Endurance, Page 1Georgia Cates
A Sin Series Standalone Novel
Also by Georgia Cates
Excerpt: Beauty from Pain
About the Author
Other books by Georgia
Published by Georgia Cates Books, LLC
Copyright © 2016 Georgia Cates
All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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Editing services provided by Marion Archer of Making Manuscripts and Karen Lawson, The Proof is in the Reading.
Formatting by Jeff Senter of Indie Formatting Services
Cover photography by Lauren Perry of Perrywinkle Photography
Cover design by Georgia Cates
ALSO BY GEORGIA CATES
THE LOVIBOND COLLECTION
Tap: A Lovibond Novel 1
Stout: A Lovibond Novel 2
Porter: A Lovibond Novel 3 (TBA)
The Lovibond Collection: Tap, Stout
THE SIN SERIES
A Necessary Sin: Book I
The Next Sin: Book II
One Last Sin: Book III
The Sin Trilogy Bundle
Endurance: A Sin Series Novel
Jamie and Ellison's Story
Redemption: A Sin Series Novel
Leith and Lorna's Story
Unintended: A Sin Series Novel
Westlyn and Kieran’s Story
THE BEAUTY SERIES
Beauty from Pain: Book I
Beauty from Surrender: Book II
Beauty from Love: Book III
The Beauty Series Bundle
THE VAMPIRE AGAPE SERIES
Blood of Anteros: Book I
Blood Jewel: Book II
Blood Doll: Book III
The Complete Vampire Agape Series
GOING UNDER SERIES
Going Under: Book I
Shallow: Book II
Going Under Complete Duo
I left everything behind. Every. Thing. My possessions. My career. My friends. My past. My present.
I’ve traded my nursing clogs for rain boots. Shorts and tank tops for jackets and scarves. Sunscreen for an umbrella.
I’ve been calling bonny Scotland home for the last nine months. I spent the first five weeks living in a bubble within my sister’s domain where the criminal world known as The Fellowship didn’t exist. I believed Bleu and Sin were a normal husband and wife expecting not one, but two babies, to go along with the precious baby girl they’d adopted. They were a beautiful family. A living and breathing fairy tale in my mind. He was her rich and handsome Scottish knight in a shining black luxury sedan. She was his beautiful, badass princess who carried a Beretta . . . but still needed saving.
I envied the fuck out of them.
And then the bubble burst.
That was almost eight months ago. Everything changed. I know about the brotherhood’s world of organized crime. Or at least as much as any outsider can know without being clipped. Burned. Marbh. I don’t know what that word means but I’ve heard Sin use it with an angry tone more than once when talking to a brother. I haven’t asked but I’m pretty sure it means somebody fucked up big time and they’re about to get whacked.
Fellowship 101. Lying. Cheating. Stealing. Killing. That’s just the shortlist. I got the CliffsNotes version but it didn’t change my mind about staying in Edinburgh. Nothing will ever separate me from my sister or those precious babies.
Sin’s finally resigned to my choice to become part of the brotherhood. He agreed to let me attend an official Fellowship function tonight for the first time. The babies’ consecration—their official dedication to the brotherhood where Bleu and Sin vow to raise the children in the way of The Fellowship.
Oddly, I didn’t feel surrounded by liars, cheaters, thieves, and murderers when I was at the consecration ceremony earlier tonight. I felt the deep love The Fellowship has for Sin, Bleu, and their three babies. Their affection radiated like a fire emitting both light and warmth. It was a beautiful thing, yet one lone, uncontained spark has the power to burn down everything within its path.
My sister calls those dangerous people family.
And I will as well. Soon.
The normal procedure for someone who isn’t born into The Fellowship, but wishes to become a member, is to participate in endurance. The man wishing to join must prove he is strong enough to endure a beating that will send him so close to the gates of hell, he’ll return with singed eyebrows.
The case is different for a woman. No female has ever undergone endurance. Not even my tough-as-a-muthafucking-former-FBI-agent sister. Sin voluntarily stood in her place so she wouldn’t be hurt. He was beaten to a bloody pulp so his people would accept the woman he loved as one of their own. She was the first of her kind to be adopted into the brotherhood by this method. And that’s what a man, a Fellowship brother, will have to do for me.
Bleu says it’s an act of love in its purest form. Sounds more like an act of stupidity. But apparently, a necessary idiocy if I’m to stay.
