Today on First Sight Saturday, I welcome Gina Danna with her historical romance set in ancient Rome, Love and Reckoning.
This first meeting excerpt is between Ganius, a Celtic slave turned gladiator, and Aurelia, who is a Roman lady and his owner. Aurelia has gone out of her way to meet the “beast” at her brother’s ludus (school for gladiators.)
Rome 100 CE
Ganius walked between two guards, his shackles grating on his nerves just like his meeting with his dominus. The idea of gaining freedom by winning, not from the crowd’s insistence but as payment from his dominus twisted in his mind. Winning in the arena was easy—he’d already accomplished that—but after becoming champion, would dominus truly free him? Or was it more dependent on whatever time dominus decided he didn’t need coin?
Most importantly, could he trust his dominus? The man was a Roman and he knew they were liars.
He stumbled over the stone step leading out of the courtyard to the training area, his mind too distracted, arguing over the conversation. The chains tangled and he barely kept from falling.
“Move it, slave.” The guard shoved him.
Ganius growled. With his arms and legs chained, he had no advantage and there were two of them. Patience—not one of his stronger suits but one he needed to use, badly. He walked, his hands clenched.
Before them was a fountain. A round, stone structure. The center held a statue of Aphrodite holding a basket of flowers and water cascaded out of the middle of it. The sound of the water falling gave a serene feel to the place and it struck him how out of place it seemed, to have the goddess of love at a gladiatorial school, where death and humiliation were taught.
Around the edge of the fountain stood the girl. That beautiful creature who watched him from afar. He hoped it was him, begged the gods it wasn’t only to find they laughed at his request by placing her here, fueling his hope she wanted him.
When the leading guard reached her, she said, “Stop. I need to speak with him.”
The guard didn’t move.
“Go on.” She waved him aside. When he walked over to the sidewall, she gestured the one behind Ganius to do the same.
Alone with her in a sense, Ganius eyed her warily. When she grinned, he steeled himself.
“You are Ganius?”
He inhaled deep, not sure what she wanted. But it suddenly hit him that he needed to lower his gaze. Frankly, he did it as he shifted. “Yes, Domina.”
She chortled. Her voice sounded sweet, alluring. It, along with her beauty, stirred his blood.
“I’ve observed you at practice,” she said. “You’re very strong and move with the strength of the gods.”
Her accolades soothed his soul but his brain wasn’t trusting. He turned toward the fountain. It was cooler next to the falling water, taking the edge off the heat that still lingered. What he had a hard time discerning was whether the heat was borne from the day’s work or from her presence? He ignored the answer his body gave him.
She walked around the fountain, her fingers skimming the rim as she coyly looked at him. Damn, she was an innocent, taking liberties with her life being alone with him. But she couldn’t see the fire that burned inside him, the one that wanted to both kill her and to pull her into his arms.
“I’ve noticed you.” He wasn’t sure what she wanted.
She stopped and smiled. “You have?”
“How may I help you, Domina?” He emphasized her title. A shiver raced down his back. He heard stories. Some of his new “brothers” spoke of it, almost like it was a prize, this idea that Roman women paid to be with a winning gladiator. He couldn’t believe it.
If he won and moved to champion, it was possible it would happen to him. Another way to earn coin—and his freedom. Yet he hadn’t won as a gladiator, so why was she here tempting him? He squelched the urging in his blood to get her to pay for him. To want him.
“Oh, in more ways than you know,” she replied quietly.
He glanced at her. She was an innocent playing with fire. As she walked closer, her pale tunic shimmered in the torchlight. Her ivory skin with rosy cheeks reminded him of cream and strawberries. Those taste wonderful. He’d bet she did too. When she licked her lips, he thought he’d lose what little control he had and take her here, now.
The very idea made him tear his eyes from her. “I am only a slave, Domina.”
“Yes, you are.” She sounded seductive to his ears.
He was damned.
“I believe the gods put you here, to become our next champion.”
He frowned. “And what of Magos?”
She shrugged. “He may be, or you. Only the gods know.”
The air around him seemed to grow thick. He couldn’t breathe. She stood too close. With her lips curled in a lopsided, mischievous grin, his nerves caught on fire. He tensed, like an animal in the wild before being attacked, senses picking up on the scent of destruction. She took a step toward him, and her warm brown eyes swept down his body. He was doomed.
“I noticed your mark in the Colosseum.”
He blinked. “Domina?”
She pointed to his tattoo, her gaze glued to the spot. “The sun? A sign for the gods? Or perhaps from the gods?”
When her fingers touched the spot, flames exploded.
Aurelia pushed against his skin. It was as if he was breathing, hot and sweaty marble. Rock hard from the days drilling on the training field, his sculpted muscles showed prominently. She’d longed to touch him, to see how it felt to be so close to a man resembling the gods. Gladiators could attain the status of gods of the arena, and she knew he’d be one before too long. She was so close, his breath wafted across her arm that crossed before him as she reached forward. The indelible mark on his upper arm was magnificent. A circle with beams extending from it, like an angry sun. It rippled as the muscles twitched beneath her finger.
Exhilarated, she glanced at his face, looking for his reaction to the feel of her skin against his. Had he felt that sting flash through him as it had her? Like a lightning bolt, fully charged. Yet he held no reflection like that in his eyes. Instead, his gaze was straight forward, his expression void of showing anything, just like the bulk of the slaves. It would have irritated her had she not caught the flash in his amber-colored eyes before they turned darker and his jaw tensed.
Something deep inside her flipped. This beast roused sensations she couldn’t understand fully, hitting nerves hidden in her womb, as if the fire gods sent a jolt of heat from his arm, down through her hand and arm, to light an inferno inside. The man was dangerous. A slave, trained to fight in the arena, was a deadly animal but he didn’t scare her. Instead, he made her feel alive. She bit her bottom lip, the pain of her teeth into the flesh a reassuring gesture to gain focus.
To buy Love and Reckoning and feel more of this heat visit
Turquoise Morning Press: http://bit.ly/1qwEnYp
For more about Gina Danna, visit
Thank you, Gina, for sharing an intriguing part of your story with us!