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Authors: Julia Crane

Betrayed

Betrayed
Arranged Trilogy #2
Julia Crane

Betrayed

Copyright 2015 by Julia Crane

All rights reserved.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the author.

This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events; to real people, living or dead; or to real locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and their resemblance, if any, to real-life counterparts is entirely coincidental.

“Betrayed” edited by
There For You Editing

Cover art by
Eden Crane Design

To Melissa for always finding time for me!

Chapter One

W
ith both excitement
and trepidation I made my way back upstairs, eager to tell Michael about the offsprings. There was no way I could of kept this information from him no matter what my mother thought was best. And she was wrong when she’d said I needed to keep my distance from the halflings. I was already attached. They were mine and I would do whatever it took to protect them. It didn’t matter how they were formed, my genetics coursed through their veins. We were bonded through blood.

Besides, I saw the look on her face when she watched the little ones swim around in the tanks. My mother, the queen, was also drawn to them, she just wasn’t ready to admit it. I knew without doubt that in time she would love them as much as she loved me.

We didn’t speak at all as we hurried up the stairwell, both lost in our own thoughts. I couldn’t get the little boy with the different eyes out of my mind. Hopefully, I wasn’t already playing favorites just because we shared the same defect. I almost tripped over the stair when it hit me—a mother, I was a mother. A young mother, but a mother nonetheless. And not only a mother but a mother to seventeen babies at the same time. How in the world was I going to handle that? My pulse hammered against my neck, and my stomach flipped several times as the realization sunk in. Suddenly, I was afraid. What if I wasn’t good enough for them? What if I couldn’t handle that many? For all I knew they wouldn’t even like me. Maybe I wasn’t even maternal.

My mother pushed through the doorway and we were met by a roomful of loud voices. The energy was upbeat, which was welcomed in this dreary realm. At least some were happy. We’d done the right thing bringing everyone back here.

It was so strange to see the castle filled with different variations of supernatural creatures. It was unusual for us to all work together. But I really felt this is what it would take to help Mother Earth revive herself.

Scanning the room, I searched out Michael. Standing off in a corner by himself with his back to a wall and seeming ill at ease, he was easy to spot. He looked out of place amongst the others. So far none of the humans had come to join us in our dwelling. Not that I could blame them.

As soon as our eyes locked he knew something was up. I seemed to be unable to hide my excitement and apprehension from him. I wondered how he was going to take the news.

In a hurry to get by his side, I brushed past one of the other fae and was surprised to feel a sense of annoyance come off of him in waves.
What was that about?
But I wanted to talk to Michael so I continued across the crowded room, not giving it much thought.

By now he was walking toward me and we met in the middle. Gods, he was exquisite. Reaching out, he grasped the side of my arm and whispered, “What’s wrong? You look shaken up.”

Straightening my spine, I glanced around and caught my mother watching us. She gave me a look that I couldn’t quite decipher. I knew she wanted me to wait to tell him but every ounce of my being thought that was unjust. He had as much right to know as we did. I lowered my voice. “Let’s go outside so we can talk.”

Michael led the way out one of the side entrances. The guards were now visible and two of them were close at our heels. Turning, I commanded they stay inside.

They glanced back toward my mother, but I didn’t wait to see what her response was.

Once we were in the courtyard, I threw up a shield, in case anyone was around listening or if my mother had her guards follow us, cloaked. I did a quick check for heartbeats and there were only ours inside of the shield. “The halflings ...” I bit my lower lip. “Henrek has done it. They are actual living, breathing babies, and they are gorgeous.”

Michael’s body stilled; his eyes closed as if he were trying to compose himself. He ran his hand over his face. I knew it was a shock to him because I’d felt the same way when my mother told me. Before it was just an idea, and now it was reality. Two totally different things.

“Do you wish to see them?” I asked, watching his expression. His heartbeat had increased, I could tell by the rise and fall of his chest. What if he didn’t want anything to do with them? I knew if that was the case my feelings for him would change. But it was better to find out now. His silence spoke volumes.

Had I over estimated him?

Finally, his eyes opened and he looked away, unable to meet my gaze. “I’m just a little overwhelmed right now. Of course I want to see them but, Tulupea, what does this mean? For us? We’ve like barely met, and now we’re parents.”

