I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. I had a great one. But in Macau, Mace and Chantal don't have time for romance. Do you think they any closer to finding each other? Let's see! Enjoy!!!
Hustle Into Love
* * * * *
Chantal made her way carefully around the stack of crates and across the big open cargo hole before her. She glanced once over her shoulder and let out a quick sigh, relieved her charges had stayed where she put them.
When all hell had broken loose, Chantal realized that trying to get anywhere with twelve terrified people in tow wasn’t going to work. She knew she couldn’t take them back—that was a certain death sentence—but she could hide them somewhere else where no one would know to look for them.
She’d bullied and pushed the frightened captives down the passageway and over the fallen body of the man she’d killed. It took several precious minutes of searching, but she finally found a small storage room where they might have a chance of hiding.
They’d all balked at first, but she’d finally convinced them it was better for only one person to be a target, rather than the whole group. Finding the key to the room hanging just inside the door, she chose an older Asian woman who looked the least scared and pushed it into her hands. “You’re in charge,” she told her. “Don’t come out unless you know it’s safe. I promise I’ll be back to get you when it’s all over.”
Deshi had objected loudly at her leaving him behind, but she’d persuaded him it would be easier for her to fight if she wasn’t worried about him, too. Yet she felt a twinge when she pulled the door shut on his frightened face. He was such a courageous little boy. She abruptly thought of the child she’d dreamed of having with Mace. She’d be grateful if their child was half as brave and fearless as Deshi was.
Hell, she’d be even more grateful if she had the chance to make a child with the man she loved.
She pushed those thoughts aside as she crept closer to the door she now knew led upwards to freedom. She’d seen several sailors scurry through when it opened and a glimmer of light had teased her with the certainty she’d found her escape at last.
If she could get to the top deck, she might be able to catch someone’s attention…flag down some help. Chantal thought of the people who were counting on her and shivered. She had to make it. She just had to.
Taking a deep breath, she tiptoed across the room, her nerves on fire and adrenaline making her clumsy. Her ears straining to hear something…anything, she fumbled at hatch praying it was still unlocked.
The latch turned easily and relieved, she opened it. A few more steps and she would be free.
“You got farther than I thought you would.”
Whirling around, Chantal met the gaze of the last person she wanted to see.
The woman stood halfway across the room, her hair and clothes in disarray, her makeup smeared as if she’d been sleeping, but Chantal barely noticed. All she saw was the gun her rival held in her hand.
“You are ruining everything,” Chóngdé hissed. “Your escape has frightened the men—making them question me. And now they imagine all sorts of things. That we are discovered, that the police will shut us down.” She gave an inelegant snort. “They even think my father is on board, come to stop us all.”
Chantal’s heart nearly stopped with that news. Could it be the truth? “How do you know he isn’t? Maybe he figured out what you are doing and has come to confront you. You should quit being so damn stupid and just give up.”
“You are the one who is stupid. My father knows nothing.” Chóngdé gestured with the gun. “If he had I would have never gotten this far. No, the men are all frightened fools, believing you are some sort of avenging goddess who will stop us from continuing on with our plans. But not for long. Once I take care of you, all will be as it should.”
Very aware of the gun she had tucked in the back of her pants, Chantal nonchalantly put her hands on her hips. “So what are you going to do? Shoot me? What about making sure I was unmarked at the auction?”
Chóngdé spat out a curse. “Of course I would prefer not to damage the merchandise, but if I have to, I will. I am told a flesh wound would not be too disfiguring, but it will be very painful.”
That didn’t sound good. Seemed Chóngdé was ready and—if by the look on her face meant anything—willing to use force to get what she wanted. “I won’t make it easy for you, Chóngdé. I’ll fight you.”
“And what of the others?” Chóngdé said silkily. “The ones you say you care so much about. I will find them, you know, and when I do, I will punish them for daring to run. That is, unless you do what I say and come quietly.”
Chantal wanted to spit at the woman. She really did. “You’re a bitch, Chóngdé. Even now you try to deal in human lives.” She tossed her head as temper took over. “Well forget it. I’m not going anywhere with you. I’d rather take a bullet than give into your manipulation.”
Chóngdé stared at her for a long moment. Then she shrugged. “All right. If that is your wish.” And she fired.
