We're coming down to the wire. Let's find out what happens now! Enjoy!!!
Hustle Into Love
It took less than an hour to rescue brave Deshi and the others and make their way out to the upper deck. On the way upstairs they were passed several times by groups of police as they swarmed over the ship, gathering prisoners as they went.
The dead were marked for collection later.
Once he had Chantal and the rest of his little band on the top deck, Mace breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time he relaxed. It was really over.
He gazed around at the men being herded off the ship. Between Hui Sun’s men—who had disappeared as if they had never been, Sun along with them—and Mace’s people, Chóngdé’s crew of sailors had taken a hard hit. There were almost as many body bags as there were live prisoners.
Little Deshi and the other kidnap victims were being cared for by the authorities, but seeing how his lady’s gaze kept straying to the little boy, and his to hers, Mace made a special note to make sure the child was well cared for. Chantal had whispered her promise that she’d get the tot home to his family and Mace was determined to do just that.
Lì and Eric stood with Dong Fu, the head of the special task force on human trafficking in Macau, and Mace knew his brother was explaining what had happened to Chantal, as well as Hui Sun’s actions with his daughter. By the look on the man’s face, Fu knew he had a tiger by the tail. If he handled this correctly, it would make his career. But if he pushed too hard and Hui Sun pushed back…well…
It could just as easily be Dong Fu’s career.
Just then, Lì turned and met his brother’s eyes. He smiled and lifting a brow, nodded towards Chantal. Mace frowned, not understanding at first, but suddenly it hit him. His hand went to his pants pocket then he grinned.
He had another promise to keep. And this was the perfect time to do it. He knew his lady always enjoyed an audience. Turning swiftly to the woman he loved, he brought everything on the deck to a standstill when he dropped to one knee before her. Chantal’s eyes went impossibly wide.
“I made a promise to myself,” he interrupted hoarsely, aware that both Eric and Lì were smiling and elbowing each other. “And even though this may not be the quietest or most romantic place I could have chosen, I’ll be damned if I put it off.”
Chantal’s hands trembled as he intertwined their fingers. “Oh, Mace.”
He pressed a kiss to her dirty and torn knuckles. “I love you, Chantal. With every breath I take, with everything that’s in me. I almost lost you today, and I was terrified I’d never get a chance to tell you how much you mean to me. I’ve already wasted ten years I could have been loving you, but I’m not going to waste another minute.”
He met her tear-filled gaze as he willed her to understand all that was in his heart. “I want to be with you forever, honey. Go to sleep with you in my arms, make love to you all night. Wake you with coffee in the morning and scrub your back in the shower.”
Chantal’s cheeks turned crimson as she glanced at the raptly listening crowd around them. “Mace, really.”
He laughed, utter joy filling his soul. “That’s not all, you know. I want to take you to your dancing gigs and watch you stun your audience. I’ll be in the front row at every performance you ever do, and no one will ever be more proud of you.”
He watched as she lost the struggle with tears. “And…and will you dance with me,” she whispered. “For the rest of our lives, will I be the only one?”
Knowing fully what she meant, he rose and ignoring the pain in his ribs, sent her into a quick spin before pulling her back against his chest. His lips stopped a breath away from hers. “The only one,” he vowed. “Beyond eternity and always.”
“Then ask me, Mace.” Happiness turned her eyes to minted gold. “Just ask me.”
He grinned down at her, and reaching into his pocket, pulled out the ring stored there. He flipped it open, enjoying her gasp of surprise when the big yellow diamond flashed in the sun. The crowd murmured their admiration, but he ignored them.
For a brief moment, his thoughts winged back to his grandmother and their talk in the garden so many years ago. “You were right, Grandmum,” he murmured to himself, as he looked lovingly at Chantal’s beautiful face, “about finding the right person. I did know as soon as I saw her.”
Bending, he pressed a soft kiss to his lover’s cupid bow lips. Aloud, he went on. “I was once told that love is a very special gift. One I should open carefully and treasure always.” Slowly, he slipped the ring on Chantal’s finger. “I think I’ve found that gift in you, Chantal. So I want my future to be with you, if you’ll have me.” He took a deep breath and then asked the question that would change his life forever.
“Will you marry me?”
There was so hesitation, no pause for dramatic license. This time Chantal wasn’t playing to an audience. He knew her attention was on him and him alone. Her eyes overflowing with tears, she leapt into his arms with a squeal of joy. “Yes! Oh, yes, I’ll marry you.”
The crowd burst into applause and knowing the gift he’d been given was truly priceless, Mace cupped Chantal’s face in his hands, and with all the love in his heart, he sealed their promise to each other with a kiss.
* * * * *
“I can’t decide,” Chantal murmured several hours later. The crackle of the fire blended with the soft music of Chinese flutes on the stereo. She squirmed against Mace’s naked body and let out an almost cat-like purr of contentment.
Mace chuckled and ran a hand down her silky hair. “What do you have to decide?”
“What I like more,” she answered. “Being clean or being warm and safe.”
“Decisions, decisions.” Her lover shook his head. “So very difficult.”
