Mastered, p.27
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       Mastered, p.27
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         Part #1 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  trying to impress, even if that was precisely what she wanted to do. Impress Drake. But she wanted . . . classy. Beautiful, elegant and yet simple.

  Finally, she chose a blue strapless, knee-length cocktail dress that was perfect. She realized with excitement that the sapphire and diamond choker that she’d never worn would look perfect with the dress, and she could wear the diamond stud earrings Drake had bought for her. She’d finish off the look with the diamond tennis bracelet and a pair of silver heels. She’d wear her hair up to best show off the choker and earrings and allow a few tendrils to float down her neck and cheeks and use a curling iron to make loose ringlets.

  Her brain came to a screeching halt when she remembered the single most important barrier to her pulling off her big surprise. Maddox. And the fact that he was supposed to be taking her to her girlfriends’ apartment.

  She frowned. Think, damn it. There had to be a way.

  Wait. Lana had said they were all working tonight. Open to close, which meant the apartment would be empty, and she still had a key. All she had to do was arrange as much as she could in advance, then have Maddox drive her to the apartment. He’d wait in the car while she went up, and she could climb down the fire escape, hustle a few blocks over and hail a cab back to Drake’s.

  “You’re a genius, Evangeline!” she said gleefully.

  Her plan was flawless and totally doable. Maddox would never suspect that she would bail out the fire escape, and she could be back in plenty of time to dress and finish preparations before Drake arrived with his guests.

  Satisfied that she’d planned for every eventuality, she laid out her wardrobe for the evening and then picked a simple outfit to wear out with Maddox. Something that wouldn’t impede her climb down the fire escape from the seventh floor.

  The rest of the day dragged on with Evangeline checking her watch every half hour, willing time to go faster. She breathed a sigh of relief when Edward personally brought up the groceries she’d ordered and winked at her when she anxiously told him not to breathe a word to anyone about his outing. She told him the truth, that she was planning a surprise for Drake, and he seemed delighted to be included in the plotting.

  Happy to now have something to pass the time with, she put together everything she could beforehand, preparing three different appetizers and two choices of sauces to accompany the veal she would pop into the oven the minute she returned home from her girlfriends’.

  She mixed the ingredients for the sides and then slipped them in the refrigerator. Satisfied that dinner was arranged and would only require half an hour cooking time at most when she arrived back, she checked her watch and then squeaked. It was already four thirty!

  She dashed to the bedroom and hastily brushed out her hair, securing it into a messy bun, and then found a pair of casual slip-on shoes. After a quick once-over in the mirror—after all, she was just going to her girlfriends’ apartment—she hurried back to the kitchen just to double-check and mentally go over her menu one last time to ensure she hadn’t overlooked anything.

  “Evangeline? You ready to go?” Maddox called from the foyer.

  Adrenaline surged in her veins and she took a few seconds to steady her frayed nerves and then calmly called back, “Yeah. Let me grab my purse and I’ll be right there.”

  She sucked in a deep breath as she collected her bag and headed to meet Maddox.

  Well, here went nothing. Hopefully her plans went off without a hitch and she’d make Drake proud tonight by playing the consummate hostess.

  Evangeline dashed into Drake’s apartment building, out of breath as she frantically sought Edward out. To her relief, he was in the lobby and when he saw her, he started her way, a warm smile on his face.

  “I don’t have much time, Edward. I have to get to the apartment if I’m going to pull off my surprise. But I need a favor. Just as I asked you not to say a word about me sending out for groceries, when Mr. Donovan arrives, you can’t say a word about me being here. If he should inquire, I left with Maddox at five and haven’t returned.”

  Edward’s eyes twinkled but his words were solemn. “Your secret is safe with me, Evangeline. I won’t say a word. I swear.”

  She hugged him, squeezing hard, leaving him befuddled and flustered.

  “Thank you,” she said fervently. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t have much time.”

  “Would you like me to ring up to let you know when Mr. Donovan gets on the elevator?” he inquired.

  She hadn’t even considered that and it was an excellent idea. “That would be perfect. I never even thought about that. Thank you so much.”

  “Any time. Now, be on your way so your surprise isn’t ruined.”

  She dashed past him to the elevator and moments later burst into the apartment. She immediately went into the kitchen and popped the side dishes in the oven and used three skillets to cook the veal on the stovetop. The appetizers would take only a few minutes to warm, so she would save those for last.

  After ensuring everything was taken care of, she ran for the bedroom to change and do her hair and makeup. She took meticulous care in perfecting her appearance, checking her watch every few minutes to make sure she didn’t ruin dinner.

