The solidus grew warm against Larissa’s damp palm. She let out a slow breath. The quick knock against the wood stung her knuckles, and in the dark corridor, faint muffled moans had her nerves tight.
She glanced back, the golden flicker of street lamps defining the arching marble of the colonnade. The man—a faithful, family retainer—who had brought her to this place, gave her a brief, parting nod. Silently, he pulled up the hood of his heavy cloak to obscure his features and disappeared into the night.
Larissa closed her eyes and willed her heart to slow. She’d come to one of the more reputable establishments in the Rodos area of the city, where the workers weren’t slaves to a ruthless master. The brothel was rumoured to hide a Sardisian, and his high price reflected his...specialties. Or so she’d been assured.
With a slow creak of iron hinges, the door swung inwards. Soft lamplight splashed gold across the floor and over the man standing waiting for her. A gaze darker than shadow held her and her chest tightened.
Faex, she hadn’t been expecting someone like him.
Her nervous gaze flicked over his lithe torso, catching on the curls and twists of an intricate tattoo chasing down his abdomen. His breeches hung low on his hips and Larissa closed her eyes before she stared too hard. She could do this. She had to do this.
She lifted her hand, her palm opening. The golden solidus gleamed. “For...for you.”
He took it, holding it up to the light before he bit it. Hard. His lips quirked and he stood back. “Welcome...”
First name only. She had to protect herself. She swallowed, trying not to feel the sweat that had her linen shift clinging to her spine. Strength of will forced her slippered feet forward and he closed the door behind her. The latch clicked and a key turned in the lock.
“How long will this take?”
“Your first time?” His thumb traced along her jaw and she shivered at his touch, at the soft timbre of his voice. He pushed back the heavy hood of her cloak and his lips brushed the shell of her ear. “For a golden solidus, lady, you have me for as long as you want me.”