GABRIEL picked up the blade and caressed its unadorned hilt. Definitely of Roman origin, though he’d have to do a bit of research to pinpoint the exact area. Still, it was a heckuva find, especially in a Wyoming antique shop. He’d dropped in thinking they would still have that Civil War sword he’d seen in the window a few weeks ago. They didn’t—it’d been sold only a few days earlier—but this piece, newly acquired, had caught his eye. A bit of haggling and the promise of a lead if he found anything interesting—it helped to know the shop’s owner—and he was in possession of a Roman gladiator’s sword. It’d round out his collection nicely.
How many swords does a guy need? The sarcastic and catty question from his last boyfriend still echoed in Gabriel’s mind. He surveyed the wall in his basement displaying several choice pieces. A man had to have hardware.
Lovingly, Gabriel caressed the hilt once more, then curled his fingers around the grip. He immediately took up a guarded stance, blade held at the ready. “For Caesar!” He lifted the sword and shook it above his head, imagining himself in the center of an arena, the crowd cheering his name. Thumbs down or thumbs up—which would it be?
For Rome. No one gave a fuck about Caesar. The voice caressed his ears and sent a shiver down his spine. Gabriel’s cock tightened. For a moment, a hot sweaty body pressed against his back, arms like steel bands around him, and the heavy, thick cock of a gladiator surged against his buttocks. Gabriel bit back a groan at the too vivid image and lowered the sword.
Though you’d do well in the arena.
That voice again. Gabriel turned, though he knew he was alone. “It’s been too long since I’ve gotten laid,” he muttered as he turned toward the display rack and placed the Roman blade on its shelf. He’d had to move his rare estoc, a sword used by horseman where Austria and Hungary bordered the Ottoman Empire in the late 1500s. He’d found it for under seven thousand, a steal at that price, and knew he’d have to find a new place to display it soon. Still, this gladiator’s weapon had called to him. Not so much as a collector of rare and fine swords, but as a man admiring the skill and brute strength of another.
The antique dealer had told him a friend brought it back from Italy. He’d love to have a friend like that, especially if he found artifacts like those and gave them up to a dealer. With a grin, Gabriel headed upstairs to shower. He promised his sister he’d make an appearance at her dinner tonight. And find out which friend she wants to hook me up with next. I’m a little too old for college guys, though they sure are fun. His cock stirred. Yeah, maybe some young stud might be exactly what he needed to get his mind off a certain Roman gladiator’s sword… and the man who might have wielded it.
THE weapons were unfamiliar to him, but they were weapons. A gladiator’s sword—his sword—sat on a display shelf next to more ornate weapons. The polish on the blades showed they were well taken care of, though he doubted the slimmer weapon below his would withstand much heavy use. This place wasn’t home, not his cot in the gladiator’s barracks, where they sweated their asses off in the summer and froze in the winter. He saw no fireplaces, yet warm air moved from a shiny vent above him. The room appeared bright as day, though he saw no obvious source of light. Stairs led somewhere; he knew better than to follow them. How had he gotten here? His head hurt.
He sat on a couch far softer that the one on which he’d fucked the senator’s wife, at her insistence, of course. He much preferred the senator himself. But she was a prideful woman, powerful and prone to believe that she controlled the gladiators, not that he allowed himself to be handled so that he might eventually earn his freedom.
He hadn’t. Not yet, or at least he didn’t think so. An offering to Janus, the two-faced God, made in a temple. He’d been laughed at for offering to any god, least of all one who held little sway over war and battle. Memories of a dark-haired woman, his mother, telling him of the gods, of their powers, filled his mind like wisps of smoke. It had been Janus’s month, and something about the god who looked both forward and backward called to him. With the same instinct that told him to feint or lunge, he’d made the offering. “Find me a doorway out of this life,” he’d said. His guards, duty bound to bring him back to his lanista, a manager of gladiators, had only laughed.
His head hurt again. The sword called to him, and he went to the display and removed it from its resting place. Cradling the sword against his chest, he lay down on the fine couch, giving little thought to his grime-covered feet and dirty loincloth. The senators liked his dirt against their finery; it made them feel important and wanted. If no one summoned him, he would recline and rest for a moment. Maybe his head would stop hurting.
The whirring of the warm air stopped. A strange ticking came from across the room, and a gurgling from where a basin and fountain, and bottles of drink were stored. This wasn’t like any senator’s room he’d been in, and yet, he hadn’t seen the palace. Maybe he’d been called into higher circles. With a smile, he rested his head on a pillow far softer than any he’d ever used before, caught the faintest woodsy smell, and waited.