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Eternal Envy by Paloma Beck

Eternal Envy

Seven Sin Sisters, Book 2
by Paloma Beck

Secret Cravings Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61885-386-4

Eloise has lived with bitter envy her entire life until the moment she fell into the arms of Caedon. Once claimed by her mate, she will covet nothing more for eternity, especially now that she has it all.

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Chapter One

Eloise should be happy. Her sister had found her mate. But dammit, all she could focus on was how badly she wished it were her. The envy that she carried inside her heart had been reaching its boiling point as she watched her baby sister find her mate and fall in love. Now Eloise stood with her sisters circling Madden and Anton for Layla’s Pronouncement Ceremony, and oh, how Eloise wished it were her own! She had dreamed of her sposalizio, her own Pronouncement Ceremony, since she was just a small girl; the envy inside her began to swirl up and she struggled to force it down. Fate seemed particularly cruel this time to give Layla her mate first since Layla wanted nothing to do with a mate while Eloise could dream of nothing more wonderful.
Eloise smoothed the front of her dress as she watched her mother and father, together since her mother had turned just eighteen years old, beaming at one another so happy. Her mother appeared her usual regal self, draped in a gauzy moss green dress, with her father standing tall and strong beside her. He was a man so powerful; his presence had always been such strength to Eloise and her sisters.
Eloise heard her sisters’ giggles, but she was so used to having them inside her head, she ignored them. She opted instead to send one last thought to her sister before Layla was fully mated, “I so wish I was you.”
Once the ceremony ended, the families shared a meal in the vineyard. Eloise needed time to herself for even just a few moments and found herself wandering the vineyard along a path moving away from the lights of the homes on the property. An isolated building stood beyond this hillside, set slightly lower and out of sight. Curious, Eloise wandered in that direction when a shadow moved towards her from the distance. It was the large shadow of a man, she could tell from the bulk of his shoulders, the marched step of long legs.
Not watching where she was going, Eloise caught her heel on something and fell to the ground. The shadow moved quickly towards her then at a nearly flashing speed. She knew then he was Breed.
“What are you doing out here?” the man’s deep voice vibrated through her body. He should’ve terrified her—he was Valendite Breed—but something in his voice lulled her frantic heartbeat. “Are you all right?” He squatted down next to her, his hand landing on her shoulder when she tried to stand.
Suddenly frozen in place, unsure whether to move towards this man or away, Eloise felt paralyzed. A fluttering centered in her chest. Should she insist he remove his hand? He was even larger now so close to her. His scent was amazingly crisp and warm. Drinking in her fill, she shifted her focus to his hands fisted in tension. The muscles in his neck and arms appeared tense, taut, and delicious. Clearly, he was holding himself back. And if this was him restraining himself, she so wanted to see him unrestrained.
“I need to stand up. I just tripped on something.” Eloise attempted to stand, but again his hand on her shoulder restrained her. Her eyes scanned upwards, perused his deeply tanned skin.
Eloise wanted to reach out and touch him. She placed her hand over his fingers still resting on her shoulder. They were so warm, strong and large. Eloise followed the landscape of his arm until her hand wrapped around his bicep and she marveled at how small she seemed beside him. His shoulders were solid and the corded muscles beneath his worn t-shirt were flexing. His low-slung jeans showed a peak of his happy trail and left her wondering just what she would find if she went walking down that path.
“Damn it. Your eyes, they’re lit up. And your scent…who are you?” The man lowered his voice at the question but she heard it deep inside. He didn’t just want her name. He suspected what she was coming to wonder herself but had dismissed as wishful thinking. He couldn’t possibly be her mate, could he?
“Do you speak, woman?” The man was growling; his sculpted cheekbones hollowed even further to give him a sharper appearance, but he didn’t scare her. Eloise didn’t move away; she wanted the connection to him as deeply as she needed her next breath.
“My name is Eloise. I’m one of Layla’s sisters.”
“Eloise,” he repeated her name with reverence. His hand reached for her, cupped her cheek and soothed her with gentle strokes. He leaned in to kiss her lips, and when the current rose between them as eyes locked and lips fused, Eloise knew. She melted into his touch because there was nothing else in the world she craved now that she had this man.
