Dominated, p.19
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       Dominated, p.19
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         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  Evangeline hustled around the kitchen the entire morning in preparation for Drake’s men to arrive for an early Christmas Eve dinner that afternoon. She’d bought every single one of them a gift and they all lay wrapped underneath the tree. Along with the dozen she’d bought for Drake.

  He’d been highly secretive about what he was getting for her, even going so far as not to put a single one under the tree that had her name on it. She pouted every time she looked at the tree, and he merely laughed.

  Drake found her tending one of the many skillets at the stove and slid his arms around her, pulling her back against his chest. His lips feathered over the side of her neck and he nibbled at the sensitive flesh just beneath her ears.

  “There you are,” he murmured. “Planning to spend the entire day in here? I’m starting to feel neglected.”

  “You poor baby, you,” she said without real sympathy. “You won’t be complaining later when you taste what I’m making.”

  He sniffed appreciatively. “It smells delicious. What is it? It doesn’t look traditional. Aren’t those fish fillets and shrimp over there?”

  She smiled. “Yep. I’m cooking you down-home Southern food for Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I’m forgoing turkey and ham, and instead I’m cooking a rib roast with several delicious sides and we’ll have lobster bisque as a starter.”

  He groaned. “God, woman. I’m seriously going to have to hire a personal trainer. I swear I’ve gained twenty pounds since I met you and you started feeding me.”

  She lifted an eyebrow and turned her head so she could look up at him. “Where are these twenty pounds you’ve gained? Because they aren’t anywhere I can see them.”

  He pretended to give the matter serious consideration. “Well, I suppose the fact that you ravish me on a daily basis balances out all the calories I’m consuming. Satisfying you is very strenuous activity.”

  “I can always curb my appetite,” she said sweetly. “I’d hate for you to suffer needlessly.”

  “Try it,” he growled. “If I die, I’ll go a happy man. Well fed and sexually sated by the most gorgeous, sexy, desirable woman on the planet.”

  “Wow,” she murmured. “Biased much?”

  He smacked her playfully on the ass but it carried a bite, causing her pulse to surge to life.

  “I’m not biased. I’m a man of discerning tastes. I refuse to settle for anything less than the best. Which is why I waited for you.”

  She was speechless and precariously close to tears, and she wasn’t about to ruin the light and playful mood by sobbing all over him.

  He sighed and gave a mock groan of exasperation. “When will we ever get to the point that I can compliment you without you crying all over me?” he chided.

  “Never,” she mumbled. “Get used to it.”

  “It appears I have no choice,” he said dryly.

  The door buzzer sounded and Drake made a disgruntled noise. “So much for being alone anymore.”

  “Don’t be rude and antisocial toward our guests,” she reproached.

  He laughed at that. “Darling, I’m always rude and antisocial. They’d likely have me committed if I ever wasn’t. Or at least they’d think I’d been abducted by aliens.”

  She elbowed him in the gut as he moved away from her to answer the summons. A few moments later, Drake’s men were crowding into the apartment, all carrying brightly wrapped packages that were immediately stuck under the tree.

  Then, predictably, they all sauntered into the kitchen with the same question. What were they having for dinner?

  Evangeline had set the formal dining table and made certain there were enough chairs for every single person. Two hours after Drake’s men arrived, she made the call for dinner and then watched in satisfaction as they all gathered around the table. Drake sat at the head while Evangeline sat to his right and Silas sat to his left. The others took their places down either side with Maddox taking the other end across from Drake.

  “Before we all dig in, I just want to thank Evangeline for going to such trouble to prepare such a wonderful meal for us all,” Drake said, pride clearly reflected in his eyes as he gazed affectionately in her direction.

  “I propose a toast,” Silas said, lifting his glass of wine. “To Evangeline. One of the sweetest, kindest and most generous people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and who also, irrefutably, has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.”

  “I’ll drink to that,” Maddox said, raising his glass in salute.

  “I, as well,” Drake said, tipping his glass in her direction. “And don’t you dare cry.”

  She laughed, because if she didn’t, well, she would indeed cry. She raised her glass and swept her gaze over all of the gathered men.

  “Thank you all for coming and for making this holiday so special.”

  They were a bit noisy as they all chimed in, but then they drank down part of their wine and Evangeline started the dishes flowing around the table, serving up blackened catfish fillets, grilled and fried shrimp, crawfish étouffée to accompany the fillets and then the vegetables, after which the best came last. Her homemade rolls.

  As soon as the first man bit into a fresh, piping hot roll, a groan went up.

  “Oh Jesus,” Hartley said, his expression one of supreme bliss. “That is the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.”

  Curious over his reaction, everyone began grabbing for their rolls at the same time and then the table erupted in moans, sighs and exclamations of sheer bliss.

