Sabina is learning to trust her Praetorian Guard lover, Lucius, but the unexpected return of his son and daughter in law brings scandal, betrayal and heartbreak.
Sabina led Aula through to the inner walled garden. Julia and Gaius seemed to have adopted it as a safe place where they could sit and not get under everyone's feet. Gaius was writing a poem and Julia was sitting back on a couch, by the shade of a wall, half-asleep.
Gaius heaved to his feet as the two women approached. He smiled warmly and ran his eyes up and down Aula. Sabina felt her stiffen, and fold her arms across her body.
"Gaius Fabius, Julia Murcia. Please do meet my sister, Aula Antonia."
Gaius was beaming and he took Aula's hand. Julia opened her eyes and reluctantly rose to her feet, murmuring a polite greeting.
Sabina suddenly felt quite awkward. She hadn't settled as woman of the house, not really, and the presence of Lucius's family put her on her guard. She knew she didn't have to justify herself. But knowing, and feeling, were two different things.
Aula pulled her hand from Gaius, and swam to Sabina's rescue with small talk. "So, I understand you were in Dalmatia? How interesting. I myself have never travelled. How long were you away?"
A look passed between Julia and Gaius and Sabina felt briefly sorry for him. It was clearly a touchy subject, and he nibbled at his wet lips. Julia seized the moment. "We were there for five years. It is very good to be back in Rome." She met Sabina's eyes with a fierce, proud look and Sabina felt herself blush, like she was caught out at something. Though she didn't know what.
"I can imagine you are relieved to be in civilisation again!" Aula laughed lightly. "Well, I do hope you enjoy your stay here." Another glance passed between Gaius and Julia. Neither took the bait. Sabina led Aula back to the hallway.
"Do they think they're staying here permanently, then?" Aula whispered.
"Not if I can help it. What did you think? Can you really see her causing scandals?"
Aula nodded. "Oh yes. I bet she's a night demon."
"Really?" Sabina giggled, letting out the tension. "Oh my."
"But him. I don't like him. There's more to it."
"Oh, he'll have been having his own scandals, I have no doubt."
"Hmm." Aula kissed Sabina on the cheek, and squeezed her arm. "Take care. I'm going to ask around. Discreetly, don't worry! But watch what you say around the pair of them."
"Yes, yes." Sabina put her hand out to stop Aula. "Wait. Before you go. Crispus."
"That old drunk? What of him?"
"He was good to me as a girl. You know I took him to Marcus. I don't know... what happened. Where he is now. Was he sold? Could you take him?"
"For goodness' sake. I imagine he was sold. I don't know. He was educated, well-read, good with medicine, wasn't he? When sober?"
"He was mostly sober."
Aula pursed her lips. "I'll find out."
Aula summoned her slaves and slipped out of the door. As she wrapped her stola around her head and shoulders, she looked back at Sabina who was watching her go. "Don't be alone with him," she said. The slaves kept their faces impassive, and she hopped into the waiting litter.
Sabina waved, and closed the door slowly, not wanting to go back into the house that was her home. It didn't feel like a home at all.
About Gia Vanna
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Published January 6, 2014
Erotica, Literature & Fiction.