ROME AD 79 – The one woman he ever loved was the one woman who betrayed him. And now, the Roman will have his revenge… Marsallas and Justina were young, beautiful and desperately in love once, until a tragic betrayal tore them apart. Six years have passed since that day and Marsallas has since thrown himself into the deadly world of chariot racing, gaining fortune, fame, and a salacious reputation throughout Rome. His bed could be kept warm by a different woman each night if he chooses, but his heart remains iced over as the memory of Justina’s betrayal continues to haunts him. The last thing he expects is to see her again, but when she steps back into his life he sees a chance to avenge his broken heart. But beneath the hurt, an attraction so intense still burns between the two, and as their fates begin to intertwine once more, their determination to resist one another starts to falter…
She shivered inwardly, when the warmth of his fingers cupped her chin, exerting enough pressure that she had no choice but to lift her face up to his. For years she dreamt of feeling his touch again, and now he was so close that she could feel the heat of his breath on her face, see the flecks of blue colour that made up his magnificent eyes. She had to fight the urge to close her eyes when the warm scent of his skin, a mixture of sandalwood and musk, floated over her, enveloping her like a cloak, bringing back memories long suppressed. Heat pooled in the pit of her stomach, as delicious sensations curled through her.
Then his fingers splayed out, and she had to bite back a groan of desire. Two of his fingers still cupped her chin, but the others feathered softly down the slim column of her throat, before they came to rest on the pulse that beat rapidly at the base of her throat.
This time the heat within her spread to every pore of her skin, making her hot and dewy, feverish almost, and when she saw the pupils of his eyes dilate, she could tell he was very much aware of her reaction to him.
He wasn’t interested in anything she had to say. She could see that in every hard line of his body, by the coldness radiating out of his eyes.
Whatever emotions he had once felt for her had long gone. Wiped out by six years of bitterness.
She had to leave. Right now. And without a second thought, about the actual reason why she was here, she turned and bolted for the door, and hopefully, her escape.
She thought she had succeeded. Her hand was on the rounded wooden door knob, and the door had even opened slightly. But then she saw two hands slam above her head banging the door shut, trapping her between his two outstretched arms.
How had he moved so fast? She thought, panic coursing through her as she tried ineffectually to wrench open the door.
“Don’t go.” The words were whispered in her ear, so intense, so passionate that she felt her heart break right open.
Swallowing past the lump of emotion in her throat, she whispered, “I have to go, Marsallas. I shouldn’t have come. It was a mistake. I…I’m sorry.”
Still desperate to escape, and in what she knew to be a futile effort, she tried to pull open the door. But the door didn’t move, and with mounting desperation she lifted her hands, her nails digging into the hard muscles and tendons of Marsallas’s forearms trying to pull them away.
But the door stayed shut, her strength no match for his, as he leaned his weight against the wood barring her escape. Eventually she stopped, her hands dropping to her sides, her chest rising and falling with exertion as if she had run for miles.
For several long moments she stood there, her mind racing, desperately wondering what to do next. She needed to be strong, not let him see how much his presence had affected her, how much she still desired him. To show him would be foolish – suicidal – even. Then, a different feeling came over her, and she realised that she was actually frightened of him.
She didn’t know why he frightened her. Maybe it was because he had changed so much in the intervening years since she had last seen him. Not just physically, but mentally too. The youth she had known had only ever shown her kindness. But now, today, she wasn’t so sure. He looked so hard, indomitable, the coldness of his blue eyes revealing so much more about him than what he’d actually said.
The man that stood behind her was the product of his uncle’s hatred – and hers – if she were honest. She, and Quintus, had made him the man he was today. But she knew, deep down, that Marsallas wouldn’t hurt her. He might hate her, but he wouldn’t harm her. Marsallas wasn’t like his uncle, she was sure of that.
Then thinking of Quintus, and all she had suffered at his hands these past years, she mentally squared her shoulders and turned slightly, as if to convey to Marsallas that she wasn’t afraid of him.
But her rational thoughts disappeared instantly, when by turning, she brought herself even closer to him if that were possible. Her heart skipped a beat when she felt Marsallas’s breath on her neck, moist and hot as he leaned in even closer, a soft sigh escaping him.
“Yes,” he whispered, as his mouth made contact with the warm skin of her neck. With deliberately slow movements he took hold of her hand, and turned her fully, so she now faced him. He was so close, the heady scent of his skin so intoxicating, that she couldn’t stop the shiver of arousal that coursed through her.
No more than two minutes had passed since she had entered his quarters, and already her body was reacting to him like it had always done. It was as if her emotions, which she had ruthlessly suppressed all these years, had suddenly erupted like some dormant volcano, and her desire for him – her longing for him – burst forth like molten lava, threatening to overwhelm her.
She heard him laugh softly under his breath, as if he knew exactly what she was feeling, what she was experiencing. And when he moved closer, so his hips made contact with hers, Justina groaned inwardly as she felt the hardness of his arousal nudging her lower belly.
“Beautiful, beautiful, Justina. I want you.”
Justina’s eyes widened. Had she heard him correctly? Shaking her head in denial she whispered, “No… I…” But her words trailed off when he bent his head, and felt his tongue stroke the sensitive area of her neck just under her earlobe. Heat curled in the pit of her stomach; warmth spreading through her whole body, as her knees went weak with longing.
“You say “no”, but your body screams “yes” Justina. You can deny it all you want, but you want me as much as I want you. I felt it earlier when I caressed your neck. Your beating pulse told me everything I needed to know.” The words were soft, a rumbling from deep within his chest as his teeth nipped the soft lobe of her ear, the sensations so intense that she couldn’t stop herself from arching her neck.
About the Author:
I’ve always been a dreamer, thinking up plots for books ever since I was a child. I actually started writing my first book in 2007, when my husband “popped out for a bit” on New Year’s day and returned home about three hours later with a laptop he’d bought for me in the January sales. I remember him plonking it down on my lap and saying, “Now you’ve got no excuse. Start writing that book you’ve been going on about!”
I work part time as an Environmental Health Officer, and I live on the beautiful (if slightly windy) island of Anglesey in North Wales. (Anglesey, you may recall was recently home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.) I live in a small village near the sea with my very own AlphaHero husband – Colin, and my AlphaDog – Bob.
Connect with Caroline Storer:
For your chance to enter to grab some of the swag in this tour giveaway, follow Caroline on Twitter (@CarolineStorer6) and your answer in the comments to this question:
“Marsallas is a man who hides his warmth under a cold and arrogant front. Which actor do you think would be suitable to play him in The Roman movie?”
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