Dominated, p.10
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       Dominated, p.10
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         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  him? Who are these men?”

  “We work for Drake,” Justice said. “And she is definitely still with Drake.”

  “Oh,” Nikki said, her eyes wide. “We were just worried. He came looking for you the morning after the night you called and spoke to Lana. He was, um, well, he was pretty pissed at us. But we didn’t know what happened. We still don’t know and we wanted to come and apologize to you in person. We were horrible to you,” she said, her voice hitching as another tear slid down her cheek.

  “Can you forgive us, Vangie?” Steph implored. “I was the worst of all and I’m so sorry. You know I love you and I was just so worried that you were being taken advantage of.”

  “Funny, that’s the same thing I’m concerned about,” Maddox said in a steely voice.

  Lana, Nikki and Steph sent shocked looks in Maddox’s direction. Then Steph turned her gaze to Evangeline, her voice turning to a plea.

  “You don’t think we’re trying to take advantage of you, Vangie. Please tell me you don’t think that.”

  Evangeline shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know what to think,” she said honestly.

  Maddox put his arm around her in support and squeezed her shoulder. She looked at him in appreciation, thanking him silently with her eyes.

  “Why are you here now?” Evangeline asked in a hushed whisper. “Why not before? When I n-needed you.”

  Her voice broke and she went silent, refusing to break down into emotion. She could feel Maddox’s anger vibrating his body, but she placed her hand on his leg to prevent him from tossing her friends from the apartment.

  Lana lurched from her position on the couch and went to her knees in front of Evangeline. She curled her hands around Evangeline’s and stared pleadingly into Evangeline’s face.

  “We love you, Vangie. We made a mistake. We were worried about you and hurt when you wouldn’t listen to us, but that didn’t give us the right to act as we did. You ask if we’re taking advantage of you now. And the answer is no, but we did take you for granted then. That’s our sin, honey. Can you forgive us for that? Can we ever be friends again?”

  “Oh, Lana,” Evangeline said, reaching to hug her friend. “Of course we can be friends. I still love you all so much and I’ve missed you terribly.”

  And then suddenly Nikki and Steph were crowding in as the four women noisily hugged and said their apologies. For the next hour, they chatted and caught up, with the girls filling Evangeline in on the goings-on at the bar where Evangeline had worked with them for so long.

  Knowing she’d likely already strained the limits of Maddox’s and Justice’s patience, Evangeline excused herself by telling her friends that she was running late for an appointment and that they could come over another time.

  Justice walked them down to the lobby while Maddox remained behind with Evangeline. As soon as they left, Evangeline sank back into her chair feeling like she’d been hit by a truck.

  “You okay, babe?” Maddox asked gently. “That was a lot to throw at you all at once.”

  “Thank you for being here,” she said gratefully. “I’m not sure how well I would have handled that if I’d been alone.”

  It made her sound pathetic and needy, not to mention helpless, but at the moment she was too grateful that she hadn’t been by herself to care how it made her look.

  “Promise me that you won’t allow them here unless someone is with you,” Maddox said in a hard tone.

  Evangeline looked at him in question.

  Maddox sighed. “You’re too damn sweet and trusting, sweetheart. I find the timing of their visit a little suspicious. If they did any checking into Drake, and it’s likely they did, then they’d know you landed a man with deep pockets. Hell, he already covered their rent, so who’s to say they weren’t sniffing around looking for another handout?”

  “What?” Evangeline asked, utterly appalled at what he was suggesting. “You think they faked the whole thing?”

  She was so aghast that Maddox looked remorseful for having suggested any such thing. But neither did he retract his statement, and that weighed heavily on her. Could he be right?

  She covered her face with her hands and let out a soft moan of anguish.

  “Hey, babe,” Maddox said, his voice heavy with regret. “Don’t put too much stock into anything I said. I’m a suspicious bastard. It’s my job to be. Especially when it comes to people cozying up to you. They could be legit. All I’m saying is take it slow and be careful. Watch your back and as I said before, don’t agree to see them unless one of us is with you, yeah?”

  “Okay,” she said shakily.

  He reached down to take her hand and helped her to her feet. “Come on, let me get your coat for you again so we can be on our way. Drake wants you back in time for dinner tonight.”

  “You know, you aren’t the hardass you make yourself out to be,” she said teasingly.

  He sent her a mock ferocious look and scowled in response. “You ever tell anyone else that, and I’ll be the one spanking that pretty ass. Not Silas.”

