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Unwilling to let Rhys take command of the country, Aaron will have to become the prince he was destined to be and rise in power to overthrow the new regime. Will Aaron be able to stop Rhys from his rise of power and end the slave trade once and for all? Will Lorelei find herself assimilated as part of the rebel movement or an enemy of the people?
Betrayed by Blood is the riveting conclusion to the Courtesan Slave Trade series and a spin-off of the Gem Apocalypse series.
Aaron's world seemed to fall apart around him. His father, the King of Brayleigh had been murdered by rebels that he'd helped fund. He knew nothing of James, August, or Henry and didn't know where to start to find out.
Rhys, the rebel leader who had destroyed the crown and the kingdom, was to blame. He had an army of men, far larger than the Brayleigh militia as many had abandoned their posts or died in the fire fight.
Aaron could not return home. Fear ebbed at him for his brothers, praying they were safe and protected. He made no attempt to contact Rhys. The prince stayed in hiding. He didn't dare admit his title. Prince of Brayleigh meant nothing more than the dirt he stepped upon when he walked. He was just like everyone else.
"Aaron?" Lorelei entered the old abandoned house. After news of his father's death at the market, they'd returned to the home they'd squatted in the night before.
He emerged from the living room, putting down the book he'd been reading. Not that much of it had sank in. His mind had been clouded with anger and bitterness. His heart ached terribly with the loss and betrayal.
"You're home, good." He breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't easy watching her go out alone. He worried she'd be picked up by a rebel or slave trader, but he couldn't leave without putting them both in more danger.
She brought in two cloth bags filled with food. Aaron had a little cash still on him from the last endeavor, trying to rescue the courtesans from the slave trade and aiding the rebels, but not much. Money was going to be a problem soon.
"I heard some crazy stories at the market."
"I don't want to hear them," Aaron said, his voice gruff.
"You do," Lorelei said, placing the bags on the table. "It's about your father. He's not dead."
His heart momentarily skipped a beat. "What?" The man at the market had told Aaron his father had been assassinated. Perhaps the information had been wrong? He'd kept away, for fear of his own life. "Are you sure?"
Lorelei removed a flyer from the back pocket of her pants. Since leaving the royal harem, she blended into society, which meant cargo pants and a white shirt that clung to her curves. "This was posted all over the market. There were even some flyers on the way. Turns out your father isn't dead, yet. He's being tried at the palace along with your brother, August."
Aaron headed straight for the door. "Where?"
"The palace, but you can't go, Aaron."
"Why the hell not?" His nostrils flared, and his face reddened. Anger flowed through his veins like his own blood. He wasn't going to watch his father die, not if there was a chance to still save him.
"The minute you show you're not on the rebels' side, they'll string you up and bleed you dry. They'll have your head."
Aaron didn't refute her statement. He knew if Rhys were in charge, the moment Aaron showed his father loyalty, his own fate would be in his hands. Fighting Rhys, he wasn't worried about, it was the countless guards defending the rebel that concerned him. "You won't go with me?" he asked. She was the murderess, able to pull the trigger and capable of defending herself. It wasn't that he needed defending, but it didn't hurt to have an ally and another set of armed weapons pointed at the enemy.
"I shouldn't, Aaron. Rhys thinks we're still on his side. We're better off playing him. Once we lose the advantage, we're done."
"He played us!" His voice echoed through the house, making it feel as though the walls vibrated from his anger. "The money I gave, it wasn't to destroy our society. I wanted to put an end to the slave trade."
Lorelei took a step closer and placed her hand on his chest. "I know that, but to Rhys, you took courtesans every month. You have to see this from both sides."
He pushed Lorelei away. "I don't have to see anything from him." Aaron scoffed at her words. "Rhys wants the throne. That's it, isn't it?"
She shuffled her feet, staring at the ground. "I don't think he wants a monarchy any longer. The people want change, Aaron. Don't you see that?"
He stared hard at her, but she refused to meet his gaze. "Look at me!" he commanded.
Slowly she raised her chin, lifting her eyes to meet his intense sapphire stare. "What do you want?"
"Does it matter what I want?" Lorelei asked.
Aaron nodded. "Yeah. It matters to me."
She waited a moment before answering. "Do you have that airplane still?"
He did, but he wasn't sure where she wanted to go. The home he rescued her from had been a prison in many ways. He couldn't imagine she wanted to return there. Wouldn't it bring back nightmares and horrifying memories? "Yes," he said and paused, waiting for her to elaborate.
