Dominated, p.21
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       Dominated, p.21
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         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  “Evangeline, is there some place you want to go for the night?” Silas asked. “Your girlfriends’ place perhaps?”

  “Oh God no,” she said in a horrified voice. “So they’ll know just how right they were and how stupid I was? Again?” Her eye twitched and she put her hand to her forehead again and swallowed back the convulsive retch. “I have nowhere to go, Silas,” she said with quiet despair. “You should know that. I depended solely on Drake. It will be a lesson learned the hard way to never, ever rely on any man ever again.”

  Pain and sorrow reflected like a mirror in his eyes. Then he saw her wince again as the headlights from the car approaching stabbed through her gaze. His eyes narrowed as he homed in on the source of her discomfort.

  “Evangeline, what’s wrong?” he asked sharply. “Should I take you to the hospital? Are you sick?”

  Sick? Oh God, she wanted to laugh again. She was sick to her soul. She would never be able to think of this night without getting sick, and there was no way she would ever be able to forget this night any time soon. Or even in two decades.

  “Headache,” she croaked. “Making me sick. Don’t worry about me, Silas. Thank you for the ride. I’ll decide where I want to be dropped off, but just let me ride for a while if you don’t mind, please. Just until I figure out what I want to do and where I want to go.”

  And maybe if the driver would let her, she’d just ride all night and then let the city swallow her up whole.

  Silas cursed long and hard, his expression so murderous that it was hard to look at him without reacting in fear. Silas had always been nothing but kind and compassionate with her, but tonight, she saw what she’d never been able to see in Drake before tonight.

  A monster.

  “I’ll take you to my apartment building, Evangeline. Don’t worry, doll. If you aren’t comfortable staying with me, you can stay in one of the two vacant apartments I keep on either side of mine for privacy.”

  Her brow furrowed, causing another burst of pain to shriek through her head. “You own an entire apartment building?”

  He nodded. “I keep the top floor to myself. In time, I’ll renovate the entire upper floor and make one big apartment out of it. I just haven’t had time to get to it yet. I lease out the units on the lower four floors. You can stay with me or in one of the units next to me. Whichever one you’re more comfortable with.”

  She lowered her head in shame.

  “Evangeline, do not bow your head because you feel shame with me.” Fury laced his words, and his teeth were tightly clenched together.

  “How am I supposed to feel, Silas? You tell me. I have nothing left. Not even my pride. I gave that up for him as well. And he threw me away like I was yesterday’s garbage, so now my only option is to go home with one of the men who work for him like I’m some pathetic charity case? That may very well be what I am. God knows the pathetic part fits. But it doesn’t mean I have to like or accept it. If I’m worthless, it’s because he made me who I am,” she whispered.

  Silas was seething from head to toe. Well over six feet of bristling, snarling, pissed-off, dominant alpha male.

  “Swear to God, I’m going to fucking kill him for what he’s done,” Silas said through clenched teeth.

  “I’m not worth it, Silas. Just let it go,” she said wearily.

  “Bullshit! You’re worth a hell of a lot fucking more than what you’ve gotten. You deserve far better than what you’ve been given. And if you think I’m going to sit by and just let it happen? No fucking way. You get me, Evangeline? It’s not going to happen!”

  His voice was at a roar and a lesser person would be pissing herself out of fear. But she knew he wasn’t angry with her, and it made her want to cry all over again from the start.

  “I’m taking you to my place,” he said, ushering her to the waiting car. “Tonight you’re staying at my place. Tomorrow I’ll give you the keys to one of the neighboring apartments. It’s already furnished. I’ll call Maddox and have him go by Drake’s apartment and pack you some clothes.”

  She went pale, all the blood leaching from her face. “No! You heard him, Silas. And even if he hadn’t informed me that the cost of betrayal is everything, I’d never take a single thing he paid for.”

  “Then I’ll go out and buy you something to wear in the morning,” he said in a voice that dared her to argue.

  “Only if you’ll allow me to pay you back, and with that in mind, I would greatly appreciate it if you kept it cheap and just got a few pairs of jeans, some T-shirts and maybe a coat,” she said quietly.

  “I’ll buy what I deem appropriate and we will discuss your repayment options at another time,” he said, slamming her door. When he walked around and got in on the other side, he pierced her with his stare. “It won’t be discussed tonight when you’re completely wasted, you’ve just had your fucking heart ripped out and goddamn tears are still sliding down your face.”

  With that, he gave the driver the order to drive them to Silas’s apartment, and the car drove off through the blustery cold January first streets of New York City.

