Dominated, p.26
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       Dominated, p.26

         Part #2 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
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  If he wanted nothing to do with either of them, there was no way she’d shove an unwanted child down his throat. Never would she allow her child to grow up as he had. Unloved. Unwanted.

  Maybe after her doctor’s appointment. Her pulse leapt at the thought of going to see the obstetrician her mother had found. What if she’d imagined the positive pregnancy test? What if she’d wanted to be pregnant so badly that she’d blocked out a negative result? But no. When she’d arrived home, she’d had a cursory exam by her old family doctor, who had confirmed her pregnancy but advised her to make an appointment with an OB-GYN. Tomorrow was the earliest appointment she’d been able to get.

  After tomorrow, she’d make some firm decisions about her future instead of existing in limbo as she now was. She made a face because this entire situation wasn’t fair to either of her parents.

  Her mother watched and worried. She hovered anxiously, taking turns with Evangeline’s father keeping careful watch over her, but they didn’t press, didn’t push her, and most importantly, her mother didn’t speak or act condescendingly to Evangeline. She didn’t pat her on the head and tell her everything would be okay or that time healed all things, nor did she offer her any other trite clichés about recovering from a broken heart.

  She very honestly told Evangeline that of course she hurt and of course she was devastated. She loved Drake and that didn’t go away in an hour, a day, a week or even a month. That it would be a slow process and all she could do was take it one day at a time and never look beyond the next day or push herself to “get over” losing someone she loved with all her heart and soul.

  She adored her mother and her infinite wisdom. Wisdom that only a mother had, gleaned from years of experience and honed by loving and protecting the child she’d carried for nine months and then nurtured through the formative years. It didn’t matter that Evangeline was grown. No one ever outgrew their need for a mother.

  Her mom had quietly told Evangeline that she needed time to grieve. That in a lot of ways, it was the same as a loved one dying, only in some ways worse because that person was still alive, out there, but Evangeline could ever only look but not touch. In a figurative manner of speaking. With death came finality. The knowledge that you had lost that person forever. In a situation such as Evangeline’s, no matter that Evangeline was hurt and devastated and didn’t want Drake back, she still loved him, missed him, and in the most hidden, secret parts of her heart was a flicker of hope that somehow things would work out and they could be together again. And so every day they remained apart was its own sort of hell.

  Evangeline was in awe of how well her mother knew her, how intuitive she was, because wow, she had Evangeline dead to rights. Yes, she did secretly harbor hope, stupid, naïve hope, that by some miracle of fate, she and Drake would live happily ever after and her child would have his or her father. And every single day that she awoke, alone, in an empty bed missing Drake with every breath in her body, she buried her face in her pillow and wept.

  Irritated at how much Drake occupied her thoughts, despite her effort to banish him and distract herself with marathon cooking sessions—as if that did any good—she got up, tossing down the towel she’d wiped her hands on, and attacked cleanup, squeezing the last of the prepared meals into the already overloaded freezer.

  She cleaned, scrubbed, polished and then mopped until the kitchen sparkled. When she was done, she leaned briefly on the mop handle and blew a stray piece of hair from her eyes as she surveyed her handiwork. Her parents, as usual, avoided her when she went into a cooking frenzy, recognizing it as her way of working through her grief.

  If only it did any good.

  “Is it safe to come in?” her mother called from the door.

  Evangeline whirled, a smile she didn’t have to fake curving her lips.

  “Oh my, you’ve been quite busy,” her mother said, shaking her head as she ventured farther in.

  Evangeline hastily dumped the mop water into the sink and then put the mop on the back porch to dry. When she returned, she went straight to her mother and enfolded her in a fierce hug. Her mom hugged her back, but when she drew away, she had a bewildered look on her face.

  “Evangeline, what’s wrong, darling?”

  Evangeline smiled, though a sheen of tears already coated her eyes.

  “Nothing. I just wanted you to know how much I love you and how grateful I am to have you and Daddy. I don’t know what I would have done without y’all.”

