Dominated, p.23Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
Drake walked into Silas’s quiet apartment building, perspiration dampening his shirt, despite the frigid temperatures outside. There wasn’t much in his life that he could ever say truly scared him. There wasn’t anything he feared, not even death. Death was merely the means to an end. The end of a beautiful, long ride or . . . a shortcut through unplanned scenery resulting in taking the wrong turn.
But the prospect of losing Evangeline for good?
Fucking terrified him.
His hands were shaking when he got off the elevator on the top floor, and every step toward her door at the end of the hall seemed like a mile. He thought about knocking—it made him a complete asshole not to knock—but then if he calmly announced his arrival, she likely wouldn’t let him in the door.
Did it make him any less of an asshole to knock first and then if she didn’t respond, use the key Silas had given him? He couldn’t remember if the apartments in his buildings had dead bolts. Surely they did. Silas wasn’t an asshole of a landlord who didn’t take care of his tenants. But he was also in the first stages of renovation on the top floor, so the dead bolts might or might not be present.
At any rate, he’d knock and not just barge in and terrify and overwhelm her. After that? Well, he’d take it one step at a time.
He stopped in front of the door and simply placed his palm flat against the wooden surface and then leaned to press his forehead against it as well.
“Please talk to me, Evangeline,” he whispered. “Please be the gorgeous, generous, loving woman you’ve always been and give me the chance I refused to give you. I don’t deserve it but I’m begging you, like you begged me.”
He had to stop because he damned himself more with every word that came out of his mouth. Straightening to his full height, he knocked sharply on the door and then waited, holding his breath, each passing second an eternity.
His heart sank when he knocked again and heard no reply. Could she be sleeping? Silas had said she was distraught. Upset. He’d even called when Drake had been on his way over to tell him that he’d had to give her pain medication for a horrific headache she’d suffered. Yet one more sin to tarnish his already blackened soul.
Worried that she could very well be ill, he hesitated only a fraction of a second before pulling out the key and inserting it into the lock. A rush of air blew over his lips when the door opened, unbarred by a dead bolt. He stepped inside and softly called, “Evangeline? Angel, baby, it’s me, Drake. Are you here?”
Silence was all that greeted him. He walked farther in, only to see the pristine condition that all of Silas’s apartments were typically kept in. There wasn’t a single thing to denote that she’d even ever been here. Then another rush of self-condemnation blew over him. Of course it would look as though no one had been here. He’d stripped her of everything. All her clothing, her possessions. He’d thrown her out with nothing.
He hurriedly went through the small apartment, a sick feeling entering his stomach when his search turned up nothing. It was as if she’d never set foot in the place. How unlikely was that?
In the kitchen he finally saw the note affixed to the refrigerator. He rushed over and ripped it down and read her neatly scrawled handwriting. It was addressed to Silas and Maddox.
Thank you so much for everything, both of you. I’ve decided not to stay here in the city any longer. It would be too painful for me to be here, always remembering. You were my absolute best memory of New York City.
Drake crumpled the note and then went back through the apartment, searching for what, he wasn’t sure. Some clue as to where she might have gone? In the bathroom, he found the first sign that someone had been here recently. Just a tissue, crumpled and soggy looking, though it was dry. Had she cried here, using the tissue to wipe away her tears?
He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply to prevent his own tears from sliding free. He jumped when his cell phone rang and he automatically reached for it, intending to shut it off, when he saw who the caller was. His pulse immediately began to race when he saw Evangeline’s mom’s name listed as the incoming caller.
“Brenda, how are you?” he greeted her. As if there were nothing wrong. As if his entire world hadn’t vanished.
She sniffed and there was the sound of a faint sob as she spoke. “Drake? Is Evangeline with you?”
Drake froze, his blood turning to ice in his veins. “No,” he said slowly. “She isn’t. I was hoping you could tell me where to find her.”
“She was flying home!” Brenda cried. “She called me this morning to say she was catching a late-afternoon flight and would arrive here thirty minutes ago! She wasn’t on the plane. She didn’t get on the plane. What has happened to my daughter?”
“I’m going to find out, Brenda. I swear to you, I’ll find her. Can you tell me anything that might be helpful?”
