Dominated, Page 25Maya Banks
trying to give her as much privacy as possible.”
Not waiting for more, Drake opened the door and strode in, pulling up short when he saw Evangeline’s pale face. She was lying on a hospital bed, rails up, covered lightly with a thin sheet. She wore a hospital gown and her eyelashes rested on her cheeks.
His gaze quickly found the doctor, who was standing to the side looking at lab results. He glanced up when he saw Drake.
“How is she?” Drake asked anxiously.
“She’ll be just fine,” the doctor soothed. “Got a little banged up. She’s going to have one hell of a headache for a couple of days, but otherwise she appears to be unharmed.”
“The baby?” Drake asked fearfully.
The doctor smiled. “Everything appears to be normal in the lab results. Her HCG levels are appropriate for someone six to eight weeks pregnant. She hasn’t been awake for me to question her regarding her last menstrual cycle, but my guess is she’s not very far along.”
Some of the awful tension coiling through his muscles eased and he sagged, weak with relief at knowing that Evangeline and their baby were going to be okay.
“Can I take her home soon?”
The doctor frowned. “Her prolonged state of altered consciousness is worrisome, but given the circumstances, not surprising. She’s suffered a traumatic experience, and sometimes our minds act in a way to protect us. I’m not opposed to letting you take her home, since you’ll simply be moving her to the top floor of this building; however, I’d like to come check in on her at least once a day, and call me if you have any questions or concerns regarding her condition. I want to know the minute her condition changes. Patty will give you a list of things to be on the lookout for, and if she exhibits any of the symptoms listed, you’re to get her back here or to the closest hospital immediately.”
“Thank you,” Drake said sincerely. “I’ll take excellent care of her and make sure she takes it easy until she’s completely recovered.”
The doctor smiled. “I have no doubt you will. And, Drake? Congratulations, son. You’ll make a fine father.”
To Drake’s surprise, when he turned back to Evangeline, her eyes were open and fixed on the ceiling above her. He rushed to the bed and slid his fingers through hers.
“Angel? Baby, I’m here. You’re safe now. You’re both safe. Nothing can hurt you now. The doctor says you can come home with me. Would you like that?”
But she didn’t so much as acknowledge a single word. It was as though she hadn’t even heard him. Her unblinking gaze was distant and so very far away that a chill of foreboding gripped him.
He looked at the doctor helplessly and the doctor grimaced even as he checked Evangeline’s vitals again.
Oh dear God, had he done this to her? Was this what he’d done? She was a hollow shell of herself. So very fragile, on the verge of shattering completely. Or perhaps, finally, she already had and he was looking at the remaining pieces.
He gathered her in his arms, closing his eyes as he pressed his lips to her hair.
“Come back to me, Angel,” he begged. “Come home. It’s safe now. Don’t leave me. I love you. I’m so sorry I’ve never given you the words, but I was afraid. So very afraid. But you make me fearless. You make me strong. You give me the strength to face the absolute worst with the knowledge that with you I can overcome anything. As long as you’re with me, my love. As long as we’re together.”
“I want to go home,” Evangeline said in a small, lifeless voice. “To my parents.”
Drake went utterly still, torn between jubilation that she was awake and speaking and despair at what she’d said.
Dread gripping him by the throat, he slowly pulled away so he could see for himself that she was aware. Her eyes were dull, lacking the sparkle that was quintessentially Evangeline. Her face was bland and expressionless. She might as well be discussing the weather for the emotion she displayed. There was no anger, no passion, no color to her cheeks.
“Angel, please,” he said huskily. “Give me a chance to explain. There’s so much I must beg forgiveness for, so much I have to make right with you. Please, just come home with me. Let me take care of you and let me explain—apologize. I know I don’t deserve your sweetness, your light, your love, but, Angel, I’m begging you. Give me one last chance. I swear you won’t regret it this time.”
Agitation and fear—God, fear—registered in her eyes, replacing the flatness with panic. She began to struggle against him until he finally loosened his hold on her and leaned back far enough that she wasn’t pressed against his body.
“I want to go home,” she repeated, her tone and inflection never changing. Lifeless and dull. Like her eyes. Her body language. Her expression.
Her eyes chased to the doctor, a plea for an ally. Help. One would have to be made of stone not to react to the desperation in Evangeline’s eyes. But the doctor remained silent, studying Evangeline with a slight frown.
Drake closed his eyes, trying in vain to swallow the knot threatening to rob him of breath. Tears burned like acid in his eyes and he blinked furiously, refusing to break down. If he let go, if he ever let go of his tenuous grip on his composure, then he would completely fall apart and shatter into tiny, deadly shards.
“Angel,” he whispered. “Come home with me. To our home. Give me this much this one time and I’ll never ask for more. Please let me make this up to you. I can’t live without you. I don’t want to live without you. Without you . . .”
