Dominated, p.5
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       Dominated, p.5

         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
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  decision she’d reached. But then she slowly nodded.

  “I need the words,” he said hoarsely. “I have to be sure. I need to hear you say it out loud.”

  “Yes,” she said softly. “I’ll give you—us—another chance. I won’t lie. I’m scared out of my mind. But I’m willing to try.”

  It was too much for Drake. He crushed her into his arms, holding on to her for dear life. He rocked back and forth, alternating murmuring against her hair and brushing kisses over the silken tresses.

  A huge knot in his throat prevented him from articulating his thoughts and emotions, so he simply held her, touching her, caressing her, kissing her over and over as he silently gave thanks for this beautiful, sweet and generous woman in his arms.

  He didn’t deserve her, no, but no way in hell would he ever willingly give her up. She had become vital to him. As necessary as breathing. He couldn’t imagine his life without her now. Never did he want to go back to the stark, barren existence he’d endured before Evangeline had stormed into his life and changed everything.

  For several long minutes, he simply held her, unable to form any semblance of words. Reluctantly, he loosened his hold on her and pressed a kiss to her lips before gathering her hands in his.

  “I need to know if you no longer want to live in the apartment we lived in before. It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t. I don’t want to do anything that brings back bad memories. But if we choose to live in one of my other residences, I’ll need a week or so to properly secure it and get it up to the same standards as my current apartment. We can move each day so we don’t spend the same night in one place until all of the work is done and a new main residence is secured.”

  “I’m okay with going back to your apartment,” she said after a brief moment.

  He studied her demeanor, her expression and her eyes, looking for any sign of hesitation or fear. But he saw nothing.

  “Are you sure?” he asked anyway.

  She nodded. “There’s no sense in spending all that time and money to outfit another dwelling when the one you have is already suitable.”

  “Then let’s go home,” he said gently, holding his hand out to her as he stood.

  With only a slight hesitation, she slid her soft palm over his and allowed him to pull her up to stand beside him.

  “You won’t regret this, Evangeline,” he said with utter gravity.

  Her gaze searched his for a few seconds and then she offered his hand a gentle squeeze. She hesitated only a brief second as she seemed to overcome her internal struggle and then let out a deep breath. Hope seized his chest when her eyes softened. She licked her lips once and then uttered the sweetest words he’d ever heard.

  “I believe you, Drake. I believe you.”

  6

  Evangeline’s nerves were a wreck by the time they arrived at Drake’s apartment. Though she had agreed to remain here instead of having Drake go to the time and expense of setting up another residence, it didn’t mean that the mere thought of walking back into a place that had hosted her utter humiliation didn’t have her on the verge of an anxiety attack.

  To make matters worse, as soon as they entered the lobby Evangeline saw Edward and cringed at the sympathy and worry in his eyes as he hurried over. Oh God. She just wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole.

  But Drake must have sensed her mortification and warned Edward off with a look, because Edward halted and then turned to busy himself with another task. By the time they made it onto the elevator, she was shaking and on the verge of hyperventilation.

  She hugged her arms around her waist and lowered her head to stare at the floor. Her eyes were burning and she’d endured enough humiliation without dissolving into tears in front of Drake. Again.

  To Drake’s credit, he didn’t prod her or call attention to her near meltdown. Instead they rode to the top floor in silence. But Drake did wrap one arm around her, solidly anchoring her against him so that his body heat seeped into her chilled flesh.

  Was she an idiot? Was she a naïve fool for agreeing to this lunacy after what he’d done to her?

  Her head still bowed, she shuffled off the elevator and into Drake’s apartment. To her surprise, Drake stopped her just inside and simply pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly.

  “Thank God you’re back,” he murmured. “Thank God I found you in time.”

  She rested her forehead against his chest and stood there, absorbing his touch like an addict in withdrawal. He rubbed his hands up and down her back and then reluctantly pulled away, cupping her chin and tilting it upward so she met his gaze.

  “Come into the living room and sit down while I fix you something to eat. You haven’t been taking care of yourself,” he chided. “You’ve lost weight.”

  “I had it to spare,” she said dryly.

  He scowled. “You were fucking perfect the way you were. Now come so I can take care of my angel. You’re going to eat and then get some rest, and I plan to ensure you do both.”

  She frowned up at him. “Don’t you have work? You’re already late. I can manage on my own.”

  He gave her a pinched look but didn’t respond. Instead he steered her in the direction of the living room and settled her onto the couch, tucking a blanket around her. He fussed for a few moments longer, ensuring her comfort, and then instructed her not to even think about getting up.