  Hell of a way to ring in the new year.

  26

  Evangeline woke with a still-throbbing headache, her vision so blurred she could barely make out her surroundings. Her mouth was dry and her throat swollen and so scratchy that it hurt to swallow.

  She had insisted that she take Silas’s couch in the living room, refusing to allow him to give up his bed and for that matter his personal space and privacy, which she knew he guarded fiercely. There had been a stubborn set to his jaw that told her he was going to dig in his heels, but she’d flatly refused and perhaps in the end, sensing how perilously close she was to losing her tenuous grasp on her control, he’d conceded, though he wasn’t at all happy about it.

  She could hear him in the kitchen of the small apartment and she smelled coffee brewing, but the scent immediately made her stomach rebel and perspiration beaded her forehead and her flesh became clammy and sticky.

  Pain was ever present. Every blink of her eyes was like a shard of glass being plunged into her skull. She wasn’t aware of making any sound, but suddenly Silas loomed over her, concern etched into his features.

  “Evangeline? Are you okay?”

  She didn’t even try to lie to him. She shook her head and promptly regretted even that small action. Her hand flew to her mouth as her stomach rebelled and Silas simply scooped her up into his arms and rushed for the bathroom, setting her down in front of the toilet.

  “Deep breaths,” he said in a hushed tone. “Is it your head still hurting you?”

  She nodded much slower this time. “It’s awful, Silas,” she whispered.

  “I’ll get something for you to take as soon as I’m sure you can keep it down,” he said grimly. “And then you’ll need to lie down on the couch and rest. The medicine will likely knock you on your ass.”

  “What is it?” she asked fearfully.

  “Nothing harmful,” he soothed. “It’s prescription pain medication. I get migraines and they’re debilitating. I have to take it in order to ease the pain. Trust me. You’ll feel quite nice in half an hour or so. And then, if you’re feeling up to it, I’ll take you next door and let you in the apartment.”

  It took all she had not to hang her head again, but after Silas’s warning last night, she didn’t have the mental strength to take on his anger at what she simply couldn’t help but feel shame for.

  “Thank you,” she whispered. “I won’t stay long. Just a day or two until I decide what I’m going to do.”

  He scowled at that, but then she hadn’t expected anything less. “You’ll stay for as goddamn long as you need to. Get me?”

  “Yeah,” she said tiredly. “Whatever. I don’t have the strength to argue with you at the moment.”

  His expression softened. “I have no desire to argue with you, doll. Have your nausea under control now? Think you can take lying down on the couch again? I’ll get you some medicine and fix you s
omething to eat.”

  She let him lead her back into the living room and sank onto the couch while he went for the medication. A moment later, he returned with a glass of milk and a pill for her to take.

  After she’d downed it, he took the glass back from her. “Lie back. I’ll go fix you something to eat. Don’t worry. It won’t be too heavy. I know you’re still queasy.”

  “Thank you,” she whispered without opening her eyes.

  “Anytime, doll. Anytime.”

  She dozed off and on until Silas came back into the living room with two plates. He sat down on the couch next to her and helped her to a sitting position before handing her one of the plates.

  “Feeling any better yet?” he asked.

  “Swimmy,” she muttered.

  “Swimmy? Is that a word?”

  “It’s how I feel. Swimmy. Like the entire world around me is swimming.”

  He chuckled. “Ah, I gotcha. Yep, I’d say the medicine is kicking in. Try to eat something. If you’re feeling better after breakfast, I’ll take you over before I head into work.”

  She tensed and closed her eyes at the mention of work. Drake. He would be there, no doubt. Just another day like any other. He wouldn’t have been up all night last night like she was, devastated by loss.

  “Tell Maddox thanks when you see him,” she said. “For everything. I owe both of you my thanks. For being my friend. One can never have too many of those, and apparently I have fewer than most.”

  “When it comes to friendship, I prefer quality over quantity,” Silas said matter-of-factly.

  “Good point,” she conceded.

  She stared down at her barely consumed breakfast and to her dismay, tears splattered onto her plate, dripping from her face. She hadn’t even realized she’d started crying again.

  “Ah hell, doll,” Silas said, his face a wreath of torture. “You have to stop crying or you’re never going to get rid of that headache.”

  “I kn-know,” she choked out. “I d-don’t want to c-cry but I can’t s-stop. Oh, Silas, what am I going to do?” she asked miserably. “What am I going to do?”

  He pulled her into his arms and she buried her face in his neck as sobs erupted, shaking her entire body. For seemingly an eternity, she sat there, huddled in his arms, sobbing her heart out. When finally some of the horrible sound coming from her abated, she lay limply against Silas, so much misery in her heart and soul that she wanted to die from it.

