"What is it?" Eve stood up slowly from the table as Marcus stood at the door, speaking to the courier.
The young man handed Marcus a sealed note then left. Marcus closed the door and slowly turned around, staring at the item in his hand.
"Marcus?" Eve pressed. "What is it?"
"It has...Nero's seal."
"What?" Eve swallowed tightly and stood quickly. "What is Nero sending you?"
Marcus opened the note. He read it silently.
Eve's hands flexed anxiously at her sides. Why would Nero be contacting her brother? "Marcus?"
Marcus' lips tightened, as did his face. "It's an official decree...to fight in the exhibition."
"What?" Eve nearly shrieked then instantly forced herself to calm. "Why..."
Marcus folded the note closed and looked at Eve. "He had scouts out on the streets. While the games were going on."
"You knew this?" Eve stared at him, stunned. "You knew this and you still participated in the games? Have you lost your mind?"
Marcus looks at the note again. "I am invited to speak with him, personally."
"You're not going." Eve said tightly.
Marcus raised his eyes slowly and stared at her. "In case you forgot...I am older than you. I'm not a child. I can decide for myself."
"I have my reasons." Marcus said stiffly. "There's no harm in listening to his proposition."
Eve stepped forward grabbed his arm. "Marcus, this man is deceitful and dangerous. You should understand this as well as anyone. You know what he did to our father. How could you even consider being a part of his brutal fights? If you walk into that arena, you will die! Do you get it?"
"Listen to her."
Marcus and Eve gasp and spun around. Rhonan was standing in the open door, his face hard, eyes cutting past Marcus and into Eve. Eve stared at him wide-eyed. Why was Rhonan here? Anxiety gripped her as images of her last encounter with Nero flashed through her mind.
Rhonan stepped inside and closed the door hard. His burning eyes were still digging into Eve. "Sometimes her mind still functions properly."
Eve frowned at his emphasis on sometimes. "What are you-"
"You." Rhonan cut her off abruptly as his hard stare swung to Marcus, startling the young man. "You are not going anywhere near the arena. Or Nero. So get that out of your foolish head right now."
"You can't-" Marcus started but stopped short as the tip of Rhonan's sword was suddenly at his throat. His eyes widened fearfully.
"You do not want to argue with me right now, boy." Rhonan growled then quickly withdrew the sword, stuffing it back in its sheath. His attention returned to Eve as he spoke to Marcus in a low, forceful voice. "Now leave us. I want to have a word with your sister."
Marcus shot Eve an uncertain look. Eve nodded slowly though she didn't feel at all confident about being alone with Rhonan right now. The man was clearly angry and Eve could think of only one reason why.
"Go." Rhonan ordered as he stepped towards Eve, his rage boiling up into his eyes.
"It-it's okay, Marcus." Eve said thickly, her own fear squeezing her voice.
Marcus shot Rhonan a doubtful look then left the house. Eve stood by the kitchen doorway, her hand nervously touching the door frame.
"Rhonan...what are you doing here?" Her quiet voice shook badly, belying the fact that she knew exactly why he was there.
Rhonan stared at her, his eyes on fire. She stood rigid, waiting for the explosion she was certain was about to erupt. But when he spoke, his words were merely smoldering coals. "Why?" He asked slowly. "Why did you do it?" He moved towards her slowly, his eyes narrowed. "Why would you bargain for a freedom I willingly gave up?"
Eve swallowed tightly. Tears stung her eyes. "Because you didn't...give it up willingly."
"What are you talking about?" Rhonan stopped. His eyes narrowed even more.
"I know what you did." Eve trembled. "I know you did it...to save me from Nero." Tears slid down her face. "It wasn't right, or fair, that you should lose everything because of...because of me." She gripped the door frame as her strength seemed to seep out of her. "I don't deserve it. I-I can't let you do this. You deserve your freedom back."
Rhonan stepped forward so quick Eve barely saw him move. He grabbed her arm tightly and jerked her face up close to his. "I don't need you to rescue me." He hissed fiercely. "If I want my freedom back, I will get it on my own. I don't need the aid of a woman."
Eve closed her eyes as fresh tears seeped from beneath her dark lashes and drained down her cheeks. "It's killing you." She whispered, shaking. "Being owned by Nero...is killing you."
Rhonan's face twitched as his lips tightened. He shoved her back, releasing her. "And what do you care?" He growled. "If it kills me...you'll be rid of me once and for all. That should please you."
Eve hugged the door frame. "It wouldn't." She choked out softly, quietly.
Rhonan lunged at her, gripping the door frame above her head, looming over her like a mountain about to crash down and crush her. "And why wouldn't it?" He snarled. "You despise me. You've made that clear." His dark eyes burned into hers, the heat in them raging through her like a wild fire. His chest heaved and he shoved back away from her, turning his back. He raked his fingers through his thick hair.
