Happy April, the time we celebrate Ceres, goddess of agricultural fertility! The tree buds and flower bulbs and WEEDS are certainly bursting with renewed life in our yard. 🌷🌺🌷
A few days ago, two FB author friends tagged me to share a few lines from my current WIP. I shared a bit of Book 3 in the Dominus Playroom FB group (if you’re not a member, come join us). Alas, Gaius was disappointed with my efforts. SO… when another FB author pal tagged me again to share an excerpt, I decide to rewrite the scene. Here’s the heavily revised morsel from much later in Book 3 of the Dominus saga. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you are ready for the insanity that is the third book of this twisted saga!
Today’s Sunday snippet features Gaius and Allerix… in Dacia. 😀 Unedited and subject to change.
A crack of thunder ripped him out of his nightmarish slumber, startling him awake. Gaius forced his uncooperative, drowsy eyes to open, only to discover that somehow during his sleep he’d pulled his legs up to his chest in a feeble attempt to stay warm. His sore back was pressed hard against the cold rough wall of the small, shallow cave. A quick glance around the dark space filled his disoriented mind with a madman’s panic. Gaius tried to shout but his plea came out as little more than a raspy whisper.
“Allerix! Where are you?”
No answer. Only silence, except for the relentless roar of the violent downpour outside their modest shelter. He was alone.
Alle had abandoned him.
Prudent decision, Gaius decided. With his dislocated shoulder, a broken right arm and a badly twisted ankle, not to mention the slew of cuts and puss-filled blisters and gashes caked with blood that refused to dry, he was nothing more than a battered, useless liability. He couldn’t fight; he couldn’t hunt. Shit, he could barely walk. Better to leave him behind to die in this terrifying, drenched forest, to perish alone in this spooky place where Allerix’s Dacian comrades refused to tread.
This foreign cave would become his tomb. A simple mausoleum the Earth goddess had hewn from the rocks and then forgotten. No one from his family would ever visit this grave on his birthday to sacrifice a pig and sing hymns to celebrate his victories and his benevolence. No one would travel here to perform the necessary sacred rites on Rome’s festival days. Soon, no one would remember him, not even the cursed spirits of the Underworld. His corpse would rot, and his bones would crumble to dust. It would be as if Gaius Fabius Rufus had never existed.
A gleam of metal on the floor of the cave caught his eye. Allerix had left behind the dagger he’d stashed in his tunic before they’d escaped. Was the blade meant to be Alle’s farewell gift, a token of hope that Gaius could somehow defend himself from the bears and the wolves and gods know what other fiendish creatures inhabited these haunted woods?
Had Allerix said goodbye before he’d left the cave to save his own life? Had he kissed Gaius’s mouth after rearranging the torn cloak to protect Gaius’s shivering broken body? Was the sweet memory of Alle’s affection just an illusion, a fragment from one of Gaius’s delusional dreams? Had Alle ever truly loved him?
Through the heavy veil of rain outside the cave’s entrance, a dark figure appeared. Gaius couldn’t tell if it was animal or human. He lunged for the knife and held it up; the weapon shook in his weak grip like a tree leaf in a stiff breeze.
Ducking his head, Allerix crossed the threshold and pulled off his hood. Drops of rain pitter-pattered on the cave’s dirt floor. He reached underneath the fabric of his soaked cloak and pulled out an object covered in light brown fur. “I’ve brought dinner. Now to see if I can manage to light a fire to cook this rabbit.”
“You—you didn’t leave me.”
“Leave you? Well, I did have to leave to hunt for food. It’s not like a rabbit was going to hop into this cave all on its own.” Chuckling, Alle blew warm breaths into his cupped hands. “You need to eat if you’re ever going to heal from your wounds. And I confess I’m hungry as well.”
Gaius had a thousand questions for his savior, but only one word escaped his trembling lips. “How?”
“You told me to always carry a sling on my person, remember?” Allerix rummaged through the wet pouch attached to his leather belt until he extracted a long cord—the braided, leather sling Gaius had given Allerix back at the camp. He threw the plump, dead bunny on the floor by Gaius feet and crouched to arrange kindling for a fire. “I believe the student has at last matched the skills of his teacher, Dominus.”
Gaius dropped the knife, and with his good arm he pulled Alle in for a soft kiss. “You’ve far surpassed your humble and grateful teacher, my beloved prince. Thank you for returning to me.”
“I made a promise to you, and I honor my word.” Allerix nuzzled his nose against Gaius’s cheek. “Besides, I can never leave you, Rufus. You’ve captured my heart.”