  “I’ll be back in a few minutes and we’ll have breakfast together. And then you and I are going to bed and getting some rest. I haven’t slept since the night you left,” he said, a trace of pain in his voice. “And you don’t look as if you’ve slept any more than I have.”

  She flushed guiltily but didn’t refute his statement.

  With one last caress to her cheek, he turned and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Evangeline to sag against the couch. She closed her eyes as weariness overtook her. He was right about one thing. She hadn’t slept. Not at all. She’d lain in her small bed at night praying for oblivion. For a few short hours where she could escape her pain and grief. Instead she’d spent the interminable nights wiping tears from her swollen eyes and asking why over and over.

  She tugged the blanket more snugly around her, inhaling Drake’s scent, absorbing it. His presence was everywhere in the apartment. Even with him in another room she could still feel his overwhelming presence. It shouldn’t comfort her, but it did.

  The last five days had been miserable. The worst days of her life. She never wanted to repeat them again. Maybe it made her a fool—a desperate fool—for taking him back so easily, but she needed him. Craved him. She only felt safe when he was with her, which was absurd considering he had been the one to destroy her.

  Unease gripped her when she went back over his explanation, his justification of his actions. Just what was Drake involved in that would net him so many enemies? Inspire enough hatred that they would use her to cripple him?

  She wasn’t stupid. She had no illusions that Drake was a model citizen, but she simply couldn’t imagine him being involved in anything truly heinous. But then she’d already acknowledged that when it came to him she was an ostrich with her head stuck firmly in the sand.

  The simple truth was she didn’t want to know. Ignorance truly was bliss, and as long as she didn’t know for sure how he made his living she couldn’t very well pass judgment on him. She was happier not knowing, and if that made her a bad person, then it was something she would just have to accept.

  Or perhaps she just needed time to work up the nerve to confront him about his business practices. At any rate, that time wasn’t now. Not when things were already so fragile between them. When the time was right, she’d broach the subject and then decide if she could live with the results of her inquiry.

  Oh, Mama and Daddy. What is happening to me? This isn’t the way you raised me.

  They would be so ashamed if they knew she was at least temporarily turning a blind eye to the right thing. The very last thing she ever wante
d was to disappoint them. They were good people. The very best. And they’d always taught her to do the right thing no matter the sacrifice.

  “Angel.”

  Drake’s gentle voice roused her from her introspection, and she opened her eyes to see him carrying a tray with two plates.

  “Sit up, baby. You need to eat and then you need to get some rest. We both need to rest and I can’t think of a better way to do so than with you in my arms.”

  She sniffed appreciatively and her stomach protested the many days of not eating. Of not having the strength or will to force herself to eat. A hot flush swept over her body, causing her to shake, and sweat broke out on her forehead. Her stomach lurched and rebelled and then squeezed and tightened into a hard knot.

  “I’m not sure I can,” she said honestly, clutching her belly with one palm. Nausea boiled in her stomach, leaving her weak, clammy and shaking uncontrollably.

  Drake cursed and swiftly set the tray on the coffee table before sliding onto the couch next to her, enfolding her in his arms. He urged her to the edge of the cushions supporting her back.

  “Lean forward and put your head down,” he said gently. “Take in deep breaths. In through your nose and out your mouth. I’ll get you some soup. Think you could handle that?”

  She nodded miserably, her embarrassment growing with each passing minute. She was acting like a helpless twit who couldn’t survive without her man.

  Drake sat there a few moments longer rubbing his hand comfortingly up and down her spine, and then he gently massaged her nape.

  “Will you be okay while I get the soup?” he asked in a low voice.

  “Y-yes.”

  His lips brushed the top of her head and he disappeared back into the kitchen only to return a few minutes later with a steaming mug. He placed it between her palms and told her to sip.

  The warm fluid soothed a path from her throat all the way into her stomach, and some of her tension eased and she relaxed. She managed to consume half of it before she leaned forward to put the cup on the coffee table.

  “Enough?” Drake asked gruffly.

  She nodded, tension suddenly reinvading her muscles.

  “Then let’s get you to bed,” he said, rising.

  She swallowed nervously, then nodded. As she started to rise, Drake simply slid his arms beneath her and picked her up off the couch. She landed with a soft thud against his chest, and he stood there a moment with his lips pressed firmly against her forehead.

  She felt a shudder roll through him and realized he was as deeply affected as she was. And nervous.

  Her heart tightened at the fleeting vulnerability in his eyes, and she reached up to cup his jaw, forcing him to look down at her.

  “I’ve missed you so much,” she said softly.

  Fire ignited in his eyes, and relief that was nearly staggering.

  “God, I’ve missed you too, Angel,” he said in a husky whisper. “I’m never letting you go again.”

