Dominated, p.27
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       Dominated, p.27
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         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  thinking and her dearest fantasy. She closed her eyes.

  This isn’t real.

  “Open your eyes, Angel. Look at me. See me. See my love for you. I assure you it’s very real. I’m real.”

  She hadn’t realized she’d whispered her denial aloud.

  “All you have to do is reach out and take what it is you want. It’s yours. I’m yours.”

  Tentatively she reached out, her hand shaking so badly that it bobbed in midair. She slid her fingers over the stubble of his beard and lightly caressed his cheek in wonder. Could it be that simple? Did he truly love her and could they have the life together she’d so desperately wanted? The life she’d cried herself to sleep over for so many nights? A life she’d thought lost to her forever?

  “Just say yes,” he whispered. “Kiss me and say yes.”

  She stared at him for a long moment, her eyes searching his. All she saw was truth and sincerity. No secrets, lies or deception. It took every ounce of her courage. She gathered it tightly around her like a blanket and held on tight. It took several attempts but finally, she was able to say it.

  “Yes,” she said so softly that at first she thought he didn’t hear.

  But the savage spark that ignited in his eyes told her he had. And then she leaned up, pressing her lips to his, like the brush of a butterfly’s wings.

  He groaned low in his throat and then framed her face in his hands, tenderly, so gently that it was a caress, and he kissed her back every bit as sweetly.

  She tasted the salt of tears and realized they came from both of them. Drake leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.

  “I love you, Angel. Yesterday, today, forever.”

  “I love you too,” she said around the knot in her throat.

  He reached into his pocket, jostling them both momentarily, and then he pulled out the ring she’d given Silas to return to him. With shaking hands, he slid it back onto her finger, expelling a sigh of relief when it was in place.

  “I carried this in my pocket ever since Silas gave it back to me,” he admitted. “I was gutted when he handed it to me, and I never once stopped hoping and praying for the day that I’d put it back on your finger. Swear to me you’ll never take it off again.”

  For the first time, she smiled, and he looked awestruck. His hands went to her face, tracing the lines, thumbing her lip and stroking her jaw.

  “I won’t,” she vowed.

  “Ahem,” came the clearing of a throat from the doorway.

  They both whirled around to see Evangeline’s mother standing behind her husband’s wheelchair, tears glittering brightly in her eyes.

  “Does this mean we have a wedding to plan?” Evangeline’s father asked gruffly.

  “It does, although I plan to marry her as fast as possible so she doesn’t change her mind,” Drake said in a voice that suggested he wasn’t joking.

  Brenda Hawthorn smiled. “I believe that can be arranged. Congratulations, my darling,” she said to Evangeline. “I’m so very glad you’ve worked things out with Drake. It’s been killing me and your father to see you so unhappy.” Then she looked gravely at Drake. “Make her happy, young man. God has given you another chance to make things right. Make the most of it.”

  Drake’s eyes were wet as he looked between Evangeline and her mother and he squeezed Evangeline to him, holding her as if he’d never let her go.

  “I’m well aware that I am the luckiest of men and that I don’t deserve Evangeline, but you can be sure that now that I have her back I’m never letting her go again and I’ll spend every day of the rest of my life doing whatever it takes to always keep her happy. You—and she—have my word on it.”

  Then he grinned down at Evangeline, and she was shocked at the joy and relief brimming in his eyes. So much of the grimness and reserve that seemed ever present in his gaze had vanished. The shadows were gone. He looked . . . happy. Every bit as happy as she felt as she witnessed the truth and sincerity in his words and actions.

  “Annndd,” he said, drawing out the word as he glanced meaningfully back at her parents, “giving you as many grandchildren as possible.”

  EPILOGUE

  The old whitewashed church in Evangeline’s small hometown had been transformed into something straight out of a fairy tale. No expense had been spared in Drake’s determination to give her the wedding of her dreams. The insides were draped from one end to the other in a cascade of elegantly arranged flowers, some of which had been flown in from all over the country. There were thousands of twinkling white lights, an homage to her love of Christmas, even if the holiday had already passed, and they were twined around a mountain of greenery and strategically placed to show the flowers to their best advantage.