  Her mother’s eyes softened and her face shone with love and tenderness.

  “Oh, my darling, I love you too. I hate to see you hurting so badly. There is nothing more frustrating as a parent than to see your child in pain and be helpless to fix it.”

  “You are fixing it, Mama. Just by being here. You and Daddy have been so terrific.” She sighed and glanced around the now-spotless kitchen. “I suppose I really should let you have your kitchen back.”

  Her mother laughed. “I don’t know. It’s kind of nice to know that I won’t have to cook for the next six months.”

  Evangeline issued a rueful grin. “I guess it’s better than the more clichéd ways of dealing with a broken heart. By eating a pound of chocolate a day and watching sad movies.”

  Her mom rolled her eyes. “I’ve let you be to do your thing in the kitchen because it isn’t hurting anyone, but I’ll turn you over my knee if you start with bad habits. No man is worth that level of self-destruction. Besides, you have a child to think of now,” she said gently, reaching for Evangeline’s hand and squeezing in a comforting gesture.

  Pain robbed her of breath for a moment as she imagined her child. A little boy who looked just like Drake. A little girl with her blond hair and her father’s dark eyes. Or a dark-haired, dark-eyed daughter. She would be so beautiful.

  “And speaking of which,” her mother said, continuing on as if not noticing Evangeline’s sudden quietness—her mother never missed anything—“do you remember you have a doctor’s appointment at one tomorrow?”

  As if she could forget. The appointment had been all that she’d thought about for the last week.

  She nodded. “Are you still going to come with me?”

  An anxious note crept into her voice despite her trying to make it sound like a casual inquiry.

  Her mother hugged her fiercely. “I wouldn’t miss it, darling. Of course I’m coming. You’re carrying my grandchild! I’m very much looking forward to knowing an approximate due date so we can make plans. And I’ve already started sewing for the little one. Neutral colors, of course, until we know what you’re having.”

  Evangeline smiled, feeling a rush of excitement, the first good feeling she’d had in so very long that it was intoxicating. She wanted to hug it to her and hold on to it forever.

  “Oh, I can’t wait! I can’t decide if I want a boy or a girl. I honestly don’t care! I already love him or her so much,” she said fiercely. “I can’t wait to meet my baby and hold her.”

  Her mother grinned, her eyes sparkling mischievously. “You just called it her. Could it be you’re secretly hoping for a daughter?”

  Evangeline laughed. “No. Honestly, I don’t care. I alternate saying him and her because I hate calling the baby it and well, I don’t want to give preference to either sex so I just switch back and forth.”

  “Brenda! Where in Sam Hill are y’all?” her father called from the living room.

  Her mother clapped a hand over her mouth. “Whoops! I got so caught up I completely forgot why I came in here. Your father sent me to kidnap you. He’s starting a movie and wanted us to watch it together.”

  Evangeline linked her arm through her mother’s and squeezed affectionately. “Then let’s go sit down with Daddy and keep him company for a while.”

  35

  Evangeline was quiet on the drive home from the doctor’s appointment. Though she’d been euphoric when the obstetrician had ordered a vaginal ultrasound to determine her due date, and she’d seen the heartbeat—had he
ard it!—when she and her mom had left the clinic, sadness had settled over her.

  How different things would be if she and Drake were still together. About to be married. Having a baby. He would have gone to her appointment with her and they would have shared in the joy of seeing their child for the first time. Instead, she was a single mom. One of many enduring their pregnancies without a supportive spouse or partner.

  She stared blindly out the window as they drew closer to her parents’ home, blinking to prevent the tears that threatened to fall. It was time to stop crying and pull herself together. Face reality. Drake—being with Drake—was a fantasy. An impossible dream because he could never trust her, never believe in her, and she could never be with a man who had so little faith in her. She owed herself and her baby more than that.

