She sat on the bed in the middle of the single room home, nervousness pulsing through her body. She could hear the cheers from the crowds of the arena a few hundred meters away. The gladiators fought since the sun rose in the Pompeiian sky. The gods favored them with clear skies and warm air. Now, the sun began to dip low in the sky, casting a glow upon Vesuvius as the final battle raged on. It seemed the crowd had a favorite judging from the ebb and flow of cheers and boos a short while ago. Now, the cheers grew louder and more robust. Perhaps the battle was nearing the end, which meant he would arrive soon.

She’d been purchased for him, a gift for all the coin made from his sponsor and now her new master. She’d heard of the Romans and their thirst for blood and glory, matched only by their love for coin. She’d listened to the stories her village elders whispered of the ruthless Roman capturing and enslaving Egyptians. The strongest men were forced to battle in the arena as entertainment for the wealthy. A fortnight ago, the Romans paid a visit to her village. The soldiers came in the night like a plague from the gods. They gathered up her and her brother and the rest of the villagers from their beds and carted them onto ships. Those who resisted were killed on the spot. When she and her older brother next saw land, they were immediately separated. Her brother being beaten for punching the soldier who grabbed her was the last she saw of him as she was dragged to a group of women bound for auction for the brothels. When it was her turn, she was hauled before a crowd screaming and waving their arms wildly in their bidding. A wealthy man easily outbid the brothel owners for her. She was to be of a different sort of service. The man was short and stout, with long grey hair and a long grey beard that reached his rounded belly. He wore many rings on his fingers and gold on his throat and wrists. His bright red robes gleaned in the sun. When his men collected her and brought her to him, he smiled, his fingers pulling at her inky black curls. She jerked her head away, repulsed by the stench of sweat and wine emanating from him.

“There is fire beneath that lovely dark skin,” he chuckled as he seized her jaw in a vice grip. “You will make a fitting prize for Traian.”

For two weeks, she was locked away in a small room with a bed and a bucket. She’d seen no one else other than a kind elderly female slave that brought her food, cleaned her room, and provided her with water to bathe and fresh linen to wear. Today, however, was different. A few hours ago, when the sun was high in the sky, the older woman came to collect her, pleading with her not to make a scene and to keep her head and eyes down. Quietly, they walked to the small bathhouse reserved for the slaves. She breathed deeply, savoring the rose-scented steam that drifted from the water. The woman helped her undressed and ushered her into the awaiting hot bath. As she bathed, the woman carefully washed and combed her kinky curly hair, massaging her scalp with rose-scented oils. She sighed, allowing herself a brief moment of enjoyment of an experience her peasant status would have never afforded in Egypt. Yet, she remembered that a gilded cage was still a cage.

After her bath, she was dried, and her skin rubbed with sweet-smelling oils. Unable to help herself, she finally spoke as the woman draped her in sheer linen, knotting the fabric at one shoulder.

“What’s happening?” she asked in her native tongue. The woman looked at her, blinking several times in confusion. She tried again in Latin.

“The gladiators are fighting today,” the woman explained as she wrapped a red rope around her waist several times before knotting it. “Traian will be victorious this day. He fights for glory.” The woman paused, arranging her long curls one last time. “And you,” the woman said as she draped a heavy cloak around her shoulders. The woman stepped back, looking over her with a careful eye before her head nodded in approval.

The explosion of cheers shook the ground along with her from her memories. The crowd roared with approval, the sound nearly deafening. The final blow had been dealt, and one man stood victorious. She swallowed hard, her mouth and throat suddenly dry. She looked down at herself, really looked at herself, for the first time in the dim light of the oil lamps. The fabric she wore was a thin as a hair, leaving nothing to the imagination, her dark skin showing through the material. The dark skin of her nipples and the dark thatch of hair at her mound showed clearly through the fabric. No wonder she’d been cloaked before leaving the bathhouse. Panic rose within her as the words of the older woman and her master echoed in her mind. She was an offering, dressed like a sumptuous meal and sent into a wholly different arena.