  As he strode toward the bedroom, she allowed his impassioned words to sink in. Did he mean them? Or was he saying something in the heat of the moment? She didn’t want to ruin everything by asking him for clarification. She was afraid of what that might mean. Fantasy was preferable to reality even as she knew that fantasy always eventually gave way to the painful truth. For now, until she could better make sense of her relationship with Drake and where she stood with him, she chose to think he meant every single word and that she was something special to him, that he cherished her and that he wanted . . . forever.

  The word trailed off in her thoughts. She was unable even to give it voice in her own mind because of the hope it inspired and the knowledge that if it was simply a dream, it would crush her. For once, she wouldn’t look ahead with the practicality her parents had instilled in her. She wouldn’t attempt to predict the future and prepare herself for the eventuality of her and Drake parting ways. Instead she chose to live in the moment. One day at a time. One precious fantasy and dream at a time. If and when the time came for her to face cold hard facts, she’d hold the cherished memories of her time with Drake close to her heart for the rest of her life.

  Because one thing was for certain. As practical as she liked to think herself and knowing that nobody was the one and only in someone’s life, she knew without doubt that there would never be another like Drake for her. No one who would even come close. Drake knew her inside and out, perhaps better than she knew herself. He knew what she needed and moved to provide it before she even recognized it. And she was supposed to think there was another man out there who could possibly see into her heart and soul the way Drake did? Not likely.

  Drake was a once-in-a-lifetime soul mate, never to be repeated or replicated. And damn it, she didn’t want to settle for second best. Ever. If she couldn’t have her other half, the one meant and made for her, then she’d choose to live her life alone and hold close the memories of the only man to know her better than she or her family knew herself.

  She mentally shook herself, angry that she was allowing her insecurities and fears to put a damper on her reunion with Drake. No one was perfect. Yes, what Drake had done was horrible. She’d been humiliated and devastated, her heart ripped out of her chest. But if he was to be believed, and he’d given her no reason not to believe him, his actions were justified even if extreme.

  She’d seen his expression when he’d admitted his fear of her being used to weaken him. As if the idea of her being hurt or abused in order to extort from Drake devastated him every bit as much as he’d devastated her by his actions. She wasn’t the only one hurting and reeling from the events of that night. His eyes had been utterly bleak and he’d looked . . . defeated when he’d begged for her understanding and forgiveness.

  Her stomach clenched, because she hadn’t given him either. Yet. She was still too afraid to trust him. She was still in self-preservation mode, afraid to make herself vulnerable once again and open herself up to pain and betrayal.

  Oh, Drake, I’m so sorry. Tears pricked her eyelids, but she refused to ruin the moment by giving way to the tears threatening to fall.

  Drake had laid himself bare to her. He’d put himself at her feet, and a man like Drake was not someone to ever humble himself in front of anyone, man or woman. And yet he’d done just that. He’d risked everything. His pride. All to make things right with her. And she hadn’t offered him anything except wariness. Certainly not mercy, understanding or forgiveness.

  Peace descended as she decided to right the wrongs between them at the very first opportunity. She would wait for just the right opening and give Drake what he’d given her. She’d bare her soul and strip herself as bare as he’d stripped himself so they were on equal terms and footing. If such a proud, powerful man could go to such lengths to humble himself, then she could certainly do the same and give back to him what he’d given her.

  If it turned out she was wrong—about Drake, about their relationship, about everything—then she wouldn’t have a single regret for doing the right thing. She couldn’t control his actions, his decisions, his thoughts or feelings, but she could certainly control her own and use them in a loving manner.

  Her heart fluttered with hope, swelled with need and ached for fulfillment only Drake could provide. Five days was such a short time and yet it had seemed an eternity of loneliness and a lifetime to grieve for all she’d thought she’d lost. Now she had a second chance. The opportunity to right previous wrongs. Both of them did. And she planned to make the most of this chance and show Drake how very much he mattered.

  “You look miles away from here,” Drake murmured as he laid her on the bed.

  She flushed, but he didn’t chide her or even ask what she’d been thinking. Instead he began divesting her of her clothing, pausing to kiss and caress each new area of flesh exposed. By the time he stood to remove his own clothing, she was panting breathlessly, her body tingling with desperate need unlike any she’d ever experienced.

  Her gaze fed hungrily on his
muscled physique, his wide shoulders and broad chest. His jaw was lean and chiseled, his eyes fiery with answering hunger and need. Heat rose in her cheeks and spread through her body when his straining erection bobbed into view.

  He was rigid, his cock bulging, the veins heavily distended, and his erection lay flat against his lean abdomen pointing aggressively at his navel. Moisture beaded the dark plum-colored head, and she licked her lips without even registering she was doing so.

