As a Strix, or malignant witch, Arcona once used sex and blood rituals to create a race of immortal warriors to unleash on Rome. Now it’s time to pay.
The gladiator Tyr was one desperately lonely lover she betrayed. Against his will, she turned him into Upir Likhyi, a foul vampire. For two millennia he’s lived a grim existence as a Slayer, in constant sexual arousal yet denied release; now, he's pissed off and wants revenge. He kidnaps Arcona planning to drink her dry and break the curse.
Along the way Arcona and Tyr relive their sexual slavery at the hands of Rome and blood sport in the arena, but the real magic is they forgive and fall in love.
Too bad another Slayer wants them dead.
She crouched low and crept toward the back balcony that overlooked the ludus, where enslaved gladiators were quartered and trained. Surprisingly there were none of the expected sounds of clashing shields or wooden practice swords. The drill yard was silent of the usual clang of battle craft and the sounds of men arguing.
The villa’s rear balcony hovered high above the fray and was safely separated from the ludus by thick earthen walls topped with iron spikes and barred gates below, yet it provided an unencumbered bird’s-eye view of the daily mayhem that took place in the dirt yard beyond.
The August heat of the drill yard, and the scent of men’s sweat hung heavy in the air. Arcona peeked over the top of the balcony and into the sunbaked ludus below. Most of the gladiators were leaning against a far wall, standing in the shade, their swords and shields cast on the ground.
She couldn’t believe the always strict Cilician trainer would allow such slothful behavior, until she scanned the drill yard and saw the Cilician was nowhere in sight.
A dark Gaulish gladiator named Rog stood at the barracks door, pounding loudly on it with his fists. His angry words were so garbled she could hardly make out what he said.
A small crowd of gladiators gathered around Rog, and they too shouted threats and pounded their fists against the sealed door. She watched the events carefully but couldn’t figure out what the enraged commotion was about.
Only one man, a murmillo, the largest and most powerful class of gladiator, remained active on the drill yard. The man had sandy-blond hair and a beautiful sweeping back, which made him breathtaking to look at. She had studied this same man on many occasions and found him fascinating to watch. He was so unlike the others who tended to clump together in groups and speak as a mob.
The murmillo stood apart. He was quiet and solitary. All the times she had spied on the ludus she had never heard him speak, yet she noticed the other gladiators looked to him constantly as an example, which he quietly provided. Any martial skills he mastered the others were quick to imitate.
For such a large man he moved with power and grace, holding a sword in one hand and a heavy, iron-rimmed shield that stood nearly as tall as he in the other. He advanced with calculated steps across the packed dirt of the yard, thrusting and parrying his blade against an imaginary foe.
He ignored the angry chaos surrounding him and worked through his practice drills with concentrated precision. His skin glistened golden under the noon sun. His focused gaze remained lethal and aloof. He looked incapable of distraction, as if he occupied an entirely different realm from the others.
He swung the sword in tight, controlled circles as he stabbed and sliced at his own shadow. He moved beneath the balcony and paused. His sword arm stilled. He held the shield high between him and the others and glanced directly at her.
His clear hazel eyes made such forceful contact with her she felt as if she’d been touched. She was left breathless. Despite her caution about remaining unseen, he seemed to possess another sense that alerted him to her presence. Perhaps she was not so stealthy, because he often noticed her crouching behind the balcony while the others remained oblivious.
She gazed into his eyes and froze, unable to look away. She wondered how it was possible for such a formidable man to become enslaved to Rome.
A slight smile curled the edge of his lips. He gazed at her with scorching intensity as if he meant to bolt over the wall and grab her.
She felt a little flutter of anxious tension and desire and struggled to extinguish it.
The barrack door burst open with a loud bang, and a wailing, hysterical woman staggered into the yard with tears streaming down her face. Her tunic was rumpled and hung from her shoulders, exposing her breasts and back. She tried to wrap her head shawl around her body to cover herself. She ran straight toward Rog and threw her arms around his neck, and clung to him.
Rog snatched the woman into his arms. He crushed his face against her thick, dark hair and appeared to be sobbing.
The Cilician trainer strode out the open door with a churlish smile on his swarthy face. He gazed at the gladiators resting in the shade. A look of rage hardened on his harsh mouth. “Pick up your weapons, you slothful oxen! Just because I took a pleasure break doesn’t mean you get one.”
Rog glared at the Cilician, bared his teeth, and snarled. “I hate you! I’ll stuff a blade in your gut the first chance I get!”
“I don’t think so.” The Cilician dismissed Rog with a rude wave of his hand. “By the way, I enjoyed fucking your wife. Tell her to come back next week.”
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and will check out The Strix.
Thank you for having Amber and me as guests!
About the author:
Find me at Night Owl Reviews Author page / Seven Sexy Scribes / Katalina’s blog / Ellora’s Cave