Vanished Pride (The Seven Sin Sisters 4), page 1
The Seven Sin Sisters 4
Secret Cravings Publishing
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A Secret Cravings Publishing Book
Copyright © 2013 Paloma Beck
E-book ISBN: 978-1-61885-567-1
First E-book Publication: February 2013
Cover design by Dawné Dominique
Edited by Kyle Lewis
Proofread by Stephanie Kinne
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The Seven Sin Sisters 4
Copyright © 2013
“No. It is so not happening. He promised me time.” Paige shook her head at her sisters.
Layla and Amelia sat across the café table from Paige with looks of bewilderment on their faces. Frankly, Paige couldn’t give a damn. This was between her and Donovan, the big oaf who was hell-bent on claiming her. He’d said he would wait, so that was exactly what he would be doing. She wasn’t ready yet.
Paige had goals, things she wanted to accomplish. She couldn’t very well do that while consumed with a Valendite mating. Ugh, she wasn’t denying her calling as a woman of the Magdalena Circle! Just like each of her sisters, her parents had raised her to understand and respect that role. She simply had other things she planned to accomplish first. Becoming a world-renowned pastry chef was foremost in her mind. Having just secured a coveted spot in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, nothing was getting in her way.
“Look, you have to understand, I have just received an invitation to be one of the twelve participants in the Coupe du Monde in Paris. This is everything I’ve waited for. I’ll be competing against the world’s best pastry chefs. I can show everyone just how amazing my culinary skills are.” Paige firmed her resolve, crossed her arms and looked her sister’s directly in the eyes. “I absolutely refuse to give that up, mate or no mate.”
“Dammit, Paige, we aren’t telling you to give anything up. Donovan is suffering. Somehow he’s keeping himself from you but we haven’t a clue how,” Amelia said.
Jumping in, Layla went on, “He looks just awful. From what Gemma told us, the small interactions he’s had with you have been enough to trigger his body’s reactions. He’s moody, twitchy, and from the reports of that last assignment, completely out of the game.”
“And since he won’t talk to the other men, Madden doesn’t know what’s wrong so he’s coming down hard on Donovan for his actions,” Amelia explained.
“Madden even mentioned pulling him off missions,” Layla confided. Paige felt a slight pang of remorse until she steeled herself against it.
“It was his choice too. We both decided,” Paige raised her voice enough for others in the shop to look over at them. She waved and gave an apologetic smile before standing. “I’m going back to work. I have preparations to do before the competition. I’ll see you at h
A few steps away, Paige looked back at her sisters. “And remember Layla, this was a confidence. Those can’t be broken among sisters.” Paige saw the red flare to Layla’s cheeks and knew she was furious with the admonishment. The unbreakable confidences of sisters went against the mating bond, but that was not Paige’s concern. Her sisters would simply need to stop meddling.
* * * *
Donovan watched from outside Paige’s café window as she talked to her sisters. He watched as she left their table in a huff, and was now more than certain he was the cause for her frustration. His superior hearing meant from where he stood outside her café, Donovan had heard every word of their conversation.
Goddess help him, he didn’t want his mate to come to him because of misguided obligation. And the world be damned, he despised being weak. He didn’t know Madden planned to pull him from missions, but he could hardly blame him. That simple rescue mission he’d hijacked to go all rogue, deciding on his own to track those behind the search for the Valendite antibody, was over the top. The rules for the Terrorist Elimination Unit—TEU—were simple. You followed orders from the top down. Donovan had not once questioned a mission or an objective before, but something pushed him to break protocol that time. Sure, he’d been successful, but he’d put many lives on the line.
Donovan ran his fingers over his nearly shaved head. He was losing his focus. He knew he couldn’t give his mate much more time. What the hell was this baking competition she talked about? Could he wait until after the event? Not likely. He shook his head and sighed as he turned to head back home.
Home. That was another change he hadn’t seen coming, but in hindsight, it was for the best. Seamus, his best friend, had mated while Donovan had been in captivity. Seeing Seamus with Gemma was like meeting a completely new Seamus. His insecurity with women was gone and replaced with a tenderness he’d always relied on Donovan for when they’d shared their women. In fact, they’d secretly wondered if their mating would be to the same woman. That was a definite no. Seamus would no more share Gemma than Donovan planned to share Paige. Once he got inside her, not another set of hands would touch her again. She belonged to him and the longer she kept him waiting, the stronger his urge to take her.
After returning from Italy for Seamus and Gemma’s wedding, spending four tortured days within breathing distance of Paige, Donovan had boxed up Seamus’ belongings to ship back to Italy. Seamus, Gemma, Caedon and Eloise, along with Caedon’s parents, would be opening the newest TEU compound on Pianosa. For the first time, Donovan was alone in the house he’d always shared with Seamus. It was too quiet, too big and too much of a reminder of everything he didn’t have.
What had he been thinking when he’d allowed Paige to strike this deal with him? He didn’t want to wait to claim her. It was against everything in his Valendite DNA to allow his newfound mate to go unclaimed. Yet when she implored him with her soft green eyes, he couldn’t refuse her. The sweet way she’d curled her hand into his as she explained her desire to be a world-renowned pastry chef meant he couldn’t possibly refuse her the simple thing she requested. Time. She’d simply asked for time to meet this lifelong goal, before she committed herself to their mating. It seemed so simple at the time.
