When their gazes locked, shivers coursed along his spine. Caderyn looked off to the people in the market street; the masters wearing togas and their slaves donning rags. A few of the toga-wearers barked for their slaves to hurry filling carts. Elianna and he had met among those hawker stands. She a merchant’s daughter, he the conscripted recruit. The perfume she had worn—a small intake of breath made him aware of a honey scent. Thinking the sweet alyssum a memory-smell, he realized it came from Jana and tilted away. “Who is this woman you mentioned at the Vine, the one whose life you claim depends on me?”
Jana’s crow’s feet deepened as she squinted. “Indrasena. We remain ignorant to who took her and where they ferried her.”
“And the proconsul asked for me?” He frowned, shook his head. “Someone intimate with the area and its people is a wiser choice to learn those things and rescue her.”
“The proconsul has faith in you for reasons unknown to me. I tried convincing him otherwise, but” —she shrugged— “as are most adorable men, he is a stubborn boy in need of an occasional swift kick to the natis.” She swirled the aranciata with her index finger, then inched the finger into her mouth.
“Could be,” he reasoned aloud, helpless not to watch her suck, “Lepidus fears a local exquisitor is vulnerable to coercion. How important is Indrasena to him?”
A pop coincided with Jana sliding out her finger. “Fifty thousand chrysae.”
“That is…a hefty sum.” He resisted clearing his throat. If he had gotten naught else from the years of gambling, at least he had become privy to his own giveaway signs. “Is she a relative of Lepidus?”
“I am limited to discussing immediate details and bartering your fee.”
Barter? Fifty thousand chrysae then was the starting point. Caderyn fought hard to control his burgeoning grin and conceal his wish that the price escalated enough he could escape the rot of his life, purchase land for farming or ranching, whatever got him miles outside temptation’s reach. “Tell me what happened.”
“She vanished in the middle of the night. We were unaware of her missing until the next morning when she did not show up for breakfast. Once the proconsul’s hysterics ended, we searched the villa and its immediate grounds. We discovered a ladder on the atrium’s roof next to the opening where rainwater falls through and suspected the slaves in the house. Then, when they appeared innocent, we questioned those tending the orchards. To no avail.”
“Why do you believe she lives?”
“We found no indications of violence. I assume were murder the intent…” She ground her teeth. “Perhaps I am mistaken. This uncertainty may well drive me mad.”
About the Book
Author: Mark Stone
Caderyn Fortis has been many things—loyal husband, soldier, war veteran, public servant. Now he is a fallen nobilis and gambling addict, an alcoholic who never got over the murder of his wife. In his darkest hour an opportunity comes that can help him recover his self-worth and make up for the mistakes that cost him his wife. All he has to do? Discover who kidnapped a young woman and where they took her, then rescue her. He must do this while not alienating his employer—the best suspect—or falling in love with the woman helping him.
Mark Stone lives in the United States and Spain with his greatest inspiration, his wife Cinta. Having written award-winning Flash Fiction, he is now a novelist writing tales of Fantasy that take place in Calasade, a world heavily influenced by Ancient Rome. You can find him at:
- Twitter — twitter.com/calasade
- Facebook — facebook.com/calasade
- WordPress — wordsbycalasade.com
- Official Website — authormarkstone.com
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