  “Goddamn, Drake,” Justice complained. “Why did you have to get to her first? I would be her slave for life for nothing more than her rolls.”

  “I’ll have to remember that,” Evangeline said mischievously. “Now I know what to do when I want a favor. Just dangle a homemade roll in front of your nose.”

  “Honey, you won’t have to dangle for me,” Jax said with his best puppy-dog eyes. “Just say the word roll and I’ll be at your beck and call.”

  “You bunch of jackasses,” Drake said. “Leave my woman alone. For that matter, leave my rolls alone. There better be some left for me or I’ll kick all your asses.”

  Silas, who’d been silent as he chewed on his roll, glanced over at Drake and in a perfectly straight voice said, “You’ll have to go through me first. These rolls are totally worth doing jail time for murder.”

  Evangeline burst into laughter at Drake’s surprised expression. Then the rest of his men started laughing at Silas’s still-somber, perfectly straight face.

  “Y’all are too much,” she said, shaking her head.

  They ate, enjoying one another’s company. Teasing, bickering and bantering continued throughout the entire meal, and Evangeline decided this must be what it was like to have a large family with several siblings.

  She’d love to have a large family of her own one day. As many children as she could safely deliver. She had no idea how Drake felt about children or if he even wanted them, but she hoped with all her heart he did. He would be such a good father. And he’d protect her and their children with his life.

  Drake reached underneath the table to catch her hand in a squeeze. His smile was full of warmth and something that looked so very much like . . . love. It made her so wistful. She knew he cared deeply about her. Perhaps he even loved her but just hadn’t admitted it to himself much less her. She could wait, though. She wasn’t going anywhere. She’d wait forever if that was what it took. He—and his love—were worth waiting for.

  When they were finished eating, they left the dishes out on the table for the cleaning service to get later that night, and all filed into the living room where a fight broke out over who got to be “Santa.”

  Evangeline was astonished by so many burly, badass-looking alpha males actually arguing over who got to give out the presents under the tree. Finally Silas silenced them all by announcing that he would pass out presents, and Evangeline thought the others were going to suffer apoplexy, in shock over Silas voluntarily doing any such th
ing. Justice looked as though he might suffer a stroke or an aneurysm as he stared at Drake’s most senior man like he’d just grown a second head.

  But Silas merely smiled and asked Evangeline to sit on the couch so he could pass her gifts out to her.

  “Wait, what?” she asked in bewilderment. “I don’t have anything to unwrap. You’re supposed to pass out the gifts I got for all of you.”

  Silas shook his head as did the others. Maddox scowled at her.

  “So you think it’s appropriate for you to have gotten all of us something but it’s not okay for us to have gotten you a gift?” Silas asked pointedly.

  She flushed. “You weren’t supposed to know—until now—that I had even gotten you anything.”

  “We didn’t,” Silas said dryly. “We were in here to give you our gifts.”

  “We got presents?” Zander asked in a hopeful voice.

  She chuckled because he sounded like an excited little boy at Christmas. In fact, looking around at all of them, they were all smiling and looked eager to see what she had gotten. She was glad now that she had gone completely overboard with her shopping and had gotten each of them multiple gifts.

  “I just hope y’all like them,” she murmured self-consciously.

  “We’ll love whatever you got us,” Maddox said, shooting the others a warning stare.

  Silas began handing everyone’s gifts out, and the guys promptly tore into theirs with all the gusto and excitement of a bunch of teenagers. She watched, too transfixed by the smiles and reactions to her gifts to pay any attention to hers. This was a Christmas she’d never forget no matter how long she lived. She slid a glance at Drake to get his reaction. This was their first Christmas together and they’d shared it first with her family and now with his. Later? They’d have their own Christmas celebration in private. But for now she was taking it all in and savoring every single memory made.

  Drake smiled at her and mouthed, Thank you. She smiled broadly in return, letting him know that he was more than welcome. The silly man. It was he who had done far more for her than she would ever do for him.

  Every single man came over to offer Evangeline a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and each sincerely thanked her for the gifts she’d gotten them. Then, of course, they urged her to open hers and she eagerly dove in, ripping the paper to shreds in her haste to see what was inside.

  The guys teased her and poked fun, but there was open warmth and affection for her in each of their expressions.

  At the end of the evening, Evangeline hated to see them go, although she was looking forward to whatever Drake had planned. He hadn’t said much other than he wanted them to open their gifts to one another on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until Christmas morning. And since she hadn’t seen the first present from him with her name on it, she had no clue what he could have gotten her.

  And, well, after all he’d done for her parents, surely he had to know that there wasn’t a single other thing she needed. All she could have ever asked for, he’d already provided. If she hadn’t already acknowledged her love for him, then it would have been sealed when he’d gifted her parents with the house renovated especially for her father’s needs.

