Aniseed and Juniper
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by GS Wiley
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Marcus has a taste for the finer things. In second century Rome, that means extensive banquets, endless goblets of wine and multiple lovers of all genders and social classes. The good life comes to a crashing halt when his mother remarries a powerful senator with a desire to groom Marcus to be the son and heir he never had. Consigned to the furthest outreaches of the Empire, Marcus has more than a lack of entertainment to worry about. Since childhood, he has been hiding a socially crippling disease, a curse from the gods. For years, he has been treating it with aniseed, but aniseed is in short supply in the frosty outposts along Hadrian's Wall in northern Britannia. When disaster strikes, Marcus receives unexpected help from a truly unexpected source.
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Spice it Up, 2009 www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: July 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [49 KB]
Reading time: 28-40 min.
Until he came to Britannia, Marcus never knew what it was like to be truly cold.
There had been chilly times in Rome, of course. He had spent many a winter's day huddled by the fire in the atrium or, better yet, cozy in bed, beneath mounds of fur blankets with a willing companion to share the warmth. There had been wet days, as well, when drizzly rain ran in the gutters He had never seen anything like the torrential downpour that began the moment they put into port on the south shores of the cold northern province, and which continued steadily as they moved north.
"Almost there now." The officer leading their little miserable band leaned over, his voice raised against the wind that howled down from the hills.
"You've been saying that for weeks," Marcus replied. His nose hadn't stopped running in days, and he wiped it for the thousandth time on the sleeve of his rough tunic. Beneath the tunic, Marcus' skin was firm and frigid, and he was beginning to think he would never truly feel his fingers again.
"This time I mean it." The soldier's smile was broad, and he jerked his head forward. Through the ever-present curtain of rain, Marcus saw the dim lights of a fort in the distance ahead.
Steeling himself, Marcus sat straight and kicked his horse in the ribs. It snuffled irritably but lurched ever onward.
* * * *
If Britannia was a place of cold, damp misery, then the city of Rome, for the patrician-born Marcus Valerius Varinius at least, had always been a place of opulence and contentment and everything his heart could possibly desire. Most of it was provided by his much-married socialite mother, Camilla. One spring morning when Marcus was twenty-four years old and preoccupied with a very enticing erotic scroll, Camilla sailed into the atrium and announced she was taking another husband.
"If it makes you happy, Mother," Marcus had replied at the time, vaguely reaching for a bunch of grapes while a slave played the lyre beside him. Later, he regretted his disinterest. This would have been the time to tell Camilla she had no need to marry again, that she and Marcus were doing perfectly well on their own. Life was full of missed opportunities, and when Marcus lay in his cold tent in northern Gaul months later, this was the opportunity he missed the most.
Still, miss it he did, and his mother remarried yet again. The day of the wedding was scorching hot. It was early autumn, the Nones of October, and the worst of the summer heat was meant to have passed. The hordes of upper class Romans who had fled to their countryside villas to escape the rising temperatures had returned to the city, although Marcus was sure they were regretting it now.
Normally, Marcus would have sought shelter in the cool baths on a day like today. The wedding of course made that impossible, and instead, he was destined to spend the day greeting guests made irritable by the heat. As uncomfortable as they were bound to be, not a single one of them would have missed the wedding for the world. Camilla's parties, especially her weddings, were widely known as the toast of the social season.
After breakfast, Marcus found the bride in her bedroom. She sat stock-still on a bench while her cosmetics slaves worked their craft. She smiled, a minute raising of the corners of her mouth, when Marcus entered, and held out her hand to be kissed.
Marcus did so, keeping hold of her hand after he'd lowered it from his lips. "Good morning, Mother. How is the beautiful bride today?"
Camilla sighed, expelling a puff of air onto the pot of white cream one of the slaves held in front of her. "Mistress, please, be still," the slave pleaded. Camilla rolled her eyes impatiently.
"Have you seen Quintus today?" She asked Marcus, through stiff lips.
Marcus shook his head. "Why? You're not worried he's getting cold feet?"