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May 77AD

Marcus had been with the vigintiviri for months now and he was getting the hang of it. And it actually felt good doing something, it kept him busy and he had less time to party and do stupid things now. Although stupid things were fun. But instead he helped manage the executions and everything and he had set in motion the special execution Tiberius asked for, at the Cerealia games. It was kind of a strange request, but it seemed important and luckily his friend had not been disappointed. He said it had been what he wanted. What was best for the strange man that was being executed.

But that was already a while ago and Marcus had moved on since then, because he was kept busy at all times. He wanted to do well, he wanted to be influential and he wanted to move upwards. His course of honor had started and he was determined to keep at it.

Which also meant attending parties, luckily! Not all interesting parties though, he preferred the types that would sometimes end in orgies or just drunkenness, but this one was nice. It was a social event attended by several influential Senators and Marcus was happy to have the invitation.  

As he walked around with wine in hand, talking to one of his fellow young men of the vigintiviri, the other mentioned that one of the Senators had brought a freedwoman with him to the party. A freedwoman he apparently kept as his concubine. And it was well-known secret. A concubine?

Marcus wondered who it was. The party was somewhat dull for his taste, so it was good to have something to do here, a mystery to solve. He went up to a table where various finger-foods were placed to pick something and maybe pick up some gossip too. He reached for a date cooked in honey and apparently did so at the same time as a young woman, who had approached the table without him seeing it… “Apologies… you pick one first…” He said with a smile, looking at her. Oh she was pretty.

@Sara

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Charis was uncomfortable at the party, but that was to be expected. The other women here seemed...almost alien to her. They were all so tall (!), and elegant with a natural comportment that she didn't have and their clothes and hair and radiance seemed something completely foreign to her. Of course they all smiled politely at her, as did the men - although she wondered whether there was something else behind those smiles - but she could well see that she was an anomaly. And not necessarily a welcome one. Tertius had seemed pleased she'd come though and she wanted to make him happy, if only  to make her life easier. 

But he was presently in a conversation about some law matter which wad drier than a desert to her and so she'd politely made her excuses and promised to be back soon with food for him. Nobody approached her to talk which she was grateful for and instead she sought to distract herself with the food. Even that had changed since her freedom. No more leftovers and plain stews but delicacies from across the Empire, many of which didn't agree with her or she didn't like, but some like the dates were amazing. She reached for one at the same time as another man, her fingers brushing his accidentally.

She blinked, and then chuckled. "Very kind of you." She said in her accented Latin, as she took one. He was young...maybe only a few years younger than herself, if not her own age. At odds with some of the ancient Senators that were otherwise here. "I don't believe we've been introduced?" She asked with an arched brow as she nibbled on the date.

 

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Sadly she seemed a few years his senior and no matter, she wore her clothes and her hair in a way that signalled she was not a free woman. She was married or something. Most likely married. Still, you could have fun with married women. This one was not so tall, but he liked her looks, there was a softness about her that could be very sweet. And the way she bit into that date was nice to watch too. But he shouldn't get ahead of himself. It wasn't that kind of party. Maybe he could find a more fun one later tonight. For now, he'd have to make do with what he had. And while he didn't know her, but thought her pretty, he did notice her accented Latin. Where did she come from?

"I don't believe we have either." Marcus replied with a grin, "Which is possibly a pity! I'm Marcus Junius Silanus. And you?" He asked with great interest, she seemed to want to talk to him, so why should he not pick up on that? While he waited for her response, he downed a bit of wine from the cup he had in his one hand and picked a date of his own to eat with the other. 

@Sara 

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She chuckled at his grin and enthusiasm. Since coming to Rome and during her life as a slave she'd met a fair few men of his rank, young men included, and she'd always avoided them. They had seen the slave tag around her neck and her clothes and determined - often - that she was free game to leer at or touch and so on. Not that she ever told Tertius - but the streets of Rome were seldom a safe place for a woman alone. But now, wife to a Praetor she had a little more spring in her step. She had once upon a time been a confident young woman - full of witticisms and perhaps misplaced conviction in her beliefs. She wasn't back to that yet, but she was certainly more calm...and amused about men like the one in front of her. At least he seemed sweet enough. 

