Beneath An Elegant Moon
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by R. Paul Sardanas, Tisha Garcia
Category: Erotica/Multicultural-Interracial Erotica/Historical Fiction
Description: During the reign of the Emperor Nero in the First Century AD, Psyche, a Numidian courtesan, meets Gaius Petronius, the Emperor's Arbiter of Elegance---the man who will write the enduring testament to Roman decadence, The Satyricon. Over three days, Psyche and Petronius contrive erotic spectacles that will ultimately be for the Emperor's pleasure. They are deeply attracted to each other, but Petronius is forbidden to touch Psyche, who has been selected for the Emperor alone. So they plot for their final spectacle to be one that transcends the flesh, and joins them closer than most lovers could ever dream.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/Passion in Print Press,
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [101 KB]
Reading time: 59-83 min.
Psyche woke after a restless night of intense summer heat. Unusual for the air to be so relentlessly steaming here in Baiae--after all, it was to the seaside that the aristocrats of Rome came to escape the furnace-like summers of the city. But the month of Julius had seen baking heat that left the citizens of the bay-town sluggish and weary, and the month of Augustus had come in with no relief. Even business here at the House of Quartilla had been slow, with the courtesans sleeping most of the day away, and the night revelers less rowdy than the norm. Psyche, with her Numidian blood, never thought it got too hot for fucking, but clearly not everyone felt the same.
At least this morning a light sea-breeze stirred the curtains at her window casement. She sat up on her bed and watched the hazy clouds in the pink dawn sky for a while, before sliding to the edge of the pallet and putting her bare feet down on the tiles. A fine coating of sweat sheathed her black skin--she reached for a linen cloth draped over the bedpost and patted her forehead, shoulders, and breasts. Psyche never wore clothes to bed, unless a customer specifically requested it. She had serviced only one client last night--an equestrian from Pompeii who liked to stop in and visit the House of Quartilla on his way to business up the coast. A middle-aged man and not too vigorous a lover, he'd been gone in the pre-dawn, wanting to resume his travels before sunrise and hopefully dodge some of the heat. That had left Psyche with a few precious hours to doze alone--always a treat for a popular courtesan.
She yawned and stood up. Today would be a busy day. Special guests from Rome were due, and Quartilla wanted her to venture down into the market early with some of the house slaves to tote back special food, spices, incense, and aphrodisiacs the mistress of the brothel had ordered to please the new arrivals. Quartilla was usually stingy with every sesterce, but these guests rated the most lavish treatment. Quartillia had called all the girls into her chambers a few days ago and explained that a small party of Roman soldiers, escorting a high court official, were traveling to Baiae to arrange a very private festival for the emperor himself, Nero. Quartilla was beside herself that the brothel had been singled out for attention from the aristocracy of Rome. To think that her house had been picked as a future place for the emperor to spend a few days relaxing and enjoying the entertainment and company of a special group of courtesans to keep him sexually amused! A small band of his right-hand men would be sent ahead a few days before to make all arrangements.
"This," Quartilla had said, while preening in her lavish, polished-metal mirror, which leaned against the wall from floor to ceiling, "is a gift from the goddess Fortuna herself. It will truly put my house of delights on the map. What man would not want a woman who has shared a bed with the emperor?"
And would Psyche herself be one of those women? She shrugged at the thought. Very likely she would be, as her black skin, piercing jet-colored eyes, and luxurious crown of night-dark hair had caused many a Roman cock to rise at the sight of her. But she had not felt caught up in the giggling, breathless excitement the other girls displayed. The emperor had an unsavory reputation, to say the least. Psyche had felt far more interest upon learning that the representative coming to scout the House of Quartilla for his Imperial master would be none other than Gaius Petronius, the Arbiter Elegantiarum of Nero's court, who had written a series of clever bawdy tales that the scroll-sellers down in the town called the Satyricon. Psyche herself haunted the bookstalls constantly--she was a voracious reader, a rare attribute for a courtesan. She enjoyed not only scrolls of poetry and comedic stories, but sequestered herself in her room every chance she got to read and muse over Plato, Aristotle, and Homer.
