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Holiday Gem by Paloma Beck

Holiday Gem

Seven Sin Sisters, Book 3
by Paloma Beck

Secret Cravings Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61885-470-4

Gemma has spent her adult life consumed with researching the Valendite Breed history, constantly greedy for knowledge about their race. Until she meets Seamus and she’s no longer able to hide in her world of books and theory. Now is her time to live.

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Chapter One

Seamus’ head shot up when Madden assigned him to an extraction team. It was Madden’s first week back since taking time off after mating with Layla, and TEU was operational again. While TEU was looking into the growing concern over the Valendite Breed being discovered, their previous government-sanctioned missions had started up again. Seamus assumed he’d be on the mission teams investigating the potential risk of Breed exposure so it was a shock when he was called up for another mission.
Seamus nodded at Madden’s direction to serve as pilot in an overnight in-and-out mission into Serbia. The objective was to take out an insurgent leader and bring his wife back to the states for asylum. A-frickin-mazing that these human mates could turn on each other so easily. Fuck if he needed anything to do with this crap.
“Seamus, you’ll operate the plane. Donovan and Granger will complete the extraction.” Madden gave his instructions while he handed the mission folder over and started walking from the room. “Oh, and on your way back, you’ll be picking up Gemma Sinster from our private airstrip in Italy. She’s been on a research trip and needs a ride home for the holidays.”
* * * *
Gemma looked at her watch for the third time. The men Madden were sending to pick her up were nearly a half an hour late. Gemma absolutely detested wasting time. There was too much to do for her to be waiting. Could they not have phoned her that they were running late? It was a personal plane after all, so they didn’t have the restriction of a commercial flight. Though to be fair, she didn’t know where they were coming from or just why they were in this part of the world anyway. She got up and paced in the small hangar where she was directed upon arrival.
Gemma often spent time at her parents’ home in Italy doing research. She worked as a historical researcher for their race and there were more resources available here. Greedy for knowledge, she was meticulously going through old volumes of books written over the decades since their creation during the Italian Wars. Her father had begun this research himself years before Gemma was born but now she joined in the search for more information that could uncover anything to help with their growing fear of extinction.
This trip abroad was unexpected though. Gemma was on a new assignment given to her by the TEU, the Terrorist Elimination Unit, led by her brother-in-law Madden. She was sent to look for any clues as to who had taken Caedon’s parents and if there was a connection to those with knowledge about their race. The assignment was a personal one since whoever was behind the kidnapping had hurt people in Gemma’s family.
The sound of a plane’s engine broke through Gemma’s thoughts. She watched as a sleek Lear jet landed just a few feet from the hangar in which she stood. After the plane taxied into position, the door opened and a Valendite Breed male stepped out. Gemma recognized him from her sisters’ Pronouncements but couldn’t remember which he was. All Valendites had a presence about them that overwhelmed Gemma and she’d stayed away from them. Yet she couldn’t ignore the pull she now felt to be near them. Gemma was greedy for a better view of this magnificent man. Power exuded from him as he stepped down the stairs and walked with a long stride towards her.
His white shirt tugged across his chest under his leather bomber jacket when he reached into his back pocket for something Gemma couldn’t see. When he brought it to his ear, she realized he was talking on a cell phone. Gemma stood waiting as he stood near her now–his eyes fixated on her own-as he finished the call. She didn’t know whom he was talking to but she did understand the mission didn’t go as expected. After a whole lot of swearing, he closed his phone with a frustrated breath.
His glassy green eyes continued to take her in. Gemma wanted to hide somehow. She was all too aware of her inadequacies when a man like him looked at her. Despite desperation to run her fingers between the buttons of his shirt and feel his skin, Gemma wasn’t good with small talk, or well, any kind of conversation. She was so used to being alone in her research, she found people quite perplexing.
