18 December 2008

Excerpt Thursday: Penny Ash

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals mean excerpts! Here's one from Penny Ash. She writes:

It occurred to me that I hadn't posted an excerpt of my historical novella, CAESAR'S LOVE. It won't be available in this form much longer, as it is being revised and made longer. I hope you enjoy ancient Rome as much as I do.

Laurentius Caesar has everything a man could want: power, prestige, and the admiration of all. He lacks only love, and his hopes for such are amended on meeting one of his house slaves, Auriel. Having known only the life of a servant, Auriel is surprised with her new role as Caesar's lover. Is Laurentius' love strong enough to erase their differences?

Auriel worked as quickly and silently as possible, scrubbing the floor of the great hall. She truly hated to be given chores anywhere near the royal apartments. Usually she managed to avoid them by doing the less pleasant tasks no one else wanted to do. But Rufa was ill and Pulvillus was hiding somewhere so it fell to her.

Born a slave in a Roman garrison deep in the wilds of Britannia, she had long ago resigned herself to her fate. When she was a child she was sold into the household of the governor of Gaul, caring for his small children. And when the children had been carried off one by one a victim of illness the governor had returned to Rome and sold her to a Senator.

She had learned to avoid attention quickly when she saw how the other young female slaves were treated. Survival lay in hiding her pale hair and budding body under a few layers of filth and loose rags. The Senator had finally married and seeing through the dirt and grime the jealous new wife promptly gave her to Caesar.

Given her own choice she would have been content to go unnoticed in a minor land owner's house somewhere far from Rome. But a slave's life was subject to the whims of her master, or her master's wife, and so here she was in the palace of the ruler of the civilized world.

Auriel sighed. She had seen Laurentius Caesar a handful of times as she went about her work, and while she did think he was beautiful with his thick dark hair and green eyes, she would rather go unnoticed by him. He was dangerous, like all men of power and wealth. And she very much liked being alive.

Intent on her work, she heard the sound of footsteps and quickly raised her arm to stop whoever it was from marring her newly cleaned and polished floor. The hall floor was large and she did not want to have to repeat the chore of washing it. Looking up, she expected to see another slave or one of the guards. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the richness of the sandals ornamented in gold and precious gems. She sighed resignedly and looked up into the angry deep green eyes of Caesar himself.

"My Lord, the floor is slippery and wet, dangerous to walk upon," she said, her voice shaky. If she was lucky he would merely have her beaten. If not he would strike her down where she knelt. Silently she apologized to Rufa. Blood was so hard to clean from a marble floor.