Here is is the final installment of my FREE READ. I've had a great time with you all, and I hope you've enjoyed the story as much as I've enjoyed sharing it. So settle back with one last cuppa and let's read the ending of this glamorous and exotic story. Enjoy!!!
Hustle Into Love
As Deshi skipped off towards Keya and Ali to cause who knew what kind of trouble, Chantal watched her lover—no, her husband--walk her way. She sighed, wondering again what wonderful thing she’d done in her life to deserve such a magnificent man. Not just his looks, though those were drool worthy, but the man himself.
Mace was everything she’d hoped to find in the man she married. Sexy, tough, handsome and uninhibited. Kind, generous, loving and with a sense of honor as strong as her own. She loved him with every fiber of her body and had been more than willing to change her whole life so they could be together forever. It hadn’t been easy—two strong willed people. But they had love on their side and the solid determination to make it happen.
It wasn’t difficult to decide where they would make their new home. Chantal had always wanted a family, and London was close enough to the D’Avranches estate in Chester to see Mace’s anytime. With the unexpected addition of Deshi to the family, Mace’s old apartment was out of the question, so they found a beautiful country house just outside of town with enough property where a growing boy could run and play.
It also had enough room for Lì when he came to visit. And the first time he did so, he brought his lover, Aaron with him. The two men stayed for two weeks and the slight tension that existed at the beginning of the visit was gone as the four of them laughed and joked, made pub runs and wandered along the many paths nearby the new house. Aaron and Mace hit it off pretty quickly, especially once Mace realized Aaron was a businessman like himself. The happiness on Lì’s face as he watched both men he loved made Chantal thank God all over again that things had turned out the way they did.
In the beginning, she was too busy planning the wedding to think about the changes she might have to make in her own career. The perfect day with her perfect man came first. But eventually, the big decisions were made and the copious small ones that cropped up would be dealt with one at a time. So, once she’d chosen a venue (the rose garden--where else?), hired a band (Mace’s favorite local band, The Highflyers), argued with a caterer over finger foods (no liver anywhere on any table—period) and chosen the perfect gown (found in a tiny shop in Covent Garden), she was ready to turn her attention to dancing.
To Chantal’s surprise Mace didn’t ask her to change the number of shows she did. Neither did he request her to change where the venues were. As he’d said when he proposed, his only wish was she arrange her time so he could be with her wherever she was. Other than the demand she do no more private dances—which she couldn’t really blame him for, he requested nothing else of her at all.
His possessiveness and overprotectiveness might have been a problem in the past, but all Chantal had to do was remember how it felt to wake up in that dank, smelly hold, half-clothed and terrified, and she gladly did what he asked.
So she sat down with a calendar and an empty schedule. She compared her last year’s schedule of global appearances with the upcoming year and she made her choices.
Instead of being on the go all the time, she chose one week a month to put towards her dancing. Out of all the requests Bettina, her secretary, had forwarded her, she picked twelve, one for each month of the year. Three in the Americas, one each in Macau, Russia, and Spain, two back at the Moulin Rogue in Paris, and four others elsewhere around the world. Then, once those were penciled in, she picked a couple of special performances. One on New Year’s Eve, this time in New York’s Times Square, and one on the Queen’s birthday—in June, at London’s Royal Drury Lane Theatre.
If something else came up, she and Mace could discuss it, but a set schedule would make it easier for them both to get on with this new life they had fought so hard for. Her choices made, she emailed a copy to her secretary. The publication of the Amber Princess’ yearly tour was to be made in just a few days.
Chantal wondered if she’d had a premonition when she’d asked Bettina to hold off on the announcement until after the wedding. Something had come up all right. Something that would change everything forever.
“You’ve got that cat’s-got-the-cream expression on your face,” Mace murmured as he helped her to her feet. He brushed a soft kiss over her lips. “What have you been thinking?”
She’d been holding the secret delight to herself for almost a week, and she couldn’t wait a moment longer. “I’ve got an announcement to make,” she told him. “I want to do it before we eat. Can you help me up to the stage?”
Mace’s eyebrow quirked up in surprise, but he maneuvered her through the crowd and onto the short dais where the band was getting ready to play. “This okay?”
“Perfect. Now don’t go anywhere,” she whispered when he tried to step back down.
Ignoring him, Chantal tapped on the microphone for everyone’s attention. The slight feedback had everyone looking towards the stage. “Oops. Sorry,” she giggled as Mace rolled his eyes. “I just have a quick announcement before we all go into dinner.”
The crowd quieted, turning towards the podium where she stood. Winking at Lì, who along with Aaron had come up to the side of the stage, she cleared her throat. “As some of you know, my performance schedule for the next year was to be publicized in a few days. But, I’m sorry to say that announcement has been cancelled. In fact, I will be cancelling the entire tour.”
“What?” Mace grabbed Chantal by the arms and pulled her close as the wedding guests broke into worried and confused murmurs. “What’s wrong? What are you talking about? We went over that schedule together. You know I’m all right with it. We can make it work, baby. I know we can.”
“Oh, Mace.” She touched his face, loving him more than she ever had before. “I know you’re okay with my career. You’ve been wonderful about combining our lives. It’s not that.”
“Do you need to look at the schedule again? Maybe more time on the road?” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “It won’t be easy, but I can take more time off from the company. I’ll work it out with my father.”
“No, love.” She kissed the end of his aristocratic nose. “That’s not it either.”
“Then I don’t understand.” His face was a study of confusion. “Why are you cancelling?”
“Remember when I said if something came up, we’d reevaluate our priorities and decide things again?”
He nodded. “Yes. So?”
Chantal grinned. “Something came up.”
“Bloody hell!” Mace shouted as he took her by the elbows and lifted her to her toes. “What are you talking about?”