Traian walked through the Tunnel of Life, the roar of the crowd nearly still thundering through the area as the dead body was carried away through the Tunnel of Death. Adrenaline coursed through his blood like a drug and was twice as addicting. As a child, he grew up watching the gladiators train and battle, vowing one day to join their ranks. He began training as soon as he was able to hold a sword. Then came the spear and mace. He grew taller than most gladiators and more heavily muscled from the hours of training. He enjoyed battles of the arena, though many of his opponents were prisoners of war, forced into combat. Nonetheless, he would not let his empathy for them stand in the way of his glory. He sheathed his short sword as his sponsor shuffled towards him, a broad smile on his face and a heavy purse in his hand.

“Well done, my champion,” his sponsor praised as he slapped Traian on his shoulder and began separating the coins into a much smaller pouch. “We will be ready to fight in Roma in no time, but first, we must conquer Puteoli.”

Traian nodded, barely able to stifle the scoff at his sponsor’s use of the word “we.”

“Here is your prize, Traian,” the sponsor said, handing over the much smaller pouch. Traian eyed it carefully and then looked pointedly at the short, rounded man. The sponsor chucked at Traian’s expression. “Do not worry, my champion. The purse is light, but I have secured a greater prize for you. It’s waiting in your home. You have one night. In a fortnight, you have another tournament here. If you win, then you may enjoy your prize for two nights. After that, we go to Puteoli. A win there will give you a week. If you win in Rome, then you may keep your prize for a fortnight in addition to others I have to offer.”

Traian eyed the short beady-eyed pig of a man, trying to imagine what sort of prize would be better than coin. Though, his sponsor disgusted him. Tough wealthy, the man was renowned for his shamelessly corrupt politics. Corruption in Roman politics was nothing new, but this man’s greed was unmatched and rivaled any politician in Rome. His gold, however, was an entirely different matter. He was the wealthiest man in Pompeii, which made Traian the wealthiest gladiator in the city. Traian’s skill for battle and his sponsor’s coin secured him a small home near the arena. Traian nodded and tucked his earnings safely away.

“Oh, and before you go home, Traian, I highly suggest that you take extra time to bathe in the gymnasium pools,” his sponsor said with a wicked gleam in his eye before turning to shuffle away.

An hour later, with his skin cleansed of the stench of sweat and blood and a quick meal in his belly, Traian walked the moonlit streets of Pompeii the short distance to his home. He was tired, and his muscles ached after many hours of battle, but he was now richer for his efforts. He smiled to himself, remembering the roars of the crowd as he raised his sword in victory. However, his smile faded as he rounded the corner and saw a glowing light radiating from under the door of his home. There should be no one in his home, especially at this hour. He quickened his pace, and long strides brought him quickly to his door. Quietly, he slid the key into the lock, gently turning in hopes of catching the intruder off guard. Once the lock slid free, he threw open the door, his large frame quickly filling the doorway.

He heard her scream before he saw her. His eyes quickly scanned the dimly lit room. He spotted her pressed against the far wall, grasping a wooden chair hoisted high above her head, ready to strike. It took him a moment for his mind to register what his eyes were seeing. She was tall, dark skin that glowed with a peach gold undertone in the light of the oil lamps. Her wild inky curls tumbling over her shoulders to frame her full breast. The curves of her body encased in the thinnest imitation of fabric. He glimpsed the dark nipples peeking through the breath of linen fabric as her chest heaved. His eyes dropped to the dark shadow at the junction of her thighs, lingering for a moment before returning to her face. Her eyes were dark and aflame with a thousand torches as she eyed him. He knew she would fight him to the death if forced, yet under her fear, a hint of something more clung to her defiance. He took a deep breath to steady himself, breathing n the scent of roses that permeated the room. He closed the door behind him slowly as realization dawned on him. So, this was his prize.

“Put the chair down,” he said in a low, commanding voice attempting to soothe her fears. He held his hands away from his body, dropping the pouch of coins on the floor. He wanted to show that he was no threat.

She lowered the chair slightly before catching herself and lifting it higher, steadying herself. He tried a different approach.

“I am Traian,” he said calmly, forcing himself to relax his stance.

She blinked several times, traveling his body, taking in his form. “Tell me your name,” he continued, his voice deep, compelling.