“You’re Gemma?” the man asked as he reached down for her duffle bag on the ground next to her.
“Yes. Sorry. I was waiting for you to get off the phone,” Gemma stretched out her hand to shake his.
He didn’t seem to notice as he continued speaking, “Change of plans. We need to hold up here another few days. I’ve got something to take care of before I can fly us back,” he explained.
“Wait. I need to be with my family for Winter Solstice.” Adrenaline was coursing through her blood. Gemma didn’t like changes in her plans. Plus, she’d never been away from her family at Winter Solstice. She felt her breath become labored. The overwhelming, crushing feeling in her lungs grew stronger and she tried to reach for her duffle. She needed her inhaler. However, he was walking too quickly for her to keep up. And she didn’t know his name to call for him to stop. Gemma’s head began spinning and then the ringing in her ears started. She stopped walking, bent at the waist and attempted to take deep breaths but her emotions were tilting the scale. There was no way she’d win this battle. Her panic attack was in full go mode. She went to her knees and a strangled sound escaped as she tried to call out to him.
* * * *
“What the fuck?” Seamus turned to see Gemma sink to the ground. Using his Breed speed, he quickly moved to her and determined she was breathing. He had no idea what happened and without Donovan, he was on his own.
This entire day had gone to hell starting with the botched extraction. They’d been set up somehow-Seamus still didn’t know how-and they needed to get back to the site a.s.a.p. Madden was sending a team as back-up and until then, Seamus was put on babysitting duty. Now it seemed his charge was going to cause issues too. Nothing had gone right today.
Seamus knew something was off when he landed on the secluded airstrip and their Serbian contact hadn’t met them. He’d wanted to abort the mission right then but Donovan insisted on moving forward. They batted the risks around and determined they were minor. Then Donovan moved out and Seamus had waited over three hours for Donovan to return. Three hours was one full hour longer than the mission had required. Protocol dictated he call in to TEU.
“Seamus, talk to me,” Caedon answered the phone at the TEU Comm Center.
“Something is off. Our contact wasn’t at the airstrip. We decided Donovan would move ahead but we’re pushing an hour overtime.” Seamus reported the situation in a calm voice despite the pacing he was doing up and down the aisle in the plane.
“Okay. Hold on, Seam. I’m patching Madden in.”
Seamus could hear the line open and Madden’s quiet curse before he spoke, “Seamus, what do you know?”
“Only what I told Caedon. Our contact wasn’t here. We determined the risk was minimal. Donovan moved forward with the extraction. He’s one hour late on the return.” Seamus recounted everything he knew, which was jack shit. His nerves were fried. Donovan and he had been on hundreds of missions together but they’d never returned from one without the other. He wasn’t going to start now.
“Caedon is pulling up satellite of the compound Donovan would’ve infiltrated. You need to get out of there in case he was tracked. Get in the sky.”
“I can’t leave him, Madden,” Seamus implored Madden to reconsider. His response was as close to a no as Seamus had ever dared give Madden.
“I will not lose two men. Let’s get you safe and then we’ll figure out how the hell we get to Donovan.” Madden’s voice turned icy. There was no argument to be had. And fuck if he didn’t know Madden was right anyway. He sent out a prayer to the Goddess that Donovan could hold on until Seamus got back to him.
Now he had to call Madden for the second time today to tell him another thing had been fucked up. This was so not his day. Lifting his phone to his ear while holding this woman in his arms, Seamus pushed a single button and waited.
“Seamus, talk to me,” Caedon answered the phone at the TEU Comm Center as he always did.
“I’ve got Gemma. When I told her we needed to lie low here for a while, she flipped out on me. Now she’s collapsed. Her breaths are shallow as if she’s having trouble breathing. She seems nearly catatonic. I don’t think she even sees me. I don’t have a frickin’ clue what to do here, man.”
“Hold up, Seam,” Caedon put Seamus on hold. The line went quiet and Seamus looked down at the woman he held in his arms.
Gemma was beautiful; a redheaded Snow White with the most perfect porcelain skin he’d ever seen. She had none of the freckles either of her other sisters he’d gotten to know had. Her lips were heart-shaped, perfectly formed and a deep shade of red. Suddenly he wanted to touch them and know how they would feel against him. He’d had hundreds of women and none had ever spoken to him the way she did. Of course, he’d made certain none of the women he’d taken were from the Circle of Magdalena.