  Ironically, it hadn’t been Evangeline who oversaw or even planned any of the decorating, arrangements or anything at all to do with her ceremony. Drake had firmly told her that he and her mother would take care of everything and all he wanted her to do was rest and take care of herself and their child.

  To her further amusement, Drake’s men—all of them—had each taken an active part in the plans. Silas had personally overseen the floral arrangements. Drake’s enforcer was a man of hidden depths. He obviously had an eye for art and decorating. After all, it had been he who had taken Evangeline to have her hair and makeup done, and it had been he who’d given the makeup artist instructions on the look Silas wanted for her.

  For the wedding, it was no different. Silas had flown the same artist from New York City to the rural area of Mississippi to personally arrange Evangeline’s hair and makeup for the big day.

  Evangeline sat in the bridal room of the church, which was no more than a tiny cubicle off the foyer on the opposite side of the church’s nursery, eyeing her appearance critically in the mirror. Oh, she hadn’t gotten dressed here, nor had her hair and makeup been arranged at the church. The artist had spent the better part of two hours at Evangeline’s parents’ home getting her made up, and after he was satisfied that she was, in his words, absolute perfection, she’d been driven to the church accompanied by Silas and Maddox. She was hurriedly escorted into the bridal room to rest—Silas’s firm dictate—and to do any touch-ups she may require before she was summoned for the ceremony.

  When it was time, a soft knock sounded at her door, and butterflies immediately took wing, scuttling around her belly in a nervous cacophony. Her mother reached over and squeezed Evangeline’s hand, tears shining in her loving eyes.

  “That will be Silas, darling. Your father is waiting in the foyer. Are you ready?”

  Evangeline swallowed nervously but excitement and so much joy invaded her chest that the smile curving her lips felt bright enough to overshadow the sun. She nodded as her mouth went suddenly dry and her entire body jittered with excitement as she gracefully—or as gracefully as she could manage—rose to her feet with her mother’s assistance.

  “Evangeline,” Silas said, warm approval in his eyes when she opened the door. “You look beautiful, sweetheart.”

  She blinked back the sudden sting of tears, and his voice turned chiding as he carefully wiped at the corner of her eye with his thumb.

  “None of that on your wedding day. Your stylist took two hours. I assure you that Drake will have all our heads if I have to tell him that there has been a delay in the ceremony because you have to start all over again on your makeup.”

  Evangeline laughed and then impulsively she threw her arms around Silas and hugged him fiercely.

  “You truly are my dearest friend,” she whispered against his chest.

  Silas squeezed gently and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Then he turned her and helped her into the foyer where her dad sat waiting in his wheelchair.

  • • •

  Drake checked his watch, frowning his impatience. His right foot was tapping, the sound muted by the carpeted aisles of the church.

  Church.

  He inwardly winced at what had to be sheer blasphemy. Him—and his men
in a church? They were lucky the entire building hadn’t gone up the moment they stepped through the doors or that none of them had been struck by lightning.

  What a sight it was to see his brothers in a church. All wearing expensive suits. Even the more rebellious I-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think Zander and Jax had dressed formally for the occasion. None of them dared risk hurting Evangeline’s feelings, not because of any threat by Drake or Silas, but because they all adored her and it would kill them to ever be the source of her distress or unhappiness.

  The attendance was small. In fact, the only people there other than Drake’s men were Evangeline’s parents, one or two distant relatives who still lived in the same town and two older ladies who were close friends of Brenda’s, each of whom Evangeline called “aunt.” Although, one thing that Drake had quickly learned about life in a small Southern town was that close friends were addressed and treated as family. But then Evangeline had adopted that same policy when it came to Drake and all his men. She counted them as family. Her family. And pity the fool who ever fucked with her family.