  Finally satisfied with the end result, she stared into the mirror, her eyes widening in shock.

  She looked . . . beautiful. Sexy even. She’d gone with a smoky, sultry look for her eyes with a sheer lip gloss that didn’t detract from the dramatic effect of her eyes. Her hair was upswept into a delicate knot with loose curls floating lazily down her neck.

  The choker and earrings looked magnificent, totally in keeping with the classy women Drake would be seen with. And the dress fit her perfectly, accentuating her curves. For once, she didn’t lament what she considered her imperfections because tonight she looked soft and feminine.

  The dress just clipped the top of her knees, and the heels made her legs look longer and more attractive.

  She fastened the last piece of jewelry, the bracelet around her wrist, and lightly spritzed her favorite perfume on her neck and wrists and then took a deep breath. It wouldn’t be long before Drake arrived with his company and she wanted to be there to greet them and play the gracious hostess.

  She’d made sure she had a wide variety of fine wines and the most expensive liquors to accompany the divine appetizers she planned to arrange artfully on sterling silver platters. She’d go check on them now and when Edward called up to say Drake had arrived, she would put out the starters on the coffee table in the living room so the men could relax while she finished dinner and set the table.

  Taking once last glance at herself in the mirror, she smiled, satisfied with her appearance and eager to see the approval in Drake’s eyes when he realized she’d gone to great lengths to entertain his guests.

  She was quivering with excitement as she left the bedroom and went back into the kitchen to check on the side dishes in the oven and the progress of the veal on the stovetop. She sniffed appreciatively at the delicious aromas that filled the apartment, relieved that nothing smelled overdone or burned.

  She cracked open the oven to see the bubbling side dishes and then she turned the veal so both sides were evenly cooked. Then she set the sauces on to warm, stirring at intervals so they didn’t scorch.

  Her pulse surged, temporarily making her light-headed when the call button went off and Edward’s voice came over the intercom.

  “Mr. Donovan and six of his associates are on their way up.”

  “Thank you, Edward,” she said sincerely. “I really appreciate you doing this for me.”

  “No thanks is necessary. I’m only doing my job, and seeing to your needs gives me great satisfaction.”

  She balanced the three trays bearing the expertly made appetizers—after all, she had been a waitress in a busy pub—and hurriedly set them down in the living room. Then she turned and took the few short steps toward the foyer.

  Evangeline smoothed her dress and then went to stand a d
istance back from the elevator doors so she could issue a greeting, but most importantly see the approval and pride in Drake’s eyes when he realized the effort she’d put into being an asset to him and that, as she’d promised him, she would always take care of and protect him. And . . . she wanted him to be proud of her and not to ever regret his decision to make her his.

  • • •

  It was years of perfecting an impenetrable persona that enabled Drake to engage in conversation ranging from the random to the obscene with the “business associates” he was entertaining in his apartment tonight as they entered the elevator in his building. And actually give the impression he gave a fuck about whatever they had to say.

  He rarely entertained in his home, usually opting for one of the many suites of offices and complexes he owned, a private room in an exclusive restaurant, or, depending on the business associate he was meeting with, they simply met at Impulse and took the premiere VIP suite overlooking the dance floor since Drake never allowed anyone he didn’t trust implicitly into his office at the club.

  Before Evangeline, it was simply a matter of not wanting his private domain trespassed on, but now he felt as though he defiled it by bringing such filth into Evangeline’s home.

  But some matters required no room or margin for error. No chance of being overheard, misunderstood or, in this case, being seen in a public place together.

  Thank God he’d had the forethought to ensure Evangeline wouldn’t be present, because while Drake could school his features, mask his thoughts and allow nothing of what he was feeling to reflect in his eyes, when it came to his angel, he could no more appear indifferent than she could be anything but honest and sincere in both words and expression. And Drake’s greatest strength, the reason he was invincible, was that he had no weaknesses for his enemies to exploit.

  Until now.

  Until Evangeline.

  If it was known that Evangeline was his greatest and only weakness she would absolutely be used to take him down, because where before he would never negotiate—never had reason to—there was nothing he wouldn’t do, wouldn’t sacrifice to keep her safe.

  The mere thought of his angel being hurt or defiled because of him sent chilling fear through every part of his soul, and he was a man who feared nothing and no one.

  “Sweet pad you have, Donovan,” one of the men said as they reached the top floor.

  Drake gave him a lazy smile and drawled, “Only the best. Only way to live.”

  “Hell yeah,” another chimed in.

