Elissa Rubria is a priestess of Vesta sworn to chastity on penalty of death, and Nero is the emperor of Rome who recently executed Elissa’s brother...
“I—” Elissa’s voice caught in her throat.
Nero moved toward her, pushing her against the wall, the heat of his body causing her to sweat, his breathing, rapid and uneven, rasping in her ear. Reaching above her head, he removed a knife from his collection. A pearl handled secespita, the narrow blade designed for sacrifice.
Elissa opened her mouth to scream.
“Don’t.” Nero pointed the secespita at her throat. “Your brother plotted with my long-lost brother, didn’t he?”
Elissa shook her head, her eyes focused on the knife.
“I could kill you now,” Nero said. “But I have other plans for you.” He drew the blade over his palm then took her hand in his, gently as a lover, and drew the blade again.
Blood beaded in her hand.
Pressing his palm against hers, he said, “My great-grandfather worshiped an Egyptian queen, dark and powerful like you. Be Cleopatra to my Antony.”
He’s madder than Caligula, Elissa thought.
“I’ll make you immortal. Declare you a goddess, and together we’ll conceive the heir to Rome.”
She tore out of his grasp, ran to the door, flung it open. Blood dripping from her hand, she bolted down the corridor.