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The guards at the compound opened the large wrought-iron gates and let our cart through. Cato had spent the entire journey staring off into the distance, fondling me idly with his free hand. I wished that he would place his fingers down between my lips, as the time in the box had made me shudder and shiver with anticipation, but I dared not make the request. If he wished to use his fingers on me then I could be certain that he would.

As the guards secured the gates Cato finally came to his senses and ran his fingers through his hair and slapped his cheeks to wake himself up.

“Draw me a bath when we get inside,” Cato commanded when the cart stopped outside the entrance to the building. He went into his chambers while I went to the well and began to draw water. It was a long process to draw a bath, as first I had to drag bucket after bucket of water to the vats for boiling, and then from the vats to the enormous square stone bathtub.

I managed it in the span of a few hours, covering the water in rose petals and dousing it in scented oils. By the time I had finished Cato’s wife, Aelia, had entered the rom. She was an older woman with curled black hair that draped down her shoulders, wearing a white dress with a golden clasp at the shoulder. That dress, I happened to know, cost more than I did at the market.

“Fetch the other girls to bathe me, Aethiopem,” Aelia snapped. I bowed to her and left as she stood before the bath. Aethiopem was the name they gave me when they did not call me “dark delight”—it meant “burnt face” in reference to the colour of my skin. Few called the visiting black-skinned dignitaries that, as it could be considered quite rude, but nobody cared what a slave thought.

I found a few of the house slaves ogling the gladiators lining up in the courtyard outside and had them follow me to the bath house. There, they unclasped Aelia’s dress and removed it, leaving the woman naked but for the jewellery that covered her neck and hands. They removed those next, and held her hands out at each side as she walked into the water. I took up a fresh towel and held it near her on the tiles while she sat in the bath and the slave girls, now naked, used sponges to clean her body.

“You should have seen Septimus’ face,” Cato said, entering the bathhouse. He was slightly bleary-eyed, probably from taking a late-afternoon nap, but the discussion of his victory seemed to invigorate him. He took up position at the head of the bath, a wide grin on his face. Aelia ignored him, turning her head to watch the slaves washing her skin. She draped her arms over them and her fingers brushed their breasts as they moved in close.

“Aelia, dear, you did not hear me?” Cato asked.

“I have spent the morning dealing with those disgusting moneylenders. We are far short of the monthly payments, dearest. You should sell the Aethiopem,” Aelia said distantly.

“For the last time, she has her uses,” Cato replied. I used to be worried that he would indeed sell me to another Dominus. I would be forced to comply and do my duties to my new master, but I could not possibly be happy about it. My entire life was bent on seeing my Dominus Cato pleased. Now, however, I was old enough to share his bed and watch how the other slaves were taken. They did not have the skills… or the eagerness… that I did. He would not sell me.

He clasped his hands behind his back and his eyes flickered between me and he wife. “Why do you not celebrate my victories like an obedient wife?”

Aelia raised her eyebrows but kept her eyes focused on a point at the far end of the bath, unwilling to even acknowledge her husband with a glance.

Cato began to pace, his face a mask of anger. I knew better than to speak; should I do so I would displease my Dominus. The two of them had argued over me for years, especially since I had begun to share Cato’s bed. The majority of Romans I met had no problem with the colour of my skin, if anything, seemed to desire me more because of my exotic appearance, treating me as one would an oddity at a zoo. But Aelia took personal affront to me. It was not because I was a depository for her husband’s seed, either; it was common for a Dominus to take any slave in any position he deemed fit, as would his wife. There was no logic or reasoning: she just hated me with every fibre of her being.

“You know that the slave brings me pleasure. Must you strip me of all that fills my fancy?” He snapped his fingers and looked to me and I hurried up and over to him. He took me by the arm, thrust me against the pillar, and pulled my dress aside. I stood obediently with my legs apart as he spat in his hand and used it to moisten the area between my cheeks.

“If you must fuck that creature then at least do it with strength and conviction,” Aelia sighed. “Make her squeal for me, would you?”

I turned my head to look at Aelia and saw a look of evil satisfaction on her face. It had been this way since I had been bought by Cato—I did not know why the woman hated me so, but I had no solution to it. I simply had to stand still and accept anything that the Dominus did to me.

Cato chuckled to himself and spread my cheeks with his hands. I prepared myself—a Dominus often chose to fuck his slaves in the ass to stop the risk of pregnancy—and he buried himself up to the hilt in my tight hole. I gasped at the sudden rough stroke, but the man gave me no reprieve, and took my flowing black hair in his free hand. He used it to yank my head back as the thrust in and out of me, pounding me so hard that my knuckles turned white on the pillar. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time; the feeling, the treatment, I couldn’t live without it, and the mere thought that I was bringing pleasure to my Dominus was enough to make met wet. I lived for moments like this.

“I must give her ass to the guards as a matter of course,” Aelia said in a bored drawl. “It is entertaining to watch the slut squirm.”

“I don’t see why you hate her so,” Cato said. He pushed himself in as far as he would go then rotated his hips, probing around inside my ass. I bit my lip and tugged my head so he would pull my hair even tighter.

“And I don’t propose to tell you,” Aelia said evenly. She took one of her slaves’ hands and guided it under the water. Perhaps the sight of her hated slave getting abused grew her wet between the legs. No matter how much I despised the woman for how she treated me and my Dominus, I felt intense pleasure at that. “How much did you win from Septimus?”

“Two hundred denari,” Cato said triumphantly. He pounded me by way of emphasis and I couldn’t keep a pleased groan from escaping my lips.

“That covers the last loss. Almost.”

“Marcus, our new gladiator, killed that brute Livitus.”

Aelia paused at this, and looked questioningly to her husband. “Didn’t we just acquire him?”

“He proved himself to be the strongest amongst our ranks. Imagine what he could do with some training!” Cato pulled himself out of my asshole and I slumped down to the floor, legs weak. I had finished at least once during his brutal assault, and my juices were leaking down my inner thighs. I wanted more.

“Truly impressive. Send him the girl, once you are done with her. He deserves a reward for his victory.”

“We will train him well and he will bring us enough gold to build a statue!” Cato exclaimed. He laughed and grabbed me once again by the hair, guiding me to his stinking cock. I opened my mouth wide.