It isn’t right that some innocent man—the word innocent being used loosely—should endure that kind of suffering so I can be with my own family. But I don’t think these people really get the gist of what’s right anyway. They aren’t exactly sitting around polishing their halos.
I agree with one thing Bleu says: No man will volunteer to go through something so barbaric unless he loves me madly. Men are horny bastards, but I don’t know a one who would sign on for endurance just to get between my legs. That means he will truly love me. And no one in The Fellowship will ever question it.
I haven’t been allowed to mingle with the brothers with the exception of Jamie, Leith, and Mitch. Sin says I need to be properly introduced before that can happen. He wants the brothers to know and under
stand exactly who I am and how he expects them to behave toward me. He acts like the big brother I never had. I like it; it’s sweet. But I almost feel inclined to tell him it’s unnecessary. I know how to manage men even when they have no clue how to handle me. Just call me the man whisperer.
Thane and Isobel plan to throw some kind of bash at their house to introduce me to the brotherhood. Sounds very much like a matchmaking party to hook me up with a bro. But it can’t happen until this takeover thing with their enemy, The Order, is finished. That means I’m a good two months from being introduced into the fold and matched with the man who will take responsibility for me. My future husband.
All of this worry and uncertainty would be unnecessary if the beautiful man driving me home from the consecration would open his eyes and see what’s right in front of him: me, standing before him with my heart in my hands. Silent but wanting so, so, so badly to give him everything I have to offer.
Jamie Breckenridge. The blind bastard just won’t see me. But how can he when he rarely even looks my way? I’m as unnoticed as the air around him. I exist. I’m right next to him. And I’m invisible.
I’m standing on the corner of Screw This and Keep Pursuing and it’s time to choose which route I’ll take. I’m leaning toward giving up but it’s killing me. I’m Ellison MacAllister. A white flag isn’t part of my repertoire. Normally.
This is my life and there are no do-overs. I can’t accept any man who falls into my lap. Or between my legs. “I’m supposed to be introduced to the brothers soon. I’m nervous about being claimed.”
Jamie stares ahead as he drives, saying nothing. Zero response. Unless his lack of reaction actually is a response?
“I’m curious. What will happen after a brother declares me as his?”
“This is something you should discuss with your sister.” Does he believe he’s going to evade my question so easily?
“Bleu isn’t a man with inside knowledge about what a brother will want to do when he lays claim on a woman. You are.”
“I’ve never laid claim on a woman.” And thank God for that.
“True, but you will one day so you must have thought about what it’ll be like.” The stick I’m using to jab Jamie through his cage isn’t long enough. I’ll have to stretch harder if I’m going to poke him in the ass. “Unless you like men instead.”
“Of course I’ve thought about what it’ll be like. With. A. Woman.”
I battle the giggle in my throat working its way upward to make its getaway. A small chuckle squeezes out during the struggle, and I attempt to disguise it with a cough.
“Do you think about it a lot? With a woman, I mean.”
He hesitates before answering, and I want to climb inside his head and spy on all the secret thoughts whirling around in there. Could images and thoughts of me possibly be bouncing around behind those striking amber eyes?
“Tell me about it—what you anticipate—so I can form my own expectation for when I’m claimed.”
Jamie looks straight ahead and says nothing although I’m certain he heard me. “Jamie?”
“I want to know everything about the woman you see yourself claiming.”
More hesitation. Why is he so tight-lipped about this?
“She’s kind. Intelligent. Interesting. We’d have a lot in common.”
“Do you think you’ll love her?”
“Of course, I’ll love her.”
“Is she beautiful?”
“Beauty is subjective, but yes. To me, she’s breathtaking.”
Beauty is subjective. Well, clearly in his eyes, I’m no beauty. All I see when he looks at me is indifference.
“Would she be marriage material?”
“I wouldn’t claim a woman unless I intended on marrying her.”
I like the way Jamie didn’t hesitate. He’s given this enough thought to have already made the decision to be fully committed.
“What will you do with her after you claim her?”
I can only see half of Jamie’s smile, but I don’t mistake the naughty smirk beneath his lips. “What do you think I’ll do with her, Ellison?”
He believes he can turn the tables on me? That’s cute, but he’ll have to do better than that. “Let me rephrase. Will you gently make love to her as though she’s a delicate china doll? Or fuck her hard until she shatters into a million pieces?”
Jamie clears his throat and adjusts in his seat. “I guess that would depend on what she wants.”
What she wants? “I would expect a badass Fellowship member to tell me he’d fuck her hard until she explodes like dynamite. That’s what I’d hope for. An alpha who takes what he wants and is unapologetic about it.”