She slowed her breathing, still holding the chair high. She was unsure, yet she answered anyway. “Ameera,” she replied, tightening her grip on the chair.

Traian nodded thoughtfully. “Aegyptus,” he replied, pleased at her understanding of Latin.

“Ameera,” he continued, his tongue rolling over the “r” with his thick accent. “Put the chair down.”

Ameera swallowed hard. She’d nearly jumped out of her skin when the beast of a man burst through the door. Yet, his deep voice was gentle yet compelling. Something in his voice, the way he looked at her, made her want to obey him. She let her gaze slide over him once more. He was taller than any Roman she’d ever seen, his olive skin bronzed from hours in the sun. His physique evidence of the hours of training and the faint scars on his arms evidence of the numerous battles he’d endured. His hair was dark, almost as dark as hers, cropped close to his head with a slight curl to it. His eyes were dark yet glittered in the light of the oil lamp. His nose was straight and proud. His angular jaw sported a shadow of a beard, framing full lips. She imagined many iterations of the man they called Traian. She pictured him as a battle-worn older man with an eye and teeth missing anything to prepare herself for battle. She certainly did not expect this. This Traian was beautiful in his masculinity, a God of war standing before her. He radiated a kind of energy that she’d never seen or felt before in a man. Not that she had much experience. It was heady and evident in his voice. It compelled her.

“Ameera,” he said once more, taking a step towards her, his gaze holding hers. He spoke again, slowly injecting more command into his voice. “Put. The chair. Down.”

Slowly, as if in a daze, she lowered the chair to the floor. Her heart roared in her ears as she pressed herself further against the wall. He took another step and then another, closing the distance between them. She looked around the room for an escape reminding him of a trapped rabbit. She was beginning to panic.

“No, no,” admonished his voice low and silky. “Eyes on me, Ameera.”

She obeyed instantly, her gaze locking with his. “Ah, there it is,” he thought to himself as he watched her eyes widen, and a small portion of her full lower lip found its way between her teeth. Her nostrils flared slightly as her breath labored as he continued his advance.

He finally stopped, his body so close to hers that she could feel the heat radiating from him. He was taller than her, the top of her head reaching his chin, and she had to tilt her head back to keep eye contact with him. He held her gaze, his eyes boring into her as if he were searching for something. The intensity of his gaze and the heat of his body did the strangest of things to her. Her head felt light, and it felt as if he sucked all the air out of the room. Waves of energy rolled off him, powerful, commanding, dark, and tempting. Her nipples began to tingle as wetness gathered between her legs. Unable to stand the intensity of his gaze for a moment longer, she dropped her head, her curls falling around her face in a blue-black curtain. She closed her eyes tightly, praying to her gods that he would not treat her in the same manner as he treated his opponents in the area.

He eyed the top of her head, taking a slow deep breath, pulling her scent deep into his lungs. The aroma of roses clung to her skin and hair, a sharp contrast to the sweat, blood, and death that filled his lungs earlier. He took another deep breath, this time catching the scent of arousal mingling with the sweetness of the rose. His suspicions were now confirmed. He reached out, slowly as not to startle her, and untied the red rope at her waist. “Do you know why you were brought here tonight?”, he asked observing her for any sort of reaction as he casually unwound the rope from her.

She nodded, her dark head bobbing once. “You may speak,” he said, studying her closely.

“Yes,” she replied quietly. “I was brought here as your prize.”

Brushing back a fall of curls with one hand, he gently caressed her cheek, his hand trailing down to capture her chin between his index finger and thumb. Slowly, he lifted, forcing her to look up at him. He studied her for a moment before speaking again.

“I will not lie to you, Ameera,” he began, his voice velvety smooth and deep. “Something about you makes the beast in me rise, and I have no wish to deny it.” She swallowed hard. “But I am no monster. I will not take without consent. I will warn you. I have needs that are unlike what you may have experienced before. I strongly suspect you have certain needs as well.”

He paused for a moment letting his words sink in before continuing. “I believe we can satisfy those needs, Ameera. I am certain our time together will awaken more needs within you. I will test your limits, but tonight we begin the journey slowly. Tell me, do you want to step into my world? My arena? Where I am master?”

