CARINA - an excerpt

‘I should flay you both for this. It’s a bloody good job we’re not back in the Ancients’ times. A good Roman punishment officer would have sorted you both out.’

I winced at the laser-like words.

‘I can see no reason why I shouldn’t throw you both out this instant. You’ve disobeyed standing orders, your reckless behaviour has set an extremely poor example to all ranks and it would be a complete waste of your expensive training if you’d broken your stupid necks.’

It was Daniel’s fault we were standing here getting the biggest bollocking ever. He’d dared me to a hand-climbing race up the inner courtyard wall of the old fortress building. Strictly forbidden because the stonework was loose and flaking after eight hundred years, but I couldn’t resist the challenging sparkle in his eye. Of course, we got an audience; of course, they made book on us, but the shouts of encouragement and even the catcalls spurred us both on.

Halfway up, one piece of stone came away in my hand. I let it fall to the ground which caused more shouting, a few laughs and some cursing. That bastard Dubnus shook his fist at me, egging on his group of buddies with filthy comments.

We’d reached the top, neck and neck, muscles trembling and breath heaving. I had the tiniest margin on Daniel. One last effort and I pulled myself up, my stomach on the edge of the crumbling parapet and swung myself over. I’d hardly flung my arms up in victory when the shouting died at a stroke.

A voice like a shotgun had rung out, ordering us down that instant. Major Mitelus, our commander, was incandescent. Even from five storeys up I could see his hazel eyes were blazing.

‘Oh, shit,’ Daniel said softly, then coughed. His lungs grasped air from the cool November morning.

‘Squared,’ I said. ‘What the hell is he doing here anyway? He wasn’t due in until the afternoon.’

‘Well, you’d know.’

Major Mitelus was also my husband, Conrad. Something which made my life more than difficult.

His eyes were still blazing now thirty minutes later as Daniel and I stood rigid as funeral imagines in front of his desk. My heart was hammering harder than when I’d been at the top of our climb.

‘I will not tolerate such behaviour from my junior officers. It reflects poorly on the unit and the senior staff. Mars knows we don’t need any more problems at the moment.’ He shot an incinerating look at me. He’d mentioned at home only the night before that he was fending off subtle attempts to stop his pending promotion, move him out of his post and put one of the legate’s cronies in his place. The warmth crept up my neck but I couldn’t say anything.

‘Badges on my desk, and empty your pockets.’

Car keys, pen, notepad, phone, locker key and a few solidi from me; pretty near the same from Daniel.

‘Earpiece, too.’ Hades. Without that part the tooth mic would be useless.

He nodded at the security detail who grasped our arms.

‘Seven days in the cells.’

I pulled against the hand gripping my arm and took half a step forward.

‘You can’t—’

‘Take them down,’ he said and looked away.

The bastard. Not for the punishment. I guess that was due. No, now I would miss our daughter’s fourth birthday.

Read  on…
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In print from late March 2018


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIOPERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIAINSURRECTIO and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is available for download now.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

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