The Warlord's Mistress [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Juliet Landon
eBook Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
eBook Description: How innocent is she?.... Living as a refined lady, Dania Rhiannon has kept her true origins hidden. While soldiers swarm the streets of this northern outpost of the Roman empire by day, influential officers are drawn to her House of Women by night. Dania hasn't once been tempted before now to share in intimate pleasures, but her world is rocked when she realizes that one masterful warrior could all too easily seduce her into his arms. But is Fabian Cornelius Peregrinus truly attracted to Dania--or does he suspect what lies beneath her mantle of respectability?
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2007
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Available eBook Formats [Secure eReader - What's this?]: SECURE EREADER (RECOMMENDED) FORMAT [225 KB], OEBFF Format (IMP) [428 KB]
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Microsoft Reader ISBN: 9781426807022
Adobe Reader ISBN: 9781426807022
Mobipocket Reader ISBN: 9781426807022
eReader ISBN: 9781426807022
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The House of Women, Coria (Corbridge) AD 208
The girl knuckled away a tear from one large blue eye that would have melted the hearts of most women, but apparently not this one. She looked up with a growing respect at the lady Dania in whose spacious entrance hall she stood, noting again the woman's elegance and intimidating dignity that were not quite what she had expected when she arrived. She had been treated courteously, but the answer was still no.
'It's not only that you're too young, Lepida,' said Dania, 'and it's not that you don't have the looks. You are on the way to becoming a beauty, I'm sure of it. But this is not the way to punish your parents, nor do I need to be dragged before the magistrate to answer charges of procuring under-age girls, let alone kidnap. Had you thought of that?'
'No, my lady.'
'Then what had you thought?'
'Well, that I'd prefer to live here…the excitement…the parties, pretty clothes and hair, and no parents telling me what not to do.'
'Yes.' Long fair lashes, damply spiked, swept her cheeks.
Dania smiled and glanced sideways at Etaine, the woman who had come with her from Boar Hill six years ago. 'It's not quite what you think,' she said, kindly. 'We have to work, too.'
'Oh, I know what happens,' said Lepida, using one last flutter of her eyelashes to convince her audience. 'I know why men come here. I'm sure I could…'
'Lepida,' said Dania firmly, 'this is not an orphanage, nor is it a place for young daughters of officers. It's a house of women. And you're going home. Now, Etaine and Albiso will escort you, and your parents need know nothing about your visit here. If you still think the same way in five years' time, when you're nineteen, then you can come to me again and we'll talk. No promises, mind.' With a look, she summoned the man who stood apart over by the pink-washed wall, placing a warm hand on Lepida's bony shoulder and easing her towards him. 'Go home, my dear. Your parents need you there.'
'Yes. Thank you.' The liquid eyes lingered appreciatively over the panels of pink, ochre and white, the shrines alcoved in the walls, the shining mosaic floor whose imagery she only half-understood. The glimpse of a sun-washed garden on the far side of an adjoining room was all light and glamour and a far cry from the noisy squabbling of her siblings at home. 'It's beautiful here,' she whispered, turning away.
Wistfully, Dania watched the slender young Lepida glide along the verandah, cross the cobbled courtyard and disappear into the passageway between two shops that led into the street. Weaver Street, just off Dere Street, was set on the quiet outer edges of Coria, the town that some were already calling Corbridge after the stout wooden bridge built by Roman legionaries across the Cor. There had been ancient settlements here since anyone could remember, but once the great fortified Wall had been built across Britain from coast to coast, Coria had become an important supply base for the army, growing steadily and attracting traders of every kind, integrating local civilians with the foreign military. What had once been a remote settlement of thatched huts, animal compounds and plots, was now an organised network of stone-built garrison blocks and storehouses, workshops, temples and granaries, large merchants' houses and living quarters for all those who serviced the troops along the Wall, all seventy-three miles of it. Including the House of Women.
Dania's establishment had grown from very modest beginnings that were quite unlike young Lepida's innocent imaginings, different in fact from those of all but a select few of the now extensive household. Except for her closest henchmen, no one in Coria knew that the lady Dania was a Brigantian woman from nearby Boar Hill, or that her brother Somer was the chieftain of that local tribe.
It was early morning, a time of rest for the women who worked late and slept late, a time when Dania attended to the business of the house and to the shops on each side of the passageway fronting on to the street. A weaver and a tailor. This morning, however, there was another matter that needed her attention after the business of the volunteer Lepida. Passing through the outer door, she turned on to the covered verandah where Ram and Astinax stood side by side watching the departure of the trio. They stood to attention as she approached, bowing deferentially as she stopped before them. 'How did that child get in here?' she said.
The two men, ex-gladiators from Verulamium, were built like house-sides, but to Dania they represented security, reliability, never letting anyone unsuitable slip past their guard. 'We believe she got into the kitchen, my lady,' said Ram, 'when the cook's lad carried the supplies in earlier. We've spoken to him. Shall you dismiss him?'
'No, Ram. But it mustn't happen again. This is no place for children.' She looked away into the sunny courtyard where tubs of lavender, violets and pansies were already alive with fumbling bees. Climbing roses twisted around the wooden columns that held up the upper storey, and the tree in the centre of the space dripped with white may-blossom that spiralled like snowdrifts beneath the stone benches.
Dania held up a small oblong piece of paper-thin beech-wood. 'I've had a message from the garrison commander,' she said. 'What am I going to say to him about the man's arm you broke?'
Astinax was bald and genial at this time of the day, bald and threatening by evening. 'To Claudius Karus, my lady? You won't need to say much to him,' he said, facetiously.
Copyright © 2006 by Juliet Landon.