“You promised me,” Brenda raged. “You swore to me that you would protect and look out for my baby, but when she called me, you should have heard how upset she was. She was heartbroken! She said that the two of you had broken up and that she was moving home. I had hoped that since she didn’t get on the plane, perhaps the two of you had reconciled.”
“Brenda, listen to me,” Drake said, utter gravity in his tone. “I did a terrible thing to your daughter. I didn’t trust her as I should have. As a result, we had an argument, and yes, we broke up. But I was on my way to where she was staying to apologize and to beg her for forgiveness. She did nothing wrong, except have absolute faith and trust in me when I didn’t give her the same back.”
Emotion knotted his throat, making his speech so thick it was a wonder she could even understand him. He sounded garbled even to his own self.
“Do you love her?” Brenda asked accusingly. “Because if you don’t, then let her go, Drake. No matter how much she’s hurting now, she’ll only hurt more if she becomes more deeply involved with you, or even married to you, and you don’t love her.”
“I love her with everything that I am, everything that I will be and everything that I have. It all belongs to her. My heart, my soul, my life. If she’ll have me, I’ll spend the rest of my life proving myself to her.”
There was a prolonged silence and then Brenda finally spoke again, sounding a little more appeased than she had initially.
“Find my daughter, Drake. And when you do, I want to talk to her. I’m sick with worry and so is her father. Please find her and let us know she’s safe.”
“I will,” he vowed, and then eased the phone down to shove it back into his pocket.
“Oh God. Where are you, Angel?” he said in an anguished tone.
He reached into his pocket for his phone, turning away from the sink to call Silas to see if he knew her whereabouts, when from the corner of his eye he saw something distinctive in the trash can.
He froze in place, all the breath leaving his body in one wicked expulsion. He began to shake violently as he stared, unable to move for the fear paralyzing him. It couldn’t be. Could it?
Shaking off the paralysis gripping his entire body, he lunged for the trash can and picked up the home pregnancy test, examining the results window. His knees locked and then buckled almost simultaneously, throwing him off balance. It was faint, but there was still a fading pink plus sign.
Evangeline was pregnant?
Another fear hit him, so hard and so viciously that he flailed his arm out to catch himself on the counter. He’d been horrible to her. He’d said horrible things. Had done terrible things. She was alone, desperate, without money or a place to live. That didn’t leave a single mother very many options. Surely she wouldn’t . . .
He shook his head, pissed at himself for making assumptions when time after time she’d proved nothing but trustworthy and loyal. There was no fucking way she would ever abort their child. He’d seen her look of horror when he’d told her that his mother had wanted to abort him and would have if she hadn’t seen
But she was still missing when according to her mother she should have already landed and been on her way safely to her parents’ home.
He had to call in the troops. Fast. He had to get everyone on the street, explore every option, call in every favor ever owed to him. And he needed to make it clear that if Evangeline was harmed, Drake would seek out and destroy anyone who caused it to happen or even allowed it by not intervening. He would also give a big cash reward to anyone who returned her safely.
He grabbed his phone and began making calls even as he went out the apartment door, hurrying down to Silas’s. He had a key to get in. Maybe Evangeline had come here. Silas had said she’d stayed with him the first night.
He let himself in, frustrated that he’d been unable to reach Silas with his first call. He shouted Evangeline’s name and went from room to room but came up with nothing.
It would be more logical for him to remain here, presumably the last place Evangeline had been before departing for the airport earlier in the day. He would get the word out to all his men for everyone to get over to Silas’s. He typed in his demand for them to meet here and then the last words of his message with a sickness that went soul deep.
Hurry. Evangeline may not have much time.
“Evangeline is missing,” Drake announced when all his men had gathered in Silas’s apartment.
There was a resounding chorus of “what the fucks” and demands to know what the hell had happened. Drake held up his hand for silence, his expression black, determination fiery in his eyes.
“As far as anyone knows, this is the last place she had contact with anyone. She called her mother from Silas’s apartment this morning to tell her she would be on a flight arriving just after six Central Time this evening. She never made it on that flight,” Drake said grimly.
Another round of curses rent the air and Silas and Maddox exchanged helpless, furious glances.
“I shouldn’t have left her,” Silas said painfully.
Drake waved off his man’s guilt. “There’s another thing you need to know.” He held up the pregnancy test, watching as his men’s faces turned to shock. “She’s pregnant. With my child,” he added unnecessarily. “She must have taken the test this morning. Before she called her mother. It must have been what prompted her to leave.”
