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Authors: Sylvia Ketrie

Tags: #romance, #erotica, #divorce, #rome, #lawyer

Courted

BOOK: Courted
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Courted

By Sylvia Ketrie

 

Published by Stump House Publishing at Smashwords

 

Copyright 2014 Sylvia Ketrie

 

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Gallia Lugdunensis, 111 AD

 

Anthea Vitruvia was happy--happier than she
had been for more than three years. Her nasty, protracted divorce
from her second husband was finally
over
. Her first divorce
had been an amicable walk to the aqueduct, and she hadn’t been
mentally or emotionally prepared for the nightmare Titus Herennius
Manlius would put her through when she left him. Roman citizen or
no, the man was a duplicitous pig. The last time she had been so
relieved to get to the end of something she had been giving
birth.

Lighting the imported beeswax tapers used
only when company was coming, Anthea said a small prayer of
thanksgiving to Juno that she had never become pregnant by Titus.
When she first married him, she had hoped to have another child.
The three children from her first marriage were growing up, and she
wanted to enjoy a baby again. Nevertheless, after a few months with
Titus, she had started using a contraceptive pessary; no child
should be burdened with such an ass for a father.

She looked around the room that served as her
atrium, dining room, and office. Her apartment was large, occupying
two thirds of the first floor of the apartment building she owned,
but it was not a grand villa by any means. The mosaic that
decorated the back wall of the room, however, was good enough to be
in any rich man’s house. She had certainly paid enough for it. It
was worth it to show the world the success she had made as a
perfumer and landlord.

By Roman standards her insula was not large,
only three stories high, but those three stories were perfect in
her opinion. Too tall, and people would mistake it for one of those
rat-infested death traps that rose like boils all over larger
cities. Too short, and it would look old and thus give the
impression of being shabby. This building, with its flower boxes
and back walled garden and fresh paint, looked like exactly what it
was; a place for upper-middle class families to live in decently
sized rooms instead of in the squalor and darkness of bigger
insulae.

She could hear Chloris fussing nervously at
Doccia in the kitchen, where they were preparing dinner. Chloris
always got in a tizzy when she was cooking for anyone but the
family. Anthea’s only manservant, Chloris’s teenage son Machaon,
finished moving one of the small folding tables closer to left hand
dining couch, and then hurried away to help his mother. He was
serving dinner tonight, and was unusually anxious himself because
of the importance of their guest.

Anthea’s lawyer, and with any luck her
soon-to-be lover, was a man of rising distinction. She had hired
Lucillus Equitus Luccianius to represent her in her lawsuit to
recover her dowry because he was the most successful and well-known
lawyer in Lugdunum. His fees had drained the majority of her
savings, but she decided it was worth it to get back her much more
valuable dowry. Even if it had ultimately cost her more than she
won, it was well spent if it made her ex-husband Titus eat dirt in
court.

When she had initially met Lucillus in his
offices, she could not understand how he had earned his reputation
in court or had impressed his powerful patron. He was a tall, thin
man, with limbs long enough to make him seem clownish when he stood
up—awkwardly--to greet her. Neither did she think he was handsome.
His face narrowed down from his high, broad forehead too sharply,
and his cheekbones, chin, and nose were all a little too prominent
for him to be comely. He looked nothing like the beautiful and
elegant men who were typically given preferential treatment by
court and country.

Only his aquamarine eyes and red-gold hair
could be considered beautiful by Roman standards. Deeply set under
straight brows and shaded by thick lashes, his eyes were almost the
color of blue topaz, and just as clear, but with a soft green
undertone to them; they were nearly the exact same color as the
summer sea off the coast of Narbonensis in southern Gaul. His
gingery hair, a smidgeon longer than was fashionable and with a
slight curl, made them even more noticeable. His eyes were so
lovely that they gave his whole visage a deceptive appearance of
attractiveness. After speaking with him for an hour or so, Anthea
had reevaluated and had decided he was better looking than she had
given him credit for at first glance.

It must have been his voice. It was as smooth
as a good wine, deep and gentle but with a rumble underneath it she
could almost feel. He spoke to her only of the most matter-of-fact
aspects of her case, but every word rolled over her like buttery
seduction. By the time she had left his office she knew she wanted
to have an affair with him, preferably one with strange and
exciting new kinds of sex, as soon as she was no longer paying his
legal fees.

What she hadn’t known was that Titus would be
such a pain in her gluteus maximus that the case would be tied up
in court for more than a year. Those months had only whetted her
appetite for Lucillus, until she felt positively ravenous at the
thought of him. She had spent the year anxiously crossing her
fingers that he wouldn’t remarry before she was free to try to lure
him into her bed, or onto her couch, or even into taking her
standing up while braced against a convenient wall.

As though her daydreaming had summoned him,
Machaon announced that Lucillus had arrived. While the lawyer was
changing from his street shoes to the special house slippers worn
indoors, Anthea checked the drape of her gown a final time. She
even fiddled a bit with her pearls, making sure the looped strand
was lying correctly across her breasts. The pearls were her
mother’s and a part of the dowry that Lucillus had helped her
reclaim, and she wanted him to see how much she appreciated his
victory on her behalf.

Lucillus also seemed to have taken particular
care with his appearance. He was clearly fresh from the baths, and
had worn a toga over his tunic to indicate the importance of this
visit. Anthea had previously suspected he was interested in her,
but hadn’t been entirely sure. The toga was a very good sign her
suspicions had been correct.

