Dominated eBook: Page2
Maya Banks (2016)
“I’m never letting her go. Even if it means tying her to my damn bed every night. If she ever wants out, then she’s going to have to convince me that I’m not who or what she wants and that the lifestyle I demand isn’t what she wants, and she’s going to have to tell me she isn’t happy. But she’ll never want for another thing in her life. I’ll make damn sure of that.”
“There will never be another like her for you,” Silas said as though refuting that Evangeline would ever leave. But there was something else in Silas’s piercing gaze. Perhaps he sought to know just how deep Drake’s feelings for Evangeline ran. Silas seemed so sure of Evangeline, that she’d forgive him. But maybe Silas worried that Drake would betray her again?
“No,” Drake said flatly, in response to Silas’s statement. “How could there be? You only taste that kind of perfection once in your life, and if you’re too stupid to hang on to something that good and bust your ass to make damn sure you keep it, then you don’t deserve it.”
He lifted his gaze to Silas, anger and determination surging through his veins. He didn’t owe him or any of them a damn thing and yet this . . . Evangeline . . . and what she meant to him was too important to fuck up by being anything but blunt. There could be no doubt or he couldn’t be assured of their complete and utter commitment to his search. He swept his eyes over Maddox and Justice, including them in his impassioned, angry statement.
“Get this in your heads. Evangeline is everything to me. There is no Drake Donovan without Evangeline. If something ever happens to her, and especially if something happens to her because of me, I won’t survive it. I won’t want to. She gives me purpose. A reason to live. A reason to get up in the morning and face a new day. You don’t get that kind of light only to have it extinguished and hope to ever recover from it.”
His men seemed stunned, not over his feelings for Evangeline, because they shared them to a degree, but because he’d just laid bare his soul to them all. Understanding quickly followed their surprise while Silas merely gave a clipped nod as if satisfied that Drake had just passed some test he was unaware had been put to him.
Well good. Drake had gotten through to them and now that he had, he knew they would die for Evangeline. They’d put themselves between her and any threat because they knew if anything happened to Evangeline, they’d lose Drake too.
“We will protect her—and you—with our lives,” Silas said.
Maddox and Justice repeated Silas’s vow, purpose and determination now blazing in their eyes.
They’d all climbed their way up from nothing. They all had nebulous pasts, nothing given to them. Everything they had, they’d fought for. They were family, all pledged to one another by a bond stronger than any blood bond would ever be.
And now for the first time, they would be widening their intimate circle to include . . . a woman. Drake’s woman. None of them had ever involved themselves with any woman long enough for it to be considered a semblance of a relationship. They sated their needs, always ensuring that the woman was cared for, pleasured in return, and they were generous when they cut them loose. But no woman had ever even threatened to crack the hard shells around their hearts.
Part of his men felt envy, and part of them felt pity because now Drake had a hell of a lot more at stake than before. Before he had only himself and his brothers to worry about. He was feared and revered. No one dared to strike at him. But now Drake had a weakness and it could well be his ultimate downfall. His being impervious to any weakness had been what had made it impossible for his enemies to strike at him. Because Drake had no one or nothing he gave one fuck about. Now? He had a woman who was his entire world. And God help the fool who ever tried to put so much as a scratch on Evangeline because Drake would appear like an avenging angel or the scariest demon from hell and wreak savage vengeance on whoever wronged his Evangeline. And he would do it personally. He wouldn’t have Silas go after the bastard. It would be too personal. Drake would be unstoppable and would tear apart anyone who ever hurt his woman.
“Mr. Donovan! Mr. Donovan!”
Drake nearly growled in frustration at the unwanted intrusion as he stalked toward the elevator. It was three in the morning and he and his men had spent the day scouring the city, yet another hopeless day of searching for Evangeline that had come to nothing.
He whirled on the doorman and some of what he was feeling must have been reflected in his expression because the doorman recoiled and stopped in his tracks a few feet from where Drake stood at the now-open elevator.
“Whatever it is, it can wait,” Drake snapped. “I am not to be disturbed.”
For a moment, the doorman seemed to grapple with indecision, and in disgust, Drake turned and walked into the elevator. The doorman lunged forward, holding out his hand to prevent the doors from closing.
“It’s about Evangeline, uh, I mean Miss Hawthorn.”
At the mention of her name, Drake stepped off the elevator and grasped the older man by the lapels of his coat.
“What about Evangeline?” Drake growled. “Do you know anything?”
The man’s face was gray and his eyes flickered downward in guilt. What the fuck?
But then the doorman had seen Drake leave the building just a few minutes after he’d arrived with the Luconis. He sucked in a breath. Oh dear God. How stupid could Drake be? The doorman would have to have seen Evangeline leave as well. And the condition she was in when she’d left.