"Charis." She replied with an inclination of her head and a slow smile. She hated Tertia Charis. Nobody called her that anyway, not even her husband. Sipping her wine she quirked a brow and glanced over her cup at him. "Are you enjoying the party, Marcus Junius Silanus?" She gave a small chuckle and glanced around the room. There were musicians playing a beautiful tune but even that couldn't drown out the droning of the men and women here talking about nothing of consequence at all. Who knew being rich was so...dull?

 

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She was quite tiny, which told him she might not have been born in Rome. But her clothes and her jewelry, it was all very fancy, it looked expensive, so her husband had to be wealthy too. Good for her. And lucky him, for she was very sweet when she chuckled at his words. Inwardly he was as always proud of himself to be able to charm a woman so easily, even if she might be older than he and even married. Not that it always mattered in the long run. This one seemed like she might be a lot of fun, but he didn't know yet if she would be up for it. She revealed her name quite briefly and it didn't exactly sound like a Roman name. Charis? Wasn't that Greek or something? 

"That depends on how you define... enjoy." He said with a grin, "It's not exactly the kind of party I usually attend. It could do with a bit more... I don't know... fun? Or what do you think... Charis?" That was an odd name for such a fancy looking young woman and he wondered if she knew anything about that concubine.

@Sara

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She laughed at his words, amused. She would have been annoyed beyond measure had she still been a slave at his presumption and very blatant flirting but...now? She supposed it was a little flattering. And amusing, that he thought he had the faintest of shots with her. Still, she decided to play his game and quirked a brow as she sipped her wine. "And what would make it...fun, Marcus?" 

She smirked and then held her cup out to be refilled by a passing slave girl. She flicked her eyes to the young woman - small, dark haired. She wondered if this was what she looked like when she waited on parties. She tried to push it from her mind but the downcast eyes and quick silent steps away were hard to dismiss. She exhaled and glanced back to Marcus. "How about a turn in the garden?" She offered with a little smile. "And more wine." 

 

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He plucked another date from the tray and chuckled when she picked up on his words concerning fun. Just the kind of woman he could have a bit of fun with, he thought to himself. She got it! As he had almost guessed! She was bored, just like he was, and she wanted to do something else than just the usual random chit-chat with the rest of the guests at the party, "Oh I can think of a few things." He said with a wink and watched her get her wine refilled by a passing slave girl. He noted how Charis gave the girl a look and followed her eyes to the very pretty slave girl. But then Charis suggested what to do.

"More wine, definitely! More wine makes anything more fun, doesn't it?" He asked and blocked the slave girls way to get his own cup filled too. She looked up him with no particular expression, but did at least pour wine into his cup. His thoughts had moved on already though and he continued to speak to Charis, "I already noticed where the garden is." Marcus continued, sipping his wine and waving Charis with him. Once they were a bit away from the rest of the guests, he slowed down so they could walk next to each other, "So do you usually have a lot of fun in gardens?" She suggested it, after all. Honestly he was a bit surprised about how easy it was to talk to her, but some women were just like that. Not so stuck-up and arrogant as others. Charis was clearly more down-to-Earth and he could work with that.

@Sara

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Charis chuckled with a slight shake of her head, but there was a smile tugging on the corners of her lips. She'd assured Tertius she'd be back soon but a quick glance in his direction suggested he was otherwise occupied and...wasn't this the whole point of taking her to an event like this? So she'd meet the great and the good of Rome as their equal rather than as a piece of dirt to be trodden on, as she had been. Granted, she suspected Tertius didn't include attractive young men in his mind when he considered what she should do this evening but all the same, she had an argument to make if it came to it.

And then they were walking, and she let out a loud, genuine laugh at his question. So presumptive! Almost as bold as men had been when she was enslaved, although this felt different. At least now she could tell him to fuck off it went to far. There were some perks to her new position, she could admit. She glanced sidelong at him and shook her head. "I'm not that sort of woman, Marcus." She chuckled again and sipped her wine. "Why? What fun have you had in gardens that makes you ask that question?" She tilted her head with an amused smirk and then moved to the fountain, running her fingers through the water. "You came alone this evening?" She asked. 