  “You won’t die from it, honey,” Silas said, his voice rich with sympathy, making her realize she’d said her last thought aloud. “It may feel like it right now, but in time, this too shall pass.”

  “I used to love that quote,” she said softly.

  “And not now?”

  She shook her head. “This won’t ever pass, Silas. You don’t just recover from something like this. Nothing will ever be the same again.”

  “Drake will pull his head out of his ass and realize what a terrible mistake he made,” Silas said, though he sounded pissed that Drake had ever believed such a horrible thing about her anyway.

  “As you said, even if that happens, it will be too late,” she said softly. “He didn’t believe me when it mattered. He didn’t have faith in me at all. If he doesn’t believe in me, how can I be with him? I don’t want others to convince him that I’m innocent. He should know that, Silas. He should know. I’ve never given him any reason to distrust me. I’ve been nothing but honest and open with him and yet he never believed in me the way I believed in him.”

  She shook her head sadly and closed her eyes, wondering how she could have been so wrong about the man she had loved. Still loved no matter how much she wished differently. But love wasn’t something that could be turned off as simply as a light switch. She should hate him. Despise and loathe him with every part of her. And yet she ached. She bled. She grieved.

  “I understand, doll. It’s a hell of a mess and I hate to see you hurting so badly. You of all people don’t deserve this.”

  Silence fell and he held her for another long moment until finally the medication took full effect and her eyelids grew heavy. When he registered how limp she was, he carefully pulled away and eased her head down onto the cushion of the sofa.

  “Rest for a little while,” he whispered. “I’ll take you to the apartment when you wake.”

  • • •

  Drake stood at the window overlooking the busy street that the entrance to Impulse faced and stared broodingly over the dull, gray winter morning. The weather fit his mood to a T. It had been tailor-made just for him. The bleakness spreading like a stain on his soul after Evangeline’s deception and betrayal was insidious and hopeless. Like he’d never feel the sun on his skin again, forever doomed to a life of cold drabness.

  “Why did you do it, Angel?” he whispered. His eyes closed against the wash of pain. “I gave you everything. But it wasn’t enough. Why?”

  It always circled back to what he already knew and, as he’d confided in Evangeline, stupidly thinking she was different. If his own parents couldn’t love him, how could he expect anyone else to ever love him?

  The answer was, he couldn’t.

  And he’d never make the mistake of trying to make someone love him again.

  A sound at his door had him spinning around, a black expression on his face, a warning to whoever was trespassing that they were not welcome. But as his men filed in, expressions of worry, concern, anger . . . fury . . . all were reflected. But the single thing every expression had in common was judgment.

  It fired his temper and sent his mood even blacker, and he hadn’t thought that was possible.

  “What the fuck do you want?” Drake snapped in an icy, rigid tone.

  None of them tried to disguise the disgust in their expression as they stared Drake down.

  “Do you honest-to-God think that Evangeline ratted us out to the goddamn cops?” Jax demanded. “Can you look me in the eye and tell me you believe that shit?”

  “You were there. You saw what I saw. What you don’t know is that she was approached by the cops when she was out to lunch with Zander, Thane and Hatcher. And yes, I do have proof of that conversation, since she’s the one who told me. After Hatcher had already called me, of course.”

  “But she didn’t know Hatcher had called you,” Thane bit out, seemingly pissed that his lunch with Evangeline was helping build the evidence against her.

  “Says you,” Drake said mockingly.

  “You have singlehandedly fucked up the most precious gift a man could ever be given, one that you will never find again,” Zander boomed out. “And you know what? I don’t feel sorry for your stupid ass. You deserve to die a cynical, lonely old man who believes no one is loyal to you. Jesus. I never thought I’d see a brother of mine treat any woman this way, but especially not a woman as special as Evangeline.”

  “You’ve lost all respect in my eyes,” Hartley snapped. “I would have never thought you were capable of treating an innocent, guileless, beautiful and loyal woman who is everything good in this fucked-up world and certainly the only good thing in your fucked-up, miserable world so horrifically. You make me goddamn sick.”

  “Give it a rest,” Drake roared. “She’s got you all by the balls and you don’t even see it. Jesus Christ. Get the hell out of my office and don’t come back until you’ve decided who you’re loyal to. Your brother? Or the woman who sold out not only your brother but you and the rest of our brothers as well.”

