Dominated, p.3
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       Dominated, p.3
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         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  you go. I had to have you. I needed you. I still need you.”

  Her brow furrowed, her expression perplexed. Her eyes were bewildered as she took in the anguished words he’d delivered with so much emotion and self-loathing. She seemed to filter through each and every word he’d said, her expression ever changing as she processed the conflicting statements. He didn’t even know if he’d made any goddamn sense. All he knew was that he was desperate and he would do or say anything to get her to come home with him.

  “Necessary? Necessary?” she repeated, her face creased with pain. “It was necessary for you to humiliate me, to strip me bare in front of those m-men, to debase and degrade me, make me feel like a worthless whore?”

  Sweet heaven, but every single word from that night was solidly ingrained in her memory because she recalled them verbatim, had absorbed them and worse of all, believed them.

  Drake groaned, and he didn’t even recognize his own voice, so great was the agony. Like a wounded animal or a beast mourning the loss of his mate. He was both, but not nearly as wounded as the beautiful woman standing so close and yet so very far away.

  She shook her head and then covered her face with both hands, her knees giving way as she slid toward the floor. Drake vaulted over the cleaning equipment in an attempt to catch her, but he was too late and so he skidded to a halt and collapsed to his knees in front of her, his arms immediately going around her, ignoring her sudden recoil, her rejection of his touch and body. Ignoring her reaction, he anchored her shaking body to his, holding on in a vow to never again let go.

  “My angel,” he said, choking on the words. “My beautiful, sweet, innocent angel. Please, baby, please let me take you away from this. Let me explain. I swear to you I won’t hurt you. Never again. Give me a chance to make this right. Give me yourself again. I’ll never hurt such a precious gift again. I swear it on my life.”

  She went limp against him, a tortured moan escaping her lips just before ragged sobs shook her entire body. Hot tears spilled onto Drake’s neck, his heart breaking with each sorrowful gasp she took. But he read her acquiescence, or perhaps it was simply that she was no longer strong enough to fight, but he knew he had to take swift advantage now when her defenses were down or he might never get another chance. Praying she’d forgive yet one more sin in the never-ending list of his transgressions, he swept her into his arms, standing and carrying her down the hall of the run-down hotel and out to where his car waited.

  Maddox and Silas were both standing guard, and when their gazes found Drake carrying a sobbing Evangeline, Maddox’s whispered “Thank God” echoed firmly in Drake’s mind. Silas looked relieved and for a moment, fire burned in his eyes as he took in the heaving, sobbing slight figure in Drake’s arms. He looked at Drake accusingly, but Drake ignored his man. All that mattered was that he had Evangeline back and at least a chance to explain and make right the many wrongs he’d done to her.

  Drake eased into the back of the car, holding Evangeline tightly to him as her silent sobs racked her tiny frame. Maddox hurried around to the driver’s side while Silas slid into the passenger seat. Maddox looked inquisitively at Drake, silently asking where Drake wanted to take Evangeline.

  “The Conquistador,” Drake said quietly. “Make sure they have the penthouse suite prepared for my arrival.”

  There was no way in hell he would bring Evangeline back to his apartment where the abomination against her had been carried out. Not now. Maybe never. Silas nodded his approval, immediately understanding why Drake had chosen as he had.

  Drake frowned as he held Evangeline’s slight body tightly molded to his. They had been separated mere days and yet he could feel the fragility in her, the weight she’d lost. The hollows in her haunted eyes. Had she eaten? But he knew the answer. There’d been no one to take care of her, no one to see to her needs. No one she could turn to. Not the women she’d called friends for so long. Not her parents, because her pride wouldn’t have allowed them to know how desperate her circumstances were.

  She was wasting away, as surely as he’d wasted away in the seemingly interminable time of their separation, every minute, hour, day . . . hell. No less than he deserved, but for the first time in so long he felt the stirrings of hope and the feel of sunshine that had shunned him since she’d gone, taking with her his light and his hope. And that wasn’t all that had been taken from him. He’d lost all the things he’d taken for granted. Her laughter, her delight in the simplest things. Her selflessness, her innate generosity, her goodness and innocence that affected not only him, but everyone she came into contact with. His men had been as desperate to find her as he’d been, and now that he had his miracle in his arms, he’d do exactly as he and his men had discussed.

  No longer would he attempt to keep her a secret, afraid that she would be used—hurt—to cripple him and his empire. He was going to make her his fucking queen, and word would go out far and wide that she was not to be fucked with, or those who did so would face the wrath of Drake Donovan and his entire army of loyal brothers.

  Drake’s name was spoken of only in hushed, respectful and fearful tones. If so much as a hair on Evangeline’s head was hurt, Drake’s fury would know no bounds. He’d lay to waste anyone who dared touch her. Personally.