She tried to process everything he’d just said, her gaze dropping slightly. Needs? Limits? Master? What exactly did he mean? He didn’t own her; the politician did. Her gaze found its way to his full lips. She eyed them, her lips tingling at imagining them pressed against them. Slowly, her gaze traveled up to his eyes. The smoldering look he leveled on her held a dark and sensual promise. Her nipples hardened as an ache began deep in her core. Something deep in her psyche started to stir in the heat of his gaze. She couldn’t make sense of what she was feeling.

“Can I earn your trust?” he continued, a thumb trailing over the lip freeing it from between her teeth.

She fought through the fog in her mind as she searched his gaze. Could he earn her trust? She was a slave bought for a prized for a gladiator, and he was Roman. She knew in the eyes of the Roman world she had no rights. He could have torn her apart when he burst through the door. Yet, he didn’t. He could have beaten her for daring to raise a weapon against him. Yet, he didn’t. He could have ripped her clothes from her and forced himself upon her. Yet, he didn’t. Instead, he commanded her, yet with calm confidence and in a way that made her want to obey. He used his words to quell the fight in her, soothe the fear of death and stoke the flames of desire, all in a matter of moments. Could he earn her trust?

She swallowed hard against the limp in her throat. “Yes,” she whispered.

Traian breathed deeply, savoring his small measure of victory. His body, already hard from the first he saw her, grew even harder. His instincts were not wrong. The submission in her, though buried deep, called to the dominant side of his nature. He glimpsed it in her eyes the moment she hesitated to put the chair down, though he couldn’t be sure. So, he tested her, and the moment she broke her gaze to look away when he stood before her confirmed it. But by the gods was she beautiful. He’d seen Egyptians before and even killed a few, but none like her. She held a fighting spirit encased in luscious curves. His fingers itched to bury themselves in her wild curls, so he could force her head back and drink from her lips. But she’d consented, and now the real work would need to begin.

He let his hand drop from her and stepped back. “Kneel,” he said, his voice roughed and deepened from arousal. Slowly, her gaze lowered to the floor, but not before stopping to catch the sight of his impressive erection imprinting on his tunic. She paused, her eyes wide, and he could sense the fear returning. He couldn’t help the sense of male satisfaction that premediated, yet he kept to the task at hand.

“Ameera,” he said, his voice holding a hit of a warning. Slowly, she knelt on the floor, her head bowed, avoiding looking at his crotch.

“Good girl,” he replied. “Hold out your hands and keep your head bowed.”

Silently, she did as he commanded, holding both hands out to him in offering. He began to speak as he began to skillfully wrap the red rope around her wrists in intricate knots. “Listen to me carefully, Ameera,” he began. “Prohiere. Can you say that for me?”

She repeated the word perfectly. “Good girl,” he praised as he continued to tie the rope. “That’s the word I want you to use if there is something you cannot handle or if you want me to stop. Say it, and I will stop. No questions asked. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she replied with a nod of her head.

He paused his knotwork. “Try again, Ameera,” he corrected.

“Yes, M-Master?” she replied as if testing the word on her tongue.

“Good girl,” he praised, picking up his work where he left off. “Stand and come with me.” He said, tugging on the rope.

Carefully, she stood, her gaze falling to the intricately knotted rope that held her wrists securely together. She followed the rope’s line to his hand as he walked backward, leading to the center of the room. She took note of the strength in his large, calloused hands, wondering if it were wise to give over so easily to a man who killed easily for a living. Her thoughts trailed off as she felt the rope at her wrist tug, pulling her arms up and above her head. She looked up, noting that he’d began to wind the rope about the beam in the center of the small house several times. He tugged her arms higher and higher until eventually, she was on the tips of her toes, stretching her fully. Panic rushed through her. Is this where the cruelty began?

She watched him as he reached for the knot holding her linen dress up at her shoulder. He made quick work of it, and the fabric fell to the floor in a soft woosh, exposing her naked flesh. Her heart began to thunder once again as he began to slowly circle her naked form, inspecting her body closely.

“Beautiful,” he breathed. “A dark beauty.”

“Please,” she breathed, feeling naked and exposed. Vulnerable.

