Dominated, p.18
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       Dominated, p.18

         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
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  organization. He’s got his fingers in a lot of dirty pies all over the city. He’ll take you down with him. You know that, right? If I were to guarantee you police protection, would you be willing to be an informant? Pass along any information pertinent to our investigation?”

  Her mouth fell open in horror. “Are you out of your mind?” she exploded. “No, I won’t spy on him for you, the cops or anyone else for that matter. He’s a good man. Why don’t you focus your efforts on taking down the real criminals in this city?” she added acidly.

  He shook his head regretfully and then reached into his pocket and pulled out his card. “If you ever change your mind or if you get into a situation where you need help or you come across something you feel we should know, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll make sure you don’t come to harm.”

  She snatched the card from his hands, not because she had any intention of ever using it, but because Drake needed to know who was asking questions about him.

  “Drake does a perfectly good job of keeping me safe. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lunch is getting cold.”

  She pushed by him and this time he let her go and she stalked down the hallway and back into the restaurant, her gaze scanning the area for Hatcher. He was only a short distance away on his phone, but when he saw her, he came to alert and shoved his phone in his pocket.

  “Everything okay?” he asked sharply, staring intently at her expression.

  “I’m fine,” Evangeline said stiffly. “Let’s get back before our food gets cold.”

  Not waiting for him to agree or disagree, she walked rigidly back to their table but made a concerted effort to mask the tension and upset in her features. Fortunately for her, the food hadn’t arrived yet and both Thane and Zander were staring inquisitively at her but the waiter interrupted, bearing a tray loaded with their plates before they could question her.

  It was just as well, because she needed time to compose herself and figure out her best course of action before she went off and did something half-cocked. But the further into the meal they got, the more furious and sick with worry she became. She couldn’t just go shopping like nothing had happened. Drake needed to know immediately that he was evidently being investigated by the police. For what, though?

  Her thoughts drifted back to the time she’d asked him exactly what he did and his soft request for her to let it go. For him. And she’d agreed. In that moment, she was wholeheartedly glad he hadn’t confided in her because her conscience was clear. She couldn’t very well tell the police anything if she didn’t know.

  After they finished eating, she pondered her options, but this time she suffered no remorse whatsoever for deceiving Drake’s men. She flashed pleading eyes on Zander. He might well be gruffer and more of a Neanderthal than the rest, but she knew he’d do what she asked of him with no hesitation. Especially if she hinted that she needed to warn Drake.

  “I’m afraid I don’t feel very much like shopping after all,” she said, pushing back her half-eaten steak. “My stomach is pretty upset and my head is starting to hurt. It’s probably nothing, but I’d rather go home and lie down. Perhaps we can go shopping another day this week?”

  “Do you need a doctor?” Thane demanded.

  She smiled, ignoring Hatcher’s piercing stare and the fact that he was all but peeling back the layers of her skin. “No, of course not. I just need to lie down. Maybe take a short nap.”

  “Let’s go. Call the car around, Thane,” Zander said after pulling off several bills and tossing them onto the table.

  Thane and Hatcher went ahead while Zander put his arm around Evangeline’s shoulders and herded her toward the entrance as well. A few minutes later, they were in the car and whizzing back to Drake’s apartment.

  The men studied her during the ride home, but she ignored their scrutiny, instead focusing her attention on the passing scenery through her window. When they arrived at the apartment, she touched Zander on the arm.

  “Will you walk me up? There’s no need for everyone to come. After all, I’m just going up to bed.”

  Zander’s brow furrowed as if that were the last thing he was expecting her to ask. “Of course. You two go on ahead. I’ll call for a car when I’m ready to leave,” he said to Thane and Hatcher.

  He helped Evangeline from the car and escorted her inside the building. She looked back to make sure the car drove away and as soon as they were inside, she turned to face Zander, her expression one of urgency.

  “Zander, I need you to take me to wherever Drake is. Now.”

  His eyes widened with shock. “What the fuck? What’s going on, Evangeline? And swear to God, if you tell me nothing, I’ll throttle you.”

  “I’m not going to say nothing,” she said in a quiet voice. “What I am going to say is that it is very important I see Drake immediately. And you can’t tell him I’m coming. I don’t care how busy he is, what he’s doing, who he’s meeting with. You take me straight to him so I can talk to him immediately.”

  The urgency in her voice registered because grim worry set like stone into his features. He picked up his cell and made a phone call to his driver or Drake’s, presumably. His directive was short and to the point. Come pick him up at Drake’s apartment and be here as fast as possible.

  • • •

  Drake disconnected the call from Hatcher, his features rigid. Some cop had approached Evangeline at the restaurant where his men had taken her to lunch. They’d spoken in the hall for a period of time before she’d gone back to the others.

