The scent of figs and musky man swirled around Aspasia when she shifted and surfaced from sleep. She cracked her eyelids open, taking in the details of the room. Walls the color of olive tree bark enveloped her in warmth. Brightly colored tapestries of people she did not recognize filled the space. She froze when a hairy leg tangled with hers. Forcing her gaze from the tapestries to the person next to her, she gasped.
Gregorius. He came.
Dark lashes fanned over his pale cheeks. A dusting of crisp dark hair covered the cleft in his strong chin. His masculine lips parted as he breathed. She longed to run her fingers through his unruly tresses.
“Gregorius.” She whispered his name, more to make sure he was real and not just a figment of her imagination than from any other reason.
“Good morning.” His eyes, the color of rain moistened soil, opened slowly. The dimple in his cheek deepened as he tucked his hand under his cheek and grinned. “I feared I’d lost you for good.”
Her face flushed. “Me?” She closed her eyes to hide her embarrassment. She pressed her lips together and wriggled in the blankets to get out of bed.
“Aspasia, you are safe here with me.” His hand smoothed over her jaw. “Stay.”
Opening her eyes, she sucked in a ragged breath. His gaze saw beyond her hurt, down deep to her soul, making her shiver. She wrapped her trembling arms around her body and stared over his shoulder. “He will come for me.”
“What are you running from, my love?” Gregorius’ words brought her attention back to his face. A sparkle brightened his dark irises.
“Visius.” Shame slammed through her. “I am his pleasure slave.”
Once again, she closed her eyes. If she did not look at him, she could not see the pity. After all the years apart, the last thing she wanted from him was empathy because she had done things with her body he could not conceive. She wanted his love, the pristine, delicate first blossom of desire to build into a true devotion. Nothing would erase her dismal past.
“No more!” His gruff voice shook her to her bones. She peeked through her lashes. Rage and hatred burned in the dark depths of his eyes. She flinched. No more? Would he hurt her as Visius did? Did he want her as his own slave? Goddess, no.
Tipping her gaze to his, Gregorius smoothed his thumb across her bottom lip. “Look at me.” When she acquiesced, he continued. “How much has he hurt you, love?”
She blinked and processed his words. Did he just call her love, not once, but twice? Her mind went blank for a heartbeat. No, she needed to answer him. “I cannot say.”
“You had your strong will broken.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “How did you come to be the bastard’s property? Your father cared too much to sell you. I know he loved you.”
Staring at Gregorius’s lips, she mulled over her decision to talk. If she divulged everything, he would institute retribution on Visius. Her former master deserved whatever payback Gregorius could devise.
“Aspasia, tell me the truth.” His voice soothed her fraying nerves.
“Visius cheated my father out of funds.” She fisted her hands to hide the anger spiraling though her veins. A sob erupted from her throat. “When my father died, Visius demanded I be the payment for his losses!” Closing her eyes, she turned away from Gregorius. Now he knew her dismal story. Tears streaked across the bridge of her nose.
“Do not cry, Aspasia.” Gregorius cupped her face in his large hands, warming her cheeks. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help you, but it ends with me. Damned war.”
She met his heated gaze when she opened her eyes. Ends with him?
“My wealth means nothing if I can’t have you.”
His words stung. Did he understand his meaning? Did he expect her to act as his pleasure slave? She swallowed against the lump forming in her throat. “Visius is too powerful. You should have a better woman than me.”
“No other woman could take your place in my heart.” Gregorius smoothed his thumb over her bottom lip as he cradled her skull in his hands. “I will give everything to have you. I lost a part of my soul when I learned you were not serving in the markets—when I thought you no longer cared for me.”
Her heart pounded in her chest. He cared. Just as quickly, her spirits drooped. “I am not a citizen. You cannot have me as anything other than a slave.”
“I can love whomever I choose.”
Love? Had she heard him correctly—again? She sucked in a ragged breath. “Gregorius.”
“You are a freed woman in my home.” He rubbed his nose along her cheek. “Yes, the laws state you must be a citizen in order for us to marry, but rules are meant to be broken.”
More tears pricked behind her eyes. All her dreams seemed possible and yet, once Visius learned of her whereabouts, nothing good would come of his actions.
He placed a kiss to the very corner of her mouth, teasing her. “Your spark and fire draws me in.” Taking her hand in his, he nipped each finger and laved his tongue over the soft bites. “I find myself addicted to you, Aspasia.” His kisses trailed down her bare arm. “You fill my dreams and my fantasies.” His erection stabbed her thigh. “You may have all of me. I am yours.”
He tilted her chin to crush his mouth over hers. She mewled, wanting him everywhere. When she opened to him, his tongue melded with hers in a sweetly sensual dance. Twining her arms around his neck, she pulled him closer. Of all the times she had sex with men to prevent the wrath of Visius, this mating, this joining seemed real. Tumbling head over heels, she fell more in love with the man in her embrace.
She panted when he broke for air. Gregorius smoothed rogue locks of hair from her forehead. “Since the day at the market when I was a mere sixteen years, I knew I would have you—not only in my bed, but as my wife. I love you, Aspasia and will forever.” He tugged the cotton blankets from her body. “Let me show the depths of my love for you.”
Her breath became ragged as Gregorius smoothed through her hair. “I will never harm you.” He feathered kisses over her lips. The coil of tension in the pit of her stomach lessened a bit. When his tongue danced over the seam of her mouth, she gasped and granted him entrance. He caressed her hip, sending a shimmer of heat racing along her veins. She pressed her thighs together, in a vain attempt to stave off the beginnings of the orgasm. When he touched the outcropping of curls at her core, she wriggled closer. No holding back any longer.
“My love, you are so sexy,” he murmured and slid the sheet from her body. “Every bit of you.” Starting at her throat, he blazed a trail of fire down her body to her nipples. “Tell me you like this,” he murmured, his voice a sensual rasp.
Like? Words couldn’t describe how much she enjoyed him. She moaned as he flicked the tightened beads. He sucked one turgid tip into his mouth and she felt the pull down between her legs. She gathered her wits as Gregorius moved lower to her navel. Goddess, yes.
“I want to taste you.”
She stared at the ceiling. Every muscle in her body wound tight as his tongue dived into her core. Flat licks, slow caresses, gentle sucking combined to frazzle every part of her being. She cried out, but no sound filled the room. Stars sparkled behind her closed eyes and she panted.
He swirled his tongue over her clit, licking and feasting on her. Warmth flooded her body and ebbed low in her belly. The breath she held blew past her lips as she reached orgasm. She threaded her fingers into his hair.
When the tremors began to subside, Gregorius peeked at her. “Did I please you?”
“Yes.” She spoke through a passion-induced haze.
Leaving kisses in his wake, he sidled up next to her. Gregorius covered their bodies in the blanket and wrapped his arm across her belly. “Rest. We have all night to make love, my beloved.”
“I love you.” Aspasia succumbed to sleep, knowing she’d found her way back to her lover’s arms.
About the author: I always dreamed of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favorites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line. I tend to write books with titles taken from songs because music is one of my many muses. I earned a BA in education at Kent State university and as well as a Masters in Education from Nova Southeastern University. I’ve tried my hand at teaching, waitressing, and retail sales, but writing holds my heart. I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals. I have six books under contract and more than my brain can handle percolating. I can’t wait to share them with you! http://www.wendizwaduk.com http://wendizwaduk.blogspot.com