  The sides hadn’t been divided into bride’s and groom’s. His men were the only attendants and so they lined both sides of the elaborately decorated arch, a show of support for both him and Evangeline. Evangeline was equally represented, a fact Drake would have ensured if his men hadn’t stepped forward to do exactly the same of their own accord.

  Maddox took a step forward now so he stood directly behind Drake. Where Silas would stand once he was finished helping Evangeline and her father down the aisle.

  “Any second thoughts?” Maddox murmured.

  “Hell no!”

  Drake winced at the sudden explosive denial and glanced apologetically at the minister, who looked faintly amused.

  Maddox chuckled. “Didn’t think so.”

  Drake scowled. Then why the hell ask? But he didn’t dignify his man’s teasing with a response. He checked his watch again. What could be taking so long? Evangeline had been ready before she’d arrived at the church. That was half an hour ago.

  A cold sweat broke out on his forehead and panic gripped his insides. What if she was the one having second thoughts? He turned, his intention to go find Evangeline and hustle her down the aisle—proprieties and ceremony be damned, when music suddenly swelled over the interior and the door at the end opened, bearing Evangeline’s mom, escorted by Silas.

  Wait a minute. Silas was going to walk behind Evangeline’s father and push his wheelchair so Evangeline would be on her father’s arm. If he was escorting Brenda, then who would make sure Evangeline and her father got down the aisle with no issue?

  Hell, he’d go down and get Evangeline himself if it came to it. There was no way he was taking any risk that she had too much time to reconsider. The mere idea of coming this close and her not marrying him? It didn’t bear thinking about.

  Silas seated Brenda and brushed a perfunctory kiss over her cheek. Brenda smiled up at the big man and the two exchanged words, which had Drake frowning. If there was anything to be said regarding Evangeline, then it needed to be said to Drake. Not Silas. Not any of his men.

  Then Silas turned, his gaze finding Drake’s and with a lazy grin, he hurried back down the aisle, disappearing behind the closed door. Not even thirty seconds later, the music changed, not to the traditional wedding march, but to “Ode to Joy,” a song Evangeline loved and one she had said was the most representative of their union.

  Drake agreed.

  The double doors swung wide and remained open, and then Drake saw her.

  All the breath left his body and he swayed, adjusting his footing so he didn’t humiliate himself by going to his knees. But Jesus. Never had he seen a more beautiful sight than his angel draped in the most elegant white dress. She shimmered from head to toe, adorned in his jewels. Her blond hair fell in waves down her back, unbound, not a single strand upswept. No veil obscured his vision of her face, a fact for which he was extremely grateful.

  Her soft smile was radiant, lighting up the entire church. It was as though the roof had been peeled away and the sun’s rays shone down on them all. Her vibrant blue eyes sparkled with so much love and happiness that Drake had to swallow back the knot of emotion threatening to choke him.

  She stepped forward on her father’s arm, Silas carefully pushing the wheelchair so Evangeline set the pace. Her father’s face shone with pride, his chest puffed out, head held high but in his eyes was a clear warning to Drake.

  I’m giving you my dearest blessing. Make her happy or I’ll make you suffer.

  Well, her father had nothing to worry about on that account because if Evangeline wasn’t happy then Drake suffered. Period. Her happiness was his happiness. Her misery was his misery. And, God willing, neither would ever know a day of sorrow again. As long as Drake had Evangeline, he couldn’t imagine ever feeling the barren emptiness that had been his entire life before her.

  The closer they got to where Drake was standing, the more powerful the urge was for Drake to go to her, to sweep her into his arms and haul her before the waiting minister so they could get on with making her his. Legally, that is. Because she was already his and nothing, no legalities or anything else, would ever change that fact.

  Marriage, or rather the official act of marriage, had never meant anything to Drake. Until now. In his mind, a piece of paper and a man of God’s words meant nothing to him nor to anything he claimed as his. But he’d found himself surprisingly adamant about the matter of marriage.