The kiss was brief and before she knew it, he was pulling away to look down at her.
“Name’s Caedon,” he spoke no more than inches from her. She could feel his breath on her skin and wanted more of this man. Though for the first time in her memory, she didn’t crave this because someone else possessed it, she simply desired Caedon.
It was her soul sin. She was destined to feel envy, of all things, until she felt herself truly fulfilled by her mate, the one being who would be able to make her complete. Now that she had found him, first as only a shadow in the vineyard, she moved towards him instinctively as if she somehow recognized him though never having met before. Eloise was all too aware that, as legend told it, envy would be left behind when she laid eyes upon her mate on a night brightened by a full moon. It was finally her time.
Caedon rose, dropped his hands to his hips and looked down at her. He was huge, larger even than he looked in the shadows, but so incredibly gentle as he reached down to lift her. Since he was well over six feet, Eloise came to his shoulders with her own 5’8” frame, and for the first time, she felt small and delicate.
Carefully, she placed her weight on her foot and winced. Caedon immediately picked her up again. Eloise’s entire world shifted in his arms. She closed her eyes to absorb the moment and when she brought her eyes back to his, she saw him wet his lips before swallowing.
“You feel it too, right?” His insecurity was as charming as everything else about him. Should she play with him? Surely not, she thought to herself.
“Yes. I feel it.” Eloise smiled and Caedon returned the gesture before pulling her to his chest again and ducking his head into her neck. His breathing was labored, but he seemed to be working to steady his breaths.
“So, Eloise, what were you doing wandering the vineyards?”
“I don’t remember,” Eloise shrugged, unclear about what had led her here in the first place. “I decided on a walk once the ceremony ended. Wait, why weren’t you at the ceremony?” Eloise suddenly realized she knew nothing about this man who was holding her. His grasp on her changed from warm and safe to frightening. Memories of Layla and Gracie’s kidnapping assaulted her mind.
“Relax,” Caedon reassured Eloise. “I work with Madden. I run the comm room, which meant I had to hold back today. Someone had to watch the compound.”
“So why are you out here now?” Still doubtful but unable to pull herself from his hold, Eloise looked him directly in the eye, challenging him to lie to her.
“I saw someone heading this way. Since it wasn’t in the direction of the wedding party, I thought I’d check it out.”
It all sounded good, but Eloise couldn’t help but be skeptical. There had been so many years of wanting, of envying-others’ happiness; to have this man who was her mate holding her was simply too good to be true. She had spent so much time envying others and she had not considered ever getting her own complete joy. Without a doubt, this is what it was. She had not a single drip of envy. It was as if suddenly she could breathe more deeply. She wanted nothing more than Caedon and he was hers.
When she looked back up at him, he was staring at her, and Eloise realized she must’ve zoned out and gotten lost in her own thoughts. Caedon was smirking at her. “W-were you saying something?” Eloise’s cheeks must’ve been scarlet; she was so embarrassed.
“I was noticing the outrageous shoes you’re wearing. What possessed you to wear these to walk through a vineyard? You’re lucky you didn’t break your ankle,” Caedon admonished her.
“I wore these shoes for my sister’s Pronouncement. And I’ll have you know, these are the very latest in my line.” A shoe designer might not be an admirable profession but Eloise was very proud of her accomplishments. And this shoe was one of her best-selling designs.
“I’ll have you know, you won’t be wearing that type of heels anymore.”
Eloise pushed away from Caedon’s chest and gave him her most rebellious look. “I will not be told what I can and cannot wear. I have a closet full of shoes that I love more than anything and I plan to wear them each and every day as I’ve always done.”
“Ostinata,” Caedon mumbled to himself as he began to move in the direction of the wedding.
“Where are we going? I can walk.” Eloise struggled to get out of Caedon’s grasp but it was like cutting through steel. Resigned, she sank into his hold, “Ostinato.”
Caedon looked bemused, “You speak Italian.”
“Perhaps.”
“Are you always this challenging? This stubborn?”
