“This is an intrusion into my dear friend Octavia’s privacy,” the woman said imperiously. “It is intolerable.”
Dai lifted his head to see her eyes flash with anger and felt the sudden insignificance of a being a mere non-citizen, provincial Briton in the presence of over a hundred generations of pure Roman patrician breeding.
“I – I apologise, domina,” he said quickly, eyes downcast.
“I should think so. And if you wish to keep your job you will be certain this does not make it into any official report – or unofficial one. If a single word gets out, I promise you that I will ensure you have no job and no licence to live in Londinium ever again either. Do you understand?”
Dai felt his throat dry up. She more than had the power to do precisely that if she chose.
“I understand you, Domina Lydia.”
There was a slight flush of colour then in her face and for a moment Dai wondered at it, then he realised that she had not thought he recognised her.
“I am glad you do,” she said quietly. “You can leave now. I will look after poor Octavia. But remember what I said.”
Dai bowed again and moved towards the front door, as Octavia detached herself from Bryn and was scooped up into the arms of Domina Lydia who made soothing noises and stroked her hair whilst glaring over her head with cold command at Dai and Bryn.
They left the apartment block in stunned silence and it was only once they were walking back to their vehicle Bryn broke it.
“You handled that well, Bard, your poet’s charm worked a treat.”
Dai shook his head.
“I’m out of practice, is all.”
Bryn stopped by a street stall.
“Two portions of garum and chips, not wrapped.”
They stood waiting as the chips were thrust into paper cones and the pungent sauce poured all over them. Bryn paid with his wrist phone and they continued walking, eating the chips as they went.
“Did you notice something odd?”
“I noticed a lot. Like the way you buried your head in her tits for example.”
“More like she did the burying bit.”
“You weren’t exactly fighting her off. Can’t say I blame you though. Not every day you get to put your face in the perfumed cleavage of a Roman matron. Or not without having your balls sliced off for it. Must have made it almost worth the threats from that pompous bitch at the end. Like we give a cracked cack whether some Roman lives in the lap of luxury or not.”
“It wasn’t that,” Dai said quietly.
Bryn looked at him.
“No. She was just terrified we’d seen her there. She didn’t ask what had happened to Rufus or even who we were, which means she must have known us. And I don’t know if you have a celebrity job on the side, Bryn, but I’m really not that famous.”