 

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She was cute when she chuckled at his words, but then she did follow him towards the peristyle and the gardens of the house. Marcus had already forgotten the name of the Senator owning the place, but he was clearly wealthy. Not only could he throw a party for such high and noble people, but he also lived on the Caelian Hill, which said something about his rank. Well it was good Marcus came. Even if it was boring. At least Charis made it all more interesting. She laughed when he asked about how she had fun in gardens. Gods she was cute! He loved it when you could have fun with someone and when you could make them laugh like that. But then she claimed she was not that sort of woman and he chuckled at her comment and turned the question back to her.

"Well if you're not that kind of woman, I'm not sure I should tell you." He said with a wink to her, watching her move into the garden while he sipped his wine. She moved over to a fountain and wondered if he came alone.

"This evening, yes. Or, some of my friends are here, but that's not quite the same as having a lovely escort like you." Marcus explained and followed her to the fountain, where he leaned against the edge of it, "I don't imagine you came alone though?" With how she spoke and how she dressed and had her hair made, it was almost certain she was married. The question was to whom. And if she really was that faithful to him. But she did go to the garden alone with Marcus, after all. If anyone noticed, that might start some gossip. But surely she knew that? And she came anyway. He smiled at the thought.

@Sara

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She watched him as he moved to join her at the fountain, listening with amusement. She was not used to being flattered by men like him. Ogled, of course, that was par for the course of being a young, vaguely attractive female slave, but flattered? Never. Or not by men like him. Alexius had certainly been full of compliments. She smiled to herself at the memory of their one perfect night together - she had needed it and she was endlessly grateful for it. 

"You are a flatterer, Marcus." She chuckled and moved her fingers to brush the beautiful blooming flowers next to the fountain. "And no, not alone, with my husband." Which still felt odd to say and...wasn't technically true she supposed, but Tertius was adamant she was his wife and should be treated as such. Still, not wanting to dwell on Tertius she glanced across to Marcus as she sipped her wine. "And what have you been doing for entertainment thus far this evening, before you accosted me for a date, Marcus?" 

 

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She seemed amused and cheerful, which he supposed was good. And she said he flattered her. Marcus smirked with a nod of acknowledgement to her and sipped his wine, while she explained she'd come with her husband. Just like he imagined. Well that didn't have to stop anyone. She was young and her husband probably old and dull, like most of them were. Such a pity you couldn't just marry someone of your own age, but young and beautiful women had to marry old and dull men and live in boring marriages. Well, one day he'd be such a man. But he wouldn't be dull! 

"I imagined as much." He said, not caring to ask whom her husband was, not yet anyway. But she did have an accent, so he wondered what fancy Senator had married a foreigner like her. Not something he heard about often. She didn't want to talk about her husband though, it seemed, and he watched her brush the flowers and ask him what he'd done so far this evening. He chuckled at her last words.

"That's quite bold, Charis... and this is a date now? You are forwards." Marcus said with a grin, "Not that I mind. What have I been doing so far? Mostly drinking wine, probably. Attempting to mingle with the high and mighty men present here, but sometimes I find it hard to stay focused. I'm still fairly new in those circles and guess what... it's not all fun and games, like they want you to think." Not that he was new among Senators or among people who were high and mighty - he lived with Tiberius, after all - but he was new in politics and didn't know so much of the game yet. He was attempting to learn though. But it was boring. He kind of looked forwards to when he'd move to the next step and serve in the military. At least that should be more exciting, right?

@Sara

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She groaned and rolled her eyes, shooting him a smirk over her shoulder. "A honey covered date as I recall." She chuckled at the double meaning of the word. Latin was fun, sometimes. But she listened with patience and a little sigh. It sounded familiar to what many of the men she'd met who visited Tertius did with their time, and what her husband did himself. She wondered, briefly, if young Marcus would grow up to be a man like her husband. She hoped not.