“I am independent. I’m not stubborn. Though if you continue to call me stubborn, I can certainly show you just how much challenge I can provide a bossy man like you.”
At her words, Caedon let out a roar of laughter, “Oh, Ostinata, you are perfection.”
“Do not call me that as if it were an endearment!” Eloise controlled her grin by just an inch. She was not going to let him know just how right he was. How could he know her so well already? She only knew the term Ostinata because her mother and father used it so often with her.
They continued making their way back towards the party. Eloise became all too aware of what her family’s reaction would be if she showed up in Caedon’s arms. “You need to put me down,” she told him.
“Why? You can’t walk. You likely sprained your ankle.”
“My family will be worried if they see you carrying me.”
“I can fix that,” Caedon balanced her easily with one arm as he reached for his earpiece. She hadn’t seen it until he feathered his hair away just then.
“It’s Caedon. I’ve picked up one of Layla’s sisters wandering the vineyard. A possible sprained ankle. Right. Be there in five for you to check. Got it.” Eloise listened to Caedon’s half of the conversation and wondered who he spoke to. And she so didn’t appreciate being assessed by the man like he was a medic when he’d only looked at her foot briefly enough to complain about her shoes. “How do you have any idea what’s wrong with my foot?” Eloise’s voice was strained.
“You can’t place your weight on it. It has swollen up like a plum. And I can feel the pain you are in.”
Eloise was prepared with a comeback until the last words he had spoken registered, “Wait. What? You can feel my pain?”
“Yes. I have no idea why, but I can feel the pain you’re in.”
“That’s not part of the, you know, the…” Eloise stumbled over her words.
“The mating. You can say it. I’ve never heard of this ability either, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that’s what I’m feeling.” Caedon’s voice softened, all teasing escaped, “Look, Eloise, let Donovan take a look. Then you and I can talk. I know your sister had a difficult time with the Assimilation but it doesn’t have to be that way for you.”
“I know. I do not intend to let it be difficult. You have no idea,” Eloise stopped herself from spilling all her secrets, clamped her mouth shut and gave Caedon the smile that had always warned her sisters she was up to no good. Poor Caedon didn’t have a clue what he was getting.
* * * *
Eloise sat in the chair where Caedon had gently placed her with the warning not to get up until he returned. He was off to find Donovan while Eloise found herself surrounded by her sisters.
“Where on earth did you escape to, and why was Caedon carrying you?” Layla asked.
“Who is Caedon? Where did he even come from?” Paige demanded.
Layla hushed her sisters who were now all talking at once, “Be quiet so Eloise can tell us what she’s gotten herself into this time.” Layla raised her brow at Eloise and waited.
“I didn’t get into anything. I took a walk after the Pronouncement ceremony and tripped on something. Luckily,” Eloise rolled her eyes, “Caedon came along to bring me back.”
“How badly is it hurt?” Gracie asked, moving in to gently lift and inspect Eloise’s ankle.
Eloise lowered her voice, “I definitely can’t walk on it, but I don’t want Conan the Barbarian over there to know.”
“Well, whispering isn’t going to help you. The Valendite Breed has an extraordinary sense of hearing. You know that, El,” Layla reminded her sister.
“Argh,” Eloise growled in frustration, “I know. I can’t think straight.”
“Because of your ankle? Does it hurt that badly?” Gemma leaned in for a closer look.
“No, not my ankle,” Eloise gestured for her sisters to move in closer still, “I—I think he’s my mate.”
“Your mate?” Paige exclaimed before Eloise could quiet her.
“Be quiet, Paige. He went all caveman on me with “you can’t wear heels like that” and “you are getting that checked out”,” Eloise emphasized her point by deepening her voice before lightening it again, “He’s very bossy. And I don’t plan on letting him know just how frazzled he’s made me.”
“So what’s your plan, then?”
“To surround myself with my sisters so he’s too afraid to come over here.” Eloise was smug, certain her idea would work. “Now put up a shield so at least we can keep him out for a while more.”
“I cannot even believe this. First Layla and now Eloise. This is absolutely ridiculous. We aren’t love-sick school girls. You need to pull yourself together, Eloise,” Amelia raised her voice as she chastised Eloise who sank under the harsh words.