* * * *
“Van, Madden wants to see you.” Nicolaus looked up from the comm desk as soon as Donovan walked through the doors to the TEU office.
Aware of the conversation coming, Donovan reminded himself his sacrifice was for his mate. He’d do anything for Paige, even if it meant withholding the fulfillment of his own needs. Goddess, he just wished it hadn’t played out in such a public way.
Knocking once, Donovan entered Madden’s office. The stare of his boss, no, his friend, immediately met him. “We have to talk.”
Donovan grinned, “Those aren’t words you like to hear.” Trying for casual, but suspecting Madden saw right through it, he took a seat and waited.
“Look, Van, I’ve been trying to piece this together for a while now. Shit, maybe even since my own Pronouncement. Something has been off with you. I didn’t plan to get all in your business, but this rut you’re in affected your decision-making in the field. Now I have no choice.” Madden paused and when Donovan said nothing, he continued, “This is going to sound crazy but I think you may have unknowingly made contact with your mate.”
With that statement, Donovan whipped his head up. Madden shouldn’t have figured it out yet, and Van surely didn’t even know. Could he deny knowing anything? He could either play into Madden’s assumptions, or he could come clean. Maybe Madden had something to help Donovan work through this mess.
Jumping in with both feet Donovan said, “I know who my mate is.”
“That’s great,” Madden responded without thought. Then he paused, considering, “then why this mood? And why haven’t we met her?” He cocked his head. It was obvious Madden knew something wasn’t right.
“She asked for time,” Donovan explained.
“What are you talking about? You don’t have time once you’ve made contact. The Claiming is inevitable.”
“Yes, it’s inevitable but not necessarily compelling enough to be immediate.” Donovan shook his head, the absurdity of this conversation taking hold.
“The hormonal surges have to be doing a number on both of you,” Madden hypothesized.
“She’s taking herbs and I’m…handling it-”
Interrupting, Madden said ironically “not very well, Van. You’re not handling it well. No Valendite Breed could handle this situation well. I’ve never heard of such a thing before. What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking if I let her come to me on her own terms, she’d find a way to love me.” Donovan stood and walked to the window where he didn’t have to see the look of sympathy play across Madden’s face. “It’s Paige,” Donovan offered.
“Layla’s sister, Paige?” Madden’s voice was raised and Donovan couldn’t be sure what had him so angry.
“Yes. I tried to talk to her at your Pronouncement. She seemed scared and I remembered Layla, how difficult it was for her, and I couldn’t do that to Paige. I took the next few mission assignments with Seamus to keep out of dodge.” He paused, as if watching the scenes play out before him. “Then at Caedon’s Pronouncement, when I saw her, something snapped and now I can barely fight off the need to claim her.”
“Then I sent you on the recovery mission that went to hell,” Madden filled in.
Donovan nodded. “I was glad to leave again. She still wasn’t ready, says she has these goals and mating will change everything and she can’t leave behind everything she’s worked for.”
“She runs a bakery, right? Who says that has to change?”
“She’s competing in some baker’s competition in France next month. Her goal is to achieve master baker and then she’ll take time off to mate,” Donovan explained what he knew from listening in on Paige’s conversation with her sisters.
“It doesn’t work that way. You don’t plan a mating, a claiming. For Goddess’s sake, you both are getting weaker even if you don’t realize it yet. What were you thinking, Van?” Madden’s voice grew steadily louder until all at once, his voice cut off. Clearing his throat, he asked, “Does my mate know about this?”
Donovan swallowed but held his tongue.
“Donovan. Now. I want the truth right now.”
Donovan nodded. “She’s bound through a silence pact.”
“Dammit. Listen to me Donovan, and heed my warning. You need to claim your mate. You realize Paige’s soul sin is pride. This is the only thing holding her back. She can’t allow something to control her so she calls the shots.” Madden stood and walked over to Donovan. He placed his hand on Donovan’s shoulder and squeezed. “You, my man, are going to have to call the shots now.”
“It’s different with her, Madden.”
“I disagree. I saw you and Seamus working the ladies. You were the firm one and the caregiver. Seamus was the player. I
“You are directing it?” Donovan asked incredulously.
“Whatever it takes. You can fight the claiming but you’ll do it while seeing to her protection. I’m pulling Stefan back to vineyard security which leaves the prideful little vixen in your capable hands.”
Madden picked up the phone, connected to Stefan and let him know Van would be meeting him in an hour. Madden fixed his gaze on Van even as he spoke to Stefan. Donovan knew there was no way out of this. Madden had just handed him a gift he was no longer willing to resist.
“I cannot believe this.” Paige held her hands fisted by her side. She’d been spewing obscenities—mostly about Madden—since Donovan had picked her up at the café. She knew it was most unlady-like, but she was so pissed. “How can you let him just assign you as my security and not do anything about it?”
He hadn’t said more than three words so it caught her off-guard when he spoke in his deep, stern voice. “It’s time, Paige. I’ll wait no more. Now open the door and show me into your home.” Although the command infuriated her, the vibrations of his voice in her stomach—and lower—did her in. She felt that tightening sensation and without looking, she knew even her nipples were betraying her. Thank the Goddess for scarves.
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