He trailed off, refusing to give voice to the reality of all he was, or rather wasn’t, without her. He couldn’t envision his life, his existence, without Evangeline. What had he ever done without her? What had his life been before she stormed in and turned his entire world upside down? He adored every single thing about her. Loved the chaos she’d brought to his well-ordered routine. Loving her was so fucking easy. It was impossible not to love her. Everyone she met, influenced in some way, fell under her spell, and it took only one of her genuine, innocent smiles and a few sweet words. If only he’d realized his love for her sooner. If only he’d given her his trust as easily.
Oh, it wasn’t as though he’d only just fallen in love with her. He’d merely been a blind fool refusing to acknowledge the truth. That he’d fallen and fallen hard from the moment an enchanting blond-haired angel with big blue eyes had nervously walked into his club. The first time he’d kissed her, it had sealed his fate. A possessive, symbolic gesture of his claim.
And he’d proceeded to fuck up the very best part of his life time and time again.
“Without you I’m not whole,” he said painfully.
“I want to go home. Mama is expecting me,” she said desperately, stirring for the first time, panic and desperation briefly flaring in her eyes.
Her fingers twisted in the thin sheet covering her legs, her agitation radiating from her in nearly tangible waves. He could feel her distress, her entire body quivering, dark shadows coupled with the vivid bruises on her face making her appear so very vulnerable, afraid and . . . defeated.
That alone enraged him. His angel defeated? She was a fucking tigress, but right now she resembled an abused kitten, huddled on the bed, drawing herself into the smallest, tightest ball possible and keeping herself carefully away from his touch as if he were the one responsible for her abuse.
But wasn’t he?
He wanted to goddamn puke. He wanted to put his fist through the fucking wall. He wanted to cry for all he’d done—and all that was fast slipping through his fingertips.
The doctor shot him a warning glance, dipped his head in Evangeline’s direction and then shook his head, his message clear. Back off. She’s fragile. Don’t push her. Give her time to heal.
Let her go.
“I’ll send my preliminary report with her. She needs to see a doctor there as soon as possible,” the doctor said in a low tone.
Just as evident was the doctor’s firm opinion that forcing Evangeline could prove to be the last straw. Could
break her last hold on the control she was so desperately clinging to like a lifeline. He didn’t need to voice that opinion. Drake could see it written all over the doctor’s face.
Panic clutched and clawed at his insides until he was sweating and shaking. Let her go? It was equivalent to cutting his own throat, but then he deserved no less. He had driven her to this. He had driven her away. She wasn’t running from him. He’d violently shoved her away with no remorse or hesitation—at the time. There was plenty of regret now. When it was too fucking late. He’d been given one of life’s most precious gifts—certainly the most precious gift he’d ever been given—and he’d cruelly rejected it. Had rejected her and everything she’d so freely given him, never asking for a single thing in return.
Except . . . the one thing he hadn’t been willing to give. His trust. His absolute belief in her. The same unwavering, unconditional belief she had in him. He was the worst sort of monster. Just like his mother and father. He hadn’t risen above his past. He’d become his past.
Evangeline looked wildly around the room, tears welling in her eyes, with a look of such hopelessness that it was like a knife to Drake’s gut.
He gently stroked a hand through her tangled hair. Then he leaned in, unable to resist pressing his lips to her golden crown. It was a benediction. It was a gesture of regret. Sorrow. Grief. Apology. And love. So much love, and it had come far too late. He hadn’t given her what she needed most. His belief, his trust, his love. But he could at least give her this.
“I’ll get you home, Angel. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything. Just rest and focus only on getting better and putting this behind you.”
Oh God, please don’t let her put me behind her as well.
He couldn’t think about that. Couldn’t imagine a life without her shining light banishing long-held shadows in the black depths of his soul. Somehow, some way, she had to come back to him. He wouldn’t consider any other option. If he did, he’d completely break down.
She relaxed slightly, though there was still a troubled, guarded look shadowing her eyes. As though she didn’t trust him to tell her the truth. But then who could blame her when he’d been such a ruthless bastard?
Feeling himself coming undone one piece at a time, he pulled her into his arms, cradling her ever so tenderly against his heart—her heart. She owned it. He buried his face in her hair, the strands dampening as tears slithered over the tormented lines in his features as he wept silently, hiding his heartbreak and devastation in her silken tresses.
Ah, Angel, my precious, precious love. Letting you go is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever had to do or will ever have to do in my life. Wherever you go, you take my heart. My soul. Everything within me. I’ll always be with you. I’ll dream of you every night, every hour of the day, and pray with every breath that one day you’ll come back where you belong. To me. Until then, I’ll never be whole. You’re my other half. The very best part of me. The only good thing I’ve ever touched, loved, held close to my heart. Without you I am lost.
