by Kim Iverson Headlee
ROOM WITH BOOKS encourages our readers to follow the tour and comment.
They hailed her “Liberty,” but she was free only to obey—or die.
Betrayed by her father and sold as payment of a Roman tax debt to fight in Londinium’s arena, gladiatrix-slave Rhyddes feels like a wild beast in a gilded cage. Celtic warrior blood flows in her veins, but Roman masters own her body. She clings to her vow that no man shall claim her soul, though Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, son of the Roman governor, makes her yearn for a love she believes impossible.
Groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and trapped in a politically advantageous betrothal, Aquila prefers the purity of combat on the amphitheater sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics, and the raw power and athletic grace of the flame-haired Libertas to the adoring deference of Rome’s noblewomen.
When a plot to overthrow Caesar ensnares them as pawns in the dark design, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart and the empire to which they both owe allegiance. Knowing the opposite of obedience is death, the only liberty offered to any slave, Rhyddes must embrace her arena name—and the love of a man willing to sacrifice everything to forge a future with her.
from Chapter 5: The outcome of Marcus’s final match
From observing the earlier pairings, she had learned to listen to the crowd’s chants and watch their hand movements to predict the outcome. If they chanted “mee-soom” with thumbs thrusting upward, both warriors lived. A chant of “eOO-goo-lah,” while jabbing thumb at neck, resulted in the loser’s execution, either by the winner slitting his throat or delivering a thrust angled downward through the upper back.
While the rich-robed, gray-haired, taut-faced Roman standing beneath the ivy-twined canopy appeared to be the judge, he had not opposed the crowd’s will whenever it had sounded unanimous, as in their verdict regarding this match.
Fire Helm had fought well, and the audience, as Rhyddes had expected, chanted for his dismissal.
The Roman judge’s thumb jabbed toward his neck.
In spite of the crowd’s disapproving roar, he repeated the gesture several times, vehemence contorting his face.
Eagle Helm sheathed his sword and yanked off his helmet.
The Roman from the slave market! The memory of his hands caressing her breasts weakened her knees. And, gods, his enchanting smile . . . but he wasn’t smiling now.
He glared at the judge with naked fury, shouting something she couldn’t begin to discern. It yielded no reprieve for Fire Helm, who had removed his helmet to expose his neck and back.
Sorrow enshrouded her heart for the doomed warrior.
As Eagle Helm drew his sword, she squeezed her eyes shut, holding in her tears but not her loathing of the nobleman for failing to sway the judge.
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, Great Pyrenees goat guards, and assorted wildlife. People and creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins—the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-twentieth century—seem to be sticking around for a while yet.
Kim is a Seattle native and a direct descendent of twentieth-century Russian nobility. Her grandmother was a childhood friend of the doomed Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the romantic yet tragic story of how Lydia escaped Communist Russia with the aid of her American husband will most certainly one day fuel one of Kim’s novels. Another novel in the queue will involve her husband’s ancestor, the seventh-century proto-Viking king of the Swedish colony in Russia.
For the time being, however, Kim has plenty of work to do in creating her projected 8-book Arthurian series, The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles, and other novels under her imprint, Pendragon Cove Press. She has been a published novelist since 1999, beginning with the original edition of Dawnflight (Sonnet Books, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0671020412).
Kim will be awarding an autographed print copy of LIBERTY (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.