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The crowd noise almost deafened her. Nardine wiped a tear from her eye as she watched Gaius struggle in the arena. He was a great and handsome gladiator, with short black hair and a thick chest, strong of limb and lovely to behold. He was also the first man to grab Nardine’s attention since the death of Matthias, her first love, who died in the arena after being attacked by a group of savages.
Now the same thing was about to happen again. Her lover, taller than the three men sent up to battle against him, lay on the sand, flat on his back. Nardine couldn’t see his eyes, but she imagined she saw fear in them as the largest of his three opponents raised a club and smashed it into his head. His brown locks covered with blood, Gaius rolled over as the smallest man finished him off with a sword through the back. As Nardine gasped, she heard the lanista swear.
“I thought he had it in him to best these three nobodies. I bet much coin on him. I am disgusted. This should not have happened.”
Nardine silently agreed. Gaius was a strong man and a practiced gladiator, and not a particularly young one. He won many matches in the ring against multiple opponents before today. And now he was dead. He had loved Nardine in a silent, inscrutable way she could not put into words. He was gentle as they made love, and his willingness to listen to her complaints about life at the ludus impressed her. At the start of the day, she had looked forward to another night of love with Gaius, as he had requested her from the lanista after his last five matches. Instead of loving her, he would be lying on a cold stone slab, waiting for his funeral rites. And Nardine would never hold him again.