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theprotector
Release Date: July 2010 
Steeple Hill's Love Inspired Historical line

The Protector

Released in July 2010

Rome, 81 AD - Former merchant turned slave and gladiator trainee, Quintus Ambustus will do almost anything to earn his freedom. Enslaved for his faith in Christ, he hopes someday to find a Christian woman to marry and share his life. A friend of Quintus's master, Adiona Leonia is one of wealthiest, most beautiful women in Rome. She has good reason to despise men and has vowed never to wed. Although each of them is attracted to the other, they're determined to fight their feelings. But when an attacker threatens Adiona's life and Quintus is made her protector, neither can resist their fascination for the other. As Adiona learns to trust, first Quintus, and then his God, Quintus learns the Lord's gifts sometimes come in the most unexpected packages and in ways he never dreamed possible.

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reviews

10 out of 10!  Eye on Romance
"Carla Capshaw is a master at her craft."
 fourstars Romantic Times
THE PROTECTOR (4) by Carla Capshaw: Rome, 70 and 81 AD: Adiona married the man her father demanded and for six years was miserable in her marriage. Now a widow, she vows never to marry again. Quintus is a slave and a gladiator, and Adiona has no business having the feelings she does for him, but she does. When someone tries to kill her, Quintus is assigned to keep her safe. Quintus knows nothing will come from his feeling for Adiona because of their stations in life — at least until he can prove he is innocent of charges against him. Can a slave and a widow find happiness in the brutal world of Rome, where if one declares their belief in God they will be put to death? The Protector is a heartfelt love story. Fans of this era and of Rome will not be disappointed.

excerpt

With a rush of gratitude, Adiona arrived at the gate. The party's music drifted on the cool night air. Weak with relief, she closed her eyes and sagged against the bars, pleading for help. Her labored breaths shook her whole body, clanking the scroll's wooden ends against the cold metal bars in her grasp.

"My lady!"

Her heart dropped. No gods, please, not Quintus! Her eyes widened with dread even as they roamed over his tall frame and broad shoulders to ascertain his wounds had healed as well as her steward reported.

"Guard, open the gate!" Quintus ordered. "You there, fetch your master."

Why did Fate toy with her? Of all the men in the ludus, why did he have to be the one to find her scorned and disgraced?

In Rome, no decent woman of rank was attacked in the street. People would blame her, judge her, believe she'd done something to deserve the dishonor. Quintus would be no different. How could he be when her shame supported the abysmal opinion he already held of her?

Hot tears burned her eyes.

The gate rattled opened. She crossed into the courtyard and flinched as the heavy metal bars slammed shut behind her. A torch's flame reflected in Quintus's intense, unreadable gaze. Raw and exposed beneath his stoic inspection, she lifted her chin.

Her lips quivered as she grappled to maintain the last shreds of her dignity.  Like her torn clothes, the careful facade she cultivated to protect herself hung in tatters.

"My lady, what happened?"

His deep voice washed over her with a gentleness that unraveled the last of her control. Stripped of her pride, the armor she hid behind, Adiona wished her attackers had caught her and finished her off.

The tears she'd fought spilled down her cheeks in hot rivulets, burning her with humiliation to the depths of her soul. She swiped at the moisture and swung away, furious with her weakness and that he should be the one to witness her shattered state.

She heard Quintus groan behind her. His footsteps crunched on the gravel. Assuming he'd gone to find someone else to deal with the embarrassment of her situation, she wrapped her arms around her middle, her right hand locked around the scroll.

Fear from the attack crowded around her. She heard the clash of weapons, saw the lifeless faces of her men. Eyes shut tight, she covered her mouth with her free palm, desperate to keep her sobs in check lest she fall apart at the seams.

"My lady." Strong fingers curved around her shoulders. She jerked at the contact, unused to being touched.

Quintus gently turned her toward him and with a sigh of resignation gathered her close. Surrounded by his scent of citrus and leather, she stood there rigid at first, ignorant of how to react since no one had ever held her. Always alone, always lonely, she was used to being abandoned, never cared for or comforted.

He stroked her mangled hair, offering her the solace she was loath to refuse. The murmur of his deep voice soothed her. Warmed by his tenderness, she melted against him, accepting the first genuine embrace she'd ever known.

Surrounded by the security of Quintus's arms, she pressed closer against him and wept against his chest. Safety was foreign to her, but his quiet confidence made her believe he was the one man in existence meant to protect her from harm.

Voices drifted across the courtyard from the direction of the house. She stilled as reality invaded the haven she'd found. Suddenly ashamed of the flaw in her that enjoyed the solace offered by a man who thought the worst of her, she stepped back from Quintus, wishing he would leave her to cope with her humiliation and despair on her own. Awash with embarrassment, she made haste to repair her appearance.

Quintus let go of Adiona with reluctance. Clearly she'd been attacked. Suspecting thieves, he struggled to control his anger toward the jackals who'd hurt her.

The night's breeze ruffled her glossy black hair. He fisted his hand to control the urge to caress its softness once more. Both dazed and irritated by the sense of completeness he experienced while he held her, he despised the weakness that made it impossible for him to walk away as he ought to. He knew better than to court disaster, but her tears had chained him to the spot. His reason failed to quell his need to console and protect her.

Had he been wiser, he would never have touched her. Now, it was too late. Her scent and the feel of her in his arms were burned into his brain, as was the knowledge of how perfectly she fit against him. Never again would he smell cinnamon or enjoy the texture of silk without thinking of Adiona Leonia.

 

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