  13

  Drake arrived at his apartment shortly after five that afternoon and was met by Maddox when he entered the lobby. Drake homed in on Maddox’s mood right away and tensed, searching his man’s face for any sign of what was bothering him.

  “Evangeline’s had a tough day,” Maddox said in a low voice.

  “What the fuck happened?” Drake demanded, alarm splintering up his spine. “Why the hell am I only now finding out about it?”

  “Her girls showed up here right as Justice and I were about to leave with her to go shopping. Justice and I stuck to her side and they came up crying and making a fuss and apologizing for being bitches.”

  Drake’s gaze narrowed. “And you don’t buy it.”

  Maddox shook his head. “No, I don’t. I upset Evangeline when I suggested as much, but the point I was trying to make was that I didn’t want her entertaining her girls without one of us around.”

  “How upset is she?” Drake asked.

  “She seems to be okay now. Justice and I distracted her and we had a good time. When I left her in the apartment half an hour ago, she was going to go shower and get changed for dinner with you. She seemed to be relaxed and in good spirits, but when it all went down, it hit her like a freight train and it pretty well knocked her on her ass.”

  “Fuck,” Drake swore. “She doesn’t deserve this shit.”

  “On that we agree. Look, I’ll keep an eye on her girls and see what they’re up to. I called Silas a few minutes ago so he can put his ear to the ground. If they’re up to something, Silas will find out. There isn’t much that can be hidden from him.”

  Drake nodded. “I appreciate this, man. She’s been hurt enough because of me as it is, and I’ll be damned if she’s going to be hurt by self-serving bitches who use her to get to me.”

  “Just make her happy,” Maddox said bluntly.

  “I’m certainly going to try,” Drake returned in an even voice. “Good night and thanks for taking care of Evangeline today.”

  Maddox crooked a grin. “My pleasure. I got breakfast out of the deal. That was all the thanks I could ask for.”

  Maddox shot him a salute and then sauntered out of the building, leaving Drake to get the elevator up to his apartment. As he rode up, he swore at the knowledge that Evangeline had been upset by her former roommates. Maddox had warned him about bitches being the ones to cut Evangeline to ribbons, but he hadn’t considered it would come from her own friends. He should have seen it a mile away and made damn sure it never became an issue. But he’d let the matter drop when it appeared they were out of the picture. His mistake and one he wouldn’t be making again.

  He entered the apartment, his gaze immediately searching for Evangeline. His blood immediately surged when he heard her call his name as she entered the living room. She was fastening a pair of the diamond earrings he’d given her and was wearing a sexy, feminine cocktail dress that just clipped the tops of her knee
s.

  She hurried toward him barefooted, a welcoming smile on her face.

  “I thought I heard the elevator,” she said breathlessly. “I wasn’t sure what time to expect you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to greet you properly.”

  He lifted one eyebrow. “Define properly. Because from where I’m standing, the view is pretty damn sweet. Have to tell you, baby. That dress? Is definitely coming off you as soon as we get back home later.”

  She shivered delicately against him as she wrapped her arms around him in welcome.

  “Does it make me a terrible person to say that I’m suddenly very eager for dinner to be over with so we can get back home?” she asked breathlessly.

  He smiled and captured her lips with his in a long, tender kiss. “Have I mentioned how much I adore terrible women?”

  Her expression became troubled and she nibbled at her bottom lip. His eyes narrowed in question.

  “What’s wrong, Angel?” he asked sharply.

  “I have something to tell you,” she said in a low voice. “My friends Steph, Nikki and Lana all came over today. It was a shock. I had no idea they were coming.”

  He relaxed and hugged her to him and then guided her toward the couch in the living room. “Maddox told me what happened. Are you all right?”

  She nodded slowly. “I’m fine. Now. At the time I was caught completely off guard and had no idea how to react.”

  “What does your gut tell you?” he asked, cupping her chin and looking her in the eyes.

  She looked surprised by his question. Then she pondered it for a moment before letting out her breath. “I honestly don’t know,” she said truthfully. “I think it’s too soon yet. I think I need more time before I make up my mind.”

  He nodded his approval. “Good girl. It doesn’t make you a bad person to reserve judgment until you have more evidence. It makes you smart.”

  Her cheeks went rosy with her flush at his praise and he kissed the tip of her nose. “Give me ten minutes to change and I’ll be ready to go if you are.”

