I’m so pleased to have Gina Danna with me today. She is not only one of my critique partners, but a good friend as well. Gina is here today to show off her new book, Love and Vengeance! A romance set in ancient Rome. She’ll also be giving away a copy to one lucky commenter who says they want the book.
As always we begin with the cover!
Next the blurb:
“I brought you something to ease the pain,” the slave said, but his voice wasn’t in front of Marcus. It still lingered to the side, where he stood before the opened door. The gladiator frowned and looked up.
Before him, Gustina stood, barefoot. No wonder he didn’t hear her enter.
“Gustina,” he whispered, struggling to stand, his gaze drinking her in.
She raced to him, her arms encircling his bare waist, but he winced as her wrist hit his side. Quickly, she stepped back, a worried look on her face. “I’m sorry.”
He gave her a smile as his good hand reached for her. The chain had barely any slack to get her but he did manage to get a hold on her and pulled her to him. Snaking the arm around her, he buried his head in her hair and neck, inhaling her sweet almond and lemon scent. He felt her tremble, pressed against his naked chest.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered softly, her lips brushing his skin. The scent that was her, simply her, filled his pores down to his bones.
“Don’t be,” he returned, moving his hand up her back. Damn cuff and chain stopped him from totally engulfing her and the other hand was useless now. As he twisted to get her closer, he knocked the injured arm and flinched.
She stilled and then pushed back. With a glance at the injured arm, she shot a look at him. “You need that attended.”
“I will. Dominus will not let it be.”
“Tevia,” she called over her shoulder. Marcus didn’t like the horrified look on her face.
“Here,” Tevia said, placing a dish of water and a rag at her feet.
She bent and wet the rag. The first wipe nearly undid him. The wound burned as she slowly, methodically cleaned it, without uttering a word. He stood, mesmerized by her motions. She looked like a nymph, quietly taking care of him. Afraid to even blink for fear she’d be gone, he planted his feet to not move, even if the rock under them stabbed his soles.
The pain subsided as she finished. She wrapped the damp rag around his arm, splitting the ends to tie it. He noticed she hadn’t looked up at him and it puzzled him. Her shoulders straightened and her head raised as she turned, taking a step back.
He frowned. Why wasn’t she next to him? He opened his mouth but she cut him off with a glare.
“You almost were killed because of me. What a foolish thought, that you could save me. We are slaves, you and me. There is no freedom for the likes of us. No denial of demands, regardless how distasteful they are.” She spat the words at him, lashing him like Ludo’s whip. He felt it deeply, the bitterness of her tone turned his blood sour. “You do not own me. Buying me with coin only stopped them from ending my life that day. But I’ve been dying for years. Slavery is just that, dying, more and more, each and every day. The only way the gods will set us free. Dominus can order me to suck the cocks of any man he wants and I cannot, ever, say no. You know this.” The strong woman he first met at the Colosseum, the one who steeled herself against impending doom, had returned.
Unfortunately, she was correct. Slaves were expendable. Workers and playthings. A life with no meaning. Damn, but he knew another life. He had tasted freedom, squandered it, only to have it removed. And yes, placed in the same position as her, Tevia, Farina, Iduma and all the rest. At the command of their masters. As if Romans were really any better than they, any more chosen by the gods to reign supreme. To speak those words could also condemn him but that had never mattered to him, not in the last three years. Nor, really, before then when he was a stupid man, thinking everything was his for the taking.
“Gustina,” he started but her hand raised to silence him.
“They might’ve killed you for what you did. I could not live with that. As it stands, I’m here only because Tevia snuck me past the guards. I pray to the gods we might return to before, so I ask, no, beg of you, to remember our place. As slaves.”
He saw the corner of her mouth quiver and moved toward her. Shaking her head, she stepped back and the chains kept him from reaching her. “You will remember and not risk your life for me?”
How could he do that? Even the demon inside whimpered. He sighed with resignation, inside admitting defeat and he didn’t like it. For her, his head fell in admission. Instantly, her hands took his wrists and she turned the key in the locks, freeing him. As the metal crashed back against the wall, he went to touch her but she twisted out of his grasp and flipped her head, the wild mane of brown locks swung to the side and she marched out of the cell, never turning back.
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