Authors: Carolyn McCray
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From Carolyn McCray comes a historical romance that will leave you hoping that for once, fate will be kind. You will be gripped from the first page to the last, caught in a love that spans eons and an ancient political intrigue whose consequence still reverberates today. This is truly a masterpiece that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”
If you love historical romances with a fantastic paranormal twist,
is for you. Set in ancient Rome,
is the perfect blend of suspenseful and sultry. Truly a great read. You will never look at Brutus—& Caesar’s assassination—the same way.”
Best-selling Author of
I was enthralled by this book—enthralled by the time period, the romance, the characters, and the historical events unfolding… Kudos, Ms. McCray!”
Children of the Lost Moon
is full of suspense. It does not let go… As usual, Ms. McCray’s style and writing are brilliant.”
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The air was heavy with un-spilt rain as the warrior surveyed the battlefield, a deep frown spreading. It seemed that the gods themselves laid down a thick cover of clouds to block the horrendous sight below. The smell of death hung in the still air. Hidden within the thick forest just south of the conflict, the commander’s concern grew. This was to be a day of Spanish victory. The moment when Spain finally threw off the yoke of Rome’s supremacy.
Gripping the pommel of the saddle, the commander realized that Caesar was a more potent enemy than any had thought before. The Roman’s burgundy-crested centurions pushed the line farther and farther up the Spanish hill. As the morning sun struggled through the dark clouds, the legionnaires’ bronze armor sparkled as if encrusted with exotic gems. Despite fighting uphill on soil very far from their home, it was as if Julius’ legions were kissed by the gods.
The Romans had been on a forced march for over a week, yet these glittering soldiers were making quick work of the Spanish countrymen defending their land.
Torvus!” a shout rose from the north.
The warrior acknowledged the summons, but took little pride in the name. Latin for “reprimand,” the name Torvus was a questionable honor given to this hard-edged foreigner. Like the Romans, Torvus was born far from these lands. Instead of originating from the south like the legionnaires, the commander came from the North, a fact that Torvus’ red hair could not hide—not amongst the sea of raven hair that graced the Spanish.
As much as the warrior’s pale skin stirred distrust in these peasants, they knew the Northerner’s blade would be needed against the Romans. Torvus had spent weeks preparing the troops—trying to instill the grit and fortitude they would need this day. Despite the warrior’s stern words and harsh training, the Spanish still faltered back another few steps. Torvus groaned. No amount of discipline would save this day. The Romans could smell victory with every inch they crept forward. Their swords arced higher. The archers grew bolder with each volley.
Worse, these peasants were trapped in a war not of their own making. Pompey— Spain’s former governor—might have been of Roman descent, with his flowing white robes and rigid nose, but he had treated these peasants fairly. After Caesar executed Pompey for treason, this region of Hispalis had resisted Julius. The balding general had ruled Spain years ago, and these peasants wanted nothing more to do with Rome’s excesses. They sought freedom and independence.
Torvus strove for something very different. No, this Northerner fought because there were Romans across the battlefield. Any day to kill Romans was a good day.
Orphaned so many years ago by the Empire’s attempt to subjugate Scotland, Torvus needed no other reason to take up arms against the Romans than that they breathed. Bile stung the back of the commander’s throat at the mere glimpse of the gold banner of Rome. Especially this one named Caesar, who thought himself the next Alexander the Great.
A runner, no more than a boy, panted as he skidded to a halt beside Torvus’ towering stallion. “The regent has ordered that you engage battle.”
Torvus’ frown deepened. The warrior’s battalion had been held in reserve to sweep in from the east and trap the Romans between the main battlefield and their route of retreat.
It was too soon to commit this reserve. Once unleashed, this strategy could not be retrieved. Did the Spaniard not know of Caesar’s prowess? The Roman had conquered far greater hosts then this meager Spanish assembly. And these troops were no more than peasants. The regent had even freed slaves just to swell their ranks for this battle.
Julius did not win with his strong fighting arm or his skill at the bow. It was common knowledge that even if Diana were standing over his shoulder, Caesar’s arrow could not strike a mark.
No, it was the general’s mind that separated him from his contemporaries. Torvus had studied him. This Caesar thought like none other. He took nothing for granted. The Roman assumed the battle would turn foul and always had a contingency.