"We should travel the world. Don't you ever wonder what's out there? If there were other survivors after the Gem Apocalypse?" Lorelei asked.
The world had been cut off from each other after the war. There'd no longer been phones or internet access. The towers erected for communication had fallen. Satellites had been destroyed and wires had been cut. The nations hadn't just bombed each other but also themselves trying to eradicate anyone that wasn't a sapphire.
"We're not going anywhere until my father is released from Rhys's custody. Does he have Henry and James too?"
"He has August detained. I don't know where your other two brothers are," she said. "Aaron, I ran into Rhys outside of the market."
"What?" He stepped closer, resting a hand on her arm. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"
"I'm fine," Lorelei said, smiling. "He told me that your brothers were safe, as long as they don't rebel against him and his men."
Aaron snorted. "Safe?" He didn't believe Rhys would ever let his brothers live freely, not with what they'd done. If he wanted justice over Gideon, then he'd want it from all the brothers for keeping courtesans. It was only a matter of time.
Lorelei drew her hand to his cheek, her thumb grazing stubble. "I didn't tell you about your father still being alive so you would plan a rescue mission. I just thought it'd be good for you to know the truth."
Aaron couldn't believe what she said. "What are you suggesting? I forget his life may be on the line?"
Her hand dropped from his cheek. "He wasn't a very nice man, Aaron."
"That doesn't change the fact that I don't believe killing someone is the answer either." He'd never hurt a courtesan that did him wrong. At least not intentionally. His father may have been misguided and demanding in many respects, but he was a king. He had to be a ferocious leader. It was part of his job.
"Aaron, if we go and try anything whether it's civil or to rescue him, you'll be wanted by the new government. August fought back, and he's being detained. My understanding is your brothers Henry and James are leaving well enough alone and they're safe."
"For now," Aaron said. He didn't believe that it would be so easy to change the monarchy into another system of government without dire consequences. The people would want blood and it would fall on the four princes. He wasn't an idiot to know he would find himself on that list.
It had barely been twenty-four hours since the fall of Brayleigh and the rebels took over the palace. Aaron had no army of his own, no way to fight back, unless he did it from the inside.
"You said you saw Rhys?" Aaron asked. He hated to think he'd have to pretend to be friends with the man that betrayed him.
Lorelei nodded. "That's right. Why?"
"Do you know where he went after the market?" Aaron asked. He needed to know whether they returned to the rebel base camp or had set up a new home at the palace.
"He's at the palace."
"Does the invitation for you to join the rebels still stand?" They'd wanted her because of her history as the murderess, for being capable of murdering without a second thought. She'd lived up to the name when she'd fatally shot her uncle that had murdered her parents and sold her into slavery.
"Yes, but I don't want anything to do with them. Have you gone mad?"
Aaron cupped her cheek and leaned in, brushing his lips hungrily over hers. "I just might have a plan, that could save our nation." She had to trust him, it was the only choice he had to save his family and protect the people of Brayleigh. He needed Lorelei to be strong and brave.
Lorelei rested her forehead against his and wrapped her arms around his back. "I trust you," she said between kisses. "Whatever you want me to do, I will. I'd just prefer it if you were there with me. The idea of being a spy�"
He cut her off with another searing kiss, his fingers tangled in her hair and then down her neck, unable to hold back. Her words, her emotions, her willingness to aid him, turned him on. "I'll be right there with you," he said. He'd never put her knowingly in danger without protecting her as well. His hands cupped her breast, feeling her nipple peak between the thin fabric.
She shifted closer, grinding her hips into his. Her fingernails clawed down his back, pulling him closer.
Though they both still had too many clothes on, Aaron felt amazing. He wanted her to feel the same way.
"How soon do we leave?" she asked as she slipped her fingers up under his shirt.
He hesitated knowing the sooner the better. Aaron didn't want to leave his father imprisoned for too long, not that he could just walk up and release him either. Waiting until dark meant risking bandits from the slave trade that could accost them without warning. They needed to pack their belongings and drive to the palace while it was still daylight.
Aaron dropped another kiss to her lips, a silent apology that he couldn't finish what had been started. He wanted to rip her clothes off, taste her milky skin, and watch her shudder beneath him. That would have to wait, there were more important matters that needed attending to.