  She rubbed her stomach, still awed by the images on the ultrasound monitor. This was a time for joy and excitement, and she refused to allow Drake Donovan to take that away from her. A child was a cause for celebration no matter how it came to be, and she never, for one moment, wanted there to be any doubt that her child wasn’t dearly loved and wanted with every single part of her heart.

  Her mom pulled into the drive and cast an almost nervous glance in Evangeline’s direction. Evangeline looked at her mom in question, wondering at the odd look on her mother’s face. But it was gone as soon as it registered, leaving Evangeline to wonder if she’d imagined it as her mother smiled brightly at her.

  “Let’s go in and show your father the sonogram pictures!”

  Evangeline’s heart squeezed and she clutched the pictures to her chest, a surge of love making her heart flutter. She smiled back at her mom and the two women got out and walked to the door.

  Her mom went in first and to her surprise headed for her bedroom, leaving Evangeline standing in the foyer in confusion. With a shake of her head at her mother’s odd behavior, she headed into the living room to find her dad and share the news from her doctor’s appointment.

  But when she walked into the living room, she halted in her tracks, her shocked gaze settling on the man standing on the far side, hands shoved into the pockets of his slacks, staring broodingly out the window overlooking the backyard. Then he turned and their eyes locked and her stomach bottomed out.

  Drake.

  What was he doing here? She sucked in her breath at the raw vulnerability reflected in usually nonexpressive eyes, eyes that never gave anything away. He looked . . . tormented. His expression held utter bleakness and he looked as if he hadn’t slept or eaten in weeks. He looked as bad as she felt.

  What was he doing here?

  She tried to open her mouth to ask but found herself incapable of speech. The result was her looking at him completely dumbfounded, her heart in shreds, bleeding.

  “I wanted to be here in time to take you to your appointment,” he said hoarsely. “But the plane was grounded due to ice. I’m sorry. I tried to get here as quickly as I could.”

  “You know?” she asked in a shocked voice.

  Confusion glimmered in his dark eyes. “Angel, I’ve known since the day you found out,” he said gently. “Do you not remember the day we rescued you from your abductor and how worried we were that something had happened to the baby?”

  She shook her head. “I don’t remember much about that day,” she whispered. She lifted her gaze to meet his, her heart heavy. “Is that why you’re here, then? Because of the baby?”

  He swore softly and then crossed the room as if to pull her into his arms, but he hesitated when he drew abreast of her, almost as if afraid of her rejection.

  “I’m worried about the baby, yes. But I’m more worried about you. I’m here because I can’t live without you. I’m here because there is so much I need to say to you, Angel.”

  Before she could respond to his raw declaration, he slowly and painfully lowered himself to his knees in front of her, gathering her hands in his as he looked beseechingly up at her.

  “I’m begging you to listen to what I have to say. Hear me out. Please.”

  Evangeline stared in shocked bewilderment at Drake’s haggard features and the aching vulnerability reflected so clearly in his eyes. He was assuming a position of submission and humility. Tears choked her, clogging her throat as so much of the pain and devastation she’d tried so hard to make peace with bubbled up and threatened to burst free, much like a dam breaking.

  “You refused to listen to me,” she said thickly. “I was on my knees begging and you wouldn’t even hear me out. You refused to give me a chance. Why should I give you the same? I gave you everything, Drake. Everything. I held nothing back. I gave you my submission. My love. My trust. My loyalty. And you threw everything back in my face. It was like you were just waiting for me to fail. You wanted me to fail. And when it appeared I had, you couldn’t wait to throw me out. Do you have any idea how that made me feel?”

  She was heaving for breath, the tears she’d tried so hard not to let him see sliding down her cheeks. She wiped hastily with the backs of her hands, dashing them away before she looked away, refusing to meet his imploring gaze a minute longer.

  “You’re right,” he said in a subdued, defeated tone she’d never heard in him.

  Her gaze swung wildly back to him at his admission, unable to believe he was admitting that she was right and he had been so very wrong. His grip tightened on her hands as though he feared she’d slip away and he’d never get her back. Well, he’d already lost her and not because he let her go. He’d shoved her violently out of his life in the cruelest manner possible.