  He groaned and closed his eyes, his chest heaving as if he were trying to maintain control. “You’re killing me, Angel. Do you know the last five days have seemed like an eternity without you?”

  She smiled at hearing his words that echoed her exact thoughts of just moments before.

  “And that I lay here every night, aching, missing you with every breath?” he whispered as he came down next to her on the bed. “That I couldn’t sleep for wondering where you were, worrying whether you were safe. God, all I could see was your face after what I did to you. And the fear that kept me awake was that even after I found you, you wouldn’t forgive me, that you wouldn’t give me—us—another chance. I’m not complete without you, Angel. The last five days have proved that beyond a doubt.”

  She turned on her side, snuggling close to him, and put a finger to his lips to stop the flow of self-recrimination.

  “Shhh, darling. You weren’t the only one who couldn’t sleep at night. I lay awake aching, wanting, needing and missing you with my every breath. I cried myself to sleep every single night.”

  He flinched and closed his eyes, sorrow and regret etched deeply into his features.

  “I didn’t say that to make you feel bad,” she whispered. “I only said it to let you know that we both suffered. That we both grieved. But we have another chance now. Let’s make it perfect this time.”

  “You’re far too good for me,” he said gruffly. “Too sweet, too innocent, too compassionate and too loving. I don’t deserve your forgiveness or your love, but God help me, I need them. I need you.”

  “And I need you,” she said just before she pressed her lips to his. “Make love to me, Drake. Take away the loneliness of the last five days. Make me forget. I need you so much.”

  He rolled over atop her, his eyes blazing. He planted both forearms on either side of her head and straddled her body, staring down into her eyes until she was drowning in his gaze. Then he lowered his mouth to hers and took her lips in the most tender of kisses.

  “Are you sure?” he asked in a strained voice.

  “Please,” she begged softly.

  He stopped her plea with his mouth and swept his tongue inside, tasting her, making love to her tongue with his.

  “You’ll never have to beg me for anything,” he said. “All I have is yours for the taking.”

  Her heart did a peculiar twist that momentarily robbed her of breath. He sounded so serious, as though he were making a vow for all time.

  “Then I want you. Now,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and lifting her head to kiss him back. “Now,” she urged. “Hurry.”

  “You aren’t ready for me,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

  She shook her head, shifting her body restlessly beneath his. She was ready. More than ready. She needed his ownership. For him to reclaim her body in the most primitive way a man could claim a woman.

  “I’m ready,” she insisted. “Please, Drake. You said I’d never have to beg for anything.”

  She parted her thighs, spreading herself open to him, and then she looped her legs around his waist, feeling his erection bump and prod at her opening.

  His face was a wreath of strain and it was evident he was at war with himself over whether to give in to her plea or practice more restraint out of fear of hurting her. Finally his instincts overrode all else and he positioned himself at her entrance, and after only a brief hesitation, wherein he searched her expression intently, he thrust forward in one powerful motion.

  She cried out and he lowered his head and then buried his face in her neck as his body heaved, his breaths coming in ragged bursts. Her nails dug tightly into his shoulders, and she closed her eyes as the beauty of his possession surged through her veins.

  It was like coming home. After so many days of grief, desperation, sadness and loss, she was back where she most wanted to be with the man she most wanted to be with. She couldn’t ask for more than this right here, right now.

  “Why are you crying, Angel?”

  She blinked and realized that Drake had pulled his head up and was now staring down at her, concern and worry reflected in his eyes. She hadn’t realized she was crying but now she registered the warm trails slipping slowly down her cheeks.

  She gave him a shaky smile. “I’m happy,” she said simply. “You have no idea how horrible the last five days have been. I thought I’d lost you forever.”

  Guilt darkened his eyes and he briefly looked away as if to compose himself before he once more locked gazes with Evangeline. He slowly withdrew and she moaned as he rippled through her delicate tissues. Then he surged forward again, burying himself as deeply as he could go.

  “Never again,” he vowed, holding her gaze fiercely. “The entire world will know what you mean to me. Anyone who fucks with you, even tries to fuck with you, will be signing their own death warrant and they’ll know it.”

  She fought off the surge of unease, determined not to give way to anything but the here and now and the beautiful sense of homecoming she felt in Drake’s arms.

  “Love me,” she whispered, arching up against him, demanding more.

  There was no hint of the dominant lover Evangeline had come to crave over the course of their relationship. This was a man making love to her with reverence. There was tenderness and apology in every kiss, caress and stroke in and out of her body. It was a side of Drake she hadn’t seen. Oh, he’d been gentle and loving during their lovemaking. It wasn’t always an exercise in dominance and kink, but there was an emotional side to him that brought tears to her eyes and a
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