  Evangeline had softly told him that if marriage wasn’t what he wanted, if it made him uncomfortable, they didn’t have to do it. Him loving her was enough.

  Fuck that.

  He’d damn near exploded, his insides turning to ice when she’d made her statement. His first reaction had been to tell her that they were getting married and that it was not just important, it was everything to him. His second thought had made him sweat and he’d demanded to know if she was having regrets. And did she not want to get married?

  He shook off those moments of despair and refocused on the vision before him. God, she was so beautiful. And his. She was completely and utterly his.

  Silas slowly pulled the wheelchair to a stop and Evangeline turned, momentarily only having eyes for her father. Tears glistened in the older man’s eyes and Drake suddenly had a glimpse of the future. Him in Grant Hawthorn’s place. Drake giving away his and Evangeline’s daughter in marriage. It was a humbling and terrifying sensation all in one.

  Giving their daughter away in marriage? Like hell. Their daughter would never marry—or ever have boyfriends—if Drake had anything to say about it. He was perfectly okay with his men being the only males in his daughter’s—or, perhaps someday, his daughters’—lives. And even they would only be there to protect their lives. He shuddered at the very idea of daughters in the plural sense. As in more than one. Just as quickly, he suddenly pictured a half dozen daughters, all miniature replicas of Evangeline. He could feel the blood leaving his face and his knees growing weak. Six mini angels? He would be so fucked . . . and completely delirious with joy.

  Evangeline kissed her father and he squeezed her hand before once more looking in Drake’s direction. The men exchanged nods that spoke volumes. They had an understanding. Drake could well understand the other man’s position.

  Silas pushed the wheelchair to the pew so it would sit on the outside just beside where Brenda Hawthorn sat and then he took Evangeline’s hand and brought her slowly to Drake, connecting her hand to Drake’s.

  “Take good care of her,” Silas said gravely.

  “Always,” Drake vowed.

  Then Silas melted away and it was only Drake and Evangeline. Evangeline’s tiny hand in his. The others melted away. There was only Evangeline for him. No one else mattered. He stared hungrily at her, so relieved that this day had finally arrived, never mind that it had been only two weeks since his angel had forgiven him and had taken him back. Those two weeks—and the four before th
em—had seemed like an eternity.

  Now the only eternity he contemplated was the eternity he planned to spend with his wife.

  “Drake,” she whispered, tugging gently at his hand.

  He frowned, sure this wasn’t part of the ceremony. She smiled up at him, taking his breath completely away.

  “The minister is waiting,” she continued whispering.

  Ah fuck. He’d been so immersed in staring at her, taking in what belonged to him and thanking God for it that he’d just stood there like some gawking fool instead of proceeding with the ceremony. Oh well. Who could blame him? He was marrying the sweetest, most beautiful woman—inside and out—in the world. If that didn’t warrant a few moments of staring while flabbergasted, what did?

  “Can’t have that,” he murmured, tightening his hold on her hand. Then he lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm, knowing that this too wasn’t part of the planned ceremony. “I love you, Angel. I love you so damn much. Thank you for loving me.”

  Evangeline’s smile warmed him to his toes. She didn’t look terribly upset over his breach in etiquette, or that the minister stood waiting, amused exasperation in his eyes.

  “I love you too, Drake. Now don’t you think we’ve waited long enough? It’s time for us to get married.”

  Hell yes it was. The longer he held things up, the longer it would be before he had her in their honeymoon suite making love to her until they both went blind.

  As if sensing the direction of his thoughts, she grinned, mischief flashing in her eyes. Dear God, he suddenly had no clue or remembrance of anything having to do with the actual details of the ceremony and they’d even gone through a fucking rehearsal the night before, of all things. As if he needed coaching on how to make the woman he loved his! Only now his mind was consumed with only images of Evangeline—his wife—in his arms, in his bed, wrapped sweetly around him while he made love to her as many times as humanly possible. And even after he’d exhausted them both, he’d still be thinking about making love to her and plotting the next moment when he slid into her welcoming body. Hell, he just might spend the rest of his life with his dick as far inside her sweetness as he could go. He could certainly think of worse ways to spend what years he had left on this earth.

