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The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Surrender Trilogy and the Breathless Trilogy knows what makes readers hot. Now she turns it up in Mastered, the explosive first book in a new series of a desire too dangerous to resist.
What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.
She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn’t belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did—but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn’t leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.
What he wants, she isn’t sure she can give him.
The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn’t resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn’t sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn’t destroy her in the end.
Drake stared at the trembling young woman—Evangeline, Maddox had said her name was, and it suited her—from his position across the room in the shadows, knowing because of the glare from the surveillance monitors that she couldn’t see him but that he could see her. Oh yes, he could see every delectable, naïve inch of her body and he cursed again that Anthony had allowed an innocent with big blue eyes into a veritable pit of vipers. She looked like an angel. Evangeline. Angel. Yes, her name suited her well.
He had no illusions about the customers he catered to. Wealthy, hedonistic. People who paid a lot of money to have a safe, anonymous place to act out their fantasies or indulge in activities frowned upon by the law. He provided all manner of things. For a price. And it wasn’t cheap. But he was also extremely selective about who got in and every single person was vetted and monitored. Newcomers were on probation, meaning they were watched more closely than most. And there were no second chances. They fucked up, they were out. Period.
His regulars were no less scrutinized because his club wouldn’t be the success it was if he allowed shit like went down tonight to happen. The fact that it had happened, that things had damn near gone too far—hell, they had gone too far—was a black mark on his reputation and he didn’t take kindly to that whatsoever. If word got out that the patrons of his businesses weren’t safe or were at risk, especially of having the police involved, they’d never set foot inside his doorway again. Utter discretion and anonymity were huge selling points with his “clients” and one of the many reasons he was so successful.
After the fucker who’d put his hands on this woman had been taught a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget, it wouldn’t end there. Not only would he be barred from any of Drake’s businesses, but Drake would get the word out to others as well. The man would be a pariah. Which also meant he’d be an angry, pissed off coward looking for revenge and the woman was the most likely target. And the easiest since he didn’t stand a chance against someone his own size.
Whether she—or Drake—liked it or not, she was going to be put under his protection.
“Uhm, Mr. Donovan?”
Her voice was shaky and hesitant, even as her gaze nervously searched the room for his whereabouts. She’d heard his command to Maddox to leave them, so she’d zeroed in on where he was, but she still couldn’t see him and that scared her.
Usually he didn’t mind others being afraid of him at all. It was something he actively cultivated. It was a necessary evil in his line of work. But for some reason, he didn’t want this woman afraid. She’d already been scared out of her mind. He’d seen her reaction. Had seen at first the upset and humiliation then hurt, and finally resignation as the fuckhead had filled her head with God only knew what kind of bullshit. And then he’d seen her abject terror when she knew he was going to hit her and there was nothing she could do to protect herself.
He cursed Anthony all over again and cursed himself for not acting faster. For allowing himself to observe the goings on, even for the few seconds he had, instead of instantly ordering Maddox to put a halt to it and throw the asshole out. Before that fucker ever got his hand wrapped around her arm.
Suddenly realizing just how hard the man had gripped her, he strode from the darkness, ignoring her sudden look of fright as he loomed over her. He fingered the remote in his pocket and suddenly the room was lit, though not overly bright because he didn’t want to blind her.
She blinked, her vivid blue eyes wide and round with shock as he gently took her arm and lifted, turning so he could inspect the bruises already forming on her delicate, pale skin.
He cursed viciously, startling her again. She jumped and would have stepped back but he held her firmly enough that she didn’t get away, but not enough to mark her skin. That was not the way he liked to mark a woman’s flesh. Through callous brutality. Abuse. It sickened him. It sickened him that she’d come to harm in his club and that his doorman hadn’t had the goddamn sense to deny her entry when he knew the rules.
“What the hell were you thinking coming into a place like this?” he demanded, fury lacing his every word. He vibrated with anger. Anger at Anthony. Anger at the fucker who’d put his hands on her. And anger at himself for not preventing the bruises that darkened her silky skin.
And it was soft. Infinitely so. And Jesus. Her hair. It was up. Mostly. But some of the strands had worked their way free and slipped sensuously down her neck. He burned to run his fingers through it and see if it was as soft and as silky as it looked. If it was as satiny as her skin felt.
Her gaze lowered but not before he saw her embarrassment and shame. She flinched at his question, but then he’d practically roared it at her. But he could see her draw in on herself, make herself as small as possible and she vibrated with humiliation. What the fuck?
“I know I don’t belong,” she said in barely above a whisper. “I know I’m not good enough to be in a place like this. Where only beautiful and rich people come.” Her voice only grew more resigned and subdued and it only served to piss him off even more as he processed her words. “I’ll just go now. I’m sorry I was a bother. I caused a…scene. I won’t be back. I promise. You won’t ever have to worry about me showing up here—or anywhere—again.”
She tensed in his hold, fully expecting him to let go and let her walk out. She’d stiffened, but he’d seen her back go up as she gathered her tattered pride around her like a shield. Holy fucking hell.
He looked incredulously at her, like she was a simpleton, and it only served to make her flush more when she peeked at him from beneath her lashes and saw his expression. And obviously she’d drawn the conclusion that she was right. That all the shit she’d just spouted was true and his scrutiny had found her lacking, thus proving her point.