I felt my heart skip a beat. I was so relieved to hear he thought along the same lines as me. We were parents, regardless of what everyone else said. They were
our
children. I was a mother, many times over and completely freaked out about the whole thing. I had no idea what it meant for our growing feelings for each other but that could wait, right now what was important was the halflings. We’d sort the rest out later.

“I don’t know, Michael, we’ll take it day by day.” I shifted on my feet. “They’re in tanks and we’re not allowed to keep them out of the water. I don’t know how long they will have to stay inside of them. Henrek doesn’t know how quickly they will grow, but he did say they have grown faster than he was anticipating.” I paused. “My mother wanted me to wait to tell you until we were sure they would survive, but I thought you should know right away.”

He pulled me into his arms and rested his chin on the top of my head, giving me the comfort I so sorely needed in that moment. “I’m glad you told me. Do you think we can go see them now?”

I nodded. I didn’t care what my mother said, I was going to take him down there. Plus I knew she wouldn’t cause a scene, not with so many other creatures in the castle. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“I’m a little scared,” Michael admitted.

“You should be.” I pulled back to look up at him, grinning. “You’ve got seventeen halflings to worry about.”

His face paled. “Say that again?”

Laughing, I said, “I know. It’s a lot. Much more than I expected.”

He ran his hand over his face. “Wow. Do they have wings?”

Shaking my head, I realized how little we knew about each other’s worlds. “Fae don’t get their wings until they’re walking.”

A look of surprise crossed his face. “I just kinda thought …”

It struck me that I hadn’t given much thought to their wings or if they would be more humanlike in appearance. “I don’t know if they will even get wings. I guess we’ll see.”

Taking his hand, I lowered the shield. “Try not to think about the halflings as we go back inside. I’m not sure if we have any mind readers amongst the group. Think of something else. Anything else.”

With a tug of my hand, he spun me around until my chest was against his. “There’s only one thing that can make me mindless.” Bending down, his lips touched mine and just like he said all thoughts flew from my head. All I could focus on was the feel of his body pressed to mine, the taste of his lips, and his hand tangled in my hair. When we finally pulled away, my face was flushed and my heart was pounding against my ribcage.

Touching my fingers to my lips, I asked, “Have you ever felt like this before?”

“Never. Not even close.” His intense blue eyes bore into my own. The muscle in his jaw tensed. “Have you?”

A wide smile spread across my face. “Nope. They don’t make boys like you where I come from.”

His shoulders relaxed and he let out a breath. “I worry you’ll find me boring compared to your kind, with magick and all.”

I reached for his hand. “Trust me, the way you make me feel … there’s magick in that.”

His face went scarlet. I don’t think I could ever get enough of being around him.

“I hope you mean that.”

In answer my lips touched his.

With a shared smile and a squeeze of my hand we made our way back into the castle. My mother watched us but didn’t try to stop me when we headed toward the basement, nor did she follow us. I was grateful she was giving me some space. Even if she didn’t agree with my choice of telling him about the babies. Oh well, she was the one that forced this merger, how I handled the consequences was up to me.

Chapter Two

O
ne of my
brows rose as we stood in front of the doorway. Placing my palm on the cool metal door I peered over my shoulder. “You ready for this?”

He didn’t look ready; Michael’s mouth was set in a frown, and his face was paler than usual. If anything he looked weary and maybe even a little afraid.

Casting me a worried glance, he said, “No. But there’s no turning back now.”

He was right, we’d passed that point long ago. Hopefully, he’d relax once he actually saw them.

As I pushed through the doorway, once again my stomach fluttered. I was so enamored by the sight of the tank and the babies, I didn’t even think to look at Michael until I felt the weight of him sag against me. Startled, I reached out to steady him, but he swayed, his legs about to buckle beneath him. I grabbed him by the arm and led him to one of the chairs. “Are you all right?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered, his eyes never leaving the large container as he sank into the seat. “There’s so many. And they’re so … real.”

Laughing, I agreed, “Both true statements. Do you want me to see if Henrek will let you hold one?”

He shook his head. “I’m not quite ready for that. I’ve never even held a baby before. What if I dropped it?”

“I’m sure you’d be fine, but Henrek said they shouldn’t really leave the water anyway. So it might be for the best. But we can at least get a closer look. That’s if you don’t think you’re going to pass out on me.”