  Evangeline stirred in his arms and immediately tried to push away from him, her tear-filled eyes fearful and anxious.

  “Where are you taking me?” she asked dully. “Was my prior humiliation not enough? Do you want the entire world to see you wash your hands of me?”

  Maddox, having overheard the resignation and devastation in Evangeline’s voice, swore long and viciously, his hands gripping the steering wheel as he took a turn more quickly than he should have, jostling Evangeline back up against Drake’s chest, where he wrapped his arms around her to secure her against him. Silas’s big body tensed, fury emanating from him in waves. He turned to look at Evangeline over his shoulder, his eyes oddly tender.

  “I would never allow that, Evangeline.”

  Silas’s quiet vow made her go utterly still and she stared frozen at Silas and then looked back at Drake, confusion in her eyes. Drake groaned and pulled her closer into his arms.

  He stroked her bedraggled hair, inhaling the sweetness of her scent, a smell he went to bed every night savoring and holding close, cursing when he left their bed the next morning.

  “There is a lot I must explain, Angel,” he said in a tormented voice. “Much I must make you understand and pray your generous heart can forgive me for. But never will I let you go again. I will never wash my hands of you. You’re entrenched into my heart and soul, and losing you cut them both right out of my body and only now have they been returned to me.”

  “Bitch . . . whore . . . worthless,” she whispered as a fresh torrent of tears slid down his neck.

  “No!” Drake growled. “Baby, no! Never. My God.”

  Silas was staring at him in shock, and oddly, pain registered in his gaze. Then his expression became murderous. It took Drake a moment to realize Maddox had stopped the car and both men were staring him down, rage emanating from them both.

  “Tell me you didn’t say those things to her,” Silas said in a low voice.

  “Goddamn it,” Maddox swore. “Goddamn it, Drake! She believed you! She still believes you.”

  “How could you?” Silas asked accusingly. “I knew it was bad. I knew what you had to do, but Jesus, Drake. You went too goddamn far!”

  Drake closed his eyes, holding Evangeline closer as she wept.

  “Just drive,” Drake said hoarsely. “God, get us to the hotel so I can explain.”

  Silas shook his head, sorrow creeping into his gaze. “Some wrongs can never be righted. Some words can never be taken back. Especially when they’ve taken root.”

  “No!” Drake denied. “I’ll make her believe me. If it’s the last thing I ever do, I’ll make her believe in me again.”

  Worried looks passed between Silas and Maddox. Doubt. Drake felt some
of his euphoria over finding Evangeline slip away only to be replaced by dread. Because having her back was only half the battle. Now he had to convince her to stay.

  4

  Evangeline resigned herself to the fact that she had no choice but to face Drake. He wasn’t giving her any alternative. And it pissed her off that she was being a weak crybaby and not someone stronger—a woman who would spit in his face, ram her knee in his balls and then tell him exactly what he could do with his necessary destruction of her.

  She wanted to laugh at the idea that he thought her desperate enough to swallow that load of bullshit. Necessary her ass.

  No.

  Gullible was the more appropriate word. And she was certainly guilty of being just that.

  Gullible. Naïve. Needy. Impulsive—oh yes, certainly impulsive. Too stupid to live. Just to name a few. And to think she’d patted herself on the back for supposedly learning her lesson after Eddie and walking away from that disaster all the wiser.

  She pried herself from Drake’s arms and turned away, unable to look at him and see her own stupidity reflected in his eyes. Instead she fixed her gaze sightlessly through the window and vowed not to shed another tear over Drake Donovan. She couldn’t bear his touch because it brought back all the nights those hands had covered every inch of her body and how much pleasure they’d given her.

  What she wouldn’t give to be able to kick his ass. To be one of those women who could stand up for herself. The kind of woman that men respected because they knew they couldn’t get away with fucking her over. She hadn’t even been a challenge. She’d given token protests, knowing the entire time that she would concede and give Drake anything he wanted.

  She bit into her lip in disgust. She couldn’t even summon the courage to tear into him with words, knock him down a rung or two. The simple truth was, all she wanted was . . . She closed her eyes wearily.

  To be left alone. To be able to go somewhere private away from public scrutiny so she could lick her wounds and forget Drake Donovan ever happened. And then die a very private death, one she’d already died a dozen times in the few days since the blinders had come off.

  She wanted to go home. Her desire to be in her mother’s arms was a physical ache. It had been a mistake to come here, for her to think someone as gauche as her could ever exist outside her small-town upbringing, much less fit in.

  She snapped her lips shut before hysterical laughter could escape them.

  Far more embarrassing than ever believing she could have made a life here in the big city teeming with sophisticated urbanites was the fact that she’d actually allowed herself to think the differences between her and Drake didn’t matter. That she could hold her own in his glamorous world. That she could satisfy a man like him, whose demands were all-consuming. That he would possibly ever be happy with mousy, decidedly unglamorous Evangeline.