  He’d never believed in heaven and hell but in short order Evangeline had made him keenly aware of both. Because when he was with her? Heaven. Absolute heaven. And without her . . . the very worst sort of hell. And well, if he had heaven to look forward to with Evangeline after their last day on earth? He suddenly didn’t mind the idea at all.

  Heaven was where angels came from and Evangeline was the sweetest of all angels. He wasn’t a worthy man nor had he done anything to deserve redemption or even a glimpse of heaven and yet in Evangeline’s arms, he’d been closer than any man could ever hope to get to such goodness.

  Once more Evangeline tugged at his hand and he shook himself from his silent perusal of his angel, blinking in confusion. Laughter glittered in her eyes as though she were enjoying a joke at his expense.

  “I think this is where you kiss me,” she whispered.

  Kiss her? They’d already gotten to the best part of the whole damn thing? Oh hell yeah. Kissing her he could definitely do. Something he planned to do a lot of. Next to the part where the minister declared them man and wife, kissing her was the best part of the ceremony.

  With infinite reverence, he ran his fingers and palms down her face, caressing her pink cheeks, touching the fullness of her lips until he cupped her chin in his hand and then he leaned down to capture her mouth, shivering when she gave a breathy sigh of contentment.

  No matter how often he kissed her—and he’d done little else since having her back—it was still like the first time all over again. Never would he get enough of her touch. Her warmth and her love.

  His kiss deepened until he felt her lean fully into him, completely surrendering to his need to be as close to her as possible. Around him, seemingly a great distance away, he heard sounds of amusement, laughter, even teasing but he didn’t give a damn. Not when he had what he loved most in his arms.

  And if he wasn’t mistaken and he had indeed paid correct attention to the trial run from the night before, kissing his bride came after the minister declared them man and wife. Which meant he was kissing his wife. His angel. The mother of his child and of the many children he’d promised to give her in the future.

  “Mine,” he murmured before plunging his tongue deeply into her mouth, uncaring of who witnessed his passionate declaration.

  “Yours,” she whispered back. “Always and forever, Drake. I will always love you and I will always be yours.”

  He closed his eyes as the betraying sting of tears burned his eyes. God but he loved this woman. More than he ever imagined loving another living person. For that matter, he’d never imagined anyone loving him. And yet the woman in his arms, the woman he’d just married loved him—had loved him—without conditions, strings. She’d never doubted him and she’d forgiven the unthinkable not once, but twice.

  He gave up trying to suppress the wash of emotion that had flooded his very soul and he buried his face in her beautiful hair. He inhaled, taking her scent deeply so that it became a permanent part of him.

  “I love you too, Angel,” he said hoarsely. “I’ll always love you. There will never be another woman for me.”

  She pulled away, concern in her eyes as she reached to cup his cheek. “Drake, darling, what’s wrong?”

  She looked alarmed as she studied his expression, no doubt seeing the evidence of tears in his eyes. Before he would have killed himself before ever allowing another person to see any perceived weakness in him. But with Evangeline? He knew he would always be safe with her.

  “Not a damn thing,” he said, smiling down at her. “If I’m not mistaken, the ceremony is over and you’re my wife, Mrs. Donovan.”

  He was absurdly delighted by hearing his last name associated with her, but then judging by the sudden joy that lit up her eyes, he wasn’t the only one gripped by that savage satisfaction.

  “Which means,” he said, reaching for her hand in preparation of hauling her down the aisle—now his wife—“that it’s time to take my wife on her honeymoon.”

  Laughter rang out over the church and he marveled at how beautiful the carefree sound was. They’d made it roughly three steps when Drake’s own joy took over and reality set in that this loving, generous woman was his! He swung her
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