Rome, 120 AD

She strolled into Crispinus's private chamber with the air of one who considered herself a goddess: her steps sure, her chin held high, casually tossing a stray ringlet of golden red hair over her shoulder to join the rest of the thick wavy mass that cascaded down her back. Her expression said that she knew she was beautiful, and was fully prepared to take on the burdens that came with such perfection.

And the pleasures.

She wore a pale blue palla around her shoulders and a white, calf-length stola that was fastened at each shoulder with a gold clip. The stola was unusually sheer. Such an erotic choice of outfit told him she had planned this visit out carefully. She had even gone without the protection of her boots to wear a pair of flimsy, pearl-lined sandals instead, revealing ten pale, perfectly formed little toes. Poets could have spent decades trying to describe those toes and still not done them justice.

She didn't so much as flinch with the guard slammed the solid wood door shut behind her, locking her in with him where she would be left entirely to his mercy for the next hour. Yes, she definitely thought herself a goddess.

When she caught sight of him standing there across the room, her head lifted even more and a small smile played at the corners of her full, pouty lips. 'Arrogant' and 'wanting' were the two words that first came to mind, and neither were surprising to see. All the women who came to him after a tournament acted that way, despite the nature of their visit. Where they found the gall to remain so condescending Crispinus never knew, but he fought to quell his thoughts lest he lose the urge to take her entirely. He needed the release and she would do as well as any, this haughty, redheaded goddess. His bitter ponderings could come later, along with the regret.

She didn't speak, but that mischievous smile never left her face as she let her palla slip oh-so-slowly from off her shoulders and then coyly reached up to unclasp her stola. As the fabric slipped down her body, her eyes locked on his face, making sure he didn't miss this most important part of her unveiling. She needn't have worried. She had his full attention.

A final little wiggle and the cloth came free, floating down to land in a pile on the floor with the rest of her clothes. With a flick of her ankle, she kicked off one delicate sandal and then the other, then proceeded to walk towards him as naked as the day she was born, swaying her hips in a way that he knew was supposed to look erotic and enticing, but which came across—as it always did—as manipulative and desperate.

Crispinus wanted to scowl, but he made himself smile instead. The goddess's eyes flared when she saw it, and the roll of her hips became even more pronounced.

"Why are you acting like this?" Crispinus asked.

She reached him and ran her hands up his chest, her gaze seemingly riveted to the way his muscles reacted to her touch, tensing and bunching under her fingertips even through the barrier of rough cloth that covered him.

"I'm setting the mood," she told him in a breathy whisper.

Crispinus snatched her hand away in irritation and pulled her close so that her naked body was pressed intimately against his own. He only wore his tunica, and that wasn't anywhere near thick enough to hide the erection pulsing beneath it.

"I don't need a mood to fuck a woman," he growled. He spoke harshly to try and spook her from attempting any more bold moves on his person, but just like a goddess, his tone didn't distress her. It did, however, arouse her. He should have known. Her eyes dilated and her breath quickened. Without asking, she tugged his tunica off him. When her eyes fell on his manhood, she reached out and ran a hand up and down his length in obvious awe.

"You're very big," she told him, sounding a little winded.

"And I'll feel even bigger inside of you," said Crispinus bluntly, once again pulling her hand away. "You have the gold?"

She nodded, but her eyes were locked on his erection. He cleared his throat to let her know he was waiting and it snapped her out of her fixation long enough to turn away. "Yes. Yes, I do."

She hurried back over to her pile of clothes and crouched down to dig through one of the pockets. After a few seconds, she pulled out a small leather satchel secured with a drawstring and carried it over to him. Crispinus took it, dumped the gold into his hand, and counted the coins.

"You know," the goddess said thoughtfully, "not many of your kind would demand payment. They'd think it would make them look like some kind of male prostitute."

His smile was humorless. "You forget that I am a gladiator. Whores are above my social standing."

Satisfied with the amount, he dumped the money back into the bag, pulled the drawstring tight, and tossed it onto a nearby table.

"Still," she persisted, "most gladiator's would consider the act reward enough."

Crispinus rolled his eyes and reached for her. In one swift move that made her gasp, he twirled the redhead around so that she was pinned between him and the stone wall behind her.

"Dea," he said as he yanked up her leg and thrust himself into her, showing his teeth as her head fell back with a groan, "being used is never a reward for anyone."