  After hugging and kissing everyone good-bye, Evangeline plopped onto the couch and curled her feet underneath her as she watched the flames in the electric fireplace in Drake’s living room. Then, remembering the forecast, she got up and hurried to the window, hoping to get a glimpse of snow flurries. But what she saw had her exclaiming her delight.

  “Drake, look! It’s snowing! Big fat fluffy snowflakes too!”

  Drake returned from seeing his men to the elevator and curled his arms around her waist, pulling her into his embrace. He smiled and kissed her temple.

  “I see that, Angel. Does that complete your Christmas, then?”

  She turned in his arms and looped her arms up and around his neck. “You complete my Christmas, Drake. I can live without snow. I can’t live without you.”

  He kissed her slow and sweet, his tongue stroking the depths of her mouth.

  “Come sit on the sofa and let me go get my gifts for you.”

  Excitement raced through her veins and she was nearly jittering as she returned to the couch. Flashing a knowing smile in her direction, he disappeared into the bedroom only to return a short time later with several wrapped packages. He laid them under the tree and then went back for more. But when he walked back in the direction of the bedroom a third time, her mouth fell open.

  “Drake! How many presents did you buy me?” she asked, appalled at the mound of presents piled under the tree.

  He grinned as he dumped the third load under the tree and then set off again for the bedroom. She was going to kill him. She didn’t need all this stuff! But, remembering his reaction before when she’d resisted the gifts he’d bought for her, she silenced her objections, refusing to ruin the holiday for him. If he enjoyed buying her things, she wouldn’t deprive him of that pleasure.

  Finally, after the fourth trip, he returned to the sofa and held out his hand to her. She let him pull her up from the couch and lead her toward the tree, where they both sat on the floor. Oh, this was going to be so much fun.

  They took turns opening gifts, each expressing the sentiment behind each one. Drake looked honestly pleased by what she’d chosen for him, and she hadn’t realized just how nervous she’d been over his reaction until she saw that he truly loved everything she’d picked out.

  The whole unwrapping-gifts thing seemed to bemuse and befuddle him in turns. Her heart clenched thinking about the fact that no one had ever likely given him a Christmas present, a birthday present or any kind of present for that matter. If she had her way, she’d give him happiness and joy for the rest of her days.

  They’d opened the last of the gifts, or so she’d thought. As she started to get up to start picking up the wrapping paper that lay in shreds all around them, he caught her hand and tugged her back down, only this time, he positioned her in his lap with one arm curled securely around her.

  “I have one more present for you,” he said in a husky voice.

  “Oh, Drake, you shouldn’t have,” she said helplessly. “I think you bought the contents of one entire department store already!”

  He handed her a medium-sized perfectly square and artfully wrapped gift with a huge bow made from satin ribbon. It was almost too beautiful to open.

  “Go ahead,” he urged. “Open it.”

  With shaking hands, she reverently removed the ribbon and bow and then tore off the paper. When she opened the box, yet another box lay inside. She pulled it out and then proceeded to open it. When she saw the small jeweler’s box inside the second box, her breath caught, refusing to expel from her contracted lungs.

  Her fingers glanced clumsily off the top of the box as she tried to get it open. Finally, Drake helped her by flipping the top up to reveal a gorgeous, huge diamond solitaire ring. She glanced hastily at him, her eyes wide with question. She wasn’t jumping to any conclusions and potentially humiliating herself, but oh God, she couldn’t breathe!

  He took the ring from the box and then proceeded to slide it on the ring finger of her left hand. Her vision blurred with tears and her nostrils flared as she fought to maintain control of her raging emotions.

  Then he cupped her chin with his hand and looked intently into her eyes.

  “Will you marry me, Angel?” he asked solemnly. “Will you be mine, legally, for the rest of our lives?”

  “Oh, Drake,” she said on a shaky breath. “Are you sure? You really want to marry me?”

  “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life,” he vowed. “You are the only woman I’ve ever wanted—or will ever want—to marry me. To have my children. To grow old with me. Say yes, Angel. I don’t want to wait. I want you to be mine in every way possible so the world knows you’re mine.”

  She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him fiercely, her heart beating insanely fast, so fast she was lightheaded
.

  “Yes! Oh my God, yes! I love you so much, Drake. I’ll never love anyone but you. There is nothing more that I’d love than to be your wife and to have your children. I want an entire houseful,” she said wistfully. “How many do you want?”

  He smiled, his eyes filling with absolute satisfaction. He looked . . . happy.