"It doesn't sound fun or like a game at all," She chuckled with a shake of her head and let the flowers go, moving to turn around and lean against the fountain next to him as she languidly sipped her wine. "I'm only recently married so I share your pain. Learning the ropes, as it were." She sipped again and then tilted her head to study him. "And do you talk of terribly dull things with the high and mighty men present here? Grain and taxes and such?" 

 

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Marcus understood it now, the meaning of her words just before, but they could keep on playing, couldn't they? "Your memory is already better than mine. Although the things I could imagine when you say it like that... a honey covered date..." He said with a wink and said nothing more, except sipping his wine while watching her over the edge of the cup. And then he'd answered her about what he did this evening so far, daring to admit he was bored. Without saying it. He wrapped it in. See, he could be quite the politician someday, could he not? They always wrapped it in like that.

She agreed that what they spoke about didn't sound like fun and games, and then she was also just recently married. Oh? Weren't the women usually meant to marry a lot younger? Not that she was old! She was just not... not 16, definitely not. But he tried to ignore that thought, let her continue talking and he grinned again when she was done.

"You know what, you get it! Grains and taxes and such... terribly dull, yes!" He said with a little laugh, "But, I didn't stay long to talk about that, and what I work with, is hardly a subject for a party. I'm in charge of prisons and executions. It's interesting, but... not fun either. Not for a party anyway." He said thoughtfully and then the next thought hit him, because his mind just worked like that... he leaned a little closer, "Do you want to hear some gossip I heard in there?" 

@Sara

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Charis gave him a small, wry smile before she transformed it into a withering look in jest at his double entendre. She chuckled. He was funny. She'd missed laughing. She'd also missed being flirted with by young, handsome men. Even if Charis was sure that beneath it all he was insufferable he was at least flattering. And he made her smile. 

Her brows rose though as he explained his position. She still didn't have much of a grasp on the hierarchy of positions Roman men could do beyond that Tertius was almost at the very, very top. Surely this man wasn't so important so young? Then again, stranger things had happened. She tilted her head and studied him with her big blue eyes, smile wry. "That is very serious, Marcus. But fulfilling? You enjoy it?" She watched him and then as he leaned closer she arched a brow and glanced up at him. "Yes. Amuse me." She chuckled. Roman Gossip was generally boring as fuck but...why not?

 

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Gods he loved making her laugh like that, she really was sweet! Kind of short, but many women were. And she had that accent, that he couldn't quite place, although it did sound somewhat familiar. Perhaps her family had been in Britannia, where he was born? And he knew plenty of slaves from there. His own Silvanus came from Britannia, Longinus gave him to Marcus years ago. Tiberius' sister also had a bodyguard from there. She was fierce to look at though. Marcus didn't like her much. Charis seemed much nicer. And certainly not a slave, not with how she acted and reacted to his words.

She seemed surprised though, when he explained what he worked with and she said it was a serious thing to work with, "I enjoy it, yes. If you can enjoy prisons and all that. It's filthy. But it's nice having something to do. And learning new things. And having responsibility. I like that." Marcus said to her. She knew about that too, right? She had a husband and that meant a home and that meant responsibility. Not that she'd know about real work, but she could understand to some extent, he was sure. 

But work wasn't fun. Gossip was much more fun. She chuckled again when he leaned closer and he smirked. He liked the way she spoke.

"I heard... that one of the guests at this party brought a woman that's not his wife, but they pretend she is? Like, he's parading her like she's his wife, but she's not, because she's a freedwoman?" Marcus told her and chuckled, "I'm amazed they let him do it." 

@Sara

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Charis was grateful she didn't have a mouthful of wine when he spoke because had she, there was a chance she would have spat it back in his face as she choked and glanced at him. Her face was a picture halfway between amused and horrified. His chuckle didn't help. 

"Well..." She cleared her throat and tilted her head to look at him. She chose amusement rather than annoyance. "I heard that her husband...lover...whatever...is very influential. I suspect that's why they let him." She arched a brow at him. "The thought offends you, Marcus?" she said with a grin as she sipped her wine. "Here I thought you were fun...what's wrong with this guest having his own fun?" 

