Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.
Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can use to save a beautiful slave, Gustina, from certain death by the beasts. She gives him a taste of love in a world full of lies, betrayal and murder.
But his overwhelming desire for vengeance, for blood and the kill, brings a higher price tag – can he satisfy the demon inside him and face the truth? A truth that will kill the woman he loves?
Love & Vengeance –
He’d exhausted her, and she trusted him enough to rest in his arms. The gods answer keenly felt. But the night would end, and life would return to normal. Him training, and she back in the Villa. Together but apart. No, his path lay clear before him – he must win his freedom. Until then, protecting her would be difficult. Tension racked his body. If Aulus got close to her…
Gustina stirred next to him. Damn, his fears woke her.
She turned her head toward him, attempting to blow the stray hairs from her forehead and failing. He brushed them aside and smiled. She blinked. The sated blue sparkle in her eyes warmed him deeply. Her lips curved happily to him even more so. The gods blessed him.
“I wake to find you staring at me,” she teased, shifting so she faced him. “I thought you were tired.”
He chuckled. “I’ve rested.” He nudged her nose with his finger.
Her nose crinkled as her grin turned lopsided. “Stop.”
Laughter filled the air. “I can’t stop. My cock has a mind of its own.”
“I’m too sore to consider such entertainment.”
Inside, he winced. Should have known – she’d never been exposed to passion. She melted under his touch. How could he leave her be? “Apologies.”
“Don’t be,” she murmured, reaching over and kissing him.
He growled and pulled her tight.
“Champion,” she said, her hand on his chest. “I cannot stay.” She rolled out of his grasp and stood, stepping into her tunic, tugging the ties up around her neck.
Fucking Romans. No, as a slave, his right to have her all night evaporated into the air. At the sign of dawn, Ludo’s whip would snap, and another day of training would begin. Her duties required her at the Villa, to attend whatever her Domina required. He wanted to spit. He threw his legs over the side of the bed and sat, watched her struggle to get the ties underneath her mass of hair that he had tangled with his fingers. With a deep sigh, he stood and helped her.
“So, I can report you are satisfied?” she teased but he heard the slight tremor in her voice belied her humor.
His arm snaked around her waist, and his mouth plundered hers. Her body molded against his, as if made for him. He finally broke the kiss but didn’t let her go. “Yes. But I want more.”
Gustina laughed. Color filled her cheeks. It made her look so alive, how could he ever let her go? But he didn’t stop her as she headed to the door. With a nod and a smile, she opened it and left him.
He fell back onto his pallet. Her smell remained in the wool blanket and he just laid there inhaling it. Gustina.
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