“Then what the hell happened to her?” Maddox demanded, his fists clenched. “If she called her mother and told her that she would be on a certain flight, then she obviously intended to be on that flight. She wouldn’t worry her parents like that.”
“I know,” Drake said quietly. “Which means there’s a damn good reason she didn’t make that flight.”
Fear and uncertainty flickered on his men’s faces as they all exchanged glances.
“I’ll pull up the security surveillance footage starting from this morning when I saw her last,” Silas said grimly. “It’s a long shot, but if something happened to her here, then we should get it on camera. If not . . .”
Drake wouldn’t consider any alternative. Without a firm starting place, there was no way to know where Evangeline could be. His enemies were many and any one could have sought to strike at Drake where he was most vulnerable. No one had had time to figure out that he and Evangeline had broken up or that she didn’t mean anything to him at all. Or that it appeared she meant nothing to him. When she was everything . . .
“Do it,” Drake ordered. “We don’t have much time. Every minute that goes without us finding her . . .”
He trailed off, refusing to give voice to the possibilities.
“It does no one any good to kill her,” Justice said, an edge of uncertainty to his voice as though he were trying to convince himself. “No one with half a brain would kill her. If she’s been taken, she will be used to extort something from you, Drake. Money. Power. Protection.”
But one fact lay heavy over the group, one that Drake knew was front and center in their minds. Money was the only possibility because Drake would never protect or form a partnership with anyone who’d frightened Evangeline or put their hands on her. Taking her would be a suicide mission.
Silas was on his computer across the living room, punching in a series of commands. After a few moments, he called for Drake. He was pointing to the screen, which was split between six camera views.
“Here is when I left this morning and Evangeline was still in her apartment,” he said.
“If we catch anything, we can zoom in on whichever camera got her and follow her progress to the end of the block. I have cameras around the entire perimeter of the building as well as going both directions down the street.”
Drake watched in silence as Silas got into his car, and then they watched through an hour of no activity. No sign of Evangeline.
“There she is,” Silas said, zooming in on the camera outside her apartment in the hallway.
She was carrying only one small bag. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail and she was pale, her face outlined in clear distress. They picked her up when she got off the elevator and strode briskly out of the building, where the street camera picked her up outside.
At the entrance of the building, she hesitated, looking in both directions down the street. Then she started right, walking toward the corner. Had she hailed a cab? If Silas could pick up any identifying information on the vehicle that picked her up, they could hunt the driver down and find out where he’d taken her.
Silas began cursing and Drake zeroed in on the footage.
She was almost to the end of the street when a dark sedan pulled up beside her and rocked to a halt, as if it had been going at a faster speed. Evangeline warily stepped back and began to circle around the vehicle when a man jumped out of the backseat and immediately went for her.
She fought wildly and Drake’s blood froze when the man hit her over the head with the butt of a pistol. She went limp and the man all but threw her in the backseat of the car before the vehicle roared away.
It all lasted a total of a few seconds, and yet each frame was playing in slow motion in Drake’s head. Every damn minute of Evangeline’s fright, her struggle and the man striking her before abducting her.
“Son of a bitch,” Maddox seethed. “Come on, Silas. Work your magic. I want that son of a bitch and I want him now.”
Drake lowered his head over Silas’s shoulder and in a cold voice said, “I don’t care what it takes, who you have to blow, what you have to hack into. Find out who the fuck took her. It’s been fucking hours and she’s still in his hands.”
“Give me five minutes,” Silas said, his gaze never leaving the monitor, his hands working quickly over the keyboard as he zoomed in on the car.
Drake closed his eyes, his stomach lurching. Fingers of dread curled around his insides, squeezing relentlessly. The icy coldness of the predator settled around him. He itched for the kill. Clawed at Drake’s insides, begging to be set free so he could spill the blood of the bastard who’d hurt Evangeline.
And his child.
God, let his child be okay. Let them both be okay. And then he did something he’d never thought he was capable of doing.
If only one can be saved, let it be Evangeline. I want them both, but God, there will be other children. There will never be another Evangeline.
“I’ve got him,” Silas said furiously. “Punk-ass motherfucking little bitch! It’s Charlie McDuff.”
The others let loose a torrent of vicious curses.