  “Why did you come for me, Drake?” she asked, ignoring his admission. “Why did you even bother rescuing me from that horrible man? I would have thought you would have been happy to be rid of me.”

  His face lost its pallor, going gray with answering grief and regret. So much regret and sorrow that it made her uncomfortable to look at. But when he spoke, he went back to his admission, to her earlier accusation.

  “I know I don’t deserve anything from you, Angel. Not the time of day, not even a look, certainly not your love. But I’m begging you as you once begged me to listen. If after this is done you never want to see me again, then I’ll go. But you and our child will be taken care of. Always.”

  She swallowed but didn’t answer, but neither did she tell him no. She didn’t say anything at all. Just continued to stare at him, hurting with every part of her soul.

  “You were right in that I was waiting for you to fail,” he said, wincing at his admission. “I once told you that if my own parents didn’t love me, how could I expect anyone else to? You may have thought it was bullshit, but it’s true. No one has ever loved me and then you . . .”

  He broke off and swallowed heavily, and she was flabbergasted to see a sheen of moisture collect in his eyes.

  “Then I met you and you didn’t tell me as much as you showed me that you loved me. Every single day. In every action, every gesture, every look. You showed me what love is. And I showed you what love wasn’t,” he said painfully. “I couldn’t believe that you loved me. Not my money. Not my power. You loved me, the man, and you only wanted the same from me. Not the things I could buy you or the lifestyle I could provide you. If anything you tolerated those things because it meant a life with me.”

  A glimmer of amusement curved his lips as he said the last.

  “You scared the hell out of me, Angel. I had no answer for you. No idea what to do with you. When it was all so simple. All you wanted was my love, and that was the one thing I couldn’t give you.”

  She sucked her breath in, her chest squeezing painfully.

  “I thought I couldn’t give you love,” he said softly. “But I was wrong. I loved you from the start. I didn’t know it. Didn’t recognize it. How could I? I’d never seen or felt love in my life. All I knew was that when I was with you my entire world lit up. I was happy. I only felt content when I was with you. I wanted to do everything in my power to make you happy. I . . . loved you.”

/>   She looked sadly at him, shaking her head even before he finished his statement. He squeezed her hands, a request for her to let him finish.

  “I was so convinced that no one could ever love me that I didn’t recognize it until it was too late. When I thought you had betrayed me, I was devastated. I was completely undone and so grief-stricken that I lashed out and said and did despicable, horrible things. I said terrible things. I reacted like a wounded animal and I only wanted to be alone to brood and to grieve the loss of the most beautiful thing in my life.”

  He broke off a minute and heaved a deep breath.

  “And as the days went by, I started to think, did it really matter if you betrayed me? Was it such an unforgivable crime, given all I’d kept from you? I expected blind faith and trust from you while giving you nothing of that part of my life. What were you supposed to think? I’m sure you thought the worst. And you being you, so good and innocent, wouldn’t have been able to live with that kind of man. So why wouldn’t you do the right thing and set me up?”

  “But, Drake, I didn’t!”

  He squeezed her hands again. “I know, Angel, I know. What I’m saying is that I missed you so damn much, I loved you so damn much, that I was willing to forgive you even if you had. And then . . . then I started to think back over everything. And I wondered. I doubted. I found it hard to believe you could do something so contrary to your loving, loyal nature. I was so fucked up, questioning everything in my life. When the real traitor was ferreted out, I had already made the decision to go after you, beg your forgiveness and do whatever was necessary to win you back.”

  He closed his eyes, tears sliding wetly down his cheeks.

  “Because I realized I loved you. I love you with everything I am. Everything I have. Everything that is within me and everything that I’ll ever be. Whatever I’ll be is because of you. I told your mother on the phone, the day you disappeared, that I loved you and that no matter what I would find you and keep you safe. That I’d never let you go again.”

