Rome 100 CE
“So which one is the Celt?”
Aurelia looked past the banister, biting her lower lip as she scanned the gladiators and recruits. At first, she thought he’d be with the gladiators, sparring, as his fight in the arena had shown his skills. But he wasn’t there. Her eyes turned to the newer men. The five of them bent, heaved a large wooden beam up to a shoulder and with a grunt, stood upright. The motion displayed the muscles in their thighs and calves. Their upper bodies, arms and chests were equally bulging; lines accentuated each tendon and muscle. Once straight up, the men promptly dropped the weight and repeated.
They glistened from sweat, beads of which rolled down their faces and dropped off their chins and jaws. Combined with the contours of their bodies, they resembled the gods of Olympus. A gorgeous sight, all the men were, as they worked on the training square.
Aurelia’s own excitement over the gladiators made her breathless until Iana laughed.
“Shall we get you a cloth?” she whispered to her. “The look on your face and the moan that escaped your lips, I’d wager you are moist between your thighs.”
Aurelia pursed her lips and tried to glare at her friend, but Iana’s giggles broke her angry look. She long suspected Iana had not contained her desires to feel a man there, yet she was startled at her friend’s suggestion. The Celt’s body had stirred a longing deep inside her. A fire burned slowly, coiling in her loins, making her uncomfortable both in her body and in her thoughts.
“Iana please,” Aurelia begged.
“Point him out,” her friend prodded.
She almost refused. He was like a toy she didn’t want to share, especially if her friend knew how to quench those embers that burned between her legs, and requested an audience with the Celt. She was well aware how gladiators became icons for followers, trinkets of them sold in the market place, even vials of the blood of champions to cure all sorts of ills. And the rumors of the women who paid for a personal audience—
“He’s there,” she pointed, her tone sharp.
“Oh, he’s magnificent,” Iana murmured. “Such the beast.”
Aurelia frowned. “He is a slave. That is all.”
Her friend chortled. “Slave, yes. But he is more—and especially to you—since you are the one who got that luscious brother of yours to purchase him.”
“Hmmm, perhaps.” She leaned closer to her. “Frankly, I did it so I could view the marking on his arm.”
“Truly? What mark?”
Aurelia touched her arm, showing Iana where to look on the slave. Iana saw and turned toward the men training. “Ah, yes, truly a justification to put your brother’s coin toward.”
“I know, ‘twas awful of me, but it was as if Jupiter blessed him to live and for me to get Caius to buy him.” She smiled.
But staring at him as he lifted the wooden beam, she knew there was more that remained a mystery.
Ganius heaved the board up again, his mind dulled. This exercise turned into the same as the rest. Repetitive, physically exhausting motion, deadening all feeling once the rhythm set in. Rising from the squat, dull pain resonated in his thighs and calves, muting the complaint of his shoulders and arms. Now upright, he stood and promptly dropped the wood to the ground and he crouched again. But this time, as his hands gripped the wood, he glanced up and got a glimpse of two ladies watching them. They were dressed in bright colored silk stolas, one with dark colored locks, the other with golden brown. It was obvious they were looking straight at him. They seemed to be laughing and the smiles brought by the giggles made them appear as if they were goddesses. His surprise at the distraction made him lose his hold on the beam.
“Focus. On the sands, there are hundreds watching, applauding, cheering and booing. To lose purpose,” the whip wrapped its tail around the wood and grasped it from Ganius hands. “Is to lose yourself in the Afterlife.”
The yank of his burden left a splinter in Ganius’s palm, the stabbing painful. Using his teeth he ripped it out and spat it to the ground. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he glared at the man but held back a retort and simply said, “Yes, Doctore.”
Another round of laughter came from the gladiators. That pompous ass, Magos, jeered along with two others.
“Win and you too will have access to cunt,” the gladiator chuckled. “But from whores.”
Ganius grabbed the wood, rising quickly; an immense desire to shove it down the man’s throat loomed but before he could act, Cadmus moved close.
“Don’t. Doctore’s whip will not lay limp if you try.”
Ganius stood still, gauging the distance to the champion across the training grounds, and Doctore’s proximity with that whip still in his hand. He swallowed the fire in his throat, along with the grit from the air, and didn’t move. At best, he’d be whipped and never make it to his target. He swept a gaze at the girl who caught his eye moments prior. The one who remained watching him. Who was she really? Cadmus told him she was his domina but beyond that, he knew nothing except she intrigued him. That sensation sent a flare of rage through him. He had no time for pretty little things, especially her. She was Roman and that made her like the rest—cruel, a murdering race. He tore his gaze off her and moved as the circle began to rotate again.