“Well, I suggest doing it fast because he’s on his way over here with another one of Madden’s men,” Sadie warned as she watched over Eloise’s shoulder as the men approached.
“That would be Donovan. He’s the team’s medic,” Layla explained.
“I don’t need a medic,” Eloise sighed, “I just need to get out of here and breathe for a bit.”
“El, it’s so not going to happen. No matter what else is between you, Caedon will be compelled to claim you and you will be physically incapable of stopping it,” Layla rested her hand on Eloise’s arm for comfort, “You’ve wanted this for so long. Embrace it.”
Eloise smiled. “You are so right. I have exactly what I’ve always wanted. I think it’s just the shock.”
“You’ll be fine. Suck up every bit of excitement and happiness this brings you, El.” Gemma patted Eloise’s leg and moved away from the group, followed by Sadie, Amelia and Gracie.
Eloise worked to shake herself out of the fog. The pain radiating from her ankle was throbbing but bearable. Setting it aside, she looked at Caedon and let herself soak him in. The smile that spread across his face when he noticed her staring nearly stopped her heart.
Eloise noticed Layla watching the exchange and blushed.
“Yes, they can do that to you. I think you are in capable hands,” Layla gave her sister’s hand a squeeze and then headed off her mate before he got to where Eloise sat. Layla and Madden walked away hand-in-hand and were soon joined by Anton who kissed Layla on the cheek. Layla had been doubly blessed by receiving a Tre Adoro coupling. How sweet, Eloise thought, and then realized she wasn’t envious in the least. She was completely content–for the first time in her life–as she focused on this darkly handsome man walking towards her.
Caedon was beyond striking. He was nearly terrifying because she couldn’t help but feel as if she was unworthy. His intensity wrapped around Eloise, promising to keep her safe. She allowed herself to relish in it for a minute and took him in; her eyes moved bottom to top leisurely before she met his gaze. His eyes were a light cocoa brown. They were at once disarming and sensual and caused a shiver to race up her spine. The sun cast a shine against his deep Italian tan which only made his eyes that much more appealing. And then he grinned.
“I’m glad you’re still sitting.” He said it as if he thought she would’ve immediately gone against his order. Well, perhaps she would’ve, but her ankle really did hurt. Eloise rolled her eyes at this incredibly decadent man.
“Donovan, this is Eloise,” Caedon made the introduction.
“Good to meet you, Eloise. You escaped right after the Pronouncement, so we weren’t able to officially meet.” Donovan was charming, smooth as silk, but Eloise focused on the dark, brooding man just beyond his shoulder now.
“This is my other sister, Paige,” Eloise remembered her manners after an awkward pause when both men stared towards Paige who still sat holding Eloise’s foot in her lap.
Caedon gave Paige a cursory nod but then focused immediately back on Eloise. Eloise felt her sister shift as if Paige were uncomfortable and heard her say something curt, but by the time Eloise turned, Paige was looking down at Eloise’s swollen ankle. Clearing his throat to get the attention of Eloise and Caedon, Donovan kneeled down by her foot and rubbed his hands together. “Just warming them up before I touch you,” he assured her. The small growl emanating from Caedon was a bit disconcerting.
Caedon ran his hands through his hair—a nervous habit perhaps—and drew one hand over his squared jaw. Caedon was definitely agitated, but he didn’t move away from where he’d firmly planted his feet.
Eloise had forgotten Paige still seated on the other chair until Donovan stopped talking to Eloise and stared at Paige. It was awkward. Eloise wondered for a minute about the exchange but quickly reverted to her own troubles as Paige lifted her sister’s foot and moved from beneath her. “I’ll check back later, El,” Paige said as she left them.
Donovan was applying light pressure to her ankle and it hurt but not terribly so. She winced when he drew closer towards her inner ankle.
“Van?” Caedon’s voice was strained as if he were holding himself back.
“It feels like a sprain. There doesn’t appear to be any fracture. I’d be able to feel the energy from the bone split if it were broken,” Donovan paused to look up at Caedon, “I’d say she twisted her ankle pretty good.”
