Ekwueme rested in Nimr’s strong arms, enjoying the peace that came from satisfaction. He grinned up at him, eyes still full of mischief, and the promise of further glory.
Nimr, for his part, was troubled. He could not delay the inevitable, however much it pained him. There was he had to say, yet he knew not where to begin.
Ekwueme seemed to sense somthing was amiss. “You are quiet tonight.”
Nimr nodded slightly. “Ekwu, you know my love for you is strong.” He started softly.
His partner turned around so they were lying chest to chest, and Nimr wrapped his arm back around him. “This I will always know, as you know my love you is equally strong.”
“I ask that you… that you do not forget that.”
Ekwueme’s brown eyes were full of worry. “Nimr, you trouble me. What is wrong?”
“I… I am to be sold Ekwu. Tomorrow I leave the House of Nepos and depart for new ludus, one I do not yet know.”
For a moment Ekwueme fell silent, trying to grasp the gravity of Nimr’s words. When he spoke again, it was with the effort of a man trying to keep his voice from cracking.
“So tonight is the last night we will spend together.” It was a more a statement than a question. He dropped his eyes from Nimr’s gaze, but Nimr gently raised Ekwueme’s chin with his hand.
“No Ekwu. I know not what the future holds but I will always know where to find you.”
“But you don’t know if you will find me!” Ekwueme slapped Nimr’s hand away and rose from the bed. “How do I know that you will ever set foot within these walls again?” He whirled round, eyes full of anger. “How can we be again when you might not be with Rome’s walls tomorrow?”
Nimr sat up slowly, trying to digest Ekwueme’s heated words.
Ekwu…” He began softly. “Ones like me, one day, we either win our freedom or die in the attempt. My love for you will not permit me to die. I will become a free man, and we will be together, even if I am taken to the farthest reaches of the Empire.”
It was Ekwueme’s turn to soften. “Your heart beats so strong for me.” Tears formed in his eyes. “I am sorry, I do not mean to hurl angry words at you. You cannot control what your masters do.”
Nimr stood, and wrapped his arms around Ekwueme. “No tears. Not tonight. If this is to be our final night together, let us continue it in the manner it began. Only this time, you will be the one restrained!”
Ekwueme laughed, despite the situation. “You lack the strength!” He playfully pushed Nimr away, who fell theatrically upon the bed.
Morning had risen, and with it Etruscilla had taken to something else that had risen with the mere presence of her body. The sun was warm and she had shaken off the light silk sheets to properly gaze upon her husband’s body as she straddled his hips and took his length into her. She moaned softly, and started to ride.
Nepos loved being woken in such a fashion. He leaned up and kissed Etruscilla, a deep, loving kiss that seemed to defy time. He had many worries, but the love he shared with her was a source of great strength and passion that at times he felt overwhelmed by it. He doubted whether he was the best choice of husband, but she never doubted him, and he felt humbled to know such love.
She moaned into his kiss, and ran her hands gently over his back as they made love, and purred like a kitten as he started to kiss and gently bite at her neck and shoulders. Her nails dug into his flesh, just a little- and so he ducked his head to her breasts, taking her nipples into his mouth and biting down firmly in return.
She cooed at that, but pushed him down, raking her nails across his chest. There was fire in her eyes- she started to ride harder, and he cupped her breasts gently, locking eyes to hers.
She was beautiful. She didn’t always think so but Nepos had no doubts about that. She glowed with radience- and she was more than simply physically beautiful- her soul was kind and loving, her mind sharp and quick. Did she realise how perfect she was to him? Nepos gasped as she rode him, her pace getting feverish. She had awoken to great need today.
If the mood took Etruscilla then there was no question Nepos was going to indulge her, whether time permitted it or not. She was not to be kept waiting and did not like being teased. She demanded satisfaction and she got what she wanted. Her body seemed to engulf his shaft and when she leaned over him and pressed her breasts against his chest, now starting to bite at his neck, he could but groan. All of his fears about his House and Nimr were nothing at this point- there was only love and passion, and Etruscilla.