Maybe that’s what was different about Gemma. She was one of the holy ones, one of the women his parents had taught him to cherish as angels above all other beings. Certainly, it was how his own father treated his mother. The Circle of Magdalena sustained the Valendite Breed. They were a treasure. Clearly, that’s what had him so shaken.
Caedon came back on the line, “Seam, Tomas is on the line. He’s medic trained. And I’ve located Eloise to see if she could help.”
“Okay. What do they know?”
Tomas spoke this time. “According to Eloise, Gemma has panic attacks. When anything surprises her or something throws off her routine. All this makes sense given the situation she’s in now.”
“Why the fuck wasn’t this in the file on her?” Seamus demanded.
“It was a light report. She wasn’t the main objective in the mission so we gave you base info. Shit, we didn’t even have this in our files here. It was Eloise who filled us in,” Caedon explained.
“So what do I do?” Seamus focused on the fix. He needed to make her better and get moving.
“Place your palm on her chest and describe her breathing to me,” Tomas instructed.
Seamus looked down at Gemma and took a deep breath before he placed his hand on her chest to feel her breaths. Her body was cool to the touch, which was alarming since his own body temperature should be lower than hers.
“She’s cold, bro,” Seamus told Tomas.
“Not good. Is she responsive?
“She’s breathing but otherwise she’s limp, almost relaxed,” Seamus reported. He felt her heartbeat below his palm and blew out the breath he’d been holding. “Her breathing is steady but shallow. It’s almost as if she’s wheezing.”
“Okay. Here’s my guess…”
Seamus cut Tomas off, “What the fuck? Your guess? Let’s not guess here. I need to make sure she’s okay and get the hell out of here to a secure location.” He nearly shouted in frustration at Tomas. He turned his eyes to the heavens and said a prayer to the Goddess as his mother had taught him to do as a child.
“Okay, bro, wrong word. What I meant to say was her powers likely put her into a state of rest when the attack overloaded her system.”
“Good. That’s good, right?” Seamus asked before he looked down at Gemma again. Her eyes were open. Glimmering back at him were the most remarkable cinnamon brown eyes he’d ever seen. “Fuck.”
“What’s wrong, Seamus?” Caedon’s voice rang over the line in full alert.
“Sh-she’s my mate.” Seamus stared at Gemma but he could tell she wasn’t really seeing him despite her eyes opening. His heart clenched. It was more imperative than ever that he make her well.
“Seamus? Seamus? Damn it, Seamus, answer me,” Caedon’s voice echoed over the line. He wanted them to go away now. He wanted to be with his mate. Fuck, he had a mate. His own woman to cherish. His own angel. His mate.
“Seamus, we need you to move. She’ll be fine. Eloise contacted Chiara, their mother, who said this is how Gemma has learned to cope with her episodes. Do you hear me? Dammit. He’s not responding.” Seamus heard Tomas’s voice but couldn’t respond. His throat was clogged with emotion. He was holding his mate in his arms.
“Seamus, now this is an order. Talk to me right now.” Madden spoke and Seamus immediately responded to the order.
“Madden, she’s my mate.”
“It’s a terrifying feeling, I know. There has to be a lot going on in that mind of yours but here’s what I want you to do. Tomas says she can travel. She’ll come out of this on her own in time. It’s a coping mechanism, that’s all,” Madden’s voice softened.
“Her soul sin is greed. According to Eloise, her greed has manifested itself in a need for knowledge,” Caedon jumped in to explain, “This is good for her as a researcher. It’s not so good in everyday life when she can’t always have knowledge of foresight. Chiara’s sheltered her a bit hoping to minimize her panic attacks but sometimes they happen.”
“She’s taught herself to cope using her powers. She’s pulled inward which is why she seems unresponsive. You just keep her warm and relaxed and she’ll come around,” Tomas added.
“Okay. You need to move. You’ll be secure at the Sinster home until Nicolaus and Gage get there. They’ve already headed out. You good, bro?” Madden’s focus on the task helped pull Seamus out of his shock.
“Got it. ETA to the Sinster home is fifteen minutes. Once I’ve got her secure, I’ll check in,” Seamus reported before disconnecting the call. Never again would he think nothing more could happen to an already fucked-up day. This was not how he imagined first holding his mate in his arms.

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