Virgin Slave, Barbarian King [Secure]
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by Louise Allen
Description: Julia Livia Rufa is horrified when barbarians invade Rome and steal everything in sight. But she doesn't expect to be among the taken! As Wulfric's woman, she's ordered to keep house for the uncivilized marauders. Soon, though, Julia realizes that she's more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin. It would be all too easy to succumb to Wulfric's quiet strength, and Julia wants him more than she's ever wanted anything. But Wulfric could one day be king, and Julia is a Roman slave. What future can there be for two people from such different worlds?
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2007
69 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [448 KB]
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24th day of August, AD 410
The sound was terror made real. It was heard through the ears, and felt through the bones. It was the sound that her ancestors had heard thousands of years before as they huddled in the dubious safety of a shallow cave with only the protection of the fire between them and the things that prowled in the dark. The things that growled.
Julia stopped struggling against the rough hands that held her. The three of them, assailants and victim, turned as one, eyes squinting against the smoke that billowed from the burning shop. A pillar fell and smashed across the roadway, sparks showering. In the distance, from the direction of the Forum, screams could be heard. Here, now, after that low threatening rumble, there was only the sound of fire eating wood.
Julia sagged in the grip of the two men. In her terror had she imagined it? But the men had heard it too. It had cut through her frantic cries, through their threats and curses and coarse laughter. In a world gone mad, when barbarians sacked the greatest city on earth and respectable tradesmen tried to rape the daughter of a senator, it was no stretch of credulity to believe a wolf was stalking the streets.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see the crumpled body of the slave girl her mother had sent with her on this insane errand. The men had thrown her against the wall with brutal indifference as she clung to Julia's arm. She had not moved since. I do not even know her name…
'Nothing there,' the taller of the men grunted. 'Imagination.'
'She heard it too, didn't you, rich bitch?' It was the one whose face she had clawed, futilely.
'Yes. Yes—a wolf. It will be dangerous. You should run.' Even a wolf was better than these two. Fearful to run from the besieging Goths, fearful to fight, they had snatched at the chance to take what they had only been able to covet from afar. So often she, and ladies like her, had been carried past them in the street in litters, had browsed amongst the trinkets on their stalls and never noticed them. Now one of these pampered, elegant creatures had fallen into their hands. Amidst chaos they could take their pleasure and dull the terror of what was happening to their world.
But this sheltered virgin had fought back, ripping at their hands and faces, kicking at their shins, biting where she could. And the other girl, the little slave, was likely dead, and no fun at all.
The man with the bleeding tracks of four exquisitely manicured nails down his right cheek sneered back at her. 'Just some dog, chained behind the portico. No help for you there, sweetheart.' His fingers grasped the neck of her tunic and yanked downwards, his sweaty hand sliding over the bared flesh.
'Hades.' The taller man's voice shook, even as the second, long growl froze his friend's hand on her breast. The smoke swirled and the animal padded out less than a dozen feet in front of them. It stopped, head lowered, watching them.
The slanting green eyes set close over the long grey muzzle studied them with an aloof indifference that was more chilling than overt aggression. The curled lip revealed one long white fang. There was a low whistle and the animal walked off to the side and round the back of them. The men scrabbled to turn, dragging Julia, squinting into the drifting smoke as they tried to keep the animal in sight.
'Gone.' The tall man wiped a hand over his damp brow. 'Let's get out of here before that fire gets worse, find somewhere more comfortable to enjoy ourselves.' His falsely confident voice trailed off as they faced the burning building again and the smoke billowed, parting in rags around another figure.
A man. Tall, broad, bare-armed, golden. Light glinted off chain mail and helmet, wrist bands and belt buckle as he stood there watching them, as the wolf had done, with utter composure. There was no expression on the bearded face and there was no weapon in his hand, but a long sword hung from the wide belt that cinched his waist and for all his stillness he exuded the promise of force poised to strike.
Julia swallowed, trying to force her spinning head to think. Trousers, long blond hair, bearded. A barbarian. A Visigoth, one of the enemy. But her immediate enemies were beside her, her own kind. Was she in more danger now, or less?
Hands tightened on her arms, half lifting her off her feet as the tradesmen began to edge backwards. She made a decision, forced herself to hang limp, making her weight a burden they must drag.
'Drop.' The big man spoke as though to a dog with a game bird and achieved the same unthinking obedience. Julia landed hard on her heels and staggered, turned and hit the bleeding man in the ear with her clenched fist, the sheer relief of being free of their hands lending her anger force.
The man slapped back wildly at her, knocking her against his friend. Then, as she scrabbled for balance, he grunted abruptly and keeled over to the ground. She stared down at him sprawled at her feet, the hilt of a dagger sticking out of his throat, a thin trickle of blood curling down to his collarbone. Dead. She had not seen the barbarian move. The other man took to his heels, then stopped, cowering, as the wolf padded out of cover in front of him.
The barbarian ignored him, his eyes locking with Julia's. There was no reassurance there, only the same chilling aura of power she had seen in the wolf's eyes. He gestured towards the tumbled figure of the slave. 'They did that?'
Copyright © 2007 by Melanie Hilton.