Dominated, p.7
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       Dominated, p.7

         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
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  Drake—not an emotion he was accustomed to at all. But with his relationship becoming very public, he needed unconditional loyalty to Evangeline from every single one of his men, because he would be relying on them as well as himself to keep her safe at all times.

  And Justice was likely correct in his conclusion. Drake cursed the fact that he hadn’t even considered that Evangeline would be mortified to face his men, but now that Justice had suggested it, it certainly seemed highly probable. That night had been degrading and mortifying for Evangeline. Of course she wouldn’t want to be around people who knew every single detail.

  He was also dead on about Evangeline having fierce pride. It was one of the things Drake admired most about her.

  “Silas is right,” Drake conceded. “The air needs to be cleared and Evangeline needs to be put at ease. I won’t have her uncomfortable with the people I trust her life with.”

  He paused and leveled a steely look at each of his men in turn.

  “However, once Silas has set the matter to rights, under no circumstances is that night ever to be brought up in Evangeline’s presence. Unless she brings the subject up, it is to be forgotten, and even should she broach the topic, you will say nothing that upsets or embarrasses her in any way. I damn near destroyed her in my attempt to keep her off the Luconis’ radar, and I will not have anything said or done that brings her further pain.”

  Maddox made a sound of disgust. “What kind of bastards do you take us for? Evangeline is a sweet woman. Far too innocent and sympathetic for her own good. Hurting her would be like kicking a goddamn puppy. Only a complete piece-of-shit dickhead would seek to humiliate or shit on her.”

  “I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Drake said calmly. “I’m not letting her go, which means she’s going to be a regular part of our daily lives. The sooner Silas smooths things over with her and makes her feel at ease with all of you again, the sooner the memory of that night will fade.”

  “I’ll take care of it tomorrow,” Silas reaffirmed.

  Drake nodded his consent. “See that you do. Maddox, perhaps you should take Evangeline out the following day. Have her make a grocery list and shop for the items she needs. She enjoys cooking and she likes to feel that she’s contributing in some way and that she has value. I won’t take that from her. Bring Justice with you. She needs to grow accustomed to being around you all again without any residual awkwardness.”

  “She can cook for me any time she wants,” Justice said, his tone hopeful. “Maybe if I’m a really good boy, I can finagle a dinner invitation from her.”

  Drake rolled his eyes as the others chimed in with their appreciation of her culinary skills and their desire to be included for dinner. He wasn’t a stupid man. His men appreciated more than just her cooking skills. If Drake wasn’t careful and he fucked up with Evangeline again, more than one of his men would move in without hesitation and treat her like royalty, spoiling her shamelessly. Then he’d have to beat all their asses.

  Drake sat back in his chair and singled Silas out. “I need as many eyes on the street as possible. With the leaks about my relationship with Evangeline steadily going out, I want everyone’s ear to the ground and I want to know of any possible threat to her before it has a chance to be carried out.”

  “I’m already on it,” Silas said, unruffled by Drake’s intensity. “I have eyes and ears everywhere. If someone is planning a move, I’ll know about it. As long as Evangeline isn’t left alone and especially not wandering around the city by herself, she’ll be safe.”

  Drake scowled. “She won’t be wandering around the city without several men on her. She goes nowhere without protection, and guards will be posted at the apartment when she’s there alone during the day.”

  “You realize the most expedient way to give credence to the rumors of your serious attachment to Evangeline would be to show up to a society function with her on your arm,” Hartley mused. “You’ve never brought a woman to any of the events you’ve attended. The few times you choose to attend a function, you’re always a lone wolf and very unapproachable. I imagine that alone would cause quite a stir. Add in the planted seeds of a serious relationship with Evangeline and you’ll have the entire city buzzing.”

  Drake stiffened, his jaw clenched tight to the point of pain. He didn’t like the idea of using Evangeline or of trotting her out like a show pony just to get his point across. Fuck. But Hartley also made a solid point. If he wanted it spread far and wide that Evangeline was his pampered, cherished queen and that anyone fucking with her would die a very painful death, then he had to offer concrete evidence and not just talk. Actions had to back up the words.

  Which meant an evening in polite company, rubbing elbows with people he despised or who despised him, people who wanted his backing and financial support in their latest schemes or simply people whom he found tedious and fake. None of the scenarios were appealing. And exposing Evangeline to a veritable viper’s nest left an acid taste in his mouth. She didn’t deserve to be mocked and bullied, and she damn sure didn’t deserve to be tormented and persecuted because of her lack of social status.

  He liked and respected that she was fresh and unspoiled by greed and ambition. She was as genuine as they came, someone a month ago he would have never believed existed, or rather only existed in the realm of too good to be true. He’d become jaded and cynical at a very young age—he’d had no choice. But Evangeline was a breath of fresh air. Nothing like he’d ever encountered before. She made him believe that there was actual goodness in the world, however limited in quantity.

