Home > Dominated (The Enforcers #2)(17)

Dominated (The Enforcers #2)(17)
Maya Banks

“But I’m no one,” she said, her voice rising. “That doesn’t make any sense. I’m just . . . I’m just your . . .”

“Don’t say it,” he said in a whiplike tone. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t you dare say it. That’s bullshit. If you think you aren’t important to me, then that’s another sin for me to bear because I should have shown you. You should know that you’re special. Not just to me but to my men. All of us.”

She shook her head, falling silent as she grappled with his heated declaration.

“So I kept you tightly under wraps,” he continued, self-loathing creeping into his voice. “I was arrogant. I thought I could have you, keep you to myself and keep you safe. That my enemies would never know of you. It was stupid and I know better. Goddamn it, I know better!”

“So the business meeting you had, the men you brought to your apartment when I was supposed to be somewhere else, those are your enemies?” she asked skeptically.

He nodded and she frowned, perplexity furrowing her brow.

“Why would you bring these men into your home, then?” she asked. “Why would you take such a risk if they hate you? And why didn’t you just tell me why you didn’t want me there instead of skirting around the issue? If you had told me it would be dangerous, I would have never interfered. I wouldn’t have made such an ass of myself, that’s for sure.”

Pain glittered brightly in her eyes, and her cheeks colored as she ducked her head away, refusing to meet his gaze any longer.

He cupped her chin and gently turned her until she looked him in the eye again.

“You did nothing wrong, Angel. That whole night is on me. My fault. You did something very special for me. But I couldn’t allow the Luconis to so much as suspect what you meant to me. That you were more than a temporary mistress or someone to warm my bed before I tossed you out.”

His expression became bleak as memories of that night, of how badly he’d humiliated Evangeline, repeated over and over in his mind. The look on her face. The devastation and her tears. The despicable things he’d said and done to her.

“It was all a lie,” he whispered. “I had to put on the act of my life and convince those men that you were nothing to me. And, Evangeline, they had to believe it because if they had any suspicion that I was faking it, they would have gone after you. And if I had allowed you to play hostess, there is no way they could spend more than five minutes in your company and not see the truth.”

“What truth?” she whispered.

“Of what you mean to me,” he said in a low voice. “I couldn’t take the risk. One slip-up, one unguarded moment when I looked upon you with pride or when you smiled at me, how I’d soften. I would have been an open book, Angel. And you would have paid the ultimate price for my lack of control when it comes to you.”

“So you struck at me first,” she said grimly.

Drake closed his eyes in pain. “I was gutshot. I knew what had to be done, and it sickened me. Having to stand there and pretend to be so callous, pretend you meant nothing to me. God, the things I said and did. You have to know I didn’t mean them, Evangeline!”

She studied him quietly, her teeth worrying at her bottom lip. She was quiet and pensive and her struggle was clearly highlighted in her face and eyes.

“I don’t know what to believe,” she finally said. “There’s too much I don’t understand. You said you did things wrong with me by keeping me a secret. But if you caring for me put me in danger, then what else could you have done except keep me a secret?”

Then her eyes widened and her mouth rounded.

“Oh,” she murmured. “Never mind. I understand.”

“What do you understand?” Drake demanded, not liking the resigned look on her face.

“You should have never gotten involved with me,” she said quietly. “That’s what you’re trying to say.”

“No!” he said in a near bellow, causing her to flinch and draw in on herself as she regarded him cautiously.

He reached for her hand and sandwiched it between his, feeling her slight tremble as she stared at him with huge, questioning eyes.

“I should have never kept you a secret,” he said savagely. “Never should have tried to downplay your importance to me.”

She cocked her head to the side, her expression growing even more confused.

“But you just said that if anyone had known that, I would have been used to hurt you.”

His jaw clamped down hard as he stared fiercely at her.

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