Yet Nepos knew that such moments, however glorious, were also fleeting. Even as he gave himself to the moment, he couldn’t completely forget the task ahead,
Even as Etruscilla’s body writhed from lust and she moaned into his ear, and even as Nepos gave himself to his impending release, part of him hated today.
Etruscilla howled with pleasure as her own orgasm pulsed through her body, and Nepos could do nothing but groan as he erupted deep within her. Then it was time to get to work.
“Did your grandfather have a journal?” Etruscilla had asked him the night before, when Nepos had told him of what Crispina had advised. “Did he lend writing to anything that might be of value?”
Nepos knew his grandfather’s- and father’s- journals very well. They were all he had of them, and as such had been dear to him. Nothing in either one gave him any word on why anyone would wish his family harm.
The only other possibility was the Library of Rome, a home for documents of both public and private importance. To get there and back in time for his meeting with Paulus would prove impossible, so Nepos would have to lose Nimr for the moment.
However, Nepos had instructed Nimr to keep his ears and eyes open to any word that may have been of value. Perhaps the House he was being sold to would be somehow connected to this plot.
Now Nepos walked slowly to Crispina’s House, Nimr at his side. The silence between them was palatable.
It was Nepos who broke the silence as they bustled past the local markets, where the poor sold their wares to the rich, thrusting plates of fish, chicken, beads and jewels in the hope of coin. Nepos and Nimr ignored them and carried on their way.
“I am truly sorry Nimr. The transgressions of my family have led to this moment. I hope in time you will forgive me.” He could not make eye contact with the Tiger.
“What transpired was not your doing, and there is nothing to forgive. You are not responsible for the sins of your elders, if indeed there is anything to answer for.”
A thought crossed Nepos’ mind. “You knew my father better than I did. Did he ever speak of anything that my grandfather might have confided in him?”
Nimr shook his head. “If any words were broached on the subject they did not pass my ears.”
Nepos sighed. “Then the Library must hold some news. I wish there were some way to have Paulus spill words on the subject.”
“I could beat him until every bone in his body was broken.” Offered Nimr. Despite the situation Nepos laughed.
“There is great temptation in that, even if it would accelerate my downfall.”
“Will you ask him?” Enquired Nimr.
Nepos was quiet for a moment. “I do not know. He owes me nothing, and I have nothing to offer him. What reason does he have to reveal what he knows? A man like Paulus will not offer such inflammatory details out of the goodness of his heart.”
The doors of Crispina’s House were opened this time by Stigr, who, like the young woman the previous night, wore nothing. He graciously welcomed them in, and they ignored the noises from the various rooms as they marched to Crispina’s main chamber.
Stigr knocked upon the door, and Crispina’s voice bade them entry.
When they entered, Marcus Octavius Paulus, draped in an elaborate blue and red toga, complete with white sandals, was waiting. His fierce green eyes bored directly into Nepos.
Crispina was sitting on her bed, and beckoned Stigr to accompany her- her cream silken outfit was virtually see-through, but Nepos returned Paulus’ stern stare.
“I bring with me Nimr, the Tiger, as promised.” Nepos had to fight to keep the aggression from his voice.
“So I see. My client will be pleased that you have chosen the sensible path. Fifteen new gladiators plus a reasonable sum of coin will be delivered to your house tomorrow, as payment.”
I would settle for words on my grandfather. “I look forward to receiving them.”
“Excellent. Nimr…” He turned to the Tiger. “Nimr, you are to come to with me from this place. I will take you to your new owner and your new life.”
Nimr wanted to give voice to several unsavoury thoughts but held his tongue and nodded respectfully.
“Young Titus, it pleases me that you have seen reason. Such wise actions will, if continued, lead you to a prosperous future. Perhaps we can do business again some day.” Paulus was calmer now.
“I am sure one day we will.” Replied Nepos intently.
Nepos left first, heading for the Library, hoping it would shed light on the plot against him. When Paulus followed with Nimr, the Tiger glanced back down the hall, hoping Ekwueme would be there. He was not, yet Nimr mouthed a silent, sorrowful farewell anyway.