The centre of the city of Rome contained, as it always did, a huge throng of people. Young, old, men, women, poor, rich... they all came together to explore the markets and stalls that held a huge variety of wares. Even as the sun's hue turned orange as it began to descend, the crowd remained large, which to Mamercus, now clothed in a tight white robe, was perfect.
He had not noted any familiar faces from the Senator's office following him, but nevertheless he had done his best to slip into the swarm of Romans as soon as possible. There were so many exits to the market square that he could slip down any alley without being spotted, and from there he could make his rendezvous.
The small yet snug private accommodation that was owned by Sextus Crispinus had provided the perfect opportunity- at least, that was what Mamercus had hoped. Rutilia was probably aware of at least some of her father's properties and if she had been able to secure it for any length of time... well, the possibilities were tantalising.
You get ahead of yourself, his mind warned him. It was doubtful she wanted to fall into bed with him.
Still, the prospect of just being in her company was appealing enough.
The building had two floors, which made it more luxurious than anything he himself had slept in before. Torches already burned in the open portals, indicating someone was present.
It occured to Mamercus that Sextus could be plotting to trap him, so as to undermine Metellus. The thought gave him pause, but for an instant, before he pressed on to the door.
He knocked four times, as the note had indicated, and heard footsteps. The door was unbolted, and there stood the sight he had longed to see.
Rutilia smiled warmly at him, her hair worn down, flowing over shoulders covered by expensive blue silk. Her eyes held an inviting sparkle as she bade him enter.
"Good evening Mamercus." She said pleasantly as she closed the door. "I see my note found its way to you."
"Yes, though I have to ask how you managed such a thing. The Senator is quite meticulous."
"I am resourceful. Suffice to say it piqued your interest." She sauntered toward him. "I look forward to an evening of stimulating conversation."
Mamercus grinned. "As do I."
"I rather suspect you hope for other forms of stimulation..." She twirled and walked toward a waiting table, covered with a large white cloth. Two silver goblets waited there, filled with what appeared to be wine. She sat down on one side of the table. Mamercus took the hint and sat on the other side.
"I must ask, lest the question burst from my lips at a more inappropriate time- your father and the Senator do not appear to be agreeable to one another, despite their apparent business ventures." Mamercus wasn't quite sure what had prompted him to ask that question. It was one he had held within himself since talking to Metellus earlier.
"My father has made considerable profit from his property dealings. With money comes increased authority. My guess would be the Senator feels threatened by this, so he keeps my father close so as to be better apprised with his plans. They probably seek to exploit one another."
Mamercus raised the goblet to his lips. The wine was fine, better than anything he had ever had before. "The Senator warned me not to pursue anything with you, lest it weaken his reputation with your father."
Rutilia laughed. "Yet here you are. My father issued me with similar warning, though I suspect his fears about what I may reveal of his activities are only part of his concerns."
"And yet here you are." Mamercus teased. "It would appear we both enjoy defying authority."
"For better or worse, it would appear that we do." Rutilia took a sip of her wine. "I saw your friend Tiberius in the square the other day. He seems... unhappy."
This was a strange diversion in the conversation. "Tiberius has been unhappy ever since he started work as one of Senator Metellus' aides. He used to be a vibrant, adventuous spirit. Now he would not know fun if it kicked him in the gut. I feel sorry for him."
"Is it wise that you have chosen to work for the same employer?" There was a teasing note to Rutilia's voice.
Mamercus shrugged. "It may not be the smartest move I have ever made. However, I will not be held in misery because Metellus desires control and because Tiberius is a wet fish."
Rutilia laughed. "You are headstrong. You realise how dangerous both Metellus and my father are. If either one of them learned we were together, here, now, it would spell never-ceasing trouble for us both, yet you seem almost flippant about the risk."
Mamercus shrugged again, and took a generous gulp of his wine. "As I said, I am not going to live my life in misery because of the attitude of others. I bear your father no ill will, nor Metellus. I wish only to enjoy the fruits of life."
"Something you are well-versed in." There was that playful tone again. "So, beyond fire-eating and unnecessary displays of machoism, what fruits do you enjoy Mamercus?"
He couldn't help but smirk. "I am looking at a beautiful fruit right now, that I could devour."
Rutilia laughed once more, and flashed him a brilliant smile. "I am sure you would like to. There is no questioning the desire in your eyes. Did you come here expecting fornication?"
"Would you be disappointed if I said yes?"
Rutilia leaned back in her chair, holding her goblet, contemplating her answer. "It would not be honest of me to deny the thought had crossed my mind as well. However, I do not give my flesh to any man. Why should you have the honour of pressing your skin against mine?"
Mamercus chuckled. "Because I could set your loins alight with a passion and desire you have not felt before."
A smile spread across Rutilia's lips. "Confidence is clearly a strong trait of yours. And trust. Do you trust me not to reveal our meeting to the senator, or to my father? The consequences would be grave."
"Sometimes you must be prepared to place your trust in the hands of fate, as it were. You are a most fascinating, intelligent and beautiful woman Rutilia, and I say that not to curry favour or see you shed clothing. I say it because it is true. I do not believe you seek to deceive me. I wonder if you fear I would betray you."
Rutilia nodded. "Is this a test, to see whether you can be trusted? I imagine it is, in a way... but I find you to be fascinating as well. You are the sort of man my father warned me against. The type of man who would seek only to fuck, and little else. The man with the attractive smile and captivating eyes that sparkle with mischief. I have long be warded away from men such as you. With such warnings comes temptation."
"And if I were to betray you? I could carry important words from your lips to the senator's ears, words that could damage your father."
Rutilia started to slip her gown off. "I am prepared to trust you Mamercus." Her voice went soft, and her eyes did too. She stood, and silk robes dropped to the floor, revealing Rutilia in all her beauty, and she was most certainly that.
Mamercus drank in the sight of her naked form. Her breasts were well-rounded and naturally firm, her stomach smooth. It was an arousing sight, to put it mildly.
"I do not know why, and it is not something I would rush to in most circumstances, but I am drawn to you Mamercus, as you are to me. Perhaps the gods demand us be together, or perhaps it is simply a human connection. Come..." She walked up to him, taking him by the hand. "Let us enjoy one another."