They had the whole audience’s attention now. Chantal wondered if he knew the microphone was still on. She carefully nudged it away and lowered her voice. This part was private. “Remember that night you rescued me? We came home and spent the whole night making love?”
His cheeks went ruddy. “Chantal!”
“Yes. Of course I remember.”
“Well, you told me my being away was the longest thirty-six hours of your life.”
“Damn it, Chantal. Get to the point.”
She giggled. “Well, I may have been away from you for thirty-six hours, but I’d been away from my own room for a full forty-eight.”
“You’re trying my patience, woman,” Mace growled. “Why does being away from your room for that amount of time matter?”
“Because,” Chantal answered, her eyes sparkling with joy, “that’s where my birth control pills were.”
There was a dead silence. Mace went so still he looked as if he’d been carved in stone. After a few seconds, Chantal cocked her head. “I knew my vocabulary word for the day would come in handy.”
“Chan…tal.” Mace’s voice strangled in his throat.
“Yep.” She nodded, ignoring him as he only gaped at her. “The word is stupefied. It means to dull the senses or faculties…to amaze or astonish.” She grinned up at her husband. “I think you fit the word nicely. Stupefied.”
“Chantal Montgomery D’Avranches!” he roared, finally getting his breath back. “You’re having a baby?”
There was a…pregnant silence. Then the wedding guests burst into loud clapping. Cheers filled the room and Chantal laughed aloud. It was the first time she’d heard her married name. And in such a way? Coupled with the public announcement of amazing, joyful news? Perfect…just perfect.
“But when? How?” Mace ignored the congratulations being shouted all around him and pulled her to him. “You’re pregnant?”
“Pregnant. Expecting, gravid, knocked up, with child, a bun in the oven, in the family way, I have a baby bump, preggers, enceinte—”.
“Damn it,” Mace interrupted. He shook her slightly. “Quit reciting the bloody dictionary and tell me how this happened. And no”—he grinned suddenly, “—I don’t mean the mechanics. I think I understand that pretty well.”
“Obviously.” She laughed again. “The last time I’d taken my pill was the morning before I was kidnapped. Since I had other things on my mind when we got back from the ship—like celebrating we were both alive—I didn’t think of it then. So, forty-eight plus hours of waning protection. I guess I was in my fertile stage, my love, because one of your little swimmers made it through.”
“A baby.” Mace still looked as if he’d been struck by lightning. Gingerly he touched her still flat stomach. “You’re saying we’re going to have a baby.”
Gently, she put her hand on his. “Yes, we are. Everything is fine. I’m healthy and haven’t felt a bit sick. Just a little more emotional than usual. In just a bit over six months, you’re going to be a daddy.”
“Too late.” Mace glanced at where Deshi stood with Keya and Ali. The little boy’s face was wreathed in happiness as he clapped at the news he was going to be a big brother. “I already am one.”
Her heart melted all over her golden tipped shoes. “Oh, Mace. I love you so much.”
“And I love you, Chantal. My lover, wife and now—” he smoothed his hand over the very slight rounding that could be felt there, “—mother of my child. You couldn’t make me any happier than you have right now.”
“Well, I plan on giving it my best shot for the next fifty or sixty years,” she said with a sniffle. “You know I’m an overachiever.”
He snorted with laughter before his face turned serious. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Are you sure you’re all right with cancelling the tour? I know we’d talked about waiting a few years before we had kids.”
“Mace.” Chantal cupped his handsome face in her hands. “I’ve danced for kings and queens, presidents and sultans, and I loved each and every minute of it. I would have kept dancing forever. I thought that was my destiny. To be a star.”
“You were a star.” Mace’s tone was adamant. “You are one.”
“Yes. I am. I made those dreams come true.” She pressed a kiss to his strong chin. “But then I met you and I knew my life would never be the same. Suddenly, being a star wasn’t my only dream. It wasn't so important to me. But you? You and this baby…Deshi, that’s what is vital to my happiness. You are the most essential things in my life.”
He sighed. “No regrets?”
She shook her head, more assured of this one fact than anything else. “None. I’m not hanging up my dancing shoes, Mace. I’m just putting them on hold for awhile.”
“Chantal.” Mace touched his forehead to hers and shuddered deeply. “I can’t imagine a day without you. I love you so much. This child. Deshi and our lives together. Thank God I took that job in Macau.”
“Thank Lì,” she responded with a quick wave to her adopted brother. He stood quietly, his elegant face filled with satisfaction. “If he hadn’t walked into that sleazy bar… If he hadn’t changed my life like he did, we may have never met.”
“A baby!” Mace laughed suddenly and whirled her around in a big circle. “My God, woman. You had me going for a minute there. Hustled me but good.”
“Maybe.” Chantal snuggled closer when he drew her in against his warm body and into a fiery kiss. “But I have to say one thing more before we play to the waiting audience.”
Mace grinned. “What’s that?”
She did a quick little impromptu dance step, with a twist and a turn, before ending up again in his strong and protective arms. Her kiss was as passionate as his had been. “Hustling you into love was much more fun.”
Sniff... It's always sad when I end a book, and this one is no different. Mace and Chantal became more than just characters, they are friends. I wish them well and who knows, maybe we'll see them back again someday in another FREE READ.
I hope you liked the story and remember, if you're new to the blog, I have several others already posted on my website. http://cjengland.com Check them out by clicking on the FREEBIE Link. You can meet a few other characters who just might become friends too!
Please join me here on the 6th of March (first Tuesday of the month) for some games, prizes and some interesting facts about the truth behind why I wrote this story. We'll wrap up Hustle into Love and I'll give you a short look at the next FREE READ which will come out hopefully in April or May. See you then.
Hugs to all,