The doorman liked Evangeline. Had always had a friendly word for her, as Evangeline had for him. There had been genuine affection between the two, but Drake had never paid it any notice because Evangeline inspired that in everyone she met.
But what if . . .
The dread was crawling more insidiously through Drake’s body as his grip tightened and then finally relaxed, freeing the man to take a few stumbling steps backward.
It had never occurred to Drake to question the man. He’d been too frantic to find Evangeline, turning the entire goddamn city over like a deranged madman. What if the answer had been here all along and Evangeline had had to be out there somewhere, alone, desperate, hungry and devastated while Drake wasted time chasing all the wrong leads?
“Do you care for her?” the doorman asked in a nearly accusatory tone.
Oh yes, this man knew something and he was mad as hell over what Drake had done to Evangeline. And now Drake had to tread very carefully because if he gave this man any reason to believe he intended to harm Evangeline, he’d never get any information from the doorman Evangeline had taken under her wing. Just as she’d done with everyone else she came into contact with.
“Very much,” Drake said in a soft, dangerous voice. “Do you know where she is?”
“I saw her that night,” the doorman said in a bitter voice.
His eyes still reflected accusation as though he found Drake solely responsible for Evangeline’s departure. Drake was. Absolutely. But how much did this man know? Did he know where Evangeline was now?
“There was a terrible misunderstanding,” Drake said, nearly strangled by baring his personal issues to a complete stranger. But for Evangeline, to have her back in his arms, he’d do anything. “None of which was Evangeline’s doing. She wasn’t supposed to be here.”
The agony couldn’t be suppressed in his voice and he could swear the doorman’s gaze softened just the slightest bit.
“She’d planned a surprise for you,” the doorman said quietly. “And after, she was devastated. I wanted to help her. I tried. But she told me that if I did, I’d be out the door just as she now was.”
Drake flinched and then the familiar ache of sorrow invaded his chest, depriving him of breath. The doorman had tried to help her and Evangeline had refused aid because she worried Drake would fire him if he found out. For just a moment he’d allowed himself hope that the doorman could provide him answers. Could tell him where to find Evangeline.
“May God forgive me if I’m wrong. May she forgive me if I’m wrong.”
Drake surged to attention. “What? What do you know?” he said, switching tactics because he now knew what the man was battling. He was uncertain of Drake’s intentions toward Evangeline and so was reluctant to give Drake any information that would help him find her. Now, unless Drake could convince him that he was doing the right thing and that he wouldn’t betray Evangeline by giving Drake any information he held, Drake would never pry it from the man, even at the risk of his job.
“It is very important that I get her back,” Drake said in a quiet voice. “I’m only half a man without her. I must beg her forgiveness, but I can’t do that until I find her and bring her home where she belongs.”
Some of the doorman’s wariness faded as he studied Drake’s face pensively. “You know, Mr. Donovan, I think I believe you.”
“I just pray she does,” Drake whispered.
The doorman sighed. “I put her into a cab and sent her to a hotel in Brooklyn that my sister manages. Evangeline, Miss Hawthorn I mean.”
“It’s okay,” Drake said, momentarily halting the doorman. “I understand she is special to you, as she is to us all. You do her no disrespect in calling her Evangeline. If I had to guess, she insisted on it.”
A smile curved the older man’s lips. “That she did, Mr. Donovan. That she did.”
“Now, back to the hotel you sent her to?” Drake asked, trying to temper his eagerness.
“She had nowhere to go,” the doorman said, a frown once more in place. “No money. She had nothing with her other than a few changes of clothing. I couldn’t let her go like that, without somewhere to go where she would be safe.”
“You did the right thing, and you have my utmost gratitude for ensuring her safety. You will be rewarded.”
At that the older man’s face hardened. “My reward will be seeing her here, safe and happy again.”
Then Drake frowned. “But that’s been five days ago now. Do you know if Evangeline is still there? She’s not the kind of person . . . that is, she’d never accept charity. She’s too proud. She’d never stay somewhere she couldn’t pay her own way.”
“My sister gave her a job as a cleaner, even though Evangeline was honest and up front and told my sister she didn’t plan to stay long. Just until she earned enough money to move on.”
Drake’s blood froze. Move on. God. How close he’d come to losing her for good. If she was even still there.
“Her shift starts in an hour,” the doorman said quietly. Then he lifted his chin, staring Drake down as an equal, fire in his eyes. “Don’t make me regret breaking her trust, sir. I would never do anything to hurt that young lady. She’s seen far too much hurt as it is.”
“On that you and I agree,” Drake said, closing his hand over the doorman’s shoulder. “Thank you. I’ll never be able to repay you for your kindness to Evangeline when she needed it the most and for helping me find Evangeline to make things right, though God knows I don’t deserve it.”