Despite his arrogant manner, Julius was most humble in his strategy. Many of the Roman’s enemies, both foreign and native, had thought the moment ripe to strike, only to find Caesar three strides to the left, with his own sword raised for the mortal blow.
Torvus knew that to underestimate the Roman was to lose before the battle even began. That is why the warrior had insisted on keeping a large number of troops in reserve. They must have a contingency of their own. Torvus eyed the west. Caesar was equally well prepared. The legendary general had held back a number of his African horsemen. Those cavalry could easily be sent to reinforce their rear.
But it was not Torvus’ place to question the regent. The warrior had sworn an oath of obedience, and the Northerner was not one to break a vow. Yet in the center of the warrior’s marrow, Torvus knew to hold back. This battle could drag on for hours. Let the enemy tire. The Romans had marched a hard seven days from Corduba. The countryside villagers had given the Romans grief by stealing their supplies, stampeding their horses, and generally making them wish they had never entered Hispalis. The regent needed Caesar to feel safe in victory so that the Roman would commit those foot cavalry to the front line.
Torvus knew that the Spanish troops were not experienced, but they were fresh, and their homes lay not a few hectares away—a village that would be burned to nothing if they did not win this battle. No one fought more desperately than those whose families’ fates rested in his hands. But even as the warrior watched, the front line stumbled back another step, losing precious inches. If they fell back another few yards, the Romans would reach the plateau, and the Spanish would lose their slim advantage.
If only Torvus had been graced with more time. These men were unseasoned and had not fought in dozens of wars, as the Northerner had. How could they know that a battle looking as lost as this one could turn upon the tip of a sword? Once, Torvus had seen a single stable boy’s shout of encouragement turn the tide of battle outside Vichy. The warrior’s troops had rallied and swarmed the legionnaires within minutes. But these peasants were ignorant. They worried for the rough pitchforks they held in their hands. They feared the bronze-tipped spears that the Romans brandished. These simple folk did not understand what spelled victory. It mattered far more what was inside one’s heart than the weapon one gripped in the hand.
Perhaps the regent was correct. Thunder rumbled in the distance, heralding the gods’ impatience. If they waited much longer the center of the Spanish line would break, and all would be lost. Torvus nodded to the boy and spurred the stallion forward. This battle would be decided before Apollo reached his zenith.
Torvus rode in front of the assembled troops and boldly stared into each man’s eyes. If they were to die today, it would be as free men. Each could hear the strangled cries from the battlefield. Each knew death lay but a few yards away. Yet each answered the warrior’s gaze with pride and commitment.
All except Torvus’ lieutenant, Karret. This boy thought that
should be riding upon the stallion, leading his countrymen into battle. The warrior frowned at the young man’s arrogance. The boy had yet to truly fight in any campaign. Karret was the son of the smithy who forged the easily broken swords they carried. Without that stature, the boy never would have held a rank such as lieutenant.
Not rising to Karret’s bait, Torvus rode past the youth and turned back to the troops. There was no long inspirational speech, or even a wailing cry. They dare not give away their position. It was crucial that the attack be a surprise. Torvus’ hand rose, feeling the rough texture of the leather gauntlet for a single heartbeat, then the fist was clasped.
The Northerner did not look back as the stallion surged onto the battlefield proper. The warrior knew that the troops charged close behind.
Pure rage coursed through Torvus’ blood, blunting the bone-jarring impact when the warrior’s stallion hit the enemy’s rear. The Romans had been preoccupied by the clash of armor at the front line and were mowed down in the wake of Torvus’ charge. The stallion spun and kicked as the warrior created confusion to allow the Spanish troops to descend the slope.
Now that the Romans were engaged on two sides, the favor momentarily turned to the Spanish. Caesar’s legion had no choice but to shuffle to meet this new force, which broke the forward thrust up the hill. This was the Spaniards’ keening blow. They must take advantage of this breach before the elite Romans regrouped. With a resounding shout, Torvus spurred the stallion forward, into the thick of the Romans.
Some stood their ground, but many scattered under the horse’s flailing hooves. The peasants needed to see that these Romans were not gods—not even minor deities. Underneath all of that ornate armor and bright feathers, the legionnaires were nothing more than men. And men could die.