 

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He was surprised by the way she responded, although she seemed amused when she spoke, but her face when he first spread the gossip to her... was different. Was she offended or something? Maybe she knew the Senator in question, or this concubine or whatever she was? That was not part of the plan, offending her! They were having so much fun together. Well, too late to change anything he already said and Marcus wasn't known as the type who'd linger in the past. She apparently also heard the gossip though and said the man, a Senator they'd said, was influential, so he was allowed. Oh really? Of course though. The more power you had, the less you had to worry about what you did, if it was right or wrong. Because you could just remove anyone who did not agree with you. But Charis was clearly not really amused. She grinned and sipped her wine. But her words... 

"It's just... I mean... it's frowned upon, that's all. Not that I never do scandalous things, but something like that... you don't do that. Freedmen and freedwomen are a much lower class. Their kids are citizens, but not them. Not really." See, he did pay attention to some lessons in law sometimes! "Do you know them? Is that why you're talking like that? I thought we were having fun too..." He said, giving her the sweet puppy eyes, because he didn't want her to think ill of him. Not when she was fun to be with.

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Charis listened. And there it was. She arched a brow, sipping her drink. Well...here goes nothing. It would be worth it to see that look on his face wiped off - the sweet glint in his eyes, the handsome smile...all of it was a ploy, or it was genuine because he thought she was important. She wondered what his face would look like when he found out what she actually was. No time like the present. 

"We were. We were having so much fun sweet Marcus." She said with a small smile and then lowered her wine cup from her lips. "But I do know them. My husband, you see, isn't really my husband." She tilted her head to study him, a wry smile playing on her lips. "I was his slave. I was a barbarian savage. And now men like you...well...you have to be pleasant to me." She chuckled and sipped her drink again. "So scandalous." 

 

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Something was off here. A moment ago it wasn't, but now it was. The way she arched her brow, the way she sipped her drink... well she was married, of course she'd not be as easily swayed as younger and unmarried women. On the other hand, he did make her laugh. But now she wasn't laughing. Instead she spoke to him in the strangest way and then, in her own words, informed him that she was the lady they gossiped about. She'd been a slave and a barbarian and her husband was not really her husband. Marcus mind worked hard to process all the facts and transform them into something useful. So he had offended her. Because it was her, the freedwoman who came here with a Senator, who paraded her around as if she was his wife, which she never could be... 

But he had to play this right. It sounded like her so-called husband was influential. And she had been fun so far. And her so-called husband was only that. Not actually a husband... 

"I did not expect it was you they talked about!" Marcus finally said, "And it is scandalous. The gossip is out there. Anyway..." He said, sipped his drink, which was soon empty. What a pity... but at least he had company. Of a lower-class woman... "Haven't I been pleasant to you so far? And we were having fun?" He said with a grin, "Why stop?" 

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"Because I'm not having fun anymore Marcus." She said with a little devilish smirk and she shrugged her shoulders. "And because I'm just a freedwoman, as you pointed out." And ergo, not of his class - not by any stretch of the imagination. All the men and women here (besides the slaves of course) were wealthy and he must have been too. Born into a life of luxury, bred to look down on people like her. It made her blood boil, but she kept her face carefully neutral. Slavery had been good for teaching her that, if nothing else. 

"Why would you even wish to spend time with me?" She tilted her head and watched him closely, her blue eyes narrowed on his face. "Either you think you'll get something out of me or..." A-ha... She grinned. "You fear what my husband will do if he thinks you've insulted me?" 

 

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Damn, this took a wrong turn suddenly and Marcus was not liking it. They went from having fun to not having fun at all. But it was wrong to parade a freedwoman as the wife of a Senator, a Patrician. No one could argue with that. Why else would they gossip about it and whisper like that, if it was widely accepted? It just wasn't. And while Marcus enjoyed his little flings from the lower classes, there was no way he'd ever consider marrying one or pretending to marry one. Never. And it was a pity really, this whole ordeal, because Charis had been sweet and fun so far and she was easy on the eyes, so he really messed up here. Or no, he didn't! She did! She lied to him by pretending she was something she was not. He wasn't sure what to say to her, when she smirked and pointed out she was just a freedwoman. Then she would know why he'd want to spend time with her now.