“Just bring her home, Mr. Donovan,” the doorman said in a somber voice. “It’s just not the same here without her.”
The words hit him where Drake lived. Right in the heart. Because they were absolutely true. Nothing was the same without Evangeline.
He nearly turned and hurried back out of the apartment building after gaining the name and address of the hotel from the doorman, but he needed to shower and change and he needed to call Silas and Maddox. They were the two who liked Evangeline the most, had the most vested interest in the search. Maddox still carried the weight of guilt for allowing Evangeline to escape in the first place, and Silas . . . Drake wasn’t sure what the connection between his enforcer and Evangeline was, only that it was the most unlikely friendship he’d ever encountered.
But one thing was for certain. Silas was fiercely protective of Evangeline, and Evangeline was equally protective of Silas, taking on anyone and everyone who dared malign him in any way. It would only be fitting for Maddox and Silas to accompany him to bring Evangeline home, to ensure her safety—and his.
• • •
Silas swore violently under his breath when the car bearing him, Drake and Maddox pulled up to the dilapidated hotel five minutes after Evangeline’s shift was to start. Drake sent him a startled look, one eyebrow arched in question.
But Silas offered no explanation. His only response was a dark, brooding scowl, one that was echoed on Maddox’s stony features. Neither man was happy that this was where Evangeline had been living and working while they’d been combing the streets of the city looking for her.
But at least the doorman had been caring enough to ensure that Evangeline had a safe place to go. For that, the doorman would have Drake’s undying gratitude.
“Wait here for me,” Drake said as he opened the door to get out. “And hope like hell that I can convince her to come back with me.”
Evangeline plopped the mop down into the bucket of soapy water and then settled it into the wringer, using all her strength to wring as much of the water from the mop as she could before beginning the arduous task of cleaning the reception area.
She knew she had to be quick about it and not interfere with the comings and goings of the customers, which was why it was done at four in the morning each day. Her back ached, her feet were swollen and sore and her eyes burned from the storms of tears she cried every night when she lay on her cot unable to sleep.
She knew she looked bad and that her movements were robotic as she performed her task by rote. If it weren’t for the fact that her heart ached with pain that never subsided, she would have sworn she’d already died and was merely a zombie stumbling through her daily routine.
A few more days. All she needed was a few more days and she’d have enough money to buy an airline ticket back home to her parents. She was no stranger to hard work. She’d work two, three jobs, whatever it took to support her parents, and it would have the added bonus of giving her no time to think about . . .
A shudder rolled over her and her eyes burned like acid had been poured into them. Damn it, she would not cry here. Only at night, in the dark where no one could see or hear, did she allow her grief to consume her.
Who was she fooling? She wouldn’t stop thinking about Drake and his cutting betrayal until her dying day. Putting half the country between them certainly wouldn’t help. Not when her heart would forever remain in New York. With a man who had no heart, no soul, no capacity to love.
Oh God, what was she going to do? Why hadn’t she listened to her friends? Why had she been so naïve? And now, because of her own stupidity, she’d lost not only Drake but also her best friends.
What she wouldn’t give to be at their apartment right now, pouring her heart out and apologizing for betraying them. But she never wanted any of the people she loved to see her at her lowest point.
She had a few days yet to build her meager funds to afford the trip home and also to somehow find a way to get over what Drake had done to her so that she could face her family and not have her devastation reflected so clearly in her eyes and in her body language.
Sadness gripped her because once again she was fooling herself. A few days to get over Drake? She didn’t have a prayer of ever being free of Drake’s impact on her life, even as short-lived as their affair had been.
But she could at least promise herself never to love with all her heart and soul again. How could she when Drake would forever possess pieces of them?
Weariness assailed her and she wobbled as she gave another shove of the mop, and then grief consumed her in a giant swell, robbing her of strength. She grasped the handle of the mop in a desperate bid not to crumple onto the floor and give in to the heart-wrenching despair cutting her to ribbons.
Her hand shook. Her entire body trembled and so she stood there, breathing in and out, hanging on to the mop handl
• • •
Drake strode into the doorway of the hotel and looked to see no clerk on duty. He heard the soft sound of water and the slap of a mop on the floor and instinctively turned, seeking the source of the sound.
His heart accelerated as she slumped tiredly, clinging to the mop handle, and Drake drank in the sight like a starved man, devoid of all life. Until now. His knees shook and his hands . . . God, his hands trembled uncontrollably and a knot formed in his throat that prevented him from doing anything but absorbing the only shining thing in his life.
Evangeline. His angel. He’d found her. Finally.
