Someone is trying to kill Prince Nikolas of Aachen-Düren and he wants to know who. After just barely escaping from Oxford, where he is studying, he is bound for London hoping a beard and shabby clothes will provide enough of a disguise. The last thing he expects to discover after a week of surveilling his uncle—the only person who would benefit from his death—is that his life has been saved twice by the most lovely spy.

The man in black is the worst spy Hope Clemens has ever encountered. After saving his life—twice—she decides it’s time to discover who he is and what he’s after. She’s not surprised when he gives her a false name, claiming to a prince is so unbelievable it’s amusing. He could, however, be extremely useful for her own purposes and she can’t say she minds sticking close to the handsome man. Especially since he needs her as much as she him.

With lives in danger and hearts on the line, can Nik and Hope learn to trust each other before it’s too late?

Hidden identities, a princess on the run, and three lives at stake… despite this, these royals and rebels must learn to trust and open themselves to a lifetime of love.

Chapter One

Day 1

Prince Nikolas of Aachen-Düren tossed his last card onto the table, crossed his arms over his broad chest, and watched as his friend Lord Newly pulled the pile of coins toward himself with a grin.

“I do not know how much more of this I can take, Newly,” Nik said with a rueful shake of his head. In fact, he knew precisely how much more he was going to lose to his friend because he was doing it on purpose. Nik had a very generous allowance from his royal father, while Newly’s father was struggling just to keep their estate afloat. Nik knew this and was doing what he could to make things easier for his friend. He had done the same for Sumerton and Marron, the other two gentlemen at the table. Tonight, it was Newly’s turn.

He was about to lean forward to reach for the deck of cards when a delicate hand began running its way over his shoulder and down his chest, reaching inside of coat and waistcoat to the fine linen of his shirt. A woman’s lips began nipping at his earlobe as she blew her hot gin-scented breath down his neck.

Newly and his other friends just smiled.

“On the other hand, I think I may need to call it a night,” Nik said, correcting himself. He reached his hands behind his back to the woman, found a round, firm bum, and gave it a gentle pinch. The woman stood up quickly with a playful screech.

He turned to see Marie, the woman who he had been known to hire on occasion to sate his needs. She was a professional, as were many of the women who frequented this tavern in the center of Oxford, and enjoyed the company of a good many of the university students and dons. Nik didn’t mind so long as she was clean. He didn’t even say goodnight to his friends but merely allowed the woman to lead him up the stairs to one of the rooms.

As the first vestiges of dawn were beginning to lighten the sky, Nik felt something cold against his bare chest as he slowly began to awaken. He sighed, then felt whatever it was removed from his chest only to press to his temple a moment later. He opened his eyes and found Marie staring down at him, a serious expression on her face. He shifted his head to see what it was that had been touching him and discovered the barrel of a little pistol pointed at his head.

He looked back up at Marie curiously.

“I’m sorry, Nik, but I’ve got no choice,” she said.

“Of course, you have a choice,” he told her calmly.

She shook her head.

“If it is money, you know I will pay you more than whatever you are getting.”

She shook her head again. “If it were just that…” A tear started to roll down her pretty, pale cheek. “They’ve got me mum,” she told him quietly. “Said I’d get ‘er back when they saw yer dead body in this bed.”

Nik sighed. “I am so sorry, Marie… so very…” With a sudden move, he grabbed the gun from her hand, jumped to his feet, and tossed it out the window.

“No!” she cried.

“As I said,” he said, pulling on his clothes as quickly as he could, “I am so sorry.” He shoved his neckcloth and stockings into his coat pockets, his bare feet into his boots, and threw on his waistcoat and coat on his way out the door.

He paused for a moment to toss some coins onto the table and then sprinted down the hall and headed for the stairs. Unfortunately, he was met at the bottom by two very large men who seemed to have been waiting for him.

There was no escape back up the stairs. He would just have to deal as best he could. He hoped surprise would slow their reactions. He threw himself at them from halfway down the stair. They all ended up in a tumble of arms and legs, but Nik was quick to his feet and running out the door before the men could sort themselves out.

He was sprinting down the street toward his rooms when his coach pulled up next to him. The door was thrown open, nearly hitting him.

“Jump in, Your Highness,” his man, Friedrich, called out.

Nik did so, pulling the door closed behind him as Friedrich knocked on the ceiling and called out “Spring ‘em!” to the coachman. Friedrich didn’t know a lot of English, but that was one phrase he’d learned early.

Nik nearly ended up on the floor as the coach shot forward. He righted himself as the clatter of the galloping horses’ hooves filled the empty, early morning streets.

“How did you—” Nik started, speaking in his native German.

“I told you, Your Highness, that I would keep my ear to the ground. I wish I’d heard sooner what was planned. Sadly, my informant only told me about an hour ago. He tried to extract more money from me, but we came to an agreement,” Friedrich responded in the same language.

“I hope no one was hurt?” Nik asked.

Friedrich gave a quick noncommittal shrug as he examined his reddened knuckles. “The blood only touched my shoes. I was able to clean it away.”

Nik gave his servant a long, hard stare. He noticed his man was looking more tired than usual with deep bags under his brown eyes. When had his dark hair started turning gray? Nik couldn’t remember, but it did give Friedrich a rather distinguished-looking air with the gray at his temples. Other than that, he was still the same slender, elegant, deceptively strong man Nik had always known. No one would ever guess that Friedrich could knock a man out cold with just one well-placed blow.

The man blinked back at him and then sighed. “I only broke his nose. It will mend.”

Sitting back against the comfortable seat, Nik crossed his arms over his chest.

“And it was necessary. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known to come and get you when I did. I have your valise, by the way, and I informed the doorman you would be away for a little while. He will keep an eye on your rooms while we are gone.”

“I’m not worried about my belongings and appreciate your efforts on my behalf. What did you learn?”

“Not as much as I would have liked, I’m afraid. Only that a great deal of money was offered for your life.”

Nik frowned. “But do you know who—”

Friedrich shook his head and sighed. “No matter what I threatened, I could discover no name. I apologize.”

“Well, we’ll continue through with our plan, then.”

“Yes, Your Highness. I’ve sent word to the ship. It will be ready to leave the moment we arrive in Margate. We’ll find some place nearby to stay until we can discover who is behind the attempt on your life.”

Nik nodded but was unable to contain the huge yawn that overtook him. “Very good. I’ll just close my eyes for a time, then.”

“Of course, sir.” Friedrich passed across the pillow he’d brought. Nik chuckled as he settled himself as comfortably as he could in the traveling coach. The man thought of everything.

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