  She was as he’d dubbed her, an . . . angel. Good to her bones and incapable of deception and betrayal. Jesus. He was starting to sound like an infatuated, starry-eyed prepubescent kid without a fucking clue about how the real world worked.

  It was Evangeline who didn’t have a firm grasp on humanity and its devious nature, and it was his duty to shield her from those who would think nothing of tearing her apart and taking advantage of her inherent goodness.

  He inwardly grimaced. It sounded like he was criticizing Evangeline. Like she had a flaw and was too stupid to live, when nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a grasp on reality. She had firsthand experience courtesy of her first lover and now Drake, the man who’d vowed never to hurt her. She was just extremely sweet and chose to see the good in people and not the bad until she had no other choice. Her heart was too tender, and that was where she needed someone to protect her from those who would take advantage of her generous spirit.

  “Some of you will go with us,” Drake ordered. “It’s not optional. I’m not throwing her to the wolves, and you and I both know they’d take her apart and enjoy doing it. She will be surrounded by me and a group of you the entire time and no one, and I mean no one, will get through you to her and fill her head full of shit or make her feel like she doesn’t belong or I’ll have your balls.”

  “It’s the bitches you’ll have to be on the lookout for. Much more so than any men,” Maddox stated in a matter-of-fact tone. “As soon as the women whom you’ve tossed or outright rejected see her on your arm, when no woman is ever on your arm, the claws are going to come out and they’ll try to tear her to shreds.”

  The others nodded solemnly in agreement.

  “Which is why you will all form an impenetrable barrier around her and head off anyone who attempts to get to her,” Drake said emphatically.

  Zander groaned. “Jesus. Does this mean I have to wear a damn monkey suit?”

  Thane snickered. “If the rest of us have to suffer, then so do you.”

  “This is no joking matter,” Drake said, his expression stony. “Evangeline is to be protected at all costs. I will not have her abused or humiliated ever again. If anyone gets by you, then you answer to me. Are we clear?”

  “Evangeline is ours, boss,” Justice spoke up. “She’s yours, yeah, but by proxy, that makes her ours too. The only way someone will get to her
through me is if I’m dead.”

  As Drake studied his men’s expressions, he realized that Justice spoke the truth. Evangeline did in fact belong to them all. She was one of them, which meant each of them would protect her like they did one another.

  Drake nodded his acknowledgment and acceptance of his men’s vow to put themselves between Evangeline and harm’s way. Some of the tension that had knotted his insides ever since he’d decided to go public with Evangeline eased, and he relaxed for the first time since Evangeline left him.

  His men—his brothers—were solid. The best of the best. He trusted them with his life and now he was trusting them with Evangeline’s, and he knew Justice wasn’t just saying meaningless words. He and all of his men would put themselves in front of Evangeline. They’d die for her just as they’d die for him. That kind of loyalty couldn’t be bought. It was earned and in turn reciprocated because he’d go to the wall for any one of them and they damn well knew it.

  “I’ll go through my invitations,” he conceded. “There’s always a pile of them on my desk. I’ll choose one that garners me and Evangeline the most exposure and then I’ll put on a show that can’t possibly be mistaken. After that night, there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Evangeline belongs to me and is under my absolute protection.”

  Silas stared piercingly at Drake as if peeling back the layers and leaving Drake a wide-open book.

  “And is that all it is? A show?” he asked in a somber voice.

  Drake’s features became icy and he stared coolly back at Silas, matching his enforcer’s intensity.

  “She is mine and that is all you need to know. What is between me and Evangeline is strictly that. Between us and not open for discussion or analysis.”

  Silas’s lips tightened but he didn’t press the issue. Maddox didn’t seem any more pleased with Drake’s response than Silas had been, but like Silas, he left it alone.

  “Now, if that’s all we have to discuss, I’m calling it a day,” Drake announced. “I’m staying home and not going to the club tonight, so I’ll need you, Zander and Hartley to cover, Maddox. If there are any problems, call. Evangeline and I plan to stay in tonight, but I can always bring her with me if something needs my attention.”

  9

  Evangeline paced the living room of Drake’s apartment, restless and on edge. She was about to go stark raving mad from her self-imposed seclusion over the past several days. She wanted to get out, get some fresh air, take a walk, anything. But to do so would require a security team of Drake’s men. Men she was mortified to face.

  She knew she had no reason to feel shame. She was not at fault, but she couldn’t stand the thought of facing their scrutiny and the knowledge of what had happened in their eyes. Whether she found judgment or sympathy, neither was a desirable option.

  With a sigh, she flopped onto the couch and spread her arms out as she lay back. She had to find something, anything to do. No one could sit around and do nothing every single day. It disgusted her that she’d become one of those women who had no life except whatever surrounded her man. She wasn’t a helpless twit, but one couldn’t tell by looking at her. God knew she wasn’t acting like an independent, self-sufficient woman.