But when she lifted her head and their gazes locked, recognition was swift and he was gutted by the piercing fear that flared in her eyes. The immediate step back she took, her eyes turning wild, like an animal poised to flee from a predator.
His eyelids were on fire, burning, his nostrils flaring with a sudden expulsion of emotion—and from the effort of holding back the tears that threatened to unman him. Because beautiful angel eyes that had once looked at him with love and trust were now filled with terror and apprehension and worst of all . . . shame. It made him want to put a fucking bullet through his head for all he’d done to her.
She was quickly assessing her escape routes and he moved in like the predator he was, but his usual cold aloofness that fit him like a second skin when he closed in for a kill had been replaced by utter panic. He couldn’t lose her. Not again. Not ever. The last days had been hell. The kind of hell he’d never experienced and never wanted to repeat.
He was shaking as he held out his hands in a placating manner, as though she were a trapped wild animal desperately seeking escape. Any escape.
“Evangeline,” he said hoarsely. “Please, baby, don’t run. Please. There’s so much I have to tell you. To explain. It’s taken me days to find you. The worst days of my entire life. Please don’t make me go through that again.”
Her lips curled contemptuously and a combination of anger and devastation glittered in her eyes, glossy with unshed tears. She looked so utterly fragile, worn to the bone. As though he’d already lost her, no matter that she stood a mere few feet away from him. Almost close enough to touch. Just a few more steps . . .
“What you went through?” she whispered. “What you went through?”
Her voice rose to the point of hysteria and now her tears flowed freely down her pale cheeks. He noted her pallor, the weight she’d lost in the days since he’d so callously discarded her, the shadows under her eyes that looked far too close to bruises for his liking. She looked . . . defeated.
He closed his eyes, halting the progress of the hand he’d lifted, hoping beyond hope that she wouldn’t flinch away, that she’d reach for him despite the fact that she hated him with the same passion with which she’d once loved him. He wanted that back. God, he was perilously close to begging. No one had ever loved him until Evangeline. His generous, loving angel who didn’t give a damn about his money, his power, the expensive gifts he’d showered her with or the entire wardrobe that cost more than she made in five years. She’d simply wanted him and the one thing he couldn’t offer her. His love. And his trust.
And now he had no hope of ever regaining either.
“Angel,” he whispered, his voice cracking. “You have every reason to hate me, to despise the very sight of me. What I did was unforgivable. But I had no choice. Please give me a chance to explain. If after, you still hate me, if you still want me out of your life, I’ll let you go. It will fucking kill me, but I swear to you I’ll let you go and you will never want for anything for the rest of your life whether I’m a part of it or not. You will never have to work in these conditions. You will be financially secure. I’ve already seen to it even though I know it isn’t what you want from me. You’ve never wanted anything from me but . . . me. Give me a chance, Angel. God, give me a chance to make this right. So that you’ll want me again. Just me and nothing else. I will never doubt you, I never have. But I will make damn sure you never have reason to doubt me again.”
Her whispered words, so much agony inflected into every single one, words he’d thrown at her, direct arrows that had crippled her self-confidence, nearly destroyed the thin string to which he was clinging desperately. The one that was keeping him from losing all vestiges of his control. Because those words he’d thrown at her were now darts directed back at him, each piercing him like a kill shot.
He had recognized it in the restaurant, that awful evening that seemed a lifetime ago, that what he’d done to her had been far worse than the damage inflicted on her by Eddie, her ex. But knowing and seeing were two different things, and now he was seeing her, seeing just how much he’d ripped her to pieces and destroyed something so utterly beautiful and innocent.
“That’s what I was to you, Drake,” she said, still whispering, her body shuddering violently with each broken breath.
“No!” he shouted, making her flinch and recoil from the raw fury in his voice.
Her eyes were wide with fear, uncertainty, and so much pain, pain he well understood because he’d been living in hell from the night he’d betrayed her. But even knowing the anguish he’d suffered, he knew it in no way compared to her pain and suffering, and that only gutted him even more because never had he wanted to cause her such pain and ugliness. He’d made a sacred vow to himself. Vows. And he’d broken both as surely as he’d broken her.
“Never,” he said savagely. “They were lies, Angel. Terrible, ugly, necessary lies. Oh God, if I could only go back, if I could only have that day back. I would have made certain you were never involved, never exposed like that. In my arrogance I thought I could keep you safe and separated from that aspect of my life. It’s a mistake I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. I know you can never forgive, but God, please, I’m begging you. Give me the chance to explain, to try to make you understand the world I live in. A world I should have never allowed you into, but I could no more deny myself your sweetness and light than a starving man could refuse food and water. Angel, you were—are—the only good thing in my life, and God help me but I couldn’t do the right thing and let
Previous PageNext Page