  Evangeline just stared, too confused and off balance to make sense of all he was saying.

  “You were out of it when we got you to the clinic,” Drake said painfully. “Barely aware of your surroundings. I begged you then. Told you I loved you and our child. I wanted nothing more than to bring you back to our apartment and spend the rest of my life making up for my mistakes. But the only thing you said was that you wanted to go home. To your parents. And you were so fragile, on the verge of shattering, that I would have done anything to make you happy again. So I let you go.”

  He stopped, choking out the last words and turning his face away but not before she saw the raw agony and utter despair. Pain and so much desolation. Everything she’d felt for the last month was mirrored in his eyes.

  “But I kept in touch with your parents daily. Seeking any crumb of information about you. The slightest detail, no matter how insignificant, I devoured like a man starving. I couldn’t stay away a day longer, Angel. I’m miserable without you and I think you’re miserable without me. We’re only whole when we’re together. I know I have a lot of making up to do. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to catch up and atone for all I’ve done. But please, just give me the chance to make you happy. I know I can make you happy again, Evangeline. If you only give me the chance. The chance I denied you.”

  Evangeline’s knees were perilously close to giving out. Her hands were still firmly in the grasp of Drake’s, so she slid unsteadily to her knees in front of him. Alarm flared in his eyes and he was up immediately, sweeping her into his arms. He strode to the couch and set her down like she was the most precious thing in the world. Then he sat next to her, angled so they could face one another.

  She felt light-headed and faint, her heart beating so fast that her surroundings were a blur. All she could see was Drake’s beautiful face ravaged with every single emotion she felt. Could she believe him? Could she trust him?

  “Just tell me one thing, Angel,” he implored.

  He waited a beat and then brushed his fingers over her cheek, and she was shocked to see it come back wet with yet more tears. She hadn’t realized tears were streaming freely down her face now.

  “Do you still love me or have I killed any chance of you ever loving me again?” he asked painfully.

  She bowed her head, tears splashing onto her tightly clenched hands on her lap. When the silence between them became prolonged, Drake’s tone grew more desperate and hopeless.

  “Angel?”

  His voice cracked and she peeked from underneath her lashes to see savage torment etched in every line and groove on his face, and he suddenly looked older than his thirty-six years.

  “I’m afraid,” she admitted in a husky voice. “I’m afraid to love you, Drake. You have so much power over me. You have the power to make me the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, but you also have the power to destroy me. That scares me.”

  “Oh, darling,” he said, every word spoken in an aching, grief-stricken tone. “Don’t you know? You have the same power over me. I’ve never been so miserable in my life as I have the last month and before you say it, I know it’s my fault. I know. But I’ve learned something important from you. You taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable. That it’s okay to love and be loved. That being loved is the single most beautiful thing in the world. I can’t live without your love. I don’t want to. And I swear you will never live without mine.”

  “You really love me?” she asked hesitantly, afraid to believe. Afraid to trust after so much hurt and pain.

  “It breaks my heart that I’ve done this to you. That you doubt such a precious thing—that you are so very precious to me. But do I love you? I adore you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life. You are the only person I’ve ever loved,” he amended. “I trust my brothers. I have an unbreakable bond with them. I’d give my life for them. But, Angel, you are my life. My entire world. My reason for getting up in the morning. My reason for living.”

  He placed his hand on her flat belly, rubbing his thumb tenderly over her womb.

  “You and our child,” he said huskily. “Please come home with me. You and our baby. Let me love you, cherish you, protect you both. Or if you can’t bear to live in the city, we’ll move here. I don’t care where we live as long as I have you.”

  Her head reared back in shock, her eyes wide as she stared incredulously at him.

  “You’d live here, close to my parents?”

  His expression was utterly serious, his eyes grave as he nodded.

  Her mouth went dry and she licked her lips. She was trembling. Reaction setting in. This wasn’t happening. It was all a dream. The result of wishful
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