  “You destroyed her,” Maddox said quietly, speaking up for the first time since everyone had entered the room. He’d stood back, his animosity and rage a tangible presence in the room. “She was on her knees begging you, for fuck’s sake, and you ripped her to shreds, leaving her no dignity, no pride, and she didn’t care because all she wanted was for you to listen to her. To give her a chance. To have the same faith in her that she had in you.”

  Flashes of discomfort mingled with his men’s pissed-off, brooding stares. Stares that all
judged and found him guilty. Him. When he wasn’t the one who sold them all out to the fucking cops. And yet here they stood, visibly bothered by the image of Evangeline on her knees begging him for a chance.

  God. The entire thing was a blur to him. His entire world had shattered and come to a grinding halt the moment he realized that his angel had betrayed him. What had he said to her? He didn’t know. He didn’t care. He’d only known he had to get away from her before he completely broke down and made more of a fool of himself than she had already made of him.

  A vague image of her on her knees, reaching for him as he steadily backed away, raw anguish etched on her face, tears streaming in endless rivers.

  Please.

  It was all he could remember her saying. The roar was too loud in his head, the pain in his heart too overwhelming. From others he expected nothing less. But not from his angel. And he was pissed that he’d allowed the one person past all his carefully constructed barriers to the very heart and soul of him to do what no one had ever been capable of doing before.

  Destroying him.

  “You’re wrong this time, Drake,” Justice said flatly, anger pouring off him in waves, his entire body tense, almost as if it were taking all his restraint not to launch himself at Drake and beat the hell out of him. “I’ve never questioned you. Never once doubted you. I’ve followed your lead without question. But you just orchestrated the biggest fuckup of your entire life, not to mention committed an unpardonable sin against a woman who loves you more than she cares for her pride or anything else in this goddamn world. You completely demolished a good woman whose only sin was loving and accepting you with no strings or questions. Just . . . unwavering acceptance. Who else can you say that about? Who else can you say has ever loved you unconditionally? Who’s accepted the good and the bad and never left your side, always defended you, fought for you and refused to allow her fear of your world and the life you lead to ever let her leave you? She would have stood by your side and loved you forever, but you just ruined the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to you. All because you’re an unfeeling asshole who wouldn’t even allow her to defend herself. You never once asked her if she betrayed you. You assumed and you judged her, condemned her and found her guilty, and never once did you give her a chance to explain.”

  His eyes were raging and his hands were balled into tight fists at his sides. The others looked to be in wholehearted agreement with every word that blew explosively from Justice’s mouth.

  “And then you just threw her out on the fucking streets with nothing. Without the job or the place to live that you forced her to give up. She worked herself to the bone to selflessly support her family, and she never once complained. How the fuck do you think she’s going to make it on her own now that you made her completely dependent on you? You’ve broken every promise, the very creed of our lifestyle, by shitting all over the gift of her submission and leaving her to fend for herself.”

  Justice shot him another disgusted stare and then he shook his head and licked his lips as if trying to rid himself of a bad taste in his mouth.

  “You know what? Fuck this and fuck you. And fuck throwing her out on the streets after you took so many pieces out of her she’ll never be whole again. I’m out of here. I can’t stomach you a goddamn minute longer.”

  Justice turned and stalked out of his office and never once looked back.

  The rest of his men symbolically turned around, and like Justice, they walked out.

  Drake staggered into his chair and then let his head fall into his hands. Had everyone but him lost their goddamn minds? They were defending the woman who’d tried to take them all down? Were they willing to go to jail because they liked her and she was a great cook who was nice to them?

  Doubt and a sense of foreboding crept up his spine. Never before had he questioned his instincts, his gut. They never steered him wrong.

  But . . . what if . . .

  What if they were right? And he’d made a terrible, unforgivable mistake?

  But if they were wrong, then they’d all lose everything they’d worked so hard to achieve.

  What about Evangeline?

  The question whispered insidiously inside his mind.

  Hadn’t she already lost everything? Hadn’t he, for that matter? He stared around at the evidence of the empire he’d built from the ground up. Did any of it mean a goddamn thing if he no longer had Evangeline to share it with? To share his life with?

  No, he was better off without lies, deceit, betrayal . . .

  But again that nagging voice, the one that whispered to him incessantly, the one filling him with self-doubt, struck again.

  What if she hadn’t lied, deceived or betrayed?

  What if . . . What if she was innocent and he’d made the worst mistake of his life?

  27

  Evangeline hurriedly let herself inside the apartment Silas was letting her use and set the small plastic bag on the bar of the tiny kitchen. For now, she ignored it, not yet able to face the possible consequences the package would reveal.

 
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