  Was she insane for taking Drake back so easily? There were still so many unanswered questions swirling around in her mind—questions she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to—but at the same time, a nagging worry assailed her. She couldn’t live in ignorance forever, could she?

  She couldn’t live her life as a coward with her head stuck in the sand. Soon, she had to confront Drake and ask him the questions burning a hole in her brain. Even if it meant losing him.

  Pain surged through her veins and grief overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes. No, she wouldn’t go there. Surely there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the secrecy Drake was shrouded in, the extreme security measures he implemented and his overzealousness when it came to her safety.

  As her mother often said, it did no good to borrow trouble.

  The buzz of the intercom startled her from her troubled thoughts and she jumped, getting to her feet from the couch to hurry over to the com.

  She pushed the button. “Yes?”

  Her voice was shaky and she breathed in deeply to calm her frayed nerves.

  “Miss Hawthorn—Evangeline,” Edward said in a friendly voice. “There is someone here to see you. Shall I send him up or should I tell him you aren’t receiving visitors?”

  Her pulse ratcheted up. Who on earth would be here to see her? Surely Eddie wasn’t that stupid. No, it couldn’t possibly be him.

  “Who is it?” she asked nervously.

  “His name is Silas. He works with Mr. Donovan, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”

  Evangeline’s heart sank and a knot formed in her stomach. Oh God, she wasn’t ready to face any of Drake’s men yet. Why was he here? It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Edward she was indisposed, but she refused to be a coward any longer.

  Squaring her shoulders, she sucked in a deep breath. “Send him up, Edward, and thank you.”

  “You’re very welcome, Evangeline,” he said warmly.

  She paced in agitation as she waited for the elevator to arrive and then realized that she was standing just outside the opening as if worried over his unexpected visit. She hurried into the living room and flipped on the television and settled on the couch as if she’d been enjoying a relaxing day in without a care in the world. The last thing she wanted was for Drake’s men to see her as a fragile weakling.

  She tensed when the elevator doors opened, but she forced herself to relax and then she rose, a welcoming smile plastered on her face. Her features felt stiff and frozen and fake as hell. She only hoped Silas wouldn’t see right through her guise.

  When she rounded the couch to greet him, she was surprised to see him weighted down by multiple takeout bags. Flustered, she hurried forward to rid him of the ones on top and sent him an inquiring look.

  “What’s the occasion?” she asked in bewilderment.

  He set the bags on the island in the kitchen and then took the sacks she was holding and began taking out the containers and lining them up buffet style.

  “We had an agreement to have a once-a-week takeout date,” he said calmly. “Or did you forget?”

  She flushed, heat scorching her cheeks, and she glanced away, unable to meet his gaze.

  “No,” she said in a low voice. “I just thought . . .”

  “You thought what?” he demanded bluntly.

  She licked dry lips and fidgeted, twisting her fingers together in agitation.

  “I wasn’t sure you would still want to come over and eat with me,” she whispered.

  Silas let out an uncharacteristic torrent of savage curses that had her flinching. Then he reached and pried one of her hands loose from the other and cradled it in his.

  “Look at me, Evangeline.”

  It was no request. No one with half a brain could possibly interpret his statement as anything more than a command. Reluctantly, she lifted her head to look into his eyes, and the black anger simmering there nearly had her running away as fast as she could. He looked . . . dangerous. And he was extremely pissed.

  “Listen to me, Evangeline, and listen good because I’m only going to say this once and you’re going to heed my words or so help me, I’ll make good on my threat to spank your ass.”

  She swallowed, her eyes going wide with panic.

  “You did nothing wrong,” he said in a forceful tone. “You are not to blame for anything that happened that night. The fault lies solely with Drake, but he was in an impossible situation and he did the only thing he could to protect you. He had no idea you would be here. If he had, he would have never brought those men within a mile of you. He hates himself for what he did, and I can’t say I’m very happy with him myself, but at the same time, given the circumstances and the fact that he was completely unprepared, he did the only thing he could, and no one has punished h
im more than himself for hurting you.”

  “He explained,” Evangeline whispered. “I don’t fully understand, but he said the same thing you did.”

  “Now perhaps you want to explain to me why the hell you think that I or any of the others would possibly hold you responsible or think badly of you when you were the one hurt and humiliated?”

  She bit into her lip, determined not to cry. Damn it, she’d cried enough. No more. It was time to stand up and be stronger. She was made of sterner stuff. How could she possibly prove worthy of a man like Drake when she was forever acting like a weak crybaby?

  When she didn’t immediately answer, Silas sighed and squeezed her hand in a comforting gesture.