“Then why did you come?” he asked bluntly, not immediately dismissing the crap that had just come out of her mouth. He wanted to find out why she would subject herself to this kind of humiliation if she were already so certain of the outcome.
Because this was a woman convinced of her worth. Or rather lack of worth. She was convinced she didn’t belong here. So why the hell had she come? And before he could call bullshit on all the fucked up things in her head, he had to know why she would brave coming to a place she clearly thought she didn’t belong in. For fuck’s sake, that she didn’t think she was good enough for.
She closed her eyes as mortification swept across her features. To his surprise, she was honest. She didn’t make up some ridiculous lie to save face. He stood there as she opened her mouth and spilled the entire ridiculous story.
“The man who assaulted me is my ex…boyfriend. Lover. Whatever. Though I’d hardly consider us lovers,” she said bitterly. “I was a challenge to him. Was being the key word. He knew I was a virgin and so he coaxed me and wined and dined me, pretending interest because he wanted to be m-my f-first,” she stammered out, color suffusing every part of her face.
Drake cursed savagely, silently, wishing now he’d gone out personally to deal with the asshole who’d assaulted her. In more ways than one.
“As soon as I finally gave in, stupidly thinking that he was someone special, he dumped me on the spot. He said I was a terrible lay. I overheard him complaining to his friends, people. I don’t know who they were,” she said painfully. “He said that sticking his dick in my c-cunt—” She broke off, mortified over her use of the offensive word. Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “He said it was like fucking a snowdrift. And it definitely wasn’t worth the three months he had to wait for me to give it up. He repeated the sentiment tonight to my face.”
“So you came tonight to see him?” Drake asked incredulously. “Why the hell would you want to do that? For fuck’s sake, did you want him back?”
Her head snapped up, her eyes flashing angrily. “No,” she hissed. “Not now. Not ever. My girlfriends talked me into coming. Said I needed to get back some of my own. Steph had a VIP pass and they spent an hour making me up. Shoes, killer heels, hair, make-up the works.”
Well that solved the question as to how she’d gotten in and why Anthony had allowed it. Anyone possessing a VIP pass was cleared, no questions asked. It was a policy he was going to have to revisit at the first opportunity.
“They thought I should let him see what he’d shit on,” she said dully. “I told them it was stupid. This place is for beautiful people. Even the people who work here are gorgeous. Everyone is freaking perfect. And then there was me, sticking out like a sore thumb. The people in line outside knew I didn’t belong. The people inside knew I didn’t belong. And you obviously knew I didn’t belong because you sent your goon to get rid of me. So if you’ll just let me be on my way, I’d appreciate it. I’ve already promised I’ll never darken the door of your club again. This has been a humiliating enough night as it is and I can only take so much.”
The last was said with such despair and resignation that it gutted Drake. But all he could was stare at her in absolute befuddlement. And the more he stared at her, the more he took in the absolute conviction in which she’d stated her faults, the more pissed off he became.
“You don’t think you fucking outshine every bitch out there and that they don’t know that?” he clipped out angrily. “You didn’t see that the skank with your ex was ready to rip your hair out by the roots because she isn’t as gorgeous as you and never will be? That there isn’t a bottle made that can duplicate the kind of beauty you have. And those bitches in there don’t hold a candle to your kind of shine and they hate you for it.”
She looked at him absolutely stunned, her eyes wide with shock.
He swore viciously, causing her to flinch again.
“No, it’s obvious you don’t see it,” he said in a grim voice. “You don’t see your own goddamn appeal and that makes you even more attractive to men.”
His protective instincts had come roaring to the surface the moment he’d seen her in the monitor when she’d walked into the club shy and uncertain. When he’d seen the bastard hurt her, with words and with physical force. And now, standing in his office staring at him like he’d lost his mind because he called her beautiful.
No, she truly didn’t see her beauty. Didn’t recognize her appeal. And it was true that it made her even more attractive to men. Her fuck of an ex had thought he’d achieved an ultimate victory because he was the first man in her bed, but it was also obvious that he hadn’t been able to get her off, because if he had, he’d still be in that bed and she wouldn’t be here, giving him a taste of what he couldn’t satisfy and never had a prayer of holding on to.
He’d lashed out at her and made her feel less because of his failure as a man to satisfy his woman and put her pleasure before his. It made him want to go hunt the bastard down and kill him. Tear him apart with his bare hands. Because he had very much made Evangeline believe all the poison he’d fed her. And it was likely she already had deep seeded insecurities that had only been confirmed by her asshole ex.
“You don’t have to say that to make me feel better,” she said softly. “It’s kind of you, but the truth is always better. I prefer to keep it real. I know what I am and what I’m not. I accept that.”
Knowing he’d never convince her with mere words, he did what he had been dying to do since the moment he laid eyes on her. He pulled her roughly into his arms so she landed with a soft thud against his chest. He tilted her small chin up with his hand and crushed his mouth to hers, devouring her sweetness like a man starving.
Maya Banks is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 50 novels. A wife and mother of three, she lives in Texas. Visit her website at www.mayabanks.com.
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