Could someone live with half a heart and a broken soul so tarnished by a lifetime of sins? She deserved so much better than what he’d given her. She deserved better than the man he was. And yet she’d chosen him and he’d cruelly betrayed her. He stared bleakly down at Evangeline, who lay limply in his arms. It wasn’t true. You didn’t need a heart to live, because his had been walking around outside his body ever since Evangeline had entered his world and effortlessly stolen it. And he’d never have it back, he’d never feel truly alive or live, until—unless—she came back to him.
His heart had lived inside her, a part of her, for the last months and he never wanted it back. Not unless it came as part of her.
Evangeline stared through unseeing eyes as the plane touched down in the small municipal airport just half an hour from her hometown. In the seat across the aisle sat Maddox and across from him Silas sat, staring at her in brooding silence.
Such had been the case ever since they’d taken off from New York City, but she’d refused to meet his gaze. She didn’t make eye contact with either Silas or Maddox the entire trip, opting instead to either pretend to sleep or aim her focus out the window. But she could see both men in her periphery and neither was happy. No, they were downright pissed.
That might have set her off; after all, what did they have to be pissed off about? But more predominant than the anger betrayed by their tight, clenched jaws was the very real worry in their eyes.
They took turns studying her, probing as though they were doing a thorough physical exam, and it made her want to squirm right out of her seat. By sheer will alone, she’d forced herself to remain stoic and seemingly unaware of their scrutiny.
She knew they were furious with Drake, and it should have heartened her that their belief in her was so resolute, but all she felt was overwhelming sadness that his men had absolute, unwavering trust in her and hadn’t doubted her for a minute, while Drake, the man she loved, the man she thought had loved her even though he hadn’t given her the words, the man she’d planned to spend the rest of her life with and have his children, had been so quick to denounce her and throw her out. Coldly furious, his eyes icy and impenetrable, looking through her, not at her, not seeing her, not hearing her. No, he’d shut her completely out without a second thought. No hesitation.
She glanced down at her flat abdomen where her—their—child was nestled, no outward sign of its presence as of yet, and she closed her eyes. Well, at least one part of her dream would endure. She would have his child, but only one, and she wouldn’t have any other part of him. Not his love. But then she’d never had his love. Only the foolish notion that he loved her but was too alpha, too stoic, too reserved to say the words. She’d thought he’d shown his love in every way that mattered, and because she believed that he loved her, the words hadn’t been important to her. Only that he did love her. It was enough. Had been enough. But it had all been nothing more than fantasy, and she had only herself to blame for immersing herself in a dream world, ignoring the harsh reality, and for not seeing the truth until it was too late to protect herself from utter devastation.
She breathed a sigh of relief when the plane taxied to the small FBO building where her parents would be waiting to drive her home. Oh, please let her keep it together, at least until Silas and Maddox said good-bye and climbed on the plane to return to New York. Then and only then would she allow herself to cry in her mother’s arms. She wouldn’t humiliate herself more than she already had by losing it in front of Drake’s men. Her pride had already suffered irreparable damage when she’d begged Drake on her knees, in front of his men, begged him to believe her, to listen to her. Oh, how she’d begged, only for her pleas to fall on deaf ears. She might as well have been talking to stone because that was what Drake had become the moment the asshole cop had wrongly named her their informant.
Tears burned like acid and she clenched her teeth, refusing to break down, refusing to fall apart in front of Silas and Maddox.
“Evangeline,” Maddox said in a quiet, somber tone.
She turned her head, her gaze briefly skittering over his face before she focused on a point beyond his right shoulder.
“We’re here, sweetheart. Your parents are waiting just outside for you.”
When she would have risen, Silas was there, his hand curling underneath her elbow to help her up. He and Maddox assisted her down the stairway that had been pushed to the plane door.
Her parents stood a few feet away, but Maddox motioned them to give him, Evangeline and Silas just a moment. Her father nodded from his wheelchair, his lips pressed tightly together as he critically surveyed his daughter’s appearance.
She knew she looked a wreck, but why lie by disguising all signs of her devastation? She’d just ruin her makeup and hairdo the minute she cried all over her mother.
Maddox took one of her hands, holding it loosely between his own, and expelled a deep sigh that was surprisingly sad sound
“Evangeline, look at me,” he said gently.
She closed her eyes, tears pricking the corners. Oh God. She couldn’t do this.
“Babe, look at me, please? Can you not even look at me? Are you so angry with us too?”
The words sounded raw with pain and regret, apology in his voice. Her eyes flew open and immediately found his.
“No!” she denied forcefully.
She glanced at Silas to see if he also assumed she was angry with him. His expression was unreadable. Except . . . his eyes. They looked pained. Raw. Exposed. It shocked her because he was always so inscrutable.