  “I just need to get my shoes,” she said in a breathless voice.

  “Zander and Hartley will be accompanying us to and from the restaurant,” he said as they walked toward the bedroom. “We’ll eat alone, but they’ll be seated a short distance away.”

  He said it in a casual tone but watched closely for her reaction. She frowned slightly, her forehead wrinkling with worry.

  “Is there really that much of a threat to you?”

  He stopped and pulled her to him. “I’m more concerned with there being a threat to you. It’s why I insist on you being protected at all times and always having an escort when you leave our apartment.”

  She looked at a loss for words as she stared up at him. “Why would anyone threaten me?”

  “Because I care a great deal about you and anyone with eyes can see that. I don’t want to frighten you, Angel, and I damn sure don’t want to give you any reason to not want to be with me, but I won’t lie to you. You are in danger simply by being with me.”

  He lifted her hand and pressed her soft palm to his lips.

  “I won’t allow anyone to harm you. I protect what is mine and I treasure and value what is mine. You belong to me now, Angel. You are what is most important to me and what I cherish above all else.”

  She looked stunned by his declaration. A shimmer of tears reflected in her eyes as she stared at him in shock.

  “Oh, Drake,” she finally whispered. “I don’t know what to say.”

  “Say that we’re worth it. That the disruption to your normal routine and the irritation of always having someone shadowing your every move is worth the price of being with me.”

  She threw her arms around his neck and went up on tiptoe to try to reach his height. “Oh, Drake, don’t you know? You’re worth everything. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to be with you. For as long as you want me. I’m yours.”

  Her sweetness pierced his soul and spread sunlight wherever she touched. Pieces of him that hadn’t felt warmth in so long came to life under her touch and bloomed like a wildflower. He held her tightly to him, simply absorbing the feel of something so very precious in his arms and against his heart.

  What would he do without her now? What had his barren existence been like before she’d barged into his life and turned everything on its head? God help him, but he couldn’t bear the thought of ever losing her. If she were to ever be hurt because of him, he’d never rest until every last bastard paid for it with their blood.

  He eased her down onto the bed until she was perched on the edge, and then he took the shoes she was holding and slipped them over her feet. Then he brushed another kiss over her lips as he straightened back to his full height.

  “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

  He hurried to the closet and changed into one of his expensive evening suits. After sliding his feet into the Italian loafers arranged at the end of his closet, he returned to collect Evangeline.

  “You ready, Angel?”

  “Where are we eating? Or rather what are we eating tonight?” she asked as he escorted her to the elevator.

  “Seafood,” he replied. “It’s an excellent restaurant in Midtown. One of my favorites. I have a standing reservation there and a table always available so we won’t have to wait.”

  “I love shrimp,” she said with a smile.

  “That’s because you are one,” he said, chucking her chin with his knuckles.

  When they reached the lobby, Zander and Hartley were waiting to escort them to the car. Both men slid into the front seat, with Hartley driving. Drake helped Evangeline into the backseat and then slid in next to her.

  “Good evening, Zander. Hartley,” Evangeline acknowledged sweetly.

  “Evening, Evangeline,” Zander returned. “You have a good day, sweetheart?”

  She smiled. “Yeah. You?”

  “It would have been better if we’d gotten the invite to breakfast,” Hartley said dryly.

  Evangeline blushed, but her eyes shone with pleasure. “How about I get y’all next time?”

  “Deal.” Zander pounced.

  “One would think you never feed your men,” Evangeline teased Drake as she settled back against his body.

  He wrapped his arm around her, anchoring her against him, and settled in for the drive.

  “They just know a good thing when they see it,” Drake said. “And they’re jealous as hell that I saw it first.”

  “That ain’t no lie,” Hartley said.

  They zipped through traffic in record time and several minutes later, Hartley pulled up to the restaurant and Zander hopped out to open the door for Drake. He got out and then reached back for Evangeline and helped her from the car.

  She’d taken all of two steps when the entire world around her exploded in a myriad of flashing lights. Drake let out a savage curse that was echoed by Zander. Evangeline stumbled, but both Zander and Drake were there surrounding her.

  “Get the goddamn camera out of her face,” Drake ordered. “Or I swear to God you’ll be eating it.”

  There was the sound of a scuffle, but Drake urged Evangeline forward into the restaurant and off the sidewalk where they were exposed. The maître d’ looked appalled and immediately escorted Drake and Evangeline back to a waiting table, apologizing profusely the entire way.

