Widow's Pique

Widow's Pique by Marilyn Todd Read Free Book Online

Book: Widow's Pique by Marilyn Todd Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marilyn Todd
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
sauntered slowly down towards the house, and maybe it was the scent of Hercules's sacred laurel, but there was a bitter taste on the back of his tongue.
    He lifted the gleaming bronze panther-head knocker and let it fall. The door opened at once and a naked black girl, her skin oiled and fragrant, bade him welcome. Once inside, the opulence of the mansion exploded from every angle. Pillars of glistening pure-white Parian marble. Fountains with three, and sometimes four, cascades. Exquisite mosaics on the floors,
    the most superb artistry on the soaring walls. Gilded ceilings emphasized the luxury.
    Having removed his sandals and bathed his feet in rosewater, the servant girl handed him a glass of vintage Falernian then offered him a plate of sweetmeats. He took a candied cherry stuffed with almond paste, mainly because he didn't want to offend her, rather than because he was hungry, thanked her with a silver coin and moved on. Rare Arabian resins burned in braziers on the walls. Musicians played on flutes and pipes and drums, acrobats in Eastern dress performed a tumbling act and sword dancers from the Orient leapt across their deadly curving blades with practised ease. The very sort of entertainment, Orbilio reflected, that he was used to seeing at family banquets. Before his family stopped inviting him!
    'Is there anything I can do for you?' a voice breathed in his ear.
    He cast his glance around the beauties draped across the richly upholstered couches, at the revealing slits in their diaphanous garments and the feathered fans in soft bejewelled hands that made subtle beckoning gestures to the male visitors. Then his eyes lifted to the artfully rouged cheeks, the red pouting lips, the kohled eyes, and he drew a deep breath.
    'Another glass of wine would be nice.'
    'Of course.'
    The voice sounded vaguely disappointed, but the wine appeared almost at once. He resisted the urge to toss it down in a single swallow and forced himself to sip slowly from the green glass goblet as he passed from atrium to dining hall and out into the garden.
    'Follow me,' a gorgeous creature whispered, 'and I'll show you paradise.'
    'I don't doubt it,' he replied, disentangling his arm and wondering how much the transparent linen fabric shot with gold would cost. 'Give me an hour, though.'
    Mingling among the brothel's clientele (foreign merchants mostly, for who else could afford the exorbitant rates?), Orbilio listened to the babble of laughter and this time he didn't ration
    his drink, but knocked back what was left in his goblet and grimaced. Beneath the joking and the banter, the teasing and the tempting, there ran an undercurrent of desperation and heartache. These were not mosaics that his boots were treading on. He was trampling the remnants of a thousand broken dreams. Crushing the relics of a million shattered promises. For prostitution, even on this exalted level, still exacts a price . . .
    And what price am I paying, he wondered? When he joined the Security Police, he genuinely believed he could make a difference. What was the point, he'd argue, in following the family tradition to become a lawyer, when he could be out there, fighting hand to hand on the battlefield in the war between Good and Evil?
    He was young then.
    An idealist fresh out of the army, and all too painfully he'd discovered that the lines between Good and Evil are frequently blurred. That the enemy isn't always the enemy, and that Good isn't always an advantage - or necessarily right. Furthermore, as the only investigator in the Security Police with blue blood in his veins, he was never fully accepted by the other members of the team, his lower-born boss resented him, and the very nature of his work ostracized him from patrician society. (At least polite patrician society, he qualified wryly, spotting a retired senator sandwiched between two simpering beauties.)
    But it was worth it. Half the time he spent traipsing the same old streets, interrogating the same old

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