  The elevator doors opened and Drake came to an abrupt halt, shock and dread turning his veins to ice when he saw Evangeline standing at the end of the foyer, a shy, welcoming smile on her face and looking so achingly beautiful that he was momentarily robbed of speech.

  Oh God. No. This wasn’t happening. What the fuck? He was going to kill Maddox. This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t happening. He had to be imagining her presence, but an appreciative whistle from behind him confirmed the very real vision of the angel standing before him. And the evil he had sworn she would never be exposed to.

  “Now that is one sweet piece,” one of the men said. “You’ve been holding out on us, Drake.”

  “I wouldn’t mind having some of that,” another said crudely as the others laughed.

  “Hey, Donovan. Is she part of tonight’s entertainment? Because I have to say, you certainly know how to throw one hell of a party.”

  Evangeline flushed, embarrassment and trepidation shadowing her eyes. Uncertainty and fear flashed over her features. But then her chin came up and she calmly composed herself and started forward, her welcoming smile once more in place.

  “Good evening, gentlemen. If you’d like to go into the living room, there are appetizers and drinks. Dinner will be ready and on the table shortly.”

  “I hope to hell she’s dessert,” one muttered in a low voice.

  Drake’s heart sank, and desolation settled deep into his bones for what he knew he had to do. What he had no choice but to do. And he’d never hated himself more than in this moment.

  Evangeline had arranged to play hostess and had gone all out. For him. Because she wanted so badly to please him, make him proud of her and let him know he mattered.

  She was so beautiful she took his breath away. She was even wearing the jewelry he’d given her—gifts she’d been uncomfortable receiving because she never wanted him to think even for a moment that she wanted anything but him. Not the material things he offered. She was dressed impeccably as if she wanted to make him proud. Worthy of him when it was he who was in no way worthy of her.

  And he was about to destroy the most precious gift he had ever been given because he had no other choice.

  “What the hell are you doing here, bitch?” he snarled. “Do you not understand orders when they’re given to you? If I wanted my latest whore to dress up and play hostess in my apartment I damn sure would have chosen one with more class and with the intelligence to heed simple instructions.”

  Evangeline’s eyes went wide with shock and devastation. She stood as still as a statue, tears gathering in her eyes, her face flushed with humiliation.

  “You can’t cook for shit, so do you honestly think I’d want you to serve my business associates and embarrass me when I had already arranged delivery from one of the finest restaurants in the city?”

  Tears slid down her cheeks, her eye makeup smearing in dark streaks.

  “Goddamn useless woman who can’t even follow simple instructions,” he repeated with a snarl. “Get on your knees,” he barked. “Now!” when she hesitated.

  Trembling and nearly falling, she clumsily fell to her knees, wincing as they made contact with the hard Italian marble floor.

  Drake strode forward, reaching for his fly, opening it and pulling out his flaccid erection.

  “Suck it and you better damn well make me hard and swallow every drop of my come.”

  She lifted her eyes, betrayal and utter devastation dulling her eyes. He twisted his hand cruelly in her hair, yanking at the elegant knot until her hair tumbled down her neck.

  “Open your goddamn mouth.”

  Her lips trembled, fear replacing embarrassment and mortification. Fear. The one thing he’d sworn he’d never make her feel.

  He wasn’t gentle. He couldn’t afford to be. As soon as her lips parted, he shoved his dick all the way to the back of her throat, making her gag and choke.

  “Can’t even give good head,” he said in disgust.

  He held her head in a brutal grip and began fucking her mouth with force he’d never before used with her.

  Knowing there was no way in hell he’d come because he was in no way turned on by the brutality he was subjecting her to, he said in a harsh voice, “Swallow all of it. If so much as a drop spills, I’ll punish you so you won’t be able to sit for a week.”

  “Why are you doing this?” she whispered tearfully, low enough the others couldn’t hear.

  “Because you blatantly disobeyed me.”

  Utter defeat was reflected in her body and expression as she robotically knelt there, enduring Drake’s brutal treatment of her. But the never-ending stream of tears was his undoing, and he was grateful the men were behind him and couldn’t see the torment on his face. Torment even Evangeline didn’t register because she’d mentally checked out, numbness overtaking her entire body.

  He hated himself more than he thought it possible to ever hate anyone. Even his mother and father. When he’d spent a realistic amount of time fucking her mouth to make it believable that he’d come, he instructed her to swallow and to lick every drop of come from his dick and her lips.

  Then he roughly yanked her to her feet and shoved her toward the kitchen.

