I thought I’d share this tiny chunk of the project that might follow Spotless. It’s set in ancient Rome, under the reign of Hadrian … and it’s sort of a spin-off to the Spotless series (attentive readers probably already guess how/why). This excerpt is unedited, I apologize in advance for any error you might spot.
We’ll follow the adventures of “Io The Blind”, former Pretorian, part-time beggar, part-time informant and full-time con man, with a taste for good bottles and welcoming bosoms. In this scene, Io attempts to pay his way into the bed of Rome’s finest lady . . .
Arsenios prided himself in operating the most exclusive lupanar in Rome, and rightly so, Io thought, tracing the marble curves of a Venus of some sort in the house’s atrium. The elderly woman who had ushered him in had been clear: this was a place of elegance, of tasteful debauchery. No sickly bitches waiting naked in dank and stuffy cells here, only the finest specimens, welcoming their noble patrons in rooms whose decoration Arsenios had personally overseen—Under the practical mind of a leno, the Greek cultivated the soul of an artist.
Io sat alone on a comfortable couch near the statue, his cane resting between his legs, feeling embroidered silk under his fingertips. He could hear the occasional clatter of feet on the smooth floor, or hushed voices: several slaves were busy tending to the patrons’ needs. The passing whiffs of fruit candies or perfumed oils told him that Arsenios made sure to satisfy each and every of his guests’ whims.
Speaking of whims, he asked for Papaveria, of course, prompting the old biddy to suggest that he either showed the money or piss off—surely an artist as well, that woman. Servilius’s denarii had seen him past the front door, but he was made to understand that things couldn’t be so simple: given Io’s poor standing, not only would Arsenios have to agree to the arrangement, but Papaveria as well. She was a lucky whore, he thought with a smile: many if not most of her sisters didn’t have the luxury of choosing their patrons.
Moments later, the old servant’s trotting resounded on the marble floor. She stood in front of him with a little huff. “Lord Arsenios gave us his blessing. Lady Papaveria will be delighted to make your acquaintance in the bath.”
Io fought a chuckle at the aristocratic titles, uttered with such obsequious reverence, and the tight emphasis on the word “bath”. Sounded like “Lady” Papaveria wouldn’t touch street scum unless it had been properly scrubbed first. As he rose, a small, dry hand dropped several coins into his palms. He felt them. “Why are you giving me back ten denarii?”
“You’ll get a pleasant massage, Sir.” She paused to poke his sternum in warning. “And that’s all you’ll get.”
This time he laughed. “Am I to pay thirty denarii for a mere rub?”