This is an Eggcerpt Exchange with fellow author Kim Headlee, who writes historical fiction along with a plethora of other genres. Today we are privileged to a sneak peek at Liberty, Kim’s award-winning historical fiction novel set in the Roman province of Britannia.
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.
The door shut with a terrifying clang.
“Sir!” She clutched the cold bars, failing to bleed the raw panic from her tone.
The guard paused with the key in the lock.
A hundred questions clamored for release. Every one started with, “Why?”
He frowned as if trying to discern what she’d asked. She wasn’t sure herself. “Why the lock?”
’Twould do, for a start. She nodded.
He scrunched one shoulder. “Lanista Jamil’s orders.” He twisted the key. The lock engaged with a loud click. “For all warriors—gladiators. And you, Gladiatrix.” He withdrew the key, hooked the ring on his belt, and stepped away.
“May I know your name, sir?” It felt ungodly strange asking that of a captor, but she hoped to reclaim a hint of humanity in this inhumane place into which the gods had thrust her.
“Vederi,” he said without breaking stride.
He had disappeared from sight before she realized he hadn’t bothered to ask her name.
So much for humanity.
She sank onto the cot, head in hands and heedless of the straw poking her thighs through the mattress’s canvas cover, and sobbed out all the rage, fear, despair, and grief that had harried her for the past fortnight, feelings pride had forbidden her to show the soldiers or the slaver or her new owner or his servants or even that pampered Roman—especially him—denying them all the chance to wield those emotions against her. Pain as visceral as a blade’s thrust sliced into her gut. She dropped to her knees and pressed her cheek to the wall, painting it with her tears and pounding the cool slate with the heel of her hand.
“Da, how could you!”
Each futile thump knelled like another nail driven into the coffin housing the remains of her freedom.
About the Author
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. She has been an award-winning novelist since 1999.Thanks for spreading the word!
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