  Oh God, if she didn’t shift her train of thought, she was going to die of humiliation. What a pitiful, tragic weakling she was. She was going to have bruises from the number of times she’d kicked herself over her presumptuousness.

  Her mother had always said that if something seemed too good to be true, chances were it was precisely that.

  Where had that little nugget of wisdom been when Evangeline found herself catapulted into Drake’s glittery world?

  But at the end of the day, she had no one to blame but herself. She’d willingly worn blinders. Embraced them. She hadn’t wanted to know the blunt truth. She was too busy immersing herself in a fairy-tale world of her own making to ask the important questions, to question her own judgment. Because if she did, then her fantasy would shatter and break apart, collapse around her like a devastating landslide and bury her in its suffocating debris.

  Eddie, her ex, had been right about one thing. The sudden, bitter thought burned like acid and left an acrid taste in her mouth. She was nothing more than an ostrich going through life, burying her head in the sand at the first hint of adversity. Only, right now, Evangeline didn’t feel shame over the comparison. Who the hell embraced adversity? Certainly not her. She didn’t thrive on pain—whether hers or someone else’s.

  Although a secret part of her wished she could have that night back all over again. Just five minutes of it. With foreknowledge this time instead of having her feet cruelly pulled from beneath her. She’d love nothing more than to take Drake Donovan down a few notches.

  The thought took hold and pleasurable warmth bathed her stomach. Drake being humiliated by a woman. Now that was an image that had staying power. His business cronies holding their sides and laughing as Evangeline bloodied his nose. She’d follow it up with a knee to his balls that would have him singing falsetto for weeks to come.

  She leaned her forehead against the window of the car and closed her eyes to the blurred sidewalks. Another warm trail slid silently down her ravaged cheeks. Damn it!

  What was the point in this? Why had he come for her? And what was all that crap about necessary this and necessary that? No one had put a gun to Drake’s head and forced him to tear Evangeline to pieces, and yet Drake seemed to expect her to think he was the victim here.

  She shook her head. Oh hell no. She wasn’t playing stupid little mind games, nor was she going to give him absolution, something he apparently wanted or needed, judging by his demeanor and words.

  He could damn well make his peace with God in the end. But since he had no soul, it was doubtful he even believed in a higher deity. Her eyes slid to the corners of her lids in his direction in disgust. Who was she kidding? He likely thought he was God.

  Fear and panic slithered down her spine as the car slowed to a halt in front of a prestigious New York City hotel. She wanted to laugh at the idea of Drake hauling a woman dressed in a service uniform into the swanky interior. He’d likely receive looks of pity. A man with his wealth and social standing being so desperate as to fraternize with the common folk.

  “Angel?”

  Drake’s hesitant address broke into her bitter reverie. She whirled around, careful to keep as much distance as possible between them.

  The fury she’d finally worked up the nerve to express came to an abrupt halt when their eyes met. She flinched at how haunted and . . . devastated . . . he looked. She promptly slammed her eyes shut before her resolve could weaken even further than it already had.

  What the hell was wrong with her? This was her opportunity to take him apart verbally just as he had done to her. To rip him to shreds and destroy him every bit as much as he had her. To give him a taste of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of . . .

  Hatred.

  She dropped her face into her hands as a shudder rolled violently through her body. Oh God, oh God. She was sounding—acting—just like him.

  Tentative hands skimmed up her arms, hesitant as though Drake feared rejection. But hadn’t he already rejected her? She hated mind games. Why had he come after her? Why was she in his car? He’d washed his hands of her. He’d made that clear enough. So why the elaborate charade?

  Her head ached vilely but not nearly as horrifically as her heart.

  “What do you want, Drake?” she asked in a low voice. “What will it take for you to leave me alone—in peace? Surely that isn’t too much to ask. I’ve had to come to terms with how very wrong I was about you, but I didn’t think I could possibly be this wrong. That you would derive enjoyment from my emotional pain.”

  She stared through her tear-filled vision to meet his agonized gaze, determined to stand her ground.

  “I get that you’re done with me. You made that very clear. But are you truly going to embarrass and humiliate me just because you can? So you can physically and emotionally abuse me again?”

  So wrapped up was she in her impassioned plea that it took her a few seconds to realize that Silas and Maddox had exited the car, leaving her alone with Drake. It shouldn’t have felt like yet another betrayal from people she hadn’t anticipated it from, but it did. And it shouldn’t have hurt. But it did.
Drake’s men owed her nothing. Their loyalties lay with him. What was she but yet one more woman Drake had amused himself with?

  Slowly, as if fearing her rejection—well, that made two of them in the same boat—Drake reached up to gently cup her chin, holding it in place so she was forced to hold his gaze when she would have dropped it, giving in to despair.