  Ice invaded his veins at the idea of Evangeline betraying him. Could he have been so wrong about her?

  He paced the interior of his office and then stared out over the Manhattan skyline, his thoughts dark and brooding. Should he plant false information and then see what happened? Feed her just enough evidence that he’d know if the cops came sniffing around that she was the only person who could have given it to them?

  Nausea swirled in his gut. She’d said she loved him and he’d been too gobsmacked, too . . . humbled by her fervent and tender words and the love he’d seen plainly etched in her eyes to do anything more than hold her tightly to him, so afraid that if he let go, even for a moment, it would have all been a dream. The most wonderful dream of his life, but a dream nonetheless.

  He let loose a savage torrent of curses that would blister the hide of anyone in earshot. Fuck me. What the hell was he supposed to do with the knowledge that Evangeline, his angel, had spoken to a cop?

  She’d probed him for answers that night, seemingly a lifetime ago, when she’d asked him what it was he really did and he’d asked her to let it go, that it would never affect her, never touch her. He’d thought and had been relieved that she had let it go, but had she? Had he only heightened her suspicions, enough for her to go to the police?

  He turned and threw his phone across the room. It shattered on impact and he left it there in unrecoverable pieces.

  He should be pissed. He should even now be plotting his revenge. But the only thing he could process was . . . pain. Endless, unending, overwhelming . . . pain.

  Closing his eyes, he cupped his nape and rubbed up and down as weariness assailed him. God help him, but he couldn’t bring himself to punish her, to throw her out. Could he blame her for what she might think when he’d never offered to trust her? To tell her anything of his life apart from her? He knew enough about women to know there weren’t many who’d be as accepting as Evangeline had appeared to be.

  His thoughts turned bleak, because he didn’t know what to do. But he couldn’t be with a woman who intended to sell him and his brothers out to the fucking cops.

  He went to the phone on his desk after making a mental note to send his assistant out to purchase another cell phone. He was about to pick up the phone to call Evangeline when the door to his office opened.

  His head went up, a reprimand for disturbing him when he’d left clear orders for the opposite poised to fly off his tongue, when he saw who was sta
nding in the doorway of his office.

  Evangeline?

  He dropped the phone and strode around the front of his desk and over to where she stood, visibly shaken and pale.

  “Evangeline, what’s wrong?” he asked sharply.

  Despite the fact that he was looking at a suspected betrayer, his concern for her temporarily edged out all other thoughts and emotions. She looked frightened. Hell, she looked terrified. And she was shaking from head to toe.

  She’d never even been to any of his offices other than the one he kept at the club. Though he’d never forbidden her access, it was an unspoken agreement that she was kept separate from work.

  What would cause her to break that tacit agreement now? Then his eyes narrowed sharply and a black frown took over his face.

  “Where the hell are the men who are supposed to be protecting you?” he asked in a dangerously low tone.

  “Z-Zander came with me,” she stammered out. “I’m so sorry, Drake. I don’t mean to disturb you, but I had to come right away, so I asked Zander if he would bring me. Please don’t be angry with him. I didn’t give him a choice. I’m sorry for just barging in on you like this, but I had to talk to you.”

  Puzzled by her panic, Drake guided her toward the couch in front of his desk. “It’s all right, Evangeline,” he said in a soothing voice. “Sit down.”

  He took her hands, shocked by how cold they were and how hard they were shaking. Once settled beside her, he studied her features even more closely than before. Anger and a keen sense of protectiveness surged within him when he took in just how pale, scared and shaken she was. Despite his initial anger over her meeting with the cop, he pushed those black thoughts aside for the moment.

  “Did someone try to hurt you?” he demanded. “Did someone threaten you in any way?”

  “No,” she whispered, the sound nearly a sob. “But someone intends to hurt you.”

  He reared back in surprise because that was the very last thing he’d expected her to say. Certain he’d heard wrong, he put both of his hands on her shoulders and forced her to look directly into his eyes.

  “What are you talking about? Tell me everything that has happened and especially tell me why you think someone is trying to hurt me.”

  She took in a deep, steadying breath and when she lifted her gaze to his, tears sparkled on her lashes. “Zander, Thane and Hatcher were going to take me shopping today, but first, we went to eat lunch. While we were waiting for our food, I went to the bathroom and when I came out, there was a man blocking the hallway. When I tried to step around him, he wouldn’t let me pass. He showed me . . . He showed me his badge and he was wearing a gun too. Then he called me by name and told me he needed to speak to me about police business.

  “I was confused. I mean, why would the police need to speak to me about anything?” she asked in a bewildered voice.

  Oh, Drake could well imagine, and the picture was finally starting to form. Fucking bastards using an innocent woman to try to get to him. It shouldn’t surprise him. Little did.