“McDuff?” Drake asked incredulously. “That fucking pansy-ass wannabe?” Then his eyes narrowed. “You think his father has a hand in this? I find it hard to believe he had the balls to pull this off by himself. He’s either extremely stupid or extremely desperate.”
Silas shook his head. “No way, man. His old man actually has a brain. He cut Charlie out of the family business a long time ago. He was too unstable and too short tempered. Not to mention dumb as a fucking brick. My money says he
“Jesus,” Drake muttered.
He took a moment to organize his thoughts, though terror knotted his insides. Desperate men did desperate things and were highly unpredictable. Then he lifted his gaze to Silas and his men.
“Get the old man on the phone. He needs to know that I’ll have mercy if he has nothing to do with his son’s latest fuckup. If he can help me find the little bastard, I’ll be even more lenient. All that matters is that I get Evangeline back. But if he’s involved, if he doesn’t cooperate fully, then the entire family will have culpability in Evangeline’s abduction.”
“You know Charlie worked for the Luconis for a while,” Maddox spoke up. “About a year back. Another of his attempts to prove he’s the man and has what it takes to get the job done.”
“What’s your point?” Drake asked impatiently.
“He spent quite a bit of time with them is what I’m saying,” Maddox said, every bit as impatient as Drake. “The Luconis know quite a bit about his habits, or at least they should. They’ve been after you to back their takeover of the Vanuccis. They’d probably do anything you wanted in order to secure that backing. Make it a produce-or-you-don’t-get-shit deal. If they can help you find Evangeline, they get your backing. Otherwise, they’re on their own.”
Drake stared back at his man for a long moment, absorbing the implications of what Maddox was saying. If the Luconis could help him find Evangeline, it would be worth anything. Even backing their takeover of the Vanuccis when he’d planned to pit the two organizations together and stand back while they both crumbled and fell.
Christ, but this was huge. It upped the threat, not only to himself and Evangeline, but to every single one of his men as well. They’d become targets of the Vanuccis as well as anyone who supported them.
“Do you know what you’re saying?” Drake asked Maddox. “Do all of you know what he’s saying?”
“Yeah,” Zander said. “Do you? You willing to take that risk?”
“How can I not if it gets me Evangeline back?” Drake asked hoarsely.
“Then I’d say you have your answer,” Jax said.
One by one his other men stated their agreement. And acceptance of the risk posed to them.
Drake focused his gaze back on Maddox. “You make the call. I have to talk to McDuff. Make sure they know no deal unless they can produce Evangeline. Alive.”
“How sure are you that we can trust the Luconis?” Drake asked grimly as he and his men positioned themselves outside one of the butcher shops the McDuffs owned.
How appropriate that the McDuffs had several family-owned butcheries as their “family business,” since they were little more than butchers themselves.
Maddox shrugged beside Drake. Maddox and Silas had insisted on taking position with Drake, more likely to sit on him and keep him from losing his shit than for any real need for their help. The other men had paired up, and surprisingly, the eldest Luconi and appointed leader of the family had sent several of his men to assist Drake in the takedown of Charlie McDuff.
“They’re very keen to see Charlie go down,” Maddox said as they waited for go time. “The timing is pretty good, not that I’d say there was ever a good time for Evangeline to be abducted.”
Maddox’s face contorted into a black scowl, his eyes flickering with fury before he continued.
“Turns out, the Vanuccis struck at the Luconis a week ago and the Luconis want blood. Rightfully so.”
Drake and Silas turned to Maddox in question.
Maddox sighed. “It’s pretty horrifying and, well, after hearing of it, I’m not sad that we’re backing the Luconis to take the Vanuccis down for good. The Luconis may not be Boy Scouts, but I’ve never known them to do this kind of shit. They have a code of sorts, one that excludes women and children. The world won’t miss the fucking Vanuccis. They’re all a bunch of pond scum.”
“Tell me,” Drake barked.
“Jacques Vanucci targeted the elder Luconi’s granddaughter. She was only twenty fucking years old. Young, innocent and very beautiful. The Luconis aren’t complete assholes. They shield their women completely. No knowledge of their business practices. The women in that family are cherished and absolutely protected by every single male member of the family.”
Fuck. Maddox had referred to the Luconi granddaughter in the past tense. Drake didn’t have a good feeling about this at all.
Dominated by Maya Banks / Romance & Love have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on45 votes