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Chapter 15: Claudia and the Roman

Part 1

He came precisely when Fabricius said. It was fortunate I awoke early that evening, for it meant I was truly ready for his arrival. Bathed, scented, and dressed in a deep red stola that showed only the tops of my breasts, this time.

Fabricius had come with him, opening the door and smiling at Diamantina who stood inside to greet them. How do I know? I watched from the shadows; it is important to know your client. Fabricius’ master stepped through the doorway, head high, and looked around. He barely glanced at Diamantina, though she curtsied low before him and I noticed Fabricius admiring her cleavage. “Charming,” the Aemilius Vita drolled, “now where is Donna Antonia?”

There was nothing special about this man’s appearance, though he was taller than average. The nose, the tint of his cheeks, the slight curl to his auburn hair; all said Roman. His stature would have told me he was of the aristocracy if the toga wrapped around him hadn’t made that unnecessary.

Diamantina remained with her head down, but I saw the glint of her eyes peering upward through her lashes. “She is preparing for your arrival, signore. If you wish, I can escort you to her room. Or bring her to you in the salon.”

A slight shift of Vita’s head was all the notice he gave to Diamantina. “Bring her to me, then,” he replied, and strode toward the salon.

When Diamantina reached the top of the stairs, I stood waiting for you. She smiled. “You heard, Signora?”

I grinned in reply. “I did. If you wish to entertain his man, feel free. It is a taxing duty, however. You may wish assistance.”

She nodded. The nature of Fabricius and his master was known to all the brothel, it did not pay to have my staff taken unaware. “I shall gather those girls who have not been requested tonight. We will make certain he is entertained.”

I patted her shoulder, then went to met this Roman.

Aemilius Vita stood in front of the window. He had drawn the blinds and now stood in the pale light afforded by the moon and stars admiring the view of street. No lamps were lit, and the light glared around him leaving his features dark. I thought again of Decentius.

“Aemilius Vita, I presume?” I watched as he turned toward, the faint line of his chin moving up and down as he took in my attire. “Would you like to sit?” I asked, moving toward the lounge.

As he moved from the window I saw his smile. It was playful and warm, inviting really. An odd sort of man, if was truly one of us. “Buona sera, Signora Antonia,” he purred. “Fabricius has told me tales.”

I smiled. “Has he? Such an indiscrete man. You should do something about him.” I leaned back and sat on the edge of the lounge.

Vita was not fooled. He came to stand beside me, forgoing the lounge and making certain I must still look up at him. “Indeed, I should. The question,” he took my chin in his hand tilting it upward, “is whether I should reward him or punish him.” His finger traced my cheekbone, his wrist smelling faintly of oil and lemon.

I leaned my head into his hand. “That depends on whether your needs are as simply met as his, Signore.”

Vita laughed, I had not expected that. He tossed back his head and the sound exploded from him, rocking him where he stood. “Oh Antonia, I think I shall have to reward him after all.” He patted my shoulder as he came to sit on lounge, leaning softly against my legs. “But we have things to discuss. Other than Fabricus and his discretion.” He smiled, his fingers running up and down my thigh.

“Do we?” I murmured.

Again, the laughter. This time a low chuckle that vibrated all the way down his arm raising the hairs on my thigh. “Of course, my discrete one. Not any woman could... deal so well with my slave. It takes someone special.” A smile hovered at the edge of his mouth awaiting my response.

“’Special’? I haven’t heard that, oh, since last night.” I grinned as the smile on his Vita’s face grew.

“Ah, but when was the last time you heard it in the full light of the noon day sun?” he asked, now twirling the ends of my hair in his other hand.

“It has been awhile,” I acknowledged.

“As I thought,” he nodded. “It is a thing I truly miss.” His hands stopped their fiddling as his mind focused in memory. “What do you miss, Donna?” His eyes caught mine, the question filled with a weight only we two would know.

“Flowers,” I answered. “They do not bloom at night, no matter how many candles you surround them with.”

Vita nodded in sympathy. “I have heard others say the same. It may please you to know that several Roman thinkers are working on a way to solve that.”

I sat up, intrigued. “Truly? With the myriad of responsibilities in Rome, you have men spending time on flowers?”

“Men, and women too. We,” the emphasis was clear, “are not divided as the mortals are. When there are no children to care for, and strength comes to all, what is the point of such division?” His hands had resumed their activities.

I smiled. “That is a great piece of wisdom, indeed.” I found myself intrigued by this man who laughed aloud and thought so clearly. I placed a hand on his neck and drew it slow upward, massaging that perplexing mind.


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