Men exercising hard at the baths and grunting as they did so.
Hair-pluckers wandering about the baths, yelling for customers and then making their customers yell as they plucked out their arm-pit hairs with tweezers. (Ouch!)
Men ‘dive-bombing’ into the plunge pool.
Cake and sausage sellers shouting about their goodies all round the baths.
However, Roman baths could also be sensual, sexy places – as you will discover if you pick up a copy of my Roman historical romance, FLAVIA’S SECRET, now available as a free download until Valentine’s Day.
Here’s an excerpt from the novel, taken from the great bath in Aquae Sulis (Roman Bath at Bath in England, where the novel is set.) Here the hero and heroine, Marcus and Flavia, are together while the baths are quietening, having encountered the corrupt Decurion, Lucius Maximus.
As they walked side by side back through the great bath, Marcus said, `An impatient man, and cruel. Detestable.’ He cracked his fists together.
`He’s hiding something,’ Flavia said. `Why else was he so concerned about Lady Valeria’s papers and that fictitious journal?’
`Ah, so you knew I had made that up!’ Marcus put an arm about her shoulders and steered her towards the shimmering waters. `You are right, though, and so was Valeria. That is not a man to be trusted.’
`I wonder why he warned you off politics.’
`I’m wondering that myself.’
As they closed on the top step of the great bath, Flavia sensed a new kind of danger and tried to forestall possible trouble. She lifted the small wax tablet attached to her belt. `Should I make a note of anything, sir?’
`I think not.’ Gently, but inexorably, Marcus turned her to face him. `Thank you for shackling my temper, little Celt.’ He bent and kissed her forehead. `When he spoke of my mother -‘ His fingers tightened around her shoulders, instantly relaxing as if he realizedwhat he was doing. `Forgive me.’
To her own amazement, impelled by a sense of sympathy she hardly dare acknowledge, Flavia touched a hand against his chest. `There is nothing for you to be sorry about,’ she whispered.
His hand brushed against her head. `Amazing stuff,’ he said, running a loose tendril of her hair through his fingers. `Like foam.’ He lightly kissed her nose and then, as she laughingly protested, her mouth.
A passing bather made a ribald comment, which Flavia did not hear. She was in Marcus’ arms again, her own arms floating shyly around his middle, tightening as he groaned and gathered her closer. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the kiss, her lips becoming ever more sensitive as their embrace deepened. His arms were locked about her, his sensual mouth both taking and offering, his tongue tracing her teeth, the inside of her lips.
`Flavia,’ he breathed, as his hands spread across her back and waist,one dipping lower and stroking exquisitely slowly over her bottom.
She gasped aloud, wanting yet not wanting to break free.
`Hey, soldier!’ yelled another bather. `Have pity on the rest of us!’
Horrified, suddenly aware again of exactly where they were, Flavia tried to draw back, but Marcus followed her, his mouth smiling against hers. `Not yet,’ he murmured, `Just one more.’ He kissed her again and lifted her in his arms, half-threatening to drop her into the great bath.
`No, please!’ Flavia squirmed, the rising steam dampening her clothes as she was lowered helplessly close to those pale green waters. `I will bite your arm!’
`Do that, my girl, and your backside will regret it,’ growled Marcus,sitting on a marble bench close to the top step with Flavia on his lap. `Now be still a moment and stop scandalising the bathers – the few that are left.’
`The baths close soon after sunset here,’ Flavia reminded him,leaning her head against his shoulder. She felt a disturbing mixture of shame and exhilaration, but overall she was grateful for the respite, a breathing space for her overwhelmed senses. Watching the emptying waters of the great bath with Marcus, she told herself that
she could not afford to be close to him. Yet she had heard of masters who had freed and married their slave girls, a beguiling thought.
Marcus watched her, taking in her warm, bright eyes, her flushed face and prettily reddened lips. She dovetailed so snugly in his lap it was a pity to move. Delicate, he thought, watching the shadow of her
long lashes falling across her high cheekbones, but surprisingly passionate. A water spirit, very much in keeping with their surroundings.
He scowled, disquieted by his own thought. He had never been sentimental before. He remembered Drusilla his wife, an honored spouse, whom he had treated from the very beginning with respect, good-will, and loyalty. This girl was not even his own race.
She licked her lips, one hand absently pressed against her stomach.
`Thirsty?’ he asked. `And hungry no doubt.’
`Not for any delicacy provided by Lucius Maximus,’ the girl said quietly. Marcus applauded her principles: she had great spirit.
He patted the marble bench. `Wait here. I will find us a drink, at least.’
`Thank you, sir.’
She left his knee and although that was what he had asked for, Marcus was frowning again. She had called him the slave`s term of respect, as was his due, but he was disquieted as he set out through the rapidly emptying baths in search of a wine-seller. He had discovered that he did not really want Flavia to call him ‘Sir’.
Best wishes, Lindsay
Lindsay Townsend: FLAVIA’ S SECRET
How Far Dare You Trust Your Lover? Especially when he is also your master?