Highland Legend (Scots and Swords #3) - Kathryn Le Veque Page 0,2

the throng, blowing kisses, flexing his biceps, and he had women fainting at the sight.

Behind him, Lor and Bane and Galan followed, watching the spectacle with the greatest amusement. Magnus was great; he knew he was great. He wanted to make sure everyone else knew that he was great, so the man never did anything subtly or secretively.

It was part of his charm.

And then came the garments.

It was usual every time Magnus pranced around after a bout. Women started throwing pieces of clothing over the iron fence that separated them from the holding area. Scarves would come raining down in a flutter of perfumed material. They almost always smelled heavily of perfume.

Next came the hose—fine silk hose would hit the floor of the holding area with a thud because women had stuffed coins into them. Magnus pointed to some of the warriors standing around to pick up the hose, snapping at them when they wanted to keep the money. He would snatch the hose and the money away from them.

Holding his booty of coin-filled hose, Magnus looked up at the women lining the fence to see that half were screaming and half were crying. That was usual. He paused, blowing more kisses up to the crowd, and one young woman was so overcome that she vomited. Chunks of the stuff fell through the fence and landed near Magnus, who eyed it with some disgust and decided to end his cavalcade of worship. If the crowd was beginning to spew in excitement, it was time for him to exit.

Until the next time.

He decided to take the private stairs after all.

Leaving his friends down in the holding area, Magnus took the steps two at a time. He was sweaty and dirty from his bouts in the arena, but he knew that Clegg’s private apartment had a bathing area. The viewing rooms had floor-to-ceiling doors that opened to a private balcony, the same balcony that the stairs led up to. As he hit the balcony, he was quite curious to see the woman his friends had chosen.

Beautiful, they’d said.

He might even permit her to bathe him.

When he reached the top of the steps, the door into the private rooms was open. He stepped in, his dirty sandals slapping against the tile floor that Clegg had brought all the way from Rome. In fact, everything at the Ludus Caledonia reflected the Romans and their architecture, all the way down to the beautiful robes that Clegg wore, like a great patriarch.

Even the chamber itself reflected that love of ancient Rome—beautiful columns, tile, glass. It was lovely. There were tapestries on the walls, silks on the cushioned couches, and great bowls of incense that burned all day and all night. Magnus expected that the woman would be waiting for him, but he didn’t see anyone as he entered. He was halfway into the chamber when he saw movement on one of the couches.

“Ye must be Magnus.”

Magnus froze. The voice was low and raspy, not at all sweet and delicate-sounding, and he turned his head to see a pile of silk moving on one of the couches. A delicate, age-worn hand came up, removing the veil from a head that was covered in soft, white hair.

The woman revealed herself fully. She wasn’t simply old; she was ancient. He could see that she’d been lovely in her day, but that had been long ago. She wasn’t exactly the raging young beauty that his friends had lauded.

And they’d known it all along.

Magnus knew in an instant that he’d been fooled.

“So ye’re tae be my companion this evening?” he asked evenly. “Ye must have paid a high price.”

The woman nodded as she sat up. She was well dressed, in velvet and perfume, and he could smell the sweet scent where he stood. There was something graceful about her, in fact, in the way she moved. In her time, she must have been most alluring.

But it didn’t change the fact that she was old enough to be his grandmother.

“I did,” she said. “I paid the ianista handsomely. I can see it was worth every penny.”

Had Magnus not been so shocked at his rather ancient company, the situation would have been laughable. His gaze drifted over the woman, her fine clothing and surprisingly shapely figure for her age. But her statement made him realize that not only were his friends in on the joke, but so was the manager of the Ludus Caledonia, Axel von Rossau.

Magnus was certain they’d done it to