  “I and all the others have Drake’s back. Unconditionally. Each of us would give our lives for him without hesitation, and he’d do the same for us. That loyalty and protection extends to you as well, and furthermore, our protection of you is not contingent on your relationship with Drake. Not anymore. Should anything ever happen between you and Drake, our loyalty to you doesn’t go away. If you ever need anything at all, I expect you to contact us, and if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to do that, then you better damn well contact me. And I mean for anything at all. You get me?”

  She stared at him in shocked disbelief. “But I’m nobody! You don’t even know me that well. Your loyalty is and should be to Drake.”

  “Now you’re just pissing me off even more,” he growled. “If I allow an innocent woman to suffer for doing nothing more than be a beautiful person inside and out, that doesn’t make me much of a man. And if that costs me my relationship with Drake, then so be it. I’m quite used to being a lone wolf and not answering to anyone. Now, enough of this ridiculous conversation. The food is getting cold.”

  Shaken by his emphatic statement, she went to the cabinet and pulled out several plates and gathered utensils from the drawer. When she returned to the bar, Silas was opening the various takeout containers.

  “I wasn’t sure what you were in the mood for, so I got a variety. I have all your favorite Thai and Chinese dishes as well as finger foods and appetizers, including chicken wings, cheese sticks, spinach dip, queso and chips, two kinds of chicken strips and a few other things I threw in for you to try.”

  Her mouth watered and her stomach grumbled appreciatively.

  “It looks wonderful,” she said softly. Then she met his gaze and stared sincerely at him. “Thank you, Silas. This means the world to me.”

  His expression softened. “Next week, I’ll get something different for us to try. This time I wanted to get food I knew you’d like.”

  “I’m looking forward to it,” she said honestly. “I hate being cooped up in here. I’m going stir-crazy.”

  He frowned. “Then perhaps it’s time you stop hiding in Drake’s apartment and get out more. You have no reason to be ashamed with me or any of Drake’s men. They know he was an asshole. I know he was an asshole. And none of it was your fault. Tomorrow morning Maddox will be by to take you shopping along with a few of Drake’s other men.”

  “For what?” she asked, even more flustered than before. “I don’t need anything.”

  He chuckled and she stared at him in astonishment because Silas wasn’t a man prone to laughter. It transformed his entire face, making him look younger and extremely handsome.

  “Who says shopping is all about need? Shopping is supposed to be fun, or so women tell me.”

  Her brow furrowed as she became pensive.

  “I supposed I could get started on my Christmas shopping,” she said awkwardly, thinking of her limited cash and wondering how far she could make it stretch now that she had considerably more people to buy for.

  Silas was staring at her, as if he could read her like a book. When his eyes narrowed and he suddenly got up and walked over to the drawer where she’d stashed the credit cards and cash he’d given her, she realized he’d done exactly that. Read her thoughts as if they’d been broadcasted in neon lights.

  “Did you forget about the money and credit cards?” Silas asked.

  She shook her head miserably.

  “Then you know to use them,” he said pointedly.

  She sighed unhappily. “This isn’t easy for me, Silas. I hate the idea of being a kept woman and doing . . . nothing.”

  His expression softened and he closed the drawer before returning to his seat at the island. “I understand pride when I see it, Evangeline. And I respect it. Drake has more money than he’ll ever use in ten lifetimes. He won’t even miss what little you spend of it. But if he knows that you refuse to use his money or credit cards, he will not be happy. He already feels guilty enough over what happened to you that night and his part in the whole sordid mess. Will you continue to punish him by refusing the things he wants to give you?”

  She stared at Silas with an open mouth, acknowledging the points he’d scored with his statement. She had no desire to punish Drake any more. They’d both suffered enough, and all she truly wanted was to be able to move on and forget that night ever happened.

  “It’s that important to him?” she asked softly.

  “Wouldn’t it be to you?” Silas asked. “If someone you cared about refused to accept any of the things you gave them, wouldn’t it bother you?”

  She bit her lip but slowly nodded.

  “I have it on good authority that Drake will be taking you out one night soon. Perhaps you can use tomorrow’s shopping trip to buy an appropriate dress and shoes and all the other accessories. Drake is a very important figure in the circles he travels in, and though he would cut off his tongue before ever telling you how to look or dress, I’ve learned enough about you to know how much pride you have and that you would want to make Drake proud of you.”

  Her mind began racing a mile a minute. “Taking me out? Where are we going?”

  “I’m not certain which invitation he’s decided to accept,” Silas replied. “But he will be making a statement. One you won’t possibly be able to misinterpret. He wants the world to know you are his and that he values what is his. So knock him—and everyone else—dead. Buy a kick-ass dress that will make Drake the envy of every man in attendance, one that will ensure he won’t be able to keep his hands off you the entire night.”

  Evangeline burst into laughter. “You have that much confidence in me?”

  Light entered Silas’s dark gaze and his eyes twinkled with responding laughter. “Bet your sweet ass I do.”

 
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