  “I’ll give you as many children as you want, Angel. With you as their mother, I’ll never have to worry about our children having the kind of childhood I did.” He hesitated, his eyes dimming for a brief second. Then he looked back at her, his expression so fierce and . . . loving . . . that it took her breath away. “Before you, I would have said that I’d never marry. Never have children. The risk was too great. I never wanted any child of mine to have the same kind of mother I had. One who would have aborted me if it weren’t for the benefits she would receive for having me. But then I met you and everything changed. I didn’t know women like you existed,” he said with awe and reverence. “But thank God they do. And thank God I found you.”

  “Oh, Drake,” she repeated for the third time that evening. It seemed like they were the only two words she was capable of saying. “You’ve made me so very happy. You are a living reminder that dreams really do come true. You’ve made all mine come true. How could I not love you? How could I not marry you? How could I want any man but you to father my children?”

  “How about we go to bed and practice making one of those babies,” he said, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “I wanted to exchange gifts tonight because I wanted to spend our first Christmas together in bed, making love with the knowledge that as soon as I can arrange it, you’ll be mine in every possible way in the eyes of God and man.”

  “I don’t think you need any practice in that area whatsoever,” she said with a sultry smile. “But I’m completely on board with a trial run. You know, just to make sure that when we do decide to make a child, we do it right.”

  25

  “So let’s see the ring,” Maddox said when he entered the apartment with Silas accompanying him. “Swear to God, Drake has kept you under tight wraps ever since he popped the question at Christmas. I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever see you again until he finally told us you were coming to the club to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us.”

  Evangeline blushed, but her smile was from ear to ear as she extended her hand so the other men could see the enormous diamond glittering on her finger. The stone was so huge and likely so exorbitantly expensive that she lived in fear of losing it. So she never took it off. Ever.

  Maddox whistled in appreciation. “Drake knows how to do it up right when he finally takes the plunge. Never thought I’d see the day, but damn, here you are. The future Mrs. Drake Donovan.”

  “Congratulations, doll,” Silas said in his quiet tone.

  “Thank you both,” she said, offering each an affectionate hug. “Are y’all ready to go? I admit, after being holed up for the last week here with Drake, I’m getting a little stir-crazy. I’m ready to get out and actually see people!”

  Maddox chuckled. “Your ride awaits, my lady. And may I say how amazing you look tonight. I’m tempted to go make you change now because once Drake takes one look at you, he’s likely going to make me turn around and bring you right back home.”

  Silas’s lips compressed to prevent his laughter from escaping, but he ruefully acknowledged that Maddox was quite likely right.

  “He bought the damn thing, so he can just suck it up while I wear it,” she grumbled.

  “I can see why he bought it,” Silas observed. “But somehow I think he had himself in mind when he bought it for you. And not half a dozen other men who certainly appreciate a beautiful woman when they see one.”

  “Let’s go before one of you does decide to make me go change,” she said in exasperation.

  Dusk had fallen by the time the car carrying Evangeline, Maddox and Silas arrived at the club. They passed by the front entrance, where despite the cold and the flurries swirling in the air, a long line extended down the block to wrap around the building going down the next street.

  “Wow, it looks crazy busy,” she exclaimed.

  “It’s the club’s biggest night of the year,” Maddox replied. “And it does get pretty crazy. Drake always hires extra muscle and eyes for New Year’s Eve.”

  She made a face. “Reminds me of the first night I came here.”

  Silas reached over to squeeze her hand. “Don’t even think about that tonight. Tonight is your night to shine and have fun.”

  She smiled at him. “Oh, don’t worry. I don’t have a single regret about that night other than I wasn’t the one who punched Eddie in the face. That would have been the only thing that made it better. It’s the night I met Drake.”

  Maddox grinned. “Very true. And I have to say, sweetheart, that night ranks pretty high on my list as well.”

  They parked in the back next to Drake’s sleek car, and Silas helped her out before positioning her solidly between the two men as they entered the building. They were greeted by several of Drake’s employees as they passed on their way to Drake’s office. Knowing that Drake had likely already zeroed in on her presence, she smiled broadly and blew a kiss in the general direction of his office.

  Beside her, Maddox chuckled. “You’re such a little tease.”

  “Moi?” she asked innocently.

  “You’re good for him,” Silas said in a serious tone.

  Her eyebrows went up but she said nothing as they rode the elevator up. When the doors opened, she was assailed by a sense of déjà vu. She was brought back to the very first time she’d ridden this elevator, terrified and embarrassed beyond words only to be confronted by the force of nature that was Drake Donovan.

  She sighed happily. So much had changed since then. Who would have ever guessed that the woman who’d walked so hesitantly into Impulse that first time would be coming back as Drake’s future wife?

  Before they’d taken three steps, Drake materialized at her side, his expression comical as he took in her dress.

 
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