Book 3, unedited and subject to change. Gaius’s POV.
When Gaius crossed the threshold of Marcia’s chamber, he discovered the origin of the exotic scents wafting throughout the main house. Incense and herbs sat burning in silver bowls by the windows; brisk early winter breezes blowing in off Lake Albanus fluttered the curtains and nudged the fragrant smoke into the room. But there—lingering just below the surface of the musky perfumes—was the distinct smell of blood. Buckets of blood. Her bedroom had been a battlefield.
“Permission to enter, Domina.”
She replied in a soft voice, “Granted.”
Like a resilient, victorious warrior, Marcia sat tall on the bed with a pile of pillows supporting her back, her hair coiffed and her cosmetics applied. But at the edges of her hairline, where the artificial color coating her face faded, her skin was unnaturally greyish pale. Dressed in her finest silk blue dress, she cradled a bundle of bleached white fabric in her arms. Despite all signs of exhaustion, light radiated from her smile. Gaius had never seen her—he’d never seen anyone—so fucking happy.