The lawyer strode toward her and she noticed
again how clumsy his gait seemed in contrast to the way he moved in
court. When he spoke before the magistrates, every gesture, step,
and posture had the controlled yet powerful grace of a racing
horse. Outside of the courtroom, he moved more like newborn colt
trying to figure out how walk. She wondered whether he was as
nimble in the bedroom as he was in front of a jury, but wasn’t
worried about it either way since she found his awkwardness oddly
endearing.

“Anthea, thank you for inviting me for
dinner.” Lucillus took her hands in his and leaned down to kiss her
on both cheeks in greeting.

“It is I who thank you for coming, Lucillus.
I know what a busy schedule you have.” His bony grip engulfed her
hands, and when he leaned close to her she could smell the
expensive blend of fragrances from his bath oil. Spicy, rather than
a citrus or floral, it was a scent used by men who were attempting
to woo a lover.

She could have danced with glee. She was
wearing a blend of rose and cinnamon perfume for the same reason.
Without saying a word, they had both announced their willingness to
have a tryst, or perhaps even a longer term affair.

“Nothing is more important than supper with a
beautiful lady,” he assured her.

His slow, knowing smile caused her body to
tighten in anticipation. Sweet Venus, she hoped he made his move
sooner rather than later after they ate. She was already turned on
enough to skip foreplay and let him bang her like a drum, and that
was simply from the way he curved his mouth. His delectable mouth
with its crisply defined upper lip and plump, pouting lower lip
that begged to be nibbled on.

Her cunna was going to burst into flames
before hors d’oeuvres.

“You flatter me.” She looked up at him from
under her lashes flirtatiously, and slid her hand into the crook of
his elbow so he could escort her the measly six steps to the dining
couches.

“It isn’t flattery if it’s the truth.” He
flirted shamelessly.

She gave him a smile she hoped was alluring.
“Your words are coated in enough honey to frighten bees, but
luckily for you I am partial to sweets. I simply love desserts made
with honey. I’ve had one prepared for tonight.”

“That sounds wonderful. I am partial to
sweets as well. There is something about the way honey lingers on
the tongue that makes it so,” he paused, “enjoyable.”

Just thinking about his tongue in
connection to the word lingering is going to make me come
, she
thought a little wildly.

She struggled to keep her face composed yet
coquettish. She wanted him to know she was receptive to advances,
not to frighten him off as some sort of voracious lust-monster,
even if voracious lust-monster was a fairly apt description of her
current state.

“Well, we will get to dessert much faster if
we start the first course. Shall we share a supper couch or use
both triclinia, do you think?” She asked.

“For myself, I find that sharing a supper
couch with one’s host is better on occasions when one is the only
guest. It seems more suitable for intimate dining.” He put a slight
emphasis on the word intimate that shot straight to her groin.

“Then we should certainly share a couch,
after all we have been through together.” She agreed.

A gentleman, Lucillus assisted her to recline
before he lay on the opposite side of the triclinium, propped on
one elbow and facing her. He was polite enough to maintain the
proper distance, which Anthea thought was a positive sign of
respect for her on his part. She may have been eager for him, but
if he started his lovemaking too soon in the evening it would imply
something insulting about the value of what he was seeking.

Doccia came over with a pitcher of watered
wine, which she handed to Machaon. The young server took the
pitcher and filled the goblets that stood on small tables on both
sides of the couch. It was far classier to have a male server at
the table, and Machaon was doing his best to look more experienced
than he was.

“I hope you like the wine.” Anthea said
politely to her former lawyer. “It is one of the darker varieties,
and not everyone finds them as enjoyable as I do. We have several
different kinds if this one is not to your taste.”

Lucillus took a sip, and tasted it
thoughtfully. “I’ve never had this particular vintage before, but I
like it.” He smiled. “I’ll have to order some for my table also.
You have a gift for wines, Anthea.”

She beamed under his praise. “Thank you. It’s
a pleasure to choose wines freely again. Titus complained bitterly
about anything new I had brought into the house.”

Oh shit, did I just mention my ex-husband
to the man I am trying to seduce?
She kept smiling, but
internally Anthea was beating her head repeatedly against the
fulcra of the couch.

“Titus,” Lucillus told her, holding her gaze
with his remarkable eyes, “was an idiot about so many things, how
could you possibly remember all of them?”

Relieved she hadn’t ruined the mood, Anthea
answered. “I made a list of the ways he wasn’t an idiot. It is
simpler to remember three things than a thousand.”

Lucillus gave a small puff of laughter. “As
many as three?”

Anthea did her best to look like a paragon of
matronhood. “I tried to be generous, as befitting a woman.”

Cocking an eyebrow at her, her dinner date
said, “Yes, I am sure you are as generous about a fool’s faults as
you are docile in trade.”

She dimpled at Lucillus, pleased as ever that
his sense of humor meshed so well with hers. “I’m often described
as meek, I believe.”

Lucillus nodded solemnly. “Yes. I’ve heard as
much. I know your competitors think of you as a veritable pushover.
Anthea the Meek; that’s what they call you.”

Fluttering her lashes, Anthea told him, “I’m
sure you know how it is. When one is shy one is often a target.
Your retiring nature has made oratory very difficult for you, I
gather.”

“Oh yes, very.” Since he was known even in
Rome for the force and venom of his rhetoric in court, Lucillus’s
eyes twinkled.

BOOK: Courted
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