“That’s good. It will heal up quickly then.”
“Yes. She’s lucky though. No wonder she twisted her ankle with heels like these…” Donovan was saying when Eloise cut him off.
“Are you suggesting it’s my own fault I got hurt? Would you be so insensitive as to say such a thing?” Eloise was angry, but even more, she was embarrassed.
“I didn’t mean anything but to say I would consider wearing a more sensible shoe while strolling in a vineyard,” Donovan defended his statement. He looked up at Caedon and grinned. Then he gathered his things and patted Caedon on the back, “Good luck, my brother. Good luck.” Donovan laughed as he walked away. Dammit, he was laughing at her.
Caedon squatted down next to Eloise then and looked into her eyes. “We need to talk, but I also need to give Madden some information. Can you wait here and I’ll come right back?” He smoothed his hand over her knee and watched her for a reaction.
“Yes. I’ll wait for you.”
* * * *
“Oh, Mother,” Eloise whispered in a tone laced with both excitement and trepidation as Eloise felt her mother’s presence behind her. She needed her mother, needed to hear her approval. Her mother’s powers were extraordinary. Layla’s powers were near as strong already and Eloise knew she too would soon change. Now more than ever, Eloise needed her mother’s advice, approval, and wisdom.
Chiara cast her eyes down on Eloise, over towards Caedon and back again, and she seemed to understand the dynamic right away. Eloise had most certainly found her mate.
“Oh, my dearling, I knew it would happen quickly now, but this I wasn’t expecting,” Chiara held her daughter’s head between her hands; her voice shook with emotion. “Your poor father,” Eloise’s mother added.
“I feel as if it’s too good to be true. I’m all confused. Everything feels foreign,” Eloise fought to keep her voice steady as she talked. Her mother continued to stroke her cheeks, the motion soothing.
“Ssh, dearling, it’s because all your emotions will be different now that they aren’t tinged with envy. You are free to just be Eloise.” Chiara smiled down at her daughter as her aura glowed around her and she pushed her calming essence towards Eloise.
A silent tear slipped out. “Oh, Mother…” Eloise’s voice dried in her throat as such raw, unfamiliar emotion rolled through her.
“You are going to be magnificent. I have longed for the day for your sin to be released. You have always been the most hopeful for the prophecy, desiring a mate. Held back by belonging to the Circle of Magdalena, finding your destiny means your sin is no more.”
Eloise completely understood the prophecy, and she knew she held one of the deadly sins—a curse put upon them for the indiscretions of their ancestors so many hundreds of years ago—and that being claimed now by a Valendite Breed would render the sin gone. Fulfilling their obligation to sustain this breed of men would provide the women in the Magdalena Circle a long, illness-free life.
Chiara spoke again, this time through their bond, “You are worrying far too much, dearling. Allow the Acclimation to pull you along. This is the same advice I gave to Layla and I promise you will do just as well.”
With the ease of her mother’s blessing, Eloise allowed her happiness forward.
“I feel a pull towards him,” Eloise admitted softly, “and I can’t resist it.”
“Then go with him. You will need time to yourselves. We’ll talk again in a few days. Father and I are staying in the house for as long as you girls need us.” Her mother rose to leave. Chiara’s hand softly fell on Eloise’s head to stroke her hair before she turned her attention to Caedon.
“Ma’am,” Caedon bowed his head slightly in deference. How could she be so lucky to get this magnificent man? She’d always envied those lucky women, but now she was one of them.
“Thank you for your daughter,” he continued with reverence. “I will offer her the world. She will want for nothing.” Though Eloise thought she should be angry for him speaking about her as if she weren’t there, she couldn’t hold back the thrill his words brought to her.
When Eloise tried to pull herself up, Caedon slipped his arms beneath her legs. “Donovan says no pressure on your ankle for at least a day. That means I carry you.” Eloise’s skin prickled under his touch and the heat in her lower stomach returned; her body was alert and ready for this man. She was ready for her mate.

Buy Now:
Secret Cravings PublishingAReKindleNook

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