The side of his mouth quirked up. “I was just a little unsteady on my feet.”

“Uh huh.” I stood up and strode across the room. Michael was a couple of steps behind me.

My gods they were stunning. When I pressed my face against the glass, a few of the babies moved closer. They were curious little creatures. “You have no idea how vital you are to this planet,” I whispered, touching my hands to the glass near their little faces. The little boy with the different colored eyes swam across the tank to me and placed his little hand near mine. I wondered if he’d understood my words. Was it possible he’d heard me from that distance, in the water? Or was it the telepathy at work?

Turn around
, I thought in my head. His eyes blinked twice, but he didn’t move. Maybe it was only chance he’d come over just then. I tried again, this time in our faery language, and watched in wonder as he turned, first to the left then to the right before he settled back before me. I clapped my hands in excitement.

“Henrek! He knows how to speak my native tongue.”

Henrek rose from behind his desk and ambled over toward us, stroking the side of his jaw. “I played around a bit with the genetic markers. Not all will know your language but they will all be superior in intelligence and easily pick up any language you wish to teach them. Though I didn’t think they would be able to understand so quickly. How do you know this to be true?”

Without answering, I telepathically told the little guy to dive down and then come back up. Not only did the one with the mixed eyes react, but several of the others did at the same time. Unable to contain myself, I glanced over at Henrek with a wide grin.

“You spoke to them with your mind?” He ran a hand over the top of his wiry hair, it sprung right back up.

I nodded. “It’s common to communicate this way on our realm. We speak out loud as well, but often we talk through our minds. It’s so natural we don’t give it much thought.”

“That’s interesting. I mean, I realized you and your mother had a unique bond but I didn’t realize it was widespread.”

Michael hadn’t said anything; he was just staring at the tank, a look of unease on his face.

“Are you okay?” I asked, moving closer to him and placing my hand on his forearm. I could feel the tension radiating throughout his body.

“Not really. I guess I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. I wasn’t expecting this.”

With a tilt of my head, I asked, “What do you mean?”

He reached out and touched his fingers to the glass. “My heart contracts when I look at them. I have a connection to them. All of them. It’s a little disconcerting. Some of them actually look like me. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so obvious. If anyone from the tribe saw that one,” he pointed at one of the little boys with pale skin, dark hair, and blue eyes, “they would know he was mine.”

Henrek cleared his throat. “That’s kinda the way genetics work.”

I had to suppress a smile. Everything was so black and white to Henrek, yet I knew exactly what Michael was trying to say. I think we were both taken aback by the little halflings. In theory it was so abstract talking about our genetics, but in reality … it was so much more.

“When do you think they can come out of the tank for good?” I asked.

Adjusting his glasses, Henrek said, “Hard to say. It could be a couple of days or weeks. They are growing very quickly and it has me a little concerned.”

My body stilled. I didn’t like to hear that Henrek was concerned. “Why would that be a problem?”

He gave a slight shrug. “It could mean they are going to have an accelerated lifespan. They might not live to be as old as we’d hoped. As you know this is experimental. I could give them your regeneration powers, but if their bodies grow quickly they could also die quickly.”

I sucked in a breath. Michael’s head snapped up.

“What do you mean by quickly? At a human rate?”
Humans have such short lifespans. Please don’t let them leave me that quickly.

Henrek shook his head. “No. Much shorter. Look at them, they look like they are like nine months old and they should only be days old. At this point all we can do is watch and see what happens. Worst case, they age rapidly and only have a human lifespan. Best case is, they age quickly but have faery timeline. Your kind lives to be thousands of years old from my understanding. If that was the case, it would mean they would still have a pretty long lifespan. But if it’s by human standards, if they keep growing at this rate it could be only a handful of years.”

My mouth dropped open and my heart tightened in my chest.
No
. I would need much more time with them than that. “Perhaps they are just growing to maturity and then they will slow down?”

A loud beep startled us. Henrek paused. “That is a possibility. I need you to leave now. One of the machines is going off, please send your mother down.”

I stood firmly with my feet planted. “What does that mean? If it’s something to do with the halflings I am not going anywhere.”

Henrek was across the room now, and his hands were flying across some weird contraption. “It’s number five, his heart is failing.”

Mother!
I screamed frantically in my head.

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