“Please what?” he asked, continuing his inspection as if she hadn’t spoken.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” she replied, her voice shaking nearly breaking, her body trembling.

He came to a stop in front of her, his eyes searching hers. He cupped her chin once more, his eyes boring into hers. “Can I earn your trust? Can you be the brave girl that readied herself to bash me over the head with a chair? Do that for me, and I will show you an entirely new world, where pain and pleasure can co-exist.” He paused, resting his forehead against hers. “Can I earn your trust?” he whispered, his lips barely dancing over hers.

“Yes,” she whispered, unable to mount a resistance against the weight of his seduction.

He couldn’t help himself any longer. His hand fisted in her hair, and he tugged hard, jerking her head back so that his lips could claim hers. He kissed her hard and deep, his tongue probing and tasting her sweetness. She moaned into his mouth, her world spinning as the pleasure of his kiss mixed with the slight pain on her scalp. He caught her completely off guard. She’d been kissed before by the boys in her village but never like this. This wasn’t just a kiss. This wasn’t a boy. This was a man. This was a hunger. This was claiming.

He released her lips just as suddenly as he’d taken them. Hand still fisted in her hair, and he trailed hot, biting kisses down her throat. He continued further, using his mouth, hands, and tongue to inspect and explore her body. The world tilted as he kissed, licked, pinched hard there and here. He rubbed his shadow beard against her leaving slight beard burns. She jerked, moaned, and mewed as he explored her belly and bum. He worked his way down her body but avoiding the most sensitive spots. Oh, but when he finally reached her full breast, he lingered at her nipples. She cried out when his lips locked around one savoring the taste. She looked down at his dark head, her face a mask of shock as he pulled a nipple deep into his mouth, his suckling sending lightening to her womb. She jerked and cried out again, her eyes fluttering as he bit down. She shuttered as he released the tortured nipple, and she felt the cool sensation of air blowing over the sensitive peak just before stubble of his shadow beard grazed roughly against it. He dropped down to a knee, wrapping one arm around her waist, pulling her close to him as her toes scraped the floor. He continued his exploration with the opposite nipple, his free hand finding its way to the dark curls at the junction of her thighs. He moaned loudly when he felt the heat and wetness there. His cock grew painfully heard when he bit down harder on her nipple and felt the moisture grow. His fingers plunged into her curls, finding her clit only to begin to pinch and rub the swollen numb. Her body jerked against his as she tried to pull away. There were too many sensations at once, and she felt her mind and body going into overload.

“Please,” she cried out, feeling a tension coiling in her body.

“Do you want me to stop, Ameera?” he asked, sliding a finger into her tightness as he worked her clit. “You know what word to say if you want me to stop. Say it if you must, but I think you can take more.”

He returned his mouth to her breast as his hand began to work her deliciously tight pussy and clit faster. Her world was quickly spiraling out of control. Her hands pulled at the rope, but with the arm of steel wrapped around her waist, also she had nowhere to go. She had to suffer the wave of pleasure and pain as her body grew tighter and tighter, a fine sheen of sweat covering her body. The turmoil grew and expanded. She felt as if a storm forged by the gods themselves raged in her body until, with a keening scream, her body fell over a great cliff, plunging hard and fast into his whim.

Her body went limp, her mind foggy as the crescendo of orgasm gradually faded. Her head lulled back as she heard the rustling of fabric. She felt strong hands grab each leg and wrap them around something. She then felt those same strong hands grab a generous handful of each butt cheek, lifting and shifting her slightly. Her head snapped back when she felt the thickness of his head at her entrance. Her eyes met his as he slowly invaded her, the shock at the girth and length of him drawing a shocked gasp from her, her face a mask of shock. She winced a bit as pain settled in. He stopped immediately, eyeing her carefully. She gasped for breath, feeling as if she was being split in two. He moved slightly and drawing another wince of pain from her.

“Ameera,” he breathed, his voice roughened with arousal awareness dawned within him. “Virgin.”

She couldn’t speak as she still fought for air. She only nodded, her curls bouncing around her in a wild curtain. She watched his expression change from one of wonder to one of possession. His hands tightening on her ass was her only warning.