  “Throw out whatever shit you cooked and make sure every pot, pan or utensil is cleaned and get whatever the fuck you have set out in the living room in the trash can. From now on, you stay the fuck out of my kitchen and my business. Your only use is in my bedroom. And j
ust so you know, you will be severely punished when I return for disobeying a direct order, one you couldn’t possibly have misunderstood.”

  He hesitated, hating himself more and more with every hateful, despicable word that spewed from his mouth.

  “What’s your job, whore? What is the only job you have?”

  “O-obey,” she said in a choked voice.

  “One responsibility and you can’t even accomplish that,” he said with fake disgust.

  Then he turned to the men who’d accompanied him, disgusted that they were visibly aroused by Drake’s humiliation of Evangeline and the fact that he’d made her suck him off in front of them. He wanted to throw up.

  “Let’s go somewhere we can get a decent meal. I apologize for my stupid whore’s obvious ineptitude.”

  He started for the elevator door and then turned back, his expression as cold and chilling as he could make it. “When I get back, this place better be spotless and I want you in my bed, naked and ready to receive your punishment. And I won’t have any mercy.”

  Evangeline stood there in shock, staring at the closed elevator doors for several long minutes after Drake’s abrupt departure. She glanced down at herself, makeup-stained tears falling onto the floor.

  Beautiful? Classy? Elegant?

  She had been fooling herself and Drake had perpetuated one of the biggest hoaxes in history because he’d made her feel all of those things.

  Worthless. Whore. Bitch.

  The words he’d used to describe her echoed over and over in her head until rage finally roused her from the numb shock surrounding her. Even as she robotically started for the kitchen like an automaton trained to follow Drake’s orders, she twisted violently, yanking the heels off her feet and hurling them through the living room at the coffee table and the trays of food she’d labored so painstakingly over.

  Two bottles of the wine and two bottles of liquor, hit by the flying shoes, tumbled from the table and she heard the satisfying crack of breaking glass.

  She stormed into the bedroom, yanking and tearing at her dress until she managed to free herself. With shaking hands, she removed every piece of jewelry he’d bought for her and underhanded them onto the bed.

  Then she sank to the floor on her knees, clad in only her panties and bra. Raw, ugly-sounding sobs clawed their way up her throat and out of her lips, the sound of terrible grief.

  You will be severely punished.

  Oh hell no. To hell with Drake. To hell with every lie he’d ever fed her. For building her up only so he could be the one to tear her down.

  Feeling like an old, decrepit woman, she crawled to the closet and rummaged until she found a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Drake had thrown every bit of her old clothing out when he’d moved her in; otherwise she wouldn’t take a single thing bought by him. As it was, she packed a bag with three pairs of jeans, one casual dress that was suitable for job hunting and two pairs of shoes.

  The rest she left hanging, most still with the tags attached. Then she went about systematically removing any and all of her presence from his bedroom. She went from room to room, throwing away or simply destroying any possible reminder of herself in Drake’s eyes.

  And then she remembered the meal she’d labored so intensively over. She hoped it had burned and left a charred mess.

  After lifting the silver trays and dumping the appetizers over the couch and chair and the floor, to accompany the shattered bottles of alcohol, she went into the kitchen and dumped every single skillet and baking dish onto the floor.

  “To hell with you, Drake Donovan. I gave you everything and this is what I got in return. I hope you rot in hell where you belong. At least Eddie was honest.”

  Tears streaming down her face, she rode the elevator down only to be met by a worried Edward who rushed over to take her elbow.

  “Miss Hawthorn,” he said, in his haste forgoing all familiarity as if he too were just as rid of her as Drake.

  She burst into a fresh torrent of tears and tried to maneuver around him.

  “Please, Evangeline. Tell me what’s wrong. Mr. Donovan returned shortly after he came up and he looked furious. Are you all right?”

  “I’ll never be all right,” she said flatly, even as tears ran freely down her face.

  “Let me help you, please. Tell me what I can do.”

  Realizing the older man was genuinely concerned and evidently ignorant of all that had happened, or at least he hadn’t been instructed to have nothing to do with her, she paused.

  “I need to get away from here,” she said desperately.

  “Of course. Shall I call for one of Mr. Donovan’s men to come for you?”

  “No!” she shrieked. “I need a cab and I need you to never tell anyone, especially Drake or his men, that you saw me, that you helped me, or I’m afraid your job will be out the door just like I am.”

  Compassion softened his eyes even as he guided her toward the door.

  “Where shall I instruct the cab to take you?” he asked gently.

  Her shoulders sagged and she ran a hand through the rumpled mess of her hair, knowing the fright she must look with her makeup running, her hairdo destroyed.

  “I have no place to go,” she whispered, knowing she couldn’t show up at her
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