The Alpha Emperor's Courtesan

contract marriage
kickass heroine
enimies to lovers

Talia is the daughter of a Celtic chieftain, who is brought to Rome to serve as a slave after her tribe is conquered by the Roman army.

When she captures the eye of the charming but notoriously brutal Emperor Caius, she is taken to serve in his Harem as a Courtesan.

While Talia discovers that Rome really was founded by wolves, Caius finds there is more to her than meets the eye...

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My mother used to tell me that Rome was founded by wolves. I thought she was referring to the myth of Romulus and Remus - that the city itself was founded by a man raised by a she-wolf; I should have known there was more to her words than that... My name is Talia, and I am 24-years-old. My father was the chieftain of a renowned Celtic tribe, and I would have taken his place if my tribe had not been attacked so savagely by the Roman soldiers who killed my parents and took me back with them to Rome. My mother died because she was too old, and my father died because he was too dangerous - I was pretty enough that I was considered a prize, and intelligent enough to keep my mouth closed when I saw they would not spare a woman who was going to cause them trouble. When I was captured, I didn’t speak their language, and I didn’t know what my fate would be until we arrived at a large camp where I was thrown into a closely guarded cage with the other captives that they had spared from other tribes they had destroyed. There was a young man - His name was Jax, and I had encountered him in the past when my father took me to trade with other tribes. He spoke enough of the soldier’s language that he was able to explain what was going on. When we arrived, we would be out on display for some people to decide our fate: a slave, a gladiator, a soldier, or a courtesan. None of those options filled me with any hope for my future, but I was determined to find a way to free myself and I wanted justice for my family for the things these soldiers had done. I looked around at the others in the group, and it was impossible not to sort them into those categories Jax had given me. The woman to my left was probably the same age as my mother, but she was muscular and had probably been spared because she would be useful as a slave. The young woman opposite me had flaming red curls and emerald eyes, and I guessed that she would be a courtesan. Jax was a similar age to me. He was muscular, tall, and I considered his fair skin, blonde hair, and rough stubble to be rather attractive. I couldn’t decide whether he would be conscripted as a soldier or if his looks would make him better suited to the life of a gladiator. I knew enough about their culture that I was aware that the best gladiators were revered and looked at in awe by the Romans, and he could easily attract a following. I didn’t want to think about where my destiny lay; my hair wasn’t like the spectacularly flaming curls of the young woman I was facing, and I assumed they were looking for striking beauty when they selected women to work as courtesans. That meant I would probably be sent to work for some rich Roman family, preparing their food and cleaning up after them, but when I thought about the alternative, I thought it was the better option. At least I wouldn’t have to smile in the faces of the men who had taken my family from me and dragged me so far from home to a foreign place and a strange culture. As we made our way across landscapes I was familiar with and then far beyond that to places I could not have imagined, we were joined by two others. There was a man who looked a little older than my father, and a young woman who clung to him as they huddled in the corner of the enclosure when we made camp and walked by his side as we journeyed during the day. They looked similar: they both had tanned skin, raven black hair, and dark brown eyes - but I wasn’t sure if that was because they were related or if that was just the way people looked wherever they were from. I could have been mistaken for Jax’s sibling; pale skin, wavy blonde hair, stormy gray eyes. A combination that was not unusual to me but looked more exotic as we moved further from our home and closer to Rome. I saw the city long before we reached it. I could barely comprehend how a place could be as huge as this. There must have been thousands of buildings and thousands of people, and it was terrifying to imagine how a place like that would treat a woman like me. The soldiers saw us all as barbarians. I knew that word now - barbarian - because they spat it at us whenever they addressed us. It was one of the few words I did understand. The only other words I had memorized carefully as Jax repeated them time and time again: slave, gladiator, soldier, courtesan. I ran through the list in my head with every step that I took as we approached the city. Slave, gladiator, soldier, courtesan. By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, the list had shortened to only two words. Slave. Courtesan. Those were the only two I needed to know, anyway. I stared down at my feet as we made our way through streets filled with sights and sounds that were completely new to me, and I focused on my feet as I walked behind the young woman with red hair. Left foot - slave, right foot - courtesan, again and again until we finally stopped outside a building and lined up in front of a tall woman in an elaborate outfit adorned with jewels. Her hair was styled in a way that was so complex it must have taken hours to achieve, and she jingled as she raised her hand as the golden bracelets that adorned her wrists clinked together. I wasn’t sure if she was a Roman woman, but her skin was tanned and her hair was dark brown, so she was certainly not from anywhere I had ever been before. Her eyes narrowed as she studied each of us in turn before she pointed at the older woman and said the word I had expected to hear: slave. The older woman was led off by one of the soldiers, and my heart pounded as the elaborately dressed Roman woman fixed her gaze on me. She brought one hand to her lips and stroked her chin contemplatively as my heart thundered and my stomach churned. Slave? Or courtesan? Which one would be my fate? She smiled wickedly and pointed at the red-haired woman beside me, but her eyes were still fixed on mine as she determined this poor girl’s fate. Slave. The girl screamed, but she was silenced by a firm slap to the cheek, which was hard enough that I heard the crack and it made me wince. She was pushed rather forcefully in the direction the older woman had been taken as she began to sob. The Roman woman was still looking at me, and I stared back at her defiantly because she was trying to intimidate me and I was not going to give her that satisfaction. The wicked smile twisted her lips again as she finally made her decision and waved her hand dismissively towards me. “Courtesan.”

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