“This is hard,” Evangeline choked out, momentarily squeezing Maddox’s hand.
“I know,” Maddox murmured. “Come, give me a hug. Your parents are anxious to greet you and your mother wants to fuss over you.”
She threw herself into Maddox’s arms and despite her vow not to cry, hot tears trailed down her cheeks as she absorbed the solid strength of Maddox’s embrace.
“You and Silas are the dearest friends I’ve ever had,” she whispered. “I’ll never forget you or your kindness. And your support. It means the world to me.”
Maddox pressed a tender kiss to her hair as he pulled away. Then he trailed his finger down her wet cheek, pushing a damp strand of her hair behind her ear.
“You are a remarkable woman, Evangeline. I’m grateful to have known you.”
She gave him a shaky smile before he nudged her in Silas’s direction.
“There’s someone else who would like to say good-bye,” Maddox murmured.
Evangeline took one hesitant step and then another. And then Silas simply opened his arms and she threw herself forward into his crushing embrace. His arms were like steel bands around her, and he shook as he hugged her fiercely.
“I’ll miss you so much,” she choked out.
“I’ll miss you, doll,” he said in a voice thick with emotion. “Take care of yourself and the little one.”
Then he drew away and tipped her chin up with his fingers until she looked directly into his eyes.
“If you ever need anything. If you just want to hear a friendly voice or just need to talk, you have my number. You get me?”
She nodded, tears sliding unchecked down her face. She glanced down and the flash of the diamond ring Drake had given her caught her eye and then blurred when more tears flooded her eyes.
Her engagement ring. Her very last material tie to Drake. She’d forgotten all about it. Slowly she slid it from her finger. She didn’t need it. She had her baby and it was all the reminder of Drake she’d ever need.
She held the ring out to Silas, her voice cracking when she spoke. “Give this back to Drake, please.”
“Any message?” Silas asked softly.
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to say,” she said sadly.
“Take care, doll. Maddox and I are only a phone call away. Remember that.”
She tried to smile, but it was hard when she was dying on the inside, her heart breaking into a million jagged pieces.
“You and Maddox better take care of yourselves,” she admonished. “And Drake. Take care of him too.”
It hurt to say his name. It was like a physical blow that unsteadied her. Maddox curled his hand underneath her arm and then slipped her beneath his shoulder.
“Come on, sweetheart. Your parents are waiting.”
Despite her vow not to fall apart until she was well away from Maddox and Silas and in her mother’s loving arms, she wept the moment her mother reached for her.
Evangeline surveyed her mother’s kitchen in disgust. It looked as if a tornado had struck. Pots and pans were scattered everywhere along with mixing bowls, opened packages, empty boxes and bags. Flour dusted one entire countertop and the cooktop needed a thorough scrubbing. She actually looked forward to that job. It was a good way to work off pent-up frustration by attacking layers of grease and dried food.
Her father had said in a somewhat bemused tone that she was cooking enough food to stockpile for the zombie apocalypse. And, well, he wasn’t wrong. She’d cooked, stored and frozen enough dinners to last them well through the spring and into early summer.
With a sigh, she mentally declared enough. There were only so many things she could cook before she ran through the stockpile of groceries she’d purchased mere days ago. She sat on the stool at the island to rest a moment and automatically ran her hand over her still-flat stomach where her child rested.
As expected, in sync with the surge of love and joy that always accompanied thoughts of her baby came a wave of agony and grief so strong that if she hadn’t already been sitting, it would have forced her to sink into the nearest chair.
It had been a month. A month! And yet in many ways it was only yesterday. She wasn’t sleeping. And despite the fact that she had been cooking like a fiend for the last four weeks, she couldn’t stomach the thought of consuming any of her dishes.
And every single day, she was tormented by her conscience. She had to tell Drake about her pregnancy. Everything had happened so fast. One moment she’d been convinced she would die. The next, Drake and his men had swept in like avenging angels and then . . . ? The rest had been a blur. There had been a doctor. Drake talking to her, his eyes dark with . . . what exactly? She strained to remember, but it was all so fuzzy.
He’d spoken to her in serious, impassioned tones, but even looking at him had sent shards of agony through her heart and all she’d been able to focus on, the only words she’d been able to form, was that she wanted to go home. Where it was safe. To escape the pain.
So stupid. As if she’d ever escape the pain of losing Drake. But she had to tell him he was going to be a father. No matter what he thought of her, that he didn’t love her, he deserved to know, and she wasn’t so vindictive that she’d ever try to keep him from his child. What he did with that knowledge was up to him, but she would tell him.
Would he even care? Would he believe the child was his? He believed in her so little that it wasn’t a stretch to think he’d deny he’d fathered her child. There were paternity tests, of course, but she wouldn’t force him to accept his baby.