"I shouldn't fear your husband. How is it an insult, when he is the one pretending something is happening, that can't be happening? And you're helping him in keeping up the pretense. You can't marry your own freedman or freedwoman. That's just the law. That's not me deciding that." Marcus pointed out. He was clearly not drunk enough to have lost his head. He was almost proud of himself for knowing all these things. He never knew he paid attention when he apparently did! 

But he did pay attention and she was sweet and easy on the eyes and all that he just said, boiled down to one thing... "But you... you are just a freedwoman. Technically, you're not really bound to him like that. It's just pretense. You can do as you please." He smiled again, "Meaning you can have fun, if you want to." 

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Charis watched his face. He was clearly unhappy with the way this conversation had turned but Charis well...she was revelling in it. She had so rarely, in her time in Rome, got to get the better of somebody. And now she had the influence...thanks to Tertius...to do just that. She gave him a small smile and merely shrugged her shoulders as he started to speak. He shouldn't fear Tertius? She arched a brow. Oh...oh Marcus...Thank the Gods - for his sake - said husband couldn't hear this conversation. 

"Shall we go tell him that then?" She offered and pushed herself up to stand, sweeping her arm to indicate that Marcus and she could enter the domus again. "If you think you have nothing to fear, should we go and tell him?" Obviously not. Because surely Marcus should realise that yes - technically - he was right, but there was a reason Tertius was allowed to carry on the pretence. Because he was influential and important and rich. 

"Oh Marcus." She said with a deep shake of her head. "This wouldn't be fun, for either of us." She sighed and tilted her head at him. "I'm just a freedwoman who is tied to my husband. I should hate to see what he'd do to you if he thought you were taking advantage." 

 

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His eyes widened when she pushed herself from the fountain, suggesting they went to speak to her husband. Oh he didn't want that! In fact, that had not been his goal at all, when he and Charis walked out here, side by side, wine in hand. Now everything was fucked up. He shook his head at her suggestion, but then she stopped and seemed oddly amused although she pretended to not be. She was having fun on his expense. Making him seem like a fool. Something he didn't need. Marcus was going somewhere. He had begun his course of honor and there was no way a low woman like her was going to make a fool out of him. 

He emptied his wine and set the cup aside on the ground, before he looked at her again, "Who says he'll believe you and not me? I'm just a young guy, after all. I'm not the one with a pretense husband." He said. What could her husband do anyway? Marcus was a Patrician too. And Charis was just a woman. A freedwoman, even. She was nothing compared to him. Still, it might be better to just stay here, "Not that I feel like seeing your husband. I'm sure you can fend for yourself anyway." 

@Sara

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Charis gave Marcus a bemused look. Part of her did feel bad - he had been funny and flattering. Another, larger part of her did not feel bad at all. He thought her barely better then a slave, she was sure, and fair game for a young, rich man. But Charis of Britannia - when she'd been free - had taken no quarter with young men that thought they could try their luck. In Rome, as a freedwoman, she had no such respect for facing down men. But she could rely on the name of her husband. That was something at least. 

"Who says he'll believe me?" She scoffed, frowning. Tertius was many things but he was not somebody who suffered insults well. She was confident he'd jump on this - even if he didn't trust her entirely. "He freed me? And married me?" She tilted her head to watch him. "I would suggest that shows how much faith he has in me. I suspect more faith than in a young man trying his luck." She chuckled and sighed. "It's a shame Marcus - you had been so pleasant to me. Until you realised who I was. Do you truly think you are any better than me?" 

 

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Why did she look so amused? She enjoyed making a fool of a young man like him? Just because she'd risen way above her rank, with a Senator calling her his wife? She was nothing compared to him. Nothing. But she was certain her husband would believe her over Marcus. She was chuckling and meanwhile he felt lit inside. Growing more upset with her the more words she spoke. How dare she speak to him like that? He had the ear of a Prince! 

He lifted his chin when she would know if he thought himself better than her, "At least I am a Roman of rank. You act like you're more than what you are. You're not even from here, are you?" He didn't think she was, she had an accent, even if her Latin was really good... "You have no rights, not really. You must be a really pleasing lay for your master, since he wanted to call you his wife." 

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