At least I believe that’s what I crave. I’ve yet to experience it but I think it would be hot as hell. Better than being asked by your boyfriend to do a three-way where you strongly suspect he’s more interested in the other man than in you.
There’s a pause in the conversation and it’s impossible not to notice the way Jamie is gripping the steering wheel. “An alpha, aye? I’ll need to remember that one.”
Sex would be great but it isn’t my ultimate goal. “You said you’d never claim someone you didn’t intend to marry. Would that be the mindset of most brothers?”
I need Jamie to consider the future and what it might look like with me. “Guess that means I’ll be getting married soon. Maybe even getting pregnant with my first Fellowship baby.” I turn away to look out the window, giving him time to think about that for a minute before I continue my seduction stratagem. “Arranged marriages can be successful, right?”
“Aye. They’re common among our people. I know many happy couples who didn’t choose one another.”
“This isn’t how I pictured my life, but I plan to make the most of it.” And I’m going to start by choosing my own destiny. I think I could be happy if Jamie were my husband. “I hope I get someone who treats me well. And I hope I’m able to love him one day. It would be a tragedy to be married to someone I didn’t like.”
“I grew up with parents who hated one another and it was exactly that: a tragedy. Especially for my sisters and me.”
I turn to Jamie and he briefly glances away from the road to look at me. The contact of his eyes on mine in this pivotal moment leaves me breathless. “What is it?”
Dad told me to not settle for less than what I deserved: the best.
Jamie is the one for me. I know he is.
“It was the opposite for me. My parents had a love so deep the ocean would envy it. The only thing powerful enough to part them was death. I don’t think I could bear being in a marriage where I didn’t know that kind of love. It won’t work for me.”
“Sin won’t let that happen to you.”
Sin won’t let that happen to you. Jamie’s words are a reminder that my brother-in-law has more say about the man I’ll marry than I do. No brother will get to me unless it’s through him first.
Not at all romantic.
Not at all the kind of marriage I’ve dreamt about.
Not at all the kind of life I imagined for myself.
This conversation has suddenly taken a turn I wasn’t anticipating. This game I started is one I no longer want to play, so I’m happy when we arrive at my apartment.
“Did you leave the lights on when you left?”
“Probably. I was running late and in a rush to get out the door.”
Jamie turns off the engine of his Range Rover and my heart thuh-thonks, thuh-thonks, thuh-thonks against the inside of my chest wall. That means he’s coming inside, right? Why else would he turn off the motor?
“I have to come in to sweep the flat.” He has to. My brief flicker of hope dies like a covered flame starving for oxygen. “Just a precaution since you attended a Fellowship event tonight. Don’t be frightened.”
It isn’t fear on my face. It’s disappointment. “I’m not.”
Jamie gets out, but I don’t make a move to open my door. He was very clear when we got into the SUV that he would be the only one opening and closing the passenger door. I thought it was him being a gentleman until he explained it was for my safety . . . per Sin’s order. I admit it stung a little to be told he wasn’t doing it to impress me. To please me.
I unlock the front door, and he reaches into his jacket to take out a handgun from the holster at his side. “Disarm the alarm and wait in the hallway. Don’t come inside the flat until I tell you it’s clear.”
I enter the passcode into the security keypad. “Yes, sir.”
With a gun.
Risking his safety to ensure mine.
Hot. Hot. Hot.
I push aside my thoughts of Jamie with a gun and consider the serious side of this scenario. This is what being part of The Fellowship will be like. Always on guard. Always looking out for the enemy to strike at any moment. Always depending on a man to keep me safe.
My sister tells me The Order has a nasty habit of lashing out against The Fellowship through the women. Kidnappings. Beatings. Rapes. A few women—teen girls, actually—have needed surgery to repair the damage The Order caused. Some haven’t survived. Many who do, wish they hadn’t.
I’m going to become one of those at-risk women soon. I’ll be like Hester Prynne except I’ll wear a red and white bullseye in place of a scarlet letter. I’m the sister-in-law of a Fellowship leader. I won’t be able to walk down the street without being in danger.
The Fellowship has had enough of The Order. They’re ready for an all-out war—a battle for dominance—if it means bringing safety to their women.
I must be out of my damn mind for choosing this life.
Maybe I shouldn’t do this.
Maybe I’m not cut out for a mafia world.
Maybe I should leave Edinburgh and go back to the States.
Jamie opens and holds the door for me. “All clear.”