, she forced herself to slowly open her eyes. She stared around her, confused. It was dark and things were blurry and out of focus. Had she fallen? Struck her head? She squeezed her eyes tight shut and opened them again.
Where was Mace?
Abruptly, she recalled the night. The sweetness of the loving, the suddenness of the fight and her storming out. The anger she felt at his attitude, and the worry he’d never be able to accept her as she was. It was infuriating to love a man like that.
Then another memory registered. A long, pitch-black hallway. A shadowy figure outside her room. Her heart pounded as the rest of her memories flooded back. The struggle, where she was so easily overcome, a quick prick of a needle followed by the touch of fingers against the pressure point on her neck. Then her limbs turning weak. And finally…nothing.
“Oh, God,” she whispered as realization swept through her. “I’ve been kidnapped.”
Terror choked her. It wasn’t the first attempt to take her, but it was the only one to succeed. Usually Eric protected her, and no one had been able to get anywhere close. But in her rash hurry to get away from Mace, she hadn’t given thought to letting her bodyguard know she was coming. She’d gotten cocky, but who would have thought she wouldn’t be safe in the private suites of Lì’s hotel?
Her head cleared somewhat. “Whoever it was must have known where he was going,” she mused aloud. “So he works there or has in the past. Boy, Mace will be pissed when he finds out someone got past his security.”
“Mace.” Her lips trembled over his name. How long had she been unconscious? Did he know she was gone? Was he still cursing her stubbornness or was he looking for her? He’d be so worried and would feel like it was his fault. If they hadn’t gotten into the fight, she’d still be with him and the kidnappers wouldn’t have had the opportunity to snatch her.
“I guess that is the truth, but it’s just as much my fault as it is his. Damn my temper.” Chantal tried to sit up but went crashing back down, scraping her cheek in the process. She bit back a scream of pain when she realized she was bound hand and foot. Frantically, she fought against the rough ropes, but to no avail. Where was she? Who had taken her?
Hui Sun. It had to be. Chantal wanted to scream and curse, but she knew it wouldn’t help. The Chinese would look down on her even more for her loss of face. And she wouldn’t give her enemy any more ammunition to use against her.
But what was his plan? Ransom? She tossed that thought out. Hui Sun had enough money. He didn’t need to ransom her to get more.
Was he trying to get her out of the way so Chóngdé and Mace could get back together? She shook her head. If that was so, he was out of luck. Chóngdé would have as much luck getting Mace back in her bed as the Moulin Rouge would have opening a theatre in straitlaced, mainland China.
Revenge? Had Hui blown up the casino to draw Lì home so he could hurt him by taking Chantal? Or was the older businessman getting revenge on Mace for outsmarting him and keeping The Golden Tiger open after Sun had done everything he could to put it out of business?
It all seemed a bit extreme.
But here she was…kidnapped, drugged, tied up and locked in a dark room. What else could it be?
A stray tear made it’s way down her cheek, and impatiently, she brushed it away. It wouldn’t do her any good to start crying. What she needed was a plan to escape.
She started with the ropes on her wrists. She couldn’t reach them with her hands, so she used her strong teeth. But her bindings were thick and stiff with age and tasted of creosote and tar. It made Chantal uneasy. She knew those things were used in the docks and shipyards. If that’s where she was being held, it didn’t bode well.
Two hours later, her jaw ached, and she was sure she’d loosened a few teeth trying to rip through the stubborn rope, yet only a few strands had parted. She was exhausted, nauseous and heart-sick, and she wanted Mace’s arms around her with all that she was.
“I promise,” she vowed aloud, “I will never lose my temper with you again, Mace. Please, just come find me. I want to go home.”
“And that,” answered a soft, silky voice, “is the one place you will never see again.”
Oh, oh, I think things just went from bad to worse. What has happened to our heroine??? As in the best serials, stay tuned until next time to find out! LOL
Hugs and see you on Thursday,