  “When I said as much, he said—not asked—that you were my boyfriend. And I told him that I didn’t see how my personal life could possibly be any sort of police business.”

  Good girl. He mentally applauded her.

  “Then he said, and again it wasn’t in the form of a question, did I know what all you were into.” She shook her head, anger sparking in her eyes, removing the trace of tears from moments earlier. “I told him you had several businesses, one of which was the club. He called me naïve and told me that you would take me down with him. Then . . .”

  Her voice cracked and she shuddered, lifting her hands to rub up and down her arms as though she were freezing to death.

  “What then, Angel?” he asked gently.

  “He gave me this.”

  She dug into her purse and drew out a business card, holding it out to him with a look of utter distaste as if she couldn’t bear to touch it.

  “He asked if I’d be willing to pass them information about you. If I would spy on you,” she said in a horrified voice. “I told him no. Never. He told me that he would make sure I had police protection and that you would never be able to harm me.”

  There was a note of derision and scorn in her voice.

  “As if you’d ever hurt me,” she seethed. “I told him that you do a good enough job on your own of protecting me. And then I told him to get out of my way and to leave me alone. I knew I had to come here and warn you. So after lunch, I pleaded illness and told the others I wasn’t feeling up to shopping, and then I asked Zander to walk me up to the apartment, but as soon as the others left, I asked Zander to bring me here. To you.”

  She looked anxiously at him as if worried he would denounce her, call her a liar or worse. But all he could do was sit there, absolutely flabbergasted by everything she’d told him. An alien warmth filled his chest. He didn’t at all know what to make of her declaration. And he had to know why she’d done it. Why had she warned him?

  Shame filled him as he remembered his anger, rage and sense of betrayal just minutes before her arrival. Here he’d been doubting her and her loyalty to him when the entire time she’d been tying herself in knots because she was worried about him.

  “Why did you warn me, Angel?” he asked in a choked whisper. “I know you have your suspicions. And no, I’m not a good man. So why would you warn me instead of helping them put me away?”

  He knew he’d made a serious error in his judgment of her when he saw her reaction to his question. Shock and hurt entered her eyes, and her mouth fell open as she continued to stare wordlessly at him. As though she couldn’t believe he would even ask such a question. And God, how he wished he hadn’t now.

  “I would never betray you, Drake,” she said, her words nearly inaudible as she worked to get each one out. “Ever. I am yours. I belong to you. And that means you have everything that is me and mine. My loyalty. My trust. My love.”

  She abruptly stood and turned away from him and a sense of panic crawled over his skin like a hundred spiders. At the moment, he’d take the actual spiders over the feeling of panic. Would he lose her because of his lack of faith in her?

  Then she whirled around, anger and determination in her eyes. “You’re wrong, Drake. You are a good man. I don’t care what you or anyone else says or thinks. They don’t know you. I do. And you are very much a good man.”

  She threw up one hand, her fingers delicately fluttering through the air.

  “Can you be ruthless, arrogant and demanding? Absolutely. You’re driven and relentless. But those aren’t bad traits. Those traits are what made you into the man you are today and I very much love the man you are. I still wake up every morning wondering if it’s all just been a dream because this beautiful man who could have any woman in the world he wanted chose me.”

  Tears glittered harshly in her eyes once more, and it was all he could do to continue sitting there while she flayed her heart open to bare it—to give it—to him. He’d never felt so humbled in his life than by this sweet, generous and loving woman who stood there fiercely defending him when he’d jumped to nasty conclusions without even asking her about the meeting first.

  “And you’ve been so patient with me,” she continued, her voice choked with emotion and the mounting tears she was trying so hard not to shed. “You always take the time to teach me what pleases you, and you please me ten times more in return. I just hope . . .”

  She turned away in a valiant effort to compose herself before finally turning back to face him.

  “I just hope that you never wake up one day and look at me and say to yourself, What in the world was I thinking?”

  She closed the distance between them and slipped to her knees between his, reaching for his hands, gripping them tightly between hers.

  “I have only one thing to ask, Drake,” she whispered. “If that ever does happen, if you ever get tired of me and no longer want me, all I ask is for you not to regret the time we spe
nt together. Because I won’t. I’ll cherish every single memory I made with you, every single minute, and I’ll never regret a single second. All I ask is that you do the same and remember me fondly.”

  Drake felt as though he’d just been flattened. Like a tank had run over him. He was in absolute awe over the woman kneeling before him. His throat contracted painfully as he realized it was he who should be on his knees in front of her.

  Instead he yanked her into his arms, holding her so tightly, it was likely neither of them could breathe very well. Who cared? He’d never get enough of this, of her, soft and sweet in his arms.