  “What happened?” Evangeline asked in bewilderment when she finally eased down into her chair.

  “Photographers,” Drake spat.

  “They bother you?” she asked in bewilderment.

  He looked pained, but he nodded. “It will be worse now I’ve been seen with you.”

  She sent him a stricken look. “I’m so sorry, Drake. I don’t want to be a problem for you.”

  He reached across the table and picked up her hand, lifting it to his mouth. “Hush. You are not a problem. This will be a pain in your ass, Angel. They’re bloodsuckers and they’re relentless. Once they get their teeth into a bone, they re
fuse to let go. They’ll follow us everywhere.”

  “I don’t care,” she hissed. “They’ll never make me regret being with you.”

  Fire smoldered in his eyes and he squeezed her hand, holding it between them on the table.

  “They won’t bother us here. Our table is private and we aren’t seated where photographs can be taken through the windows.”

  “Then let’s enjoy our evening and forget about those leeches,” she said. “I can’t wait to get home and call Mama and Daddy. Oh, Drake. They’re going to be so excited that they get to come to the city for Thanksgiving.”

  “I’d say you’re pretty excited yourself,” Drake said indulgently.

  “You are so good to me, Drake. I’ll never forget all you’ve done for me.”

  A waiter appeared and Drake ordered for both of them, choosing a shrimp variety platter for Evangeline. After pouring wine for both of them, the waiter disappeared, once more leaving them to their privacy.

  Evangeline shifted in her chair and looked questioningly at Drake.

  “Do you think I did the wrong thing by letting my girlfriends up to our apartment? Maddox insisted that I never let them up if I’m alone.”

  “Evangeline, you don’t have to ask my permission to invite someone up to our apartment,” he said gently. “It’s your home as well as mine. I hope it feels that way to you. I think you did just right by listening and taking what they said with a grain of salt, and I also agree with Maddox that you shouldn’t allow anyone up unless I or some of my men are there with you. When it comes to you, I find it better to play it safe.”

  Evangeline sighed. “They probably think I’m an unforgiving bitch holding a grudge, and I’ve never been like that before.”

  “I think they will consider their own part in all of this and realize that you are leery of being hurt again. No one can blame you for not immediately accepting their apologies or their wishes to pick up where the four of you left off. I think you know that isn’t possible now. Too much has changed, Angel.”

  “You’re right, of course,” she said with a sigh.

  “I for one am not sorry,” he said in an unrepentant voice. “Their loss is definitely my gain.”

  “Only you could make me feel like I did the right thing,” she said with a grin. “Clearly I need to take more lessons from you. My girlfriends always despaired of me for being too nice and too forgiving. Somehow I don’t think that’s the case now that they are the recipient of me suddenly being an unforgiving mean girl.”

  “I like your mean girl,” Drake said with a lazy, sexy grin. “Feel free to be as mean as you like later on tonight when I get that dress off you.”

  She arched one eyebrow at him. “I thought that was your job to keep me in line. You’re slacking lately, Mr. Donovan. I’m beginning to think you have secret fantasies about me being a dominatrix and I have to tell you, that image is so not sexy.”

  He burst into laughter, his eyes gleaming with amusement.

  “So I’m not doing my duties, huh. Is that what you’re saying, my angel?”

  She sat primly in her chair with her hands in her lap as she looked across at him. Then she leaned forward so her whispered words wouldn’t carry farther than their table.

  “You’ve been treating me like I’m made of glass. I won’t break, Drake. I want your dominance. I need it. I can’t even remember the last time you flogged me or spanked me. You’ve been exquisitely tender and don’t think I don’t appreciate your regard, but what I want most is for things to go back to the way they were before . . . that night. Or is that not what you want anymore?”

  She was completely vulnerable in that moment, having bared her secrets and her desires to him. She caught her bottom lip with her teeth because she was trembling, afraid she’d gone too far and angered him with her criticism.

  “My darling angel,” Drake said in a tender tone. His eyes were warm with desire and approval. No sign of irritation was present, to her immense relief. “Have you been feeling neglected by me? Have I not been doing what I should to keep my angel happy?”

  She flushed and ducked her head, mortified by his words. “Oh, Drake, no! That’s not it at all.”

  “Baby, I was teasing you,” Drake said, reaching over the table to touch her cheek. “Look at me, Evangeline.”

 
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