Quartilla actually encouraged this--the mistress of the brothel was, Psyche thought, flighty and lazy, and delighted to have a courtesan of such formidable intelligence in her house. Quartilla often delegated the plans for revels to Psyche, sitting back herself like a smiling, overstuffed bird to watch and garner the praise for the clever sexual displays concocted by her "Numidian scholar's" fertile imagination.
So Psyche's anticipation for the arrival of the Roman entourage held little excitement about its royal aspects, but much about its literary ones. She felt a secret thrill at the thought of soon meeting Gaius Petronius--and sincerely hoped he wouldn't prove to be a debauched and vacuous dolt. Surely not. The wielder of such a brilliant stylus would surely not disappoint her.
She slipped into a light summer stola, pinning it at her shoulder and allowing the fabric to drape down over her ample curves. Just a practical summer dress for this errand--no need to be the alluring courtesan. She strapped on her sandals and didn't even bother to comb out her wild hair, taming the flying strands with a shawl. She was off then to gather up a small troop of slaves. While there was pink still in the morning sky, she led them out the main archway of Quartilla's, heading for the market.
Once there, she dispatched the house-slaves to pick up various items, while she herself focused on some additional shopping. She always liked to squeeze in her own purchases along with Quartilla's--a sesterce here or there on the house bill would slip by even the sharp-eyed brothel mistress.
She was browsing happily, searching for fruits from her own land that were sometimes brought in on ships traveling from the coast of Africa, but settling for olives and sweet breads, when she saw a group of men riding over the hill that banked the entrance to this small Bay of Naples town.
Citizens in the cobbled streets parted way for the soldiers as they led their horses to water. Many watched, curious to know why the emperor's guard had traveled so far from Rome to this sleepy burg. The leader of the group gave courteous greetings to the fishermen and their wives, who watched from under the arches of nearby buildings. When he dismounted, he stood beside his men and surveyed the town. They nodded in response to pointed directions and, leading their horses, made their way toward the villa Psyche had just left. The curious villagers turned away with knowing glances. It was a given--if they were headed to Quartilla's house of courtesans, there could only one thing they were looking for. Early in the morning for it, but Romans were Romans, and no doubt were in the market for pleasure at any hour.
Psyche stepped back into the shadows as they passed. The sweet, overpowering smell of the wild star jasmine from the merchant's stall beside her, rich and heady, made her breathe deep for a moment. The soldiers rode as if they and their horses were near exhaustion. It was a long journey from Rome. Or at least that was what she had heard. She couldn't claim ever to have traveled to the great city herself, but someday she would. She saved a gold aureus here, a copper as there, and one day she would have enough to go and take in the city. Drink handfuls of crystal clear water that flowed in fountains from distant mountains where the gods surely bathed.
The Romans passed, proud and regal, staring straight ahead as if the people and slaves in the streets did not exist, all except the leader. Petronius...it must be!
He seemed different to her from the other Romans in the traveling party. He had the broad handsome face of an Italian, with thick, curly black hair and cheeks covered in the first few days of a beard. His eyes as he passed seemed to take in everything, as if he were taking notes. He smiled at children who scurried up to touch his white horse.
She watched him as he patted the steed and scratched it behind the ears. There was something about him that she felt drawn to. She had spent time in the company of many distinguished men, but had come away always largely unimpressed. But here under the mid-day sun, she followed this man like a dog hungry for a scrap.
Psyche strolled along behind him at an even gait, away from his peripheral view. She studied him, his strong jaw line and flashing green eyes as he joked in passing with a peddler about the cost of his wares. His voice carried across the courtyard as they left the market and bustling street behind. Psyche watched them as they made their way to the arched gate of the brothel, and there Quartilla herself met them on the stone walkway. She must have had someone watching from one of the high windows to give her warning. Flowers in her hair and a bright red dress on, Quartilla was at her finest and in her element.
Waiting until the men disappeared into the gates, Psyche hurried back to the market to collect the slaves and goods. Her heart beat in her chest like a caged finch, and she wondered what he would be like.