  “Jesus,” he breathed. “You don’t get it, do you? There isn’t going to be another woman, Angel. There won’t come a morning that I wake with you nestled against me or tied to me, so sweet and good and innocent, that I wonder what I was thinking. The only thing I’ll ever think when I wake up next to you is that I’ll never let you go.”

  She went utterly still in his arms. So still he wasn’t sure she was breathing. He loosened his hold and she drew away, staring at him with features seemingly frozen in place. There was a dim light of hope in her eyes that cut him to the bone. Almost as if she were afraid to question him. Or confirm what he’d said.

  She licked her lips and finally whispered in a thready breath, “Never?”

  “Never,” he said firmly.

  She sagged so that her behind came to rest on her heels and her shoulders drooped. Then her hands flew to cover her face, but he saw the evidence of her tears leak from underneath.

  “Don’t cry, Angel,” he soothed, carefully pulling her into his arms again. “Never cry. I want you to be happy. Always.”

  “Oh, Drake, don’t you know? You’ve just made me the happiest person in the entire world,” she sobbed. “I was so scared for you today. I’m still scared,” she amended. “What are you going to do?”

  Fear replaced all other emotion in her vivid blue eyes. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead.

  “Don’t worry, Angel. Can you do that for me? This is nothing new, I assure you. The cops are always poking around my affairs. Talking to people I work or associate with. They’ve never been able to get anything on me. They never will.”

  She bit into her lip so hard that he gently thumbed it, rubbing soothingly over the abused flesh.

  “Are you sure?” she asked nervously. “Maybe you should call your lawyer. Surely it can’t be legal for them to go around harassing people who know you and asking them to spy on you.”

  He had to suppress his smile over her innocence. “Unfortunately, my angel, it’s very legal for them to question anyone they want. You did very well. I’m proud of the way you handled yourself. That couldn’t have been easy. I’m sorry it happened. You can be sure that in the future it won’t.”

  “I don’t care about me,” she said impatiently. “I’m more worried about the fact that this cop seemed awfully determined to get something—anything—on you. Somehow I don’t think it would matter to him whether it was actually true.”

  Her scathing tone did make him smile then.

  “Who needs a lawyer when I have you to defend and protect me?” he asked in amusement. “Apparently you are all I need, my darling angel.”

  “I hope that’s true,” she said, her expression growing serious. “Because you are all I will ever need, Drake.”

  24

  The weeks leading to Christmas were a magical time for Evangeline. Though Drake had always been loving and tender with her, there was a marked difference in his entire demeanor than there had been in the beginning. He was openly demonstrative with her and had no problem showering her with affection whether in private or public.

  His men ribbed him about it, but he took it in stride and blithely told them when they found a woman like Evangeline to come back and they’d talk then. There hadn’t been much in response his men could say to that, so they quickly shut up.

  Then he’d surprised her by flying them both down to visit her parents just before Christmas, though he’d insisted they return to the city so they could spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together at the apartment.

  They’d spent three wonderful days with her family, but it was Drake’s Christmas gift to them that had blown Evangeline—and her mother and father—completely away.

  The day before he and Evangeline were to return to New York, Drake had taken Evangeline and her parents to a beautiful house in the same town they lived in and told them it was theirs.

  It had been completely renovated to make it wheelchair accessible, and the kitchen had been gutted and a chef’s dream kitchen had been constructed with top-of-the-line appliances and countertops. Her mother had cried tears of joy. Even her father had been overwhelmed and emotional.

  But Drake hadn’t stopped there. He’d done one better. The new house not only came with a housekeeper who came in three days a week to clean, but he also presented her mother with the keys to a brand-new van so her dad wasn’t housebound so much.

  Her mother had hugged Drake at least a hundred times and thanked him profusely not only for his generosity but also for making her baby so happy. And one had only to look at Evangeline to see that she radiated happiness. She glowed from head to toe with contentment only someone deeply in love could feel.

  And to properly and creatively express her gratitude for all he’d done for her family, Evangeline had wickedly made love to him aboard his jet the entire flight back to New York City. He’d jokingly told her as they’d gotten into the car at the airport that she’d worn him out and that he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed to celebrate Christmas with her.

  She had very seriously told him that if he couldn’t get out of bed, then she would have no choice but to join him there, and since she’d be bored out of her mind she would have to come up with ways to keep herself entertained. He’d informed her that what she was saying wasn’t exactly a threat and he could certainly think of worse ways to spend the holiday.

  Christmas Eve dawned clear and cold, a brisk wind whistling through the streets, but the skies were completely clear and cloudless, the sun bright overhead, much to Evangeline’s disappointment. After all, what was Christmas without snow?

  Drake laughed and told her that snow was indeed in the forecast starting early in the evening.

 
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