* * * * *
The sound of a second gunshot made Mace run even faster. He was deep within the ship now. And if he was right, he’d already found the main cargo area where Chantal had been held. The cut rope and dead man on the floor told him she hadn’t been laying around waiting to be rescued. No, not his Chantal. She’d saved herself.
Yet at what cost. He shuddered at how the taking of a life might affect her later. But he told himself he’d be there to help see her through it. For the rest of their lives and beyond if necessary.
If only he could figure out where his intrepid lady had slipped off to.
Through several more holds and hatches, he used his ears to guide him. His guts like ice, he had the horrible feeling Chantal was right in the middle of the firefight. Clenching the gun he carried, he prayed that he would get to her in time.
* * * * *
“That was another gunshot,” shouted Eric as he led the way down the dark passage. “What in the hell is happening down there?”
Lì’s face was even more austere looking. “I have a very bad feeling about this. We must find Chantal.”
“From your mouth to God’s ears.” The bodyguard checked his gun then waved at the two hatches in front of him. “Which way?”
There was the sound of screaming in the distance and both men instinctively turned towards it. “That way,” Lì answered and jogged down the right hand hallway. “I’d know that scream anywhere.”
Eric nodded, his dark eyes grim. “Chantal.”
* * * * *
The force of the bullet slammed Chantal back against the hatch door, and she let out an involuntary scream. There was a clatter of something metallic just before her mind went blank. In a far away dim place in her mind, she was shocked that Chóngdé had actually shot her, but the vivid pain stabbing through her arm told her it was all too real.
Shaking her head at the fiery agony, she grabbed at the wound and stared down at where a thin rivulet of blood seeped through the oversized shirt.
“I told you—” Chóngdé smiled smugly, “—only a small flesh wound.”
Flesh wound or not, it hurt like hell. Staring at her enemy, Chantal gritted her teeth. “If you think this is going to change anything, you’re crazier than I already know you are.”
Chóngdé hissed out a curse and waved the gun. “You want me to shoot you again?”
“Not especially.” Chantal’s throat went tight as she saw her gun wedged underneath a nearby container. The sound of metal she’d heard earlier had been the weapon coming loose and falling out of her waistband. She cursed inwardly.
“I don’t think you have a choice.” Chóngdé stepped closer. “If I have to, this time I will make sure you go unconscious. Then I won’t have to worry about your stubbornness.”
Chantal blinked rapidly. Unconsciousness didn’t seem so far off. With an effort she willed the grayness away. “I thought…you were a business woman,” she gritted out, easing towards the gun even though she knew it was probably useless. “Don’t want the merchandise too beat up.”
Chóngdé smiled nastily. “In your case I will make an exception.”
So much for talking her way out. Quickly she cast around for a way to distract Chóngdé. “Your daddy would be so proud. Look at the type of woman you’ve become.” Chantal made a tut-tut sound. “You are not living up to your name.”
“Kai por.” Chóngdé’s face went white at the insult. “Virtue is overrated. What would it get me? A rich husband? Honor in my family.” She spit out a curse that made Chantal blink. “I much prefer making my own honor…my own money.”
Glancing down surreptitiously at the gun, Chantal just shrugged. “You’ll have to. No man with any honor would have anything to do with you. Why do you think Mace chose me over you?”
Even more anger lit Chóngdé’s ebony eyes. “Shut up! How dare you speak to me that way! I can kill you where you stand.”
“But you won’t,” Chantal countered, her heart beating fast. “Remember, I’m worth too much to you. I told you I wouldn’t make it easy. You’ll have to earn every penny.”
“I am beginning to think I may have been wrong.” Chóngdé’s smile turned feral. “Perhaps you are more trouble that you are worth.”
That didn’t sound good at all. Perhaps pissing Chóngdé off hadn’t been the best strategy. “If you kill me, you’ll be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life. You won’t get away with it.”
“You mean Mace?” Chóngdé sniffed derisively. “I will keep him too busy to even think about you. Yes. The more I think on it, you being dead may be the much better plan.”
I have a really bad feeling about this. Chantal's already been shot once, another may do her in. And where is Mace? Eric and Li? Heck, I'd even be happy to see Hui Sun right now! I guess we'll see next time! Remember, it's a special Saturday posting.
Until then, have an awesome rest of your week!