She rolled over and crossed her arms over his chest. “It is, you know. I didn’t realize how horrible it could be, and I was only in that filthy hold for a few hours.”
“More like a day and a half.” Mace wrapped one of her curls around his finger and tugged gently. “The longest thirty-six hours in my life.”
“For me, too.” Chantal snuggled closer. “You were like a real knight in shining armor coming to rescue the fair maiden.”
Mace snorted out a laugh. “I don’t know about being a knight, but I do know I wasn’t going to leave without you. I love you, Chantal. So much it hurts sometimes. Knowing you were in danger almost killed me.”
Her heart melted right down to her bare toes. “Oh, Mace. When I saw you standing there, I knew all was right with my world. And when I saw what had happened to you I wanted to beat up Chóngdé all over again.”
He bent and kissed her. “Don’t worry about Chóngdé. She’ll get what’s coming to her and more.”
Chantal couldn’t help a shudder. “Hui Sun looked so cold. But I could see pain, too. She hurt him, Mace. What she did hurt her father.”
“I have a very difficult time feeling sorry for either one of them,” Mace growled. “Sun’s not much better than his daughter. I saw what he did to some of the men who betrayed him. Save your sympathy for those who deserve it.”
“Like the people we saved.” She sighed as she thought of little Deshi. He and the other refuges were now sleeping peacefully in some of The Golden Tiger’s best rooms. “I was so scared I’d never see you again, but now I know the fear was worth it. We stopped her. She’ll never hurt anyone else again.”
“Hopefully it will put a big dent in the human trafficking going out of Macau.” Rolling over to his side, Mace tucked Chantal beneath him. “The leader of the human trafficking task force, Dong Fu? He told Lì not only was Chóngdé’s operation destroyed, several of her sailors are ready to trade what they know about other traffickers in exchange for their lives.”
Chantal’s heart twinged. “But it will never stop, will it?”
Mace shook his head. “Not until there is a worldwide outcry against the practice. There are many countries already on board, but many others don’t understand or are afraid to make waves. Until all agree what a monstrous activity human trafficking is, those who peddle in human flesh will just keep going.”
They were silent for several minutes before Chantal finally stirred. “We shouldn’t be sad. We did a good thing. And we’ll keep on fighting. Both here and wherever we are. We won’t give up.”
“That’s right, honey.” Mace smiled down at her. “People will listen to the Amber Princess.”
“I’ll tell my story.” She shuddered again at the memory of the men she’d killed. “Then maybe what I went through will mean something.”
As if he knew her thoughts, Mace caressed her lips with his own. “I’m here, love,” he whispered. “And I always will be. You’re free and safe, so let it go for now.”
Chantal closed her eyes and shook off the last remaining bit of lurking fear. Mace was right. She was safe and with him. They were going to be married.
“So give me something else to think about,” she invited. Boldly, she reached down and took his cock in her hand. It twitched once and then quickly swelled. She giggled at his muttered swear word.
“You have magic hands.” Mace put his hand over hers and helped her find the rhythm to stroke him.
“So do you.”
“You mean like this?” He put action to words and slipped his fingers between her legs. They teased at her clit with unerring ease as his mouth moved over her tender breasts. When he licked and nibbled at her nipples she couldn’t help but moan out her appreciation.
“Yes,” she gasped as she arched against him. “Just like that. Do it again.”
He obeyed, bringing her to the top of the peak several times, yet always stopping just before she fell over the edge. Finally, she’d had enough.
“Damn it, Mace. Quit teasing.”
Laughing, he kissed her, holding her down at she wriggled beneath him.
“Mace.” She tried to get even closer. The heat in her loins was close to bursting. “Please, I need you so much.”
“I’m here, baby.” Finally sliding between her thighs, he gave her what she wanted. So slowly she wanted to scream, he slid inside her.
“This is just the beginning,” he muttered hoarsely. “We’re going to get married as soon as we can. And I’m going to spend every night making love to my new bride.”
Her heart was so full it ached. “I love you, Mace. I feel like I’ve loved you forever. Don’t stop loving me, I couldn’t bear it.”
He paused with just the tip of his penis still inside and stared at her “Stop loving you? Are you kidding?”
She squirmed closer, already ready to explode just by his touch. “You’re doing a pretty good impression of it right now.”
Laughing, Mace thrust deeper. “Then since I have you right where I want you, I have to warn you, I’ll be a very possessive husband.”
“You…you will?” She could barely think, let alone talk.
“Yes. So you’ll have to promise me you’ll do no more special dances for those playboys or princes. That drove me crazy even before I knew I loved you.”
Chantal gasped, again right on the edge of pleasure. “No…no more dances?”
“No. Besides, you’ll be too busy. You’ll be spending all your time with your new permanent partner.” Mace groaned as he sent them both over the precipice and into the steps of their own private dance. “No one will ever cut in on me again.”
Sigh. How romantic. I think Mace and Chantal are heading for a great new life together. Only one installment left and then on the last Tuesday of the month I have something special for everyone. So stay tuned.
See you on Saturday for the Epilogue!