“Mine,” he growled as he drove through her barrier, impaling her on him to the hilt. She screamed as pain flooded her and her body fought to adjust to his size. He gave her but a whisper of a moment as he began to thrust slowly. The first thrust was painful, as was the second and third. The fourth promised pleasure and the fifth made good on that promise. His thickness filled her, calming every part of her. She gave herself up to the delight of him filling her. Soon their moans and cries of desire filled the one-room home, her pleasure intensifying at the stab of pain in her bottom from his fingers. He heightened her pleasure by suckling on her nipples as he thrust himself deep into her. He tried to keep a slow pace and allow her to adjust to him, but the sounds she made were a drug couldn’t get enough of. He wanted more, needed more from her. His thrusts became firmer and quicker. He shifted his weight slightly, angling himself to hit that perfect spot. She cried out his name, unable to control herself as she bounced helplessly against him. He fisted his hand in her hair once more, exposing her neck to trail kisses and bites. He could feel her constricting around him, and it drove him on, his need riding him harder.

“Cum for me,” he growled in her ear. “Cum for me again. Let all of Pompeii hear your desire. Cum for me!”

Her body obeyed of its own accord, and orgasm ripped through her like a thunderbolt through the clouds. She screamed as her juices flowed from her body down his legs. She shrieked until her voice grew hoarse and the edges of darkness threatened her vision. He soon followed her, pumping into her violently. Growling, he forgot himself and spilled his seed deep within her.

Moments later, she felt the rope give, and her arms fell. Instinctively, she let her bound arms encircle his neck, and her head fell to his shoulder. He shifted her higher, still buried within her, as he walked her to his bed in the corner of the room. Carefully, he laid her limp body down, allowing his body to slide from hers. He untied the remainder of the rope, tossing it aside. She watched, dazed as he walked gloriously naked to the washbasin. Filling the bowl with cool water, he dipped a rag in and wrung it out carefully. Turning, he walked back to her and sat beside her on the bed. Gently he nudged her knees apart. She flinched at first, but a firm look from him had her relaxing and began to clean the evidence of her virginity and their coupling.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you were a virgin?” he asked, his hands working gently.

She flinched at the initial contact. “Would it have mattered?” she asked, looking away from him, feeling suddenly ashamed. How could she have let him do such things to her? Tie her up and use her like that. What’s worse is that she enjoyed it.

He paused his task, grasping her chin to turn her to face him. “Don’t look away,” he said, his tone stern. “There is no shame in what happened. There is no shame in enjoying what we shared. That was the point, catulus,” he said with a wink and a devilish grin. “To answer your question,” he continued resuming his task. “No, it wouldn’t have mattered. I knew I wanted you.”

Curiosity propelled her tongue. “When did you know that?” she asked curiously.

He smiled and tossed the soiled rag aside. He climbed on the small bed, stretching out beside her, enfolding her protectively into his arms.

“I suspected it the moment you refused to put the chair down. Not many women would go toe to toe with a gladiator,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I knew for sure when you decided to trust me and give your consent.”

“What if I had not?” she asked hesitantly, fearful of the answer. “What would you have done then?”

“Slept on the floor,” replied. “I may be a gladiator, catulus, but I am not a monster. Outside these walls, I know as a slave you don’t have any rights, but within these walls, in my arena, it’s different. In my bed it is different. There is very little that is forbidden, but everything is forbidden without consent.”

She silently pondered his words. He was right. In his arena, the rules were different. He sparked desires she didn’t know existed, conquered her body, and she’d willingly given herself over to him. In doing so, he’d given her something she’d never thought she’d have again.

“Traian?” she called quietly.

“Yes?”

“Thank you,” she replied, turning to face him.

“For?” he asked.

“For giving me freedom, if only for a short while,” she replied, her hand caressing his cheek.

He smiled slightly, turning his head slightly to kiss the palm of her hand. “Sleep, catulus. We have many hours ahead of us before the sun rises, and I plan to spend them introducing you to more of my world,” he replied, pulling her closer.

“Yes, Master,” she whispered, settling to the warmth of his body, sleep claiming her.

© Anaïs Rosso 2021