  “Angel, listen to me. Please.”

  She went utterly still because this wasn’t a side of Drake she’d ever before witnessed. Humble. Upset? And dear God, he sounded precariously close to begging.

  His thumb stroked across her cheek in a tender pattern, his eyes drenched with the same welling emotion that she felt in her throat.

  “What do you want?” she whispered, her voice breaking with the strain of her heartache.

  “You. I want you. Only you. Always you.”

  She flinched and would have reared back, but his other hand went to her shoulder to restrain her and hold her in place. Her breath stuttered out as though she couldn’t make her lungs cooperate and breathe for her.

  “No, don’t. Listen. Just listen.”

  She bit into her bottom lip, refusing to shed another tear over this whole messed-up situation.

  “There is so much I need to say to you. I need to explain. I don’t deserve your understanding and I damn sure don’t deserve your mercy, but if it were possible, I’d be on my knees in front of you right now begging for one chance to make things right. Come up with me so we can talk. So that I can give you what should have already been yours—what is rightfully yours and already belongs to you. I know I’m not worthy of your consideration. I know. But at least let me explain and try to make you understand. I’m not demanding any promises from you, but I can give you my promise. If you still hate me, if you still can’t stand the sight of me, if you never want to see me again after I’ve told you everything you need to know, then . . .”

  He broke off and drew his hand away from her shoulder to run it raggedly through his hair. It was then she saw a startling revelation in his eyes. If his hand hadn’t already been curved around her chin guarding her mouth, her hand would have flown to her lips to stifle her gasp of shock.

  He was afraid.

  “Then what?” she asked in a low voice, her lips trembling against the firmness of his fingers.

  “I’ll let you go,” he said in a lifeless voice.

  He said the words as if he’d just been handed a death sentence. And she didn’t understand any of this. The whole thing.

  “You already let me go,” she said dully.

  “No!”

  Rage sparked in her blood and rushed through her veins until she was dizzy with it.

  “Yes. Oh yes, you did, Drake.” She sent him a scornful look that conveyed precisely what she thought of his method of farewell. Then she shook her head. “No, I guess that isn’t true either. You didn’t let me go. Letting someone go implies an act of kindness. A noble gesture. You threw me out like I was no better than garbage!”

  Drake’s eyes closed briefly and then settled back on her face. “I owe you an explanation.”

  “It’s a little late to be thinking of that now,” she said scornfully.

  He shook his head. “Angel, please. Just come inside. Let me explain. Give me five minutes. If you want nothing ever to do with me again after five minutes, I’ll have Maddox drive you wherever you want to go, but it will not fucking be back to work at the run-down rat’s nest where I found you.”

  His voice became fierce and his eyes blazed with a savage light. Her breath caught and hung in her throat as his face loomed closer to hers. Raw hunger emanated from the glittering orbs and her pulse accelerated wildly in her veins.

  “I swore to provide for your safety and well-being whether I was in the picture or not, and I don’t break my word. You will be free to do what you wish, how you wish, without ever having to mop fucking floors or work in places where I can’t be assured of your security at all times.”

  She knew her attempt at a smile was tragic. How could she smile when she was bleeding to death from the inside out? Drake Donovan never broke his word. Oh, but he had. Not only had he broken promises made to her as her dominant, but he’d lied to her. The entire time they were together. It was all one huge lie because nothing had been real.

  Except her love for him.

  And it was a well-known fact that one-sided love was doomed from the start. She couldn’t love him enough to make up for the fact that he didn’t and would never love her.

  “Angel, you break my heart,” he said, his throat clogged with emotion.

  “I’d say we’re even then,” she whispered without malice.

  5

  Drake knew he was being a coward holding off his conversation with Evangeline for as long as possible, but he hadn’t yet figured out exactly what he wanted to say or how to say it. All of his focus and energy over the past few days had been centered on finding his angel. He’d purposely blocked all other thoughts from his mind because he wouldn’t entertain for a moment the thought that he wouldn’t find her and bring her back where she belonged.

  But now that he had what he wanted most . . . No, having her back ran a close second to gaining her forgiveness and understanding. Her trust wouldn’t be earned so easily the second time around, and he knew he had to tread carefully. He couldn’t afford another mistake like this one or he’d lose Evangeline forever. He was lucky he hadn’t lost her this time.

  You don’t know you haven’t already lost her. She was here physically. But she damn sure wasn’t with him emotionally. She was reserved, in self-protection mode, determined not to give him the power to ever hurt her again.

  He paced the floor outside the bathroom of his hotel suite as he waited for Evangeline to reappear after her shower. He’d laid out clothes for her on the counter so she wouldn’t feel vulnerable and at a disadvantage when he cleared the air. Or died trying.

 
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