Trembling, Eve stared at his strong back. Tears streaked her face. "He killed my father." She cried out suddenly, fiercely. "He killed my father and...and he let my mother die. He took everything from me and Marcus!" She was shaking. "How was I supposed to feel when you sold yourself to him to do his bidding? I hate him! I hate everything about him! Especially those who...who fight for him!" She was crying openly. "My father died in his exhibitions! By one of his gladiators! I watched it happen...I hated all gladiators! Especially those who belonged to him." She choked on her sobs. She wiped at her face with a shaking hand. "You think I hated you from the start? I didn't! When I saw his seal on you..." Eve pressed her face against the door frame and squeezed her eyes shut, crying hard. The strength in her voice died and she whispered through her tears, "I died inside...I wanted to die on the outside."
She felt Rhonan's arms around her before she even heard him move. His hands were on her face, tilting it up to his. Her eyes were still closed as his urgent, desperate mouth grabbed hers. She clutched at his shirt, clinging to him, as his kiss immersed her senses, drowning her in his fierce passion.
Rhonan's hot, starving mouth was on her throat, his hard body pinning her against the door frame. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she clutched the back of his head. Burning tears streamed from her eyes. "I'm sorry." she choked out, kissing his hair as his lips and teeth pulled at the tender skin of her throat. "I'm so sorry."
He grabbed her mouth again, silencing her words. Then she was in his arms and he was carrying her from the kitchen to her bedroom. She was barely aware of her surroundings as he laid her on the bed and covered her body with his. His mouth and hands ravaged her with urgency and intense need.
Eve didn't feel him strip away her dress, but she realized suddenly that all she could feel was his hot skin against hers, nothing between them but their intense passion and hunger for one another. Eve gasp and clutched fistfuls of his hair as his scalding mouth covered a hard nipple and sucked at her forcefully until she was arching to him and crying out.
He devoured her firm breasts as his strong fingers delved between her thighs and slid deep inside her hot, aching body. Eve cried out again and lifted her hips to his thrusting fingers. The orgasm swelled quickly, fiercely. Eve clawed at his back and screamed out her ecstasy as her body surrendered to his powerful masculine touch.
Rhonan's hot, ragged breath swirled into her mouth as he claimed her with a hard kiss. He gripped her wrists and pinned her arms above her head as his hips pressed between her thighs. Her legs parted, welcoming him. His warm tongue dove into her mouth as his thick, hard, throbbing cock drove into her aching pussy in one single forceful thrust. Eve gasped sharply into Rhonan's mouth but he didn't break the kiss as his starving body came at her with a need that overwhelmed her and ignited her with the same need.
Her legs curled around him as she began to stroke his cock with urgency, whimpering and crying through their kiss. Her hunger and need for him intensified his urgency. He released her wrists and clutched her breasts as he fucked her harder, taking her, possessing her in a way she realized she had always wanted and needed of him.
Rhonan broke their kiss suddenly and rolled them over so she was straddling him, riding him. His strong hands gripped her hips and moved her against his thrusting cock. She clutched his thick forearms and cried out, her body arching. She threw her head back and cried out his name over and over as he brought her to climax again and again.
Rhonan sat forward quick and wrapped her in his powerful arms, his mouth ravaging her throat as they made fierce and wild love, satisfying and fulfilling one another.
Growling fiercely, Rhonan spun them around again, pinning her against the bed with his strong, urgent body, his orgasm gripping him almost violently. Eve's fingers dug into the thick muscles of his back as he began to fuck her erratically, unable to control his need for release any longer.
"Oh God!" Eve cried out sharply, gasping hard as another orgasm surged through her.
"Eve!" Rhonan shouted her name in near anguish as he thrust into her and released. He clawed the blankets as his body arched and emptied his hot seed into her trembling body. His jaw clenched and his eyes squeezed shut tight as tears streaked his face, a strangled cry erupting out of him. He released a sharp gasp and sank down against her damp body, his heart racing in time with hers.
Eve's hands were shaking as she stroked her fingers through his damp hair. His breath was scalding as he panted against her throat. His arms slid around her tingling body and held her tight. He buried his face into her neck and shuddered. Eve's hand caressed down his shoulder and her fingertips tentatively played over the brand burned into his arm.
Hot tears drained from the corners of her eyes. "Please forgive me." Her whispered voice shook badly. "It's all my fault."
Rhonan shifted and moved up so he was hovering over her, staring down into her eyes. "There is no greater honor for a man." Rhonan murmured. "Than to lay down his life for the woman he loves."